Savings September In Review

Hey everyone! I have a little different type of  post today. As some of you may know DJ and I have an annual tradition of doing a lil’ something we call Savings September. We have noticed that summers tend to make a big ole’ dent in the spending arena, so every September we use to refocus, re-establish good habits, and look for ways to be smarter about spending, especially leading up to the holiday season. We don’t want this to be limited to September either- the goal is that by creating these conscientious, yet practical, habits we will be able to take what we have learned and apply it to each month thereafter.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to make a post initially; I never have in the past. However, this year was particularly successful, and a few of you have expressed interest in ways we have saved! SO without further adieu, here are some little easy tips and tricks that helped us save 42% of what we spent in August. Yes-42%!!! Something we predominately learn each time we do this is the little expenses and choices add up!

1.Limiting Eating Out.This one is probably not a big surprise that it’d be a saver & it didn’t mean we never ate out. Basically, we limited our eating out to either social hangouts with friends or date nights together. I tried to be diligent about prepping more and making sure there was something DJ and I could easily have for lunch rather than him buying lunch every day at work. This used to be a routine for us, but it definitely fell through the cracks through the summer. Feels good to be back in the swing!

 

2. Limiting Coffee Out. I definitely still had my Peet’s <3… but I used up old gift cards with a couple dollars sitting on them here and there at various coffee shops. I tried to only go to Peet’s once or twice a week when the school load was extra heavy and ordered a small most times.

3. Groceries. This is probably where we saved the most. I tried to use up every little thing we had in the pantry/freezer/fridge before going back to the store. I would create meals surrounding what we already had. For example, I knew we had fish in the freezer, so I would go get rice and a veggie to “fill in” a meal with what we needed to use up. I also tried to be attentive to making the wisest decision among choices. For instance, usually when I get tomatoes, I don’t pay too much mind to the couple cent difference between the Roma and the cherry tomatoes. But when you opt for the cheaper one and apply that mindset to every item you are buying over weeks, months, years it really adds up- especially on things that you don’t mind a slight difference. Oh, and buying the on sale in season fruits makes a HUGE difference too- and taste better!

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4. Skipping on the non-essentials. I loveee myself some carbonated bevies, especially “ICE” waters. But the thing is, they ain’t cheap when you buy them often! I always throw in a couple bottles when I’m at the store along with some gum from the cash register- but with how frequently I chew gum, it just isn’t a wise investment and a habit that needed some breaking. Rather than buying ICEs, we bought 3 large packs of Bubbly water for $10 and stopped buying gum entirely. I do have mints in need of freshening up my breath on the go though. Not only has this saved monetarily, but I no longer even crave the ICEs or gum. This doesn’t mean I won’t grab a pack here or there, but I don’t have the desire for a piece of gum every hour of the day.

5. Poshmark!!! I sold quite a bit on Poshmark this past month, and then had credit in my account available with the sales. I noticed I needed new face-wash, but my favorite face-wash that I discovered through Fab Fit Fun costs around $34. Ugh! That’s how they get you. I decided to check Poshmark to see if I could find some for cheaper. I negotiated for two bottles that would be about 1/2 of the price using the Poshmark credit. Score! It makes me wonder what other items I can find on there.

6. Being cognizant of saving electricity. I have a bad habit of keeping lights on going room to room (It drove my mom nuts growing up). We have both been extra diligent in making sure to turn lights off upon leaving a room and when we leave the house. It’s a great habit we have developed, and now it would bother me to keep them on and leave.

7. Buying in Bulk. At some point I noticed we were running low on some cleaning supplies, toilet paper and other essentials. I remembered I had received a coupon from Bed Bath and Beyond to get $20 off $80 spent. I bought all the stuff that we needed (including a couple fall candles-  autumn necessities 😉 ) all online. We are stocked up on tons of cleaning supplies, a new shower liner we desperately needed, dishwashing soap, and toilet paper for way cheaper if I had bought them at a regular grocery store. The delivery also came with 2 $60 gift-cards towards HelloFresh. Also, at Target you will sometimes see if you buy a certain number of items, you can get a $5 gift-card back. I always try to stock up on laundry detergent and household essentials when I see those promos going on. Right now if you get a flu shot at CVS affiliated with Target- you can also get a $5 giftcard to Target (just call before you go to make sure they are doing the promotion). But get yo flu shot, peopleeee!

