Conversations with a nursing major

Living with someone typically brings interesting conversations. I saw a Buzzfeed article earlier today about 50 things you say to your roommate all the time that you’d never have the occasion to say to anyone else. Much of my conversation with Liesel revolves around meals, whether we’re talking about what we’re going to eat or talking while we’re eating about what we’re eating. Then we’ll talk about what to eat next.

It’s college. Food is one of the few enjoyable things we have time and funds for.

Many of our other conversations, however, are about our homework. Things like, “Did you know that…?” and “In my class today…” So I’ve gathered some interesting knowledge about nursing. Some of our more hilarious conversations, though, are the ones about her practical/clinical assessments and assignments.

I kid you not, these are all real conversations that have happened in the past two months.

Liesel: “Do you wanna see my syringes?” Who asks that?

Me: “No.” (picture Grumpy Cat here)

Liesel: “Fine. I’ll look at them myself.”

Liesel: “Can I palpate your stomach?”

Then she proceeded to do a full abdominal examination. “Okay, now I want you to take a sharp breath in so I can feel your liver.”

I didn’t even know where my liver was, but now she’s felt it.

Then, all those weird nurse-y techniques that help them to know if you have some sort of horrid lungs disease: “Every time I touch you, I want you to say, ’99’ or, ‘blue moon.'”

Me: “99……99…..99…..99….Blue moon….99…..99…. 69? No…. 99….”

It’s like I got stuck counting and just couldn’t quite get to 100.

We have a habit of giving each other back massages about once a week, mostly because it feels good and partly because studies show that getting a massage increases your self-efficacy. We’re all about that. This past week, Liesel learned about the lymphatic system and how to assess its health. On Friday, massages were happening, and something felt strange. Suspicion. I am not being massaged; I am being examined. “Are you assessing my lymph nodes?”


Stranger things have happened. She’s just impressed that I could tell. I’m just not impressed with her sneakiness. It’s good – she doesn’t need to be sneaky.

She’s taken every pulse I could possibly have in my body. Did you know you have a pulse in your foot? I suppose that’s obvious if you think about it, but now I know for sure. I’ve got one.

She asks me if she can take my blood pressure like it’s an enormous privilege to be able to do so and compliments me on my blood pressure.

Thank you, thank you. *Takes bow.*

Despite all her incredible medical knowledge though, we still have fun self-diagnosing on WebMD.

“Liesel, I’m dizzy. What’s wrong with me?”

Instead of trying to impress me with her real clinical knowledge, she pulls up the website.

“Have you had a child recently?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Aspirin poisoning?”


“Heat stroke.”

No response here because we’re both laughing so hard it’s silent besides gasps for air. This was on a day with negative temperatures.

All this to say, we don’t have many dull moments around here, and I will be very thoroughly assessed for heartbeats, lung sounds, and healthy lymph nodes (oh, yes, and the existence of my liver) this semester.

Giving up planning.

Since I last posted, I discovered (through another google search) that Obsessive-Compulsive Planning Disorder is a real thing.

All of a sudden, I felt fewer warm fuzzies towards my tendencies to plan and plan and re-plan and think ahead and plan and make three different plans in case one doesn’t work and an alternative for those. Then forget all the plans because I didn’t write them down and make a whole new plan from scratch.

In fact, it made me want to set aside my planning and pretend that all those symptoms didn’t fit me.

Deep breath in, deep breath out. I can live my life without a plan. Well, sort of. I can live without a five-year plan. I can live without a one-year plan. I can’t live without my day planned out, but that’s a different story.

I’d like to say in contrast to all the parallel symptoms I have with OCPD that I like to fly by the seat of my pants sometimes. And that most of my life has ended up going completely differently than I planned.

Thought I was going to be a teacher.

Thought I would go to school on a coast.

Thought I’d go to Scotland to study abroad.

Thought I’d be a Communications major.

Thought I’d graduate in 2016.

Never thought I’d have three jobs in college.

Never expected to be a book copyeditor by the age of 19.

Never expected to have seen nine countries before my 21st birthday.

Never expected to see God flip all my plans on their heads. As often as I think I’m a compulsive planner, I remember that my planning is fruitless. Some people say you shouldn’t plan without God’s involvement, but I’ve found in my life that I’m really just banned from planning at all.

