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Yesterday was mother’s day. I had the day off work, and spent a wonderful day with my mom – we went out for lunch, and spent some time with my grandmother. We’re about to watch the latest Game of Thrones episode; afterwards I’ll return to the house I’m sitting to cuddle up with the dog (who insists on sharing the bed) and snag a few hours of rest.
I wrote a short poem yesterday morning, reflecting my thoughts on motherhood. I’m at a strange age where it seems that half my friends are “exploring their sexuality” (in whatever that may entail), a solid number are getting married and/or are having children themselves, and the remainder are happily single and/or in steady relationships with no intention of pursuing anything further in the near future. I’m sure that my perspective on what it is to be a mother will change dramatically over the next few decades, particularly if I do end up having children of my own some day, but it’s an interesting exercise – and it made my mother tear up, which is (usually) a good sign. 😉
Reflections on Motherhood
Bringing a child into the world
Because you want one is
By definition, a selfish act
A fundamentally human act
Becoming, in that first breath
A lifetime project in selflessness
I was, and am a wanted child
Born into a stable nuclear family
And I know that I’m lucky
To never have witnessed the rows
Of two people wrong for each other
To never have felt unloved
My mother has always been
A pillar of strength in my life
Her love ties us all together.
As I’ve grown, I’ve developed a concept of
The weight that a mother’s actions bear
In the shaping of sons and daughters
Because I am also selfish
And fundamentally human
I envision a child of my own one day
They will carry the weight of the experiences
Of all the strong women who moulded me
Either present or implied in my own mother’s teachings
And I can only hope
To raise them with as much
Unselfishness and awareness
To have them feel as important
Supported, free to speak and share
To know that there is a home to come back to
And above all, to have them feel as loved
As my mother has always made
And makes me feel today.
Happy mother’s day to all the moms out there! May you all feel as cherished and loved as you deserve, today and every day.
Once again, exams are thrust upon us. I’ve been mostly following a study schedule I made up for myself mid-March; my first exam is this evening, and I feel well-prepared, though cautious and most certainly not overconfident. This particular prof’s examination style is somewhat intense, with negative-marking multiple choice questions making up half the exam and a weighting of 70% of the final course mark. Still, all of the material covered in the exams are what we went through in class (no additional textbook readings), and the questions are straightforward. This prof also happens to be my favourite prof this year – I’ve taken four out of ten classes this year with him, three of them this semester. My next exam is Saturday, followed by another Monday, then one on next Thursday, and finally one on the Thursday after that; everything culminates precisely one month after my 21st birthday. We’ve planned a class-wide brunch out to celebrate afterwards.
In other news, life feels like it might finally be slowing. I’m gearing up (or down?) for “the best summer ever” – that is, one with hopefully not nearly as much stress as last summer. I’ll be working a lot, spending time in the lab, coaching a soccer team and enjoying a new band gig playing at the hospital – and these are my only commitments. No summer courses, no MCAT studying. I’m taking some camping trips, I’m visiting my best friend and family in Ottawa for her graduation, and I’m going to Cape Cod at the end of August. I’m going to focus on my own health and fitness (I’d like to make exercise/movement more of a priority – swimming across lakes and hiking, anyone? – and prioritize better sleep habits). I may even write a memoir, if I can discipline myself to sit down and write every morning; it this proves to be too stressful, I’ll let it go for another season. I’m hoping to spend time making memories with my friends; my undergraduate years are slipping away, and I have this distinct impression that I’m entering my final season of childhood.
1) I went to Florida in February with my best friend and her family, and finally got to experience Disney World. It’s a far cry from the types of trips I usually take, but I definitely enjoyed myself – and must admit that Disney as a whole is great at what it does. We also got to enjoy a day at the beach, before temperatures dropped to just above freezing – cold, but not nearly as cold as at home! I’ll take it any day.
2) Immediately after Florida I went to Montebello with my lab group for a conference. That was an extremely cool experience; it’s fun to have the opportunity to interact with researchers at the front of their field and get to know other trainees, who will likely become colleagues in the not-so-distant future. Also, the food at this place: no words. I can’t even begin to sum up how incredible it all was.
