Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Summer in the South

Washington has beautiful summers. No humidity, mild temperatures, clear blue skies, and very little rain during their sweet (albeit short) summertime. But nothing, nothing, compares to summer in the south! It's the quintessential summer, the summer of my dreams, a summer that lets me recapture that feeling, that magic of long ago childhood summers. Where the days were endless and you could do anything you wanted as long as you were home by the time the fireflies came out.

You lose a little bit of that magic when you get older and no longer have a proper summer vacation. And you lose it even more when it's only 55 degrees in the morning and you can comfortably wear jeans in the middle of July, and you haven't felt the relief of air-conditioner after coming in from the steamy outdoors in about two years.
I flew to South Carolina a few days before T.J. got off to enjoy a little extra time with my family. Stepping off the plane and being hit by that wall of humidity felt like home! It's not summer if you can't complain about the heat so after lunch with my mom and sister we of course had to treat ourselves to a sno-ball!

That night we went to one of my favorite restaurants in town to celebrate all being together (minus T.J.) for the first time since Christmas.
My sister is a beach body coach and had already planned to go to the big conference the next day so while I was sad to miss out on a couple days with her, I was super excited to go out to the lake with my parents. If you follow my mom's blog you know they are in the process of building their dream house on a lake in the upstate of South Carolina. When I was home at Christmas only the foundation had been poured and now it's finally looking like a real house with walls and windows and everything!  I am beyond excited for this house, this new home base. My parents are planning to stay put for a good long while now and I can't wait to fill this home with years and years of memories.  I have the clearest picture in my head of future visits with naps on the screened in porch, barefoot babies in adorable baby life jackets running around the dock, waterskiing with my dad, taking the boat back and forth between their house and my in-laws house.  
My parents walked me all through house and I picked out my future room and then we picked paint colors. Before too long I was way too hot and sweaty and I had to take my inaugural jump in the lake, the perfectly clear blue lake that I now refer to as "our lake". The water is so flipping warm so I literally stayed floating on my noodle for about 2 hours turning into a prune until we decided to take the boat out. We grabbed dinner dockside and enjoyed our sparkly sunset ride back to the house.
The next couple of days we got more snoballs, lazed by the pool, took a walk around my Alma mater, reapplied a lot of sunscreen, had BBQ with my cousin and aunt and uncle, and stopped by my in-laws house so I could meet their goats!
T.J. was supposed to get in Saturday afternoon but due to bad weather and flight complications he didn't make it in until much later that night. And even though his suitcase didn't make it, all he needed was a swimsuit because the next day we headed back up to the lake for more fun on the water. We dropped our stuff off at his house and then took the boat over to my parents dock so T.J. could see the progress and so we could meet up with my sister and her boyfriend.We had a big dinner with both sides of the family and ended the night playing corn hole and darts and then jumping in the lake once the sun set.
The next day T.J. and and I and his folks cruised around the lake some more and made a stop by the waterfall which was a nice relief because, unlike the rest of the lukewarm lake, the water is actually cold and refreshing. We spent the rest of the afternoon napping and reading and then my parents again for dinner on the lake. 

We slept in again on Tuesday and then just the two of us went out for ride together on the boat before it was time to head back in to town.  We had dinner out that night and walked around downtown and grabbed ice cream and made several Pokemon Go players stop to snap a couple family photos for us. 
The next day I went furniture shopping with my mom and daydreamed about decorating my own lake house one day way way in the future. Then we had lunch at the cutest little hardware store turned cafe and I had a pimento cheese biscuit BLT and tomato okra soup- a lunch combo I could probably never find in Washington. Afterwards we popped by my sister's school to check on the progress of her adorable kindergarten classroom-those are some lucky lucky little kiddos! Then I headed back to meet T.J., feed the goats again, and then go swimming at the pool at my parents apartment.
We had one last big dinner with all of us together before tears and long hugs and heading out the next day. Why do these visits, that seem like a lot of days when you're planning them, always fly by in the blink of an eye? Why is Washington so dang far from our family? Fortunately our vacation wasn't over just yet which made saying goodbye a little bit easier on my heart. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Surviving Residency

T.J. is a done with his second year of orthopedic surgery residency (years for us being July-July). So we're a month into third year now and we're getting through it! I don't like to blog too much about residency because it's not my job, it's T.J.'s, and so it's not really my story to share. I can really only talk about what it looks like at home. How the long overnight shifts, the weekend call schedules, the away rotations, the exhausted husband, impacts our marriage and our life outside the hospital. It's nothing new really, we're not the first ones to go through this, but I want to share how we're surviving, right now, while we're knee deep in it.
 (I thought this photo was hilarious- the magazines I get in the mail vs. the magazines T.J. gets.) 

