Independence Day

Happy 4th of July!

I know, I know, long time no blog. The last few months have been a whirlwind. Even though I love writing, I gave myself permission to take a little sabbatical to keep my sanity. It feels so good to be back behind the computer with a little time and space to process what these last few months have meant. Whew.

I am currently in the middle (actually the EXACT middle) of my absolute final clinical rotation of the Occupational Therapy Assistant program. I began pursuing this career path 4 long years ago, and I certainly feel like a different person now than when I started. It is crazy to imagine walking across a stage next month to receive my diploma. I am so overwhelmed with emotion leading up to that day, and it has been challenging to remain focused on where my head needs to be.

In the midst of this final push toward graduation, I was able to do a bit of travel between semesters. First I got the privilege of being in Georgia with my best friend while she labored with her second son and brought him into the world. There aren’t really words to describe what it meant for me to get to experience seeing someone I have known and loved since I was 15 exhibit such strength and peace and beauty as she fought for days to bring a sweet life onto the planet. I love this season where my friends are becoming parents for the first, second, and third time. I am constantly in awe of the selflessness it takes to parent, and so grateful for the example that others have set for me when my turn arrives. I will forever be grateful for those 2 short days in Atlanta, and can’t wait to go back as soon as I can.

After Georgia, Josh and I took a getaway to California for a few days. We stayed in Venice Beach, and ate our weight in Poke and acai bowls, walked up and down the beach, sat in tons of traffic, and had a generally wonderful time of togetherness before a new semester began. I know our days of easy stand-by getaways are limited, with jobs and eventually kids on the horizon, but I sure am grateful we got so many good years to ourselves before the madness starts. I sure do love that guy.

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I have been blessed beyond belief with an incredible fieldwork site this semester. I am learning so much every day, my instructor has been so encouraging and empowering, and I  am constantly reminded of why I chose the profession that I did. Although the thought of having my training wheels taken off and being released into the world of employment sounds unbelievably daunting at the moment, I am trying every day to remain present and grateful for each day I’m under the guidance of such a supportive staff at St David’s Rehab.

That’s all for now, but I’m happy to jump pack into blogging a little more as things settle down a bit (or do they ever?). I hope everyone is enjoying your 4th of July as much as we are. –Current status: Still in bed. At 12:30pm.

Hooray America!!!

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These Days.

These days, I am still a student. Still learning so much. Still feeling like I have so far to go. I am in the middle of an 8 week, full time fieldwork rotation at a nursing home. I spend my days trying to pour into people who break my heart into a million pieces without ever knowing it. I introduce myself to a few of the same people every day, knowing I will have to do the same in days to come. I watch as families transition, grieve, and give every last drop of themselves for the ones they love. I am learning so much about love.

I decided to enter the world of Occupational Therapy because I wanted to help people and love to experience the joy in seeing people heal. I never really seriously considered the other side of the coin. There is a hard, heavy, sad side too. One where progress isn’t made and families aren’t rejoicing and you’re faced with an overwhelming feelings of powerlessness at the end of the day. Those drives home can be so long.

Healthcare is hard. Crazy hard. I am learning that there is beauty even in the most seemingly hopeless of situations. I am learning rest in, marinate in, and immerse myself in God’s love for me so that there’s a bit of hope I may be able spill that love over to the people I care for each day. I am learning the fruit that comes with being out of my comfort zone. I have to believe each day that looking back on this experience with fondness because of how it was used it to help me grow.

It has truly taken an army to get me through this season. My support system in Austin and beyond have been my saving grace as I’ve taken yet another step in the direction toward my new career. Josh has, yet again, proven himself to be the most patient and supportive human person to ever grace the earth. I would be wrecked without his constant reminders of the strength that is inside me. He has always had a knack for calling things out of me I didn’t know where in there. The same is true of my friends, my dog, and even my sweet therapist who has helped me keep my head on straight. It has taken an army. And I am learning to be okay with that.

