The Last Couple Weeks…

Last night after a 12- hour shift I pulled into our apartment complex, parked the car, took the elevator up to our floor and walked into our home.

“How was it?”

That was all it took. The tears just flowed. And flowed some more.

DJ jumped up from the couch and just held me.

The end of my first week of in-hospital nursing came to a close. With it came feelings of incompetence like none I have ever experienced. Those feelings of inadequacy slowly chipped away at my confidence, as though carving out pieces of my soul. After three shifts, I was broken.

I knew this was coming, mentally. I have heard it from countless other new nurses before. I won’t let that happen, I lied to myself.

Yes, this past week was perhaps one of the most emotionally draining of my life. I knew orientation would be a challenge- but I truly don’t know how I’m going to finish everything by the deadline of April 19th. We have countless skills we have to perform in-hospital, but when caring for patients, it’s hard enough to find a bathroom break, let alone demonstrate how to set up a chest tube, how to clean a tracheostomy, how to insert an NG tube, how to change a CVC dressing, set up a lumbar drain, etc.

On top of that is the physical exhaustion- the 4:30 wake up calls, the intense modules to complete on my “day off”, the desire to keep a home running for DJ and I to live in, including keeping groceries stocked and the laundry done.

But perhaps one of the most challenging aspects right now stems from the deep love I have for the people I am caring for. All that above, it’s hard to do, but oh man, it is so worth it when I can care for someone so intimately and make a difference in their lives. But out of this love I have for caring for my patients comes a desire to be freaking good at caring for them. And I’m not. I have no idea what I’m doing right now, and I am beyond frustrated with myself. One of our educators told us multiple times that we have to be forgiving with ourselves. Now I totally understand what she meant.

I forget to chart so many things. I lay awake panicking because I can’t remember if I did A, B, AND C, or if I only did A and B. I drive to work nauseas because I’m so terrified.

But it’s normal, they say.

Do I regret this choice or decision? No.

Do I wonder if I have what it takes? Yes.

Do I have to remind myself multiple times a day that God has a specific plan for me here? Yes.

Is this the first chapter of my story that has a beautiful ending where I can confidently say that I am a good nurse? I really hope so.

Ya’ll know that I’m pretty candid around here. Yes, I LOVE to make the world’s-worst jokes, and I LOVE to laugh-but I will let you know when it’s been tough tough tough. When things get stressful, I tend to go into hermit mode and cut myself off from the world. But in this past couple weeks I have worked up a serious appetite to blog. I feel like it always helps me put things back into perspective. When you can write about a situation, it gives it a tangibility and control at your finger tips. You decide what is highlighted, and ultimately you decide the perspective you have and the learning you gain from the experience. That’s what writing does for me, and it’s cathartic and healing in an essence of its own.

And although this week was so hard, I know that it will get better. I am in a learning season, and sometimes learning is one of the most trying obstacles we can face in life. Why? Because learning requires a stretch of our will, minds, energy, patience, and that is usually uncomfortable. But the awesome truth about the trials of learning is the accompaniment of growth. Lessons aren’t learned in complacency, but rather in tribulation. As is growth. So for that growth I am thankful, I need this stage to help me blossom. I need it to refine me and my character. I need it to meet new friends, lead people to Jesus, and carry out a purpose for which I have been called. One day this stage will allow me to encourage others that walk through it too.

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(Romans 5:3) Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

And in the mean time, I refuse to solely survive. I want to live, I want to thrive. I want to learn as much as I can and not let every negative, exhausting, emotionally draining situation define me or my perspective.

I also don’t write this for pity or anything- it’s simply to have a baseline for myself moving forward so I can see that growth that takes place! I know things will get better, and I hate to be negative, but it’s also important for me to be candid about these things for my own reflection! 

Hope I didn’t give anyone an extra case of the Monday blues! 🙈

Sooo, without further adieu. I would love to share some highlights of our week…

I am officially running the Big Sur Marathon!!! I haven’t officially announced it here because I didn’t know if my work schedule would allow it. To be honest, I haven’t trained much, so it may be a bit rough. If anything, I will see some spectacular views! I’m trying not to put too much pressure on myself to get a great time or even finish it if my body says, “heck nah”, so we will see. I did complete an 18-miler with two minor breaks on Friday while studying on the treadmill, so that’s not too bad! This weekend I don’t work Saturday, so I might go for a 22-miler while I study! Anywho…. here are my nature-y pics from other runs during the week!

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DJ and I still haven’t seen each other much during the week. Baseball season is gearing up, so he has been at work till about 10/11 pm every evening including many weekend nights. However, Saturday March 25th, he had a lunch break (where he could actually leave the office). We met at Bill’s because where else?! He ordered the french toast croissant and I ordered the greek omelette again because I’m addicted. We missed ya, Mom and Gordie! (If you missed our awesome weekend and the full review of Bill’s Cafe, check it out here).

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For dinner these past couple weeks, I have done crockpot ribs and a combination of Hello Fresh/Blue Apron, and salads. Blue Apron > Hello Fresh by a LANDSLIDE. I used Hello Fresh because we had a promo giftcard. It was promo no-no. I mean the stuff wasn’t horrible, but it was not Blue Apron. Blue Apron makes me feel like this in the kitchen…

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NOTHING ELSE DOES THAT! 

Oh, and here are the ribs. Made with none other than the SJ Giants BBQ sauce 😉 #REPRESENT

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This meal below was easily one of my favorite Blue Apron meals of all time!!! It was a mozzarella pizza with fresh oregano, spinach, and green bell peppers. YUM. The dough was perfection too.

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Traditionally, spring has been my least favorite season. But these California blooms are poppin’!

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BEST part of the day right here. Circa 5 am. Time with Jesus, coffee, Ezekiel bread/yogurt/strawberries.

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Oh hey look it’s a nurse! Don’t let the uniform fool you. My only recommendation for anything currently is to eat chocolate and take a Tylenol.

***Unless you have liver issues. Do not take more than 4g in a 24 hour period.***

Have to protect my butt now that I have a thing called a license.

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I’ve tried to change the scenery of my study areas and resorted to hanging out in our apartment’s community area. It’s so cute, I don’t know why I haven’t done this more in the past. And I’m lovin’ those pillows.

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On one of my days “off” (there is ALWAYS something to study and do or a class to attend on our days “off”, hence the quotations), I returned a ton of the business casual clothes I didn’t end up wearing for our two big business cas. weeks of orientation. I decided to take a quick stroll around Santana Row just to be outside for a bit. So many amazing memories here. There’s this memory and this memory and this memory……. It made me happy and nostalgic all at the same time.

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Thursday night we had our church group. This is the first time I have been able to make one since the group started up three weeks ago. DJ actually was able to request to leave early and led the group for the evening. Such a stud. My good friend Danielle (from that insane hike), made Lamingtons- a traditional Australian dessert. Holy Maloly they were so good. I can’t even explain. All good things come from Australia.

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She also made Vegemite/Veggie/Bacon and cheese scrolls- Which are seriously manna from heaven, and all people need to try these before they die. Danielle is also one of the greatest bakers ever, and I think Jesus blessed me a little extra with her as a friend.

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Last night was the first date night DJ and I had since my last post (at the Socialight on March 24th). I came home from work around 8 pm emotionally exhausted and hangry as mentioned above. ***I also have to make a side note that DJ cleaned the whole house, did dishes and laundry on his first day off in a couple weeks. He is amazing.***

Anyways, there was a very specific meal I was craving- and that was Lazy Dog’s Sesame Crusted Ahi Tuna over Cauliflower mashed potatoes in a curry coconut cream sauce. Luckily, DJ hadn’t ate a huge dinner so we headed over to Main Street for a late one. (Also what better place to go post 12-hour work day than Lazy Dog?)

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This was the highlight of my week. Just spending these precious, small moments with DJ. (He doesn’t like me taking his picture, so I sneak them and then post them on the internet while he’s not looking 😉 ). And then he’ll read this and I’ll get a lecture. It’s like clockwork.

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And forever, the PEET’s mug will host our Sunday mornings.

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So, today was PALM SUNDAY!!!! I needed my church family badly. They encouraged me greatly. Also, in this worship service today, I felt so wrapped in love. There is a specific reason for this… it’s amazing the way God works.

Going back a few years… the day after my dad passed away in high school, I went to church. I felt like going through the “normal” motions was just how I coped. I remember the first song that played in our worship service was “Hosanna”. I couldn’t choke out the words but my heart was singing them. It was laden with emotion and has been for me ever sense. It’s weird though, it doesn’t bring with it feelings of immense sadness and loss necessarily. It brings back the reminder that the Lord is my comfort in my darkest moments. Our church that DJ and I attend now has their own worship music from C3 Church’s elevation worship- they rarely play more “mainstream” worship that most churches know. However, this morning, while I was feeling downcast and perhaps more stressed than I have in my life, the worship team started playing this song. It just brought me such comfort- reminding me that God is my place of rest, my Prince of Peace. I felt like Jesus was reminding me that He will be with me through all of this.

DJ had to work today, but was back home for dinner (officially an anomaly).

For dinner tonight I had some leftover Seared Sesame Ahi tuna from leftover’s last night in my salad with tons of avocado and white cheddar puff pastries from Blue Apron. DJ wanted his leftover ribs.

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I spent the rest of today studying and basically trying to get organized (contrary to what the picture might say).

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The work week starts again bright and early at 5:00 am (which now feels like sleeping in compared to my hospital days). I have modules and classroom work the beginning of the week and 12-hour shifts starting Thursday.

I am so very sad that blogging has been put on the big ole’ back burner. Once orientation is over the load should lighten up a bit. I send ya’ll so much love.

xo ❤

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Fort Worth, TX Recap!

Hey Ya’ll! Long time no chat! I am so behind on these posts, comments, everyyything- so I apologize but I will get caught up very soon 🙂 I have so many good memories to record and share. I am taking us wayyy back in time to December 15th when I arrived in Fort Worth, Texas. My mom and step dad, Pete, live there and my sister, Halston, flew in as well. DJ had to stay in Cali for work! I already recapped San Antonio, which was a weekend trip, so this post is the bookends of that weekend!

Thursday (12/15)

I woke up in the morning sick as a dog. I definitely caught whatever had been going around. DJ took me to the airport, and we realized this would be the longest we would be apart since we got married. Anyway, I comically lugged my three suitcases through the airport, unable to keep them stacked in a way that I could physically move them in unison. I’d go five steps then *flop* the one would topple over, another five steps then *flop*- I continued dropping the luggage every few feet and certainly was someone’s entertainment for the day. I honestly didn’t care, I just wanted to get through security to my darn gate. I handed off my checked luggage and was finally free from the luggage juggling circus act. Once through security, I started craving soup more than I can ever remember in my whole life. The chills were pretty bad. I walked through the airport strip and had about given up on finding soup and instead started hunting down my gate. When I was close to my gate I saw the San Francisco Soup Company and was never so ecstatic to see a soup place in all my years.

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I ordered their summer corn chowder and it hit.the. spot. It took that achy chill out of my bones and made the rest of the wait bearable!

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On the flight I read the latest issue of the American Journal of Nursing, wrote some Christmas cards, and used the tray table as a pillow. What do you guys do on flights?

After I landed, my family and I exchanged hugs and “Ah! I don’t want to get you sick”(s) and “I don’t care!”(s), then hit the road to head to Keller (a suburb of Fort Worth). On the way we stopped by the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX. My sister’s boyfriend, Kevin, was there for one more night and we said he couldn’t leave without seeing this place. It’s quite the spectacle! It’s one large hotel, but they deck it all out for Christmas. You know the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas”? I’m pretty sure that originated with this hotel. It’s worth a quick walk through if you are ever in the area!

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Cuties!!!! (I was out of commission for pictures; I basically looked like a walking zombie).

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They have an imitation San Antonio Riverwalk on the lower level. It’s even completed with Mexican restaurants all around it. How cool is that!??!

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Once home, I was greeted by my puppy, Jade, that I haven’t seen in so long.

