One of my favorite places in Winchester, The Hideaway Cafe, is starting a Writing Club. They offered 20 slots for $5 and included this book of writing prompts; I'll be sharing select excerpts on here as a way to keep up this online space. Throughout the school year I really miss this place and the ability to think about things beyond myself (and pharmacy of course). Two of my friends signed up with me and that accountability will be such a great thing! This winter break has been great for my mental and emotional health: I can feel myself slowly pulling back together and I'm looking forward to using this club as a tether throughout my final semester.
Las Vegas is the City of Sin and I've decided that their biggest sin is blocking the view of the mountains with some tacky buildings. I've always had it in my head that I love traveling and this was perhaps the first trip where I realized I don't love traveling for the sake of traveling. Take me to a national park, to a beautiful lake, or a historic town... but please don't take me back to Las Vegas. I'm sure the city appeals to a lot of people, but it's just not my style.
The hotels are interesting certainly. Each one has a casino in its lobby. In fact, I stayed at the MGM Grand and I measured it on my phone - it took 0.8 miles to get from my hotel room's door down to the shuttle loading area. They funnel you for nearly a mile past casinos, shops, and restaurants! I'm thankful for some extra steps but sheesh! Plus the entire strip smells like either smoke or scents they pump into the room to cover up smoke. Having had a grandma who smokes I can tell you that the perfumes are essentially the same thing as lighting a vanilla candle in a smokers house; there is zero chance of you covering up the smoky smell you're just adding another scent into the mix.
Everything, as predicted, was expensive. People tout the food and I have no idea why. The food in my small town is loads better! In fact, the best food I tasted was far and away the sweet potato fries, which were likely just out of a frozen bag. It's as if you're constantly in an amusement park where a slice of pizza costs $7 and the bar for satisfactory food is quite low - the pizza will be cold and your cheese will be congealed with a cardboard crust.
The best parts of Vegas as a city for me were The Bellagio water show, seeing the interior of The Venetion, and that everything was either walkable or had a shuttle. That's about all I can think of unfortunately. Perhaps it's worth seeing once... but I'm not even sure I can commit to that! For the most part I'm just thankful I got to spend time with my mother-in-law, but our trips to Seattle and Maine blew Las Vegas out of the water!
One of my favorite places on earth.... Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park. It was always a tradition on Black Friday to head out into the mountains instead of into stores and that annual trip as a kid has grown into multiple trips a year, whenever I need to feel reconnected to myself.
This year, immediately after my last final exam I went home to pick up Odin and then we drove down to Front Royal and up on the Drive. We made it to South Marshall and hiked up the trail so that we could just sit and enjoy the piece and quiet. On our way up we passed two hikers and then we had solitude for our remaining time there. Winter in the park is actually one of my favorite times of year. Yes, it's almost bitter cold some days with the wind whipping around your face, but with the right clothing that's not a problem when you look at the big picture of solitude. There's no denying that the park is gorgeous in the fall, but try to find a single trail where you could come across a deer and it'll be impossible due to the plethora of people. So, winter it is.
Hitting the mountain after that week... wow. My friend had stayed with me during finals week and it was tough. It was our hardest finals week yet, but it was the best I have had. We were driven and we worked hard. In fact, the night before my last exam (and this hike) we both got less than 4 hours of sleep. The Park brings out all of those feelings. It sort of put a period at the end of the sentence. Rather than metaphorically climbing a mountain like we have been all semester I was able to go physically do it. And I can't decide which way I like better.
Looking back on life, it's funny to me which memories stick out the most. Our lives are such a collection of brief moments that it's hard to lay the semblance of a plot, a direction, over our experiences. Part of the fun for me is looking back on the hodge podge of memories.
One of my memories is strolling through Jim Barnett Park on a summer night and picking honeysuckle with my parents. I can still picture how vividly green the park was and I can hear the sound of traffic on the highway just on the other side of the tree-line that we were at. I loved that.
I remember driving over the hill at the end of a two mile long gravel driveway in Illinois, just to see the tips of the silos peek up as we drove - followed closely by endless fields of corn, barns, and a little farmhouse. Meanwhile the scent of manure was attacking my nostrils... and I loved that.
Periodically growing up we would take our dogs, Lucky & Brownie, out to what I call the "industrial district" of our hometown where the warehouses are. We would just have them walk and run beside us. There was no point to being there other than just walking with our dogs. I loved that.
We would take trips up to Camp White Rock with the girl scout troop. We would sing, eat, craft, hike, and we sang Taps as we lowered the flag. We had bonfires at night and sang again, then traversed the woods back to Hemlock to sleep in our canvas tents. I loved that.
At James Wood High School the band would stay after school on Friday nights to run through our drills. Left, right, fermata, hold. Then we would go in to enjoy a group dinner that the boosters had put together before we changed into our uniforms. We played the pep songs and cheered for our team; spirit was high. I loved that.
