Being Mindful of Our Thoughts

Our thoughts can influence how we behave and respond to circumstances.

Most of us have struggled with negative thoughts at some point in our lives. I know I did when I was a new mum and during certain moments of my medical training. This likely stemmed from fatigue,  performance anxiety, wondering what others thought of me and comparing myself to others. I therefore try to be mindful of my thoughts and to surround myself with positive influences be it in the form of books I read, the people I interact with or the media that I expose myself to.

Surrounding ourselves with a positive environment and mindset does not mean ignoring our negative emotions or the reality around us. It means reflecting on our thoughts and feelings, acknowledging the emotions that are there, and working through them so that nothing festers or remains unresolved. It can help to ask questions such as “Why am I feeling this way? Is it rational? What can I do to rise above it? Who can I talk to about this issue?

I recently read a book by I.C. Robledo that really reminded me how important it is to be IMG_0962mindful of our thoughts. Here are some of the ideas he shares in his book which I draw from regularly in an attempt to be careful about what I focus my mental energy on:

  1. Focus on what you can control, not on what you cannot control
  2. Focus on the positive, not the negative
  3. Focus on what you can do, not on what you cannot do
  4. Focus on what you have, not on what you do not have
  5. Focus on the present, not on the past and future
  6. Focus on what you need, not on what you want
  7. Focus on what you can give, not on what you can take

In this time of confinement and uncertainty, physically apart from loved ones, it is even more important to guard our thoughts and reach out for help when we need it.

Featured image courtesy of medium.com

Three Important Life Lessons

What we learn when we are young can follow us for the rest of our lives.

In my last post on Managing Confinement, I wrote about balancing homeschooling kids with other responsibilities. I alluded to the fact that I would like to teach my kids life lessons to help them in the future. The time in confinement has allowed me to really reflect on this and I feel these 3 areas are particularly important:

  1. Family Values: I think it is important to teach kids what values we feel are important as a family and to demonstrate this to them as much as possible through our actions. And when we fall short of those values, apologizing to our kids is equally important in demonstrating humility.
  2. Work Ethic: There are days when it would be so much easier to simply let the kids do whatever they want. But ultimately, they do need guidance and the ability to develop a strong work ethic that will allow them to develop into responsible and dependable adults. For us at this stage, this simply involves the kids taking responsibility for their school work as much as possible, helping out around the house and keeping their rooms in order.
  3. IMG_0958Financial Responsibility: It’s never too early to start teaching kids about how to manage finances responsibly. This is an area I did not really know how to impart to my kids however after reading various sources, we came up with a plan that we feel is right for our family and which the kids are on board with. There are of course many schools of thought on this with a multitude of approaches. For us, the kids will obtain an allowance once a month in return for helping out with chores around the house. We suggested that for now, they divide the money up equally in 3 jars: Savings, Spending and Giving. If there is something they would like to have outside of their usual needs, birthday and Christmas gifts, they will have to save up for it. I’m hoping that this will teach them about the concept of saving, delayed gratification as well as generosity.

Further reading: I just finished reading this book which I feel is useful in guiding parents about what life skills to teach kids and would be a good read for adolescents (currently free on Amazon Kindle so grab it while you can!)

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Summer Rest and Reading!

The past few weeks have been restful and refreshing as I have gotten to spend precious time with my dear husband, beautiful children and wonderful friends and family. I have had moments to pause and realize just how much I have to be thankful for!

One of the nicest things about being on summer break is simply enjoying the pleasure of reading books! My husband recently introduced me to the website bookbub.com where you can download books from Amazon and other sources at ridiculously low prices ($1 to $2 usually) or even free. If you are a booklover, then bookbub is a must have! Needless to say, my Kindle is bursting at the seams!

So what’s on my summer reading list? Here are a few select titles that I have enjoyed:

  • The Real Doctor Will See You Shortly by Matt McCarthy: The experiences of an Internal Medicine Intern
  • Praying for your Children by Elmer L. Towns and David Earley: A great guide to diligently praying for your children with guidance from scripture.
  • At the Feet of Jesus by Joanna Weaver: This is a great devotional to take a moment from our busy lives and simply spend time in God’s presence daily.

