In which we visit Capitol Reef and Arches National Parks

This trip reminds me of an eight-course meal at a fancy restaurant. You don’t get a large portion of each dish, but you get enough to peak your interest, enough to taste its subtle nuance, and enough to want more.

We started the morning off at Capitol Reef National Park. Since I had trouble finding much information on this obscure park we settled for the scenic drive portion and were not disappointed in the views:

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National Park #4!

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee.

Another outtake. I was struggling before coffee. Also excuse the fog – I had cleaned my filter with a solvent and replaced it before realizing it wasn’t fully dry. Fortunately fixed this before taking the rest of the day’s pictures. But it’s kinda dreamy, isn’t it?

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Unbelievable rock faces in stunning red and browns punctuated with green.

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Rising in a slanted direction into the distance.

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We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by NPS.

We stopped by a restored early Mormon settlement and bought cherry pie, cinnamon rolls and coffee from the general store. The national park service maintains the historic orchards early pioneers planted and it remains the largest fruit tree area maintained by them. You can even pick fruit in season for a nominal fee. The cinnamon rolls were perfect. The coffee made by Mormons, not so great.

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Jeep is still going strong!

Jeep is still going strong!

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Loved these sedimentary rock formations

Grand Wash canyon. We headed the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent.

Grand Wash canyon. We heeded the flash flood warnings not to enter when a storm was imminent (also we were on a time crunch).

Grand Wash

Grand Wash – Called a wash because it was not a stream or creek or river yet. Not until it rains. Signs of road damage could be seen all along the drive from previous flash floods.

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The red color was spectacular - I couldn't get enough.

The red color was spectacular – I couldn’t get enough.

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For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect.

For only having the morning to explore, the scenic drive was perfect and because we started early, we had it mostly to ourselves.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs - these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

We stopped and saw some early petroglyphs – these reminded me of the stickers people put on the back of their vans.

Capitol Dome from which Capitol Reef takes its name. It's supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

The white Capitol Dome towering above the Fremont River. This is from which Capitol Reef takes its name as it’s supposed to resemble the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.

We headed out of the park towards Arches and kept being greeted by awesome canyon and rock formation views. It seemed otherworldly:

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We stopped for iced tea and directions at a gas station carved into the rock:

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And finally made it to Moab, UT where we grabbed lunch at the Moab Brewery:

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial - both helped wash down chicken sandwiches.

Jeff had the Dead Horse Amber and I had the Moab Especial – both helped wash down delicious chicken sandwiches.

Today was ambitious: I had planned two parks in one day! But at the last minute I almost added a third. I didn’t realize Canyonlands was so close to Arches – they’re 20 miles apart which is a minute speck in national park distance terms. I really didn’t even know until we hit the exit for Arches and it said “One Exit: Two National Parks” and my heart immediately sank. What is wrong with me?! This whole trip was carefully mapped out, researched, planned. It was tight already. I spent lunch going over our itinerary – do we stay the night here and try to do both? Do we nix another one in favor of Canyonlands? And do we try to squeeze this one in without any preparation? Do we just drive to the gate, get the map and leave to say we’d done it?

In the end, I let it be. This trip is already pushing the quantity limit of quality. Not that we could just nix four parks and spend two days exploring each instead – it’s a lot of distance to cover and our stops are spaced so that we can achieve that distance. If we had driven straight to Minneapolis from Seattle it would have been 24 hours of driving. Our current concocted plan works out to around 52, so it would not have allowed extra time to linger. We need to be there on time so we can get settled and Jeff can work. No, I had to let this trip be what it is: a marathon taste-test. We’ll be back.

National Park #5

National Park #5!

Driving in past the Three Gossips - perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

Driving in past the Three Gossips – perhaps my favorite name for a rock formation.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

And the gorgeous scenery continues.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it's called Balancing Rock.

Right before we saw the sign for what this was, I commented to Jeff that the rock appeared to be balancing on top of the other one. I should be a formation namer: it’s called Balancing Rock.