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On Friday (12/16) Kevin left (sad day!), and I had my hair did (insert hand flip emoji) at a Lemongrass Salon by Aveda while my mom and sister shopped. I accidentally missed my appointment that I had scheduled in California (I thought it was 1 but it was 11), so my mom graciously helped me schedule this one. I still was not feeling 100%, so it was a good day to knock this out. Getting your head massaged and roots covered is a sure fire way to make a girl feel better 😉 I swear by Aveda salons for a good blonde!

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Friday night mama Jill whipped up a delicious dinner!!! It was cauliflower Arancini via GreenChef, and we loved it! However, we both agree after using both services that Blue Apron is still the better of the two.

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I liked using the leftover cauliflower bites to dip in hummus. They were even better the next day.

That night we went to the movies. I LOVE the movie theaters with the Cafe and Bar areas. We watched Collateral Beauty. I thought it was just OK, but the rest of my family loved it. Either way it was great family time and sparked good conversation. I won’t give a full synopsis- but if anyone has seen it I would love to hear your thoughts!

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Saturday morning (12/17) We left first thing in the morning for San Antonio!!!!!!!! You can read all about our Saturday morning to Sunday evening here.

Monday (12/18) was a chilllllllll day filled with sleeping in, a workout at the local recreation center with my mama, baking Christmas cookies, and sushi for dinner. A perfect day if there ever was any! The last couple times we have been in Fort Worth have been pretty tourist packed, so we decided to take it easy this round and just relax- a word that isn’t really in my vocab too often.

At breakfast, the little stinker put on her sweet begging face. Sorry, Charlie, I like my toast too doggone much to share.

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Christmas Bakin’! I wish I could take credit for any of this, but Mama Jill was the baking wizard all the way. Her coconut macaroons are the BOMB (they are the white morsels). And there is truly something about homemade rice krispy treats!

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Tons of sushi from Kroger with seaweed salad and asian thai salad was on the agenda for dinner. (I know grocery store sushi may not sound super appealing, but I have never been disappointed!).

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After sushi, we went over some family friends’. I met them last spring when I was in town and had a ball with them. I couldn’t wait to hang out again. Their house is the most festively decorated home I have ever seen. I think the said they have eighteen Christmas trees total? Each one is decorated with a specific ornament theme. For example, they have a Christmas tree with only shoe ornaments, another with only wine bottle ornaments, another with only santa ornaments, etc.; it was an actual winter wonderland.

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She has no idea I snapped this, but I snuck a picture of this classy lady!

Also we had carolers stop by, and they were the most precious two little girls in the world.

Tuesday (12/20)

This was lounge day round two! We watched Netflix, home videos, Hulu, and grazed all day long.

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My family hasn’t let me live this clip down for years. This is Halston and I. I was NOT a nice big sister!!! Sorry, Hal!!! Thanks for not holding this against me. Love u!

Here is a picture of my mama’s homemade guac that I mentioned in the San Antonio post!

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For dinner she made roasted onion, butternut squash, brussel sprouts, and cranberries with a maple glaze. YUM!

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Every single night us three girls hot-tubbed, chatted, and sipped on wine. It was perfection. Pete was so sweet to encourage us to have our girl time.

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The neighbors next-door just had a baby, so we dog-sat a couple times in the evenings for them to lighten their load. This video makes me belly laugh every time I watch it. It is of one of the dogs (the most lovable Pitbull in the world) thoroughly enjoying a tummy rub. Yes- that is a dog making that noise. My mom at the end of the video goes, “Why are you crying, Buster?!” *That’s the dog’s name 😉

Wednesday (12/21)

Halston, my mom, and I woke up and did Insanity in the living room. All ya’ gotta do is move a few couches out of the way and you’ve got a nice gym!!

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Followed by shenanigans.

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Jadey baby didn’t feel up for the workout. Also- what a stinking diva. She literally has her bed on the bed. Spoiled pup, I tell ya what.

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After our big family workout, we went to brunch at Another Broken Egg Cafe per my stepdad’s suggestion. I think I thanked him at least ten times for suggesting this place, because it was one of the BEST brunchy places ever. Ugh, I say that every time, but I do mean it!

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They had such a uniquely delicious selection of food, and their coffee was served in handcrafted stone mugs. Doesn’t get much better than that.

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My mom and Pete said we needed to try the Beignet doughnuts. These are like the best-donuts-you’ve-ever-had and then some. SO. GOOOD. And they are served with a honey marmalade. I donut know how I have gone my whole life without them. And I donut know how I have gone so long without making an awful pun. You’re welcome.

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Us girlies tried the skinny omelette which had herbed egg whites with blanched asparagus, roasted red peppers, green onions, goat cheese and roasted garlic cloves with an english muffin and a fruit dish. They seasoned it with the most palatable herbs!!!! My mom and I placed our bets on what they were, and we actually nailed it! Thyme, rosemary, and parsley. If you’ve never tried that on an omelette, DO IT! It’s extraordinary, or shall I say “Egg-straordinary”! Ok, ok, I’m done now 😉

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Pete chose the lemon ricotta pancakes. He graciously offered us all a bite, and obviously I graciously accepted a big ole’ one. My sister gets mad because she says when I “try” something, I end up eating half of it. But, hey, tomat-oh, tomah-toe. You say “try”, I hear “sample half the plate”. Anyways, these were lemony ricotta-ey pancakey perfection.

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Wednesday night we had the Candlelight celebration at church. It worked out perfectly because this was our “faux” Christmas Eve. Although we couldn’t celebrate actual Christmas day all together, the fact that we could go to this candlelight service definitely made it feel like a true Christmas Eve celebration. It was moving, and I love seeing the sanctuary lit up by candlelight.

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When we came home we had apps while we finished up cooking dinner! The cheese was a mix of vegan and regular. I truly could not tell the difference between which one was vegan and which one was not. Usually good vegan cheeses are hard to come by, but this stuff was a facsimile; it blew my mind! We could not get enough!

Fun tip: If you need a fancy, yet incredibly easy, appetizer- try doing pita crackers + hummus + roasted red pepper + roasted onion + a drizzle of balsamic glaze.

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Although DJ wasn’t able to actually be with us, we still hung his stocking!!!

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It was nice to sit around and enjoy our apps around the gorgeous tree. It’s these moments that define the word “content” for me.

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Dinner started with goat cheese “croutons” atop a salad with pears, pecans, and mixed greens. THIS. This is going to be a tradition.

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Momma made ribs for Pete… yes, that whole thing was for Pete considering none of us eat meat. LOL. The girls had a sesame crusted tuna. I forgot to take a picture because I was a bit ravenous!

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Dessert followed with my mom’s marveeeeelous Christmas cookies and my step dad’s famous pumpkin crunch which I am beyond bummed that I don’t have a picture of. We gobbled that thing up so quick! It’s one of our favorite parts of Christmas. It’s truly something I look forward to year round.

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We ended the night with a dip in the hot-tub per usual.

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On Thursday (11/22) we had our “faux” Christmas Day!!!!! It was a magical morning followed by a breakfast of eggs, toast, and BEER JELLY! I found these on UncommonGoods for Pete. We had fun sampling all of them! Uncommon Goods is an AMAZING site for unique gifts for the family. I find most of my gifts here each year!

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Annnnnd my stocking, as well as Halston’s, was stocked with five gum, NO COW bars (lemon meringue- the best), and Quest bars. We may have a bit of an obsession to say the least…

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After opening gifts and having breakfast, I went for a nice long run. Unfortunately, the sun didn’t want to peak through too much, but it was still enjoyable. I lived in Texas in the Summer of 2015 before traveling to India, so the familiarity feels like home, even down to the running trails.

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In the afternoon I ran a couple errands with Mama Jill

You know you are in Texas when…

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That afternoon we had apps round two!

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For our “Christmas day” dinner, we started with pear salads with goat cheese, toasted almonds, cranberries, and mixed greens. I made my cauliflower mashed potatoes! I promise I will post those at some point! They were a big hit.

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We also had stuffed vegan acorn squash with fresh cranberries!

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My mom also made regular meatballs for Pete

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And we cannot forget my most favorite dish of the season: Sweet potato praline . YUHHHHMMM.

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And what is any holiday meal without green bean casserole? She made it healthier too by substituting the cream of mushroom for light and low sodium. We could not even tell the difference!

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This perfect Christmas dinner was followed by more hot tub & wine!

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Friday (11/23) I woke up early to go to the local recreation center in Keller to get a workout in before getting ready to head to the airport. My sister had a different flight than me (a much earlier one), so she was landing in Ohio as I was taking off. This is how I caught up on reading everyone else’s blogs from the week! People probably think I’m such a crazy ellipticallyng (spelling?) with a laptop, but you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do!

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When my mom got back from the airport, I finished packing up and then we decided we had time for one last lunch before heading out. She recommended a favorite of her’s and Pete’s in town, Devivo Bros. Eatery. It is considered rustic comfort food, but has an Italian flare! So essentially all the good things..

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We split the Kale salad with fresh kale, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, crispy tortilla strips and candied almonds tossed in a jalapeño ranch dressing as well as the white bean tomato basil soup.

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It all hit the spot perfectly, and I was so thankful for this small chunk of time we could treasure before my flight.

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Isn’t she darling?!

Time to head back to OH-IO.
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I will recap that soon! Since DJ couldn’t join us on our fort worth adventures this year I figured why not include a few from last year?!? 🙂

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This is from when we visited the Fort Worth Stockyards. Such a fun place if you ever get the chance! Next time I go back to Fort Worth I am going to do a travel post about them.

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And a trip wouldn’t have been complete without absurd amounts of sushi.

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Thanks for hanging in there with me through this crazy long post!

I will do a quick holiday post recap once I am back 🙂 DJ and I have are currently waiting for our 6 am flight and have been up since 3 am! EEEK!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year,

xo ❤

Mack

Beaches & Pups & Coffee Cups! ☕️

Hey, everyone!

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First off- thank you to everybody who popped into the Mingle & Jingle!!! I wasn’t sure what to expect hosting one, but you all made it such fun!!

So…. I am a bit guilty on not doing an update post for a while…. and you know what that means…. a loooOOOooong one! But puppies & french fries are included- so it will be worth your time.

On Friday the ….*calculating date in head*….*just kidding pulling out phone calendar*…2nd of December… I went to Santa Cruz with a friend! It was her birthday weekend, and she wanted to spend the day frolicking on the beach with this little pup! She has a childhood friend that lives there, and he let us borrow the pup for a day. We took the little guy out on the beach for a while and then followed up with lunch after!

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Puppy kisses are the best

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We had her birthday lunch at a place in downtown Santa Cruz called Assembly. I wish I could say I highly recommend it, but pretty much every mistake a restaurant staff could make, they made- to a comical point. I’m not one to get my panties in a bunch about that stuff, but man, it was badddd. Their saving grace was their garlic fries with parmesan & aioli, which- not even kidding-were the best fries I have ever had. I’m not even a big french fry person! I would put up with the worst service in the world for these fries. Which I’m pretty sure we did…. haha. They were so scrumptious, I ended up getting an order for DJ too. It was one of those, “you haven’t lived till you tried this” type foods.

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We sat outside on the patio, but the inside  with the antler chandeliers was just darlin’!

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After our interesting restaurant experience, we walked around downtown and snuck in some cute little boutiques. Our favorite part while walking around was seeing these pups chilling in a bright yellow car, the one looking like it was in full control of the driver’s seat. This reminded me of the movie, My Dog Skip. Anyone ever seen it? I know my younger sister, Halston, will love this, since it was her favorite movie growing up!

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We stopped in a little classic candy shoppe called Marini’s. It had the classic burger and shake bar and the fudge shoppe on the other side. I love these retro places ❤

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On Friday night, DJ and I went to Main Street Cupertino’s tree lighting. I had this marked on our calendar for the whole month. It advertised that there would be all this festive stuff to do, hot chocolate, photo booth, etc. etc., and I was so excited. However, this was probably the most anticlimactic event and/or tree lighting I have ever seen. You can take a look for yourself! LOLZ. I think it also may have been a requirement to have a little tike, because there was not a single family without kids. The hot chocolate station said, “Kids Hot Chocolate station” so there goes the best part! I joked that we should ‘borrow’ some family’s kids so we could get some of that hot cocoa. Pshh. “Kid only Hot Chocolate”. What a nutty concept, I tell ya what.

