Monday, November 23, 2015

This, That and the Other


I'd like to say that every time I put fingers to keyboard it's because I have something eloquent and profound to say. Oh to be bursting with wisdom! In all honesty, unless I'm feeling particularly angsty about work or parenthood, I mostly just want to write about the odds and ends of things. You know, that Instagram photo I lurved or the shop I visited or that article I read or the cactus I allegedly flew home in my suitcase because I may have succulent OCD and don't care who knows it. (The tips. are. pink. You wouldn't have listened to reason, either.)

Individually they hardly warrant an entire blog entry. However, these sorts of snippets, combined, make for a wonderful post (says me). Also, I quite like to write stream-of-conscious style. Reading it, however, is a whole different story, I'm sure. Still, here goes.

// Lately I have been feeling the need to really change things up. Today I'm headed to the stylist to do something drastic to this dishwater blonde color that likes to grow out of my head. The lady I've been seeing for a bit is an amazing colorist, but I have noticed during past appointments that she tends to push me toward vanilla when I'm really yearning for rocky road. I'm giving her another shot, because let's face it: finding a good stylist is no easy feat. I'm digging this and this color, though I'm leaning towards darker. 

// I've been drinking WAY too much coffee lately. To the point that I'm not even enjoying it. Oh, and I'm sure I exude confidence when I'm getting ready to poke a patient with a sharp needle with shaky (but still capable) hands. The obvious answer is to abandon my morning (and mid-morning and afternoon) brew. But then I thought, don't give up! I've since decided it's an issue of quality versus quantity and so I'm (mostly) ditching the Keurig in favor of a french press and one cup seems to do the work of three, minus much of the jitters. I'm thinking of taking it one step further and investing in a Chemex and some high quality beans like any good Portlandler would have done a year ago.

// The other day I purged my IG feed by subtracting some of the old (nothing personal!) and adding some new. This morning I gave some thought to my blogroll and decided to unsubscribe to the feeds I never seem to click through to in order to read a post in its entirety. Blogger's unsubscribe page has changed since my last purge several years ago, and in my impatience I kept clicking on the delete button before realizing it had actually been deleting the next one and the next one and the next one. I suppose if I don't notice the absence, I probably wasn't reading it anymore. Perhaps an accidental purge is the most effective approach, as it is sans hemming, hawing and guilt-ridden second-guessing. I also carefully eliminated a couple of blogs I like reading, but leave me feeling less-than in one way or another. 

// I discovered the wonder that is fire cider last year and take 1 tbsp/day during the chillier months or when I'm fighting a cold. I'm particularly smitten with a local brand I buy at the farmer's market, but I can't always get there and I buy often this time of year. So what is an aspiring hippie to do? Make her own. I followed the ingredient list on the back of the bottle (plus a couple of my own additions) and used this recipe for guidance regarding measurements. On December 2nd I'll have a spicy vinegar concoction of my very own. That's a long time to wait to see if I'm any good at being granola. 

// Raising a teenager is hard and requires more patience than I think I have. I try to focus on his more redeeming qualities like his yoyo skills and ability to build a Tardis out of Legos in five minutes flat.

// Pink. Tips. (plus two little nubs that fell off another cactus plant during shipping. By shipping I mean getting thrown around in my checked luggage.)

// Many weeks ago I bought this tiny handmade top at Woonwinkle, a darling Portland shop, and it is hands down one of the most used things in our house. It found its home on our kitchen island, and we spin that thing while we talk, eat snacks, watch the other cook, etc. Sometimes it's the little things. Also, yay for old fashioned toys. 

// This raspberry hard cider is delicious. Cider is pretty much the only alcohol I drink, and only occasionally, but I wanted to try something new and locally made when I was in San Diego last month. Unfortunately, the restaurant we were at only offered it in 22 ounce bottles. I went for it, then got tipsy at 11a and drunk dialed my husband from the bathroom. I also couldn't find the bathroom sink, though to be fair it was a communal sink perched outside the two bathrooms. To be fair I ordered a kale caesar salad which totally cancelled out the alcohol health-wise.

