Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Birthdays to us...

On June 3rd, I turned 27 and got these very cool balloons.


On June 23rd, Ron turned 28! We celebrated with his parents (Rick & Ann) and my parents (Ron & Ann). And I made him this cake...

Here's Ron with his mom, Ann.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Goodbyes suck

I just said goodbye to my little sister for a year. Definitely the flip side of an exciting travel life. I hate crying.

Ron

How are you feeling?

Between finishing school, packing for the trip, moving and applying to medical school, I haven't spent a lot of time "feeling" in the past few weeks. In response to a question the other day I said, "I just don't know where my emotions are at" and my brother responded "maybe you packed them in a box and forgot to label it on your spreadsheet."

That's about right. So, since my current mode of coping is through lists, I've made a list of all the things I think I have felt or expect to feel:

1. Excited
2. Busy
3. Anticipatory
4. Overwhelmed
5. Scared
6. Adventurous
7. Nostalgic
8. Guilty
9. Tired
10. Like I'm about to go on a really big roller coaster

Goodbye Lake Oswego

Yesterday we turned in our keys and thus officially ended my five-year Lake Oswego residency. While it is known for sights such as







Our version of Lake Oswego was a little more like...





Okay, not exactly. Westlake was a beautiful little area, full of parks and smiling liposuctioned people. We thoroughly enjoyed the well maintained public areas, walking trails, flower pots and coffee shops. Of course, Lake Oswego has much baggage that I will not miss. But, leaving yesterday really did feel like it marked the end of an era. The post-college & newlywed life chapter is coming to a close. While I am so excited about what is coming up next, it's hard not to feel a little nostalgic.

Goodbye Parties

Last night we had what, for me, is a third goodbye party. Two have been for work, one for family.

The first work one was at Newport Bay, out for drinks. My coworker salespeople bought me food and drinks, chattled and chuckled about memories, and even hugged me and cried. I was pretty touched. They even gave me a great travel journal and started me off by writing in it for/to me.

My next one was a birthday/going away part at my office with my escrow coworkers. Again, nice gifts (journal, photo album) and some emotions--and some really kind words. Two of the gals--Nikki and Juli--really went over the top (with the gifts mentioned above) and a starbucks gift card--with a sketch of me on the front! Apparently you can customize these things now. I'm guessing a quick trip to www.starbucks.com will show you how. I'll tell you what, it brought in the wow factor.

Monday is my last day and it promises to be more of the same. Who knew these people I worked with like me so much? Maybe it's easier to like me when I'm leaving...

Last night was the family shindig. I think about twenty people were there. It was great seeing all these people I've known and loved for so long, and it is always touching when people show up in force to celebrate you, your presence, and to mark your leaving. Everybody was fun, and our family idiosyncracy was on full display, which is nice because the experience was just so authentically Davis. Afterward Amanda and Scott (my sister and brother in law) stayed over (we moved into my parents' house yesterday) and we stayed up late laughing, drinking wine, and just making memories. I'm about to embark on a year with inconceivable experiences and epic enjoyment, but right now I'm thinking most about how much I'll miss my family.

I'm such a sap. Suck it up Ron!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

RSS?

Calling tech-smart friends...I've had a few requests from folks who want to be notified whenever we write a new post. Can anyone let me know what to tell them? I have a suspicion it involves RSS.

Independence Day

The adventure begins on July 4, 2008. We fly from Seattle to Boston, spend a day with Ron's grandmother, Marta and fly from Boston to Ireland on July 6th. A few people have asked about our itinerary and plans, so here's a quick rundown.

Ireland - 7/7-7/21 - Ron's Dillon relatives are kindly hosting us
Norway - 7/21-8/15 - Trina's Hellevik relatives are kindly hosting us
Lithuania - 8/15-8/20 - Visiting friends
Poland/Czech/Hungary/Austria/Germany - 8/20-10/1 - Will include time with Ron's uncle in Germany
Turkey - 10/1-10/14
USA - 10/14-11/15

We're returning to the USA for medical school interviews - primarily East Coast cities.

The remainder of the itinerary is planned, but plane tickets haven't all been bought. We'll keep you updated.

If you're planning to or hoping to be in any of these places, please let us know! We'd love the company.

How many band-aids do you take on a year long trip around the world?

"I don't want to be in a strange country with a cut and have no band-aid. But, how many cuts will I get? And how many countries sell band-aids? Probably most. Does Laos? I'm skeptical. I could probably use gauze from the first aid kit if I needed. If I buy four boxes, can I stuff them in Ron's backpack? How much space do they occupy if I take them out of the box?"