First a little snapshot of what second year looked like. Second year was definitely worse than first year, and I'm starting to suspect that third year might be worse than second year. Though he is no longer the "intern" (what they call all first year residents) doing grunt work all the live long day, he is still considered a junior resident which means he still has long hours, plus far more responsibilities, higher expectations. He needs to be overly prepared for each and every surgery and patient on their service and to know all the obscure hypotheticals that could occur. This means even when he's "off" he has reading and studying to do.  There is an unspoken expectation that he should (want to) stay and scrub in on cases even if it's the end of the day and technically he could leave. This means that on a day when he might expect to be home by dinner time, he ends up operating until well after midnight and just sleeping in an on-call bed. And speaking of call...he is expected to take call at least two weekends a month plus one or two days a week.

Third year is supposed to be a slightly more manageable schedule with slightly less call nights but the catch is he has a TON of away rotations at other hospitals, most of which are too far for him to commute back and forth to so during those months I will only see him on weekends when he's off.

So what do I do with this mess? How do I make sure I'm not adding to my husbands burdens? How do I encourage him and support him, and at the same time make sure that I don't wallow in bitterness, or resentment towards his job, or worse, towards my sweet hard working husband?

Look for the silver lining.
I am always on the lookout for it. It would be so very easy to feel sorry for myself because T.J. isn't home every night for dinner, or even at all some nights. It would be so easy to look at other couples, not in this situation, and feel jealous. And I've seen other spouses fall into that trap. They focus only on the bad parts of this life and can't see the good. And there is a lot of good here.  T.J. is helping people and he truly enjoys what he does. He is able to provide for our family and we don't have to worry about the future. When he's on call I get to watch the Bachelorette uninterrupted and shame-free and have popcorn for dinner. We have no student loan debt (thank you to the Army). We get to live in new places and meet people we might never have if it weren't for this job. And probably the biggest silver lining is this is just a season and not forever. That's the big one there. If nothing else, I know this is not forever. His schedule won't always be like this. He won't always be this tired. We won't always be beholden to the call pager. I can do anything for a season. And I don't want to look back on this time and only remember how hard it was. I want to be able to look back and see that we squeezed as much joy and love and happiness out of these hard years.

Always have something on the calendar. 
And to bolster your silver lining, it helps to have something to look forward to. The weekends off may be few and far between but having something fun planned for those little breaks seems to make the long days pass more quickly. It's not just for my sanity though. T.J. needs a break, he needs to sleep in, he needs Vitamin D, he needs to turn off the pager, he needs handed a cold beer by the water and we need that alone time together. So I may or may not have a countdown on my phone letting me know the days until we're on a plane out of here.

Keep your expectations really low.
When we were still in first year, the older residents and their spouses warned me about second year. Seriously they scared the crap out of me with their horror stories of what was to come. Basically they told me I was never going to see my husband and when I did he wouldn't really be available to me because he'd be so tired and stressed. Because of this, going in to second year my expectations we're so so low. But it turns out that I do get to see my husband, and he is still my husband and not just a shell of his former happier self. Every night that we do get to have dinner together, every weekend that he isn't on call, every night that he sleeps next to me and not at the hospital, is a treat, a joy, a bonus! Keeping my expectations low means that instead of being disappointed all the time, I'm constantly, happily surprised.
Be flexible.
When T.J.calls to see if I can meet him for breakfast, right now, after he's finished a crazy overnight shift you can bet I am going to make that work. When he can't leave the hospital but he has a bit of down time, I pack up (or pick up) dinner and bring it to him. When he does have a free weekend and he let's me know the day before, I'm gonna try my hardest to plan something fun for us to do together. Being flexible allows room for last minute surprises (both good and bad). I also don't let his schedule stop me from making my own plans. I just keep in mind that he might not make it home in time or feel like going out.
Pick your battles. 
The minute T.J. walks in the door after work is not the time to tell him about the rain gutter we need to get replaced, or the cost of getting our roof cleaned. It's not the time to add to his to stress. Yes I have my own burdens, my own things that I want my husband's support and encouragement on. I have hard days too.  But I know that if I immediately unload on T.J. the second he gets home, I wont get the reaction, or the response that I'm looking for from him. So I store up things to tell him and pick my moments when he's more rested, when he's had a proper meal, when he's done telling me about the week he's had. And sometimes I just have to put on my big girl panties and deal with it myself, make some big decisions without him.

