Sunday, December 18, 2011

Weekly Update: Less than a Week Until Christmas!!

  • Getting the Squeeze out of Life
    • In follow up to my previous post, and in response to the emails of some concerned family and friends, there is no doubt in my mind that I've picked the right profession. There is also no greater reward than taking into hospital someone fiercely injured and sending them home a week or two later largely in-tact again. So despite all the anguish and horror, trauma has been my favourite rotation so far. The only thing that really gets to me is when people survive catastrophic injuries with significant morbidity. At this point, it's hard to see beyond their loss of function and emotional scars. It's hard not to think - as unpolitically correct as it may seem - they would have been better off dead. I think, though, that this is largely because we don't often get to see the long-term recovery of these patients. When we sign off as a surgical service, the patients are still in the first phases of their recovery and therefore still appear as mangled, dysfunctional bodies that entrap the bright and aware minds and souls of their hosts. However, I did manage to find the perfect TED talk that addresses this particular conundrum. I'll include it with some details down below.
    • For me, dealing with some of the rather unsavory personality types that come in via the trauma service was not as difficult as I thought it might be. I met a whole slew of people who did awful, horrible things to others: from serial rapists, to murderers, to gang bangers, to cop killers. You name it, I laid hands on them, sutured them, talked to them every day about their physical pain, and stayed up late at night trying to solve their problems and get them well again. And for me, it wasn't a crisis of conscience. In dealing with these people, I was reminded of a quote from Joan Halifax, "Compassion has enemies: pity, moral outrage, and fear". Anytime it became difficult to treat one of these patients, my reaction was easily identified as one of those 3 responses, and then, once identified, set aside so that the work could be done.
    • It's one thing to limit your practice to "the easy patients" - I mean, if you were given the choice, who would you rather round on every day: a sweet-mannered soccer mom who was in a car accident and broke her leg, does everything you recommend for healing, and sends you and the staff a gift basket when discharged - or-  the impoverished, homeless woman with lice and paranoid schizophrenia who happens to have appendicitis and throws her food tray at your head when you try to assess her belly? The fact is, both of them need help. I, for one, would never want to limit my practice to exclude the latter case simply because it makes my day easier. Medicine, for me, is about treating the breadth of humanity - and trauma has a way of being rather non-selective in its demographics. You are just as likely to get the homeless lady who was hit by a car as you the soccer mom who was driving it.

  • Recipe I've Been Drooling Over
    • So, on average I manage to score about 4-5 hrs of sleep a night... which means eating breakfast before leaving the house is a tough feat. Fortunately, a leftover can of pumpkin puree in my fridge inspired me to look up this recipe: cheddar, black pepper, and pumpkin muffins are the perfect solution to a fast morning routine plus they have a 5/5 'stick to your ribs' quality that is only beat by steel-cut oats. I highly recommend you try them!

  • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
    • Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming! And, while I'll be working, it doesn't mean that I've been above cruising the internerd for some great gift ideas. Here are my favourites from Etsy this year:
        • If any man were to wear  a bowtie of this caliber, he would be guaranteed to make me swoon. What a delight!

        • If you can blink your way past the price tag, this piece of art is both profound and inspiring. Not only does it make use of my favourite medium, linocut, but also perfectly captures the best of my favourite season. With that in mind, I think the artist has priced their piece well: good work deserves good value.

        • Last but not least, I can't help but smile when I look at this picture. It comes with a sequel that describes "animals of low moral standing"... but I feel that it is important to point out at the trifecta of animal awesomeness are all included in the high moral standing group: penguin, frog, and rabbit. :)

  • What I'm Reading Right Now
    • Textbooks upon textbooks upon textbooks....  'nuff said. :(

  • TED Talk I Watched This Week
    • What better than a first hand account of what it's like to survive one of the traumas that so disturb me. This woman was hit by a car, remained in a coma for 18 months, and was discharged to a senior's home because there was no long term care or rehab facility appropriate for her needs. When she says, "they had given up on me, called me a gomer... and the hospital really didn't know what to do with someone in my state", she couldn't be more correct. We deal very poorly with people who do not quickly return to their baseline, require very long term rehab, and have morbidities that make us uncomfortable about our job performance.

  • Song of the Week
    • special thanks to scarlett for another terrific referral! I promise to post something more festive next week. :)

  • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
    • Family and friends. And sleep.... dear lord, do I love sleep. It makes everything so much better.

  • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
    • Christmas!!!! Since I can't be there in person, Penguin is going to skype me in for his family's Chrismas morning so I can still share in the family fun. xo

  • Bunny Photo of the Week
    • It is with a heavy heart that Hoyle, Penguin, and I wish Jazz bunny a fond farewell. A few weeks ago she became acutely ill and passed away quite suddenly at the vet's. It was a very difficult time for all of us and we miss her very much.
    • Hoyle felt things most acutely for she was his 24/7 friend and, well they are rabbits, lover. Every day, he'd search the house looking for her and when he couldn't find her, he'd start the search all over again. It was heartbreaking to watch. He lost his appetite, lost interest in doing anything but looking for his friend, and was clearly depressed.
    • It took about a week and a half before I realized that my human love couldn't heal his broken bunny heart, so off we set to find him a new bunny. No rabbits were available at the local shelter, so we drove for an hour out of town to meet a breeder of rex rabbits. Hoyle met several bunnies that day and chose, to my surprise, a wee boy bunny whom we have now named Murphy (surprised? I thought not. haha).
    • Murphy is settling in nicely and while they aren't cohabitating yet, they are doing very well together.
    • Hoyle and I still miss Jazz very much but Hoyle is doing much better since Murphy has come home. And Murphy seems to understand that Hoyle is in need of some tender bunny loving and goes out of his way to groom and snuggle Hoyle as much as he can.
With great love for her indomitable spirit and
sweet peaceful soul- we miss you terribly,  Jazz: 2008-2011.

