weekend whimsy

In grad school, and especially given our specific exam schedule of one exam per week (and typically early in the week), weekends pretty much don’t exist. At least the normal people kind of weekends. My “weekends” have classically been a random night in the middle of the week of either pure grandma-dom relaxing at home or our entire class taking over some bar because no one else is typically “turning up” on a Tuesday at 11 pm. This weekend, though, I actually was able to feel like a little bit of my old self and spent so much time outdoors, cooking, eating, and exploring my sometimes still new to me city – almost like I wasn’t a full time dental student. We do still in fact have an exam this week, but it’s not until Wednesday and it’s over a light six lectures of Dental Materials (yaaaawn). A lot of my classmates went home or traveled to see friends because it’s been a long season of back to back exams that have demanded our full weekend attention. That being said, several of my close friends weren’t here, so I decided to have a couple of days of full-on introvert adventuring, soaking up the newfound deliciousness of spring at every turn. THIS is what I imagined it would be like to be a grad student in one of the most underrated cities in the country. It was rare, refreshing, and oh so needed.green line

<real food+reading+sunshine+spotify playlists+abundant atisanal coffee+ample worship time = happy Jessie heart>

I discovered or RE-discovered a couple of things over the past two days about myself and my new home.

I am more thankful than ever for my perfect bike (Roxie’s her name) now that the weather makes it conducive for consistent riding again. No need to shell out random amounts of cash for SEPTA tokens when I can get to my favorite coffee shop on 3rd street in about the same time. She took me all over and back again through University, Center, and Old Cities two days in a row. I feel like I actually see more of the city and its people on bike as opposed to when I’m walking, probably with my headphones in or scrolling Insta at the same time. I want to truly see and know the corners of this place that I’ll call home for the next three-ish years. I don’t want to miss any hole in the wall restaurant or not make eye contact with the hotel doormen. I find myself looking up and noticing architecture more or remembering names of places I’ve seen on Yelp but have yet to try. While I at no point officially “went to workout” this weekend, I definitely got my miles in and especially while toting an all too heavy backpack, my body was pooped both days I got home. I also realized again just how small geographically Philly is compared to other major cities, and even going “all the way across town” is only about three or four miles. IMG_4996Am I an urban chic city cyclist yet? Denim jacket, Birkenstocks, fuchsia lipstick and I’d say so. I’m really not trying to pull off some new style, but I’ve found that since living here, it’s definitely changed. My wardrobe is a seemingly majority of greys/blacks/denim, and I’ve become more of a minimalist (and I’m not just talking about the daily scrubs). Gone are the days of college T shirts and Chacos every day (but summer’s coming…).

While running out to grab some dinner to go is too convenient (and all too common for me lately) it will never, ever beat the luxury of preparing and enjoying a balanced and colorful meal made mostly from that morning’s farmer’s market finds (organic arugula, Yukon golds, and a new rosemary plant for the window to name a few). dinnerMy instagram caption mentioned something about getting good at dating myself as a joke, but seriously speaking, I think it’s so valuable to know how to take care of yourself and treat yourself to a nice meal at home alone (maybe or maybe not accompanied by the glorious new Lumineers album playing in the background). I’m not at all asking for sympathy for my singleness, I’m simply saying I think I do a pretty good job of not letting the fact that I’m single be an excuse to not take the time to cook a nice meal, light a candle, and enjoy a glass of wine (or two or three) even if I’m not sharing that with someone else at the table. I know the things that help relax and recharge me, and that kind of beautiful meal with time and space to think to myself is certainly up there on the list.

As much as I convinced myself before moving here that I enjoyed cold weather (I still do I promise!), I never realized how much I equally love SUN and VITAMIN D. The thought of being inside my bedroom at my desk studying dental materials of all things while it was 50s-70s all weekend was horrendous. There’s a reason I grabbed Roxie and just GOT OUT – not caring how far any destination was because the further away, the more time to simply be outside after a winter of cooped up anatomy and pathology studying. IMG_5073I also made a pit stop on my way home today to sit out on a patch of green by the river near Boathouse Row that was highly populated with equally sun-deprived Philadelphians. It almost reminded me in the tiniest way of a stretch of Zilker park in Austin (miss that city) with blankets laid out, ample readers, and several soccer balls being kicked about by kids.