Go to bed at the same time.
Some days the only time I get with my husband is the sweet time we spend catching up while brushing our teeth before he falls into bed. While he may need/want to go to bed earlier than I do, I always go up to bed at the same time as him. I'll read in bed or play on my phone while he falls asleep (usually in .5 seconds of laying down) on my shoulder. Just being near each other, even in sleep, is better than nothing. To me, it's reflective of the commitment we made to each other to be one.
Surround yourself with support.
Rather than letting myself play the victim, I have to remember that we are not in this battle alone. The orthopedic residency department is like a little insular family. We are surrounded on both sides by other residents and their families who've chosen the same stressful and demanding life. It's helpful to be able to look to the older residents and see what's in store for the coming years, to ask questions about how it all works so I can mentally prepare.  It's also reassuring to look at the Attendings and remember that they once were just residents themselves. Once a month we have an "ortho wives" get together, usually at a restaurant or someone's home. No kids, no husbands, just time out with friends walking the same path. It's also great having these fellow spouses to call up last minute for dinner because both our husbands are on call and we don't want to eat alone. When we get together, there is a temptation to compare who's got it worse this week but it needs to not be about that. It needs to be a night out to unwind, to refresh, to do something fun for yourself so you don't always feel like you're waiting for your resident to get home.

Get a dog.
This one is kind of a joke but also kind of serious. Thank goodness for sweet crazy needy Hunley or our house would be so quiet most days. I also really don't like sleeping in the house alone (I'm certain every noise and creek is someone breaking in to murder me) so having him there when T.J. is not is such a comfort. Plus, Hunley is a decent substitute for cuddling.

Remember why he's doing this.
T.J. didn't decide to become a doctor because he wanted long hours and a tricky lifestyle. He chose this path because he's passionate about it, because he's so smart, because he wants to help people, because he wants to provide for our family. He's not doing this to our family, he's doing it for our family. Gratitude changes your whole perspective. I am grateful for how hard he works. I am thankful for his job, even when I don't like it.

This really should be the first thing on this list.  As a Christ follower, as someone who wants Jesus at the center of my marriage, my life, I want to love my husband like Jesus does. This means putting myself second to our marriage. I pray for the posture of my heart to be patient, selfless, and joyful during the long months. I pray for T.J. to have strength to get through long days. That he will feel peace about the path he's on and trust that he is doing what he was called to do. I pray that the Lord will bless whatever amount of time we get to spend together. That He will draw us closer to one another and to Him.

I know there are some people who might think I should demand more from my husband, that I should be mad at him when he tells me he'll be home for dinner and then he's not. But having an "if he does this, I'll do that" attitude about marriage is destructive and it's conditional love. This verse was read at our wedding (and pretty much every wedding ever) but it is TRUTH that carries us through this season and the next. 

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentfulit does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-13

Any more experienced spouses who've come out on the other side of residency with advice to share, I'd love to hear it!

