Tuesday, July 28, 2015

(Better) Realized: Capsulizing

 

When it comes to clothing, capsule wardrobes are all the rage. I never felt compelled to jump on the bandwagon, due in large part, I think, to my desire to lose some weight. I didn't want to buy + commit to a finite number of pieces I hoped not to fit into in the near future. And if I'm honest, the fact that it was the popular thing to do probably deterred me a bit as well.

But a funny thing happened: I inadvertently adopted a capsule wardrobe anyway.

Recently, after washing, drying and folding a t-shirt I loathed for the umpteenth time, I grabbed a garbage bag and purged my closet. Those underwear I cursed every time I wore them because they rode up? Trash. All those shirts that were too small/big/short/stretched/unflattering went in the bag for donation. Those cute shorts I bought ages ago, tags still intact, but could never quite button up? Goodbye.

After all this time, it finally occurred to me that I had only been wearing a few pieces all along: the items that fit my style and body just right. The rest remained ignored in my closet. Those uncomfortable clothes created noise, and I was regularly annoyed when I put them on in the morning only to realize why they were relegated to the back of the drawer. Inspired by this revelation, I eliminated any and all unloved clothing while vowing not to replace them with anything new unless I actually needed it, I'd tried it on, it fit perfectly, and it coordinated with the rest of my frequently worn pieces.

This issue extended beyond just pants and shirts. This spring, I noticed my bras were worn out after several years of wear and were no longer fitting as well as they once had. I decided to replace them with some discount store versions which were 1/3 of the price of my old ones and seemed just fine. Until they weren't. There was gapping and adjustments throughout the day, I became keenly aware they weren't quite right, and more often than not they made me miserable by day's end. As a result, I was rewashing my one remaining higher end bra every couple days (which would have led to its rapid demise) while avoiding the new ones. I wised up and bought two of the expensive ones a couple weeks ago. It was an investment, but I'm comfortable and realize three good bras can easily replace five cheap ones. But I suppose I got caught up in the money and convenience and ended up doing myself a great disservice.  (One should never sacrifice on underwear. Ill-fitting undergarments can turn blue skies gray.)

With this new found appreciation for a wardrobe that allows me to grab anything off the hanger with the assurance it will fit + flatter, I've become keenly aware of the way I treat my treasured duds. Those (inexpensive but awesome) MicroModal tees I love get washed more gently and less often these days. I respect them for their ability to make me feel good, and it's reflected in how I care for the them. Cold water is just fine, and the shorter express wash cycle does the job quite well. We made the switch to a kinder detergent + softener a few months back; a couple tablespoons will adequately clean a whole load, which actually gets clothes cleaner and contributes to a shorter wash time on HE machines (which detect the presence of suds and keep trying to rinse).


Gone are the days of buying clothes that come with the If I lose ten pounds this will fit perfectly! caveat. Or owning twenty shirts with a mediocre fit. Earlier this month I had to buy scrubs in preparation for my new job. Instead of buying lots of cheap sets, I bought just eight really nice pieces: four tops and four bottoms, one pair for each shift I work per week. I'll admit, it was a chore. I must have tried on a dozen different sets, stretching and squatting down in each to make sure I could move without restraint or bunching. I ended up going with the higher end brands, at a higher cost, but it ensured I would always be comfortable. I don't have a single scrub top that will be relegated to the bottom of the pile, to be avoided until laundry day because it makes me feel insecure or awkward. It is yet another example of the joy a less is more wardrobe can bring.

As with most things, simplifying my wardrobe is a work in progress. I still pick up things that are pretty yet impractical (or potentially unflattering for my body type), but more often than not I put it down and walk away (or promptly return it). And on days like today, when I'm not working, I can throw on a shirt and shorts and walk out the door without futzing with my apparel. Because everything fits.

Which is kind of the best thing I can imagine.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

With Gratitude


Life has been full lately. I have two weeks of training under my belt, and that deer-in-the-headlights look I was sporting the first couple days is no more. I'm finding my groove—slowly but surely—and feeling more confident. It's hard work and the days are long, but gosh am I learning a ton. I was in a holding pattern regarding one of my state licenses, which had me feeling a little anxious (I couldn't perform all of the job requirements without it), but it finally went through and I'm official. Phew.

