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Happy February!

It’s only the third day of February and many things have already happened. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, Left Shark captured America’s heart, the safety and importance of vaccinations was heavily debated (spoiler alert, #vaccineswork), and it was announced that fellow Chi Omega sister, Harper Lee, is going to publish a second novel.  On a personal level, I have purchased almond milk and found a great new leg work out. Pretty heavy stuff. My abundant amount of free time is certainly a wonderful luxury (one that I am sure to miss once med school starts), and it has helped me learn something important about myself. As a goal-driven person, I am happiest when I am working towards something, even if that something is small. In fact, identifying small goals for myself to focus on might be the most effective way for me to succeed in general, which is why I want to begin actively practicing setting (and accomplishing) small goals in service of larger accomplishments. In designing my small goals for February, I tried to keep in mind where I want to be physically and mentally before I leave for The Windy City. For purposes of accountability, here they are:

  • read at least 100 pages of a book per day (currently working on The Devil in the White City and Grimm’s Fairy Tales)
  • finish two crochet projects
  • find three new healthy meal recipes and try them out
  • exercise at least thirty minutes every day

Willie has identified small goals as well. He would like to

  • sleep on five different blankets
  • sneeze on every member of the Montoya household
  • lick more faces and less feet
  • show Ollie who is boss

Clearly, we are both pushing ourselves. Here’s to a happy and productive February.

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#EffYourBeautyStandards Is Missing Something

The internet has worked itself into a frenzy over the news that plus-size model and social media sensation, Tess Holliday, became the first model of her size to be signed by a major modeling agency. She is also the creator of the #EffYourBeautyStandards movement, which is intended to encourage women of all sizes to embrace and celebrate their bodies. The reactions to this news, and to Holliday herself, fall broadly into two camps: those who hail her as a role model and inspiration and those who claim she promotes an unhealthy lifestyle by glorifying being overweight. I feel that both sides have legitimate points; however, in true internet fashion, there has been more outright dismissal of opposing points than thoughtful consideration about their possible merits. Continue reading

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Amigurumi Adventures: Into the Hundred Acre Wood

“I wonder what Piglet is doing,” thought Pooh. “I wish I were there to be doing it, too.“ – Winnie the Pooh

I miss my little sister, Nicki, all the time. She’s being a beautiful genius over at Villanova, so I wanted to crochet her something that would make her smile and reminder that wherever she is, I’m thinking about her. I found this really great pattern for an amigurumi Winnie the Pooh, and since she’s a big fan of his, I thought I’d attempt it. I adjusted the pattern a tiny bit, and here are the final results:

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Willie and Winnie

Pooh and his beloved honey jar

Pooh and his beloved honey jar

He might be a little cold on the east coast given that he only wears a crop top, but I think he will like it there all the same.

I would love to hear about crochet projects that people have done for their friends and family, so if you feel so inclined, please tell me about them in the comments section :-)

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The Healing Power of Play

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is a place of tremendous personal significance. It is where my uncle’s life was saved many years ago. It is where I gained my first clinical experiences as a junior volunteer in high school. It is where medicine transformed from my interest to my purpose, and it is where I was given the incredible opportunity to contribute in some way to the healing process of families. Returning to volunteer at CHLA after graduating from Stanford has been such a rewarding experience. In many ways, both the hospital and myself have changed since I’ve been away, but though the facilities and faces may be new, I am still incredibly moved by the stories I witness and participate in as a CHLA volunteer. The lenses through which I view these stories now are quite different from the ones I used in high school, and I have discovered through these new lenses a deeper appreciation for the Child Life Program and the importance of play. Continue reading

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Happiness (and Healthiness) is Having A Dog

Without fail, whether I’m hiking a trail or running through the park, I see people exercising with their dogs. Fitness and furriness appear to go hand in hand, which has gotten me thinking about not only the psychological, but also the physiological benefits of owning a dog.  Beyond the anecdotal evidence dog owners have provided, there have been numerous studies conducted on the many ways dogs make our lives better. From lowering stress to improving immune system functioning, research shows us that being a dog owner comes with more perks than just a daily dose of cuteness. Dogs are magical creatures that have been connected with lower anxiety, reduced blood pressure, better weight maintenance, and increased life expectancy. Research even suggests that spending some quality time with your pup during times of stress can be more helpful than spending time with friends or family. Dogs can also help owners with their social life by inspiring outings and playdates (they’re also pretty legendary date magnets). Basically, each and every day, your dog is kicking butt when it comes to improving the quality of your life. The least you can do is pick up his poop.

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No wonder this guy is tired. It’s hard being a beacon of goodness and light.

In various healthcare settings, the therapeutic value of dogs is becoming increasingly recognized and important. Pet therapy has been linked with faster and better recovery post-surgery, increased optimism, and reduced pain. The populations that therapy dogs serve range from elderly patients with Alzheimer’s to military veterans to autistic children (shout out to my dog, Ollie, who lends his adorableness to a comprehensive special needs school), thus making them an incredibly versatile type of medication. Turning to the very sexy topic of healthcare spending, studies in China, Australia, and Germany have found that pet owners have fewer and shorter hospital visits, use less sick days at work, and utilize free governmental health services less than the general population. The estimated savings in healthcare spending were in the billions, which means that dogs are not only helpful on an individual level but also on a societal level. Given the many upsides, I hope that the world of medicine continues to find creative and productive ways to incorporate pet therapy (maybe I’ll think of some :P).

There are countless stories of dogs doing ordinary and extraordinary things to greatly improve the lives of their owners. Whether they are performing life saving heroics or just snuggling with you as you study for midterms (Willie’s specialty), dogs are a gift. The bonds people share with their dogs are deep and meaningful, and I love seeing these bonds celebrated even in the simplest of ways. Sometimes all it takes to appreciate a great friend is scratch her ears and take her for a nice walk.


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Willie Says Hi 2.0: Choosing To Be Better

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When I first started this, I was pretty new to the blogging game. Not that I’m any type of expert or accomplished blogger now, but I’ve made some progress in terms of figuring out what it is I want readers (a.k.a. my family and boyfriend) and myself to get out of this blog. Soon, I will be starting medical school, a dream I have had since about the age of eight. This is both wonderful and terrifying. I want to keep a record of this journey and share it in an effort to regularly reflect upon my experiences. In that sense, this blog will be a journal of sorts. Of course, in between these moments of introspection, there will be plenty of randomness and obviously, plenty of Willie. As my matriculation date approaches, I find myself questioning my preparedness and wondering about my future. Whenever I feel a bit overwhelmed by it all, I remember these words from my favorite movie of all time (seriously, you guys, this movie is the best):

You are who you choose to be – The Iron Giant

And so, I choose to be better. Maybe not as good as Willie, but better. I believe dedicating myself to improvement, to growing and learning, is essential to my coming out of med school alive and smiling. Let’s do this thing!