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8. Using Cosmetics I already Have. I don’t know about you, but I have a bunch of little “samples” sitting around of makeup, shampoo, body wash, etc. Rather than just buying something new when I ran out of something, I gathered up all my samples and have been using everything up. Those little samples go a long way! Not only have I discovered some products I really like along the way, but I am clearing up space in the cabinet too. Oh! And I’ve started using olive oil to remove makeup- it works wonders and is so gentle- no more needing to buy makeup remover!

9. Having fun, restful weekends at home. I love to be busy and plan, plan, plan. But even seemingly cheap plans can become expensive, especially around here- you’ve got unexpected parking expenses, food, gas money, etc.. Not having a ton of weekend plans reminded me how important (and fun) just a weekend at home is for rest & rejuvenation. I also was able to get ahead on some school projects, so that always feels good! Oh, and DJ definitely needed the time to breathe now that the season has ended. I’m excited to plan some lax dates this month when we carve pumpkins, watch Halloween movies, make homemade wine together, practice baking soufflés, and have picnics with the lovely autumn weather!

10. Mint. This financial management app is incredible. It is super easy to use and understand. Being conscious of where every dollar goes, seeing our budget clearly, and having alerts when we are about to go over a set budget has been tremendously helpful in being good stewards of our money.

We also have some other just general saving tips that we have used for a couple years or gained over past Savings Septembers:

  • We love Groupon . This is where we get some restaurant deals & most of our hotel deals  (along with Orbitz to collect Orbitz bucks!)- always make sure to get points or rewards for your travels! It’s a free night in a hotel or a free plane ride eventually. I also have accounts with hotel.com & booking.com for when they have the cheapest comparative rates.
  • Installing Wikibuy into your Internet toolbar is a big saver! Every time you are about to make a purchase, Wikibuy will scour the internet for coupon codes, deals, promos, etc. and automatically apply it to your order if it finds one. You also get money back many times and can use that toward other purchases.
  • Sometimes I like to peruse Coupons.com before making a purchase to see if there are any coupons for something I may need too.
  • I have subscribe and save on Amazon for certain things we rebuy every few months- like shavers and Swiffer refills. This saves 5% for each purchase, and we would buy that stuff every couple months anyways- so why not save 5%?

As you can see, a lot of the savings do not come from really any novel ideas, but simply being conscious of each purchase. Hope this was somewhat helpful for someone! If you have any tips and tricks I’d LOVE to hear them too! Have a beautiful week, everyone 🙂

xo <3

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Midwest Culture Shock

Hello and happppy weekend!!! This trip back to Ohio for a wedding was absolutely perfect. It was a fantastic reminder of why the Midwest is so great, and but wowzers mctrowzers sooo different… we haven’t been back in the summer since we moved and we had a definite culture shock returning. (Also I should clarify – this is a small town in OH, the culture shock would probably be less in a big city like Cincy or Columbus). I thought it would be fun to record some of those observations since what used to be our norm is now foreign to us! I actually made a post when we first moved to California highlighting the CA culture shock I initially experienced. It shows how quickly your perspective of “normal” can be shaped by your environment. I should also add this probably could also apply going from many urban to rural areas and does not cover all of CA nor all of Ohio. I will be working on my recap this weekend, but for now I’ll just leave this list of shockers here. I’d LOVE to hear your thoughts!