Like I alluded to earlier: I’ve carefully planned our experiences in most of the parks. Fern Canyon in Redwoods, Bumpass Hell in Lassenvisiting the bristlecone pines in Great Basin, etc. Each excursion was chosen to represent the character of the park and give us the maximum effect in our limited time. That’s why I ultimately couldn’t just add Canyonlands – I had no idea what to do there. A quick glance said there would be too many cool things, so I let it go. We’ll save it for another time. As for Arches, I picked the famous Delicate Arch (which also happens to be currently gracing the Utah license plate):

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It was hot - 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

It was hot – 97 degrees. Rangers at the beginning on the trail checked to see that we had adequate water (we did).

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Queen of the world!

Queen of the world!

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I am adding this to the growing collection of pictures of my boots in different environs. I’ve had these since sixth grade.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Stone piles marked the trail in some areas.

Almost at the top

Almost at the top

Worth the climb!

Worth the climb!

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Delicate Arch!

Going back down was so much easier.

Going back down was so much easier.

We detoured to see a few more petroglyphs. These, like the previous ones, were carved by the mysterious Fremont people before they disappeared from the record.

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I would love to come back and see the 2,473 other arches we didn’t see, but, the sun was high and we needed to move on.

State #6!

State #6!

We checked for places to stay near our next stop, Black Canyon, but came up empty. Our original plan to camp along the way has been thwarted by the tiredness we’ve been feeling as a result of the long drives with no AC. We’re not the twenty year old explorers we used to be.

The closest place we could find was an hour and a half away in Grand Junction, CO, so we’re bunkered down here for the night. I’m beginning to believe we might actually make this crazy itinerary of eight parks, eight states in eight days, work.

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An easy 261 miles today, but we completed two parks, so I’ll take it.

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In which I went to Boston and turned 30

Last fall I was one of two residents who were chosen to represent our pediatric dental department at the International Association of Dental Research conference in Boston. The next few times this conference meets it’ll be in LA, South Korea and San Francisco – not sure how I got lucky enough to go to the city who is having snowiest winter on record!

Seattle is currently in full on spring right now

Seattle is currently in full on spring right now

As the dates worked out – I had to take the Red-Eye flight on our anniversary (3 years! how did it go by so quickly?!) and left Seattle springtime for this:

That is the Charles River - frozen.

That is the Charles River – frozen.

To be honest I wasn’t expecting a lot out of this conference – I had presentations Wednesday morning (an hour after landing from the Red-Eye) and a presentation on Saturday (two hours before leaving to catch a flight home on my birthday), but not much else lined up. I brough extra work to catch up on and something I never bring to a conference – running clothes in anticipation of going to the gym. HAHAHAHAHA. None of that happened. I was busy every day from early in the morning to late at night finding symposia, attending lectures, and  meeting up with old friends. So much for getting caught up.

The conference was in the same place whee the AAPD meeting was last year so I knew where everything was and it also meant that I had pretty much exhausted the must-do touristy things in the area. That didn’t stop me from heading up to the North End for Italian food with another grad student the first evening though:

I ordered the lobster special - was not disappointed!

I ordered the lobster special – was not disappointed!

Cheers to good food and grad student therapy sessions

Cheers to good food and grad student therapy sessions

I don’t have many other fun pictures – because what else do you expect from a research meeting? I did have the chance to catch up with Kevin Ricker, my classmate from UNC and the only one still hanging out with me in residency since his is a three-year program as well:

Always good to catch up

Always good to catch up

The largest component of a research meeting is the poster presentations. To give you some scale, here is one half of one of the two halls that were going on a given day:

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And there were two halls filled with posters. Each day was a new session with new posters – and there were three days of those. Goodness! It was a little crazy. You’re required to stand in front of your poster for an hour or so at a given time on the given day of your presentation in case someone wanted to come ask you questions about your research – otherwise people were free to browse them at will.

My advisor and I in front of my poster

My advisor and I in front of my poster

Karin, my co-resident who presented a poster as well, and I

Karin, my co-resident who presented a poster as well, and I

You’re assigned your poster time and unfortunately mine was on the 14th, my birthday.

