Saturday, October 15, 2016

Older + Wiser

And just like that, fall is upon us. The Pacific Northwest does a proper job of celebrating my favorite season, that's for sure.

This past Monday was my birthday, so Husband took the day off and we wandered rather aimlessly through Portland; a day date dedicated to celebrating another year of life and marriage. The weather was sunny but crisp: the perfect kind of day for ankle boots and hand-holding and a stack of fall-flavored griddlecakes from one of our favorite restaurants.

Speaking of birthdays, this was an in-between one, as it did not usher in a new decade or prefix; I am still solidly stationed in my mid-thirties. As Mario and I get older, birthdays tend to be less of an affair. Life has a way of marching on, and age becomes more of a number. Though the boys certainly make sure I feel loved, always.

Despite the lack of fanfare, I've been reflecting a fair bit this year. You see, I've always felt much older than my age. Not in terms of the crinkles around my eyes (though they are certainly making an appearance) or the long-since faded stretchmarks of pregnancy, but in regard to my emotional age. I became a mother in my very early twenties, and have spent my adult life thus far raising a young man. I have watched my husband nurture his career and come into his own. I was a late bloomer in the sense that I earned my bachelors degree a decade later than my peers, but I was well beyond my years in terms of emotional development. As such, I always felt older on the inside than my chronological age suggested I should be.

This year, a paradigm shift has taken place: I have started to feel younger. After years of self-exploration and regular quests for personal insight, I feel lighter, have more fun, and stopped sweating (most of) the small stuff. I've established my ideal eating plan (more on that soon), nailed down my personal style (with a newly pared-down but better-than-ever wardrobe to match), and come to terms with my life's trajectory. No more wishing things had been different or followed an ideal timeline. It is what it is and I'll get where I want to be when the time is right. (Who is this zen master?!) All this is not to say that I don't have my moments, but I've certainly come into my own over the last year, and in doing so my emotional clock has wound back.

The personal growth I have experienced over the past year isn't narrowed to one aspect of my life: My marriage is better. I'm a better parent, I think. After years spent pursuing academia and chasing my chosen career path, I've begun tapping into my creative side in a very real and meaningful way. Creative endeavors and self-expression have taken their rightful place in my daily life. And though I'm not destined to be great at every art form I attempt, the days of dabbling in 20 hobbies (while never advancing past mediocre in any one of them) are over. My life is more focused all around is what I'm saying, and boy is that nice.

A long-term goal that has carried over from year to year, birthday to birthday, is to live in the now. I have mastered the art of living for the future, and self talk has often started with In five years this can happen or In 10 years my life can look like this. I'll tell you this: it's a very unfulfilling way to live. These days I sign up for classes I want to take, pursue non-academic education, and build contingency plans for the in-between, lest I ever feel that oh so familiar stuck feeling that has plagued me much of my adult life. As much as I'm sure tomorrow will be lovely, today is too awesome to disregard. This, perhaps, has been my biggest epiphany in regard to living my happiest, most authentic life.

As if this week wasn't lovely enough, on Thursday I received the coveted The Admissions Committee has now completed their review and are pleased to offer you an invitation to interview email. I had all but let myself down easy: I barely met the patient care hour prerequisite; I submitted my application close to the deadline; maybe it would be better for my family if I waited. All the things we say when trying to to let ourselves down easy. I did it. Against all the odds, I did it. I'm over the moon! Further evidence that hard work, focus where it matters, and a healthy dose of letting go lead to all good things.

Here's to another year of happy todays.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


I'm stalling. I have that all too important grad school essay sitting partially completed in another window on my computer. I'm perched at a coffee shop, eating a decidedly non-Whole30 breakfast sandwich, waiting for the caffeine to kick in. As if somehow it will infuse me with the wisdom and motivation to write a personal narrative inspiring enough that a committee will decide I possess something more desirable than my fellow applicants.

This sort of writer's block is different from those of my undergrad years. There is no grade depending on my hard work, just my whole future. If that's not enough to keep your brain paralyzed and your sleep disturbed, you must be a robot.

So here I sit trying to lubricate the gears by writing a long overdue post on a long neglected blog. Some days I really miss this place. Some days I don't. But I love that it is here when I need it. I'm a fair-weather friend, at best.