// The story of getting toasty at lunch brings me to my next favorite thing, Pigment. It's in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego (across the street from the restaurant where I got lost in the bathroom) and I want to live there. It is the home of pink-tipped cacti and an insane terrarium bar and is hashtag the coolest store ever. And because my impulse control was compromised, I spent three digits on all the beautiful things. I have since ordered another plant from their online store but please don't tell my husband. I don't have cider to blame this time and I think he's starting to have nightmares about being swallowed alive by all of our foliage. 

// Truth: On my days off, I sometimes take Kiddo to school in my slippers. Which is fine for the Starbucks drive-through but less so when I walk into Fred Meyer to get a leek for dinner and forget I'm not wearing actual shoes. Could I have actually found my perfect slipper?! Also, have you ever given your feet a bath before bed because you can't possibly sleep with cold feet and when you warm them on your husband he likens it to spooning with a corpse? I'm not alone in my winter foot woes, right? Right.

// I've been drowning my work sorrows in copious amounts of sour gummy worms but I've also been experiencing blood sugar rushes which are the opposite of soothing and encourage anxious feelings. The natural progression would be to turn to booze (I kid), but instead I decided to do a sugar detox. My goal was a week but I'm a whole eight days in and I'm feeling pretty darn good. I think I'm cured. Now for a Gardetto's rye chip detox...

// I completed my very first embroidery project! Yahoo! And thank goodness I had fun because I have about nine more to make in various patterns before Christmas presents go out. Also, since I'm so stellar at the back stitch, I believe I am totally ready to take on a cat quilt:

I'm nothing if not realistic.

Friday, November 20, 2015

(Better) Realized: Flexing my creative muscle.

The other day I wrote at length about the disappointment I've been experiencing over my current job. This small leg of a long journey is tough. However, don't mistake this lamenting as a lack of gratitude. My life is good and opportunities have been presented in ways I never thought possible. Although discouraging at the moment, phases like this are the perfect occasion in which to reflect. To change faulty thinking and dig a little deeper to find the root of malcontent. My job is probably going to be difficult for the duration and I can't make my coworkers play nice. But my reaction to adversity? That is squarely within my control. Choosing peace over anger, gratitude over self pity—that I can do. It will take practice, as all behavioral changes do, but I don't want to fritter away the hours feeling sorry for myself. Resentment is a waste of time.

I realize these sorts of posts come more often than even I would like, but I know I'm not alone in my frustration, disappointment, and anxiety. Most of all, my impatience. I want things to hurry up already rather than just going with the flow. I work diligently each and every day to exist in the now, to enjoy today, rather than holding on to an abstract time in the future when everything will be in its perfect place; the ideal life I envision. The me five or ten years from now. As I age and mature emotionally, I realize how silly this is. Because there is no perfect life or perfect place in time. And if there were, I wouldn't know it until I was actually in it, nor would I properly appreciate it without having experienced hardship. Like most things in life, I can't predict when and where the tides will take me. But I've learned that there can be perfect (or near perfect) experiences to be had if you take the time to seek them out.

I've been doing some thinking about this whole job thing, and I've come to a conclusion: After a decade spent being a mom and student, my expectations were unreasonably high. I was excited about earning a paycheck, gaining clinical hours for grad school, learning how to care for critically ill patients, and meeting new people. I suppose I went into it with my head in the clouds; I hadn't anticipated adversity and it knocked me on my ass. Small issues became big ones and big ones became insurmountable. And although disappointment is always a hard pill to swallow, much of my melancholy likely stemmed from a lack of external outlet. All I could think about was the bad because I had little else to focus on.

Outside of work I wasn't doing anything to expand my horizons or set new goals or flex my creative mind. I'd stuff my feelings and frustrations all day and come home and focus on the boys and chores and travel schedules and meal planning and, you know, The Grind. With the exception of my reading goals, I inadvertently set aside all the other intentions I'd made for the year when I went back to work in July.

Several weeks ago Mario and I went out on a breakfast date, just the two of us. While waiting for a table, I began jotting down a revised list of life goals. This impromptu (re)evaluation of my aspirations wiggled something loose inside of me, and I realized it was high time I started worrying about creative fulfillment as much as I was concerning myself with my chosen career path. On my deathbed I'm certainly not going to wish I had worked more. So instead of spending my days off drowning my sorrows in Cheetos and my DVR, I set out to explore some new and old interests.

