Outdoor Prescription

Just breathe. Suck air in. Hold it. Let it out. Repeat. Over and over the phrases came. Jagged breaths slowly came and went but the vice grip on the ribs wasn’t changing.  After 8 grueling weeks of neuroanatomy, the test was over; the comprehensive exam with lab practical was over. No more dead brain pieces, no more obscure pathways, no more long nights of getting home just in time to crawl into bed over mountains of undone laundry. All over. But, breathing was still not normal! My body was having none of “normal” after putting up with that mess for 8 weeks. Even after a relaxed evening immediately following the test and 12 hours of sleep, breathing was still hard. It was going to take more than just an evening off to recoup. Thankfully we had planned a cool weather camping trip, an outdoor prescription if you will, to decompress for the next evening. After mandatory classes Tuesday afternoon we scooted out to a lake an hour away, had an incredibly evening  and even made it back to campus in time for our 9 AM class Wednesday. Gorgeous weather and fall foliage paved the way to the secluded campground and now that we are back in full swing for psychiatry,  our mind, bodies, and souls are prepared for it.

Tree by the lake
Vibrant foliage

Serenity restores the mind and body
In case you couldn’t tell from the photos, the landscape was phenomenal. Sunlight waters of a lake at sunset, fall fruits, vibrant foliage, and perfectly crisped air will work wonders for a tired mind and body. The hubby and I disagree a little on whether sleeping on the cold hard ground is therapeutic, but my ribs were very grateful for a change of scenery. The extra beautiful part is there is absolutely no reason to stay up late. The sun went to bed and shortly after so did I! No computer screens, no diseased brain photos, just a breeze in the leaves and a distant train.

Gorgeous sunset
Persimmons! Beautiful fall fruit. Plan to bake something with a few of the ripe ones we found.

Singing worship songs invigorates the soul
Curled up in a blanket sitting in front of a warm fire on a crisp night and opening our souls in worship under the cathedral dome of a starry sky was one of the best parts of the whole trip. Deep peace and  souls restored in faith were the end result.  Neither of us play guitar or sing exceptionally well, so maybe it was good we were the only ones at the campground, but hey, the Psalmist says “make a joyful noise” so we’re covered.

Fall berries we found while hiking

Simple food warms the heart
Early Wednesday morning I woke at dawn to see a crackling fire and my favorite person in the world. If that wasn’t a sufficiently good start to a morning, there shortly after was an iron skillet toasting apples, oats, and almonds with cinnamon and vanilla.  it smelled like heaven and tasted like fall. Humble ingredients, simple preparation, and an ideal way to start the day with a warm and grateful heart.

Apple skillet that smelled like Heaven and tasted like fall
Best camping partner

What’s your favorite outdoor prescription? 🙂

Adventures At A Pumpkin Patch

So you got on Instagram or Facebook and you scrolled for 2.3 minutes and saw exactly 8 different kids at pumpkin patches with proud parents displaying all the fall adorableness. And it’s totally adorable, and I love it too, and I am also thankful you were brave enough to read this-  another article on pumpkin patches – despite being in pumpkin overload season.

Pumpkins Everywhere!

Why did I go to a pumpkin patch might be a good question to start with. Aren’t they for kids? Well sort of. But, I love being outside, my husband loves corn mazes and we both love supporting local agriculture. And hey, the neuro test that morning was a relief to be over with and we were looking for ways to celebrate.

Supporting local agriculture might not be an aspect of pumpkin patches you had thought about, but they actually provide quite a bit of revenue for agritourism.

White Pumpkins. So cool!

Any of the U-pick farms, wineries, petting zoos, Christmas tree farms, or similar operations classify as agritourism and you may find some incredible experiences in your area. If you weren’t familiar with agritourism, it’s just farmers who wanted to take their trades and open them up to the public. Many farmers rely on the tourism revenue on top of their regular crops to make ends meet.   Not every pumpkin patch will have the same level of involved agriculture; some just buy pumpkins from a farmer and place them in a fun way to explore. (still lots of fun and makes for adorable photos) Check out what is in your area! There are usually several in a given place and not all patches are farmed equal.

Sourghum used to make the “corn maze”. Beautiful fall colors on the seed heads.

We scored an amazing “corn” maze (sourghum) and these two heirloom pumpkins. Wait, there are heirloom pumpkins!? Yes! And they are amazing! The one on the left is a Pennsylvania Dutch that very much resembles a butternut squash in flavor. The one on the right is called a Red Warty thing and it made some incredible pumpkin butter that night as well as a pumpkin alfredo sauce to top some sausage stuffed shells. By purchasing heirloom pumpkins we get to support agricultural heritage preservation of some exceptionally rare types.

