Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Starting out on a Journey {First Day of Class}

As I mentioned yesterday, I just started classes at MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe. This school is an answer to prayer. I first looked into it the day I dropped my online classes at KU because they were literally the only school within a 1-hour driving range that offered classes in person. I was slightly skeptical since I hadn't heard of the school until we moved here and I heard a radio ad. But I have a co-worker who went to undergrad there and LOVED it. I talked to a few people in the Graduate offices and their program is fully accredited, all the classes are in person, and it's pretty affordable for a small Christian school.

Even better, the MSN program runs in 'mini-mesters' which means each class meets for 4 hours once a week for 7 weeks and then you start your next class. So I can be part-time, take classes one-at-a-time, yet still get 2 classes in per semester? Sign me up! This also meant that I could start in October instead of waiting for a new semester to start in January. AND if I need to take a mini-mester off, I won't be months or years behind in the program like I would have been at KU. I was sad about that fact that saying yes to 3 years at KU meant saying no to travel, mission trips, and more. Can I really have the best of both worlds? Is this too good to be true?

I had my first class last night: Health Promotion for a Global Society. I love it. Not only are we discussing "the influence of biologic, environmental, and societal factors on health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities," but we will explore "the idea of professional nursing as a ministry through vocation." Sounds like just what I need.

And, irony of ironies, I showed up to class last night only to find out that the teacher is a Midwife. At the Birth Center I was lusting after when dreaming of a career as a Midwife. I'm not sure what God is trying to say to me, but when I was driving home after class, I heard Jeremy Camp's "Walk by Faith" on the radio. And I realized that for now, all I can do is "walk by faith, even when I cannot see because this broken road prepares (God's) will for me." I am so thankful for His endless love! He has a plan for me even when I can't see it.

And just for fun, here's a video our teacher showed in class last night. I guess statistics can be useful ;-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I owe you an update

For those who are interested, I know I never really explained why I was going to school to be a Midwife, and then I wasn't. To make a long story short(er), when I got admitted to the Certified Nurse Midwife program at KU, I had conflicting feelings. I chalked them up to fear and anticipation but the closer the start date got, the more I felt like I wasn't making the right choice.

You see, Midwifery is something I'm very passionate about. It's why I went to nursing school in the first place. However, the NICU has claimed me for now and I wouldn't have it any other way. I got my CNM program acceptance letter in May but as the summer went on and I prepared for the start of school, I started dreading the day I'd have to say goodbye to the NICU. Granted, that day was still 2 years down the road and I kept telling myself that I could stay and work PRN. But the fact of the matter is that between office days and the on-call hours Midwives take, I wouldn't have time for that. And every time I came home with a sweet work story to share with Ross (we had a lot of cute babies this summer), he would say that this is the perfect job for me and I'd wonder why I was leaving such a good thing.

I also grew close to a few NICU moms this summer (mothers of the aforementioned adorable babies). I love and respect 2 of these women especially and while they were happy that I got into grad school and was pursing a dream of mine, they did both question why I was leaving a job I so clearly love. And to put aside my modesty for a moment, both of these NICU moms who had been through so much made it a point to tell me that my care changed their babies' stay. That I comforted them, educated them, and so dearly loved their babies that they felt comfortable with the fact that I was there when they couldn't be. Strike 1 to the idea of Midwifery school, because that would mean a very real possibility of leaving the NICU forever.

Those comments stuck in my head and made me start questioning my choice even more. Every time I had a quiet minute to snuggle I'd wonder if I could leave this for a job in which I only form a bond with the mom and not the baby.  In late July, I finally got the opportunity to shadow a Midwife in town. I spent a typical 8-5 day with her and loved it! She was so passionate about her work and it made me realize that where your heart is, is where your job should be. Having never been a Midwife, I'm not sure if I would like it more or less than my current job, and that's quite a gamble. Then when we were talking over lunch, I learned that the Midwife I was following worked part-time, which meant 2 office days a week and six 24-hour on-calls a month. Wait. What?! Theoretically if she got called in for a labor and delivery 6 times a month, she would be working as much as I did and I'm full-time!

One reason an Advanced Practice job attracted me was the idea of office hours with weekends and holidays off. Yes, I know I'm beyond lucky to work 3 days a week for 13 hours at a time. And even though I'm at the hospital at least one additional day a week for some meeting or class or continuing education, I still have it pretty good. Except for the evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays. I miss a lot on the days I do work and when we have kids one day, part-time office hours will be very appealing. But I obviously wasn't thinking it through because Midwives aren't your typical Advanced Practitioner. They have quite the demanding on-call schedule and for good reason. But for some reason the reality of it caught me off guard. Strike 2.

