Welcoming 2017

Looking back over the past year, I thought I’d start out with my resolutions for 2016. How well, or how poorly, did I do? Where do we go from here?

Here’s an excerpt from last year’s New Year’s post:

Last week, I found this idea: a “7 x 2016”, a prompt for making wishes become goals instead of ‘traditional’ resolutions. I really liked that idea, so here goes mine, with a couple additions:

Learn how to.….. speak in medical Spanish. Back in high school and even college, I was pretty good in speaking Spanish with native speakers. However, it’s true that what you don’t use, you lose. I’ve bought a guide and have already conquered the first chapter. Here’s hoping for better communication with some of my future patients. This one has been a success, in some ways. One of the perks of being a medical student is that sometimes we are offered discounts on this… like Rosetta Stone. Our class got a deal on the Spanish set, and I jumped at the chance to use a program to increase my skills. I’m still not done with the program or with the Medical Spanish text I bought, but every little step is a victory so I’m calling it a win.

Start……. My Year of Kindness. One thing I’ve been noticing lately is a genuine lack of kindness in our community. I’ve got a few ideas on what to target for each month, and I’m really hoping this new venture is a success. More on that soon. This was also a success, and one that I am very proud of. In January of last year I pioneered a project christened My New Kentucky Home that served the refugee and new immigrant populations of my city, and it was a smashing success. What a way to kick off a year of Kindness!

Stop…… Doubting myself. I do it all the time. It’s a hard habit to break, but I realize what a detriment it is to my psyche and my performance as a student, wife, and mom. There is no room for it anymore in this new year. I have gotten better at this. It is a very slow process, but I’m gaining more optimism by the day. It’s so easy to give up on some things because they seem so daunting. Slowing changing that inner voice has helped my life in a big way.

Travel to.….. This one is my favorite, I think. While I feel like I am overdue for a visit to somewhere outside the USA. It’s been almost 5 years since we went to the Caribbean. However, I think that adventure might still be awhile off. This year, we’re planning on a post-third year pre-Step 2 studying family vacation to Washington, DC and Virginia Beach–three new states for me and the Ladybug’s first trip to a beach. Much slower-paced than we’re used to, but that’s ok! Making memories with my family is a priority this year. We made a ton of memories on that trip to DC and Virginia Beach! The little one had a blast too, so I think another beach vacation is in the cards for 2017.

Find…. Two half-marathons to run this year. With rotations, it’s not like I can just pick which ones to do this far ahead of time, so I’m wondering if I should skip the local half-marathon in April (during my OB/GYN rotation… just watch my week of nights in L&D be the same time as the race) and plan for one in summer and another in the fall. Any suggestions for fun ones to run? As it turned out, the local half marathon WAS during my two weeks of Labor and Delivery, when I was working intense hours at an intense pace. So, this goal was a flop. I failed. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t gain something along the way. I was much likely to be found at the gym this year, even if I didn’t get to run in those races that I hoped for. I no longer hate the gym. I no longer feel that it is a chore to go, but instead I actually look forward to going. Baby steps! My most consistent part of the year was probably during Step 2 studying, since I would get in a run before sitting down to study as part of my daily routine.

Try…… New restaurants in our area. Since there is a great probability that we just may not be living here after The Match, I’ve insisted that instead of always going to the same places (which I love, honestly), that we try some new places that are unique to the Louisville area. We’ve asked friends of ours to go with us to a new restaurant once a month. I’m really excited for this new Double-Date Night! This was also a major fail. Between my schedule, the Handsome’s long hours at work, and conflicting schedules with friends, this one did not get off the ground. However, we still have high hopes for 2017 and adding more friends to the mix.

Be more……. Girly. Since being in med school, I quit dressing nice for class/school in general unless it was absolutely necessary. Then once I became a mom, I put myself last on the list of people to care for. I love dresses but don’t think they look right on me. Since losing so much weight, the brand-new clothes I bought for rotations in July already don’t fit me, which is a blessing and a curse. I hope to actually acquire some style this year, and maybe even keep my nails painted and try new lipstick or something. So this one is a win for me too. This has been the first year in a long time where I actually took care of myself. Taking pride in my appearance wasn’t on the radar before because I was simply trying to survive, and spending time on myself didn’t feel like it had good return on investment. However, now I am feeling better about myself (it’s all part of changing that inner dialog!).