I live in a kennel (though my kennel is big and includes all of my present reality) and am not allowed to jump into my actual future until 5 seconds before it strikes. Then the gate is opened and I scurry around in my new territory.

I think puppies and I have a lot in common.

The space beyond the gate is so much more spacious than what I had imagined and planned. It’s always brighter and more abundant and crazier than I could have planned.

So perhaps my limited planning does have a purpose, in helping me contrast my small ability to give myself opportunity and imagine the possibilities with the options God comes up with that I never even considered.

So I’m curbing my planning and waiting for the abundance to show itself. I’m halting my Google binges and asking God to maybe give me a hint of what He had in mind – or to at least give me the faith and patience I need to wait and to prepare me in the meantime.

I guess you could say this Lent marks me giving up planning. I didn’t plan to say that at the beginning of this post, but it seems appropriate and perhaps something I should practice as a sign of trust and faith. More prayer, less planning.

The paralyzing future, aka welcome to the pre-graduation panic.

Welcome to the life of an almost-college-graduate. No, I’m not donning my cap this May, but come December, I’ll be getting my special piece of paper with the rest of them.

This stage of life often looks like a normal college student’s life: studying, going to classes, experiencing brain numbness and emptiness on Fridays where you just have nothing left, spending a little too much time online when you should getting things done.

But then there are the days when I go on Google binges: cities with lowest cost of living, job listings, average income for a new graduate with a humanities degree, how much is rent in Minneapolis. And those are the normal ones; they happen about twice a month.

During the off-weeks, I am often struck with the thought, whatever happened to living abroad? Don’t I want to apply for a scholarship to teach in Lichtenstein? Why didn’t I want to do that? How much is a plane ticket to the Philippines? Can I live abroad for a year and still be an American citizen? Oh, duh, missionaries.

I start furiously searching websites of NGOs and scholarship competitions and volunteer programs and intern abroad programs that I know I’ll never end up applying to because this isn’t where I need to be, but the possibility exists and is nagging at me that I must consider it. Bloodshot eyes. Forget to blink. Forget all reason and logic about your own life. Consider EVERYTHING. Leave no stone unturned.

The stress of graduating is not so much in the limitations of a degree or paycheck but in the enormous freedom that you’ll have to rebuild your life when you’re not in school anymore. School, for most college students, has been the main user of your free time since the age of 5. What you will do when homework does not exist is a daunting decision.

I’m trying to limit these panics to once a month so that I can still focus on my life in the here and now and keep on going strong towards the finish line. Right now, the future is paralyzing, so it must wait.

Nostalgic but here.

So, sentimentality can be a bit of a turn off. But I’m going to do it anyways.

My Valentine’s Day last year was the most bewildering day of my life thus far, arriving in a new country at 10 in the morning when I felt like it was the middle of the night. My airport buddy, Daniela picked me up and whisked me around town, trying to keep me awake and get me settled into my new life.

At the end of the day, she dropped me off at my apartment, where I sat in my room and wondered what it would be like to live with three Austrians I didn’t know. Magda, when we met and she found out I was headed to Ikea shortly, asked me to buy a new shower curtain while I was there, so there I was, sitting in my room and wondering if I should go give it to her or put it up myself or just keep sitting there.

I eventually knocked on the kitchen door, a strange thing to do in a place where you are now a resident, and if what came next hadn’t happened, I don’t know what my five months there would have been like.

Magda was cooking with another girl, who introduced herself as Rebekka and immediately understood my position. Yes, bewildered. I was still holding the shower curtain at this point, but I sat down at the table with her while Magda cooked and she told me she’d studied at Syracuse, so she knew that the first few days were the hardest.

Then she asked me if it was hard to say goodbye to my family.

At that point, I realized that I hadn’t cried at the airport – because I hadn’t felt like I was leaving. The finality and the reality of going to another country to live for a semester hadn’t settled in. So the waterworks came, and I just kept saying, “I don’t know why I’m crying. I never cry in front of people.”

Rebekka handed me a pack of tissues, which made me cry harder, both at the kindness and the realization that I’d forgotten to bring tissues.

It was the start of one of the most significant friendships during my time abroad. Rebekka let me keep the pack of tissues, and a couple days later, she took me up to the Altstadt (up until that point, I was pretty disappointed with Graz, feeling like it wasn’t as beautiful as the pictures had been) and to the Schloßberg, where I could see out over the whole city.

