Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Wedding Weekend and Diaper Woes

Last weekend marked the final weekend of travel for Michael and me before the baby arrives. To say we are over the moon about no more traveling would be an understatement. We are over the UNIVERSE... or over something infinitely higher than the moon. Despite this excitement, this past weekend was a super fun way to end this busy season: A wedding! In Charlottesville! Fa la la!

My Nora Bora got married and she made the most gorgeous bride ever. Not to mention it was one of the most beautiful receptions ever, too. Here are a few pictures from the weekend:

Nora's in her tango dress after changing out of her wedding dress. SO HOT. 

The bride and groom post-rehearsal dinner.

Sara will kill me for this pic, but how often are you together and pregnant with a best friend you've known since you were 6!

Las damas

Friends4Life


It was such a special time of seeing dear friends and celebrating Nora and Nathan.

While in Charlottesville, we also had a little celebration for Baby Girl Cat with some of my UVA besties and some of the people who have meant the world to my mom and me for over 30 years. (I am only 29 so these people have known me from the womb. Craaazy.) I received some special little trinkets for the babe, like a beautiful quilt that my friend Tilly made me and a gorgeous handmade sweater and smock dress, and some essentials like diapers and wipes and prosecco.

Prosecco, you question?? Yes! To celebrate once the babe arrives. Of course.

While driving back to DC after the wedding, I kept telling Michael that I smelled alcohol in the car. It was actually quite nice... a little bit of a fruity smell, kind of like apples, only kind of sour. (So maybe not 'quite nice.') I checked the gift bag that we had received from the wedding knowing that tiny bottles of vodka and whiskey where included inside, but they were sealed tight. I then convinced myself that I was probably just smell-hallucinating since the idea of a fruity adult beverage sounds very amazing to me these days. (I've looked into finding out if margaritas can be delivered to one's hospital room at Georgetown.... TBD.)

Anyway, upon arriving at home and unloading the car, Michael found the smell culprit. The prosecco had somehow opened and was slowly leaking.... all over the diapers! To be honest, there really was no better place for it to leak. If something's gonna leak, why not leak all over something that is manufactured for absorbency. Makes sense to me.

And here, in the midst of this little debacle, we learned our first lesson of parenthood: diapers change color when wet. Who knew!?? They have a little built in strip that is clean and light yellow when the diaper is dry. And when wet, the strip turns blue.

And smells like prosecco.



I'm chuckling as I write this. Our life lessons of parenthood started with a bang... followed by some fizz and some fruity smelling diapers. Man oh man, are we in it for the long haul or what. Pray for us....

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Ugandan New Years Greetings

Below is a New Years greeting from my parents' surrogate "son" Julius in Uganda. It really can't be said any better. Why don't we all write like this???



Dear Beloved ones,

With 2014 already languishing in the dustbins of history, I have the pleasure to express my HEARTY CONGRATULATIONS to you all on starting a new year, 2015! Just like any other year, I know 2014 had its own highs and lows, twists and turns...but for me, generally speaking, it's been an incredibly remarkable year! Yeah, 2014, I shall forever and always remember it as the incredible year that I lived one of my fondest dreams - enrolling for the much coveted postgraduate programme, MA (Lit) at University in Kampala, Uganda.

As already indicated, 2014 also had the "not-so-good part," but I wouldn't like to conjure bad memories by mentioning some of its lows. My suggestion, therefore, is that we put to rest its sadness, regrets and painful moments and instead, have a new start, full of vigor, optimism and joy. Remember, 2015 can be a golden opportunity to make up for what we missed (or messed up with) in 2014!

I therefore wish you all, my darlings, a year that is filled with joy, happiness, peace and tranquility: may 2015 be the year that all your dreams, hopes and aspirations come to fulfillment and realization! In short, I heartily wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year, 2015!!

Affectionately,
Julius

Thursday, January 1, 2015

2014: A Year in Review

Another year has gone,
I hope it was good to you --
Here's what we did this year,
It's time for the year in review!

2014 started with a bang,
Michael started surgery, you see;
He was really very busy,
but still found time to chat with Grammy Lee.

(Seen here showing Michael how it's done. Grammy Lee used to be a surgical scrub nurse.)



We survived another epic snowstorm,
It seemed to swallow the whole east coast,
Boy, I was ready for some sunshine
On my skin, I love to roast.