3) Yesterday, I started the Whole30 program with my parents. I’m trying to regulate my eating patterns (I have pretty rampant snacking habits and tend to have seconds of dinner, regardless of if I’m hungry or not), and also hope to resolve my persistent acne issues and maybe even sort out my sleep issues (I have frequent bouts of insomnia). Searching for a miracle cure? Perhaps. 😉 We’ll see what happens.
January is probably my least favourite month.
Maybe it’s the post-holiday letdown, or the whole “getting back to the grind” thing – those likely have as much to do with it as does the weather (cold, dark with slowly-lenthening days, dreary). Whatever it is, I’m feeling a distinct sense of disquiet, as though something’s amiss. The feeling that right at this moment, I’m missing out on something and I’ll only remember what it is post facto.
Without getting into specifics, I’ve been dealing with some major anxiety as of late. I’m sitting with it, trying to observe it without reasoning with it or rationalizing it – I know it’s all irrational on an intellectual level, but the fact that there’s a large piece of my brain (another level) trying to convince me that I’m a most horrid human being is a bit trying when you’re attempting to go about your day-to-day existence.
I’ve been working a lot recently – close to full time hours, while attending school full time (of course). The busyness helps, as has taking some yoga and fitness classes. My course load
feels is lighter – only one lab course, and it all takes place in the gym.
I’m still working on figuring out what I want, and primordially what I need – but the only thing I’ve figured out there is that I don’t need to be working so hard and so much. Oh, and also, that I’m (still) craving a season of rest – that is badly needed. That feels like an impossibility for the unforeseeable future. It’s a cycle – I need this workload to cope with this anxiety, but the workload itself generates more of the latter. I’m working through it one step at a time. Trying to be patient. I’ve started so many things, I can’t possibly leave them half-finished, and nor do I particularly want to.
Since that was a bit of a downer beginning to this post, I’m now going to list some of the things I actually do like about January:
– Skating on Ramsay lake
– Lengthening days (slowly but surely!)
– Alpine skiing
– The start of a new school semester (under four months until summer break!)
– The star of a new year + the motivation for change (however short lived) that comes with
– Multiple birthdays to celebrate
1) Yesterday, I attended my first two formal yoga classes in nearly four years. I wound up winning a month of free yoga, which was really cool considering that I’ve been thinking of getting a membership or class pass to this particular studio for, oh, about a year – and now I have no excuse at all (for a month at least).
2) I’m writing a paper on the motor consequences of encephalitis for my neuromotor control class, and let me just say that this area is extraordinarily broad. I have a month exactly to get through this paper, and I’m hoping that I make good headway today (before and after my eight hour work shift, that is).
3) I also need to work on that review paper for my lab; I have until January first to submit the completed chapter, which realistically means that I need to have the full rough draft done by the end of this month to allow for revisions and such. I can’t even proceed much until our next lab meeting on Wednesday, so there’s that.
4) My motivation to do my school work is decreasing. Besides those two papers, I have a short paper I need to just do for my biomechanics class, two more lab reports for biomechanics and biochem respectively, and one more group lab report (plus a lab exam at the end of term) to get ready for. I also have two more “mid-terms” (we are definitely beyond mid-term). I just need to buckle down and do it. I need to spend a day (or more realistically, five hours or so) at the library sometime this week to just get sh*t done.
5) I. am. so. freaking. excited. for. December. 15th. My last exam runs until 5pm, at which time I will promptly return home and collapse into a happy-comatose-type sleep. I’m telling myself that I only have thirty-six days until I can take a well-earned mental break, though I don’t know that my brain really believes that at this point.
6) Well, this was a boringly self-centred redux of my life, which currently revolves around school and exercise, sometimes combined (we did power testing in my Exphys lab this week). I’ll be back soon with something more interesting!
In just over three week’s time, I’ll be writing my MCAT. My studying has somewhat slowed – I’m reviewing material when time allows, listening to audio lectures on my walks to and from school, doing practice passages in the mornings, and running practice exams on the weekends. School has somewhat taken over, with readings and lab reports and studying for early mid-terms taking precedence. It all ties together; a lot of it is material that could be testable.
