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Thursday, March 21, 2019

On Quality of Life and Being ENOUGH

I’d like to take a few minutes today to discuss quality of life. It's something we talk about a lot in nursing in reference to someone who is fighting cancer, someone who is otherwise terminally ill, or in regards to the elderly throughout the normal process of aging and medical treatments to be accepted or denied. What we don’t talk about often is quality of life at other times throughout this one journey of life we get.

*I want to add a disclaimer that I know very well that there are people who hate their jobs, and need to work to support their families. I understand that. For you, I hope that someday things will get easier and that you too, will have options for how to best spend and fulfill your life.*

I have been contemplating quality of life a lot lately. I quit my 0.75 FTE nursing position (translation: 4 days/week) in a pediatric clinic at the end of November last year in the hopes of returning to school to become a nurse practitioner. I stupidly and somewhat idealistically thought that a job in the hospital working just a handful of 12 hour shifts a week, and making a lot more money per hour, would give me the time, satisfaction, and finances to make my dream possible. I should have known better. The job was an hour away each way and involved 12+ hours of being on my feet, skipping breaks and meals, and working to utter exhaustion. It made me far less available to my family, especially elderly grandparents who we have been trying to help out more, but also to my husband and children. Even though I was only working a few shifts a week, I was so stressed about the work that I was doing, decisions that I would have to make and patient care-that I was a wreck. I was gaining weight, my adult acne was coming back despite being on a prescription, I wasn’t sleeping, my self-diagnosed anxiety was through the roof. My days home, even when numerous were spent worried about returning to the hospital. I didn’t keep that job for a variety of reasons and told myself I was giving it up to be more available to family- which is indeed true, but what was also true was that the job was quite possibly the worst match for me in all of human history. No joke. Which makes me think why is it OK to quit a job because it doesn’t work for my family but not because it doesn’t work for me personally? Some nurses love  hospital nursing and they’re reluctant to leave the bedside well, ever. I can tell you firsthand that I hated most of my nursing clinical rotations in school with the exceptions of the emergency room and labor and delivery, and I hated every second of my short time as a hospital nurse even though I could learn how to take care of the patients… I couldn’t learn how to take care of myself in the process. 
My happy place is with these people 💕


Let’s go further into my history shall we? I got married right out of high school at age 18 to my high school sweetheart. Many of you know that we were married for 10 years and have two handsome sons together but we were an absolute mess. During that time I struggled to work full-time in a dental office while obtaining my bachelor's degree in psychology and eventually my teaching license while taking my first teaching position. I went to school at night and on weekends, sometimes during the summer to obtain my master's degree in education. I set aside many, many hours of my relationship with my then husband, as well as time with our infant children, to earn these certifications. I worked tirelessly, as if driven by some inner demon to complete this process. I taught for a little less than five years. I mainly loved it, so why did I leave? I had wanted to be a nurse when I completed high school. Well to be perfectly honest, I had wanted to be a doctor but that was never going to happen when we needed me to work as well. I resented my husband so much that we could not make it on one income due to some poor choices we had made financially, so I couldn't go to nursing school, work and raise 2 kids often alone (he was a cop at the time, and I did have a TON of help from family...but STILL). I’m not even sure he knew how much I resented that because I was working as a teacher. I had a career and so did he, and we mostly attained those without financial sacrifice (except heaps of student loans). When we went through a bitter divorce after 10 years of marriage it was my first time I really got to ponder what I would do with the rest of my life. When I met and married Barrett, he encouraged me to fulfill my dreams- letting me know that we could make it on one income -while not indefinitely, for a while for me to pursue nursing. It was a huge GIFT, and I ran with it.


Retrospectively I should have known from my undergrad degree in psychology that you were never supposed to make a handful of large life altering decisions all around the same time. I should have made myself stay and teach for another year or two and settle into my new relationship. Would that have changed things? I’m really not sure because I was determined that I needed to be a nurse. I will begrudgingly admit though that I did not know myself as well as I thought I did (and still working on that), and that I sometimes--- and I cringe to say this--- regret the decision. I was pretty happy as a teacher… Not always, but overall, so why did I think that needed to change? I did hate the amount of work that I brought home and that it took time away from my kids or coming home exhausted and not feeling like I had the energy to deal with my kids after being with other people's children all day… But I also loved the creative process and have missed a creative outlet so much and the interaction with students so much. I think because I taught health sciences, I felt like I was missing “doing" something. I must say though, I derive no satisfaction from running IV fluids, placing a catheter, or really doing many other clinical skills. Many nurses truly love this… I think I wanted to be one of them, but if I am 100% honest, I am not one of them.  I'm pretty apathetic to that aspect. MREH would be the right term. I can do them. I can learn them. I don't care. The part of nursing I enjoy the most is education & interaction with patients, especially when I have the opportunity to work with children and families. I am not super interested in adult medicine, but I am in peds.


