An entire year with our sweet girl. And what a year it’s been.
Ever hear about the theory of constraints and creativity? The design world discusses this idea a lot — the idea that when given limits, people are often more creative. Why? Because when we have a scarcity of options, we’re forced to work with what we have and act more resourcefully.
I like to explain it this way — I have a really hard time picking a Halloween costume. The number of options just paralyzes me. But give me a theme party, and I will DOMINATE. Maybe that’s just a skill-set I acquired during my sorority days, but I like to think it’s the constraints + creativity theory at play. ;)
Sometimes we need to work within certain parameters, self-made or otherwise, in order to wade through all the distractions and become reacquainted with our creative spirit.
Or at least that’s what happened to me in October.
In October, I quit Instagram.
I had been wanting to ease off for a while, but I finally gathered the courage after seeing a few friends do it first. I was tired of spending my days mindlessly scrolling instead of being fully present with my daughter. Tired of the constant barrage of beautiful images that I thought were inspiring but were really just making me want more stuff. Most of all, I was tired of the way I had hitched my worth as an artist to the number of little hearts below every art-related post.
The first day was strange. My thumb kept inadvertently traveling to where my Instagram app had been. I started to actually look around while waiting in line at the grocery store. I went on a 45 minute walk while Miles napped in the stroller and let my mind wander in silence the entire time. And in that stillness, the idea for this new collection of artwork was born.
After just ONE day of cutting out social media, I began to recognize the value of presence, stillness, and simplicity. I also started to realize how many aspects of my life are far too cluttered. Too many clothes in my closet, too many commitments on my calendar, too many product offerings on my website. With so much stuff, it’s hard to appreciate the value of any one thing.
Constraints lead to creativity.
I’m still sorting through how this new mantra will apply to many aspects of my life, but with regards to my art, this catalyzed a major shift. Retrospectively, it feels like I’ve been throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall over the past few years and trying to figure out what would stick. I put out so many different prints, blog series, and custom offerings — desperately trying to make myself feel legitimate — that it was hard to figure out what it was that I was really about. Along the way, I had completely lost sight of why I was making things in the first place.
I began to feel a strong desire to scrap everything and start over. So I did.
I wanted to go back to making art because it brings me joy. I wanted to paint pieces that I would be thrilled to hang on my own walls. I wanted to create fewer, better things.
And most importantly, I wanted to do it for myself. For my wellness. Because I love it.
Throughout the rest of my instagram-less month, I painted. I painted during Miles’ naps. I painted while she sat at the table in her clip-on high chair, smiling at me as she smeared mac and cheese in her hair. I even carved my new logo out of linoleum to create a stamp (something I haven’t played around with since high-school art class). Our house became a wreck of supplies, my hair became more and more greasy, yet my joy grew deeper. I relished in that amazing feeling of working hard on something that I was proud of.
And now, I’m so thrilled to be sharing that body of work with you!
The Constraints Collection consists of 19 original, one-of-a-kind paintings that I’ll be releasing on Monday, November 26th at 8AM PST. Most are on watercolor paper with torn edges. A few are on canvas. Some are large, some are small. All were created intentionally, thoughtfully, and by hand.
This collection was inspired by the outdoors — where I retreat to escape the clutter. Where I find such stillness, peace, and rest. If you end up taking a painting home, I hope that it will bring you the same sense of rejuvenation that I felt while painting them.
Please note that there will only be one available of each (no prints!), so check back on the 26th and act fast if you see something that you like. My email subscribers will be receiving a 20% off code on launch day, so make sure you sign up at the bottom of the home page by November 25th if you’d like to get in on that! I’ll also be giving away one original 11x14 painting on instagram this week, so follow along to enter!
That was a lot of promotion I realize, but here’s one of my greatest joys in this new perspective — if I don’t sell a single piece, things will be just fine. For the first time, I feel ready to put art into the world without reservation. Art that’s mine, a reflection of who I am and what I am experiencing, and I’m no longer constrained by needing it to be accepted, valued, and purchased by someone else. Ironically, it was this past constraint — the need for external validation — that suffocated me for too long.
I’m holding onto something Beau said to me a few weeks ago. I had been starting to think out loud about how I would promote and sell this new collection, worrying about price points, and getting caught up in all the stuff that takes the joy out of painting for me. Beau stopped me mid-sentence and said something along the lines of this — “Listen, nobody pays to watch me rock-climb. I do it because I love it and it helps me unwind.”
That simple statement changed everything. It allowed me to feel the freedom to do this for myself. If other people like it, awesome. If not, that’s okay too. Because I enjoyed the process of creating it so very much.
So what’s next? I plan to create and release small collections of paintings every now and then. Make sure you’re signed up for my email list and/or following along on instagram (yes, I’m cautiously back on it after my hiatus!) to stay in the loop about any upcoming releases if you want. That said, I’ll no longer be taking any custom illustration orders and my print shop has been thinned out considerably (in the spirit of constraints!), but you can still find my older art prints (stadiums, cityscapes, etc.) over on my Etsy shop.
So friends, thank you, thank you, thank you for being so supportive and encouraging over the past few years as I learned more about the value (and danger) of constraints. I appreciate you all more than you know.
Here goes nothing! :)
Hi, friends! I'm back with Part 2 of our Baby Registry Favorites (see Part 1 here)! This time around, I have our recommendations for waste management products (AKA how to deal with all the poop, all the time), bath time/health & safety/breastfeeding essentials, as well as all the gear we use to get out of the house and maintain a semblance of our former lives. Enjoy!
Waste Management (AKA POOP GEAR)
1. Diaper Backpack: I think this might be one of my favorite finds and I get compliments on it ALL THE TIME. I wanted a nice-looking, gender-neutral backpack with lots of pockets and this guy checks all of those boxes and more. Beau likes carrying it as much as I do (WIN) and it's so nice to be hands-free. It fits all of our CRAP (literally), keeps everything organized with tons of pockets, and even comes with a changing pad. I don't think I'll ever carry a purse again and I LOVE IT.
2. Wipes Dispenser: Keeps your wipes from drying out and looks nice sitting out on top of a changing table. Win-win.
3. Changing Pad: I debated getting one of those changing pads that are fully wipeable/not made out of fabric, but couldn't justify the price. We live in a 3 story townhome and spend most of our time NOT on the same floor as the nursery, so to be honest, most of our diaper changes happen on the floor with a mat (see #5 on this list). This changing pad was highly-rated and affordable, so we got it for the changing table in the nursery. We use liners (#8 on this list) on top of the cover, so we honestly haven't even had to wash the changing pad cover yet (3.5 months in). So in my opinion, you can go the cheaper route like we did and not be stuck with a ton of extra laundry.
4. Changing Pad Cover: Because I can't get enough of this adorable print.
5. Gathre Mat: As mentioned above, we do the majority of our diaper changes on the floor in the living room with this mat. I keep a big basket underneath the coffee table with diapers, wipes, the changing mat, a few toys/blankets, etc. and pull it out during the day and hide it away when we're done. This mat is wipeable and pretty and we like it a lot.
6. Wipes: We saw these on a lot of friend's registries and ordered them for ourselves. They're great! Just FYI...the top on these is just a sticker, which makes it good to use with the wipes dispenser (#2 on this list). If you were to use them without a dispenser (i.e. carry them around in your diaper bag, keep on a floor farther away from the dispenser, etc.), I might recommend this kind which has a more durable top to keep the moisture in.
7: Diapers: If I had written this post a month ago, we would have recommended Pampers as our diapers of choice. We primarily used Pampers for her Newborn and size 1 diapers and liked them a lot. When you do your registry through Amazon and a certain dollar amount is reached, you get $100 of free diapers (a big selling point for us!). But, when it came to use our $100, we realized you could only use it on participating diaper brands (Pampers was not available, but Huggies were). We semi-reluctantly switched to Huggies (because they were free, duh), and as soon as we started using them we discovered that we liked them a lot more! We have WAY less blowouts these days, I find that the Huggies are a lot easier to put on, and superficially, I think the designs are a little cuter than Pampers. I think Huggies are a tad bit cheaper as well. We're converts! I don't think you could go wrong either way, though. As for quantities and how many boxes of each to order, here's what happened for us: Miles was 7.5lbs at birth (super average, apparently). She was in Newborn diapers for about a month (I'm not sure how many boxes this was...we were lucky and were given a bunch of Newborn diapers from friends whose kiddos had grown out of them). She was in Size 1s for about 1.5 months (we went through 1 big box and 1 smaller box). Now she's in Size 2s. We sized up every time we started noticing more blowouts and the larger sizes seemed to help.
8. Changing Pad Liners: Love these things! We primarily use them on top of the changing pad cover (in case of a blowout you only have to wash the liner rather than stripping off the entire cover). You could also throw one of these down anywhere and change a diaper, so they're super versatile. And cheap.
9. Portable Wipes Dispenser: Great for the diaper bag!
Bath Time/Health & Safety Essentials
1. Bath Caddy: Great for keeping all of her bath/health stuff organized.
2. Baby Bathtub: Who knew there were so many options for baby bathtubs? A friend recommended this one and it's also pretty inexpensive so we went for it. I like the little sling...it keeps Miles a little more upright and it makes it easier to move her around while you're wiping her down. Our kitchen SERIOUSLY lacks storage so we actually don't use this in the sink. We put it in the shower floor in her nursery (unfortunately it's a standup shower and not a real bathtub) and switched out the shower head with a handheld nozzle. It's worked out just fine so far!
3. Bath Kneeler: If you're a weirdo like us that gives your baby baths in the floor of a standup shower, this is a real knee-saver. :)
4. Nursery Care Kit: I ordered this because it seemed important and was cute (LOL), but it ended up impressing daddy the pediatrician! Lots of handy little tools in there. Pro tip: If your baby has tons of hair like ours, the brush in this kit is great for shampooing.
5. Bath Rinser: We won't use this until she's a little older (right now we're just squeezing a washcloth over her head), but I like that the little lip seems like it would keep water out of her eyes. Time will tell!
6. Hooded Towels: So cute, SO SOFT, I want one for myself.
7. Nose Frida: We recently battled our first cold (poor baby) and this thing works WONDERS. Miles doesn't love having boogers forcefully sucked from her nose, but it's way more effective than the bulb syringe route.
8. Gripe Water: Baby girl was pretty gassy and hiccup-y when she was a newborn, and I'm not sure how, but this stuff really worked. If she ever got hiccups in the middle of the night, a few drops of this and she'd calm down and go back to bed. We haven't really used it since, but might be nice to have on hand for those first few weeks at home.
9. Infant Tylenol: We thankfully haven't had to use this yet, but it's nice to have in case disaster strikes in the middle of the night.
10. Aveno Bath Set: Get all the essentials in one set. Done and done.
11. Washcloths: Washcloths have been great for bathtime! We usually wet one and lay it over her tummy to keep her warm and then use another with soap to wipe her down. These are soft and great quality.
12. Outlet Covers: Full disclosure—we haven't actually bought these yet, but I intend to when we start baby-proofing. I like that you don't have to pull out the outlet cover every time you want to plug something in...you just slide the cover over. Hopefully they work as well as I imagine they will!
13. Safety Gate: Our house is NOT toddler friendly (staircases everywhere, lots of open shelves from which to pull everything off and destroy, etc.). I'm not looking forward to baby-proofing. We have these ready whenever Miles decides to start crawling...I'll let y'all know how they work when we get them up!
1. Nursing Cover: Looks like my gray and white stripped one is sold out at the moment, but I linked another cute color. The brand is Copper Pearl and it's soft and fully covers Miles and I while I'm feeding her in public. To be totally honest I much prefer feeding her without the cover and I've surprised myself by how often I've done it in public (I was pretty modest before baby came along and now I don't really care). But this is a great option for those times when you want to be a bit more covered up.
2. Boppy Pillow: Big Boppy fan over here! I brought it to the hospital and the first time I used it was the first time that we actually had a successful latch. It really helped me figure out how to position her in the beginning and now it's nice to not have to support her body weight while feeding her. We use this waterproof cover and this decorative cover with it.
3. Boon Drying Rack: If you've been to any baby shower lately you've likely seen these grassy-looking things. They're weird but GREAT for drying bottles (which you end up doing a lot of if you pump). I was happy to find this skinny rectangular version. We don't have a ton of counter space in the kitchen so I preferred this to the larger square version.
4. Clip-on Highchair: Another item we technically haven't used yet, but it came highly recommended from a friend. We plan to use this as her highchair at home (again, not a ton of kitchen space). And the nice thing about it being a clip on is that we can take it with us to restaurants, on trips, etc. Apparently it packs down really small and is easy to use and clean.
5. Nursing Pads: I have a few reusable ones, but I find that these disposable ones work so much better.
6. Pumping Bra: This photo horrified me when I was pregnant. It truly looks like a torture device. But this bra is pretty clutch and helps me continue working while pumping on the days that Miles is at daycare.
7. Bottle Brush: Not much to say about it other than it works great. :)
8. Burp Cloths: These are super soft, absorbent, and not hideous. All things I'd look for in a burp cloth.
9. Milk Storage: Pro tip: Lay the bags flat to freeze, and then once they're frozen, store upright in these. Takes up way less space in the freezer.
10. Hand Pump: I got a free electric pump with my insurance (THANKS, OBAMA), but I've been surprised how much I've also used this hand pump. It's small and easy to keep in the diaper bag in case you need it while you're out and about. I also used it a ton to help with engorgement those first few weeks.
11. Breastmilk Storage Bags: Cheaper than the Medela ones and work just the same!
12. Bottles: We got a few of these for free in our Amazon Registry Welcome Box, liked them, and decided to get a few more. We have 4 total which has been plenty on the days that Miles goes to daycare.
On The Go
1. Bob Revolution Stroller: Okay, this one is spendy. But it's probably one of our favorite things. We wanted to spend money on things that would allow us to get out the house/continue to enjoy the things we enjoyed before baby and this is one of those things. It rides like a dream (can't believe I just said that...haha), hops up and down curbs with ease, and allows Miles, Walter and I to get out for a jog in the park most afternoons. We use it with a car seat adapter now until she gets head control, and because we live in the rainy Pacific Northwest we always keep this rain cover in the storage area below the seat. To save money, we bought ours via Amazon Warehouse. If you don't know about this, LISTEN UP. Under the "Add to Cart" buttons to the right, there's usually a section called "Other Sellers on Amazon". Click on that and look for any with the "Amazon Warehouse" logo next to it. Usually these items have damaged packaging/have been opened/etc., but the item itself is brand new. We saved $100 on our Bob because the box had a tiny dent in it.