Welcome to the Family, Murphy!

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's not by looking into the light that we become luminous but by plunging into the darkness. - Carl G. Jung

Forgive me if I haven't posted in quite some time... I've been working on the trauma service and the endless parade of human suffering, despair, and hopelessness have been keeping me up at night, even when I'm not on call.

Some nights, if feels like an endless stream of stabbing in the _____ (chest, abdomen, limb, back, etc), ditto for gunshot wounds (self-inflicted, gang-related, shot by police/lover/family member, you name it). All in combination with a variety of alcohol / substance abuse, my favourites so far being: "spray and 7" (hairspray mixed with 7-up) as well as "lemon paint" (paint thinner plus lemonade). Highest recorded alcohol in a conscious, talking, oriented person so far: 84.0 (legal limit: 0.08; toxic level 38.0).

There are so many more stories. Slowly, the trauma service eats away at your sense of humanity. I stare at the ceiling at night wondering why I don't feel more. It should be devastating. These cases should reduce me to tears. But there are just so many and the stories are often just so extreme. It starts to numb you... until you drive home and someone tries to cut you off and you find yourself parked on the sidewalk, shaking in the drivers seat, imaging yourself on the trauma room stretcher staring up at the faces of your team members as they mumble to themselves, "there are injuries worse than death."

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The two most revolutionary things a man can say is, "I'm Staying."

It's not often that I get riled up about political things... but with the recent topsy-turvy results in Canadian federal politics and the tragic death of Jack Layton, I've been keeping an eye on the media and what they've been saying about Parliament Hill.

One of my favourite sources for the down-low on Canadian politics is actually Rick Mercer... because really, I could watch the House of Commons on Channel 200-and-something but frankly those whining, unprofessional louses make me want to crash down the door and demand better representation - while at least Rick makes me laugh by poking fun at them and keeping me in the loop at the same time.

So, it came as a surprise when Rick Mercer recently posted "Urge to Merge" advocating for a merger between the Liberals and the NDP. So much so, that I was inspired to send in a response, which I thought I'd also post here:

Rick Mercer,

I've been a long-time fan of yours but was really quite surprised to see your latest rant proposing that the Liberals and NDP merge parties to provide better competition to the Conservatives. I feel quite strongly that this is not the solution to the flaws in our current political situation- and no, I'm not one of the soap-box-standing-lawn-sign-picketing political idealists you referred to in the rant, I'm an average joe citizen (at the age of twenty-something) who has a vested interest in politics because I choose to exercise my right to vote.

During the last several federal elections, I wanted to know how to spend my vote wisely, so I started doing some research into how our voting system runs and what other kinds of democratic systems exist. A great video is available on youtube that describes the problem with first past the post (fptp) voting and shows exactly why the two-party system you're advocating for isn't the right solution. A good solution would be to change the way we vote! I don't want my choices limited to conservative or not conservative - that's what got us into this pickle jar in the first place. I realize that an electoral referendum was held in Ontario in 2007 and failed to make waves... but perhaps that was because the general public wasn't sufficiently educated on what exactly fptp voting is and why the current system sucks.

Now I know that your primary objective is to provide comedic commentary on the Canadian political scene but I think your greatest attraction is the accessible and evocative insight into politics that you offer the average Canadian citizen. For this reason, I found it surprising - and admittedly disappointing - that you advocated for the status quo in "Urge to Merge". Please consider using your considerable influence to show Canadians that they don't have to be stuck with a two-party system, forcing them to be divided into groups of "for" or "against" the current party-in-power. Our goal as a Canadian and democratic society should not be to protect a minority rule (the breeding ground for the political apathy you covered so well during the election) when we have the option to empower all Canadians to participate in politics through offering a diversity of parties that can identify and advocate for individuals' unique values and interests.

Thank you and keep up the good work. 


