Hello, London

I’ve always wanted to travel somewhere by myself. It would be a grand adventure!

So, during the spring I would dream in between practice question sets and had google flights on speed dial – or actually automatic alerts. Flights to Paris, London, Barcelona, I was tracking them all. It didn’t really matter where I went, the only requirement was that it was a place I had never been before.

Ultimately, I found an affordable plane ticket to London.

– confirm payment –

I had a vacation to look forward to.

Naturally, my solo travel would start with an empty row of seats on the trans-Atlantic flight.

To be completely honest, I romanticized the whole thing, from start to finish. I dreamed a vacation in my mind that was straight out of the movies. Sort of like Julia Roberts in Eat Pray Love where she goes to Italy, India, and Bali to find herself. She learns Italian and eats pizza with her new-found friends. I thought I would meet people in my hostel, or at the park, or while visiting the museum. Yet, I found myself being seated at the one person table in the corner of a restaurant, a look of pity on the waiters face.

I didn’t come here for your pity, sir.

So, I woke up each morning and armed myself with my book, the map, and my water bottle and would head out for the day. Going to the places I had only seen from the computer screen. I visited the Victoria and Albert Museum (twice), the British Museum, Hyde Park, St. James Park, Regents Park, Oxford University, Westminster Abbey, the Shakespeare Globe, Notting Hill, East London, Buckingham Palace. I ate fish and chips in a pub, I ate Thai food in a pub, I drank a very large glass of wine in a pub.

I wouldn’t change anything about my time in London. I learned a valuable thing in that big city. However, I think it’s something I’ve known all along because if I look back on old blog posts and journal entries, the thing I keep coming back to is the relationships I have with the people who wind up in my life.

It made me sad to think that I would return to the United States and there would be no one to remember the trip with me.

Somehow there’s still grace and beauty in this. Maybe the next time I am lucky enough to travel to London, I’ll tell a story, over the high tea that I never tried, about the time that I stood in the yard during a Shakespeare play, or rode on the upper deck of the iconic red London bus, or sat in a rented lawn chair to read my book on a Sunday afternoon.

I didn’t come here for your pity, sir. But go ahead, pour that glass of wine.


After some lengthy deliberation, I decided this wasn’t going to be a travel blog.

A play-by-play of my trip to London.

I think travel blogs are fantastic ways to share tips and tricks for navigating new cities (I’ve used plenty of them myself), but I think I have more to offer than the research that I did before jumping the ocean.

However, I did think it would be helpful to share some of the things I really enjoyed about my time in London… in case there is someone out there that’s looking for a tasty latte, free bus tour, or restaurant with a rooftop pickle statue.

Stay: 

Astor Hostels – I booked through Hostelworld, their Hyde Park location is large and in an excellent location.

Eat: 

EggBreak – I recommend the Levantine Eggs and Matcha Latte.

Farm Girl – If you love avocado toast then this is the place for you.

Churchill Arms – Iconic pub paired with “the best” Thai food in England.

Piculpeper – For rooftop pickle statues.

Do:

Victoria and Albert Museum – Created to celebrate beautiful industrial design.

The British Museum – Read: The Rosetta Stone is here.

Go see as many Royal Parks as possible – Regents Park is my favorite.

Try out this free London bus tour – Buy yourself an oyster card and hop on and off.

St. Pauls Cathedral – Expensive, but well worth it

Get tickets to see something at the Globe

Sleep Under the Stars

At least once in your life.

A few weeks ago I was up in Winter Park and we decided it would be the perfect weekend to hang up the hammock. With the gentle sway I fell asleep between the trees and under the stars.

There is a short list of places that I have felt vulnerable, but also at peace. There’s something about opening yourself up to the things that scare you, but will leave you wanting more.

As I’m typing this I’m sitting in the airport. Not that abnormal, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to fly places because there are a lot of people in the world who only dream of this.

I’m going to London. By myself.

I’m scared, excited and desperately trying to soak everything in. I’ve wanted to solo travel for the longest time, but I’ve always been to chicken. This summer the chance presented itself and I jumped. Or, cautiously dipped my toe in the water and then jumped.

I feel vulnerable. I feel at peace. See you when I get back.

Bellingham, WA

The breeze coming off the bay was cool, especially in the shade. The tall trees shielding the bright sun from my pale skin. It had been hot and dry in Denver leading up to this trip, with the temperatures approaching 100 every day; wildfires raging in southern Colorado, national forests closed to humans.