Monday, June 13, 2016

A weekend in Seabrook

Weekends where T.J. has all three nights off are few and far between so we do not like to waste them. He often has grand ideas for these golden weekends and will proclaim "lets go away!" Of course sometimes he forgets to tell me his schedule until the Thursday before and it's too late for me to plan anything, or he's too exhausted from the week to do much more than binge on Netflix. But this past weekend I had enough notice to do some research and find a place for us to escape to for a couple nights. It couldn't be anywhere too far of a drive (I found an adorable Airbnb in Bend that I've bookmarked for a longer weekend since it's about 5 hours away), and it had to be dog friendly. We've been wanting to go to the coast for a while now so Seabrook, Washington checked all our boxes. I packed his weekend bag for him so that the second he got home from work all we had to do was load up the truck and the dog and hit the road.
Seabrook is a little beach town not quite 2 hours west from our home. It sits up on a tree lined bluff overlooking the ocean and is chock full of coastal sweetness.  All the beautiful shingled homes are privately owned and perfectly designed to create the most adorable, walkable little community. When we arrived we got checked in at the rental office, and were given our pool key (that we never ended up using) and a cute welcome bag with shower items, dog treats, popcorn and other little goodies for our stay. I had rented a little two bedroom cottage named Sandy Crab and it was just perfect for the three of us!
Since we'd gotten in kind of late we pretty much went right to bed and were excited to explore more the next day. We woke up early (thanks Hunley) and had a bite of breakfast in our house before making our way to the beach.  The whole way there I was snapping pictures and exclaiming every step how simply adorable this town is! It's pleasantville perfect. The sidewalks are made of crushed shells, the homes have large cedar porches, and colorful shutters and doors, flower boxes and picket fences. I loved getting to meander around the town and try to pick which home was my favorite, an impossible task.
We passed the town hall and then arrived at the Red Velvet Bakery by the Sea where T.J. grabbed a coffee before we started our climb down the twisty steps to the sandy beach below, trying not to break our neck as Hunley dragged us most of the way.

Though the morning has started out sunny enough, some dark clouds had rolled in as we'd made our trek to the beach. But we stuck out the drizzle like the good Pacific North-westerners we are now, and were soon rewarded with just overcast skies.
Hunley was in seventh heaven having the entire expansive beach to run on. He chased seagulls and splashed in the waves and ran back and forth between T.J. and I until he was completely exhausted with his tongue hanging out the side. We walked back to our house on a different path and passed more adorable homes, public fire pits, bocce ball courts, and the cutest "Lending Library."
My favorite vacations involve a good mix of activity and down time so after our morning excursion we plopped ourselves down on the couch, wrapped up in blankets, to watch a couple hours of our new TV series (I'm not going to say which series, though, because it's been over for years and yet somehow I haven't had it spoiled for me yet).
 When we were satisfied with our couch potato status we ventured back outside and were pleased to see the sun had broken through the clouds in full force. We headed back to the beach, this time by way of the affectionately named "Gnome Trail."  
This dense, wooded, mossy trail, is not exactly what we think of when we picture the beach, and we kept questioning whether we were headed in the right direction, but sure enough, the trees cleared and we found ourselves a bit further down on the beach than our earlier excursion. 
This time on our way back to the house we checked out some of the other shops and restaurants in the town. There are two restaurants, a wine and cheese shop, a cute ice cream and candy store, and a market where you can pick up supplies for s'mores or sandwiches, plus plans for future shops.  I think it would be so fun to come back here in a couple years, maybe next time with some family in tow, and see what new adorable cottages and restaurants have popped up.
We got showered and left the dog behind and went to enjoy a nice easy dinner together at Mill 109, with views of the setting sun sparkling off the ocean. 
On Sunday we went back to the beach for one last frolic before we had to pack up our gear and head on home. We had the whole beach to ourselves and we're joking about how different it would look if this was a beach on the East Coast in June. For one thing, I don't think I've ever worn rain boots and fleece to the beach in South Carolina.  But regardless of what coast I'm on, there is just something about the ocean, something that pulls and my heart and catches my breath like no other place on Earth. 
We were sad to be leaving so soon after arriving but I am so glad to know this little slice of paradise is just a short drive away from our home. It's so crazy to think this is a piece of the country we might never ever have visited if not for this crazy journey we're on. These weekend adventures are like water for the soul. We come home with stories to tell and memories that we'll share forever. I feel lighter and refreshed and ready to face another week of late nights alone. So no matter how last minute, or how hectic the week before has been, I'll say yes every single time T.J. tells me "let's get the heck out of town." Just to go somewhere, anywhere new, together.