The Hubby with a Pennsylvania Dutch (Left) and Red Warty Thing (right) as scores from our adventure

Tyler loves pumpkin butter and I don’t like paying $3 / jar so this was a fun adventure in saving money, supporting agriculture, and enjoying the majestic fall weather.

Green Heirloom Pumpkins

What fall adventures have you had?

Does Your Mind Need To Be Back In Your Body?

Body. Mind. Spirit.

Daily in my training I am reminded how these three entities and everything in our bodies is connected. Literally everything. This past weekend I attended a yoga workshop encouraging women to love their bodies and a training session the next day on therapies for facial bones, postural evaluations, and some esoteric topics of the minute movements of intracranial structures that affect the entire body’s function…. wheww, that was a mouthful. Anyway, why did I go? Because everything is connected! And because I felt totally amazing afterwards, it had been a stressful week and I needed to slow down and refocus.

OMM Lab – Where we train to help people put their minds back in their bodies

After the weekend I had a few thoughts about points brought up from people of very different backgrounds that all revolved around putting your mind back in your body.

First I should clarify what I mean by the above statement. Putting your mind back in your body is not the result of a paranormal reality that everyone is having an out of body experience and needs to do the Voodoo to put it back. Not at all. Putting your mind back in your body means being aware of how your body works, its level of health, and its purpose in life.

The Struggle
Society as a whole struggles to know their own body and where their mind belongs in relation to it. As a Christian I find this appalling. We worship ourselves as society. We adore how we look, we are obsessed with what others think of us, we spend hours on self-gratification, self-fulfillment, and self-indulgence. It sounds a little odd on that you can be totally obsessed with yourself and still not have your mind in your body at all, but it is a problem as ubiquitous as obesity or Alzheimer’s.

We have to be still, know that He is God

Why is This an Issue?
Next time you go out to eat notice how engaged you are with whoever you are with. Notice how engaged the people are around you. Not very engaged? It is too easy to live for distraction from anything besides the present. But not living in the present costs us in our relationship as well as our own health. (Check out my previous posts on spending more time with family  or taking time to see baby rabbits for practical ways to live in the present). When we feel discouraged or depressed we reach for our phones and devices. When we feel hungry, or bored, or anything else we reach for food. When we feel pain we reach for meds or something to just take it away and seldom deal with the cause. We have high blood pressure chronically and make no lifestyle changes. Why? Because to fight any of these, to live intentionally and to live in the present we have to remember God connected our minds to our bodies and sometimes we have to take inventory! What are the consequences? Mind out of body problems, like not being able to tell when things go wrong, growing mindless altogether as in the cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s, and succumbing to chronic pain and mental illness.

The Sides
As I observed the various perspectives this weekend as well as previous experiences on putting your mind back in your body I noticed two camps. Eastern cultures regularly use healthy behaviors blended with mysticism to create a religion (that later dropped most of the religious aspects and it back to whole person health i.e. yoga and similar arts). Exercise classes like Yoga have taken the world by storm and for a very good reason – they are great at putting the mind back in the body. The second camp is Christianity which among many church circles avoids looking inward and many times forget their body and soul are connected at all. In fact many Christians view Yoga and mind practices as pagan or Satanic. Some Christians view regular prayer as a way to reset the body and I am inclined to agree that although this is not the purpose of prayer it is an undervalued benefit. It shouldn’t really be a surprise that refocusing our soul on God helps put our mind back in a proper place inside our body; remember, everything is connected.

Putting our minds back in our bodies is crucial for our health

The Analysis
The sad part is that one camp offers profound health benefits while denying God any of His creative glory for designing such unique, infinitely complex, and incredible organisms. God made us so incredible we have mechanisms to help us heal. The other camp is drowning in obesity and stiff religiosity. They can be seen reaching for another donut and vehemently stating God thinks it’s sin to sit with your legs crossed thinking about your breathing. Not exactly a pretty picture of being good stewards of our dynamic bodies. And a few people do get it right, that health is something to be taken care of, God is a God to be glorified, and we are people that have lives to live!

The Conclusion
Saying we are designed to never experience suffering is wrong and so is refusing to do anything on our parts to minimize it. Saying we cannot acknowledge God as ultimate Creator, Sustainer, and Healer is wrong, and so is saying He has not given us mechanisms for self repair (hello, we do not go to the ER every time we get a paper cut). So roll out your yoga mat, stretch, check your mental and spiritual health! Go outside and be amazed by the beauty of God’s creation while you exercise, spend time in prayer, and get your mind back in your body.