Being a student is a vulnerable role to play. It means needing people to support you and opening yourself up to receiving the criticism of others. It is constantly admitting the need for more knowledge, trying and failing a lot, and sometimes succeeding.  It feels like a giant mark of inferiority at times. It feels like you have the world at your fingertips and anything is possible, and also like you lost a terrible bet all at the same time. It is raw. It is years of difficult lessons. This is my first real attempt at this school thing, and I’m choosing to believe that it means something big and important in my life.

It is crazy to think that graduation is just a couple short months away. I have come so far and yet have so far to go still. I am so ready to move on with my life. I’m ready to start a family and adopt kids and have a job. I often feel a bit left behind in life. But this is where I’m at, and (on a good day) I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m grateful for the days I have left with the sweetest gray-haired folks you’ll ever meet, and hopeful for days to come where I feel even more sure-footed in the path I walk with them.

May your Monday be filled with glimpses of grace and beauty, whatever it holds. Something beautiful is happening in those uncomfortable places. Let’s let that sink in today, okay?

 

 

Marching on.

2016 has been very good to us so far.

My 8 week classes are winding down, and they honestly have been surprisingly manageable compared to the workload over the past year. I’ve been able to enjoy time with my people, babysit a little, watch a little TV (a major luxury around here these past 2 years), and finally find time to enjoy this beautiful city I live in. I’ve really enjoyed this season and feel very grateful for temporary slower pace.

I found out yesterday where my very first level 2 Fieldwork placement is (hoorayyyy!) and could not be more excited at the thought of entering into my last big hurdle between me and graduating in August. I hear amazing things about the facility I’ve been selected for and the therapists I’ll be working under. I will get to put all my current knowledge into action and learn a ton from the clinicians around me. What a crazy ride it has been, and I’m sure will continue to be.

In the meantime, wonderful things have been happening in Austin. Dear friends were married in one of the most beautiful weddings the world has ever seen. There have been birthdays and Valentine’s Day celebrations and incredible weather and it makes me feel like Spring is already here.

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Josh has been away in Ireland the past week on a father/son adventure exploring his dad’s birthplace and heritage. ( I know..SO cool.) I have been missing him for sure, but more than that I have just been giddy at the thought of him and his dad romping around a foreign country together making incredible memories. It makes me want to do that with my dear old dad…**dad if you’re reading this, you’re welcome to buy us an epic trip together anytime  ;)

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The host of a podcast I’ve been listening to always asks her guests, “What are 3 things you’re loving” to end the show, so in the spirit of copying people I’m going to share the same.

  1. Smoothies. Can’t get enough of them right now, especially with all this sunshine and a Juiceland right down the street.
  2. My house. While this place has fluctuated between being my safe-haven and the bane of my existence, lately I have been so grateful for this little house and the peace I have here after a long day. It sure has been quiet around here, but it has been a good counterbalance to finals week.
  3. Yard work. Since Josh has left, I have been super into working in the yard. I think my brain needed a mindless task involving physical labor and sunshine to keep me sane this past week. No one ever told me digging holes in the yard could bring so much satisfaction.

What are you loving right now??

Happy weekend to you all!

What school has really taught me.

Whether it be the nature of year 27 or the fact that I’m trying to start up a career a little later in life, the past 3 years as a college student has changed me in so many ways. I only have 4 short weeks of classes left until my last phase of the program begins (Level II Fieldwork). This minuscule amount of time left in the classroom has left me super reflective on what all this has meant to me.

I have learned so so much. Of course I have learned the awesome, more practical stuff. (i.e. how to rehabilitate a stroke patient or work with children with Autism…I know, OT is the coolest.) But under the surface there is one big lesson I keep coming back to.

Waiting for the “thing” to fall in your lap is a big fat waste of time. 

Growing up, a lot of the messages I internalized about deciding on a career involved words like “gifts” and “calling.” And while there is definitely something to be said of those things, what I didn’t realize was that being “called” to something didn’t mean it would come easily. So I waited…And waited…And waited…And sure, some of the natural gifts I came into this world with are actually very useful in the career I chose. But there are 1000 other things that just weren’t there.

When I started school, I was almost crushed by the weight of fear around not already having all the qualities of a successful clinician. I compared myself to others who seemed so far ahead of me. But as time went on, I gradually let go of the idea that any one job will be a perfect fit. At first, each time I received constructive feedback or a not-so-stellar grade would kill me. I would doubt the rightness of my decision to pursue this goal. I would wonder if my calling was somewhere else where I felt more comfortable. Nothing felt right about being in the program…because nothing about it was easy.