2. Chicco Carseat: We got lucky and ended up borrowing one of these and 2 bases from a friend who was done with them. It's great! Easy to click in and out and on the more affordable end of the car seat spectrum.
3. Chicco Caddy Stroller: I debated whether or not we needed this for a while, but I'm really glad that we have it. It's super lightweight and lives in the trunk of our car for use at the grocery store/when we're out and about around town. It's so much easier to get in and out of the car and navigate on busy sidewalks/through tight doorframes than the Bob. So basically, this is our errand-running stroller and the Bob is our neighborhood walk/jog stroller.
4. Ergo 360: We love this baby carrier! It's more heavy-duty than the fabric wraps and we've already taken Miles on a ton of hikes with it. It's easy to get on and off and distributes her weight really well. A friend also sent us this winter cover that goes with it and it's been great to keep her warm this winter (we even took her snowshoeing in it and she stayed nice and warm the whole time).
5. Solly Wrap: I love this thing because it facilitates constant snuggles. It's nice to wear her around the house if she's fussy and I still need to get a few things done. In the early days (before I wanted to start getting her to nap in the crib), she took a lot of naps in this. It's a bit tricky to figure out how to tie it at first, but you'll get the hang of it after a few tries. And the colors/patterns are so beautiful.
6. Back Seat Mirror: Great for keeping an eye on her while we're in the front seat.
7. Car Seat Cover: This has been perfect for our winter baby! As you may or may not know, you're technically not supposed to put your kiddo in bulky jackets while they're in the car seat. This cover allowed Miles to be safely strapped in AND warm, without having to take jackets on and off a million times.
8. Osprey Pack: We're big hikers and fittingly, this was the first baby gift we received (Beau's best friends from high school went in on it for him). We can't wait for Miles to get head control so we can bust this out!
9. Pack N' Play: Great for travel and sleeping at friend's houses. This was the least ugly one I could find. :)
10. Burley Bike Trailer: Another spendy one that we thought we'd wait to find at a consignment store, but Beau's sweet residency class went in on it for us. Portland is a big biking city (we probably only drive 1-2 times a week and bike every day), so this thing is going to get some serious mileage. It's another thing we can't use until Miles gets head control but we're counting down the days until we can take her along on some bike and brew tours. :)
11. Portable Sound Machine: If we're ever out past Miles' bedtime, we do our bedtime routine on the go, put her down in her carseat, and strap this bad boy to the carseat handle. Works like a charm.
12. Outdoor Blanket: We love this thing and will probably get even more use out of it as the weather continues to warm up! It's waterproof, wipeable, and a great size. It also folds down to a manageable size (I kept it in my backpack when we went snowshoeing and then we opened it up and sat on it in the snow to eat lunch. Clutch).
That's it, folks! I hope you find this (and Part 1) helpful as you build your registries and/or pick out baby gifts for friends. I also want to reiterate...these are things that worked for us and we were lucky to be gifted and/or borrow the majority of these items. All babies are different (some like swings, some don't; some like Pampers, some like Huggies, etc.). My recommendation would be to borrow as much as you can and buy minimally at first, see what your baby likes, and then go from there. It's amazing how much STUFF you can accumulate and it's even more amazing how quickly your baby will grow out of it all. So just be mindful about your lifestyle, budget, and priorities and know that your baby will be just fine whether or not they have all the latest gadgets.
Love & Respect,
For such tiny creatures, babies seemingly require so. much. stuff. As someone on a budget who doesn't like a lot of visual clutter all over my house, I was on a mission to find affordable, versatile, and as-visually-appealing-as-possible baby stuff. We spent a ton of time reading product reviews and building our registry, so I thought I'd pass along some of our favorite finds to those of you who are trying to figure out if your baby needs two swings, a bouncy seat, AND a rock n' play as well as 16 different strollers (*eye-roll emoji*). Also, is the Dock-A-Tot worth the gazillion dollars that it costs? Read on, my friends...
P.S. This post started getting super lengthy so I decided to break it up a bit. Look for Part 2 of our Registry Favorites coming soon. :)
P.P.S. We ended up finding a lot of the items below at consignment shops and/or borrowing from friends. So my overall tip for those of you who are on a budget (like us!) is that you can often find a lot of these items for a lot cheaper (or free). Ask around and visit some consignment stores before purchasing. There's SO much baby stuff out there that people are looking to get rid of once their little ones grow out of it. Better to look there first before spending tons of money!
Where did we create our registry?
If you know us personally, you know that Beau and I are obsessed with Amazon Prime. So choosing the Amazon Baby Registry was an easy decision. It seems like most people have Amazon Prime these days, so we thought it would be easiest for our friends/family to make purchases with Amazon and not have to pay for shipping. AND it came with a ton of perks: $100 worth of free diapers if a certain dollar amount from your registry is purchased, a 15% completion discount on anything left on your registry, a free "welcome box" with really great products, and a few other freebies like Shutterfly prints and baby books. It was easy to set up and you can technically add products from any site that you'd like (doesn't technically have to be from Amazon). We highly recommend it!
Overall, we looked for pieces that could transition with Miles as she grows and/or be used in other rooms in the house someday.
1. nuLoom Rug: It took a lot of convincing to get Beau on board with a rug (he's Mr. functional and didn't think this was necessary), but I pulled the "I'm huge and pregnant and I deserve this" card and won. This rug is SUPER pretty and affordable too, which helped my case.
2. Baby Relax Miles Dresser: I randomly came across this dresser on Amazon and it was called the "Miles" so it was a no-brainer. Beau made a wooden changing table topper (it looks like this) and it's great for changing her diaper AND storing all her stuff. We love it!
3. Ikea Gulliver Crib: Simple, modern, white, safe, adjustable, affordable. Just FYI...I linked the Amazon version here which is more expensive than it would be if you bought it AT Ikea (I believe it's $100 at Ikea). But I know not everyone has an Ikea in their city, so here's an easy way to get one shipped to you. :)
4. Curtains: I found these beauties at World Market. They fit the vibe of the room and were very affordable. Note that they're not light-blocking, but I didn't want Miles to be dependent on a pitch-black room in order to fall asleep. So far she's napped during the day with these and it hasn't been a problem.
5. Jute Ottoman: Sadly the one we have is sold out, but this one is similar. Just search "jute ottoman" on Amazon and you're likely to find a good one, and maybe at a lower price than this.
6. Petit Pehr Pom Pom Bin: We have this bin on the shelf in her room holding all of her blankets/swaddles/etc. It's REALLY cute. We use baskets all over the house to corral her stuff now and Petit Pehr makes some really nice-looking ones. So does World Market!
8. Elephant Bookends: Because these are adorable. And they're sturdy enough to hold up the zillions of books that we have on her shelf.
9. Rocking Chair: I saw this rocker in a friend's instagram post and immediately messaged her to ask where it was from. To my surprise, it was actually pretty affordable and available on Amazon prime! It's really nice-looking in person and comfortable too. Nailed it.
10. Letter Board: Add a little hipster flair to all of your monthly baby photos. :)
11. National Park Posters: Beau and I collect these posters for every National Park that we visit together. We hung three of them in her nursery and LOVE them there.
12: Ikea Shelf: Miles' nursery used to be my office, and we actually already had this shelf in the room for all of my art supplies. We're now storing her pajamas/sleepers, onesies and pants in the drawers (which is basically all she wears), and books, baskets, etc. on the open shelves. It's perfect!
1. Target Cloud Island Sleep N' Play Set: If you buy one item of clothing for the newborn stage, buy a set or two of these. They're cheap, they have an inverted zipper for easy diaper changes, and they have built in booties and mittens to keep the babe warm. Miles LIVES in these. Also, for sizing reference, Miles was 7.5 lbs at birth and was in the Newborn size of these for about 2 months. She is on the smaller side, but I thought that'd be helpful to know.
2. Old Navy Footed Sleeper: Same as above. These are convenient and Old Navy has a bunch of nice solid colors and patterns. Size-wise, she started in the 0-3M size and has been wearing them since birth. She's 10 weeks old now and I think we can get another month and change out of these!
3. MiracleWear 5 Pack Onesies: How cute are these colors? And they're cheap and available on Amazon. Win.
4. Brave Little Ones Knotted Gown: My best friend got this for Miles and I LOVE it. The knotted bottom makes for easy diaper changes and it's super beautiful and soft.
5. Gerber Longsleeve Mitten Cuff Onesies: Simple, cheap, great.
6. Carters Pants: The cutest little pants to pair with onesies. Technically marketed for little boys but we named her Miles, so....
7. Zutano Fleece Hat: Adorable. Warm. Great for winter babies. She wears this pretty much every time we leave the house.
8. Bows and Headbands from Lottie Lemon: Super cute and affordable bows and headbands from a sweet little Etsy shop.
9. Laughing Giraffe Sleeper Gown: Super soft and makes for easy middle-of-the-night diaper changes.
10. Halo Sleep Sack: We technically haven't used this yet (Miles is still being swaddled at night), but apparently this is what she'll sleep in after we drop the swaddle. I'll keep you posted. :)
11. Zutano Booties: Quite literally the only warm, sock-like thing that will stay on homegirl's feet. These have been a life-saver this winter!
12. Freshly Picked Moccasins: We got these as a gift and LOVE them. So super cute and help keep her socks on. Win-win.
1. Avent Baby Monitor: We originally registered for and received a baby monitor that projected the video feed to our iphones via an app, but we quickly realized that we didn't like it! The video feed was unreliable and since we live in a 3-story townhouse, the wifi connection wasn't very strong upstairs (where we used the app most). Luckily we were able to return it and bought this guy instead. I like that it doesn't drain my phone battery and the connection between the camera and video thing (what do you call this?) is super strong. It's also VERY easy to set up and use, which is great. Much happier with this one!
2. Miracle Blanket: We call Miles "The Littlest Houdini" because she busts out of EVERY swaddle. Except for this one (for the most part. ha). It's easy to wrap her up in this in the middle of the night and I like that it doesn't have any loud velcro like some of the other ones.
3. Dock-A-Tot: Okay, I hesitate even including this because it is SO ridiculously expensive for what it is. I purposefully didn't add it to our registry because I thought the price was so ridiculous for something you'll only use for a few months (it is), but a friend graciously offered to let us borrow hers so of course I said yes (I'm such a hypocrite). Turns out, it's probably the baby item that we use the most. Miles takes at least one nap a day in this and it's so easy to carry her around from room to room in it if she falls asleep. Speaking of which, I should mention that Dr. Beau does NOT allow Miles to sleep in this unsupervised. It's technically not considered a "safe sleep environment" but it's great for supervised naps and lounging. It's lightweight and easy to transport, so we regularly bring this over to friends' houses if we know she'll need a nap while we're away. I also LOVE putting her in this on the counter while I'm cooking dinner. She hangs out and we sing and cook and it's probably the sweetest part of our day together. So...all in all, I'm a big fan. If the price of this is prohibitive, I think something like this or this would be similar and just as great.
4. Little Unicorn Crib Sheets: I LOVE this company. They have the sweetest patterns for crib sheets, swaddles, changing pad covers, blankets, etc. We ended up getting this "Prickle Pots" pattern for Miles' crib sheet and changing pad cover and the colors ended up informing the design of her nursery. If you're an Amazon Prime user (can you tell we're obsessed with Amazon?), some of Little Unicorn's patterns are available on Prime (like these swaddles, bibs, crib sheets, and this lovely quilt.
5. Dohm Sound Machine: We actually already use one of these in our room so getting one for Miles' nursery was a no-brainer. It's a nice, simple white noise (no weird running water sounds that make you feel like you have to pee).
6. Arms Reach Bassinet: Another item that we borrowed from a friend and LOVE. It's the perfect height and has lots of pockets for diapers, wipes, extra swaddles, etc. We keep Miles in this right next to our bed (it's the perfect height), and it's been super easy to grab her out, feed her, and put her back to sleep during nighttime feedings. It's also on wheels so I can pull it closer/further away from the bed as needed, which has been really helpful. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it'll just be in our room for a short season so I'm dealing with it. :)
7. Burts Bees Crib Sheets: These were cheaper than the Little Unicorn sheets, so I got a set as a backup. One of the mom-hacks I heard was to layer a crib protector, a sheet, another crib protector and another sheet on the crib. That way, if/when baby wets the bed in the middle of the night, you can just rip off the top sheet and crib protector and not have to re-make the bed.
8. Crib Protector: See my comment above for why you need one or two of these. This one is great and fully covers the mattress.
9. Mom's On Call: Multiple friends recommend this book. It's written by two pediatric nurses and has tons of helpful info on baby care and dealing with different illnesses. We've been loosely following the nap/sleep schedule from this book and sweet Miles has been sleeping for 7-8 hour stretches at night ever since she was 6 weeks old. I think it's largely because of the tips we learned from this book! Highly recommend it.
Happy Baby, Happy Life
These are things that Miles seems to enjoy. I'm sure this list will grow as she gets older/more coherent. :)
1. Baby Bjorn Bouncer: We ended up finding one of these at a consignment shop (fo' cheap!) and bought it on a whim. Miles loves it! We clip the toy arch (#8 on this list) to it and she'll sit there and stare at the dangling toys for a good 20 minutes or so while I shower, get a few quick things done, etc. It's super light and folds down so it's easy to transport from room to room (or even outside if I need to put her down somewhere while I'm throwing the ball for the dog). Annnnd we'll sit her down in this after bath time and dry her off, which has been convenient. Oh, and it's not hideous. Win! If you're looking for a more inexpensive option, I've heard great things about this one.