The boys have been gone since mid-June, traveling and ranching and working and doing all the things that well-traveled men do in the summer. There has probably been a lot of ice cream consumed for dinner.

I'm here, holding down the fort, earning those healthcare hours and trying desperately to muster up the courage to sum myself up in 5000 characters. To convey to them that I'm a hard worker. I hold promise! But then again, do I? Some days it's hard to tell where reality begins and the dream ends. Some days I want to wash my hands of medicine. Some days I want to be the doctor and nothing less. Most days, I'm excited for the path I have chosen.

This application year is a long shot. I've just barely made the minimum hours of patient care. My GRE scores were fine but certainly not inspiring. And, oh yeah, I'm less than a month away from the deadline for a program that utilizes rolling admission. The slots could already be filled! What's the point?! Applying next year will be better for our family. Stop making excuses, Sarah.

Isn't it amazing the things we tell ourselves in order to protect our hearts? The desire to shield our egos and prevent our dreams from being crushed, even temporarily, is strong. So strong it can halt forward movement completely. I'm working through it, but with only a month left I need to move through the emotional process a little faster. If I have to stay in this job another year, I'd rather it be by choice. That pill is easier to swallow than being told Try again next time. How silly is that logic? So silly. But somehow it became the human condition.

My life feels settled right now. I have an amazing group of coworkers, we are the most financially comfortable we've ever been, and I'm learning the ins and outs of the medical field. My coworkers are generous with their knowledge and allow me to participate in ways I never thought possible. Kiddo is entering his junior year of high school which is both flabbergasting and a relief. I feel like this is the year he will come into his own.

Oh, and I was introduced to Game of Thrones recently. (Can we talk about this show? So many thoughts. What is happening?! Also, two words: Peter. Dinklage. He's the best.)

The boys will be back in a couple short weeks and life will resume with its typical ebb and flow. I'm both excited (I miss them!) and wishing for more time (the introvert in me loves the quiet solitude of living alone.) In the meantime I have items to cross of my to-do list: projects to tackle around the house, an embroidery pattern subscription I'm four months behind on, four months of Crafter's Box projects to know, all those things that get pushed to the back of the closet. Oh right, I need to clean my closet. 

The past year has been one of tremendous growth. I've found a bravery I didn't know I had. And although confrontation of any sort practically gives me hives, I'm learning to set boundaries and stand my ground. (I've struggled with this my whole life...grownups can be bullies, too.)

My marriage has flourished into something I always wondered if it could become. I have always loved Mario, of course, but our connection has deepened. I absolutely adore that man. We communicate better, love better, fight better, and date often. He's made huge strides toward a better work-life balance which has resulted in more family time and less bickering. Over the past few years I have stopped relying on him for my own happiness and started pursuing my own passions. I've always questioned the human ability to evolve with your spouse. Most people change considerably during a lifetime, and the odds of changing in a way that remains compatible is no easy feat. Somehow we've managed to do it. Friday is our 10 year anniversary, and I can't wait to spend another 10+ years with this guy.

How's that for a broody post after a long absence? I missed you guys. A lot.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked

1// the roses in our front yard are pulling out all the stops 2// one of my favorite quotes, especially relevant while constantly comparing my projected GRE scores against national averages 3// my first frittata, which saved me from Whole30 fatigue 4// a common scene, minus the pie (oh, but that pie)

Life lately can be summed up as follows: work, study, repeat. 

This coming week is an important one for us as a family: Tuesday I take the GRE (gulp + yay!); Thursday is the last day of school for Kiddo before summer break (this has been a tough semester on all of us); on Friday Mario and Jared head out on their summer adventures (like last summer, I'll be on my own for about 10 weeks—insert wide-eyes emoji); and by month's end I expect to have my grad school application submitted.

I talked to my boss and worked out a schedule that will better accommodate my work-life balance aspirations. I signed up for a brush lettering class, so as not to lose momentum when it comes to my goal of nurturing that non-academic brain space. 