But good news! We aren’t meant to wait around for a perfect job or opportunity that feels completely right. All we really need are a desire to grow, the ability to reflect on and respond positively to failure, and the faith to believe that the long and arduous road will lead somewhere amazing.

If I could travel back in time 10 years and talk to a high school senior named Caroline, I would tell her to stop waiting, and to do the work. Do. The. Work. It is much harder to fight the uphill battles of change, wake up early, decide to go after the qualities you want to possess. The easy way out is sitting on your hands, praying that the small amount of paint on your palette will be enough to create that beautiful picture. Get off your butt and GO GET MORE FREAKIN PAINT!

If there’s anything I regret about the last decade of my life, it’s not understanding this truth sooner. My shortcomings aren’t barriers to success, they are opportunities for growth. And in all the growth, there’s more joy than I could have ever imagined.

If you are someone who discovered this much earlier, I sincerely congratulate you. It may seem like common sense to many out there. But to me, the news that I don’t have to have it all together has been so freeing. I still don’t enjoy failing. Criticism is hard. But day by day I’m learning how unbelievably rewarding it is to experience fruit from difficult labor. I’m choosing to accept the  hard work and the failures as part of the process. I’m learning to appreciate the people who invest in my life through offering me difficult feedback. I suspect this part comes with age, but I would like to think learning this a long time ago could have saved me much heartache.

I’m forever grateful for the people along the way who helped assure me of my own strength, and breathed life into my weary bones month after month I desperately wanted to give up.

Forgive my uber-cheesy, self-helpy post. I love putting into words the ways God has been growing me, and I appreciate you listening and experiencing them alongside me.

Hope your February has been as beautiful as ours has been in Austin. Henry is soaking up all of the tolerable sunshine he can before summer melts us all like popsicles. Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

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A letter to my mom friends.

Like most women in their late 20’s, the majority of my friends are now mothers. It felt like in an instant I woke up and found myself surrounded by a sea of miniature versions of the people I have grown to love deeply. Tiny, more needy, hilariously honest versions of their parents. It has been so much fun to watch. Some thoughts have been swimming around in my heart the past few weeks, and I feel compelled to express them in a letter. So here goes:

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Dear friend-moms…Or mom-friends…or just, my friends (who happen to be mostly moms),

There are some things I need to say to you. Things I’m not sure you know, but I think it is crucial that you understand. Some things I have been hearing lately have been somewhat alarming. And I speak for all us child-free adults, because I don’t feel like the world has always gotten it right from our perspective.

It may be tempting to believe that we kid-less women are among your many critics, passing judgement and wishing destruction on those who choose a different method. But here are some things you should know.

We are for you. 

I am cheering for you. Loving you. Proud of you. Amazed by you. Angry when I hear about how ruthless and discouraging the parenting world can be. I want nothing but confidence and conviction for you as you listen to your gut and love your little people the best you can. I believe in you.

We are learning from you. 

I will, unquestionably, be a better mom someday because of you. All of you. You each bring such a unique set of strengths to the table for me to glean from. Each a little bit different approach with very different kids. I am creating a mental toolbox during these years of mom-apprenticing and couldn’t possibly be more grateful for what you’ve all taught me. What a gift you’ve given me.

We are in awe of your strength.

Believe me, friend…As I sit on my super clean couch watching a trashy television show, drinking red wine without fear of spillage at 6:00pm, it is not lost on me how privileged I am in that moment. Sometimes I take it for granted, and other times I remind myself that “I have friends who would kill for this right now.”

I came home from church last Sunday exhausted, so I took a nap. I didn’t think twice, I just laid down and closed my eyes. Do you know what you were doing that afternoon? Cleaning up your toddler’s vomit after being up all night with him. HOW??!?? How did you survive that?? I will never know. (Well, until I go through it. But hopefully by then some magical potions will have been invented that keeps kids from throwing up).

We see how much you try.

