Newness

It’s the classic story of finally having free time (I’m sorry what??) and yet still failing to write anything over my break. I was way too busy resting, eating, watching Ellen and Botched and Fixer Upper, eating some more, reading lots (leisurely finishing 2 books), spending time with some of my favorite people, and sleeping some more to make time for blogging sadly. Since I posted, the class of 2019 at Penn Dental has officially survived one semester making us still-very-not-qualified-at-all 1/8 or 12.5% DMDs! All the exams, wax-ups, late nights, and never ending two hour lectures of our first few months are finally finished. doneThat is, until we start bright and early again tomorrow! Long gone are the days of the precious three or four week college Christmas breaks, hello grad school where they now hate Christmas. Ok I might be exaggerating a tiny bit. We love school, we really, really do.

My flight left the same afternoon we finished our last exam, and I finally realized the weight of the classic song, “I’ll be home for Christmas.” I was now one of THOSE people in airports during the insane holiday rush that happens anytime post Dec 20th-Jan 2nd, praying for no delays (surprise, it was delayed).  I think being so far makes being home for the holidays mean that much more, though. It takes real effort and money to make it home in time, and so I think I really sensed the value of being able to be with my family when so many people have jobs, things like military commitments, or just family divisions that hinder everyone being together.

My break was unfortunately a short ten days, but also extremely restful and brought so much opportunity for reflection and clarity as we welcomed the new year of 2016. If you know me at all, you know January is one of my favorite months, and I love the contagious anticipation and hope that finds its way into everyone’s hearts at the beginning of a fresh calendar year. I was able to get ample aunt-nephew play and cuddle time, saw some old friends, and had a couple of incredibly honest but so needed conversations. EBy the way, those things you need to get off your chest, just DO it and don’t keep waiting. Life is entirely too short to not be real with people, and I am so thankful for the time I had to reach a new place of honesty and transparency with a dear friend. God’s timing is never what we expect, but always in our best interest. Christmas was obviously a complicated mix of emotions with it being the first without Dad, the first that I had to fly home for, the first with a new nephew, and lots of other changes for my family. It was somber, but the reminder of the gift of Jesus permeated the days with a sweet and inescapable peace.

Because our break was so brief, I feel like so much has happened in my heart and mind the past several days not thinking about school for once, and this is a very mild and measly attempt to somewhat process where I’m at with it all. I haven’t even really had time to think about my so-called “resolutions” (I don’t really like the cliche term that gets overused for the sake of diet and fitness marketing – I prefer a more real and introspective evaluation of things that matter) or goals for the new semester and new year. My plan as of now? Get a long and beautiful night’s sleep and simply show up for our light 4 hours of lecture this first day back – full of riveting dental materials and blood cells. Back to the grind I go, and I do want to fully commit myself to our new courses and labs. I also still so desire to seek the incredibly fine balance of happy & healthy with academic success, not just on the surface but on a very real soul level. On thinking back on 2015 and looking ahead to 2016, this is what I wrote for the popular “best 9” Instagram post I shared. Perspective is everything, and I am confident that the best is truly yet to come.

instaNeedless to say 2015 was one heck of a journey with entirely too much packed in 365 days. Probably simultaneously the best and worst, and I now I can say I fully understand the dichotomy of bittersweet. So much loss, but still so many milestones, celebrations, and new adventures to be extremely thankful for. He gives abundantly and takes away, and I’m entering 2016 with immensely more perspective on what and who matter most. I’m expectant and full of gratitude and joy of what’s to come. Thank you all for joining along for this crazy ride. “I found life and I found laughter. In forgiveness, I found rest. On the shoulders of redemption, I found hope when hope was dead. I could lose it in a moment so I dare not close my eyes. I’ll watch fear fall with the sunset and see hope rise with the tide. And when the pain is true, sometimes these troubles prove that I’m alive.”

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Musicals, macrophages, and (almost) Merry Christmas

In exactly one week I will officially be done with my first semester of dental school and HOME on TEXAS soil. Wow oh wow am I ready. This girl is a weary soul right now. The only things getting me through one more week and two exams are nonstop Coldplay jams (their new album is glorious as usual), all the fun little events interspersed in the midst of study madness, and even more coffee. And more prayers than ever.smile I was texting with my old roomies the other night and the one who’s also a first year dental student at another school finishing up this week asked us for book recommendations for the much anticipated break coming up. To quote her, “I’m gonna sit around and spend time with God all day long and read inspirational books, ’cause oh my gosh I’m done with dental school.” My thoughts too, girlie. It’s crazy how that one extra week plus a few days in December  (compared to my undergrad’s schedule) really makes a big difference.