Grad school is starting to feel real. Like I'll actually get there sooner rather than later (or at all). It feels closer and more attainable than it has...well, ever. This job has also reinforced my desire to go into medicine. Thank goodness.

The word that comes to mind a lot these days is gratitude. I'm grateful for this opportunity after searching so long for the right job. All those rejection letters and months of applying were worth it; this is absolutely where I'm meant to be. I'm grateful for this time alone to adjust, and also deeply grateful for a family that supports me unconditionally. They selflessly let me have these last few weeks to myself so I could funnel all my energy into this new position. (I miss their faces!)

There have been many bumps along the road. Times when I thought total fulfillment was a pipe dream; an ideal few achieve. I grew impatient and resentful and frustrated with how long this process has taken. Now I realize it was all a necessary part of the journey. I have to take the good with the bad and trust that things will always work out in the end. And sure enough, they always do. But, you know, when you're in the thick of it it's easy to go there: to that head space where you doubt. Doubt your abilities. Doubt your decisions. Doubt the path you chose. Doubt others. Doubt, doubt, doubt.

Thank goodness the universe likes to prove me wrong.

In the spirit of appreciation, here are a few things that deserve my acknowledgement. Because I cannot focus solely on the big, life-changing things. Especially on those days when life has me down or work is hard or I'm suffering from Mom Guilt. So I try to remind myself daily to be grateful for the little things. They matter.

I'm grateful for...


This little jewelry catcher. (May it prevent me from losing another wedding ring.)


Quick and easy homemade meals that double as lunch the next day.


Pizza and hard cider after a long day. Because sometimes you don't even have the energy for quick and easy.


This hand cream. It was an impulse buy at a local shop, but my cracked knuckles are thanking me profusely. (I easily wash my hands 100+ times a shift.)


This garden, which offers a reprieve from sterile hospital corridors. Fresh air, colorful foliage, and not a beep or alarm to be heard.


These shoes, which have been kind to my sore, tired feet.


Fresh cut flowers. Rose bushes are a chore, but the clippings sure do brighten my day.


This bag, which has dutifully carried my lunch to work every single day. (I haven't hit up the hospital cafeteria once.)


This fuzzy cactus. Kiddo and I fell deeply in love with one just like it a while back, but it wasn't for sale. Two weeks ago, while checking a local shop off my must-see list, I came across this beauty. It makes me really happy. (The shop owner said it was grown from seed at a nearby nursery and is 10-15 years old!)


Days off. Now that my time is less free, I have such an appreciation for the opportunity to sip coffee, catch up on my blogroll, and write.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Big Sky State


 Tomorrow I officially start my new position. The last week has seen computer training and Welcome to the Company meetings and mission statements and blood pressure practice and instilling the fear of God in the way only HIPAA violations can. I shall be thrown to the wolves tomorrow, though not really, but you know, caring for critically ill patients tends to come with a lot of responsibility. There is so much I need to learn, and I have no doubt my face will bear a deer-in-the-headlights expression a time or two. I'm so grateful that my résumé crossed the desk of the right person at the right time. Someone who saw something in me, despite obvious lapses in experience and training, and decided to give me a chance. I won't let her down. The stars aligned for this opportunity to come my way.

With this sort of pressure comes a fair amount of self doubt, and I remind myself daily that it's too late for them to say Wait! We interviewed two Sarahs. We meant to hire the other one!. And though nerves are certainly normal, they offer an excellent opportunity to do some exploration into one's own capabilities. It is true that there is nothing I haven't been able to learn or tackle when my mind was set to do so. I'll be okay. Overwhelmed at first, sure, but I'll show that 120 day probationary period who's boss. This has been a long time coming, years, and I'm so excited to usher in the next chapter. It's progress; a stepping stone that brings me thismuch closer to my goals.

Yesterday, after spending a particularly long day in a conference room with my fellow new-hires, I made my first work-related purchase: shoes. After determining I wasn't inclined to go the Dansko route (too much walking, not enough standing in one place), I settled on the snazziest pair of Saucony sneakers one could ever hope to lay eyes on. I had hoped to be above vanity when it came to work shoes, but one cannot loath the look of their apparel and still feel good about themselves. (I need to exude confidence!) It is a fact that practical shoes, more often than not, lack pizazz.

