Nursing: Tribulation & Triumph.

Hey guys- This is another journal-like entry as I reflect on this past year. I don’t want to forget these pivotal moments, but to my loyal readers- do not feel obligated at all to read this one. It’s quite long! 

Do you ever have too many thoughts swirling around in your mind that the idea of trying to articulate them is intimidating? I’ve been putting off this post simply because I do not know where to begin. But something I have learned through writing these last couple years is “just write it”. It’s like if Nike modified their slogan to fit not physical athletes but those who win essay competitions, those who fuel up on coffee rather than Gatorade, and who suffer from carpal tunnel injuries rather than sprained ankles. Writers are athletes in their own right (or in their own write). Oops- now, this is the problem with just write it… it can get you far, but maybe not in the right direction.

Allow me to redirect this metaphorical train back to the topic at hand.

I  have not mentioned yet in my documented nursing rhetoric around here that in order to pursue a doctorate full time, I cannot continue to work full time simultaneously. I will be traveling cross country a few times a semester, potentially driving for hours to and from clinical assignments, and then studying hours on end. After extensive conversations with my husband we agreed it would be rational to begin the program without the full-time commitment, then potentially reapplying for part time or per diem positions once I feel out the flow of the program. I turned in my notice about a month ago. My managers could not have been more supportive. As I began telling each of my coworkers individually the realization started to set in …

You all know this job (although job seems such an inappropriate word), this calling that began on March 20th 2017 has been an obstacle, or rather a series of obstacles, tribulations, and triumphs. It has been the most strenuous, yet the most rewarding venture I have ever embarked. It has pulled my heart strings in nearly every direction that at times I thought it would tear. It pushed me to such utter fatigue that I felt that I didn’t have energy to speak at times. It shoved my emotional boundaries where I often wondered how my body could possibly produce another tear. It forced me to grapple with the most profound questions of life and come face to face with with the most integral parts of humanity- and to recognize the best and at times the darkest parts of myself. It brought to light the robustness of the human spirit- it showed me what true strength looks like as I walked along my patients, warriors, who fought tooth and nail for another day.

As the last day of work approached, this past Friday June 1st, I was overcome with reflection and contemplation. I didn’t realize it was possible to grow this exponentially in one year. I think back to my first days where I knew next to nothing. For about the first three months, I felt like I was given an insurmountable to-do list. I was given a  group of HIPAA names at the beginning of each shift that represented human beings that I was responsible to keep alive and I didn’t know how. If I made one wrong move, this person would lose his or her life because of me. The one phrase that resonated with me was, “you don’t know what you don’t know”. But what do you do when you “don’t know what you don’t know” involves peoples’ lives in the scales? The “don’t know” can be the difference between another day and the grave. Is there anything more terrifying? Every time I woke up to go to work I knew I would potentially be facing the next worse day of my life. This sounds melodramatic, but it’s the bleak truth- during this time I would often quietly hope that I would get in a car accident on the way to work so I wouldn’t have to go in (I know how awful that is- and I sought the proper help when those types of thoughts started creeping up). I don’t want to admit that, but it’s part of this story and it’s the cringe-worthy truth. I was depressed, and I was desperate, and I was failing. I was not going to make it through.

Then a note came around month four. We have these cards patients can fill out before they leave the hospital to thank someone who cared for them. I received a note from a patient thanking me for talking with her about some tough things she was going through outside of being sick and how much that conversation meant. When I received this note, it changed everything for me. To see I could have that type of impact changed my perspective and renewed my passion. It gave me a fire and strength to continue on. Then the next note came, then the next, then the next. I started to feel that I was actually making a difference, and nothing is more fulfilling than that.

And it was a two-way street. I reflect often on these patients that, conversely, impacted my life, and made every day, as hard as they were, so worth it. The past couple weeks these memories and interactions have flashed in front of my mind. There was the paraplegic man that was rotated among nurses because he was an “ extra difficult assignment”. When it was my turn for him, my heart just broke- he was not in good shape and, you know, I’d probably be cranky too. After a morning filled with a long string of complaints, aggravation, cruel words, and a ceaseless scream for “NURSE” that echoed into the halls, I had a moment of conviction. God was pulling on my heart strings to offer to pray for him. But God.. He won’t let me… it’ll make him more upset that I even offered… I still have to be his nurse for seven more hours… But ultimately the conviction won over. Through a single exhale I asked if I could pray for him. He looked thoroughly stunned, but quickly mumbled that would be ok. I prayed over him, and he was quiet for a moment. He thanked me and for the first time that shift, he asked me my name and didn’t just call me “nurse”. We had a great rest of a shift together. He asked if I would be back the next day. I wouldn’t be, but I was sad I couldn’t be back with him for a second day in a row.

Another patient was an older adult who was there for a spine surgery related to cancer. He was having a challenging recovery, but by the third day we had together we were able to get him up and walking. I rarely ever had time to walk with my patients, but this day I was able to squeeze one in with him, it was special. He was thrilled to be out of bed, walking about, and proud of his progress. At one point as he whipped around a corner with his IV pole I even had to pull out one of my go-to cheesy nurse jokes, “You better slow down, or you’ll get a speeding ticket!”. But soon, the nausea caught up, and I sat with him as he threw up. I loaded up his IV with anti-nausea meds and pressed a cold washcloth to his head to help him get it under control. He was so disappointed in himself, but I was not about to let him forget his tremendous progress. He was a rockstar in my book. That goodbye was a challenge because I knew he would be discharged by the time I returned. Upon saying goodbye he said to me, “I will never forget you for as many years I have left”. I will never forget him either, for as many years I have left.

There was the stroke patient who was engaged at the time of his stroke, he was trached, peg’d, unable to speak, and it was unclear how he would recover- if at all. He was one of my most trying patients from an acuity perspective and from an emotional perspective. I at times was at a loss for words with how to communicate with the family. After caring for him for three shifts in a row, I was on my day off, running outside. The whole situation suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks. Out of nowhere I stopped, I couldn’t breathe- and suddenly I just sobbed in the middle of the sidewalk. It’s not fair, I thought to myself. But for the first time I realized my tears were not from anxiety, they were from deeply grieving for my patient and his family. He wasn’t in my rotation of patients for a couple weeks, but one time I passed him when he was sitting in the hallway. He no longer had his trach and looked so much better, he was awake and seemed aware. I walked by and said hello and he spoke back in full sentences. For the first time, I saw a drastic recovery like this, and thought, I love my job.

Perhaps one of my most difficult assignments was when I was floated to another unit. I was assigned a man with a terminal illness who was showing signs of quick and acute decompensation. He was not yet comfort care, but I didn’t think he looked as though he was going to make it through the night. After consulting with the doctor, she was able to get consent from the family to convert him to comfort care– meaning we do everything possible to make him comfortable without continuing life saving treatment. His family was clearly in denial- which is extremely common. It can be confusing when we were just drawing labs, taking blood pressures, and giving fluids, and now all the monitors are turned off. He was slipping in and out of consciousness, and I told his wife if they had any family they should call them right away. I think it finally hit her, and the begging, the pleading, the crying, the look in her eye- is something I will never forget. I gathered with the family and we prayed over him and did whatever we could to make him more comfortable. It was 4:30 pm, and my float nurse insisted I take a lunch. We are required in California to go off the clock for thirty minutes, but the whole time I just mechanically ate like a robot- tasting nothing at all, only eager to return to the bedside. I thought my patient was going to pass on my shift, but he waited until later in the evening to go peacefully. During that shift and when I was home, I reflected on repeat what one of my clinical instructors said to me, “It’s a blessing to be there when someone comes into the world, but God hand picks those who are there as someone leaves it”. What a great responsibility it is to be a nurse.

I could list these stories, these actual realities for many, for pages and pages. Countless individuals have changed me as a person in a single year. I do not view life the way I did only a year ago. My outlook and priorities have changed. The job itself is relentless and hard, but I would not have made it through without my patients, their hugs, their encouragment, their humor, and inspiration to find a strength that pales in comparison to their own.

Working in this call, despite the pain and challenges, despite how the beginning was marked by an overwhelming cloud of anxiety, I have been filled predominantly with gratitude and appreciation. I would have conversations with God on the way to and from work, asking why he would entrust me with such amazing individuals’ lives, how do I have the honor to call myself a nurse? How did I end up at a teaching hospital where I was getting the best education and learning? How did I get blessed with such an unwavering support system to make it through? More than anything this experience made me appreciate the most basic elements of life.

I remember on a particularly tumultuous day, I stood in the supply closet forcing back tears and just found myself thanking God for the ability to breathe on my own, to pee on my own, to walk on my own, to speak on my own.

I have had to enforce fluid restrictions for patients with critically low sodium levels, and the way they would beg for just a sip of water….it was one of the most awful orders I had to carry out- I couldn’t give this water to them because they could die. It even made me appreciate drinking water at my leisure.

Working in the field of neurosurgery with my neurosurgical patients has been the most awakening, perspective changing and humbling experience. Each day is a gift, each moment, each breath is a gift.

Day by day, I slowly found my confidence in being a nurse. It didn’t mean it became easy, far from, but there was an empowerment I experienced with more competence. I felt more pride, ownership, and reward as I navigated the scary medical waters. I found I could advocate for my patients, communicate with them better, answer more questions, and confidently provide the best possible care without questioning every single thing I did. I found myself multi-tasking in a way I never realized I would be able to. Skills that would scare the code brown out of me at the beginning, I was able to do much more at ease. I was advanced to a Clinical Nurse II by my six month mark. I didn’t feel entirely deserving of the advancement in title, but was determined to do my best to live up to it.

Each day was still immensely intimidating, but around month eight I found myself able to separate home and work, having less anxiety, and experiencing more rewarding shifts. On Christmas Eve, I walked in to do a neuro assessment on a patient who had a marked change. I recognized something wasn’t right with her strength in her legs as it had been the previous assessment. I let the MD know, and as soon as the order was in I rushed her up to an MRI and CT scan…the resident came running into the CT room, out of breath, with a  surgical consent form in hand explaining she had an spinal epidural hematoma and needed emergent surgery. We got her into the OR right away. For the first time I think I saw how clearly I had saved someone’s ability to walk, potentially her life in a moment. As I was silently basking in this save while back on the unit changing another patients’ wound dressings, my phone rang. The secretary was on the other end, “Uh.. hey.. your patient fell in 9A”. “WHAT! Fell?!”. I couldn’t believe my ears. I can’t seriously have my first patient fall today I thought. On one of my best days as a nurse, I also had one of my worst. Tis’ nursing. The next day, Christmas, I received back the patient from with the epidural hematoma after a night in the ICU. She was moving her legs about and had no complications. It was one of the greatest Christmas presents I could have received. We sat and watched parts of a hallmark movie together as I pushed antibiotics through her IV, and I remember thinking, These holiday shifts aren’t so bad.