Don't all the cool kids celebrate turning 30 at a dental research poster session?

Don’t all the cool kids celebrate turning 30 at a dental research poster session?

Despite spending most of the day on the east coast, the plane ride back to Seattle meant that I got an extra three hours of birthday in the air. I ordered wine accordingly. Arriving at 11:00pm meant that I was in no mood to go out, but my dear friends offered to host a birthday brunch the next day – my favorite kind of party 🙂

Mike made these awesome authentic Belgian pancakes with apples and bacon - so delicious!

Mike made these awesome authentic Belgian pancakes with apples and bacon – so delicious!

Great friends!

Great friends!

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Beautiful cheese tray

The only thing that could’ve made the party more perfect is if I didn’t have a final the next day – oh grad school! You’re so close to being done!

Since I’ve posted about my 30th here, I might as well post Jeff’s pictures too since I’m catching up on things. I threw him a surprise party at the Moon Temple (before it closed 😦 ) back in December with a bunch of our good friends:

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Pecan pie - his favorite

Pecan pie – his favorite

Tim McGraw, as he always so good at doing, summed it up best in his song:

I think I’ll take a moment celebrate my age
End of an era and the turning of a page
Now it’s time to focus in on where I go from here
Lord have mercy on my next thirty years

In my next thirty years I’m gonna have some fun
Try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done
Maybe now I’ve conquered all my adolescent fears
And I’ll do it better in my next thirty years

My next thirty years I’m gonna settle all the scores
Cry a little less, laugh a little more
Find a world of happiness without the hate and fear
Figure out just what I’m doin’ here in my next thirty years

For my next thirty years I’m gonna watch my weight
Eat a few more salads and not stay up so late
Drink a little lemonade and not so many beers
Maybe I’ll remember my next thirty years

My next thirty years will be the best years of my life
Raise a little family and hang out with my wife
Spend precious moments with the ones that I hold dear
Make up for lost time here in my next thirty years
In my next thirty years

The only line I take issue with is to “try to forget about all the crazy things I’ve done” – those crazy things have been some of my favorite memories or best lessons. It’s been a humbling, intense, amazing three decades for which I am immensely grateful; I’m excited to see where we go from here.

In which my mom came to visit – Part II

And the adventure continues!

On Tuesday we…

Bored my mother out of her mind and presented my research at UW School of Dentistry’s Department of Oral Health Sciences Research Symposium | Perfected the art of eating dumplings at Din Tai Fung | Visited the Center for Pediatric Dentistry and got to meet the amazing people I work with | Had a mini winery tour in Woodinville and tasted flights at Novelty Hill/Januik, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia wineries | swung by Gas Works Park to see the houseboats on Lake Union | ate Paseo sandwiches for dinner | found Graham’s picture on the wall and had Johnny drinks at the Moon Temple & recreated our favorite Bacon and Maple Syrup ice cream with the rest of the Benton’s bacon:

First winery - Novelty Hill/Janiuk

First winery – Novelty Hill/Januik

Watching them fill the barrels

Watching them fill the barrels

Second winery - Chateau Ste. Michelle where we had a flight of bubbly

Second winery – Chateau Ste. Michelle where we had a flight of bubbly

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And to finish it off - Columbia winery

And to finish it off – Columbia winery

As always, crowded Paseo. We were smart and called ahead on our way back from Woodinville

As always, crowded Paseo. We were smart and called ahead on our way back from Woodinville

So good! Mom agreed that this was one of the best sandwiches ever made.

So good! Mom agreed that this was one of the best sandwiches ever made.

Look Graham - we found our picture on the wall!

Look Graham – we found our picture on the wall!

