Friday, October 13, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Loving the in-between.

This week has been calm. Parenting is parenting, of course, but otherwise life has shown me a quieter way to live over the past few days. Less work, lots of embroidery, creative learning, and plenty of baths. No complaints here.

Tuesday was my birthday, and although I'm a year older and eager to move on to the next phase, I'm not sweating my advancing age or the passage of time. Time is fleeting, always, but my burgeoning appreciation of the present has led to a greater focus on the everyday. Lately I've spent less time waiting for something to happen and more time exploring opportunities as they arise. And although I have a long way to go in terms of personal growth and fulfillment, life is already a lot sweeter without the anxious anticipation that comes with always looking ahead.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked over the past week:

Wishing I could sew a quilt right about now. (I took my very first sewing lesson on Tuesday! I made that drawstring bag!)

Been coveting these shoes for years, finally took the plunge. Worth every penny.

Husband bought  me Half Baked Harvest's new cookbook a couple weeks ago and it may single-handedly end my dinner rut. (Making this beer bread to go with tomorrow night's dinner.)

The new "it" tree? (I still love you, Fiddle Leaf Fig.)

I was terribly sad I couldn't make the Makerie weaving retreat this month. (I attended the April 2017 retreat and it was magical.) In the meantime, this DIY weaving loom tutorial looks like a great project to pass the time and get me weaving again sans retreat.

Finding your flow. (Thought-provoking.)

I impulse-bought a Plexus wheel to stretch my stiff back muscles after seeing it on IG. The sensation is intense, but holy moly does my back feel better! I'm telling you, it's legit! Has anyone else tried it?

An unlikely pairing which produced a beautiful, moving performance.

A portable facial peel for those times when my skin is looking dull but I'm a) traveling or b) don't have time for my trusty 3-step brightening system. (Sampled two packets and loved the simplicity + results.)

Homemade sprinkles!

Happy weekend!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Needle + craft: A love declared.

These days I am actively practicing the art of letting go. And by active, I mean it's work. When your default response to adversity is anxiety, changing a fundamental, ingrained reaction is no easy feat.

Kiddo's math grade has slipped into failing territory for the umpeeth time. Breath; don't yell. Don't go to that place where you imagine him failing out of high school. (Which he is not in danger of, by the way, but fear is fear and motherhood is fraught with it.)

The barista forgets to make your latte with almond milk and you're a mile away and running late before you realize. But you desperately need the caffeine . So you drink it despite the likely onset of belly discomfort and spend the morning wondering why things can't just be easy. For once! (A lot goes right, but in the moment it all feels hard and yucky.)

I'm not sure if I can reprogram a mid-thirties brain, but I'm sure trying. Better sleep hygiene, a meditation app, and the near-constant quest for personal and creative fulfillment are all steps toward less anxiety and stress. Let it go has become my mantra.

A major contributor in my quest to be less angsty has been hand embroidery. It started two years ago when I decided to create mini hoops for my yearly Christmas ornament project. Only, I'd never embroidered outside of the (very) occasional cross stitch project in middle school. In the process I fell hard for the craft and, unlike all other crafts that came before it, my interest hasn't wavered for nearly two years.

Since that time the projects have become more complex and I've mastered at least a dozen stitches, but there is still so much for me to learn! (As my husband often says, "Sarah isn't happy unless she's learning." He's so right.) Etsy is overflowing with patterns and YouTube has a plethora of awesome tutorials. The options are endless, yet it's a very unassuming hobby. It can be as easy or hard as you want to make it; is incredibly portable; and you can embroider while watching television, standing in line, or flying through the sky.

I find that when I embroider I engage the part of my brain that tends to ruminate on stressful topics when left to its own devices. Using my hands to create something intricate yet simply composed occupies the section of my subconscious mind that likes to focus on the What Ifs and worst case scenarios. And unlike dinking around on my phone, it doesn't increase my anxiety or take my attention from the room and the people around me. I can embroider and still fully engage with my family and friends. Oh, and when something goes awry or doesn't look quite right, you simply snip out the offending strands and start over. No harm, no foul, no stress.

I'm so enamored with this craft that I sold everything but the bare minimum craft box essentials at last spring's yard sale. I didn't need all those supplies pertaining to other crafts anymore and it felt good to purge all the stuff I had long since neglected (but likely hung on to out of guilt). And, bonus!, not only is embroidery compact, it's also super affordable. Hoops are a couple bucks, embroidery floss is about 50 cents a skein, and fabric can be next to nothing and a little goes a long way. It takes up very little space in my home, tucked into an end table drawer for instance, but also looks nice when displayed. (More on the storage aspect soon.) And if you need to walk away from a project for a while, it'll keep. It's one of the few things you can seamlessly pick back up when the mood strikes.

I keep most of my creations and hang them collage-style on my bedroom wall, but embroidery hoops make for lovely gifts. I've given them for nearly every occasion: holidays, baby showers, and during times of encouragement. People are so touched when you create for them!