Come springtime, I was voted employee of the month, which I thought was a typo in the staff email or surely there was another person with my name on our unit because it couldn’t be me?! March I was our class representative at our Residency program graduation and gave the class speech. And this is not at all to brag or say I did anything special- I say this to highlight the fact that I was perhaps the most inadequate for this job, but my patients, family, friends, coworkers, and God’s providence pulled me through. With Him all things are possible, it is true, because this was an impossible obstacle in my mind.

Then my last day came… I felt so much love from my coworkers in a way I never expected. They even threw a surprise potluck complete with a sheet cake from Costco (the best, right?). It touched me deeply, and I will miss every single one of them. We have been through the thick of it together. I gave my last shift report and in true nursing shift fashion one patient reported chest pain, the other went into a state of delirium, and the other suddenly couldn’t pee. I tried to help tie up the last few loose ends best I could, but recognized I had to entrust my last few patients (for now) into the next, exceptionally competent nurses’ hands.

As I left the floor I had a moment, where after all the chaos quieted I was alone in the break room. I was about to leave, my hand turning the doorknob after cleaning out my locker, but I stopped, turned around for a moment and took in the view of the room one last time- this room had seen so many tears, fears, and victories. With a bittersweet sigh, I turned back around and walked out the door for the last time, leaving a job but taking an intangible amount of learning, stories, and faces with me.

I washed my scrubs for the last time today and as they tumbled in the laundry machine, I received an e-mail about class scheduling for school. I don’t know how I arrived to this place, but I am thankful. My heart is saturated with gratitude. I am humbled and honored to have had this experience. My patients have no idea the effect they have had on me- and they are my motivation to be the best darn NP I can be, to be the best person I can be. I realize now the most grueling of times are vehicles for the most tremendous growth. I have learned sometimes there is not a clear line between ugly darkness and beautiful light, but often they dance together contrasting one another in a profound way.  I understand that God will not give us more than we can bear, but he will often give us more than we think we can bear. He is faithful and will carry us through.

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Friday Favorites #12

Happpppyyyy of all Fridays!!!! How are ya? It was super easy to whip up a Friday Favorites this week because there are some things I am luh-ving. This might be my favorite FF yet.

  1. A clean Patio!! I took a day to deep scrub our patio, clean the rug, wash the cushions, etc. etc. It took a while, but I am psyched to use this for the summer. It’s my little happy “feng shui” place for reading, blogging, and morning devos.

Before…

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After… !

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2. Blue Apron. I used to use Blue Apron when we first moved here all the time. It became a bit too pricey without discount coupons, but they sent a “we miss you” coupon in an e-mail, so I whipped up those tostadas from the last post and this pasta for DJ to have when he returned from the games lateeee at night!

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3. Dolmas. Dolmas are stuffed grape leaves. I don’t know what the heck a grape leaf is (probably leaves of grapes), but I do know they are darn delicious. I could eat these suckers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I put them in sweet potatoes, eat them with tahini, and just by themselves with hummus.

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4. Green Goddess Salad Dressing from Trader Joe’s. Holy canoli ravioli. Looking for an epic salad dressing that isn’t loaded with crapola??… well, here you are, look no further. You’re welcome, don’t mention it.

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5. Nurse’s Week Gifts <3 The gifts below are from my sweet hubby for nurses week (last week, but you know I’m always behind on posting). This toilet paper roll is actually a study tool with real rhythms.. I am obsessed. I laughed sooo hard. Code Brown… lol.

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At work they had fun little things happening all week. I was able to sneak some of the cake & we were gifted water bottles & hats. I really felt the love & appreciation!!! And that cake was a nice & needed treat while working in the neuro close observation room.

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6. Summer Walks. It’s beginning to look a lot like summmmmer, everywhere you gooo!!! I love walks in the summer, and when I need to run errands I typically will walk to the store instead of drive. I usually call my grandma on my walks (she’s seriously one of my favorite people to just chat with… she cuts it to ya straight, is so wise, and always cracks me up!). But if Grandma is busy (which she is often because she has more of a social life than I do), then I’ll just listen to podcasts while soaking up the fresh air & sun.

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7. Wild Wild Country. HAVE YOU WATCHED THIS YET?! DJ and I are chipping away at it slowly since our schedules don’t line up, but the moment we have a free second we watch as much as possible. It is so good. So interesting, thought provoking, and your jaw will drop to the floor many a times. If you have watched it.. I would love to chat!

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8. When Breath Becomes Air. It won’t even do justice to say this is my favorite book I have ever read. It’s magnificent, a work of art, raw, and does not shy away from the difficulties of life and medicine. You will leave this book changed. The author is a surgeon who actually worked on the unit & hospital that I work for now, so it especially hit close to home. Many of my coworkers knew him personally and recommended this book to me. I have been harping my family this past week to read it… like sending nearly daily reminders. (y’all know who you are and I’m going to keep annoying you until you have read it).

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9. The Couple Next Door. On a very different literary note… I love reading thrillers and mystery books that keep you guessing and theorizing the whole time. This book had so many twists, turns, and definitely was not predictable at all. The writing itself was just okay, but the plot-line was spectacular. Highly recommend (after you’ve read the one above of course).

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10. Jergens Natural Glow. Recently Jergens came out with a face natural glow, and I nearly squealed with excitement in the Target isle. This stuff is amazing, it really does give a nice “glow”, I actually don’t even feel the need for any foundation or anything after using this and it doesn’t make me break out (I have very sensitive skin, so if it works for me it will work for you!).

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Have a good one!!

xo <3

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Filling in the Gaps…

Hellllo and how the heck are ya?  I have a few fun little nuggets I really want to log from before and after the vacay. Let’s go way back.

When I say we’re going back, I mean.. we going wayyy-ay-ay-ay back.

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**Warning**- this post is pretty sappy & reflective. It’s more a journaling time for me, but you are more than welcome into my thoughts & stream of consciousness!

On March 16th, I received the most delish & yummy chocolate covered strawberries from my brother, sister-in-law, niece and nephew for graduation. I miss them all too stinking much. My sibs don’t always pop up in the blog as much as I wish simply because we are an entire coast apart… but I just want to mention how thankful I am for them. I especially hate being this far away from my niece and nephew. One of my main priorities this summer is making a trip to see them. <3

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On March 19th after working a few rough days, I was running outside and had a moment. One of those moments where you reminisce and are overcome with reflection. This flower below literally stopped me in my tracks.

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Why? Because the last time I saw this flower I was facing some seriously significant obstacles. I was in a tumultuous place emotionally, and I had nearly an entire year of challenges in my wake. I was defeated and nearly about to give up, although I was fighting tooth and nail to stay positive. I saw this flower, and with a rush of memories & emotions I was reminded of what exactly I had overcome. Seeing this flower felt more official than graduation in affirming that I made it through, but not on my own. It was God’s reminder and promise fulfilled that He would carry me through, that in His power we can do all things (Philippians 4:13). The same flower is blooming again. As cheesy as it is, this flower represents to me my personal growth & blooming in this beautiful, terrifying, wonderful career. As I stated in this post  where I saw this flower for the first time, “I need this stage to blossom”. God’s creation is a powerful thing <3

On March 21st, I presented our neurosurgical research for the last time. The research council seemed to love it. They even said maybe we could stay in touch moving forward!

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The rest of the week was work, work, work, work, work.

On March 24th, DJ and I saw DJ’s younger sister perform in the ultimate cheer competition! She is growing up far too fast for my liking, but it’s such a joy to watch her! She is incredibly talented, and I am amazed at her poise. (She is at the top of the group in the picture below). Ohhhh, and they won NATIONALS! YES, nationals! After this competition we had the most incredible dinner at LB Steakhouse with the fam after. <3 (Saturdays that we can get everyone together are rare, so this night will always be treasured!). (PS. Their bread popovers are what dreams are made of!).

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I know I’ve said it before, but one of the greatest blessings I have experienced in this life is DJ & DJ’s family. I think about often how I don’t know why God thought I was worthy enough to have not only the perfect husband for me, but also the greatest family. It made a bit more sense this year, because I think God knew I needed them. The encouragement from DJ & his parents and their unwavering faith in me is part of the reason I made it. I wouldn’t have even applied for this residency program in the first place if my Dad-in-law hadn’t suggested it. I didn’t think I stood a chance at getting in the program, but seeing his confidence in me, coming from one of the men I respect the most, gave me that motivation to even fill out an application. <3 I think all the time about how that one simple conversation with him changed the trajectory of my life and opened up doors that I didn’t even know existed.

Beginning March 25th kicked off my PTO streak for my full two week vacation! After Church we went to another couple’s house that lives nearby for salmon & to hangout. Mmmm mmm!

The rest of the week I basically spent getting ready for the cruise, running errands, cleaning, packing, and making sure Deej had food available. (I also ordered Freshly! I will do more of a thorough review in the future- but we LOVED it. We are still using up our promo codes, but the price for the ease of making such nutrilicious foods makes it worth it thus far!!!!).

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Is running errands anyone else’s happy place? I just relish in facing the day with a to-do list and knocking out everything with head to toe athleisure, headphones in, and podcast on.

Monday night of March 26th, I whipped up one of our favorite, easy, but tasty meals of scallops with cojita corn & brown rice.

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March 27th was a monumental day. Not only was it my beautiful Momma’s birthday, but I found out that I was accepted into Duke’s DNP program!!!! Previously, I knew I was accepted into the Masters program, but the DNP was a pipe dream in my mind. I cried when I saw the acceptance update on my profile and re-read it about ten times before finally calling DJ. Here’s to the next 3.5 years of studying & the academia grind. I start in August 🙂 I still can’t believe it, I don’t know if it’s sunk in yet!

During the day on March 28th, I had my hair brightened up a bit at Limon Salon! I just missed the bright blondeWhen I get my hair done, I like to get the Olaplex treatment. It has hands down made a mighty difference in keeping my hair healthy and my blonde bright. Hair treatments can be ridiculously damaging, but this mitigates the harm.

The night of March 28th, I was FINALLY able to see DJ play basketball! I usually have to work the next day or am working the nights he has games so I haven’t been able to make any. It was a blast seeing him do his thang (number 88)!

