Monday, September 28, 2015

Life lately, gratitude, and choosing happiness.

For the first time in what feels like a long while, I'm perched at a coffee shop catching up on my blogroll. I am woefully behind, and I've missed hearing about the happenings of my favorite bloggers. Now that it's time to write, however, I'm struggling to find a good flow. Perhaps I'm simply out of practice. Writing is my escape, my release, so I always fret just a little when I can't articulate feelings and thoughts with proficiency. I've said it a million times: I love this space. I love writing and reading the words of my fellow bloggers, and I despair ever so slightly when I lose my ability to connect with this corner of the internet I've carved for myself. Infrequency makes me creaky. When the days and weeks sans post begin to accumulate, I find myself writing them in my head; formulating ideas and sentences as a means of silently wishing my thoughts will magically translate onto digital paper.

Though I work four 10-hour shifts per week, which leaves me with three to spare, they are often planned in advance and filled nearly to the brim with the contents of my to-do list. (Even I cringe at the Look at me! I'm sooo busy! Woe is me! implication of saying these sorts of things.) On the days that I work, I work and little else. As is the life of a person who works inpatient hours. Mario has been a dream: cooking dinner almost every night, attending parent meetings at the school, and shuttling Kiddo home from practice every afternoon. His travel schedule has been light and irregular the last couple months, but that is changing as we adjust to the new normal. We are communicating better than ever, thank goodness, and have managed to coordinate our schedules quite gracefully. We are in the thick of cross country season, which means Tuesday afternoons and Saturday mornings  are spent on the course, cheering on Kiddo and his team.

Oh, Kiddo. He's doing well in school and nurturing good, healthy peer relationships, but at home he's difficult. I can only assume his neurons are bathed in teenage hormones, those shady characters. Rule challenging and button pushing and frequent attempts to exert his independence are par for the course. He's a rather exhausting creature as of late and patience is in short supply. These phases usually last a couple weeks then we get a reprieve in the form of his usually good-natured self. In the meantime, I must fight the urge to pull the covers over my head, an attempt at a redo.

My schedule is changing in October to three 12-hour shifts per week. And while I'll enjoy the extra day off to attend to my business (and study for the GREs! Start, Sarah, start!), I'm sad to give up that extra day spent on the job. I like my job. I like being busy and having full days. I like the challenge and the patients and the social interaction. I'm also mildly concerned that I'll be racking up my patient care hours at a slower rate (three 12s means losing 16 hours/month), which may require that I get creative and offer my services elsewhere in the hospital one day a week. If they'll have me.

You see, I love my job while simultaneously counting the days until grad school. Because I don't want to work at the bottom forever. I have the utmost respect for the people who carry the burden of patient care on their shoulders, but they tend to work the hardest for the least amount of pay. For me it's a stepping stone rather than a place to get comfortable. This experience has been invaluable: even when I've climbed the rungs of the proverbial ladder, I'll never forget where I came from and the fundamentals of patient care. Human care.

The onset of autumn has brought about peace. A sense of feeling comfortable in my own skin, in my life as it is now, and in my marriage. Mario and I have taken advantage of a couple Kiddo-less evenings to wander our favorite Portland neighborhoods, to try new restaurants, to date each other. I have loved looking back on the evolution of our marriage over the last couple years. They were hard years; years filled with a lot of discussions and disagreements and plenty of growing pains, but we see each other and the collective Us so differently. The dynamic of our relationship has evolved in the best ways: parenting equality, career equality, and time spent together. I really love who we've become and what lies ahead.

These days are devoted to development. Professional, personal, and parental. As the leaves change every year, so do we. Humans are not stationary creatures by nature, though I spent many years trapped in a stagnation of my own making. Those days are behind me. For now I'm taking things one day at a time while keeping the future in mind. The difference is that I'm not living for the months and years ahead as I once did. Learning to live in the now is my hardest fought habit. Focusing on what could be rather than what is depleted me of the joy that ordinary, unassuming moments can bring. I wasn't emotionally present to notice the touches of magic that occur before us each and every day. Life is about the journey, the path we must follow, and I realize now that all I wanted was to skip over the twists and turns; to be spared the bumps in the road when they actually served to mold me into a better version of myself.

I can't get those moments back, but I won't let them slip by again. I am no longer reckless with my time, taking for granted the present while I toil with the what ifs. With age comes intention, and I intend to live out the rest of my life without regret or resentment. There will be days when ugly bits and bad habits creep in, sure, but my fundamental response to adversity has changed.

I choose happiness. (Because it is a choice.)