Today, this fateful last day before I am officially a full time career woman, is for errands and preparation and scheduling blog posts. Because although blogging is not my career, it provides personal fulfillment and should therefore not be neglected. I am working diligently to establish a healthy work-life balance in these early weeks because lord knows it won't get easier anytime soon. They say it takes 21 days to make something a habit, and I'd rather establish this routine from the get-go. Besides, who wants to go into a new job with a bunch of loose ends yet to be tied up?

So. Tetanus shot administered. Scrubs purchased. (Apparently that oh so familiar scrub color is called "Ceil Blue". You learn something new every day.) Now I'm perched at a favorite coffee shop—today is a day for comfortable familiarity, not exploration—blogging and reflecting and adding to my to-do list as things come to mind. It's one of those coffee shops that also offers a small gourmet menu, and the fig they used to garnish my croque-monsieur has me feeling very fancy. I have never quite grasped the luxuriousness of figs, but knew sophisticated people get it, so I wanted to, too. I think I understand it now, which takes me one step closer to my desired level of worldliness. (The perfect level of ripeness is the key, I think.)

Posts will be written, plants potted, new scrubs laundered, and floors scrubbed. Because those are my loose ends and I'll no doubt find solace in the innate ritual of domesticity. I'm craving simple and straightforward. Decluttered. (Mind and surroundings.) Which brings to mind my recent trip to Montana over the July 4th holiday weekend.


My in-laws' lake house, located on Flathead Lake in northwest Montana, has been a beacon of calm our entire relationship. And while trips up there involve family—family ties are inherently complicated—it's a place to go and chill and reacquaint one's self with nature. Want to be reminded how vast this world is? Spend a couple days in western Montana. By comparison, our troubles are small. Mario, Jared and I typically stay in one of three little cabins on the property. It's a simple one room building with two beds, a small twin for Kiddo and a double for us grownups. There is a sink, bathroom and wood burning stove, though the plumbing is not hooked up. It is quaint and uncomplicated, and I would absolutely love to fix it up and make it a proper guest retreat. There is something to be said for having your whole family in one room, falling asleep to a cool breeze and the sound of water lapping the rocky shore.

I spent 10 years of my life living in Montana, and yet I'm still amazed by the countryside. Vast expanses of uninhabited, untouched land still exist in this country, and Montana is living proof. And the people? Salt of the earth. I stopped by a small nursery on my way home, because I simply can't resist foliage these days, and entered to find four women of various ages perched around a table in a flora-filled room, drinking tea and talking about their lives. I was immediately invited into their little community, talking to me as if we'd known each other for years. In most parts of Montana you smile at strangers and help your neighbors. Someone's car stalled? Get out and push it off the road. Then offer them a ride.

Montana's entire population just broke one million people in the 2014 census. That's less than half the population of the greater Portland metropolitan area. Yet so many times we meet people that have a connection to the Big Sky State. (My New Hampshire orthodonist's college roommate lives in Bozeman. The son of the registrar at Kiddo's school goes to college in Missoula. I sat next to a woman on a flight from Boston who co-owns a company in Bozeman, despite living in Vermont. A lady I met in my orientation classes summered on Flathead Lake as a child. I could go on and on. It's really quite remarkable.) Montana is a place that leaves an impression and creates a kinship between people who might otherwise have nothing in common.


Living just 10 hours from the lake house after all these years is a pleasure. I am a road tripper at heart, preferring a car to a plane whenever possible. I enjoy the rhythm of long drives: audiobooks, packed lunches, and uninterrupted time spent pondering this, that and the other. I do a lot of productive thinking during road trips. Mario and I have spent many an hour confined to the car during long drives, which has forced us to tackle tough issues and learn how to communicate effectively as a unit. I'm so glad I had the opportunity to drive up and see the boys before beginning this new chapter. (Tomorrow?!) It was the perfect way to prepare my mind for the weeks and months ahead.

Here's to simplicity. And reinvention. And capturing that rare sense of community. See you on the flip side (otherwise known as Friday).


Friday, July 10, 2015

Seen, Heard + Bookmarked


Another week has come and gone. And almost half of July is already behind us. When did that happen?!

