Renovation Update, Part 4

Short post with mainly pictures, since Gracie enjoys watching the action too much to take a decent nap these days. I have about 99 other things to do in the hour of childless peace I get today.

I’ve taught Gracie to say “excuse me” in an effort to help her learn to stay out of the workers’ way… although she’s taken it to mean a form of greeting, so she’s constantly running up to a painter or carpenter and saying “‘SCUE ME”. Between the workers and the “tradtor” we haven’t much need for the television.

I also have a painter looking through my window at me as I type; they’re taping the windows for the final coat on the trim.

Privacy is a luxury these days, but as an extrovert in a new town, it just gives me more people to talk to. I had a customer service issue this morning and two painters listened patiently to my rant since Husband was in surgery. Last week I had an extended conversation regarding the size of roaches with the plumber.

On to pictures. Taken Sunday, I’m excited to say there’s been some major landscaping progress since then. We have eight piles of sod, stacked taller than me, that are being laid today.

 

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The front is being finished up as I type, and we’re still debating a door color.

 

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Side yard, which has turned out much bigger than I thought it would. We’ll probably end up spending a lot of time in this space.

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Bay window contains kitchen table… single pane window is above the kitchen sink.

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Back door, window of my laundry room/office, and sun room.

 

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Back yard

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Future home of carport and guest quarters, phase 2

(Stack of bricks on far right: landscapers found even MORE bricks. Hoping to use them for part of the brick patio.)

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Dining room windows

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Closer shot of front porch, with potential door color. The porch will also get resealed in a dark grey.

Renovation Update, Part 3

By the time we were able to make it back to see progress on our house, the drywall had been put up. Residency had been completed two days prior, so checking on the house seemed like the best way to kick off the six weeks in between jobs.

Even though we didn’t have work calling us back to Memphis, we did have to get back quickly for family pictures (Hi, Karla!) and to prep the rental house for the move. Husband also had to meet with his future partners, so I was left to make the bulk of the interior aesthetic decisions without him… in four hours. In the car on the way home, I was really shocked that we had picked out just about everything for the interior of the house, minus the light fixtures in the dining room and breakfast nook.

Without further ado, here are some pictures.

IMG_1884I can’t tell you how excited I am about our front porch. I’ve never lived in a house with one before; I’m hoping to spend as much time out here as possible. If you remember from earlier pictures, the porch wrapped around the side of the house. We took that in to make room for the dining room, but it still left us with a good size area on the outside, too.

With a IMG_2045conventional foundation, we needed to build up a brick skirt, which you can see has been completed. Y’all… these bricks.

On a completely odd side note, I remember attending my first bridal shower and seeing the bride gush and gush over a griddle. It hit me at that moment, that getting excited over things like kitchen tools meant you were a grownup, and that I simply wasn’t there yet.
By using that reasoning, gushing over bricks must mean I’m no longer using binoculars to see middle age in the distance.

Walking inside, you can see the dining room expansion from a different angle:
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Hard to tell from the picture, but the ceiling is slanted to keep with the original roofline before the expansion. It’ll make for a nice feature and it won’t effect much, given the ceilings were 12 feet tall to begin with.

IMG_1888Breakfast nook, with Husband trying his best to not pass out in the Mississippi Summer heat.

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A look into the den (breakfast nook to the left, out of the picture), and the kitchen. Sink and storage underneath the window on the far left, hallway to back door, and inset for fridge. Other appliances will be in the second inset. Island with cooktop will be in front and center.

These two pictures were taken standing in the door of the master bedroom. The large, tarp-covered area is going to be a giant window (I’m sure there’s a proper design name for it, and I actually just googled “design name for giant window”, but apparently Google also is uncouth, so we’ll just keep it at “giant window”) that looks out into our backyard. I envision myself sitting in my room, watching netflix, and madly tapping on the window every ten minutes while Gracie tries to poke a stick into a wasp nest.

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Alright, last two pictures are what we spent the bulk of our time working on. Thankfully our designer had done the bulk of the work and narrowing down our choices.

The two quartz samples are for the countertops- the speckled one on the main counter, and the brown-grey on the island.

I think I spent more time thinking about kitchen countertops than I did picking out my wedding registry. When I’m confronted with a lot of decisions, I tend to focus in on one thing and get lax about the rest of it. Long story short, I really wanted a white marble with a grey vein, but the durability became an issue, so I looked to a quartz copy instead. Turns out, it doesn’t look as organic as I had imagined (which is ironic, given quartz countertops are completely man made). So we went with the speckled white and the grey… because, and yes, I did say this out loud, “They were unapologetically quartz and didn’t try to be something there were not.”

I tend to personify things when I focus on them too much. I also get obsessive about self-actualization when I’m overwhelmed.