In the six short months since ushering in 2016, this quickly became a pivotal year for me. Yes, I reached my healthcare experience requirements and (finally!) bit the bullet when it came to taking the GRE. My career goals are at my fingertips. Those are the obvious and much-discussed successes. But perhaps more importantly are the less apparent changes: Laughing out loud regularly. Dating my husband at least once a month. Two Whole30s (I'm completing my second now) without cheating. Saying yes to social invitations. Letting stuff go. Embracing the unknown. Living in the now and all its imperfections. Finally (finally!) coming to understand and accept that life doesn't have to be everything I want it to be to be thoroughly enjoyed. I can find joy before attaining my dream job or living in my dream house. And you know what? I may not get accepted to my (highly competitive) first choice program. It could simply be the universe offering us another opportunity the following year. (We could find ourselves in the Midwest in two years...and that's okay. Adventure awaits!)

I'm looking forward to the next few weeks. My abandoned embroidery projects will get picked up again and all those partially-read books will get finished. Early July will bring a 10-day break from work and a road trip up to my in-laws' lake house in northwest Montana. Hopefully these marathon study sessions on my days off will be replaced with time spent writing in this space. (And dare I say a possible switch to another platform and sleeker blog design?) 

With any luck, in a few weeks I'll stop waking up in a cold sweat thinking What is the hypotenuse of a triangle again?! and What the heck is a cube root?!

In the meantime, here are some noteworthy things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

Do accidents happen anymore? (The BEST essay I've read in a very, very long time.)

I impulse-purchased underwear at Whole Foods. (That's a post in and of itself.) My expectations were low. Now I wonder where they've been all my life. (20% off sale going on now!)

These Mexican Tuna Salad Stuffed Avocados are on the menu. (Made Whole30 compliant.)

My next face serum. (Rose flavored everything for the win.)

This plush cactus! Cactus pincushions! Felt succulent window boxes! Kid friendly and won't die while you're on vacation! I'm totally smitten.

Give me strength. (I'll be repeating these on Tuesday. For. Sure.)

Vegan chocolate pudding (without the weird stuff)

Smoked Carrot Lox  (I'm intrigued)

Friday, May 6, 2016

Seen, Heard + Bookmarked

The last week has been a good one. Work has been busy but manageable, Kiddo is entering the home stretch before summer break, and Husband is taking small trips back and forth to San Diego, which gives us all a reprieve from the humdrum without the usual feelings that come with a long separation. I have fallen off the Whole30 wagon on occasion thanks to daily break room treats, but I've come to immediately recognize the ill effects of eating poorly. I'm definitely more tuned in than I used to be.

Yesterday I started the application process for grad school. Everything is done through a central website; creating an account and filling in those first sections felt exhilarating. Today, it's coffee shop camping while I focus on GRE prep.

Spring is certainly underway in the Pacific Northwest. Gone are the days of going to work and returning home in the dark. (Thank goodness.) The result is that I'm finding it easier to rise in the morning and I feel like I have more of a life in those few off hours. Frequent sun-shiny days also help in the mood department. 

Here's a bit of what I've seen, heard and bookmarked over the last couple weeks:

I was introduced to sea beans at the Portland Farmers Market last weekend. I'm hooked! (The boys were a little less enthused.) (Also, Kiddo got his first fiddlehead fix since leaving New England.)

Looking to downsize to a single eyeshadow palette after tossing my stockpile of outdated/broken/unflattering makeup. I've been hearing about this one nearly nonstop lately. Have you tried it?

I stayed up late to finished this book last night. And while parts of the story line felt unpolished, I had been craving a juicy whodunit for some time. This totally fit the bill.

Doing a 180 and reading this parenting book next (in the throes of adolescence over here — insert wide-eyes emoji)

princess cakes (gorgeous!)

Playing the 'woman card' (Can we banish that phrase from the English language already?)

I could smear a good lemon curd on just about anything.

Kids' art suitable for adult walls. Thinking about this mythical beasts print for Kiddo's birthday.

Pondering linen sheets (via Erin)

Cinnamon milk, which has me motivated to make my own nut milk this weekend. (It's been a while.)

Digging this ombre gallery wall.

How I care for my clothing has changed dramatically over the past year. Minimizing my wardrobe has left me with a sparser closet, but the trade-off is owning high quality, much-loved pieces of clothing. This article explores that natural inclination to treat one's cherished duds more delicately.

Been eating this salad on repeat for lunch. (Loving the cookbook it came from!)