While Monday clinic and lab are coming soon at 8 am, I am entering this week re-centered and rested. I still managed to squeeze in some studying, but taking the time to get outside of school and my apartment and spend lots of time just being observant of the bustling little corner of the world I’m in now did me good. I love where I live, what I get to do, and I’m joyfully thankful for this season – in all its crazy hard and beautiful glory.guns out

Until next time, I’m counting down to SUMMER (update on that coming soon!), battling one. more. exam at a time, remembering to strength train and run more, becoming a sort of dentist by mastering composite restorations, and frequenting Philly beer gardens in all that spare time…

May we never lose our wonder, y’all.

April showers

Real talk: I’m getting really bad at titling my posts. It’s entirely cliche, and you’re just waiting for that metaphor to come around at the end when it is in fact a random title with maybe only a subconscious undertone of the whole springtime/rain into flowers/sorrow into joy theme…

In the past month or so, the snow and dark, gloomy days were traded in for sunny evenings and cherry blossoms. I looked up, and hello APRIL. Time in grad school seems to have exponentially sped up without my permission, and in less than two months I will have one year of this whole crazy thing I decided to do called dental school under my belt. Shout out to God, Chemex coffee, and daily mini power naps.

While I never want to view my blog as on obligation – after all, not to sound selfish but I do it mostly for my own words-lover processing/to look back on, and anyone that gets any nuggets of encouragement through my rambly brain is just the cherry on top that makes me feel like I have something to say that people might need hearing – I have experienced some very REAL writing withdrawals and hate that it has almost been a whopping two months since my last post.

I am not about to sugar coat anything, friends. These weeks and months have taken a toll on my weary little soul. There’s a reason posts have been nonexistent – any spare minute has been devoted to sleeeeeep and the occasional therapeutic bike ride or run now that I’m out of hibernation mode. *Side note: since blogging is becoming harder and harder to fit in, my Instagram has served as my more consistent virtual log for people to keep up with my shenanigans so family, friends, or pre-dentals interested in the daily grind – feel free to follow me there! (see lower right sidebar)* Aside from simply a ROUGH patch of exams that have sent my academic confidence from last semester (and um, I guess my whole life) on the decline, there’s just been a lot going on in my BIG-feeling heart and roller coaster brain regarding things completely out of my control (aka life). The end of this month also marks one year since Dad’s been gone, so obviously that time stamp makes things that much more real and brings all of that back to the front of my mind (not that it really ever leaves that spot).

Some little and big joy-nuggets have no doubt been interspersed between the self doubt or difficult days, and I STILL can say that dental school and living in Philadelphia is somehow crazy fun despite the sometimes literal hell we all go through together as a class (like fifty people failing our neuro-anatomy exam this week, I DO NOT JOKE). I’m so thankful for my friends here that pull me along day by day even when I might not be my usual chipper self and that I get to push forward as well.

DC

Spring break was straight up lovely and needed. There was so much quality time to make up for the first year after college not living in the same city as my best guy friend Ross: time spent Crossfitting, eating way too good, drinking strange whiskey cocktails, laughing at our weirdness, talking hard and long (good) life talks, singing in the car, and seeing the D.C. sights for the first time. churchHe temporarily lives there for an interim job as music minister before starting seminary back at Baylor, and it was a true treat to get to see him as a real post-grad adult leading his church in worship through two Sunday services. So so proud and thankful for him every day.

I also got to go home to the promised land for most of week and catch up on nephew cuddles, live in my pjs, sleep lots, eat some Mexican, and – oh yeah – find time to study for our neuro exam that was so nicely the Tuesday we got back from break. nephewsIt was very appreciated to have that time at my country home with my Mom, sister, and brother-in-law, though, since I’m still unsure when the next time I’ll have the chance to make a trip to Texas.

While the didactic portion of our curriculum has been worlds harder this semester, I’ve actually enjoyed the preclinical part of first year. We had our very first practical a few weeks ago that consisted of one difficult amalgam preparation (class II ML #30 for any dental folk) on a lower molar, one occlusal amalgam restoration on another molar, and an extra credit restoration on a premolar. This was the first time we had to complete three different projects in only four hours, and with no reassurance that we had a few extra practice teeth if we didn’t do the first one well (like with our weekly assignments we turn in). In a practical setting, the first tooth IS the only tooth. Your bur makes one turn for the worse in your nervous and shaky hand? Fail. practicalDentistry comes down to millimeters in everything we do – 1.5 mm depth, convergent walls, smooth isthmus, broken contact…So needless to say it’s a much different atmosphere than the usual day in lab with us talking around the world, making fun of each other, and joining in random sing-alongs when we’re going delirious. There was an obvious tension in the air and silence except for the hum of drills and scraping of hatchets (and maybe a dropped hand piece here or there – mine definitely being one of those). I handed in my work at the end feeling pretty confident but still unsure of how picky they would actually go about the extensive grading criteria.