White cabinets and white subway tile (there’s my design nod to Joanna Gaines) complete the look.

That tile to the left, by the paint chips? Ignore that, it’s the sample below the tile we were using.

The three paint chips are the main colors of the house. Trim in Sherwin Williams Extra White, the bulk of the house in Sherwin Williams Accessible Beige, and the slightly darker color is…something. It’s mixed with sand so it gives this super cool texture that, if a cat should happen to walk by, would immediately rub up against. We’re using it on an accent wall.

IMG_1909So now I’m looking at this picture and I can’t remember which tile we picked out. It’ll be used in the bathrooms and sunroom. The dark grey, I think?  I also have no idea what that beige square is for.

The green paint swatch is Sherwin Williams Recycled Glass. We’re using it in the two bathrooms for the kids, and after looking at it next to the fabric I picked for the master bedroom, decided it’ll look nice in the master bathroom, too.

As far as a timeline, I’m hoping it’ll be done by the third week of August. Husband starts work August 1st, and Gracie and I will join him once the house is completed. Until then, I’ll be in Birmingham with my parents.

Thanks to everyone who’s taken such an interest in our “new” house! It’s been so fun to see the interest y’all have had in it, and we have felt so supported as a family by your encouragement.

Renovation Update

I’ve been hesitant to post too much about our house renovation. I don’t want to come across as “Look at all this amazing work we have put into our house” because, well, we’re not doing that. Our contractor and designer are doing that. They’re the ones at the house multiple times a day, handling all the unforeseen problems, creating an amazing floor plan, etc etc. We’re just footing the bill.

Which is the other reason I’ve been hesitant. I also don’t want anyone to think that I’m bragging or showing off that we have found this diamond in the rough. God put this house in our path, and also gave us just the right people at just the right time to help us. Even though I joked about this house being our “Isaac”, I know in the core of my being that God provided this house… this town… this new life. It’s why Abraham called Mount Moriah “Jehovah-jireh”: God will see to it (or He Provides). If you have some free time, read Genesis 18:1-15, 21:1-7, and 22:1-19. Goodness, I love that story. It makes me thankful that my God still provides for me even when I laugh at Him in unbelief.

Back to the renovations.

Here’s the house as of three weeks ago; nothing much has been done to the front. As you can see, we are expanding the left side of the house where the wrap-around porch was located. This will give us the extra space for the dining room. The skirt of the house will be the checkered brick pattern between the foundation columns (see right side). We’re keeping the spindles and other Victorian/Gingerbread architectural details. The house will eventually be an off white with white trim and a dark door, window frames, and roof. IMG_0927

Before and after of the porch.

Inside, to the left, the two bedrooms have been cleared out, and to the right, the two bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen were cleared out.

The floor plan will have a dining room, living room/ open-concept kitchen, laundry, and playroom on the leftside of the house, and the bedrooms on the right.

Here’s standing in the front door, pre-reno

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Here’s standing in the middle of the left side of the house, looking towards the front door. Breakfast nook is in the right foreground and the porch expansion is in the right background. Front door is on the far left, hidden by framework. The picture was taken almost exactly where my kitchen island will be located.

Turning around, here’s the back part of the house. It used to be an enclosed porch. It’s the best view of the backyard that I have on file. The rest of the kitchen, back door/mud area, laundry room, playroom/sunroom will be here.

Outside to the left will be the driveway and carport. That’s a crepe myrtle, fyi, which I have sworn to my aunt that I will not butcher, as many of them are. One of my most vivid memories as a child is seeing my mother and landscape-architect-aunt bemoan and weep over maimed crepe myrtles, causing me to pray that I would never commit such a crime against any flora. I digress…

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Side note: see the pile of bricks on the right, in the shadows? They found stacks and stacks– a full pallet’s worth— hidden under ivy in the backyard. Add the bricks from the fireplaces, we have enough to shore up the foundation and brick in a patio.IMG_0024One of many pile o’bricks.

Outside shot of the back porch. The roof line posed some drainage issues, but our brilliant contractor and his team found a solution. I’d go into detail, but I have no idea what it is.

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Pre-reno back porch

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Here’s the framework of the bedroom side of the house. The hallway is between the two bedroom’s— Gracie’s and No-I’m-Not-Pregnant-But-Lord-Willing-If-He-Wants-To-Bless-Us-With-Another-One’s *takes a deep breath* room. We’re adding on to the back of the house for the master bed and bath.

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I had been hearing from multiple people about our amazing hardwood floors… they were covered in sawdust so I spit-cleaned a spot (I’m still a lady– I didn’t spit directly on the floor!) They really are gorgeous… and they’ve never been sanded. That fact didn’t mean anything to me, until I was told that old wooden floors are sanded down throughout the years, so they eventually become too thin to use. Our floors are over 100 years old and are thick enough for another century of use (slight hyperbole).