These are the conversations I'm having with myself these days. And that is just band-aids! What about clothes, medicines, tickets, on and on and on. It's overwhelming. Where do you start?

You make a list. You make color-coded, detailed lists. So you can cross things off and feel some semblance of accomplishment.

Sitting here at June 25th, approximately 8 days before departure, I have fortunately made many lists and crossed off many items.

A few highlights. All plane tickets for the first 3.5 months in Europe are bought. The entire kitchen is packed and relocated to my grandparents' garage. I do not need a visa to enter Lithuania and for this I am grateful. I found, bought, tried and approved a pair of underwear that claims it can be washed in the sink at night and thus worn every day of a trip. Honestly, this stuff is amazing. (And, we're actually each taking 3 pair). My malaria medicine does not make me sick or excessively sunburned and Costco sold me a year's supply for $40. The international health insurance plan that will med evac me in a helicopter if my arm is broken in a jungle in Cambodia approved me yesterday. I could go on and on, but I will spare you the details. Rest assured that many, many, many details have been considered, written on a list, prioritized, accomplished and crossed off.

I bought two boxes. One of normal size, one multi-pack. And, I bought a first aid kit with those really big band aids for when you need to bandage your entire forearm.

Goodbye PSU

I finished my Portland State career on June 12th. Goodbye Organic Chemistry, General Chemistry, General Physics, Calculus I, II and III, goodbye to the labs and homework and exams. (At least until medical school =).

Honestly, I really enjoyed myself. Portland State was a fantastic institution. I'll admit, coming from George Fox, I expected to be a little disappointed in the big, public university. But, 75% of my professors were fantastic. Granted, there's not nearly the personal attention and relationship I enjoyed with my Fox professors, but the instruction was first rate.

My Organic Chemistry professor's thesis advisor was George Hammond (of the Hammond Postulate) and he did a sabbatical with Melvin Calvin of the Calvin cycle (photosynthesis)! For all my non-science friends...that's really impressive. So, big universities have their perks.

And, I have to say that I am very proud of these accomplishments. In addition to a course load that was very overwhelming, I studied subjects in which I have little background, took the MCAT, applied for medical school and intermittently participated in planning a year long trip around the world. It's been a full year. But, I pulled off a 4.0, a 32 on the MCAT and I even scored in the 96th percentile on the Organic Chemistry national exam at the end of the year. I think if nothing else, it felt confirming that I am indeed capable of "hard science" courses and continue to truly enjoy learning science.

So, thank you and goodbye to PSU.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Phillip and Emily Graduated!


I almost forgot.


My brother in law Phillip and his wife Emily graduated from George Fox at the end of April. They were both in the first graduating classes of the nursing and engineering programs at Fox, which was a big accomplishment for both the school and them. Many events accompanied the fun--an engineering banquet, a nursing pinning ceremony, a big party, department receptions and, of course, graduation itself. It was tiring for us and we were just watching!


Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the lovely couple here on my computer--I'm down to two pictures (the one I posted on the last cabo entry, and this one). It's Trina and I at Phillip's banquet at McMenamins in McMinnville. I promise, it's not just vanity!


For more information on our wonderful alma-mater, visit http://www.georgefox.edu/


The rest of the story part deux

I figured the last post was getting lengthy.

So, Trina continued on with her schooling, and I with my work, and we also kept working hard on our trip. Once we had Trina's results, it was certain that we could move forward with our plans. The trip has gone through dozens of iterations--we've made major changes based on visa rules, political uprisings, climate, natural disasters, disease outbreaks, fuel costs, people we are meeting up with, and a whole lot more. It's been an enormous undertaking--absolutely baffling at times. There are so many moving parts--it's like trying to squeeze a balloon (it pops out somewhere else).

Oh, hey, I was on TV. One of my clients has a cable access show and he invited me on (I know, sort of weird). I do seminars for companies on how to build their business, manage teams, and increase engagement based on the Strengthsfinder from Gallup. Troy had been impressed and invited me on to his show. Although it wasn't quite AC 360, it was really fun (and a surprising number of people have seen it--I didn't think anyone watched cable access).

