My New Career: Part 2

May 23rd, 2014

Hi everyone! I had the inspiration today to write an update about my nursing journey. Last July I wrote a post (linked here) talking about how and why I decided to pursue nursing. That was nearly a year ago, so I thought this might be a good time to write an update.

At the time of my last post, I had just begun volunteering in the ER at a local hospital. The months I spent there became a very defining experience for me.

I had never before worked in any kind of health care environment in any capacity, and when I took those first steps out of my comfort zone and into the ER, I was totally overwhelmed by what seemed to be a blurred whirlwind of scrubs and moaning patients. As time went on though, I began to connect faces with names and sort out the nurses, techs and physicians and how the department was organized.

The ER environment is obviously not for everyone – the aromas alone are quite an experience. It’s a place filled with suffering and crisis. I could write stories here that would rival any medical show on TV, but it doesn’t seem quite right to blog about them. I’ll just say that I saw my fair share of agony, and the worst moments of people’s lives.

However, those memories are not what first come to mind when I think back. What stands out most vividly are the many little connections and conversations I had with patients. As a volunteer, there was little that I could actually do for patients. But hearing someone’s sigh of relief as you cover them with a fresh warm blanket, or even seeing a worried family member’s face melt into gratefulness as you bring them a cup of coffee…it was the most meaningful work I’ve ever done.

As a volunteer, I had some leisure to stop and talk with patients. One night towards the end of my time there, I checked in on an elderly man and asked him how he was doing. He looked at me with a bewildered expression, and mumbled something. I could only make out “home”. Later, as he was discharged, I went in to chat some more with him. I was told that he didn’t speak much English. It was clear he understood a little, but his words were so mumbled and confused that I wasn’t sure if he was aware what was happening. Despite this, I told him we would keep him company while the paramedics prepared to take him home. He looked at me, and mumbled “Whatʼs your name?” I told him and he quietly said, “Thank you for keeping me company.” It was a small moment, but I saw that the little things can make a big difference in someone’s experience.

Another time I noticed a middle-aged woman sitting in bed. I stopped to ask her if she needed anything. She seemed a bit disgruntled so I decided to stay and talk with her. She mentioned in passing that her husband had recently died. I asked her more about it and tears pooled up and spilled out of her eyes as she told me they had been married for nearly 50 years and he had just recently died. I asked her how they met, and her face lit up while she told me their love story. Despite her grief, at one point she grabbed my hand, smiled through her tears, and told me I will make a great nurse. I’ll never forget our talk, and I think about her often.

There were other moments so big I couldn’t even comprehend them…one day towards the end of my time there an elderly woman was slowly passing away. It was the middle of the night and they couldn’t reach her family. I felt a strong urge to go and sit with her, but it didn’t seem appropriate to ask if I could. I prayed, asking that God would put me in with her if He wanted to. A short while later a tech approached me and said “there’s this woman…can you go check in on her every now and then?” I took the opportunity to sit with her for a while. While she was past the point of talking I’ll never forget all she communicated with her eyes…there was something that felt holy and sacred about sitting with someone in their last moments. While it’s an inherently sad memory, it’s a memory I will always treasure (and by the way her family did come in the end!).

In addition to my interactions with patients, I really enjoyed getting to know the nurses and techs in the ER. I was inspired by several people there who have contagious energy, enjoy people, dedicate themselves to their work, and bring just the right amount of humor to the unpredictable situations that arise. I watched the nurses closely, and got to know a few of them in particular that I hope to be like when I become a nurse someday.

I’ve also spent the last five quarters taking prerequisites at a local community college. Learning all this science has certainly been an uphill journey, and I’ve had my share of meltdowns and moments of crying into my dinner after a difficult test. But overall I’d have to say the last year has been the best academic experience I’ve ever had. I enjoy my school, have had excellent teachers (thank you RateMyProfessor.com!!) and met class buddies who’ve made everything so much more fun in every class I’ve taken. The content I’ve studied has also been fascinating…I’ve enjoyed learning about cells, viruses, the workings of the human heart, and overall the beauty and the mystery that pervades the complexity of our human bodies.

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I have friends from class who are atheists, and have had many interesting conversations about evolution and the origin of human life with friends and with teachers. I have to say that my studies have brought me closer to God…my faith in Him has increased more and more as I’ve gotten to know Him as Creator and studied the human body. While we study how the body works using science, to me in the end it’s a magnificent, mysterious work of art.