Last month I took kokedama workshop at my favorite local nursery and had so much fun. I bought the supplies to make a second one at home and my living room window has never looked better. (I'm also practicing my plant husbandry skills, always, while honing my desired foliage collection.)

For my annual Christmas ornament project, I've decided to learn embroidery and bought the supplies to create some simple hand-sewn hoops to gift friends and family. (I bought some patterns and thread made by Sublime Stitching at a local craft store and found a couple pdf embroidery patterns on Etsy like this one.)

While picking up muslin for my ornaments yesterday, I learned about some sewing classes offered at an amazing fabric store. Up until yesterday I'd never stopped in because I sold my sewing machine when we moved and had therefore subconsciously dismissed the idea of (finally) learning how to sew. (They teach beginner classes and have all the supplies I would need to complete the project—including a sewing machine—so all the excuses I'd been making were completely off base.)

Mario gifted me a terrarium book for my birthday and I love the idea of creating a miniature world using tiny figures and low maintenance moss. My windowsills are a little, um, crowded at the moment, so the idea of something green I can perch on a (low light) bookshelf is so lovely. (And it's an activity Kiddo and I can do together.)

My favorite Portland instagrammer, Heather, opened up a brand new shop last week. In addition to selling products made by local artisans, work/shop offers a variety of classes. (work/shop...get it?) The brush lettering workshop is at the top of my list, but I want to take them all!

 Oh, and pottery classes are always on the list!

Also: regular dates with Husband for the first time in our marriage; trying all kinds of new skincare products as the seasons change; signing up for classes offered by the hospital so I can pick up new skills; starting my last classic book for the year (which marks another milestone as the very first resolution I've ever made and kept all year); cooking all kinds of new and old favorites (soup weather!); and making lists to prepare for a local (as much as possible) Christmas. Portland has a great program called Little Boxes, which makes participating in Small Business Saturday even more fun.

The point: Learning isn't confined to academics. And just as I am more than the roles I play (wife, mom, employee, student), my creative interests are vast, varied and equally important. When times get tough, they are usually the first to get neglected. You live and you learn.

source: random olive

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Striving for balance, always.

This morning Mario left for a few days of business travel. Which leaves me to hold down the fort, make sure Kiddo practices good hygiene and does his homework, and to catch up on all those things that have been neglected over the past month.

Because of Husband's impending travel, I tailored my work schedule so that I would be home Tuesday-Friday this week. Best. Decision. Ever. Boy did I need a few days to get my head on straight. To step back and reflect on my work life, to putz around the house, to perch at a coffee shop and write in this space. To get over the GRE test prep hurdle. And while I always miss my husband when he's gone—we haven't seen each other as much as I'd like over the last few weeks—the best thing for me was to be alone so I could devote the school day hours to personal reflection and the evenings to reading and extra sleep without feeling guilty for neglecting our we time.

After having a bit of a job meltdown over the past 6-8 weeks, I've been trying really hard to separate my work and home lives. It took some time to reconcile the crushing disappointment I was feeling over my job; disappointment so fierce I wondered if I was even still committed to a career in medicine. (Cue existential crisis.) I liken my experience to going through the five stages of grief: for the first while I thought those awful shifts were just temporary (and surely not the norm), and things would settle into a routine (denial); then I was furious and spent my waking hours rehearsing conversations I'd never have with my boss and coworkers (anger); after that I proclaimed to myself (and Mario) that I was giving this job until January then I was saying peace out if things didn't get better, because I can do anything for 6 months, and, and, and (bargaining). The other day I was floated to another unit for the majority of my shift, which wasn't bad in and of itself, but I had a quiet moment where it occurred to me that my career goals may no longer be my heart's desire and I was super crushed at the thought that this was all for nothing (depression). The sad phase was over before I knew it and I had accepted my choices, my fate and my journey. I can do this. I will do this. And I will draw a line in the sand in terms of letting my job woes bleed into other areas of my life. I was tired of spending my days off despairing. Life is too damn short.

Although this job is crucial to reaching my goals, my entire existence needn't revolve around it. And it has for the past 4+ months. I've been ruminating more than I'm comfortable with, an innate tendency I have to work diligently to control. I must be vigilant in order to fight my anxious nature, to squelch repetitive thinking before it has the chance to dominate my world.