A sweet end to a fun day

A sweet end to a fun day

 

On Wednesday we… 

Got up very early and took the Edmonds-Kingston ferry to the Olympic Peninsula | Froze our butts off on Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park | Visited the longest sand spit in the United States at Dungeness Spit | Ate my favorite sweet potato mexi-fries at Taco Time, a PNW version of fast food | Drove down the western edge of Puget Sound and Hood Canal past oyster farms and adorable cabins | checked into Alderbrook Resort and drank wine on our balcony overlooking the canal and Olympic mountains | Learned to filet Coho salmon from a master chef & finished the night off with a delicious seafood boil of shrimp, clams and dungeness crab:

On a boat!

On a boat!

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You can tell we were trying to fit a lot in when my mom has to start the morning off with a Monster energy drink!

You can tell we were trying to fit a lot in when my mom has to start the morning off with a Monster energy drink!

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It was pretty, but very cold and rainy!

It was pretty, but very cold and rainy!

Lovely view of the very cold mountains

Lovely view of the very cold mountains

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At this point we decided that hiking would just lead to hypothermia, so we headed down the mountain.

At this point we decided that hiking would just lead to hypothermia, so we headed down the mountain.

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Dungeness Spit

Dungeness Spit

Pacific Northwest Beaches aren't like those back East..

Pacific Northwest Beaches aren’t like those back East.. If you can imagine, five miles out into the distance is a lighthouse – it was barely visible for all the fog and rain.

Feet in the sand this time.

Feet in the sand this time.

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This time the danger was tsunamis, not volcanos!

This time the danger we needed to be aware of was tsunamis, not volcanos!

Then down the edge of the Sound to Alderbook:

Alderbrook Resort

Alderbrook Resort

Apparently it's a thing to seaplane down from Seattle to eat at the restaurant. Maybe in a different lifetime we'll be able to do this.

Apparently it’s a thing to seaplane down from Seattle to eat at the restaurant. Maybe in a different lifetime we’ll be able to do this. Or when we win the lottery – which ever comes first!

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View from our seats on the lawn. We make good resort people.

View from our seats on the lawn. We make good resort people.

Unfortunately my real camera is still broken, so this trip was documented through iPhone photos which can't do this place justice. I stole this from Alderbrook's website to give you an idea of our amazing view.

Unfortunately my real camera is still broken, so this trip was documented through iPhone photos which can’t do this place justice. I stole this from Alderbrook’s website to give you an idea of our amazing view.

Delicious dinner!

Delicious dinner!

Mm.. Northwest seafood boil!

Mm.. Northwest seafood boil!

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On Thursday we.. 

Said goodbye to Alderbrook and then drove over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge | Stopped by IKEA on the way back into Seattle so my mom could see what all the fuss is about | Checked out the REI headquarters downtown | Popped into some cute Ballard shops one more time | ate Fish and Chips at Ivar’s happy hour overlooking Lake Union and watched the seaplanes land | packed up and did some laundry & then headed down to Westward for one last meal out:

IKEA! The closest one to mom is 4 hours away in Atlanta. Also I am thinking about buying this mirror - it would fit perfect in this random nook in our bedroom.

IKEA! The closest one to mom is 4 hours away in Atlanta. Also I am thinking about buying this mirror – it would fit perfect in this random nook in our bedroom.

To cap off the PNW Natural Disasters to be aware of the evacuation route from: Floods! Seen in Renton.

To cap off the PNW Natural Disasters to be aware of the evacuation route from: Floods! Seen in Renton.

REI headquarters

REI headquarters

Ivar's for fish and chips. This is where UW Pedo had the applicant dinner when I interviewed, so it was fun to show mom where my Seattle journey truly began.

Ivar’s for fish and chips. This is where UW Pedo had the applicant dinner when I interviewed, so it was fun to show mom where my Seattle journey truly began.

And then Friday morning, it was all over way too soon and we headed back to the airport. I kept saying we needed three more weeks, or at least three more days, but in reality we made the very best of what we had: we ate some of my favorite Seattle food, visited two of the prettiest national parks in the nation, saw all the typical Seattle touristy things plus the all tucked away places that make this city home. We really did win Seattle.

To give you an idea of all the places we visited, I’ve marked them on a map:

This is the greater NW Washington area we covered.

