Frugal, Student Loans

Student Loans: a 14-year argument resolved

During our marriage, my husband and I have owed up to $750,000. So it’s no surprise my husband (aka “DH” for Dear Hubby), and I have argued intermittently for fourteen years about our student loans.

 

Then something happened to cease our arguments one rainy afternoon. The mailman delivered Dr. Cory S. Fawcett’s “The Doctor’s Guide to Eliminating Debt.” DH snagged the book and disappeared.

 

Let me take you back to the start of our arguments. We graduated from medical school in 2004. This was a golden time for student loan interest rates: a fixed 1.75% interest rate.

 

I took for granted DH would be on the same financial page with me: despite the cheap interest rate, pay the $250,000 loans back ASAP, especially since we had no other debt (we rented in residency). When DH disagreed with me, I was stunned. He argued we could use the money to invest instead and obtain higher return rates.

 

“But we’ll be entering retirement owing loans!” I screeched in an I-desperately-need-sleep-am-post-call-third-day-this-week voice [this was probably not the wisest time to be making financial decisions, but hey, that’s life as residents].

 

After further disagreements about this during our short car ride home from dinner during residency, I couldn’t take it anymore. At the next red light, I got out of the car, slammed the door and started marching home in the rain. Yes, I didn’t fight mature back then, and yes, rain seems to be a theme in this blog post.

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My two favorite dogs in the world. But no doghouse to show for after a fight. In the rain.

Fast-forward fourteen years, to a rainy day this April: DH read Dr. Fawcett’s “Eliminating Debt” book in one afternoon. After the kids were in bed, DH told me how Dr. Fawcett wrote that debt and debt payments arguments lead to marriage arguments (yup!), divorces, and suicides.

 

Now Dr. Fawcett would say attack our smallest remaining loan, which is DH’s student loan. However, let’s explore the emotional side of a married woman’s thoughts. DH can command substantially more than I can—or ever could hope to—charge per hour.

 

So even though I’m in a supportive marriage, which student loan do I want paid off first? Especially after I’ve been scarred for life after reading horrific Facebook posts by female physicians who were shafted in divorce settlements. Selfishly, I didn’t want to be left holding my student loans if our 16-year marriage came apart.

 

When it comes to being a woman, one should be financially cautious. And Dr. Fawcett wrote that having debt is risky.

 

Now that DH had read Dr. Fawcett’s book—and there weren’t any car doors nearby I could slam—I broached the subject of my student loans. We’d just received our tax return. Because of Safe Harbor (Tax Law), and having dumped as much as we could into our Fidelity Charitable giving account before the tax laws changed, this tax return was the biggest one we’ll probably ever have.

 

Within seven hours of Dr. Fawcett’s book showing up at our house, the remainder of my student loans were paid off!
As the White Coat Investor would say: I finally graduated from Med school on April 10, 2018. 😉

 

If more physicians were debt free and able to customize their lives, we’d have more time to write about solving problems our profession faces—thank you, Dr. Fawcett, for helping fill a part of that void. (FYI: Dr. Fawcett comes across as a humble guy who wants to help people, so it’s easy to like his writing style. If you want to resolve your marital differences, you can get the The Doctor’s Guide to Eliminating Debt here.)

 

Fellow debtors out there: becoming debt free will give us the financial freedom we need to pursue the life we want instead of the one we’re forced to lead.

 

Becoming debt free is a journey, but I have faith in you.

 

You got this.

Food

How a Doc saves $$: Proper Food Storage

We toss way less food and have fresher tasting meals since DH researched how to store food. Here’s the cliff notes version of all the tricks we use to cut down on food spoilage:

-Apples are inspected before they go into the bin. Any that look questionable go on a shelf at eye level when we first open the fridge door, so those get eaten first. People have great success using blue apples.

-Berries are gone over when we bring them home (I’ll admit: this doesn’t always happen). We pull out ones that look like they’re gonna turn bad and eat at the next meal. Some people swear berries last 2 – 3 weeks in these foodsaver containers.