I'm happy + grateful for:

1// sprinkle donuts
2// Starbucks' doodle cups (they remind me of The Secret Garden and I want to whip out the gel pens)
3// the dainty flowers on my rosemary plant
4// polka dot hoodies + hot lattes
5// cross country courses
6// apple pies + home cooked meals
7// finding my soulmate early on
8// pink + orange sunsets
9// the hospital hallways on Sunday mornings (the weekend shifts have a mellow vibe lacking during the week)
10// Portland's local shops with their unique wares and beautiful staging
11// quiet time
12// tea season (last year Husband and I started the cool weather tradition of drinking a cup of herbal tea before bed while we watch a show together)
13// fresh air, spicy food and Sudafed to ease my cold
14// pretty houseplants
15// motherhood (even when it's hard)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked

This last week was tough in some ways, but simultaneously wonderful:

I was forced to confront a coworker (horrible; I hate confrontation), but I did it and I think we might just become friends. I'm also really proud of myself for facing conflict head on.

In addition to last Friday's day date, I spent Saturday painting pottery, eating ice cream, shopping for cacti, and wandering the streets of Portland with a certain young man I adore.

My fiddle leaf fig, which I was afraid I may have killed, sprouted new branches and the cuttings began growing roots. In less than two weeks! (I just realized I now have three fiddle leaf fig trees...ruh roh.)

Husband is out of town all week and I don't like it one bit.

Kiddo asked a girl to Homecoming and she said...Yes! The theme is "TV couples" and it is all very exciting. Until it hit me: my first and only born is going on his first official date on Saturday. You can find me on the bathroom floor ugly crying. (Where has the time gone?! When did I get old enough for this to happen?! What am I going to dooooo?)

In other Kiddo news: he beat his 5k time from last year by 5 minutes 30 seconds. In.Sane.

Pumpkins made their debut and, if you pay close attention, so have the fall leaves. Just the tips, but I'll take it.


Feeding my current typewriter obsession.

I adore this Michael Kors dress. And oh my... this whole outfit.

When can I move in?

Socality Barbie has social media all atwitter. (I am utterly fascinated. Brilliant.)
This article introduced me to her, and I enjoyed reading this perspective as well.
(You don't have to live in the PNW to get it, but it sure gives you a deeper appreciation for what the photographer is getting at.)

Taking this workshop next month.
(Yay for meeting new people and learning new things!)

Making this soup next week.
(We have been frequenting Portland's ramen joints a lot lately.)

Stepping on the bandwagon.
(I've been counting steps using my iPhone for about a year, but this should streamline things and help keep me on track.)

My new favorite Etsy shop.
(Fueling the addiction.)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Day Dating.

Let's be honest: at the end of a long day, which followed a long week, the last thing I want to do is put on pants with real closures (read: non-scrubs) and squeeze my feet into shoes that look pretty but feel less so (I average 13k steps on 10-hour shift—tired, puffy feet are par for the course).

What I'm saying is, despite our best intentions when it comes to keeping the romance alive, date nights often dissolve into catch up on the DVR night with take 'n bake pizza. When that happens, which is more often than not, I take solace in the fact that we aspire to date which means we still care. I'll worry when we don't even bother.

One of the many things I've learned since going back to work full-time is that I'm so much more productive when I have less time. I prioritize, plan, and follow through like never before. Our house is tidier; our sheets get changed every Sunday; we make the bed every morning, complete with throw pillows (who are we?); stray papers have a place and surfaces are regularly de-cluttered. I'm winning at this whole domestic thing (and so are the boys). Who'd have thought fewer free days would result in a shorter to-do list? (Answer: Not me.)

A few weeks ago I approached Mario with a list of my week days off in September and asked him to pick a day that was light on meetings or that he wouldn't mind missing (preferably a Monday or Friday). We created an event in our shared calendar, he filed a PTO request, and together we dedicated September 11 to what I hope will become the first of our dedicated monthly day dates.

We explored the city, peeked in windows, dreamed of loft living in downtown, ate our way through neighborhoods, and crossed a bunch of places off my must-see list. We held hands like newlyweds, laughed a lot, and talked about the future. A couple of work calls sneaked their way into the day, but for the most part it was just about us being together. The date continued while we watched Kiddo's cross country meet, and the evening was spent as a family. Saturday was devoted to mother-son time, and Sunday I went back to work feeling like I'd done more in two days off than I did in the whole month of April.

P.S. It's a rather lovely feeling, this whole productivity thing.

P.P.S. It recently occurred to me that my marriage is aging quite beautifully. It's true: We enjoy each others company more as time passes. It's rather wonderful.

