Monday, October 2, 2017

The Next Big Step

What feels like just yesterday, but also like it was lifetime ago, I sit as a very eager and confident 17 year old staring at a medical school application. As I have soldiered through medical school and then residency, this moment in my life has always seemed unreal. I never thought I would get this far. In just 9 short months, I will finish residency and while the learning is far from over, the training will be over. For the first time since I started this journey, the world of possibilities was open to me. The big question we get asked by our mentors, classmates, friends, and family is, where to next? 
I started talks with a couple of hospitals in Kansas City and Nashville in the spring and in August Britton and I boarded a plane for a Kansas City interview. I was excited to introduce my family to Britton and to be near my home for the first time in many months. I wasn't that nervous about the interview its self for some reason. I guess I have been on enough interviews in this lifetime that either it would go well or it wouldn't. Not that the morning before the interview didn't have a few moments of angst.
Britton and I met up with part of my family at one of my favorite cafes for breakfast and then made our way back to the hotel so I could change into my suit. Turns out I had brought the wrong shoes for that suit and Britton had accidentally worn my socks to breakfast. But most of my angst from the morning came from something very different than wardrobe issues. 
I suddenly felt some panic that all of this was about to be over. I was about to have to be able to do this all by myself and was I really ready for that? Do I know enough to practice medicine without any help? The second round of my morning emotional roller coaster was the realization that in just 10.5 months, I would be moving away from some of the best friends I could have ever asked for. People who totally got me even during my struggles. I was certain I wasn't ready to give that up. Nope, I think I'll just try to be a resident for another year. Surely all my friends will want to stay for another year too, right? 

This moment in my life that I had been waiting for, for my entire adult life was clouded by fear. Fear of change, fear of loss, fear of not being able to do it. And as I stared at myself in the mirror with all of these feelings swimming through my head, my recruiter arrived. It was show time, just 3 interviews and one dinner and I could figure this all out tomorrow. 
My first two interviews included a whole lot of information about the hospital and what the ER there was like. My last interview was at Liberty Hospital and included the tour, information, and a whole lot of hanging out. It was laid back and easy, just my kind of environment. It was the moment of the day where the fear melted away for just a few minutes and I just enjoyed hanging out with my type of people. 
Britton would be very disappointed if I didn't tell the story about dinner, though he will probably be more disappointed he can't tell you all himself. After a day full of interviews, I got back to my hotel and switched into a dress. We made our way over to the restaurant a few blocks away. Side note, heels while walking down a hill, not my thing. Frankly it hurts. We made it to dinner and grabbed a drink with everyone before we were seated. Dinner included Britton and I, my recruiter, the 3 medical directors of each hospital I interviewed at and their wives, and a couple other people in administration. We had an amazing dinner, the food was delicious and everyone seemed to have a good time. Towards the end of dinner, the medical director of the Liberty hospital (who was sitting next to me) said my name to get my attention. My grandpa always taught me no elbows on the table, but here I was elbows on the table turning to hear him when one of my more embarrassing moments in life happens. My fitbit(no I don't know why I was wearing with my dress) hits the rim of the glass of my brand new martini tipping it over. The glass goes straight down into some lobster mac&cheese and then splatters all over one of the medical directors.  Yes I was super embarrassed. Yes, he was a little upset. Yes, the other two medical directors found it very funny. And surprisingly, yes I was still offered that job. Oh and what did the Liberty medical director want? He wanted to tell me that he really wanted me to accept a position with them.
I am very thankful for my recruiter that day. He isn't the over the top salesman, which is good for me because I don't buy into those kinds of things. He was honest, laid back, and accommodating. He finished the night off with Britton and I at the hotel bar after dinner. Assuring me that I would be offered all 3 positions and we would figure out what I wanted to do. He would be in touch and I found so would a couple others within the next 12 hours. 
Over the next couple of weeks, I worked through all of my fear of changes. The offers were on the table and I was stalling trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Britton remained supportive and listened to me go back and forth. His parents were also wonderful and had given us their blessing to do what was best for our careers and move to KC. Britton's biggest concern with the whole process has always been being far from his parents. In the end I knew that it wasn't that I didn't want to take the position, I just wasn't ready for life to change yet. But life doesn't wait for us to be ready. After a few weeks of contract negotiating, I am proud to announce that I have accepted a full time position in Liberty come next summer. I'm still a little scared of all the change that is coming, but we are very excited to take this next big step in life. 

