Monday, January 30, 2012

Q & A on Life

I get lots of random questions about "where we are" in our family.  I'm taking this as an opportunity to blog & answer some of those questions here.  Hope this helps!

Q: So, your husband is a Doctor?  How did that happen?

A: He is a Doctor, aka a Physician.  After high school, he spent 5 years in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman.  For him, this means he acted as a cross between a Physician Assistant and a Medical Assistant (simplified explanation).  This is where he became interested in medicine.  The school process went like this: 3 years of undergraduate college = Bachelor's degree in Biology. 4 years of medical school = Doctor of Osteopathy.  He's now in his first year of a 4 year residency program.

Q: What is an Osteopath?  Is he some sort of chiropractor?

A: An Osteopath (DO) is a Physician just like a Medical Doctor (MD) is a Physician.  Both attend 4 year medical school programs, which consist of 2 years of classroom work, and 2 years of in-hospital training.  After graduating, an Osteopath can obtain a residency in any of the sub-specialties available: radiology, surgery, pediatrics, family practice, anesthesiology, etc.  The training differs in that an Osteopath is encouraged to view the patient as a whole, not as a condition (very simplified explanation).  An Osteopath is not a chiropractor.

Q: If he's a Doctor, what's a residency?  Doesn't he have an office somewhere that he works in? 

A: Before graduating from medical school, you apply for a residency program in the field you want to specialize in.  For him, that is Emergency Medicine (EM).  Residency provides specific training in your chosen field.  Residency programs vary in length, from 3-5 years.  EM is a 4 year program.  Once he completes the program and passes all his licensing exams, he will be eligible to take the Board Certification exam for his specialty.

Each year of a residency program is balanced between the specialty field (EM), and other areas that apply to that field.  This means that he spends about 6-7 months in the ER, and the remaining months training in other areas of medicine that overlap with EM - such as Pediatric EM, Trauma, Internal Medicine, Surgery, etc.  As a Resident, he works under the supervision of the Attending Physician on duty.

He spends the majority of his time at the hospital.

Q: What happens after residency?

A: In his last year of residency, he will start to apply for jobs as an Attending Physician.  This means he would be a full-time staff member at the hospital, working without supervision.  We hope to move back West, but it depends on the opportunities available.    

Q: Why choose Emergency Medicine?

A: It was a good fit for him.  While he was in medical school, he did a rotation in the ER, and when he came home that first night he told me that there was no doubt that's what he wanted to do.

EM is also a good fit for our family.  There's no extra office hours and no patients to track down & follow up with.  They usually schedule at least a month out, so we know when he'll be working and when he'll be off.  That's good to know when you've got busy kids!

Q: Was his Dad a Doctor?

A: No one in his family is in the medical field.  In fact, his parents never went to college.  But we were very surprised by how many medical students came from Physician families.

Q: Aren't y'all a little old to have just finished medical school?

A: Yes. We are considered non-traditional students, a broad category which encompasses those who are a little older, those who enjoyed a career or two before returning to school, or pretty much anyone who lived life for a few years instead of plodding directly from high school to college to medical school.  And while it sometimes felt like he was The World's Oldest Medical Student, we have met lots of others who could also fit into that category.  Not only are we older, but we also have young children, so that made us even more "different" than many medical students.

Q: If he had a decent career making good money, why chuck it all and be starving students again?

A: Mostly because we wanted a better life for our family.  His job paid well, but we never knew when he would be working (it was sort of on-call situation).  When he was working, he was gone 24/7, plus we never knew if he would be away for 3 days or 3 weeks.  After talking out all the options, we moved cross-country, lived with family for 6 months, I went back to work full-time, and he started community college classes.  7 years later, here we are!

OK, yes, that is the simple version of events. It came down to this: we didn't want to raise a family with him gone most of the time.  We knew we could do better.  And we believed in our ability to make it happen.  Our marriage is by no means ideal but we have always been great partners, and a supportive partnership was critical to this plan.  

* Note: after reading this, my husband told me that I make it sound like our marriage is nothing but a business partnership.  Not true.  I just meant that we, like everyone, have our share of little difficulties, but that we are 99% together on our overall family & life goals.  

Q: I've heard medical school is sort of expensive.  How did you pay for it?

A: Medical school was incredibly expensive.  Student loans allowed us to pay for medical school and also provided a small amount to live on.  I did work part-time for the first two years, but the last two years we lived on just student loan money.  We now owe hundreds of thousands of dollars.  That's not a typo.  