And then two I added to make my own “9 x 2016”:

Less….. Screen time/wasted time on my phone. I wonder how much efficient I would be if I transferred all of my phone time to work time. Not that it’s bad to focus on something outside of medicine for awhile, but I find that I scroll through all the social media apps when I’m bored and spend much more time on them then I intend. There was good and bad to this one. I was much better about staying off of Social Media during my dedicated study time for Step 2 CK, but outside of that, I STILL pay far too much attention to my phone.

More…… Memories/Playtime with my kiddo and hubby. The Ladybug loves for momma to come home and do nothing but play until it’s her bedtime… which sometimes eats up a large amount of my study time, and sometimes makes me worry that I’m not a good medical student. However, I don’t think this is time wasted (such as when I’m on my phone). I always, always, always make sure that I tell her that I am happy to see her and that I love her as soon as I pick her up each day. I want to soak up all of this sweet toddler time as I can. This one was definitely a win. 4th year has aided in my ability to make more special moments with my family, since I’ve had much more ‘free time’ this year than in the previous three years. Every opportunity I get to pick up the little one early from daycare to take a surprise visit to the park, I take. It has been amazing and so sweet.

So what does that leave for 2017? 2016 was my best year yet for sticking to my goals throughout the year. Previously, my ‘resolutions’ were usually broken by the first few weeks of the new year. This year’s successes are making me much more optimistic for 2017 and beyond. 2017 has the potential to be the best year yet with so many new adventures on the horizon: my brother is getting married in the spring, I graduate in May, we will be purchasing our first home before the start of residency, and I will finally get my MD and start training to become a pediatrician. Many new things were introduced into my life this year, which were unexpected and totally outside of my 9×2016 list. I have started meditating using the Calm app (which I love!), increasing my yoga practice, and becoming minimalist. These were things I never saw coming but I am so glad I found them/they found me and my family, and I fully intend to keep them throughout 2017.

My 9×2017:

Learn:… Spanish. This is just a continuance, and still something that is very important to me. It has already helped me form greater bonds with my patients and their families just by saying the phrases that I do know, and acknowledging that I still have more to learn but I am TRYING.

Start: Racing. I made good strides of going to the gym more frequently and PR’ing my times, but I want to bite the bullet and actually race this year. I’ve already signed up for a local series of races where I can build up my distance.

Stop: Feeling guilty for not knowing everything. So much of medical school is realizing just how much I STILL DO NOT KNOW even when I am killing myself with studying. It is OK that I do not know everything. There is an opportunity to learn each day, and I plan on fully taking advantage of that and asking more questions… all of which will make me a better physician.

Travel to: We have several plans for travel this year, with the first adventure being next week. I could go on and on about this one, but for now I will just say there will be hiking and sunshine and a few new states/possibly countries.

Find: The right program, the right home, the right mentors. Some of these are time-dependent, but there will be a lot of work to do come Match Day (3/17).

Try: New restaurants (a continuance of our goal for last year) along with new foods! As part of interview season this year, we get a lot of dinners out with residents in all of these new cities and I’ve made it a secondary goal to try meals I would ordinarily never try. From butternut squash ravioli to my first taste of Indian food (which I LOVED!), it’s been a good idea to branch out and try new cuisines/flavors.

Be more: Of an advocate. One of the things I love most is projects, especially those that help people. I do not have much experience on the political side of things, but as I start residency it is increasingly important to me that I learn how to fight for my patients, their families, and their needs. Learning this skill is one of the things I am most looking forward to in residency, in my new role. How exactly do I plan to do that? First of all, I’ve been interviewing at programs that excel in advocacy. There are other opportunities for training through local and away electives. I’ve also been looking for great mentors. No matter where I end up Matching, I will have a solid foundation to help me with that endeavor.

Less: Screen time. This one is a hard one to break (I mean, I’m blogging right now, so….), but I realize that especially with screen time, less is more.

More: Meditation, exercise, relaxation, reflection, minimalism. All of these things, to me, go together hand-in-hand. What I haven’t been doing much of lately is reflecting and writing about how these things have helped change our lives for the better.

I am looking forward to a 2017 full of adventures and memories. What are your goals for the new year? What big adventures are on your heart and mind? Share with me! Let’s encourage each other to make 2017 the best year yet!