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After the tree lighting, we went to a Moroccan Restaurant in Mountain View. We were craving it after loving our experiences in Dallas & Indianapolis, and this place had raving reviews.

To our great surprise, there was a belly dancer!!! Ok, to my great surprise…..but DJ… I think he was a smidge uncomfortable about this belly dancer shaking it around us while he was just trying to enjoy his beef tagine. I was just fascinated!

And I’m pretty sure the couple next to us were on a first date. They looked quite uncomfortable, and the music was turned up so loud that no one could hold a steady conversation. The man said something to the server, and the server replied, “No sir, we are not a club”. It took everything in me to not bust out laughing.

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Anyway, the place was super authentic and the food was delicious!! I didn’t get good foodie pics, because the lighting was super dim. Trust meh- it was tasty.

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Saturday (12/3) … I baked goodies all day long, DJ played basketball with some friends in the morning then lounged while watching sports & ending with some Netflix- it was just a perfect Saturday.

Sunday (12/4), We went to Church followed by Christmas in the Park in downtown San Jose!!!! This was another event that we forgot to bring our kids to. 😉

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Photo-bombed by a nutcracker. My Christmas is made.

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Oh hey- does this look familiar?! I finished up my Christmas baking Sunday night 🙂

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Mondays are usually my “get yo life together” day of cleaning/laundry/errands/pulling my hair out/etc. On Monday (12/5) night we got together with some friends and had authentic Korean cuisine! We tried the seafood soft tofu dish (left) & the vegetable tofu dish (right). They were still boiling when placed on the table. They are served with two eggs that you crack in each dish and then stir around the broken yolk. It’s family style, and each person gets a bowl of the purple rice to add whatever  side (kimchi, pickled pear, rice noodles, etc.) they wish on top! We have never had an experience like this and it was a fun endeavor! Plus it was excellent quality time with great new friends.

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The rest of the week is a bit of a blur. Since the rest of December I am traveling, I had soooo many things to do and figure out to get ready for Christmas and traveling. I felt like I was living in the post office and running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I cooked dinner every night, but I don’t really remember what and apparently nothing was picture worthy. Sorry DJ!

Also… only in California grocery stores….

I don’t know about you- but I like the bread or cracker samples, don’t give me carrots to sample please, sir.

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One thing that I have loved during this crazy week was the weather. Apparently, this is the coldest and rainiest winter that the Bay area has had in a while. But I love the way the beautiful leaves are contrasting against the dark backdrop. It feels very much like October would in Ohio. And if this is as cold as it gets- count me in! I’m going to be in for a shock when I go back to Ohio in a couple weeks here… Oh boy. I probably could use some prayers, ya’ll. Not sure my skin is as tough as it used to be in the tundra.

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Friday (12/9) Usually Friday is date night, but we decided to take this one easy. I was also craving my cauliflower mashed potatoes with a veggie burger & DJ was craving cereal for dinner, so we deemed Saturday our faux Friday date night instead. A night of binge watching Dexter and eating Christmas cookies was certainly in the mix Friday night.

Saturday (12/10) DJ and I went to downtown SF! We have been wanting to go to Union Square for a while to go ice skating and see the big tree. It was raining when we went, but still a great memory. We didn’t do a ton, but I just love any time I can explore with him.

And about the ice skating—- we forgot our kids for that too. We ended up getting out of line because I think it was “kids only” hour. UGH they get all the hot chocolate & all the cute Christmas ice rinks. SMH. Who do they think they are being all cute and little and innocent and stuff.

We stopped in Target for an umbrella, because the rain was not letting up and I was being Ms. Cranky pants about being wet and cold, stopped in a few shops, and then grabbed a few bites to eat through the day.

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For a light lunch, we stopped in Rouge & Blanc. Sounds about as fancy as it was. Their tag line was “Coffee Bar by morning, Wine Bar by night”, which is basically my life mantra, so it reeled me in.

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We didn’t want to eat a huge lunch, because we were still planning on having dinner in town before leaving, so we had fries with a bernaise aioli and a prawn flatbread. I savored every bite of that prawn flatbread. I don’t know what they put on it, but it was too good to be true.

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For dinner, we had to scramble! I always forget just how important it is to make reservations in the city! Thank gooooodness for Open Table. We found this french restaurant called Cafe Claude. It is super tucked away in a back alley. If not for Open Table, I would have had no idea it even existed. It felt kind of exclusive *hair flip*. We have never actually been to a french restaurant, so this menu was definitely something new to navigate!

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REAL FRENCH BREAD! My friends all know I have this dream of riding around France on a bicycle with the basket of french bread. This is the closest I have gotten yet.

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Deej ordered steak frites which included bavette steak, bone marrow butter, port-shallot sauce, and pommes frites.

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I ordered NIÇOISE which included tuna confit, lettuce, egg, haricots verts, olives, potato, capers, anchovy, and thyme vinaigrette.

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The waiter said “Bon appetite” and I realized that this was an authentic bon appetite! I may have gotten too excited about that one.

Sunday (12/11), I woke up at 3 am. I am trying to accustom myself to Texas/Ohio time because I like to get up early before everyone else to squeeze in a workout, but if I’m jet- lagged, that probably isn’t happening! I didn’t intend on getting up quite that early, but since I was up and couldn’t fall back asleep, I went down and ran on the tready and read a book on my kindle, because that’s totally normal at 3 am.

Sunday morning DJ and I helped set up at the San Jose campus, then me and a couple of my girlfriends booked it downtown SF to attend the Christmas Creative at that campus after the 9:30 service started at SJ (I won’t be here next week to see it our home campus). <– wow that was like the most confusing thing I have ever written. Happy deciphering.

Anyway-IT WAS INCREDIBLE! They presented the Christmas story via dance, song, instruments, spoken word, etc. in such a unique way. The talent was phenomenal and the whole service was so powerful.

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One of my friends from Church that reads the blog, brought me this as a gift. GUYS. Best Christmas present EVER. She obviously knows me well- PEETS!!!! Dark Chocolate!!! Peppermint Bark!!! PEEETS!!!! Coffee Mug!!!! PEETS!!!!! The thought behind this touched me beyond words. So thankful for this community, I can’t say it enough. Thanks again, Tammy ❤ ❤ You’re a real life rockstar!

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This cute cafe is connected to where the church service was held, and I had to steal a picture because it was so darn cute.

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The girlies and I decided to do brunch, because… Oh wait you don’t need a reason for brunch.

We tried the Mission Beach Cafe  because it’s known as an epic brunch spot. It surpassed all expectations. If you live in the area, do yourself a flavor favor and try this place!

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I personally ordered the MBC Vegan Breakfast. It included black barley-farro, a butternut squash patty, artichoke hearts, carrot, orach, roasted garnet potatos, and nettles. I don’t know what the heck they put in this, but it was heaven on a plate. We all nibbled on the french toast too- and besides Bora Bora’s french toast, this one would take the cake (or take the toast *womp womp*).

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I have never ordered a mimosa before, but the pictures on yelp looked too good to pass up! We all tried grapefruit pomegranate and one of my friends did the orange pomegranate. Is “mimosa” not the most fitting name for what it is?! It just makes ya wanna say MimoOoOssssAaAaa. It was YUMMMM.

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A couple last things to update:

  • I will write about yesterdays events in another post- this is long enough! Ya’ll are busy!
  • Our neighbors did stop by again (at 10 pm per usual) and asked for a Coke this time. (In the past they have asked for cilantro & lettuce in isolated incidences). What is your next prediction for what they will want?
  • I leave Thursday for Dallas/Fort Worth!! Woot woot! Blowing dust off my cowgirl boots!

Merry Mimosas to all and to all a good night (or day)!

xo ❤

Mack

Deck the Halls & A Special Announcement!

Hey everyone! First I just want to send a HUGE thank you to everyone who read and left the sweetest words on my last post. I truly just felt overwhelmed with encouragement and love. It’s amazing the connection and conversation that has been made through this blog and yours, and I am incredibly thankful for it.

Thank you also to Michael for his nomination for the Sunshine Blogger’s Award! I absolutely love his writing- It’s so genuine and full of truth. Check it out if you get a chance!

Today is Thursday. The awkward middle child of “FriYAY” and “HUMP DAY!”. Soooo I think you all can relate to this “poem” right about now. My mom sent this to me a few days ago and I had to share.

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And this was another one of my favorite things I saw all week..

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Anywayyyyy, I think for the update we left off right before Thanksgiving! I didn’t get many pictures of actual Thanksgiving day, but it was a good one! Just great family time, conversation, and happy bellies. I was on salad and fruit duty! I love that the holidays are an extra special excuse to make extra festive foods 😉

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This little guy had apple slices/farro/pomegranate/goat cheese/craisins/mixed greens. Pairs well with a nice balsamic or champagne vinaigrette.

Friday, I had a to-do list ten pages long. I conquered the errands for the day with a No Cow Bar in hand. These are my FAVORITE. I am a notorious Quest bar addict, but I like these even more. The lemon meringue flavor is by far the best, but I am a sucker for anything lemon. The dark raspberry truffle is really good too. The macros here are terrific, and they are vegan!

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I didn’t do any Black Friday shopping. OK. That’s a lie. I did jump into TJ’s real quick, but they weren’t having any sales “technically” because that place is always like one big Black Friday sale, and I love it.

I feel like the winter is birthday season central!! I love picking out the perfect card — and in my search I think I found the best card of all time. It’s 3-D sushi. I should have stock piled them.  

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Saturday during the day DJ went to a friend’s basketball game and caught up with a good friend that he hasn’t seen for years. That night we finished up The Office series. I cried like a baby when *spoiler* Michael came back for Dwight’s wedding. *ALL THE FEELS*. We have moved on to my choice series, which is Dexter. Good so far! Parks & Rec is next on the list after this. Also I need to catch up on Gilmore Girls so I can jump into that chit-chat.

We had Thanksgiving leftovers most of the weekend and into the beginning of the week. I swear Thanksgiving food is always better round dos. Saturday for dinner we decided to take a break from the bird & sweet potato mash and picked up some Oren’s. You guys know how much we love our Oren’s!

Also, Main street Cupertino is looking GORGEOUS. One of my favorite things this time of year is the way the Christmas lights suddenly appear in shopping centers and line the roads! Funny story though…. when I was driving on Main Street this past week a cop went through a stop sign and almost hit me (no lights flashing). The IRONY. He did wave in apology, but what is up with my run-ins with the po-po lately?!

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Sunday-FUNDAY! It was baptism Sunday at church. Everybody who participated was such a trooper considering it was in the 50s outside and the water was ice cold! There is something so powerful and exciting about watching others make a public declaration of their faith!

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Sunday afternoon we went tree picking!!!!!! I was havin’ serious FOMO when I saw everyone setting up their trees all over Insta & Fbook. We were planning on going Saturday, but by the time DJ was back it was nearly dark out! It gets dark so gosh dang early nowadays. It makes me all sleepy and hungry for dinner at like 4 o’ clock. Anywho- it was so fun looking for our own little piece of nature to bring into our home.

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Time to set it up! We named it Bow-Bow (Pronounced like “boe-boe”). Yes it’s silly & a bit strange to name your tree, but also more fun. No judging. We are hoping that Bow Bow stays alive longer than Spanky Tom did… RIP little guy.

Yes I know I am being I’m being such a type of girl in these next few pictures. Being basic isn’t a choice, I swear, I can’t help it.

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DJ wouldn’t let me get lone pictures of him by the tree. Party pooper.

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Yes, Aunt Terry, you best believe we are rocking the mugs you got us last year!