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These team names crack me up. Deej is with the Enginerds. Unfortunately, one of the players tore his achilles tendon during the game, so they continued to play 4 on 5. But they held their own!

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And- can you believe it- on March 29th, I actually got my nails done?! (Not just the Walgreens glue-on ones, haha). DJ said they were “aggressive”. LOL. I cannot remember the last time I had my nails done- I think maybe for Clair’s wedding, but even then it was a light polish because I had to go straight back to work. I think before that it had been a year, right before starting nursing!

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The evening of March 29th, DJ and I did an impromptu date night! We strolled through whole foods and grabbed some grub from their deli. Whole foods selections are ahhh-mazing. It’s the ultimate Sophie’s choice for the indecisive veg-heads.

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I also LOVE their olive bar. It’s the most massive olive bar I have ever seen. *Heart eyes on heart eyes*

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I made a massive salad which basically included every item from the cold bar (and some from the hot bar), and DJ tried dosa!

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Dosa is a southern Indian dish. Think a light fluffy crepe usually stuffed with potato and served with different chutneys. I joke that I knew DJ was the one when he was willing to partake in Indian cuisine with me 😉

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Then I jotted in the AM for the airport!!! That brings us to my last three travels posts from March 30th to April 5th! (Isn’t it crazy how much can happen in a few days?!)

Part One . Part TwoPart Three.

Annnd heading to the airport is where I left off in Part Three. We had a bit of a sad mishap with the airport. To get from the boat to the airport, Rach and I took a Lyft. We were taking two separate airlines out so we had to be dropped off at different spots. We agreed we would meet back inside after going through our siloed security stations. Once we both made it through we texted each other to figure out where the other was…. welll …. turns out we were in entirely different terminals and BUILDINGS. We were so sad we didn’t get to hangout those next few hours together and never actually said goodbye. 🙁 Good thing I’ll be seeing her in a couple months for a wedding, but it was too sad. We just kept texting each other and sending pictures (keep scrolling) of what we decided on for lunch since we weren’t actually together to have lunch. Wahhhhhhhhh.

I parked it at a PJ’s Coffee and read my book to pass some time. PJ’s was pretty delish, but still not my Peet’s <3

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For lunch I decided on one last hurrah for a NOLA meal at Ye Olde College Inn. I was craving some comfort food as our trip was at an end, and I was isolated from my best friend by a gosh darn wall.

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I pulled out my book, enjoyed the live jazz they had playing and ordered some gulf fish & smoked gouda grits (FANTASTIC!).

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I just read my book while savoring every bite.

The flight back was the scariest flight I have ever been on. There was an insane amount of turbulence, I really did think we were going down several times. I don’t think I’ve ever shed turbulence tears, but they were streaming this time. I love flying, but I can definitely get anxious when things aren’t smooth sailing, or smooth flying if you will. I couldn’t wait to get my feet back on the ground.

When I saw DJ pull up to the curb to pick me up from the airport I felt like I could finally take a sigh of relief. We headed to one of our favorites- Stein’s– for dinner. We had our two favorites, the quinoa butternut squash salad for me and the fried chicken sliders for Deej.

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We munched away while I told DJ every exhaustive detail of the trip and every. single. picture. He has the patience of a saint.

On April 6th & 7th I slept until the cows came home and then did laundry from the trip. I had a hankerin’ for Thai Food on Saturday evening. We ordered from Amarin Thai in San Jose. I actually had to reorder from Olarn (my go-to Thai place about a minute away), because my curry tasted thairrible. I’m refraining from going on a thairaid about it… I’m not picky, but I truly couldn’t eat it. I will say their Roti was the best roti I’ve ever had though, I’ll give them that.

DJ said their Pad Thai was fine (at least it was edible). I ended up getting the Red Curry from Olarn, a thaid and true <3 <3 <3.

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Stop with the thai puns you say?! I’ll thai.

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On April 8th, we attended a lovely Sunday Service then I ran errands in the afternoon to get ready for the work week. I have a funny story for y’all. So when my mom visited for graduation she ordered a sampler platter and brought back the leftovers to help me out with some food prep for the week! When I tried “Oren’s Eggplant” I had a moment of, “this is maybe one of the tastiest things I have ever had in my life”. I texted my mom, “Are you sure this is vegetarian? It is so savory!”. She was pretty sure the menu didn’t mention meat. I was curious what made it so good so I looked it up online and it listed, a puree of fried eggplant, spices, caramelized onion, and hard boiled egg. Well naturally, anything fried, with egg, and caramelized onion is going to be phenomenal. So this Sunday when I returned home, I decided to grab hummus, baba-ganoush, Oren’s eggplant, and pita for the week!

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After eating it for about a week, I looked at the list of ingredients on the label for the first time, noting their was more there than the menu had. What else was in it? Chicken fat. LOL. I had accidentally been eating meat for a week. I’m really holding down this pescatarian life well.

April 9th it was time to go back to work. I was terrified to go back. I usually get anxious after three days being away, so after having two weeks off my heart was racing out of my chest. It all went just fine and I did not forget how to be a nurse in just two weeks. Haha.

April 10th, I took a nice long run outside and soaked up alllll the beautiful blooms!

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Thursday April 12th, I went to Opening Night for the SJ Giants! DJ has been working  hard in the off season, and I was excited to be there for the big opening day!

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I just love these games. I couldn’t find anyone to go with, but I definitely don’t mind going on my own. The environment is jovial as can me, nothing beats stadium food, and it was exciting to see all of Deej’s diligent work come to fruition!

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When waiting in line at Turkey Mike’s for a veggie burger, two gentlemen in front of me asked me if I liked pickles. I was a bit taken aback, and a bit unsure of how to respond to this random inquiry. They explained that they are one of the sponsors and they were selling their pickles at the cash register. Bahaha. When cashing out they bought me one. So, if y’all go to a SJ Giants game, keep an eye out for the Buck’s Vineyard pickles. (maybe the weirdest paragraph ever written on my blog?!).

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This is where my loyalty lies: GORDON BIERSCH GARLIC FRIES.

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I may have gone a bit overboard on the food, but I ran eleven miles earlier and was ravenous! (The pickle was okay– I’m a salt fanatic and it wasn’t salty enough for me. I’ll stick to my Vlasic. Sorry, Buck’s!).

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I plopped down with my food, bundled up in a winter jacket (It was FREEEZING that evening), and contentedly sat back to watch the game. Literally, no one was sitting by me. I was laughing at how hilarious this whole situation much have looked. Just a girl alone, eating her garlic fries, cheering her favorite team on. (The guy speaking in the background of the video reflects my sentiment). “Here we are! We made it!”

I didn’t last the whole game because my Raynaud’s started acting up, and I couldn’t feel my toes. I and my numb feet ran over to give DJ a hug goodbye and then warmed up back home.

We both worked all through the weekend. Now that the season has started DJ and I are a bit of ships passing in the night again. I don’t think I’ve seen him for about three days now. But we soak up the little time we do have together! Our date nights are sporadic and often last minute, but we grab them when we can.

Last Monday the night of April 16th, I made us pizzas, and Amy’s Margherita Pizza (One of DJ’s favorites) and I tried the Cauliflower pizza, which I loved and included in a Friday Faves!

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On April 17th, Deej and I had an impromptu date night! WOOT WOOT!

We hit up Historic Murphy Avenue in Sunnyvale for some good Mexican Grub. We just adore this strip, but haven’t made it over much lately. The last time we were here was March 2017 for St. Patrick’s Day!

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We hit Roberto’s Cantina for the best veggie fajitas and beef tacos!

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On April 18th, I hit up Trader Joe’s to meal prep and stock up on some fun new eats for the week!

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I sauteed veggies & Tofu to make stuffed purple sweet potatoes with hummus for lunches.

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And here’s what the lunches and snacks for the next couple days looked like.

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I worked on the 19th and 20th with a couple emotionally strenuous shifts.. But now I am sitting here being a lazy bum, thoroughly enjoying finishing up this blog post sipping my cups of coffee. I go back tomorrow, and only have today off. DJ is doing a seven day home stand, hence we haven’t seen each other since our date night and probably won’t see one another again until next week. Tis’ the baseball season. I’m beyond proud of him though. His creativity in his role amazes me & he is one of the hardest working individuals I know. Well, this post was obnoxiously long, but at least my OCD side feels like I am now caught up. Have a fabulous week everyone!

xo <3

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15 Things I Wish I Knew as a New Grad Nurse

One year ago, I began as a baby nurse, every fiber of my being laden with trepidation and excitement. I pulled up my compression socks, laced up my promisingly supportive Brooke’s ghost shoes and stepped foot into the hardest year of my life. I didn’t think anything could be more challenging than nursing school, and I was in for a rude awakening. Everyone says the first year of nursing is the most challenging, but it’s hard to grasp until you are in the throws of the anxiety, incompetence, and fear that plague your every day. There are a few things I wish I had known or someone had told me before I began this year, and maybe, just maybe, this can help some new grad nurse out there on this emotional, wild, and spectacular rollercoaster.

