Friday, September 27, 2013

Have You Seen...

Here is a little known fact about me: I am a Jane Austen fan.

I used to be a purist and would only accept works that were authentic Ms. Austen. I scoffed at books attempting to tell a story from another characters point of view. I snubbed my nose at the modernization of her stories. I preferred the authors words, the time period, and everything to be just as she intended. No liberties taken.

While I still prefer the BBC version of Pride and Prejudice, especially on a cold and dreary day, the updated movie with Keira Knightley is well done and enjoyed when I don't have all day to sit and watch but still need a fix.

I allowed myself to indulge a little in the movie Becoming Jane, that explores the making of Jane Austen. The rules had been broken.

Then a few years ago during a book club we read An Assembly Such As This: A Novel by Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman by Pamela Aidan. And I was hooked and immediately read the other two books in that series. So much for being true and loyal.

I couldn't get enough.

And then one of my favorite authors, Shannon Hale, wrote a book called Austenland. Loved it. And then another called Midnight in Austenland. Loved it, too.

And then they made a movie: Austenland! You can watch the trailer here.

At first it was released in limited theaters across the country. I live in a large city and it was only showing in one theater in the whole state. It had been out a week or two and I talked my husband into seeing it with me, but it was sold out. The following week I decided to just see it myself. Matinee showing on Labor Day and I bought my tickets early. Good thing because it was a full house. Now I understand it has been released all over, so there is a sporting chance it is at a theater near you.

Nearly three weeks later and I still find myself laughing hysterically at something, or some song! Maybe you know what I am talking about:-) Maybe you want to find out for yourself.

If you are a Jane Austen fan, or love to make fun of Jane Austen fans, or like a light-hearted film, this is a movie for you. I can't wait to see it again, and then buy it and watch compulsively.

There, I have confessed yet another guilty pleasure that has absolutely nothing to do with the original intent of this blog!

On another note, Medical Mondays is coming up on October 7th! Don't miss it! That is unless you are watching this movie:-)


Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Can a Doctor and a Lawyer be Friends?

More specifically can a surgeon and a personal injury lawyer be friends?

I think I mentioned much earlier that we have recently moved back to the same city we lived during medical school. During that time we made friends with a couple who had just completed law school and were getting ready to start practice. They were great friends. I even hosted her baby shower - 8 years ago.

When I say great, they weren't the kind of friends we did much with. We never went out for dinner, never swapped recipes, or babysitting, never talked about the future or complain about what was happening in the moment. We saw them on Sunday's at church, or at other activities our congregation held. They were on our Christmas card list. But, we never called to chat and didn't really keep in touch much. They were solid, good people we knew we could depend on to do anything. We shared similar values and principles.

Fast forward and now we are living back in the same city, and they are still here! We were so happy to see them and had them over for dinner this weekend. It was nice to get caught up somewhat and to get our kids acquainted with theirs. And I think we have found a babysitter in one of their daughters. Bonus!

They hadn't change at all. And they said the same about us. It was like we had never left. In fact, we were all living in the same places we were then. The only thing that changed was the age and number of our children.

But as dinner concluded the guys were discussing work and the question of whether or not they could be good friends crossed my mind.

Before they were just "learning" their trade. So green and untainted, full of hope and dreams.  Now they are both practicing their craft and often they are disgruntled with members in each others profession. It's not like he is a strictly a malpractice attorney - that would be awkward. But my husband is being deposed this week and isn't very happy with attorneys. There were a few moments during the conversation where I could tell my husband was trying to change the subject. They agreed that there are bad lawyers and bad doctors.

The issue of health care, and the bureaucracy, and insurance companies are not good dinner conversations, especially when both of the participants are protecting their own interests. It didn't get out of hand, but it was interesting to see that my husbands views have been affected by his involvement on one side and our friends views have been affected by his on the other.

My husband has only been practicing for a couple of months and already his partner has been drilling into him the need to cover his tail. This profession may be one of a very few that requires absolute perfection 100% of the time. If you make a mistake and someone chooses to exploit it you can be ruined.

