Playing Catch-up: May/June, Weddings and Camping!

Early on a Saturday late in May, Michael and I left the pup with the ‘rents, and drove from Cleveland to Madison (a drive we would mimic a little over a week later, but with a moving truck instead). Our friends Erin and Annie were getting married that day.


It was a beautiful ceremony on a ridiculously hot day, but the heat didn’t keep us from dancing the night away. The next morning, we were able to say goodbye to Erin and Annie as well as our friends Neima and Jackie, all headed to Boston; and our friend Jordan, who’s doing his surgical residency in Philadelphia.

Because we had all moved out of the Shaker house early, our housemates the Hedges invited us to go on a camping trip with them– one that would take us from the wedding in Madison to our next destination: Molly’s wedding in Traverse City, Michigan the following weekend.


Our campsite the first night in northern Wisconsin

The tent on the left was one we inherited from Mom and Dad H. It had a very short life with us; it poured that evening and the tent flooded before we even got a chance to sleep in it.


The next day, we drove into Michigan via the Upper Peninsula, where we hiked for a few hours along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore before finding our next campsite.



It was so, so green.


It also happened to be our anniversary that day, so we counted this as an extra little celebration.

We loved our campsite that night so much, we ended up staying there for the remainder of our trip. If you ever go to the UP, look for Twelvemile Beach Campground.


During the days, we took little trips out– one was an ill-fated kayaking excursion on Lake Superior during which most of us got seasick. BUT we also went to a part of the shore that’s lined with steep sand dunes– this specific one is locally famous; called the log slide.


We slid down to the bottom, of course.


… But then had to climb back up. That little black speck in the middle is Michael, taking a break about halfway back up the dunes.


More hiking on our last full day, with my trusty Montrails.


Then we trekked on down to the big house we were renting in Traverse City, big enough to hold five medwives and their husbands. After five days of camping, a shower has never felt so good.

Our time at the house in Traverse City and during Molly and Josh’s wedding was exactly what we’d hoped– my dearest friends all running around, borrowing each other’s curling irons and jewelry, cooking together, playing games and talking late into the night. Not to mention the main event:




Our first time at a wedding with “Dr.” and “Mrs.” on the name cards. 🙂



And when the last song played, and the lights came up, the evening found us like this:


Except despite our smiles, we were all actually crying. In fact, I’ve never sobbed so much in my life. Saying goodbye to good friends is hard enough, but this was different. I might not have survived medical school without these girls to lean on, and we left each other that night knowing exactly what we were facing: several years of residency, the most difficult time in a medical family’s life, without our friends by our side. It was the loveliest last hurrah, but the saddest farewell.

To NOT end on that note, though, I also remember this: later, driving back to Cleveland with Michael, and thinking that even though this new step is scary, at least I get to do it with him.

Next up: Our move across the country to Seattle!


Playing Catch-up: May, Visiting Austin!

We flew into Austin for our cruise so that we could spend some time with the Congdons and meet our new nephew, Harvey James (see above). So for one evening prior to the cruise and a few days after, we got our fill of playtime with Darcy, snuggles with Harvey, good conversations with Leigh and Doug, and lots of excellent food (the main purpose behind our trip was Tex-Mex, let’s be honest).


Her expression changes are lizard-quick.



Sno Beach is a must while in Austin.


A hike in the beautiful Texas hills.


This one’s a grainier iPhone picture, but I couldn’t resist. I mean, look at them.

We also got to see the church where Leigh and Doug work, go to storytime at the library, and more. We packed a lot of quality time into just a few days, and it was wonderful. Thanks, Congdons, for having us!

Until next time, Austin…

Playing Catch-up: May, a Cruise!

On April 30th, we set out for Austin, TX where we got to meet two-month-old Harvey James and see the Congdons (lots of pictures to come in the next post, so hold your horses). The very next morning, we drove down to Galveston where we embarked on our celebration cruise! (We were celebrating Valentine’s Day, our anniversary, Michael’s graduation, Matching, starting a new life chapter, and probably several birthdays and Christmases. 😉 )

We discovered that we like cruises, and they are great if you want a week of relaxation– but maybe not if your goal in traveling is to experience other places, cultures, and history. The ports are basically humongous souvenir shops; if you want to do more than buy trinkets you have to go on an excursion, and the quality of those can be hit or miss, plus they only last a few hours. BUT there is plenty to do on-board: enjoy the sunshine; eat good food; see great entertainment; and if you’re like us, whup some butts in trivia tournaments several times a day. 🙂 We loved Royal Caribbean and would recommend the line to anyone.