Finally, the head of the Midwifery program threw a BBQ at her house the weekend before school started and Ross and I went with our friends Chris and Amanda (Amanda and I went to nursing school together and she's also pursuing the CNM path). I loved meeting all the women there and the students clearly loved being so close to graduating and "catching babies" on their own. But when I started asking them how they liked online classes, their attitude changed. Online classes had been my biggest fear from the get-go. Studying for my RNC test on my own and getting through this self-led online graduate stats class has been hard enough. I didn't know if I could continue this complete self-motivation for 3 more years! I need to sit in a classroom and see and discuss and take notes in order to actually retain what I learn. And the current CNM students just confirmed my fears. They said things like, "I thought online classes would be more flexible but I think they take up more time than just going to class would have," or "ask me again how I like it in 3 years when I'm a few years removed from it." *Gulp* Not the reassurance I wanted. Strike 3.

By the end of the BBQ I was no longer having fun. I was panicking internally and grasping at straws. I really respect the woman in charge of the program who was hosting the party. I had an admission interview with her back in April and have kept in touch ever since. During the party, she was talking to someone else about the expenses of malpractice and how unstable a job at a Birth Center actually was in comparison to being a "laborist" alongside doctors and residents at a hospital (which was suddenly shift work at the hospital again which I was trying to avoid). I realized I do love my hospital employee insurance and had banked on having it as we raise kids one day who will surely be as accident-prone as I was am. Yet I wanted to work at a Birth Center? Clearly those goals don't mesh.

So I asked the woman it it was possible to get through school, keep my credentials current but not practice as a Midwife right now, and then try to find a job in ten years or so. As gently as possible, she said I would have a hard time finding a job if I waited more than a year or so after getting out of school. When she said that, I knew Midwifery school wasn't going to happen and I dropped my classes the next morning.

After a few sleepless nights, lots of tears, and lots of prayers, I started looking into other options. A lot of people have asked, why not Neonatal Nurse Practitioner? While it is also a job I admire, and I'd love to participate in rounds like they do and learn something from Dr. P every day, I just can't see myself doing it. What I love the most about my job is the relationships with the parents and while the NNPs have more privileges and more responsibilities (I'd love to go to deliveries) they don't spend as much time with the patients and families as we do. Sure I'd be in the same field, but with a very different job. AND I'd still be working nights, weekends, and holidays. In fact, as a new NNP there's a very good chance I would be back on night shift all over again.

Pediatric NP has crossed my mind as well as Women's Health NP. But I'm so undecided and committing to a specialty like that would still mean leaving the NICU. So I am learning to be at peace with my decision to be 'just' a bedside nurse for now. I guess it's been ingrained in my head for so long that if I'm smart enough to be a nurse practitioner, I should be. But that's not the whole story. In reality, we need nurses who WANT to be bedside nurses. We need nurses who are knowledgeable about what they're doing and are willing to take the time to explain it to the parents after months of high stress and little sleep. And one perk of being at the bedside is that you learn which parents get scared by the big words and which parents are offended when things are too 'dumbed down' for them.

Yesterday I started classes at MidAmerica Nazarene University and in two years (God-willing) I will have my MSN in Nursing Education so I can teach clinicals on the side and help other students become good RNs with a passion for what they do. After all, if every intelligent RN left the floor for advanced practice, your quality of care would be in a very sorry state.

Clearly, I've been needing to get all this out for a while. If your eyes glazed over 2 paragraphs in, I'm sorry! But I'm excited to be starting the next step of this journey.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hava Nagila {Let us Rejoice}

One of my best friends from high school got married this past Saturday. What a celebration!

Tina is Catholic and Ben is Jewish, so we got to see a fun mix of wedding traditions.

And the reception at Omaha Country Club was outstanding!

I remember driving around town with Tina in high school discussing what our future husbands would be like. Yes, we had mental checklists. No, we didn't get everything we wished for. But we did get everything we hoped for. Congratulations Tina and Ben!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Too soon

This morning it was 30 degrees but "felt like" 25. I broke out my winter coat for my walk in to work. It's only been in the closet since the first week of May. Getting it out after less than 6 months is too soon! Cold, cold, go away.

On the other hand, you'd think that the frost we got this morning (I cringed while typing that) would eliminate my terrible fall allergies. Not so, my friends.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Gluten-Free Cornbread

What better way to follow up one 'corny' post than with one about corn bread? After playing at the corn maze all afternoon yesterday, I was thrilled to come home to a crock-pot full of chili that I'd started that morning. However, chili isn't the same without cornbread. I bought a bag of locally grown and ground blue cornmeal as well as a carton of farm-fresh eggs from the farmer's market this Friday with cornbread in mind.