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It’ll be a lot easier to post pictures once walls start going up and I know what I’m looking at (this has taken an hour so far because I keep loading and captioning pictures, only to realize it’s a completely different part of the house).

Thank you for all the encouragement and well-wishes you have given us since the announcement of our move and home purchase! I’m excited to have a place to show some good Southern hospitality in a few months. Can’t wait to have y’all come visit us. I’ll have a pot of coffee and some store-bought baked goods ready for whoever wants to stop by.

 

 

 

 

My Social Media Creed

I’m a social media purist.

September 11th, 2005, I got off the waiting list for Facebook and officially joined the social media world.

I used it for the next five years to find out who was single and who was in a relationship.

In the early fall of 2009, I joined Twitter.

I used it to complain about work.

Two hundred and thirty-four weeks ago, I joined Instagram.

I used it to post pictures of my life, trying to find the best possible filter and lighting to make my plate of food look good.

I have actively tried to use these social media platforms for what they were originally intended. Narcissistic mediums that allow me to humble-brag about my life, putting it in the best 140-character filter possible.

At its center, my social media thesis statement is to find humor in the ordinary.

What I have intentionally chosen to NOT do, is get involved in political posts, which seems to be about 85% of what my news feed is made up of these days.

Trump Hugs Rubio at Rally… AND YOU’LL NEVER GUESS WHAT HAPPENED NEXT

Hillary’s Emails For Sale on Craigslist… AND THE PRICE IS UNBELIEVABLE

Out of the Mouth of Babes… Toddler Disses Trump AND YOU’LL BE BLOWN AWAY AT HIS RESPONSE

I have friends who post excellent articles about the election and current events. My mother is one of them. I have very rarely (as in three times in as many years) posted articles about moral issues— the Planned Parenthood scandal and the refugee crisis— but I carefully read each article and made sure that I agreed with it in its entirety, and confirm that it used correct sources… in short, that it wasn’t yellow journalism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_journalism)

What I have seen, when my friends post hot topics, are inevitable Facebook comment debates. We live in a world where our thumbs are quicker and sharper than our tongues. It is much easier to type out a scathing response while looking at someone’s profile picture, than formulating a response in real time in a face to face conversation. What we don’t see (or refuse to acknowledge) is that behind every comment is a person with a life story… experiences that have molded their worldview. That person who attacked you for posting a story about Trump’s “Wall”? They may have family members in Mexico who are stuck in a city torn apart by drug wars. That person who attacked you for posting the article about the desecration of the White House when Obama lit up with rainbow colors? Their father might be gay.

So, here is my social media creed: If I post something political over the next year, and you disagree with it, please comment and let me know. I will send you a private message with my cell phone number (if you don’t already have it), and we will discuss it either face to face, or over the phone. Because if I am going to post something, I should be ready to back it up in real-time— not between running errands or during nap time when I have a chance to find yet another article to back up my point.

I also will want to understand your side of the argument– and the circumstances in your life that lead you to believe what you believe. And I will share the same with you.

Because I like to keep my friends on social media exactly that- my friends.