Q: If he's a Doctor, why is he still driving a 15 year old car? 

A: Well, he is getting paid while in residency, but it's not "doctor money".  Right now we make less than the national median household income.  For a single person this is decent money, but for a family it's a little challenging.  We have what we need, but there is little room for wants.  

Q:  What's his schedule like?  Is he gone a lot? 

A: His schedule isn't bad, but it does vary.  When he's in the ER, we know up front what his schedule will be for the month - usually 18, 12 hour shifts.  But he also is required to attend additional trainings, meetings, and testing through the month.  Often his "days off" turn into another 3, 4, or 5 hours at the hospital.

Q: If he's gone so much, don't you get lonely? 

A: Sometimes.  I've always been very independent, and I also think that his previous career prepared me to be even more self-sufficient.  Mostly I've learned to be flexible.

Q: Is he going to make a boatload of money when he finishes his residency? 

A: We don't know.  We hope he's fairly compensated commensurate to his education, training, and certifications.  Even if he does make a "boatload" of money, we still have student loans to pay back (see above: HUNDREDS of thousands), we have to start saving hard for retirement (see above: we are OLD), and our kids will be fast approaching college age.  So, no Ferraris for us!

Q: You don't talk about his job very much.  If my husband was a Doctor, I'd be shouting it from the rooftops!

A: I am incredibly proud of his accomplishments.  But yes, we tend to keep it quiet.  We've found that "Physician" is very polarizing to people - everyone has an opinion about doctors, and they are not shy about sharing them.

Q: I have a (insert medical condition here).  Will he give me some medicine for it? 

A: No.  If you have an emergency, you should go to the emergency room.  If you have a medical condition, you should see your family physician.  It would be irresponsible of him to diagnose or prescribe pharmaceuticals for you unless you were under his care (ie, his patient in the ER).

Q: It must be great to have a doctor in the family.  He can get you any kind of prescription you need!

A: Yes, and No.  I'm proud of him.  But he doesn't prescribe for our family.  If we are sick, we go to the family doctor/ pediatrician like everyone else.

Q: What do you think about the current state of healthcare in America?

A: I don't think there's enough space on the internet for me to share my feelings about healthcare in America.  All I will say about this subject is that the ER is heavily abused, and has become the dumping ground for every cough, sneeze, and WebMD self-diagnosis.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The William Morris Project: Week 3

Oh, this was a tough week. Good intentions, but zero motivation.

Wait, that's not totally true.  I started stripping the wallpaper border in the living room.  And immediately ran into trouble.  Unlike the kitchen, this wallpaper seems to have been applied with E-6000.  It took me an hour to remove a 4' section using my trusty hot-water-and-vinegar formula. I think I'm going to have to genuflect to the powers of the glue and buy some chemical stripper.  So instead of the grand reveal of "No More Wallpaper In my House!", I give you the cookie cutter jar:

Beautiful - check.

Useful - check.

Better than 3 Ziploc baggies of cookie cutters - check.

Cost: $0

I spent so many days dwelling on the desire to Do! A! Big! Project! for this week that I almost lost sight of the fact that this Project is not - CAN NOT - always be about grandiosity.  Sometimes it is the small changes that make me most content.  If I look around my home and smile at the little details, the big, pending to-do's seem much more manageable.  Plus, there's always next week.  

To learn more about The William Morris Project, visit Jules at Pancakes and French Fries.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe: Mongolian Beef

As much as I like to think that I am a chain-restaurant snob, there's a reason that they sprawl across the nation and entice us with greasy burgers, perfectly crunchy fries, and spicy sauteed chicken bites.  It's decent.  And consistent.  And readily available.

Well, now that I live 2 hours from our favorite chain restaurants (OK, we DID drive only an hour for Chipotle..... but that was 3 months ago & we won't be doing that again), I have to rely on my own ingenuity (aka Pinterest) to satisfy my mediocre foodie cravings.  Mongolian Beef from that ubiquitous-Asian-restaurant-that-rhymes-with-BF-Wang's is a family favorite, and lo and behold, I found a recipe.  Here ya go:

Mongolian Beef Recipe:
found on Pink Bites
makes 2 servings
You will need:
1 lb of flank steak, thinly sliced crosswise
1/4 cup of cornstarch
3 teaspoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon of grated ginger (about 1/2 inch piece)
1 tablespoon of chopped garlic (about 2 -3 large cloves)
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of soy sauce (I use low sodium)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
3 large green onions, sliced crosswise into thirds