2. Pacifier Clips: Miles is obsessed with her pacifiers, so we have one clipped to just about everything (her car seat, her Dock-A-Tot, her bassinet, etc.). Babies cannot seem to keep these in their mouths for more than 30 seconds at a time so the clips are helpful to keep them from falling on the floor. :)
3. Avent Pacifiers: We bought Avent bottles, so we figured Avent pacifiers would be good too. She likes them!
4. Wubbanub Pacifier: Every mom friend told me that we needed one of these. I can't tell if Miles prefers this to the regular pacifier just yet (all pacifiers are a win in her book), but she seems to be able to hold onto this one and keep it in her mouth a little better than the others. And I'm sure once she's old enough to realize that there's also a cute stuffed animal attached to it she'll be an even bigger fan.
5. Tummy Time Blanket: Be warned that this thing is WAY smaller than you might imagine (we were shocked when we opened it because we were picturing a large blanket...ha). But it's the perfect size for Miles and we'll lay her down on it a few times a day for tummy time. There's a mirror, some ribbons, crinkly paper, etc. for her to interact with (although at this point she really just lays on it and wiggles her floppy head around for a while and then cries when she gets tired).
6. Graco Swing: Another thing we were so fortunate to be able to borrow from a friend. Of the bouncy seat, swing, and rock n' play, this one is by far her favorite. She'll hang out in there looking very content for quite a long while and it's honestly been a life-saver. EVERY BABY IS DIFFERENT, but if you want my advice on the great swing vs. bouncer vs. rock n' play debate, I would probably suggest a swing and a bouncer. A bouncer because it's portable and versatile, and the swing because if your baby is like mine, it's one of the only things that calms her down when she gets worked up. Also, for those of you that are ballin' on a budget like us, look at consignment stores and ask friends if you can borrow theirs before you buy your own. You never know what your baby is going to like and it would be a bummer to spend big money on a swing that your baby doesn't even like sitting in.
7. Rock N' Play: This was something that seemingly everyone said was a mandatory purchase. The verdict? Miles likes it, but I might not say that it's a necessary buy. We live in a 3-story townhome so I keep this one on the main floor and the swing in our room (both are pretty bulky so it's nice to not have to haul one up and down the stairs). We clip the toy arch (see below) to this and she enjoys hanging out in there and looking around. Another FYI: a lot of people swear by this as a sleep aid but that was a big No-No from Dr. Beau and his stringent safe-sleep rules (the downside of marrying a pediatrician is that you can't get away with stuff). So Miles doesn't sleep in this...it's more of a place for her to hang out if I need to set her down somewhere.
8. Toy Arch: It looks like the Prime version of this may be sold out, so keep checking back for it to be re-stocked (it should be about $20 from what I recall). Miles is weirdly entertained by this and it easily clips onto her rock n' play, bouncy seat, etc.
9. Whozit: The first toy that Miles seemed to notice and she loves it! Lots of crinkly things to touch and crazy designs to look at. Babies are funny.
10. Jelly Cat Stuffed Animals: We got a few of these as gifts and they're all so adorable. I was a big stuffed animal fan as a kid and it looks like Miles is going to be as well. She particularly loves her Toothy Donkey which is so ridiculously cute.
11 & 12. Books: One of my favorite things about parenthood so far has been reading to Miles. It seems a bit silly to read to an infant who clearly has no idea what's going on, but apparently it's good for her development. And it's been good for MY development too because all of these books are SO DANG ADORABLE and have such positive messages. This one makes me laugh and this one makes me cry. But honestly, I love them all. If you're looking for a good gift to bring to a new parent, BOOKS all the way.
That's it for Part 1! I remember scouring the internet for registry guides, so I hope you'll find this to be helpful. As always, feel free to reach out in the comments or on instagram with any questions. I'd be more than happy to provide any more advice you need!
I'll be back with Part 2 (our favorite products for bath time, health & safety, diapering, feeding, and travel gear) soon. Stay tuned! :)
Love & Respect,
I took my first pregnancy test on April Fools Day, 2017. It was a little on the early side. I knew that the test would've been more accurate if I had waited a few more days, but I wanted to make an "April Fools, I'm pregnant" joke with Beau (except maybe I'd actually be pregnant).
It was negative. And I surprised myself by how bummed I was.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I wasn't even all that sure I wanted kids in the first place. I mean, I wanted them eventually. I couldn't picture my adult life without a relationship with my future adult children (the kind of relationship that I have now with my parents). I knew I wanted to cheer on my future kids during their soccer games, take them on lots of hiking adventures, and snuggle on the couch with a future daughter and watch bad TV shows like The Bachelor while painting our toenails (<—Beau's nightmare). But a newborn? Terrifying. I figured it'd just be a stage of life that I'd suffer through in order to reap the rewards later.
Anyway. The test was negative.
The very next morning, I woke up feeling weird. My boobs hurt so badly that I winced when I gave a friend a hug. Overall, I just felt off. And that was when I knew. I made myself wait a few more days to test again, just to ensure I didn't get what I assumed would be another false negative.
April 5th rolled around and I took another test. I didn't see anything right away, so I went downstairs to make some coffee. I came back upstairs later, glanced again at the test and did a double-take. It was faint. SUPER faint. But there was a second line! Holy crap.
Even though I had a feeling that I was pregnant, I was still shocked. I turned on this album by Caroline Spence (which will forever remind me of early pregnancy), pulled out a box from the closet with all of the letters that Beau had written to me in college, and just started reading. There was no way I was getting work done that day and I guess I wanted to feel sentimental. After my mushy moment with our old letters, I took off to shop for a onesie and some goodies to surprise Beau with when he got home from work.
Later that night, he walked in the door to a fresh made loaf of banana bread and a gift basket on the table. And that was when he knew (I wish I was the kind of wife who made banana bread on a whim, but I'm not, so that tipped him off). We sat down on the couch and he opened the card which officially revealed the big news. Now we were both in shock. :)
We cried, prayed for our future kiddo, and then sat there staring at each other not knowing what to do next. And so began this crazy journey!
I know that I promised to share all the good and positive stuff about pregnancy and motherhood, but that might need to come in later posts. Because friends, the first trimester was hard. There was the nausea, the weird achey boobs, the not-being-able-to-drink-beer and only-being-able-to-stomach-white-bread. But beyond all of that, the hardest part for me was not being able to widely share our news.
We decided to tell our families and a handful of close friends, but otherwise we would hold off until we had our first ultrasound (which unfortunately wasn't until 9 weeks). Beau felt more strongly about this than I did. Being in the medical field and all too familiar with the things that can go wrong during pregnancy, he didn't want to burden too many people with difficult news if something bad were to happen. Meanwhile, I'm an over-sharer (as you've probably noticed) and someone who processes things out loud. So as you can imagine, sitting with this HUGE, anxiety-provoking news for so long without being able to talk about it was quite a struggle for me.
I felt inauthentic when a friend would ask how I was doing and all I could say was "pretty good!", when in actuality, I was terrified. I was scared about whether or not the baby was healthy. I was worried that maybe we made a mistake and took this step before we were ready. I was really content with our life as a couple and fearful of how things would change. I wasn't looking forward to pushing a human out of my body and then feeding said human with my body. The list goes on and on.
Naturally, I channeled all of my anxious energy into going down black holes on the internet. Message boards, mommy blogs, articles about all the things I needed to be doing/feeling/buying in order to be a good mother. So here comes my first piece of advice: Don't Do That.
So now comes the part where I share my advice. The following is for all of those who are currently in the throes of the first trimester or those thinking about becoming pregnant. I hope you find some helpful advice or encouragement here. :)
Be careful about the information that you're putting into your brain. Choose a few trusted sources (my book/podcast/blog recommendations are below!), and then stop there. Message boards full of comments from anxious strangers on the internet are not allowed.
Whenever you feel comfortable with sharing your news, reach out to a friend who has gone down this path before you. My friends who were a few months ahead of me were so comforting and helpful, as were those who were already moms. I'm not sure how I would've fared without them.
If you're dealing with nausea, try to avoid having an empty stomach. I snacked on bland crackers all day and even kept a pack on my bedside table to eat if/when I woke up in the middle of the night. It sounds crazy, but it worked for me! Just beware of gratuitous bed crumbs.
Don't immediately go out and buy a bunch of maternity clothes. Whatever "bump" you might think you have at 9 weeks is going to get SO MUCH BIGGER and you can probably make your normal clothes work longer than you think. And once you share your news, you may even have friends offer to let you borrow their maternity clothes.
Stay active while you can! Get out for walks, jogs, hikes, yoga classes, etc. I was pregnant over the summer and really enjoyed swimming laps (even though I looked RIDICULOUS with my belly, floral one-piece, and swim cap). Exercising early and often helped ease pregnancy aches and pains, kept the weight gain manageable, and allowed me to continue exercising later in pregnancy (until those last few weeks when I basically lived in the bathtub). I've had a fairly easy postpartum recovery and I owe a lot of that to staying active/healthy during pregnancy.
This is one of my favorite pieces of advice that my friend Allison told me: Say "yes". Once that sweet little babe comes along you'll likely lose a bit of the spontaneity that you have now. If a friend invites you to go out at the last minute, if you're thinking about taking a big vacation, if your partner asks you out on a date night, etc., say yes! Contrary to popular belief, your social life won't be over when you have a kid (more on that in later posts), but it's just easier to say yes to those kind of things now. So take full advantage!
Try your best not to worry. It's true that a lot can go wrong, but if it does, it's more than likely not because of anything you did wrong. Do your research, do your best to reduce your risk (i.e. skipping alcohol, etc.), and then let everything else go.
Practice gratitude. I have a lot of dear friends who are trying to get pregnant, who have experienced miscarriages and even stillbirth. It was never lost on me how lucky I was (and not based on anything I did) to be pregnant. Yes, your pregnancy will likely come with some aches and pains, but try your best to remember what a miracle it is to be creating and sustaining life.
Extend grace, to yourself and those around you. Similar to above, this is such a joyful time, but it can be hard. It is not your fault that you feel tired, constipated, nauseated, but that may be your reality. Conversely, for all my friends who have struggled with fertility and miscarriage, I was tempted to feel a sort of guilt for my early pregnancy. After many conversations, I quickly learned that most of my guilt was self-imposed. That said, be gentle with those friends in your life; be measured but open with your joy; and most of all, be patient enough to hear their story and support them through it. Don't let your pregnancy become a wall in relationships, but a door through which you can grow more with moms and those who desire to be moms alike.
Know that it gets better. You'll (hopefully) stop feeling so sick. Your ambiguous is-she-pregnant-or-is-she-just-fat belly will start to feel cute. You'll be celebrated and supported by friends and family. You'll start to feel kicks and hiccups and everything will feel more real. Enjoy each week for what it brings and know that the difficult stuff doesn't last for long. You'll have that baby in your arms before you know it!
And lastly, here are some links to things I enjoyed and found to be helpful during the first trimester...
Books and Resources
The Motherbirth Podcast: My friends Mellisa and Laura started an incredible podcast all about pregnancy, birth, becoming a mother, etc., and amazingly, the first podcast came out right around the time that I found out I was pregnant. During that first trimester time period when we weren't talking about our pregnancy publicly, listening to these episodes felt like I was getting advice from a friend — something I was really craving.
Great with Child: A sweet book written by a mother to a newly pregnant friend. This one helped me look forward to the joys of motherhood (instead of focusing too much on the negative).
Nurture: A comprehensive guide to pregnancy, birth, and early motherhood. Highly, highly recommend this one!
Bringing up Bebe: A really engaging read about an American journalist's experience raising her children in Paris and all that she learned from French parenting.
Baby Gear Lab: If/when you start building your baby registry, we (Beau) loved this website for product reviews.
Amazon Baby Registry: Speaking of baby registries, we did ours via Amazon. They offer a 15% completion discount, a great "welcome box" with free products, as well as $100 in free diapers. I'll do a post soon about our registry favorites!
The Mama Notes: Another blog that I enjoyed. Caitlin had a baby girl the same week that I did, so I appreciated the timeliness of her posts. :)
The Bump app: The app I used for weekly pregnancy updates.
Products I loved
Bella Band: Helps extend the life of your pre-pregnancy jeans/shorts. Just wear this band over the waistband and unbutton. Also useful after holiday meals in the future.
Speaking of clothes, I enjoyed the excuse to play with my style a little bit. In the first and second trimesters, I stuck to regular clothes that were a bit more flowy and loose around the middle. Think stylish overalls (not an oxymoron, despite what Beau will tell you), jumpsuits, rompers, and big flowy tops. I can't find any links since they're all off sale now, but just wanted to mention that you don't have to stick to only "maternity" clothes. Look for things that will work during pregnancy and afterwards.
Benefiber: Because if you're anything like me, you'll probably be constipated. Sorry, TMI.
Prenatal Vitamins: Because the only way I reliably take vitamins is if they're in gummy form.
Pregnancy Tests: Dr. Beau told me to mention this: Don't waste your money on expensive pregnancy tests if you don't have to. Apparently they all work the same. These are the (cheap!) ones we used!
Soda Stream: I made a lot of sparkling water beverages to replace beer. Compromise=half-way happy (that's a Stranger Things reference).
Palmers Tummy Butter: Apparently this helps prevent stretch marks? I think it honestly has more to do with genetics than anything but I used this every day and thankfully didn't get any. Who knows?
Ginger Tea: Helped with nausea!
I believe that's everything! Thanks for reading and again, feel free to reach out if you'd like any advice or encouragement wherever you're at in your motherhood journey. I'd love to be a sounding board for you. :)
Be back soon with a post all about the second trimester.
Love & Respect,
I'm back! And I'm a mom now. What in the world? Sweet little Miles Elizabeth Gilmore joined us on December 12, 2017, and we are forever changed.
I've debated writing about my pregnancy, birth, and motherhood experiences for a while and initially thought I'd keep these musings to myself. Why? Lots of reasons:
Because this blog is already so all over the place. Everything I've read about starting a blog and building a "brand" harps on the importance of finding a single focus. With posts about my artwork, people who inspire me, my experience as a resident's wife, etc....well, I'm far from focused. :)
I want to respect Miles' privacy. I would hate for her to read this blog in 15 years and be mortified by my detailed descriptions of her pooping all over herself during brunch (which has happened twice by the way. Sorry, kiddo).