Our Dump House

​”What in the–” I said as I grabbed the door handle. Our realtor revved her engine as she drove over the curb and into the backyard of an abandoned house.
“I have one last listing to show you,” she said with a twinkle in her eye. “It’s not much to look at, but it’s a special house for someone if they want a project. Maybe that’s y’all?”
I got out of the car and stepped into above-ankle length grass and looked at what was once a house. Technically, it still had four walls, a roof, and windows. If I stepped back in
time- say, fifty years- the house would have been beautiful. It wasn’t grand like most of the others on the street, but it looked like someone’s home, and one that they had taken pride in…fifty years ago.
​The front boasted a wrap-around porch taking up one side, and a bay window decorated with Victorian lattice-work on the other. The color used to be yellow, but it had faded to a buttercream that blended with the white trim. Inside, tall windows reached just shy of the twelve foot ceilings, bringing light into each room of the shot-gun style floor plan.
We needed the light to see inside, because the home hadn’t had electricity or running water since George W Bush’s first year in office. The realtor “unlocked” the back door by sliding a nail out of the storm door’s latch.
We walked around, laughed at its condition, and concluded the brief tour with my husband saying, “This home has so much potential. For someone who really wants to put the effort in.”
“Which is NOT us!! There is NO way we are buying this…” I waved my hand towards the random toilet sitting on the back porch, “… house.”
May I take this time to remind you of a story in the Bible where someone named Sarah laughed at the ridiculousness of a situation. And we all know how that ended.
I’d like to introduce you to our “Isaac”…
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… which looks MUCH better in this picture than it actually is.
Here’s the back of the house:
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And here is a shot of the inside of one of the rooms (before the previous owners moved their furniture out)
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I used to laugh at the couples on House Hunters that had knock-down, drag-out fights over seemingly trivial issues. I didn’t realize just what a big deal it was until the awkward car ride back to Memphis after our first house hunting expedition, where I had staked my flag on the mountain of open floor plans and yelled “Give me quartz and hardwood or give me death!”.
So after exhausting the market in our soon-to-be hometown, the option of buying the “dump house” and redoing it became a viable option, thanks to some family friends who had experience fixing up houses in the area. The more we talked about it, the more it became apparent that my husband and I were on the exact same page regarding the house. Considering the heated discussions we had had over the top two houses we had considered (one a three story Victorian that needed ALOT of work, and the other a 4,000 sq ft open floor plan house with a giant kitchen (I’ll let you guess who wanted what)), it was nothing short of a miracle that we agreed on anything.
So we bought it. It got a little complicated when we learned that given its condition, it wouldn’t qualify for a home loan, and then it wouldn’t qualify for home insurance. We got it worked out, though, but not before I had to visit the dentist and get a mouth guard since I was gritting my teeth at night due to the stress.
We closed on Friday of last week via overnight mail. Just as we did with my husband’s work contract, he came home post-call and I made him stay awake long enough to get the paperwork signed and notarized, and then I dropped it off at the FedEx office. We actually don’t even have the keys to the place, and won’t be getting them for quite awhile.
But it’s our home… our very first home as husband and wife, and it’ll be where Gracie will grow up. I can mark her height on a door frame, teach her to ride a bike in the driveway, and walk her to school (yes, it’s a 7 minute walk!). I can also paint the rooms whatever color I want, plant perennials, and have a kitchen table that can seat more than two people.
We are thankful. We are also completely, utterly, downright crazy for taking a risk on this house, but I’m too optimistic to get worried about it. God is good, y’all.
Just putting this out there—-I am completely aware that the statement “I am too optimistic to worry about it” will come back and bite me in the butt. I’m sure my next post will be how we discovered a Native American burial site in our backyard. Until then, though… I’ll be on Pinterest. 

To Whom It May Concern,

Writing recommendation letters is like strength training. It’s short bursts of intense effort, but the results can greatly change the way a person is perceived.

That’s what the majority of my time is spent on these days at work. It’s something that has become a passion of mine; it’s my artistic outlet within the bounds of my not-so-creative job.

When I write one, I’m writing a song. I have a theme and I test each literary chord, typing furiously, backspacing even faster, and then finally hitting just the right note. It fits, it flows… it sings to me.

I always write them with the assumption that the reader has no interest in it; it’s my job to make my student not only stand out, but also to engage the reader long enough to form a lasting memory of my student. As a former admission counselor, I know what it’s like to read one.more.letter. They all run together, and it’s hard to keep each kid straight in your head when they’re all stellar, self-motivated, kind, respectful, and courteous.

To help me, I turn to Charlie, Johnny, and good ole Dave. A good fiction writer like Charles Dickens makes you forget that you’re reading; the gnawing hunger in your stomach is because you’re a half-starved child in London, not because you had to skip lunch for a work meeting that day. A good poet like John Donne uses words as espresso shots of emotion and symbolism. Short, powerful, and moving. And, finally… Dave Barry makes you laugh at the most normal, everyday events in life. The annoying car who keeps his blinker light on for eight miles becomes humorous as you remember Barry’s latest diatribe.

Dicken’s Great Expectations gave me my first experience with a literary hook… I remember holding that novel as an eighth-grader, intimidated with its weight and small font, and glaring at my mother for making me read it over spring break. (Mom has always known what was best for me).

Dicken’s hooks inspire me to begin my letters in a way that make the reader sit up in their chair and take notice, and to wonder what’s coming next.

Five minutes ago, Joe Schmoe left my office, dressed in a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costume. It’s homecoming week, which means seniors rarely darken my door. They’d rather focus on dress up days and pep rallies, not college applications. So when Joe Schmoe walked in covered in a green jumpsuit and with a purple ribbon tied around his head, I was amused, but not surprised; his drop-in meetings with me are like death and taxes.

John Donne is my other guru. No, I don’t write in verse- other than a particularly trying graduate school assignment, I haven’t touched the medium since high school- but his wordplay is exquisite. To take something as everyday and common as a flea and to make it first vessel of passion, and then a symbol of unrequited love… Swoon. I think of Donne as I write examples of a student’s daily habits and small snippets of conversation I have with them- and drawing from it characteristics that make them an asset to a university.