But cozy days were nice,
lots of resting and time to snuggle,
Well.... that was the case for me, at least --
Poor Michael, he was a tired puddle!



Spring brought some fun travels -
I went to California for a quick stop.
Paris was also on the list,
but this is about as far as I got:



Mom came to DC for a visit,
The cherry blossoms she hoped to see,
Alas, it rained the WHOLE time,
So instead, she got a lot of.... me!



I love my Bible study girls,
They make my heart so light,
This constant and faithful community,
Makes me sleep so well at night.


This past year brought lots of changes,
Namely a lot of new babies we met,
Our friends sure did produce some cuties,
Just you wait.... there will be more, I bet!



There were also quite a few weddings,
Such sweet celebrations they are,
A fun time to catch up and dance
With friends from both near and far.


It was about this time
That Michael and I celebrated three years,
And lo and behold,
we still love each other to tears!


I do love that man so much,
He is my hunk of burnin' lovin'
Much to our happy surprise,
We learned there's a new bun in the oven!


We had some friend reunions,
Us girls getting together is no fluke,
And Michael went out to Colorado
To hang with his besties from Duke.


And then, the beautiful fall came,
And with that, some rotations away:
A month in Durham and then in Nashville,
They were both lovely places to stay.



With November came a life milestone,
And my age makes me slightly blue,
It was my 10-year high school reunion (Oh my!)
HPHS, to you I'll always be true.


Alas, we've got a baby girl coming,
We're now just waiting on that stork,
Baby Cat was celebrated
Both in Dallas and upstate New York!


In the midst of all this fun,
We've been on the road a LOT
Living out of suitcases gets old,
but residency interviews don't stop!


We spent Thanksgiving with the Cats,
and Christmas in Dallas raiding the fridge,
We also bid farewell to my dear Grandma,
She is now in Heaven playing bridge.

Grandma and me in 1999


Only one more week of travel,
And then we are resting our weary feet,
We can't wait to meet our little peanut,
I'm thinking she's gonna be an athlete :)


March will be here quite soon,
And that means the new baby girl;
Also the news of residency comes,
Gosh - it's going to be a whirl!

So Reader, I bid you farewell,
Do know how much I love you,
2015 is now here --
So 2014, I bid you adieu!

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Wife of a 4th Year Med Student

Back in February, I wrote a post about being the wife of a 3rd year med student. To my surprise, a lot of women with super busy husbands (whether in med school or not) totally identified with what I said. I was reminded of the age old adage: Strength in numbers, yall! In summary, being the wife of a 3rd year med student was the pits. We got through it - praise the Lord - but it certainly wasn't my favorite year of med school.

Fast forward to now. Michael is half-way done with his 4th and final year of med school and we are flying home tomorrow to Dallas for eight days of Christmas puzzles, movies, Blue Bell peppermint ice cream (be still my heart!) and lots of family and friend time. Today, I'm writing from a hotel room in Hershey, PA, the chocolate capital of America, while Michael is currently in the midst of an interview at Penn State. Today is his 14th of 20 residency program interviews.

Repeat: 20 interviews.


Now that Michael is over half way done, I'm feeling much better, but the whole process has been incredibly draining. I've played madam secretary to Michael this fall and helped to schedule interviews, book flights, rental cars, and hotel rooms, and have been his travel companion to eight places.



Wait. Hold the phone. Whyyyyyyy am I talking about myself?!?? Michael is the one who actually has to be on his A-game all day for 20 interviews. He's the one who is working to actually have a JOB next year, while I sit in coffee shops and drive around towns to see if we want to live there, and visit the local bakeries to see if the cookies are any good. (I got a sugar cookie last night here in Hershey that was sub-par. My fault though -- who orders a sugar cookie in the chocolate capital of America?? Rookie mistake.) I'd say my role of travel buddy/ taster of local treats/ real estate agent is far, far easier than sitting through day-long interviews where any number of random questions can get thrown at you. Such as:

If you could eat dinner with anyone, past or present, who would it be and why?

What would you do in this scenario: you have a flat tire...

Why do you want to go into this field of medicine?