Waiting in the (very long) line to embark.

After a day by the pool, enjoying the equatorial sun a little too much (i.e. I got a really bad sunburn) we arrived at our first port: Cozumel, Mexico. It was my favorite. Not only did I get to break out my very rusty Spanish, but we also chose to do an excursion here– to some Mayan ruins and then to the beach. We had an excellent tour guide who didn’t mind my broken Spanish and loved talking with Michael about ancient Mayan medicine. The ruins we visited used to be a temple for the Mayan goddess of the moon and fertility, Ix Chel, and functioned as a fertility retreat center for Mayan women. Some would go there when they were having trouble conceiving; others would stay there for the duration of their pregnancy. The island is basically a jungle and yet it’s an ecological oddity: there are few bugs, dangerous snakes, or other threats that a pregnant woman on the mainland might want to avoid.


There are iguanas, though. Big ones.


This was an archway you were supposed to walk under if you wanted to conceive. I didn't get too close. ;)

This was an archway you were supposed to walk under if you wanted to conceive. I didn’t get too close. 😉


Ceiba (the Mayan tree of life) roots


After the ruins, we headed to the beach.

We got some Mexican Coke (COCA COLA, I mean) and Coke Light. It's a million times better than Diet Coke.

We got some Mexican Coca Cola and Coke Light for the trip. It’s a million times better than Diet Coke.

Happy place

Happy place

Here is a picture of me holding iguanas, at the exact moment their owner told us that pictures cost $5.

Here is a picture of me holding iguanas, at the exact moment their owner told us that pictures cost $5.

Then we went swimming. It was salty and glorious.

After escaping Iguana Guy, we went swimming. It was salty and glorious.

A Corona ad to go with my Coke Light ad from earlier. ;)

A Corona ad to go with my Coke Light ad from earlier. 😉


I wanted to stay in Cozumel, but we had to back. :) This is our ship!

I wanted to stay in Cozumel, but we had to go back. 🙂 This is our ship!

The time not spent in ports went somewhat like this:

Me, excited for the sudoku challenge.

Me, excited for the sudoku challenge.

Michael, excited about his coffee.

Michael, excited about his coffee.

Me, happy because I won the sudoku challenge.

Me, happy because I won the sudoku challenge.

Michael, sad because he did not.

Michael, sad because he did not.

(We didn’t take as many pictures during trivia challenges because we were too busy dominating, but Michael was obviously the breadwinner in that category.)

The next port was Grand Cayman. We didn't go on an excursion, and there wasn't much to see near the port (except the beautiful water, and my handsome husband).

The next port was Grand Cayman. We didn’t go on an excursion, and there wasn’t much to see near the port (except the beautiful water, and my handsome husband).


But the ferry ride over was nice.

But the ferry ride over was nice.

Next up: Jamaica.


We docked in Falmouth.


We ventured out past the port gates, where we were accosted (in the best and most fun way) by local merchants. We got some souvenirs and I had a single braid put in my hair, haggling over its cost the whole time.


I liked Jamaica. I think I’d like it better farther away from a port. 😛

With all the ports visited, we had stretches of unfilled time to explore the ship some more. Besides having excellent shows every night (we saw an Elvis impersonator, Saturday Night Fever, aerial acrobats, two comedians, and more), there was also rock climbing, soccer, movies on the deck at night, etc. Basically, if you’re bored on a cruise ship, you’re doing it wrong.

IMG_0059 IMG_0067 IMG_0072

But our FAVORITE part was the food. Approximately 20 dates over delicious meals: Perfection.

Verdict: Cruising. We’d do it again.

P.S. Happy Independence Day!


One Week in Minnesota

A couple of weeks ago, I was able to travel home to Minnesota to spend some time with my mom as she adjusted to her cochlear implant. It was activated that Wednesday– you can read more about that experience here, in my own words. In addition to being present for that big event, it was really nice just to spend some time with family– time that wasn’t centered around a holiday or a vacation; just normal life.