Fast forward to now. I was able to hang on to my job at the clinic as a relief nurse even during my short time as a hospital nurse thankfully. I was not able to hang onto a spot in pediatrics though and often work in the urology department and fill in for pediatrics as needed.  I began my family nurse practitioner graduate program about three months ago. It is very time-consuming, stressful, and takes up about 30 to 40+ hours per week though it’s not necessarily difficult at this point-my class averages are 94 and 98% in my 2 courses.  Being an online program, a lot of it is self taught to be perfectly honest- but I knew it would be that way going in. I only work a handful of shifts per week and they are not 12 hour shifts, but I still come home feeling absolutely exhausted and spent when in urology (my time in peds is not so). My quality-of-life is somewhat better than my short time as a hospital nurse, but decidedly not much better. I feel like I am  unable to keep up my house or have the amount of time I would want with my family and to be the kind of student I want and need to be to pass this program.

Can I be perfectly honest? I’m not entirely sure why I am doing this. I think because of that dream to be a healthcare provider. I’m not saying it’s a bad dream but I’m beginning to question what drives it. I mean, I want to help people, but I already do.  Is it just the money? Status? Because those things are not of God. He doesn't care. Neither does my family. They just want me. Is it proving that I can do it? That even though I married young, I'm not a total disaster. 😏Because I know I can do it… But just because I can, should I? I would love to talk to some professional out there be it a doctor, lawyer, engineer or nurse practitioner and ask them were you only kind of, sort of interested in becoming what you are? If so, how was that enough to drive you through your program?
Exploring is also a HAPPY place :) 


On another note, why do I always feel like I have to strive for more? What is in me that I inherently feel like I am not enough? How much time have I stolen from my husband, children, or even myself in the pursuit of what I “have to be” next?

As I write I am at a crossroads in my life. I am halfway through term one of seven of my nurse practitioner program, and though it has definitely cost money, it also feels like an OK stopping point if I were to drop out of the program, take a leave of absence...whatever. Going much further though means I can't stop...I mean that is just wasteful in terms of cost and effort. I have an interview for a school nurse position today. I shadowed the current nurse and though not incredibly, overwhelmingly impressed with the position from those few hours, I came home excited for the first time in a long time by the possibilities of what I could do with it. I wrote down pages of ideas for assemblies, bulletin boards, teams and needs for the area, and things I'd want to change. The residing nurse who is retiring is AMAZING-a total role model, but I have some fresh ideas and excitement.  The atmosphere, working with the students, opportunities for education, and of course working with the population that I love the most all floor me. The only real thing it has in common with being a nurse practitioner is the amount of autonomy the position affords (which I do desire as I hate having docs waiting on me or feeling like I can't use my clinical judgment and assessment skills). Other than that, obviously the job is completely different. The money is poor but the time off is invaluable. Let's do the math. Most full-time clinic nurses (because we know I don't want hospital!) work 5 days/week 52 weeks a year. That's 260 days of work. Factor in 2 one week vacations, and that's still 250 days of work. School nurses work about 192 days per year. That's 58-68 days LESS that can be spent doing other things you love. It's working 26% less often overall through the year. *Even working 4 days/week is 1-2 weeks more annually depending on if you take time off and how much.

When I feel closest to God, one of the absolutes of my life is that I know without a doubt that I am supposed to work with children. Why I shrug this off sometimes is beyond me. I am most at home working in schools, with students, teachers, parents, and my favorite group of human beings ever though they are indeed challenging: teenagers. It should be mentioned that I thought about being a psychiatric nurse practitioner specializing in work with adolescents. I was also accepted into a program for this, but declined due to just how specific it would be as well as again being perfectly honest with myself, the thought of just being the prescriber of medication without necessarily time for the therapy to go with. This is what many psych NPs do-prescribe and manage meds. I have no problem with psychiatric medications per se, but not sure I just want to be the dispensary for these things. I’m passionate about mental health issues especially in the teen population, but I’m not sure that’s the angle I want to approach with. I imagine more education for teens to know when to seek help, giving parents resources.  That's my bag.

This is a lengthy, pouring out of the heart post and if you made it this far- thank you for still reading. I am sure that I annoy some of you. Hahaha. I saw an old coworker yesterday and she said “I just love keeping up with you! I never know what you’re going to do!“ And I replied “neither do I!"  If the answer is blatantly clear to you I am always happy to hear your unbiased advice though might not necessarily heed it.  I feel like there are many pathways for us. I used to think that we had just one calling to use the gifts that God gave us, and I struggled (well obviously still do) knowing what that calling was. I no longer think that is entirely true. I think we can excel in many different settings, but some will feel like a death to our souls and some will inspire us to grow and fan the flame of our gifts even more. I kind of think that school nurse could give me that… I  also have toyed with the idea of returning to teaching completely. I know, craziness. At the end of the day, I don’t think I need the success of being a nurse practitioner and may continue the course if I feel called to do so… I am not yet saying I am throwing in the towel mind you, but have some soul-searching to do.  Success is how we define it. I’m beginning to think that success for my life is a career that gives me satisfaction most days, as much time with my family as I can get, and also time for myself! Time for me to paint, take care of my health, relax, travel, read books that I want to read, and derive happiness in just living instead of planning for more. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

