Storms, summertime, and women’s health clinicals

There’s a big storm brewing outside this morning and the inside of my living room feels just about as ominous as it looks outside. We haven’t quite got our lighting situation under control, so when it’s dark outside, the front half of our apartment feels sort of like a cave you’d find in an Indiana Jones movie.

It’s actually quite a lovely setting for buckling down and doing some school work. When my sister and I were younger, daytime storms would always send Fain into organization mode. Something about the dark skies, the sounds of raindrops falling against the house, and the smooth rumbles of thunder gave her the urge to work, clean, and rearrange. I think I still feel that way a bit when a storm rolls in before noon.

School work has been slow so far. Let me tell you, it is difficult to sit down and get coursework done in the middle of summer. Jeremy comes home for the weekend tonight and we’re having all the TFA peeps working at his school this summer over for a BBQ. Tomorrow some of our dearest Chicago friends are getting married at our gorgeous church in the city.

The reception is going to be at a boathouse in a beautiful park near our old neighborhood, one of our best friends is going to DJ, and it’s probably going to be one of the best times we’ve ever had in Chicago. See what I mean? Who wants to sit at a computer and spend the day on blackboard when this kind of stuff is happening.

My strategy for getting into school mode is always to start with my clinical assignments because they make me so excited about school. As I mentioned in my last post, I am pretty much always unreasonably nervous for clinicals the evening before going. And I have to say, each time I go I am encouraged and put at ease. First off, I got so lucky with my preceptor. She’s an extremely knowledgeable, experienced nurse practitioner, but even more than that she is a great teacher. I continue to be amazed at how great she is at facilitating my learning. What a huge blessing.

My day on Wednesday (which I was so worried about on Tuesday) was really great. For the first time, I had a patient whose visit I was mostly responsible for. My preceptor asked me to develop a plan for the patient, and I was able to come up with most of what we ended up doing for her. We talked through some differential diagnoses, and [to my great surprise] I was able to come up with the differentials my preceptor was trying to get me to consider. I performed my first two pelvic exams/paps on REAL patients (all you non-nurses out there are probably thinking “ick–how is that an accomplishment?”) which went totally smoothly. And I started taking responsibility for the vast majority of charting on each of my patients. It was a successful day, and I left feeling totally blessed and taken care of.

The other thing about my clinical rotation is that I am really falling in love with my clinical site and the patient population it serves. I’ve been excited about working as a nurse practitioner in an underserved area for a while now, but this rotation has been my first opportunity to really see what that is going to look like as I move into a new role as a practitioner in this setting. The time I spend talking with and providing care to patients has confirmed my excitement for being a healthcare provider in an area where healthcare is not easy for everyone to get. I’m so thankful to be in school. So thankful to be working in women’s health at Lawndale. Can’t wait to see what the future holds.


it just got real, people

[I thought Will looked particularly like he could be thinking “it just got real, people” in this picture.] I guess “just” isn’t totally accurate. Clinicals started last week (technically I went once for 3 hours before last week, but that barely counts) and let me tell you: It’s real. I don’t think of myself as a particularly anxious person, but BOY can I find ways to be nervous about NP clinicals. Every night-before-clinical is an internal battle that consists of MAJOR butterflies and NOT very impressive attempts at self-talk. And when I sit down and really spell out all my worry, it’s quite rediculous.

I am afraid of my preceptor giving me too much responsibility. I’m ALSO simultaneously afraid of her not giving me enough responsibility. I am anxious about how to prep for clinical. Nervous about the patients I’ll see. Concerned that my preceptor will think I am incompetent. Worried I won’t ask enough questions. And this is all AFTER I’ve been to TWO AND A HALF FULL DAYS OF CLINICAL, which were NOT traumatic or bad or a disappointment in any way. I think it’s safe to conclude I need to RE-LAX. Breathe. Take a couple monstrously large DEEP breaths, actually. Permanently tattoo the words “It’s going to be OK, you can DO this” all over my arms.  But I find these things incredibly difficult to do the evening before a day in clinic.

Dependence on God is a difficult practice. It just is. You have to choose it, all the time, and times when you realize you haven’t been choosing it makes it even more difficult. Phew. Prayers over here, please. I’ll take ’em.