So what do you think about all this?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekly Update: We must be willing to give up the life we have planned so as to pursue the life that is waiting for us

  • Getting the Squeeze out of Life
    • Whew! That last 2 weekends have been quite the whirlwind! Sorry about missing last week's blog update... hopefully, this will serve to get you caught up.
    • Last weekend, we went canoe camping over labor day. This was particularly exciting for me since it has been a tradition to do the Baron Canyon loop in Algonquin for the last 4 years on the Sept long weekend. It was very reassuring to know that just because I've moved to Manitoba, the paddling tradition can continue!
    • We aimed to do a loop through several lakes up by Jones, ON by way of a meandering river. However, when we finally hacked and bushwacked our way into the backcountry, we found that the river had dried up due to late season low water. Consequently, we hiked (read: portaged) about 4km from the river bed to a road. Along the road were our cars - about 10km away. Fortunately, we happened upon some ATV riders who let me hitch a ride back to the cars to come rescue the group. Despite this, and crap weather, we had an absolute blast and still managed some sweet, peaceful nights, stargazing, and lake swimming in some of the cleanest water I've ever seen.
    • This weekend, I've been busy at a variety of social functions. Friday night was the PhD + birthday celebration for one of Penguin's best friends, last night we had our first Gen Surg potluck, and tonight was the wedding reception/BBQ for some friends who recently got married out West. Whew! To top all that off, Carpe and I did a 73km ride today in just under 2 hours. Needless to say, I'm expecting to sleep well tonight. :)
    • Anatomy continues to progress well. We're nearing the end of our dissecting phase and still have 2 weeks left to go over the thorax, head, and neck - which will all be covered through prosected (ie. previously dissected specimens). This will be new territory for me, so I expect I'll be hitting the books pretty hard. But, it's also exciting to learn and is definitely going to help me be more confident and comfortable in the OR.

  • Recipe I've Been Drooling Over
    • We had the first Gen Surg PGY1 potluck this past Saturday. It was a great success, except one of my peers inadvertently tried to poison me with some almonds. All was well in the end, though, and the conversation, food, and wine were all terrific.
    • Since I was hosting, I provided the main dish and made the infamous Keller Chicken from Simply Recipes. It turns out beautifully every single time. I've even made it for when we introduced my parents to Penguin's parents (seriously, that's how good it is!)
Keller's Roast Chicken
  • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
    • I have a long established love for buttons. Here's a great one from Etsy that's funny in more ways than one (not only am I a secret member of the grammar police but I'm also a gen surg resident, nuff said!)
now let's have a look
  • What I'm Reading Right Now
    • Thanks for the suggestions everyone - I've decided to pursue some tougher reading (rather than my usual non-scholastic fluff) by way of Neitzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra. So far so good, it's much more of a narrative than Neitzsche's other books although I'd agree with the intro that he is quite verbose here but his passion more than makes up for it. I'll let you know how it goes!

  • TED Talk I Watched This Week
    • Once again, it's not a TED talk this week but rather a movie trailer for Finding Joe. The movie refers to the life and works of Joseph Campbell - a giant in the academic sphere for mythology (so much so that George Lucas based the Starwars trilogy off Campbell's theories). Campbell is best known for his motto, "Follow your Bliss"... a concept that he first came across when reading the Upanisads:
      • "Now, I came to this idea of bliss because in Sanskrit, which is the great spiritual language of the world, there are three terms that represent the brink, the jumping-off place to the ocean of transcendence:Sat-Chit-Ananda. The word "Sat" means being. "Chit" means consciousness. "Ananda" means bliss or rapture. I thought, "I don't know whether my consciousness is proper consciousness or not; I don't know whether what I know of my being is my proper being or not; but I do know where my rapture is. So let me hang on to rapture, and that will bring me both my consciousness and my being." I think it worked."
    • And lest you misinterpret bliss for hedonism, Campbell is also quoted to have said, "I should have said, follow your blisters"
    • Anyway, it promises to be a really great movie, so here's the trailer for your enjoyment:
Finding Joe - Trailer V.7 from pat solomon on Vimeo.

  • Song of the Week
    • If you listened to the last playlist I posted, you'll have heard the song Welcome Home by Radical Face. I first heard this song while watching a movie clip of the Swiss Machine. It's a pretty awesome clip and a really stellar song, so I'm glad to be able to share both with you here.

  • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
    • The total genuine awesomeness of my gen surg peers!

  • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
    • Only 10 sleeps until I get to see Penguin and a month's vacation!!!

  • Bunny Photo of the Week
    • Here's the Jazz bunny during her favourite time of day: DINNER TIME!
Nom. Nom. Nom.

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    Because music means more than song...

    I should be studying but was suddenly overcome by the need to make this playlist and share it with you. Consider it an ode to the end of summer and a testament to the restoring powers of the wilderness. This music sounds best on a patio or, better yet, on the dock up at the cottage.

    PS: Did you know that Sarah Harmer wrote a song (with downloadable lyrics and guitar tabs) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada? (Many thanks to Scarlett for pointing this out to me!) Also, did you know that Parks Canada was the first national park service in the world? How cool is that?! Check out Harmer's song here. I look forward to singing it with you around a campfire soon!

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Weekly Update: On Time at Last!