Most importantly, I don't want to add to the culture of comparison that seems to surround motherhood. I imagine that it will be difficult to find that balance of writing honestly about my experiences without making myself and others feel insecure.
Despite these hesitations, my heart has continually been pulled towards sharing. I want to remember this strange, sweet season of life, and I find that I process my feelings best through writing.
And even more so, I want to be an honest and encouraging voice in this space (a voice that I wish I had had, especially during early pregnancy). Because, y'all, I was terrified.
I always wanted to want to have kids, but if I'm totally honest with you, I never really had that desire. I didn't grow up babysitting; I thought (and still think) that puppies are way cuter than babies; and I often made up excuses to get out of holding my friends' newborns (their floppy heads, unpredictable moods, and gratuitous body fluids are very anxiety provoking for me).
And what makes an already awkward-around-kids pregnant lady feel even more insecure? Being married to a damn pediatrician. My husband, Beau, is a total pro. Which should have made me feel grateful, relieved, etc. (it does now!), but instead just made me feel like less of a woman. For instance at one of our childbirth classes, Beau and the rest of the moms were hands-on and involved, eagerly changing diapers and swaddling baby dolls. Meanwhile, I was sitting back with most of the dads, nervously scarfing down my leftover pizza from lunch and hoping that these "mama-instincts" that everyone talks about would someday kick in.
People love to talk about how difficult motherhood can be. And it is, y'all. It really is. But I was underprepared for how incredibly joyful it is, too. And that's what I want to write about. How a totally clueless, insecure, and anxious expectant mama like me could come to love being a mom more than I ever could have imagined.
I want to be honest about the hard stuff, sure, but I want to talk about the beautiful, sweet, transformative, good stuff too. Because I imagine I'm not the only one who felt this way (TELL ME I'm not the only one, guys).
So, why am I calling this series "Part of Me"? The day before my water broke, Beau and I opened up to some of our dear friends and mentors, Hope and Greg, about how anxious I was feeling about all the things — birth, being a mom, breastfeeding (I'll keep my nipples to myself, thankyouverymuch), etc.
And Greg said the most beautiful words, which I probably won't do justice here but I'll try. He said something along the lines of this:
"Here's what's beautiful about having a kid: Miles will always be a part of you and a part of Beau. Nothing can ever separate the Beau from her and nothing can ever separate the Lindsay from her. She's a physical manifestation of your love for each other and of God's love for us."
Whoa. His words brought an immediate sense of peace (and tears, because literally everything makes me cry these days). What a beautiful sentiment that this little girl is a part of me. A part of us. And that I was about to discover a whole new part of me for the first time--the part that is a mother.
So yeah, I'm going to start writing. I won't promise to write on a weekly basis or on any sort of schedule (because #momlife and I'm working on being realistic about my ability to balance all the things). But know that more thoughts are coming. And please, please, don't hesitate to reach out if any of this resonates and you're feeling equally anxious. I don't promise to have all the answers (I'm only a month in afterall), but I'd love to chat and at the very least, help you to feel a little less alone. Until next time, my friends!
Love & Respect,
Friends! For those who don't know us personally and/or haven't seen the copious photos I've posted on my personal instagram account, guess what? I'm totally pregnant. :)
Now, I don't want to use my future child as an excuse before she's even made her appearance in the world, but...I'm definitely about to. Life has been full-blown crazy between balancing work, prepping for a baby (both emotionally and otherwise!), and trying to fully be present in these last few months that Beau and I have, just the two of us. And as you may or may not have noticed, this poor little blog has been put on the back-burner as a result.
In an effort to create some more space in our lives, I'm going to officially put the blog on hold for a season. To be totally honest with you, I don't have the time to put good content out there for you right now. And I want what I'm putting into the world to be worth the time that you're so generously taking out of YOUR day to read. So, I'll be back when I have something worthwhile to say. And I'm sure with all of the big changes in store for us, I'll have a LOT that I'll want to process in writing. :)
One other little note about the Marriage & Medicine series, while I'm on the topic. Beau and a few dear friends have lovingly told me recently that they want to hear more of my voice in this space. For that reason, I've decided to also put a pause on guest posts and interviews for now. I'll be dreaming up a way to bring these back in a bigger/better way while I'm on my little blog break, but in the meantime, I'd love to share any helpful links with y'all as I come across them.
For example, a sweet new friend I was introduced to via the Marriage & Medicine instagram account (hi, Taylor!) has a super charming blog about her experience being married to a med school student. This post in particular resonated with me (and made me laugh), so be sure to head on over and check it out.
Feel free to check out some posts from the archives to tide you over while I'm gone, and if you want to keep up with what's going on with us, feel free to follow along with our journey into parenthood over on instagram. :)
Thanks for all of the love and support, friends. Looking forward to writing more for you soon.
Love & Respect,
P.S. If you're an art/illustration client of mine, I WILL be putting up a little blog post about how I'm going to be handling custom orders this Holiday season. Baby girl is due in December, so my cutoff for Christmas orders is going to be a lot earlier than usual. Stay tuned for more details!
You guys. I'm sorry. It's been a LONG time since you've heard from me. I do have some good excuses though.
1. I'm pregnant. :)
2. Work has picked up a ton. I'm grateful.
3. We've been traveling a lot! I spent some time in Ocracoke, NC for my brother's wedding in May, and then Beau and I spent his vacation in the French Alps (!!!) with our best friends and their family. It's been a great summer.
So yeah, speaking of travel...let's chat about it! Travel is a huge passion of ours and I feared that we wouldn't be able to do much of it during residency. Because, well, residents are poor (ha) and don't have a lot of time off. But I'm here to tell you that you can TOTALLY do it. And we've done a lot of it. Want proof?
In the past 3 years of residency, we've:
1. Backpacked and hiked through Glacier National Park in Montana
2. Skied and snowboarded at Whistler in Vancouver, Canada
3. Backpacked the Napali Coast and visited a dear friend in Hawaii (and then I went back one more time without Beau. Oops?)
4. Visited some friends and did some great hiking in Denver, Colorado
5. Road tripped down the California coast with stops at Big Sur, San Francisco and Sonoma
6. Back to Denver for some skiing and another visit with friends
7. Spent a few days at Priest Lake in Idaho with residency friends.
8. Rented a beach house in Southern California with some of our best friends from college
9. Road tripped through New Haven CT, Portland ME and Boston MA to visit some of our best friends from medical school.
10. Adventured through northern and central Vietnam
11. And most recently, that ol' trip to the French Alps
This list doesn't even include an annual trip back to Georgia to visit our families for Christmas (and I usually go solo at least 1-2 additional times per year). Not to mention numerous weekend trips to nearby destinations such as Bend, the Oregon Coast, Hood River, Smith Rock and Seattle.
If you're a current or soon-to-be resident, I hope this list encourages you! And while you may want to punch me in the face after reading that, I promise you, we are not wealthy (far from it) and Beau only has 3-4 assigned weeks of vacation per year. Want to know my tips on how to make this happen for yourself? Good, cause imma' tell you.
That whole money thing
It's true. Sadly, you need money to travel. And even more sadly (cool grammar usage, Lindsay), if you're anything like us, you probably don't have a lot of it. Contrary to those rumors about the luxurious life of a doctor's wife, I was the SOLE financial provider for four years during medical school. We even had to have my parents co-sign our lease on a 1-bedroom ON CAMPUS apartment in Virginia because our landlord said that I didn't make enough money to reliably pay for rent (we did, thankyouverymuch). So that was fun.
While you do receive a salary during residency, it probably ends up being a few bucks an hour if you break it down to how much you're working vs. how much you're being paid. And then there's the whole $100,000-$200,000 in medical school debt. Which is a whole 'nother story for a whole 'nother day.
I feel like I've gotten the point across. The travel budget isn't huge.
So, my first tip is to figure out your priorities. We value travel, so that's where our expendable income goes. We don't buy organic or shop at the fancy grocery stores. We go out to eat MAYBE once a week. I shop for clothes around twice a year and I've never been able to justify paying more than $30 for a shirt. Most of our furniture came from ikea or craigslist. You get the picture.
Second tip: camping is your friend. We genuinely love backpacking and camping, so that's been a GREAT way to avoid spending money on hotel rooms.
Third tip: visit your friends! Chances are, many of your medical school friends dispersed all over the country (did I mention my friend in Hawaii?). Take advantage of that! Visiting friends is a win-win-win...not only do you have a free place to stay, but you also get to spend time with WONDERFUL people who you likely haven't seen in a while and get a local's perspective on wherever you're visiting. Do it.
(note that as a result of camping and visiting friends, we only paid for lodging on 4 of those 11 trips I mentioned above. WIN.)
Fourth tip: go to Vietnam. Okay, that sounds ridiculous, but let me explain. It cost us $200 LESS per person to fly to Vietnam than it did to fly to Atlanta for Christmas. And then when we arrived, our mid-range hotels (which included breakfast) were $10-$14 a night. Beer was 50 cents. Dinners out were $3/person. THIS IS NOT A JOKE. While it sounds so extravagant, Vietnam was one of our least expensive trips we've done. Look for affordable destinations...I assure you that they're out there!
Fifth tip: Say yes to opportunities. Sometimes you just get lucky and your best friend invites you to the French Alps with her family. SAY YES TO THIS. Obviously this isn't a tip that everyone can necessarily follow, but I think the heart behind it is to be willing to say yes to traveling. Residency is tiring and time is tight. If travel is a value for you, you have to make time for it.
That whole time off thing
It's true, you don't have a ton of time off during residency. The other strange thing is that you're typically assigned WHEN you can take a vacation. But here's how residency has benefitted us — because your time is limited, you value it more.
We've been trained to take no free moment for granted. Heck, even a weekend when Beau has both days off is CELEBRATED and lived to the full. I think we've squeezed more "life" into less time than we ever did before we started this whole medical journey. And that's awesome.
Plus, I honestly think that Beau's program has a fairly generous vacation policy. We get three weeks/year (assigned...so you can't necessarily choose when) + 5 days of a holiday block (meaning you either work the 5 days around Christmas or New Years, but you get the other 5 days off). I don't believe that's much different than many jobs in other industries. Be encouraged!
That whole planning ahead thing
Plan ahead, my friends! Beau's schedule for the following year comes out every Spring. And we usually have our entire year of vacations picked out shortly thereafter. Mostly because we're both insane, type-A freaks, but, I will say that it has truly helped us commit to places we want to go and make the most out of our limited time together.
I have more time on my hands than Beau does these days, so I've stepped into the role of family trip planner. I'll typically email friends who have visited our destinations in the past, search around the internet (tripadvisor.com! travel guides from trusted sources!), and for bigger trips like Vietnam, we'll often purchase a Lonely Planet book.
We usually have no more than a single week to spend in these places (the fact that we did Vietnam in 8 days is kind of insane), so we end up packing a lot of activity into a short amount of time. And the reality is, that requires planning ahead. We didn't waste a second of our time in Vietnam sitting around and wondering what to do, because we had made the majority of those decisions (and pre-booked a lot of the associated logistics) beforehand.
Moral of the story? You can totally do this. Being a resident (or being married to one) doesn't mean that you have to miss out on adventure. I promise. :)
Oh, and P.S., if you ever want any specific travel advice about any of the destinations I mentioned above, I'd be happy to chat! I even have some pretty type-A google docs that I'd be happy to share with you. Just shoot me an email or leave me a comment on the social medias.
Get out there and see the world, my friends. It's always worth it.
Love & Respect,
I feel so grateful to have so many folks willing to contribute to the Marriage & Medicine series. The more voices we have speaking into this space, the better, and today is no exception. Here to chat about her experience as the wife of a urology resident is my dear friend Lauren Carnes! Lauren is no stranger to this blog...in fact, she was the VERY FIRST person that I interviewed last year as a part of the Celebration Series (check it out if you'd like!).
Lauren and I met in college and have stayed in touch over the years as we've travelled very similar paths (get married, support husband through medical school and again through residency, start a business, work from home, get a dog and snuggle him/her all day long. You know, as you do. In all seriousness, Lauren has always been a few steps ahead of me in the business-building realm and I've benefitted immensely from her advice and wisdom over the years. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive friend who knows exactly what I'm going through...because she's lived it herself.
That's really my vision for this space. That we can find, virtually or otherwise, people who have been exactly where we are and can speak into our lives when we're dealing with the hard stuff.
Alright, enough rambling...let's get into the interview!
Tell us a little bit about yourself. How long have you and your partner been together? Where are you in the medical journey?
Hi friends, I’m Lauren Carnes! I’m a photographer & communications strategist working from home with our sweet yellow lab rescue pup, Sophie. My husband, Chip, and I originally met in college (where Lindsay & I were sorority sisters, and her husband Beau and Chip were fraternity brothers actually!). But our story has a fun little international twist to it… in fact, we had all of the same friends, but somehow never had met during my first two years of college.
Just before a summer of studying abroad, we discovered we’d be on the same trip and briefly ran into each other during a big cycling race one weekend in downtown Athens, GA. However, we didn’t truly meet until we were roaming the orange-tree lined streets of Sevilla, Spain during our 2 months abroad.. I was going into my Junior year, and he was preparing for his Senior year, which meant lots of talk of medical school applications, interviews, and more. That summer of 2009 was a pretty magical one, I won’t lie. I mean, who doesn’t want a summer romance that lasts a lifetime? When we returned from our summer of studying abroad, life looked a little different once school began again. However, one thing was for sure when interview season came around: we were in this together, and I was ready for whatever the medical journey had in store for us.
He was accepted into the first class of a new partnership between the Medical College of Georgia & University of Georgia, and we opted for staying in Athens for 4 more years. Not long after I graduated, he popped the question, and we got married 5 years ago on March 10, 2012, just a couple months before Step 1 of the Boards. Anyone who remembers that time knows that Boards prep means endless studying with few breaks. It certainly wasn’t easy, but the dedication to teamwork was, and still is, the only way this medical journey has been made possible for us, our marriage, and our lives.
Chip now is a 3rd year (of 5) Urology resident at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, GA. We’re already exploring potential options for once he finishes, and it actually blows my mind to think that one day he’ll be finished with school & training!
What has been the hardest part of the medical journey?
