Showing posts with label Family Vacation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Family Vacation. Show all posts

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Checking Off The Bucket List

Last week, I had the opportunity to check off an item that was near the top of my bucket list. Unless you were living under a rock, you probably know that the Great American Solar Eclipse occurred over the continental U.S. from coast to coast for the first time in over one hundred years. I've seen several partial solar eclipses in my lifetime, but this seemed like my best chance to see a total solar eclipse. It took place during summer vacation so I could take my son to see it and the maximum totality would happen in the Midwest where I went to school so I had plenty of friends to visit. This was not going to be some solar eclipse in faraway places like the South Pacific or on a remote Asian country.

The problem with going to the Midwest is that the weather there is extremely unpredictable. For the seven days prior to the event, the weather forecast seemed to change almost hourly. Finally on the day of the eclipse, there were some ominous clouds in the western sky in the morning but we hoped for the best. We went to my friend's farm for a viewing party and eagerly chowed down on good down home barbeque while waiting apprehensively with our eclipse glasses.

Unfortunately about one hour before totality, the clouds started rolling in. They weren't particularly uniform, just patchy, but this could mean trouble. With about thirty minutes before the start of totality, it looked like the clouds were not going to cooperate. However there was a small patch of blue sky east of us that everybody could see. We all jumped into our cars and raced towards that clearing. It seemed like everybody else thought the same thing and cars were zooming through the small back country roads heading in the same easterly direction.

As the magic moment approached, we could tell that we were not going to catch up to the clear sky that lay tantalizingly close but still so far away. With about one minute before the start of totality, and the sun just a thin crescent, we finally had to admit defeat and had to find a place to park and hope for the best. I had brought my fancy camera with its extended telephoto lens and solar filter for naught.

Then it happened. The western sky turned very dark. Soon we too were enveloped in the eery twilight that caused the street lamps to turn on and the crickets to chirp their evening songs. The only natural light was way out along the horizon where the sun was not completely covered by the moon. As we kept staring up into the sky, it happened. The clouds just barely thinned out for a few seconds and we saw the eclipse and the corona. It was truly magical. Though it lasted for the briefest of moments, in retrospect I feel like I was mesmerized by it for a long time. My good friend and hostess was able to keep her wits together and took the picture that you see above. That is the only decent eclipse picture we got on our journey despite me lugging that expensive camera equipment halfway across the country.

The next time the clouds parted, the sun was already peeking out from behind the moon. Fifteen minutes later the rain clouds opened up and we were inundated with the typical Midwestern summer thunderstorm. But we had accomplished what we came to do. Grinning stupidly from ear to ear, we high fived each other for a job well done. We didn't get the best view of the eclipse, but we got a view of one which is more than I can say for many other people. As far as pictures go, there are plenty of pictures on the internet of the Great American Solar Eclipse that are far better than anything I could have produced. At least this one picture, and my all too brief experience with my first total solar eclipse,  I will treasure for a lifetime.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Work-Life Imbalance. I Just Had My First Vacation In Four Years.

It's hard to believe but I've just had my first extended vacation in four years. By extended I don't mean I took 80 days off to cruise around the world on the QE2. My grand vacation lasted all of ten days. But that is quite an extended leave of absence by my standards. Prior to this, I had to satisfy myself with simple holiday journeys, the longest one being a road trip to Texas over Thanksgiving a couple of years back.

How can this be, you might ask. Don't anesthesiologists enjoy the most luxuriant lifestyles and carefree schedules of any medical profession? The short answer would be no. You see, many anesthesiologists, like myself, are really small business owners. We run a shop where customers pay for our goods and services. We have a billing department that keeps track of my accounts receivable, equipment to maintain, and other mundane business practices, just like a shopkeeper. Therefore, like a sole proprietor of a small store, when I go on vacation, I turn off the lights, lock the doors, and my income suddenly drops to zero when I am no longer offering my services while I'm out.

However, unlike a small business owner, my practice is unlikely to get bigger, hire more employees, and expand. When small businesses get bigger, the owner can usually hire a staff to take care of the shop while he goes on vacation, while the store is still raking in money. That doesn't happen in medicine. I can't suddenly hire a bunch of anesthesia extenders like AA's or CRNA's to do the cases while I vaca to Paris and cruise down the Seine. I still have to be present while the procedures are being performed. I suppose that I could someday open up an ambulatory surgery center or pain center then hire people to work there. But then I'd be busy as an administrator when I'd rather be a practitioner.

I sometimes fantasize about being a doctor employee, you know the kind that clocks in from 7:00 to 3:00 and doesn't give a darn about expediting cases and operation room efficiency. I could work at an academic institution or a large hospital group where I'd be nothing more than a cog in a giant medical industrial wheel. Then I'd be guaranteed paid vacations and benefits. Sure the pay is less and you have to work with a bunch of doctors who are just showing up for their retirement pensions. Think VA hospitals. But perhaps when I am older and the kids have moved out, that wouldn't be such a bad option.

Oh, who am I kidding. I love my current job. Sure the last few years have been a little rough fiscally speaking. After all, we bought a new house a couple of years ago then spent months undergoing an extensive remodeling. I didn't have the time or the money to go on a long break. But this year, finally, I could exhale with relief as my finances edged back from the fiscal cliff. (For those who have remodeled your house, you know what I"m talking about) Thanks to my ginormous anesthesia income, this was made possible faster than any 99%er could fathom.

From now on I vow to improve my work-life balance. I will take care of myself and my family better in the coming years by not working for 48 months straight. Life is too short to worry about where the next intubation will come from. The children are growing up too fast. The months just seem to fly by and here we are another half a year is behind us. I'm already looking forward to my vacation next summer.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Reflections On A Family Vacation

Well, I'm back. It was the family's first road trip and a nice Thanksgiving vacation.  The children behaved better than expected and we all ate too much over the last week. Time for my ritual diet before the onslaught of Christmas ham and eggnogs. In the meantime, I'd like to share a few observations about our vaca.

People in the South love their buffet restaurants. Everywhere we went there was a Chinese buffet or a Golden Corral. I even saw a place that served a buffet of KFC and Taco Bell under one roof. If I was still in college I would probably live there. Even though this was Thanksgiving and presumably everybody has had their fill of food at home, all of these buffet establishments looked packed.

Children's menus at all restaurants are similar and similarly disastrous for your child's diet. With nary an exception, they all featured (Kraft!) Mac and Cheese, chicken tenders, and corn dogs.  After a week of feasting and eating out, my six year old developed pimples for the first time in her life. Broccoli for the next week now that we are back home.

Children have an endless capacity to ask "Are we there yet?" A DVD entertainment center in the minivan is no use since after a few hours they get restless regardless of what video they're watching. When that gets old, there's always...

Looking out the window, the American landscape is a constant source of fascination, especially for the kids. From the cotton fields in Texas to the windmills of Oklahoma to the snowcapped mountains above Flagstaff the scenery outside the car window offered endless sources of education and enchantment.  Their eagerness to learn about grazing sheep in a roadside field or giant rolls of hay bales makes one proud to be a parent.

After living in So Cal, it was a pleasure to venture someplace more gracious and less crowded. I hadn't taken an extended vacation in years. I think I will do it more often from now on.