Weekly Update

My Favorite Books

Last year, I asked people for book recommendations. I got a long list of books I normally wouldn’t touch and had so much fun getting outside my reading comfort zone. This year I would love to hear recommendations again, and also wanted to share some of my own favorites. Comment with your recommendations!

This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you make a purchase through one of my links, at no cost to you. And while I would love to get rich off of commissions, I highly recommend checking these books out of the library or using the Libby app. 


The Bright Hour, Nina Griggs

This is a beautiful memoir, written by a 37-year-old mom with terminal breast cancer, reflecting on the loss of her mother and her own shortened life. Griggs happens to be the great, great, great-granddaughter of Ralph Waldo Emerson, and her writing reflects it. I believe it should be required reading for anyone who works in oncology. I learned a lot about what to say and what not to say in the sacred space of a terminal diagnosis. While it may seem like a sad topic, Griggs infuses her book with humor and lightheartedness. 

Bravey: Chasing Dreams, Befriending Pain, And Other Big Ideas, Alexi Pappas

This is a recommendation for all of my running friends! In this memoir, Alexi Pappas details her life as a professional athlete- how she got there, and what it took to stay there. Pappas ran the 10K in the 2016 Olympics and is no stranger to pain and hard work. She is also a poet and sprinkles the book with her poems. Her quirky personality shines through her writing, and you will likely finish the book inspired to head out the door for a run. 

Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson

In his memoir, Stevenson details his career spent on death row, defending the poor and wrongly incarcerated. This book tore me apart. It was brutal to read some of the scenes, and terrifying to learn about how marginalized groups are often blamed for crimes they had nothing to do with. It really made me think about the injustice of the poor and marginalized being unable to afford good lawyers who can represent them.

I believe this should be required reading for anyone of voting age. 

Compilation of Essays

Present Over Perfect, Shauna Niequist

Shauna Niequist writes in the form of short essays. Her writing style is warm and relatable and she is by far, one of my favorite writers. In Present Over Perfect, Niequist details her journey from being burned out on busy to finding acceptance of herself in a quieter life. 

My main criticism of this book is that while she has great ideas about letting go of perfectionism, I don’t buy that she was there yet. But in her next book…..

I Guess I Haven’t Learned That Yet, Shauna Niequist

She takes you through the nitty gritty of working through a really hard time in her life: learning about a scandal in which her dad was involved, wondering who she is, how her faith has evolved, etc. 

This is one of those books where the author gets graciously vulnerable- lets us into a place most writers stay far away from- and leads you through her journey to the other side. 


Because let’s be honest, I need all the help I can get.

How to Keep House While Drowning, KC Davis, LPC

Those who know me well know that keeping my house clean is not one of my strong suits. I find it to be overwhelming, and I always considered this a character flaw. Davis doesn’t share long lists of tasks to keep the house in Instagram-worthy perfection. Instead, she gave me a new lens to look at housework through- one that included self-compassion, and reminded me that, “you do not exist to serve your space, your space exists to serve you.”

One of my favorite quotes from her book is: “Imperfection is required for a good life.”

Side note: I also love her podcast, “Struggle Care.”

Off the Clock, Laura Vanderkam

Okay, proclaiming my love for this book may put me in the nerd category, but alas. I’ve always been a nerd. The grape kind. 

Vanderkam takes the concept of time management and makes it interesting- fascinating even. She tracks her time in a spreadsheet (I do not), only to discover that she does have time for the things she loves if she is intentional… yes, that means less Instagram scrolling. I read this book on a yearly basis because it is a good reminder to make time for the things I love. 

Listen on Audible

These books are great no matter what, but all of them are read by their authors on Audible, which makes for a fun listening experience.

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful, Sarah Wilson

Wilson is an avid hiker and eloquent writer. In this book, she shares her journey with anxiety. I love how rather than turning her mental health disorder into a problem, she views it as a strength- having positive powers that can be harnessed and used. She has an Australian accent, so it is fun to listen to this book on Audible. 

Did I Say That Outloud?: Midlife Indignities and How to Survive Them,  Kristin van Ogtrop

This is a great book for dog lovers,  and those going through menopause. I am neither of these things, but absolutely love the writing style of van Ogtrop. She has a very down-to-earth, humorous lens on life, and her hilarious stories make aging seem a little less scary. If you can, listen on Audible, because she reads it, and is a great storyteller. I wrote an essay on my love for this book here

Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain

If you are going to read this book, which you should, listen to it on Audible, because it is read by Bourdain himself, and his rapid-fire, expletive-laced, words just make more sense when they come directly from his mouth.