Misc Stuff
In just 4 days I start my first vacation in 6 months! It is apple cider season so Britton and I are headed north for my grandparent's annual apple cider party. After that we are off to Charleston for vacation. It is way overdue. And for the first time in our relationship, despite living together we will actually get to see each other every night for 2 whole weeks. 
Our puppy made a bunch of new friends this weekend. He's the cutest.

In light of all the of animosity going around I'll share with you the name of a chapter of one of my favorite authors news books. Be kind to each other, loves.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

So This is Love, Baby

There was no time to curl my hair or stare into my closet and send pictures of 10 different outfits to Shae and my sister that first date. I was going to be about 15 minutes late as it was. I had worked a 15 hour day in the Surgical ICU and was pretty indifferent about how I wanted the date to go. I remember promising him that being late was an isolated incident. That's not true of course. I'm about 50/50. Sometimes early and sometimes late. And mostly always late if I am working that day, worked the night before, or if the Chiefs are playing. Also, if it is a early morning event and you are asked to bet if I will be on time you should probably go with not likely. 
I have often wondered if the date went so well, because we were both so indifferent about if the the date went well. Overall the night was just easy which may be a weird way to describe it, but anyone who has been on those awkward first dates knows how nice it is to have an easy first date. The texts leading up to the first date were things like "I turn into a pumpkin at 8 at night due to work" to which his response was "no big deal. My prince charming potion wears off right about 830 anyway."
Date two was just a couple of nights later and included drinks with his old high school friends. Date two turned into date three and on. Date four, I remember was the moment of truth on whether or not my lifestyle was going to be an issue. My month in the SICU was amazing, but I was exhausted. I was working long days and had 24 hour call days. We had made plans to hang out after I had gotten off of work and frankly getting dressed up, putting on make up, and going to dinner wasn't really something I could muster up that night. The options were cancel the date or Chick-fil-A on the couch. A makeupless date night on the couch was fine by him. 
There were some things we had to work through at the beginning. I had been so use to my independence for such a long time that giving up some of that was kind of scary for me. I had also inherited this fear that if I did let myself want to have a long committed relationship that eventually the other shoe would drop and I would realize it was all more of an illusion or a series of half truths rather than something real. But over time we created this incredible relationship.
About 3 months in I found myself remembering the little silly piece of me that has gotten buried by the stress and professionalism of my life. My sister once described it as "child like pure joy." Here I was giggling uncontrollably, contemplating buying water guns, and singing terribly to music in the living room while he watched in amusement. He made me feel like it was okay to be me, the uncontrolled unedited version of me. And on my hard days, which come more often than  I'd like but less often than they did, he'd just remind me he thought I was amazing. Never getting upset at the crazy hours I work, that sometimes I don't have time to clean, and that my time was so limited. 
A few months in I met his parents and I was so nervous. I'm so weird about new people in general which I know has to come as a shock to those who know how much I can talk. But meeting parents brings on a whole new fear for me. I had never been in a relationship where the parents loved me so meeting of the parents brought me some real fear. Then of course, Britton told them I was nervous to which his father's response was something to the idea of "oh I'm going to mess with her." So here I will tell you that Britton had told me he was much more like his mom than his dad. Hahaha. He is a perfect mix of both of them. They told me stories from his childhood and more than anything they spent time just enjoying being with their son. The support they give him and now us is incredible. They have also had to come to be accepting of my crazy work schedule and have been very supportive.