I spent some quality time with my nephew, sister, and brother-in-law. I went to work with my mom to be her dubious moral support. We did lots of shopping (no clothing tax in Minnesota!), and just hanging out. I unearthed all my old t-shirts and finally made the back and front to what will eventually be a completed quilt. This was my first big sewing project, and I didn’t use a pattern, or even cut my shirts down to be the same size, but it still turned out nearly perfect (with minimal filler fabric). My poor mom tried to tell me I was crazy, but with characteristic impatience I jumped in and I’m sure it was just luck that it happened to work out with the right dimensions. (Thanks for your help, Mama, and sorry for depriving you of your “I-told-you-so.” 🙂 I promise I WILL take your advice next time; I probably won’t get lucky twice.) I went running on my very favorite route. It’s my favorite because it was where I first got into running, and first taught myself to push past my limits. I hooked my mom on Fringe, one of my all-time favorites (every season is available on Netflix!) and got to be home for the event I miss most about living there: Sunday night snacks and Downton Abbey.

Being at home for the few days following the activation of my mom’s implant wasn’t quite what I expected. I thought there would be so much more adjustment– so much more emotional exhaustion. There was a little bit, of course, but not as much as I thought there would be. I got to witness a few exciting moments– my mom hearing the tea kettle whistle for the first time, among a few other new noises; practicing listening to the radio and tricking her into enjoying some hip-hop (she couldn’t actually tell what it was, but I knew she’d hear it better than other types of music because of its structure. At least it was some good ol’ Minneapolis Atmosphere). I suspect most of the “ease” was due to my mom just being a champ. It probably wasn’t as easy as she made it seem. But the gradual nature of the adjustment (increasing stimulation of the electrodes tiny bit by tiny bit, over a period of several months) probably does help. Towards the end of my time there, I was worried I wasn’t being much help. But Michael assured me I was, just by being there, and my mom confirmed that on my last day. So I’m very grateful to have had the ability and time off to go.

I’ve had this post written for a while and wanted to add pictures, but I kept avoiding looking through my photos from my week at home because I’d see the last pictures I took of our family dogs, Bandit and Kirby. During my time with them, I saw firsthand how old they had become, and how hard a time they had functioning. Bandit had several accidents, would often fall and not be able to get his back legs under him. He had gradually lost his eyesight and most of his hearing, and was handling it poorly; he displayed so many signs of anxiety. Kirby had to be carried outside and lifted back in; he was carried from bed in the morning to the couch for the day, then back at night. It was time. A little over a week after I got home, Mom and Dad took them both to be put to sleep. They closed their eyes at the exact same time.

I’m thankful to have my own pup to snuggle with. It’s made it easier to mourn my old men. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for my mom and dad, who probably feel their absence much more acutely. I still can’t bring myself to go through my pictures quite yet, but I want to move forward on the blog. So I’m posting this sans-photos for the moment. And I’ll sign off by saying: give some extra love to your fur-babies today.


It’s been difficult, lately, to think of anything but our schedule over the next five months. Michael is currently in Nashville on his penultimate residency interview trip– he’s going to Durham, NC at the end of the week and then he’s done! We predicted the exact number of interviews he would do: 15, over a period of three months. It’s been a pretty crazy season, but very, very soon, we will be making real decisions about our rank list, which needs to be finalized by late February.

Our travel isn’t quite over yet– I am leaving in a little over a week to spend some time in Minnesota with my parents, and to be there when my mom’s cochlear implant is turned on. I’m grateful that after that trip, we’ll have a relatively quiet February and early March– and maybe we’ll be able to slow down enough to process some of the coming changes.

Today I am missing the baby shower of Amanda, one of my dearest friends, because she lives in Lawrence– and alas, I have to work. Distance has taught me that time close to loved ones is precious. I don’t want to take this time here and now for granted– I won’t always get to share these milestones (like addressing my friend’s wedding invitations yesterday, or getting to see my future sister-in-law try on her dress tomorrow) with the people I love. And so we come back to the idea of presence: Being here, now. Looking for my purpose here, now. Praying that I am right where I need to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing, here and now. And waiting for that next step.

Hang in there, folks.

The Rain City

Two weeks ago, we traveled to Seattle for Michael’s last interview of 2015. The night of our arrival was the dinner for the applicants to the University of Washington’s internal medicine residency program; they had combined it with the department’s holiday party to avoid conflicting schedules, making it quite different from other dinners Michael has attended. Probably through divine intervention, we (two introverts) managed to strike up a conversation with the two people ahead of us in line at the bar, discovering that they were also applicants doing a couple’s match. We spent the evening with them talking to residents, attendings, and their spouses– even the program director. Everyone was so kind, impressive, enthusiastic about the program, and happy to spare a few minutes out of their holiday party  to answer our questions. One older physician and his wife even drove me to the pharmacy and back on a Benadryl run when Michael had an allergic reaction to some hidden nuts in a mushroom appetizer. They happened to be leaving as I was and sensed my panic… Talk about a first impression. 🙂 (Michael was fine after about 15 minutes.)