Also, there has been quitting my job. I had a great deal of stress about this. Our industry is in the toilet, and I'm a major contributor to revenue, and so I'm very concerned for my company and coworkers. My boss, Julie, has been amazing, invested heavily in me, been generous with my compensation--and has shown a lot of patience when I've required it. On top of that, I got involved in a regional project a few months ago, and through that met a gentleman named Tom Middaugh--a mover and a shaker who is pretty high up in our company (we are part of the Fidelity National Financial family of companies--a huge fortune 500 company). In enjoyed him immensely, and he seemed to take a liking to me as well. He started to paint a picture of what a future here would look like--what our executives actually do, how they are compensated, etc. Needless to say, even though I don't care about title insurance (and who really does), the actual nature of the work appealed significantly to me. And although I've quickly learned that making money isn't nearly as rewarding as the capitalists tell you, the big salaries weren't exactly a drawback.

So, I had to put my hands over my ears and run out screaming. Now is the time for Trina and I to pursue our dreams. Corporate America will welcome us back if we want it. But we've got to go answer the questions that have haunted us for just too long. It's a bit youthful and idealistic, but it also is living with integrity, and frankly, I'm proud of it. Stopping this yuppie life, our careers, and putting relationships on hold, is a lot like stopping a freight train. I'm so glad we did.

Incidentally, my boss, her boss, Tom, and my coworkers have been wonderful. Almost all of them have expressed warmth, gratitude, well wishes, pride, envy and excitement related to our travels and school plans. I've felt much more like I've got a bunch of wet-eyed proud parents sending me off than an angry organization wanting its investment in me to pay off. Although working in corporate america taught me that a company cannot love you back, the people sure can. It's quite heartening (is that a word?). Heart warming, anyway.

Trina did finish her schooling, and, unsurprisingly to everyone but her, actually got a 4.0 for the entire year. The adviser she had met with in August told her nobody could survive such a schedule. She did much more than survive, she thrived. I'm so proud of her--it took an extraordinary amount of time, effort, drive and diligence--and her prodigious intellect didn't hurt her either. I'm not sure I've ever known anyone with quite the mix of industriousness and intelligence. And she's kindhearted and beautiful to boot. What a woman!

Still, the year has taken its toll. Fortunately, it hasn't brought strain between us--we've been too busy to have issues with each other, and that's not really how we cope with stress. All that said, it has been too much, and we recognize that. We are trying to take note, because we are setting ourselves up for potentially very busy lives, and we are thinking hard about how we want to approach all of it (or whether we do, I suppose).

We've been able to justify it along the way this year (or 15 months) because it was temporary. It all began last April with LSAT studying (first round) and hiring my assistant Kelly, through Trina's job quitting, biomedical research, studying for the MCAT (round one for her too), our my test disaster, our discovery of a church we love, my second round of studying, second test, Trina's impossible schedule, Trina throwing her Dad's huge party, the holidays, planning this trip, immunizations, sickness, adding OChem lab to Trina's schedule, MCAT studying number two, MCAT number two, quitting my job, getting rid of most of our stuff, trying to pack perfectly for our year abroad, saying goodbye to family and friends, and prepping for med and law school applications (apps, recommendations, essays, transcripts, etc)--it has been too much.

Fortunately, in both February and last weekend we had the privilege of spending some quiet time at a cabin in the mountains through the generosity of some wonderful people. That time was really a lifeline for us. Each stop there was a milepost in the never ending year of preparation.

Anyway, enough said. Now you are all caught up on all the details!

The rest of the story...




Okay, I've decided it is time to get current. Also, since our only task while traveling will be traveling, blogging should be a bit easier. In fact, our plan is to blog the whole thing, and it is a plan we will fulfull! Hopefully no more apologies about being behind.

Enough of that. December was great--Trina recovered from her busy school schedule, and took over managing trip planning (I'm going to start talking about our trip now, since I've given my notice at work). We also went to Cabo with the Christiansen family. Ron and Ann were generous to take both their kids and their spouses for a week of family fun! We had an absolutely wonderful time. We stayed at the Terra Sol (our favorite place) in Linda Clark's condo again (she still hasn't gotten around to giving us our security deposit, after 6 months). Ron and Ann were in a condo just down the walkway. Our time was full of Mango Daiquiris, Margaritas, Sun, Sun, Sun, swimming, hiking, and making meals for each other. Very enjoyable.

Then came Christmas. This was my first experience of the Christiansen (Trina's dad's side) gathering (I experienced only the tail end last year, b/c Trina had the flu). What a celebration it was. I believe it lasted 9 hours!!! Not only did we do the rice pudding game, eat an enourmous and beautiful sit down dinner (all 23 of us), gorge on table full of desserts, and dance around the tree signing "nu har vi uligen"--we also opened presents--ONE at a time! Who knew presents could be an exercise in patience (in my family the gluttony continues into the unwrapping--we all start opening at once, bedlam ensues, and it is done in about 8 minutes)? This went on for two or three hours. Oh, and I forgot to mention the 20 or so carols we sang; people looked at me like I was a freak (I sing very loudly)... All joking aside, it was a wonderful, fun, rich, sensory overload and I enjoyed it immensely. Trina was very happy that I was able to experience this family tradition.