In the meantime, we really like this couple and hopefully we can maintain our friendship with the same degree of effort it has taken in the past: easy breezy. In the future I'll have to steer the conversations away from work and towards a subject that is less wrought with conflict.

I may have to pass a new rule in our home. Maybe even have it printed in large vinyl and posted for everyone to see:

We will gladly talk about sex and religion - just please don't talk about health care!

I wonder how that would go over?


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Tears for Strangers

Sometimes I forget that my husband actually works on people who don't intend to cause themselves harm that day. How frustrating it must be to clean up messes that never should have been made in the first place. (Sounds like motherhood.)

Most of the time I hear about the circumstances that bring people to his operating room, some of them don't even make it to the OR, and I shake my head. How many people try to kill themselves and fail? How many people drive drunk and are in motor vehicle accidents? How many motorcyclists refuse to wear helmets? How many different types of risky behaviors are there? Lots! These are the people my husband usually sees day in and day out. It's a big trauma center, and they get the worst of the worst.

And then there are days when someone comes into his OR who shouldn't be there. They didn't do anything wrong. In fact, they did a bunch of stuff right. But, it still didn't change the fact that they aren't going to make it. While the guy who shot himself in the head will make a complete recovery. Some things don't make sense.

Like the barely teenager who is in a motor vehicle accident with his older brother and friend on their way to a church activity after having spent the morning at a community service project. A young kid who idolized his older brother and wanted to be just like him. Who was a good kid in school and had many friends, and a loving family. Parents who are about the same age as we are, who never imagined when they sent him out into the world to do a good deed in the morning, that he would be taken from them before dinner. Parents who will be burying their son. How does anyone recover from something like that?

I typically don't shed any tears for my husbands patients. Their situations are sad, but self-inflicted, and I don't think about them. However, this one had us both crying tears for complete strangers and I don't think we will ever forget.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

It's Like the Lottery, Only Different

From the moment you our your spouse/boyfriend/sister/brother contemplated joining the medical profession family and friends gently urged them on with sentiments along the lines of "one day it will be worth it". What they mean by worth it is "one day you will have enough money and all your problems will be solved".  How naive they are. How naive we are.

I think this type of thinking (money is the answer to all of life's problems) is more common than we acknowledge. If you read my last post it is has been scientifically measured that the happy number for income is $75,000. So why would well-meaning friends and family want anyone to marry or obtain an income above that figure if it won't have any measurable effect on their happiness? Hmmm, maybe they are hoping that we will attempt to increase our happiness by spending money on them or buying experiences that we share with them. Or maybe they don't really like us as much as we thought.

I do not doubt their motives, really. I think they believe that having a higher income somehow means some of life's difficulties will pass us by. And there maybe some truth to it, but what if is was as equally untrue? What if it didn't matter how much money you had? What if the honest truth was that regardless of your income bracket you would be faced with challenges, hardships, heartaches and tragedies on par with others who have significantly less than you? Would you believe it? I have a feeling this might be closer to the truth than we are willing to admit.

Happiness has been on my mind lately because what I thought would make me happier (because I believed the lie) hasn't made a difference. I was happy before, don't get me wrong - but I think I was expecting elation, ecstasy and carefree to be a more permanent sensation. And now even I am laughing at myself. Go ahead, you can laugh with me. Instead it has just stirred up a whole new set of feelings I wasn't prepared for.

So what is the verdict? Will more money make you happier? It's a trick question and there is a lot of fine print and exclusions. You don't believe me. I can tell. Why? Because we all want the opportunity to try out the theory for ourselves. We will be the exceptions!

I won't attempt to deceive you. The first paycheck was like winning the lottery!  But, that feeling lasts for just a moment. Why so short lived? Because you quickly realize that having a high income doesn't mean you actually have money. Quite the opposite. Now that you have money everybody wants it.

Call it sticker shock, call it post-traumatic stress syndrome - the first time you see the income taxes portion of your payroll you may need to call 911. That is if you are able to get to the phone. Just like winning the lottery, most of your income is gone, never to be seen again and there isn't anything you can do about it! Taxes are now our single largest expense several times over. A cool 39.61% of our gross income. Sure we knew we were going to be in a different tax bracket, but I never considered that we would pay more in taxes in one month than we did in the last three years combined. It's the truth, I checked our filings because I am curious like that. I know what a great problem to have, but it's still a problem.