The next day as Michael was interviewing, and our hosts, the Shaws, were at work, I got to explore the city by myself. It was the perfect way to experience Seattle. First stop: visiting the Fremont troll, an homage to the troll from “The Three Billy Goats Gruff.” He lives under the Aurora Bridge, a landmark famous in its own right.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

They said he was a sculpture, but I didn’t picture this guy, who looks like he’s emerging from the wall under the bridge.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Coley pointed out later that it’s a real VW bug under his left hand.

After visiting the troll, I took the bus downtown and then went up to the Starbucks on the 40th floor of the Columbia Center, on Nicole’s suggestion. The views were unreal.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

After that I went to see the library, because why not?

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

Yes, this is the library. I was loving the architecture.

It was a huge 7-floor affair, with tons of small collections, reading rooms, and community areas. I went to see the children’s room and talked to the librarian there, who was delighted to show off her space.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

It was colorful but not cluttered, and their collection was huge. From a professional standpoint, it was interesting to see– also I am that much more proud of our libraries in northeast Ohio, especially my little four-branch system in Cleveland Heights. We have just as much to offer! But I liked the SPL too, and it was great to see the ways they engage their community.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

One last view of the city from inside the library.

From the library, I walked down to the famous Pike Place Market.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I spent a LOT of time there, exploring every market stand, listening to the fishmongers, and people-watching.

The original Starbucks is down there-- Michael actually took this on our first afternoon; we met Luke at the market to get a key.

The original Starbucks is down there– Michael actually took this on our first afternoon; we briefly met Luke at the market to get a key.

I met this street-performing bird and talked to his owner for a bit.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

This sign caught my eye for obvious reasons (three sisters bugging each other! 🙂 ) and I decided to get lunch here. I took my food down to a park with a view of the harbor to eat.

I headed back into the heart of downtown after lunch to see it all decked out for Christmas. Shortly I was able to meet up with Michael and a few other applicants as they took a tour of the city. Our guide was a hilarious English man who has lived in Seattle for decades. He was a great resource, talking about the history of the city and the personality of all the different neighborhoods.

That night we got to see Ethan! I was so exhausted, though, that I fell asleep on the couch right after dinner. I wouldn’t call it jet lag, but the time difference combined with walking all day was killer. The next day, though, after resting up, we took the Coley-tour!

The University of Washington's main library

The University of Washington’s main library

We walked through the undergrad campus, had some great miso (there is good Asian food everywhere in Seattle), and then visited the unique Card Kingdom– where you can sample board games over a snack or a drink at the coffee bar next door. Perfect for a rainy day.

As soon as I heard about Hot Cakes, I knew we had to go. Molten chocolate cake with ice cream? Sign me up, please.

We picked up sushi for dinner and spent the evening back at the Shaws’ apartment, playing games and talking for hours with Luke, Coley, Ethan, and Ethan’s girlfriend Kim. It was pretty much perfect.

We really liked Seattle, and it was hard to pick out any downsides. It’s rainy, but we like the rain. It’s gray like Cleveland, but the vibe is so different and so much more lively– it’s hard to explain, but I can’t imagine the cloudiness ever getting me down. There is a lot of traffic and the cost of living is high, but that’s true of almost all the cities on our list– it’s just part of living in a major center. There is so much to do and see, and not just in the city– it’s surrounded by mountains, national parks, and ocean (!!!). We have close friends living there whom we love and miss: a pre-built support system. Michael absolutely loved the program, which is fantastic and would open up so many opportunities.

The next morning, we visited the Shaws’ church and then they drove us to the airport, where we had to say goodbye.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I sure loved my time with this one.

Until next time, Seattle.

The Blue Ridge Mountains

Last week, Michael had an interview in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since Virginia is high up on our list of places we could see ourselves living one day, we worked to schedule his interview at a time I could go. I wasn’t able to go to the dinner the night before his interview (a chance for me to get to know the residency program for myself), but I drove down to join him the night after, and we got to spend a day and a half exploring Charlottesville and the Shenandoah Valley together.