P.P.P.S. Mario went to no less than three plant stores with me. He's a saint. In exchange, I shared a cheese and sausage plate with him at our first lunch. (Dude loves cured meats and funky cheese.)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Seasons change

I woke up the other morning to a chill in the air. And not just any chill. The chill. The one that creates a dividing line between summer and fall. Even though there are warmer days ahead, the planet has shifted and so have its inhabitants. The duvet is being pulled to our chins at night, and I donned a jacket to work for the first time this last week. Gone are the (low maintenance) days of drying my hair with the windows down on my way to work. It's time to break out the blow dryer. (Unless I fancy freezing my pants off every morning.)

Though I'm sad my new Birkenstock sandals are going to get tucked away soon, I'm excited to walk around the farmers market on Saturday mornings, hot drink in hand, deciding between the different gourd offerings. And mums! Mums didn't jump for joy in the New England climate, but they undoubtedly adore autumn in the Pacific Northwest. I'll take one of each color, please.

Speaking of plants, in a fit of alleged productivity, I lopped off the top of my fiddle leaf fig a few days ago. I blame night before school starts/long day at work stress, but let's face it: Marvin was thisclose to outgrowing our ceiling and I worried we'd have to find him a new home by late 2016. A kindly local nursery owner told me fiddle leaf figs are "quite tolerant" to being cut "waaaay back," and the internet kinda sorta of confirmed it. So I took a deep breath and snip snipped. The two tops are perched in pitchers of water, and my fingers are crossed that they propagate. And that all the leaves don't fall off the main plant in protest. (If the branches do sprout roots of their own, I'm not sure what I'll do with two more fig trees.)

Kiddo's cactus collection received a thorough watering on Saturday, then probably little to no fluids again until early spring. Hibernation is the key to cactus flowers, or so say the experts over at Yahoo Answers. It is also rumored that tucking them away in a cool, dark space (the garage, for instance) over the coldest months promotes wellness and growth come spring. True?

Cross country season is officially underway, and Saturday morning ushered in Kiddo's first meet. I decided last year that cross country meets are the prettiest and most fun, and I still stand by that claim. Rolling countryside, friendly people, and seeing Kiddo's towhead bobbing along in the distance as he approaches the next lap. The kids typically take a bus to meets, which means Mario and I had time to stop for a latte and bagel + schmear before making our way to the course. When it was over, we lingered for a bit and went about our day. (Jared usually opts to take the bus back with his mates.) A good friend of ours came to watch, so Mario left with him to do the sorts of things men do on a Saturday (look for tools and eat meat?) and I started checking things off my to-do list.

There has been a slight change to my position at work, which requires that I work most Sundays. Six of the next eight Saturdays, to be precise. So in a typical week, Friday and Saturday are my weekends. At first glance one might groan at the thought of a restructured weekend, but I'm finding it to be a very productive way of doing things. On Friday Mario and I headed out to spend the day together: breakfast at a new (to us) restaurant, followed by several hours working at coffee shop. It reminds me of the old days; we haven't been able to do these sort of day dates often since moving here. (I feel like I'm finally dating my husband again, and I couldn't be happier about it.) Because Friday is a school day and Saturday has xc meets, my sleep never gets out of wack and my days start nice and early. By Saturday evening, having tackled all my intended tasks, including an unplanned side trip to browse my favorite antique marketplace, I felt very accomplished. It feels like we've turned a page, both individually and as a family unit.

Fall is my very favorite season. A lot of people say that, and I believe them, but I feel at one with autumn: October is my birth month. My body was designed to wear cool weather clothing. I like giving away candy more than I like eating it. Brand new pencils make me weak in the knees. I prefer hot drinks over iced. I'm opposed to daylight savings time. Early fall is my New Years: serving to refresh my soul and instill a sense of enthusiasm; I am at my most productive in the third quarter.

That silly balance thing I always talk about? It's coming. I'm on the precipice. I can feel it in my bones. For now, I'm enjoying the simplicity that has come with having more to do. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know, but having a fuller calendar has actually brought about a greater sense of peace. My days are anchored to something and we are forced to accept the flow of things. Mario and I are communicating so much better, as is necessary when both parents are employed. Our house is cleaner, our lives are more organized, and our intended tasks are prioritized. Gone are the days of driving around Portland in search for that asparagus fern I just had to have (but clearly did not need). I'm becoming the picture of efficiency and I quite like it. I'm settling into my own skin quite nicely.

It was about time.

(I suppose all those women who say they really, truly came into their own in their thirties were quite right.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

These days. (More of the same.)

This summer has gone by in a flash. A flurry of activity. Our lives have changed and forward progress has been made. A new normal is beginning to set in; a way of life that feels brand new and yet simultaneously familiar, like maybe this is where we were meant to end up all along.