Our relationship wasn't really something we sit down and planned out. It just started with one date that turned into several months and here we were two people in love with one big Elephant in the room. Residency doesn't last forever and what would come next in my life was up in the air. One thing was certain, the opportunities in Little Rock were very limited and so I was pretty sure I would be leaving come summer of 2018. I think he spent time talking himself into it on his own. We didn't talk about it much, we just knew that someday it would come to pass. 
In May, he had actively started to mention he had been looking at houses for sale in the areas of the country I was looking to live and towards the end of the month he made the comment, "Blake(his good friend) said today why don't you two just move in together." At the time I laughed it off thinking it was a passing comment, but the more I thought about it the more I realized maybe he was trying to bring up the subject. Over the next couple of weeks we discussed the pros and cons of moving in together. The are we really ready for this step and what that would mean. We agreed that we weren't sure if we were ready, but if there was a chance he was going to pick up and move with me in a year we should probably give this a real trial run and the rental house hunting started.  
With a lot of help from his parents, we moved in together in July. He still manages to love me despite the fact I'm a little messy. He makes my life entirely easier and seems to love me no matter what we make it through. In August, he survived meeting my family. It was a first in my life, they all really liked him, even the typical big critics were a fan. Probably the one who was the most unsure about him was Merideth, though I wonder if that was because she was worried he would take my attention from her. Aurora on the other hand was totally smitten with him, but too shy to go near him. Probably my favorite quote from my family after meeting him was, "all daughters need a Britton in their life." Indeed they do. A man who is patient with my demons, respects my accomplishments without feeling threatened, is kind to other people, likes to have a good time, and still maintains his own independence was just perfect for me. 
We have taken on some big new adventures together. Our latest adventures are a 9 week old puppy named Atlas and Power Yoga.  They have both brought us new joys and challenges.
Our biggest disagreement is over my flip flops. He hates them. I'm pretty sure that one day I'll come home and they will be no where to be found. But the joke will be on him. Old Navy sales flips for cheap almost all year round.
Tomorrow I'll continue my journey of recapping the year and tell ER stories. Random experiences, the struggles of ER life, and all the organized chaos. "These gut busters will send you straight to the ER"- Brought to you by Britton Alan. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Just getting started...

It's so easy to get lost in the daily routine, the rut of life, the constant need to get this done and get that done. But, while you are just surviving day by day, life is happening all around you and life is changing. You miss the magic that is happening as you are trying to get through your to-do list. Inevitably a moment will come and you have to stop and reflect on all the time that has passed. We've all seen the pictures of the tiny humans comparing how much they have changed in a year, but as adults we quit being amazed by how much change happened in a year to ourselves and maybe that is just because we don't realize it is happening. You know, life is too busy and there are too many things on the to-do list to accomplish to stop and muse at what we have done. Now, I can't speak for everyone and maybe these things really only apply to me, but I think there is a possibility there is a little truth in there for many people. My moment came upon me very quickly mid-August where I needed to stop and reflect. There is something about fear or sadness that brings on these moments. For me, it was fear. Fear of change. This series of blog posts is about my last year. The ugly, the good, and the amazing.