In the two years I've been developing my love of embroidery, I've found some favorite products, stores and influencers that inspire me to step outside the lines and use my creative intuition. Although this is a niche topic, I would love for this to be the first in a blog series celebrating this craft. A place where I can share my favorite people, places and things associated with embroidery.

I wrote a post early last year with some of my favorite tools of the trade. You can find it here.

Monday, October 2, 2017


It's so darn easy to focus on the little inconveniences that go hand-in-hand with being human. A human who works, parents, loves, and makes life goals. Dreams take time to become reality, and if you don't appreciate the in-between, which comprises the vast majority of the present, one can easily get bogged down by the minutia while waiting for something to happen. Then those special moments, which are often small and easy to discard, get missed.

And that's where the real tragedy lies.

Those inconspicuous moments make life beautiful and worthwhile and special. A dream comes true and then you live in it; it becomes your new normal. And pretty soon you're wondering what's next. Familiarity, no matter how delightful, can breed stagnation.

Or maybe that's just me. (I doubt it.)

I'm working very hard not to discard the everyday. To not spend it waiting and wanting. I've historically wasted a lot of time fretting about the future and arbitrary timelines of my own making. That is slowly changing. (Thank goodness.)

Grad school limbo aside, I'm in a really lovely period. I'm working 2 days a week, more or less if I choose. Which leaves much fewer conflicts when it comes to being around for Kiddo's daily activities and comings and goings. (I took him to get his braces off Thursday. In the middle of the day. I was the first to see his adorable new smile!)

Mom guilt is no joke.

I'm also taking time to learn new things: long awaited goals relating to personal fulfillment are finally being realized, and I didn't have to wait until the "right" time. Because as it turns out, right now is as much a "right" time as any. As such, I signed up for a sewing class. And a candle making class. And for my birthday Husband gifted me a pottery class at a local college. (I took a pottery class in high school and fell madly in love. This has been a dream ever since.) I've been terrified to commit to anything, lest it conflict with a potential grad school interview invitation, which has left me in a holding pattern. It felt good to say yes to a 8 week creative endeavor.  And as Husband reminded me, if an interview does come up I'll miss a class. It's that simple and not worth fretting over.

In keeping with this resolution to really, truly appreciate the present, while making the most of it, I'm going to start a blog series where I give a shout-out to those little (and occasionally big!) things that make life joyous. The ones that could easily be ignored should I decide to not to get out of my own head.

Because happiness is a choice, always.

These days I'm grateful for, among other things: 

The way the morning light streams through our bedroom window on a sunny day. Fall = rain in the PNW, so I'm coveting these lovely rays while they last.

Foot reflexology. Because operating room floors are made for sterility, not comfort. Sore feet for daaaays, gone in an hour. (I go here.)

This tiny man bun, worn for the first time, made me smile. It was adorable. (I'm also digging the greys.)

Kitty paws. Especially when they burrow back under the covers after breakfast. Oh, to be a cat.

Breakfast dates with a young man. They used to be a more regular thing when he was little, but I'll take what I can get. (+ three cheers for a new [to us] brunch spot! To die for.)

Seeing Cirque du Soleil: KURIOS. It was fantastic. (In Portland until 10/8!)

A husband who still buys me flowers on a regular basis. (Even after I was terribly crotchety with him.) + Chinese Lantern plants which are a visual delight.

Embroidery. I'm so grateful to have found this craft. It keeps idle hands occupied and those niggling subconscious thoughts from invading the everyday. After years spent dabbling in every hobby under the sun, this is the one for me. (Monceau Fleurs pattern by le Kadre)

Friday, September 29, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Welcoming Fall

Oh man, I love fall. I look forward too it more than Christmas. I work hard not to hasten summer's end, just so I can extend the lovely anticipation. Because although it's my favorite season, and one of my favorite things in the whole wide world period, it's also the shortest.

This morning I got up bright and early on my day off to attend a training session at work. In and out in 90 minutes. The air is crisp and (much needed!) periodical rain showers have the world smelling scrubbed and fresh. I left work and headed to a local coffee shop to cross more things off my digital to-do list. Only, I'd forgotten my computer bag at home. So I trudged on back, put on sweatpants, and am spending the afternoon embroidering and catching up on my DVR. It seems forgetting my computer wasn't a mistake so much as a point in the right direction.

Tonight we are headed to Portland's Night Market and the weekend is devoted to the odd project plus lots of lounging. (I hope.) Here's to enjoying cooler weather, the opportunities a new season brings, and stealing those little moments that can bring the most joy.

Here are some things I've seen, heard and bookmarked lately:

The Magic Yarn Project has my whole heart.

PBteen + Harry Potter. Teenage me is all, like, OMG! (These sheets are grownup enough, right?)

Husband and I just finished the miniseries Manhunt:Unibomber and were pretty riveted—so many fascinating aspects to the story we didn't know! I read this article to delve a little deeper.

Learning about "dot journaling," via Erin, who also referenced a site for "bullet journaling." It sounds right up my alley in that it appears to be a hybrid of journaling/personal planning/scrapbooking. (Correct me if I'm wrong!)