We need to lower our tax burden in a hurry! That would sure help pay down our debt in a big way. But what is there that we qualify for at this point? More kids? The ones we have now won't help anymore. Student loan interest? No.  Don't you find it ironic that once you are finally able to start paying your loans back you don't get to take a deduction for the interest you do pay because you make too much? This is going to be a topic of discussion for our financial planner. I am sure it won't be the first time they will have a new doctor in their office claiming that something must be wrong and asking to have some of those loopholes they have heard about in the news. Where can I get a loophole? Is there a dispenser somewhere?

I hear the naysayers now "why are you complaining about taxes, you have plenty of money"? You'd think, but....

From the moment you start medical school you begin digging the hole we call debt. You ignore it while it is happening because there is no alternative. In residency it slowly starts to remind you that it is alive and growing and waiting for you. You start cringing when the statements come in the mail. By the time you get your first paycheck, often decades later, it shows up on your doorstep with suitcases and a long term lease agreement that must be honored.  That little hole you starting digging years ago has become a tunnel to China.

You'd like to make your student loan situation a distant memory in a hurry, but you also need to start saving for retirement. NOW.  Remember that pitch from the HR department about contributing to a 401(k) and that if you started saving only $100 a month starting at age 20 by the time you retired you would have 1 Million dollars? That might not be the exact number, but the principle was that money invested over time grows exponentially. Guess what this doctor doesn't have? Time!  Instead of having a working career that spans 45 years - we will have 25, unless he wants to work into his seventies! And we might just have to do that. Time is not on our side and we are digging ourselves out of a hole. A house size hole. A house nicer than any house we have ever lived in hole with a matching mortgage payment.

But it's not just the student loans. It's the realization that being a doctor is a very expensive career decision. Because you have invested so much money that didn't belong to you pursuing an expensive career, you now have to take precautions to protect that career so you can afford to pay your debts. What a sick relationship. Outside of medical malpractice insurance, your family has to guard themselves from people that will never be patients! To say my husbands hands are insured isn't much of an exaggeration. We have insurance in case he can't work as a surgeon. Insurance in case he can only work in a limited capacity. We have insurance in case he expires prematurely. We have insurance to protect our home, cars, property, and assets we hope to accumulate. We have liability insurance should someone sue us from an accident in our car, home, driveway, sidewalk, tree, or from looking at them wrong, etc.

So when I look at our new income I see money that has already been spoken for and lots of hands coming to get what is theirs and not as much left as I would like. Not because I am ready for a shopping spree, but because I sincerely want to be done with debt as quickly as possible so we can move on to other things. The reality is that if want to pay off our debt aggressively, save for a meaningful retirement at a normal age, and buy a family house while our children are still living with us, we'd be smart to live like we always have. Right now it is the only way to mathematically make it work in the short time we have. Or we just throw caution to the wind and enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself. I am on the fence most days.

There are some things I have dreamed about and anticipated for years that would make everything worth it. (If you've been down this road, you know the "everything" I am talking about. If you haven't, I can't begin to describe it in one post and if I tried you wouldn't believe me anyway.) One was having a home in a safe neighborhood with a yard where our children could run and play outside. The other was taking family and couple vacations, something we never did during school or residency. I think both of these things are in keeping with the proven methods of increasing happiness: spending money on others and experiences. These are two things I am not willing to let go of now.

So for now, don't expect any debt-free announcements this decade.


Thursday, September 5, 2013

Can Money Buy Happiness?

Ah, the age old question: Will having more money actually make you happier? What say ye?

There are numerous books that touch on the subject. One of my favorites from the past couple of years is Gretchen Rubin's "The Happiness Project".  I love the approach she took to studying happiness and that she made a conscious decision to experiment with her happiness. I would probably be happier if I implemented any one of her suggestions.