I learned so much about chef culture, and behind the scenes in restaurants. Bourdain lived a colorful, fast-paced, life in the senses, and this book reflects that. The book sucked me in, and would be a great listen for a road trip (without kids).

My Top 3!

If I had to narrow it down to 3, these are my top picks.

I’ve Seen the End of You, W. Lee Warren, MD

I think this ranks in my top 3 books. Neurosurgeon, W. Lee Warren, grapples with the concept of faith in hopeless situations, specifically in patients with glioblastomas. In the oncology world, glioblastomas, or GBMs, are known for their incurable nature. They are highly aggressive and leave behind devastation. So where is God in all of this? And is it really worth praying, if we already know that the person with the GBM is incurable? 

Warren takes on all the big questions as he wrestles with them himself. I would highly recommend this book to anybody, but particularly to healthcare providers who may have struggled with these very same questions. 

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, Lori Gottlieb

Another book in the top 3. Gottlieb brings the reader into her therapy office for a fly on the wall kind of experience. But she also brings you along on her visits to her therapist as she navigates a painful breakup. While this book chronicles the journeys of other people, I guarantee you will see yourself in one or more of their stories. The insight she gives her patients is insight you can take to your own life.

I laughed, I cried, and this book brought me peace about moving out of the one and only state I had ever lived in, and across country.  

If you like the book, she has a podcast called, “Dear Therapists” that I would also highly recommend.  

The Comfort Book, Matt Haig

If you have ever struggled, this book is for you. The book is a compilation of small pieces of wisdom the author shares to get through dark times, ranging from just a sentence long to a few pages. I leave it at my desk, within arms reach for an instant ray of hope. And any time a friend is having a bad day, they get a picture of one of the pages of the book. 

Haig has the right words, always. 

“It never rains forever. And know that, however wet you get, you are not the rain. You are not the bad feelings in your head. You are the person experiencing the storm. The storm may knock you off your feet. But you will stand again. Hold on.”- Matt Haig

I hope you enjoy these recommendations, and like I said, I would love to hear yours in the comments below!

Happy New Year,


Weekly Update

Wide Eyed

As I mentioned last week, my focus will be away from the blog for a bit while I take my creative writing class. However, I thought I would share my first assignment with you: writing a profile of myself as a writer, sharing literary and life influences. Consider yourself warned, it is long.

As the sun dipped low in the sky, our mom called us in from the backyard, where we were submerged in the world of imaginary play. If it was summer, the chirp of crickets filled the air, signaling that night had arrived. If it was winter, we unlaced our skates, quickly putting on our boots before freezing air stung our toes.

We trudged up the hill, beckoned by the warm glow of the open back door.

After racing to put on our pajamas and vying for the best spot on the couch, we were quiet, ready to listen to our latest book.

No longer on the couch, I found myself barefoot in the grass, blue dome overhead. I listened to the narrative of Laura Ingalls Wilder, also a Midwestern girl with, needless to say, the best first name. I listened with wide eyes as she described a panther that silently stalked the family from the trees. I fell asleep with the sheets pulled tightly over my head to protect me from the panthers, though they still found me in my dreams.

While Ingalls Wilder captured the magic of the wilderness, Beverly Cleary captured each conceivable emotion of childhood through her character, Ramona.

I related to Ramona on so many levels. The way her mouth got dry when she was in trouble, the rising anger when her classmate Susan copied her owl, the love-hate relationship she had with her sister. I wished I could be as free-spirited as Ramona. I was in awe of how she acted on her impulses; how everyone knew exactly how she was feeling. Hidden in the mass of my siblings, I did my best to stay under the radar and away from the limelight.

“She ran from her conscience and from God, who, as they said in Sunday School, was everywhere. She ran as if Something was coming to get her. She ran until her lungs felt as if they were bursting with the smoky air.”- “Ramona the Brave,” Beverly Cleary

I also ran, but not from God. I ran until my lungs pleaded for oxygen and my legs drowned in lactic acid. I ran as my brain worked to convince my body it was not dying, despite the S.O.S. messages being fired between neurons. I ran.

My parents required me to do a sport freshman year of high school. Since I lacked hand-eye coordination, I joined the cross-country team.

The thing about running is you have a lot of conversations with yourself.

“Walking is so great. I should appreciate it more.”

“But you know what’s even better? Lying on the couch.”