Seeing you enter motherhood has unveiled so many new beautiful things about our friendship. These extra-familial relationships of ours have taken on a whole new level of inconvenience for you. Being my friend is work. The “let’s get the kids together” thing doesn’t work with me. Please know that I see you try. When we meet for lunch and you have the kids, I know that restaurants suck for you. The messes, the interruptions, the nap schedule interference…It has to be hard. Please understand that the love you show me in those often-rushed, but very intentional interactions leave me feeling so loved. You FaceTime with me while your baby is napping and invite me to the park. You do countless things that communicate that I still matter. The sacrifices you make for friendship are seen and profoundly appreciated.

We love your kids. 

Your beautiful kids are an extension of you. It is the easiest thing in the world for me to love them. I genuinely enjoy them and feel privileged to be a part of their ever-evolving childhood. Thank you for allowing me this honor to be an “aunt” to so many. They are not an obstacle to our friendship or a nuisance to be tolerated. You don’t believe that and neither do I. They are a joy, and I’m grateful for how you’ve invited me into their lives to be the weird auntie who doesn’t have toys at her house but insists that tormenting her dog is just as fun as any toy. Also, it is super fun to confuse them when they try to figure out how I am an adult and also have a husband and ALSO have no kids. It’s so fishy..And frankly just doesn’t add up…Hmmmmm…They’re on to me.

You don’t have to apologize. 

It breaks my heart to hear you apologize so often. Whether it be for your tardiness or your kid accidentally wiping snot on my jeans or a million other things that are unforeseen and mostly out of your control. You don’t have to apologize so much. You are a momma. You deserve grace. And please return the favor when I am elbow deep in dirty diapers and my kid is being an asshole one day. Your kids aren’t assholes, but I’m pretty certain mine will be. So don’t feel like you have to apologize. I know full well that any snot inflicted upon my jeans by your kids will be returned to you…probably with interest. And besides that I just love you and no one is keeping score.

I think that people without kids are often assumed to be ignorant. Maybe a lot of adults like me are. I have seen blog posts written by parents complaining about their friends without kids who just don’t get it. I will hand it to them, in many ways I don’t get it. I won’t until I am in your shoes. Until I am deprived of sleep and privacy and a quiet home. But don’t count us out completely. I believe in friendship between women with kids and those without. I think these can be some of the most valuable relationships each has in both seasons. Mommas can benefit from our energy and free time and ability to be spontaneously available at random times. Child-less women  often could use more perspective and patience and DEFINITELY tons of parenting advice for future use if they decide to procreate. I see it as an obvious win-win. Is it easy? Nope. But definitely so worth it.

So in short, you are a rockstar. I am confident that your endurance and patience are unmatched. Words fail me other than the following: HOW. DO. YOU. DO. IT.????

I am grateful for you and your kids and our friendship. Thank you for keeping this whole friend thing going despite the world and your tinies working against you. It means so much to me. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Love, Caroline

Family Christmas

It was so nice to be with family for Christmas. Each year that passes I am more aware of how unbelievably fortunate I am to have this group of people in my life. Like, how in the world did I get so lucky?? I have incredible parents, the best siblings, the sweetest niece, an awesome grandma, and this whole other amazing family that adopted me into their clan just because I married one of their own. It is humbling just how deeply loved and supported Josh and I are, and nothing reminds me of that more than being with family.

We left Georgia almost 7 years ago, hearing nothing but messages of support as we set off into the unknown for the pacific northwest. The love of our families has been our strength and sense of peace as we’ve re-settled a few times since then. Knowing people have our back, love us unconditionally and believe in us makes all the difference.

We were able to spent a solid 2 weeks in Georgia this year for the holidays. We packed up the car and the pup, headed east on I-10, and landed at my parents’ house the following afternoon. Our time there was full of eating, laughing, playing games, golf cart rides, sitting, talking, and filling up on moments that will sadly need to last me awhile. I’m so grateful for our time with the people who mean the most to us in the world. They are precious precious moments to both Josh and myself. There are no words to describe what family is to us. Maybe it is because we don’t have the luxury of weekly meet-ups or sharing every special occasion together. Whatever the case may be, I adore these people and feel empowered by them to continue growing and learning and becoming who I’m meant to be. They each bring their own gifts into my life and speak truth to me in unique ways and life wouldn’t be the same without each one of these people. I’m so grateful. I love you, family. More than you’ll ever know!