Six Years… and Counting

In the hustle and rush of a med student’s schedule, I often don’t get to spend as much time with my friends and family as I’d like. But there’s one person in particular that I feel like I’ve put through a particularly hard ringer in the past two and a half years, and that is David.

When I first met him, he had just moved home from a job in Iowa, was living with his mother, and didn’t have a job here yet. I was particularly miserable when I met him… I felt lost. I had been through a bad breakup earlier in the year, had been rejected after months on the waitlist of my dream medical school, had left behind many friendswas working a job I wasn’t sure I even liked, and enrolled in a graduate program I wasn’t sure I fit into, all while trying to figure out what I was going to do with my life. I’d considered dropping everything I was doing to join the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps… I had the applications filled out but had not had the courage to hit “Send”.  I imagined a life of loneliness, being married to my work, and maybe someday adopting children if I still wanted them. In reality, at that time, I wasn’t even sure I wanted to meet anyone until after I got my own life figured out.

But…. he sure was handsome. And he was kind. He had a sharp wit and understood my science jokes. He had his own science jokes. When I talked about all of the trips I dreamed about taking “someday”, he was the first guy that didn’t balk at me…. but instead, added in his own. And when I rattled on and on about my dream of becoming a doctor, with one unsuccessful application cycle under my belt… he didn’t try to talk me out of it, as others had. He is always encouraging, always supporting, always pushing me to find new horizons. In the past 18 months, he’s had to deal with my insanity of becoming a mom… and endured all the silly songs I have created to make our daughter smile (sometimes, I am sure he thinks I have lost my ever-loving mind).

This year, we celebrated six years of our fairy tale. Things haven’t always been easy. There have been many obstacles that we didn’t foresee: funerals, sick family members, two more unsuccessful medical school application cycles, a successful application cycle, last-minute switch in medical schools, getting pregnant during medical school…. This year alone we’ve dealt with the stress of Step 1, moving, juggling a toddler during a long and draining surgery rotation, an unexpected funeral… In the year to come, we’ll deal with the stresses of the Matching process, together.

In these years, he is unchanged. He continues to surprise me with his thoughtfulness. He has never once told me my dreams were too big… instead, he stretches their boundaries and makes them ours.He has never once told me things were too rough. He lets me vent my frustrations when I need to. He has his own frustrations that sometimes I feel he keeps to himself because he knows I am stressed. However, this life is still pretty sweet, and I love him more each day. I never thought that this life was possible. He is a treasure, and my perfect match. I am so thankful for our  we have built together.

Very often, I remember what life was like pre-David. I remember all of the things that ran through my mind, and I remember that I didn’t like where my life was going. This all makes me realize just how lucky I am that he chose me.

David, my handsome…. I can’t promise white Christmases or always-clear skies…. But I can fuel your adventurous side, and walk those trails hand in hand. Happy anniversary, David. Six years of adventures behind us, and hopefully many more still to come.


Day 5: In Which We “Summit” Avalanche Peak and I am Paralyzed by Fear

At 10,000 feet, less than 600 vertical feet below the summit, loose, flat shards of slippery shale underneath my feet, surrounded by nothing but sky, the wind taunting me, shrieking and screaming, shoving me in all directions. The tree line is hundreds of feet below me, so there is nothing to hold on to, brace against, or block the wind. The mountain slope above me is at almost a 90 degree angle. What is supposedly a path in front of me is maybe a foot wide at its most generous.

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For the second time on this same trail, my confidence and composure failed, and panic paralyzed me. We did not complete this hike.

But, first things first.

East Entrance
East Entrance

We left Worland early in the morning, taking the scenic route toward the East Entrance of Yellowstone. We passed through Cody, WY, home of Buffalo Bill, just in time–right before their annual 4th of July parade that kicks off a huge rodeo–that Fodor’s guide says they call “Cowboy Christmas.”

On the other side of Cody–I’m so glad we didn’t get stuck in the parade traffic–we briefly stopped at Buffalo Bill Dam. It’s a beautiful place, but in an effort to continue on to Yellowstone, we only snapped a few pictures before getting back out on the road.

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Several miles later, after passing a snow plow in July, we finally reached the East Entrance of Yellowstone, what I had been waiting for since we started planning this excursion a year and a half earlier. (Traveler’s tip: wear clothing that depicts something from home. With me in my IU shirt and David in his Purdue hat, we met far more people. One group from Fort Wayne, IN even offered to take our picture at the East Entrance.)