-Paper towels go into produce drawers, with berries and the lettuce container. Or you can use these nifty towels.

-Don’t stack berries on top of each other. They release gas as they’re decomposing, so the gas goes upwards and makes the berries above turn faster.

-Onions should be stored at room temp. DH bought a supposedly cockroach proof container off amazon. I laughed when I saw it and put camper screen patch over the holes. NOW it’s cockroach proof. (Gotta love living down south. Gross!)

-Inspect onions as you put them into your now-cockroach proof container. Any ones that look questionable get put on a shelf in the fridge and used before any of the ones at room temp.

 

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Save your $$$ so you can bike through Tuscany instead.                                                                                                  (just try not to face plant the first day, like I did! #DarnCliplessPedals)

-Scallions and asparagus go into water in a glass jar in the side door of the fridge. This helps the asparagus last about twice as long IMO. The scallion water is supposed to be changed once in awhile. We’re going on almost two months now of the same scallions—they are growing so tall they kind of reach out and grab us when we open the fridge door. (we put a clear plastic bag loosely over each of these. Clear so I see what’s inside and it cues me to use them.)

-Celery is taken out of the plastic wrapping and wrapped up in aluminum foil with the ends loosely open. Our celery last almost three weeks this way (I reuse the aluminum foil with the next batch of celery.)

-Sour cream gets stored upside down. This traps stuff, so bacteria don’t get in and make it all nasty. Our sour cream lasts almost three weeks now. Beware once sour cream is open, you’ll need to gingerly take out of fridge—there’ll be liquid around the edges that will spill if you tip it.

-Mushrooms get taken out of their plastic and stored in paper bags (THIS is amazing! The mushrooms taste super fresh doing it this way.)

-Milk and creamer is stored on its side on a shelf (don’t be putting milk in the door of the fridge.) I only buy organic milk as it lasts super long since we don’t drink milk—we only use it to make pancakes. (I’m not a big fan of milk, even before I married a man anaphalactically allergic to it. Go fig.)

-Bananas: ours last almost a week now! We separate them and individually wrap the stalk end in saran wrap (we tie a little twist tie around it to secure it. Or buy reusable beeswax wrap).

-Tomatoes: STOP putting them in the fridge y’all! As a total foodie, this drives me batty. There is a chemical in tomatoes that changes as.soon.as.you put them in the fridge. It’s why refrigerated tomatoes always taste bad compared to the ones that have been left at room temp. Pure grossness.

-Bugs in your rice/flour/sugar? My mom’s advice is to freeze all flour and rice to kill anything as soon as you bring it home. I don’t do this, but I should (let’s just keep this our little secret, otherwise vegan DH might flip if he knows he’s getting bug protein in the rice he eats.) Bugs aren’t that bad—I’ve eaten ant salsa on more than one occasion volunteering in Mexico. And it doesn’t taste like chicken (spicy peanut butter instead—yum!).

-We live in the South: I seal everything up. And I mean everything. I’m a clip-or-put-it-in-a-container kitchen freak!

-As far as the drawers of the fridge go, I have a Samsung fridge that has a plastic slider you can set to “vegetable” or “produce.”

-Most important thing: be aware of what’s going to spoil and what you buy. Don’t go buying the same thing on automatic pilot when you shop. We’ve all done this. I am guilty of it. Which is why I have two bags of brussel sprouts sitting in the fridge. (No seems to like them as much as I do 😉 )

 

What are your tips and tricks to toss less food? Please share below in the comments section. Thanks!

Food

How a Physician Cut Her Food Bill by 63%

Lowering my food costs started with broken bones and wasted chicken.

A few years ago I wanted to do research for a fantasy series I’m writing, so I organized a girl’s trip to explore an island with a cave.

Two things happened that weekend:

1) I went trail running, fell, and broke my ribs.