In terms of school, I’m loving this year so far! Minus biomechanics (as with anything physics-based, I’m a hard sell on loving it), though offering mini independent tutorial sessions helps. I definitely learn best by teaching. My exercise physiology and biochemistry (of the metabolism) courses are extremely interesting to me, and I’m finding immunology fascinating. Neuromotor control is okay; I actually don’t love learning about the brain, though I think that’s because there’s so much misinformation and lack of understanding in this particular area of study. At the end of the day, it’s also very interesting, perhaps for the very reasons I find unattractive. 😉
I’ve been thinking a lot about doing what makes one happy. Lately, I’ve been feeling like I’ve been living more in my brain than in my body, and have been craving physical experiences. Adrenaline rushes. I’ve been working a lot without much pause (and in many ways am extremely lucky to be able to do so), and so that could be a part of it. It’s just been so bizarre.
I’ve been wanting to go to yoga again (I’m by no means an extreme yogi, but there’s no denying that it’s an excellent way to get into your body and breathing and out of your head). I’ve considered taking adult ballet, just to see if I can be more graceful than my stumbling five-year-old self was. I want to go to Tanzania and hike Mt. Kilimanjaro and do a hiking safari in the Serengeti. I want to scuba dive off every coast, learn how to climb mountains and camp out in the bitter cold. I want to ski new slopes and take walks in the falling leaves. More than anything, I want intellectual conversations over coffee or wine, board games played with close friends, food shared in good company. I want to play piano and get my black belt in Taek Won Do.
And then, at the same time, I want to learn everything and anything. I want to study and learn and discover. Physiology, hormones, nutrition, environmental ethics, the immune system – these are the things that draw me, capture my interest. I’ll read for hours at a time, compiling and storing information. I want to understand. It’s like there’s this fluid dichotomy between all of my wants, and I’m struggling to balance everything. Something has to give at some point.
Logically perhaps, as the noise in my head grows and intensifies, I feel this overwhelming need to minimize. I’ve been slowly paring down on my personal belongings, starting with clothes, shoes and beauty products (my boyfriend recently commented that he might have more clothes than I do). Letting go of some physical possessions has been remarkably freeing; kind of like freeing up space on a hard drive you hadn’t realized had been getting bogged down. I’m tackling books and jewellery next, and then perhaps my sentimental keepsakes – stuff I never use or look at but have yet to part with due to some kind of deep nostalgia. It’s a cleansing exercise.
I’m doing lots of soul-searching, trying to figure out what I want and if what I’m doing is aligning with my core values and my own happiness. I’ve decided that these things have to matter above all else. My values might change slightly as time goes on (and my definition of happiness even more so), but I don’t want to look back on a single point of my life and feel that I’ve wasted time. And no, I haven’t a clue what constitutes a waste of time, but I have a theory that it’s one of those things that you realize retrospectively and is related to doing something that doesn’t, in fact, fulfill you.
I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I suspect that my so-called gluten-sensitivity is actually a FODMAPs sensitivity. During my research, I stumbled across the autoimmune protocol. As someone with an autoimmune condition (vitiligo), my curiosity was piqued, and I went on to read a few articles. I hadn’t really expected to find much – after all, how much can does a disease affecting your skin really have to do with your diet?
Apparently, a whole lot more than you’d think.
I’m not going to talk too extensively about the hows and whys behind the autoimmune protocol. Sarah Ballantyne has written extensively on the topic – I’d highly recommend exploring her posts if you have any questions.
Honestly, I’m tired of living with digestive distress. Over the part eight or so months, I’ve been eating everything – even gluten containing foods – hoping that my symptoms would resolve. Obviously, they haven’t; if anything, my IBS-type symptoms are worse than ever. As I’ve said before, something has to change.
The autoimmune protocol promotes avoidance of nightshades, eggs, seeds and nuts, alcohol, NSAIDS, and excessive fructose or sweeteners. I’m going to be combining this protocol with a low FODMAPs protocol (avoiding galacto-oligo-saccharides, fructans, lactose, fructose and polyols) in hopes of a) resolving my digestive issues and b) finding which foods I tolerate and which ones give me symptoms. The protocol is essentially a modified paleo protocol.