Mario sent me a link to the website Pack Up + Go the other day and I was instantly enchanted by the concept. I'm in!

Dusting off the pressure cooker...ramen is on the menu this weekend.

My current read. (It's good!)

Mail order TP that will make your bum"smile." (Says the girl who orders her TP off Amazon.)

Loved the book, badly want to watch the show. (Worth the upgrade to HBO? Have you seen it?)

The original, forever and always. (My sweet husband bought me a new one on a recent trip...the weather is slowly getting cool enough to wear it.)

Absolutely enchanted with these embroidery patterns by Thread Folk. (The re-release started yesterday for kits/pre-printed fabric. PDF patterns are coming in the near future.)

Currently using this skin brightening system once a week and my dullness-prone skin looks awesome. (I've been a fan of his Truth Serum for ages.)

Currently wearing this popover on repeat. (Comfy + effortless + so many complements! And now it's on sale!)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Life in the meantime.

Life these days is in limbo: grad school apps are submitted and sitting in electronic queues out in the ether; the training for my new job wrapped up last week, as did my consistent 40-hour work weeks (per diem = total flexibility + "Can you work for me?!"). I'm on my own! (Yikes.) Kiddo started his senior year last Wednesday, which made things feel very real. His age, my age, our place in all feels sort of strange sometimes.

I'm looking forward to more time at home, more dates with my husband, Saturday morning cross country meets (my favorite), and the return to some creative endeavors. This is a sweet season I'm moving into, but those pesky What's going to happen? kind of questions are always lingering in the back of my mind. It's a waiting game and I stink at it.

To combat funky feelings that creep up throughout the day, as tends to happen when one is in life-goal limbo, I've been focusing on self-care. Regular massages, less caffeine, food resets, and a better bedtime routine. (Swing shift has thrown a wrench in that last one.) I'm on my third novel in a month and that's awesome because Reading > Candy Crush Saga, always. (Especially for those prone to anxiety.)

Here are some things that have caught my eye or made life more interesting as of late:

My next embroidery project. (A lucky IG discovery and a departure from past projects.)

Speaking of embroidery, this is a lovely solution for all those lingering pieces of embroidery floss

Modest + beautiful one-piece swimsuits for the win. I'm smitten with this one and this one.

The pillow struggle is real. A couple weeks ago I splurged on this kapok pillow, which I randomly discovered while perusing plank & coil in Portland. Best accidental find ever. No more waking up with a sore neck and I'm sleeping like a baby. (When I think of all the sub par $20 pillows I have stacked in the closet, this seems like less of a splurge.)

Using this vinegar shine rinse by Klorane 1-2 times per week to brighten up my blonde hair and reduce brassiness. It works like a charm.

These Clam Chowder Fritters are on my must-try list. (via an old issue of Coastal Living found in the break room.)

My intentionally mismatched room chairs looked more gypsy than quirky-cute in our new open-concept rental. So far they've gotten a couple coats of pale grey chalk paint and a little light distressing. (I'm working up to a proper distressing. Be brave, Sarah!) This weekend the seats are getting covered in a beautiful patterned fabric by Rifle Paper Co. that will tie them together with our antique navy/natural wood table.

A new planner to better manage my ever-evolving schedule. Fingers crossed there will be lots of grad school interviews in there in the coming months!

A pretty + inspiring DIY blog. (I'm probably the very last person to discover it.)

My favorite travel skincare. (I try very hard to bring only a carry-on for trips less than 4 days, so small + mighty is a must. I just ordered my second set!)

I'm obsessed with the My Favorite Murder podcast. I listen to it whenever I have even a moment to spare. (Husband gave me a little side-eye about my newest infatuation, but came to the conclusion that most of us love murder: "I guess I'm reading a book about murder. So, kind of the same." Also, 2200 seasons of Law & Order and all its spinoffs would suggest I'm not alone.)

Happy Weekend!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Simple Morning Routine (+ product reviews)

I've approached the age where skincare really matters: I'm young enough to still prevent damage and wrinkles, but old enough that I also need to focus on softening the lines I've already started to develop. Fortunately, I've given my skin a good deal of attention and protection since my early twenties, so my mid-thirties skin has only called for a bit of tweaking to my routine here and there. I should also note that I really like my mid-thirties skin! I also kind of love those little lines around my eyes when I smile...I'm generally happier and more comfortable than I was in my twenties, and I love that it shows on the outside.

I have a strong inclination toward a simple, natural-looking everyday face, which is how this makeup/skincare routine was born. I occasionally tweak individual products based on SPF, how my skin is looking/feeling, or if a new product has piqued my interest.

I am not a morning person by nature. I tend to get my second wind around 10p, which means early morning wake-up calls are extra tough. Therefore, my more intensive skincare treatments tend to happen before bed or on the weekends. My current morning routine takes about 5 minutes to apply, makes me feel put together, and has me out the door in a jiffy. On those occasions when I want to look a little more polished, I'll add some eyeliner, shadow and lipstick. I have some great standbys when it comes to those products as well. (Spinoff blog post topic!)