It was a bad winter. It’s going to be a bad summer.

But, our Leah was graduating from college and so the Huey’s [Wirths, Petersen’s, Gordon’s and Kallin’s] trekked to the Pacific-Northwest. Apparently, if you live in Bellingham, Washington you become a “Bellinghamster”. Like if you live in Colorado long enough you become a “Coloradan”. I laughed so hard that tears rolled down my cheeks and my stomach burned when Leah told me that’s what they call themselves. Yet, the name couldn’t be more perfect for the small town, tucked into north-western Washington, two hours north of Seattle and one hour south of Canada. The bay to the west with the Pacific Ocean just a bit further, the North Cascades to the east.

Bellingham is beautiful.


I’ve been to visit Leah at school once before. A few years ago, when she was still living in the dorms, Anna and I took a sister trip out to see her. We flew to Seattle and rode the Amtrak up the coast, stayed in a hotel and walked everywhere with Leah. She carefully showed us her new school, where she was taking classes and studying, introduced us to her friends and brought us down to the boardwalk.

A long weekend full of exploring.

I missed my flight back to Denver. I thought I booked my ticket for Monday, but to my dismay at 5 am I learned my plane had left 24 hours earlier.

It was okay. There’s always a plan B. We rolled with the punches.


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This time we chased the sunset from Denver to Seattle, spent too short of time catching up with good friends in Seattle and drove up to Bellingham. This time I watched fields and hills flying by the window of the car.

On Friday, Leah presented her Honors Thesis. The research she’s been a part of for the last few years – building a product that would help people that need large quantities of blood transfusions not have to depend on donors for a supply. Some smart stuff going on in that girl’s head.

Next, we grabbed lunch at Aslan Brewing (YUM – I highly recommend the Hawaiian Pork Tacos) and headed to the house we were staying in at Lake Whatcom for naps. The front deck had these glass banisters so you could sit and watch the deer coming through the yard for a snack and feel the breeze blow across the lake. Peace and rest came over me for the first time in the last few months, as I sat and simply listened to the wind rustle the leaves on the trees and reveling in the beauty.

Graduation and a Thai dinner were in store for us on Saturday, and kayaking [we rented from here — Community Boating Center] in the Bellingham Bay and a salmon dinner was on the menu for Sunday. It was good eatin’ this weekend.

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At times, things seemed a little crazy. I guess it sort of comes with the territory when you bring together 11 adults. Some things didn’t always go as planned, and if there wasn’t already a plan B, we quickly came up with one. That’s called, “thinking on your feet”.

It wasn’t a perfect trip, because everything went flawlessly, it was a perfect trip because of the people who joined in. There was grace in the ways we handled each other’s imperfections and beauty in the way we celebrated.

One of the first lines of Bob Goff’s new book, Everybody, Always says, “It’s given me a lot of comfort knowing that we’re all rough drafts of the people we’re still becoming”. Maybe instead of a red pen of judgment, we should read through our friends’ rough drafts with a softer color like purple, or aqua – grace and truth.

The gentle breeze in Bellingham reminded me of this practice of patience.

Perspective//

In a brief moment above the water, I thought I would take a breath of air before plunging back under.

We started back at school on January 2nd. Winter break was the most relaxing, yet busy, two weeks. I managed to go yo-yo skiing, backcountry skiing, watch an absurd amount of the Crown and get everyone to do my bidding for a few days as I recovered from wisdom teeth surgery.

Since January 2nd, I’ve had two exams. I have two more exams next week.

It’s zero-to-100.

I signed up for this. Some days, I see pictures of my friend backpacking through Southeast Asia and I think to myself, “What am I doing????” But then I slap myself around because I’m walking through my dream right now. It’s easy to let the hours sitting in the lecture hall get to you as you’re trying to comprehend the endless waves of material crashing on your head.

Last semester we got our preceptors – doctors working in our community who have offered to take us under their wings and help form us, mentor us, lead us in this profession. My doc lets me go into the rooms before her. I’m practicing the basics, like taking vitals (blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate) and talking to patients. Then, I go and present to her what I’ve learned. There’s the handoff, the H&P, the oral presentation, a SOAP note.