Today we checked yet another exam off, this time a strange and un-welcomed combination of immunology and a pharmacology introduction. Pharm is actually really cool, and I enjoy studying it! It’s honestly like a big puzzle of understanding what drugs do to the body, how they do it, and why they can be so dangerous. Thinking about having the authority soon to write prescriptions is definitely a big responsibility. I think because it’s so new, different, and relevant to clinical practice, I feel a pressure to really learn the information. I’m sure a lot of people realize an attraction to dentistry over medicine is because we don’t (hopefully) necessarily have to deal with serious conditions/death on a regular basis like medical doctors often do – some OMFS trauma would be an exception maybe. We wouldn’t want anyone in serious trouble after their dentist prescribed adverse drug reactions (warfarin + metranidazole = scary). Also our professor for that…well he’s a character and probably deserves his own post describing all his crazy antics (maybe I’ll interview him!). He’s a fantastic teacher though. That foundational science class was a monster of credits (over 5) so I’m constantly battling between hoping I miraculously squeezed out the grade I wanted and also completely accepting that “grades aren’t everything” – words from a convo tonight with one of my college best friends who happens to be done with said grades for the moment because he’s GRADUATING this Saturday. Shout out to all you December grads at Baylor I know – y’all know I’m so proud and excited to watch your futures that God has for each of you.

mormonWhoever said people in dental/med school can’t have a life outside of studying, I beg to differ. I think about all that I’ve been able to do and experience just this first semester living in such a fun new place. One of those top things would have to be last Thursday going to my first real musical, The Book of Mormon, here at the Forrest Theatre with a few of my favorite classmates who also enjoy the finer things in life like short rib ragu, ricotta gnocchi, and fine arts. Even though some would argue the show we saw wasn’t so “fine,” it was darn hilarious. Admittedly there were moments when the crude factor reached a new high, but I still found myself laughing through the whole thing. The musical/choreo talent was awesome for sure. theaterAnd of course I appreciated the history lessons for those that really don’t understand just how drastically different Mormon theology is from Christianity. Another fun tidbit I’m so looking forward to is tomorrow me and my friend Sarah are going to the Johnnyswim Christmas show at Union Station (pics to come I’m sure) and putting microbiology of plaque-induced disease to the back burner for just one night because I am in serious need of some holiday cheer. It’ll actually be my third time to see that crazy beautiful, insanely talented duo, yet I’ll never get tired of their serenades.

I’ve had several of the prospective class of 2020 Penntists message me and email me, and while I am entirely honest with them with the good and the bad (for instance, it’s OKAY to turn down Penn b/c of the price), I always can’t help but say how much I LOVE Penn Dental and my fam here. They’ll always ask me if I’m happy with my decision overall. It’s funny when you step back and look at the big picture with so much gratitude or why you made the decision they’re currently wrestling with (I do NOT miss that month of roller coaster emotions), the little nuisances of exhaustion and frustrations get overshadowed.

One week til 1/8 D.M.D. river

don’t ever let fear turn you against your playful heart

That’s a quote from this incredible video my friend JJ shared this week that had be feeling all kinds of whimsy and wanderlust and wonder. Now it’s to no surprise I want to plan my own escape from calendars altogether to the great unknown that is Iceland.  I’m easily inspired I guess. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

It really got me thinking about a lot, though. Like how I really want to do a summer research project next summer because I can and I “should” and I’m at Penn and there’s unspoken pressure and oh you want to specialize and it’s your only chance really. And then there’s my playful heart that wants to just say but what if I don’t find a project that interests me (I know there’s some crazy awesome ones don’t get me wrong) or want to spend a whole summer in a lab in a coat and goggles and would rather drop everything and just GO and DO…The constant struggle of my practical, smart, level headed, and wise self against my abandoned, wild, adventurous, and I’m still only 22 self (it’s way deep down but it’s so there I promise).

quoteThe upside is that I could possibly do BOTH. Which if you know me, I’ve always been a person that doesn’t like to choose between my two sides. I like to feed both my grounded-ness and restlessness, simultaneously. Like going to the GAPSA Winter Masquerade ball last night when I definitely should have been studying for our osteo practical Monday (it was worth it because this girl got an invite to a Wharton party by two Texan boys, but will I go, eh I might want to remain mysterious…),  but then not getting out of my pjs all day, cracking down in my room, and making up for it today. I could still possibly do research for the last two months of summer and still have a couple weeks of a window to do something crazy in June. The only question is with who? I would totally consider the whole solo Eat, Pray, Love soul searching adventure, but I’m not too sure how my family would feel about that one.

It’s December and despite the dread that is not being finished and home for Christmas until the 23RD, I can’t help but be reminded of the reason of it all and look forward to all of the events coming up and mostly with being back in the promised land with the fam for about nine days. New lights are up on Locust Walk, the Christmas music abounds, and I even already experienced my first real ice skating in the city (at an outdoor rink)! I love Christmas in the city already so much. I deeply pray we make room for Jesus in the hustle of it all, though. I’m going through an Advent devotional and even though we talk about the Christmas story every year, each time God reveals more and more of his glory and sovereignty to me in some new way.

drillAn exciting dental bit is that we finally received our most expensive toys yet – our electric hand-pieces! We get a high speed and a slow speed, and we’re told Bien Air is the Bentley or Mercedes of dental hand-pieces. For non-dental folk, these are the oh so dreaded “drills” we all love the sound of (except we dental folk actually do). If a piece of medical technology could ever be beautiful, these babies certainly are, with of course the typical classy Penn touch of the engraved name. We also got our big box of all of our burrs too (this is the part that goes in the end that actually does the drilling and comes in all kinds of shapes for reasons we have yet to learn). We get to start using these as early as next week for part of our final occlusion project before break but will really start drilling next semester.

