Free from the Fear of Failure (or Why I’m Still Doing CrossFit)

Last night I listened to an episode of the TED Radio Hour podcast called ‘Nudge‘. If you’re a parent, or even just a human, I’d suggest listening to it. It’s no exaggeration to say that doing so led me to an epiphany; possibly multiple epiphanies, about myself and parenting. Allow me to set the stage:

I received an email recently congratulating me on my 18 month anniversary at RFX CrossFit. There are a few reasons I joined CrossFit back in February of 2015:

  1. I was coming to realise that I needed to get into better shape to keep up with my growing children (i.e. I was getting tired of nearly putting my back out at the age of 29 because my kids wanted me to pick them up)

  2. I had met a couple of CrossFitters who were quite fit, yet very humble about it. I’ve never had any interest in The Gym, but the way these guys talked about CrossFit made it seem sort of like a team sport, which I’ve always enjoyed

  3. A new CrossFit gym was being built around the corner from our house and I felt compelled, in a Gut Feel kind of way, to check it out. I’m a person who likes to go with my gut, regardless of how soft and weak it was at the time

I could write a lot about my CrossFit experience in general, but this isn’t the post for it. Suffice it to say that when I started I literally could not do a single push-up (which surprised me!). I’ve come a long way since then, having recently achieved such goals as squatting my own bodyweight, snatching over 50kg, stringing together 20 or 30 double unders, etc… To be honest though, I’m not that motivated by the numbers.

In the last few months I realised I had achieved what I’d set out to do: I could pick up my kids, lift them over my head, swing on the monkey bars with them, do handstands in the park, all without fear of getting hurt. So when I hit my one year anniversary, and again on my 18 month anniversary, the question arose in my mind: Why am I still here? Should I carry on?

The thing is, I’ve spent more money on fitness in the last 18 months than in all my life prior to that. I mean, the results have been great, but I’m still sometimes uncomfortable with the cost; after all, how much do I want to invest in a body that will eventually fail, no matter what I do? And it is hard work, especially getting up at 5am to go to class before work, in order not to detract from family time.

I know this is getting long, but stick with me because I’m nearly at the epiphany.

If you haven’t already listened to the podcast I mentioned in the intro, let me summarise a bit of it for you: when you praise children (or people) in a straightforward manner – “What a beautiful picture!”, “You’re so smart”, “You did so well at soccer today!” – something scary happens: having felt “the rush” of being complimented, the recipient develops a tendency to restrict themselves to doing only that which results in more praise. In other words, the praise they received gives them an incentive to stick with what they know they’re good at, and to avoid taking risks.

As I digested this information, I came to realise that most of my life I’ve been experiencing that very thing. I was always a pretty smart kid, reasonably well behaved, committed to doing a good job at work and generally fulfilled by words of affirmation (my #1 Love Language!). As interesting as this perspective was, this wasn’t the epiphany itself. The epiphany is this: the reason I’m still doing CrossFit – what I like so much about it, why I’m willing to pay a bit extra for it – is because it has become my safe place to fail.

I joined RFX all by myself. A new environment, all new people, new activities and challenges like I had never faced before. I was weak. Properly weak. I knew nothing about gymnastics (I broke my arm attempting a one-armed handstand at 17 years old), had never imagined that I would pick up a barbell, and I couldn’t understand 80% of the WOD (workout of the day) for the first few months without the coach explaining it.

I spent the first few weeks being the only guy doing knee push-ups. While the regulars did pull-ups, I referred to them as dangles because I could only hang there wishing myself upward (I learned some regressions, don’t worry). For the first little while I had to take 3 or 4 days off after every workout because I was too sore to move. And every time I thought I was getting a movement right, one of my dear coaches would point out yet another deficiency in my form or technique (with the best of intentions).

I have probably failed in CrossFit more times than I’ve ever failed at anything in my life. Possibly more than all my other failures combined. I literally fail every day as I push my body to new limits and build strength and skill. The box – as CrossFitters affectionately call their workout area – is my safe space to fail, and I love that. When I fail in front of the strongest and best – the legends – in the box, I’m not embarrassed, and they’re not critical; they’ve become the best because they’ve faced failure probably thousands of times more than me. More likely than not they’ll say an encouraging word or offer some nugget of wisdom that’ll help me nail it next time. If I fail in front of newer or weaker members of the box I can only assume that it’ll inspire them like it’s inspired me when I’ve seen it in others: that ability to reset, keep a positive attitude, focus and try again.