2) My husband decided to become a vegan while I was gone.
I should never have gone on that trip!
Back then I was the dutiful wife who filled the fridge with prepared foods, so all DH* had to do was pull the meals out and nuke them (I stopped doing this after I read “The Superior Wife Syndrome” by Rubenstein). Before I left for the trip, I had a mental breakdown: I was one burnt out cook. I asked DH to please start educating himself on food and how to feed himself because I was essentially making two meals at a time due to his allergies (he’s anaphalactically allergic to milk, butter, and cheese. Stop and think about that for a second. Life with no chocolate!).

I left one last huge load of prepared food in the fridge (the usual meat and potatoes kind of stuff), and took off, hoping he’d read up on how to cook while I was gone. When I came home, I found it odd I had to toss a large tray of leftover chicken.
Overnight, we had to come up with a frugal way to provide a massive amount of calories/protein source not involving meat or eggs. I mean my husband is 6’1″ and left to his own devices would bike a 100 miles a day.

So like all good docs, I started reading up on food and doing some research. Here’s a list of the result of over a year of trial and error that resulted in slashing our total food bill:

 

Groceries:

1) The source of our biggest drop in shelling out $$ for food: I started shopping at Aldi’s. Don’t knock it ‘till you try it. Take a quarter to get a shopping cart, bring your own bags, and be prepared to bag your groceries after you get through the speedy checkout line. It takes a few trips to get the hang of shopping there. Once you do, you’ll find it’s the fastest grocery store to get in and out of.

2) Joined SAMS club and got their credit card (I only use it for 3% back on travel/restaurants and 5% back on gas).

3) Started to use my bread machine again.

4) Tracked which items are cheapest at which of the three places I shop (Aldi’s, Walmart and SAMS). If you’re too busy to do this, then look at the top and bottom shelves for cheaper alternatives before you buy what is at eye level in the grocery store.

5) I learned to put things that need to be eaten SOON in the LUQ** of the fridge, so I look there when I go to make our next meal.

(If you have someone else do the shopping, send them this blog, so they can start changing their shopping habits to save you money.)

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Save your money so you can use it instead to do crazy things like Bike El Camino de Santiago!

Eating out:

1) We stopped eating out with friends and started hosting potlucks instead.

2) Stopped eating dinners out with extended family and hosted them instead. (when you—because you’re physicians—usually offer to pick up the tab when eating out, those $150-$550 restaurant bills add up. Fast. We had to stop doing this if we didn’t want DH to work forever.)

3) Every few months I buy from a meal prep place (not a box like Hello Fresh, but a small kitchen that makes the entree and freezes it.) I take the meal from the freezer, stick it directly into the oven, and just make the sides, like a salad and veggies or whatever. It’s cheaper (and saves more time!) than restaurant meals. At about $12-14 per small sized entree, this antibiotic-free meat lasts the kids and me for about 3 meals. That and I don’t have to keep all the ingredients on hand to make these various dishes. And yes, I shamelessly use this meal prep service to host people.  (I rarely buy meat anymore in grocery stores.)

4) I got over my food snobbery and kept frozen pizzas on hand for when I needed a meal yesterday.

5) Read Greg Karp’s book Living Rich by Spending Smart.

6) Read every.single. food blog on the Frugalwoods blog.

 

Whole food, plant-based diet:

1) My husband researched how to store food in the fridge. Once we started to implement his steps, we barely throw out food (as I stand here typing this, I’m thinking my scallions sitting in water—which have been in the fridge for a month and a half—need to be trimmed because they’ve grown too tall!).

2) Beans are super cheap and tasty. I now have two shelves of various grains and dried beans in a pantry. My kids would eat beans until the cows come home (I always laugh when the pediatrician asks if they’re pooping okay).

3) We became the proud owners of an Instapot. You’ve heard all the hype for a good reason. That thing is a lifesaver for busy people (And DH cooks his own meals with it now—I don’t even know how to operate the newfangled thing.). Get one and buy an Instapot recipe book.

 

Saving as much money like we did last year took me outside my comfort zone. But we had an end in sight, so I knew we could do this. And we did. After a lot of hard work (and learning new habits!), we are blessed to be reaching our end game in a handful of weeks.