December 1st was the first day that the next incoming class could find out if they were accepted or not. Class of 2019 officially feels OLD because the class of 2020 is coming so soon and already has a Facebook group page. I couldn’t help but replay those months and weeks and days leading up to that day just one year ago. I already feel like a proud mom to all of the newbies and cannot wait to meet everyone come August!

While all the college friends are whining about their finals and being done in early/mid-December, in the course of our last four weeks of the semester we’ll have a total of five monster exams (one down, four to go) and two more lab assignments. The espresso will be flowing, the sleeping will be precious, and the prayers will be many.

For tonight, it’s back to Thai green curry takeout, Pinot Grigio, jamming to my Christmas study playlist, and taking breaks to Pinterest dream about how to decorate my next apartment (this girl is officially getting her first own place next year!).

A Balanced Diet is a Christmas Cookie in Each Hand

c8c447168456731a8a885f5402cf4488The week of Christmas means many holiday traditions for everyone, but a classic that will be hard to ever part with is baking endless assortments of goodies for both extended families to enjoy throughout the week.  Baking is always therapeutic for me, whether it’s the satisfaction of finishing a project working with my hands, the inescapable aroma that fills the entire house, the occasional quality control tasting along the way, or the rewarding factor when loved ones go crazy over my food. I’d like to say I deserve a few cookies while still prolonging the end-of-another-kick-butt-semester celebration. On top of that, what better way to celebrate after another A+ dentist appointment today and twenty years of no cavities than with a little sugar? (side note – I think it’s really ironic that I and several other pre-dent/dental student friends I know love to bake sweets…guilty pleasure, creative hobby, or drumming up business?)

Every time I go I can't help but picture me as the doc one day soon :) #dentistselfie #20yearsnocavities #pearlywhites

Every time I go I can’t help but picture me as the doc one day soon 🙂 #dentistselfie #20yearsnocavities #pearlywhites

This year, I resisted the urge to go on an out-of-control-butter-and-sugar-fest and limited myself to just two kinds this year and only made enough to bring to each family gathering (my skinny legging jeans will thank me later).  Both are sure to be crowd-pleasers and are the perfect companion to a cold glass of milk Christmas Eve or that hot cup of coffee Christmas morning.

Mocha Almond Biscotti (adapted from Kitchen Simplicity)

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2 eggs
2 – 2.5 T instant coffee
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1.5 t baking powder
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
Chopped almonds
Dark Chocolate Chips
Butterscotch Chips

Whisk together eggs and instant coffee until coffee is dissolved. Add vanilla.

Beat butter and sugar in a separate bowl until well blended. Add egg mixture and beat to combine.

Stir together flour and baking powder; gradually stir into butter mixture until well blended. Stir in almonds and chips (to taste).

Divide dough in half and roll each, on a baking sheet lined with a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, into 14 inch logs; placing them at least two inches apart.

Bake at 325ºF for 25 minutes or until lightly browned. Let cool 10 minutes and then slice each log into 18 (3/4 inch) slices. Bake an additional 7-10 minutes, flip, and bake another 7-10 minutes, or until crisp and dry. Cool completely before storing, covered, at room temperature.

Makes: 36 (3 dozen) biscotti

Red Velvet White Chocolate Chip Cookies (adapted from Cooking Classy)

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Yield: 3 dozen

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 Tbsp cocoa powder*
1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
8 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
6 Tbsp all vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp red food coloring
1 1/3 cups white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, cornstarch, baking soda and salt, set aside. Add butter, shortening and sugar to the bowl of an electric stand mixer and mix on medium speed until very pale and fluffy about 4 minutes. Add egg and egg yolk and mix until combine. Add vinegar, vanilla and food coloring and mix until well blended. Slowly add in dry ingredients and mix just until combine. Mix in 1/2 cup white chocolate chips. Scoop dough out by the heaping tablespoonfuls (about 1 1/2 Tbsp) and roll into balls and place on buttered or Silpat lined cookie sheets. Gently press about 6 white chocolate chips into the top of each cookie, being careful not to flatten the cookies (if you do flatten them a bit just reshape them to the height they had before adding the chips) and bake in preheated oven 8 – 9 minutes. Allow to cool several minutes on baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack to cool. Store cookies in an airtight container.

*If you want a more chocolaty cookie you could replace 1 – 2 Tbsp flour with an additional 1 -2 Tbsp cocoa, the red just won’t be quite as vibrant. Or, you could replace the white chocolate chips with chocolate chips.

Speaking of cookies, I’m heading to bed now so I can wake up at a decent hour and actually get a good run in tomorrow morning before all the Christmas celebrations begin. If I don’t get a chance to post again before Christmas, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas with loved ones, and I hope we all can keep our hearts centered on the real reason we celebrate.