I’ve been hesitant to compete again since attending my first competition back in February 2016. I did pretty well (in my opinion) but ended up feeling aimless afterwards, having a bit of a ticked-that-box mentality. My epiphany – the nudge I got from TED radio hour – has made me realise that I do want to compete again. Not to win, but to fail. Sound weird to you? Maybe it is, but I want to compete again and I want my kids to watch me do it. I want them to see me go as hard as I can, laid out on the floor until I physically cannot get that next rep. I want them to see me push myself to the limit and almost certainly fail to reach the podium because, hey, I’m honestly not the best out there. But when that happens, they won’t see me sulking in the corner. I’ll be attempting a smile through my sweaty, oxygen-deprived grimace; after all, I’ve given it my best, I’m in the best shape of my life and I’m free. Free to be a nerdy CrossFit misfit and free to fail.

Welcoming Kate

Hi friends, family, and strangers who happen to have found our blog.

After 10 days of keeping her mostly to ourselves, it’s time to introduce the latest addition to our family.  Kathryn Jane Cross (Kate/Katie) was born at 5:39 pm WA time on the 3rd of March, 2012.  She weighed 3.59 kilos and measured 51.5 cm long – if you’re still not on the metric ship you can look up the conversions online – and has the most wonderfully content behaviour a parent could hope for.

One of Heather's photos of Katie Jane, just a couple days old

There are so many things I (Tim) could say about this birth, but I’ll try to keep it shorter than my undergrad thesis.  In summary, it was a water birth, and it was amazing.  If I had to pick one word to describe the hours leading up to Eden’s entrance into the world, it would be ‘horrible’ (sorry Eden, nothing personal, it was just the most helpless, gruelling, exhausting, discouraging experience of my life, albeit worthwhile); Kate’s, on the other hand, I can honestly describe as ‘incredible.’

It was an incredible time between Kathryn and I.   During Eden’s birth, Kathryn was under the influence of various medical interventions – nitrous oxide gas, fentanyl  – and was required to spend most of labour on her back, in a hospital bed.  This is standard practice in most labour wards in the western world.  She’d had her membranes ruptured several hours into the labour to help “speed things up”, but the primary effect was to increase the pain of contractions enormously, with no substantial change in the rate of progress.  By the time we’d made it to active labour, and in spite of my best efforts to employ strategies and techniques from a great book I’d read called The Birth Partner, Kathryn was basically suffering in body and absent in mind.  I honestly thought I had lost her at one point, when she was muttering things like “I don’t know who I am”, and “what am I doing here??” between contractions.  I thought she was never coming back, and it was truly awful.  I felt useless and almost sick with despair.

Eden's birth may have been rough, but we took home a good prize 🙂

Kate’s birth was all natural.  We spent the morning at home waiting out some mild contractions (Kathryn was woken up by them at 5am), and then decided to head to the birthing centre.  The KEMH Family Birthing Centre is attached to a hospital, but has a much more home-like atmosphere than the average labour ward.  I won’t go into detail other than to say that it’s midwife-led care (no doctor was present for the birth), the rooms are cozy, and they allow water births.  If you’re curious, just click on the name above where I linked to it.

We called our doula, Kristin Beckedahl (owner of BodyWise BirthWise) around 2pm to tell her we were heading out, arrived at about 2:30pm, followed shortly thereafter by her, around 3pm.  Things were pretty easygoing at that point.  Contractions had slowed down a bit due to the ride over (change of atmosphere has a big impact!) and Kathryn was just trying to figure out how she wanted things to be set up.  She declined to have an internal exam, and didn’t have one at any point in the labour, opting rather to ignore distractions and let her body do what it knows how to do.

Around 3pm, I was noticing that Kathryn’s contractions really slowed down whenever she layed or sat down anywhere, so we decided to try a couple standing up.  She was facing me, head resting against various bony protrusions in my sternum/clavicle region, with me whispering encouragement/apologies into her ear.  From there, everything just took off.  Contractions went from being 5-10 minutes apart to 1 or 2, and with each one it was clear that progress was being made.  There was pain, but there was also strength and confidence.

After only about an hour Kathryn was ready to get in the water.  She had taken no pain medication and had no internals.  Her mind was clear and her focus was strong.  I was in awe of her.

Coping with Contractions - the position we were in for all contractions in the pool

The water was quite lovely and warm, so things actually slowed down a little bit as she first got in and relaxed, but in no time she had found her new rhythm and we were in the groove.  Kathryn knelt forward in the pool, arms propped up along one side.  I knelt/crouched opposite her, holding her hands through each contraction, my head tucked in next to hers.  Together we rode through each contraction, me talking/whispering directly into her ear while Kristin (the doula) did simple but incredibly effective things to ease and distract from the pain.  She poured water over Kathryn’s back, applied counter pressure throughout each contraction, and took turns with me passing Kathryn a water cup to sip from.