Immediately upon return from our honeymoon, Boards were looming. Studying was a full day event, and I remember having a hard time with reframing my expectations of the “newlywed” life. While there were certainly times we would get to enjoy relaxing together and visit farmers markets, adventure, and travel on the weekend, most of his hours were spent in his office with test prep books and quizzing notecards over dinner. Nobody said it would be easy to marry into medicine, but I also remember how much I wanted to find ways to help Chip focus well so that we could get back to our “honeymoon phase” quickly!
During that season I quickly learned how I could support him best: preparing dinner so he was able to truly check out of studying for 30 minutes each evening, keeping myself busy with friends and hobbies so he felt less guilty about his long hours (in fact, this was when I started exploring photography!), and even letting him share about what he was learning during his long hours of test prep. I could resent his schooling, or I could see it as an investment he was making for our future family. When I turned the tables to see it as the latter, “he” quickly became “we.” I learned the value of cheering him on in his endeavors – through the great days and the really hard ones – knowing full well that all of this time and effort (and a few tears from me) would be worth it and would make us stronger as a couple.
How do you find joy in your circumstances?
Like I mentioned, I firmly believe in the power of teamwork and of finding what makes you and your season of life unique. Residency isn’t easy. It’s not uncommon that people’s jaws drop when I tell him he will have 9 years of post-college schooling/training before officially being an attending physician. It’s a long haul, but there is also joy in the process. We’ve made some of our dearest friends through the medical journey: couples we likely would never have connected with had we not been through this process together.
Plus, I’ve been challenged to step outside of my comfort zone during this season to pursue a business that lets us live wherever his career calls. I went from working a traditional 9-to-5 to working for myself shooting everything from weddings to food photography, and consulting other businesses on marketing and communications. I don’t know if I would have been so bold to pursue these opportunities had Chip’s career not prompted a move and a change. Plus, teamwork goes both ways. Yes, I support him in his medical journey, but he also supports me entirely in my adventures as a small business owner! I find the joy in the day-to-day growth of our lives and marriage that reaps rewards and benefits far beyond the date he received the coveted MD at the end of his name.
What’s something you’ve learned about yourself and/or your relationship lately?
I recently started asking Chip one particular question every day after work. I’m an extrovert, so sitting at home by myself all day can definitely result in a waterfall of conversation the minute his key clicks in the door. Chip is right smack dab in the center of the Myers-Briggs scale – 50% Introvert, 50% Extrovert, but after a long day at the hospital, he needs a bit of down time. So instead of flooding him with questions, I’ve picked one single question that has made all the difference in our family.
“What is the most interesting or terrible thing that you did, saw, or experienced today?”
It sounds simple, but that one question gives endless insight into the type of day Chip had at the hospital. It highlights anything that we can celebrate together, and also gives insight into if it was just a particularly tough day. I’ve learned that different communication styles and personality types respond to excitement and stress differently, so this question has been crucial in our marriage to set the tone for the evening!
And on top of it, it’s prompted an equally unique question from his end: “What is one thing you learned today?” And do you know what I love most about that question? Chip’s a forever learner, and it makes me smile getting to discuss something that sparked interest or education in our lives each day!
What’s the best advice you could give to someone else in your shoes?
Find something that lights your soul on fire. On those long days (and nights!), having something that not only keeps you busy, but also fuels your purpose, can make all the difference during the medical journey. Make plans with others, and keep them, even if your partner gets called in to the hospital or runs late in surgery. Believe the best in your partner… I promise, they don’t want to be studying or working long hours any more than you don’t want them to be. ;) And finally, remember that teamwork really makes the dream work. Support, encourage, and celebrate one another every day, even when it’s tough. This is just a season, and the days are long, but the years are short.
Hi friends! The Marriage & Medicine series is back with another guest post and I couldn't be more excited to introduce you to Christine Diaz! Christine and I met...get this...on a cruise in Halong Bay, Vietnam this past February. While Christine and Hery were also in Vietnam for vacation at the time, these two have turned travel into a full-time job. Hery is a travel nurse, meaning they are packing up and moving every few months. As you can imagine, this has some serious positives and a handful of negatives as well. When Christine reached out and offered to to write about their experiences and give some advice, I jumped at the chance. I know that anyone in a similar situation (whether you or your partner are a travel nurse, member of the military, or in ANY job that operates on short term contracts) will strongly relate. Alright, enough from me...let's get into Christine's essay. Enjoy!
I’m the wife of a pediatric oncology travel nurse – and if you don’t know what a travel nurse is, don’t worry! I didn’t either until my husband became one. Here’s a quick intro: A travel nurse works for an agency (or sometimes multiple agencies) to fill short-term contracts, providing temporary support. These contracts range from one to several months, with the typical contract (in our experience) lasting 13 weeks. Travel nurses have several years of experience and have a specialty – this is crucial when you’re jumping into a new hospital with only three days training and orientation at most. We accept assignments across the country, and with my husband’s specialty, we tend to end up in children’s hospitals located in major metropolitan areas.
Now why would someone want to become a travel nurse? While it definitely grows you professionally and provides a cool opportunity to see the country, the major reason for most, in all honesty, is the pay. Travel nurses fill in for a critical need and are compensated accordingly. In addition, they are offered generous moving, housing, and living stipends. This was the dominant factor in Hery’s and my decision to pursue travel nursing, as he acquired a significant (understatement) amount of student loan debt in undergrad.
Hery accepted his first contract as a travel nurse in late 2014, three months before our wedding. I was finishing up in graduate school, so he sojourned in Omaha, Nebraska on his own while I focused on my thesis and wrapping up the final details of our wedding while living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Since then, we have lived in Alexandria, Virginia; Arlington, Virginia; Denver, Colorado; and Los Angeles, California. We’ve taken the past 4 months “off” to travel abroad, but we’re gearing up for a new assignment when we return to the States in May.
Now I know Lindsay already wrote a post about moving for your partner’s career, but I think I can add to the conversation as someone who moves up to four times a year. First I’ll address the practical – how do we even handle the logistics of this? Then I’ll finish up with a little raw, honesty about the pros and cons of this lifestyle. Hopefully this will help any of you who are considering becoming a travel nurse but wondering how it will impact your family or your partner is interested in making this career move (moving pun shamelessly intended).
Quick logistical tips on relocating every three or so months:
1. Hold off on adopting Lassie (or Mr. Ed or Grumpy Cat).
Short term housing is tough enough without having to worry if it’s pet friendly or not. The frequent moves can also be stressful on your furball, causing issues with potty training or behavior.
2. Embrace minimalism.
This one is fun because slow-living, intentional and responsible consumerism, minimalism, and capsule wardrobes are all trending topics right now – and can really enhance your life! I can’t stress enough the importance of whittling down your physical belongings to the essentials. Packing up all you own into boxes, toting them up or down several flights of stairs, stuffing them into your car, becoming a contortionist to fit the boxes in said car while you drive to your new home – possibly hundreds of miles away – and then unpacking those boxes four times a year is tough. Moving day is not my favorite day. But the less you have, the easier it is. Plus, renting a U-Haul every time will add up. If you’re in this career for the financial gains, living with less will not only save you money (and headaches) during moving day, but the habit will also help you achieve your long term monetary goals, as you’re likely to spend less over the course of the year. Suddenly you think twice about acquiring those boots, that flower pot, or another book when you know you’ll have to cram it into your car on moving day. That being said, don’t deprive yourself of books (obtaining a local library membership is a priority for me as soon as we move!) and things that make your apartment feel homey and familiar. Do make space for a favorite potted plant, a framed photo or painting, or your beloved KitchenAid mixer. But choose just a couple of these special items to take with you to make your house a home. Consider donating or selling unnecessary items, or store investment pieces that you’ll want in a later season of life in a family member’s storage room or garage if possible (I’m looking at you, wedding china). Check out Un-fancy, Becoming Minimalist, and Be More With Less for resources and inspo for your minimalism journey.
3. Rent furnished apartments with month-to-month leases.
Not having to move furniture is imperative. We have travel nurse friends who rent unfurnished apartments, bringing a bean bag chair and an air mattress with them as their only furniture. They’re tough stuff. I’m not tough stuff. I want to be relatively comfortable in my own home. So if you’re like me, look for furnished apartments. We’ve had luck with longterm rentals on Airbnb, finding month-to-month furnished apartments on Craigslist, or sub-leasing. I find subleasing to be most successful in university areas, as there’s a constant flux of people moving in and out for temporary periods like a sabbatical, an internship, a fellowship, a summer at home, etc. To make the place feel more familiar, I always bring my own linens, regardless if the owner is offering or providing their own. It’s a priority for me to sleep in my own bedding, on my favorite pillow, and use my soft, plush towels. Figure out what’s important for you!
Okay, now for that raw bit I promised you:
1. Making friends is hard.
Or at least, it takes time, and it’s not quite as simple as it was in college. You have to be intentional about it. For me, this means I quickly identify a church to attend every weekend and see if there is a small group that caters to the 20s-30s crowd. I also try to find a yoga studio and get a monthly membership – I might become friends with the regulars after a couple weeks of classes. I check out my social media network to see if any old friends or acquaintances are now calling this same city home – and if so, I take the initiative and invite them to an activity. Finally, I give myself permission to be a tourist in my new city – BY MYSELF. Chances are, I’ll be more open to having a conversation with a random person at the local art museum or café if I attend alone, and we probably have a common interest. I’ll be honest, I struggle with this one because it takes time to find “your people,” and three months isn’t very much time. But it forces me to connect with and potentially impact the lives of others that I probably wouldn’t have normally in my own close, comfortable circle of friends.
2. Work online.
If you want to pursue your own career while your partner is a travel nurse, it will be worlds easier if you’re able to work remotely. This is great for freelance writers, editors, and copywriters (ahem, me!); freelance graphic designers, illustrators, and developers; self-employed individuals (artists, consultants, bloggers, etc.); those who work for remote companies; those who teach or tutor online; etc. There are really tons of possibilities in today’s working culture with social media, the internet, digital project management and communication tools...You just have to be creative and persistent.
3. You’ll grow closer to your partner than ever before.
This is super sappy and cliché, but home becomes where your loved one is. When you don’t have many close friends or family nearby, you turn to your beloved for friendly convos, advice, and fun outings more than ever before. You really learn to rely on each other, spend time together, and to communicate with each other – you have to in order to survive this crazy career choice! You also have the chance to explore new places together – three months is a great amount of time to dig into a location and get to know its character and community. Who knows, you might even find the place you want to settle down, buy a house, and adopt Lassie!
We’re just one example of a couple living the travel nurse lifestyle. There are many others, some with kids, some with traditional careers, and even some with pets. All in all, you have to commit to being creative, open-minded, and adventurous. And if you have any questions about living as the spouse of a travel nurse, shoot me an email or find me on Instagram! I’d love to hear from you!
CHRISTINE. I cannot thank you enough. Your advice is gold and surely so helpful for others in a similar situation. Thank you for your honesty and for taking the time to be a part of this community. Oh, and happy travels to you and Hery! :)
Love & Respect,
Hi friends! Today in the Hunger and Hope series Joshua Thomas is telling his story about becoming an advocate, voice, and ally to those experiencing hunger. Hearing these stories — the "why" that's driving these folks to become advocates for change — has been super motivating and humbling for me. I hope you're getting as much out of it this project as I am. And now onto the story... :)
Joshua’s Story on Becoming an Advocate, a Voice and an Ally
It was not until I started volunteering at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon that I discovered my passion for food justice. Raising awareness about hunger and connecting people to nutrition programs led me to reveal my own personal connection with food insecurity. The safety net that nutrition programs provided for my family is why I'm passionate about supporting these programs.
Born in Galesburg, Illinois in a working class family, my parents lived paycheck to paycheck with virtually no savings, to provide for my brother and I. At ten years old, my parents divorced and my mom, brother and I moved from a three story townhouse to a trailer. To help make ends meet, my mom applied for food stamps and housing vouchers. Since my mom was receiving child support making seven dollars an hour as a home care assistant, we were only eligible for a small amount of food stamps, which barely covered our food budget.
Although we still struggled time to time, food stamps and the housing vouchers contributed to keeping us afloat. We were able to pay for our basic necessities to live a semi-healthy life. After living in the trailer for two years, the housing vouchers made it possible for us to move into a three bedroom house. My mom was even offered a full time job as a Certified Nurse Assistant at a local hospital. At the moment, everything seemed to be looking up for my small family.
As a result of my mom getting a new job, we lost the safety net that had kept us afloat. We were no longer eligible for food stamps and housing vouchers, although we were only a few percentages above the poverty income level. And since we lost the vouchers, my mom struggled to pay the rent for the house. On occasion, she had had to choose between buying groceries and paying rent.
After we lost food stamps, we began going to a local food pantry to receive food boxes. As a teenager at the time, I felt ashamed and embarrassed that we received food assistance. To prevent my friends and other classmates from finding out that we were food insecure, I avoided having friends over to our house. It was bad enough that my brother and I wore donated clothes from family members and clothing closets.
Now, as a Hunger-Free Leadership Fellow at Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and a staff member at the Oregon Food Bank, I am often reminded of my own personal story that has led me to this career path of being an advocate, a voice and an ally to the many people experiencing food insecurity. The importance of these nutrition programs that have been designed to assist struggling individuals and families is the driving force that keeps me inspired, curious and hopeful in this fight to end hunger.
Love & Respect,
Hi, friends! I'm thrilled to be introducing you to my dear friend Kirby Nelson today as the first guest-writer in the Marriage & Medicine series. Kirby is a new mama and is as kind, laid-back and relate-able as can be. Her husband Jacob is about to finish residency in a few months (WHAT), so she's been paving the way for me since we first were introduced by mutual friends. I've learned so much from her (whether she knows it or not) over the past few months and I knew I had to have her share some of that wisdom with y'all too. I love the advice that she shares about letting go of expectations, especially in light of her new role as a working mom. Enjoy!
For most people who start a new job, it can be expected that you know what time you start work and what time you finish. Unfortunately, this is not the case for residents. When my husband started residency, we had hopeful, but unreasonable, expectations regarding what we anticipated his schedule to be like. For example, when his inpatient schedule noted that sign-out to the next shift would be at six, I assumed that I could expect him home by seven. I quickly learned that an internal medicine residency does not operate on this sort of timetable.