Confession: I made nine trips to Target in two days for various reasons. NINE. The first five were for the Christmas tree lights/decor. We kept getting the wrong kinds of lights (one of my friends said “HOW, they are Christmas lights?!”) and we still cannot find a good star topper that will actually stay up there. I think Bow Bow is a bit flimsy. I still have one more trip to make back to return a few things, but I’ll wait till we have to do a grocery trip. 

I had so much fun pulling out our Christmas decor. The stuff collects dust all year, so when it’s even kind of remotely socially acceptable these decorations come out to play.

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Monday DJ started a new job!! Wooohoo! He is working with the Church, but still getting his MBA next year. This is the perfect job in the meantime. He absolutely loves it so far!

On Tuesday morning I made this little guy because DJ wanted bacon and eggs. I couldn’t help myself and made a face. I couldn’t get the egg “eye” right on the left, but I just said it was because he was winking 😉 For some reason I think you would enjoy this, Cyranny. Hahah.

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I squeezed in a run outside on Tuesday to take a break from Shaun T kicking my rump (Insanity).

The trees are finally changing!!! It’s nothing like gorgeous Ohio in the fall, but I had an added pep in my step seeing a few bright colors here and there ❤

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Yesterday I went to Peet’s (which I have been spelling wrong forever, along with pescetarian, which is really embarrassing) and caught up on e-mails and last minute organization for holiday shenanigans!

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I have had to get creative this week to use up random leftovers. Last night for dinner I made sautéed scallops over farro root with roasted root carrots and sautéed almonds with orange zest and basil. It turned out pretty good!

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Another meal I have been making this week is this omelette. I can’t get enough. I had a ton of left over stuffing from my stuffed acorn squash as well as goat cheese. I just threw in 1/2 cup egg beaters, 1/2 cup of the stuffing, a sprinkle of goat cheese and some sprigs of rosemary. All the stuffing is gone now, but I have got to make more soon so I can do this again. It was so tasty!

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Wednesday night we had our Bible study group. Someone brought CRONUTS! (AKA: Croissant + Donut). I am not even kidding, one of the best pastries of my life. We were going crayyyy for our cronuts.

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This morning I woke up at 6 to meet with a friend for coffee @ 7. I love getting up early and soaking up the mornings. We went to Philz coffee. They make every single cup over drip. It’s really great, but SUPER strong. I am so jittery after. We had such great conversation, and my heart just bursts with love for the amazing individuals we have met since moving here in July.

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Quick side note: the reason I changed my name to “Mackenzie” from “Mack” for the profile is a lot of people thought I was a guy. LOLZ.

OK- now I am super excited to announce…….drum roll…… I am going to be hosting my first blogging Meet & Greet, BUT it is going to be called “Mingle & Jingle” in light of the holiday season!!!!

For those who don’t know what a Meet & Greet is, it is essentially a post where you can come in and talk about your blog a bit, leave your link to either a favorite post of yours, or your site in general and find other blogs you may enjoy too! It will be some time next week- stay tuned! 🙂 I am so excited!!! Hope to see you there!!!

I must ask one very important question before I go: What is your favorite kind of Christmas cookie/dessert/holiday treat?! Feel free to leave recipe links!

Stay warm everyone!

xo ❤

Mack … or Mackenzie….. or a million other options…oh shoot, identity crisis!

How God Answered My Impossible Prayer

This is the most intimidating story of my life for me to share yet. There are many reasons for this- I know it will uncover emotions that I have learned to keep at arms length, it may be a challenge to condense many interplaying factors into one single comprehensible post, and I am afraid that sharing this story will in turn somehow destroy a sacred cherished memory I hold dear. I am afraid it will offend people, confuse others, or cause me apprehension and regret on sharing it in the first place. However, when I started writing on this platform I promised God that I would be obedient to His prompting. I am writing this without any idea on who it may give hope, encourage, or touch, if anyone at all… But at the end of the day I am choosing to place these fears in God’s hands and allow this story to bring Him glory because there was a day He answered my impossible prayer. 

On November 28, 2009 my dad passed away unexpectedly from a pulmonary embolism. I remember the moment I found out clearly. There is a door in my mind that accesses the room I house that memory. Rarely do I go near it to look inside, but sometimes I do, inevitably feeling like a train has bouldered into my heart. Sometimes I don’t choose to look, but the memory works it’s way through the corridors of  my mind, forcing itself to the forefront of my thoughts. Regardless, that moment has a way of replaying itself occasionally like a reoccurring nightmare.

The phone ringing, my older sister sounding on edge on the other end of the line, asking to talk to my mom, not wishing to chat or make small talk. My mother sitting across me as I was just casually unwinding from a day at basketball practice. A plate of cheese and crackers next to me as I watched some mindless television. The characteristically cloudy November day. The look on her face.

I knew. I just knew.

Screaming “No” over and over again as I felt that I was spiraling into the ground. I begged myself to wake up as I embarked onto my first stage of grief, the shock and numbness manifesting in both denial and hysteria. The realization. This is not a dream. My heart breaking more minute by minute, realizing this would soon be my younger sister’s nightmare too. She’s only thirteen. Thirteen. The millions of questions in my head, far too clouded and confused to even articulate one. 

Yes. That moment I will forever remember- branded into my brain and onto my heart, an indelible mark. The events in the months to come thereafter were not so clear. I remember parts and pieces of that time like a bystander, rather than a partaker. I barely remember the Calling Hours, but I do remember a few conversations from that day. People would say, “You will see him again”, and “He is watching over you!”. I never grew angry at anyone’s attempt to empathize, I greatly appreciated all the compassion and could not have made it through that time without it. But those phrases… those words. I couldn’t come to peace with them. Here is where this gets tricky to explain. But I will do my best.

My father was a remarkable man. He had the kindest heart. He loved people and above all else family. At the end of the day, he would always ask my siblings and me, “Did we make a good memory, guys?” He is the reason I understand the value in making and treasuring the memories in our lives. He saw no one as a stranger, but as a potential friend. He was one of the funniest people I have ever known, and could put a smile on anyone’s face. He was a math wizard, a gene I did not inherit. He was the best listener, my protector, and the one with whom I had the most inside jokes.

But there was something I had great unrest about. There are many factors here, far too complicated to explain for the sake of this, but overall I just didn’t know for sure if my father had a personal relationship with Jesus. We had never talked about it, about what he believed personally. I could assume that he did, sure, he supported my siblings and I in our involvement in church growing up, would pray rehearsed prayers with us before meals and before bed, and referenced God occasionally. I just didn’t have an assurance that outside of those things he believed. I hope this doesn’t come across harsh or condemning. I know that we cannot truly know the state of someone’s heart. I know God is just, and He is the only one that can judge. I just wished so badly I could go back in time and ask him if he believed all this too, for himself- that the motions of religion weren’t just a way to raise us “right” or appease my mom, but something he wanted personally.

So I prayed for peace and assurance. I wanted to be able to say with confidence that I would see him again, but I just couldn’t. I just didn’t know. It felt like such an empty prayer, because how could God possibly give me this rest in my soul I so desired. I couldn’t go back in time. I couldn’t ask him.

Three years went by and healing did take place, slowly. For a long while I didn’t want to admit that anything good could come out of losing one of the people I loved the most. But upon reflecting, I see how God turned elements of the pain into blessings. It has taken me a long time to admit that.  And yet, despite the tremendous healing that time allowed, I still longed for peace about the wearisome question mark in the back of my mind.

The  summer before my freshman year of college my grandfather on my dad’s side, whom we called Papa, received the diagnosis of cancer. Since my  dad’s death, my siblings and I had become especially close to my papa. That summer, my sisters and I sat with him and read the Bible, prayed with him, and just talked with him. He never gave much feedback during those times of scripture and prayer. I couldn’t read how he felt about all of it.

In Autumn of 2012 that followed, we knew things were taking a turn for the worse with Papa’s health. Before heading back to school on my fall break I made sure to visit him. I remember that he wasn’t “all there” anymore mentally. My heart broke as I watched him slip away, and I knew this was likely my last time with him. As I said my goodbye and walked out of the nursing home, I felt a nudge in my heart, turn around and ask. I ignored it and walked to the car. TURN AROUND. I started the car and started driving. I became nauseous and the words of my soul screamed incessantly turn around now! The tears started and right when I was about to turn onto the highway entrance I turned around. A great part of me protested within myself, I don’t want to ask him. What if it makes him angry. He won’t even know what I’m saying. I don’t know how he will respond. I want to leave on a good note! 

But I pulled back into that nursing home, and jogged through the halls with a sudden urgency. I opened his door and started sobbing. I could barely calm myself down enough to ask. But regardless of the trepidation, I had to ask, I had to know. I blurted out before I could second guess what I was doing, “Papa- do you love Jesus?”.

He looked at me, as though a switch had been flipped, and lucidly said, “I sure do, Honey, I sure do” with a weighted confidence.

On that drive back to school I felt overwhelmingly thankful that I heard those precious words from my papa. I didn’t want to deal with the questioning that forever would be on my mind about my dad.

A few weeks later, my papa passed away. I drove straight from school to the funeral home. Although it was a painful time, I was thankful he was no longer in pain, and even more thankful for our last conversation. I remember standing over the casket with my older sister’s hand on my back. I said to her, “Andi- I know we will see Papa again, but I don’t know if we will see Daddy”. This is the first time I had said these words to anyone like this. She looked at me, without saying anything for few seconds, and then took me into the lobby of the funeral home.

She handed me her phone and had a voicemail playing she had saved. I listened. It was my dad’s voice, my dad’s beautiful voice, saying such sweet things to my sister and concluding with “Thank you Andi, for getting your old man ready for when his time comes”. I stood there in shock and awe. Andrea explained that they had been reading the Bible on the phone for the last few months leading up to his death. She said with undeniable certainty that we would see him again. I heard it in my father’s own voice, three years later. He was ready, he was prepared.

I will see him again.

So while November 28th is a day that brings with it memories that harbor tremendous pain, on the other side of that pain is a prayer. An impossible prayer. And on the other side of this impossible prayer is a limitless God.

And He answered my impossible prayer.

To Him forever be the glory. 

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See ya later alligator… ❤

 

A SHORT recap- Say What?!

This past weekend was beyond fun. I promise to keep it sorta short because I know you all have festivities and turkey to eat and eggnog to drink and all that jazz!

Last Friday was our women’s conference at Church. As always, I could probably write posts for days on all that I learned and the incredible ways my heart was worked on. I am so thankful for this community. I truly can’t find the words to describe how my heart just bursts with love for these people. As you all know… God used this church to change my life.

SATURDAY! I mentioned my friend Annie in another post. She is my long lost sista that lives in SanFran. When we lived together in high school, we did the Turkey Trot, and one year we even went for a run after the Thanksgiving meal. This year we said we should recreate the days of old with our very own Friendsgiving and do the Night Nation Run in Santa Clara county that evening! The whole day was just a memory to treasure. I also relished the opportunity to cook a meal like this.

Allow me to present…. My first ever homemade Thanksgiving meal! (That I made, not ate of course 😜)

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Stuffed Acorn Squash with Cranberries, Pistachios, and Quinoa. Recipe here.

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Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes! My new addiction. Choices for the evening were garlic or regular.

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Roasted Cardamom & Cinnamon Apples & Root Carrots

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Roasted Chicken. No worries- not gonna leave my meat eaters hangin’ ! I also thought chicken mayyy be better than turkey (no tryptophan before the race, ya feel?)

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Beet & Goat Cheese & Rosemary Salad

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Homemade whole grain brown bread. JK. I store bought that bad boy and ain’t even mad about it.

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Roasted Maple Sweet Potatoes with Bacon

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*Says in Elvis voice- Thank ya, thank ya very much*

Running shoes, neon shirt, and thanksgiving apron- good look, yah?

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The three of us devoured da grub, then headed out for the race. DJ and Annie know each other well because DJ and I were dating back in high school. So it was just like the olden golden days. I wanted to play “Thanksgiving music” to complete the whole dinner, but what the heck is Thanksgiving music? We settled on Beyoncé.