After about 1 and a half hours in the water, Kate was born.  Underwater.  The midwife gently pushed her forward, between Kathryn’s legs, and Kathryn pulled her out of the water herself.  She came right up between the two of us.  It was amazing.  Kathryn announced that it was a girl, then proceeded to sob with relief and joy, saying “I did it, I can’t believe I did it” whilst holding yet-to-be-named Kate against her chest.  Kate’s skin tone was perfect.  She was kind of choking on some mucous, but nobody whisked her away or intervened; they just sat back and watched as Kathryn and I revelled in the euphoria of new life.  They left the cord to deliver blood and nutrients until after the placenta was delivered.

I love this one - an incredible moment!

Kate entered the world calmly and beautifully, and has more or less remained that way for the first 10 days.  She’s been so great, sleeping well, nursing well, everything we could have hoped for.  Eden seems to adore her, calls her “Baby Cake” and always points out her “tiny ears”, “tiny nose”, “tiny fingers”, etc.  Eden has been a little more needy for cuddles and attention since we brought Kate home, but that’s to be expected.  When Eden wakes up in the morning, the first thing she says most days is “Baby Cake!” and comes running into our room to see her.

So here we are, a family of four, and me outnumbered 3 to 1.  Not sure what our plans are in the long run (not that the ones we’ve made thus far had any impact), but I don’t intend to end up in my father-in-law’s shoes, with a 6:1 female to male ratio in the house.  Surely that man deserves a medal.

Up close and personal with 8 day old Kate

I hope you’ve enjoyed the story of Kate’s birth from my perspective.  If you’re a woman, or the partner of a woman who intends to give birth someday, I implore you to consider water birth.  And get yourself a doula.  Since approximately 0% of our readers are in Perth, I guess a recommendation for Kristin won’t help her out too much, but I’ll give one anyway 🙂  Even if you’re a fantastic and supportive partner, you only have 2 arms and 2 legs, so there’s reason enough to get someone knowledgeable and experienced in there with you.

Thanks to Heather Pye, Tiny Feet Photography and Kelly McEwan Photography, who’ve provided images used in this post.  I hope you continue to use your talent and skill to help preserve fantastic memories and allow others to share their experiences with family and friends around the world.

Home as a family of four!

2011 – A year end review

I received a beautiful Christmas letter from some Lab City friends recently and it inspired me to get my act together and work on this blog post. I love receiving Christmas letters from people I don’t keep in close contact with, because it’s a great way to keep connected and share the highlights and important events of the year. Writing is also a great way to reflect on the past year and plan for the one to come.  My plan was to use our blog archives to spark my memory as to what happened in early 2011…but apparently we didn’t blog much in early 2011 (not one post in January!), so we’ll see how this goes.

January 1 I ran a 5km race after training for a few months with the Running Room. I had decided in September 2010 that I needed a fitness goal if I was going to lose any baby weight and found out I really enjoyed running! It was a great way to start off the year!

Crossing the finish line (I'm the one in the middle)

Throughout 2011 we focused a lot on nutrition in our household. Since moving to Australia, we’ve kind of fallen off the bandwagon (for a number of reasons), but hopefully we’ll be back on track soon. I did a lot of reading on portion sizes, altering recipes, and healthier alternatives to much-loved treats, and we actually implemented a lot of those in our everyday lives. I discovered Chia seed and used it as an oil substitute in many recipes. I really enjoy baking, so this was a great way to experiment! Tim didn’t complain about it, and usually ate even the things that didn’t turn out as planned.

One of the habits we implemented that seemed to be most effective in helping us eat healthy foods was to create a meal plan every week.  For a while I was doing really well at it, sitting down every Sunday evening or Monday morning and writing out a plan for the week, along with a grocery list. I was trying new recipes and new foods, and eating (and cooking) became one of my greatest pleasures. With the recent move, things have become really disorganized, which has had an impact on what we eat.  The fact that I still don’t have any of my own kitchen supplies doesn’t help either. Hopefully over the next few weeks I can pull it together and resume consistently writing meal plans at least!

Eden was involved in a program called Roots Of Empathy where once a month we visited a local school and the grade 3/4 class learned all about her development.

Eden surrounded by her students!

Tim had an interview for MUN med school in January, finally arriving in St. John’s after several days of being storm-stayed in Halifax. Thankfully, we have wonderful friends who live close to the Halifax airport and visited him during that frustrating episode. He finally ended up having his interview after several cancelled flights and just 4 hours of sleep; needless to say, he didn’t get offered a seat there.  He did, however, end up getting waitlisted for Dal med school later in the year; a hope we held on to for months afterwards, to no avail.

Skating on our local outdoor rink on a mild February day.