 

Although I consider me being “frugal” a relative term compared to some of my physician peers, I don’t think of myself as frugal compared to the average American who is struggling. Look, I foolishly bought a Groupon beach trip—and walked gingerly back into the house with broken ribs to find out I was now married to a vegan.  😉

 

What are your tips and tricks that you’ve come up with to cut down on your food bill?

 

(*Dear Hubby)

(**LUQ=doc talk for Left Upper Quadrant)

 

 

 

Frugal

How a Physician slashed her spending

 

We had an 85% savings rate in 2017, which beat our 63% savings rate in 2016! It wasn’t easy. At all.

I know—you’re asking how this was possible and how did we calculate this? And lastly, why would anyone want to save so much money in the first place? (#YOLO crowd, here’s looking at you!) 😉

First, the calculation. For various reasons, I don’t count taxes or donations as “spending.” So I calculate based on whatever money lands in our bank account (plus deposits from our paychecks into retirement accounts) minus whatever is spent.

Second: how’d we get our spending down? In 2016 I had this gut feeling a BIG financial change was coming for our family. To prepare, I started tracking our expenses. Wowser was that a painful eye-opener! My eyes practically bulged out of my sockets when I realized how much money was slipping through our fingers every month.

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(Trail running in Iceland. Amazing, but costly. I had to figure out how to travel cheaper! More on that in later blogs.)

I started to read about frugality obsessively. My husband and I had already read Mr. Money Mustache’s blog years earlier—which eventually led to my husband selling his car and biking 25 miles round trip to and from work—including through tropical storms. In the middle of the night.

There was also my husband’s whole ten-foot-alligator-in-the-middle-of-the-night biking incident. Then there were his two near-death experiences when cars almost hit him when we had two kids in diapers (which resulted in two broken arms—each one a few months apart!) I finally declared enough and bought a second vehicle, for fear he’d die the next time a car got too close.

Yeah…not a big fan of Mr. Money Mustache’s bike-to-work advice.

So after I was done cursing Mr. Money Mustache—whose blog made my husband act like he had a brain tumor (his words, not mine)—I turned to the Frugalwoods blog. Towards the end of 2016, and all through 2017, I was able to steadily figure out what we cared to spend money on and what was an acceptable, yet cheaper, alternative. And believe it or not, what we should spend more money on (cue the “hire a house cleaner/buy more prepared food” advice to increase happiness advice).

After cutting our expenses, I realized we’d been on the proverbial hedonistic treadmill Mr. Money Mustache wrote about. I looked elsewhere for more advice and stumbled across Greg Karp’s book Living Rich by Spending Smart. I also studied every.single.food Frugalwood blog and was able to chop our food bill in half each month. Yeah, I’m a foodie, and I had to figure out how to get that obsession under control.

So there you have it: to slash your spending, you first have to track it. There are many ways to do this: Personal Capital, Mint, YNAB, or you can be a dinosaur like me and use an excel spreadsheet.

And why did we want to save so much money?  What was the huge financial change that happened? That’s the subject of future blogs. Something about YOLO 😉

Do you track your spending? If so—how—and has it changed your spending habits?

 

Evacuation

How much does it cost to EVACUATE in case of a hurricane?

$980.

That’s the cost for fast food (my arteries STILL hurt) and comfort food. Park admission. 6 nights at an airbnb in Georgia. Too much coffee. Not enough gas. And of course, a Walmart run for underwear for the oldest because there’s only so much I can stand him “going commando” 😉

That’s NOT the cost of the stress and sleeplessness leading up to the evacuation, the anxiety over those left behind, the time it took to connect people back home to others to help each other out and spreading information (after fact checking) about mandatory evacuations, etc. Nor the time (and money)  it took to clean up the damage from the hurricane. The week it took to put the house back together (after we took what we could and hubby moved as much as he could upstairs incase of flooding from storm surge.)

So in terms of “time” cost: 3 weeks total. But the evacuation wouldn’t have been possible if I led a “normal” full time physician life. There’s something to be said for frugality…it gives you savings/wiggleroom, options and most importantly, TIME. And time is the most valuable commodity we all have.