What are your thoughts on health and living intentionally? 🙂

 

 

 

Whole Person Care and You

Heavy breathing filled the tiny exam room. The rancid smell of a patient who hadn’t showered in who knows how long, smoked heavily, and weighed 300 lbs was overpowering. Greasy strands of hair clung to her face as she hunched over in her chair in her miserable existence. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t pleasant, and it wasn’t exactly what people picture getting to be a “doctor” would be like.

The description evokes a powerful image. This patient was just a theoretical one but I have seen many just like her over several clinical experiences. You may have seen people like this at Walmart or walking down the street. Same characteristic shuffle, with no hope in their eyes and no joy in their heart.

So as a physician what do we do with her? I can give her the 1-800-QUIT-NOW number just like I did the last 3 visits. I can ask her about her diet for the umpteenth time. I can tell her the importance of personal hygiene for preventing weird infections. But none of that matters. That isn’t what she needs.

Spiritual Patient Care

What does she need? She needs a physician who can see the whole picture, the whole person, the whole problem. The idea of whole person medicine is hardly a new one with Osteopathic medicine championing the philosophy since it’s origin in 1874. It emphasizes spiritual care with body and mind care, and is one of the reasons why as a Christian I am so excited to be studying Osteopathic medicine. She needs a doctor who can share with her the good news of the gospel, who can ask about her spiritual health, who can pray with her in her difficult journey, who can point her to a supportive church family.

Christians in any field and especially medicine we need to be concerned with spiritual well being of others. Research supports that better patient care happens when physicians care for all aspects of their patients. In fact, 70% of patients actually want their physician to ask about spiritual needs. End of life costs drop dramatically when patients report being quality spiritual care too. Following our own faith has blessings in many forms, even better patient outcomes and satisfaction. I hope we never forget that.

Pray with Your Patients

Well our theoretical patient needs a satisfying end to her story. After talking with her about what gave her strength in life and she said she didn’t have any and was considering suicide we were able to recommend appropriate mental health services and a local pastor. She further opened up and said she began smoking and having poor dietary habits after a childhood filled with horrible abuse, both sexual and physical.  Her story was so much bigger than her list of problems showing up in our clinic, but God’s grace was bigger still. Be a part of the solution and work to see the whole person in your journey in life. <3

P.S. this post was inspired after hearing a guest speaker at our school on taking a spiritual history.

5 Ways I Save Money as A Medical Student

Hey look! A red Ferrari just passed me on the interstate. It must belong to a doctor right? Lol, as a med student that is not what comes to my mind – he must be in business or something other than healthcare. While it is true that some physicians own Ferraris, the vast majority of them are 30 years old when they get a real job and have between a quarter and a half a million dollars of debt. Many of them don’t finish paying off the debt until retirement and most of them make significant lifestyle sacrifices to pay it off sooner. So owning a Ferrari is more of a dream at this point in the healthcare game.
My husband and I don’t dream of fancy sports cars, but we do dream of financial freedom and are putting thought and action into minimizing debt repercussions. Below are a five ways we work to be good stewards of our resources and, hopefully, have at least a nicer house than our 20 year old remodeled mobile home, a family, and some baby goats:

Financial journeys are only almost as exciting as butterfly journeys

Budget:
You probably heard this one coming. BUT it is still super important! If you don’t know how much you’re spending there is no way of setting limits on the debt you are accruing. We set budgets for 6 months at a time and focus less on weekly budgets. The weekly budgets were a little too restrictive at some points when there were weeks we wanted to spend more on fun activities versus weeks were we were drowning in neuroanatomy lectures and didn’t spend on anything. Find what works for you and stick to it.

Financial meetings:
Okay, I know this one sounds boring but it’s how you achieve number one; especially if you’re married. Good communication is crucial for any couple and we specifically set aside time (usually there is food involved) once a quarter to evaluate past spending, current financial status, what our budget needs to be next, how much we will need to take out in loans next borrowing cycle, etc. It’s amazing! No more fear, no more worrying about how deep we are digging our selves in the hole and we trust each other implicitly because everything is on the table. A benefit of these meetings is we also discuss which credit card to prioritize that quarter based on what cash back rewards are being given. If you are disciplined and pay off your cards monthly, credit cards offer valuable cash back in the long term – make it work for you!

Budgets help with rainy day savings

Meal Plan:
The memes never end for people going grocery shopping and then being too tired to cook when they get home so they go back and buy take-out. Meal planning simplifies the equation so you have the freedom to have something in the crock pot while you’re out grocery shopping for the next week and wa-la dinner is ready when you get home. It only takes about 15 minutes a week to meal plan and saves you time in two ways: 1) you don’t have to think about about “what’s for dinner tonight” and 2) you don’t wander around the grocery store aimlessly trying to find things that look good. Meal planning saves money because you also are not buying non-essentials. Oh and did I mention that you also eat at home more (which is cheaper) and have options to choose more nutritious foods than the burrito you ordered at Taco Bell last week?  Get a fun notebook and get after it!
I also use the Ibotta app to help with coupons and additional discounts. Definitely recommend it with the simply caution that, like other coupons, just because something is a good deal doesn’t mean you’re saving money if you never buy that product anyway.