September of last year I struggled through a very difficult time in my life. Those closest to me know that fall of last year I went through a dark and sad time. I was very self destructive. Not the risky behavior kind of destruction, more in the emotional destructive kind of way. Over a series of days that turned into weeks that turned into months, I lost sight of who I was and became very familiar with the feeling that is hopelessness. The idea that things will never get better was always at the forefront of my mind. I learned what unconditional support and love meant that fall. My emotional destruction really took its toll on those closest to me and yet they stuck by me anyway. Love is funny in that way. That is what makes me believe that love the most valuable thing we can have in life. The kind of love from someone who looks at you when you are a complete mess that is trying to push everyone else away with nothing positive to offer to them and regardless they sit there with you as a witness to your pain and struggle reminding you, you aren't alone. I thought that time in my life would never end and focused on just surviving each moment.
The moment eventually came in early winter when I decided it was time to start overcoming. I had hit the darkness point in my life and the options were limited. I either had to start trying to overcome hopelessness or I was going to spend my days waiting for life to end. I have come into the belief over the last year that pain is not something that we can avoid and not something we should avoid. It is what makes us stronger. It's what makes us warriors in what is never going to be a fairy tale kind of life.
I spent a couple of months rebuilding my strength and reminding myself who I am and what I am capable of. Climbing back up a metaphoric mountain to happiness is such an interesting process. I learned things like it isn't a straight up climb, being at the top isn't sustainable, and eventually we all are going to slide down a little here and there. It also doesn't protect you from fear or pain. I have learned so much more since then about me, life, pain, fear, but it doesn't keep me from falling into the rut of life and just trying to survive day to day so I can make it to the next thing on my list to do. That kind of rut isn't from sadness or hopelessness, it's from forgetting there is more to life than scratching things off of your to-do list, but more on that later.
 A moment came where I felt really good about where I was about two months into climbing the happiness mountain that I decided I was ready to date. I highly recommend that if you are struggling, you shouldn't date. My grandpa once told me many years ago, "You should be happy alone before you try to be happy with someone else." Which at the time I thought was ridiculous, but Last winter I finally understood the advice. You have to be responsible for your own happiness and know your own worth to really have a healthy relationship. You never want to worry so much that losing them would mean you won't be able to be happy again or that you stay in a bad situation because you don't want to feel alone. In the freezing cold of January, I felt like I was at a point where I didn't need anyone to be happy, that I had me for that.

Did I mention this was going to be a series of blog posts? How could I possible cover an entire year, love story, life changing decisions, adventures, my big a-ha moments, and my big news in one post? Let's be honest, it's hard to read a super long story all at once. So tomorrow's agenda is a love story between a small town southern boy and a midwest girl who likes flip-flops.

September 2016. This night ended with me crying for no particular reason and 2 of my best friends coming to sit with me.

September 2017. This night ended with Trivia and Sangria at Flying Saucer.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Quarterly Update