RACE TIME! This race was in Santa Clara County (only a 5k), but it was one of the most epic 5ks I have ever run. HIGHLY encourage my runner friends to do this. Also it raises money to fight cancer. I love running a race that supports such a great cause.

I will just let the pictures speak for themselves.

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I bought “glow in the dark” paint. Turns out it was UV paint. LOLZ. Whoops.

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WAIT HOLD THE PHONE! We ran past a UV Selfie Station! You better believe we took advantage of it to get some pics with our glowing UV paint. Yaaaaaaa buddy!

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It was chilly and rainy and dark, but that did not stop us from dancing the night away! Boomerang for the win.

Obviously, we had a blast.

Yesterday, DJ and I made cookies together!!! We also crafted a mega cookie just because. It’s gone now. All the cookies are gone now.

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This past few days I had my BLS (Basic Life Support) refresher course and ACLS (Advanced Cardiac Life Support) course. I had to get up at the butt-crack of dawn, and haven’t been home till the late evenings, but I absolutely loved it. I love emergency medicine- the pace, the pressure, and the quick thinking, everything. I’m not sure where I will end up, but the ER is definitely on my radar!

I send you all a big ole’ HAPPY THANKSGIVING (and for my non-United States friends, eat something delicious on US- get it?!).

Now go stuff a turkey that is ultimately going to stuff you! 😉 Mwah!

xo ❤

Kenzie

An Emotional RoLleR-coAsTer of a Week and So.Many.Updates.

Hey guys! I hope you all had a wonderful and safe Halloween weekend and start to your week! This past week has had so much good with a side of a bit of bad.

Shall we?

Wednesday– I had a rough day. Ya know- one of those hump days- where Wednesday disguises itself as Monday. I couldn’t shake the cobwebs from my head and I felt like I was moving like a snail. Three cups of coffee and counting were NOT doing the trick.

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But once dinner rolled around I got to sample out another Blue Apron meal! If I am having a bad day, usually cooking and having a solid dinner can turn it around for the evening. 

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This was so simple. I think it’s probably the easiest meal I have made yet from this company, and I will definitely be recreating it. The homemade tartar sauce was too good, and I never knew endives could be so tasty?!

Wednesday after dinner we went to our first session of the Winter group meetings through the church. You all know how thankful I am for the people we have met through this church, and if you live in the Bay area and need somewhere to call home PLEASE contact me! God was tugging on my heart to share during one part of the discussion. I was NOT intending to “get deep” on the first night with mostly strangers. But naturally, like He always does, He pushed me out of my darn comfort zone. May I get an Amen?! I know this group is going to be such a blessing, it already is, and I can’t wait to see where it goes!

Thursday– Chores & Such. Totally necessary to waste your time by writing that- huh? OH, I did find out that I passed my nursing exam on this day and received my license in the mail! Thank you a million for all the sweet words on the last post. They seriously touched me ❤ ❤

Friday– I wanted to Fall. It. UP. Since I had been studying most of October, I didn’t get to go into full on fall mode besides eating massive amounts of candy corn. Which is fine, it’s probably the best part, but regardless, my pumpkin-laced-female-DNA was screaming “get yo self to a pumpkin patch!”

We started the day in San Pedro Square at the Farmer’s Market. I love Farmers’ markets, and every time we pass this one I say I want to go. Finally! I love all the fresh food, produce, unique gift ideas, and general atmosphere of a good Farmers’ market. This isn’t necessarily DJ’s idea of fun, but one of those things he will do with me because he knows it makes me happy. San Pedro Square is a happenin’ place and a foodie’s paradise. We wouldn’t know any foodies, now would we? 😉 DJ and I have exhausted Main Street Cupertino and Santana Row, so I think this will may be our new Friday Night date place for a while!

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That afternoon we saw a vibrantly contrasting rainbow against a gray backdrop outside the window of our apartment. I haven’t seen a rainbow in a while, so naturally, I had to snag a picture of it.

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We also headed to pickup our box springs for our bed for the master bedroom! It’s coming along! While we were waiting for the pickup we messed around on Snapchat.

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** Side note: DJ gave me permission to announce he is no longer doing law school. He was originally doing the JD-MBA combined track, but now is just sticking to the MBA which starts this Spring. I am truly proud of him for doing what he knows is best for him. Plus it means I get to see my man more often!

Friday night I got out all my pumpkin patch wiggles. This place had abounding options for the average pumpkin picker. There were pumpkins here like I have never seen before!

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Fun fact: My step dad’s name is Pete, and his best friend is Tom… Mom- can you show him this? I bet he will get a kick out of it. So cute, so corny. Had to share. I tried picture messaging it, but my service is  glitchy- as you know.

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Friday night we decided to take it easy. I whipped up some Blue Apron meals. For myself I had Roasted Acorn Squash with Couscous Salad and Dressed Pea shoots. This and the coconut curry catfish are my two favorite meals so far from Blue Apron.

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For DJ, I made the Spiced Pork Burgers with a “side” of coleslaw. The “side” took two leftover large Tupperware to fit it all. But I don’t mind- we love us some ‘slaw!

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After dinner I received a call from the credit card company that my purse had been found at the pumpkin patch. I went into full on panic mode. While carrying my pumpkin from the patch, I must have dropped my purse on the way out. I called the cell number of the people who had found it (and currently had it). They were the SWEETEST couple in the world. I thanked them profusely for their integrity and kindness. I heard a little, young voice in the background go, “Is that Mackenzieee?!”. “I want to talk to Mackenzieee!”. The mother put the cutest little girl on the phone and she innocently, but matter-of-factly, inquires, “Hi Mackenzie- why did you leave your purse at a pumpkin patch?” Through nearly previous tears I started laughing and replied, “Great question! I think I was just too excited to carry my pumpkin and get home to carve it, so I dropped it without noticing!”.

We planned on a public meeting spot (Peet’s because where else?!), and I ran out the door with DJ. We tried offering them compensation for their troubles, but they refused. They said they just wanted to do the right thing. Then the husband asked, surprising us, “Are you believers?”. We quickly exchanged information about which churches we attend and a bit more small talk. Then we parted, perhaps never to see them again (well not never again 😉 ). What started as a traumatizing, panic ridden moment turned into an heart-warming experience. I still have no idea what led them to ask us if we were also believers, but how stinking cool. She messaged me that night to let me know her sweet daughter had prayed that I wouldn’t leave my purse at the pumpkin patch next time! Lol.

After this crazy day, DJ and I decided one thing was necessary: Cookies.

Break and bakes to be specific: What is your favorite brand/type?!? DJ loves the Pillsbury Chocolate chip ones and I love the Pillsbury S’mores (but they are hard to find). I firmly believe in cooking 1 minute under the recommended cooking time. We decided to save the Pumpkin Carving for another day.

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DJ is the chocolate milk KING. Like he knowwws his chocolate milk. One time we had a blind taste test of about six different brands of milk. He nailed each one of them. He has a list of tiers on his phone where he rates the best of the best. Shamrock Farms is at the top! DJ probably would be embarrassed if he knew I wrote this… so quick read it before he makes me delete it!  Anyone else love a certain brand? Milk and cookie discussions are paramount to life.

NOW: Here is the meat and potatoes of this post!!!! To celebrate the NCLEX, I wanted to do something CRAYYY! So I looked up “Haunted places in the Bay area”. I don’t believe in “haunted”, but still in lieu of this time of year I thought this would just be interesting… I want to say “fun” or “festive”, but when you hear what happened to lead to this story, those words do not seem to fit. We contemplated touring the Winchester house, but I recently went through it, and it takes a while for the tour. We decided to save that for another time. I found a haunted road, Marsh Rd., and a haunted restaurant, The GrandView, that were within twenty minutes of one another. I made reservations at the restaurant and planned out so we would have enough time to explore the road.

Time for the spooOOooky stories:

Marsh Rd: “It’s become almost a rite of passage for Milpitas high school kids to seek out the ghost of murder victim Marcy Conrad, who was killed by her boyfriend on Marsh Road. Unlike the back stories of most urban legends, this murder was real and well-documented.” – SanJose.com

They actually had to close the road for a while because it was getting a bit out of hand with people going to the bridge and ravine where the ghost supposedly wanders.

While DJ and I were driving down this road, all we could talk about was how stunning the mountains and scenery were. It was probably one of the most charming places I have been since living in California. And yet, still it felt strangely unsettling. Now, knowing the background of the story and what actually occurred here, my heart was beating a tad faster than it should have been. I think the fact that we felt so isolated was what made the drive eerie more than anything. There was no one in sight. Nothing in sight. Then all of a sudden something stepped out into the road. My breath caught in my throat. A big pitbull-terrier mix type dog was giving us an ominous stare down with eyes outlined by dark circles. DJ slammed on the brakes, and we waited for it to get out the way. My breath started coming back to me slowly and my heart rate slowed. I calmed myself down. DJ laughed at my reaction, and we kept going, further and further down the road. Finally we came to the bridge and ravine… My stomach knotted thinking about the story surrounding this place. We turned the car around after taking a quick look around and began driving back up the road.

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As we drove back up the road, DJ made some quick remark about the puppy coming after us. As soon as he said this, the same dog ran out into the road again, way further along than where we originally saw the beast. He stopped and stared at us just like before with large, dark knowing eyes. I was like, “Ok that’s it, let’s get out of here!”

Next stop: GrandView Restaurant.

The GrandView: “The lights have been known to flicker or even come on by themselves at this restaurant, even when no one is in the building. Also, the ghost of a young girl has been reported standing on the balcony that looks out over Silicon Valley.” – Hauntedplaces.org

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Okay, despite the stories, and the alleged “haunting” of this venue, I felt like it was nothing but magical. Even the bartender that greeted us laughed at the notion of it being haunted. The view of Silicon Valley was ….. well even now… it’s leaving me speechless. We came at the perfect time to witness one of the most incredible sunsets. It was beyond romantic and DJ and I dined over delectable halibut and lobster carbonara. I probably do not even need to describe the flavor. Ya’ll need to come and experience it yourself.

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I felt like we were dining in heaven. It was surreal. I could not have imagined celebrating any differently. Also–I begin applying for jobs next week- YEEK! 🙂

Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind, in the best way! We have have begun volunteering at church in the mornings, so we get there around 7:15 (DJ) and 8:00 (myself). It has only enhanced my whole feeling of belonging, relationship with Christ, and perspective of the body of Christ. Right before the first service, I received a message from a friend I went to college with. DJ and I have been wanting to get together him and his wife for a while, and I suggested they come to our church sometime. They have plans to move back to Indiana, but I recommended they swing before they did! Sure enough, they said they were on their way for the 11:30 service! I was both shocked that they were coming, but also thrilled. They drove two hours to us from Modesto and we grabbed lunch at the Farmer’s Union together afterwards. It was fantastic to catch up with them and see how God is moving in their lives. They said they felt like the message was tailored for them- it even led them to make some pretty big life decisions.

Because my blog tends to just run on food fuel as much as we do, and this post is a lengthy one, it needs a snack! A smoked Mozzarella & Cabbage Pizza with a Romaine and Apple Salad should do the trick… (And ya’ll didn’t think I could get any dorkier).

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Monday was a SAD day. DJ gently woke me up to tell me that our dear, beloved Spanky had died. Guys- I was a mess. I loved that freaking fish so much. And it was just a fish?! How could such a little guy take up such a big piece of my heart?! DJ was also certainly upset himself. We were both pretty down the entire day. Cyranny certainly helped me feel better with her helpful blog counseling, hehe. She is a GEM. Anyway, we just kept busy, as you will see. We don’t have any idea how this happened, but we hypothesize it had to do with the water. We followed what the people at the pet store told us to a T, but I think they very clearly missed some instructions (no I’m not pointing the finger, OK maybe I am, I am a mother in mourning!). When we looked online they said they should have at least a 5 gallon tank, it should be 1/3rd original water, and it should be 78-82 degrees. They told us it was fine with the tank I bought and recommended to keep the water at room temp.