DSCN5334Ah, I miss it.

You can relive it all there.

I’m so thankful for all that time. I’m thankful for the jet lag, for the amazing coffee, the countless cafes, the krapfen, new friends, misunderstandings between German and English and in-between, for all the euros I spent, the train journeys, the tram passes, ice creams from Eis Geissler, pastries, johannesbeere juice, messing up German words and getting laughed at (Rebekka laughed pretty hard at my pronunciation of Zwiebel), homesickness, longing for familiarity, finding new homes, old buildings, all the time walking.

I’ll be honest, I miss it.

But there’s so much to be said for living in the present, for being grateful for the incredible things God is doing in my life right now (like multiplying my $21 and birthday pledge into $3,193).

I’ll be nostalgic, but I’ll still be here.


Five loaves and two fish.

Today has been a loaves and fishes type of day. I came to the day with a sack lunch, and I remember telling Jesus something like, “hey, be a part of today.” No matter what the exact wording was, there was an invitation issued.

Jesus is present in my everyday life even when he doesn’t feed the five thousand, but my goodness, when he does? I’m tired from all the excitement of my day.

First off, my class was cancelled. So I had a whole morning to write and get homework done. What a gift that was.

I tutor an ESL student on Thursdays at the local elementary school to help with reading fluency and comprehension, and we had such a fun session. He wanted to keep working after we’d been together for an hour.

Those would have been blessing enough. My heart was full and happy when I walked home and came in my door. My neighbors downstairs had again been smoking pot, and the smell permeated my kitchen, but I was determined it wouldn’t make me upset.

Then I looked at my email.

For the past two weeks, my birthday campaign with charity: water has been going on, and I started today at $913. Every time someone gives, I’ve been excited. It’s amazing what people will do, given the opportunity to do good. It was already more than I could have done on my own. I hoped that by my birthday in March, we’d be close to my $3,000.

But today, my email told me that someone I didn’t know had donated $600. WHAT. I was dumbfounded, thinking it must have been a mistake.

Then I went to the webpage for my campaign and saw that not only was it a legitimate donation, but someone else had given over $1,000.


Charity: water found my campaign (since I was plugging for Taylor Swift to find it and join me) and featured it on their blog today, so I suppose these generous folks found it and wanted to take part.

All I’ve done is set up a campaign and told my friends.

I gave Jesus my five loaves and two fishes, and so far, he’s provided enough money to provide 89 people with clean water for the rest of their lives.

My God does big things with small, ordinary people. He doesn’t care how insignificant we are or how incapable or unimportant we think we are. He asks us to join in, to take a first step and watch him make our efforts into something far beyond anything we can take credit for.

I am amazed.

Taking credit

I don’t write my name on my schoolwork anymore, apparently. It wasn’t a conscious choice, I don’t think.

In high school, I always marveled at the students who consistently ignored the “Name: _________” line on every single sheet of paper we were handed. People would turn in assignments without names on the daily, and those sheets of paper would sit on a desk at the back of the classroom the next day with a sticky note, “whose is this?” or tacked up on the bulletin board of no-namers. I was so ashamed when I lapsed, about once a year, and my papers ended up on there. Usually, however, my teachers knew my handwriting since it was distinctive and there were only so many students it could have been.

But now I turn in poems and drafts of memoirs without my name on them. When we pass out our work on workshopping days I have to say, “Oh, yeah, mine’s the one without a name on it.”

What have I become?

Delinquent, that’s it.

A couple of my friends still have the name-writing habit so engrained in them that they write their names at the top of their notes for each day, in their own notebook. I have a friend who writes her name on every single piece of paper our professor gives us. It doesn’t hurt that she has beautiful penmanship, but it’s unnecessary.

I know this neglect stems from the writer paralysis I experience when I see a Word document with name, professor, class, and date typed, left-aligned at the top. All of a sudden, all words leave my brain, and I can only write banal, robotic words. This will not do for a creative writing major.

It also won’t do for a writer at all if I can’t manage to put my name on my work. What will a publisher do if I submit my work with no name? They don’t know me from Eve, and handwriting won’t be helpful.

All this to say that I need to remember to claim my work. This is more of a reminder for me than you, but if you have this problem, take heed!