  1. Driving in the left hand lane as a single driver. In CA, we have to drive in only the right lanes if you are alone in the car, the left is for carpool lanes strictly.
  2. As soon as we were on the road with our rental car, we were asking, “where is everyone?!”. The lack of traffic on the road made us wonder for a second if there was some sort of natural disaster. I miss those open roads!
  3. Food prices. Food is insanely cheap comparatively. I think DJ and I have just gotten used to the exorbitant prices to eat out and it was refreshing to see a more forgiving bill.
  4. Hearing people talk about fishing, barbecues, and buying a home. Buying homes out here is, well, just not an option. Hearing people my age discussing buying homes was mind boggling.
  5. Along with the lack of traffic, there is the lack of food options. (But it doesn’t mean there isn’t great food- as you will see!). While I was there, the same place was suggested to eat for dinner three separate times, and the same breakfast place two separate times by all different people. LOL! That would never happen here considering the multitudinous options.
  6. Less Diversity. Something I loved when we moved out here was just the melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. We are definitely the minority where we live, so going back and being in the majority was a bit strange too!
  7. Seeing people you know at the grocery store… and the local coffee shop.. and the bank… and everywhere. It’s a small town, and you inevitably at least recognize someone everywhere you go!
  8. We aren’t considered “young” for being married. Most of my friends are married, engaged (or on their way to being engaged), and popping out kiddos. In CA, most people don’t get married until late late 20s, early 30s (if that), and we are certainly an anomaly.
  9. There is not a Starbucks (OR PEETS) every half a mile, so plan your coffee trips accordingly 😉
  10. There are certainly way more trucks than Teslas. DJ’s truck is considered a commercial vehicle here, hah!
  11. People eat dinner so early! We have adopted more of a 7/7:30 pm schedule for eating in the West, but most in the midwest schedule dinner for 5:30/6 pm.
  12. Thunderstorms are intense. I forgot how scary it can be driving in a torrential downpour. I do not miss driving in that rain, but I do miss the storms!
  13. The pace. There was something so beautiful, refreshing, and perspective forming about the slow pace and emphasis on what matters most in life- family, friends, faith and making memories. In Northern CA sometimes it feels like everyone is just rushing, always in a hurry to get somewhere and do something (but in reality everyone’s just sitting in traffic). There is a bit more of a concern and emphasis on occupation and education here too. Those things still matter in the midwest obviously, but it just seems that those priorities are different. It was a nice reminder for me, and maybe it all goes back to the slower pace. <3 (**also not saying this applies to everyone in NorCal, but just my observation**).
  14. Everyone is so friendly & strangers actually talk to one another.
  15. PLASTIC BAGS FROM THE GROCERY STORE. And without paying 10 cents?! Woah. woah. woah.
  16. Space! There is so. much. space. And grass!
  17. Country music plays everywhere. LOVE IT.
  18. Fashion is different here than in the midwest. Midwest fashion is brighter, more floral, and relaxed. In NorCal, fashion is more monotone dark colors, sleek, and form fitting. Denim is worn on the bottom in the midwest, and as a jean jacket in the Bay.

I could probably go on. Both places are two entirely separate worlds. They each have pros and cons, and I wouldn’t trade living in CA for the stage we are currently in. But it was a great reminder that no doubt, OH will always be my home, and I’ll always be a midwest girl at heart.  <3

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xo <3

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Nursing: Tribulation & Triumph.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Man A Floor Below

I have a story that I have oscillated between sharing or not for a couple weeks now. But this story is something that I have grown and learned from tremendously. Hence, I think it may be important to record so I do not forget these lessons that have been on my heart.