15 Things I Splurge On

Sometimes everyday life can feel pretty mundane. I am an escapist at heart, a gypsy who flits from place to place exploring all there is, a girl who reads a new novel in one sitting. I will be the first to admit that I get bored easily and am often just heartsick at the ordinary, daily things that life requires such as work, studying, sweeping the floors, laundry, homework with kids, and oil changes. I mean, I can always think of SO many more fabulous ways that I could be spending my time! I could be ziplining over canopies of trees in the Costa Rica rainforest, eating bread and cheese in Paris, sailing in a hot air balloon over Capadoccia, Turkey, or snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. There are so many more, but these are some of my travel fantasies. Even at home, I would much rather be getting a massage, floating the river, snowshoeing across a winter wonderland, dabbling in paint, or curled up by the fire with a new book or travel magazine. I mean...who wouldn't rather do that than the ever burgeoning, never-ending laundry?!  The thing is though that life is not all adventures and wonderful playtime. Life is made up of a lot of everyday stuff, and sometimes it is hard not to feel bogged down by it. Alas, we can't all be millionaires who travel the world in luxury, nor is money ever the answer to happiness...but a bit of splurging on everyday things in your environment as well as a few bigger things can make a world of difference!

While everyone has different tastes, and therefore different items that matter most to them, here are 15 things I splurge on that definitely make me happier and estimated costs. In no particular order: 

1. Fresh flowers. Always. It costs anywhere from $5-10 a week in the fall and winter (spring and summer we cut from our own yard) to have fresh flowers on our dining room table to brighten things up. 

2. Cheese. We are cheese lovers in our home, so we often splurge on "fancy" cheese such as bringing cheese home from Spain, and getting the imported Havarti, Gouda, and Queso Fresco in the deli section of Safeway. Cost: $6-12 about once or twice a month.

3. Amazon Prime. We live in a rural area, and running into town takes time (not like hours, but a good 40 minutes round trip plus the time of the actual errand, so it's not super convenient). We do a lot of stocking from Amazon Pantry of things we use regularly like paper towels and paper plates, some toiletries, and some cleaning supplies. Barrett makes sure we never run out. Also, when the kids "need" a new pair of shoes, or I want a new novel, etc we enjoy the free shipping. Cost: $99 a year for free shipping, as well as free Kindle books (I sometimes use) and Prime streaming of movies and shows (rarely use...but sometimes).

4. Soap. I don't pay a ton, but I do LOVE the Bath and Body Works foaming hand soaps for all our sinks. They smell nice. When I cut my hours in half, I actually asked Barrett, "Can we still afford the nicer soap?" :) Cost: during their sales it's 5-6 hand soaps for $25-30 with free shipping. I avoid actually going to stores as much as I can!

5. Candles. Same as above. I want smelly good candles throughout our home that change with the season. You know, heavier, sweeter scents in the winter, light and airy in the summer. I want to burn them every night. I light them around dinner time, and we typically turn down the lights and watch a movie or show or read afterward, and it's just a nice, homey atmosphere. The kids love lighting the candles and choosing which few "go together" for our nightly scent. I light them when I study, when I take a bubble bath, and sometimes just to try to unwind. If the power goes out, we have 5-6 candles regularly out throughout the home. Cost: I probably get 12-15 or so candles a year, and get them on sale from Bath and Body Works, so I would guess I spend maybe $60-70 annually on candles. We use them. They don't collect dust. 

6. Coffee. We splurge on and off on this. Some people do WAY more with fancy machines. We found beans we really like from Winco and get them in bulk and grind at home most of the time. We have a cheap coffee pot, and we froth our milk by shaking it in a jar (works wonderfully) for my cappuccinos, BUT this made the list because we are never shy about splurging on a coffee to go from (insert drive through coffee hut here), and have recently signed up for Atlas Coffee Club who sends us one pack of coffee each month from somewhere in the world to try. You get to pick ground or whole bean and light, medium or dark roast. We are excited to try it! Cost: To go coffees: $8-9 for 2 about once a week, coffee club: $14.99/month. We got our 1st month 50% off, and you can too: https://atlascoffeeclub.com/collections/coffee-subscription-service

7. Books. Barrett has fully embraced the Kindle, but I have not. I love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell, the experience. I never hesitate to pay hardcover price for a new book I want, and the books are well loved and passed around to friends and family, and then donated if I don't think I will read again (I want others to read them!). I have a subscription to Book of the Month club that I actually cancelled for a few months after having for over 2 years, and I missed it SO much I signed right back up! For $14.99 I choose a new hardback novel from 5 pre-selected options. I LOVE this service. https://www.mybotm.com/096med629cmwvcxr is my referral link if you try it out. 

8. Photos. I have a few lovely photographer friends, so luckily a few shoots a year does not run us too much. I also print the photos to hang in our home and make photo books of each photo shoot and each vacation on Shutterfly. I am hugely into pictures. Cost: $50-150 per session, $40-100 per photo book (depends on amount of photos in it and sales), $50-100 once or twice a year to update photos in the home. Seeing recent memories we have made is important to me.

9. Home design and decor. Obviously we don't build a home every year, but when we did we splurged on a few things I will never regret: a large, walk-in closet for me, a giant, tiled shower, a Jacuzzi bathtub. These things make me feel like my home is an oasis of rest and calm and I don't even want to know the itemized cost of say, our shower from the build. It was worth it. Now, I also splurged on some decor. Our bedroom has a mostly useless blanket ladder wrapped in fairy lights (we turn them on EVERY night to create a relaxing atmosphere), an electric fireplace (LOVE and it was a gift), a chaise by the window (one of my favorite places ever to read and study), a rug in the living room I won't say what I spent on (but I LOVE it)...we have cozy blankets throughout the home...etc.  I am sure we spent thousands on all the paint...but not an everyday cost. Cost varies, but making our home a place of rest and full of colors and textures we love was a priceless decision. 