Before I get started, I think it's important to note that I'm at a place in my life where a full face of makeup isn't practical or particularly appropriate. I work in a hospital OR setting, so I spend my days in scrubs, a surgical cap, and 75% of the time I'm wearing a face mask. Though I imagine my makeup routine will always be natural-looking, the future may hold a more polished daily look depending on where life takes me over the next few years. We shall see.

1// Clarins UV Plus Broad Spectrum Sunscreen // I have used their untinted formula for about 6 years now and absolutely love it. The SPF 50 is bomb, and my foundation glides right on over the top. Gosh I hope they never stop making this product.

2// Benefit Gimme Brow in Medium // When I first tried this product in a sample size I wasn't super impressed: one brow would be darker than the other, there would be a glob that took valuable time to try and wipe off, or it left a flaky look. I can't remember why, but I gave it another try and now I use it every day. I scrape any excess product off the wand and apply in sweeping motions. With rare exception it gives me even, natural results. Though I discovered brow products later in life, I instantly feel put together when my light brows are more defined. Sonia Kashuk's Tinted Brow Gel also gets very high marks. I still have a tube and use it on the weekends or when the mood strikes. I used it for many years and would absolutely go back to it if I fell out of love with my current brow gel. 

3// It Cosmetics Superhero Mascara // This is a newer find (I've been using it about 8 months), which replaced the Covergirl Professional Remarkable Mascara I used for the better part of a decade. Covergirl's mascara gave me beautifully defined lashes, but took several coats to build up to adequate coverage. I gave the Superhero mascara a try and realized a one coat mascara actually exists! A single tube lasts me about 3 months, making it worth the increased cost, and I think it gets better with time (i.e. as it dries out slightly). 

4// Urb Apothecary Lips Cheeks Tint/Blush Stick //  I picked this up at a boutique in Portland and instantly fell in love. It offers a natural flush of color and a pretty dewiness to my cheeks. It blends easily and a single tube has lasted me the better part of a year. I love it when products made by small  businesses beat out big market products...and this does, hands down.  

5// TONYMOLY Panda's Dream Brightening Eye Base // This product is reserved for those days when I have a few extra minutes or want to look extra spiffy. Even though it's not a part of my every day routine, I included it because I really like it and use it often. It helps blur dark under eye circles and makes me look more awake. I apply it directly to my finger and pat it around my whole eye area. I wore it last week to my grad school interview and it perked up my tired post-travel eyes. After I apply it, I pat some foundation over the top to even things out.

6// It Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream in Medium // Like their mascara, I'm fairly new to this product. I was looking for a bit more coverage from my foundation, and was pleased with the high SPF (which is my top priority). I apply this with my fingers, but may switch to a brush at some point if I want to make it extra flawless. I alternate between this and their CC+ Illumination version, and like them both. It goes on smoothly, a little goes a long way for me, and even a small amount covers any and all skin imperfections. (I like my foundation to look like I'm not wearing foundation but just have naturally even skin.) The Illumination cream is pretty, but I occasionally notice a couple glitter pieces on my face which catch my attention in the mirror. I'm not a glitter-wearing kind of girl, but it is not enough to bother me (or I simply don't care at 5:30a). Before this I wore Bare Mineral's Complexion Rescue Tinted Hydrating Gel Cream for 5+ years and loved it. It offers more sheer coverage and is a genuinely lovely product. I used up the last little bit I had left last weekend and was sad to see it go. I'd always consider going back, but I'm liking that extra bit of coverage at this phase of my life.

7 // Smith's Rosebud Salve Trio // I picked this trio up a couple years ago at Anthro and started carrying it in my scrub top pocket. I apply it throughout the day and it keeps my lips smooth + makes me feel a tiny bit more put together. I'm on my second trio and love all 3 flavors: Strawberry, Original and Minted Rose.

8 // Clinique Pep-Start Eye Cream // I'm not great at wearing eye cream, especially in the morning. These days I'm noticing more pronounced crow's feet, and have started making more of a consistent effort toward nurturing the skin around my eyes. My eyes are super sensitive, and I wear contacts, and normal eye creams creep in and blur/irritate/sting my eyes. In my experience, Clinique's eye creams stay put and this is no exception. It helps de-puff and my foundation glides on without tugging. I apply it to my finger and gently smooth it around my under eye every morning. It soaks in quickly, so it doesn't add but a few seconds to my routine.

That's it! On the average day I use 6 products and it takes about that many minutes. Tips? Product suggestions? Tell me everything. 

Side note: In all the years I've dabbled in blogging, this is my first white-background-product-collage. And it only took me an entire Saturday afternoon! Thank goodness for all those tech-savvy tutorial writers out there willing to share their wisdom. I'm woefully behind the curve.

Side, side note: #notsponsored (ever)

Friday, July 14, 2017

Seen, Heard and Bookmarked: Finding the new norm.