Prepare the meat:
First, make sure the steak slices are dry (pat them dry) and mix them with the corn starch. Using your hands or a spoon, move them around to make sure all pieces are coated. Place beef slices in a strainer and shake off excess corn starch (see picture bellow).
Make the sauce:
Heat half of the oil in a large wok at medium-high and add the garlic and ginger. Immediately add the soy sauce, water, brown sugar and pepper flakes. Cook the sauce for about 2 minutes and transfer to a bowl. Don't worry if the sauce doesn't look thick enough at this point. The corn starch in the beef will thicken it up later. 
Cook the meat and assemble dish:
Turn the heat up and add the remaining oil to the wok. Add the beef and cook, stirring until it is all browned (this is a quick thing). Pour the sauce back into the wok and let it cook along with the meat. Now you can choose to cook it down and reduce the sauce or leave it thinner. Add the green onions on the last minute so the green parts will stay green and the white parts crunchy.
Serve it hot with rice.

My review:  I personally used skirt steak because it's what I could find (reminder: SMALL TOWN).  Usually those two cuts are pretty interchangeable, but it was chewy.  Next time I would use something else.... perhaps chuck steak.  Otherwise it was VERY good.  Not an exact replica, but very tasty, and one I will use again soon.  As with a lot of Asian cooking, the fresh ginger makes all the difference.  Don't skimp.  And the red pepper gave it a little spice but not too much.  Sorry, no pictures!  We gobbled it up!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The William Morris Project: Week 2

For this week, I set a challenge for myself based on one I saw at Makeunder My Life.

I challenged myself to Throw Out 50 Things.

After doing a BIG purge while moving this summer, I was a little doubtful that I would be able to easily rustle up 50 more items to throw out.  

And yet, here we are. 

Some of these were easy, some I had to search for, and a few I had already earmarked for disposal.

Note: I only "threw out" a few of these items. The rest went to Goodwill. 

1. Tablecloth & napkins
2. Placemats still in the box after 9 years
3. Leaky kid cup
4. Metal steamer
5. Food chopper - used 1x
6. Globe from hall light
7. Christmas cup
8, 9, 10. Cooking utensils

11. Pot lid holder
12, 13. Curtains
14. Duvet cover
15. Sham (yes, just 1)
16. 5 year old disposable camera
17. Collection of lids from take out cups
18. Tarnished napkin rings
19.  Medicine dispenser
20. Knife cover 

21, 22. Hats
23, 24. Pans
25. Grill pan
26, 27. Books
28, 29. Pajamas
30. Shirt

31. Hat
32. Jeans
33. Free tote bag
34. Slippers
35, 36, 37. Shirts
38. Bath fizzies
39. Sunglasses
40. Watch band

41-44. Shirts
45. Skirt
46, 47. Shirts
48,49. Pajama tops
50. Pants

This was a great exercise for me.

Although I found that I really have to question why I feel the need to hang to so many t-shirts with holes in them.

And while I bask in the glow of not just purging, but physically moving these items out of my house in a timely manner, I also find it disturbing that I still resist getting rid of some items - despite not having used them in YEARS.  The "But, What If" mentality is strong in me, and is one that I think I will always have to fight.  Which is doubly ironic because once those items are gone, I breathe a tiny sigh of pleasure over the reduction in clutter.  It's a battle, folks, a CONSTANT battle.  This is exactly why I need to plow ahead with The William Morris Project.

PS: It felt really good to complete this - to actually find & get rid of 50 items, but sharing the collection of stuff above feels like I am revealing my Crazy.  Really, who keeps 16 take-out lids?  Or two tarnished snowflake napkin rings when we are a family of 4?  Or a watch band missing a connector pin?  THIS GIRL.    

Friday, January 13, 2012


We were lulled to sleep last night by the patter of rain. 
We woke to the whine of the rising wind, to a world frosted over. 
Snow is rare here, usually flaking and melting in a matter of hours.

Sub-freezing temperatures may allow this dusting to stay.
Skittering over subtly icy roads.
Swirling across roofs.

Blanketed in white, the landscape seems foreign and bleak.

Not enough to play in, but just enough to cocoon ourselves inside.
Watching the flakes dance and swirl from inside our blanket fort. 
Cozy with hot chocolate.
Swathed in fleece.
Covered in wool. 
It's winter inside, too.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

The William Morris Project: Week 1, January 2012

I have never been a fan of wallpaper.  Maybe I have just been scarred by previous experience (growing up with PLAID wallpaper in the kitchen, stripping paint-able wallpaper from plaster walls in our first home).  But it's always been a no-go for me.  