Tim continued working for Radian6, where he really enjoyed his job and his colleagues.  After about 8 months of working a mix of days and nights (weekend nights, every weekend!), he even managed to get into an all day shifts schedule.  That was a big improvement, since he had been missing many hours of sleep each week due to irregular hours.

Eden grew a couple of teeth in February, and we also welcomed a new niece to the family! We made it down to Moncton to meet Awna early in March, which was great.  It’s pretty cool to think that Eden and her are so close in age, so if we happen to live close by again someday they may get along well.  We spent heaps of time every week with Charlotte and Lila, Pamela and Tim’s girls, and it was such a blessing to have that family tie in Fredericton. We – including Eden – definitely miss them daily and look forward to the next time we can play/chat together.

Amy, Awna, Kathryn and Eden at Awna's baby shower

Eden and Lila playing together

One of my most favourite pictures of Charlotte and Lila taken at Eden's birthday

[Tim is taking over the writing now…]

March 1 was the day we moved from our “little house” in New Maryland to the “big house”, on the same property.  Those of you who visited us there will recall that it was basically a mansion.  It had 4 large bedrooms, a massive kitchen and living area, a two-car garage, a huge barn, heaps of land, a beautiful back deck with perfect anchor points for my hammock… it was pretty luxurious, but having lived there and done that, we learned early in life that having a big house is more of a hassle than anything.  It was great for hosting events, but for daily living it just seemed like so much to clean all the time!  We found ourselves visiting smaller, 3-bedroom bungalows – the kind of house we’re living in now – and thinking, “now this is nice!”

It was during our stay in the big house that a few important events unfolded.  First of all, in the month of May, I was offered a seat at a medical school in the Caribbean called St James School of Medicine.  Like most Caribbean schools, this one conducts their first two years of classes on an island – I had applied to the Bonaire campus – then 2 years of clinicals in the United States – this school had affiliations mainly with hospitals in Chicago – which is where most students go on to do Residency.  Students end up writing the same qualifying exams as American/Canadian grads, so in the end have virtually the same knowledge and capabilities, although word on the street (i.e. forums) is that you don’t have quite the same level of support at most “carib” schools as you would at home, so you need to put a lot of effort into supplemental studying if you want to ace the exams.  But it can definitely be done, and I was more than excited about the opportunity.  Kathryn and I were stoked about the prospect of overseas adventure (as always), and I was going to fulfill my long-held desire to study medicine!

Thanksgiving at the Crosses!

Alas, when it came down to it, I couldn’t come up with the funding.  I was going to require a pretty astronomical loan, which we couldn’t secure on the income of a stay-at-home-mom, so I had to turn the seat down.  I should have foreseen this, but even so, it was really… just… depressing.  The day I called up the admissions rep to tell her I couldn’t accept the offer, I spent a lot of time brooding.  Kathryn and I went for a drive out to the country, just to take our mind off things a bit, and we ended up talking and praying about the future.  I confronted God about why the door to international opportunity always seemed to open just enough for us to get excited, only to slam in our faces.  Did he want us to stay in Canada forever, even though that wasn’t our hearts’ desire?  Nothing against Canada, there’s just so much to see and do around the world, and we’d been talking about travel and life overseas since we started dating!

The very next day I got an email, followed shortly by a phone call, from a friend and former IOC colleague, currently living in Australia.  I hadn’t even spoken to this guy in at least a year, and he knew nothing about our recent events.

“Look, I don’t know if you’d be interested, but we’ve got a few vacancies for geologists based out of Perth, if you want to think about it and let me know”

Needless to say, we thought about it, and acted on it, and this time around it all came together.  The second half of 2011 was dominated by the application/screening process, then the visas, then the move itself.  We also found out we were expecting our second baby around the same time – interesting timing, to say the least (refer to this post for more info), but we decided that pregnancy wasn’t going to stop us from an international adventure this time.

Nickerson Family Reunion, July 2011 - The Jamieson Clan and Gramp

Eden had heaps of milestones along the way, of course, being at that age in which new skills are acquired almost daily.  She learned to bumscoot, we weaned her from nursing – there’s no way I could have anticipated how much of an improvement this led to in her sleeping habits – she turned 1, and then one day she just started walking like it was no big deal!  It was so exciting.  I love her.

Birthday Girl

Watching Eden grow has been incredible.  I mean, it’s not like one should expect otherwise, but it is so awe-inspiring.  To think that this kid simply did not exist before, and is a unique combination of you and your lover, and just figures stuff out all time on her own, and has a unique personality, and is so unbearably cute.  Ahhh, being a dad is the best unplanned thing that ever happened to me.  In fact, I think I never could have made a plan so good!  Sorry to steal your line, Tim and Melissa Winsor, but as you said in your Christmas letter, “no matter how the day goes, looking at her asleep at the end of the night makes everything right.”