After Church two Sundays ago, I walked downstairs into our lobby to head out for a run. There was a group of people surrounding a forty-something year old man who was sitting on the ground, back supported against the wall, barefooted, eyes closed, and head rolling. Immediately, those nurse instincts kicked in full force. Once I confirmed 911 had been called I sat next to the man and began a rapid assessment. He was conscious, AOx4, but had slurred speech and not able to keep his eyes open. He was showing signs of tardive dyskinesia. He told us the drugs he had just took and clearly was overdosing on benzos before our eyes. I was just praying the EMTs showed up with some Romazicon soon if he were to lose consciousness. I was itching to get a blood sugar, a pulse ox, an EKG… but all I could offer was my presence. I asked him about how he was feeling; he told me he didn’t want to live anymore and was afraid he was going to kill himself. He had come downstairs into the lobby to get help. When the people around me asked if I was a nurse and I confirmed, I noted the relief in their eyes. I felt I didn’t deserve this trust put in me, and suddenly realized the responsibility I had in this situation I had stumbled upon. Yet, the training and experience I had was nearly robotic. I now understand why they say nursing is a calling; it’s knit into the fabric of who you are at all times, on or off duty. I assured him we would stay with him until help came. I think it was what he wanted at this moment. He expressed such gratitude. Finally, the team came and he was off to the hospital in a flash.

Something that has loomed in my thoughts is the fact that he was a resident in our apartment- only one floor below us. I probably had rode the elevator with him before, I probably had passed him by the mailboxes or in the parking garage. Yet, I had no idea that there was someone only a floor below fighting for the will to survive. While I propped my feet up on the couch and turned on some silly reality show, someone a floor below was counting pills. “How many might it take?” he contemplated. While I counted the stressors in this year to come, someone below was counting if the stressors of his life were worth living another day.

It woke me up a bit- the reality that we don’t know what those around us are truly going through. It’s cliched, I realize, yet it carries a visceral weight. If we recognized that every single person we encounter is going through something, has a story, has a painful anecdote that formed them or is currently molding them would we all be kinder? Would we smile a bit more as we pass perfect strangers or look the cashier in the eye when we are checking out? I understand that we can’t solve everyone’s problems in this world, but what if we all lived more intentionally. Maybe taking our heads out of our phones and our eyes off our own lives for a second and simply asking, “How are you?” or “How was your day?” to the stranger next to us on the subway, the train, or in line at a grocery store can make all the difference. It’s simply saying to another human- “I see you, you matter, and you are not invisible” that can make or break a person’s day, their life. I know I’ve been there. I’m still there many days. I have battled a long stream of mental health battles my whole life, yet most of the people in my life have no idea. Why didn’t I realize this sooner- that many others probably aren’t wearing their grief and heartache on their sleeve as well?

This man just wanted to be seen. He came downstairs and sat against a wall in the lobby because he knew he would be seen. How can we see the pain around us if we refuse to look up and see? I know we have heard this probably a hundred times, I’m not bringing any type of sage wisdom to the table, but for some reason for the first time this idea, this reality, hit home in a new way. The plague of our society is the acceptance of facade and the taboo of authenticity. Our interactions with one another may be short, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be meaningful. Our words may be few, but it doesn’t mean they can’t be powerful. Our own time may be precious, but it doesn’t mean it can’t be shared. I pray that Jesus will give me His eyes to see those around me the way He does, that he will give me the courage to ask the tough questions, the patience to listen, and the heart to love.

And to the man the floor below, I need you to know, you are loved more than you can imagine. You are worthy. You are the most valuable. There is One who sees you and knows you better than anyone ever could. There is someone who knows your pain so intimately, and He died for it so you don’t have to. There is someone who conquered the grave so you can live. You are never truly alone. I pray for you each day, and I pray that our paths cross again.

A Sun Basket Review & A Fox Dog!

Hey hey heyyyy!! How’s it kicking?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now fast forward past the Texas trip….vrrrroooooommmmm.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who’s ready for fall?!?!!?

Blog Birthdays:

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

xo <3

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A Super Quick Update!

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HEY YA’LL!

Long time no seeeeee.

I have a sweet & short post about what we have been up to lately (well, relative to my other posts) . I received a text from my mom yesterday saying she was concerned since I haven’t made much contact with anyone the last week or so. NO WORRIES- all is well & good just busy, busy.