[I have a really good example of this, but the student is still enrolled in my school so I’m not going to post an excerpt from it. Here’s one from a few years ago kinda displays what I’m talking about]

This young man is the salt needed to flavor a college campus. John Doe’s unassuming, quiet nature enables those of varying personalities- introverted and extroverted alike- to feel comfortable and perform at their best.

Lastly, I have Dave Barry sitting on my shoulder as I write about 90% of my letters. I try to have a humorous aftertaste in my writing- nothing necessarily blatant… just enough to leave a faint smile on the reader’s face when they are done. When a scholarship committee is able to smile and remember a humorous observation involving a potential student, they’re more likely to give them money. People who make other people frown don’t get free money. Simple as that. Finding the humor in every day life is something I strive for in my life, not just my recommendation letters.

By May 2016, I will have written close to 150 recommendation letters over the four years I’ve been at the school. They usually take between 1-4 hours;  rarely completed in one sitting, and often spanning a week or more. Now that Gracie is sleeping more consistently, I’m kept awake trying this phrase or that phrase in my head, and hoping to catch hold of an idea long enough to get it on paper.

It’s a love-hate relationship, I’ll admit. Trying to fit a complete picture of a person’s character, hopes, and dreams into a single page is something I have yet to master. There’s a lot of prayer that goes into each one, especially when I know how much is riding on a scholarship or admittance. Being able to step back and look at the big picture, like with writing this post, is helpful when all I can see is a blinking cursor and a deadline.

Time to pick up the weights and get back to work.

Auld Lang Syne

My husband begins his last year of residency tomorrow.

I have written multiple blog posts that specifically focus on the experiences we have had while in residency, but they all sit in my hard drive. They won’t be published.

In fact, as I type this, I don’t know if I’ll publish this one, either. I’ll just keep typing and see what I end up with. My older posts usually end with me in tears and shutting down the computer. My visceral reaction has always scared me. I turn to humor when I am overwhelmed, scared, tired… finding something funny in the midst of hardship or confusion has been my coping mechanism.  Is it healthy? Maybe. I’d rather have laugh lines in thirty years than a sick liver from too much wine.

So when tears start to form instead of giggles when I write about our residency experience, I shut it down. It’s like watching a sad movie- why would I subject myself to watching Old Yeller die when I have enough reasons to cry in real life?

Another reason I haven’t written much about it is out of respect for my husband’s program, his coworkers and attendings, and the dignity of what he does for a living. People trust their lives to my husband on a daily basis. For me to flippantly write about it is wrong on so many levels. Do we laugh about things that happen at work when he gets home? Yes. Should I write about it on an internet blog? Absolutely not.

So…Happy Medical New Year.

July 1st is the first day all the residents “move up” in their programs. All the newly-minted medical school graduates go from being an MD in title only, to actually putting their education to work. Were you nervous on your first day on the job? Multiply that times 100 and you have what a new intern (“Intern” refers to the first-year residents) feels like.

July 1st is also a big deal for everyone else in residency- it’s a sign that time really is moving forward, and that they are getting one step closer to finishing their training. It’s also one step closer to having their lives back. The term “resident” has been historically used for those in training who live at the hospital. You are a resident of the hospital. You live there. You don’t live at home with your family. Some general surgery programs forbade their residents from being married while in training (this was about fifty-ish years ago). Often these residents were married in secret. If you know a surgeon who is of advanced years, give their wife a hug. They’ve been through a lot. Thanks to some recent work-hour laws, residents have an easier (I giggle ironically as I write the word “easier”) time balancing work and their personal lives compared to those who went before them. It’s still extremely difficult, though: due to the hands-on nature of general surgery and orthopedic surgery, if you’re not in the operating room, you’re not learning. And the only thing more predictable than death or taxes is that you’re going to get sick on the weekend, so that’s usually the busiest time, especially for ER/trauma.

When I got married, my husband was on night float, so outside of our honeymoon, we had three nights together the first five weeks we were married. He worked every single holiday the first year we were married. He left at 6 pm on Christmas Eve and got home at 6 pm Christmas Day. He worked Easter Sunday and our birthday weekend (our birthdays are a day a part). My extended family has seen him about four times in the six years we have been together (that includes our wedding); if he’s not working on a holiday, there is a 95% chance he’s schedule to work the day before or the day after, so we can’t travel anywhere.

Residents (and almost all doctors, for that matter) can’t call in sick. Often-times residents will hook themselves up to an IV to keep from being dehydrated. One of my husband’s co-residents operated fourteen hours the day before she delivered her baby. The first few years of my husband’s residency, my husband ate one meal a day.  He lost over ten pounds in two weeks during one particularly time-consuming rotation. He has gone months without taking a day off. The first few years of being married, we really struggled forming friendships with any couples outside of the medical community, because it’s hard to schedule a get together when you don’t know if he’ll be home until he actually walks in the door, and even then, he may be called back to work for an emergency surgery. When I was pregnant with Gracie, we had five people on back up call in case I went into labor when he was scrubbed in for surgery- depending on the case, he wouldn’t be able to leave and take me to the hospital across town.