We are a two income household and parents of a high school sophomore (w.t.f.). We are on the fast track to bigger and brighter, though right now feels awfully successful, too. Working in the trenches of healthcare has renewed my fervor to finish school. As a result, I have made the commitment to apply to grad school this coming April. Should I get in on the first cycle, our family will have to make some adjustments. But if history has taught us anything, it's that this clan can make things work. In the meantime, I have to focus on writing a stellar essay, taking the GREs (eep) and fulfilling all those little requirements that can sneak up and bog you down once that pesky application deadline approaches.

I'm going to have to be disciplined in the coming months, a quality that doesn't come naturally to me. As a family, we are making great strides: a chart dividing up the weekly household chores; a new tear-away calendar on the fridge, color-coded to list all of our various activities...even a plant watering schedule. I am more on top of things than I can ever remember, which makes me feel optimistic about things like establishing a weekly GRE study session, long-term meal planning, and, well, making it all work. Have you ever noticed that having less free time makes you more productive? It's a phenomenon I am currently experiencing.

I wax poetic about balance a lot on this site. How everyone talks about it but few truly achieve it. Heading into this new adventure, I had visions of days off spent writing and reading and exploring...preserving the time needed to do the things that fill my bucket. I'm not there yet. (Not even close.) But I'm also not too terribly sad about it. That new blog? It can wait for me instead of the other way around. And this space? It's always here for me when I'm ready to sit down and share my thoughts. (Though I aspire to spend more time 'round these parts.) Right this very moment I'm perched at our neighborhood Starbucks, across the workbench from Kiddo, who is attempting to tackle those last 130 pages of Angela's Ashes, his AP English summer literature assignment.

I steal moments where I can take them and that's just fine. Now is the time to give myself a break, a chance to ease into the changes that are taking place. I'm finally learning how to get off my own back already. My schedule hasn't stabilized, so my days off are inconsistent: one day here, two there, and plenty of weekends spent on the job. Mario's company has a clause that requires spouses to switch to their own insurance if it is offered by their employer. Which has meant devoting nearly every day off this month to health-related appointments before the September 1st switchover. The perk is that I can get contacts and glasses in one year, but the siren's call of the couch + Netflix must regularly be resisted. I'm busy, but good busy; busy in a way that my time feels well spent.

The boys have settled back into life at home after eight weeks away, and I've (re)acclimated to living with my messier counterparts. I've been making up for lost time by way of mother-son days spent eating Portland's cuisine, plant shopping, and painting pottery. (Also: his first pair of glasses, freshly shorn hair, new t-shirts, and scuff-free Chucks.) Yesterday we picked up his school schedule (I got a spot in Graphic Design!) and shopped for shiny new pens and crisp college-lined notebooks. We slurped ramen noodles and he painted a hedgehog with the utmost attention to detail. I made sure we dated the bottom of our creations in an effort to preserve the really beautiful moments we share. I never want to take them for granted. I'm still cool enough to spend an entire day about town with him, and I'm not letting a second of that go unnoticed because I was scrolling through Instagram when I should have been asking him about his life, loves and dreams for the future. I want to be able to look back on these days with some clarity, because boy is parenthood fleeting.

If being "well-rounded" is synonymous with a healthy individual, Kiddo is, well, rounding. Months of chores on the ranch, driving lessons in the wheat field, and boat rides on the lake have smoothed his edges. (Lessons learned during a bumpy freshman year probably had something to do with it as well.) What came home was a more focused, less fastidious version of the boy I know and love so well. His blossoming maturity, combined with a newly working mom, will force him to take on more responsibility when it comes to his schooling. I've been holding my breath for years, waiting for the day when my apprehension about his lack of focus would subside. When he'd find that fire in his belly that drives him to succeed without constant cajoling. I think we're getting there. (Boys, I tell you.)

On the work front, all is well. Better than good, actually. My preceptor was on vacation the last couple weeks, which put me squarely in the trenches...solo. After ten years spent out of the workforce, I knew I'd have to shake off some cobwebs. But my inner perfectionist rears her head once in a while and, after being unable to hit a vein two patients in a row, I began to wonder if I'd lost my touch. (Maybe I'd never had it?!) I had a brief but acute existential crisis before putting on my big girl scrubs and going back the next day. Of course I quickly found my groove, and all my worries were cast aside. Earlier this week I got a totally unexpected fist bump and "Great job today!" from a trauma surgeon I'd only just met and thought Hey, I've got this. I've only been at this position for six weeks, but I've acclimated quite beautifully...I certainly found my calling in medicine all those years ago. Thank goodness I didn't let go of the dream.

Goals for September:

Establish schedules for school days, studying, etc.
Get organized. (Master those paper piles!)
Exercise. (More.)
Meal plan like a boss.
Write about something. Anything. Just write.
Find and preserve regular alone time.
Keep up on my reading goals.
Date that sexy bearded fellow of mine. (And make it a regular thing.)