My weekend will involve comfy clothes and dirt. I have a potting/re-potting project planned, a chore that becomes necessary when you take up the hobby of plant husbandry and can't pass a succulent without taking it home. The collection grows in spurts, and I've recently gained quite a few additions. (Though yesterday, despite passing dozens of succulents, didn't bring one home. Perhaps I've hit some sort of unspoken quota?) I've come to quite enjoy caring for plants, which I have little history of doing, and garner a great deal of pleasure from arranging and rearranging them in windowsills + finding new places for them to live when we run out of real estate. (Not a day goes by that I don't envy Natalie's Brooklyn windowsill. The things I could do with a ledge like that.) I tend to fuss over them, a no-no when it comes to the hardier breeds, and over-watering is something I have to be vigilant about. A schedule on the fridge may be necessary to reel in my excess nurturing. (I'm pretty sure my Fenestraria is on its deathbed because I gave it too much to drink.)

 

What are your plans? Please tell me comfy clothes are also in your near future. In the heat Portland and much of the rest of the country is experiencing, fitted duds just won't do. I restlessly futz with my clothes if they are not just right for the summer months.

I expect there will also be cleaning (long overdue), sorting, donating, and all the other things we tend to leave for our days off. Three cheers for air conditioning! Otherwise the laundry would be likely get neglected and the dishwasher left full and dirty during this heatwave. No air conditioning? I feel you. This is the first full summer we've had it in 7 years. I used to wander aimlessly around Target on the particularly hot days.)


Seen, heard and bookmarked:

// I've gone three whole weeks without chewing my digits! One simply must abandon a lifelong nail biting habit when working in healthcare. The germs! Oh, the germs! This Portland-made nail polish has saved the day. (I came across it in a boutique and fell madly in love. I can go a whole week chip-free. Booyah.) Keeping them short + polished is key.

// Giving this hummus egg salad recipe a try, since I need to establish a rock solid lunchbox rotation. (I'll be working four 10-hour shifts a week, so I need to be able to prep eight meals to take with me.)

// Though I've gotten better, I have a long history of saying sorry when I needn't do so. I loved this article addressing the issue of women apologizing unnecessarily. Insightful to say the least.

// The photographs on this blog are stunning

// I've never thought I could pull off a one-piece outfit. This romper has me rethinking things.

// My belly has been a bit rumbly lately, likely the result of traveling and work-related nervousness. I'm hoping this kombucha helps balance things out. It's the most palatable fermented tea I've ever tasted.

// I listened to this audiobook on the drive to and from Montana, and I'm currently reading this book as part of my reading goals. (The former was riveting. The latter is meatier and technical, but still interesting + eye-opening.)


Have a great weekend!






Thursday, July 9, 2015

Life as of late.


It's been a while, no? And while I suppose I could bore you with the usual Life is crazy busy! and I've had so much on my plate! spiel bloggers use when they haven't blogged in a while, that sort of thing scarcely justifies an entire blog post. Besides, post-holiday weekend, you've probably read those same lines fifty hundred times in the past few days. Bloggers can be so self-indulgent in that regard. (I eat it up, of course. But I assume my life is far less interesting than that of my favorite bloggers.)

Instead, let's look at pictures. A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog has precisely zero words and yet Mercer Mayer managed to teach me most of what I needed to know about life and friendship. (Though Mercer Mayer I am not. No comparison.) (The Little Critter books! Gah! Heart eyes emoji!) (I'm so off point + I have already used up my quota of parentheses!)

 
 
 

The second half of June had a decidedly carefree vibe. I spent a couple weeks coffee-shop hopping, exploring, and perusing Portland's local business scene. Content for the new blog flowed like water, and all was well with the world. I fell into a routine sans Husband and Kiddo. My tentative start date for work was July 7, so I had time to relax with little sense of impending overwhelm. This city lends itself to exploration and aimlessness quite nicely. I appreciate that, Portland. (Can I get a hear, hear for that bike with a basket? It's not fair to be that cute.)

 

Though my return to work has been the central focus as of late, the trail is never far from my mind. My Pacific Crest Trail adventure may need to be postponed while I focus on other grownup things, but the gears are still turning in the background. I must admit I was feeling quite conflicted about the whole issue in the days after receiving my job offer, but the timely arrival of my PCT membership packet (my donation to the organization had slipped my mind) brought everything back into focus. Hiking the PCT is just as important to me than getting into grad school. I won't let the opportunity slip away. For now, the date is tentative, that's all.