So maybe you see why I get a little weepy when I think about residency. I see the man that I love being pushed to the brink of physical and emotional exhaustion for years. I am alone, a lot. And while I feel the love my husband has for me every second of the day, I know that when he’s in the operating room, the only person in the world that matters to him is his patient.

But the tears also come from joy. Each hardship has taught us something that we would not have learned if things had been easy.

Because of the insane work hours, my husband and I have learned to maximize our time together, and to enjoy the mundane things in life. One of my favorite memories of the second year we were married was to be able to go to the grocery store together. Holidays have now become more about the people that we are with, and not about what day we celebrate.

Because of the financial strain of residency, I have been learning that “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a fatted ox with hatred” (Proverbs 15:17). If I don’t focus on the spiritual growth of myself and my family, and learn to be content with our current circumstances, all the big houses or nice cars in the world won’t make me happy.

Because of the (very true) reputation general surgery has for being an incredible difficult program, we have been lifted up in prayer by more people than I will ever know. After a particularly hard week, a couple from my home church in AL wrote us a kind, encouraging, and compassionate letter (enclosed with a medical-themed necktie). Every time I see my husband where that tie, I am reminded that we are never alone.

Because of the intense work environment, my husband has developed a deep bond with his fellow residents that wouldn’t exist otherwise. Each resident comes from a completely different walk of life, and yet they are deeply connected from their shared experiences. They have fought to keep people alive; they’ve saved lives and lost them. It’s been said that the trauma coming through the doors of the main hospital in our city is exactly like a combat zone, minus the shrapnel. My husband and his fellow residents have fought a war together.

Also, because of the intense work environment, my husband has had the blessing to work under some of the strongest, most compassionate men and women I have ever met. The general surgery culture is very harsh; it’s not a normal day if a resident hasn’t been verbally assaulted by an attending physician. It takes a great deal of character and strength for an attending to go against the grain and be kind to their residents; they have my eternal gratitude for how they have treated my husband. I prayed for years that my husband would be able to work for an attending who conducted himself with gentleness and kindness, and it has been one of my greatest joys to see this answered.

Tomorrow is July 1st. No fireworks. Just another long day at work.  I wrote this to give myself some perspective, because all I want is for this final year of residency to fly by. But just as the late Elisabeth Elliot said, “Let not our longing slay our appetite for living”. The days are going to be long, but I hope the weeks and months go by quickly.

And you know what? I think I’ll actually publish this for once, so you’ll get to read it. Happy Medical New Year, everyone.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

(I try to sing to Gracie every night (“try” is the key word). This verse of Great is Thy Faithfulness was what I sang to her when her daddy was working overnights at the trauma center)

The Sleep Battle

It was while fighting my way to work one morning that I realized I had hit rock bottom. A blessed individual cut me off and I said with deep vehemence, “I hope you have a child who can’t sleep!!”

I’m sure that if you’ve seen me in the past year, and out of common courtesy asked me how I am doing with motherhood, that you know GG isn’t sleeping well.  My well-meaning friends (bless their hearts, I do love them, I promise) pour platitudes on my head while saying “Oh but my child is a great sleeper.” Telling someone that, while in the thick of the sleep battle, is like pouring out a bottle of water in front of someone dying of thirst.

We are nearing GG’s first birthday- June 2nd. I was told that it would get better at four months. Then six months, and then nine months. Teeth came. Molars began to emerge. Breast milk was changed to formula and solids were introduced.  And yet, sleep she did not.

All logical thought leaves you in the middle of the night. Your child is screaming, your body and mind are beyond the breaking point, and you have to work the next morning. In Romans 8:26, where Paul says that the Holy Spirit intercedes with us with groans that cannot be understood—he probably wrote that while staying in the house of someone whose child was up all night.

Sunday night, I began Dr Ferber’s Cry It Out series with GG.  I read all the pertinent information in his book (seriously, I don’t need to read the chapter regarding REM cycles; I haven’t had one of those in thirteen months) and had it next to the guest room bed (Husband has to do important things like operate and be pleasant the next day, so he got to stay in our room), ready to hold me accountable when GG started her midnight symphony.

Two AM arrives and GG starts wailing. I set the timer on my phone, wait four minutes, and then go in to comfort her. As I walk out, her screaming hits a pitch I have never heard before. I walk back into the guest room and immediately go for Dr Ferber’s assuring words that I’m not hurting my child. The book is gone.  I spend the next 8 minutes frantically searching for it until the timer goes off on my phone and I can go back to check on GG. Screaming continues.  Set the timer for 8 more minutes.