Our other guess precipitating the tragic event is Clinton or Trump took him out because they caught onto our #SpankyTomforPresident hashtag. I don’t know which it was, but gosh dangggg it was rough. People with beta fish- care to share some tips?! Anyways, I was going to do an update post about Spanky- how he was becoming more brave and spending less time in his barrel, how he loved me more than DJ (but DJ says Spanky was warming up to him), how we joked that he was too good for us….Perhaps he was and that’s why he went to fishy heaven.

We may get another in the future… but for now.. we are certainly not emotionally ready </3. (yes, I have a fancy for the melodramatic).

Naturally, I did what any normal girl would do to feel better: Retail therapy. Usually I don’t care for shopping all that much, only when the shopping bug really bites, but I always loooove thrifting. I went to a thrift store on Monday and went in for sweaters, but came out instead with this gem. I actually do not have a big purse, so this was great and had a Kate Spade-esque look to it! It was only $22 and it’s a Kenneth Cole Reaction. I think that’s a good deal?! I know I have some fashionistas out there- is this a good deal?

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Had to share this beet hummus because it’s super unique and you just can’t beet it!

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Once again, I attempted my pumpkin cheesecake with an oatmeal crust. I seriously love it, but it’s not quite perfect yet to share. No worries- third time is a charm. I am determined to per-fect this little boogar. I also plan on making my Pumpkin French Toast this weekend- and so stay posted for that sometime next week!

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Monday night DJ and I decided to carve pumpkins. Keeping with theme of the night, I made a pumpkin pie. *The crowd all groans*.

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I also tribed, I mean tried, my hand at chief Wahoo. Please don’t remind me how that one ended 😦

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DJ’s pumpkin was being stubborn. We won’t talk about it. 😉

Pumpkin seeds are always a must. I made cinnamon sugar, ranch, barbecue, and plain salt and pepper.

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Tuesday morning I went running on my favorite trail- San Antonio Open Preserve. Due to the recent rainfall in this area, Thank Jesus, the trails have such whimsical beauty about them. Moss climbs the trees, the rivers are purring again, and the dampness of the mud adds a little spring to each step. It was an incredible run. Each breath was deliciously filled with the taste of nature and it reminded me greatly of Ohio.

Ohio:

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California:

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Tuesday night I whipped up a grilled cheese with mild cheddar&muenster cheese for DJ with tomato soup and cilantro (I try to make things “normal” but it’s just so hard when there are so many herbs- OK?!), and then I made a giant garden salad for myself to finish up the produce.

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Today (Wednesday), I met with a friend for Lunch and we had the MOST wonderful conversation. Later, DJ and I watched the game with the fam. 😦 😦 :(. If you are a Cubs fan, I am glad that billy goat curse is broken, just not at our expense!

Also- did you guys see that tweet?

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Like come on. That’s freaking crazy. We were losing our minds over it!!!! It predicted exactly what happened… Minus the apocalypse. Lol.

On another note, it’s November already- can you believe it?! We have family coming in town tomorrow, and we are PUMPED!!!! Hope you all are doing so well. I’m thankful for this community and although I began this blog to update fam and friends and have a place to write down our memories, I treasure each one of you here and the friendships that are forming along the way ❤

Wishing you a weekend CARVED with joy

xo ❤

Mack

A Weekend for the Win: A Recap!

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Hello all! I promised my Mama that I would whip out a post by the end of today. She is antsy to hear about all the different events with family in town! This weekend was one to remember. Going through these pictures made me smile the entire time. I am trying to focus… but uh.. the Indians are in the World Series so writing this and watching the game may cause this post to take a bit longer than normal! If you are in a rush and want the summary of our weekend it goes like this: FOOD, amazing family time with my Aunt and Uncle, FOOD, get dressed up, hike, FOOD, and maybe a bit more food?

Let’s get to it!

My Aunt and Uncle visited from Thursday to Monday from Michigan. One of my first posts from when I started this blog was from a visit to their home in Sutton’s Bay/ Traverse City, Michigan area. It was a blast, but now it feels as though too much time has passed since we’ve seen them. We have had this visit planned for months, and I have been counting down the days. It was my motivation to get my test over and done with so we could just celebrate!!!

Thursday

I love, love, LOVE hosting people. It’s an excuse for trying different appetizers, talking and laughing over cheese and crackers, and catching up on each others’ lives over some good wine (aka the cheapest bottles of wine I can find- but no one can tell, right? 😉 ). Last week I saw the beautiful Samantha Wharton posted a Shishito pepper recipe. It looked so delicious! It inspired this appetizer for my the night. First I blistered the peppers in the a sauce pan with olive oil. Then I stuffed about half of the peppers with goat cheese and drizzled them with thick balsamic glaze.  I put them in the oven at 425 until the cheese was nice and melted. They were a hit! The other half we just ate plain with salt and pepper and they were still fantastic.

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For dinner I had Munchery  delivered. I wanted to cook, but I was gone most of the day and wouldn’t have time to do anything beyond the apps. I know my Aunt and Uncle’s taste pretty well and knew they would love this dish. It included a salmon with pesto on top of a mediterranean quinoa. I don’t think I would ever get sick of this dish. I wish I could take credit for it, but props to you Munchery!

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I can’t begin to explain how much I love spending time with my Aunt and Uncle. They are some of the easiest people to be around, they’ll keep you laughing, and you can talk about anything with them. They are go-getters and just beginning “retirement” which means they are traveling all over the US, mountain biking, planning multiple ski trips, volunteering out the wah-zoo, and wearing me out trying to keep up with them. Retirement my butt.

On a more serious note, my Aunt is an “everything” person to me. She is my Aunt (duh), but also one of my best friends, one of my biggest cheerleaders, a mom figure (she is not afraid to put me in my place), and my role model. God blessed me with the greatest mom in the world AND  essentially a second mom with the greatest Aunt?! I can’t figure it out, but I’m betting it’s because He knew that my sister and I would be a handful, and my mom would need some extra strong moral support. Oh, also, she is me projected a few years into the future. DJ says it’s uncanny how much alike we are. Annnd she is the only other person in the world that maybe likes candy corn as much as I do.

Saturday

The four of us had breakfast and then took off for the best hiking spot in all the land. It’s the same one I took my mom and sister-in-law to in other posts: Tony Look Trail! I love the change in scenery along the trail and it’s an excellent challenge. Once we finished the hike it was about 1 pm.

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We ran to the store to pick up some last minute essentials for the gala (Thank you TJ Maxx for having a pair of black earrings). We had a hosh-posh lunch of whatever was in the fridge and I ran around like a mad woman trying to get ready. “Yes I realize that the gala isn’t for five hours, and I will need every second of that five hours, DJ.”

After I bought my dress I realized I got rid of my only pair of dress black heels before our move (and apparently my earrings as I was frantically looking for a pair in TJ’s). I had been meaning to get a new pair and this forced me to finally go through with it. I am posting a picture of them below because A. I got these for a steal and B. I know my mother in law will love them 🙂

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My handsome hubs ❤

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💕💕

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The gala took place at Levi Stadium. I have never been there, and it was one gorgeous stadium. OHH- for those of you that haven’t read the last post, the gala is an annual event with our Church to discuss the direction we are going in the upcoming year. It’s also a time to just stop and praise God for all He has done this past year. It quickly became a night that I will never forget. The community and the heart for God is like nothing I have ever experienced. Every time I am with my Church I just thank Him profusely for leading us to this group of people.

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We started the evening with a cocktail hour overlooking the pristine stadium. We then started dinner with a delicious goat cheese salad, a dinner of filet mignon (for DJ) and a veggie polenta for myself, and  finished it with a chocolate mousse and raspberry drizzle that makes you want to savor every. single. bite. By the end of the evening I had cried, laughed, felt refreshed, and beyond excited about the year to come.

Saturday

Saturday my Uncle suggested we tailgate at Stanford while their homecoming game was going on! I have never been and DJ loves going to the campus. First we walked around the academia wonderland, and then we parked the truck for delicious snacking, drinks, and perfect weather.

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My Aunt and I are related to Herbert Hoover (through my Grandmother’s sister side). When we were in the Museum we decided to take a picture next to the fella for a family pic.

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Getting our midwest on. I dare you to find another pickup truck in this parking lot.

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After tailgating we decided to head back home. My Aunt took a nap, I went for a run (my aunt and uncle were early birds and ran before we left for Stanford- overachievers), and the boys parked in front of the TV for some …. you guessed it… football. It was a perfect fall day, and I soaked up the changing of the leaves and the golden fall sun on my run.

You didn’t think you would get through a post without sushi did ya? We had to take my Aunt and Uncle out to Yuki for sushi. They have the best around. My two favorite rolls in the Cupertino area are Yuki’s Da Kine with spicy kani, avocado, cucumber topped with maguro, seaweed salad, crunch, and spicy sauce and Kula’s Kula roll. DJ loves the Tetsu roll from Yuki which has shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, and kani wrapped in avocado and topped with spicy sauce, crunch, and green onion.

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We had our fill but still had room for a glass of wine. My Uncle likes a good scotch and the R/R (Roots and Rye) on Santana Row has almost anything you are craving, food and drink alike.

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This place is quite unique. It has a modern lounge feel with a heavy emphasis on small bites and cocktails.

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We sat around this dancing fire inside the restaurant which provided the perfect temperature and ambiance on a chilly autumn evening.

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I inevitably always have the red eyes.

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We had way too much fun with Snapchat throughout the weekend.

Sunday

Sunday morning DJ and I went to Church and my Aunt and Uncle found a Catholic church for mass. We met back up after and headed to Mountain View. DJ and I went here when we first moved to the area. We walked along Castro street with the endless options of restaurants and naturally ended up going here… because… FOOTBALL.

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We ordered some good bar food (and my Aunt and I may have snuck some salmon and caper bites in the order too). Ever since I had the smoked salmon on a bagel at a San Francisco hotel, if it’s on the menu in any form I begin to salivate.

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After watching football and relaxing we went to the movie The Accountant. It received less than promising reviews by the critics, but we all loved it. It definitely is a movie with a lot going. I don’t typically like watching movies twice, but I would watch this again because there was such a deep, multifaceted plot.

We had a late dinner of rosemary cider chicken and butternut squash with apples from Home Chef. I had the $30 off my first order and ordered the family plan package for the weekend since my Aunt and Uncle were here. I substituted a veggie burger or fish instead of the meat for myself in the dishes. I made the squash before we left for the movie so all we had to do when we returned was prepare the chicken and the sauce.

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Monday

Sadly, they left us Monday 😦 I was depressed the whole day but kept myself busy with meal prepping, cleaning, laundry, etc. etc.). It was a weekend for the books.

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My conclusion after using home chef: 7 out of 10 stars. The meals were tasty- we especially loved the squash recipe. But I was missing four entire chicken breasts (I had to replace myself), and there were parts of the meals that were just ‘so-so’ like the macaroni salad. However, it’s excellent for people beginning to cook. It gives amazingly thorough directions on why you do certain steps in cooking or why you use certain ingredients. For example, we use Kosher Salt because it has bigger grains and is easier to pinch than table salt. This allows more control over the flavor. I still prefer Blue Apron or Green Chef, but it was certainly a decent service! (I bet the missing chicken was a fluke, right?).

When I was running into the store to pick up some lotion today I saw this (below)- SAY WHAT. I am already obsessed with Boom Chicka Pop, but BOOM CHICKA POP CANDY CORN FLAVORED KETTLE CORN. Obviously I couldn’t wait when I got home to try it. I have a new addiction. I could cry.

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I am planning on finishing the master bedroom this week, do a couple fall-ish activities this weekend with DJ, next week is super busy already, and then I’ll be trying to figure out more on the job front.  DJ says I should rest after the NCLEX, but we all know I have a hard time doing that 😉 Also- I’m in a pickle about what to do in the job arena. My #1 choice nursing job doesn’t begin until March/April, but I’m worried a job now would jeopardize seeing my parents in Texas and Ohio over the holiday season. I know this is going to be my last year of flexibility for a while since once nursing starts I’ll work all the holidays.