I love that in life, it's sometimes the little moments that add so much to who we are as a person. There's no denying that we life-changing moments too, events that come and stand tall in front of us; our decisions at these times seem to alter the entire course of our life path. Yet, the little moments add up to be just as much, they just sort of sneak up on you over time. I love that we can appreciate little moments in every day and commit them to memory to call upon when we need them. I truly believe that taking the time to stop and pick honeysuckle will stick with me until I'm gone and I treasure that I have one of those fleeting moments with my parents that will stay within me. Life has a lot of joys in the day-to-day that can add up, one-by-one, until they create our spirit as a whole.
I think in life we all need a mentor. Many of us have multiple mentors depending on the aspect of life that you're focusing on. We may have a different mentor in our careers than we do in our relationships, and yet another for our physical or spiritual health. I met one of mine when I interviewed at Shenandoah's School of Pharmacy. She had the office next to my mother-in-laws at the time and when I came in to answer questions she made me feel instantly at ease.
Over the next couple of years we were able to work together on an independent project, attend two conferences together, she coordinated my endocrine module, and we talked about career goals and ways to achieve them. When Phi Lambda Sigma student leaders came to our school and talked about finding a mentor (whether peer or faculty) I already had pharmacist that came to mind.
While she is mainly my professional mentor (having gone through residency, becoming faculty, department chair, running a residency, and now acting as dean of academic affairs) she is also a woman who is juggling both a career and a family, which I would like to do one day. On top of being a professor she has given me her ear when I have trials of my own to face. Today I wrote a thank you card to her and my only sticking point with it is that it feels inadequate. How can you convey to someone the impact they have had on you in the space of a card? I don't think it's feasible.
Reason to Smile: I have a wonderful mentor in my life and as a guide for my pharmacy career. If you have a mentor you would like to thank, reach out to them and let them know how much of an impact they have had on your life. Everyone deserves to hear when they are appreciated!
In life I think you get lucky by meeting a handful of friends that just get you. Allison is definitely one of those friends for me. She has an infectious positivity that radiates off of her. One of the most challenging aspects of our friendship is the physical distance between us on any given day. See, Allison is currently a flight attendant and is based in Dubai. She is a world traveler! She has been to so many countries and I love following her experiences on Instagram.
Somehow though, when she flies back home she feels like the girl-next-door that you've been friends with for a lifetime! This trip we met in Woodstock for some lattes and to catch up for two hours. My only regret is that we never quite get enough time together. It's hard to believe we've known each other for over four years now... Time is flying and half of that time we have lived in different countries. Yet we come home and always manage to grab some coffee and do some photoshoots. We enjoyed just walking through the streets of Woodstock on a morning before class. We stopped and enjoyed the textures on the different historic buildings and tried to catch some falling leaves.
It's wonderful how easy it is to fall back into friendships. I'm thankful that we can be apart for so long and then step back into the relationship like we didn't spend any time apart. Each time we meet she instills that love of adventure in me and I leave wanting to be a better person. So I'm going to go out invigorated and with purpose and try to keep that spirit alive.
This weekend was spent in Richmond, Virginia celebrating my sister and her marriage to her long-term boyfriend Ryan. It feels like I've known Ryan forever and I am very excited to officially be able to call him family. He is so kind to Kelsey and they are such a good match for one another.
Noah and I were lucky enough to stay with his Aunt for the weekend (in the fan district) and travel back and forth to the venue. They were married at a beautiful Country Club venue which also offered room for the reception afterwards. Due to rain over the course of the weekend the ceremony was moved indoors, but with the beautiful venue this was of little concern.
The ladies were getting ready in a back room from 11:30 onwards with a professional hair stylist and make up artist, all while wearing lavender-colored robes. This combo was our bridesmaid gift and it was a great idea! We took turns getting ready, ate Jimmy Johns for lunch, played some Heads Up, and chatted until it was time for pre-ceremony pictures.
The ceremony went smoothly and they exchanged rings, vows, and a kiss. The reception was a lot of fun too with good food, an open bar, toasts, and dancing. I was so busy dancing I didn't even get a slice of cake until the end of the night when the bridal party was packing up!
It was a great way to celebrate their many previous and upcoming years of partnership. It makes me so happy to know my sister has such a great husband! I'm looking forward to seeing their many future adventures together.
I find myself moving through day-to-day life wondering where to find inspiration some days. Most days I find myself looking to my friends and loved ones. Other days I find it in nature, harkening back to my younger (and perhaps more appreciative) self. I used to find inspiration in novels and books, some poetry - I still swear by Sermons We See and Donald Miller's A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Just now there is not quite as much time to immerse myself in such things, and thus I turn to people and the world around me.
Seeing people wear their heart on their sleeve. That is inspiring to me. Each day I want to live as openly and honestly as I can. When people share themselves with me I feel so connected. Sometimes I think back to high school or undergrad and I feel like those experiences cropped up much more often. Now it feels like people are either guarded or don't have enough time for introspection to even know what they want to say.