I would frequently ask or text him, "When are you going to be home tonight?" Unfortunately, the time he would expect to be out of work seldom occurred; either a late consult came up, a patient presented with more problems than originally expected, the list of delays he encountered at the hospital would go on and on. Initially, I found myself becoming very resentful of him and his career choice. I felt he was unreliable and not focused enough to get his work done to be home when he had expected.
In January 2016, we found out we were pregnant with our first child. Jacob was half way through his residency at this point and we were both nervous about how his schedule would impact our growing family, especially since we were still struggling to adapt. During my pregnancy, Jacob began connecting with other residents and physicians, asking about their experiences regarding working long hours while also raising a family. One physician's comments really resonated with Jacob. She told him that after the birth of her first child, she struggled when returning to work; she felt pressure to get home as soon as possible while feeling unsatisfied with quality of work she was getting done. Even though she was home earlier, she felt distracted and not present. She told Jacob that she finally realized that she learned that she needed to be completely present when she was at work, focused on the tasks at hand, so in return, she could be completely present at home with her baby and her husband.
Together, after reflecting on this advice, Jacob and I determined that we were better served in our marriage if we had no expectations regarding the timetable of the residency schedule. We have found that Jacob doesn't feel rushed to get home and leave things unfinished or not completed to his usual standards. As a result, he is able to be more present at home and not worried about how he left things at work. For me, I have learned that having Jacob home at 9:00 PM and not distracted is better for our relationship than having him physically, but not mentally, at home potentially a little earlier.
Since our daughter, Thatcher, was born, we have continued to adhere to this mindset, although some days are more challenging than others. There are days when I feel like a single parent, especially when its solely up to me to get her ready in the morning, do the daycare drop-off and pick-up, and put her to bed. This all needs to be done while also fitting in a full day at my own job while also making dinner and getting other household jobs done. There are also weeks when Jacob works nights and Thatcher and I may not see him for days. Although these days can sometimes seem isolating, I have come to value my support system in our friends and faith community. I have no qualms in reaching out to friends to come to my house for dinner after I put Thatcher to bed, even at times requiring friends of mine to make me dinner in my own home, while I soak up the adult conversation! I also make sure to connect with spouses of other residents for coffee and baby play dates, knowing that they also understand this unique period of life.
As a result of having no expectations, I have come to truly value the time we are able to spend together as a family when Jacob has a day off, even if its only one day a week. We enjoy cooking together, going on hikes, and playing with Thatcher. We take full advantage; these days together are full of love and gratitude.
Jacob will be finished with residency this summer and has accepted a position as a hospitalist. We are thrilled he will be working less than he did during residency but we are still aware that there will still be busy shifts that will require his time and attention. But above it all, I know that with our no expectation mindset, when he is home, he will be completely present, as the most attentive and loving husband and father.
Kirby, I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to share some of your wisdom and advice. I'm sure I can speak for many of us when I say that we're grateful for your gentle reminders and encouragement. :)
If you'd ever like to contribute to Marriage & Medicine with an essay of your own, or if you'd like to be interviewed, please let me know! The more voices we have in this corner of the internet, the better.
Love & Respect,
If you've been reading this blog or following along on instagram for a while, you've probably gotten the hint that I'm quite an optimist. Don't get me wrong, I definitely let my fair share of trivial things get to me (ask Beau about the time that I accidentally kicked his roommate's dog while playing fetch and LOST IT over the fact that that must mean that I'd be a horrible mother one day). I guess what I mean is this: when I'm going through really hard things, I do such a good job of convincing myself that everything is fine that I become completely unaware of reality.
Sure, this is probably helpful in terms of coping ("Everything's fine! We're having fun! Look over there!"), but as I've gotten older, I'm understanding the importance of sitting in those hard moments and waiting to understand what I should be learning from them.
Quite a lead-in for a post about Match Day, isn't it? :)
But I think it's more than appropriate because the months leading up to Match Day were enough to reduce this forever-optimist to a complete mess of emotions. And if you're reading this right now and anticipating the big day tomorrow, I'm sure you know exactly what I mean.
It's such a strange feeling to have ZERO control over such a huge life decision. It's hard to come to terms with the fact that you'll be leaving people that you love, a perfect job, a place that you've come to call home, all at the mercy of a magical computer system that tells you where you're contractually bound to move. Not to mention the fact that everything I heard about residency at that point was complete doom and gloom.
Here are some of the fears that kept me up at night:
"I'm going to be forced to leave a place that I love to be all alone on the other side of the country while Beau works all the time"
"What if we end up somewhere we hate?"
"What if we never find 'our people' there"?
"I'm ALWAYS going to be sacrificing for Beau. When will a big decision ever be made based on my desires/career aspirations?"
Among many, many more. And these thoughts were constantly on my mind...from the moment we left our last residency interview all the way up until the week of the Match.
Looking back, this was one of those rare times that I allowed myself to really feel the emotions that I was having. And as hard as that was for someone like me, I'm grateful for it. Because it taught me how to work through a difficult season in a way that didn't involve avoiding the hard stuff or distracting myself with shiny things.
So how did I work through it? Honestly, I prayed about it a lot.
If you're not a spiritual person, please know that this isn't me saying that it's the only solution, it's just the approach that I took. But I do think there's some wisdom in this, so just hear me out. :)
I'm a person who loves to be in control. I love the fact that I have my s*** together. So yeah, it's no surprise that taking away every ounce of control brought me to a place of complete desperation. A desperation deep enough that it reminded me of the importance of surrendering to something greater than myself. Recognizing my lack of control, I began to ask God that I would trust him again. That I would find peace in knowing that we would end up where we should. That there would be something for me wherever we ended up, a purpose for me that he had designed and would see through.
Do you think I'm a crazy person yet? As you can tell by all of my asides, I'm typically not very comfortable talking about my faith publicly. I don't like how the media portrays Christians and if I'm totally honest with you, I haven't felt very proud to call myself one lately. But I just cannot deny how transformative this season of prayer was for me.
I slowly began to feel peace. I began to trust that we'd be okay. I realized that I didn't have to be a victim waiting for a Match Day sentence. Instead, I had control over how I could respond to the situation. I began to see the positive, the opportunities for us to grow closer as a couple, and if you can believe it, I actually got to a place where I was excited about Match Day.
The day of the Match, a bunch of our friends had brunch together and then nervously walked/ran over to the Medical Education Building for the ceremony. We were sitting next to some of our very best friends, who had the same #1 choice as we did — OHSU in Portland. With only 12 spots in the program, we had been holding onto a sinking feeling that only one of us would get matched there. They were couples matching, so there was just no way that a program would take three kids from UVA to fill only 12 spots.
The time came to open our envelopes and I swear, I feel like I blacked out. There were a few seconds of silence, filled only by the sound of 150 students quickly ripping into their envelopes. And then came the screams. :)
Beau tore into his envelope and, eyes scanning the page, we were elated to find that we had gotten a spot at OHSU! But that excitement quickly transitioned to regret, because we assumed that that had meant that dear friends sitting next to us didn't get spots there too. Little did I know, they were sitting next to us thinking the exact same thing(!!!).
Yep, we freaking matched with our best friends. As soon as we realized this, I unleashed the since patented "yell cry". And it sounded like exactly what you are imagining (but probably even more shrill and hysterical). It was, in all honestly, probably the most emotional moment of my life to date. Such a release of all the worry, fear and anxiety that I had been carrying with me over the past few months. I will never, ever forget it.
I hesitated to tell our personal story because it definitely won't represent everyone's story. Not everyone will get their first choice (or even second). Not everyone will know someone who matched into the same program. We had friends who were thrilled at their results, friends who were shocked but still optimistic, friends who were really disappointed. But I'm NOT lying when I say to you that each and every one of our friends, now almost three years into residency, is happy where they ended up.
So, as a partner leading into tomorrow, here's my advice. Be supportive. Try not to make it about you. Celebrate your partner and how far they've come in their career...this is a HUGE moment for them. If you don't get your first choice, remain optimistic and do your best to encourage. Trust that you're going to end up where you're supposed to end up. That there's something there for BOTH of you and that you can find joy if you look for it.
Oh, and enjoy the heck out of it. Our Match Day party was somethin' else. :)
I'll be thinking of y'all tomorrow (especially my brother, Ryan, and his fiance, Cardin!). Please leave me a comment on instagram and let me know where you matched...I'd love to celebrate with you!
Love & Respect,
Jen's Story on Gardening and Abundance
My great grandmother was a gardener out of necessity. She may have enjoyed the smell of freshly tilled earth and the feeling of burning sun on the back of her neck, I don’t know. She transformed her large Missouri yard into a small farm out of a need to feed her family of eight. Her own parents were institutionalized when she was a child. She and her siblings were separated and farmed out to relatives, spreading out the burden of mouths to feed. She knew what it was to go hungry.
My grandmother was born in the 1930s, her mother’s second child. The Great Depression was a time of hunger, not because there was too little food, but because it was too expensive to harvest the food in the fields. This information shocked me when I was young. Food was left to rot while people went without. My great grandmother fed every man and woman who came to her porch in need during the 1930s and 40s. She did what she could from her personal harvest.
The women in my family have had the urge to feed with each successive generation. The need for extra food passed down in the genes with wide hips and a love for butter. Gardens became a family tradition, though we moved from the Ozarks, to the Central Valley of California, to the rolling green of Central Oregon. My grandmother grew walnuts and avocados. My mother nurtured cherries and tomatoes. My sister arrives at gatherings with armloads of lettuce and cucumbers from her yard during growing season.
Gardens are the difference between enough and abundance. They force you to choose between sharing with your community and watching food go to waste. In high school friends would come over to study and leave with bags of deep red cherries still warm from the sun.
I was never conscious of not having enough as a child. There was always food. There were treats that tasted of soil and the delta breeze. My parents fought over debt, borrowed money from grandparents to fix the water heater, the air conditioner, the car, my mother took a second job cleaning houses; but there were fresh strawberries enough to make your lips stain red.
For the past two years I have worked in a drop in center feeding young people who are experiencing homelessness. Individuals come to us with varying levels of trauma and hunger. They arrive with stories of poverty and struggle and I know that they are hungry not because there isn’t enough, but because it is cheaper to let food go to waste.
I live in an apartment. I have no garden. I grow no pears, hazelnuts, or beets. I am lucky to be able to help direct others’ abundance to those in need.
Love & Respect,
Hi friends! It's time for another conversation about Marriage & Medicine and today we're talking about moving for your partner's career (many thanks to Elizabeth Wise for the suggestion). I figured it's as good a time as any to talk about this, as the current 4th year medical students all just submitted their match lists (meaning lots of folks across the country are about to find out where they'll be moving for the next 3-7 years...my brother and his fiance included!).
But first, here's a little context for people not in the medical field or for those who are just entering into it. You'll likely experience at least 1-4 moves during your training, including a move for medical school, residency (where you don't have a lot of control over where you'll be), potential fellowship, and then your first job. Beau and I will have an additional move thrown into the mix, as we'll be moving after residency to work for 2 years in an under-served area as a part of a loan repayment program. Needless to say, learning to be adaptable and deal with big changes every 2-4 years is essential.
We're currently two moves down and while I know I have much more to learn down the road, I do feel that I have at least a little bit of wisdom to share. I'll start by telling y'all a little bit about our experiences moving to Virginia and Oregon and I'll wrap up each section with a list of advice. Let's get into it!
Move #1 to Charlottesville, Virginia for Medical School
It was my last semester of college, we were engaged, and we found out that Beau was accepted to UVA for medical school. The decision to follow him there was a no-brainer for me. I didn't have an established career yet, I was ready for a change of scenery, and ultimately, I've always been the type of person to prioritize relationships and family and trust that everything else will fall into place as it should. Well, easier said than done. We arrived in Charlottesville and to be totally honest with you, I absolutely hated it for about 6 months. Maybe that's a little dramatic? I'll back up a little bit...
So, once I made the decision that Charlottesville would be my new home, I started looking for jobs. I was about to graduate with a double major in Marketing and Advertising, primed and ready (so I thought) for a job with a large, prestigious company or advertising agency. Come to find out, there are not a lot of those jobs in Charlottesville. It's a smaller town and the options were few. After a few weeks of desperate googling, I came across the dream job. It was a small creative agency, doing work that, in my opinion, really matters in the world. I shot them a desperate email and cover letter and oh-em-gee they actually responded. My informational interview went well and after a few anxious weeks/months of waiting for a position to open up, I had a job starting July 1.
Another bout of luck was that a friend from college was also moving to Charlottesville and wanted to live together (Beau and I weren't getting married until the following summer). THE STARS WERE ALIGNING, FOLKS.
Beau and I packed up all of our stuff, drove the 8-hour drive to Virginia, moved into our respective apartments, and then reality set in. Don't get me wrong, Charlottesville is BEAUTIFUL and such a lovely place to live. The perfect sized college town, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, a great food/music/art scene, etc.
I think what was difficult about this move had nothing to do with the place and everything to do with the fact that it was my first year out of college. My first year trying to do life in the real world, at my first real job, far away from friends and family.
I loved my job (as I thought I would), but getting used to a full-time job and the fact that nobody was going to hold my hand anymore was tough to get used to. It was such a blessing to live in the same town as Beau, but I was a little bit taken aback by how little I saw him. His medical school schedule was fairly demanding and since we had decided not to live together that first year, we really had to make an effort to see one another. But I think the most difficult adjustment of all was trying to re-learn how to build community.
In college it had been easy...everyone was in the same place, working towards similar goals, all looking to build friendships. Post-college? Not so much. It felt like everyone that I met already had their set group of friends and didn't have any reason to add someone new. Most of my work friends had families to go home to. It took us about a year to find a church that we regularly attended, so no friend opportunities there, either. I felt so alone and my heart broke every time one of my friends from home posted a photo of all of them hanging out together back in Atlanta. Without me.
Beau, on the other hand, was thriving. Yes, he's charming and wonderful and fun to be around, but a big cause for all of his new friendships was simply the fact that he was in medical school. Just like in college, he was plopped into a large group of like-minded people, all working towards similar goals and looking to make new friends.