  1. You will make mistakes. For some reason, I didn’t realize that as a new grad nurse, you make mistakes. No one ever said point-blank, buckle up, you’re gonna screw up…. a lot. Maybe people don’t talk about it because we have people’s lives in our hands, and we should strive for perfection. This is true, but I think it would have saved me much of the intense self- badgering if I realized mistakes were inevitable. Don’t get me wrong– always triple check your meds, doctors orders, operate in professionalism, always do your absolute best….. but every little mistake from having an overdue med due to mismanaged time (IT WILL HAPPEN) to forgetting to unclamp your piggyback antibiotic (everyone has done it) to not charting something correctly is an opportunity. Never try to cover it up, make sure your patient is safe first and foremost, and then… learn. Trust me.. you won’t make that mistake again. Do not beat yourself up. Repeat after me… Mistakes= Lessons, Lessons= Growth. You need the mistakes to grow, and each mistake is molding you into a strong, robust, competent nurse. The mistakes will become fewer and farther between, but they never will entirely cease. Neither will the lessons, and neither will the growth.
  2. You will experience a new level of anxiety, but it will get better. Every single day I stepped onto the floor, the anxiety overwhelmed me in a way I have never experienced before; it plagued the crevices of my mind and soul. I felt like I was operating in flight and fight at work AND at home. I couldn’t separate the two, and would often wake up in hot sweats- “Did I return that med?! Did I chart that?! Oh shoot, I forgot to get that patient ice chips!”… I had literal breaks with reality. One time I woke in the middle of the night panicked because I thought I had forgotten to give my husband insulin (he’s not diabetic). But somewhere along the line, I was able to turn the “work” brain off. It took a long time, but now a year later even though I still think about my shifts, it doesn’t carry the same anxiety provoking reflection it did at the beginning. I still shed plenty of tears for my patients on the way home or the next day after a hard stretch of days, but it’s out of mourning for and with them… not from anxiety.
  3. Those impossible skills…. become possible. One of the most frustrating parts of being is a new grad is the lack of agility and the constipated pace of your skills. Tasks that are super “easy” to most seasoned nurses still scare the code brown out of us. Even priming IV tubing seemed like a formidable obstacle when I began (air- in-line alerts sent me straight into cardiac arrest). By the end of the year you will be taking out central lines, hanging blood, straight cathing, and working with PEGs/trachs like it ain’t no thang. Hands on skills were my weakness, I didn’t think I’d ever get the hang of it. But somewhere along the way, I did. And trust me, if I can do it, you can do it.
  4. 12 hour shifts are long, but nursing is a 24-7 job. One thing that I didn’t quite get when I began is nursing is a 24-7 job. Yes, in those 12 hours that belong to you, the weight of people’s lives are in your hands. But always remember— it’s a 24-7 job. Do your best not to pass on any tasks, make sure you give all your shift meds, but if you don’t get around to changing the now expired IV tubing because your patient was physiologically unhinged and you were keeping them from grave, it’s ok. I used to think I literally would get fired if every single little protocol ridden task was not completed. Some days, all you can do it keep someone alive. It’s a 24-7 job. Just remember that.
  5. Yes, you can do another day. Countless times I thought to myself, I don’t know how I can do another day of this. Sometimes we have such a bad first shift in a stretch of three, and we don’t know how we can physically or emotionally handle the next two. But you do. You just do. After enough times of thinking this, and enough times of doing that “next” shift, you start to know that you can, in fact, do another day.
  6. Listen to your patients! Sometimes symptoms are not textbook clear. If a patient says they feel “off”, listen to them, closely. What is off? When did it start? Listen to their concerns, even if they seem unwarranted, because often times they are not. There are clues in conversation, history, and in chats with family that may not show up in vital signs.
  7. Patients listen to you, closely. Patients will ask you so. many. questions. Sure, you may know some, but there are plenty you will have no clue. Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t know, but let me find out!” or direct the question to the proper team. Something I have discovered is when you have those scrubs on, patients take you at your word. Even if you put a disclaimer- such as I’m not 100% sure- or, make sure that’s ok with your primary doctor, or “I think _____” but double check with your pharmacy….. they will only hear the answer part of your statement. Avoid saying those disclaimer statements, because as soon as it is out of your mouth, they will hear my nurse said ____ and take it as truth. It’s better to utilize your resources (call pharmacy, ask your charge, ask the MD) and give them the most informed answer possible.
  8. Listen to your gut. “What gut?” you may be thinking as you have only been a nurse for about a month. Ok, your gut will develop as time goes on (and I’m not just talking from break room potlucks and donuts). If you have that “bad” feeling… investigate why. There are so many times I wish I had just listened to my gut a bit more. Just last week I had a patient who I had a off feeling about. Nothing had changed in their baseline neuro exam or technically by physiological assessment. But I knew something wasn’t quite right. I told the MD, but he had no real basis to conduct any additional tests either. I told the next shift nurse about this feeling too… and the next day when I returned this man was in the ICU. Trust. your. gut.
  9. Nursing Assistants are vitally important. Y’all. I don’t think I understood just how important nursing assistants are before starting this gig. They are massively crucial to our success and the patients’ success. The nursing assistants on my floor are brilliant, many have been working for years and single-handedly keep me afloat some days. I learned (and continue to learn) a tremendous amount from them. Do not be afraid to ask them for their tips/tricks in patient care.
  10. “Thank you” goes a long way. This may seem elementary, but as a nurse, you begin to understand the weight and gravity of a thank you. Give thank-yous out like candy. They are free to give and priceless to receive. Thank your housekeeping staff, your charge nurse, your transporter, your nursing assistants, the previous nurse who tried her best to get loose ends tied up for you, doctor’s, PT/OT who helped your patient walk for the first time since surgery. We are a family in healthcare, and it’s so important to remind them they are all appreciated.
  11. Make recommendations, and happily accept constructive criticism in return. ISBAR- the “R” (for recommendation in communication) is especially hard for a new nurse, but do it anyways. You will get some MDs who will make you feel as if your idea is the worst possible idea they have ever heard. You will also have others who will kindly suggest an alternative. And EVEN some who will accept your recommendation. Regardless of the response, ask them to explain the reason behind the intervention/order/medication, and then thank them for taking the time to explain. It will go a long way in developing rapport among you and the provider.
  12. Go the extra mile. Cue the eye rolls from my nurses in the back. I get it, we already are given an impossible to-do list every day. There is no way to go the “extra mile”. Or is there? When I first began, I barely saw my patient. I only saw the to-do list. I barely had time to be with them, because I was just trying to get it all done. Yes, this is the way of nursing now it seems, but sometimes, just taking the tiny extra seconds to hold their hand and say, “How are you” at the beginning of a shift or offering an extra pillow can make all the difference. This one takes time to conquer, but you’ll get there. I am still learning how to do this, and it takes reminding myself daily to just look the patient in the eye and not just to examine their pupils.
  13. ASK ALL THE QUESTIONS. Not sure how I didn’t have this listed as number one… but ask every question. Do not assume ANYTHING. You will feel like you are grating the nerves of some other nurses, but you will learn who your best resources are. Remember, a little annoyance is nothing in comparison to someone’s life. Even the slightest bit of doubt, check it out!
  14. ‘You time’ is necessary time! “On the clock” for us is a fight of life vs. death. When you are off the clock embrace your life- do what you need to do to take care of you. Go for a walk outdoors, exercise, do yoga, pray, write a letter to your friend who lives far away, get a massage (get multiple massages), pedicures, go out for a nice dinner, nourish your body with healthy foods (and nourish your soul with dessert), travel, or do nothing at all. Find what helps you relax and disconnect. I didn’t want to be social at all for a good six months and found myself in a hole of isolation and depression. I didn’t think I had the energy to do anything. But once I started making plans, planning trips, etc. things started turning around quite a bit. Find what works for you!
  15. It’s worth it. Oh my sweet fellow baby nurse, you don’t know if you will survive, but you will. I know it’s hard to believe, but things will get better. People would say that, and I just didn’t believe them. Have faith. You are stronger than you think. This year, yes it is hard, it’s probably the hardest thing you have ever done, but it’s worth it. When you see your competence start blooming, so will your confidence. When a patient tells you that they will never forget you, it’s the most rewarding feeling in the world. Through this whole process you are impacting countless lives and countless lives will impact yours. Soon you will have forever-in-your-heart moments, unforgettable connections to patients, and “good” days under your belt, or stethoscope rather. Write them down and remember them. Because at the end of the long twelve hour shift day, there is no amount of fear, anxiety, or bad days that can overshadow the honor it is to save a life.

Go get em, Rockstar! You’ve got this!

Ohh, and never use the “Q” word. Never, ever, ever use the “Q” word.

Napa & Sonoma Part Two… & Graduation Day!

Annnnd here we are! Round two!!! Welcome welcome to perhaps one of my favorite recaps of all time. I am going to conclude our incredible time in wine country (if you missed part one, peep it here) then recap the rest of last week. I’ve just caught up with my favorite Peet’s barista while holding up the line (apologies to my fellow coffee addicts), have a cup in hand, and am situated in my favorite spot looking out the rain sprinkled window for the next couple hours. I don’t have any studying, applications, projects, or any other big “must dos” on my to-do list for the first time in years. I feel like I am breathing, really truly breathing. And this oxygen is quite nice. Inhale, exhale, sip some cafe au lait, repeat. Join me?

After we finished up at the brilliant Castle, we headed over to Frog’s Leap winery. I would say if you only have limited time in Wine Country Rambauer and Frog’s leap are the two I would recommend. Also, Kalpana, a friend that lives in Los Gatos, shared some amazing tips as well in the comments of the last post, so definitely take time to read those over too if you are looking for suggestions!

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Frog’s Leap is what I would equivocate to heaven on Earth. It is a floral oasis with winding gardens in the middle of a quiet cozy valley. Reflecting on it almost feels like a dream, the warmth of the sun and the wine as we walked around the Switzerland remnant abode nearly left me half expecting Julie Andrews to start serenading the visitors with Sound of Music.

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Halfway through our exploration of the majestic vineyard, I remember telling my mom no amount of pictures could do this place justice. And now I will say it again! Darn, guess you’ll just have to visit it yourself!

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Maybe I should put those sunglasses to use? Just an idea?

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We reluctantly left this ethereal destination only to follow a path just as beautiful onto our next destination. At one point we had to stop just to take in the most stunning natural spring of flowers we have ever seen!

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Adoring God’s creation can really work up an appetite. We headed to Mustards Grill upon my Uncle Pat’s recommendation. Good thing I just had a snack because even looking at these pictures my stomach is growling again! O my lanta, if you need a place to eat in Wine Country, I’ll tell ya, your decision is made- GO here!

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We started with the BEST calamari dish ever… crispy calamari with curried slaw and fresno chili. Yumayumayummm.

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Deej had their half Pound niman Ranch Hamburger or Cheeseburger, house-made pickles, french fries. I love how everything has a little touch of Mustard too on their dishes.

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My mom and I of course split their special Halibut. And we also split a glass of their recommended pinot grigio for the halibut. I am not even kidding, this halibut was some of the best of all time. And for it being split, they gave us such a generous serving. We didn’t leave one nibble to be consumed. It was tremendous. It was so good that momma Jill decided to purchase a cookbook to take home. Her and Pete like to collect books from places as souvenirs. Such a fun idea!

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We then headed to our last stop for the day- Domaine Carneros.

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This chateau is the oldest sparkling wine house in all of Napa.

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It’s pristine winding staircases leading up to a mammoth mansion overlooking the miles of vineyards, mountains, and rolling hills was a picturesque site to behold..

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We tried their sampler of sparkling wines with some roasted almonds. Once again, hate to be the bearer of bad bubbly, but we all agreed we preferred our Almond sparkling wine from Trader Joe’s.. Maybe we just didn’t try the right ones?! Certainly worth the experience though!

DJ had to head back that evening to work the next day, but my mom, Pete, and I watched Fixer Upper and ate our leftover desserts. Pete was feeling much better by this point!