Evacuation

Evacuation: what I got RIGHT

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Evacuation: What I got RIGHT:

The other day I posted what I got WRONG about evacuation. Today I thought I’d write about what I got RIGHT. And tell you that being part of the largest evacuation in human history was totally surreal. I’ve never seen so many campers on the road, rest stops so jam-packed and so many massive, red gas cans strapped to the top of vehicles and trunks of sedans. And that driving north on 75, in bumper-to-bumper traffic, that southbound was mostly empty, with the occasional gas truck and empty car carriers passing us. (Hug a trucker for me the next time you see one!)

First, I made the decision to evacuate. That was the almost hardest part. I called my brother who lives across the city from me and is a boater. He told me to get out now. I thought about the tens of thousands of dollars we had spent during renovations to hurricane proof the house (as a side note, did you know you can back up into hurricane proof garage doors and they won’t even dent? Don’t ask me how I know). I decided my brother-the-boater knew more about water than I did, plus I didn’t want to test the hurricane-proofedness of the house with young kids, so I started packing. By 2pm of the day I evacuated, the county notified me that my zone was under mandatory evacuation. (nice to have external validation, lol)

Last Tuesday night I tried for hours to find a way out of Tampa Bay area: air flights, trains, hotels, etc. Everything was booked or sold out. Finally I got out of my comfort zone and signed up for airbnb, something I’ve heard great things about. The only hosts I contacted had fourteen other requests from evacuees, but because I had sons around their son’s age and didn’t have pets, they took me over the others. The week I’ve spent in Georgia though, I had an odd craving for sweet tea and peaches and keep saying “y’all.” Must be something in the water.

My van is they type that when you open up the door in car line, stale McDonald’s French fries fall out (don’t judge). I discovered something called “McDonald Cat Naps” during evacuation (again, don’t judge). All I can say is THANK GOD FOR HAPPY MEALS!! They may be a nutritional nightmare, but they are an evacuating mom’s answer to prayer. It meant I could doze for ten-minutes in the front seat while the kiddos munched and then played with their cheap toy.

I remembered to get money out of the bank! The tellers were frazzled and exhausted. They were out of small bills and told me the early rush of evacuees wanted only big bills, then it turned into small bills. I took what I could and ran.

I worked hard the day before evacuating to do as much of my upcoming week’s clinic work at the clinic so all my Veterans could be as tucked in as I could get them (incase I couldn’t get back). I can’t get back. From what I hear, there’s no gas to get us all the way home.

Serendipitously, the van was full of gas before we evacuated. We hadn’t used the behemoth in six days (since I’d filled it at SAMS) as we’d used the Prius for every trip since then. So I didn’t have to worry about finding gas until well out of the worry-zone.

This past year, I’ve been trying to follow minimalism and declutter the house. Though I still have a long way to go, minimalism helped me realize, when I looked at the stuff I was leaving behind, that life is going to be okay if I lose all my possessions. Yeah, I’d cry, but I can replace material goods. I can’t replace my kids. So I fled.

Since I grew up in a family that camped a lot, we.have.hurricane.supplies and then some! I didn’t worry about my husband having survival equipment at hand if the Tampa Bay area went to hell in a handbag. Life straw? Check. Solar camping equipment? Check. Machete? Check.

A month ago we finally got the broken cigarette lighter in the van fixed (after it’d been broken for a year and a half). This came in handy when my cell phone went on the fritz halfway through the journey and I had to use our ten-year-old GPS to navigate. Seemed a cell phone tower was down. Data coverge came back online once I was out of the Chiefland area.

I took back roads as far north as I could and used the Waze app for the first time (it’s awesome!). There was barely any traffic and the gas stations had gas! I was able to stop at a farm stand and buy apples. They came in handy because they were the only thing I could force myself to eat after I lost my appetite from not knowing if I’d see my husband or friends again. (At this point, who cared about the houses!)