    • Getting the Squeeze out of Life*
    *this column has been renamed on account of the fact that I generally talk about non-school things as often I as I talk about school-related things here (it's probably a good thing, too!)
      • On Thurs, I switched rotations from radiology to anatomy. While anatomy takes place in the basement and has no windows (seriously, I've bought out the Vit D stock at the local pharmacy in the last 2 months) at least there is full powered fluorescent lighting! 
      • Anatomy is going to be a great rotation. They basically gave us a cadaver, pointed us towards the library resources, and said, we'll see you in a month for your exam!
      • Now, this may come as a surprise to some of you, but most medical schools have abandoned any formalized anatomy teaching in their curriculum. Shocked? You should be. Frankly, in the old days, we used to spend hours and hours and hours in the anatomy lab going over gross dissections - because anatomy was all we knew. It was pure form and function. These days, however, we need to learn about the great diversity of tumor biomarkers and G-protein signalling systems and tons of other microscopic biochemical-type stuff that is what modern medicine (aka pharmacology) is based on. Since there are only 27 hours in the day (according to my work schedule), cuts had to take place. And the first thing they cut was anatomy.
      • Now, if I had gone into another specialty, this may not be a huge deal. After all, I did read about anatomy in med school and I even volunteered to go see an autopsy. But there's just no way to avoid the old-school methods of anatomy training when you're in surgery (and for this, I'm quite glad). Being able to stick your hand into someone's chest and say, "yes, I feel the pleura there... and if I move my hand down and to the left, there is the diaphragmatic crus that becomes the ligament of treitz as it wraps around the duodenum" is kinda indispensible.
      • In non-school life, things are going fairly well. I had my first bout of home-sickness the other day when it was my Dad's birthday. Even though Mom and Dad weren't home at the time (they were out West helping my Opa move), all I could think about were those happy summers of my childhood where we'd celebrate the summer birthdays up at the cottage - soggy from the lake, with pine gum on the soles of our barefeet, crowding around the old dining room table to chortle the birthday song as Mom produced a cake that was more fire hazard than dessert.
      • Even when I was in the Tropical Tundra, I could still drive to the cottage on a weekend if needed. It might have taken 12 hours, but at least I always knew that if my heart was sore and my ego was low, I could just get in my car and go to the one place in the world that has always soothed and restored my spirit. Now, living here, I've never felt more cut off. Granted, the trip to the cottage would now be shorter: it's only a 2 hr flight home rather than a 6 hr drive. But going to the airport certainly makes it more complicated and requires advanced planning (not to mention, money).
      • All that said, though, whenever I feel homesick, I try to remind myself how very blessed and I am to be here on this adventure. And blessed, I am, indeed. So it's hard to feel down for very long with the opportunity to do great and amazing things every day - and at least I get vacation in a month, so it won't be long before I can travel back to the land that is my home and sit under towering pines and watch the seagulls play in the breeze.

    • Recipe I've Been Drooling Over
      • This recipe needs no picture. I made a strawberry rhubarb crisp to celebrate the last strawberry / rhubarb harvest of summer and it is delightful. Many thanks to Lemonriffic for her outstanding crisp recipe. :)

    • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
      • Shopsaplingpress has a great series of cards right now that is simply priceless... here's one of my favourites:

    we go together like old guys and park benches. letterpress card

    • What I'm Reading Right Now
      • Still haven't hit on a new reading book yet, instead I've immersed myself in textbooks on anatomy. Suggestions are welcome! What have you read recently?
    • TED Talk I Watched This Week
      • I didn't watch any TED talks this week because I have recently become addicted to the CBC's Debaters. Here is an excellent episode that we heard in the car while we huddled wetly around the radio during a rainstorm last weekend that forced us off the cliffs and out of our climbing gear:
    • Song of the Week
      • I recently re-discovered City and Color the other day... here is one of my favourites, The Northern Wind:

    • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
      • The bunnies have wormed their way to the top of the list this week: they have been uncharacteristically snugly, which has done much to soothe my home-sickness. Not to mention making me feel just slightly victorious in my 3 year battle to soften their wild spirits and turn them into loving pets rather than 7 lbs furry termites of unlimited destruction.

    • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
      • Penguin is in the process of trying to arrange a work contract that will let us spend more time together in the same city. We find out a verdict on the next step sometime later this week, so please keep your fingers/toes/eyes crossed for us. xoxoxo

    • Bunny Photo of the Week
      • Friends of ours have recently undertaken a move to the East Coast and their farewell party was this past Fri night. They had a rug that they weren't bringing with them and it turned out to be exactly the right size and colour for my living room! Now, for those of you who've never tried to buy an area rug, let me tell you - don't. It's a painful, expensive process that includes being shunned by store clerks and looking through lousy merchandise that doesn't come anywhere close to the look you're going for. But, in the name of tractionless-bunnies-on-hardwood-floors, carpeting for my apartment has now been acquired at a price that simply can't be beat: free! Many thanks to such wonderful, generous friends. We'll miss you greatly.

      "We love carpet!" - the bunnies.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    if it never rained, you wouldn't appreciate the sun

    Winnipeg is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. In fact, this summer has been one of the city's best in decades - however, the lack of rain has made for a significant drought and some pretty severe backcountry restrictions. Did you know that Manitoba doesn't just put up a fire ban for backcountry campers - they actually CLOSE the backcountry entirely! I can see the logic but it doesn't mean that I have to like it.