My other reading materials this summer included Case Files Obstetrics and Gynecology in preparation for my OBGYN outpatient clinic that begins in just 2 weeks time! I love the Case Files series in general because you work through several cases and it provides clinical pearls and practice questions at the end of each chapter.

Learn-French-Comprehension

My other goal for this summer has been to practice my conversational French in order to become more proficient and have better communication with my future Francophone patients. I want to provide the best possible care to my patients and not let language barriers be a hindrance to this. So far, I have been focusing on learning anatomy and history taking in French as well as listening to podcasts on a variety of topics in French. Just 10 to 20 minutes a day has produced drastic improvements in my comprehension and vocabulary!

Pictures from Summer 2018!

 

Featured image: View of Ottawa, Summer 2018 by potentialdoctor.com

 

First Day Back at Medical School…Year 2

Today was the first day back at medical school and I am excited to have started on the next block…Reproduction! From looking ahead at the schedule for the next month, we will be covering plenty of topics that interest me such as prenatal diagnosis, obstetrics and breastfeeding. The block will be heavy in anatomy and histology which is a big challenge! Although it takes me time to master anatomy names, I do enjoy this part of the medical curriculum. Histology has been one of my favorite areas since the beginning of medical school. I feel like my brain just gets it which is very rewarding!

This afternoon, I had my first session for my Community Health Alliance Project (CHAP). This is where we each get to volunteer with an organization out in the community in order to give us more exposure. My community organization is in the area of Mental Health. I chose this because I do not know much about mental health issues yet I have seen it affect people around me. I am curious to know more about it, how it is managed and how I can help to break the stigma around it. The people at the organization were very welcoming and seem extremely passionate about what they do. I was very inspired by the inter-professionalism and I am excited to be a part of the team for the next few months.

I am hoping to try and keep a balanced approach to life during this second year of medical school. I know it will not be easy but it is my sincere wish to keep God and my family as my top priorities, to make time for exercise and rest, as I give my best effort to my school work!

PS… If you love to read as much as I do, or if you’re simply looking for something new to read, please do visit my “Books to Read” page. I have updated it with several new titles that I read over the summer. I hope you will find them as useful or inspirational as I did! Enjoy!

Medical School Starts Tomorrow!

It is hard to believe that after 10 years of planning, with plenty of detours and surprises, I am finally starting medical school tomorrow! When I look back on the past few years, there were several moments when I wondered why there had been a delay or why things did not go as planned. In hindsight, I realize that everything had a purpose and that this is exactly the right time to be doing this, even if it took much longer than expected to get here!

I am so grateful for the support I have received from my amazing husband, church, friends and family. If you have a goal in life that seems somewhat overwhelming or even nearly impossible, gather the right people around you to encourage you, lift you up and mentor you. This has been invaluable to me for getting through obstacles and disappointments.

Last Friday, my husband and I spent a day together (normally, we’re surrounded by our rambunctious kids!) We drove downtown and strolled around hand-in-hand reminiscing on our early dating days. It was so special to walk on campus where I completed my first degree eleven years go, knowing that in just a few days I would begin another one at the very same university.

My husband and I wandered into the medical building where most of my classes will be. We eventually found ourselves in the Osler library, home to thousands of books on the history of medicine personally owned by the Canadian physician Sir William Osler, the father of modern medicine. There was something so profound about being in touch with this important piece of history just prior to the start of my own journey into medicine.

As I start a new phase of my life tomorrow, I hope you will continue to follow me on this adventure. My husband and children are very excited and although I know it will be demanding, I am so thrilled to have my ‘team’ behind me for support!

Onward to medical school!

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On campus with my husband

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Last weekend before medical school starts! A fun ferry ride on the way to the beach at Oka park

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Last day before medical school starts: a day at the water-slides in Pointe Calumet

Photo credit for featured image: Karen Coshof (from the book ‘The Osler Library’)

Each Day is a Gift

One week left to medical school! I cannot believe how fast the summer has gone by! I have really enjoyed spending time with my family and watching the kids grow. Some of the things that I was reminded of this summer was how important it is to appreciate each day and to let those you love know how much you care about them. Each day is truly a gift!