When we got our results back, it was definitely a day maker after the day breaker of getting our pathology grades that same morning. I came to the realization that depending on the week, the particular subject, or specific lab assignment, we each will always have our different strong suits. I might be an average (or sub average) pathologist apparently, but based on my lab practical results I just might have superior hand skills (on THAT day…) that will help make me a great clinician one day. On another day I might ace my angiology exam and be a boss dissector in anatomy lab (more on THAT adventure later) while struggling on a composite restoration. Others might consistently score high As on exams and struggle to even pass the practical or simply have to take more time on their own in lab to practice. There’s always going to be “hand gods” that turn in model work each week but might care squat about their grade in biochemistry. All that to say, again, it is SO important to not get caught up in comparing yourself to your classmates based on ONE exam or ONE practical. We will all be competent doctors in just three years, we just might take different paths to get there.

I feel like I could keep writing for pages and pages about the ups and downs of the past two months. I really am not trying to come off as complaining in this post – only HONEST. But no matter how hard the little daily details of grad school life across the country from my family and friends can get, I’m still convinced more and more every day that following Jesus is the greatest adventure there is and without Him, my joy would be lost and my own strength far from sufficient. I’m overwhelmed at His goodness and grace for carrying me this far. He’s never gonna let me down. sunshine

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.”

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!).

And there goes a month

beanNovember has been a whirlwind. The last time I posted I was getting ready to head to Chicago for ASDA’s National Leadership conference. It was a weekend full of insightful speakers, abundant social time meeting and going out (ahem, networking) with so many great people from all over the country, and there maybe even have been a dental student hunger games reenactment to fight for the free Oral B electric toothbrush at the vendor fair. I plan on doing a post soon set aside to share some highlights of the trip, but there’s so much else that has happened in just the past couple of weeks. I am beginning to fully understand the statement describing time in school as “The days are long but the years are short.” Amen.

After cramming for 2 days after my Chicago weekend for our dental anatomy final, we’ve got yet another course under our belt now. Here at Penn, we have a couple courses that are pass/fail/honors even though the majority are traditional letter-graded. Dental anatomy is one of the pass/fail courses. The next preclinical lab course we moved quickly into was occlusion. Just how many times can you “tap, tap, tap” and check for the correct occlusal markings across a second premolar and both mandibular molars, carve down and/or build up, and check again? The world will never know. Tomorrow gladly marks the end of our colored wax up aka rainbow gummy bear teeth. toolsWe received part two of dental student Christmas which was our new instrument kit to be used for the operative section of GRD we’ll start in the spring. Ask me if any of us have any clue what any of them are or do or why they cost us thousands of dollars on that supplies line in our student tuition/budget. Speaking of dental student Christmas, I also redeemed my “professional discount code” for my FREE Sonicare Phillips electric toothbrush, and I’m in love. Even though I’ve been caries-free for 22 years, I actually have only ever used manual toothbrushes. I knew dental school over medical school was a wise decision. What do they even get in med school, free electric blood pressure cuffs?

Remember a few posts back when I talked about how sometimes Life things will come before school things? Well, during the weekend I was all out studying for our beastly biochem metabolism exam, I got news that my Granddaddy had finally reached the end of his long and full life. His final days and even the last several years had been hard for the family just because the toll that old age can take on a person (he was 94). It was obviously a time of sorrow, but definitely a different scenario than the call I received back in April about Dad. As I struggled back and forth with figuring out the logistics of if I was going to be able to go home to Texas for the service, I finally realized that this was one of those times. One of the times when it’s ok to say yes to family and illogical cross-country travel and no to the temporary stresses of school and the implications of missing almost a week of class and an exam. My professors were all understanding, and we worked out things for me to make up my exam and catch up in other things when I returned. Obviously this trip home was unexpected and somber, but at the same time so sweet and needed. pondWe celebrated the life and legacy of my grandfather and rejoiced knowing that he was free of the physical bondage of his aged body and given a new perfect body where he met Jesus face to face. The hope and promise of heaven is always more than enough to have the strength for us weary ones back down here to keep pressing on for this present life, knowing we’ll be reunited one day with those who have gone before us.