    Anyway, the long reign of sunny days ended dramatically the other night when my first prairie thunderstorm rolled through. It was certainly worth the wait. My street flooded in moments. The thunder never stopped rumbling. And I wasn't the only one to be impressed, Carpe took video from her own balcony as I was dodging raindrops on my street trying to get photos, too! (video coming soon)

    Flooded Street

    Flooded Street + School Yard

    Ok, so I had some trouble getting Carpe's video off FB but I guess we weren't the only ones filming because a quick YouTube search found dozens of other storm fans out on their balconies enjoying the weather. Here's one such vid that does a good job showing off the best of the storm:

    some people never go crazy. what truly horrible lives they must live.

    • Current Scholastic Pursuits
      • Ahem, my apologies for another late update. Turns out that my new motivation to be the ultimate weekend warrior is making it hard to get around to blogging on Sundays. That said, it's all about balance - so hopefully I'll find the middle road between rockin' the weekend and getting on the computer to update you folks on my adventures.
      • I've spent the last month doing a radiology rotation. It was really good - I now have a solid approach for reading CTs and MRIs (which will come in handy when I'm on call at 4am in the future!). And even though I don't pick up on all the findings, I've had a pretty good track record lately of finding the important stuff. So yay me! The rads were, on the whole, really lovely people. They are fun, they like to crack jokes, and they wear jeans to work. They are also probably responsible for 95% of the carrot consumption of Manitoba (my rabbits Hoyle and Jazz making up the other 5%) - these radiologists like to do it in the dark! Like, pitch dark!
      • Maybe their mothers never heckled them about watching TV with the lights off or maybe they have congenital melatonin pathways that are independent of the influence of light... but whatever it may be, I can say with certainty that I am not immune! I need to photosynthesize!!! A month is radiology was like a month spent at the north pole in winter: perma-darkness. And you know what happens in perma-darkenss? Saroja hibernates.
      • There were days when I literally had to hold my eyelids open to stay awake. No amount of strongly brewed tea or early morning protein breaks were enough to keep me from head bobbing during handover. Eventually, I learned to stuff my chair to the back of the room, behind the rads peripheral vision and do my best not to drool all over myself as they flipped through scan after scan at lightening speed.
      • Then, one day, I had an epiphany: turn on the lights! Obviously, this could not be done suddenly because the rads would simply turn them all off again. So each day, I snuck in 5 minutes early and turned up the dimmer switch by one tiny degree... just barely enough to notice without tipping off the staff. And, after a period of 2 weeks, I'd finally brightened the room to an inhabitable state of pre-dawn light. What pleasure those fluorescent photons gave me as they kissed by heavy eyelids! Glory, indeed.
      • The interminable darkness of radiology was broken up by weekends of unmitigable fun. This past weekend, I went to a cliff known as Gooseneck in Ontario to go climbing with the Alpine Club. By the way, did you know that the founding location for the Alpine Club of Canada was right here in Winnipeg - aka land-of-the-unending-flatness? Bizarre but true. When I first moved here, I thought my days of climbing were over. But, as true luck would have it, there are some very impressive cliffs to climb with an highly enthusiastic crowd of fellow climbers willing to make the trek over the provincial border. All in all, I was very impressed with both the opportunity and the company. Hooray for the outdoors!!!
    Prairie Sunset - driving home from climbing on Sunday night


    • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
      • I found these beautiful prints on Etsy - they would be perfect for the bedroom, which is looking pretty stark since all the other art has been hung everywhere but there. I really hope this vendor makes a fish print, too, since it would round out the series perfectly. At only $15 dollars each, it took all my willpower not to snap them up in greedy delight.

    A Sloth of Bears - Photographic Print

    A herd of Swans - Photographic Print

    A Colony of Rabbits - Photographic Print
    • What I'm Reading Right Now
      • Bedtime reading has been a little out of control recently. I've read no less than 4 books in the last month that are completely unrelated to my surgical education. This probably makes me a bad student (albeit a better person). Currently, I have not yet selected my next read, so I'm open to suggestions!

    • TED Talk I Watched This Week
      • This one is for you, Penguin: Dyan deNapoli on The Great Penguin Rescue.
    • Song of the Week
      • Check out this awesome song that Scarlett sent me. Absolutely breathtaking.

    • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
      •  Being done radiology and going back onto a rotation where I'll get to see sunlight!
      • Also, meeting a fantastic bunch of outdoors-orientated people who are eager to trip!

    • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
      • Another great weekend, filled with friends, going outside, and other adventures.
    • Bunny Photo of the Week
      • It poured on our first day at the cliffs for climbing, so we had to set up our tents in the rain and, eventually, pack them up in the rain as well. As always, I diligently set up my tent in my apartment after the trip to air it out. The bunnies came to investigate - from the looks of it, they would make excellent camping guests. They were really quite well behaved inside the tent!

      Sunday, August 14, 2011

      Being in the Saddle Makes it Hard to Blog

      Hi Folks,

      This weekend was really great! Penguin came out to visit and we managed to get out of the city for nearly the entire weekend. First, we went up to Hecla/Grindstone Provincial Park on Saturday to do some hiking. Then, we went to Whiteshell Provincial Park today to go horseback riding and swim at the Falcon Lake beach. It was an amazing weekend. Unfortunately, it was low on sleep, studying, and - most importantly for you - blogging.

