work and play

I’m proud to say I’ve been diligently studying all morning, so I’ve decided to take a break for a a visit here over a bit of a late lunch. I’ve just come off of yet another delightful weekend (which, per usual, was less full of school work than intended), and now I’m heading back into a week of exams. I think I’ve fallen into a pretty good stride with school and work and play. Work tends to take my mind off of school, school takes my mind off of work, and piano focuses my mind in an entirely different direction. In addition (as I’ve said before), it really does help to take some serious time off in the midst of a hefty stack of responsibilities. Gardening and recreation have provided much needed mental breaks, as well as a little perspective on everything else.

Pretty much every time the weather is relatively nice, I bother Jeremy to take me somewhere on the motorcycle. Last week, he agreed to a mid-week, mid-work-day gelato run back to our old stomping grounds in Wicker Park. The place is called Caffe Gelato, and it totally beats the trendy neighborhood competitor, Black Dog, where you’ll get a hefty dose of ‘tude along with your generally mediocre gelato.

No gelato shop could ever truly fill the Scoops-filled hole in my heart since we left Los Angeles, but this place comes darn close. Probably because it’s run by Italians. Those Italians know gelato.

Friday I had my third agency shift at a hospital in Humboldt Park. I stepped in poop on my way there (which I didn’t notice until I tracked it into the hospital), admitted a patient who’d undergone emergency surgery whose blood pressure was 56/35 when I arrived at 7am, and wound up working thirteen hours without eating anything more than a strip of fruit leather. Surprisingly, it was not an awful day. For the first time since starting agency, I felt like I knew what I was doing again; like my real nurse self was back, despite having to navigate paper charting and an inability to remember where anything is located. I ended the day with two healthy patients, a poop-free shoe bottom, and a dinner date with my husband at my favorite Thai food place. I had prayed hard for peace in the midst of difficult circumstances on my way to work, and I think God seriously enabled me to make it through the day without falling apart. I left thankful and encouraged.

This weekend was freakishly hot (which felt amazing), and we spent a decent chunk of time working on our vegetable garden. We’re nearly done planting. So far we’ve got tomatoes, onions, summer squash, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, brussels sprouts, green beans, romaine, butter crunch lettuce, bell peppers, hot peppers, and strawberries.

We had some scattered thundershowers last night, and I felt so happy for the plants! I can’t wait until things start growing large enough to eat!

Well, it’s been a lovely little break, but I better be going. I’m off to do a bit of practice before my lesson this afternoon! I’ve been working on a simplified version of this piece. Cheers!

Operation TOTBY

I can’t even begin to tell you what this gorgeous weather we’re having is doing for my soul. My dream job as a kid was a meteorologist, and sometimes I still think I would make a great weather woman because of how much I LOVE discussing the weather. It’s a perfect 70 degrees outside and our backyard is a breezy, sunny dreamland. I spent the morning outside with the chickens, also first accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee and el Biblio, followed by the more exciting company of my friend Elsbeth (+ adorable Madeline, of course) and her sis-in-law. I do not take for granted my privileged life as a grad student on mornings like these. What a blessing to be free to be outside when the weather is so favorable!

In light of the gorgeous weather and the arrival of summer right around the corner, the latest project we’ve taken on is Operation Trick Out The Back Yard. It started with the canopy of lights Jeremy put up over our patio (here’s a snapshot at dusk from the other night):

And then came the chickens, of course, which you know about. We’re planning to build them a proper run this weekend, so that they can have free reign of backyard space, without ruining all of our soon-to-be-planted new plants. The run will essentially be the entire strip at the back of the yard, along the garage between the compost and the sidewalk (which this picture is taken from):

The bulk of operation TOTBY involves the things we’ll be planting. We’re pretty pumped about finally having our very own real backyard for the purpose of having a go at vegetable gardening on a bigger scale (at least compared to our attempt at container gardening on the ledge of our Los Angeles pad). One of Jeremy’s best Christmas gifts this year was a collection of heirloom seeds, which will be fun to try, but before getting our veggie planning and planting on, we’re focusing on the big picture of the yard. Wednesday evening for Jeremy’s birthday, we took a trip to the most incredibl nursery I’ve ever stepped foot in: GETHSEMANE GARDEN CENTER.