The days in between have been busy and tiring, nothing out of the ordinary really. I still love this season, my classmates, and most days what I’m learning. It’s not all roses though. Exams never end, lab is many times frustrating, and of course I still miss my Waco community. Immunology and microbiology will never be my forte or passion, but we’ve also been deep in skull anatomy and osteology – something I love and am continuously fascinated by. The architecture of skull foramina are straight up miraculous in and of themselves, let alone the neurovascular bundles that course their way through them supplying blood and innervation for everything our face/head does – eat, talk, smile, see, smell, taste…. My background as an anatomy TA for Dr. P at Baylor is so so so appreciated while I try to catch up in my other courses. I’ll be honest and say that this month has been somewhat of a lull for me, mentally and spiritually. I’ve yet to get plugged in at any church and am still searching for wisdom in that decision. School never has a pause button, and missing a week definitely slowed my momentum. I’ve struggled to find the groove of efficiency again. Some big things that I’ve been praying for and believing for for a while recently took a turn that was hard on my heart. Even over a 1000 miles from home, I’ve been so appreciative of my friends I still keep in touch with and some of our never ending text novels back and forth about Heart things and Truth things. love statueNot going home for Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday probably) is really tough, but I’m so thankful that my mom, sister, and baby nephew got to come see me last weekend for a long weekend of eating too much, exploring my new home, cuddles with G, and acoustic jam sessions. I’m also thankful that I’ll be hosting my first Friendsgiving on Thursday, my apartment will smell of warm apple crumble, and the wine glasses will be full.

G’night, friends. Despite the confusion, division, and selfishness that plagues our news feeds, let us continue to do the hard things and choose truth, peace, and gratitude this season.

so what are you even learning anyways?

Dental school I think is sometimes very misunderstood by the general public and even other health professional students. People really wonder what could we possibly be learning and doing for four whole years just to “fix teeth.” You guys take anatomy? AND do cadaver dissection? Why do you have to know biochemistry (still currently wrestling with figuring that one out but I know it’s important somehow)? What does embryology have to do with cavities? Also, the confusion between us and hygiene school is common, especially for people who have generally healthy teeth and only see their dentist when they go for a cleaning anyways. So it makes sense that those folks don’t really understand what we’re actually trained to do, which is just a tiny bit more than clean teeth.

That being said, I thought I’d give you guys a look into the courses we’re taking currently and what a typical “course load” or “week in the life” looks life for dental students. Courses (or more generally, subjects – it’s easier to explain that way) that we’ve already finished up include an intro to oral medicine, embryology (development) and some histology (study of tissues, introduction of some pathology) of epithelium. For instance, our exam today (they have a weird thing for Monday exams here that’s just unfortunate) covered all topics of bone biology: histology, formation, endocrinology, some physiology, and an overview of radiological anatomy. The next chunk of this course that starts tomorrow will go more explicitly into anatomy of bone. Our “Foundational Sciences” course is currently going through biochemistry and metabolism, and will later reach topics like immunology and an intro to pharmacology I think. We started a new course today that is basically microbiology and it’s relation to dental science. So for these “Biological Systems” and “Foundational Sciences” courses, we typically have each of these lectures three to four times per week depending on the schedule.

We also have our Dental Development/Anatomy course which correlates to our lab time spent waxing all the different types of teeth. We’ve finally made it to the molar (five cusps and a insanely intricate occlusal table definitely make for some fun…) to finish up this first lab course, ending with the lovely written final next week. This one’s pass/fail PTL. The lectures for that course are typically only once a week and our four hour lab time is also only on Wednesdays. Wednesdays are also when we have our four our block of time in clinic assisting 3rd and 4th years. We’ve really just started this part of our curriculum, but it’s already such a nice change from sitting our butts in a lecture hall 8-5. Actually getting to interact with patients and see the flow of how things run in clinic is a nice look into the far off but fast approaching futures we have as [student] doctors.