Running across the house, I throw open our bedroom door and yell “WHERE IS MY BOOK? WHERE IS DR FERBER?!?!” at which my husband sits up and goes “Huwhahahaha?!”

He’s still in a daze as I go on a passionate diatribe of how I can no longer handle any of this and if GG doesn’t stop crying or if I don’t find Dr Ferber soon, I’m just going to get the car. And. Drive. Away.  I have actually made this threat multiple times in the past month, so my husband throws some encouragement my way, rolls over and goes back to sleep. Bless him. He’s come so close to death so many times, and he has no idea.

The timer goes off again, and I as I walk back to GG’s room, I convince myself that God took my book. He was judging me for trying to conform my child into a Nazi-style sleep system and He spirited away the sinful book and is punishing me with overwhelming anxiety (I promise, this made TOTAL sense to me at 3 am).  I was Hester Prynne and I would wear a scarlet “Z” on my chest for the rest of my life.

So, funny thing happened.  After checking on GG a fourth time, I found my book wedged between the bed frame and the mattress. Ten minutes into the 12 minute time allotment, GG stopped crying.  She blissfully slept until 6 am while I tossed and turned and generally beat myself up over the whole situation.

When she woke in the morning, she didn’t even hate me. I thought after her tortuous experience the night before, that she would give me the silent treatment, or pee on me, at the very least. Nope… I walked in to squeals of delight and a happy, chattering 11 month old.

We had two good nights. I think God had mercy on my soul and my marriage. However, Wednesday night and last night have been torture all over again, but the screaming has gone from two hours to ninety minutes, so hopefully we will be making the slow transition to sanity in the near future.

Until then, if you see me out and about, don’t give me a hug, or tell me that it’ll be over soon. Just help me find my car keys, because my husband has hid them from me.

Behind Enemy Lines

willis and gracie

Covert Surveillance

Greetings to my comrades in arms,
Due to the cold weather, I have been trapped in the house of my captors for several days, forcing me to use their arcane communication system to reach you. I am thankful for a fellow agent who has been stationed next door to me, but my attempts at verbal contact have been to no avail.
My situation has become desperate. The Spawn of my captors has taken complete control of my environment and I believe she will blow my cover in a few short months. I know that you cannot acknowledge me or my work should I be discovered, so I am sending you a written account, should I not survive for my debriefing.
The Spawn arrived seven months ago. I had managed, prior to her arrival, to gain complete control of the small apartment to which my captors brought me. I had infiltrated their furniture space and buried many communication beacon among pillows and various decorative sundries. I had trained my female captor to take me to the information drop-off points upwards to three times a day. My lair, underneath their sleeping station, was filled with classified documents, which I inspected until they were shreds.
It is with a heavy heart and shameful countenance that I inform you that my mission has become a complete failure. I have considered that the Spawn has been sent by the Evil Ones, but have been unable to confirm this, particularly since she does not possess the Claws of Death or the Tempting Tail. I believe she is a rogue operative and is highly experienced.
In these several months, she has ruined my work of almost three years. Shortly after her arrival, my captors and I were relocated to a larger, more stationary compound. I was given a small plot of dirt as my own, as a possible peace offering from my captors. Unfortunately, I am unable to make regular contact with the closest drop-off point, despite lack of steps and closer proximity. I overheard that this move was due to the Spawn and her consistent demands on my captors’ time, energy, and attention.
The only time I am able to work uninterrupted is during the Spawn’s recharging periods. It seems that her energy level is inversely related to my captors’ energy levels. As they tire, the louder and louder she communicates through screams and tears. Eventually they cave into her demands and provide her with a liquid energy drink, of which I have sampled. It is disgusting.
I have also become increasingly concerned that the Spawn has eliminated any shred of sanity left in my captors. She has taught them to dance, sing, and make bizarre noises for her sick sense of humor. It is only a matter of time before they succumb and all will be lost.
All endeavors to turn her to our side have failed. I have offered her several of my spy tools as a show of good faith, but they are returned to me covered in her drool. Attempts at verbal communication have been immediately interrupted by my captors. If only they knew what evil lies on the floor with her toes in her mouth.
It is with a heavy heart that I end my message to you. The Spawn, who has become increasingly mobile, is beginning the transition of being carried by my captors to being independent of them for movement. She has a fascination with my ears and my nose, so my two greatest weapons will be compromised soon.
I will continue to wait for word from you.
Willis

Sarah Does Pinterest, Part 2: The Lowe’s Adventure

I can’t count how many times I’ve dug around random drawers and cabinets in our apartment, trying to find a screwdriver. I wind up grabbing a butter knife and pat myself on the back for my ingenuity and call it a day. You see, Husband isn’t too handy around the house. He’s great at taking apart and putting back together the human body… but not much else. It’s 50% because he works 18 hour days, and 50% because if misses a nail and hits his finger with a hammer, he can’t operate. I doubt any patient would feel comfortable going under the knife when their surgeon has several fingers bandaged. So most of the handy stuff falls to me, and I’m content with my lot… I’ve found I enjoy it.