Eden’s taken the move to Australia pretty casually.  For all she knows, we’ve gone back across the driveway from the big house to the little house, and it just got really hot.  She’s been sleeping in a single bed (actually, a trundle bed from underneath a single bed), which sometimes results in hilarious sleeping postures, as some of you have seen on facebook.  My favourite is when I get up in the morning and find her sprawled out completely flat on the floor.  She comes to breakfast shortly after with nice carpet textures on her face.

Snoozing on one of the many flights

For all of us, moving here has been a great experience so far.  There have been days where it’s hard to be so far away, especially for Kathryn, but the seemingly endless sunshine and mostly pleasant temperatures help.  My colleagues at Rio Tinto and the people from the church have welcomed us so well, and there are lots of playmates for Eden.  She always has a great time when other kids are around, and she’s been asking to go to the beach more and more, which is great considering she wouldn’t put her feet down on the sand on her first visit!

Testing out the water temperature

Our Christmas could best be described as low-key.  It’s hard to get into the Christmas spirit when it’s hot and sunny, and family is on the opposite side of the world.  We actually didn’t even get each other a single present, so on Christmas day the only gift we opened was Kathryn’s “sister gift” from Charlotte.  That was it!  Many nice cards and even some gifts have trickled in via mail since then, so thanks to all of you who’ve had a part in that.  We’ve been spending so much money getting settled in, the thought of Christmas shopping was just a burden!  We did, however, enjoy a wonderful, three michelin star Christmas dinner at one of the church leader’s homes, which helped us feel a bit of holiday spirit.  The host even lit a few candles in the fireplace to make us feel at home 🙂

So that’s basically it, a summary of 2011.  The big move has been exciting, but to be honest I have to suppress a feeling much like grief every day, when I think about the fact that I’ve set my desire to study medicine aside for a time.  I’m trusting God that it’s the right thing to do, and trying to believe people who tell me I’m still young.

On the 30th of January I fly up north for my first full roster (10 days) in the field.  It will be the start of a new season for us; one in which Kathryn has to basically fulfill the role of a single mom for almost 9 months of the year (field season goes until end of October, tentatively).  We’re grateful for the friends we’ve made here and the many resources available to FIFO (fly in fly out) families, but I’m sure your prayers, skype calls, encouragement, emails, letters, and blog comments will remind her of all the support she has all over the world.

Thank you for keeping up with our blog, especially to all of you who’ve been engaged so much lately in commenting!  It is a huge motivator to keep on blogging, and even to make an extra effort to experience the life Perth has to offer – we want to keep our content interesting, after all.  Good on you for getting through such a long post, and I hope you feel the love and best wishes for 2012 that we’re sending your way.

Christmas Day 2011

Thoughts on Canadian Health Care

Warning… this is a bit of a rant 🙂  As Canadians, we tend to be pretty accepting of most things:

  • Poor customer service? “Oh, he’s probably just having a bad day, we all do from time to time…I’m only giving him a 10% tip”
  • Government hikes to sales/income tax? “Well, what can you do?  Besides, we need to fund our great social programs somehow”
  • 8-hour wait time at the hospital when suffering from a serious sinus infection? “I don’t have a family doctor, so what choice do I have?  At least it’s free”

We can be pretty passive.  The process of looking internationally for medical school opportunities has led me to all kinds of interesting places, which in turn has opened my eyes to the possibility that Canada may not, in fact, be the greatest place to live.  Don’t get me wrong, I am very grateful for many privileges and blessings I have as a Canadian, including but not limited to: nearly universal access to basic education right up to high school, publicly funded (not free) healthcare, a generally kind population, freedom of speech/religion/expression, and poutine.  However, there are still things we lack, some of which actually exist in other parts of the world, including quick and efficient access to doctors and medical services.  Even though sometimes this comes at a cost – up front – to the consumer.

Yeah, I’m going there.  You see, the more I think about (and research) the medical profession and all that’s involved, the more I come to realize that nothing in this world is free (theological implications aside).  I think as Canadians it would actually do us a whole lot of good to scrap the perception that we live in a country with “free” health care.  The fact is, most of us pay 1/4 of our income or more to benefit from our medical system, among other things, and that’s a lot of money when you add it up.  Let’s say you make a mere $12 an hour and pay 15% income tax.  Even that adds up to almost $2 per HOUR that goes to the government.  Over the course of a year, working full-time, that’s over $3700.00 (I know this is a horrible example, since I haven’t accounted for the basic amounts you can claim, etc., etc.).  Most of us probably pay $1000, give or take a few hundred, for auto and home insurance each year; why not open the market to private health insurance providers and pay a similar premium for that coverage, leaving us with more money in our pockets?