This is the greater NW Washington area we covered.

And a more specific Seattle-area one. We. Covered. Some. Ground.

And a more specific Seattle-area one. We. Covered. Some. Ground.

When I was little people always commented on how much I looked like my mom. As I grew up I realized that this similarity extended far beyond features and the phrase “I am my mother’s child” was especially applicable to me. This trip was not only a chance to show one of my best friends our new city, but it was also a chance to hang out with Future Me. I am so lucky, blessed and grateful. It was so much fun. Can’t wait for the next adventure!

In which I catch up on random things I took pictures of

When finally getting back to posting on the blog I realized that I had taken a lot of random photos of how crazy life has been over the past few months. In between going to Boston, my brother visiting, a quick trip to San Francisco and finishing up the academic year, I managed to sneak a lot of other things in! Here is an update, mostly in pictures:

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I did some mentoring for the women of the Beta chapter of Delta Gamma at UW one evening. Basically I spoke about being a dentist and a scientist and the steps that got me to where I am.

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I don’t think of myself as old enough or experienced enough to be a mentor.. so I felt a little weird when they asked me to come speak. Turns out that 29 is a good enough age for someone who is trying to figure things out at 21; it’s a long 8 years of difference. I have felt kind of bad not being as an involved alumna as I could be. DG was an amazing part of my college experience and I still keep in touch with a lot of the Beta Thetas from Duke. One of whom I was chatting with the other day about feeling guilty for not helping out with the local chapter a lot because between two masters degree programs, a residency, Junior League, and trying to maintain some sanity there just wasn’t room. She graciously reminded me that DG would always be there, when I was ready. And that’s a really comforting thing to know. I hope that this is the beginning of my re-involvement with these dear sisters.

Peace Park - I saw this statue while walking to a rotation with Pediatrics the other day. It is a sculpture of Sadako Sasaki who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. She later died of leukemia caused by the radiation and is a symbol of the innocent victims of war.

Peace Park – I saw this statue while walking to a rotation with Pediatrics the other day. It is a sculpture of Sadako Sasaki who was 2 years old when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. She later died of leukemia caused by the radiation and is a symbol of the innocent victims of war.

My lab experiments are going well! After taken a hiatus in June in collecting data, I'm back and hoping to make a large dent in the number of patients I enroll by the end of summer.

My lab experiments are going well! After taken a hiatus in June in collecting data, I’m back and hoping to make a large dent in the number of patients I enroll by the end of summer.

Getting ready to collect some data.

Getting ready to collect some data. Please note the camping head lamp I use in place of an actual dental lamp to see inside the mouth. We’re not fancy here.

I even presented my thesis data at the Society for Perinatal and Pediatric Epidemiology Research conference in Seattle in June.

I even presented my thesis data at the Society for Perinatal and Pediatric Epidemiology Research conference in Seattle in June.

The Junior League girls and I went on the Cycle Saloon - a large group bicycle you peddle as a group to visit different breweries in the Ballard area. http://thecyclesaloon.com

The Junior League girls and I went on the Cycle Saloon – a large group bicycle you peddle as a group to visit different breweries in the Ballard area. http://thecyclesaloon.com

One of my favorites was Stoup

One of my favorites was Stoup

It has a great indoor/outdoor space to taste their different brews

It has a great indoor/outdoor space to taste their different brews

Also, their glasses looked like small graduated cylinders which the nerd in me loved.

Also, their glasses looked like small graduated cylinders which the nerd in me loved.

Annie and I finished up the third and final class of biostats and with that our first year of the MPH program! Whoo! Here we are studying at Forza in Greenlake with the setting sun.

Annie and I finished up the third and final class of biostats and with that our first year of the MPH program! Whoo! Here we are studying at Forza in Greenlake with the setting sun.

I took a quiz the other day that was "How Seattle are you?" Answer: Very much. One of the questions was "Do you love your neighborhood and think it's better than all the other neighborhoods and defend it as such?" Yep, I love the Greenlake/Wallingford area a lot. How can you not with little cool libraries like this in neighbor's yards?