Now that I have finished this post the Indians have officially won the first game! 3 more to go, baby. Let’s go CLE! This is just all too exciting to handle!!!!!

Wishing you a WINDIAN Wednesday,

xo ❤

Mack

Halloween Festivities and a little bit of everything else

Long time, no see!!! I have been so busy studying the last couple weeks that I haven’t been able to do a recap post. I am finally snagging a couple minutes now to draft something out before bed. And you may just get the rough draft because I don’t think I have time to edit- so in advance I apologize for the misspellings, the grammatical errors, run-ons, and fragments.

First things first per usual: Thank you to everyone for those sweet, sweet thoughts and words on my last post. As I told many I didn’t want to write it (or at least parts of it), but I knew I needed to. I woke up at 4:30 in the morning with all those words on my heart, and knew that I needed to share ultimately to bring glory to God for what He has done. Thank you again for everyone who shared your own thoughts, experiences, and encouragement.

Also thank you to Shawna  for her nomination for the Black Cat Blue Sea Award. I loved reading your responses, hun! I wish I could take the time to respond, but time is thin lately! However, if you guys get a chance, check out this wonderful girl’s place on the web ❤

ANDDDDD Guess what?! I finally took my nursing boards (yesterday morning), and can officially put the books away, at least for a bit. I actually received my approval right after my last update post and cried tears of joy. FINALLY. After seven months, seven long months, I could finally take this stinking test. But, really, who gets that excited to take a test?! Pathetic I tell ya. I won’t find out if I officially passed them for a while, but I’m feeling okay about it. This could be really mortifying if I didn’t pass and I have to publicly announce it to about five hundred people- oh well! We will see. Positive thinking right?!

Time to rewind to October 6th. Yes it has been that long. No worries, guys, I have all the food pics. Because, like the last couple posts, all I have done is eat and study.

For DJ’s birthday dinner he wanted to do something relaxing that didn’t involve getting dressed up and didn’t involve facing traffic. We decided to try out Eureka, a place on Main Street that people rave about. Worth the rave- it was maybe my favorite place we tried on the strip.

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For an appetizer we split some bruschetta. It was yumm. Anything with a good goat cheese and a good balsamic vinegar is destined to satisfy ya.

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DJ ordered these insane little boogers. These are lobster tacos with cabbage, saffron crema, watermelon radish, and signature handcut fries. I feel like he inevitably chooses the better dish. Don’t get me wrong, I always love my meals, but I always tend to like his a touch better than what I order. The grass is always greener on the other side of the dinner table. Or maybe less green, because I tend to get a lot of salads. Anyways ..

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I did make a good move by getting these sweet potato fries. UGH they were perfection. I ordered the veggie beet burger over greens. It just sounded so strange; I had to get it. It was super delicious and filling. Them fries though….

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Friday and Saturday was the women’s conference through my church. The theme was “Wisdom”. Lord knows I need more of it. I can’t even describe how much I admire the leaders of our church. It would take me dayyys to write out all that I gleaned from just those two days. I met so many lovely new women and was inspired more than I could have ever anticipated. When I came home from the conference Saturday night DJ surprised me and had cleaned the whole apartment. This made my life. He is the best.

Back to the conference real quick: the bracelet I am wearing in the picture below is made by girls at She Rescue Home. Please check out their site if you have a chance, well worth it. They rescue girls in Cambodia from the sex trade and provide them with shelter, food, education, occupational tools and skills to provide for their family in other ways, medical care, counseling, and reintegrate them into society. That is a terse synopsis of the immense impact they are making and the expansion of what they do. The stories of these girls brought me to tears. Here are some quotes from the founder, Leigh Ramsey, that describe the situation better than I can:

“There are complex issues that contribute to a girl being vulnerable to trafficking – factors such as poverty, abuse, trickery and deception, unemployment and addiction often leading to desperation in the family.”

“But once trapped in this world of unspeakable evil, they are held captive against their will, and threatened with violence, are soon imprisoned in a world of unimaginable pain and degradation … as we say repeatedly IT’S NOT OK!”

They hand-made these bracelets for our conference, one of the tools the skills they learned through She Rescue Home, and every time I wear it I think of and pray for these precious, valuable humans that deserve so much more than the evil of this life.

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It almost feels silly to go on to talk about anything else after that, but life is a mosaic of the good, bad, deep, beautiful, exciting, mundane, simple, and silly. It keeps us balanced and keeps us sane. Can you imagine spending too much time in any of those areas? The mundane makes us appreciate excitement, and the ugly makes us appreciate the beautiful.

Saturday I was craving french toast. I have a healthy high pumpkin french toast I make every fall. It is incredibly easy and tastes like heaven. I can’t wait to share this recipe with you guys.

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While I was doing errands one of these days (lost track, not sure which day), I found some darlin’ little pumpkins. I would have gone alllll out on the fall decor but the studying made it so I couldn’t go out and buy all the fall things. Good thing too, I tend to go a bit overboard with the decorating when given the chance.

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Sunday after church (10/9), we went to brunch. I was craving a good brunch. It’s probably my favorite meal, and I was hitting a serious wall with studying. Brunch is always a cure all’ for the study wall. We went to a highly recommended place called Hash House. It even sounds like a good brunch place. I stepped inside and smelled the buttery toast, eggs, and roasting coffee- the intoxicating, small town, diner breakfast smell. It takes me back to Saturday mornings with my dad and my Papa at local spots in little Parma, Ohio ❤ My siblings know exactly what I’m talking about. Hello, Luna’s, Mimi’s, Demetrio’s, and My Place! My family knew the waiters and waitresses by name. I miss those days. All the nostalgic feels right now..

Now back to present day… DJ ordered a Western Hash and I ordered a Tofu Benedict, because where else have you ever heard of a Tofu Benedict?!?! It hit the spot. We also had to try an order of their pancakes- we ordered the short stack. A short stack. We thought they messed up our order and brought us a large stack. Nope. That is their short stack (it’s bigger than the picture does justice). I’d be interested to see the large! Verdict on the cakes: DJ’s mama’s are better. Besides her perfect pancakes, DJ swears the Bellagio in Las Vegas has some of the best he has ever tasted. Anyone concur?

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The rest of the week we had leftovers, and just random easy things here and there. I haven’t cooked as much as I like usually since I have been studying so hard and just have been making easy things like garden salads, pizza, grilled cheese… yada yada yada.

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However, one night (I think last Friday?) we went to Oren’s. I wrote all about how marvelous this Israeli food is in one of my posts. DJ and I crave this place. We like trying new places as a general rule, but man, we both were just itching to get our hands on some of their hummus and pita.

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Let us talk coffee. Lately after dinner I have been loving some decaf chai tea with a little almond milk and a Graze Chia Coconut Cookie. It is the perfect treat to help relax me to get back into study mode for the night. The Mrs. Right cup was dirty, obvi.

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I have been continuing to go to Peet’s everyday. They are truly friends at this point. They bring me out samples here and there of their latest blends, and I know longer have to tell the cashier my order. I just say, “the usual”. YES, I am one of those! I am going to miss the study “grind” simply for this reason. I will probably use blogging as an excuse to park it in Peet’s for a couple hours instead now and again 😉

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I always have either a quest bar or no cow bar on me for quick fuel. When my blood sugar drops I turn hangry real quick. DJ can attest to this. I particularly like dipping the bars in my coffee. I realize I probably look like a weirdo doing it, but that’s never stopped me. I used to lick the foam off the cup sides too, but I put my big girl pants on and stopped doing that… in public.

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Now to the highlight of our last couple weeks!!!!! Last saturday our family had a Halloween party! I can’t begin to explain how fun this was, but I’ll try. I think my cheeks still hurt from laughing. I was using this party as motivation all week long to crank out the last chunk of studying I had. It was such a nice night and helped refuel me for the last few days of cramming before the big exam. Also- it could have been a hosted Pinterest Halloween party. Every single thing was incredibly creative. Ideas galore! Our sisters that I always talk about presented us with the coolest little gift bags with our names on them and personally picked out chocolate we would love. They are incredibly creative and thoughtful, and put so much time into making this the greatest Halloween party of all time. I hope we are invited next year 😉  And, naturally, we all wore costumes, and every single one was fantastic.

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DJ and I were a play on words: I was Holy Gaucamole and he was The Second Amendment. “The right to bear arms”

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Hubby being way helpful- I was knee deep in the books so he glued on my avocados for me 🙂

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This game is a blast. No matter what age you are- this is a winner! You simply wear a  mouthpiece like the ones they use at the dentist office and have to speak a phrase that you are given. Everyone else has to guess what you are trying to say. It is hilarious. We were rolling.

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Monday night I got a text from my younger sister that there was a shooter on her college campus. They received a text from the Administration that he was heading toward the baseball fields, and she was currently in the baseball field at the time. She texted me from inside a shed in the field where she was sitting with the rest of her team. Scared me out of my mind. She was okay and hasn’t heard much about the situation since… But scary stuff. 😥

I took my exam yesterday (Tuesday), and I already explained the down low on that. Here is my obligatory “I just took my nursing boards” goofy, overly excited, why am I smiling like that selfie.

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Definitely will keep you all posted on those results.

When I got home I spent about an hour freaking out convincing myself I didn’t pass, and then DJ spent the next hour convincing me that I did pass. I told him I don’t count my chickens before they hatch, and he said he counted one nurse chicken hatching. I found it hilarious. And then I had candy corn and felt much better about life.

Random small talk note about the weather: It has been getting more fall-ish, and I am loving that. It rained a few times last week, and it was perfect study weather. I love that the seasons still have a sort of rhythm here in Northern California. I was mistaken that it was 75 and sunny everyday. While I never complain when it is 75 and sunny, the respite of rain is a nice change every now and again.

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We are going to a gala for our church this Friday, and I have few fancy dresses in my closet to choose from. To be honest, I am not really a big shopping fan. It overwhelms me a bit. It also seems to take forever to make sure I am making the right decision and getting the best deal. I do love me some good thrift shopping though.

DJ and I hit up the mall after the test yesterday and I actually found a dress relatively quickly. The lady checking us out was so jovial. She told us she wanted to adopt us and came around and gave us hugs after the purchase. I think it was the friendliest customer service experience I have ever had. It may have made DJ a bit uncomfortable, but I loved it! After that was off the list I was in a better mood. I don’t know if I was more anxious about taking my NCLEX or finding a dress, but regardless we conquered both (hopefully!).

After that we went to lunch at True Food Kitchen. This place just opened at Stanford shopping center in Palo Alto. I think this place was made for us. The vegan options were endless. DJ actually opted for a vegan option, although there were meat options. Once again, he chose the better meal, but he is always so kind to let me take a little big bite of whatever he orders.

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To start DJ ordered a honey lemonade. We also split a charred cauliflower dish with harissa tahini, medjool date, dill, mint, and pistachio. I actually have most of these ingredients right now and would love to replicate it. The combination of flavors was addictive.

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For my main dish I tried the seasonal ingredient salad with tofu. This included brussel sprouts, butternut squash, cauliflower, white beans, pomegranate, and toasted mulberry with a horseradish vinaigrette. I would never think to combine those items, but it worked soo well!

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DJ’s meal was the bomb.com. He had a T.L.T. Which is smoked tempeh, butter lettuce, tomato, avocado, and vegan mayonnaise. We are definitely going back to this place! I want to try everything on their menu.

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The whole day, Tuesday, reminded me that I have the greatest family and friends in the world. Before my test I woke up to the sweetest, most encouraging texts. When I came home with DJ after shopping I was greeted by a beautiful  Williams- Sonoma spiced pumpkin bread mix baking box.The silver pumpkins in the picture is the bottom of an actual pan to bake the bread in and it came with a delicious pumpkin butter spread! Also waiting for me was the most beautiful, exotic, and ME bouquet of flowers I have ever seen. They smell amazing and every time I look at them my heart melts. I was not expecting any of this, but I was touched beyond words!