Coffee at Home:
Seriously, it’s not hard to make it at home. I am a huge fan of lattes myself but we only go out for those on special occasions. Our school generously provides coffee that we drink most days and then on weekends or days we need extra coffee we use a French Press and whole beans (from Walmart people, before someone gets excited we’re buying expensive stuff on a how-to-save-money post). French Press coffee is great, if you have never tried it and have endured life with a Keurig allow me to introduce you to a serious upgrade. Keurig’s do not make coffee, they make something liquid and dark that sometimes has caffeine – not to mention they are expensive and gross inside. Anyway, we do sometimes study at coffee shops to take a break from studying at home or school but we also limit these trips and buy the cheap stuff.

The Do I Need It Trick
Medical school and other types of financial binds like to show you how much you want. All. Of. The. Time. However running out and buying a new cranberry colored purse because the 1st three leaves of fall fell is not wise when you don’t have  a real job. We have resorted to asking ourselves the “do I need this now” question when we have wants. Some wants need to be taken care of simply for sanity’s sake. Christmas and anniversary are still real times that should be celebrated. You have to decide what celebrate means in your book though, how much you actually have to spend to keep someone happy, and how much you need to spend to keep yourself happy. In that vein of thought, what are your opinions on thrift stores and why? I absolutely LOVE thrift stores and consignment shops and even garage sales. Use the cheap prices to your advantage! Recently I discovered ThredUP, an online thrift store. Check it out, it’s phenomenal and has 30% off your first order!  Coming in the future soon is a post on the philosophy of minimalism assessing it’s pros and cons. For now though, remember that often less is more and you don’t need the newest phone, clothes with tags, or Sephora to keep up with the times.

Find your place in life’s mosaic, preferably in financial freedom!

 

How do you save money for your future goals? 🙂

 

Notes on Failure

Gorgeous golden sunlight beamed through the window. Birds were chirping nearby and the fresh scent of fall drifted through the open window. I opened my eyes slowly, slipped out of bed to grab a cup of steaming coffee…

dreamy mornings start like this

Oh wait, no I didn’t. That was a dream. A very beautiful dream that was very far from reality. Yesterday was anything but golden and peaceful with a youth event, med school study group, and other activities going on after church (day to rest I know I know…) that were anything but organized. And there was no coffee. All day. And medical students especially hate no coffee, being disorganized, and feeling like a failure.

The story goes something like Tyler and I were brainstorming as youth coordinators on how achieve better interaction with the older generation in our church. We came up with the idea of Church Grandparent Adoption. Older members would be adopted by a youth and have several structured interactions with mentorship conversations. Brilliant right? Welll….Once we finally recruited enough people to participate, we scheduled our first luncheon. Details below with a couple of lessons we learned yesterday as we introduced the mentor-mentee pairs:

Planning is Everything
Planning is the grease that keeps the engine running. Yesterday we chose to meet at a local chicken place for lunch, but we did not anticipate the noise from the Sunday lunch crowd or the logistics of seating. It made for tight quarters and difficult to hear conversations. Next time, Tyler and I plan to have a conversation where we think through each aspect of an event and plan locations based on what we actually need (quiet space) instead of supposed convenience.

Sometimes Planning isn’t Enough
For something to work, you need willing hearts. To our surprise many of the older people at church simply had no desire to work with the youth. They retired community claimed they were just too busy. The youth responded similarly. Even during the lunch with the participants we had kids on their phones, interrupting other student’s conversations, ignoring their mentors, running back to sit with their family elsewhere in the restaurant. We were appalled! No respect, no desire to learn, nothing. In the future we plan to invest more in prayer about the situation and try to feel out better the attitudes of people. Maybe by asking what would interest them or by planning something more interactive we can cultivate a love for people of other generations.

Patience Is a Virtue
The book of Proverbs doesn’t say this verbatim but is is a true statement. We cannot get frustrated by human shortcomings whether our own or other people’s. Patience applies to all realms of our work and life, not just volunteer work or church functions. We have to trust that God is working everything out in His time and work diligently in the meantime. And put a little more effort forth in organization and planning…

Tulsa cityscape

So yes, yesterday’s event wasn’t exactly a success by our standards, but that is not what is important.  Everyone learned something, even if it was what not to do, golden sunrises not required. <3

How do you work in your family and community to make events run smoothly or cope with “failures”?