My biggest mistake that I made during those first few months was assuming that Beau's friends were only his friends, not mine too. It sounds so selfish (and it was), but I was so jealous of how easily things were falling in place for him while I was in my apartment across town longing for connection. I had sold myself the lie that I was "just" Beau's fiance, a "plus one"...that I wasn't part of the group.
And then I met Whitney (here's the part where I brag about how wonderful my best friend is). I first met her at a med school gathering of sorts, and somehow it came up that my birthday was the following week. Well, my birthday rolls around and there's a knock on the door. I open it to find sweet Whitney, who I had only really talked to ONCE, standing at my door holding birthday brownies. In that moment, I realized that these people were my friends too, whether Beau was around or not. About a month later, I went on a weekend vacation to the beach with all of Beau's med school friends while he was back in Georgia for a bachelor party. The more I hung out with these beautiful humans, the more at home I began to feel in Virginia.
Another issue that came up again and again was the temptation to hold on to the idea that "I had sacrificed so much" to move somewhere for Beau. And sometimes I would hold that over his head. "I moved here for you, so the least you could do is (insert what I wanted here)". Don't do this. The beautiful (and difficult) thing about being in a relationship is that you become a part of a team. Throw away the notion that the reason you're having to uproot your whole life is solely because of your partner's needs. I wholeheartedly believe that there's purpose and opportunity for you as well, you just have to keep your eyes open (instead of wallowing in self-pity and taking it all out on your partner).
For me, this idea really played out with my career path. The first year, I did my fair share of blaming Beau for all of my missed career opportunities in Atlanta. I resented the fact that I appeared to be the girl who gave up everything to follow a boy. But as I continued to put in the work at my job in Charlottesville, I began to realize how unbelievably perfect it was for me. The things that I learned there were invaluable and set the foundation for me to be doing what I'm doing now (a dream that I never thought would be possible).
Anyway, four years of medical school (and many life lessons) later, and we were absolutely devastated to be leaving a place that we had grown to love so much.
That's skipping over a lot, I know, but I figured it's time that I get down to some advice that I learned during our time in Virginia. Here it is...
1. Your partner's friends are your friends too. Hang out with them, get to know them, get involved in medical school events. Our medical school friends changed my life forever (another post to come on that in the future) and I would have missed out on so much joy and growth had I not invested in those relationships.
2. Take initiative. Invite people over to dinner, initiate opportunities to get folks together. Frankly, most people have too much going on to notice that you may be feeling lonely. It may feel awkward and vulnerable, but it's always worth it.
3. Communicate with your partner. Be solutions-oriented instead of focusing all of your energy on complaining about your circumstances.
4. Be supportive of your partner. The sacrifice you made to move for them is huge, sure, but they're going through hard stuff too. Medical school is a tough adjustment and they'll need your help.
5. Going along with that last point, don't use the fact that you moved for your partner as a trump card during disagreements or when you're trying to negotiate something that you want.
6. Recognize that the move is not JUST for your partner...trust that there's purpose in it for you too. My first job in Charlottesville ended up being my dream job, and I would have never known it existed had I not "sacrificed" other career options in Atlanta to move there for Beau.
Move #2 to Portland, Oregon for Residency
Next up, Portland! I plan to write another post all about the Match process and Match Day, so for now, just know that we literally opened up a letter on March 21, 2014 that told us that we were moving to Portland. Binding contract, no ifs, ands or buts. Thankfully, that was where we wanted to end up, and BONUS, our friends Whitney (remember her?) and Hunter also matched in Portland. Thank you Jesus, thank you Universe, thank you Santa Claus.
Coming to terms with the Match Process was difficult for me (again, I'll write about this another time), but I was absolutely thrilled about moving to Portland. I had fallen in love with the city during our interview and, just like last time, I was feeling ready for a change. Thankfully, I can say that armed with many of the lessons that I learned from our move to Charlottesville, this move went much more smoothly. Apart from a single tear rolling down my face on my first day as I drove home from IKEA, I took to Portland immediately. This probably had a lot to do with the fact that Beau and I were married now and had built an even more solid foundation, we were moving with our very best friends, and I knew that even though the move to Virginia was difficult initially, we ended up loving it more than we could have ever imagined. I trusted that the same would be true about Oregon.
Raving about all the things I love about Portland probably won't be helpful, so I'll talk about the difficult stuff. Which was (and is), adjusting to residency. Honestly, residency makes medical school look like a cake walk. Right out the gate, Beau was working 80-100+ hour weeks, 6 days a week, with real human lives in the mix. This was the first time in our relationship that he really, truly needed me. Needed me to run our errands, get "life stuff" done, do most of the grocery shopping/cooking, and basically just keep our little family afloat.
Those first few months were a whirlwind, and I distracted myself by relishing in the feeling of being needed. It felt good to care for the people that I loved (Beau, Whitney, Hunter, and a few new residency friends that we were meeting), but I think I lost sight of what I needed in the process. Definitely keep a watchful eye on this balance! If you're not taking care of yourself, it's pretty difficult to take care of everyone else.
Another big adjustment was spending weekends alone. Maybe it's just me, but I honestly do not mind in the slightest when Beau works late on a weeknight. But the fact that he was working at least 1 (and sometimes both) weekend days really threw me. I would wallow on the couch thinking about all of the other "normal" couples who could spend weekends together, rather than making plans for myself. Don't do this. Don't waste that time.
My biggest lesson during this stage of life was to take advantage of the extra time that you're given. Join a book club, go on a hike, invite someone you just met over for coffee, bake someone brownies, write someone a letter, call your family. I did all those things and more. I got a dog, which was life-changing in the best way. And probably most importantly, I started investing in my art as a side business. I had always dreamed of becoming an artist one day, but I never, ever thought it could turn into an actual career. But one weekend when Beau was working, I built a website. When he would work nights, I would draw and paint and eventually began posting about it on social media. Slowly but surely, things started to build and long story short, after 2.5 years I'm running my own business.
Is there something you've been dreaming of that you've always wanted to try? A new skill you could develop? A new habit that could improve your day-to-day life? Stop feeling sorry for yourself and start. This honestly has made all the difference. When you're using that extra time to fill your life with good things, you'll most certainly be better for it (and you'll resent your partner and your circumstances a whole lot less).
We still have a few years to go, but here's my advice on moving for residency...
1. Take care of your partner. This will likely be one of the most difficult transitions they've ever faced, and they will most definitely need you. Be gentle, encouraging and servant-oriented. Try to take care of yourself as best as you can so that worrying about you doesn't become another stressor on top of their already full emotional plate.
2. It's natural that more responsibilities will fall on you during this phase of life (see above), but make sure not to lose sight of what you need. Communicate with your partner if your plate becomes too full. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Remember that self care is important.
3. Befriend other partners of residents. These relationships are so life-giving because you're going through the same stuff and you can relate to one another on such a deep level. When I'm around my other "significant other" friends, I never have to explain where Beau is (yep, he's working again), and I can vent and cry and talk with someone who has been exactly where I am.
4. Take advantage of your extra time. Invest in yourself, those around you, your career, your family, etc., rather than wasting that time wishing things were different.
5. Don't be afraid to show up to events alone. Go to the party, join the community group, go on that vacation with friends. Don't hold yourself back...your partner will join when they can.
6. Take full advantage of your time off together. Use your extra time while your partner is working to plan a fun vacation, map out a new hike, or make reservations for a fun date.
Welp, that turned into a novel. I'll stop there for now and let y'all digest. :)
As always, please let me know if there's another topic you'd like me to write about. I absolutely love hearing from you and the idea of this space turning into a digital community of sorts makes me super happy. "The Real Housewives(/husbands) of Medical Professionals"? Just throwing it out there.
Sending lots of love your way and some extra encouragement for those who are waiting on your Match results. Trust in all of the good things to come.
Love & Respect,
Hi friends! I'm back with the second installment of the Hunger & Hope series with Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon and today we're hearing from Jackie Leung. Jackie speaks about learning to let go of the shame that inevitably creeps in when we ask for help. As a single mother living on a student budget, Jackie was hesitant to accept support from the resources (SNAP, WIC and the food bank) that were available to her.
How relateable is her story? I may not have experienced these feelings as they relate to hunger, but I have ABSOLUTELY been in a place when I've run out of options but feel too stubborn or prideful to ask for help. And when I do this, I not only miss out on the actual assistance (which I need), I ALSO miss out on something really beautiful and transformative — allowing myself to be vulnerable enough to let another human offer me love, time, resources and generosity. This type of love benefits both the giver and the receiver ... and I think the world needs a little more of that right now.
My hope is that by reading Jackie's story, we can diminish the stigma around asking for help. Because sometimes we can't do it all on our own.
I understand the shame and relief of dealing with hunger. When I was a single parent and full time student, I struggled to ensure there was enough food. I lived on a student budget, yet I was also a parent to a 3 year old. For a time, I felt ashamed of using SNAP, WIC, and the food bank because of my upbringing. The first few times I used my SNAP or WIC card, I felt my face go red with shame. After sometime, I realized that there was nothing to be ashamed of, and if someone judged me for using either resource, it showed more about their character than about mine.
The fear of stigma or being shamed by my family or from society finally went away and I realized I had to do what was best for me and for her. I did not want her to see me struggling to feed her, and thankfully, she never saw what I offered as a failure on my part. I did take her to the food bank occasionally, so she was aware of the facilities, yet I did not explain to her fully what we did there other than that we were grocery shopping for food. Now she is old enough to understand there is hunger in the world and that there are resources available to people regardless of their backgrounds and there is nothing to be ashamed of to use the resources available.
When I was a student, I encountered other student parents who struggled with providing food for their children. Many were unaware of resources unavailable to them or felt ashamed to utilize resources believing that the resources were better served for folks who struggled harder than they/we did. I talked about the resources often; during meetings, during one-on-one mentoring sessions, and was active in posting such information on the various social media groups we were connected through. I had folks on multiple occasions private message me later, thanking me for the information.
I want to reach out to folks within the community who struggle with access to food. I specifically want to reach out to single parents, or single parents who are/were full time students and starting their careers. I understand many of the struggles they experience, and while their story may be different, in the end, my goal is to ensure that they are aware of resources available to them so that they can make informed choices that best serve them and their families.
Love & Respect,
Friends! I'm kicking off yet another brand-new series on the blog today, and it's one that I'm super passionate and excited about. Let me tell you a little bit about the idea and what I hope this space can become.
If you're visiting the blog for the first time today, welcome! I assume you came across this post because you're in a relationship with someone in the medical field, someone in the military, someone who travels a lot, or someone whose job is demanding and emotionally taxing and all-around-weird at times. I'm so glad you're here.
(side note: I'm calling this series "Marriage & Medicine" because I thought the alliteration was nice and I'm not great at naming things. Please know that this isn't just for married couples, nor is it solely for medical folks. I hope that people in any stage of a relationship and any demanding career path will be able to relate and find community in some way!)
I remember scouring the internet for articles and advice during Beau's last year of medical school, desperately searching for a glimmer of hope in what I deemed would be a miserable four years of residency. Honestly, I didn't find much. And what I did find was pretty discouraging and played into my deepest fears — that I'd be a "residency widow", that I'd have to do things alone, that I'd come to resent my husband and his career.
I want to speak hope and positivity into this space because, while some elements of those fears can be true at times, Beau and I have, in all honesty, loved our time in both medical school and residency. I mean, really LOVED it. Our experiences with both have grown me in ways that I could have never imagined and I'm so very grateful for it all.
For those who are used to coming to this blog for the artwork, this probably seems like quite a departure. But in actuality, I would not be making art for a living (a dream that I never thought would be possible!), without making what I deemed at the time to be "sacrifices" for Beau's career. Don't worry, I'll dive deeper into how all of this went down in further posts. :)
Being a "Doctor's Wife" (a title that I sometimes resent, but I'm not sure what else to call it) is a huge, essential part of my story. It shapes our relationship, my relationships with those around me, my own career, and the way that I see the world on a daily basis. Ultimately, I want to start sharing the wisdom that I've gained over the past few years so that you'll feel a little less alone.
Cool? So let's dive in.
I'm starting the series with what I think is the best advice that I can offer you. It has to do with your mindset and expectations, and I think it all comes down to this:
While we can't change our circumstances, we can change how we respond to them.
Yes, medical school and residency are demanding of your partner's time. You will attend social gatherings alone. You'll likely spend some holidays alone. Your loved one will work weekends and night shifts and will often need emotional support (not to mention help with basic daily tasks).
It's tempting to think about all of this stuff through a lens of self. Trust me, I've been there. You think about the negative ways that it will affect you, how your other married friends don't have to deal with this, how it's not fair.
But that line of thinking leads you straight towards resentment. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy of what you feared it would be. If all you can think about is how miserable you're going to be, well...you probably will be miserable. And if all you can think about is how these things will impact you, you'll miss out on a huge opportunity to deepen your relationship by supporting your partner when they need it the most.
Here's how I've learned to look at some of those "negative" things in a more positive, hopeful light:
1. Having more time alone means that I have an opportunity to invest in my friendships in a deeper way.
I like to joke that even though I'm married, I still get some of the benefits of being single. That sounds a little scandalous, but I mean it like this: since I'm not spending every waking moment with my husband, I have plenty of time to call up a girlfriend, grab a meal, or even go on a weekend getaway. I feel fortunate that I'm able to be fully present for Beau as well as my friends with ease...a balance that I assume is harder to achieve for most couples.
2. Beau's long hours give me time to invest in my own career.
Back when we were in medical school (yes, I say "we"!), there would be days when Beau would get home long after I did from my 9-5 job. Yes, there were times when I sat around feeling frustrated and lonely. But I eventually learned to use that extra time to my advantage. I started drawing, painting, writing and illustrating in those extra hours, which eventually led to me starting this business.