Let’s talk in-laws for a hot tic… If I had to hand pick a family to marry into it would be the DJ’s. I thank God constantly for giving me a second family that showers me with unconditional love, support, and encouragement. I can’t imagine my life without them, and they truly make me feel like one of their own. Oh no, here come the water works. Someone get me a tissue! Nothin’ like an NCLEX to make a girl emotionally unstable!

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This morning I allowed myself to sleep in until 8:30! That is a BIG deal for me, ya’ll! I also was able to go for a super relaxing ten-miler in the sun. I haven’t done that in ages. It felt so good to have the music blasting a little louder than it should, the adrenaline rushing through my veins, and feeling like I could conquer the world. I haven’t had that exhilarating of a run in so long. Lately I’ve been running on the treadmill so I can study my notes and read my review book while running. You should see my books from trying to highlight while running- it’s comical. Also- I only fell once during those ten miles! That’s success in my book. You all know my inclination for the ground.

Anywho, we have my Aunt and Uncle coming in town tomorrow- YAHOOOOO! The rest of the day was groceries, cleaning, shipping boxes, catching up on a zillion emails, all that jazz that was put on the back burner while I studied. It feels good to currently be sitting in a clean house. Oh, and I didn’t forget dinner. Now that I can cook again I made a crispy coconut curry catfish from Blue Apron. I knew this week would be busy so I figured Blue Apron would be good to have on hand for a quick meal with all the ingredients already included!

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Last things last, we can’t forget politics. Let’s just say our household is still #SpankyTomforPresident. Nough’ said.

BUT WAIT how about them WINDIANS?!!? LETS GO CLE. World Series, baby!!!!!

Wishing you a thrilling Thursday,

xo ❤

Mack

Doubt.

This post is a bit different than my usuals, but I feel something on my heart that I want to share. I am about to get vulnerable with you all, but I am learning more and more that sometimes the most freedom in life can come from a place of vulnerability. I also want to make the disclaimer that no matter what you believe, what religion you are, where you are from, I do not disregard you- I’d love to hear your thoughts. I additionally truly hold firmly to loving everyone, no.matter.what.

The keyboard in front of me daunts me. I have so much going on in my head that it intimidates me. I am afraid that my simple words will not do justice to the joy that consumes me. This past season of my life has been one of growth that compares to none other. Before I begin attempting to articulate in my own human capacity, I pray that the hand of the Lord guides and directs these words to speak to what He wants to say. This is my current story, my current testimony, and it has been seven years in the making, and continuing.

Let’s back up. I was raised in the church and surrounded by mostly believers. I accepted Jesus as my Lord at a young age and was living zealously for Him for most of my life.

But at a certain point there was something I was lacking- an essential element: Faith.

The first time I recall experiencing my first wave of doubt about Christianity and what I believed was my sophomore year of high school. I have a skeptical mind, and I like proof. Then proof behind the proof. I like the “whys” and the “hows” behind every single little thing. But sometimes this yearning for proof can leave little room for faith and a lot of room for doubt. This phase of doubt, however, was short-lived- I talked with people I trusted and respected about these questions and felt settled and at ease with the answers they had given me. For now, at this time, I was satisfied. I believed.

Shortly after wrestling those first doubts, my dad passed away. The first words I barely choked out when I was told of his passing were, “I just need God.” My mom handed me a Bible and I just held it. Not absorbing the words, but just holding it. Surprisingly, this moment further corroborated God’s existence to me. In that desperate of a moment, how could God be what I reached for, almost instinctively, if He wasn’t there?

I didn’t struggle with any additional doubts until I went to college, a Christian university nonetheless. This is not at all a reflection of the University itself, but of my personal circumstances. Slowly, and I can pinpoint just a couple instances, I had become so jaded toward the Church. By the Church I mean by the very people of God. I became resentful. I resented the people that were supposed to be my brothers and sisters in Christ. I resented the atmosphere of a worship service. I resented basically anything that had to do with Christ. If I were to see what I am writing right now I probably would have rolled my eyes and stopped the minute I knew it dealt with Christianity. Everything and anything that once touched me as perfect and awe-inspiring began to morph into something superficial, hypocritical, and false. I am not blaming others for this- I myself stopped pursuing God. I put too much stock in my experience of religion rather than focusing on my relationship with Christ. People fail, Christ never does.

Here is the crazy part. During this time others probably perceived me as a “good Christian girl” for the most part- fitting the outward mold of “that type” to a T. I knew how to talk the talk. I told people I would pray for them, but rarely ever did. I encouraged people that “God had a plan”. I said the right things; I had been trained well. I slept walk through the motions, I did religion, and man, I did it well. That is not to sound cocky, and I am not bragging. Quite the opposite actually. I became the very facade that I so severely resented in others.

This place of resentment allowed the doubts to creep in stronger than ever. As I promised to pray for others, as I said the “right things”, as I worshipped in Church, in the back of my mind I thought, If there is a God, If He is even real, If I even truly believe this over and over again.

The Ifs consumed me, my mind, my everyday. That is a very uncomfortable place to be; it terrified me to my core.

I have heard all the arguments for Christianity- and let me tell you, they are strong. Lest we not forget at the root of any belief is an element of faith- even those who choose to believe nothing exists. My mother encouraged us to explore other religions because she was so sure of our faith. I took a class in high school looking in depth to each major world religion (and other streams of existential thought) back to Zoroastrianism. I was given historical, logical, natural, scientific data even pointing to a Creator and Jesus being Lord. This is not to mention my own personal experiences that supported the evidence. I found myself multiple times throughout life thinking, This proves it, how can anyone deny this evidence? Yet I did, in the face of the best of it.

It was not about a lack of evidence, but a lack of faith.

My heart fiercely wrestled the “ifs”. I was so engrossed in the uncertainty. These were some serious doubts as I mentioned above. I wondered if we were truly just animals with nowhere we were going, only destined to live our lives for a few years on a wasting planet. I pondered upon these doubts in my mind; only consuming a small part of my thinking at a time, but soon becoming monsters that overcame me. I realized, if none of it was true, if Jesus was not the One true God and if there is no such thing as “God”, then what the heck was I doing with my life?

I would have no identity. No hope. No purpose. No future. No promise. No life. I would have nothing. I would be nothing. And just because I desired for this to not be the case, it became a possibility before my eyes, before my soul.

I begged. I begged God on my knees for removal of that doubt. I begged the Lord to take it from me and allow me to believe with unwavering belief I used to have. I begged for days. I begged for months. I begged in utter desperation for over a year.

But then I begged less. Instead, I busied myself with my studies, with my responsibilities, my job. I prayed less. I sought out God’s Word less. I’ll deal with it another day, became my everyday. I was on the spiritual “tomorrow diet”. I was putting the most fundamental aspect of life on hold for anything fleeting. I worshipped anything but the One whom deserves our worship: my to-do list, my responsibilities, my day-to-day superficial desires, myself

Silence. Doubt.

I told hardly anyone of these doubts I was facing, but I did tell my husband. He was beyond encouraging. He responded to everything perfectly. These doubts of mine didn’t scare him or cause him to even blink- He knew that God would be faithful. But still, the questions made themselves at home in the back of my mind, and the uncertainty caused my heart to ache with a chronic pain that I had become so familiar with. At this point, after living with these doubts for nearly two years, they didn’t shock me or shake me like they used to. I had grown numb, apathetic, and lifeless in my soul. I told my husband that I was fearful of moving somewhere that I was wrongly convinced hardly anyone had a relationship with Christ. I was fearful that I would be further pulled into the depths of these doubts and completely turn away from whatever speck of faith I was haphazardly clinging to, if any at all.

The time for our move came this past summer. We packed up and began our road trip toward the place that would become our new home. Every second of that trip was filled with awesome memories that I will treasure forever, however, two specific stops stand out to me. The first was the Grand Canyon- seeing that majesty, the beauty, the awe-inspiring tapestry- it stirred something within me. Driving up Highway One and Big Sur had the same impact. I began to have that thirst again, I wanted to rejoice God in my soul for whom He is, I wanted to believe it in my soul, and not just have a longing for Him to exist; I wanted a longing for Him. The doubt was still there, but I had a rekindled urgency to face it.

The second Sunday that we were here my husband announced that we were going to Church. I agreed verbally, maybe even excitedly (reaction formation), but I put up slight protest in my heart. I didn’t want to put on a show. I didn’t want to be surrounded by hypocrisy. I didn’t want to be the hypocrite.

The first Church service we attended shook me. I remember leaving thinking how can they worship like this if it isn’t all real? God was working on me, but I had no idea the monumental changes that were about to occur.

We began attending groups within the church- Bible study groups, hiking groups, community service groups, etc. I clearly began to see the way these individuals live. It is not a superficial knowledge that drives them. It is not a duty or obligation. It is a relationship. Look, these people are in deep, undeniable relationships with Christ. They have zero judgment. They are not brain-washed. They are intelligent, wise, and beautiful individuals who know the real thing when they see it. They aren’t “Bible thumpers” with their heads in the clouds. They are some of the most authentic individuals I have ever met. They do not claim perfection, and they only boast in Christ. The seed of resentment began to disappear from my heart. From these relationships I was motivated to repair relationships from the past, and dig out the root of bitterness that had entangled me so deeply. I began to crave the fellowship of other believers. I began to desire that freedom that comes with worship. The doubt began to wither away.

Sunday after Sunday we went back to this Church. Each time, my heart was softened. Each time I opened my Bible I grew more and more enamored with Him. I began praying again, thanking God. I thanked him for his faithfulness, for his future faithfulness too; I knew that He was going to be faithful, even if the doubts were still there, He was greater than them.

During a particular worship service, I found myself overwhelmed in the best way. I felt enraptured by the Holy Spirit in a way that is nearly indescribable. This moment literally took my breath away. In the middle of worship that still, small voice in my heart that I had not heard for so long said, I’m here, I’ve got you. It was not my emotions speaking- This was undeniably the Holy Spirit.

Whatever doubt had been there was replaced. It was replaced with a fire, love, passion, desire, yearning, and an assurance of the One True Living God.

I know many would say that this was perhaps an emotional connection to the desires I had- grabbing onto the first illumination of something to believe in. But it was not that. For every second of doubt I had, it was as though a confidence now overwhelmed my soul, washing away those uncertainties. And ever since then, He has continued to confirm again and again His presence in my life. I just had to seek Him. He has always been there.

Romans 8:38-39 declares, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the Love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord”.

Nothing can separate us when we are in Christ. Nothing. Not our doubts, not our fears, not even ourselves.

He never left me. He was with me through every single step of this painful process. He did answer my prayer, in His time, better than I could have ever pictured. I don’t know why He didn’t help resolve these doubts earlier. This is not a stance on Calvinism vs. Arminianism, but I do think He was waiting for me to seek after Him fervently, to give up the resentful, hateful seed that had been planted so deeply into my heart. And if I ever face this again throughout my walk, I know I can face it with the assurance of knowing Christ will see me through. I also will not stop in my pursuit of objective truth- I just have a confidence now that it will point back to Christ. After all, He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6).

Moreover, I know despite my flawed human imperfection, His timing is perfect. My heart is set ablaze as I enter this new stage of life, a stage where I am more available to do whatever He calls me to than ever. I have confidence far surpassing what I had even early in my walk before the doubts set in. I have a fire and passion to share this love with others. I realize the selfish life I have been living for so long and have a desire to truly turn away from it. Everything that seemed so important of this world seems so foolish now. I have a thirst for more. I have a thirst for something real. All glory to the One True God.

From this time I have also taken away this: Doubt is okay, it’s natural. Doubt is not something to be ashamed of, in fact it can be so good. It is a season, that most, if not all, people do face. God uses all seasons to sharpen us, to mold us, and to grow us. It’s nearly a cousin of faith, but tackling our doubt deepens our faith. He doesn’t want blind followers. He wants us to pursue Him and praise Him with a confidence and assurance.

Isaiah 41: 10, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my right hand.”

So to any brothers or sisters struggling through the tangles of doubt, I just want to whisper this piece of truth from my heart to yours..

He’s got you. He is real. He loves you more than you can imagine. He is with you, and He will be victorious over this season.