I let the kids be kids. They’re five and seven. Life as a child it too short anyway: they have the rest of their lives to be adult males. I tried to protect them from the anxiety and uncertainty of it all as much as possible. I didn’t cry in front of them when I left my husband by the side of the road and drove away. (The boys still think we’re just on an extended vacation.)
We don’t have cable at home and only one TV that we use for DVD’s on the weekend for the kids, so being some place with cable is a BIG DEAL for them. It’s made dealing with my phone (that is constantly blowing up) much easier with them anesthetized by the imagination substitute known as cable TV.

I packed hand sanitizer! Absolute miracle that I remembered it! And some things called fidget spinners (you might have heard of them?) that I’d found on the clearance rack at Walmart a few weeks ago. Hands down, those gadgets were the most genius thing I did for the whole evacuation. And although I brought too much food with me, I had enough presence of mind to bring paper plates and napkins!

Now if only I had massive, red gas cans too, then I could make it back home to my husband and our family could be reunited.

Evacuation

Evacuation: What I got WRONG

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Evacuation: What I got WRONG!

I should have given my husband a lingering kiss goodbye instead of rushing off to try to get out while we still could. It sounds melodramatic, but I don’t know if I’ll see him ever again. This is by far the worst part of all this for my heart.  (He’s essential personnel and had to stay)

I only had a barebones packing list. Packing consisted of grabbing cloth bags and running around the house randomly throwing things in. Apparently no rushed packing job is complete unless I forget one child’s underwear. After forgetting BOTH kids underwear for a 5-day trip over Easter, they both now know the meaning of “Going Commando” so it’s all good 😉

I should have bought airline tickets out while I still could (and before they went up to $2-3,000 each one way!) without talking to my husband. By the time he woke up for his night shift Tuesday pm, the tickets were all gone. And maybe I should have just bought two and flown the kids alone up to NY to my in-laws so I could have stayed behind to help as medical personnel?

I forgot to pack our wedding album! (Yet I managed to bring our massive folder of all our documentation for credentialing and my mom’s genealogy books)

I should have posted a FB status update that I was evacuating. During the entire 11-hour trip north (normally 5.5 hours!), my phone was blowing up with people checking on us.

I should have listened to my gut. About a month ago, I felt a VERY strong desire to buy a camper. I think Someone smarter than me was telling me I’d need it. Like to drive to Tennessee to camp right about now! For various reason I talked myself out of buying it.

In that vein, be careful what you pray for! Recently I prayed to have more patience with my boys. I’ve now been put in a situation where I really need to be patient.

I gave up chocolate; coffee and alcohol recently for a month long “cleanse” to try to get my reflux under control. The coffee’s been the worst. I finally gave up and drank two cups today just.to.make.it.through.the.day.

Thought I was doing great when the kids didn’t ask for the iPads for the first two hours of the road trip yesterday. But then their interest in their educational apps (that would function without internet, which was few) waned after 20 minutes. Doh! I had forgotten to load the Lego app on their iPads before we left!

I should have brought more books for the kids!

I didn’t bring enough clothes (see above about underwear). I thought we’d be returning home sooner. It’s looking like we have to stay another day.

I feel absolutely drained from lack of sleep the past three nights. The first two nights my mind was whirling with everything that had to be done or I stayed up late to pack. The first night at our airbnb place I thought I’d sleep well but I didn’t. A lot of it was because I was so dehydrated from not drinking much during the evacuation. I kept waking up all night, guzzling water and peeing. I think I need to dig out a sleeping pill tonight.

I let the kids stay up until 10:30 last night (the first night at our airbnb). This after waking them up an hour early to hit the road yesterday. Not wise! They still woke up at their regular time like.all.young.kids.do! They’ve been troopers today but they’re still dragging.

And the nagging feeling of “did I do the right thing?” never leaves you…..

 

Writing

Shadow Boxing

“The bombs…listen…they’re seven klicks away.”

The night before my Grandpa died, he shared a story from the shadows of his hospital bed: he kept hallucinating about World War Two.