“No driver! Don’t wave me through! I just wanted a minute to catch my breath. Gah, now I have to keep going. Screw you and your nice manners, you wonderful human, you!”

Through running, I found my voice. I had endless conversations with myself. I listened to plenty of conversations in my brain. I was both the participant and the observer.

Though I wasn’t writing yet, I came to know my voice well.

I continued reading, with “To Kill a Mockingbird” as my favorite book. I was inspired by Atticus Finch, going against the grain to take a stand for what he believed.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”- “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee­­­­­

Poking around in the peritoneal cavity of cadavers was as close as I was going to get to climbing inside of someone else’s skin.

In college, my days were spent pouring over anatomy and physiology textbooks, memorizing foreign words. I was captivated by the language of medicine. Mitochondria. Zygomatic bone. Patella. Cytoplasm. Lacrimal gland.

I told my friends I was going to name my first child, “Mitochondria” because I thought it would make a beautiful name. “Ria” for short. We all snorted with laughter as we downed our 10th coffees, cramming for the latest exam.

After I became a nurse, I worked on the blurry line between life and death, finding out for myself that fairy tales don’t have happy endings.

The prince fights cancer, not a dragon. Like the fairy tale, the prince doesn’t give up. He remains “Full Code” and undergoes CPR three times to try and make it to his daughter’s high school graduation. But the prince doesn’t win; cancer does, and the princess is left to attend their beautiful daughter’s graduation alone.

I ran, facing the emotions I had suppressed while doing chest compressions, the depressing fairy tale ending, the reality that medicine couldn’t fix everyone. I ran until I could face my nightmares, no longer about panthers. I ran until I was okay.

Working a rotation of all three shifts, night and day blended; time warped. Reading at this time was not books. It was charts.

“56yo Female, presents with confusion. History of liver cirrhosis, MELD score 32, jaundice noted bilateral eyes. Rectal tube placed. Lactulose Q2hrs. Will continue to monitor.”

“Alert and oriented x2. Oxygen sats 90%, HR 136, BP 80/40. Primary doc paged to notify. Will monitor closely.”

Will continue to monitor. Will continue to monitor. Will continue to monitor.

I got married and learned that despite what I had been told, I was able to get pregnant very easily. Very as in, the night of our wedding, easily.

While pregnancy came easily, labor and delivery did not. Avery was born blue. The NICU team huddled over the incubator, where it took four attempts to intubate her. I watched as her oxygen saturation dropped dangerously low, the same pit forming in my stomach as did when participating in a code.

Except this was my kid, and now I was a mom, lying naked on a hospital bed under fluorescent lights, almost as vulnerable as she was. I was supposed to protect her; but instead, I helplessly watched as she struggled to take her first breath of air.

Though she was little, she was fierce. After her intubation, they were able to clear her airway. Three days later, we left the hospital. My world crashed. I morphed from having complete confidence in myself to absolute terror that I would accidentally kill my baby. Life seemed scarily fragile. Avery didn’t seem too shaken.

As a new mom, I prioritized sleep over reading. But when I returned to work, I listened to books on my commute. I was relieved to learn that I wasn’t the only person overwhelmed by motherhood when listening to, “And Now We Have Everything,” by Meaghan O’Connell.

I was inspired to resume running after listening to, “Girl, Wash Your Face,” by Rachel Hollis. “Lean In,” by Sheryl Sandberg, gave me the push I needed to leave my cushy job in cardiac research to challenge my brain with oncology research. I questioned the narrative I had created about my life after reading, “Braving the Wilderness,” by Brené Brown.

“The mark of a wild heart is living out the paradox of love in our lives… It’s showing up in our vulnerability and our courage, being both fierce and kind.”- “Braving the Wilderness,” Brené Brown

What better way to practice being simultaneously fierce and kind, than in the battle against cancer?

When I worked in oncology research, my mind was filled with beautiful words. Pembrolizumab. Nab-paclitaxel. Daunorubicin. Atezolizumab. Drug names that for some, meant a cure. For others, simply hope.

“These spots could be cysts. But if they are cancer, this is very bad news.” I listened as a young Indian doctor delivered this news, her big eyes sharp, her lilt lyrical, her news, terrifying. I watched as the wife squeezed her husband’s hand, trying to offer support on a journey only he could take. And I read the scan results three days later. Cancer.

With that, finally, I began writing. I wrote because I didn’t like the ending my patient was being given. I didn’t like the ending any of my patients were given. I wrote, for fear of what my ending would be.