10. Personal upkeep. I do not skimp on makeup items I love, and still buy and use Younique even though I don't have the time to really sell it though you can always order from me here: https://www.youniqueproducts.com/SarahBWest/presenter/aboutme#.XIKjBohKg2w. I get my hair colored every few months (it used to be a lot more often when blonde or red), and I started to get my nails done again. These things make me feel lovely, and they are worth every single cent. Cost: $100-150 every 3-4 months for hair color/cut, $30 every 3 weeks or so for gel manicure, $30-40 every 2-3 months for a pedicure (I do them at home usually), and make-up items I use most: Younique mascara $24, lipstick $19, and BB cream $39. Your personal upkeep might include massages or a personal trainer...

11. iRobot Roomba Vacuum. I have mentioned one of my fave family members, Bob, before. He vacuums our floors daily. There are different models, but we love him, and think we spent like $500. Hefty price tag, but he gets used daily, and with 2 kids and 2 pets, it makes a huge difference in how often we lug the broom and vacuum cleaner out. 

12. Dates. My marriage is super important, and though we are without kids every other weekend, we tend to only "date" once every 4-6 weeks as far as spending money (we often just curl up at home). When we do date, we will splurge on a Paint Nite $60 or so with coupon, go mini golfing $30, movie and dinner $60 or so, or even more interesting things. We have done a river cruise/dinner in Portland, a symphony while in Spain, riding on ATVs (when we had), gone to a shooting range, a night at the coast, a totally free evening under the stars in the summer to watch meteors, and want to try a clay/pottery night in Albany we read about. We try to keep things fun, and someday dream of dance lessons, Scuba certification, a sailing lesson, a cooking class, and boating... Side note-dates with kids matter too. I would rather go to the aquarium once a year, visit the zoo, or go to a pottery shop then just hang at home all the time. 

13. Travel books. Yes, there is so much info out there online that why would you need a coffee table book of travel places to drool over? Uh...why wouldn't you? I always buy paperback travel guides for places we want to go, have 2 travel magazine subscriptions (National Geographic Traveler and Travel and Leisure), and buy a few hardback, chock-full of drool-worthy pictures, travel books a year. They inspire me. Cost varies. I do use the internet too though.

14. Education. Now, I am not necessarily talking degree programs, though I NEVER think that education is a waste but also struggle with mounds of student loan debt that will take me 10-15 YEARS to pay off (still). I am talking about taking community classes you want to take: astronomy, painting, cooking, dancing. I still struggle with this as I am taking need to take for degree classes currently, but someday...a watercolor course, a photography class, an astronomy night class. Be still my heart. 

15. Travel. You knew it would make MY list. We will never be luxury travelers, but we splurge on things that matter to us whether it is food, or homes we stay in. We try to travel about 3 times per year though it depends a lot on how much we spend on each trip. My ideal annual travel budget is about $12-15,000 a year (that's 2-3 international trips, 1-2 just us, and 1 with kids). We are not quite there...but I watch for deals, subscribe to Next Vacay ($25 annually), and we save every month for travel. It is a priority in our home, and sometimes I try to pick up extra shifts for it, as well as when B gets bonuses at his work, they go to travel.  In the past 12 months we were able to visit Turks & Caicos, Canada, Ireland, and Spain! Cost varies widely with travel, and to really look at relative costs, I tend to look at overall cost (food, airfare, gas, excursions, accommodations divided by days, divided by people-that gives you a great idea of expense and perspective because a $6000 family vacation to Hawaii that only lasted 4 days may be a poor choice versus a $6500 vacation in Mexico that lasted 8 days and had a nicer hotel) ,...Canada with kids for 8 days was probably $3000 which is under $94 a person/day, though we drove part of it, and stayed in pretty affordable homes versus fancy hotels. Spain on the other hand was about $300 per person/day, and Ireland slightly less. It all depends where you go, when you go, and what you do...but travel memories are priceless. My kids favorite vacation ever was Aruba, and we got a steal of about $170 a person a day including our stay in a 3 bedroom home with gorgeous pool! 

Those are my thoughts on splurging to make everyday life and your adventures slightly better. Obviously ideas are very personal. Things I don't splurge on? Clothes (I wear whatever makes me feel good from great items from Stitch Fix to cute second-hand items), gym memberships (I do exercise some with yoga and weights, and I do at home-as does B), cars (Barrett's truck is paid for, and we are working on paying off my car...not my dream muscle sports car, but does the job), take-out-we usually cook at home and I pack my lunches for work now, household items and some food-we buy in bulk, generic, and only what we need. We don't pay for housekeeping or gardening like some families do. We don't have a mortgage anymore (but we DO have private school which more than makes up for it!). Barrett has built many things for our home. We camp too, we don't just splurge on travel. We grow some of our own produce in the summer. We don't pay for TV, and our boys don't have many gadgets but they do play sports and take lessons, etc.  This year we decided not to replace the above ground pool, but will spend lots of time at the river and reservoir. It's all about balance. Unfortunately Barrett works a lot...but he doesn't have options to cut back (though he gets a good amount of vacation). I work much less but can often pick up work, and then we gauge if it is worth the time gone from family and home. We try to focus on what matters most to us. 