Last week, I saw a patient and the next day there was a reference to her disorder in my lecture notes. Last semester, I learned about some diseases I never thought I would see. I thought it would be a disease unicorn, something that only existed in the textbooks or would show up on Step [I guess even a unicorn is less real than that, but you get the idea]. Then I stepped into a patient’s room and what do you think they were living with every day? These moments bring the lecture hall into perspective.

Two years ago, I started this blog. To bring perspective. Since then I hiked under a shower of ice, bought a crock pot, traveled to Minneapolis, Thailand, Utah, and San Diego to name a few. We explored what it meant to love people with everything we have, reminded ourselves that comparison is a thief, and adjusted to life as a medical student.

That’s a lot of perspective.

I don’t have all of the answers, but I’m still gonna go searching for some truth in this world. For some beauty and some grace. Thank you for reading along.

 

I’ve Lost My Wisdom

 

Hey, I know it’s been a while. These last two months have been humbling and exhausting and I haven’t had much energy to write. During this first semester of medical school, I’ve learned the entire human body, a multitude of rare genetic disorders and the molecular basis of disease. It was a little bit like a workout that you look at and don’t think will be that bad. Yet, after slugging your way through the workout you are left gasping for air, wondering how you were tricked. I made it through anatomy and slugged my way through molecules to medicine then found myself reaching for the surface.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well in school. I put a lot of pressure on myself to succeed in general. I identify as a 3 on the Enneagram personality tests, “The Achiever”. I’ve always been this person, striving for success and the acceptance of others. Thriving on straight A’s and comments like “good job”. This semester challenged me in ways that I didn’t expect.

Even this blog. I feel a certain amount of pressure to make it a success. Will people read it? Will the grammar be correct? Is this a good picture to share? I haven’t posted in a while, I really should write something. I don’t have anything interesting to share.

I’m constantly reminding myself of the reasons for starting a Glimpse of Grace. To find value and beauty and grace in our everyday lives. To share my life and the lessons I’m learning with those that choose to listen. Yet, somehow, the perfectionist in me wants this page to be perfect. Honestly, that is just plain exhausting and I’m sorry, but it won’t ever be flawless.

Looking through my photos I realize that there have been many things worth sharing. Here are just a few of the things I’ve done that I neglected to think were meaningful —-

  • I realized a dream and got a fiddle leaf fig [I haven’t killed it yet either]

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  • I visited my dear friends in Atlanta for a wedding. Every day I wish I could transport them to Denver.
  • I tried out new coffee shops and study spots. My favorites include – Union Station, The Stanley Marketplace, Steep, and the 3rd-floor study room at the library.
  • We went to a story slam and heard people share their personal stories about “control”.
  • I celebrated Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving with some of my favorite people in some of my favorite places.
  •  We helped serve a meal at the Denver Rescue Mission.

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  • We got dressed up and spent the evening at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. We didn’t take any pictures once we got there, so it must have been fun.
  • Yesterday, I got my wisdom teeth removed. I don’t remember anything, from the moment when they placed the IV to when I woke up with gauze filling my mouth, fighting my heavy eyelids. We drove home in the snow and I laid on the couch, changing ice packs, taking pain medication and watching The Crown.

Here’s hoping I haven’t lost all of my wisdom, just the teeth. Here’s to getting back up again when life tries to knock you down. Here’s to celebrating and embracing our imperfections. I’m gonna go make some Christmas cookies now.

Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.

I Am Thankful

How often do we utter those three words? How often do we say out loud, or write down, “I am thankful because of…”?

I would argue, not enough. Mostly because I’m guilty of it. Our days are busy, they might feel hard and overwhelming. We might not feel like we have anything to be thankful for on a daily basis that we weren’t thankful for yesterday. When we get together for Thanksgiving the common theme of thankfulness is friends, family, health BUT there’s so much more to life than that. If I’m being honest then it’s really the mundane things that we should be grateful for.

Today, wasn’t all that special. My family dog woke me up around 3:30 barking about something [he probably wanted breakfast], I then had class from 8 am – lunch, followed by meetings, some “studying” [aka email answering], medical student council and now I’m writing from my bed with my genetics book close by for some light reading after I post this. I’ll probably fall asleep with the lights on because that’s what I tend to do best.

It wasn’t a glamorous November 1st filled with saving lives and taking names. Yet, mixed throughout the day are things I feel incredibly thankful for. Today, I am thankful because of friends that send me emails of dogs they think I should adopt, friends that let me know they miss me, and friends that ask how I’m doing and then listen when I decide to actually tell them the truth.