No matter how much I attempt to convince myself I have time for all the things I want to do in life, the truth is with my chaotic schedule there are not enough hours in the day and no matter how hard headed I am, I'm not capable of being super woman. Eventually things have to give and so often they are the same things: working out, cooking, sleep, time with friends, studying, cleaning, blogging, me time, and did I mention sleep? Leaving time for clinical hours and administrative work, the occasional dinner and drinks, 5 hours a night of sleep, and a few hours a week to maintain a relationship with a very patient and understanding man.
For me reality is life revolves around a stethoscope and vital signs. Perhaps I am a workaholic by the force of the culture and perhaps I'm a workaholic because medicine is my calling. In the end the reasons don't matter, at this point I live and breath medicine and my friends do the same. The perfect example: Once a week, a month, or every couple of months I get together with two of my favorite people to play strategy board games. Call it a guilty pleasure. When you put together 2 emergency medicine residents and a surgery resident (or 3 workaholics) it is hard to find a good time to get together. After cancelling multiple game nights and trying to figure out how to get together we finally decided on playing together while one of us was on call. The threat of being called away mid-game only adds to the fun surely and that is precisely what happened. Right in the middle of the game something more important came up(work) and the game had to come to an end. But no big deal for 3 workaholics, a few pictures of the board so we can easily start where we left off next time and we were back to what we live and breath.
Over the last several months, I have accomplished a great deal of feats. I spent a month in the Surgical ICU complete with 24 hour calls(more like 26 hour calls). It is a place where Emergency Medicine residents go to learn what they are made of. When you have been awake for 20 hours, 3 people are trying to die, traumas are hitting the ER, and you are left to your own devices you either panic or go through a great deal of growth. While panic seemed like a very attractive option, I chose the latter, strapped on the tennis shoes, put trust in my nursing staff, and figured it out. On the other side of the trenches comes some clinical confidence and the realization of the fragility of life. I watched young patients who ended up with life altering or life ending injuries while enjoying the things in life they love struggle in the unit and it was impossible not to sit back for a moment and wonder if I should be more careful, take less risks. This was a question that was brought up more than once between me and my co-residents for the month and we always came back to the same conclusion. While being more careful could possibly keep us from ending up in the SICU, life was unpredictable and not worth living if not lived fully. The cost for happiness is risk and sometimes pain(of the emotional and physical kind).
Since finishing up in the SICU, I have studied and taken my one test of the year, spent a month in the ER, helped to start a wellness committee for our residency, taken on new recruitment responsibilities, saved a life or two, and started this month in the medical ICU. I have just a couple weeks left before I return to the ER basically permanently and just over a year left before I finish up residency. So in the little free time I do have I have started to look for my first post residency job, wherever that is going to be.
It is certainly true that I spend probably 85% of my life working or sleeping the last many months, but I have managed to fit in some pretty wonderful things in that other 15% of my time.
In the beginning of January I went out on what I promised would be my last first date in Little Rock. Knowing I would be leaving the area in what will be almost no time and that I had, had terrible luck in the dating department it seemed like a good time to stop dating. I went into that first date with an "I don't give a damn how this goes" attitude. Perhaps that is why we had such a good time, but after a crazy few months I couldn't remember the last time I laughed that much in such a short period of time. Over the last several years I have done some short non-official dating, nothing super serious. It is fair to say as things started to progress I was a little nervous and afraid. Bless him for being so patient with me. All of me. My fears, my career, the fact I'm a terrible morning person(understatement), my need for independence, that some weeks make up and looking presentable aren't part of the allot time. Quite honestly this story deserves its own blog post and one day I'll write it. But with my track record who knows when that will come. For now I will say this, I have a type and not a great one. You can ask my sister and grandpa all about it. After some less than positive experiences, I was hoping to break my pattern and I think maybe I did just that. It takes a very special person to be accepting of this crazy life I live and all the things that come along with dating me, but somehow he acts as if it is nothing and loves me despite my chaos and quirks. There is something about having a relationship where we share decisions, help each other out, and expect nothing that seems to just work.  So that couple of hours I have to spare a couple nights a week are filled with laughter, stories, and plenty of sarcasm.
Outside of dating, I had some vacation time in March. I went home for a few days and was there to see my sweet niece, Merideth, turn 5. FIVE! I simply still in disbelief. When the hell did that happen? She has turned into the sweetest little girl with just the slightest attitude and so many entertaining things to say. Her parents deserve a pat on the back for creating and raising such an awesome little girl. She had a little Moana party. If you haven't seen the movie, see it. Adorable. She is starting to become independent and wants to spend more time with her friends than her aunt. As sad as that makes me, the time was bound to come and she still has a little time for me. I then made it over to see my other sweet niece and nephew. For those who don't know, Aurora is my 2 year old niece who kind of despise me. This trip was really no different, however I did get a single kiss and I have photographic proof she got close to me on her own accord.(I'm sure the birthday gift had nothing to do with it) My sweet little nephew is getting so big so fast, but I managed to steal some snuggle time with him. Hopefully he is a bigger fan of me than his sister is. My mom and I set the date for when she will be coming to spend the weekend with me in Arkansas this coming June. I can't wait to have a little mother-daughter time.
After returning to little rock for a few hours I jumped into the car with 2 of my best friends and headed south towards Austin. The reoccurring question I get is where I will go from here and the short answer is I don't know. However I have made some process and went from narrowing it from someone warm on earth to a few select cities: Austin, Nashville, Kansas City, and the Carolinas. However, I had never been to Austin before so having a few days off at the same time as my friends seemed like the perfect time to do some exploring. This also deserves its own post and I promise to write it, one day. Let's just say we had an incredible time and Austin is an amazing city. I can't wait for my next road trip with the best travel partners. Nashville here we come(eventually).
So one could say that I have been a little busy. I have quit being jealous of the people who seem to have figured it out and are able to do it all. Quite frankly they are either aliens or they let different things give. Instead I have started to work on giving myself some grace for not being super woman. The laundry will still be there, I still have my 20 minutes of me time in the car, and the internet doesn't shut down blogs just because it takes you 3 months to write a blog post.