What do you splurge on?

Sunday, February 17, 2019

What Lights You Up

This morning at church I ran into an old friend. She spoke animatedly about a project that she may begin, and said, "I just felt my whole body light up from inside." I am so thrilled for her, and it really got me thinking, especially as she asked, "Is that how you are with NP school?" 

"No, not even close," I said, "but I'm doing it." 

I relayed this conversation to Barrett and it saddened him. I guess it saddens me as well. Here we are making monthly sacrifices of time, money and energy in the hopes that this new goal will light me up. What if it doesn't? What if it is the wrong goal? Am I the ONLY one in the world to pursue something this difficult and all-consuming somewhat halfheartedly? Any doctors or lawyers out there who said "this seems like the next best step?" 

I hope so. NP school does not light me up. It is grueling drudgery and I expect it to become more so, not less over the next few years. Maybe clinical will be exciting, but the work I am putting in now...nope. The goal does excite me...somewhat. Maybe my excitement meter is just broken. I have pursued too many things maybe. NP school is logical. It is a stopping point. It is a way to gain knowledge, autonomy, and of course a higher salary for the rest of my working life. But oh how I wish it lit me up. I know that feeling she speaks of. It is when your whole soul feels drawn to something, is yearning for something, is fulfilled by something. It is when you can use your God-given talents/traits and it just seems like the perfect FIT. 

Sometimes I get that feeling being a mama to my boys and a wife to an amazing man. Every now and again I get it as a nurse, but it is few and far between-much less often than I had hoped. I get that feeling when we travel sometimes, and I felt it often, though not always, as a teacher to teenagers (but not as much as a teacher to littles). 

So when Barrett asks me what would light me up, I feel like I am ungrateful for all that already has, or ungrateful for the life we live and the opportunity to become a health care provider. The only answer I can give is working with teens. Maybe my future career will include some of this? Maybe I need to learn to seek it on the side by volunteering my time (though likely not while in school as this program is immensely time consuming). 

Maybe we don't all feel the light all the time. Maybe we spend our lives chasing it, and are thankful for the times we have caught it, however fleetingly. 

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Let Travel be the Teacher

As I write, I am five and a half hours from completion of this long haul 11 hour flight returning to Portland from Spain by way of Amsterdam, attempting to blog on my Kindle because someone failed to charge my laptop yesterday. That someone is me. 😉Eleven hours of downtime is a long time. Enough time to read a fantastic new novel from cover to cover (we both read it, and I highly, highly recommend the Tattooist of Auschwitz) as well as a fun little read on happiness traditions in other countries (Happy: Secrets to Happiness From the Cultures of the World) and to study my genetics chapter for advanced pathophysiology. I am filled with gnocchi, cheese and crackers, and chocolate truffle. Delta airlines has surprisingly good meal service on long flights and provides pillows, blankets, earplugs and eye masks (nice touches)....but no hopes of sleep because it's still daytime in the time zone I'm traveling from!

Every time I travel I come back a changed, slightly rearranged person. In Amsterdam I got my 8th stamp in the passport book I renewed in 2013. Before then all I had was Mexico. I carry stamps from: Mexico, Canada, Aruba, Italy, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos.  It's been an amazing six years and I dream of many more. Sadly, with me in school this is likely our last BIG trip for a few years, unless we can swing a few...a girl can dream and try to work extra, right? We'll be focusing on camping and travel in the US while money is tighter though I'm thinking Fiji or Tahiti as my graduation gift?  I digress. I'm ready to be home. This has been an exhilarating trip, and I'm exhausted quite frankly. I'll circle back to life changing realizations soonish. Hang in there. 


I wanted to travel to Spain because it is a huge part of my heritage. Both sets of my paternal great grandparents are from Spain. I am 50% Spanish. It has been a point of pride in my grandparents. My grandpa and great grandpa visited years ago. Though I know little, I wanted to experience the country myself. My grandma said Malaga was the closest region to where ancestors would have been from, so we made that part of the trip. Many of you have seen my photos, so I'll try to be brief in summary. We spent 4 days in the Barcelona area. Barcelona is bustling and colorful, friendly and exciting. I enjoyed walking La Rambla and loved the Gothic Quarter. La Boqueria food market was a sight! I found myself falling in love with Gaudi through his architectural design wonders found throughout the city. I mean, La Sagrada Familia is AMAZING! I really appreciated our tour to the monastery of Montserrat and even more so the relaxing pace and delicious flavors of the winery Oller del Mas.
I will forever see oranges when I think of Spain.