On a fluffy cuddly pet-therapy sort of note, I found the most adorable sweet kitty I would like to take home and keep.

On glorious rare occasions throughout my childhood, my mom would take my sister and I to the humane society to pet kitties. What a treat this always was. So I was headed to Trader Joe’s yesterday (on another unexpected day off), and I felt a pang of nostalgia as I passed by PAWS (an animal adoption center in Chicago here) a few blocks down. And then I thought, “Oh, what the heck! I’ve never actually been inside a PAWS. They’re supposed to be kind of cool places. And I’ve got time! I’m goin’ in.”

And then, terribly unexpectedly (who could have ever seen this coming???) I fell in love with a kitty. She laid in my arms like a little squishy bean bag, played with my hair, and generally melted my heart into a puddle of hearty-mush as she rested her little kitty head on my chest.

Bringing her into our home is a pretty long shot. Her still being at PAWS by the weekend is probably an even longER shot. But a girl can dream. Let me have my dreams.

game time

Thursday evening was our four year anniversary. It’s especially bizarre this year because Jeremy is at TFA’s summer training Institute, which is where he was four years ago, five days after we got married. I was there too, it was in LA, and Jeremy was a brand new baby TFA Corps member, which is pretty different than his current situation. But still. Crazy town.

He is working like a crazy person, just like he worked in June of 2008. I am currently sitting on his couch in his dorm room (strangely reminiscent of our place at LMU, although this room is substantially nicer, with a kitchenette) as he works, which he has literally been doing nonstop (at a rather clipping pace, mind you) since early this morning. I don’t think he’s very near finished his work for the evening either. But look at him up there, with his white pants and his ninja shoes. On the phone. Clearly GETTIN IT DONE. He’s a great leader, so the work he’s doing is impressive, and it’s satisfying to watch. Tomorrow is the first day his team will take 54 brand spanking new almost-teacher Corps members to Fiske and Revere elementary schools to get ready for summer school. Exciting stuff. It’s game time, people.

Coincidentally, tomorrow is also game time for me. Tomorrow I have my first real full actual intense day of clinical. I’ve already spent 4 hours at Lawndale learning a bit about how they’re Centering program works and watching my preceptor see a few patients, but tomorrow is the day when I’m expected to jump in and start DOING real actual NP things MYSELF. I am excited. Nervous, although less nervous I think than I am inclined to expect. I want to do well. I want to be bold and not afraid of making a fool of myself. I want to work hard and be teachable. Also successful, at learning. It’s possible, I’m pretty positive of that. Although, it’s incredibly odd because it’s hard to picture the steps between where I am now and where I think I’ll probably be in a year. Sheesh. I want to be a really great NP. I want to be the kind of NP that makes an impact. I suppose most of us feel that in some way or another. Praying for all the right things (whatever they may be) tonight.

a week of vacation in summary

Yowza! Tomorrow is the first day of quarter number FOUR (shut the front door! after this baby marks half way done with my program!) and I am feelin’ the heat, my friends. I read through my clinical syllabus this evening and OH BABY it was like a splash of icy cold water at the end of a glorious, deep REM-filled naptime. I’M AWAKE! SHEESH! NO MORE NAPPING!

Ok before I get ahead of myself, let me back up. What a glorious week it has been. I cannot overstate that enough. I didn’t complete everything I said I would, BUT all day every day was time well spent and I picked up a couple other projects along the way. For one, I finally painted our bathtub. Ever since we moved in I’ve been itching to get a coat of glossy jet-black paint over the streaky red paint job it got from the previous owner (DEB!!). Here’s how it looked BEFORE:

Egh. Please excuse the photo quality. Ok. So then WHABAM! AFTER:

Ok so the pictures are sort of crappy. But despite the quality, can’t you tell what a difference this one little coat of paint made in my life??? I love paint. OH EXCEPT FOR I HATE OIL-BASED PAINT is something I learned from this experience. Because for literally three days it looked like I was digging through the dirt each morning and then going on a hand-washing fast for the rest of the day. Even after three major scrubbings with 100% acetone. That can’t have been good for my health.