Friday, January 27, 2017

Where I Stand

Over the last year, I have pulled farther and farther away from social media and from other people, as we as a society have become more and more disconnected by politics and hate. This is not where I will express my political beliefs and certainly not where I wish to debate who's right and who's wrong. What I do want to do is state where I stand as a person who is watching society unravel. 

To all my friends, acquaintances, and people I don't yet know: I stand with you. No matter your religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, education level, or economic status, I stand with you and if you are being persecuted I will stand up for you. 

To the world: The last twelve months we have abandoned hope, unity, and community to take up hate/fear and pushed people toward conformity. Without our help, this world has enough pain and suffering. Our only chance at peace in our community and in this world is more love and human connection. So please for the sake of our world, the next time you find yourself at the ready to add judgement, intolerance, or more suffering to an already damaged society take a step back, take a deep breath, and for just a moment consider the other side, the other person's situation, and their pain/trials. Empathy, especially with those you don't agree with, always leads to more human connection and love. Divided we accomplish nothing and hate wins. 

In the end, we all are struggling through this painful and beautiful thing we call life together. As for me, I chose love, acceptance, and connection. I strive everyday to try to make even the smallest positive impact on the people I come in contact with. This journey isn't so ugly if we walk it together. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Christmas Magic

This year would be a Christmas full of new traditions. Since the last time I was home spending Christmas day with mom, so many things have changed and with them our traditions. I'll admit that changing how I have done Christmas with that part of my family has had it challenges for me. Some things remained unchanged. We still put on our Christmas pajamas and made what seems like a trillion Christmas cookies(peanut butter with kisses are my favorite if you are wondering). I got the joy of getting ready and not leaving the house to go out into the cold this year. I haven't been home for a Thanksgiving in probably 4 years and so my mom made a huge Christmas/Thanksgiving lunch to help make up for it. 
My new nephew was born in November and I got the opportunity to meet him for the first time. He is a precious little thing and loves his nap time. Aurora turned 2 at the end of December and still is not a fan of me. I managed to bribe her out of letting me hold her for about 10 seconds for a picture before she started squirming to get away. 
My grandma joined us for cookie baking and gift opening. It was busy, chaotic day, but I think everyone got things they wanted and enjoyed their day.
Throughout the rest of my week home, I got to bounce around and spend time with my family. My dad is taking some time off of work and so we got to enjoy afternoons together. Chatting about current events and getting into heated debates. (sometimes I wonder where I came from.) It's nice to see him more relaxed and enjoying life a little bit. He has even joined snapchat which has turned out to be extremely entertaining. My evenings were often spent having discussions with my grandparent's by the fireplace.
My mom and I worked on getting me my new phone and got a moment to sit down and have a glass of wine together. Mid-week, I got in the car and started my trek towards Emporia for a sleepover with Merideth. It was a packed full day. I got my hair trimmed up, we snuck in a movie at the theatre(Passengers), and made a big dinner together. I have a real love for space movie. I find them quite beautiful and entertaining. I'm always sad to say my goodbyes, but on Friday morning we had to do just that, but of course we had a little fun first.
The end of my trip home was devoted to celebrating the love and success of my cousin Sheldon. Against all odds, he has grown to be an incredible man who married the love of his life on New Years Eve. I couldn't think of a better way to bring in the new year than celebrating with these people and my family. I remember my mom saying she would be leaving early around 9:30, but it turns out I was the first one to leave around 1am. It was incredible to have everyone there together and we had such a great time. There was lots of dancing and laughing. The venue was beautiful not the mention the bride. My grandma is most definitely still young at heart. One of our favorite parts of the night was discovering the photo booth. It became a family frenzy as we started taking pictures together. Oh I love these people. 
Even though I didn't make it into bed until a little after 1, I managed to get on the road back towards the south by 6 in the morning. Headed back home is always such a weird feeling. I am so ready to be back in my own space and sleep in my bed, but I feel incredibly sad that it is over. 
I came home to game night, laundry, and lots of rest to get ready to start my Surgical ICU month. One that has so far challenged me more than I could have imagined. After several weeks of struggling through the days, it feels good to remember how great life is and who I am. Sometimes Christmas is just magic.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Adventure of a Midwest girl gone Southern