I’ll be following the strict AIP + FODMAPs protocol for a month. After this time, I’ll begin to reintroduce common FODMAPs foods (one every five days), recording any symptoms. Once these have been tested, I’ll move on to foods on the AIP no-go list.
Obviously, I have no intention of following this for any extensive period of time. Avocados, nuts, eggs, tomatoes, bell peppers, spices, and dairy products are mainstays in my diet, and I’m hoping I won’t have to see many (if any!) of them go. I’ll be posting updates here and on twitter, as well as meal pictures on instagram. 🙂
I eat pretty much anything. I’m not about to make a fuss, especially when people go out of their way to prepare me a meal. Despite my somewhat tumultuous relationship with food, I love a good meal shared in good company – that’s my idea of a good time. At my wedding (sometime in the distant future), the food will be what I spend the most on.
I fully believe you can appreciate – love, even – food without having an emotional relationship with it. That’s not to say that eating and emotions shouldn’t mix; they absolutely do. Carrot cake with cream cheese icing stirs up memories of my grandmother – it never fails to stir up feelings in me, and will forever remain my favourite cake. I have trouble eating crackers for the memory of devouring entire packs of them after school in high school – the discomfort of it all throws me off. My morning feels off without coffee.
Nowadays, I don’t eat my feelings. Mostly, I eat when I’m hungry; sometimes, when I’m not (stress zaps my appetite, and I will nibble somewhat at the few parties I go to). I have trouble recognizing when I’m full; I feel hunger signals clearly, but have more trouble distinguishing when I’m full. It’s something I’m working on. It’s nothing I plan on worrying about.
I’ve been paying attention to the way my body responds to my eating habits. A few observations:
– Wheat and oats give me relatively severe digestive cramps. Oats are worse than wheat, for some reason.
– Too much sugar and processed carbs make me feel ill while simultaneously craving more
– An excess of raw vegetables gives me digestive trouble
– I don’t need a huge amount of protein at every meal
– I feel best with four mid-sized meals a day (upon waking, during lunch break, after work, and in the evening)
– I enjoy desserts with a fruit component far more than those without
– I tolerate dairy well, but it might be causing me acne (I might experiment with an elimination period sometime)
– I feel best on a high-fat diet, including healthy amounts of saturated fat
– I need a moderate amount of starchy carbs in a day to ensure adequate energy and prevent hypoglycaemia
– Preferred starchy carbs: sweet potato, bananas, white rice
I find that paying attention to the way different foods affect me is extremely interesting. My primary motto when it comes to food is “Everything in moderation” (with the obligatory “Including moderation” following this – thank you, Oscar Wilde!). With this in mind, I don’t restrict my eating whatsoever. If I want dessert (always), or a bagel, or salad, I’ll have it. In general though, I eat in a way that makes me feel my best, savouring the less usual foods on the occasions they arise.
With that said, I’ll be enjoying my fair share of “treats” today. It’s Canada day, and we’re all feeling a little “extra-celebratory”. Happy first of July, everyone!
Today’s MCAT review topic: Force, Motion, and Gravitation! Honestly, physics has never been my strong point. I know it’s known as the “most intuitive” of the natural sciences – my best guess is my intuitiveness took a wrong turn somewhere, or maybe that’s a shortcoming of being right-brained (I’m a lefty). Funnily enough, intuitiveness is a part of my Meyers-Briggs personality type (I am an INFJ), and so I don’t really know what the deal is here. In any case, physics is getting the most attention of all the MCAT subjects second only to biology, where I am at a slight disadvantage due to the limited number of courses I have taken on the subject.