We spent three days around Malaga. In Malaga I liked the warmer sunshine, and found myself absolutely in awe of our day trip to La Alhambra in Granada. The beauty of the Nasrid  Palace is unforgettable. We did many other things too: castles and cathedrals in Barcelona, walking through parks, a symphony, massages at a Turkish bath in Malaga. We watched sunrises and sunsets, ate many tapas and drank many cappuccinos. We walked SO many miles I am hoping my pants will be looser upon return home...but I have a feeling I made up for that with Trenzas de chocolate each day! 
Trenza de Chocolate aka: chocolate twist...YUM


Our visit to Amsterdam was but a brief stopover, but we saw the Anne Frank House and were both moved to tears. Somehow seeing it is so much more powerful than reading about it! We laughed at how provocative the Red Light District is, and took pictures of quaint homes on canals. Someday we'll be back and do the Netherlands justice. Side note: the men in Spain were nice to look at, BUT the men in Holland...OH MY. #agirlcanlook

I once wrote that travel makes you uncomfortable, and it does in many ways. For all the delights, I slept very little and very poorly. My stomach was off most of the time and downright vengeful our last day in Spain. Neither Barrett nor I like crowds and we've been in them everyday for the last nine days. The food was not always the greatest, and some things were very expensive and inconvenient. Not only do I have irritable stomach issues at times-especially when my eating times are far from "normal", but I suffer from a bladder the size of a small child. Like no joke, so we did a ton of research on our day trips and distances on buses etc. After spending all day in Granada at the Alhambra, I was almost in a panic when the exact same bus line that we chose to take us there and had an on board facility did NOT for the bus on the way home. I still can't explain that as we called, we read reviews...etc, but what I do know is that my husband whipped out his phone and quickly found that an Uber could take us back to Barcelona for roughly $200, and would stop as needed. We didn't do that, but Barrett didn't flinch once at the idea or cost. I survived the bus ride only a bit uncomfortable fortunately, but took away that my husband will do anything in his power to protect me. I am constantly and consistently humbled by a love I have only known from my parents, and realize how lucky I am to have known both. No man except my father has ever loved me in such a protective, providing manner nor cared for me when I'm sick. In my first marriage, I was never taken care of. I thought that was fine at the time and independently thought I didn't need it, but whether it is needed or not, it sure is nice.


I wanted this trip for many reasons, and one was to have a break from our busy lives full of schedules, ballgames, homework and housework. I wanted to reconnect with my husband, and I did. I had time to talk and laugh, share discomforts, learn more about his views. We discussed politics and medicine, parenting, travel and goals. I got very sentimental after a few hard ciders and a delicious meal in Amsterdam, and profusely thanked my husband (I think he was surprised and enjoyed it though). I've written about it before, so it doesn't need much drudging up now, but my first marriage was painful and in all honesty soul crushing. It is in the past, and that man is my children's father, so I try to stay positive as much as I can.  Barrett came along and crept carefully through landmines of issues I didn't even know I had. We still find them sometimes.  He helped me to discover who I want to be, and most of all his steadiness and support has made me SLOW DOWN. You may still think I take on too much now, but years ago I literally could not stop, could not take a break ever or relax. I could not take care of myself. I was God only knows how close to ending up hospitalized for sheer exhaustion or pulling a Brittney and shaving my head. I unpacked an entire home once in 24 hours, not stopping until it was complete. That old Sarah would have taken on NP school while working full time, being a room parent for each kid, keeping an immaculate home and running a book club... Like no joke, all with a fake smile plastered on to hide the panic and pain. And I would have suffered for it as would have those I love, getting harried fragments of me who saw no joy in anything but was driven by her own demons to keep going. This husband of mine...he makes me stop. He is rock steady and he makes me let him take care of me. He shows me what matters and I've spent life a bit slower, enjoying my children and my journey. When we decided for me to further myself and attain my goal to be an NP it was after many heavy discussions on how much/how little I should work in order to succeed, still be a present mom, and take care of myself. 


Love is finding one person infinitely fascinating. And so... not an achievement, my dear. Rather, a privilege. 
-Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

Our travel here on out will be impacted by what we've taken from this trip.

  • Plan less
  • Experience more
  • Rest more
  • Get out of the cities and see the countryside
  • Talk to strangers and spend time with our thoughts
  • Read in the sunshine
  • Talk about EVERYTHING and anything
  • Kiss in every city (obviously) and on every outing
    • We are often asked if we are on our honeymoon when we travel, which we love. 💓


The morning I was afraid to stray from a bathroom we talked about future destinations and made a list of where we'd like to experience in the next few years.

 In the US: 

  • Florida keys
  • Glacier National Park when it's open (we attempted to see it one spring and it was still closed) 
  • Alaska in winter to see the Northern Lights
  • Kansas, or somewhere we can see many cornfields and stay on a ranch


International: 

  • Scottish highlands
  • Austria
  • English countryside 
  • Indonesia (mainly Bali and Ubud)
  • Mexico with kids in the winter, likely Cabo San Lucas
  • South of Ireland in the summer
  • Croatia

Some inspiration for me: 

Relaxing Holidays

The World's Most Relaxing Destinations

16 of the World's Most Relaxing Places

We want a break from big cities for a bit. We want to focus more on small home rentals and time in nature, movie nights "at home", and time to drink coffee and read books while being somewhere unique. We want to live and not just check off lists. We want time to wander without destinations in mind, and to do whatever suits our fancy that day be it a museum, a walk in the park, or staying in bed all day.  It has been a worthwhile adventure, and I hope it has inspired you. It has me. 

 What has travel taught you? 

Where's next on your list?