That evening my mom handed me a big thick envelope. I had no idea what it could be. Inside were pages on pages of prayers she has wrote out for me through this year . I have cried reading her cards in the past, but this just pulled the heart strings next level. This was one of the most special gifts I have ever, EVER received. I still haven’t finished them all yet, it may take a while, but I cry every single time I read one. She has always set such a great example for us of what it looks like to be in true relationship with Christ and how prayer is not just about requests or bringing struggles, it’s about the conversation. The prayers are so real, honest, and raw. I truly believe the only reason I made it through this year was because of her and others’ prayers. I did not make it through on my own strength, there is no way. Thank you again, Mom<3

In the morning of Monday the 12th, I headed back a bit before my mom and Pete did to get my speech finished up for the next day, to run a couple errands, and do a quick couple loads of laundry. I was just following my GPS and lo’ and behold, stumbled right on through the Golden Gate. Don’t you love it when that happens?

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In the evening, we all met at Willard Hicks in Campbell. DJ and I have wanted to try this place out for a while, but it’s near impossible to get a reservations.

Time to put this place to the test! DJ’s mom, Laura, who hasn’t been here in a YEAR (you may remember this epic weekend), was able to come for graduation! It meant the world that she wanted to come in the first place. She has been one of my main shoulders to lean on and always an ear to listen through this wild ride of a year <3

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So with the WH— LOVED the ambiance. I was expecting a pretty fancy steakhouse, based on the menu and wait, but it had a more casual sports bar feel, yet with a touch of pizzazz.

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We started with the exquisitely exotic willard hick’s baked brie. It came with phyllo wrapped baked brie with roasted veggies, whole roasted garlic (like still in the bulbs), dried fruit, chutney, and crostini. I probably do not need to even rave about how fantastic this was.

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We also had to try their iron skillet poblano cornbread. This may have been my favorite part of the whole meal. The sweet creamed corn was perfectly moist (sorry moist haters). We savored every single nibble.

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For entrees (everyone in my family is a saint for letting me be “That” person snapping pictures of their food)… anyway, Pete tried their awesome short ribs!

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Of course, my mom and I split the scallops with some of the most delectable mushroom risotto to ever grace our taste buds. The scallops were cooked to savory perfection and the small little critters carried the most divine flavor!

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Both DJ and my mom in law had the swordfish. Of course I snuck a nibble- it was mmm mmm mmm good!

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Sides- Butternut squash, Horseradish mashed potatoes, & Brussels. Can’t go wrong with those!

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I love these people more than words can say!

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The next day, March 13th, was graduation time!!!! I have yet to do a one year reflection post, and I will save most of my thoughts for that. But this was a HUGE day. HUGE. I honestly didn’t think I would make it to this point. I presented my research project that I have poured endless hours into, gave my speech (which went very well- thank you for your prayers & encouragement about that!), and lastly was given a certificate that I prize more than my high school or college diploma. This certificate states that I completed the Residency program, but to me, it symbolizes surviving the hardest year of my life.

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Also, I am so excited to share I was nominated Employee of the Month! When I saw the announcement in a staff e-mail I thought it was a mistake, or that there was perhaps another Mackenzie on our unit I was unaware of. Surely, it couldn’t be me?! This warmed my heart more than I can express. I feel like I fail and am incompetent on a daily basis, but it was beyond affirming that others think otherwise. I do not at all feel deserving, but it just motivates me to live up to the honor! Within a couple weeks I was accepted into my first choice for grad school, graduated from my residency program, had the most tremendous memories with my family, and then this?! Too much to handle. God is good and He is faithful. I was able to show my family the unit I work on, and of course my mom whipped out her phone for the picture below as I started blushing and quickly walking away. lol. It was great to finally show them where I work though after endless  conversations over this past year about it all!

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To celebrate, I was having a hankering for True Food kitchen which is nearby the hospital. Subconsciously, I think there is a reason I was craving this. After I took my NCLEX nearly a year and a half ago, DJ and I celebrated by going to True Food. I think it has officially become the place to go after super high stress events?!?

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I love that all the food is organic and wholesome, but it’s also annoyingly delicious (annoying meaning I crave it allll the time, but can’t get it enough to satisfy my craving).  Anyone else get that? All the girls tried the thai grapefruit martini… absolutely refreshing and not too terribly sweet.  Pete had their bloody! Can’t go wrong with a good bloody.

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Meals! Boy, can we eat. Us girls tried variations of their ancient grains bowl, which is my favorite thing I have had here yet (although their fall butternut squash and ricotta pizza is pretty flame- wood fired to be exact). This included miso glazed sweet potato, turmeric, charred onion, snow peas, grilled portobello, avocado, and hemp seed. Definitely something that could be recreated (although I probably could never make it taste quite as yummy). You can add shrimp, tofu, chicken, or steak too!

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DJ had their TLT again (tempeh, lettuce, and tomato). SO GOOD. You would never know the bacon wasn’t bacon.

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Pete had their spicy panang curry with organic potato, long bean, bok choy, carrot, thai basil, and coconut shrimp broth with chicken! I’m telling ya, their menu is super diverse- something for everyone!

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After the amazing lunch, DJ had to go to work, and Pete decided to take a little nap back at home. However, the ladies of the group were not about to turn down a stroll through a mall. We waltzed and frolicked (inside blog joke, anyone?) through the mall. It was a blast. Even the next day we were talking about how much fun it was to just peruse the mall together.

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Last, I just want to share something pretty special. When we were at Casillo Di Amorosa, my mom suggested we both get bracelets as a sweet way to remember our trip. We both picked out our own special color, and usually I would go for a neutral tone, but I couldn’t get over how pretty the periwinkle-like purple was. A couple days later I opened up a gift from my mother-in-law. I was blown away by the thoughtfulness of the gifts (I’m saving a couple for a Friday Faves), but I want to share one. This gorgeous necklace is Amethyst. She explained the amethyst represents healing powers and that this is what I give my patients. I cried when I read this. So beyond thoughtful, and something I will forever treasure <3

I also realized both the Castillo di Amorosa stone matched the amethyst and loved how well the two go together. Wearing this jewelry will always remind me of the strong, prayer warrior women that have been my rocks to stand on, my source of wisdom, and my encouragers.

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I have never been so emotionally, physically, and mentally exhausted as I have been this past year. And yet, in this moment I have never been so utterly fulfilled. Thank you for coming on this journey with us. Love to you all.

xo <3

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A (F)untraditional Christmas!

Hello beautiful people!!! I am typing up this post from the air heading to Dallas, TX! Woohoo!!! So much has happened since my last recap, and I’m excited to fill ya in! To be honest… this holiday season I have been a bit of a Grinch. Not outwardly, in my conversations or by my actions…but certainly when reflecting on my own thoughts. I’ve known for a couple months now that I was going to have to work on the 23rd, 24th, 25th, and 27th. This only left one day for celebrations (the 26th)… and any time I work three in a row I have a difficult time opening my eyes the next day, nonetheless try to throw together a Christmas celebration on my “Sammy day” as we say (sandwich day in between work days).

I begged DJ to fly back to Ohio to be with family. After all, I would be at work majority of the time and when I was not I would be, well, .. A. exhausted and B. an actual B. Catch my drift? It’s just reality. I turn into a MONSTER by day three. Like Wicked Witch of the West meets Ursula. But, alas, the sweet hubby refused to leave me.

If ya know me, I have more “basic” tendencies than not…a la CHRISTMAS OBSESSED. Yet this whole season I didn’t feel inclined to blast Christmas music, baking cookies, or watching Christmas movies when I felt there would be no real culmination celebration with family and friends to celebrate our Savior’s birth. Ya knowww?

BUT there were till some fun happenings that didn’t allow me to avoid the season entirely.

On December 16th, One of DJ’s coworkers held a beautiful Christmas party in her home. It was incredibly elegant with charcuterie galore, hors devours, caviar, an omelette station, a plethora of salads, biscuits and gravy, mini parfaits, etc. etc. Not to mention the most satiating dessert bar. It was delicious and fabulous! I had a ball getting to know Dj’s coworkers better too.

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For the 17th and 18th we both worked hard and then the next few days I tried to round up most of my research project. It’s due the 8th of January so we are ticking down to the last few days!!! Y’all I am PUMPED about it. I cannot CANNOT wait to share it!

On the 19th, Sara, Tammy, and I all headed out for some bday celebrations for Sara’s bday!

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We had drinks and cheered to another year of our Sara over salted caramel popcorn complete with peanuts, bacon, and rosemary (it sounds like an interesting combo, but it is an interesting combo that WORKS!).

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I savored their irresistible pan seared salmon with sauvignon blanc sautéed salmon, asparagus, zucchini, red onion, red pepper, fennel, roasted beets, avocado, arugula, and lemon vinaigrette.

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Tammy tried their butcher’s flat iron dip with carmalized onions, fresno chiles, mustard aioli, Havarti, and au jus.

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Sara opted for their cowboy burger with shoestring onion rings, bacon, cheddar, and beer barbecue sauce.

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We finished off with a complementary birthday Sundae for Sara. It was way too fun and nothing beats some good girl time. These two have kept my spirits afloat this year. I don’t know what I’d do without the two of them.

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When I went home, I was greeted by some decadent truffles from another client of DJ’s. I am a sucker for truffles. I cannot get enough. You all know I love a good cliché, and does it get more cliché than Christmas truffles? I think not, and if loving this cliché is wrong I do not want to be right.

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The 23rd-25th were work days. Guys, so much happens during my day on our crazy neuro floor and I have so many stories that I’d like to share (protecting all anonymity of course)…. But sometimes there is just too much to say and explain that I avoid sharing anything all together. These days were filled with my first patient fall, rushing a patient to surgery to prevent paralysis, and a few tears. The thing is…..each day I have worked has a story, a situation that would make you gasp, cringe, squirm, or cry tears of joy and sadness. I am afraid to share these stories because I don’t want to do an injustice to the experience, to the fact that these are real lives, real person’s & family’s reality. However, for 2018, I am considering sharing a story, maybe once a week or every couple of weeks before I forget them. I have learned more about humanity, vulnerability, compassion, patience, and love in this past year through neurosurgery. I’d love to share these lessons and stories that have left a footprint on my soul. So stay tuned for how that all plays out.

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Our coworkers are so encouraging, and I’m thankful that we all have each other’s backs in the chaos.

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Also, one of the nurses brought in this HOMEMADE cake. HOW?!?