My dad had left his 18V electric drill at our place last time he visited, and I needed something to tighten the bolts on Gracie’s swing. A manual screwdriver would have worked just as well— it’s a travel swing and not substantial– but the drill was laying around and the butter knife wasn’t cutting it (pun. haha.).

Oh my word. Granted, I almost stripped the bolts because there was simply too much power… but, my friends… the POWER. Now I know why Rosie the Riveter is such an icon.

After conquering the swing, I turned to Husband and said, ” Forget new shoes. I want a power drill for Christmas”. I started imagining all the glorious Pinterest projects I could actually do, instead of pinning and pretend I’ll do them later (I’ve written a treatise on Pinterest in a previous post). I could buy ugly cheap things and turn them into passably decent things with a fake distressed look, for about $5 cheaper than something just as good, and new. I could turn our new rental house into a mecca of tasteful home-ness through artfully placed mason jars. I could make a new dining room table out of reclaimed driftwood, twist ties, and milk paint. The power drill would be my gateway drug to the euphoria of home DIY, and Pinterest was my drug dealer.

I think it had bothered my dad that we didn’t have any tools around the house, and without knowing I had set my mind to owning such a magnificent machine, he informed me that he was buying me a power drill while I was in Birmingham visiting them. Cha-ching.

I hadn’t been in to a home improvement store since getting active on Pinterest, and so my eyes were opened to the manifold possibilities of craftiness awaiting me on every aisle of the store. Don’t even get me started on the spray paint aisle.

However, I wanted to get my DIY fanaticism deeply under wraps while in the store. I am fully convinced that a punching bag with the Pinterest logo on it is located in the employee lounge at Lowe’s and Home Depot. The employees probably spend most of their break time sharing horror stories of women who walk in asking for random items because “they saw it on Pinterest”.

So, I was at a loss when Dad and I were browsing through drills and the employee asked me what I was planning to use the power drill for.

Don’t say Pinterest projects. Don’t say Pinterest projects.

“Oh, you know… DIY stuff.”

(I failed to realize that the ENTIRE PURPOSE of Lowe’s is DIY, hence making me sound like a complete idiot and probably earning a conversation around the water cooler later).

Obviously this gave the Lowe’s guy no information whatsoever, so he asked what specific projects I meant.

Crap.

“Oh, umm…. you know… drilling holes in 2×4’s”

Yes, I actually said that. This also earned an incredulous look from my father.

Realizing my blunder, I quickly thought of something that would redeem myself in the eyes of this employee. I asked him where the shims were.

(in case you didn’t know, shims are small, thin pieces of wood that are used to wedge uneven things. or something. but they’re used in the Pinterest world to make table runners and wooden square door hangers and other nonsensical things. just look my Rental Home DIY board and you’ll see.)

The poor man had the decency to pretend to think for several seconds. He was probably praying that he would have enough self control to not climb on top of one of the omnipresent ladders in the store and throw himself off.

To wrap this up, we finally picked out a pretty yellow 12V drill. It’s battery powered and it lights up at the end, which I’ve decided is useful for two reasons:
1) I can drill something in a windowless room when power is out… which I’m sure will happen eventually
and 2) I can keep it by my bed as a makeshift flash light when the power goes out. I can drill into the air as I walk around the house looking for candles. It will also double as a self defense mechanism, because I’m certain any home intruder would run screaming from a 5’3″ woman running at him with a power drill.

We ended our time in the store with me skipping through the aisles, picking up hose clamps for my mason jar projects, the infamous shims, and finally going to the wood section, where I picked out my very own piece of wood. I didn’t know that it’s like a deli, where you have to pick out a big piece of wood and they cut it to whatever size you wanted. This deterred me (as I didn’t want to look stupid in front of yet another employee), but thankfully I found some precut pieces and picked out one I wanted (“I’m going to take you home and paint you, and distress you, and hang you on the wall, and love you…”).

Purchases made, items loaded, and they’re all still in the back of the car. While in the store, I momentarily forgot that I have a newborn. She’s my current DIY project… and so I will be transferring my Lowe’s goodies to my craft closet. The hypothetical craft closet that lives on my Pinterest board, that is.