The last portion of our curriculum currently would be occasional small group seminars (usually one per module) and our rotations through the advanced sim lab that I talked about a while ago. Typically, we have very lecture-heavy Mondays and Tuesdays 10-5 usually (also start at 8 sometimes), Lab/Clinic Wednesday 8-5, one or two lectures Thursday or Friday with most of the rotation times fit in later in the week as well.

I hope that helps give you guys an idea of what we actually do here in dental school, and especially gives you something to look forward to (?) for any of my pre-dental readers out there. Obviously more than teeth. Dental-specific things actually make up a very small percentage of our course-load in first year. We do start a new lab course, Occlusion, soon and next semester will get into the trenches of Operative (i.e. drilling, restorations, etc).

fallExams are roughly once a week, give or take. They cover a LOT of material, though. Every week in itself pretty much mentally feels like the roller coaster of finals hell/post-finals heaven of undergrad. The test today was over 14 separate lectures (our lectures are two hours mostly…). So when everyone thinks my new life in Philly is the glamorous colorful display you only see on Instagram, think again. Most days are hard, long, and monotonous, but I just make it a point to stop and smell the roses. Or stop and see the trees you could say. Or stop and buy the donuts. I want to constantly live in a place of gratitude. It is so easy to quickly forget how hard we worked our butts off for four years in undergrad and even longer for others to get to this point. I really strive to keep at the forefront of my mind the faithfulness of God to have carried me this far, and that I really am only here by his grace and goodness. When people only complain all the time about school – any kind but especially grad school – I just want to look at them and say, “But you wanted this remember? Thousands of people would give anything to be in our place right now.” Try to remember how you felt this time last year desperately awaiting that December 1st acceptance day, friends. Education is a GIFT, y’all. A gift that we’re paying hundreds of K for, but still 🙂

You all know how much of a proponent of self-therapy I am (shout out to Yesle and JJ, you two constantly remind me that it’s ok and good to make me and health a priority some days), and today was chock full of it. On top of the immediate post-exam Federal Donuts run to share sweet warm goodness with some of my classmates, Sarah and I went out and about after class ended at an earlier three o clock today. By the way, I miss those days when getting out at three felt so late. I indulged and bought my favorite magazine (how could I NOT with that cover title that is basically my life motto?) and purchased some new business-y digs for ASDA’s NLC THIS weekend! I hate that retail therapy is such a real thing, even when it’s something as simple as a pencil skirt. To top it all off we won these adorable and sassy Sweetgreen totes. magPost-exam nights are my favorite. I had to laugh when I asked Sarah if she wanted to look in Urban Outfitters, too, while we were walking around. I told her I didn’t need to spend anymore money and she said, “Yeah me neither, but I love just going in places and not feeling like a student for a little bit.” Preach, sister, preach. The epitome of dental school feels like just that. One night you’re cramming until 2 am, hyped up on double shot espressos, locked away in the Sky lounge, and questioning your decision to choose this long and narrow road (and maybe when you last washed your hair). Fast forward to the next day, when things as simple as trying on cozy scarves, dipping hearty bread in a hot bowl of chili, and reading the covers of all the glorious books in the bookstore you want to read make you feel a little more human.

one sixteenth a doctor. basically.

It’s pretty much the halfway point of the semester, give or take a few days. We’ve got two whole finished courses, five exams, three tooth wax-ups, and our first time in clinic under our belts. It sounds pretty pathetic in comparison to the gigantic hurdles we have ahead of us for the next four+ years, but at the same time it’s incredible how much we’ve learned and done in just eight weeks of dental school. The fact that we already have real grades on our transcript already is crazy (don’t worry Mom, they’re good ones).
journalMy journal I started mid-summer reached full capacity – I guess you can imagine how much has been on my mind in the past few months and the rambling prayers and dreams that covered those pages – and there’s something so refreshing about opening a crisp new one and writing on that first page. I love how it correlated with the shift of seasons here in Philly, too. Turning over a new leaf and page, literally. This week lows are already in the 30s and 40s and some days the highs only get to the 50s. I don’t miss the still-90-in-October part of Texas, sorry.

Since my last post we had our initiation dinner for the dental fraternity I joined, Psi
galsOmega. It was an excuse to dress up (and let me just say again – all my classmates are dang attractive), enjoy a great dinner, and have a fun Friday night out with my new sistas and bros, both new members and upperclassmen. For people wondering what on earth a dental school fraternity is about (I realize it sounds more geek than Greek), it’s basically another way to make connections with your class and classes above you, network with alumni (shout out to homegirl Dr. Maggio), get involved with more service opportunities, have fun socials to look forward to, and receive academic help along the way. We have three equally great ones here at Penn, and I have friends that joined each of them but there’s also no pressure to join any of them. To a lot of people’s surprise, there are a million things to get involved with during your time in dental school.