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The 26thDJ and I had our day to celebrate our Christmas. I kept telling him the 25th was our Christmas Eve. He played along like a trooper (even though I’d snap at him every time he mentioned Christmas being on the 25th… “NO HUN, IT’S CHRISTMAS EEEEVVVVVEEEEE”.

On our faux Christmas Day we slept until the cows came home and then had “Christmosas”, cinnamon rolls, an omelette, and I even made some turkey bacon for Deej. I love whipping up big meals, but now-a-days I feel like I have such little time to cook like I prefer to. This morning was a treat for me.

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Deej figured out how to get a fireplace to play through our TV. I just love love love ! Thank gosh he knows how to work technology. I swear I am from the stone ages when it comes to working a remote control.

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Christmosas: Dry champagne/ Martinelli’s grape juice/ granny smith apply slices/ pomegranate seeds.

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We then blasted our Christmas music, put on our now traditional Christmas onesies and opened presents on the ground like a couple of children. It was obnoxiously fun, and I want to say a massive thank you to all who sent the most beautiful gifts and stockings to our house to give us a real Christmas. It really did feel like Christmas, and I am so thankful DJ played along with me. Jesus wasn’t actually born on the 25th, right?!

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In the afternoon I laced up the new pair of Adidas Boosts DJ gifted me and headed out for  Christmas run… a Jingle Jog if you will! The weather was perfect, I had the sugar from the cinnamon rolls rushing through my veins- I was zooooming. Talk about a runner’s high! I felt like I could have ran forever. It was one of the most glorious runs I have ever had.

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For dinner, I whipped up scallop and crab stuffed sole (from Omaha Steaks- thank you Aunt Terry and Uncle Pat), asparagus, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, cauliflower mashed potatoes, roasted veggies with tofu, and grand’s flaky biscuits. We savored every bite over some nice white Pinot Grigio and a Charlie Brown Christmas.

img_4979-1img_4978-1img_5007-1img_5011-1We finished the night with some GLORIOUS Moser Roth truffles (THE best truffles on planet earth- their strawberry rhubarb is a must-try) and our classic Chocolate Chip cookies.

For being an untraditional Christmas, we both agreed it was one of the best. This was certainly a year I will treasure forever. I loved celebrating with my patients and my husband. Sometimes different is not so bad.

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I had to head back to work the 27th, it was a difficult shift..

I’m tired, y’all. So very tired. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our project will soon be submitted and I will have a minute to breathe…. Maybe… we’ll see! I’m learning to just enjoy the small moments, take deep breaths, and count my blessings because there are so very many- this blog and all of you being one of them. This has been the hardest year of my life (besides the year I lost my Dad). But I would not trade it for the world.

This morning (28th) was filled with early morning wake up call, stuffing myself with some toast, a full on pat down going through security (I was basically stripped to my breeches in the airport), and now a minute to sit back and relax on the plane. We are heading to Dallas and are munching on nuts, a salad for me, and a burger for DJ. I am working on my thank you cards from Christmas (I am one of those odd birds that genuinely loves writing thank you cards). I cannot wait to see my momma and step dad, Pete, and of course, my little pooch, Jade.

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I don’t usually make New Years Resolutions. But this year I have one…

I have learned an enormous amount this past year and one of those lessons is that there is freedom in vulnerability. I have things I want to share but have not yet had the courage to. I have slowly showed you all my heart in certain situations, but I hope in 2018 I can dive deeper, share more of my heart, and be honest about parts of my story that I have never shared before.

Thank you for sharing in our life, for supporting and encouraging us on our journey. I am thankful, I am so thankful for each of you.

xo <3

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A Perfect Wedding Weekend <3

AHHH! I am SO SO SO excited to share this momentous weekend, I cannot even contain it. But I will say.. it was one of those weekends that was just soo good, I’m afraid I won’t do it justice! I have an obnoxious number of pictures to share, so I’ll try to keep the typing to a minimum.

Also, I accidentally published the first post after only uploading a few photos- super sorry if you get an additional e-mail!

SOooooOOoo…

Let’s get started shall we?!

Clair is one of my best friends since sixth grade of middle school. We were inseparable, and still talk on a nearly daily basis even from across the country. This wedding was a celebration beyond compare.

With Clair’s permission, I want to share a little background with you all. Growing up, Clair has always been the life of the party, the “live in the moment”, nurturing, compassionate, beautiful, fun loving, happy-go-lucky, and all around amazing friend. However, she definitely has the give-everyone-the-benefit-of-the-doubt type characteristic, which lended to some not exactly great relationships.

Then a couple years ago, a tragic, life-altering event happened that would shake all our worlds. Clair’s little sister, her beautiful, perfect 16-year-old sister passed away in a horrible accident. Even typing this, tears come to my eyes. Gosh, I miss her, and it is still incredibly hard to believe this is still the reality we live in. But around that time, Clair met Robby- truly one of the most incredible men I have ever met and definitely the most perfect man for Clair. We always say that Kat pulled some strings in Heaven to make this happen. So, although this wedding day was super bitter-sweet without her little sis, seeing where Clair is now and who Clair is with brings us all more joy than I can possibly describe. I would desire nothing less for my best friend, my sister. I love you, Clair & Robby. <3 <3

The weekend began at SamWanna Salon in Akron, OH where the sweet bride treated us all to manis and pedis. Come on now, how stinking sweet is that?!

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You guys know this girl never gets her nails did being a nurse and all that. What a treat!

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In the evening, we got all dressed up and headed to the rehearsal/rehearsal dinner. It was such a wonderful time.

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Me with Momma Babak, mother of the bride (but also my second mom growing up). <3

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The beautiful bride <3

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After the rehearsal dinner, I stayed with Clair and the maid of honor (Clair’s sister, Elane) at the Residence Inn Marriott in Akron. It was a stinking blast to say the least (girl’s night!).

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Annnnd cue the multiple snap chat photos!!

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At 6:30 in the morning (3:30 am my time in San Francisco) I woke up to squeeze in a quick run. Can you tell I’m ecstatic to be up so early? Lol.

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It was worrrth it, the line up from the hotel for breakfast was fab. So many delish options and the coffee was on point!

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After breakfast, the other girls came by for mimosas and bridal party pamper time!

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The stunnerrrr… <3 (I know I am using an absurd amount of hearts in this post, but it’s entirely warranted).

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For lunch we had takeout Aladdin’s (a God-sent restaurant from above, amen, hallelujah, praise Him from whom all blessings flow). This Greek food is fabulous, and I could seriously eat it for dayyyyyyyyssss. Dat hummus, dem grape leaves, dat tabouleh, dat PITA…… do not get me started!

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Post getting Hair Did. I cannot do my own hair for my life, so these moments must be documented.

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Snap chat x2

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All our makeup DONE!

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Don’t mind us.. 😉

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Clair and the maid of honor (who seriously gave the BEST speech of all dang time).

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Here is a full on bridesmaid pic! Clair gifted us all these gorgeous robes for that pamperin’ process, and to wear in the limo on the way over. (PS. She ordered them from Etsy for any future Mrs. out thur)!

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After many laughs, mimosas, and ratchet dance moves we jumped into the limo to head to the party center (fun fact: I worked at Todaros Party Center in high school with my Clair bug).

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I meannnnn…

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Aunt Mo also met this little nugget for the first time (Clair’s son, Jacob). Y’alll….. MY FREAKING HEART. I could not even handle it.

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HE IS PERFECT

img_3955Naturally, I didn’t get any pictures of the ceremony being on stage and all that jazz *hair flip*….

But for dinner, there was a fabulous array of cheese, crackers, spinach dip, and then main courses of chicken, steak, and a vegetarian option (HOLLAAA!). This was ah-vegan-mazing! SOO Dahhh lisshhh ! I don’t know what they did to these veggies, but they were flame. (Potentially literally, maybe they were barbequed?!). Also, I quickly snatched my favorite rolls that I used to secretly eat while making bread baskets when I worked there and carb loaded for the dance floor.

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OK. Someone bring me tissues.. have you ever seen anyone more perfect?! Stahp dis.

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And the gorgeous couple after <3

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One of the best parts of weddings is seeing people you love love love love. Here is my sweet Lynds, who you may remember had her absolutely incredible wedding in July! You can see throw back pics of all of us in that post- Clair wasn’t able to make it because she was due with Jacob!

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Me and the perfect Maid of Honor (also a fellow nurse). <3

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Me, ma, mo dinos. (No worries- you do not need to understand.. we don’t even understand)… jus’ three girls, tryna make it in this world. What is happening……… (once again.. see throw backs here).

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This is I and another good friend, Kristen (Clair’s cousin). Stop growing up, please and thank yas.

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The whole church gang all together <3

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Uhm, yum? Need I say more?

Also yum… getta load of this arm candy!

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Alien hand once again making a debut ^^^^^.

I also may have had a minor toe fiasco on the dance floor… resulting in a  bit of blood. What’s a good night without an injury?! One of the bridesmaids so sweetly helped me out .. we got that sucker bandaged up so I didn’t miss another second of dancing. 💕

Thank you, Clair and Robby, for allowing me to be part of your perfect day. (No- I am not over-utilizing the word perfect, it is entirely justified!).

After the wedding, we went back to DJ’s mom’s home (also my second home) for pumpkin pie, dirt pudding, and great chats. Oh how I miss the days of spending hours chatting in that kitchen <3

The next day, DJ finally got his ultimate pancake fix. Heck yah. There are OFFICIALLY no better pancakes (nor better pumpkin pie) than Mom B’s. The. BEST. Even on her birthday, she spoiled US with all the yums.

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On the flight back I worked out my schedule for December and early January. My research project is due in about three weeks (EEK!). I will be devoting nearly every second of free time to it, but I cannot wait to share with y’all what we have been working on. I nibbled on pita bread, hummus, tabouleh, olives, and feta. Is there anything better?!

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I hope you all are doing so well. I’ve been totally MIA on your sites, but once this research project is turned in I will be able to catch up a bit. Love to you all and a happy holiday season!!!

xo <3

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Crazy Wildfires & DJ’s Birthday Celebrations!

Happy Thursday, ya’ll (well, Thursday by the time anyone reads this- although it is currently Wednesday evening)! How’s it kickin’?

We said goodbye to one of my favorite charge nurses last week; I was super sad to see her go 🙁 (This send off banner was too funny not to share though!)

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DJ’s birthday was October 6th!!! I can’t believe I am just shooting this post up now. Sheesh! Anywho, we had a gift card to Open Table that was put to phenomenal use at the local Forbes Mill in Los Gatos!