      Tonight, as the clock creeps its was past bedtime and the necessary tasks of lunch making, presentation research, and TED watching aren't yet complete, I'm afraid that I'm going to blame being carried away by wild horses (literally) and delay my usual Sunday update in favor of getting some sleep.

      I'll update things as soon as I can- there are some really good storied I have to share with you! In the meantime, thanks for being patient. :)

      Sunday, August 7, 2011

      Back in the Saddle and Back on the Blog!

      • Current Scholastic Pursuits
        • Sorry for being MIA since the move, everyone! As I'm sure you can imagine, it was a crazy time. Made worse by the fact that the moving company did their very best to royally screw me over. They delivered my belongings a month late - not a few days, not a week, but a month late. And the process of getting it delivered was simply hellish: they wouldn't return phone calls, couldn't offer a delivery date, and basically refused to admit any wrong-doing or inadequacy on their part. For a month, I slept on the floor with an air-mattress that leaked slowly and a rolled up sweater for my pillow. I had no clothes, no dishes, no books, nothing. The bunnies didn't have their cage either and so it was free-reign and disaster for a few days until I got some new fencing to give them some security.
        • To add to the moving drama, I started my first rotation of residency on the Acute Care Service. It's a surgical service that only deals with emergency conditions requires, you guessed it, surgery! My first call shift was exactly the same as the pilot episode of Scrubs (if you haven't seen this episode, you can watch it for free here). The shift started with a Code Blue (patient dying on the floor), ended with  a Code Blue, and stayed true to the plot line right up to and including the fact that one of my patients died and no one paged me to let me know. In fact, my version of the episode went something like this:
          • I got a consult from Internal to come see a delirious guy who had belly pain. His daughter had just flown in from England because she'd heard he wasn't getting better in hospital and was there when I did the assessment. She was really quite lovely and so was her dad, the patient. He was certainly quite sick and we weren't sure what was going on, so I moved him to ICU and ordered some tests. A few hours later, I returned to reassess him and see what the tests had turned up. I walked into the ICU room and the daughter had her back to me and there was another man there, I assumed he was the son. I glanced quickly at the patient and said, "oh, he's sleeping! I can come back later" when the daughter turned to look at me with a tear-stained face and said, "he died 3 hours ago." I looked again at the patient and saw that he wasn't sleeping at all. He was definitely very dead.
          • "No one paged me!" I said with a hoarse voice and plunked down in the chair beside the daughter, unable to stand. Turns out the other man wasn't the son but the preacher there to give the last rites. Since when do preachers were polo shirts? I don't know. He gave me a withering look but I could care less. I knew I'd blundered. It was a rookie mistake.
          • I stayed with the daughter for a few minutes to give my condolences and then went to find a closet to have a good cry. It was pretty short. My pager when off within moments and I pulled myself back together to go do my job.
        • Needless to say, it was one hell of a first day. But, I took things one day at a time and in the end, I survived. Now I'm on radiology, which is basically a holiday rotation. Those guys take coffee breaks every 2 hours and take an hour and half long lunch. Every single day! On surgery, I was lucky if I had 5 minutes in a 20 hour shift to go pee.
        • Last Friday, I came down with the stomach flu and have been trying to fight it off over the weekend. So far, not much success, but I'm ever hopeful. Send me some 'get well' thoughts if you've got them to spare, I could sure use 'em today!

        • Recipe I've Been Drooling Over
        • Cheese Biscuits
          • Cheese Biscuits by Garret over on Vanilla Garlic and re-posted by Elise on Simply Recipes are the perfect comfort food for post-call-I-don't-know-what-order-I-should-sleep-eat-and/or-pee-because-I'm-so-tired moments. Even if you don't regularly work for 30 hrs straight, I'm sure you'll enjoy them, too. :)

        • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
          • Look, somethings in life just make you smile, no matter what. Duck bums are one of those things. I can't help but grin when they go "Bottoms Up" - even if I'm walking to work in the pouring rain at 6 am. Here is a perfect rendition of one of life's simple joys:

        BOTTOMS UP 

        • What I'm Reading Right Now
          • I'm currently reading "Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant" by Jenni Ferrari-Adler. It's a collection of essays by famous people I don't recognize talking about what it's like to cook for one and all the strange things we eat when we're alone. Some of the essays are quite snotty (ie. truffled egg toast; made with white truffle oil, creme fraiche, and a few other totally unaccessible ingredients) while others are absolutely terrific (ie. asparagus superhero. 'Nuff said!). In the end, I'd say it's a great read, especially since it makes cooking for yourself feel less lonely and there are several recipes that sound quite good. Just don't read it when you've got the stomach flu - lesson learned.
        • TED Talk I Watched This Week
          • I went to the movies the other week and saw the trailer for I Don't Know How She Does It during the previews. My friend turned to me on the spot and said, "we've got to go see that!!" and I agreed. It seemed to epitomize our lives. This got me to thinking about how gender roles have changed and what it means for our generation with respect to cultural expectations and social functioning. This, in turn, led me to look up some talks on the subject on TED.
          • Below are 2 talks: one on the rise of women and the other on the fall of man. You'll quickly discover that they're deeply related stories and neither has a happy ending. Women, unable to shake off the traditional (and frankly biological) expectation to generate children have, through the suffrage movement, also acquired the need to have a career, earn a competitive salary, and generally do everything. This, in turn, has undermined men's traditional role as the head of the household and the official breadwinner. With the shift from a manufacturing economy to an information and service based economy, men no longer earn enough money through labour to support their families. And, labour positions are often the first to see lay offs when the economy tanks. 
          • Thus, the roles of men and women are both affected: men feel that they cannot be "manly" if they don't support their families; women feel that they can't support their families because they're too busy doing everything else! No one wins.
          • I think the solution is to dissolve the notion that certain roles are associated with certain genders. Thank goodness, Penguin can cook, because I'm lousy at making sure dinner gets to the table whereas I know he'll never forget to feed us. While not a traditional "manly" role, making food is essential and celebrated act in our home and Penguin always rises to the occasion. (Nothing says I Love You like a good meal!!) In turn, I usually do the dishes. Not because I'm a woman and that's what I'm supposed to do but because that's my contribution. But for us, maybe it's easy. Because we're young and adventurous, we don't pay too much attention to the roles society tries to confine us to - we decide our own roles, sometimes consciously and other times not.
          • And that's my rant for the month. :)

        • Song of the Week
          • Sabrina Starke's song A Woman's Gonna Try was pretty much my theme song for the first month of residency.
        • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
          • Having all my stuff here! YAYA!

        • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
          • Penguin is flying in on Friday and staying until Tuesday. It's been so long since I've seen him and I miss him so much. During med school, we used to drive 600km every other weekend to visit. Now that I live 2000km away, our visits aren't nearly as regular or scheduled. The loneliness of being in a new city away from all my friends and family is only reprieved by the total awesomeness of my job and the new friends I'm making in the process of being here. But nothing much seems to make up for the loneliness of doing all this without Penguin here to share the highs and lows.

        • Bunny Photo of the Week
          • Since my things arrived a month late and I'm very poor, I spent the first rotation of residency sleeping on the floor with my camping mat and sleeping bag. Eventually, I made some new friends and they lent me a duvet, a pillow, and a pot to cook with. It made all the difference in the world. Jazz bunny was also ecstatic to have a blanket to nap on and here she is surveying her new home pre-furniture arrival (note: the booze in the recycling bin is not a sign that I'm an alcoholic; they're all full bottles! I went to all my favourite wineries before leaving home and got the vintages I knew I wouldn't be able to find here in my new province... and they are now carefully stored away for upcoming special occasions):

          Thursday, June 9, 2011

          Taking Out Early - Lessons Learned.

          It was a bright and cool morning, the grey sky from the night before had cleared. The wind was calm and we had no portages, only paddling to do that day. We were half way across Algonquin and our resupply was scheduled for noon at the bottom of Opeongo Lake. It was a big milestone and I felt ecstatic. Despite this, breakfast tasted wooden. Something was missing- the enthusiasm of the group had evaporated and was replaced by a limp and trembling exhaustion. We ate in silence... except one of us wasn't eating at all. He kept his face down and when I finally caught his eye, I saw that his glasses had a rainbow hue from the tears that were splashing down his cheeks. I knew what those tears meant - especially since they were sprung on the morning of an easy day with clear weather: we would not be resupplying at noon. We would be ending the trip early.

          Of course there was disappointment. But that wasn't what I felt first or even the most- I felt concern and worry. I know what it feels like to be overwhelmed by a situation: the combination of my personality and being in the profession of medicine makes me feel that way more often than I'd like to admit. And I felt guilty for not catching onto those emotions earlier and trying to help alleviate them. I knew my team mates were tired- our days had been slightly longer than expected and I knew that we had been pushing hard. Each evening, we arrived in camp worn out, with just enough energy to make dinner and fall into bed. But, every morning when I got up, I felt fresh again. Every paddle and portage we passed, strengthened my resolve to get there and my certainty that we could do it. The harder it got, the harder I pushed. The sorer my muscles felt, the more I relished it. The very challenge gave me confidence and I would smile with wolfish determination whenever we would struggle. I dared the wind to blow harder, the portages to be longer, the mud to be deeper. I felt myself getting stronger every day- even as each day got longer and harder themselves. I was never more certain that I could do this trip and arrive at the end triumphant. The self-doubt, sense of weakness and vulnerability that sometimes chases me in my every day life was gone. I had never felt more confident and competent. It was everything I had hoped for.

          So, when my team mates told me they were tired, I agreed. I was, too. But I didn't realize that they weren't waking up feeling refreshed like I was. They weren't pumped to see a longer portage or add another bug bite to the tally of challenges we faced in conquering Algonquin. By the morning of the resupply, it was too late. We'd crossed the step in the portage that caused one of the team member's belief in himself to crumble. I knew during breakfast that there wasn't anything we could do to restore that belief but get him out of the situation and give him some time. He knew it, too... and in a way that made it harder because he also knew how much I wanted to reach our final goal. He knew that crossing the park had been a dream of mine for years and that I'd given up my holiday to plan and organize the trip. His tears were as much from exhaustion as they were from guilt and disappointment.