Speaking of, I haven’t had the chance to update you guys that I did in fact get offered a board position on our chapter of the American Student Dental Association. I will be a contributing editor this year, and I’m so pumped for all that’s in store for Penn ASDA. My position is basically responsible for writing occasional articles and posts for our newsletter and website as well as just help out in general with publishing those or gathering ads. Being on the board at all gives a lot of options for other ways to get involved, too, and definitely opens up doors for ways to serve in the future. One thing that I am privileged to have the chance to do is travel to Chicago at the end of this month with nine other board members for ASDA’s National Leadership Conference. I’m one of two D1s going, and I can’t wait for a weekend of meeting dental students from around the country, hearing awesome speakers, and learning even more about my role as a leader in ASDA and in my future career in general. I’ve also never actually been to Chicago, so I’m so thankful to have the chance to go finally! I’ll be sure and write some highlights post-NLC. Deep dish pizza better be involved too, just saying. 🙂

This week after our tough chunk of exams that were pretty close together, I’ve definitely enjoyed some down time and getting caught up on life-things instead of school-things: the ever-growing stack of letters that need responding to, buying my first real winter coat, that thing called laundry, stocking up on fall baking supplies (pumpkin errthing happening soon), Saturday morning FaceTime coffee catchup dates, oh yeah and sleep. I also spontaneously traveled outside the city on Wednesday after a long day of clinic (our first time assisting!) and lab to hang with my Philly fam away from home, the Clarks. The fall harvest dinner spread was worth the trip alone. Butternut squash soup, smashed sweet and purple potatoes, seasonal salad, roasted rosemary salmon, a creamy bourbon maple cocktail, and did I mention apple crumble?! Geez so much better than my normal weeknight concoctions. We actually didn’t have lecture until three on Thursday, so I even made a sleepover out of it. I’m so thankful to have such a fun and supportive family right up the road from me, and I will definitely keep them in the back of my mind when I need a city/school escape. clarksIt’s one of those really cool full circle stories how we’re connected again. Ian and Susan were my parents’ best friends back in the early 90s, and even though I didn’t really remember them much, I always knew how much they meant to my family from the way Mom or Dad would talk about the Clarks. The last time I saw them I think I was two years old, and since then they’ve moved frequently all over the East Coast. When I finally decided to come to Penn, Mom and Dad realized that they were going to be only 10 miles away from me, along with their daughter and son in law, Hannah and Greg! I just can’t help but thank God for crossing our paths once again. He knew I’d need some times of good foodie meals, laughing, and family music time with every one on a different instrument – much like my old times back home with Mom, Dad, and Megan in the window-lined music room.

These days, I feel like God is teaching me more and more about rest, contentment, and that whatever I have in my head about what the future might hold will never compare to the good he actually has for me. I love looking back and seeing how He works in the big and small and in ways that we were so blind to at the time. I’m constantly asking for clarity for things that confuse, distract, or overwhelm me (there’s plenty currently) and peace and strength for the days at hand. your love

I’m leaving you with the lyrics that have been playing again and again through my headphones since Amanda Cook’s new album was released a few weeks ago. This one is called The Voyage, and I feel like it relates entirely too well for me as well as several of my friends in this season of graduating/post-grad/20-something adventure that we find ourselves on. I find it ironic that I titled this post before I rambled up to this point, and now it really seems to actually relate to this very song in a way. We get so caught up in exactly how much further we have until that next thing is checked off – grad school, a serious relationship, big move, that dream job…when in the end, the pressure’s off and God is continually with us. I don’t think He’s really one for destinations. He wants us to walk beside Him in the journey.