Oftentimes, life doesn’t make sense. It is full of tragedy. It isn’t governed by the rules of fairness. But when I write, I can coax my brain to put the disjointed pieces of thoughts and emotions together, create a story, discover meaning, or at least, start to understand.

I journaled about motherhood, about work, about the darkness that coexisted with the light.

When we moved from Minnesota to Florida, I started a blog to keep my relatives updated. It was great because I no longer had to repeat the same stories when I caught up with people. But better, I uncovered a hidden passion.

I like the process of creating a blog post. Finding inspiration in a book I am reading, a podcast I’m listening to, a moment in nature, or simply a thought that crosses my mind as my brain is flooded with endorphins during a run. My words spill onto the screen, as I ferociously try to capture everything before I forget.

After leaving the word vomit alone for a bit, I edit.

Edit. Edit. Edit.

Edit, until the thoughts that were hazy have come into focus. That is my favorite part.

Weekly Update

The Year Time Stopped

I can’t tell you how often I wished that time would slow down. Prior to coronavirus, days were gone in the blink of an eye and we lived at a frantic pace darting from one event to another.

But when quarantine hit, it finally felt as if time stopped. The days feel long, the month feels REALLY log, and the year is dragging at snail pace.

Parenting two young kids under “shelter in place” orders has been a challenge, but I’ve realized the kids are a lot more resilient and accepting of change than this old grump.

The girls have filled their days with A LOT of imaginary play, reading, outside play, and yes, more TV than usual. It was tricky at first to figure out a balance of how to get through the day with everyone remaining psychologically intact. It helped once I lowered my expectations.

Lunch is spent on our porch as a family, passing time guessing what color of car will pass next. The girls are currently in last place in this never ending competition, as they haven’t figured out that a pink car will likely never drive past. Annoyingly, actuarial Chad bases all of his guesses on car color statistics. This unfortunately means he is winning.

Our afternoons are filled with Dominoes, Go Fish, and Soggy Doggy (the worst kid game ever). When I can no longer handle the monotony of playing the same game over and over, we head outside to play on the driveway.

Everything has slowed down. I no longer rush the kids, as there is literally nothing to rush for. We take our time on walks, examining spider webs, waving to passing bikers, and stopping for frequent snack breaks.

The goal is no longer to cram everything possible into 24 hours. Instead, now the goal is to stay in the moment and stick with an activity as long as we can.

We are feeling blessed. Our families are healthy. Chad works from home at baseline, so nothing has changed there. And as of today, no one has lost their sanity yet.

I’m using my time to catch up on activities that have been on my to-do list for far too long. I caught up on the girls photo albums. A week prior to us receiving our shelter in place order, I ordered a large stack of books that have been on my “to read list”. I haven’t read this much (for enjoyment) since childhood & it has been an absolute breath of fresh air.

For a perfect sanity supplement, I’m continuing my training for a half marathon that was supposed to take place in early May (now moved to June). The long runs are a perfect escape from the house, and the endorphins are a big help for… you know, being kind to my housemates.

We are praying hard for those who are sick and all the essential workers who are keeping this country running.

Sending love to all,


Weekly Update

Next Female Tiger Woods

Well folks, we are officially 2 weeks into our time here in Florida. I have yet to spot an alligator, but am always on the lookout because I value my life.

Adjustment is a trajectory. The girls are finally sleeping through the night after about 7 days spliced with night time wake ups. Avery continues her pattern of joining us in bed at some point in the middle of the night; luckily, she always faces me so I get the snuggles and Chad gets the kicks.

Our daily pattern is beginning to emerge. We usually wake up around 8, eat breakfast and then either head to the pool or beach. We (me, Avery and Alice on weekdays, Chad included on weekends) stay until one of us has a meltdown, and then we head home for quiet time.

Quiet time is the worst. The girls refuse to nap, so I force them to do quiet activities. In return, they force me to be a good mom and read to them for an eternity. Here’s the thing: I like reading, but kid books are the worst. I’m not saying this because their content is bad. I’m saying it because they force me to read the same 7 books at least 2 times a day. So every day at quiet time, we read “Strega Nona’s Christmas” (actually a cute story that I’m not sick of yet), and 6 Paw Patrol books. Every day, the girls have the exact same argument over which book we should read first. Then we all get into an argument over whose turn it is to turn the pages. Then I threaten that if anyone whines one more time, I’m going to stop reading. Then someone whines, and just like that, quiet time is over.

