Being a festive resident

‘Tis the season.

Both to be jolly and for Medical Mondays.

Bad segway?

Sorry.

But seriously, it is Medical Monday, which means a day for all blogs medical to link up and share the love.  Check out some fantastic blogs from other medically related people.

Why am I opening the post with a festive saying?

Well, today was my do everything Christmas that I can’t normally get done in my real life day.

For those of you who are new here, I am a second year Radiation Oncology resident married with a husband and a cat.  I, contrary to popular belief by some, do have friends both near and far.  I have a church and a small group and volunteer commitments.  I have parents and in-laws and all kinds of extended family.  I have an apartment that needs keeping.  I have a blog that would like to be written in.  I have a research project that needs to be finished.

As you can imagine, I, likely much like you, am very busy.  Very, very busy.

Over the years as a med student and now a resident, I learned that Christmas shopping, decorating and such is very, well, challenging when you work more often than not and try to have a life on the side.

First of all, I must say that residents in my neck of the woods are lucky.

We have six days of vacation either around Christmas or New Years.  It is a beautiful thing when you are from away and have people you want to see.  We were off last year for Christmas and will be again this year.

You would think that everyone fights to get Christmas off, but really, they don’t.  The thing is that the six days after Christmas are busy to work because everyone comes to hospital that was trying to avoid it during the earlier holidays.  Also, most families tend to be busier the week of Christmas.  So, you go home, you run around from place to place to place and then you get back and work like a crazy person.  I ended up defaulting to Christmas this year because I missed an email that said the holidays were first come first served.

That being said, it is wonderful to be home with family for the holidays.  I love it.  We have great families and traditions.

But also, besides the busyness of it all, we have NEVER had a Christmas on our own.  We always lived away and always have gone home for Christmas.  This will be our fifth Christmas  of doing that.

There is a piece of me that just wants to do our own thing.  To have our own traditions.

I mean, we have our own traditions.  It just isn’t the same as those we know who have always had their own space or time.  Odds are our traditions would be altered by beeps of pagers and me needing to go round, but  still, they would be our own traditions.

And we still have other traditions.  I always get to put my giant microbes on our tree (this year our tree is bigger).  Patrick always adds some sort of tacky ornament somewhere that kind of bothers me.  We read the Christmas story to each other before bed on Christmas Eve.

This year, I am sending out Christmas cards for the first time.  We have a tree that is full sized.

It is like we are become a real family while still going home for festivities as usual.

But, as I was saying, I am busy.  This month, I need to do a resident presentation, finish the statistical analysis for my research project and submit an abstract for presentation at a conference in the new year.  I work full time.  I cover call.  We are hosting the resident Christmas party (there are 4 of us, it really isn’t that big of a deal).

So, I did what is probably my best decision yet.  I used one of my vacation days to make a long weekend.

Patrick and I went home.  We got to celebrate my grandmother’s 81st Birthday.   I scoped out her new nursing home.  We got to see Patrick’s Mom in a Christmas musical.  We visited people.Mom Daigle Birthday 2013 016 Mom Daigle Birthday 2013 011

Then, we came back and today, I hammered out my Christmas shopping.

Literally, my Christmas shopping.

I am done it.  Patrick just needs to pick up Christmas presents for his Dad, Grandfather and Uncle.  I have everyone else covered.  Everyone else!

Now, I just have to wrap it.  Which I am going to get started on shortly.

The beautiful part is that I did the shopping on a Monday.  During the day.  Thus avoiding the horrors that are weekend and evening stores and still getting some excellent deals that tag on to the weekend sales.

Our Christmas cards are almost all written.  Just need stamps and the addresses for Patrick’s family (hint, hint).

Tonight, we put up our tree.  We inherited a tree from my parents (who inherited it from my Grandmother).  It is big and green.  These are both key features since I have never had a green tree until I was married and we have never had a full sized tree!IMG_1017

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I have gotten nothing useful done for work today.  But, I have accomplished lots of other important things.

Best day off choice ever.

Multitasking and scheduling are huge in surviving the adventure that is life combined with residency.  Days like this give glimmers of normalcy.   Sometimes they just need to be prioritized in.  I think it makes us better people.

Advent-ing

Today was our church’s Advent kick-off.

It was, much like the rest of our church, unique. It was a bring your entire family and decorate the place in entirety while listening to what one person described as typical “hipster folk Christmas tunes,” followed by cookies, hot chocolate and worship time.

Kids running everywhere, masses of creativity and lots of lights make for a good time. Especially with the reminders about the real reason for the season!

I was exhausted today for no good reason, but this was the rejuvenation I needed.

I even took some very poor quality photos of the adventure.

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Advent Anticipation

I have a friend who keeps putting excerpts from her Advent readings from John Piper’s book Good News of Great Joy on Facebook.   I learned from her that this is available free on desiringgod.org, in case you are interested.