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Stop Over-explaining! Embrace the period


Life is going well. I have officially been working just 16-20 hours per week for the clinic, learning a lot in my new role in urology, filling in for my old role in pediatrics😏, will be training in dermatology, and so far battling through 15-25 hours per week of online "live" class, video lectures and study time. I like one class (advanced pathophysiology) and hate the other (research methods).I have made it to a handful of Matt's bball games, and Isaiah is practicing for his first ever piano recital! We leave for Spain this coming Thursday and will be away from kids, family and 4-legged children for 10 days as we explore Barcelona, Malaga, Montserrat (monastery not the island of same name), Granada, and then one night in Amsterdam on way back. I have had a BLAST planning this vacay and hope it is all I have dreamed of and a time to reconnect with my wonderful hubby who is, as always, my biggest fan and supporter of my dreams. 


Last night we got to have a date night, and over dinner we discussed something that I am working on. Amidst the journey to a better me which involves NP school, meditation, prayer, gratitude journal, yoga, less sugar (I now drink my coffee with just a splash of milk and no creamer or sugar. This is HUGE people), reading Girl, Wash Your Face (which I highly recommend thus far), and watching uplifting movies such as "The Upside"-also highly recommend, I realized something of a character flaw in yours truly. 

I am an over-explainer. 

Now, this in and of itself is not a bad thing. You want to get to know me? Despite being an INFJ personality type introvert and highly sensitive one at that, I am lacking the privacy gene many of my type possess. I am not all that private. I am a pretty open book. If I don't share, I am likely to if only asked. I figure, I like me, you should like me, why be secretive? Or at least that is what I would like to figure...

Let me explain. You see, I over-explain often because I want to be liked and to fit in. The attitude above is partially true. I love who I am, but I do care too much that you like her too. And I shouldn't. The over-explaining is not a BAD thing when letting you in if it helps you know me better. It is a bad thing when being apologetic or wishy washy. I too often use a comma or a run-on sentence to word vomit to you especially if I am shy (almost always though people never think I am) or excited. I need to embrace the period instead. Hard stop. This is me.

 Often if you ask about my boys and school, I will tell you they go to private Christian school. And then I feel the need to tell you that my family is still "normal." We are not super conservative, still watch tv and movies, we all love Harry Potter, and we are nowhere near perfect. I am, for some reason, afraid you will think I am too prim and proper, and that my faith will make you uncomfortable. I am afraid you will think common misconceptions about Christian families as referred to in all of my over-explanation. I am only furthering the misconception by doing this. I send my kids to private Christian school because I want God in their education. I want their sports teams to pray, them to worship with friends, and them to be taught morals at home that are reinforced  at school. I send them because my faith is important to me. And I am a cool person. Not because of this necessarily, but certainly not in spite of this. 

I am Christian. And I am cool. ;) No modifiers needed.
I want to go on and tell you that I love all people, that I am non-judgmental (one of the most open, caring people you will meet)...but I  am AGAIN furthering the common misconceptions some people may have. The life I live, not my explanations, should speak to my character.


I don't drink often. Something else I over-explain in an apologetic manner. I don't care if you drink. I enjoy a glass of wine now and then or a Bailey's and coffee...but alcohol is a huge migraine trigger for me. I also am a control freak, and hate to feel out of control. So I don't have it often. I tend to over-explain this too. Not needed. All I need to say is "I don't drink often" or "no thank you, not today." 

I over-explain about school. The sheer amount of negative or jokey comments I come into contact with because I am back in school is nauseating at times. I actually had to lecture Matthew on this the other night because he was like "you're back in school again. Someday you'll be a doctor you've gone to school so much. Haha." Ummm no. I won't. I will be a provider, but not a doctor. I am smart, I do school well, and I love to learn. Poor kid got a 15 minute lecture on "if your wife someday wants to better herself continually by going further in school you will support her and guide her. Never poke fun at someone wanting more." I then went on to explain (because this helps him know me, not because I was apologizing...that I feel called to help and care for people, and that is what I will do). Yes, I am working on a 2nd Master's degree in a completely different field than my first. I am a licensed teacher AND a licensed nurse, and will eventually be a certified nurse practitioner should all go well. I may even add a cert to become a psychiatric NP. Translation-more school. BUT I don't need to over-explain, because I don't need to explain at all. I want to be an NP. It matters to me. Hard Stop. Period. See?

Do you ever do this? I will probably always over-explain some. It is me. I vow to stop over-explaining by means of apology or by means of making something that is important to me seem less so. Key facts about me: I believe in God. My sons are incredibly important to me. My marriage is strong and loving. I believe I am an awesome person. People matter to me. I love to learn. I am passionate about helping others. I love dogs. I love travel. Here I go, time to practice embracing the period. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

I Should Probably be Studying Right Now





Can't wait!
I am officially in the trenches of term 1 out of 7 of nurse practitioner school. I have gone from excited to oh my God what did I sign up for throughout most days so far. I thought that nursing school was tough. I have said it before, the work was not always hard, but the sheer live, eat, breathe everythingness of it was exhausting. I have leveled up. I feel like I have learned more in the past few weeks than I did in all of nursing school though I am sure that is not an equal comparison at all, it is just how my muddled brain feels. The A LOT-ness of it is overwhelming. I am in the part-time, 2 1/2 year program as the full-time program actually has in writing in multiple places, no working during this program is recommended at all. So, in order to not totally ruin our finances, I am going slightly longer. I take 2-3 courses a semester for the first year, and then I go to an "immersion" weekend on campus in Boston which will be dreadful (clinical skills check-off anyone) and exciting (white coat ceremony) then start clinical placements which I am sure come with their own basket of terrors, yet right now my goal is to get through first year and into clinical. 