I took a quiz the other day that was “How Seattle are you?” Answer: Very much. One of the questions was “Do you love your neighborhood and think it’s better than all the other neighborhoods and defend it as such?” Yep, I love the Greenlake/Wallingford area a lot. How can you not with little cool libraries like this in neighbor’s yards?

And clever graffiti in the roundabouts?

And clever graffiti in the roundabouts?

And bars who take your picture for the wall because your little brother really wants to be a part of it? The Moon Temple even printed out an extra photo for me to send to Graham.

And bars who take your picture for the wall because your little brother really wants to be a part of it? The Moon Temple even printed out an extra photo for me to send to Graham.

We've been enjoying long sunsets. This was taken at 9:30pm. No filter.

We’ve been enjoying long sunsets. This was taken at 10:07pm. No filter.

I've also been enjoying great rotations down at Odessa Brown Children's Clinic near the International District. Not only is it great feeling like a pediatric dentist, but it's close to Saigon Deli, who has what the New York Times calls one of the best Bahn Mi (Vietnamese) sandwiches in the country.

I’ve also been enjoying great rotations down at Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic near the International District. Not only is it great feeling like a pediatric dentist, but it’s close to Saigon Deli, who has what the New York Times calls one of the best Bahn Mi (Vietnamese) sandwiches in the country.

I'm no expert, but the flaky baguette and delicious fillings make me want to concur.

I’m no expert, but the flaky baguette and delicious fillings make me want to concur.

We've also been cook more: especially delicious lamb

We’ve also been cooking more:  delicious lamb form the farmer’s market

And making our own charcuterie plates (or "Adult Lunchables" as we refer to them as)

And making our own charcuterie plates (or “Adult Lunchables” as we refer to them as)

That about wraps up all the things I’ve been holding on to on the iPhone. Maybe this is a lesson to just publish small things instead of picture-vomitting them all up at once.

In which I’m back in the lab

I spent a little over a year after college working for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, one of the National Institutes of Health. There are 27 Institutes and Centers, mostly located in Bethesda, MD – I however was at one of the outliers (sometimes I joke that it was the “reject”) located in Research Triangle Park, NC. I look back at that time fondly, where I lived in a tiny apartment in south Durham and visited Jeff on the weekends when he was a 1L at Wake. It was a good gap year, filled with the moderate stress of applying to dental school and the milder stress of learning to be an independent adult.

My lab photo. I know this file is slightly corrupted - it was salvaged from my very old computer.

My lab photo. I know this file is slightly corrupted – it was salvaged from my very old computer and a lot of those pictures were sadly damaged.

Under my Intramural Research Training Award (IRTA) I had several different projects in the Darryl Zeldin lab, the main one being a randomized control trial to look at reducing dust mite allergens in the homes of allergic children. This required spending hours driving all over eastern NC pre-GPS, vacuuming up dust from peoples’ homes and administering lengthy surveys whose questions I asked so often, I almost had them memorized.

2008 Elise carrying the very large vacuuming equipment bag.

2008 Elise carrying the very large vacuuming equipment bag.

Melanie (who visited us last summer) was my trusted companion during these sometimes long trips (and sometimes stalkerish ones – we had to wait outside a lot of houses until the participants finally showed up). We were a perfect match: I was applying to dental school at the time and she was applying to physician assisting school, we both had a love of public health, we both were in long term relationships (and ultimately end up marrying those boys), we could spend hours in the car lost in rural North Carolina and not panic and we both loved to detour to Krispy Kreme whenever it was close by.

On the trail for dust mites.

On the trail for dust mites.

Celebrating the end of our dust mite chasing career in Costa Rica before heading off to our respective schools.

Celebrating the end of our dust mite chasing career in Costa Rica before heading off to our respective schools.

Also, it was fun to have another girl to escape the lab with. When I wasn’t out sucking up dust from beds and carpets, I was analyzing it in the lab (using ELISA mostly). My fellow IRTAs were two guys: Will who is now a orthopedic resident and Chad who is a laboratory equipment rep (and for a time sold the brand of pipettes I use the most, so I think of him every time I pick one up).