I have never been one to do Advent readings.  At least not specific to Advent.  I generally just read whatever I was reading before.

Over the past two years, that has been somewhere in the New Testament after the Gospels because I have been doing some read the Bible in a year sorts of studies.  The whole notion of reading the Christmas story or prophecies during this time seems intriguing, though I have argued in the past that the entire story God has written in the world points to Him and thus points to Jesus, so it is all relevant.

Last year, our church was pretty big on Advent preparation as a family and our small group spent some time looking at certain scriptures and having some Christmas preparation time together (see posts here and here).  The notion was to prepare for Jesus as a family.  I liked it.  But it was really only a one or two night commitment.

Advent is a time of preparation.  A time to look forward to celebrating the birth of Jesus.

Not just a time with some awesome chocolate-y calendars and Christmas shopping madness. 

The readings this friend keeps posting make me think.  Even if I don’t take time to read the entire thing. 

One of the first days she posted said this…

Build God-centered anticipation and expectancy and excitement into your home – especially for the children.  If you get excited about Christ, they will be too. –John Piper.

That is an interesting notion.  Obviously kids are influenced by their parents.  But not just kids, really anyone can be influenced by anyone.

I am kind of a “bah humbug” sort of person.  I get cranky when I hear excessive festive things too early in December and boycott almost everything Christmas prior to December.  I get festive a couple days before Christmas.

Advent really isn’t a thing for me aside from the usual church stuff.

This was a good reminder to me.

As a lover of Jesus, I should be excited for Christmas, just like I would be excited to celebrate my husband’s birthday or the birth of a friend’s child.  And I think I really do like Christmas, just not the hoopla that goes along with it these days.  But, I don’t really differentiate them.

Maybe if I were more excited for Jesus, I would be more excited for Christmas.  Or at least, I could explain why I am excited in part.

I probably should be more intentional with these things.

And I intend to be.

God was super intentional about this stuff.

The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. –Proverbs 21:1

God does big things and He does them for us.  Even though in the grand scheme of things we are so small.

It is pretty mind blowing to think about how everything in the Christmas story worked together.  And that everything before that led up to it.  And everything afterward still points to it.

We celebrate a huge holiday every year because of it.

So, maybe I just need to suck it up and get over the commercialism that I hate.  Perhaps I need to step back and really look at the true meaning of the season.  Not just to get away from the icky parts I dislike, but to get back into the important parts of the story.  The fact that God does something very big amidst the day to day.

The question is not what God could do, but what he willed to do. God’s will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake he became poor. The “No Vacancy” signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. “For your sake he became poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9). –John Piper.

When you really look at all that happened, how can you not look forward with anticipation and gratitude?

Furthermore, how can I worry about today when He has held everything together in such circumstances?

Look at Mary and Elizabeth!  They went through big things.  And the whole census thing to plunk Mary and Joseph in the right place at the right time?  Crazy!

Therefore, I think me being intentional about looking forward with anticipation and excitement.  If God can use normal people and cause giant civic events, then maybe He can use me.  Or at least use my anticipation to shape me… Make me a bit less Grinchy.

Who knows.  The whole God being born a baby to a virgin thing is pretty crazy.  Anything is possible.

And now I am excited about it.  I just need to maintain that excitement.   And I am sure God will help me do that through His writing and those in the book I am going to start reading.

C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me!

Today, boys and girls, the letter of the day is C.  How very Sesame Street!  The thing is, on my walk home today, I was thinking, “self, what do you feel like writing about today?”   I contemplated, while resisting the urge to sing out loud along with the The Classic Crime (ha, ironically another C) and thought of a few things…. One, today feels like a two coffee kind of day.  Two, I had taken pictures of the lovely cookies I baked yesterday and I wanted to share the recipe.  Three, about the clinic I was in today.  Four, about the blister forming on my heel (darn new shoes).  I then spent a period of time willing the sky not to rain, as I would inevitably freeze.  Then, I noticed the “Jesus loves you” sign in the window of a house and smiled.  Lastly, I tripped and spent the remainder of my walk concentrating harder on not falling and again, not singing along with my music.

So, what from all of that have I decided on… Well, little bits of all of it!  Well, not all of it, just most of it.  All of which are themed around the letter C…. Totally unintentional, I swear!