Speak, even if your voice is trembling
Please, you’ve been quiet for so long
Believe, it’ll be worth the risk you’re taking

You’re afraid, but you can hear adventure calling
There’s a rush of adrenaline to your bones
What you make of this moment changes everything

What if the path you choose becomes a road
The ground you take becomes a home
The wind is high, but the pressure’s off
I’ll send the rain wherever we end up
Wherever we end up

Set your sights, sailing far beyond familiar
In the rising tide, you’ll find the rhythm of your heart
And lift your head, now the wind and waves don’t matter

What if the path you choose becomes a road
The ground you take becomes a home
The wind is high, but the pressure’s off
I’ll send the rain wherever we end up
Wherever we end up

I am the wind in your sails

[brought to you by post-exam jello brain]

We are definitely reaching the thick of the semester, and time for blogging sadly got put on the back burner this past week. Today we had a monstrous Foundational Sciences exam. I won’t dare tell you how many pages my typed study guide ended up being or how many Spotify playlists I burned through in the past 5 days. Oh joy, we’ve got another one coming right back at us for Biological Systems on Monday. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of just seeing the mundane of studying and going to lecture and lab day in and day out, and I’m still really trying to maintain healthy balance and perspective constantly.

scrubs

We finally got our classy navy scrubs in (am I a chief surgical resident on Grey’s yet??), so that’s at least one step closer in the “Dr. Price” direction. Let’s be real, I’m so glad I chose a career where professional pjs are the norm everyday. GRD lab is also off and running at a quick pace and we’ve already finished our central incisor and canine wax-ups, and now we’re working on the premolar. For those of you that don’t know what that means, it’s basically where we build an entire tooth out of nothing but wax and have to create all the details of the anatomy of that specific tooth. It’s feels very archaic with our Bunsen burners flaming as we heat our waxing instruments, melt and pick up a drop of wax, and try oh try to place and “flow” it where we want to build that marginal ridge or distal contact point before it solidifies. Fun? Surprisingly, sort of. Frustrating at times? Definitely. Hilarious b/c of the people I sit around and what we talk about for four hours? You know it, Novin, Ash, and Marisa 🙂 The faculty are pretty helpful with constructive criticism along the way, but when it comes time for grading our finished product, a non-dental person wouldn’t believe how many details go into what makes a #12 a #12 aesthetically, how it articulates in occlusion, where the height of contour is placed, how it’s aligned in the arch, and every other thing they can take off points for. wax

The morning temps are dropping (glory glory #fallelujah), the Bean boots have made their debut, and I’m getting more and more excited to experience my first real fall living on the East Coast. Jenna, one of my BEST friends from Baylor got to come visit last Thursday through Sunday and we had an absolute blast together. Even though it was dreary, windy, and rainy all weekend due to the hurricane, we loved it and enjoyed adventuring around Philly with plenty of studying and coffee shops thrown in, just like old times together. She’s at Boston U for a Master’s in Public Health, so she definitely understands the grad school grind and how weekends unfortunately can’t always be all play and no work. The main reason she came was to go see our boy Ben Rector in concert with me, and we later realized when we saw him in Waco last was an exact year ago so of course we had to take another pic with yet another Ben T shirt together. It was such a refreshing time getting to catch up on East Coast life that we’re both new to, church, school, family, and relationships with Jenna. jennaben

I definitely wish sometimes that I had more time in the day for things like my latest Don Miller read, Scary Close, experimenting with seasonal dishes in the kitchen, lifting more weights, writing more letters (the stack for correspondence in my metal envelope hung on the wall is growing quickly…), but at the same time I’m learning to cherish the small moments here and there, even if it’s in the midst of the business. Things like lunchtime Bible study with classmates, walks through the gorgeous Penn campus, solid heart to heart text novels/convos (during collagen synthesis lecture oops) with friends back home, a conversation with the barista, attending a local “black church” last Sunday with my church-hopping buds and having a sweet time of worship, and the never-ending Spotify music sharing and discovery with friends here and home. philly

Sometimes I walk down the street or through campus, and I think to myself, “Do I really live here? Am I actually in grad/dental school?” Oftentimes we get so caught up in the negative – i.e. “all of the above except” exam questions, if we got an 8 or a 9 on our tooth waxing, how many hours of sleep we’ll get tonight – when there is so so much around us to be grateful for. I pray that I never take for granted the opportunity I’ve been given to be here and to be learning so much every day to one day be able to use these gifts and this knowledge to really make a difference in peoples’ lives.

A verse that I’ve always hung onto for a long time and especially in times of transition is Habakkuk 1:5 – “…be utterly amazed. For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it.” God always has some crazy exciting things up his sleeve, and I am constantly asking for an increase in patience and trust that His ways are higher than mine. Let us be filled with expectancy and hope, always. Those things you’re believing for? Keep believing.