I have found that taking stock of each day and meditating on what I have to be grateful for helps to temper the worries and frustrations of day-to-day life. Three things I read or heard this past week also gave me pause for thought:

  1. Let those you come into contact with feel that they are important and worth something: In the book God’s Hotel by Victoria Sweet, a California-based physician tells her story of practicing medicine. One of the hospitalized patients was a woman who was on her death-bed. When Dr. Sweet asked what else could be done for her, the patient simply asked for something different to eat at her mealtimes and to have new eyeglasses since her current ones were broken. I can imagine that the physician was taken aback by this simple request that meant so much. Sometimes we may feel that we cannot make a difference but there is always an opportunity to show appreciation even if it means asking a simple question or demonstrating a caring gesture.
  2. Forgive from the heart: In Matthew 18 of the Bible, Jesus depicts a vivid parable of a servant who owes a large debt to his master and another servant who owes a smaller debt to his fellow servant. The  master forgives the debt but the servant shows no mercy towards his fellow servant. Jesus explains the consequences of an unforgiving attitude and implores his listeners to forgive from the heart. Jesus’ choice of words touched me because ‘forgiveness from the heart’ to me implies a deep, complete and unshakable forgiveness.
  3. Prioritize your life: I had an inspiring chat with my oldest brother who is a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon based in Kenya. As I spoke with him about how he manages balancing his career with family, his words of wisdom rang true: prioritize your life. For him that meant 1) God 2) Spouse 3) Children 4) Career. Of course there are plenty of other things that make up our lives such as our social life and hobbies but often our family life and work are the most difficult to balance. Priorities mean different things to different people but having an idea of what comes first and what we are not willing to compromise on can guide us when trying to navigate the busy waters of life.
Family picture August 2016

 So grateful for my precious family! Each day is a gift!

Love in Action…How to Become a Kinder Person

Today started off the second week on the series ‘40 Days of Love‘ and it challenged us even more to live a life of love towards other people. Sometimes fear limits our ability to extend love and kindness. How will my actions be perceived by the other person? What if I get hurt? What if this affects my reputation? What if this delays my personal goals? What if this interrupts my plans?

These are valid fears and I have struggled with these at different points in my life. My hope is that we can get to a point where it becomes less about us and our comfort but more about other people. Difficult but achievable!

The lesson gave us 3 take home points to try and put into practice:

  • Sensitivity: How sensitive are we to the needs of those around us? Do we open our eyes and really observe what is going on with people around us? How is your neighbor, colleague, spouse, child, parent, classmate doing?
  • Sympathy: Once we have identified a need, how willing are we to engage the person to find out more? How ready are we to listen wholeheartedly without being distracted?
  • Spontaneity: Once we know the whole story, how willing are we to get into action and do something about it? Are we ready to drop what we are doing? Are we willing to sacrifice and go through some inconvenience to help the other person?
Image courtesy of indiabright.com

Image courtesy of indiabright.com

The lesson also drew from the example of the Good Samaritan. It was really eye-opening to break down the story in detail:

“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead…a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.  He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ Luke 10.

What can we learn from this story?

  • The Samaritan saw the need, he sympathized, and he acted spontaneously. There was no procrastination.
  • He sacrificed of his time, money and even his own safety to take care of a stranger
  • He used whatever he had with him (wine and oil, possibly his own clothing as bandages) to attend to the wounds of the stranger. Sometimes we don’t think we have what it takes to help someone else but there is always something we can do, no matter how small.
  • He promised to follow up on the stranger at a later date. Follow-up is important as sometimes a person’s need is continuous and does not disappear in a day.

Week 2 Challenge: Identify a need that you can assist with in your community, work place or school. Again, the focus is not to expect something in return.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear” 1 John 4:18

Forty Days of Love

We just started a new series on the topic of love at our women’s group in church and the first session was very inspiring! We will be looking at the book “40 Days of Love” by Rick Warren and I really enjoyed the first video which was very down-to-earth and without any sugar-coating. We took a look at the love chapter in the Bible (1 Corinthians 13) and although I have read it many times, it always moves me whenever I read it.