Cringe-worthy becoming.

There’s something a little hazardous about growing up online, and I’m not just talking about online predators or getting a false sense of security by your number of friends or followers. I’m not referencing the horrible dialup noise we all had to deal with in our early internet using days that could have damaged our eardrums for good but thankfully didn’t.

I’m talking about the pain and cringing that comes when you look back at your old self. Like how I went through my pictures on Facebook about a year ago and took any pictures down before I had all my adult teeth (that would be the end of eighth grade, folks. Those eyeteeth did not want to make room for the adult ones). Then, when I put my blog address on an application a few weeks ago, I wondered, should I start taking down old posts? Like the ones from my senior year of high school? 

Some of them are real cringe-worthy, folks. And for good reason – I still haven’t figured out who I am and how to be and how to write about both of those, so naturally, I was even further behind in high school. My writing has gone through more scrutiny and refining since then and has gotten a clearer purpose, so even though I haven’t made it in that sense now, I was a few more steps behind then.

The sun goes down so quickly. One minute, it’s up and lighting up the sky and shading the clouds all pinky

Screen Shot 2015-02-07 at 5.44.37 PM


then it’s gone, and it’s dark all around. It had been leaving the sky since noon, saying its goodbyes and heading to the other side of the world for twelve hours and leaving the moon to keep us company. The change in light was so slight we didn’t know it was going til it was gone and we were clearly in a different time of day.

When did we grow up? Was there one moment where everything got dark and all of a sudden we didn’t speak like a child or think like a child or reason like a child? Or is our sun at midday now, casting different shadows and shedding more light than before, so we see our prior selves more clearly? Is that why we want to leave them behind?

If I’m in Christ, the old is gone, the new has come, but that is talking about my sinful nature, the part of me that cleaved to… darkness. Is maturity about lighting the areas where there was darkness and breaking the chains of misunderstanding? Can we become mature without Christ?

If there’s no shift between am and was in me, I’m still waiting to become who I am meant to be, and the catalyst of that shift is breaking the bondage of death that had a hold on me. That’s where I was, awaiting second death, but now I’m living in life and awaiting more of it.

Who I was can’t shame me, not as a writer, not as a sinner, not as a girl who didn’t know how to do her hair. I wrote like a child and perhaps still do in comparison with what I’m becoming. I sinned like a spiritual child, not knowing the life that awaited once I gave up my small enjoyment of darkness for the abundance of light. I’ll keep those posts and those reminders of where I’ve been as a testament to how I’ve been changed and shaped. In ten years, I’ll look back on this year as childish, but it’s still a testament to the process of becoming.


Today’s a good day. Liesel and I started the day off with raspberry chocolate chip pancakes, then she got good news and so did I. The sun’s shining, and water is dripping off the rooflines in Chicago. It’s still chilly, but the vitamin D and hope the sun provides are enough to withstand any temperature. (I say that hoping it’s not put to the test)

I often want to be a cat on days like these. Granted, I don’t want to eat mushed up fish from a can or cough up hairballs, but I would love to spend today sleeping on a windowsill in the warm sunlight and purring. The alternative is to sit by the window and not purr but still be satisfied. It’s a pretty good substitute.

On bad days, I try to remember the good ones and to just keep pressing on towards what’s next, hoping that it’s better. I keep the day in perspective, remembering that not all days are like that. On good days, though, I feel more content, like I should just bask in the glory of a good day.

I’m thinking I should treat today like a grizzly bear might. I mean, I learned this year that bears don’t actually hibernate (WHAT? blew my mind), but they still eat while it’s warm and while there’s a food supply and live off their surplus in the dead of winter.

My good days are just as much of a catalyst to remember that not all days are like today. How can I seize the goodness of today and use it to propel me into tomorrow? I’m sure curling up like a cat would feel nice, but how would it bring more joy into the more dreary days where the sun goes behind thick layers of could cover and victories are scarce?

This won’t last forever. (Call me a Debbie downer) No really, it won’t. The sunshine will turn to dusk, and the weather will freeze all that just melted. So it’ll be up to me to remember how it feels to not despair that winter will last forever or that my to-do list will never be empty.

It’s the perspective of a harvester. Gather your crops while they’re alive. So, I’m harvesting sunlight and victories today.