Speaking of that, Michael is going into neurosurgery. I don't think I've actually written that here before. Back in the spring, Michael did his general surgery rotation and then had two surgical sub-specialty rotations, one of which was neurosurgery. Previously in the fall, he had done a neurology rotation and found it completely fascinating, so he wanted to see what the surgical side of it would be like. In a nutshell, for Michael, it was love at first sight when he scrubbed into his first neurosurgical case. He came home that day and said he wanted to be a neurosurgeon.

But then came months of going back and forth, much prayer, and much discussion between us about what it would mean to go into that field. Neurosurgery is a 7-year residency, and then Michael may still do a fellowship after that. Neurosurgery means a LOT of days and nights on call. Neurosurgery means a lot of missed weekends, lots of me feeling like a single mom, lots of missed Dad-time, lots of me doing everything around the house on my own, lots of going to church sans a husband, lots of frustration, lots of grace, lots of communication, and lots of sacrifice.

Michael and I talked and talked about this decision and weighed the pros and cons, the possibility of choosing a different specialty, and what the lifestyle would be like for us as we raise babies in a new location. Through our conversations and a ton of prayer, we are moving forward day by day in this decision and trusting that the Lord will carry us through the next several years. More than ever, I know we will need our friends and a good community and church to support us. And I'm hoping that our baby girl on the way will be a breeze of a baby so that moving in late May will be a cinch. (Wishful thinking... I know!) But we do feel at peace about neurosurgery, and I love that Michael LOVES what he will be doing with his life. Nothing is more sexy than a man passionate about his job. Heyy-oh! (Although I think a man passionate about his kids is going to be pretty hot, too.)

Back to being the wife of a 4th year med student. Ok, listen up. Here is the key to getting through this year (at least the fall of this year): FLEXIBILITY. There is no way around it. Life is just different this year. So very different. Michael was doing away rotations for two months this fall and was completely gone from DC. For a lot of students going into surgical subspecialties, they actually do three or more away rotations. This blows my mind -- I cannot imagine Michael being gone for another full month at another program. The day his final away rotation ended in Nashville, we drove to his first residency interview. This was on October 25th, and literally every week since then, Michael has traveled every 2-3 days to get to his interviews. It's INSANE. But it's the norm for this time of year, especially if you are going into a surgical subspecialty. By God's grace, I've had a flexible work schedule and was able to go with Michael on his two months away, and as mentioned above, have been able to accompany him on several of his interviews. In January, we are going on a tour of the Southeast and driving to five interviews in seven days. By all accounts, it is an exhausting process, but having a good attitude seriously helps A LOT. Also, being 7 1/2 months pregnant is making me a tad more fatigued than normal, but I'm grateful to get to keep Michael company on so many of these trips.

Funny story: the picture above is of Michael and I riding the tram at Newark airport. These are the trams reserved for disabled people or senior citizens. During this particular trip, we had to walk about a mile to get to our connecting gate, and the driver took one look at me and said "get in." Yes sir. No complaints from me!

Now, I know that I am in the minority in being a wife who can accompany her husband on these interviews and away rotations. I don't think most people have the work flexibility to do that, or they already have children to take care of, or for any number of reasons just can't go. And that is where flexibility comes even more into the picture. Your husband may be across the country for a month doing an away rotation. This might mean that you have to wake up early or go to bed later to talk to him for 10 minutes on the phone each day. This might mean that it's just going to be a really cruddy and hard month. This might mean that you feel alone and tired and frustrated. This definitely means that you are going to have to show amazing grace and patience toward your husband and toward the whole away rotation/interview process. And this definitely will mean that when he is finally back home, y'all will eat popcorn on the couch, and watch 10 episodes of Friday Night Lights, and be so excited to actually be going to church that you take a selfie with your church in the background.

Red brick steeple

No matter what, I think this season takes a huge amount of trust in the Lord. Trusting that he will give your man the stamina he needs to get through these interviews, trusting that you will be alright as you wait for him to come home from traveling, and trusting that the Lord is preparing a place for you both come Match Day when your man tears open the envelope that tells you where you will be living and working for the next 7+ years of your lives.

No big deal, right?!?

Our baby girl is due March 6th, exactly two weeks before Match Day on March 20th. We are anxiously waiting for these two events with a lot of joy and no small amount of trepidation. I know I have a "God who sees me" (Genesis 16:13) and holds me and Michael in his hands as we wait for so much to unfold, and I am so grateful that he has carried us through this far already. And I've no doubt that it will be the same for you if you are facing many future unknowns.