Another project that began in our apartment this week (and is still happening) is The Big Kitchen Remodel of 2012. So our 900 sq. ft. apartment has a pretty sweet little kitchen, but there’s this little room off of it that technically makes our place a 3-bedroom. Here, see? Right through that little doorway:

Since we use that third “bedroom” as a pantry/place to stash the dog/place to throw junk that should really be in the basement, we figured the space would be better used as an eat-in extension of the kitchen of sorts. So after a LOT of this:

and a little bit of drywalling (both of which I did not have any part in), that wall turned into this:

And we’re on our way to a little eat-in kitchen folks, Echo Park style. Sort of.

All that demolition and work that was happening in my house by the sweat of someone else’s hands was a great motivator to NOT waste my time. It also inspired the tub painting, as well as a bunch of trim painting we said we’d do a long time ago AND it put me in the mood to clean, organize, and throw away junk. I did a little bit of that, but mostly I did these other things:

Hung out with Jeremy before he left. Helped Jeremy move to IIT. Made regular trips to the gym (oh.. and Starbucks). Went shopping for professional attire (for clinicals). Made Jeremy an anniversary gift. Weeded, pruned, and generally cleaned up the garden. Set up nets to deter the birds that have been eating up our garden. Heated up water in my new teapot. Spent time with friends. Went to the dentist. Got a manicure/pedicure for half price. Had an anniversary dinner in Hyde Park. Went to a birthday party. Moseyed on over to a used book store and the Farmer’s market in the beautiful weather. And I even made it to the beach after all.

All in all, the week off was a smashing success. I got called off both days I was supposed to work, which means this undoubtedly was an entire week of true vacation. Praise God from whom all blessings flow! BOO YAH!

times off

It’s official: I am ON VACATION. Woooooooooo hoooooooooo!!!!! I’ve got four whole beautiful days to fill with whatever I darn tootin’ well please. Nothing is looming over my head. No deadlines. No papers. No information to pack in. No place to be. It is a beautiful thing. Originally, I was not looking forward to this week. I thought it would be seriously lacking in vacation quality for the following reasons:

a. I started clinical early (last Friday).

b. Jeremy is moving to IIT on Tuesday, where he’ll be for SIX WEEKS (no, our marriage is not on the rocks; TFA’s infamous summer Institute is finally upon us).

c. I’m still scheduled to work (you know, that real job I have).

But I pushed my work days to Friday and Saturday, decided to schedule my next clinical day for Monday of next week, and I’m starting to make peace with the fact that I’ll be living sans husband for the next month. Sigh of relief. It’s happening. If only for a few short sweet days, vacation is totally happening. Thank you, Lord.

So this is what I’m doing this summer (and by “this summer” I mostly mean Monday through Thursday):

1. GETTING FIT, MUTHA MUTHA. Yes, I did it. I joined a gym. I never thought I’d join a gym, and to be honest, my inner human feels conflicted (ashamed?) about it. But I am finally admitting to myself I have so LITTLE will power to be healthy, I need to pay someone a pocketload of cash each month to force myself to work out. I’ve been to this gym three times now and each time I’ve learned a new lesson:

Day 1: Creepers will creep on you. Think of a fake name to have in your back pocket at all times. Also maybe adopt a phrase you can just drop on them, like “I don’t talk when I’m working out”. Avoiding eye contact, pretending not to hear them, and then responding dopily by saying, “huh?” every time they persist will not work. Maybe buy a shirt that says “I’m married” or “NOT here to meet dudes” to work out in.

Day 2: Zumba is fun. Maybe not always the most strenuous exercise, but definitely FUN and worth doing.

Day 3: I just may be the least in shape, least flexible, least strong person that attends this gym. If you find yourself learning this same lesson at a gym, you should know that this is actually a great place to be. You’ve got nowhere to go but up. Also, you’re not going to fool anyone into thinking you are even remotely fit, so there’s no need to try and hide your lack of fit-ness. Freedom.

I’m determined to keep up the work. 26 is the year of getting my fitness on. I’m declaring it. Ok. Moving onto other things I’m doing.