Yesterday, after dropping Kiddo off at school, I sat down and watched the first 45 minutes of the Today Show so I could catch up on current events and feel like a proper citizen of this world. It had been a while since I've done that. One day last week I didn't shower until 2p, instead opting to perch at the kitchen counter with my laptop while reading the past two weeks' of my blogroll (which had been woefully neglected). I finally researched and ordered that new mattress we've been needing; I bought the book Lean In on the suggestion of a dear friend (in response to my recent post where I briefly discussed the issue of mean girls in the workplace); I potted a couple new plants I picked up during my San Diego trip (I've become the champion of transporting foliage in my checked luggage) and repotted some old friends. One day I wore slippers all day long, even to pick up Kiddo from his after school group.

This change in mindset has been the best thing that's happened to me in a long while: I have given myself permission to just exist—without expectation or aim.

I have a habit of applying too much value to things that don't deserve them and this job has been a prime example of that. It's important, these clinical hours, but they aren't everything. There will always be other jobs and other paths to take, but most of all, it is perfectly okay to put in a hard day's work and walk away. I don't owe my boss or my coworkers any more than that. When I'm there I give 110%, but once I am off the clock my life and time is my own. And while I'm in the midst of it? I have absolute control over my reaction to adversity. It's time to stop being a victim of my circumstances and start creating some boundaries. (And stop trying to be everything to everyone. I'm only one person and no one thinks less of me because I can't help two people at once.) Also, I should be using this job to expand my knowledge by signing up for training classes and attending seminars. The hospital also has a person who coordinates student shadowing so I can experience a day in the life of medical professionals in different specialties. It would be crazy to waste these opportunities because things aren't turning out the way I thought they would.

I like to think I'm a person who can overcome adversity. A person who endures and thrives and survives. But there is always a fairly lengthy emotional process to get there and that bugs the hell out of me. My determination is steadfast, though I wish there were fewer hurdles to jump before I come out the other side. There are some fundamental truths I don't want to forget: This job is teaching me so much about medicine and myself. I will be a better, more compassionate provider as a result of this work. Spending some time at the bottom will instill such an appreciation for my accomplishments when I reach the top. Boundaries are necessary as are diplomacy and assertiveness. I can't control everything, as much as I'd like to, and sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.

Let's do this.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Seen, Heard + Bookmarked

Going through my blog overview last week, I realized I had started (but failed to publish) precisely fifty "bookmarked" posts. So naturally, a link dump is in order. Even if it touches on Burger King's Halloween Whopper and Halloween was so, like, last month. I obviously have my finger on the pulse of current trends. 

Happy Friday!

These ankle boots were a birthday gift from Husband. They are crazy comfortable and go with everything. I wear them almost every day off.

I've been reading about Bulletproof Coffee for about a year now and I must admit: I'm not quite convinced of the "science" behind adding butter to coffee (though I can attest to the efficacy of adding coconut oil to coffee—energy up the wazoo). Still, I'm up for trying almost anything, so I'm going to give this and this a try.

Behind the computer screen. (It's easy to forget fashion bloggers don't have the perfect life. There's no such thing.)

LOL. (What did people think would happen?!)

Lusting after this hoodie after seeing it in a local shop.

Kiddo picked out this camera strap for my birthday and it's awesome. (I'm obsessed with this one, but it sold out.)

Stained glass feathers. (one of each, please.)

I want to learn how to do this. (I tracked down an artist whose work I love and bought a set of patterns. I can't wait to get my creative on.)

A road tripper at heart. (I'll choose a car over a plane any day of the week.)

I read this book and was riveted. I just finished this one while I was in San Diego. It was also amazing, but in a very different way. I'm currently reading Furiously Happy which is equal parts hilarious and concerning.

This article about buying stuff was a good reminder on my journey to only possess things I love.

Speaking of buying stuff, I purchased this oil cleanser on the recommendation of Bridget. The heat is officially on for the winter, necessitating a seasonal skincare shift.

Read this article a while back, and heard Headspace mentioned oodles since then. Worth a try?