Ok, time to run -- gotta go find me some chocolate :)

A little glimpse into the future

Monday, December 1, 2014

December



 December is here, and with it, Advent season. I was completely broadsided by how fast Advent snuck up on me this year. Thanksgiving juuuuust finished and then HELLO! Christmas trees, Christmas music, candles, lights and nativity scenes abound. It doesn't help that Michael and I have been living in a total dream world lately. Wait, 'dream world' probably isn't the right phrase. What I mean is we've been totally out of touch with any sort of normalcy to our lives because we aren't in any regular pattern right now. Ever since September, we've either been away from home, or have been home but traveling every three days all over the country for residency interviews. It's been a tad chaotic. 

It's also getting increasingly hard for me to do simple tasks like bending over to put on shoes. So there's that. (I'm not sure about posting a baby bump pic... not sure if I will ever be there... but in the words of Justin Bieber, never say never.)

I felt a bit worried about not yet being mentally and emotionally prepared for Advent, but then was reminded yesterday about the error in this kind of thinking. Who are we to feel like we have to be ready for the Lord to work in us this season? We don't have to be ready at all. The Lord can and will work in us regardless of how we feel. Ohhhh right right right. I need simple reminders like this ALL THE TIME. 

So, I'm now looking forward to Advent more than ever. I need this countdown to Christmas, to the celebration of the coming of Jesus as a little baby in a manger and to the anticipation of his coming again, every year. 

By the way, did you know that Advent is the first season of the Christian church year? Here is a little 4-minute video that explains the Christian calendar. I loveeeeeee it. Seriously. It's worth watching. And the year starts today! Well, actually, it started yesterday because Advent leads up to Christmas and includes the four preceding Sundays. Will wonders never cease. (Here is the actual link for those reading this post via email as I don't think links come through over email: http://vimeo.com/79923336). 

My desire for this Advent season? To be like the wise men in Matthew 2 who "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" when they saw the star that came to rest over the place where the child was. If the wise men rejoiced exceedingly merely at the sight of the star that led them to Jesus, can you imagine their joy at actually seeing Jesus himself??? It must have been absolutely immeasurable. 

O Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Nashville Recap

Times flies when you are on the move! But here I finally am, sitting still, on the first cold and grey day of the year, at home in DC, cherishing some moments of stillness. Here:

Here again:

Heeeeeeeerrre too:

(Moments of stillness.)

We've been back from Nashville for about two weeks but really it hasn't felt like that because Michael has flown to five interviews since being back, I spent five days in Dallas, and I just dropped Michael off at the airport this morning for another flight out. After two months of not being in DC, it has been a tease to be home but still so much on the move. I can't wait for Thanksgiving -- it will be a full week of us both being in one spot (upstate New York! brrrrrrr) and it will be phenomenal.

Being in Nashville for October was really fun. By the end of the time, I was REALLY excited to get back to DC, not because Nashville was a drag (far from it), but just because after two months of being away (we were in Durham for September,) you really just want to be back in your own home, in routine, cooking your own meals, seeing your friends, etc.

Contemplating home in the hills of TN

Here's a little story about Nashville hospitality: upon driving into the neighborhood where we were staying for the month, I mistakenly directed us to the wrong house. I had Google street-viewed the house where we were staying, and it was red brick with columns. Well, the house I mistakenly pulled up to was red brick with columns, too. (NOTE TO SELF: check the address. No duh.) The family had told us to let ourselves in and make ourselves at home, so Michael and I pulled the car around back and started unloading. About 5 minutes later, a car pulled up with a husband and wife giving us some major "what the heck are you doing" stares. I had never met the family before (we were staying with a doctor friend of Michael's) so I marched right up and introduced myself like it was the most natural thing in the world. Welllllllllllll -- it took about negative 2 seconds to figure out that we were definitely NOT at the right house. Whoops, small mistake. But here's the thing: Bill and Sherry were so nice. I mean SO NICE. They honestly could have shot us for breaking into their house. (They would have been in the right.) But instead, Bill in his cowboy boots and Sherry in her sweet southern smile just thought we were dimwits and kindly pointed to their neighbor's house across the street and waved us on our merry way.