My beloved Converse slip-ons are starting to wear out after about 10 faithful years. I decided it was time to start breaking in a new pair in preparation for their demise. These are a totally cute replacement, but have a long way to go before achieving that same soft flexibility and second-skin sensation. (I'm wearing them around the house, with socks, to start the process.)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

April in photographs + lists

This spring has been a whirlwind: our first (conventional) family vacation (so, so fun, but also exhausting); navigating the complex world of parenting a teenager (advice welcome); and learning to accept that I will likely always have a love-hate relationship with my job (things are looking up on that front, thank goodness). Husband turned a year older this month, which means I'm six months to the day behind him. It feels like a pivotal age, though unconventionally so; one that brings about reflection on where we are in our individual and combined lives.

That work-life balance thing I'm always waxing about feels pretty darn achievable most days. I attribute this, in large part, to a more civilized work schedule, a renewed commitment to dating my husband and socializing with friends + coworkers, and finding more space in my life for creative endeavors.

I'm also learning to let go

of plants I don't love or require too much of my time.
of clothing that doesn't fit, I don't wear, and/or I don't love.
of relationships that aren't mutually beneficial.
of trying to please the unpleasable.
of The Plan: the one that causes my stomach to clench when I imagine it working out differently.
of all those what-ifs. (Boy can they rob you of your sunshine.)

Mario and I have been dating regularly and socializing more.
I committed already and registered for the GREs: I'm slaying that beast on June 14.
I'm within 300 hours of meeting my chosen grad school's healthcare experience prerequisite.
We are snowballing the heck out of our debt.
I came back from vacation and resumed a Whole30-based diet, while practicing moderation in the form of meals out and occasionally indulged cravings.
I Konmaried my closet yesterday to the tune of six garbage bags full of clothing, shoes and accessories headed for donation. (Bookshelf, I've got my eye on you next.)
I volunteered for a school event for the first time in ages.
After nearly a decade of talking about it, we hired someone to deep clean our house once a month. (What's left are small weekly tidying sessions which equals more family time.)
I've become a float therapy convert, and try to book a session every 10 days or so.

So what brought about this recent lifestyle change? The answer is rather unconventional: I missed a much-anticipated chalkboard lettering class. I was exhausted from working long hours and feeling guilty that Mario was practically single-parenting our child, and I slept right through a class I'd been looking forward to for over a month. (And paid a pretty penny to attend, which was actually the least of my concerns about missing it.) What's worse: I didn't notice until I checked my email two days later and found a kind note from the shop owner telling of my absence. My life had fallen off the rails and I'd finally opened my eyes to it. I was tired, detached, and running on autopilot at best. Small issues felt enormous, as was my reaction to them. I was forgetting dates and times and events and felt like I was apologizing constantly. When I wasn't apologizing I was worrying that my child wasn't getting enough attention and my husband was overburdened, and scared shitless that one morning I would wake up to the realization that the path I was enduring such hardship to pursue wasn't what I wanted after all.

Then there was the worst fear of all: that I would never, ever find personal fulfillment.

If I didn't start living now by embracing the imperfect, I'd continue denying myself the ability to find joy.

So I started living. The kind shop owner allowed me to take the next class and it. was. awesome. (I've found a new hobby!) Husband and I said yes to a dinner invite and the next week tried a restaurant that had been on our radar since moving to Portland. I dragged my weary butt to a get-together after work one day and was gifted the opportunity to get to know my coworkers outside of the stressful confines of the hospital corridors. I picked a date roughly two months in the future and printed out a GRE study plan that fit that time frame. Then I sat down and started studying. (Truth: I've been procrastinating on this front for nearly 3 years. I'm ridiculous.)


Life is far from perfect, and I mess up on the regular, but things are looking up. Optimism has been renewed and perspective regained. Life over the last month has become more livable: less about surviving the everyday and more about enjoyment. Taking moments when they present themselves; getting out of my own way; and letting go when my body and mind compel me to do nothing more than lie on the couch after working three 12-hour shifts in a row.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I'm also going to devote more time spent writing in this space. Posting here makes me happy and keeps me connected to friends and like-minded people. It won't be every day or even every week for the next little while, but it will be more regular than it has been. Because despite the lack of posts, it's never far from my mind. I construct post titles and write sentences in my head in all those in-between moments.