          There was no defeat, though. This trip was as much a test of my physical endurance as it was of my ability to plan, organize, and guide an expedition. And in both respects, I feel like I excelled. Physically,  I was as strong if not stronger than my team mates despite being the only girl and weighing in about 70lbs lighter than anyone else. Our pack weights were all the same: with the pack and the canoe on, I carried more than my own body weight and still had energy to spare. As a guide, I had planned doable days and managed to keep up all on schedule despite a thunder storm and the odd first aid repair. But, it was in making the decision to cut the trip short that I felt made me ultimately successful.

          This decision wasn't as hard to make as I thought it might be. Once the state of the team was brought to my attention, it was clear that taking out was the only choice. The fact that we had all the gear needed to do the second half, that the weather was going to be perfect, the water was high, and we all had the vacation time didn't matter. What mattered were the people. The landscape would always be there- the Park will continue hold this challenge until we return to pick up where we left off. Crossing the Park was more about undertaking a journey together than it was about getting from Rain Lake to Squirrel Rapids. So, as we lifted the canoes out of the water and strapped them down onto the car, I couldn't be sad that we were leaving. It wasn't a failure to take out. It was truly a learning opportunity. Before we'd left on the trip, I had thought that it was all about getting from Rain Lake to Squirrel Rapids. I was certain that nothing: not bad weather, not a slowly sinking rental canoe, not a twisted ankle- nothing would stop me from getting there. But, in the end, I'm glad something did: I'm glad I could unequivocally choose to protect and champion my team over the mission. It revealed a strength within me that I hadn't know was there: the strength to prioritize what's important when it counts, to accept defeat with a glad and loving heart, and to know that just because it doesn't happen on the first go, doesn't mean that it will never be accomplished.

          So, with that in mind, I'm now recruiting a team for Across Algonquin Part 2, 2012. Please leave your application in the comments section. :)

          Sunday, May 29, 2011

          Weekly Update: 4 Days 'Till We Put In at Rain Lake!

          • Current Scholastic Vacation Pursuits
            • That's right, there's only 4 more days until we Put In at Rain Lake to paddle 170km - West to East - across Algonquin Park! I'll be gone for 2 weeks to do this trip, so there won't be a blog update next weekend, sorry. However, if you're friends with me on Facebook, you'll be able to see our location on Google Maps as I'll be sending in daily GPS coordinates with my SPOT device.
            • This is certainly going to be an epic trip - we've been planning it for years and I'm so very excited to go. There's no doubt that it will be wet and muddy. It's guaranteed that with all the rain we've had this spring, the bugs will be at their worst. And since it has rained every day this week, and every day last week, it's going to be a miracle if it doesn't rain every day of our trip. But that's ok - the title of this trip will likely bear the subtitle, "Mostly Awesome with Brief Periods of Terrible" and our mantra will be muttered a thousand times per portage, "Just Because It's Insane, Doesn't Mean It's Impossible!"

          • Recipe I've Been Drooling Over
            • I haven't really been drooling over anything but freeze-dried meals in the aisle at MEC since the preparations for the canoe trip have fallen squarely on my shoulders. However, rhubarb is out in the grocery stores at last and I picked up some of the juiciest stalks... I'm going to make rhubarb and rosemary crisp to bring to family dinner tonight. It'll be a self-concocted variation on this brilliant idea: the rhubarb rosemary lemon spritzer.
          Rosemary Lemon Rhubarb Spritzer
          • Favourite Thing on Etsy this Week
            • I fell in love with these origami lotus flowers... they would make the perfect place settings at some future formal dinner. Especially if those future placemats were made out of maps... honestly, how amazing would that be?!
          Origami Lotus Flower Decoration or Favor - all ivory
          • What I'm Reading Right Now
            • I'm reading and re-reading the map across algonquin, my to-do list, and my menu planning lists to make sure everything is ready for the trip. I'm currently trying to decide which book(s) I should bring... I've added a poll to the sidebar on the right, perhaps you folks can vote for which one you think should make it into my pack?

          • TED Talk I Watched This Week
            • Here's a great tip on how to tie your shoes correctly - you probably think you already know how to do that but this 3 min vid might just prove to you otherwise! 
          • Song of the Week
            • Here's an amazing video for Jeremy Messersmith's, "A Girl, A Boy, and a Graveyard"

          • Thing I'm Most Grateful for This Week
            • I'm really grateful for my family- our trip across Algonquin would not be possible without the help of my Mom: she's driving us to the Put In, meeting us for a resupply halfway through, and picking us up at the Take Out PLUS looking after the buns while we're away. Thanks Mom!

          • Thing I'm Most Looking Forward to This Week
            • Putting In at Rain Lake!!!! YAY!

          • Bunny Photo of the Week
            • I have 2 couches: one seats 3 people and the other 2. I usually sit on the 2-person couch because it's just the right length for me to sprawl... which leaves the 3-person couch the default territory of the bunnies. Sometimes, they take this a little too seriously since Hoyle has been known to gently nip people who sit on "his couch" when I have company over. Here's Hoyle with his most regal expression, attempting to prove that he's King of the Couch:
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