Christmas is by far one of my favorite times of the year, but as I have gotten older it has been harder and harder to spend any time with my family when it rolls around. This year, I was blessed with opportunity to go home for Christmas! My trip home would be a 2 part trip. First I would go home for 3 days to have Christmas with my father's family and return to Little Rock to take the the last part of my licensing exam to then return back home for a week long stretch. This is all about the first part of the trip.

For weeks, my sister Jamie and I had been counting down the days until we were able to get together for Christmas. I had had a very trying many weeks/months and there is something about hugging your family that helps with all of that. We planned to spend Friday night as a sister's night before doing Christmas on Saturday morning. I had initially planned on arriving mid-evening on Friday, but after realizing my sister would arrive late afternoon, I decided to surprise everyone and leave earlier. At 9 am, I packed up my car with gifts, a weekend bag, and a few on the road snacks. Over the years, I have come not to like fast-food very well and so instead of stopping I always pack snacks instead. It was a beautiful 52 degrees in Little Rock as I left my little apartment in the south towards colder weather. Midwest weather.
I started my trek north daydreaming about arriving to my grandparents. The look on my sweet nieces face as she first saw me and my first hug with my sister. Everyone's surprise of me arriving earlier than planned. With daydreams and my radio blasting, I had a blissful 6 hour drive towards home and this is where the phone calls start. First my mom calling me to let me know a storm was coming in and to be safe. Followed by father telling me the highway coming into our hometown had been closed down due to ice and accidents and to turn around and find a motel for the night. Turn around? Really? I'm 30 minutes from home. I'm determined to make it there. Tonight!
It is hard to argue with anyone who says I'm a bit hard headed. I'd like to call it determined instead. So I continue on, certain I will be able to make it home. This is not my first rodeo. I remember driving home on Christmas Eve one year in a blizzard with 8 inches of snow on the ground, I can handle this. But the further I got north the slower the traffic and the more it was obvious the highway was not only getting unsafe, but likely would not reopen. The pit of my stomach felt heavy and I was hit by a great wave of disappointment as I made the decision to turn around. At this point in my drive, I had had absolutely no issues, but my sister had made it to town and it had taken her hours to go a very short distance. I pulled off on the exit of a small no where town. Made a left turn to turn around and half way across the bridge, it happened. I hit ice. This has happened to me two other times in my life and turned out completely okay, because I knew what to do. I was a midwest girl who had driven in the elements often. But it turns out, I have been gone too long. Instead of doing the things I know to do, I panicked only remembering don't hit your brakes.
Sliding across into the other side of the road, picking up speed, it felt like forever though I'm sure it was mere seconds. The helpless feeling is very uncomfortable especially for someone who likes to fix things. My car slid until it hit the curb where it came to a quick stop. I remember being thankful as I sit there on the overpass that my car didn't hit with enough force to flip over the bridge. I got out of the car and slowly made my way to the front of my car to check out the damage and saw...nothing. I couldn't believe there was no damage at all. Getting back in the car, still feeling a bit shaky, I started driving ahead to try to make it to the motel. It is here that my whole car starts shaking. So much for that no damage bit. I pulled back over and get out again looking more closely this time. Realizing the damage was of the tire/rim. I had hit my bad news threshold. I wanted to be home by now after waiting weeks, but instead I was trying to make it to a motel, it was freezing(I despise the cold), and I have now gotten into an accident. I call my dad in tears, send him pictures of the wheel, and he books me the closest place to stay which is about 5 miles from me and with some faith I make it.
I remember sitting on the motel bed with my coat on for a couple hours waiting for the room to warm up and starving. I hadn't really eaten much all day and now I was stranded with no food. The tears had stopped but the sadness was very present. My sister sent me a request to facetime and for a few minutes we talked and laughed. She also hadn't made it to grandma's, but was safe for the night. The night hadn't turned out the way we had hoped, but everyone was safe. That's all we both could really ask for and we promised we would see each other tomorrow.
In the morning, I started to doubt that would really happen. I woke up to see the highway was still closed, the temperature was frigid, and the roads were still dangerous. Not to mention they were now calling for some snow to start early afternoon. My car was not safe to drive anywhere far and certainly not in this weather. I was at the mercy of other for help. I had started trying to decide if I should go pay for another night in this room when my mom called. "Jim is on his way with the trailer to bring your car back." My first though was concern they wouldn't make it safely and they should probably stay put, but Jim assured me he would see me when he got there. To say I was grateful is an understatement.