The second half of June was a funky month for this clan. In a matter of three days the following occurred:

Husband left for Tennessee on a week-long work trip; a patient went berserk and I was involved in a very scary situation at work; Kiddo flooded the upstairs of the rental we were departing; and our cat got into some meds and spent two days in an animal ICU (he's okay). Meanwhile, I had unintentionally agreed to work six 10-hour shifts in seven days at a job I desperately needed to move on from. Somewhere around 2am, while shop-vacing standing water from the upstairs carpet, I began to reevaluate the status quo as one often does when the proverbial shit hits the fan. Burn out was at an all-time high, and something had to give.

Within a week of The Great Meltdown of 2017, I was offered an awesome new position at work and received two graduate school interview invitations.

Because life has a way of making your priorities crystal clear, but only when you're really, truly paying attention.

We've since moved into our new rental and we love it. For the all the stress that an unexpected move caused, we are so grateful to be here. It's a fancy grown up house with the entertaining space our last house was lacking. In some ways I wish we'd been here all along. This is my first weekend home alone post-move, and my goal is to tackle the mounds of boxes so I can find things like hair ties and dental floss.

Today I wrapped up the first week of training at my new job. It's at the same hospital, but I've traded critical care for the OR. This is an amazing opportunity to see another side of medicine, have a ton of new experiences, and meet new people. I needed a challenge and a fresh perspective, and this fits the bill. Bonus: after my training period I'll be (mostly) making my own schedule which means better work-life balance.

Husband and Kiddo left for Montana last Sunday. This is the 3rd year they've left for summer break, and it is awesome all around. It frees me up to come and go during my (full time) training period, and instead of sitting around Kiddo will be helping out on my in-laws' ranch and vacationing at the lake shore.

Here's a few things that have recently caught my attention and/or helped make life lovely. These sort of posts are about all I can manage right now, but if they keep me connected to this space and writing even a little for pleasure, I'll take it. Happy Weekend!

During a recent trip to IKEA to brainstorm a prep station/island for our new space, Mario spied this work table. Though not necessarily intended for kitchen use, it's perfect! Later on it can easily transform into a desk or table to meet our other needs. (After some googling, we found someone else who had the same brilliant idea!)

Visiting Crater Lake has been on my Bucket List since childhood. Last weekend we took a mini road trip along the Oregon coast and down south to see it. It was everything I imagined and more...absolutely breathtaking. (The story of its formation is a fascinating read!)

This Strawberry Pistachio Nougat caught my eye + an ombre chocolate cake that is almost too pretty to eat. 

While out and about with a friend a couple months ago, I bought the Bb.Color Stick in Flamingo on a whim. Pink highlights without the commitment! (I feel so hip.)

A dairy-free cold brew recipe for those hot summer days. (Starbucks' Nitro Cold Brew is so good, but I'm cutting back on my pricey coffee habit after daily runs during the move.)

Bridget introduced me to Damn Good Face Wash a couple years ago, and I loved it, but after running out I never got around to ordering more. My nightly baby wipe routine has started wreaking havoc on my eyelashes (breakage!), and this stuff is gold. It was high time I started removing my makeup like a grownup should.

I'm revisiting this Gummy Bear Sangria recipe to bring to a friend's BBQ tomorrow.

Trying Green Chef's meal kit delivery this summer, since I'm cooking for one AND brown-bagging it 5 days/week. (The struggle is real.) Also splurging on Daily Harvest's smoothies since my mornings have gotten earlier and I'm not super keen on preparing breakfast during the 5:00 hour. My first shipments will arrive next week. (Will report back on both fronts.)

Reading all the articles on how to become a morning person. (Hello, new 4:45a wake-up call. Welp.) The Calm app has done wonders with helping me establish a better routine for winding down at an earlier bedtime. (Sleep stories are my new jam! Who knew they were even a thing? Life changing.)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Seen, Heard & Bookmarked: Blogger edition

Life lately has been busy. And though I've always felt the term "busy"is thrown around a lot in our culture, a general way to convey our level of productivity and/or personal challenges and/or a certain brand of hectic-ness (often of our own making), I can step back and acknowledge that this is genuinely a very busy season in our lives.

Our landlord is selling our house, forcing us to move for our remaining year in this neighborhood. Fortunately we secured a house just around the corner, which should make this involuntary move somewhat bearable. (Though moving is moving is moving.) I'm thankful that we get to retain our neighbors and school district and normal routines. Still, I occasionally find myself mourning the loss of a perfect (for us) rental. I'm working really hard to acknowledge my feelings as they arise, then free them to make space for more practical matters. These are the risks of renting, after all, and we are particularly grateful to be renters during this phase of our lives.

The graduate school application cycle is upon me, so my days off are consumed by essays and supplemental applications and transcript requests. When I'm not actively tackling tasks related to the application process, I'm composing essay answers in my head. Four schools down and several more to go. There is no Plan B, and where I get in will determine our life's path for the next few years, so I feel a lot of pressure to get it right.