 
 
 
 
 
 

With work impending (broken record, right here), and a plethora of on-boarding requirements that must be met prior to my start date, I wasn't sure if I'd get the opportunity to see the boys before I began my formal training. Which would mean 5-6 weeks sans husband and kiddo. I'm rather fond of those two, and the pangs of I miss their faces! were occurring with some regularity. Then I got the news that my background check was held up (no felonies, just paper pushing) and I may not be able to start until late August (the hospital is changing computer systems and is therefore entering into a holding pattern regarding new hires). And if it did go through, it was going to be tight. That whole waiting around thing is for the birds.

After going back and forth with HR, I finally decided to head up to my in-laws' lake house for the 4th. Moments after committing, I got the call that all was well and my paperwork was approved. (How many lessons can one girl get about the merits of letting go?!) And so I boarded the cat, hopped in my car, and drove up. In one day! My mind is still blown that we live in a place where we can drive to The Lake in just one (long) day.

There were three whole days of fun, family, and water sporting. I absorbed as much goodness as I could and thoroughly enjoyed the men in my life. (Kiddo has grown! I'm sure of it! Also, the sun makes his blonde hair the blondest blonde one could ever imagine. I kissed that towhead at least 100 times a day while I was there.) My sister-in-law and her family (including the quirky + cute pretzel-holding pup shown above) also came up, which made things feel very complete.

Leaving is always bittersweet, of course, but my love tank had been refilled. (I even grossed myself out with that one. Love tank? Ew.) The next few weeks without them will be long, but this separation gives me the opportunity to adjust to a new way of life without worrying about schedules and activities and mom guilt. By the time they return, I should feel somewhat settled and have a better understanding of what my days will be like.


One evening Husband and I kept the romance alive by going on a Target (!) and Home Depot (!) date. (We held hands in the beer and hot dog aisles and he generously listened to me wax poetic about spider plants.) On the drive back, we passed the courthouse where we obtained our marriage license and both lamented about how we can't pass that building without thinking about the collective Us. It's a rather charming building, no? Next month is our 9th anniversary which is shockingly close to a decade and blows our minds completely. It feels like we've always been married but 9 years also seems like a veeeerrry long time. You know what I mean?


On Monday I made the trek back. Mario packed me a lunch (hashtag besthusbandever), so I was able to drive nearly straight through, making it home in roughly 10 hours. Breakfast in northwest Montana and dinner in Portland. In the same day. Mind blow all over again.

 
 
 
 

In case you were wondering (you weren't), my plant obsession has not weaned. In fact, I stopped by the quaintest of lakeside nurseries on my way home and picked up four more plants. Kiddo has also gained a couple more cacti since the bottom photo was taken and no longer has enough windowsill space. Now I'm brainstorming a window shelf that will allow all of his pets to comfortably reside in his bedroom. Mario is perhaps the most patient man alive. Help me.


I'm getting the hang of cooking for one. I think that may be a post in and of itself, as there was a bit of a learning curve after cooking for a family for so long, but freezing things pre-portioned has been key. And only buying enough veggies to last a couple days. As much as I like to think I can while in the midst of the produce section, I can not eat a carton of baby spinach before one slimy leaf ruins it for the rest of them. Weirdly enough, Costco has been my friend. I'm also realizing I have to relearn the long lost art of packing a lunch daily. And hopefully something beyond Cup Noodles. (Though delicious, my ankles quickly become cankles in the presence of that much sodium.)

Other facts:

// In the absence of Mario, Vista is my BFF. He watches me put on my makeup every morning and dutifully greets me at the door each day when I return home. I'm entirely thankful I'm obsessed with plants and not cats. Things could get ugly.

// Old recliners in the front yard make perfectly acceptable office spaces whereby a person can conduct serious business. In Montana, anyway. (My in-laws got new furniture and the old pieces were out front for a couple days until they could be hauled away. They should make more reclining lawn furniture, says me.)

// A Slushee saved me from burning to a crisp. (You can put that on the billboard, 7-Eleven.) My face was literally melting off my bones and unattractive sweating had ensued. I don't mind the heat... until I do. That day I did. Too many asphalt parking lots and black leather upholstery.

Speaking of hot...


iPhone selfies at awkward angles are a must while maintaining a relationship long-distance. Just look at that sexy, hairy cowboy. (Stud Muffin can grow that fabulous beard in a single afternoon. His 5 o'clock shadow arrives around 10a. A real man, right there.)

Now we are thoroughly reacquainted. Aren't you relieved? (Me, too.)