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This sweet man.. I would usually not pull my phone out at places this nice to snap food pics, but he convinced me that it was just us two and it wasn’t a big deal…. I obliged pretty easily 😉

We started with the giant prawn cocktail. There is nothing better than a fresh shrimp/prawn appetizer. It’s easily our go-to!

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We also tried their crab cakes! They were tasty, no denying it…yet a far cry from the cakes we had in Baltimore.

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I also had their generously sized beets and macadamia crusted goat cheese salad. It was one of the best I have ever had,  and it’s so simple to throw together! I definitely will be recreating this at home.

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DJ tried the ULTIMATE surf and turf with a combo of waygu and lobster tail. I sampled the waygu because it’s supposed to be the highest quality of meat, and I couldn’t let the opportunity pass….. butttt I had an aversion to the flavor. After not eating meat for about four years it didn’t do anything for me.

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We also dabbled in a side of creamed spinach.. if it’s on the menu you know we are jumping on it! We absolutely loved it. I still think the creamed spinach from Ben and Jack’s in New York is the best of all time, but this is not far behind.

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And I couldn’t pass up the epic, rave-worthy, award-winning scallops….. I think the only ones that contest are Farallon’s in San Francisco. Gosh, just the thought is making my mouth water all over the darn laptop. They were served over forbidden rice- a new obsession of mine officially. Has anyone had this magical grain?! It’s ah-may-zin!

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I could go on for days and days about how amazing DJ is. He is a man of God, handsome, humble, hilarious, loyal as they come, my rock, courageous, intelligent, witty, intuitive, hard working, dedicated, and genuine. Those qualities just scratch the surface. I don’t know why God blessed me with such an incredible man, but I won’t argue with His provision 😉

The days are all kind of blurring together from the rest of the last few weeks. I do want to share of my favorite snap shots from random runs and of course, even more random pics of all the foooooodddd we’ve been scarfin’!

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The fall blooms are just as gorgeous as the spring blooms!!! Even though we don’t have the leaves change like back in the good ol’ midwest, we still have the beautiful array of flowers to admire in this season.

Unfortunately, my autumn runs had to come to a quick halt when the wildfires started last week. It smelled pungent with smoke in the hospital (which is closer to the fires than our apartment is), and then eventually the air around our home was saturated with the unescapable burning scent. In the morning when we woke up our eyes itched, our throats scratched.. it was surreal. We just keep praying for everyone affected by these horrible fires. I truly hope the madness stops soon and mother earth cools her jets.

If you would like to help, please visit this link with multiple options you can contribute!

Back to the random food mess… I’m still on the egg kick for suure. (I put some of the leftover creamed spinach on a piece of toast and then the egg on top, good heavens).

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I also have been CRAVING a Whole Foods trip. Since they have always been ugly pricey, I usually only go every once in a while. However, now that they are bought by Amazon their prices have gone down tremendously!

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Using many of the ingredients from whole foods, I made a fall salad that I’m ridiculously obsessed now. I was inspired by Stein’s Beer Garden’s salad. It contains jicama, roasted butternut squash, quinoa, light craisins, and I use a homemade apple cider vinaigrette (with some apple cider, a touch of oil, and a touch of sugar).

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I think ya’ll get the point. Haha.

Another thing I, and the rest of everyone, has been loving is spaghetti squash! Ugh, it is SO good. I have been mixing it with vegan butter, vegan meatless crumbles, and a touch of parmesan on top. So easy, so scrumptious. I know many of you out there have tremendous recipes for the spag-squa, please share em’ with me!

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And I’ve been whipping up a lot of capreses for DJ. This is one of his favorite snacks and the heirloom tomatoes were on sale at Whole fuuds and, oh man, were they ever fresh!

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I’ve been decompressing from the studying with lots and lots of running. I have been mixing in Insanity workouts, but as soon as the smoke settled and the air cleared I booked it back outside.

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I’ll just slide in another picture of morning toast with dried apricots, chia seeds, oats, high protein plain greek yogurt, and stevia.

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Something else I’ve been devouring lately is smoked salmon on pita with caramelized onions and a fried or poached egg. This has been hitting the spot and has been a great high protein/healthy “comfort food” during this super stressful time.

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I took my GRE yesterday …

I crammed for about two and a half weeks in my time off work for the exam, and just didn’t score as well as I would have liked on the quantitative. Algebra and me do not exactly tango in the moonlight. Ask me to tell you the symptoms of Moya Moya or the proper medication to treat tuberculosis..we can chat. But I don’ t have the faintest idea what in the Westeros math has to do with it. It’s not even real math. Like I get 1+1=2… or me +math= disaster….. but I will be the first to admit I do not know how to solve “If Tommy had five oranges and Shelly had 12 and 2 were taken away and thrown at a cactus, why is the square root of the Eiffel tower a bag of potatoes?!”

*Deep breaths, deep breaths*

*It’s not about the problem, it’s about the procccessss*

I get that people study for a looong time for this, but only one of the schools I’m applying to out of five require it. I just don’t think it’s worth it to slave over the study material when majority of MSN-FNP admissions don’t require it, and the app deadline for the one that does is November 1st. (Which is actually great because then I don’t even have the option to retake it for now). Now I’m rambling. *clearing throat*. Oh well, que sera sera.

HOW ARE YOU?!?  I am jumping off the crazy train now, and heading to bed before an early morning wake up call. Muah!

Blog Birthdays:

Cassie at Cassie’s Cookery on October 17th. Sweet girl, Happy birthday. You have changed my life more than you know, and you inspire me every single day. I am SO beyond thankful for ya, sweet thang. You are strong, loyal, empathetic, lovely, beautiful, and full of God’s grace and goodness. You exude His love more than most I know. Our conversations are always close to my heart, and I love you to absolute pieces, sista! <3 I hope your birthday was beyond perfect and you know what a treasure and gift you are to this earth.

PS. Cassie has an amazing cookbook out! If you wanna check it out go HERE. I know I am getting my copy ASAP! 🙂

xo <3

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Six Month Nursing Evaluation & Reflection- Good News!

HEY GUYS! Wow, a ton has happened since my last post, and I am stoked to update you all! I am going to whip out another post soon about my friend from college who visited, but I want to do a quick six month nursing reflection realz quick for my own archives.

**If you want to read my last nursing update, hit up dis link **

So, as you know, I had my meeting on Monday for my six month evaluation and end of the probation period since beginning this nursing gig in March. Most people said if we haven’t had any prior “conversations” we were probably in the clear, but being me, every little thing I’ve done wrong since beginning this job just danced around in my mind. When I went into the office, the response I received from my managers, patients, and coworkers shocked me- it was so uplifting, encouraging, and positive. She quickly said she was excited to promote me to a clinical nurse II (Eeeek!). Like I said- I was shocked. Shocked.

This was tremendously different than the voice that I’ve been feeding myself this whole time. If she had asked, I could have given her a list a mile long of everything I have done wrong, everything I need to improve on, everything I’m too slow at accomplishing, everything I don’t fully understand, and every failure I’ve had since beginning.

I have a bad, bad habit of beating myself up over everything. Can I get an amen from my fellow perfectionists out there?

For instance, I could have several truly beautiful and meaningful interactions with my patients, but that one patient I feel I fail is the one I dwell on. I could do twenty things right, but that one little mistake is what keeps me up at night. That’s called negativity, ladies and gentleman. And wowza, after realizing how much I wallowed in that negativity, this truth hit me bold in the face: I am a hypocrite. Allow me to explain. Just the other day I was sitting with one of my patients that was having some negative self talk. I sat down next to this elderly man, and presented him the positive side of every negative thing he had just said. Then I grabbed a water bottle at his bedside that was serendipitously half full and held it out in front of him. I looked at him, this man who I couldn’t get to crack a smile the whole day and said, “Now, is this half full or half empty?”. He looked at me, totally catching on to what I was doing, and reluctantly he broke a small smile. After a long few seconds of deciding whether he should appease his dorky nurse, he finally said, “Half full”.

Yup, there is always a half full. I was just missing it, and apparently I was not living what I was preaching.

This whole evaluation process helped me realize several things. First, the perspective I have had of myself as a nurse is quite different than how those around me perceive me, but more importantly- how my patients perceive me. The feedback from them means more to me than anything else, and the fact that it was all positive meant the world. I know I have failed them at times, and some days on the unit I am simply too busy to provide the emotional support I wish I could. However, seeing that it’s been all positive feedback means somehow I am still conveying I care, even when I feel that I’m failing. Second, I learned it’s actually okay necessary to be kind and forgive myself. Every mistake I have made up to this point has only made me a better nurse. The inability to let go of these “less than perfect” circumstances only creates turmoil in myself, it’s a destructive seed that benefits no one and manifests in hair loss and a chronically upset stomach. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Soo, I am choosing to forgive myself and offer myself grace. Third, although it’s super important to learn from the mistakes and look for constant improvement, it’s also okay to acknowledge when I do something well. I need to start realizing that I am competent, because this will translate into confidence, allowing my patients to have more confidence in me.

This has been hands down the hardest six months of my life, and I have spent far too much reflecting on my many, many failures. So now I will take time to reflect on the successes. (This is strictly for me to be able to reflect and document my growth as a nurse- not at all in a sense to come off braggadocious because, let’s be real, I could write five novels on how I screw up daily).

Thinking back to when I started on the neuro. unit six months ago, the growth and learning that has taken place really blows my mind (pun totally intended). I cannot take for granted this opportunity and experience, and I reflect with a thankful heart despite the countless tears, heartache, anxiety, and well, insanity.