We of course spent time with some of the Carlsons, and my family as well. All of it was quite enjoyable, but there's less to say because I know those scripts!

January came, and with it a brutal schedule for Trina. On top of her impossible load, she added Organic Chemistry Lab--a four hour lab (which knocked out one of her prime homework times) that generated at least that much in homework (sometimes two or three times that) per week. And the lab actually took more like 5.5 hours. Because of this, all family chores (including trip planning) became my exclusive province. Trina just studied, hard. She did get it down to quite a rhythm, until she got sick.

You see, we've now been immunized against just about everything you could imagine. Hepatitis A through Z, Measles, Mumps, Rubella, Diptheria, Tetanus, Polia, Menigitis, Yellow Fever, Tyhpoid, we've got Malaria Medicine (not the Mefloquin family, thankfully--not hallucinating for us), and we are planning on getting Rabies vaccinations in Thailand. This process has involved a lot of poking, and feeling cruddy, and it just so happened that Trina got really sick after one round. She ended up with a cough, and next thing we knew, she had serious pneumonia. Then she cracked a rib coughing (actually pulled the rib from the cartilage portion near her sternum--a more painful and slower healing break). She was instructed clearly--no pain medicine or cough medicine, you have to cough. But every cough hurt so badly b/c of her rib. She was also told she had to take a week off school or be hospitalized.

This was very difficult with her schedule, as the week leading up to her time off, and the week after, she was basically useless as far as school goes. And when she stayed home, she barely lifted her head. Fortunately, Ann (my mother in law) came down and spent several days helping us out (I was running out of sick days to take). We ate better than we ever have, our house was cleaner, and very much enjoyed her company. She was incredibly selfless and we continue to be grateful...

As soon as Trina was 'better' (the rib thing lingered for about two months) I caught the same cough, and they doctor said I was on my way to a similar situation. So I had to take most of a week off as well. I haven't played any computer games since college (I've never been a gamer), but historically there are two games I love. One of them is Civilization (the other is Sim City). Suprise, surprise, I like virtual omnipotence. Anyway, I spent about a week doing nothing but playing a stupid game for 10 hours a day. It was incredibly therapeutic. And I dominated. Which was even better.

All this chaos set Trina behind significantly. Her schedule would be impossible for any mere mortal--and she had essentially missed three weeks of her ten week term. Still exhausted, she set into catching up. This was a very difficult time for her--and she also had to put off almost all her MCAT studying, which we feared would bite her in the butt when that came.

Somehow, some-way, she pulled it off. Trina is brilliant, but she has this strange quirk (perhaps humility? I'm not sure how to recognize that one!) that causes her to think she is 'average.' Always just making it by the skin of her teeth. We'll, that's ridiculous. But that actually is what happened here. She did it. I don't know how. But she did it. And I don't mean passed. She got a 4.0.

She had one day to rest, and then jumped into her MCAT studying. She spent her entire spring break studying for that, after having just finished a nasty round of finals. A week into her third term, she took her MCAT (and then had to wait a month for the results).

Her MCAT was a challenge as well. Her computer screwed up, the keys started working erratically (while she was typing her essays), and eventually it froze. She lost some key time, and was a bit fazed. MCAT provided her with an official letter saying this may have affected her performance on the writing and biology section, which was nice. Still, she managed to get a 32, which puts her in roughly the top 15% of medical school applicants (wow!). On top of that, her writing score was extremely high (it is graded separately), and her biology section was an unusual couple points less than normal (maybe because of the computer problems)--all of which add up to an impressive score, and a boost of confidence in her capabilities (all in about a week and a half of studying)!

Medical school is very hard to get into compared to law school (probably a good thing). Many of the schools Trina will be applying to have 5% or less acceptance rates--which is why she will be applying to so many (20). That said, you never have a guarantee with med school--so we are staking less hope on any individual school and much more hope on the general process. But Trina's fantastic scores will open doors at many or most, won't close doors at probably any, and the rest is about your interview (which she will knock out of the park), and your other experiences (hers are much richer than most 22 year old biology majors).

That said, our intention is to apply to all the schools we are interested in, in a cluster of cities (New York, Boston, DC, Bay Area, LA, New Haven) and see where we end up. We have lots of thoughts on that, so we'll save that for a more reflective and less informative post.