Not surprisingly, there have also been countless studies attempting to measure happiness as it relates to money. I love it when science meets sociology/psychology, and I particularly love when people are able to present boring facts in an entertaining way.

I ran across this white board YouTube video several months ago and have been wanting to write something about it. I felt I need to wait a little while, at least until I had some of my own empirical data to work with and the other side was still fresh in my recollections.

It's a short video, but if you don't have time to watch it let me give you the run down:
  • It's not what you have it's what you do with it.
  • In North American anything beyond $75,000 doesn't significantly increase happiness.
  • We adapt very quickly to increases in wealth.
  • Buy experiences rather than material goods that produce a one time boost to happiness.
The study of money and peoples attitudes toward it I find fascinating.

I do believe that once a persons basic needs of shelter, food, clothing are met the meaning of happiness does not change greatly and that money can help create happy experiences but is not necessarily required. History has given us plenty of examples of happy and poor. Think Mother Theresa. But there are also some happy and rich examples, too. I just can't think of one off the top of my head - I just know they exist. Or at least I hope they exist!

But here is where I long for more data. For me something is missing from this analysis. Income isn't what it seems. Depending on where you live within the US the cost of basic needs combined with taxes and insurance could leave varying levels of disposable income which could be used to spend on others or to spend on experiences. Not to mention that if you are married, have a couple of kids (or more) and a dog, you are multiplying the cost of those basic needs and the needs themselves seem to be greater.

I contend that happiness is having disposable income that you have ultimate and total control over how it is spent, regardless of what your stated income is. When you don't have money to spend on others, or to spend on experiences, or to give away to charities you believe in, or save for retirement, or pay off student loans, or save for college expenses, etc. can you be happy?

Happiness is an attitude. Giving money away or buying things for someone else without the right attitude isn't getting you anything. You have to want to all the way to your bones.

Happiness is a plan. It is taking control of your money and being in charge of what your money does. It's not letting your money control you. Most of the time we become slave masters to our money and don't discipline it enough. It's a two-year old with a mind of it's old. It needs to be tamed.

Happiness is simplicity. Life right now is so far from simple that it is maddening. With greater income comes greater expenses and frustration.

My relationship with money is complicated. Although our income has increased above that magic happy number, I am no more happier. In fact, I might even say that my happiness in general has decreased. I like to keep things simple, but I haven't figured out how to make it reality. Stay tuned.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Medical Mondays!

My goodness, it's time again. For me Labor Day always brings the terrible reminder that summer is over. I love fall, but there is something sad about the passing of summer. Maybe it's just held-over from those days as I child when I remember it was also time to go back to school and the fun was over. Boy have things changed as an adult. For one this holiday is spent like most other days. That is, unless you work for the government, or a financial institution. Every one else I know works! So here is to the labor that makes the world go round!

Are you confused if you qualify for the party?

If you have a pager interrupting your life... you DEFINITELY qualify!
Do you work in healthcare?
Doctor? Nurse? EMT? Chiropractor? Vet? Dentist? Therapist?
Are you the spouse or SO of a healthcare worker/student?
Are you a nursing student? Medical student?
Intern? Resident? Fellow?

You get the picture, right? Come on, now... don't be shy! Let's keep growing and meeting new bloggers, so we can build a community of support and friendship, learn from one another, and share our stories.


Here are the rules:
  1. Follow your co-hosts via Bloglovin, GFC (if you are Blogger), FB, email or Twitter.
  2. Link up you medical/med life blog. If your blog name does not clearly state how you fit in to the med/med life world, please write a little intro or link up a specific post which clearly demonstrates your connection.
  3. Visit at least 3 other link ups, comment, introduce yourself, and tell the your stopping by or following from MM!
  4. Help spread the word by using our button on your post or sidebar, tweet about Medical Monday, or spread the word on Facebook! The more the merrier for all of us.
Complete step one by following your co-hosts:
Want to be awesome?
Post our button on you post or sidebar and help spread the word:

Want to co-host next month? Shoot Emma an email at and be sure to write "Medical Monday Co-host Request" in the subject field.

Now, link up below and have fun! The link up is open through Friday, so be sure to come back during the week to check some great reads!