Six months ago I could not interpret lab values or interpret what was important, but now I’m managing critical labs and hanging potassium like it ain’t no thing. Six months ago I couldn’t titrate a lumbar drain or an EVD, now I can work in the neuro close observation room managing a couple at once. Six months ago I couldn’t perform a thorough neuro exam or identify a patient stroking or developing ICP, now I feel confident calling stroke codes and requesting stat CT scans. Six months ago I wouldn’t have the first clue in knowing how to manage a patient’s blood pressure using only PRNs, but now I will bring a BP down from 170 to 130 in less than 30 minutes. Six months ago I couldn’t do discharge teaching or admissions, now I am doing multiple at once (slowly, but surely!). Six months ago I didn’t know what to report to a doctor, but now I know am making recommendations. Six months ago I had no clue how to turn a patient or reposition them, now I dare you to get a pressure ulcer on my watch. Six months ago I was terrified of IV pumps, now I titrate lidocaine and heparin drips. Six months ago I had no clue how to work with PT, OT, SLP, or case management, but now we coordinate care together daily. Six months ago I didn’t know how to collect spec. gravs or draw blood from central lines, now I’m managing DI and SIADH with every hour Is and Os and shooting that blood up in a tube to lab is oh so satisfying. Six months ago I would shake in my scrubs at the idea of changing a PICC dressing, now it’s one of my favorite nursing skills. Six months ago, I was too emotionally and physically exhausted most days to do anything outside of work, now I am making plans with friends again. Six months ago, I didn’t take the time to stop and pray with my patients, now I try to offer whenever I can. Six months ago, I didn’t put my full strength in Christ, but now I surrender every single day to Him, because without Him, I would not have made it through these six months. These victories are not my own, rather it’s the victory of all the family and friends who have supported and encouraged me. It’s my husband’s victory, who has been my rock this past six months when I’ve been crumbling. And ultimately, it’s the victory and glory of the One who has carried me each second of the day. (Oh, and I guess coffee deserves a shout out too).

Thank you all for your sweet words and prayers leading up to the evaluation. Also- I received the stamp of approval on my research project today, so that’s what I, and a couple others from my unit, will be tackling for the next six months. I am absolutely giddy about it, and one eager beaver to share it with ya’ll in March!

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xo <3

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A Sun Basket Review & A Fox Dog!

Hey hey heyyyy!! How’s it kicking?

First things first- sometimes I feel slightly unsettled posting some superficial, light hearted posts when such tragic events are occurring all over our world, ya know? Especially right now with all the events that occurred in Charlottesville, the flooding and the storm in Texas, things in Syria, etc. etc……it’s just heart wrenching. Unfathomable. I know there are always tragic happenings; it’s inevitable. But my heart just breaks at it all, and I feel almost silly taking pictures of food and being so grossly removed from it all. I was talking with a friend about it and they made a good point that if we never took time to celebrate the little things in life and only focused on the bad, what type of existence would that be? It’s true. It’s important to acknowledge, be aware, and help however and wherever we can in this broken world. But it’s ok to also take time and celebrate beauty. The good, the bad, the terrible, the beautiful, the painful, the uplifting, the fun, the heart wrenching, the hilarity, the ugly, the superficial, the deep, and even the mundane makes up all things we call life, and it should all be acknowledged. Blogging is such a great escape for ourselves to write, to celebrate with others the beauty in their lives, and to  encourage one another too. <3 If other bloggers have ever felt similarly or have any thoughts please share them with me. <3

I have a few fun happenings that have occurred over the past month or so, but with the traveling to Texas, and work in between, I haven’t done a recap! This post is incredibly saturated with edible items- just FYI. Sending all ya’ll fair warnings if you get the tummy grumbles easy-I highly encourage you grab a snack now! Nurse’s orders.

On Wednesday, August 9th, One of DJ’s best friends from growing up, Grant, (also best man in our wedding) and his girlfriend came to California for work, and we had a nice dinner at the Counter one night. This is easily one of DJ and I’s favorites since we discovered it in NYC. You see this list below? You literally build your own burger with whatever protein/bun/cheese/sauces/toppings/etc., and the options are endless. It’s both a foodie dream, but an indecisive foodie’s nightmare. But the dream trumps the nightmare, I promise 😉

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I usually make a vegan veggie burger with a multigrain or ciabatta bun with nearly all the veggies, smoked gouda cheese, and coleslaw with a side of sweet potato fries. This day was scorching hot, so I was fancying salad and put it over greens with a side of balsamic vinaigrette.

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The next day, I had to work, but DJ gave them the grand tour of the area and took them up Mt. Hamilton for the gorgeous views.

Now, I am not proud of this, but I am a hard core fan of the show Vanderpump Rules on Bravo. One of the cast members, Stassi, has a podcast and her show had a promo code for Sun Basket. I decided to give it a try and it was a great decision!

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It comes with an actual little cookbook instead of individual sheets like Blue Apron or Green Chef. It keeps it all condensed in one place, so that’s pretty nice! Plus you get recipes even for the boxes you may not have bought (the entire summer series is in one cookbook).

Quality: In terms of the produce, it is non-GMO, organic, and healthy. However, because of it’s organic nature, the ingredients started going bad within a couple days. I had to make sure to make all the meals right away. But it was all immensely flavorful and fresh.

The first meal we made was the New Orleans style Shrimp Creole. I gobbled this one right up! I think it was my favorite of the three.

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Quantity: In terms of quantity, the servings were fantastic. Since these delivery systems aren’t exactly cheap, you want to make sure to get enough for leftovers if possible. This did not skimp of quantity and we all know leftovers can sometimes be ever more delicious than the first go around.

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The second meal we made were the steak tacos with zucchini-scallion salsa and lime-yogurt. This was DJ’s favorite. I obviously didn’t have the tacos, but I loved the zucchini-scallion salsa!

Health: By health standards, these are winners. All the meals are approved by a nutritionist that works for the company, and the emphasis is on spices, dynamic flavor pairing, and enhancement of natural flavors without adding sugars and added fats.

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And last, but certainly not least, we had the penne with moroccan spiced chickpeas and tomatoes. I liked this more than DJ, but I love love love the blend of cinnamon, cardamom, and garlic together.

Speed: These meals were easily the quickest to make of any that I have tried from Blue Apron to Green Chef to Hello Fresh. I was in and out of the kitchen within about twenty minutes with these ones. I was shocked at how little effort was put forth to get a healthy, scrumptious, and satisfying meal.

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Overall impression: 8/10. I will certainly be trying Sun Basket again! The only real con was the fact that the vegetables need to be used almost immediately upon arrival. Besides that I was super impressed with the service. Blue Apron meals are heartier and have more of a “comfort meal” factor, but they aren’t quite as health focused.

Anyone else use it and want to give their experience?!

Now fast forward past the Texas trip….vrrrroooooommmmm.

On August 21st, DJ and I both had the day off! We went to Stein’s, the new restaurant near our apartment. It’s one of those places that I crave. It’s ridiculously yumm.img_0778-1

I ordered the quinoa & butternut squash salad with napa cabbage / jicama / cilantro / avocado relish / pumpkin seeds / chili lime vinaigrette. I was craving something crunchy, cold, light, and sweet! It hit the spot!

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DJ tried their cornmeal battered cage-free Petaluma fried chicken with slaw and three sauces: The Green Goblin, Wings of Fire, and Sweet Samui. They have a long list of options to choose from with sauces.

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August 22nd, my good friend Sara came by to celebrate her getting a job! Woohoo! We watched the show The Sinner, with Jessica Biel (a psychological thriller- gripping as can be!), and nommed on tons of snacks while playing with the cutest little puppy in the whole world. She was dog sitting and brought this little Foxy lady over.

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Naturally had to whip up a batch of the cookies too 😉

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One Wednesday, August 23rd, I spent the morning lounging for the first time in a while. It was so nice to unwind and take a few deep breaths. I had the house clean, the laundry done, and the groceries stocked for the rest of the week.

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In the afternoon, I went on a hike with DJ’s stepmom! It was much needed chit-chat time. We went to San Antonio Nature Preserve and hiked about seven miles. Quick insane story though- remember last year when I had that scare with the mountain lion (probably a bob cat?). Well, when we were hiking up that same trail, a man came down running past us and told us there had been a mountain lion attack near the top of the hill on the trail (a poor little deer). The unnerving thing was it was in the exact.same.spot I had heard the snarl. I had a hard time sleeping that night- it just didn’t sit well with me. I had convinced myself that it was a bobcat all this time, but the truth is it very well may have been a mountain lion that I had heard.

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After braving the hike (on a different path, of course) and seeing tons of wildlife from deer to turkeys and colorful birds, we went back to our apartment and fueled back up with avocado smoothies, protein cookies, and tons of laughs. Since I was heading back to work the next day, this really helped get me into better spirits and calmed my nerves a great deal.

I worked on the 24th and 25th. BUT- we had a pizza party because we beat our unit record of no patient falls on the unit! WOOHOOOOO!!!!!!!

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Also, a coworker brought in fresh figs. I’ve never had figs before, but I think I have a new addiction. They are so delicious and sweet. If you haven’t tried them- doooo ittttt! SO TASTY!

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DJ has been extra busy with his job lately, and is currently running the marketing department (GO DEEJ!). I’m so proud of him; he’s working ridiculously hard right now. We don’t see each other much, but hopefully when the season settles down we will more!

On Saturday, August 26th, I could barely bring myself out of bed. That’s when I decided to get my creative juices flowing and made the running post. I also caught up a bit on blogging, went for a nice long run, and watched movies (yep, can you believe it?!). Usually after a couple days in a row of working, I need a day with near zero human interaction. It’s hard to be “on” and at the whim of four human beings for nearly 24 hours straight (with about 9 hours in between shifts). I know hospitals aren’t hotels, but I really do think patients think they are sometimes, lol. I feel like I play waitress/maid/person jus’ tryna’ keep you alive all at the same time. (Hmmm, sounds like motherhood? I think I am getting a little taste, haha). I don’t mind though- I really do love my patients. Even the extra-needy ones 😉 But on that first day off, even DJ knows to just not say a word to me.

Sunday, August 27th,  I accidentally overslept through church, but watched Case for Christ on Amazon! SO GOOD! I squeezed in an excellent insanity workout, went to get my bridesmaid dress fitted from David’s bridal, did some groceries, and had a hankerin’ for MOD Pizza for dinner. It was a much more productive day than Saturday, and kept my mind preoccupied for the next couple days of work. (If I sit around, I really tend to work myself up about it).

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On this past Monday and Tuesday, I was assigned to NCOR (neuro close observation room). I always get super-extra nervous when I’m in that room because it’s the sickest patients on the floor that require 24-hour, eyes on, observation. The first day left me sobbing in the bathroom, but the second day was much better, and I walked away feeling elated. ‘Tis nursing.

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I now am resting up a bit before working this weekend, and have a couple fun things planned these next couple days before heading back (I’ll recap in the next post).

Who’s ready for fall?!?!!?

Blog Birthdays:

Happy Happy Happy Happy Birthday to my girl, JJ, from Sitbackandjustlive on August 24th! Girl- I am SO thankful for you. You speak such encouragement and love into my life and sooo many others! You inspire everyone with your zest for life, and thank goodness for all your makeup tips & vicarious Boston adventures! LOVE YOU,  beautiful!!! Hope FL is treating you, real well. XOXO

xo <3

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