Since going gluten-free, I've tried several store-bought GF cornbread mixes, but they were chewy or dry or basically not as wonderful as the beloved Jiffy cornbread mix I grew up on. So I bit the bullet and made cornbread from scratch, which I've never done before. And the results were so fantastic, I doubt I'll buy a boxed mix again!

This recipe was borne from an accumulation of Google searches and a stroke of good luck. Fresh ingredients don't hurt, either.

Gluten-Free Cornbread

1 cup oat flour (you can buy this at the store, or just toss a cup of raw gluten-free oatmeal in the food processor)
3/4 cup finely ground corn meal (mine was blue, hence the less-than-golden coloring)
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp xantham gum (optional)
3/4 tsp salt
2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
3 Tbs honey
1 cup milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and place a pie tin on the top rack.

Mix the oat flour, corn meal, baking powder, xantham gum, and salt well in a medium bowl.

In a small bowl, melt the butter and honey in the microwave for about 30 seconds.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until frothy and then slowly blend in the butter/honey mixture and the milk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until just incorporated.

Remove the pan from the oven and coat lightly with cooking spray. Pour batter into pan (it will be as moist as cake batter) and bake for 16-20 minutes.

This recipe is everything I could want out of cornbread: a slightly chewy crust and a soft, fine-crumb center. In fact, this was much less crumbly than other gluten-filled cornbread I've had in the past! It even earned a compliment from Ross after I kept obsessively asking him if he'd eat it again and if he could tell it was gluten-free. He said he can't even tell that my recipes are gluten-free anymore. After my recent cookie success and now this bread, I hope that means that my recipes are just plain good and not that he's so used to sub-par baked goods these days that anything decent becomes delicious.

Anyway. I hope you love this bread as much as I did!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Corn Maze

*Insert appropriate 'maize' pun here*

Today we went to church, lunch, and the corn maze with some of our friends from small group. What a perfect day for being outdoors!

We started out with the green maze and the boys wanted to "race" the girls.

Of course we set out on a leisurely walk and the boys took a running start. Katy was a rockstar navigator, though, and we didn't get lost once! When we got to the exit, the boys were all lounging around looking like they'd been there for hours.

Then the group got brave and decided to tackle the three-mile red maze. Much trickier, but thanks to more stellar (mostly female) navigation, we made it through.

After that excursion, we took over the 'little sprouts' area and started racing each other through the smaller mazes. The boys were hilarious.

The girls thought it was more fun to take pictures.

Katy, me, Jenny
Chris, Jenny, Eric, me, Ross, Katy, Ryan
Even though everyone wasn't able to make it out today (Chris joined without his better half and Andrew and Janelle had a Cyclo-cross race to go to), we had so much fun. We love our small group!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Oops... I did it again

Instead of being patient with the growing-out process, I chopped my hair off. I think this is the shortest Ross has ever seen it. I asked for a long bob a la Jennifer Aniston (yes, I even brought the picture in to my stylist).

I got lost 5 inches. Long bob my toots. This is short business.

Barely-goes-in-a-ponytail business.

I-want-to-curl-it-for-my-friend's-wedding-in-2-weeks-but-I'm-afraid-I'll-look-like-Shirley-Temple business.

This haircut plus the Himalayan mountain range erupting on my forehead is putting me in Therese-circa-1999 territory. And that's not pretty. Okay, I was actually stunning looking back now in my red-wine-induced haze of kindness. But it doesn't feel pretty right now.

And since I couldn't manage a makeover for myself, I gave the blog a makeover instead.

From this...

To this...


Monday, October 10, 2011

I found it!

'It' being the perfect gluten-free chocolate chip cookie! I've obviously been experimenting with a lot of gluten-free cookie recipes this year. Cookies are my comfort food. The entire process of following a recipe, whipping up a batch of dough, and licking my fingers and the beater before putting the cookies in the oven, calms me. And I've found some good cookies. I even invented successful chocolate chip cookie and butterscotch cookie recipes on my own.  But. None of them really met the good old "Toll House" taste test. Until now.

I got this now-favorite recipe from Angela at Oh She Glows. The first time I made it, I followed it to a "T" except for the fact that I made a chia egg instead of a flax egg. However, Ross thought the oat flour was too coarse and it made the texture less-than-perfect. So for the next batch, I used the finest flour at my disposal: super-fine brown rice flour.

Also, out of necessity, I used powdered sugar for the second batch since I was out of granulated sugar. I think that made a big difference. A lot of gluten-free recipes use starches instead of flours but I try to stay away from that habit because starches are hard to digest and the whole point of eating gluten-free is to give my stomach a break.

