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 too 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.

 

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

5 Beautiful Things

To round out this season of thankfulness, gratitude, and joy my cousin Katie has issued her own form of challenge. Katie is the creator of the blog – 52Beautiful Things. She uses her platform to illuminate beautiful things she encounters each and every week. Katie was a huge inspiration to me when I first started on my blog journey and so I am pleased to be able to contribute in my own small way to her page.

The challenge is to describe 5 beautiful things you encounter within your own life and you can read all of mine —> HERE.

– THEN –

Maybe consider submitting your own to her. As a bonus, if you decide to write out your beautiful things you will be entered into a small contest for a basket of Colorado goodies. I’m sure that could even be one of your beautiful things!


As an aside, I submitted my piece to Katie around lunch time today and then proceeded to escape the conference for a jaunt at Balboa Park [San Diego]. It was at the park that I stumbled upon a small Japanese garden. A hidden gem within the heart of the city. A place of quiet solitude, beauty, and grace. I found myself wishing I had waited to press send so I could add this in, but then I was reminded that we live a continuous journey with beauty waiting around every corner.

30 Days.

At the beginning of November I threw a challenge out into the Universe. A challenge to document the tiny things you are grateful for each day in an attempt to cultivate a life filled with gratitude. My point being, that joy stems from our gratitude and practicing thankfulness might – ahem, will –  just lead to happiness.

When I first started this challenge my jar seemed impossibly large. I kept thinking to myself, “how could I possibly have something different to be grateful for each day?” Yet, each day something small came to mind that made me smile, or remember what was good. Even better were the days when I would experience a moment and immediately think to myself, “Wow, that was fantastic. That is what’s going in the jar tonight.” So, with each day, my pile of paper got a little bit bigger and I felt my heart grow more joyful [less frustrated] with where I’m at in this crazy life.

Listed below are just a few of the [unedited] things I found myself feeling lucky to have experienced within the last 30 days —

  1. I’m thankful for good hairstylists. FINALLY.
  2. I’m thankful for my crockpot + quick + tasty dinner!
  3. I’m thankful for old friends and talking on the phone for hours.
  4. I’m thankful for packages in the mail @ the end of a long day.
  5. Today I’m thankful for doing a workout @ a weight I wasn’t sure I could do. Pushing myself to be better.
  6. I’m thankful for chocolate when I’m feeling bloated.
  7. I’m thankful for falling leaves. With all of the trees here in ATL a strong breeze makes the leaves dance and fall like snowflakes.
  8. I’m thankful for MARTA.
  9. I’m thankful for a house full of people.
  10. I’m thankful for the ability to write + for the courage to share my heart with others.
  11. Facetiming with my crazy family today!
  12. I’m thankful for my finances, but also cheap/quality clothes on a budget.

What were you thankful for this month? Let’s celebrate gratitude together!

 

happy Tuesday

I know, I know. I’ve been M.I.A.

Even the bus driver today asked me where I’ve been, and the easy answer is that I’ve been busy. Really busy. But also, the good kind of busy, where you sleep like a rock at the end of the day and all most items get scratched off the to-do list.

It feels good to have a solid routine worked out – even though I haven’t worked in time to write blog posts yet. I figured those would come as my week went by and things happened that I wanted to share about [It would be so much easier if my subconscious would magically write out a post while I thought about it].

Today, I offer you boots & copper string lights because these are the things that are currently bringing me peace. You see, I’ve had these lights for over a year now but when I moved I never got around to hanging them again [Mostly because I read a design article on how string lights can make a space look like it belonged in a college dorm]. I wasn’t sure how to style them without hanging them so I just left them tucked away in a corner of my closet until this weekend.

On Saturday night I was feeling inspired. I was feeling the weight of always conforming to other people’s standards and ideas of what is right/stylish. I decided that by no means do I want my decisions to be influenced by the way other’s perceive them, so I did the damn thing and hung the lights in my room.

THEN… on Sunday I went shopping for new shoes, and in the middle of the store I found myself crafting messages to my sister asking if she thought the shoes were cute, while simultaneously asking myself if I could pull them off. Asking myself if other people would think they were cool, or if I was just crazy, and this is where I stopped myself.

I realized I was completely wrapped up in how my appearance and actions would be interpreted by others at the expense of my own joy. I thought the boots were cute, so I did the damn thing and bought the boots.

What lies have you told yourself about how others see you? What can you do today to love and to be true to yourself?


 

Flutter

I have no excuse for my lack of posts other than that I’ve been trying to find words for many of the events that have happened in my life during the last few weeks. Apparently it has been an unsuccessful endeavor…. Every time I sit down to write I come up with a blank. This is not for lack of material – I’ve got more than enough of that – but rather I’m attributing it to a lack of belief. Three weeks ago I got the phone call that I’ve been waiting to get since February. I got the phone call that I was accepted to the University of Colorado School of Medicine.

It really went down like this –

I was in the midst of a normal work day, running in and out of tissue culture and attending meetings, when I received a missed call and a voicemail. The number was 303-724… Those numbers caused my heart to skip a beat because I immediately knew. 303 is the area code for Colorado and 724 is the first three digits for the UC Denver Medical Campus. With trembling hands and a flutter in my stomach I returned the call from the admissions office. They very nonchalantly informed me of my acceptance to the class of 2020.