It reminded me that I haven’t updated the good ole’ blog baby in a while. I need to write an entirely separate post soon about what I have learned this past month in regards to nursing, faith, and dealing with some intense emotional battles. It’s been nothing short of a glorious, ferocious, awful, and beautiful rollercoaster.

That will come soon… I travel to Pittsburgh this weekend so I’m thinking the flight may be a good time to unravel that one.

But for now, for all our friends and family that are all, “How the heck are ya, where the heck are ya, and what the heck are ya up to?!” … this is my response!

I graduated from the FACC series class last week (Foundations of Acute and Critical Care Training). That means wayyy less online work, aka less free time sucked up, and more consistent 36 hour weeks in the hospital rather than sporadic classes mixed with shifts. HALLELUJAH! I learned so much through this series and while it was a major time leach, I am incredibly grateful for all I learned.

Alsoooo..come on now- this cake..

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. Hahahahha. I know it’s bad, but I couldn’t help but share. Our FACC leaders definitely have a good sense of humor (which I have learned is entirely necessary in nursing).

DJ’s doing amazing at his job working with the SJ Giants in marketing. I admire him beyond words with the way he has handled this job and the integrity with which he also handles the challenges. He has been an outstanding leader in our small group through church as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to our small group because of work, but DJ has been leading a good deal of the sessions. I am just thankful I have him as my rock as we go through this hard, hard year.

We both are in such similar places of navigating the season of NEW. New jobs, new coworkers, new schedules, new responsibilities, new frustrations, and new memories! We still hardly see each other but soak up every second when we do.

Many evenings I get home and go straight to sleep after a 12 hour shift, and can’t do much the night before a shift considering I have to get up at 4/4:30. But some nights when I don’t have to go back the next day I try to just soak up that alone time.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy those quiet evenings are in my feng shui hangout eating sushi, drinking some wine, and reading or watching a reality show. Call me basic if you wish, but these sushi rolls are ANYTHING but basic.

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A place near our apartment called Azuma can be delivered through GrubHub. I oscillate between the 49ers roll (eel, avocado, and other assorted fish), and the sunshine roll (lemon, tuna, eel, green onion, and avocado)…. with brooownn rice. Brown rice adds a texture and heartiness to the roll that I love.

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It’s all so delish. Probably the two best sushi rolls of my life. But I have a problem. When DJ and I went through the budget/spending this month I embarrassingly replied “Sushi” when he asked what each purchase on my card was from. Whoops. Girl’s gotta eat. #sorrynotsorry. #sushinotsorry.

Speaking of eats! Here are our other recent ones..

I have been LOVING my turmeric cauliflower mashed potatoes with black bean burgers, hummus, and parmesan asparagus. You know I get on kicks, and this is the most recent! I also love topping it with basil.

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Flat-out pizzas are always a good go-to. If you’ve never tried a good flat-out pizza, it’s definitely worth a try- especially if you are a lover of thin crust pizzas! Each flatbread is only 100 calories, and then I top with vegan cheese, tomatoes, basil, and oregano to make a mean vegan margarita.

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It’s also been a while since I’ve made Indian. When we lived in our Toho in Indiana this was one of my favorite meals to make! DJ loves it too. For myself I make a vegetarian version with dosa, idli, and tons of curry laden veggies. For DJ I make chicken tikki masala with jasmine rice and naan. Who doesn’t love naan?! If you don’t know what naan is, you don’t know what life is, so please stop reading this and go try some naan.

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Did you try the naan?!?

I’m serious.

Try it.

Now.

Since I am leaving this weekend, I made DJ tons of BBQ chicken, parmesan rosemary fingerling potatoes, fried okra, and wild rice.

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Alsooo, I may have casually ordered a jillion gallons of PB2 on Groupon. It was a steal!!!! Pb2 is so dang expensive, so when I saw this Betty bargain steal I had to jump.

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Ok, ok you caught me. When going through the budget and spending it goes like this … Sushi, sushi, PB2, sushi, overage data fees while blogging about sushi and PB2, sushi.