Not really having a plan, we stopped at Sylvan Lake for lunch to watch the loons and take a quick flip through the guidebook. We had both marked Avalanche Peak Trail, and it was near the entrance, so we set out on our first hike in Yellowstone. The guidebook says that on a busy day, there may be 6 groups of hikers that attempt the trail. Our car made #14 in the parking lot beside the trailhead, with more following us as we put on our gear. Busy day, indeed.

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The start wasn’t so bad. The entire trail is 2 miles long in one direction, but it climbs 2,000 feet in elevation. It was very steep in parts, and definitely the most tiring that we had ever attempted. We made frequent stops for water, rest, and pictures, meeting a group of guys and their young sons, also from Fort Wayne, IN.

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Up and up we went.

The scenery was beautiful; there was even a stream that kept us company on our ascent, clear and crisp as ice. Ahead of us, we could see peaks and snow.

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When we got to the area that I thought was the summit–but wasn’t–we saw a badger and a momma mule deer with her fawn. I went and played in the snow while David took pictures. I really thought we were done with the hike at this point. In retrospect, I should have stopped there. From that little plateau, the trail became much more steep and much less safe. We pressed on, and the longer we were on this bit of the trail, the more uncomfortable I became. The trail was barely wide enough for one step, and here is where we met a lot of other hikers on their way back down the trail. Finding a place to get over to let them through was difficult, and was rapidly becoming concerning. At one point, I had to stop, fighting back tears, and told David that I needed to go back down the trail. It was far too steep, far too narrow, and fear was creeping in. After a few minutes of breathing and finding a place to rest, I was okay with pushing onward. To have come all this way and not summit didn’t seem like an option.

This is where I played in the snow (in JULY), and where I should have stopped.
This is where I played in the snow (in JULY), and where I should have stopped.

Farther up the trail, it became impossibly steep. The ground gave way to broken rock, flat and sharp and smooth–it was not a good substance for finding a foothold. There was no room for error in footsteps, as one wrong move would send a hiker over the side. We were also above the treeline, so there was nothing to obstruct the wind, which was absolutely howling at this elevation. That was when it happened. I was gripped with fear, tears in my eyes, and it was hard to breathe. David was trying to console me by joking around and hugging me, but I was in no mood for jokes or being touched. All it did was make me more aggravated. All I wanted was to descend. At one point, I sat down, basically on nothing; I was too terrified to take even one more step upward, but also too petrified to start downhill (or downmountain).

Taking the time to stop and breathe to try to calm my nerves, the view was pretty cool. But with the wind and how narrow/slippery the path was, I was not comfortable. Fear overmastered me, and I could not continue.

I’m still glad that we attempted this hike, as it was lots of fun before the last 600 vertical feet. The view, even though we were below the summit, was still pretty spectacular, and well worth the grueling hike up.

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Coming down was brutal. This trail was the most rugged I had ever been on. Rugged is not the right term. “Treacherous” suits this one better. I guess I should have known better with a name like ‘avalanche.’ I couldn’t even pray on my way down because I could not form complete sentences, even though I tried. My whole world consisted of: “One more step… one more step…” I couldn’t even tell you how long it took to get back down. I now know why people have knee replacement surgeries. As we descended, the only thought I had was, maybe I won’t have to worry about med school debt, moving, or boards… because I am going to die right here! I held on to my small set of binoculars in my left hand so tightly, as if that would somehow save me from my untimely demise. I don’t think I fully relaxed until we were back in the SUV and I had my shoes/gear off.

I know David was disappointed. I was too. I REALLY wanted to summit Avalanche Peak. The thought never crossed my mind that we wouldn’t. (Fodor’s calls Avalanche Peak Trail Yellowstone’s “best kept secret.” My foot!)

Avalanche Peak broke me. Never again would I attempt this trail. I was not prepared for that. As an amateur hiker at this level, it probably wasn’t the best choice of dayhikes. Sure, 8 year old Boy Scouts finished the climb and I didn’t, but I did push past my first bout of fear and saw the view–it’s still a win in my book. Mountaineering is not for me.

At the base, I couldn’t tell if I was starting to get a tan, or if I was just covered in dirt and dust and grime that stuck to all of the sunscreen and bug spray. Here, i finally stopped shaking. Mountain goats would have been ok on this hike, but sadly, I am not nearly as well-equipped as a mountain goat!