Jim and Colton(my mom's significant other and his son) showed up with salt and a plan. I had the very hard job of sitting in the heated truck as they maneuvered my car onto the trailer. I'm not great at being saved, at being the damsel in distress. I feel a deep sense of gratitude for people who help me in moments where I can't help myself that I can't even begin to express in words. Some feelings have no words that will do it justice.
We had no difficulties getting back and they had a vehicle waiting for me so I could rush off to my grandparent's to start Christmas. There is a deep seated tradition on how Christmas runs at my grandparent's that I hope never ends. In the morning, we get up together to open stockings, followed by breakfast, followed by sitting in a circle opening gifts one by one, and then lunch/cards/chatting/playing. I arrived right around 1pm on Saturday afternoon and snuck in through the basement door. As I opened the door at the top of the stairs, I saw my sweet niece looking out the sliding glass door waiting for me to appear. I feel incredibly lucky to be "Aunt KATIE" to this little girl. Quietly sneaking up behind her, I tickled her side and she turned out giving a great big smile and the excited "Aunt Katie" as she throws herself into my arms. I will be sad the day that she is too big to be picked up, which is likely approaching quickly.

The morning had not started without me. It had been frozen in time waiting for me to arrive. We opened our stockings together and then had quiche and biscuits and gravy at 1:30 in the afternoon. It felt like it went incredibly too fast. We played cards and shared lots of laughs. My sister got me a couple of different books fitted perfectly for the wandering soul that I am. Saturday night my brother left everyone with the bombshell that he was moving to Phoenix, tomorrow.  I know that we all hope he will find what he is looking for in the warm sun and we will all miss him a great deal.
By Monday, I had started to panic a bit. My exam was in Little Rock on Tuesday morning and I was currently stuck 500 miles away, but by noon I got the confirmation from Jim that the rim was fixed and I could get on the road.
My journey home was uneventful, thankfully. Tuesday morning came and I felt okay when I left the exam. It is a two day exam and I took the second part on Thursday.
Wednesday was my fun day back in Little Rock. With a bunch of help, I prepared Friendsgiving/Christmas Dinner for my family away from my family. It was hectic, but so much fun and the food this year was completely incredible. We totally outdid ourselves. I am completely thankful to being having this residency adventure with an awesome group of people.

My mini trip home brought the realization that this midwest girl has gone a little Southern. I like the warm weather and don't love the snow. I had forgotten how to drive in snow/ice and what 0 degrees felt like. And if I spend enough time around people with true southern accents, I'll pick one up too, temporarily. But it doesn't take very long for that midwest girl to come out once I get home and I'm still much more likely to wear jeans and a t-shirt to a football game than a dress or flip flops instead of heels. Some things never change.
Tomorrow look for part 2 of my journey home.