Ross approves of the final product and the dough tastes great raw (and since there are no raw eggs, I don't feel bad about eating the dough, either). Without further ado, here's the
perfect gluten-free chocolate chip cookie:

7 Tbs butter
1 Tbs olive oil (I also got good results replacing an additional Tbs of butter with a Tbs of coconut oil)
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1 flax or chia egg (I'm sure a regular egg works just as well if not better, but I'm a sucker for raw batter)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup Bob's Red Mill brown rice flour
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal/flour
1/4 tsp cinnamon (I used slightly less than that)
1/2 cup Enjoy Life  gluten-free chocolate chips

*For a flax egg, mix 1 Tbs ground flax with 3 Tbs water. For a chia egg, use the same ratio but the seeds don't need to be ground up.

1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a pan with parchment paper or prepare with cooking spray.

2.) In a tiny bowl, mix the flax or chia egg and set aside.

3.) Beat the butter and oil in a medium bowl until fluffy. Add the sugars and continue to mix well until smooth. Beat in the flax egg and vanilla extract.

4.) Beat in the remaining ingredients adding the chocolate chips last.

5.) Shape into Tablespoon-sized balls and place on prepared cookie sheet. Bake for 10-11 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

How to Make October Outstanding

How are we already more than a week in, people? October needs to stick around. I'm loving it!

This month I have 2 main priorities: 
finish my stats class and get outside as much as possible.

{End-of-month update: So close but so far away from finishing stats. I just took my second test last week 
and got a 98%! But I still have 5 assignments and one test to go. It has been a BUSY month.
I was also sad I haven't been outside much in the last week and a half, but for the first
3 weeks of the month, I definitely met this goal! I was out photographing fall,
soaking up the sun on 80-degree days, taking evening walks, and visiting farmer's markets
and corn mazes until our schedule got crazier. I'm proud of myself for enjoying it when I could. 
It's still gloriously sunny but very windy and not allergy-friendly out there right now. And thank you 
God for not letting it snow here yet.}

But I do have a few more goals in mind for the next few weeks:

1.) Master a new yoga pose. Hot yoga is my drug. It's expensive. It's addicting. But man, I crave that high! However, the half-moon pose and the standing head-to-knee pose get to me every time. I'm sure it's no coincidence that these poses work the areas I'd most like to improve: my abs and the back of my legs. Part of my problem is ankle stability and the other part is fear. But by the end of the month I am determined to make progress, especially in the latter pose.

{So yoga fell off the radar. When I got busier with school starting, the 90-minute yoga class was the first to go. I still think I went 4 times this month, and every time I go I'm so thankful I took the time to do so. I did not master any poses, but I am making an effort to push myself beyond my comfort level in the poses mentioned above.}

 2.) Run 3 miles at once. My running speed has improved drastically over the last month. After 2 months off and physical therapy for an injured IT band and a locked up sacro-iliac joint, I started running again in September and I have worked my way up to one very fast (for me) mile at a time. But I need to start working on endurance as well.

{Bahaha. The best made plans often go astray... Tendonitis in my left hip flexor and right IT band started getting worse again. My Physical Therapist and I are practically BFFs now and I'm hoping ultrasound therapy twice a week, stretching, and not. running. will help this winter. Gulp. Running has been my go-to fitness routine for the past 2 years and I hate that it's such a struggle right now. But I'm hoping that giving it up in the short run will enable me to run more in the long run (no pun intended). I have a 2 yoga classes left at my current studio, a Groupon for another studio, and a Groupon for Crossfit. Hopefully these will get the through until gym memberships go on sale.}

3.) Try a new hairstyle. I'm not getting a crazy haircut (must.not.get.bangs.again.) but one of my good friends from high school is getting married this month and I'd like to do something fun with my hair for the occasion.

{By far the worst part of my month. I was so excited my hair was getting long enough for all the side braids and messy side buns that are popular right now, but I went in for a trim to even out my layers and came out with 5-inches chopped off. Grrr. I didn't get bangs, but my hair still has a lot of growing to do and I'm back to the starting point for styling ideas.}

4.) Make a pumpkin pie from scratch. Oh yes, it's happening. I bought a Long Island Cheese pumpkin at my favorite farmer's market this Friday, and apparently as early as the 1800s this gourd has been purported to make the best pie out there.

I'd also love to plan a pumpkin-carving party, but my weekends are booked this month (mostly for work, sadly). Hopefully when we have a house with a patio this can be a big, messy, fun party to plan!

{Well, the pumpkin rotted. End of story.}

What are your plans for this gorgeous month?