Speaking of meditation, I just finished the Intuitive Eating audiobook and really enjoyed their principles. I listened to it during long drives (without closing my eyes during the guided meditations, obviously) and came to the realization that I need to follow my gut more often...literally and figuratively.

A pot that grows with the plant. I'll be first in line when it comes out. (I'm looking at you, Fiddle Leaf Fig.) Discovered thanks to Erin.

The perfect hair color for those of us who favor low maintenance? (Though it's not without a time commitment.)

A stay in a luxury railcar is on my must-try list.

Bought a bottle of this floral tonic at an indie craft fair several months ago. It's perfect for those nights where I don't want to put in any effort, but still leaves my skin glowing. (Also, craft fair doesn't adequately sum up the experience. These were amazing artists. If there is fair near you, run, don't walk.)

Sephora sent me a sample of this "luxury" face oil with a recent purchase. When ripping open the packet the entire contents spilled all over my hand to I had no choice but to apply it liberally. My skin looks awesome! Then I saw the price while looking up the link. Oh, ouch. (If you're a VIB, 20% off starts today.)

Stumbled across this website and read article after article for an hour straight. Good stuff.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

SeaWorld San Diego


I've mentioned this on the blog a time or two, but my one true love has always been the ocean and its inhabitants. (Killer whales, in particular, are my animal soulmates.) I felt a strong pull to marine biology from an early age, and still do, but I also love medicine and would prefer to treat patients rather than spend my days writing grants. I still pursued biology, but opted for a more practical application. If marine biologists spent their days watching orcas swim the open ocean, I'd have my PhD in record time. But alas, pipe dreams.

As a child growing up in San Diego, I had the pleasure of being exposed to these magnificent creatures from an early age. (My birthday request was always to visit SeaWorld. It has always been a place where I could dream.) And while I watched Blackfish (four times) with rapt horror just like the rest of America—I am equal parts haunted and exhilarated by killer whales—I can't help but think that the issue is so much more complicated than just freeing captive animals. First and foremost, I'm absolutely opposed to keeping orcas and other large marine mammals confined to what is tantamount to a swimming pool. But what about all of SeaWorld's conservation efforts? If SeaWorld ceases to be a profitable company, the philanthropic sector of the organization also goes kaput. Then what? We would have one less means by which to save beached animals and fight environmental offenders. California recently banned the breeding of captive whales, a ruling I wholeheartedly agree with. Every single one of these animals should be free to swim, eat and live as nature intended. (Whether or not they were captive bred is moot in my opinion. The genetic instincts are still there and the tanks will always be too small for an animal that swims 100+ miles per day in the wild.)


During last week's visit to San Diego, I decided to visit SeaWorld. And though this was not without a bit of internal conflict, I'm so glad I went. I saw firsthand the behaviors described in the documentary: orcas listlessly floating in the pool for long periods; rake marks on their bodies (of which the juvenile orca in particular had many); refusal to respond to commands during a "Dining with Shamu" show; and many other subtle signs of malcontent that were not previously on my radar prior to watching Blackfish.

Still, the issue of SeaWorld as a whole isn't so black and white (pun intended). While there I was able to experience the wonder that is a tank full of tropical fish, touch and feed bat rays (many of which were clearly missing or had deformed spines—a disadvantage in nature), and see endangered animals I doubt I'll ever get to witness in the wild. (Polar bears will likely become extinct in our lifetime, and if not, our children's.)


All in all, it was a beautiful day spent with my aunt, bonding, talking and revisiting my childhood. So many times throughout the day I felt that tingle in my belly I get when I experience something profound, something bigger than myself. Being there gave me the rare opportunity to feel that fluttery excitement I did as a child when I dreamed of reaching my true potential. Controversies aside, I needed to feel that. To know that a deep-rooted desire to change the world still lies within me. To be reminded that the world is vast and my problems are small by comparison. (Oh, and that I can still be awed. It's a magical feeling.) It's one of the few places I feel at home in head and my skin. For that, there is no regret.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Life Lessons

Hello! Remember me? I'm alive and mostly well and missing this space like crazy. The last several weeks in a nutshell: cross country wound down and the season ended; Husband traveled; I worked, Husband got back, and I left for San Diego 8 hours later; I got home, worked all weekend and Husband left for his next trip. Like two ships passing in the night, we have been parenting separately and maintaining our relationship mostly via phone calls and FaceTime chats.