I’ve also been running a ton to deal with my stress. Lately I’ve been listening to podcasts rather than music. Just wait for the next Friday Faves, folks, and I will divulge some of my loooves. Anyone have favorites out there?!

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Last Thursday I got my hair did! Wooohoo!!!! The roots were so bad. I am in the wedding Saturday, so I felt like I had to be somewhat presentable for someone else’s forever wedding photos.

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After getting the roots all touched up and a nice (MUCH NEEDED) trim, I was craving me some boba. Luckily, next to the Aveda salon on Santana row there is an amazing Boba shop It hit.the. spot. Especially because it was way too hot that day. Raise your hand if you love boba?!

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FINALLY one of DJ and I’s days aligned for a day off last Friday. We started our day off by sleeping in until the cows came home.

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Then I was craving boba, … so… boba.

We also decided to try out Game of Thrones. Holy maloly- it’s entralling! Does anyone watch? Yes, it’s pretty dang explicit, but I know most shows are out of the gate to get more ratings. The story line is just insanely good. Any thoughts?! We love it.

For dinner we tried the newest addition to our little Cupertino downtown- Stein’s Beer Garden.

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It was one of those places that just has pizzazz.

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I loved the feel. It was beery unique! There is a literal wall lined with faux foliage in a modern, industrial environment.

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The staff was super friendly off the bat. While there was a bit of a wait, it was worth it.

We started with complementary pickled veggies in a jar. I don’t know why more places don’t do this! It was such a great mini app. I didn’t even miss the typical starter bread (GASSSSPPPP!).

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I’m not big on beer, but felt like I should at least try one, considering it’s in the restaurant’s name. The only kind I really like that I’ve tried are Sours. Their Mango Gose was surprisingly refreshing with the meal I had!

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I tried the roasted beet & smoked salmon salad with arugula, chevre goat cheese, and spiced pecans. It was fantastic! (Also- PS. I just have to tell my Aunt that she would LOVE this place, it’s so up her alley, so ya’ll need to come back soon!).

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DJ tried the Yucatan Pulled Pork Sliders with chili paste marinated pork shoulder with chipotle aoili chicharon, cilantro slaw, jalapeno, and roasted tomato salsa.

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The rest of the night we flew through a couple episodes of GOT, then we both worked all weekend.

Fast forward…

It is currently Wednesday evening, I’m on the heels of 4- 12 shifts nearly in a row. I’m not sure my mind is all here and this post probably has a million errors haha. I’m haphazardly watching bachelorette and realizing I have a million things do before 10 am tomorrow. Oh well. It will get done, it always does.

I leave tomorrow for Pittsburgh and don’t return until Sunday. I plan during that time to catch up on blog comments and your blogs too (although, I’m not sure the 7 hour traveling day in the air will have wifi?!)..

Monday is back to work and then I won’t see DJ again until Tuesday, but he works most of the time too. Also- my best friend’s baby is due this week, and I can hardly stand it. This time of life is wild, and hard, fun, challenging, and rewarding. I know we will look back on this year and see it as one of the most transformative for the both of us.
What are you all up to this weekend?!

xo <3

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The Butterfly Effect

I spend too much time thinking. My mind is in a perpetual hum, going in a million directions, yet going nowhere at all. It’s exhausting! When I was young, I used to look out the window with a furrowed brow on long car rides and just think. My Dad would glance in the rear view mirror and say, “Kenzie, what is it that a five-year-old has to think about so seriously?” At the time they were probably pretty basic questions of life, why is the sky blue?, why do we have ten fingers and ten toes?, who let the dogs out? (please help, I still don’t know this one)but lately something else has been plaguing my mind: purpose. How is whatever I am doing at this moment meaningful? And not just on the surface level, but I mean deeply, viscerally meaningful. It’s like everything I do has to have some kind of “productive” end point. But that’s not how we were meant to live. It’s a perspective issue, not a reality issue.