The thing we need to realize is that Medicare IS an insurance provider – that’s exactly what they are, and there’s NO competition (by law) in the market, so the service can be as poor, sloppy, and inefficient as all get-out, but nobody’s there to oust them.  Studies and reports have shown that Canada performs among the worst (some years the very worst) of developed nations in terms of customer experience and value for money when it comes to health care, and that a socialist (i.e. non-competitive) model for health care is likely a root cause.  Instead of getting all fired up about a two-tiered medical system and losing our “free” medical care, we need to acknowledge the real cost of our system and work towards changing it.  Check out these stats, from a 2010 publication by the Canadian Medical Association:

  • Canada ranks 26 of 30 industrialized countries based on our ratio of physicians to population.
  • An OECD study of countries with wait times shows that the availability of physicians has the strongest association with lower wait times.
  • The average age of a Canadian physician is 51 years old; 38% of physicians are over the age of 55, representing more than 26,000 physicians.
  •  The Canadian Nurses Association is projecting a shortage of 60,000 full‐time equivalent nurses in Canada by 2022 if no new policies are adopted.

I found the average age of physicians especially striking – think about it, that means HALF of the physicians practicing in this country are over the age of 51, and will likely be retiring within 10 years or less, give or take a few years, depending on their personal circumstances.  Even if they want to retire later, CBC’s White Coat Black Art recently had an interesting piece (link to podcast, mp3) about how some doctors are being forced into retirement due to clinical concerns that arise with old age…

Anyway, I got side-tracked for a while and I’m just getting back to this, but one last point I want to bring up is this: considering the poor ratings we’ve had internationally in terms of value and quality of health care, combined with the relative lack of young physicians, why doesn’t Canada make it easier for aspiring young’uns like me to get into the field?  According to CaRMS, the agency that hooks up new MD grads with residencies, only about 1 in 4 QUALIFIED applicants is accepted to a Canadian medical school each year, and it takes an average of over 2 years (2.59 application cycles) for the ones who do get in (more details here – PDF).  I believe these are just a couple of symptoms of a weak and crippled health care philosophy, which is somehow contemporaneously well-funded but delivers lower than average results.  If the market was open for competition, and we had a choice of where we wanted to invest our dollars and receive care, perhaps Canadians would feel more accountable for their own health care (and health), and hospitals (which are businesses, after all) would do more to make themselves attractive to patients (i.e. improve service).  Of course, a safety net would still be required for those who have potential to fall through the cracks, so a complete withdrawal of public funding would not be realistic.

I leave you with this article, which talks about how Dalhousie University has been basically forced to sell seats to international students just to cope with budgetary constraints.  It’s easy to blame the school for having such a short-sighted vision (since it’s certain that these students will not stay in Canada to practice), but it’s just another reflection of our current state of health care and where priorities lie.  For the full text, see here.  I know as a Canadian student currently on the wait list for Dal, this was painful to read.

I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on health care in Canada.  Also, any opinions out there on which party is presenting the best health care platform for the upcoming election?

The one-page story of why I want to be a physician

As the title suggests, this is the one-page version of my story, on why I want to be a physician:

“For many years I was convinced I was more into the physical sciences than life sciences. In high school I loved physics and math, and in my second year of university I found the study of the Earth so fascinating that I switched majors, from Physics to Geology. The creative and exploratory aspects of Geology especially appealed to me; there was room to interpret and imagine, whereas Physics seemed to be nailed down already into well-established theories, formulae and laws.

It was not until my final year of university that I decided to give Biology a try. I chose an elective called Human Biology, and discovered a subject far more captivating than rocks and tectonic plates: the human body. Learning about the incredible ways our bodies develop, are maintained, and become subjected to diseases and disorders, sparked a surprisingly strong interest in a career in medicine. However, by that point I already had experience and an established network of contacts in Geology, so upon graduation I did the “sensible” thing and moved to Labrador to work for the Iron Ore Company of Canada, in mining and exploration.

Despite the fact that the work was interesting (and the pay was great), I found myself frequently wondering what it would be like to study and practice medicine. Rather than subsiding, my curiosity surrounding the medical profession increased, and I began to read articles from medical journals and biographies of physicians. In my heart, I was not content imagining a career that consisted entirely of finding mineral deposits and exploiting resources. I felt like it was too far removed from my passions, and a meaningless application of my skills.