Coffee

I really like coffee.  Patrick hates it.  Thinks it is terrible and addictive.  He points out this addiction regularly and yet feeds it because it makes me so happy.  I discovered during my gyne onc rotation whilst doing masses of reading around endometrial cancer that coffee is, in fact shown to be protective against endometrial cancer and that the decrease in endometrial cancer is inversely related to the amount of coffee consumed.  Sweet!  Now, this was one study.  So, probably not the best thing to lean on full force, but definitely supportive of my habit.  Lots of people have habits. Some are worse than others.  Killing people… Bad.  Smoking bad… not as bad as directly killing people, but still killing people indirectly.  Coffee…. Well, there is the argument about profits made by the coffee industry as opposed to the suppliers of the original bean.  Not fair.  And coffee can bring out palpitations, and irritate your bladder and sometimes get the bowels a running. And people who drink really hot coffee frequently can develop thermal injuries to their esophagus that can eventually lead to esophageal cancer.  But, enough doom and gloom.  It also tastes good and keeps me just ever so slightly chipper (even if it is a placebo effect).

Little Red Keurig

I recently (well, a month and a half ago) purchased a cute little red Keurig one cup brewer.  I calculate that the cost of that (on sale), plus the K-cups has already been negated by my coffee savings.  That is pretty epic.  I can use those savings in other places, like charities, school, etc.   The worst thing about it is the waste, each of those cups filling landfills.  I am considering cleaning them out and giving them to Patrick to give to his kiddos for crafts.  The best thing (other than savings and coffee at home) is that I can try different coffees.  This week it is Vanilla Biscotti.  It is quite awful.  I like flavored coffees, but to me, this tastes like artificial flavoring.  I did have a Black Silk or Dark Silk before this… That is a “to buy again” for sure.

I am glad I have the little brewer, but I still enjoy the whole go to Starbucks for a treat concept.  Yum Peppermint Mocha.  How festive.  Whilst away for electives, part of my city rating scale involved the accessibility to good coffee. They all passed.  Kingston had a cute place called Coffeeco.  All fair trade, reasonably priced with a student discount on top of that.  It won my most unique and exciting find.  Though, all cities had a sufficient caffeine supply.

Christmas Cookies

What goes better with coffee than Christmas Cookies?  Last night, we had the small group over for a “Christmas Evening at Home.”  This is an initiative by our church to bring families together for a special evening during advent.  Since we all don’t have families here (for the most part), we had an evening together.  I baked for it.  We also had hot chocolate, did an Advent Bible study and chatted a bit.  The study was looking at some of the prophecies in Haggai 2 and Isaiah 60 about the coming of Jesus.  It was cool to look back and remember where all of this comes from and how cool it is that God told people what was going to happen before it did, and now we can see it for ourselves.

Back to the cookies.  I decided I wanted to make Scotch Cookies.  A Christmas classic in my family.  I called Mom and got the recipe.  Here it is:

  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups of flour (reserve at least ½ cup to roll cookies… otherwise they stick and get too doughy)
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • Mix it all together, then roll out to 1cm thickness and use your favorite cookie cutter (at home, a pill bottle, here festive cutters) to cut them out.
  • Bake at 375 for 8 minutes (golden on top and lightly brown on bottom).

I then discovered I was missing two key ingredients: icing sugar and almond extract.  I also remembered that almond extract is key to making them taste like home and not like, well, not home.  I went to two stores.  No almond extract.  Apparently it is popular this year.  I gave up… Recipe modification number 1.

I got home, cranked the iPod and got to cooking.  Next fail… I have been trying to use whole wheat flour for everything of late.  Meaning we don’t have white flour.  Scotch Cookies always have white flour.  Well, until I got at them.

So, I ended up making whole wheat Scotch Cookies with vanilla…. Modified recipe:

  • 1 cup of softened butter
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 cups of flour (reserve at least ½ cup to roll cookies… otherwise they stick and get too doughy)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (I probably added more like 2 because they still seemed bland)
  • Mix it all together, then roll out to 1cm thickness and use your favorite cookie cutter (at home, a pill bottle, here festive cutters) to cut them out.
  • Bake at 375 for 10 minutes (golden on top and lightly brown on bottom) – festive cookies are bigger and took longer to cook.

They looks suspiciously whole wheat.  They were still a hit.  I am pumped to go home and make them the traditional way.  So they taste like home.  Yum, home.