So that's how we came to Nashville. Not getting shot at. A good start, I'd say.

Our first Sunday in town, we heard a pretty politically-charged sermon that hit on issues of abortion, women's roles in the church, and homosexuality. All in the same sermon. Welcome to the south. I leaned over to Michael and said "this would never happen in DC!" But it was surprisingly refreshing, the preacher was honest and Biblically sound, and it led to some good discussions. On repeated occasions, I also noticed families and groups praying at restaurants before their meals. I about fell out of my chair each time this happened because it's been so long since I've seen a family do that. Again, so refreshing.

There's a radio show on one of the country stations in Nashville called the Bobby Bones Show that I'd listen to every morning in the car. Now, if you pay attention to SEC football, and you really have to if you live anywhere south of the Mason Dixon Line, then you will know that Katy Perry was at the Ole Miss-Alabama game and predicted that Ole Miss would win. Which they did! It was the best. Katy Perry also publicly said that she's got the hots for the OU quarterback and that she wants him to call her. Well, this topic was being discussed on the Bobby Bones Show, and they were debating if the OU quarterback should actually follow through and call Katy Perry. Lo and behold, it was revealed that the OU quarterback has a girlfriend, and so the consensus on the show was that he should remain faithful to his girl and most definitely not call Katy Perry. WHAT! I was blown away that fidelity was winning the day. In this day and age, I guarantee that nearly all talk shows would totally advocate for the OU quarterback giving Katy Perry a call, girlfriend or not.

The point of all this is that the south, at least what I noticed of it, thankfully hasn't lost it's sense of faithfulness, charm, and southern hospitality.

I also have a renewed appreciation for country music -- namely Eric Church. I don't know where I fell off the country bandwagon, but I am happily back on it now.

Two things surprised me about Nashville: how big it is, and the traffic. Since the city has grown exponentially in the past five or so years, these two things naturally go together. I think especially coming straight from Durham where there was barely any traffic ever on the road, I didn't love sitting on Hillsboro Pike for 20 minutes just to go get some ice cream.

Mecca




The very very best thing about Nashville is that I got to spend time with some of my best friennnnds!! Three UVA besties live in Nashville and are wonderful and brilliant and we're getting married are all doing amazing things in healthcare. I totally zonked on getting lots of pictures of these three women and their cute men, but we shared some good meals (my friends can cook, let me tell you what), some great walks at Percy Warner Park (one word: hills), a bachelorette celebration, and I even got to see this little babe get baptized:

Nothing cuter in all the world.


Let's talk food for a second -- Because the food scene is growing pretty fast in Nashvegas, I didn't really know where to go eat. There are lots of choices, and lots of what I felt like where either casual places or high-end places with not a lot in between. Some of my favorites are -

  • Kalamatas, a little Mediterranean spot in a strip mall in Green Hills with delicious and healthy eats (and live music on Friday nights... but live music is everywhere.)
  • Food and Co, a great lunch spot for sandwiches and salads in Green Hills with the cutest little outdoor patio.
  • Hattie B's Hot Chicken, a Nashville staple. Don't go over the "Hot" level of spice or you really might die. 
  • Fat Bottom Brewery. I didn't actually eat or drink here, but I went with friends who did and it all looked good. 
  • Pancake Pantry, a Nashville institution that I dragged Michael to thinking it would be overrated but still wanting to go. The hour wait is WORTH IT for the sweet potato pancakes. Do it. 
  • Franklin Mercantile Deli, an adorable brunch and lunch spot in Franklin where Michael and I picked up sandwiches to take to...
  • Arrington Vineyards, beautiful land and vineyards outside of Franklin where we spent a lazy Sunday afternoon. The "picnic tasting" for $12 is the way to go. Fun fact: the vineyard is owned by Kix Brooks of Brooks & Dunn.

I think there are more, but I can't find my little list of restaurants that I made so that's all for now. 

dearest Ellen


All in all, being in Nashville was a treat. Michael really liked the program at Vandy, and I enjoyed getting to know the town. In March, we will find out where we will be living for the next seven years (7 YEARS!) If we end up in Nashville, I think we'd do just fine. But I think this is true of wherever we end up!

We shall see, we shall see...

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookies

Because it's fall. Because I finally found pumpkin pie spice at the store. Because I love you.




















That's all. Recipe found here.