The turning point came in July of 2009, while on vacation in Newfoundland with my wife, Kathryn. It was during that trip that I had the life-changing opportunity to visit a museum dedicated to Sir Wilfred Grenfell and his medical mission to Labrador, spanning the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sir Grenfell had a remarkably holistic understanding of human wellness, and is credited with saving thousands of lives through his medical work, fund raising, practical solutions to poverty, and encouraging spirit. At the end of the visit, I told Kathryn that I knew I had to become a physician, and that is the goal I have been working towards ever since.

In late 2009 I returned to my home province of New Brunswick, where I found a job as a Personal Support Worker with Bayshore Home Health. While the job turned out to be unsustainable – in terms of providing for my family’s needs – it confirmed for me that there is great satisfaction in living a life of service through health care provision. During the same time period I began volunteering weekly in the Paediatric ward of the local hospital, which I continue to do today. This experience has given me the chance to bring joy to kids in the midst of hardship, and has taught me that even in the face of great pain and uncertainty, the will to live and enjoy life is almost indomitable.

I truly believe each person deserves as full and healthy a life as possible, and that as a physician I would be equipped to play a more active role in the well-being of individuals and communities. I know that I will not be able to “fix” everyone, and sometimes I will lose people who I have come to care for, even as I did while working for Bayshore. For me, however, becoming a physician is not about fixing every problem; it’s about being there for people whenever they need someone to trust, to care for them, and to support them through the stages of life. To an extent I agree with the popular analogy that a doctor is like a mechanic for people; however, my understanding of the role also demands a significant pastoral aspect. When I look back on my life, this is the kind of contribution I want to have made, and accomplishing this would be far greater than finding any amount of gold, silver, or iron.”

Bike Rides and Crusades

Tim here.  I’ve been thinking about a few more things I wanted to share since my last blog post, although many of them aren’t nearly as deep or serious as those.

First of all – related to that post – I just wanted to point out that I really dislike phrases like “look at what religion has done” or “what science tries to do”.  Science and religion do nothing in and of themselves, and to speak as though they do creates what I consider to be an illusion.  It’s individuals who do everything, and to de-personify a thought or action as being done or thought of by science or religion takes away an important aspect of it; namely, that it is a personal thing.  While I understand that most people are just trying to shorten the phrases “religious people” or “scientific people” (each of which are also semi-useless terms, since most individuals have both scientific and religious sides) I feel like this makes it too easy to dismiss the individuality of a belief.  Individuals believe, individuals act.  Besides, lumping all scientific or religious people into their respective, general terms is meaningless since both fields have such variety and conflict within them.  Ok, rant complete (for now).

On another note, I’ve been watching an anime series called Fullmetal Alchemist over the last few weeks, on Netflix.  It’s actually quite a good show, since there’s a storyline besides “I’m gonna fight this guy, then I’m gonna fight that guy, then I’m gonna fight this guy, then I’m gonna fight….”.  There’s one character in the story, an investigator in the military’s special forces, who’s the father of a young child named Alicia.  Every time he talks to somebody he goes on a rant about how wonderful and perfect she is and shows pictures of her, which nobody ever wants to hear or see.  To be honest, it kind of reminded me of myself with Eden, and made me feel a bit embarrassed about times in the past when somebody (at work, for example) has mentioned Eden and I’ve gone to my facebook page to show off all the pictures of her…..  but, she IS cute (for example, see below)!

 

She's so proud of the fact that she can sit up on her own!

 

I had a conversation recently with a coworker about how not everybody needs to live the same life as everyone else to be happy.  It made me think about another former post, in which I talked about how silly I now feel I was – before having Eden – to have wanted to live a few more years without kids, just to enjoy my time with Kathryn.  I realized after having that conversation how much of a dingbat I might have sounded like in that post, trying to impose the changes in my life onto others.  I didn’t mean it to sound that way, but it’s hard sometimes not to believe that everyone else ought to do the same things you’ve done to become happy in order for them to become happy.  Sometimes it’s true that the best thing for me is not the best for you, so if you want to stay single for years and years go for it.  But I still stand by my main theme in that post, which was that we need to be cautious of getting stuck in one place and riding it out all the way to the grave, just because we’re relatively content.

In other news, I’m sure you’re all aware of that fact that I’m on the waitlist for Dal med now.  At first this was quite a bummer to find out, but my outlook has really changed since that day (March 7).  I guess getting on the waitlist has given me assurance that I CAN do this; after all, the waitlist consists entirely of people they are willing to take in, right?  We just didn’t quite make the top 30.  So, even though it means more waiting, and potentially not getting in this year, I actually feel more patient than I have for the last 2 months, and quite satisfied with the knowledge that I will make it sooner or later.  I have yet to hear back from MUN anyway, so there may be good news just around the corner anyway.