Who am I kidding? Right now my goal is to pass my first 2 classes with the required 83% or above (or the class is considered failed). 

Okay, really truly my goal is to pass each week, each assignment step-by-step. Baby steps y'all, one day at a time. 

I feel utterly, completely vindicated in my perceived (and oh so correct) need to work just 16-19 hours a week. I still wonder how I will get it all in, and YES, I should probably be studying right now. That could be my motto for the next few years. Maybe, I'll make a few sweatshirts up. 

One can only study so much though. To give you a rough idea, I spent 19 hours on school-work last week and 25 hours working. Fill in other gaps with sleep, caring for the home, wife-ing, and mom-ing because these things must still happen too. This week I anticipate 17 hours of work and only 16-18 hours of study due to some other obligations (Matthew has basketball game that I will go watch and neurology consult for migraines that I am going to, I have a hair appointment, we have friends coming over on Saturday, etc) so I may have to step up my game next week for sure. 

What classes should REALLY be called. 
What makes NP school so difficult so far? It is just time consuming. I spent 5-6 HOURS on four case studies for advanced pathophysiology, and another 3 hours researching viable topics for my research class before settling on social media and depression in teens. It is also one level up from RN school I suppose. Not only do I need to know diseases, but I need to know what tests I would order and what they indicate (down to a cellular level) in order to know how I would eventually diagnose diseases. I like that. I like the idea of diagnosing and treating...so I keep trucking. 

In other news, I like my new position at the clinic so far. I will be covering for a few months in urology before floating elsewhere, and it is far more fascinating than I thought encompassing issues such as prostate cancer/biopsies, all things bladder, erectile dysfunction, etc. The nurse can do many procedural things on his/her own even instilling anti-neoplastic medication (think chemo) into the bladder, and assisting the doctors with surgeries such as vasectomies in office. Very cool. The staff is excellent, and I am happy to be there for now. 

Well, I better go actually study. This cancer chapter is not going to read itself. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

A New Chapter

There are far fewer people to read my musings these days, since cutting my social media friends (and therefore outreach) literally in half a few weeks ago. I don't mind though. I am beginning a new chapter in my journey, and have a feeling that the blogging and Facebook time will eventually fall to very little. 


Last week I began orientation for my new employer, a large hospital to the south. It was a gruelingly long week of classroom training, written and computer tests and some simulation scenarios reminiscent of nursing school. Each day I joked to Barrett, "What new hell awaits me today?" I miss Peds sooooo much. I have only questioned my decision to leave approximately 1,342,587 times (per day). The funny thing is that I didn't find much satisfaction in the job itself, but the people I worked with and knowing the good we were doing. It would not even be one iota of fairness to say that I dislike my new role, as I have yet to train on my unit. That begins this Thursday-Friday. To say I am anxious would be the understatement of the year. Someone needs to slip me a sedative so that I can calm my nerves regarding the big, scary hospital. I am sure it will be fine. Scary? New? Intimidating and overwhelming at times? All of those things, but also... just fine. My expectations for my new job are actually very low. I need a place where I can work a minimal amount of hours to make a certain amount so that I can go to NP school. I need to do it well to be safe and competent. 
Made me laugh way too hard!

I have not "bought in" to my new position or employer yet, and I suppose that will come in time...or not. Honestly, school is the #1 career priority for me for the next 2.5 years (and I have the complete support of Barrett), so if for any reason my job cannot accommodate my schedule, is too much and I can't cut further back, or just causes me too much stress to be worth it, I will have to go elsewhere. My new manager seems accommodating to school, so my fingers are crossed, but I do know that I have other options (possibly with the clinic, though I need to find just how tied I can be to them and still be placed there as an NP student), but if not home health and nursing home RN jobs abound, and while definitely not my first choice, certainly a flexible option. We have run the numbers again and again, and we need me to work some, but we need 24 hours a week at "clinic pay" and 20 hours a week or a tad less at "hospital pay" (and yes, there is a substantial difference). Currently I am scheduled to work 24 a week at the hospital and estimate 16 hours a month at the clinic.  In all fairness, if we cut out our travel budget and some "fun" money/savings we could have me work one 12 hour shift a week, but we are trying to change things as little as possible, which hopefully will be doable for the 1st year though perhaps not the 2nd when I am in clinical 2 days a week. Not only do I NEED to take school very seriously, but anything under an 83% equals a failed class that can only be repeated once.

So...there's all that. Praying for a job I can tolerate with a schedule that works for school. It seems like it should be fine, but NP school is no joke. It is estimated that I will spend 25-40 HOURS per
week studying plus an additional 4-6 in live classes (done via video conferencing) the first year then ADD another 16 hours per week in clinical the 2nd year. Do the math. It will be like a full-time job already. Add in kids, caring for a home, etc and you can maybe see why I was keen on seeing just how little I can work. 

Classes open in 4 weeks, but I can start studying now, so I am planning on it! Advanced Pathophysiology and Nursing Research here I come! You can follow my journey here. Prayers appreciated. Love to all!