This length of this post is starting to careen out of control, so I’ll wrap things up by saying that I got into nursing school at the University of Washington! They have an accelerated program that I was drawn to from the very beginning. However, I knew it was a long shot, as it was a competitive program and at the time of application I had the minimum amount of prerequisites and volunteer hours. I’ll never forget the day I flew into the house knowing my letter had arrived, and found out that I had the #1 spot on the waitlist! The fact I was on the waitlist at all was a miracle, and having the #1 spot felt like a confirmation from God that I was on the right track with my life.

Eventually I was officially accepted, and I’ll be starting classes in June! This is a very intense 15-month program, and I feel a little terrified, acutely aware of my weaknesses, and also completely excited to start this new adventure.

It hasn’t been easy so far, and I know nursing school will probably be the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life – but I’m so excited. I have a strong feeling that I’m walking in God’s will for my life, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.

If you read all of this – thank you!! It’s been fun for me to journal it out and document this unexpected season in my life and everything God has done for me. Onward!

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3 Reasons Why 2013 Was the Best Year of My Life

December 31st, 2013

New Years Eve is here again! As I look back over the year, my heart is fuller than it’s ever been. I thought I’d share three reasons why this past year has been my favorite so far.

Reason #1 – My perspective has changed. For awhile I was feeling very restless. I wanted to move somewhere outside of the Seattle area, and I do think I will someday eventually. But I began to remember that today is the day to really live – yesterday is the past and tomorrow hasn’t happened yet. Today is real, and it’s no good wasting it with discontent.

I haven’t been out of the Seattle area, even for a short trip, for more than a year. And yet this past year has been more full of adventure and new people and new situations than many in the years past. All these interesting people and circumstances were right in my backyard, as long as I had the eyes to see it.

As a Christian, I also believe that God has a will for my life. Remembering to ask Him what He wants for each day, and keeping my eyes open to the present moment, and aware of what/who He might want me to notice, makes each day more interesting than it could ever be by just trying to make it that way.

Reason #2 – This is the year I decided to become a nurse! I’ve talked about this at length already (you can view the post here). I am so excited to have a direction in my career, and beginning this process has brought about much of the change mentioned before. I’ve been taking classes at community college for the past three quarters. Science was as challenging as I thought it would be, and yet I’ve conquered it somehow, and even become more and more curious and interested in all that I’m learning. That’s a miracle in itself!

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I also began volunteering at a local ER. It’s hard for me to even sum up all that I’ve learned and felt and experienced through doing that. I’ll probably write more about it another time, but it has given me so much meaning and increased my purpose and determination to pursue nursing. If I had to decide right now I would be an ER nurse (although of course that may change).

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Shameless scrubs selfie

Reason #3 – Rex. This boy. My little nephew has completely captured my heart. He’s sleeping peacefully on my lap as I type this. I was excited for him to come, but I never knew I could love him so much! It is the strangest thing to one day suddenly have this new little person in your life, and suddenly there is one more person that you love!

Rexy

While this probably isn’t the place or time to go into full detail, Rex had a handful of unexpected health scares in the month before he was born. It was humbling how many people prayed him into health over and over…today he is 100% healthy and it is 100% an answer to prayer. My sister calls him her miracle baby. I just think there is no better way to come into this world than surrounded by love, prayers, and God’s protection!

rex

I’m sorry if this post is a little sappy! I’m just feeling so blessed right now. Of course my life isn’t perfect, but I’ve never before felt such a sense of God’s direction and guidance, and seen so much of His protection over my family as I have in 2013. I don’t think I can ask for anything more in life.

Blessings to you in 2014!

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My Favorite Blog Moments + A New Season

December 27th, 2013

One thing I enjoy about this time of year is the chance to review the previous season, and then clear out and organize for the coming year. One project I’ve taken on in this process is sorting through my blog. I read through each of the posts from the past 2+ years, and organized them into their correct categories (you can view these at the top of the site).

I have to admit I felt a little sentimental reading through it all! I put a lot of hard work into the posts, and much of that was fueled by the ambiguity I felt in my career and future. This blog has been an immensely refreshing creative release for me.

That said, now that I’m in school, I have less time for blogging. I’ve had to think about where I want to take this site that I’m so fond of. To be honest, I’m not sure what the content will look like in the future. I do feel, however, that its identity as a baking blog has drawn to a close. I simply don’t have the time required for baking posts anymore.

I do want to keep this blog up and running though. I love having a medium where I can write/create/share, and sometimes even connect with others out there in the internet world. I will keep posting – I plan to write some thoughts on 2013, as well as an update on my nursing journey very soon.