This place is amazing. Every gardeners dream, I think. We had a wonderful time perusing the vines and veggies, collecting inspiration and ideas for our back yard. We decided to start out conservative, and picked up these two Trumpet Creeper vines to spiff up our fence:

So the actual planting is about to start happening! But we’ve got lots to work on. Here’s our current yard, as is:

You can see the raised, rectangular beds Jeremy built (filled with mostly unopened bags of soil). Those will be home to all of our vegetables, and we’re hoping to plant vines of green beans that will grow up the fence to the right of those beds. To the right of the big tree, Jeremy made a little pseudo-container for annuals and herbs. Along that side of the fence, we’ll plant the trumpet creeper vines, which will climb up the fence and fill with yellow and salmony trumpet flowers. The chicken coop, which you can see at the back left of the picture, will get moved pretty much where the compost bin currently lies (in the back right corner of the yard), to make a little more room for chicken wandering. Behind the run along the garage, we’ll have some more vines (we’re thinking Clematis vines) growing up those trellises currently leaning against it. Our last major endeavor (as of yet) will be a stone path, which will run between the two raised beds, past the chicken run, and right to the sidewalk that leads to the garage door.

Can’t wait to show you our progress as things start to (hopefully) shape up. I have to say, I didn’t think I would really get into yard work (I think I associated it with being really hot and tired and forced to pull weeds), but I’m beginning to see why gardening is so therapeutic for some people. I had the most delightful evening staining a trellis with the chickens wandering around the other night. Looking forward to getting back to it after a day of studying. Cheers!

work, school, and chickens.

I really shouldn’t be blogging right now. But so much has been happening over the past few weeks, and I’m pretty sure if I wait for a day where I can “find time” to blog, it may be June before I return here. So. I am going to give you a real quick rundown of what’s been happening around these parts lately.

First big piece of news: I quit my job at Northwestern. And let me tell you. It was the right move. Leaving was a little bittersweet, because I really worked with some great people there, enjoyed my patients, and had a lot of autonomy in a setting I knew very well. Instead, I am now working at an agency, which means I spend my shifts working in different ICUs across Chicago. Why the switch? Many reasons, including increased flexibility and a bit of a pay increase (maximizing my limited hours working). I think the best part of quitting my job at Northwestern was just taking something off my plate. My working hours haven’t decreased (in fact, they’ve increased), but for at least a few days, I was able to tell myself, “BREATHE. ONE LESS THING TAKING UP PRECIOUS MENTAL SPACE.”

School is TRYING TO CONSUME MY LIFE. I suppose that’s appropriate, considering I plan to graduate with a masters next summer. A few weeks ago, I pulled my first grad school all nighter (impressive, actually, considering it’s my third quarter) and spent every other day of that week sleeping an average of five to six hours. I remember telling myself, “I just have to get through these three exams, this research paper, and these two projects, and I’ll be able to breathe again.” When the madness of that week was finally over, I realized I had another two weeks of exams, projects, and NOT A LOT OF SLEEP ahead. Shoot. So it began to look like there was going to be no break before the end of the quarter in five weeks. And since that realization I’ve come to discover three things:

1. I DESPERATELY WANT A TROPICAL VACATION.

2. EVERY WEEK IS FINALS WEEK.

3. SOMETIMES YOU NEED TO JUST ACT LIKE YOU’RE ON VACATION WHEN YOU ARE SO NOT ON VACATION.

And so. This weekend, before my week of two more major exams and project deadlines looming closely, I acted like I was on vacation. Because WEDNESDAY I WORKED 14 HOURS, THURSDAY was HAVE-YOUR-NEAR-PANIC-ATTACK-DAY, as always, and FRIDAY I had to go to the doctor to get a CAMERA STUCK UP MY NOSE. So yeah, I thought this seemed like a good weekend for a vacation.

It was lovely. Friday evening I actually SAW my husband. Woot! Saturday a bunch of AWESOME women from my church came to my house to eat quiche and drink mimosas and RELAX together. It was the best. Then I hung out with my husband AGAIN (what!). We made dinner and watched A WEBISODE that night. YES! Sunday, after all the regular lovely things we get to do from 8am to 2pm, WE GOT CHICKENS. REAL. LIVE. FLUFFY. EGG-LAYING CHICKENS. Here’s one:

They’re silkies (you can read about them on wikipedia), a little over one year old. And let me tell you. They are a HOOT. I feel like such a farm person. Trudging through the mud in our backyard making it chicken-ready was the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

Ok. Well I should really get off to studying for these exams. UNTIL NEXT TIME.