Anyways, I’d like to take the time to go over my MCAT review strategy. Most people I know take their MCAT exam during the summer, because they have the time to take a course and devote their full attention to reviewing. This strategy doesn’t work for me for a number of reasons: firstly, I just don’t want to pay the money for a course. In my honest opinion, it’s a waste of cash (considering I am extremely good at self-motivating when I have a plan to follow). Secondly, I don’t have hours a day to devote to pure MCAT review (and nor do I really want to spend that much time on review). I’ve just completed an extremely stressful semester. My grades aren’t quite as high as I’d like for them to be, and I need the time to recharge mentally before tackling the new semester. Finally, my summers aren’t any less busy than the regular school term – as I mentioned in the last post, I am completing a full time internship in a medical school lab whilst working part-time on the weekends and taking a summer course. Finding the time to do eight hours of review just isn’t going to happen. Ever. I keep myself quite busy, and feel stressed when I feel like I’m just sitting around and/or am only devoting my time to one thing.
Source; I’m definitely more type A than B. 😉
As such, I’m finding that I am extremely busy; adding in a rather large standardized test to prepare for definitely doesn’t simply matters. I’m employing a few simple lifestyle changes for the next few months in order to simplify my life and stay healthy:
1) Go to bed at 10 and wake up at 6. Every single day. This way I know I’m getting my full eight hours of sleep, and I have the morning hours to tackle studying and get to work early.
2) Eat three well rounded meals a day. This one goes unsaid. Fuel the brain, fuel the body.
3) Do some form of physical activity on most days. Typically this is my walk to school/work (it’s a solid 35 minutes each way, so that adds up to roughly an hour). I’ve put all gym workouts on hold until after this test – once it’s done, I’m rewarding myself with a CrossFit subscription (I’ve always wanted to go!) and a yoga class. 😀
4) Take one rest day a week. For now, this works out to be every Friday. I’ve scheduled two hour study blocks Monday to Thursday, but have left Friday blank; this tends to be my date night with the boy – but if I were to miss a review session on any other day of the week, I’d take a two hour session here instead.
5) Take some rest time every day. Right now I have roughly two hours blocked off in the evening for relaxation. Wether it’s reading, writing, blogging, or meeting a friend for coffee, I will not think about anything study-related during that time period.
And without further ado, here’s my rough summer schedule:
6:00am: Wake up. Tuesday and Thursday morning, I complete a verbal reasoning practice section; Wednesday and Friday mornings are used to review the passage.
7:00am: Breakfast. I leave the house by 7:30 in order to arrive at my internship by 8:00.
8:00am: Internship. Here I also review the material for my nutrition course.
4:00pm: Done! Walk home now.
4:30pm: Grab a snack and work on the review session of the day. Mondays = physics, Tuesdays = biology, Wednesdays = general chemistry, Thursdays = orgo.
6:30pm: Supper time!
7:00pm: Two hours of downtime.
9:00pm: Get ready for bed. Read/write.
10:00pm: Lights out.
Fridays are a day off. Saturdays I actually have two review sessions scheduled these are biology and physics. This allows for extra focus on the material I am shaky on. Sundays my plan is to theoretically complete an entire practice exam after work one week and correct it the next, but that’s contingent on my actually purchasing a company’s practice examinations. For now, the plan is to focus on the “high yield” practice problems in the Kaplan study books from the previous week’s review topic.
This plan will allow me to review everything on the MCAT, based on the AAMC’s content outline, prior to the start of classes in September. Once September arrives, I will be doing practice problems during the week and one of the AAMC’s practice exams on the weekends.
A summary of the materials I am using:
1) Kaplan’s Complete review boxed set: For general content review. From what I’ve been through so far, it is quite general, but that’s really all I need. I have textbooks from my courses for practically every subject, and for the gaps there are tons of videos and webpages online available for free that provide excellent explanations if I find myself needing more information.
2) ExamKrackers 101 Passages in Verbal Reasoning workbook (& biology textbook) : I bought the passages book due to the generally high ratings and positive response. The best way to study for verbal is to drill passages under timed conditions, and so that is the plan. I also bought the biology textbook as it had a high rating and I am nervous about the gaps in my knowledge, but I may return it.
3) Kaplan practice examinations: Haven’t bought these yet, but I will be purchasing soon!
4) Princeton Review Hyperlearning Science Workbook: For science practice problems.
So, that’s the plan for now! I will be adjusting my study strategy as required. I have approximately five months to rock this exam, and I am fully confident that I will with a bit of determination and focus. 🙂