And where did I twist my ankle? Twenty feet from the trailhead, on flat ground devoid of rocks, tree roots, or obstacles of any sort. Go me.

Day 4: Devils Tower Hiking

We took the Scenic Byway through Spearfish Canyon when we started to head toward Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (new state #3!). I love, love, love scenic routes and byways. We came across a beautiful little waterfall, and I tried to get some great audio/video of it for when I’m in med school and need a quick escape into my “happy place.” It was hard to get video of that though. Western South Dakota is much more beautiful than I had ever imagined, so pictures will have to suffice.

Devil’s Tower is quite the wonder. Forever ago, hot magma bubbled up under the earth’s crust, cooled and hardened, and then over the years the surrounding ground eroded away, revealing the hardened magma in this shape. This is the first national monument in the US.

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There are two hiking trails around Devil’s Tower. The short trail is about a mile long, and encircles the base of the Tower. We hiked this one first. It’s a well-maintained trail, and is actually paved. This makes it family-friendly and handicapped accessible. From this vantage point, looking directly up the lined face of the Tower, you can see a few tiny specks–those are actually rock climbers. We saw one register in the log book when we parked. I cannot even imagine climbing this thing!

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We then tried the longer trail, about 3 miles, that included the red clay along the valley. On the backside of the trail, there were no trees. We were totally exposed to full sunlight, and that’s when I could feel my sunscreen start to fail. This lead to my first real tan since the Bahamas in May 2011. Whoops.

Leaving Devil’s Tower, we traveled up into the mountains along Powder River Pass Creek. In the valley, it was 90 degrees; at the highest elevation (9666 feet), it was 56 degrees.

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That night, we did stay in a hotel. The shower was wonderful! We actually had internet service (just in time for me to get an email from school saying I had to register for a pre-orientation orientation via internet on a specified day… when I hadn’t had reliable service for days. Go figure.), but since we hadn’t watched TV since we left on our trip, we opted to leave the TV off. Being so disconnected has done wonders for my stress levels, and I don’t really miss having TV or internet.

Day 3: Waking Up Surrounded by Bison

So, back to my journal of our road trip!

We had pitched our tent at a campsite that Fodor’s National Parks of the American West listed that was free. Why not, right? I’m so glad we did. It was rugged but not completely outside of my comfort zone, but that might be partially attributed to the fact that we were surrounded by other campers. The best part was to come.

Throughout the night, I was woke up a few times because of the coyote/wolf pups yipping and howling (my guess is, in this area, it was coyotes) which I didn’t mind since I’m used to that from back home. I didn’t think that we’d have too many problems with animals since we were part of a larger campground.

The next morning, I got up just as the sun was rising, which is even earlier than it does at home, due to the difference in time zones. I left the tent in search of the restroom, not noticing anything out of the ordinary. When I came out of the restroom, I didn’t see anything. At least, I didn’t see anything until I heard them.

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In this picture, it’s a bit hard to tell, but this bull bison was literally strolling through our campsite, ignoring all of us. He was a LOT closer to us than this picture makes it appear. I was in total shock and awe, and that’s when I noticed that not even a quarter mile away, the rest of the herd was just waking up for the day. Around our little circular campground, several other huge males were also taking their dear sweet time grazing and rolling around in the dirt. This was what I had came here for; not to see animals behind fences at a zoo, or stuffed at a natural history museum, but living, breathing, doing their own thing right next to us without barriers. It was magical. (And, at times, a bit scary… but since the males weren’t in “the rut”, I was less afraid of them becoming aggravated and charging at us.) I totally absorbed it all. I’m sure that people who live here get tired of bison and just ignore them after awhile, but I love bison. They are just so HUGE.

As our bison encounter came to an end, we packed up our tent and set out on the road again. We still had a lot of ground to cover before we made our way to our next stop: Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills (which, on a clear day like this one, you could actually see the silhouette of them both from Badlands). On our way through and out of Badlands, we saw a LOT more bison, mule deer, turkeys, pronghorn, and the big horn sheep ewes and kids.

Day 2: Badlands & Wildlife Encounters

We started off the day in Oacoma, in a little place called the Oasis Inn. This place didn’t look like much on the outside, but was actually pretty nice! After a very long day on the road, this comfortable bed was just what we both needed.

We drove quite a long distance in the night, passing over the Missouri River in the dark, unable to see anything. So once we checked out & grabbed breakfast, we backtracked to the visitors center/ overlook to snap a few pictures.