Fortunately, I did not let that deter me when we looked at our Ohio house.  

Stripes + decorative china + sunflowers + green + burgundy

 Hi, the 80's called & they'd like their teacups back.   

 Because I never considered this to be useful or beautiful, it had to go.

I had stripped the dining room and kitchen walls a few months ago, but that border lingered. 

This week I finally armed myself with vinegar and water and a plastic scraper and I got to work.

I love how they obviously hung the border AND THEN painted the wall. 
PS: the wall color is prettier in the picture than in person.  In real life it's sort of a dull grey.

Border be gone! 

Now I just need to muster up the courage to pick a paint color. 

My daughter's reaction: "It looks so PLAIN."

After re-reading this post, I know that my unabashed joy over NO MORE BORDER just doesn't come through.  I spend part of my time wondering why I didn't get off my lazy bum and do this months ago, and part of my time plotting what to do next. I'd love to replace the countertops, paint the cabinets, and add a backsplash, but I think the budget is only going to allow for paint.  Whatever I end up doing first, all I can say is that I will ALWAYS take plain over teacups.  

Note: I've gotten lots of comments about using vinegar to strip the wallpaper.  I don't know if this works for all types, but here's what I do: First, try to peel off what you can by hand.  Next, use a "tiger paw" to lightly score what's left.  Mix vinegar and hot water at a 50/50 ratio in spray bottle.  Spray the wallpaper, wait a few minutes, and scrape gently using a plastic scraper.  Wipe down the area with a damp sponge.  Done! 

Full disclosure: I did this on Tuesday, and ran out of vinegar, so there is a 5' section that remains to be stripped.  I would have finished it yesterday but instead I was sidelined by the stomach flu.  Even with that last bit to be done, it still looks better than when I started.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I Take It Back + The William Morris Project 2012

I know, I said that I was going to limit each month to 3 goals.  And I will.  Sort of.  So, maybe I'm taking it back. But not really.  I don't know.  I think I'm just adding a bit more, but these aren't really goals, but more of projects.  Yes, we'll call it a project.

I love Jules over at Pancakes and French Fries.  Not only is she smart and sassy, but she has a lovely way with words.  I like her because she makes me feel as though she shares more than just the glossy surface images of her life.  She shows bits of the dirt and grime of motherhood+life, but in a tongue-in-cheek way, not in the "Oh look at what a baaaaad Mom I am" way that seems to be a bit prevalent in blog land these days.  She owns it all - both the flaws and the glitter.

A few months back, Jules did a series of 31 Days of William Morris.  She started here.  And what it boils down to is the mantra of "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."   A lofty goal, no?  But how do we accomplish anything if we do not have a goal in mind?  The amazing Jules plunged into this for the entire month of October, and it was fabulous.  I loved seeing proof that I am not the only one with overcrowded drawers or closets mucked up with piles of board games, batteries, and wrapping paper.  I also loved seeing the process of each day, and I vicariously experienced the satisfaction of purging, organizing, and prettifying along with her.

For 2012 Jules has committed to The William Morris project for each week of 2012, and I am ON BOARD.  At first read it seemed overwhelming, but I think it's just the kick I need to shake off some of my winter apathy and continue to pull this house together.  I have been using budget as my excuse for the last few months of lethargy, but useful and beautiful DO NOT have to mean costly.  It's time to make my list, dust off my camera, and start posting regularly.  Away we go!

Monday, January 2, 2012

I Resolve No Resolutions

I am not a fan of resolutions.  I appreciate a fresh start as much as the next person, but 1/1 just feels a little arbitrary for making 12 months worth of sweeping goals.  Even if your goal is to sweep more often.



Instead, at the start of each month, I'm going to write 3 goals, to be completed for that month only.  Much like I prefer a minimalistic approach to a To-Do list, I think the 3 goal-month will work for me.

For January we have:

  1. Buy, paint, and mount frames for my wall-of-states project.  I'll talk more about this as the goal moves from ideation to iteration. 
  2. Pull together Big Sis' Birthday Party.  February is just 29 days away, so I better get crackin' on this one. 
  3. Finish J's robot quilt.  All I need to do is buy the batting, so it is time to JUST DO IT already.  
Are you a resolution maker?  Do you keep them?