2. BUYING A PROPER TEAPOT, FINALLY. When Jeremy and I got married, my sweet and generous friend Megan gave us a whole box full of stuff her and her husband no longer needed, and in that box was this beauty:

This kettle has served us well for four years, three of which were spent living with kitchens that had no microwaves. But ever since I started using this teapot ALL the time (summer of ’08), I’ve wanted to get one that I enjoy looking at. So TODAY, of all days, I finally sat down and ordered THIS baby:

Whoa! Now there’s a breath of fresh air! I can’t even tell you how excited I am for that thing to make its way onto my doorstep. Having everyday things in my house that I really enjoy looking at brings me so much joy. I am going to be heating up water every single day. Hang on. It’s 95 degrees in my kitchen. You know what? This teapot is going to help me cope with winter when it comes.


Note the lack of clothes and the plethora of unused space. Also the yet-to-be-unpacked boxes of books that have been sitting there since August of last year. And finally the loads of stuff (some junk, some the very opposite of junk) that clearly does not have a proper home. Are you embarrassed for me? I’m going to kick this closet in the face.

4. DIY-ING. I am not crafty. I don’t sew. I don’t regularly DIY, but I do get an urge to exercise my creative bones (I have such a way with words) every now and then. I was at Target today (side note: isn’t Target one of the best places on Earth?) doing what I do best (meandering through the women’s clothing section) when I tried on a tank top and thought to myself, “hm. Not so much. But this would make a great top-of-a-dress!” So I bought it, and I’m going to make this puppy:

Into one of these:

Supposedly it’s very easy. Once I find the right fabric, I’ll use this tutorial to help myself along. If I am successful, I am going to be VERY pumped and VERY impressed with myself.

5. GETTING MYSELF TO THE BEACH, ASAP. I’m determined to enjoy the beach on a weekday without the feeling that I should be studying or working on something I’m going to have to turn in soon. An opportunity to do this won’t come up again until August 31st, so I’m pretty set on making this happen.

That’s probably enough to fill my next few days. In addition, I’ll be helping Jeremy move, taking a trip to the dentist, AND Thursday night Jeremy and I will be celebrating our four year anniversary. Holy cow, this has turned into a long post. Here’s to hoping all of these things happen!

Hey, June

Hello hello. It’s another gorgeous day here in the city of Chicago and I am literally ONE final exam away from one week of freeeeeedommm!!! The two exams I was most worried about are doneskies and my two big make-you-stay-up-all-night-and-want-to-die projects were due last week, so the end is now blissfully in sight. HORAH.

June is my favorite month of the year. It’s the first month of pretty much guaranteed beautiful weather on a consistent basis (after those stinking April showers and random days of FREEZING that pop up in May), and it signifies the beginning of an eagerly anticipated new season. Winter is safely tucked away for a while and we’ve got the whole summer ahead of us to enjoy. Ah, the joys of living in the Midwest.

Sunday was my twenty-sixth birthday. I imagine for a lot of people the year after 25 winds up feeling like a bit of a disappointing anti-climax. Last year was all “Wow! You’re 25! Quarter of a century! Real legitimate adulthood! But still so young!!! The world is your oyster!!!” And this year is more “26? Do people even celebrate turning 26? You’re on your way down, kid. 30’s ‘a comin.” I’ve always loved birthdays, and I’m pretty confident I will love them until I don’t have any left, but just to be safe, I figured I should keep my expectations in check.

The only anticlimactic part of my birthday was that I didn’t feel any different. But this happens every year. Someone will ask me in May, “How old are you, Erin?” “I’m 26. No wait, I’m 25. Hang on, no I’m 26… No, sorry, wait, I’m actually still 25. I guess I’ll be 26 this year.” I get so confused about my age around my birthday, because my husband’s birthday is a month before mine, and my sister’s birthday isn’t until August, and I’ve pretty much spent my entire life calculating my age based on the ages of one of these two individuals. Nothing new there.

The day itself was just about as pleasant as it could have been. My husband gets better at my birthday every year, which makes for already great birthdays that increase in loveliness every year. PLUS, this year June 3rd happened to fall on a Sunday, my absolute favorite day of the week. I decided Sunday is an especially great day for me to have a birthday, because it involves a good balance of all my favorite things: rest, leisure, a bit of work (often in the form of service), interaction with lots of people I really like (of varying acquaintance), light home business (like yard work or satisfying cleaning), and often some incredibly low-key hang out time with good friends. It was a wonderful day, filled with my favorite things.

Later today I’m trying out a trial membership at a gym in my neighborhood. I feel so corporate and so American. If it’s an adventure, I’ll tell you about it.