This was the first place I’d ever seen “beware poisonous snakes” notices posted. Yikes!

From there, we continued over to Badlands after a long stretch of road. Expansive is the word that comes to mind. When I was a little girl, I remember thinking that there would never be a place for me to build a house because all the land would be taken by then.

Then, at long last, we arrived to park #1: Badlands National Park

It’s gorgeous. It’s amazing. After miles and miles of grassland, the plains drop off and these magnificent rock formations rise up to greet the day.The question I find myself asking over and over is, can you imagine being the first person to stumble across this? Walking across the grassland, and all of a sudden the earth gives way and you see this splendor?

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At Burns Basin overlook, a turnout not even marked on my map, we made a quick stop to watch the prairie dog community–the first animals we had seen on our trip. I love these little guys! They squeak, squeal, and bark at each other, jumping to show their white bellies. It’s so cute & comical, I couldn’t help but laugh at them.

Prairie Dog

The animals that really got me excited were the bison. They just seem to scream “wild west.” These guys are huge! We have some bison farms back home, but these guys are so much bigger. This is exactly what I came out here for, the ability to see things as they are, and not behind a bunch of fencing or glass like at a zoo. What a backdrop!

Sunset Buffalo

We left the park to grab dinner in the town of Wall, SD. We found a little place called The Red Rock Restaurant. Kinda pricey, but really, really good–highly recommended.

On our way back to the park, we went to take the side road to the more remote part of the park, but we met a bit of an obstruction:

big horn sheep in road

We went sunset hunting. It was fabulous, just magical.

Badlands Sunset

Way out in this part of the park is a hidden gem, a free campsite in the middle of a field. After driving around to find a great spot for a few sunset photos, we made our way back to the campground to set up our home-away-from-home. This place was quite serene, complete with hippies in a green bus that serenaded us as twilight turned to evening. I am already thoroughly enjoying this vacation! =)

Our Next Road Trip Adventure

Now that it’s officially March, our Rockies/Vegas/Grand Canyon road trip was almost a year ago. It hardly feels like it’s been that long. I am so ready for our next road trip adventure!

This winter has started taking its toll on me. Once the holidays are over, I’m pretty much done with the snow/blizzard/cold temps of winter and start itching for spring. Not to mention, this winter we’ve had several days in negative wind chill temps…not my style, Old Man Winter. I think the biggest eye-opener was this past Monday, when it was actually warm (almost 50 degrees!) and the sunshine was golden. David and I both took off work a bit early so we could walk in the park in the sunshine. I do not remember the last time I was that genuinely happy just to be, and I totally attribute my good mood to the sunshine (yay, Vitamin D!).  I need  more of that! It would be perfectly okay with me if every winter David and I got to go somewhere warm with lots of sunshine for at least a week to soak in some golden rays.

So here I sit, the last full week of February 2013. Daydreaming of a beach, listing to ocean waves on my phone while at work, while it flurries outside. And my good mood has dissipated.

This weekend, I’m hoping to work some more on our trip plans. It’s getting closer now, so it’s time to do some serious planning. I definitely want to see Devil’s Tower, Mt. Rushmore, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring… I absolutely cannot wait!

(Goal to be achieved on this trip: Spending lots of quality time with David before med school. New Goal: Do NOT mention med school, moving, etc. during the entire trip.) In speaking of schools, one starts in mid-July and is jeopardizing our trip plans…. I do not like this at all, but I am determined to get our two week road trip no matter what, as my last bit of defiant freedom before school starts (I can’t even think about it without hearing “A storm is coming, Mr. Wayne,” from the last Batman movie…… or thinking about how this whole med school thing is like my own personal Smaug.)

I’m sure this will sound ridiculously silly, but I cannot wait to get out there to just breathe. When we stopped at the scenic views in Utah, it was so crisp, so quiet, so gorgeous… it bordered on a religious experience. Personally, I felt at peace and so close to God that it was amazing. I wish we would have had more time to enjoy the sights instead of rushing to our intended destination (Vegas). I am so ready to experience that again, and I’m hoping we don’t have to rush this trip this time. To just sit in awe of my surroundings and forget the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life in a flat, noisy, stinky, Midwestern city. The sheer size of these great outdoors was mind-blowing. I am definitely impatient for this summer!

As far as the eye can see...
As far as the eye can see…