“Grandpa, it’s ok. The war’s over. You’re safe. Go back to sleep.” I held his hand and he settled back down in the dark room. With a sigh, he closed his eyes.

Over and over, he fought the axis powers as his kidneys shut down: reliving terror, death, and war.

I sat next to him and wondered what it must have been like to sign up for the Army a few months after he stopped being a teenager. How it must have felt to have people dying all around him in combat, how scared he must have been—but to be part of such a valiant fight that affected the world’s future history. These thoughts have formed the basic premise for the fantasy series I’m writing: two opposing militaries and their battle outcomes affecting the entire world.

“They’re landing now. Let’s dig in a little deeper.” His arms flailed about the bed, trying to grasp an unseen shovel. I grabbed his wrinkled hands, again.

“Grandpa, you’re safe. You’re in New York. The war is over.”

He’d sink back and I’d wonder, how did a twenty-year old adjust to the new normal, where bad stuff happened all the time, and good people died?

I’m not sure anyone ever truly adapts to that.

Grandpa never liked to talk about the war. We only found out about his medals and bravery after he died. Looking back now, I wonder if the fatigue and pain he experienced in his old age was depression mixed with some PTSD. And now that I’ve got a few grey hairs of my own, I realize I, like most other doctors (if we’re honest), have my own mild form of PTSD that I try to hide from—because the only ones in this country who see as much death as doctors do are soldiers in war time.

 

The other day, my mom gave me a present: a shadow box filled with some of Grandpa’s medals and a picture of him in uniform, recovering from yellow fever during the war. Inside the frame is part of the bronze star he kept secret. He won it for saving lives in a feat of ingenuity and courage while under gunfire. When I pass by the wall where the shadow box is hung, I touch its glass—cold and hard under my fingers—and think about how I want my fantasy stories to honor Veterans like him: the sacrifices they kept secret, the pain they couldn’t talk about because it hurts too much.

We all have tales to tell. There’s healing for others in our hurts. So let’s start sharing. I’ll begin by showing you a picture of a shadow box that I took…in the light.

Medical

Personal Statements 101: Med School, Residency and Beyond

This is a guest blog I wrote for a fantastic doctor friend of mine. If you want to read my personal statement at the end, I will forever be embarrassed (I was young and naive) 😉

“This is a guest post by Dr. Brenda Krygowski. So you want to be a doctor but you’re dreading the personal statement? Look no further, help is found here: a culled list we shared as med studen…

Source: Personal Statements 101: Med School, Residency and Beyond

Medical, Writing

Why Do Doctors Write?

He died mid-sentence. Eight years old and talking to me.

“My belly hurt, so I took some pepto from mom and-”

Eyes rolled up before they closed, his head lolled to the side, neck pulseless. Dead before we could hit the code button. An hour later, still dead.

Daily life as a doctor—in training and after—made me want to punch walls and forget the pain. If I wanted to avoid broken hands, I had to figure out a way to deal with the stress of being a physician.

Early on, I stumbled on two healthy coping strategies. I wrote a blog only my friends and family knew about. I also ran as long as my lungs would take me. My legs didn’t take me too far, but after awhile, I got up to three miles. Half a year later: half-marathons. Since doctors are chronically sleep deprived, the running not only seemed a bit obsessive, but an insane choice when given the option to sleep instead.

But I’d seen the other side, when doctors didn’t deal with burnout: they dropped out of medicine or killed themselves (and we all knew how to kill ourselves). I didn’t want to become another statistic.

So I ran and I wrote. And I’m still alive. But now that residency and fellowship is done, I have multiple medical memoirs gathering dust in drawers or on hard drives. But this time is gonna be different. I figure if I keep showing up and putting in the work, one of these days something will change. It may not stop patients from dying tragic deaths that don’t fit into the cycle of life, but maybe they’ll haunt my dreams less and find peace in my memories.

And maybe, just maybe, I can make a difference with my story telling, which in the end, is what most authors probably want—helping readers’ see the world a different way. One day, and one story, at a time.

Let today be the start of a new day. Welcome to my blog.