Charlottesville was smaller than I expected, but nice. UVA and the medical center take front stage in the little city; it’s very much a college town. The UVA campus was GORGEOUS. And this is coming from someone who went to the University of Kansas, a campus more beautiful than any I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a good few. Even with most of the leaves gone, the campus is shady, all brick and old pathways and tradition. I loved it.

The downtown area is thriving; there’s a pedestrian walkway with tons of restaurants and boutiques– it’s as long as Mass Street in Lawrence and Coventry here in Cleveland Heights, but all pedestrian, and with far fewer vacant buildings! Imagine that. It’s good to see a healthy city. We ate along this strip twice, a great experience both times.

We also went to see the home-opener UVA basketball game, an experience which I am happy to say moved no emotion in me whatsoever. ROCK CHALK FOREVER.

We also went to see the home-opener UVA basketball game, an experience which I am happy to say moved no emotion in me whatsoever. ROCK CHALK FOREVER.

It’s a quick ten minute drive from the heart of downtown to Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson:

And apparently an important enough monument to be displayed on US currency--this domed view of the house is on the back of the nickel.

And apparently an important enough monument to be displayed on US currency–this domed view of the house is on the back of the nickel.

Jefferson is such an interesting historical figure, and he was the type of person whose being infiltrated every part of his life fully– especially his house. It really was a piece of him, from the architecture to the artifacts to the paint on the walls.

This compass was on the porch ceiling-- it's directly attached to the weathervane above, telling us the direction of the wind.

This compass was on the porch ceiling– it’s directly attached to the weathervane above, telling us the direction of the wind.

No photography was allowed inside, since some of the items indoors are parts of private collections. But we got to see several famous portraits, Jefferson’s own telescope and polygraph, lots of innovative architecture, clockwork, and pulleys (you can give yourself a virtual tour here). The outside was lovely, as you can see, and drenched in American history– both inspiring and sobering. Jefferson kept over 600 slaves in his lifetime, and their workspaces and quarters were on display, as well.

Jefferson's vineyards

Jefferson’s vineyards

It was a good reminder that our founding fathers were human, flawed, and sometimes deeply wrong.

My very favorite thing about Charlottesville is that there are no suburbs. Five minutes outside the city, you’re in the Blue Ridge Mountain range– this is the part of Virginia that calls to my heart.

We drove a little ways down the Blue Ridge Parkway to Humpback Rocks, a hike for which we were completely unprepared, but did anyway.

Worth it.

Worth it.

We even saw a black bear on our way back down!

We even saw a black bear on our way back down! It’s blurry because we kept our distance, of course.

We also discovered we were right on the Appalachian Trail.

We also discovered we were right on the Appalachian Trail.

Then, driving back north, the parkway turns into Skyline Drive– the main road through Shenandoah National Park.

We went to Acadia National Park on our honeymoon and talked about making it a marriage-long goal to visit every one of the national parks; I’m putting it down here that it’s an OFFICIAL goal, and we’ve now marked the second one off our list (and have the magnet to prove it!). We’ve been to more than two national parks separately, but we think we’ll only count the ones we’ve been to together.

Other things: Charlottesville is just three hours from a good beach, an easy weekend trip. The culture is definitely more Southern than I expected, but with more than a little Northeast thrown in. Overall, though, Virginia feels so much older than any other part of the south I’ve been to– making it kind of its own thing. It’s only two hours from DC, where we have family and where we could access the best museums in the country. The program is excellent; I suppose I’ll address all that stuff in a few months when we’re really getting down to ranking our options. Michael and I are trying not to process too much about his interviews until he’s done them all, so he can better compare and contrast when he has a better idea what’s important to him and to us. But I’m slowly realizing that as exciting as certain places might be to me, my life is pretty flexible– we’ve already narrowed down our choices to places I’d be willing (if reluctantly) to live. Michael’s medical training and opportunities far outweigh personal preference with regards to our family’s future, so that’s the mindset I try to adopt. Also, if the doctor ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. (Kidding, but only sort of.)

I’m going on one more interview trip with Michael, to Seattle in a couple of weeks! We are so excited to visit the city, and most of all, to visit the SHAWS! We’re coming your way, Coley! But before then, we get to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with the Wible side of the family– that totally snuck up on me this year, as we’re leaving in six days and I’ve barely even thought about the holidays. I have almost a week to kick into gear. Can’t wait to see you, family!