Mottled sunlight. We've entered those perfect fall days where the morning is chilly and the afternoon warms you with the sun. As I walk Odin around the neighborhood I find myself admiring the sunlight as it streams through the leaves, which are slowly changing colors and brightening (and dulling).
Dedication. My friends are very driven people. I see their drive for success, their dedication, and their passion and it is an inspiration to me. On days where I feel the swells rising against me I look to their guidance and their stance. I know that as a team we can do anything. Their drive will push me to better myself.
Love and kindness. I see this in so many places, yet feel that somehow there is a shortage in the world. My husband is kind. He has this positivity about him that I hope to drape myself in. It flows off of him as if his spirit is no effort. All in all I feel quite positive on the whole and I wonder how much of this aspect of myself stems from him, from my friends, and from my parents. Having those people with a light in their soul... we all need to surround ourselves with them.
There is inspiration abounding if we take the time to look. I think the biggest struggle at some points in our lives is stopping to really take it all in. It used to be a breeze for me to look at the world through rose-colored glasses. It's why I'm so grateful for this blog; I can feel myself in it. I know that soul is still here, it smolders. I just need to give it a little more air.
It's okay to not know what's coming next. I know it's so hard to give up control and let life carry you along, but in some areas, there's no helping it. Things will work out for you as long as you work hard and carry kindness in your soul.
You will be an incredible mother one day. It takes time to get there and it's okay to feel pulled in two directions. If you have children you can still pursue a professional career. It feels like you will receive judgement for choosing to be a mom when you are in graduate school, residency, or early years of your profession but only you know what is right for you and your family. And you should be honest with people because, really, wouldn't you want to work with people who see you as a person? I want to surround myself with people who value me as a human being with motivation and dreams. Along that same line, if it takes longer than you want that is okay too. Just because you lost your mom so young doesn't mean your children will lose you in the same way.
It's okay to be honest about what you want in life. I know it's scary to tell people what you want because if you fall short it feels like people will judge you or shake their head, but all you can do is try. If you don't aim for your dreams there's no chance you'll achieve them.
You are still you. Some days it doesn't feel like it. Some days it doesn't feel like you're a person at all but rather some sort of being that just exists to push through daily routines. This won't last forever. Take the time to find your spirit - that is who you are. You are someone who cares for others, wants the world to be a better place, and who fights for people when they are down. You see the best in others and try your hardest. Don't let the challenges or tediousness of certain days take that away from you.
You are strong and you are smart. It seems impossible to not let your confidence waver when you go through a difficult time, but sometimes life just throws punches your way. Get back up and keep moving forward because it's how you'll improve. You can do this.
One day, in the not-so-distant future you will be a compassionate and caring pharmacist. You will make your patients lives better by listening to them and counseling on the the best therapy for them. You will be good at it. Don't doubt yourself.
Life is a path made up of a variety of choices. You get to dictate that path.
Did you know that there is a reset button for your soul? I didn't. This past week has been full of challenges and there's no way to easily talk about it. So I won't. Today though, I went home, to my alma mater James Madison. When I drove through the valley with the blue mountains rising on either side of me with grains and farm houses lining the highway I started to feel a little nostalgic. Driving up to my school, my home for five years, was like throwing off the cloak of despair that has been wrapped around my shoulders. I was home. JMU provided me many years of joy and growth and some incredible friends, but I never knew the power it had to turn around even the darkest of times. Some days it feels like I'm just slogging through a variety of challenges, but after today I know that I'm still me. Life can throw you down and run you over, but you have to take it one day at a time and just know that you will come out the other side.
I'm starting to work on vacation plans. Burn out is real ya'll! I'm in my final didactic year of pharmacy school and I'm learning a lot, along with how to keep going when your will power starts to fade. The thing is... there is no such thing as motivation, it's just people who do and people who don't. And I'm going to be a woman who does. So I'm working up a reward for myself at the end of the semester. I'm looking into cities where I may want a residency and will start planning trips to visit some of them. It's a big world out there.
I went over to my dad's recently to get copies of just a few family photos. Lately I've decided I'd like to slowly work on a family history for my family and Noah's. The challenge is getting other people to participate and share stories. I realized as he and I browsed through photos that I haven't thought about my mom in a while. I remember when the pain was fresh and I thought about her multiple times a day. All these years later and it seems I've put a sort of mental barrier in place to protect myself. There are times that thoughts skim the surface, but I tend to just smile and think "I had a great mom" and then let the thoughts roll past.
Now that my best friend is a mom and I think about becoming one in the (hopefully not too far away) future I find myself thinking of mom more. She would have loved to be a grandma. If anyone reads this and needs comfort in the loss of her mother.... I would definitely recommend Motherless Daughters. I warn you that I still haven't gotten through it because the anecdotes and feelings from the author and countless women who have written in to her speak so truly. But if you're ready for one of those "good cries" then this book can help you put words to feelings about your loss that maybe you hadn't been able to say before.