Just a few of the posts I've already mentally written many times over:

(Better) Realized: Knowing when you've finally made it.
Disney World
Harry Potter World
Marbella, Spain
Barcelona, Spain
Minimizing  / Capsulizing (Sort of)
Reading Goals 2015: A Review
Living grudge-free
The Whole30 Experience
Favorite things (skincare, clothing, cosmetics, crafts, etc)
Relating to your in-laws

Friday, April 1, 2016

Seen, Heard + Bookmarked

I think it is safe to say that spring has officially sprung in the Pacific Northwest. The last few days have brought sunshine, blue skies, and impossibly colorful blooms. I'm in heaven. I've been feeling the pull to the out of doors, and I see lunches in the staff garden and t-shirt + shorts weather in my near future. Gloomy days have their place in my little introverted heart, but there is something about the sunny seasons that bring about a certain optimism.  Those in other parts of the country, I'm thinking about you and hoping more hospitable weather is on the horizon for you as well.

Here's a little of what I've seen, heard and bookmarked over the last couple weeks:

This beautiful, raw essay describes New Hampshire Sarah rather succinctly. (When I read it, all those old feelings came rushing right back. They are still in there, apparently.)

Perhaps the perfect warm weather dress.

Middle-class housing projects. (What.)

Appealing to our humanity. (Especially after these most recent remarks.) (John Oliver's commentary is so good.)

Learned a new skill. (Also, trying this.)

A list maker through and through, this article inspired me to take it a step or two further.

A very crafty blog.

Still an INFJ. (I retake it every few years, and despite my near constant evolution it's always the same.)

Floating. (I tried it for the first time this week, and this article prompted me to finally make the appointment.)

How am I just hearing about this?! Giddy doesn't even describe it. 

Junk food.

A new favorite cheek stain. (A decade-long devotee of Tarte's cheek stain, I'm not loving the new formulation—less gel-like and therefore harder to blend, I think—so I decided to move on).

Easy-to-Peel boiled eggs. I tried it; it works (!!!). I vow to submerge my eggs in boiling water from this day forth.

Also, I wrapped up my Whole30 experience yesterday (it was 31 days, technically) and I feel pretty darn good about it. Not a single cheat, even over Easter. We are headed for a family vacation tomorrow so I'm relaxing the rules just a bit, but when I come back the goal is to continue a modified Whole30 until I get closer to my happier body composition. But with a weekly cheat meal, I think. Because the real world involves the occasional ice cream cone and potato chip. More on the experience to come.

Happy Weekend!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Taking Stock | 04

Making: time for myself. blogging, reading, taking classes, binge-watching...I'm getting better at stealing moments just for me. Sans guilt.
Cooking: split pea soup in the crockpot. peas are not Whole30 approved, apparently, but everything else is and I'm going with it.
Drinking: iced tea. unsweetened.
Reading: What Alice Forgot by Lianne Moriarty + Rising Strong by Brené Brown
Wanting: a cupcake (not worth it.) 
Looking: forward to next month's family vacation. (our first of this sort.) harry potter world, here we come.

Playing: Sia's latest album + "Love Yourself" by Justin Bieber (don't judge)
Wishing: for next month's embroidery pattern. I finished the March project yesterday.
Enjoying: five days off in a row (!!!)
Waiting: impatiently for this cold virus to go away. lots of tonics and sudafed. (the boys have been passing this bug back and forth for a couple weeks and it finally got me.)
Liking: the way I'm feeling about food right now. whole30 is definitely doing good things for me.

Wondering: about all the wild, vivid dreams I've been having lately. what's behind them?
Loving: all the sunshine after weeks of rain (thank you, Portland!)
Hoping: this is the year I get into grad school. (in other words, on the first try.)
Marveling: that I already have 1400 of the 2000 patient care hours I need.
Needing: to commit to my GRE study schedule
Smelling: spring. fresh air + blooms.
Wearing: embroidered jeans (I missed you 90s fashion!)
Following: @deerandtree on Instagram (photos of gorgeous Polaroid shots!)
Noticing: all the pretty houseplants for sale right now. (can one have too many? nah.)

Thinking: it's time to do a major closet purge. the rest of the house could use a little decluttering, too.

Bookmarking: An Introvert's Guide to Having People Over (glad I'm not the only one that struggles with this)
Giggling: at our naked kitty. he got his first lion cut of the year this morning and it's hilarious.
Feeling: Stressed. Impatient. But also peaceful in the in-between moments. Most of all, grateful.