In the meantime, as I’ve just revisited the history of this little site, and as this blog is officially moving from one chapter to another one, I thought it might be fun to highlight the best moments and my favorite posts from the past 2 years, in chronological order. I feel a lot of gratitude as I look back over what I’ve experienced the last couple of years. Let’s review!

1. Lemon Gooey Butter Cookies.

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This was my first recipe post, back in September of 2011. I submitted the photo to Foodgawker.com and was shocked when it was accepted, and the post got 1000 hits in one day! It was so exciting. If you are a food blogger, I highly recommend sites like Foodgawker for exposing your work to others.

This is also literally one of my favorite cookie recipes. Here is the original post with the recipe: jessienextdoor.com/2011/09/02/lemon-gooey-butter-cookies/

2. 2011 Summary Post

2011

This series of photos are some of the first I ever took with my DSLR. I think any creative person would say that they often feel they are “given” something (such as a song). I felt like these photos were a gift. The mornings when I took them were so refreshing as well…it’s a good memory.

Here is the post: jessienextdoor.com/2011/12/31/2011/

3. Lavender Cupcakes with Honey Frosting

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This is the most popular recipe on my blog by a verrrrrry long shot. AND Lauren Conrad featured it on her blog once. I just can’t get over that! You can view it here: laurenconrad.com/blog/post/friday-favorites-53-lauren-conrad-cupcake-hair-braids-shoes-print-2012

…and here is the original post: jessienextdoor.com/2012/03/21/lavender-cupcakes-with-honey-frosting/

4. Style Posts

I thoroughly enjoyed photographing some friends of mine and displaying their style and creativity! These shoots are some of my favorite memories. Pictured below is Grace from the post Late Summer Maxi Dress (link here).

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5. Lemon Lavender Bars and New Day Northwest

Of course one of the most unforgettable moments was winning the Girl Scouts Cookie contest and presenting the recipe on New Day Northwest!

6. Lauren Elizabeth Interview

One of my very favorite bloggers is Lauren of thelaurenelizabeth.com. She was so kind as to write a guest post about blogging. She was such a pleasure to work with – really prompt and helpful. I loved reading what she had to say.

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You can view her guest post here: jessienextdoor.com/2013/06/26/guest-post-lauren-elizabeth-on-blogging/.

7. My New Career

I took some time to write out the paths I’ve taken in my search for the right career, and my new journey towards nursing. I’m so beyond excited to be where I am in life right now, and it was a lot of fun writing it all out. You can view this post here.

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What a journey! Even as I look back over my personal life in 2013, I’m so amazed at what can happen in a year or two years’ time.

Thank you so much to any of you who read my blog. I hope you have a wonderful last few days of December!

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Classic Pumpkin Bread

November 3rd, 2013

ClassicPumpkinBread

Well hello!

I hope you’re enjoying autumn, aka red cup season at Starbucks. I know I am – time is flying by faster than it ever has before for me. I paused to think about this the other day and realized it’s because I’m enjoying everything I do – work, school and volunteering have all been really challenging and enjoyable.

That said, school has been taking over my life a bit. In many ways Cellular Biology has been my hardest class yet! I find it more interesting than chemistry, but it’s a whole world of info that takes a lot of time and energy to absorb.

Because of that, it’s hard for me to pause and take time for the kitchen. However, we are approaching prime baking season, and pumpkin bread was just calling my name.

I was also drawn to pumpkin bread because it’s incredibly easy and quick to make. All you do is mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet in another, combine and bake.

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Now I will say that the first time I made this a couple of Sundays ago, I didn’t think to grease the pan. On top of that, I took it out of the pan too early, and the whole loaf split into two. I then immediately took what I deemed a Nap of Despair for about an hour and a half, and felt much better about the whole thing. (I should say that I take an hour and a half nap for one reason or another pretty much every Sunday so I wasn’t really that sad. Actually I’m about to go take one right after I post this…)

PumpkinBread#1

This recipe was incredibly quick and simple. I adjusted the original with a reminder to spray the loaf pan and let it sit for around 10 minutes (depending how done it was when you removed it from the oven) and everything turned out wonderful the second time around. I hope you can give this a try!

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Classic Pumpkin Bread

Yields: 1 loaf

Adapted from “From Our House to Yours” (Frontier Bank cookbook from 1991)

Ingredients
1 2/3 cup sifted flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cloves
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pumpkin puree

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray.

Sift dry ingredients into a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the eggs, water and vegetable oil. Fold in the pumpkin, and combine both mixtures.

Add batter to the prepared loaf pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool for 10-15 minutes in the pan, and then carefully empty loaf onto a wire cooling rack to finish cooling. Enjoy!

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Jessie's Kitchen Chronicles