Our evening schedule hasn’t fully emerged. It obviously always involves dinner and usually ice cream in one form or another. Sometimes Chad plays a round of golf and often I’m able to fit in a run as the sun begins to set and Florida cools off a bit.

The other night we played our first family round of mini golf. Here is how it played out: 1) Chad was wearing his golf attire to remind us all that he is basically a professional. 2) Chad spent a lot of time coaching Avery on her grip and swing. I felt like I was witnessing the birth of the female Tiger Woods. I should have videotaped it so they can play the clip in inspirational golf commercials when she’s famous. 3) Avery was decent. I was a little jealous, but I’ve learned to accept the fact that I will never have hand-eye coordination. 4) Alice and I hung out. I would putt horribly and then she would run, pick it up, and drop it in the hole. She’s my girl.

Surprisingly, nobody attempted homicide by golf club blow to head. Most likely person to do that? Alice. She has anger management issues. Like I said, she’s my girl.

All in all, we are really enjoying our time here. Sending love back home,


about me

About Me!

I grew up in the suburbs of Minneapolis, MN. I come from a large family with 7 siblings and a saintly pair of parents who are somehow still sane. My parents are big believers in the power of reading- we grew up with pre-nap time and bedtime stories. This beginning blossomed into a full blown love of reading and writing as I grew older.

I went to college at Winona State University, situated in the bluffs of southern Minnesota. While I was passionate about literature, I majored in a field that offered job security and endless good stories: nursing. During my junior and senior years of college I worked as a research assistant in a small research department focused mainly on respiratory disorders.

After graduating college, I worked at Mayo in Rochester, MN on their thoracic progressive care unit (post lung surgery patients- mostly cancer related). During this time, I met Chad online- thank you, E-harmony. He was living in Minneapolis, MN and would come visit me in Rochester almost every weekend. As our relationship gained traction, we realized living 2 hours apart was going to be tricky. I moved back to Minneapolis and worked as a floor nurse on the intermediate care unit at Fairview hospital.

I quickly realized that floor nursing was not the best fit. The hours were wonky, severely messing up my sleep schedule. We were understaffed and overworked; I could never provide the amount of care that our patient’s deserved and needed. After I found myself in a heap, sobbing on the cold locker room floor after a particularly stressful and sad day of work, I vowed to find a job I loved.

I knew I loved research from my position in my college days, so I returned to my roots. I took a job in cardiology research, and spent the next 4 years of my career working in preventative cardiology (think: drugs that help prevent heart attacks). I fell in love with the position- I loved being able spend as much time needed with our patients- on education, fielding questions, and providing support. I loved the consistent schedule, getting paid to learn about new things, and my coworkers.

During these 4 years, my personal life exponentially changed. I was married, we bought a house, and had two babies. I was oh so sleep deprived but oh so happy.

After 4 years in cardiology, I decided to try a position in oncology research. I quickly became passionate about oncology. The biology of cancer and is fascinating, the drugs used to treat it are complex and the research field of oncology is fast paced. The drugs we researched had the potential to add months if not years to our patient’s lives.

Watching patients go through the process of cancer- diagnosis, treatment, outcome is simultaneously heart wrenching and inspiring. It is a process that not only impacts the patient, but their whole family and friend circle. We get to witness the best and the worst.

This job highlighted the fact that life is short. I never heard a patient say “I wish I had lived a more boring life. I wish I had taken less risks. I wish I had worked more and spent less time doing things I enjoyed. I wish I spent less time with my family.” And that is ultimately what led to me being okay with something Chad had been begging for ever since he experienced a Minnesota winter- a move to a warmer climate.

I started this blog to capture what life looks like while moving across country with small kids. I’m not one to put a falsely positive lens on life and I try to describe things honestly and with some humor. My life is not perfect but it does have a lot of fun moments.

Due to the chaos of the move, I am currently trying my hand at the position of stay at home mom, which is easily the toughest job I’ve held. I’ve learned that “stay at home mom” is a term describing the following combination of careers: judge, lawyer, terrorist negotiator, police officer, therapist, teacher, chef, maid, kisser of owies (approximately 5 million per day, all which require a band aid), nurse, and money tree. My hours are 24/7 and the pay sucks. Good thing the kids are cute.

We currently have a 4 year old, Avery, and a 2 year old, Alice. Both girls. Both dramatic. Both got it from their father.

I’m looking forward to sharing snapshots of our life with you through this blog! Thanks for reading,