Kiddo's junior year is winding down, technically, though in our house this means a ramp-up in effort to make sure all missing assignments are turned in, finals are studied for, and GET OUT OF BED ALREADY! Teenage boys, I tell you. Not for the faint of heart.

I am entering a new season at work as well, since I have made the decision to leave my current position. My prerequisite patient care hours have been met, and now it feels natural to find something, well, different. The thought of leaving my amazing coworkers breaks my heart, but the time is long overdue to move on. So in addition to my normal work schedule I'm interviewing with other departments in the hospital and, oh yeah, I've been picking up extra shifts in an understaffed area that was in desperate need of people with a particular skill set. (An example of aforementioned self-imposed hectic-ness ... just. say. no.)

These life phases, though always temporary,  are usually the time at which creativity is abandoned in favor of more practical matters. The opposite should be true. As such, I set aside a couple hours this morning to savor my coffee and catch up on my blogroll. Sometimes I bookmarked a recipe. Other times I caught up on the life happenings of a favorite blogger. In other instances I went down the "previous post" rabbit hole and read weeks' worth of posts. It was all good.

In honor of carving out time to do things that fill my bucket, here's a Seen, Heard & Bookmarked post dedicated to good things brought my way courtesy of a few of my favorite bloggers.

The discovery of a new podcast, My Favorite Murder, via Bridget (I recently finished S-Town, and have been itching for a new one.)

The "Personal Kanban" system which has me intrigued. Though I like to think I'm an exceptional multitasker, I can also see its draining effects. I'm eager to try this out. (via Ashley)

An exceptionally comfortable-looking bralette that would be perfect under scrubs or a t-shirt, via Kate. (I'm ordering one and will report back soon.)

Thought provoking insights into tiny living via Erin.

Summer reading recommendations via Caroline. (I own The Compound Effect but have yet to pick it up, and the Outlander series has been recommended to me many times ... I'm a big fan of the show.)

This breakfast salad from Sprouted Kitchen looks amazing. (I'm working my way through another Whole30, in addition to everything else going on, but with a couple cheat days sprinkled in to accommodate date nights and weekend plans. I am starting to feel those awesome effects that keep me coming back to the plan every few months, which makes the extra time spent planning/food prepping totally worth it.)

This cashmere eye pillow (luxury!) to accompany my new nightly meditation practice, via Lacy.

3 everyday outfits by Megan (we share a very similar clothing aesthetic—comfortable basics!— for the everyday).

Happy Weekend!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Musings on self doubt, disorganization and other such things.

Truth: on the list of things I didn't do, College Tours lingers somewhere near the top. I skipped the traditional path, unintentionally, in favor of marriage and family. Later, I got that degree. But the time had passed to live like a coed. In reality, my personality is probably not suited for house parties and sorority sisters. I regret nothing and yet one always wonders what could have been. FOMO and all that jazz.

These days high school is but a distant memory, made foggier by the recollection of more recent (pleasant?) milestones. And yet I find myself, now in my mid-thirties, having come full circle. My son is due to be a senior this fall (an opportunity to relive my youth minus the awkward social interactions!) and I have embarked on that long overdue college road trip. Only a more grownup version that cares nothing at all about the number of frat houses and very much about minimum GRE scores and expiring prerequisite courses. Last week saw Indianapolis and Houston, this week Salt Lake City. My days off have been spent in flight, renting cars by the day, and counting the hours of sleep I'll manage before work starts the next morning.

I'm so grateful I decided to get out there and visit graduate schools. Through an eye-opening but not altogether positive experience, I've learned that precious little can be gleaned from website info pages alone. Vibe, it turns out, is a crucial part of the vetting process for me. What is the director like? How friendly are the faculty and students? What are their hospital affiliations? What are their priorities when selecting an applicant? What are their teaching philosophies? These are all questions that swirl through my mind but are seldom satisfied by a FAQ section. And so. I travel to and fro so I may make the best decision regarding my future.

I'll be honest: this hasn't been the easiest process for me. I'm worn out mentally and physically. Doubt and fear of disappointment play regular roles in my self talk these days. What if I fall in love with a program only to get that dreaded rejection letter? What if, oh boy, I don't get in anywhere? All unlikely scenarios, but human nature is human nature. Meanwhile, my brain is scattered in many directions, and I'm not excelling in any one area. (I'd even settle for mediocre at this point.) I'm forgetful and restless at work, unmotivated and snippy at home, and chronically worried about the What Ifs. What if Kiddo doesn't go to college right away? Does he move with us? What if he fails that class? WHY WON'T HIS CHEMISTRY TEACHER RETURN MY EMAILS?! It's exhausting. All of it. (And therefore little things like the wrong milk in my latte seem like much greater adversities than they really are and I become annoyed with even myself.)