I love this quote so I’ll share it again – a million times if I have to —

“For it is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful”

– Brother David Steindl-Rast

So, for this month of November, I encourage you to write down a daily gratitude. A simple thing that happened during your day that you were grateful for. Write it down on a slip of paper and put it in a jar, a box, a shoe. You don’t have to tell anyone, do it for yourself. Do it for your joyfulness.

Monday Night Update

People say that time flies when they’re having fun, but I know [without a doubt], that whoever first spoke those words has never tried to learn a semester’s worth of material in 2 weeks.

Time seems to pass these days according to my exam schedule – and yes – we recently learned my entire fall 2012 biochemistry class in 2 weeks. I’ve heard many of my friends utter these same words, “This time I’m gonna stay on top of it. I’m going to start studying tonight”. Inevitably though, the thought creeps in that we have 2 weeks until the next one, so one night off can’t hurt — work-life balance right? Wrong.

These are merely excuses, but this is why I have not posted in what feels like ages – 2 tests to be exact.

Now, I know you’re going to ask – “How is school going?”

It’s going well, actually. I love learning. Like for real, love learning. Every day there is something to be excited about, something to marvel at, and also feel completely overwhelmed by. It’s a game of give-and-take.

To be honest though, finding this balance is probably the most challenging part. I want to continue living my life and not let school become the end-all, be-all. Even though medical school is a huge goal I’m undertaking right now, I still ambitiously try to make it to CrossFit 3x per week, read a couple pages of a book before I fall asleep at night and have a non-med school conversation occasionally [it’s tough]. These are things that make me, Madeline and I’m refusing to let them go just yet.

Yesterday, as I was walking our family dog – Bodie – I listened to a podcast produced by 99% Invisible. If you haven’t heard of it, I totally recommend that you check the channel out – my personal favorite is Episode #127, The Sound of Sports.

Anyways, I listened to a podcast on the invention of the stethoscope and it stopped me in my tracks. Before the stethoscope, whatever was happening inside the patient was a mystery and doctors relied on asking questions, and then they actually listened to their stories. These days, we rarely use our stethoscopes and rely on tests, CT scans, ultrasounds, you name it, to give us a diagnosis.

“Before the stethoscope, you had to feel sick to be sick. After the stethoscope, to be sick, the doctor had to find something”. – Dr. Jacalyn Duffin

As I listened to this podcast, I began asking myself – how do we make sure our patients feel heard, and not like they are just a list of data points and symptoms? I’m asking myself – how can I do this better? How can I ensure that I first listen to my patient’s story before listening to their tests?

From the perspective of the patient – have you ever had an interaction with a doctor that made you feel seen? What did he/she do differently?

A New Rhythm

Human Body Block [aka Gross Anatomy] lasts 9 weeks. At the beginning it seemed like the block would take forever. I remember thinking to myself, “how will I ever make it through this?”

Somehow, I’m making it through this. We are two tests down, with roughly 3 weeks left and one more exam. The days pass quickly with this new rhythm of school, and the weeks consist mainly of —

Anatomy lab, lecture, physical exam sessions, ultrasound sessions, problem-based learning sessions, med school recess [lunch], study sessions, more study sessions, Crossfit, church, escape to the mountains. Rinse and Repeat.

Every day is a new day to learn something new, a new day to be amazed.

In my program we are introduced to ultrasound early on. We have machines that we can use to practice the skill on each other. When I say ultrasound is a skill, I mean that it is a skill. I thought it would be easy, I thought “how hard can it be to put a little gel on a probe and bada-bing-bada-boom you have a clear picture on the screen”. I was so wrong. Somehow we will get the hang of this though. Peel back the layers that cloud our vision.

In the meantime, we get to see some pretty awesome stuff.

Last week, with some help, we did ultrasound on our own hearts. Laying on the table, I saw on the screen my heart beating. The compartments working together to pump blood throughout my living, breathing body. This week, I worked with a group of 7 other classmates through a patient case and successfully diagnosed him with acute appendicitis. I’m learning to perform a physical exam, to listen to heart sounds and test for ACL tears. The reminder that I know nothing is constant, and humbling, but also thrilling at the same time. I have the opportunity to ask questions, to seek clarity, to think deeply. All things that I cherish and hold dear.