*imagine me freaking out on the other side*

The next week & a 1/2 was a whirlwind as I quickly drafted a letter requesting to defer entrance for one year and then wait (again) for a response. You’re probably thinking that I must be crazy. All of the choices I’ve made over the last several years have been decided while also considering my long term goal – becoming a doctor. I would think about it more than necessary, and especially this last year, stress over it even when I had no control. As much as I tried to continue on with life in the midst of waiting, my application was all consuming. I agonized over my future and possible outcomes. Where I would be living and how my life would look. So, in an attempt to live in the present I decided that regardless of the decision from CU I would stay in Atlanta for another year.

– I became free –

This decision was a huge step for me, but I felt so fantastically unhindered and happy with my choice. My relationships with my friends in A|T|L grew deeper, I embraced my responsibility at work with a fire, and I’ve settled into living in a city in a forest. I also accepted the possibility that I wasn’t going to be accepted this year and began preparing to reapply – writing a brand new personal essay and requesting additional letters of support. I submitted these applications exactly one week before learning of my acceptance. I guess then that answer is yes – I am a little crazy, but not insane because when I requested to delay my entry for a year I was granted this appeal.

I am beyond thankful for the opportunities this provides – not only in my research but in all aspects of my life. I know this absolutely did not just happen out of coincidence but that God has some bigger plan for me. I’m thrilled to find out what the next year holds. Excuse me while I squeal with glee.


*words are hard, dancing and jumping up and down is an easier way to celebrate.

20% Chance

On Sunday, Leah and I went hiking. We packed our bags with water, sunscreen, and bug spray. A quick check of the weather report revealed only a 20% chance of rain.  

20% my ass. 

We drove to the East Palsides Trailhead at the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, paid the $3 for parking, and took off down the trail. Not even 5 minutes in and the skies opened up – pouring down rain. 

Stubborn to still go for our hike we continued on, believing that the rain would “stop any moment”. As you may guess, the rain didn’t stop. If anything it grew to a faster pace with fat drops of water falling from the sky. We side-stepped rivers of water in the middle of the trail and jumped over waterfalls flowing down the hills. We tried to find cover under some low-lying tree branches, but nothing seemed big enough to block out the water. At one point as we were huddled together trying to wait it out, Leah asked me, “what would Bear Grylls do?”

A valid question I thought. If we had been stranded in the wilderness we would have definitely needed to find some way to get dry. Lucky for us, the car wasn’t far away. Standing there completely soaked and with no signs of stopping soon we chose to end our hike. We walked back to the car and drove home. 

We easily could have chosen to be miserable, to complain about the rain, to run for the car at the first little splatter. Instead we chose to stick it out, to embrace what life was throwing our way and follow the plan. 

But, wait! We gave up right? In my last year I’ve come to realize that sometimes we aren’t prepared to stick with our original goals. We need to be flexible; willing to move and change as the landscape of our present situation evolves. I think it’s possible to keep the same goal in mind, but to envision another route of getting there is what needs to be made of putty.  This can sometimes be hard to do as we don’t take to change well; I’m constantly reminding myself that it’s all going to work out. A mantra throughout my days. Cheers to the mess, the soaked hikes, and unexpected detours. They make life more interesting don’t they? 

Everything’s going to be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end 

– John Lennon 

Garden Essential Maintenance

While I was riding the MARTA to work a couple of months ago, staring out the window, dreaming of things I would rather have been doing, I started to scheme about how I might get better at caring for flowers. As you may have gathered from some of my previous posts, I love plants, but don’t necessarily possess a knack for growing them. So, in the attempt to cultivate a green thumb I spontaneously signed up to volunteer with the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I’ve become a GEM (Garden Essential Maintenance).

Basically all that means is that one morning a week – Thursdays – I weed flower beds for 3 hours. Its pretty glamorous I know. But in all reality, I really enjoy it. The horticulturist I work with happens to have also lived in Boulder, Colorado for some time so there’s a lot to talk about. We not only reminisce on the best places to hike, grab brunch, or enjoy a cold one, but he also explains the art of gardening.

I’m learning to deadhead flowers to make room for new growth, to recognize poison ivy so I’m not a miserable person, to shear sea grass with giant scissors, and to find peace among the dirt.

One of the most common weeds I pull is a seedling for a Tulip Poplar. Over time, the tiny plant transforms into a giant tree. The gardens typically don’t allow this tree to grow bigger than a baby bud because it does get so large, but they do house one of the largest in Atlanta. It’s so tall that they have it grounded and above the tops of the leaves lives a lightning rod. Apparently when tulip poplars get struck by lightning they explode. Can you imagine anything more spectacular?!  In my opinion that would be a pretty neat thing to witness – from a short distance away of course – but according to Dave, “It makes quite the mess”. He doesn’t want to clean it up.

This week, I’m thankful for quiet moments in the garden. For the chance to learn and for the chance to get a little dirt under my fingernails. Thumbs crossed when I have flora of my own it will be half as beautiful as this garden in the woods.