This morning my flight left at 10:30a. The airport is 20 minutes away from home. I somehow got it into my head, despite checking my itinerary more than once, that I needed to be at the airport by 10:30. Less than an hour before my flight was due to board I realized my mistake...and I wasn't even showered yet. Thank goodness I wasn't bringing luggage and the parking + airport security gods were looking down on me favorably. My adrenaline was good and pumping, so I spent the duration of my flight ruminating on all those What Ifs and feeling generally sweaty and anxious. Upon landing I recalled those two cups of black coffee I drank sans food and it was nearly 2p. Hello low blood sugar + caffeine jitters. (And 50 rounds of Candy Crush Soda Saga which further fueled the distraction and anxiety. Time for a technology detox, perhaps.) As I sat in my rental car, applying makeup to a bare face, I started thinking about the day thus far and had to wonder where this rather self destructive behavior originates. Why do I get overwhelmed and in turn make things harder on myself? A day trip to SLC could have easily been an opportunity to usher in some calm among the chaos. An oasis. (It still can be. I'm working on it. Starting with this purge of a blog post.)

A meal in my belly and a soothing cup of tea later, and I'm still wondering why I do these things to myself. Why I falter in the areas that matter most: family, food and friends (or anything that brings joy and a sense of calm like reading, embroidery, writing, etc.). When the going gets tough, I let go of the things my mind and body crave...and it takes forever to recover them in the midst of the commotion. Surely I can't be the only one who implodes under pressure. (Can you beautiful unicorns who crave yoga and healthy eating during times of stress teach me the ways?)

I can't remember the last time I made a home cooked meal and that bothers me. (My sweet husband has made many.) I'm trying to read 3 books at once, all very different from one another. (And investing poorly in each.) My bedtime has varied by as many as 6 hours over the last few weeks, and no two bedtimes have been the same. (Jet lag in my own time zone.) This morning, during my frantic shower, I realized I have been attempting to lather my body with a paper-thin wafer of soap for the past week and my record of excellent personal hygiene is in jeopardy. (I just ran into a random Whole Foods and bought a bar of soap to bring home in my purse. I know. It's a real head-scratcher, Mr. TSA Officer.) I still haven't sent my resume and other supporting information to the physician writing a letter of recommendation for me. (It's been over a week since I asked him and I fear I'm falling into flake territory.) I am so out of shape that I think I might be developing a wheeze at the slightest exertion. (I walk 10k steps a day at work, but nothing that gets my heart pumping. Which would help my anxiety. See above re: shying away from the things that help me cope.) I fell head over heels for the Houston program and no less than 10 people have since told me Houston is "disgusting." (I wasn't disgusted at all. But now I'm afraid I missed something big and scary in my short visit.) Husband is going through work changes, both good and bad, and I'm continually afraid he is sacrificing his happiness because he's the primary breadwinner. (He says that is not the case, and logically I know that to be true, but you know. Worry.)

Oh, and did I mention that after 3 years the owner of our rental house wants to sell so we will likely have to pack up and move into a new place for the one remaining year we planned to stay in our neighborhood. In the midst of everything else. Sometimes it's all too much and yet it doesn't escape me that my problems scarcely compare to those of my fellow man. (Cue guilt.)

Where am I going with this? I'm not sure. (Advice welcome.)

What I do know is that life chugs on. Kiddo will find his path. I'll find mine. What is meant to happen always does and this is no exception. Above all, I'm grateful for the means and opportunity to explore potential places for my future to play out. I'm grateful I was given this year off to spend with my family before 3 years of intense work begins. I'm also grateful for lemon cookies, massages, and clean sheets on freshly shaved legs.

This is the last of my school tours for a bit. Next week I head to Colorado for a crafting retreat, immediately followed by a girls' week in Savannah + Charleston (both are cities I've yet to visit!). This is a really exciting time in my life! So for today I'll own my angst, dwell on it a bit, but then I'll need to move on. It's time to get out of my own head.

Life in the meantime deserves to be lived to the fullest.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Changing seasons (and I don't mean the weather)

I've been hearing a lot about seasons. In the checkout line at the market this morning, a lady was proclaiming her profound frustration with the lack of spring weather. And it's not just Pacific Northwesterners. Morning news programs ruminate on those last spring snowstorms, and social media is flooded with the expressed desire to move on from winter already! It seems no one is exempt from the conversation about changing seasons.

During a trip to Hawaii last month, I got news about graduate school. I didn't get in. I was sitting on the hotel bed, checking my email. The answer was overdue and I'd been chomping at the bit to get it over with so I could free up my head space for those last few days of vacation. When I read the words I had feared hearing for so long, I instantly felt that stomach dropping disappointment we've all felt and wish to never feel again. Only, something surprising happened not a split second later: utter and complete relief. Like a wave overtaking my whole body, I was overcome by a sense of gratitude. Yes, gratitude. (I was just as surprised as you are.) The culmination of years of work, and I was grateful it didn't happen. So what gives?