This new rhythm is stressful some days, but refreshing and inspiring on others. I don’t always feel on top of the world, but like I’m slugging through the mud on the way up the trail. The pastor at my old church in Atlanta once talked about how we naturally seek out the mountain top moments. We reach for the highs and dread the lows. However, as he so eloquently pointed out, “Have you ever noticed that people don’t live on the mountain tops? They live in the valley”. We do life in the valley. We love people, we work hard and every now and then we climb to the top of the mountain.

Living these, sometimes dreary, days to the fullest is what it’s about. This is the mundane and hard part of becoming who we are, but also who we are meant to be.


Last weekend, some classmates and I headed up to Breckenridge for the annual Colorado Medical Society Retreat. We laughed those deep belly laughs that seem to last forever, but also got to chat with some pretty big-wig docs in the world of medical policy. It was sweet.

Always Enough

I recently started reading Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. First, this book has been on my list for some time and I am excited to finally have the chance to read it. Second, I always struggle a bit to start these books that cover topics important to my current life. The stories that point out the things I need to work on and think through bring up all kinds of weird emotions, and I have a much more difficult time finishing them as opposed to a fun novel [it took me 5 days to finish “A Man Called Ove”]. I’ve only read to page 72 but every page has words on it that speak to me, something that challenges me, or something that makes me think – “well duh”.

I wrote a couple of months ago about my desire to make the most of my remaining time in Atlanta. I desired to do something meaningful, something with impact, something that would make a difference not only in my life, but in the lives of the community around me. In this desire I have been challenged to act, but along with the push towards action has been the pull of a fear of failure.

Now, I know I’m not the only one that fears failure. In Daring Greatly, Brené Brown describes our culture as one of scarcity, as one of “never enough”. From not enough sleep each night to not enough resources to get the things done on your to-do list, we are constantly fed the phrase “never enough”. This cycle negatively impacts our psyche as we approach tackling the challenges and goals in our lives, taking risks and ultimately connecting on a deeper level with those around us. Early in the book, Brené describes a moment she has right before she goes out on stage at TED –

“Then, seconds before I was introduced, I thought about a paperweight on my desk that reads, ‘What would you attempt to do if you you knew you could not fail’…As I walked up to the stage, I literally whispered aloud, ‘What’s worth doing even if I fail’“?

Woah. Let me ask that again and let it really sink in – What’s worth doing even if I fail?

When you ask yourself this question, what in your life is worth pursuing even if you fail? What sort of emotions does this question stir up in you?

Honestly, those 7 words freak me out. They challenge me to try the things I am passionate about – to try being a leader, to try using the voice that I’ve been gifted with, and to try the things I haven’t done because I am so afraid of failing that I plan, and plan some more before I decide I am ready to take it on.

On April 29th I’m hiking 28.3 miles in less than 24 hours, and I’m raising $2400 for something I feel is incredibly important – childhood cancer research. I am terrified that I will fail and that I will not even get the chance to try to hike because I didn’t raise all of the funds. I am worried that I will let down the people that depend on the research that will discover the cure to their cancer. Yet, somewhere deep in the middle of all the self-doubt I feel peace and I am jumping head first into this adventure, trusting that when we run after the things we are passionate about God runs beside us.

 


While monetary donations are one of the obvious ways you can help me reach my goal, I need hiking partners, prayers and people to share this cause with their community.

We think that we don’t matter, that our small contributions can’t make a difference, but I have witnessed first hand how powerful a collective effort can be. For more information, visit my fundraising website here and/or email me at mgracehuey@gmail.com

The Majesty Palm

This is a post about my new house plant.

Let me introduce you to the majesty palm. 

I found him at IKEA on Sunday afternoon and he’s changed my life. It’s amazing what a little life and color can do to change your perspective, but I’m obsessed with this slice of life right now. It’s bright and balanced. My air feels fresh, like I can think more clearly. Now, fingers crossed it doesn’t die in the next month [if it does, I’m only out $12].

Those of you that have house plants, have you named em? I’ve named my car [suby] and I think I’m gonna name my palm, AND I would like your help. Vote for your favorite name below in the comments or give me your own suggestion! Here are the options I came up with –

  • Mervin
  • Fernando
  • Kahula [means “dancing”]
  • Kaipo [means “darling”]

I’m choosing to do the things that make my life richer. Choosing to do the things that help me think more clearly, laugh a little more, and smile. So I bought a house plant and I’m gonna give it a name.