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As I jump back into Austin life and start my second-to-last semester of school, I’m filled to the brim with gratitude that we have a soft place to land whenever we need it. These relationships-the ones that last forever-are the good stuff in life. No matter where we end up, it will always be good to be “home” because of the people who are there.

Happy new year!

Last hurrah of 2015.

Confession: I recently discovered that adventure is my love language. All I really wanted for Christmas this year was another stamp in my passport. To pick up and venture out into the world with my husband and forge new paths and make awesome memories. Nothing makes me feel more alive than the thrill of exploring a new place. I was a little afraid to even entertain the idea of taking a trip (other than driving to Georgia to see family) because I didn’t want to be disappointed if it didn’t happen.

Fortunately, with my dad being an active airline employee with family flight privileges and my mom willing to babysit our furry toddler, we were able to make a last minute decision to visit London for a few days over Christmas break. We were unbelievably fortunate to have had great luck with our stand-by flights this time around, and were assigned seats on the very first non-stop flight we attempted out of Atlanta. We spent 3 full days in England, and though I worried a bit at how much we would miss out on in such a short trip, it ended up being absolutely perfect.

Because the trip was decided so late, hardly any planning went into it. We probably booked the last affordable Air BnB available in the city, which was a tiny 1 bedroom flat that hadn’t been cleaned since the last guests…But you get what you pay for! Thank goodness there were at least some clean sheets on hand. It was located in a great borough called Shoreditch with many wonderful eating/drinking/shopping options around with great access to all the must-see London sights.

Amazingly enough, if you’re okay with walking an upwards of 13 miles each day, you can basically see all of the city in 3 jam-packed days. I was so pleased with how much ground we covered, and everything about this city exceeded my expectations. We had incredible weather (50s and sunny during the day-which the locals assured me was unheard of) and the public transportation system could not have been easier to master. London was accessible and approachable and friendly and quaint and buzzing and essentially all good things about Europe bunched together. It was so magical at night, and I loved strolling down street after street lit up in twinkling Christmas lights like no American street has ever seen. Let me just tell you…Europe knows how to celebrate Christmas way better than we do.

We frolicked around Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland for hours on night, marveling at this Disneyland-scale festival complete with roller-coasters, a Bavarian Village, ice sculpture garden, and giant ice-skating rink. It was as if I had died and gone to heaven. Josh disagrees and thinks he died and went to another place, as the crowds and lights and sheer volume of holiday cheer was a bit overwhelming for him. He was such a good sport.

Prior to Winter Wonderland, we had been lost inside Harrods for hours. Again, totally overstimulating and not Josh’s favorite. These experiences probably would have been best experienced on different nights. Who knew everything in London was so over-the-top?? Either way, that day was one for the books in my opinion.

Hyde Park was beautiful during the day as well. So lush and vast and full of happy locals walking their pets and kids on scooters. I won’t mention the time we got kicked out of a playground for not having children with us, because that would just be embarrassing… (on an unrelated note, people with kids should spend some time at the Diana Memorial Playground if you’re in town)

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And of course, we saw the biggies…The London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, The Globe Theater, Tate Modern Museum, Centennial Bridge, Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, and many many others. We rode on the top of an iconic red double-decker bus, ate the best Indian food of our lives, drank English breakfast tea with milk, and minded the gap on the London Tube.

This trip seemed so much longer than 3 days with all we were able to see, but there was still so much yet to be discovered. I wish we could have seen a show in one of the many historic theaters or coughed up $50/person for high tea at Harrods or ridden the London Eye. Turns out London is very very expensive. The museums are free, but they make up for it in steep admission fees everywhere else you go. I was happy this time to walk by everything and get a taste for what I want to prioritize splurging on next go-around.

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Thank you London for a jolly good time, and beautiful weather and ending 2015 on a good note. I know my days of spontaneous border crossings are limited as I look ahead to graduation and full-time employment, so I am extra extra grateful for opportunities like this. What an amazing adventure this year has been. Happy New Year!