Until next time, I’m studying epithelium and the thrills of saliva, adding pumpkin pie spice to my coffee grounds, biking and running more in the cool of the day, and falling more in love with my favorite season.

Feels like home

I did what every responsible grad student does when you find out that you’ve got a rare three day weekend (thanks again, Pope): make it a four day weekend and book a trip back to the old stomping grounds for some quick but quality time with the place and people I love and miss every day. My mom and sis are pretty upset that I made the trek to Texas and didn’t get to see them (HOME home’s a few hours away + no car), but I knew this was my one chance all football season to catch a Waco weekend and home game until next year probably. I’m deeply sorry fam, and I promise this will make Christmas and your November visit that much better.

When school started, I had no idea I would make a trip back this soon, but honestly the timing could not have been better. Homecoming sadly was not an option (tears for days) with our class/exam schedule surrounding that weekend, so I was desperate to find another random weekend when I could escape Philly to return to the promised land. Nothing against my new home which I love, but being back in the land of Tex-Mex, “y’all,” and Baylor football was seriously beyond good for the soul.

rossMy old roomie Chels picked me up from the airport in Dallas (meanwhile I had already started sweating the five minutes I was waiting outside…DON’T miss that) and we jammed and gabbed all the way to Wacotown. I met up with my best guy Ross for a big hug, nostalgic Shorty’s pizza, half pitchers (Shiner cravings = fulfilled), and talking life – the little and the big – all night long. It’s weird how places like a tiny, college joint, pizza shack can be jam-packed with as many memories and conversations like that as that place.

chels

Friday was full of lots of friends, catching up, more favorite food spots (LJ’s baked oatmeal of course), talking forever with my favorite prof, walking around campus and it already feeling different, and even sitting in on an a cappella rehearsal just for fun. Of course I couldn’t go to Texas and not indulge in ‘jitas and ‘ritas, so that’s exactly what me and Chels did (followed by catching the Grey’s premiere in our pjs in bed and going to bed at a gloriously early hour for a Friday night).

The downtown Waco farmers market was buzzing with people, new vendors, and great live music even more than I remembered. I love coming back to that city and seeing the growth (i.e. the Waco revival that is a very real thing) that’s happened there even from a few months ago. I’ve gotta say I miss the culture and people of Waco/Baylor for sure. It feels like one of those places where you can go anywhere and see everyone you know, and even if you don’t know them you could probably strike up a quality convo with any “stranger.” That’s not exactly the same for the crowds of Philly and the East Coast. kellieI headed to the glory that is McClane Stadium afterwards and ran into so many lovely faces there. My dear friend Kellie and I had actual seats (what is post-grad life even?) which were straight up in the path of the blazing 95 degree afternoon Texas sun, so I spent a lot of time walking around seeing friends in shadier spots. I can’t even describe the emotion, though, watching the new Baylor Line run on the field and the pre-game hype video, thinking about the endless memories I have of sweet victories the past four years. baylorLiteral goose-bumps. We quickly worked up the scoreboard while the sun worked up my slight sunburn. The game finished 70-17 in typical Baylor fashion, and I spent the rest of Saturday having girls night and talking school, church, and (possibly) guys with Sarah, Gigi, and Danielle – girls from my old Lifegroup who always open their home – and hearts – for me when I’m in town.

One of the things I was looking forward to most was getting to go to my old church, Antioch, and partly why I booked my return flight for as late as 7 pm. It was a pure joy to worship with my old community and hug so many necks afterwards. God has definitely promised to provide a new community here, but I know it will take time and most likely look different from what I knew for four years. After a quick lunch with more friends and what else other than a Iced No Bull at Common Grounds, I was sadly saying goodbye once more to that little central TX town that has so much of my heart.

girlsShauna Niequist said “Sometimes we have to leave home in order to find out what we left there, and why it matters so much.” I could not agree more. As much as I miss my hometown, family, Waco, friends, and Baylor, I know that being in Philly at Penn Dental is so good, so right, and so needed for this season. God is so kind to give us opportunity for adventure and growth, even if it sometimes seems painful at first to leave behind the comfort and familiarity of a safe place. I realize being gone (even if it’s only been for just a month now) has shown me more and more about what and who matter most to me. The vague but certain promise of “See you…soon” is enough for me to look forward to the next trip back, whenever that may be.

CG