3. Serving is a blessing, not a curse.
Early on in our relationship, Beau used to handle everything. Trip planning, taxes, bill paying, logistics, making plans with friends, you name it. This makes me sound lazy (I was), but I'd also like to think it was because Beau is really freaking good at everything except for delegating (sorry, babe). Residency was a huge awakening for both of us in that I was forced to pick up the slack. And I can honestly say that nothing has been more rewarding and empowering than supporting our family both financially and logistically (meal planning, learning how to cook, running errands, planning vacations, making fun plans for Beau's days off, etc.). It feels good to serve in these ways, makes me feel like a badass (which is clearly very important to me), and has done wonders for our relationship.
4. We don't take our time together for granted.
In residency, 6 day, 80-100 hour work weeks are common. So whenever Beau gets a two day weekend, you better believe that we are LIVING IT UP. It's almost laughable how much life and adventure we've squeezed into such little time. But I love what all of this has taught us...that our time is valuable and not to be wasted or taken for granted. If we both had jobs that gave us two day weekends every single weekend, I can almost guarantee that we'd start to get lazy in the ways that we pursue one another. And I think we'd watch a lot more Netflix.
5. Beau's difficult days give me perspective.
There have been times when I've been stressed out about having too many puppies to draw (ha), and then Beau comes home and tells me about his patient who passed away or the child abuse case he witnessed. He's so great about not discounting my feelings of anxiety about the things going on in my life (they're important too, after all), but these stories quickly put everything into perspective for me. I'm always grateful for that wake-up call — that the world doesn't revolve around me, that there are people out there dealing with a lot worse things that I am, and that we should be thankful for all of the good things in our lives.
I could go on and on with these examples, but I think you get the point. Friends, I urge you to find the good in your circumstances. Look for opportunities to grow and serve rather than looking for reasons to feel sorry for yourself. Fill your alone time with things that bring you life rather than thoughts that bring you resentment. Both you and your partner will be better for it, and I promise that other challenges down the road will be easier to tackle when you've equipped yourself with a more positive, hopeful mindset.
That's it for today, but don't worry, I plan to continue writing on this topic. If you thought this was helpful, would you share it with someone you know who might need it? And will you let me know what other topics you'd like to hear about? Finances, loneliness, the decision to have children in residency, being around doctor friends that constantly talk about gross things at the dinner table? Nothing is off limits and I'd love to hear from you. We're all in this together, after all!
Love & Respect,
Friends! I'm thrilled to be introducing a brand new year-long series to the blog today. Well, technically it's a revamp of last year's Celebration Series, with a little bit of a twist. Here's the story behind it:
The idea began with me sitting on the floor of my dear friend's house on election night, clutching Beau's arm and sobbing. Yes, it was as pathetic as it sounds. (And SNL pretty much NAILED our experience with this skit).
Admittedly, I'm no policy expert. But I can speak to human decency, respect, empathy, and acceptance of those who are different than us...and in those areas, I was feeling a complete loss of hope. We were all sitting there quietly, processing in our own ways (the best of which was probably smashing our election day cake and trying to find a tiny bit of humor in the whole thing), when Brian, one of the hosts of the party and one of the KINDEST people that I've ever known, spoke up. He thought that we should go around the room and express how we're feeling and how we should respond.
My mind was spinning with completely irrational thoughts (like, "we should never have kids because how could I bring an innocent life into this awful, unkind world") and I mostly stayed silent, listening to my inspiring, beautiful friends find and express hope for the future. And then, as people started to disperse, I finally spoke up.
I softly said something along the lines of, "I want to use my art to help, but I have no idea how to do that."
My friends who were left, led by Beau, all shared some ideas, one of which really hit home. I could use the Celebration Series as a means to interview, and therefore bring humanity and empathy, to folks who are very different than myself. People who look different than I do, who have experienced hardship, who haven't had the same privilege that I've been so lucky to have.
I began to think of ways to accomplish this, and then my friend Alison (the other host of the party and one of my dearest friends!) contacted me with an idea. Her organization, Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon, was looking for a way to share stories surrounding the topics of hunger, community, food and social justice. And thus, the new series was born.
I'm going to call it Hunger and Hope, my goals are two-fold:
1. To help spread awareness about all of the great work that Alison and the rest of the fine-folks at Partners are doing in the world.
2. To introduce myself (and YOU!) to people who are different than us. To cultivate empathy and advocacy as we hear their stories. To bring humanity to groups of people that our culture tends to overlook.
Today we're going to meet Paul Delurey, whose story about hope is completely moving and beautiful. It speaks for itself, so I'll stop here and let you dive in. But first, I just want to say thank you for following along. I'm grateful to have a small venue to talk about the things that matter to me, and I'm hopeful that you'll get something out of it too. :)
Paul’s Story: Of hunger, housing, and hope
About a year ago, I found myself living on the streets in Portland, not sure where life would bring me the next day.
I grew up in Upstate New York to a working-class Catholic family. The values I learned growing up were about working hard, caring for your neighbor, and always having hope. I was lucky to have the kind of childhood where I never worried about being loved, and never worried about being well-fed. I took those things for granted.
By the time I was in college, though, I was experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety at school. I started drinking to cope with the stress, and eventually dropped out of school to travel and work odd jobs. In my early 30s I got sober, got a degree, found work as an engineer, married, bought a house, and had three beautiful kids. I had it all.
But life has a way of coming back at you. Work became more and more stressful, and I was putting more and more pressure on myself to be the perfect husband, the provider, and father. I started drinking again. When my marriage fell apart, my mental health fell apart, and I spiraled into depression, addiction, and psychosis. That’s how I found myself on the streets — after I had burned through all the resources I had. But somehow, that spark of hope, love, and work ethic my family instilled in me so long ago remained. I think that’s how I survived. I’m lucky I’m alive today.
To me, when people talk about hunger, they’re not just talking about food. Hunger is interconnected with so many other issues – like whether someone is able to have a warm, stable roof over their head, or access to mental health services and addiction counseling. When I was living on the streets, I knew how to find a hot meal or a food box. But it was harder to find affordable housing and support for my mental health — and ultimately, that’s what impacted my access to food, to transportation, and to so many other important things. Even basic human things like hope.
When we talk about social supports, and whether or not people “deserve” to get help, we shouldn’t be talking about what people have accomplished, or even who they are. We should be talking about how hard they try. People out there on the streets are trying really hard. Trying to sign up for SNAP. Trying to find a place to sleep. Trying to find some basic human connection. But when you try and you try and you don’t get anywhere, you lose hope. And that’s when things get harder.
Everyone needs to have a little spark of hope every day to survive — at least, that’s how it is for me. I need to feel like the work I’m doing is good, like I’m helping people out and building community, like I’m contributing something to the world, however small it might be. That’s what I want for everyone — just a little spark of hope.
Love & Respect,
Friends! I can hardly believe I'm saying this, but we've reached the end of the Celebration Series for 2016! I started this series back in January for a few reasons. Selfishly, I wanted to create a challenge for myself to practice drawing more portraits on a regular basis. Check.
A little more un-selfishly, I wanted to create a platform to celebrate and give a voice to some folks that I really admire. I've always loved reading work-related interviews, but noticed that it was typically the same rotation of creative folks that would be interviewed over and over again. So, the heart behind this series was to celebrate not just that same rotation of people, but to interview people from all different industries and lines of work. I believe that creativity is far more than the ability to draw or paint — it's the thing that makes you different from everyone else in the world. And when people are able to tap into those things that make them unique and bring them out in their work and life, well, that's pretty darn inspiring. :)
So, along those lines, I'm thrilled to be introducing you to Grace Dowd. Grace and I went to college together and I always admired her joyful spirit and relentless positivity — two attributes that are a HUGE asset (and blessing) in her work as a therapist for folks who are suffering from depression, anxiety, abuse, etc.
I'm consistently in awe of my friends (and husband) who, like Grace, work in the medical field. It can be a very thankless job where you are confronted with extremely difficult situations day in and day out. With that in mind, seeing how Grace can cling to hope in the face these challenges is super powerful. So, join me in celebrating Grace (and the people in your life that you admire) as you read through her interview.
And lastly, THANK YOU for following along for the past year. It's been such a joy to work on this series and I look forward to filling you in on what I have in store for 2017. :)
Let's get into the interview!
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
Hi! My name is Grace Dowd and I live in Austin, Texas with my wonderful husband, Sam, and our sweet fur-baby, Hutch. I moved to Austin a little over four years ago to pursue a master’s degree in social work at the University of Texas. I went into grad school telling myself that the last thing I would ever do with my degree included talking about emotions on a regular basis or doing group therapy. And now, because God has a sense of humor, I am doing both. Specifically, I serve as a therapist with a psychiatric hospital in town where I facilitate intensive outpatient groups to individuals dealing with various mental health concerns including, but not limited to, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, suicidality, and personality disorders.
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
I am fortunate to say that there are many aspects of my job that bring me joy and fulfillment. Every day is different in the mental health field so it’s very difficult to become bored or complacent. The most rewarding aspect of my job is definitely witnessing clients improve and progress as they go through treatment. I observe clients start to do things that they used to tell themselves they couldn’t do. Most clients are attending treatment 3 to 5 days a week so we are typically able to see client’s make significant progress in a short period of time. Oftentimes, when someone begins therapy they are highly depressed and feel very hopeless so when a client graduates on the last day of treatment with a smile on their face and their head held high, it brings me so much joy and reminds me of why I do the work that I do.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Personally and professionally, I am finding a lot of inspiration from those who are willing to be vulnerable and honest about their struggles, strengths, and shortcomings. As a therapist, I see this a lot in my day-to-day work. I think that there is something so truly beautiful about people who show up and saying “here I am, the good and the bad, take it or leave it” and this inspires me to be more authentic, genuine, and honest with the people around me.
What has been difficult lately?
Slowing down. Embracing the pauses. I love the concept of being mindful, of slowing down, of being fully present… and yet this is something that I constantly struggled with. I often find myself doing things like walking my dog while reading a book on my phone (...not the best idea for someone as accident-prone as I am). Mindfulness is something that I teach my clients and talk about on a regular basis at work (I know, I know — I used to think that it was cheesy too). I think something that gets in the way of being present is the thinking pattern that I constantly have to be doing or working towards something, or that things have to be done “perfectly” or why bother doing them at all — so I am working on that. A verse that has been on my heart this year is Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God”. I find that when I take time to slow down and be fully present gratitude, joy, and close connections with the people I love dearly follow.
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
Oh boy — this is a tough one. I think that something that makes me unique is that I truly strive to see the best in other people, both in my personal or professional life. I am a firm believer that we are all doing the best we can in this moment and because of this belief I try to meet people where they are, whatever that looks like at the time. I also recognize that I am going to fall short, make mistakes, and screw up more often than I would like to admit so I try to extend the same grace (ha!) towards people that I desire in those moments.
What's your spirit animal?
Some of our closest friends, and even my husband, have taken to calling me “Puppy Grace”. I like to think that it’s because I am energetic and bubbly but to be honest it is probably also because I am very uncoordinated and overly enthusiastic first thing in the morning ;)
Grace, THANK YOU for the incredible work that you're doing in the world and for the way that you give yourself to your patients. The world needs more people like you! You can find more of Grace over on instagram.
So much love & Respect,
Hi friends! Today in the Celebration Series we're talking to my extraordinarily creative and just-plain-cool friend, Lisa Ryan. Lisa and I worked together when I lived in Virginia and we quickly bonded over our shared love of accents, humor and acting like weirdos in public. Back then I knew Lisa as a writer and a mother—both roles that she's exceptional at. But over the past few years, I've been so thrilled to watch her come alive through her newfound love of collage. Lisa is a feeler and a deep-thinker and I think what I admire the most about her work is that every single thing she creates has something profound to say about the world. Lisa, to me, embodies what it means to be an artist. She's unique, fiercely creative, introspective and never satisfied with the status quo. Oh, and she's stylish as hell. Let's get into the interview!
Give us a quick background on who you are and what you do for work.
I’m a Philadelphia native who ended up in Virginia after attending James Madison University and marrying some dude I met there. My degree in speech communications, poetry and religion translated to a variety of jobs until I found my groove as a writer/editor. Along the way I had two kids and developed a dependence on coffee, stand-up comedy and creative outlets. For years I studied and wrote poetry but recently discovered my love for visuals in the form of analog collage art. Now I have a studio where I hoard magazines and cover every surface with cutouts. It’s located in an old flour mill barn three minutes from my house and I share it with some other local artists—probably a few other creatures, too. I treat it like an office and try to get there as often as possible.
What about your work brings you the most joy and fulfillment?
Writing was always difficult for me—the act of creating an original idea out of nothing. With collage, I start with existing materials and edit them. I love hunting for and curating compelling images, and then physically and conceptually editing them into a new piece. It feels very much like visual poetry. I also really enjoy working with my hands, and X-acto knives are way more satisfying than keyboards.
Who or what is inspiring you right now?
Dutch abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning; I recently read his biography. He came to America as a stowaway, landing in New York City right among a bunch of other starving artists pursuing what we now know as abstract expressionism. He balanced a deep talent for, understanding of and respect for artistic tradition with a passion for the present, the unknown. I fell in love with the contradiction in Woman and Bicycle the first time I saw it—he creates a chaos that’s both lovely and unsettling; the woman is familiar and dream-like. It reinforces my favorite quote of his from the book: “Nothing is positive about art except that it is a word.”
What has been difficult lately?
Summer—I’m at home with my boys, which means a dramatic cutback in studio hours. Creativity is like a muscle that can atrophy, and it chips away at my sanity when I’m not making work. When I do get to drop in for an hour or two, it takes that long to get my head back in the game. I look forward to the school year when the days are (mostly) mine again. (Lindsay here: sorry, I'm clearly posting this interview a few months after Lisa initially wrote it! Lisa, I'm hopeful that you're getting some GOOD studio time in now that school is back in session)
What makes you different from everyone else in the world and how does that uniqueness manifest itself in your work and life?
What makes me different from everyone else in the world is the fact that I’m the only Lisa Anne Ryan that I know of. The only one holding the total package of my history, my thoughts, my neurosis, my feelings. So in my work and life, you get the product from that unique recipe. Maybe that’s not what you were looking for, but I’m a natural self-deprecator. You would’ve gotten a better answer from my husband on this one.
What's the most embarrassing thing in your google search history?
“Kim Kardashian butt implants” —It ain’t real, but it is spectacular.
Love & Respect,