I went for my first bike ride today, down to the Irving to get some rolls and back.  It was a beautiful day, so I decided to save a bit of gas and get a bit of exercise.  This was a learning experience: I learned that I am in pathetic shape.  The total distance, there and back, was about 1.3 km, on a slight grade (uphill on the way home!!) and it just about killed me.  On the way home I could feel the burn in my thighs and I was practically hyperventilating… it was horrible, not so much physically but emotionally.  This winter has been one of the least physically active periods of my life, and the evidence was strong in that bike ride today.  I’m glad spring is here so I have no more excuses avoid running around!

Lastly, back to the religion/science thing.  Even if “religious” people did things in the past, or claimed to have done them in the name of God, it’s a moot point.  I don’t claim to be religious, I try to model my choices and actions after Jesus in the way that he approached problems and treated others.  I think this is what he asked of all of us, and if anyone in the past was truly following him he wouldn’t have had any part in the crusades, or the bombing of middle eastern countries, or even in the utter assimilation of other cultures in the name of Christian missions.  Jesus is the guy who, having been given the choice to defend himself against accusations of heresy and blasphemy, choice to silently allow his conviction to proceed (to execution) for the sake of people who hated him.  As it says in Romans 5:8:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

And by sinners he just means people who were not living for – or even trying to live for – God.  It’s pretty crazy when you think about it, that somebody would die for somebody who hated him.  I don’t know about you, but when someone insults me or hurts my feelings I find it hard not to resent them, much less want to give up my time or effort on their behalf.  So, plainly and simply, anyone who claims to follow Jesus (i.e. be a Christian) and does intentional harm to another is a liar, and their actions or beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to a discussion on Christianity or its effects.

Well, it seems no matter how hard I try to make a light-hearted post it always comes back to these kind of issues.  At least you got to hear about a cartoon and a bike ride in the middle, right?  Haha… please leave a comment if any of these thoughts resonate with you (or are dissonant with yours).  We know from our blog stats that hundreds of people view these posts, so would it hurt to leave a comment?  Of course not!  Join in the discussion, motivate us to keep writing 🙂

Also, check out http://www.jeanofmarc.com to read about my friends’ recent experience in Japan, closer to the western coast of the country but still affected by the earthquake in some ways.  Plus, they’re good writers.

Getting set up

Hi friends and family,

I know it’s been a while… sorry about that… but I’ve finally decided to sit down and write.  Perhaps the fact that I’ve been constantly studying, reading, writing, and such has put a damper on my desire to blog.  But no more excuses!

I promised some pictures a while back, so here are a couple from our recent lives.  Kathryn’s looking beautiful with her pregnant belly, and I have yet to gain a pound of sympathy weight it seems… too bad, cause I was hoping to chunkify a little bit during the whole process.  Speaking of chunkify, I’d like to propose a linguistic philosophy that I’ve been pondering for some time; if you approve of it, let me know.  If you wish to refute my viewpoint, please do so as well.  Here she goes: if a combination of letters and/or syllables conveys the meaning that it was intended to, it ought to be treated as an acceptable word; that is, although it may not technically be accepted by some British or American language authority(ies), it still suffices perfectly as a real word.  For example: chunkify – is there anybody who doesn’t know what I mean by my desire to chunkify (or even cochunkify, if I may go so far) during my wife’s pregnancy?  Of course not!  So why does WordPress underline these words with squiggly red lines?  It’s just not right.

In other news, for those of you who don’t stalk me on facebook, I felt I should let you know that I’ve registered to write the MCAT (Medical Colleges Admissions Test) on April 10, 2010.  Yep, that’s only about 2 weeks from now.  I’ve been studying for so long now and I figured that it was about time I give it a shot.  I wrote a practice test yesterday/today and I did reasonably well, although it wasn’t a completely realistic, non-stop session, in a secluded setting – but I didn’t cheat!  For those of you that know how MCAT scores work, I got a 29 on the multiple-choice sections (10 PS, 10 VR, 9BS) and the writing section wasn’t marked.  I must say though, I wrote a pretty dreadful essay… I wouldn’t have given myself a good mark.  As a means of comparison, I would meet Dal’s Medical School requirements with an 8 in each of those sections (total of 24), so I could potentially at least get an interview there if I perform as well on test day.

Enough with words, here are pictures!  Enjoy our lives, be a part of them, call Kathryn and tell her that she’s beautiful (she doesn’t always believe me for some reason)… you can even call me and tell me I’m beautiful if you want to!

Kathryn - About halfway!

Tim - halfway to being a dad!

Do you like that background?  Seems to bring out the best in our skin tones….right?

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now.  If any of you are in the Fredericton area please stop by anytime.  We just hosted Kathryn’s friend Emily for a few days and it was good fun… won’t be as easy once we have a baby though, so now’s your chance!

A la prochaine,

Tim