I've been dealing with some unpleasantness in the workplace and the intense disappointment that inherently comes with finding out that your dream job (for now) isn't as dreamy as you initially thought it would be. I assumed a break would usher in a new perspective, but I came back to the same sad social dynamic only I was exhausted, fighting a cold, and therefore ill-prepared. Navigating the world of mean girls is no easy feat for someone who a) has never been one, and b) has no experience tangling with one. (True story: I was inadvertently included in a text conversation in which they sarcastically called me their "bestie" and stated that I need to "go...away." No one said mean girls are necessarily clever in their meanness.) Jealousy + insecurity is certainly at the root of such behavior, but there is little one can do to resolve the emotional hangups of others. Instead, I smile and exchange pleasantries while simultaneously watching my back. Oh, and first and foremost I remember that this is temporary: a means to get where I want to go. Yet the pure, childlike part of my nature wonders why people can't just be happy for each other and choose kindness, always. Compounding the aforementioned emotions is the heartbreak of losing my sweet and lovely grandmother. Though she is never far from my mind, as in those moments where I think Can I do this for the next 12+ months?! I hear her saying My Sweet Sarah can do anything! in that earnest way that made you believe her wholeheartedly.

I spent the last 7 days of October in San Diego helping pack up and sell her things, sorting through pictures, and spending time with my aunts and cousins. My family moved away when I was 10 years old, so many of those relationships, although intact, became less close than they were when I was small. Family dynamics are complicated and some have more dysfunction than others. But as the years pass age differences have been confined to just the numbers: I have plenty in common with my decade-younger cousins (my mom was the oldest), and my aunts and I have very adult conversations and interactions. Marriage is marriage whether you've been betrothed for 25 years or 10—we all encounter the same obstacles and bicker over the same silly subjects—and a 23 year old can share the same adoration for air plants and garden gnomes as a 34 year old. My extended family, Mario and Kiddo, close friends: they have become my tribe. They've filled in those little gaps left by relationships that can't, shouldn't be, rekindled. Relationships that leave me exhausted or feel one-sided are strictly limited whenever possible. What I am left with is a carefully curated group of people who love me, believe in me, want me in their life. People I trust. People who love me for who I am despite my many flaws (and me them). I'll take that over a biological ball and chain any day.

We shared so many laughs over those 7 days. Tears were inevitable, but what I didn't expect was the immense joy. Nothing would have made my grandma more happy than to see us brought together. All she ever wanted was for us to be happy. And although her physical presence was all but erased, she was very much alive and well in our hearts. Looking over family photos and baby books, reading the cards and letters I sent her when I was little (she saved everything her grandkids ever sent her), I've come to feel like I've been given the gift of really, truly knowing her as a human being. As a woman who raised four girls, each of them very different. A woman who spent her whole life searching for the kind of love I was lucky enough to find all those years ago when I met Mario. A woman who struggled with her weight and self image her entire adult life. A woman who told me I was perfect, and meant it, but couldn't see those same qualities in herself. (Who did she think I inherited them from?) A woman who was whip smart, funny as can be, and could solve the New York Times crossword puzzle every. single. week. In pen. A woman who, as a nurse, devoted her life to healing the sick and comforting the dying. (She loved her patients.) She modeled what it is to be a strong, compassionate woman, and for that I will always be grateful. Her strength was showing her grandchildren unconditional love, but through her unfulfilled desires, many of which were discovered after her death, she's taught me to be unabashed in my pursuit of happiness—a lesson so important I intend to live it each and every day. Life is too short to wait for outside sources of contentment.

A melancholy return to the blogosphere, I know, but that's life and love and how these things go. We are never alone in our plights, our need for kinship universal, and thus blogs were created for these sorts of things. And lest you thing all is dim and grim on this side of the keyboard, know that this is just a small facet of my life. I'm excited to take on some projects, enjoying this fall weather, and rejoicing in family time. There are plants to be planted and movies to be watched and books to be read and home cooked meals to prepare. After a healthy dose of venting, I'm ready to focus on the good things—they far outweigh the bad.