I spent a fair amount of time reflecting on the outcome and my reaction to it in the ensuing weeks. The past 18 months (and 8 years, if I'm honest) of my life have revolved around this next phase and yet...the season remains unchanged. Or does it? You see, 2016 was my trial year. The year I wanted to bite the bullet when it came to all things grad school application: take the GRE (check); write a killer personal narrative (check); complete the requisite patient care hours (check); tackle the monotony of requesting transcripts and completing the extensive online application (check and check). There were a couple of big strikes against me, which I knew would greatly reduce my chances of acceptance: I only applied to a single school (mostly unheard of), and had only just completed the requisite 2000 healthcare hours for that school at the time I submitted my application last August (the average applicant has over 4000 hours).

Though I was thrilled to be taking some substantial steps forward, my application the culmination of years of hard work, all the while I was pushing some serious concerns to the back of my mind. They niggled at me quite frequently, but I was determined to focus on the task at hand. In hindsight, I realize I was spending a lot of time telling myself it would all work out and the uneasy feelings weighed on me more than I wanted to admit. You see, I had set forth a series of personal goals and rocked every one. That was HUGE. (Side note for context: I've been reading Gretchen Rubin's newest book, Better than Before, and oh boy am I an Obliger. That's a person who excels at external expectations but often fails to complete internally set goals. Me to a T.) What I'm saying is, I'm really proud of what I achieved last year.

Now about those niggles. The most serious was the likelihood that I'd miss the majority of my son's senior year of high school (and the summer before). I wouldn't be present to fundraise for class events or summer vacation with him or attend his last year of cross-country meets. (I live for his cross-country meets.) I would miss so many milestones in that oh so important transitional year. Instead I'd be spending that time with my head in a book. Nearly my whole adult life has been spent raising that stinker, and the prospect of missing even a single moment of his last year at home broke my freaking heart. Which is why I shoved my misgivings way back and tried not to think about them. Then there was the awful rush hour commute I'd be facing 5 days/week. I also started having some funky feelings regarding my chosen program, which became especially worrisome after spending a day being interviewed by the faculty and touring the facilities. There were several indicators that perhaps it wasn't my ideal match, and I felt like it was too late to follow my gut and bow out because my career path had become so intertwined with this particular institution. (Let's be clear: had I been admitted this year I would be overjoyed and excel at the curriculum. None of this is to say I wouldn't have received a great education there. My instincts simply told me that I am better suited for a different educational culture. It was a matter of the wrong place and the wrong time and I think we've all felt that at one time or another. The universe intervened and for that I could not be more grateful. There are no sour grapes here.)

Naturally, I went through a self-doubt phase of processing what happened: What if I never get in?! (Unlikely. I applied to a Top 5 school and got an interview on the first try.) What if this isn't my calling anymore?! (Also unlikely. I still love medicine.) Are my coworkers and friends going to think I'm a loser? (Not a single one.) Those fears have mostly faded away and I've since broken the news to my immense support group composed of family and coworkers. Once I assured them they were more upset for me than I was for myself, they continued supporting me just the same as before. Some even confided that they thought I was destined for something greater than that school could have offered me. And while I'm not sure about that, I'm so very flattered.

In the past month excitement has settled in for the first time in ages. Waiting a year has opened up so many options! Since I've now earned well above the minimum healthcare hours needed to get into a competitive program, I can cut back on my hours and potentially find another position. (This job has been tough. I adore my coworkers but am often repelled by the culture/workload/institution.) I have time to think about things like writing for pleasure again, picking up those neglected embroidery pieces, and attending to more creative endeavors. (Which means I can delete that digital Dear John letter I wrote to this blog some time ago and left in my draft folder.)

I've learned so many valuable lessons from this rejection. For one, I now know what I want in my chosen program. As such, I'm taking the time to attend information sessions at schools around the country. (Though we have decided to focus on institutions west of the Mississippi for the most part; we like living in the western half of the US.) Without the familial constraints I had this last application cycle, I am now free to explore programs that better appeal to my learning goals and desires. I have since realized how much the minutia of applying to higher education robbed me of the excitement I once felt about my impending career plans. In less than a month's time I have reclaimed that fervor and couldn't be happier about it.

I am a person who struggles mightily to live in the now. It has taken a great deal of self-exploration and natural maturation to appreciate the days immediately before me. Though nothing in the past few months has followed my predetermined plans, I still consider my life right now to be a success. Nothing big or life-changing has happened, and yet I can feel my life's season changing for the better. Less rain and more sunshine is on the horizon. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders the moment I didn't get what I so desperately wanted, and that blows my mind almost every day. You see, I've been waiting for something, anything to happen, yet in the absence of academic advancement, I've progressed in life. Thank goodness.

Before I sign off I want to mention that, while this post was a proclamation to myself and a reintroduction to this space after a sizeable absence, it's also a love letter to my husband. I've never experienced such unconditional support as I have from him. He's willing to uproot his life, yet again, for the sake of my education. (We love it here, so that's no small sacrifice.) Every time I bemoan my job, he tells me to quit if that's what my gut tells me to do. He's kind and selfless and everyone deserves a person like him in their life. It hasn't always been easy, but I wouldn't want to do life with anyone else. A bad day with him is better than a good day with another. I'll eat you up I love you so.