Communication and choices in clinic

Another thrilling day in the Thoracics clinic.  No sarcasm.  Seriously.  I noticed that communication is huge.  Not that I didn’t know that before, but today, I sat in on at least two lay out your treatment options discussions.  The serious ones where the person is newly diagnosed with a cancer, or a second cancer and there are multiple valid options, each of which have their own risks and benefits, all of which are proven in the literature to be strong options.  If I were to flip the tables, I would find it overwhelming.  As worded by one daughter, “what if I choose wrong?”  The reality is, though research shows there is no one right or wrong choice, individuals can have a better choice for them personally.  I can look at it and say I would pick this, but in reality it is not what someone else would say and we can both be right.  But these people, not knowing any of this before, have to look at the options and make a choice.  A life altering choice.  I couldn’t help but notice that the physician did an excellent job at presenting the facts in language that is well understood.  I also couldn’t help but notice the use of statistics…. 80-90% chance of cure versus 50-60% chance of cure.  People hear numbers and think absolutes.  That is what happened here.  The family heard the numbers and said, oh its obvious, he wants my mom to have surgery.  It took another 10 minutes to explain the risks of said surgery and that the risk of death or significant disability from surgery is greater of the other option.  It took several repeats of this info to be seen as something to consider outside of the better numbers.  Then came the question I always dread… “If it were you, what would you choose?”  EEP.  We are taught to deflect… “What do you think?”  Never answer.   Because really, it IS different.  We discussed that each of us are different.  You need to consider you, not me, that either option is excellent.

I left the encounter feeling a bit disheartened and yet encouraged.  I have been in a number of tough talks.  I know it will somehow get easier with experience and practice.  It was a good reminder that what you say to people matters and can sway them if you aren’t cautious.  It also reminds me that I am blessed to have the opportunity to learn what I am.  We referred this family to the specialist that would administer their other option to clarify details about that prior to them making a decision.  It is important that people make informed choices about their health.  It is also important we don’t overwhelm them.  I hope that we continue to develop our chains of communication so that we can best convey information and support decision-making.  We have come a long way from paternalistic medicine.  We have a long way to go.  But, we need to remember that care is centered around the patient and that if we are going to bombard them with questions and choice, we need to educate them appropriately and in terms that they fully understand without pressing our own agendas or beliefs.

Christ

The “Jesus loves you” sign struck me today.  It was in sharpie.  I saw it driving with Patrick yesterday as well.  It is bold, yet simple.  Does it make an impact?  I noticed it, so I’m sure others do.   Is it more than just words?  God only knows.  I suppose it is a seed planted.  Especially this time of year.

The Classic Crime

Since I have already alluded to the band at least twice in the post and it fits with the theme, I will wrap things up with a song sampling.  They are apparently classified as Indie and/or Alternative.  They are signed with a label that produces Christian music, though they prefer not to be labeled as such.  Have a listen!

Advent Conspiracy

Everyone wants Christmas to be meaningful. –The Advent Conspiracy, 2011.

In church today, we watched an interesting little clip from the Advent Conspiracy (http://ac.wcrossing.org/).  I hadn’t really heard of it before and had no clue what it was, but now have looked into it because the concepts seem appealing.  I think they are interesting not just to believers, but to anyone who feels justice is important in the world today.

Firstly, the clip we watched was focused on giving.  Here it is: 

The truth of this struck me.  I am not always the most festive person, though I have grown in leaps and bounds with respect to my “festiveness” over the past few years.  It is interesting though, the time we waste during the Christmas season doing things out of obligation and cultural norm – the Christmas parties you don’t want to be at, the lines at stores, the traffic in the streets… All of those things can take away from things of true value.  Now, some Christmas parties are of value when the time you spend is quality in nature.  I have been to some wonderful Christmas parties of that nature.  I have also been to the “when is it acceptable that I leave and do I look as bored and tortured as I feel” kinds of parties as well.  What if we skipped some of those things (easier said than done) to spend more time with those we love and care about or doing something of worth and value?

The money you spend on postage could feed a Third World Child.  -The Advent Conspiracy, 2010.

The other thing that knocked me over the head were the statements about our spending habits.  Americans spend 450 billion dollars, thus Canadians spend around 45 billion dollars on Christmas alone (if you go by the take an American statistic and divide by 10 and get the Canadian version literally).  That is A LOT of MONEY!  Even more fascinating is that the cost of the average person’s Christmas card postage totals the same amount used to fund meals for a child in a developing country for a YEAR.    We are so blessed and we are so wasteful.  Its not saying that our gifts don’t have good intentions, but maybe we could have better intentions.

The Advent Conspiracy website details the four principles (explanations of which are paraphrased from the website):

  1. Worship Fully –  Remember, Christmas is all about Jesus.  So, celebrate the One who gives us life and peace.
  2. Spend Less – They suggest buying one less gift this year.  Or making some of your own gifts for less cost.
  3. Give More – Christmas was when Jesus, God’s gift to man was born.  This gift was built on a relationship of love.  This Christmas, give love and give time.  Spend time with people who are important to you.
  4. Love All – Jesus loved the poor, forgotten and those who were considered unloveable.  We should do the same.  By spending less we can help those who need it most.

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Seems fairly simple, yet quite a challenge.

This Christmas season, I plan to try this.  Not because the “Advent Conspiracy” is a cool name or because of the videos, but because of my love for Jesus and my passion for justice.  A little bit of time and money and love can go a long way!

Christmas can [still] change the world. -The Advent Conspiracy, 2011