I like how Rick summarized the chapter in Corinthians, in essence saying that we can have all the faith, knowledge, accomplishments and even show generosity to others but if we are not doing it out of love, it is completely meaningless. I felt quite convicted by this because I know there are moments when my giving to others has not been completely selfless. I have either expected something in return or expected to be recognized.

The love talked about in Corinthians is completely unconditional. I have to remind myself of this often particularly when I am not feeling forgiving of someone else. When I am tempted to point the finger, I look at myself and say, “You know, you’re not perfect. You have made many mistakes and yet God chose to be merciful and to forgive you, no matter what you did. You should do the same for others“. This is such a hard pill to swallow some times. It almost doesn’t make sense, it almost seems to go against our nature. But this is what unconditional love is!

Week 1 challenge: Go out of your way to show love for someone else (without any self-seeking motives or expecting something in return).

Image courtesy of moreintelligentlife.com

Image courtesy of moreintelligentlife.com

“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love”.

The Beauty of the Written Word

Image courtesy of startupremarkable.com

Image courtesy of startupremarkable.com

While I was growing up, our home was filled with all sorts of fascinating books which fueled my interest in learning. Our kids seem to have inherited our “book” gene and they both love to leaf through books regularly.

Yesterday, my son Caleb and I had a lovely day together out-and-about, with the highlights of the day being a visit to the Chapters bookstore and our local library.

I love the fascination of a child over things we as adults have forgotten are fun. A case in point being Caleb’s request to go up and down the escalator at Chapters. His eyes opened wide with excitement every time we reached the top or the bottom just so he could dramatically jump off saying “look mummy, I’m spiderman!”

After his escalator escapades, Caleb planted himself firmly on the floor surrounded by a pile of books. When I suggested that he could move to a chair, he simply responded “but mummy, I have to be close to the books” and continued reading while on the floor.

As I wandered through the aisles keeping a motherly eye on him, I watched passersby slowing down as they noticed Caleb. They smiled and chuckled at this young boy in the middle of the floor, his head buried in books. I felt really proud of him for his thirst for knowledge and I am constantly amazed by the attention span he has for a 4 year old.

As we made our way home for lunch and then out again to the library, we spent an hour or so reading. As I lifted my head and took in the many rows and rows of books, I felt so grateful that my children have access to a plethora of riveting books that will form the basis of their knowledge, capture their imagination and be embedded in their memories.

An excited Caleb at Chapters

Caleb having fun at Chapters

A Classic Case of Thinking Outside the Box

I’ve been on the hunt for a new book to read. From the stack of books on my bedside table, I stumbled upon an intriguing biography on the life of Jesus from the point of view of his beloved disciple John. So far it has been an absorbing read! What I like about it is the intricate descriptions of that period in time and the depth of the relationships between the characters. I really feel thrown back in time when I peruse the pages of this book.

So far the most profound impression this book has made on me is how Jesus was not afraid to go against some of the norms in that society. I call this a classic case of thinking outside the box. Lepers were considered unclean and were to distance themselves from the rest of society. Their ashy, ghost-like skin was viewed with disgust and they were looked down upon. Yet Jesus crossed this boundary, physically touching and healing a leper.

Jesus was becoming well-known and was gaining in popularity among certain sectors of society. I can imagine it would have been easy to just proceed in a manner that would maintain his popularity but that was not Jesus’ style. He was not concerned about what people thought of him but with fulfilling his mission to heal the sick, the brokenhearted and preach the Good News, regardless of what this did to his reputation.

While the self-righteous Pharisees viewed Jesus as a kind of heretic rebel, he was the one who defied the norms of that society, touching lepers, talking with a Samaritan woman at a well, dining with tax collectors, all while maintaining his humility and compassion towards others. Jesus acted “outside the box” to fulfill the goals and mission he had been sent to do. This makes me think that in my own life, there are ways to go above and beyond, ways to be courageous and creative, in order to achieve a worthy goal that will ultimately benefit others.

The Master, A Life of Jesus by John Pollock

The Master, A Life of Jesus by John Pollock

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net