I know how we all have a specific calling and purpose designated by our Lord and that our identity is ultimately found in Him. This is so important to understand. But at times, it’s not always about the insecurities about who I am, it’s more about what I am doing. But maybe the two get inappropriately tangled at times? I’m not sure.

Something I’ve found myself caught up in recently is the purpose of this blog. I started it to catch up friends and family on the happenings in our lives, share how God is working, and to record a few of our favorite adventures for us to reminisce about someday. It brings me joy. And that should be enough. But at times I feel like it’s not- particularly when I get caught up in the comparison game. For example, there are times I’ll find myself slaving over a recipe, giddy in the making of this creation, getting ready to post it, and then suddenly I’ll come across an “accomplished” blogger with many printed cookbooks, perfect photos, and a massive following. Naturally I think, “What’s the point?” and stuff the post into drafts.

Comparison is the thief of joy- no truer words.

But lately my perspective has been shifting, and I hope to offer encouragement to anyone else that may be experiencing the throws of writing insecurity, lack of direction, or is just asking, “What is the point?” in anything you do.

This shift came with contemplation of the Chaos Theory- the idea that a flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. Some think the theory is a bit silly, but I love the illustration. It fascinates me- this idea that something seemingly minuscule can create something massive, powerful, unstoppable.

Maybe we can learn a lesson or two from this small, fragile creature. As cheesy as it is to use a butterfly metaphor, I’m gonna use it, gosh darn it.

Let me pose these questions-Did the butterfly physically see the the breeze created from a simple flap of the wings? Or did the butterfly actually witness the power ultimately created from this small act? No, but it continued fluttering along anyway.

The butterfly didn’t flutter it’s wings with the intention of creating that tornado. It flew because it was what it knew how to do, because it allowed the butterfly to live its short life the best way it knew how with what it was given…because it was the butterfly’s own form of artwork. Maybe the “small” things we do and invest time in don’t always have results that we can see right away, but they can breed wind storms of creativity and joy within ourselves. When we do something we love for its own sake we are bringing joy to the Ultimate Creator, who instilled these innate passions and abilities uniquely for each of us, so why deprive ourselves of this? When we can learn that investing in joy is a worthy investment, despite tangible results, our lives can be lived dramatically differently- in freedom.

Additionally, the butterfly flutters on persistently despite what the other butterflies are doing. We each have been created with an originality and purpose that will differ from anyone else’s. Just like no two butterflies are the same, neither are we- so why do we insist on comparing each of our journeys?

It’s when we can fly in this freedom that the breeze becomes a gust, and the gust becomes a storm- a storm of inspiration that overflows out of us. When a butterfly flies on by, it’s hard not to pay attention to the beauty of the creature basking in its own ease, persistent in doing what it was meant to do with it’s short life. In all that we do, no matter how seemingly small, if we do it with the same fervor and persistence, others will be inspired. When we allow ourselves to get lost in our own chaotic creativity, passions, and pieces of life that bring us joy, others will not be able to look away. There is something contagious and infatuating about someone who pursues what they love unapologetically. But if we miss the freedom of being content in our own originality and situation, we lose this power.

Even when we feel like we are walking uphill in thick sand, when nothing seems to matter that we do, and when we don’t feel like we are making a difference in the mundane ebb and flow of life, we have to realize we may not ever know the profound effect we are actually propagating. We just have to take that next step, continue fluttering, if you will. We don’t know what difference our footprints could make for someone else who stumbles across them later on. It could even be the comfort they need in knowing they are not the first to walk that journey

So to those who are wondering if you should share that post sitting in your drafts, publish it. To those that are wondering if you should call that long lost friend, do it. To those that are wondering if pursuing something you love is worth the risk, it is. To those who are wondering if you have a purpose, you do. To those that are wondering if you are worth it, you are.

Take that step unapologetically. Whatever you do, do it with love and with heart.

That next step may just be the first step to unstoppable.