End of the year picnic with Will on the left and Chad on the right.

End of the year picnic with Will on the left and Chad on the right.

I learned some great lab skills while there – skills I honestly thought I’d never use again. Sure, in dental school we had a microbiology lab, but that was only one quarter and it was pretty easy and as far as lab skills go, it was amateur stuff. Now that my research here at UW and SCH is picking up finally, I’m in the lab once more, processing samples to analyze them later for bacterial DNA, saliva pH and buffering capacity and little proteins called antimicrobial peptides which fight cavities. It’s appropriate that I’m once again working with spit because that was my other main project at NIEHS: collecting saliva samples and seeing if kids who had more cavity causing bacteria had lower rates of asthma and allergy.

Maybe I've been out too long, but there's something kind of beautiful about well placed lab equipment.

Maybe I’ve been out too long, but there’s something kind of beautiful about lab equipment.

Tiny labels make me happy.

Tiny labels make me happy.

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There's something soothing to lab work. Follow the recipe. Be precise. Don't mess up.

There’s something soothing to lab work. Follow the recipe. Be precise. Don’t mess up. Repeat.

Balancing the centrifuge is the tiny scale version of trying to balance the washer during the sheets and towels load.

Balancing the centrifuge is the tiny scale version of trying to balance the washer during the sheets and towels load.

I'm glad to be back in the lab again, I just need my pipetting thumb to regain it's old callous soon.

I’m glad to be back in the lab again, I just need my pipetting thumb to regain it’s old callous soon.

I’m a little slow right now, but things should start to pick up soon as I get more used to the new process and new environs. It’s good to be back.

In which I start a new chapter

When I ranked UW and Seattle first during the Match process, I was really excited. This was the only program where you could dual train in pediatric dentistry and public health and get paid to do it. I was even more excited when two weeks later I found out that I’d matched to one of the two spots in the country available. Awesome – I would earn not only my Certificate in Pediatric Dentistry (which alone qualifies you to be a pediatric dentist), but also my Master’s of Science in Dentistry and my Master’s in Public Health. It was the ideal triple threat combination that lets you go wherever you want. Bonus: I loved that Bri was the other person who matched to the position; we got along great and I knew we’d make an awesome team. But then, fast forward a year and some initially trying months of residency later, and my program told me that the grant that made all this possible no longer existed. Done. Gone. Over. No chance of finding additional funding. Sayonara. Goodbye.

I was, needless to say, a tad upset. I had moved not only myself, but my husband, 2,853 miles across a continent for this. I ranked other really good programs lower to do this. I gave up just going straight into a lucrative, safe dental practice to do this. I had already been accepted at UW’s School of Public Health – a top ranked institution. Not cool. Seriously, not cool. My program gave me two options: 1) just drop the MPH and complete the traditional pediatric dental residency and graduate in two years with the Certificate and Master’s of Science in Dentistry or 2) continue with the additional Master’s of Public Health track, knowing that I would not earn a salary for my third year and I would be responsible for the additional tuition. Option #1 was out – I’d already going through too much to get here. Option #2 was really out, because seriously y’all, I’m in the 22nd grade, and all those years of schooling don’t come cheap. Until we win the lottery I’d rather not add to the debt load already bearing down on us. I was crushed.

But this story has a good ending (though for many sleepless nights there didn’t seem like there’d be one): through some hard work and a lot of good luck I was able to fall into the right place at the right time with the right people. I’ve been awarded a T90 postdoctoral trainee grant from the NIH to continue my work in pediatric dentistry and start my MPH classes next week. It comes with the stipulation that I spend a majority of my time in research, an area I’ve always loved, but have recently fully embraced as where I’m supposed to be. This puts me on the path to Academia, a world I know well from the student side and am learning more about each day from the teaching side. I’ve always had lingering doubts about running a private practice as a solo practitioner, and this solidifies that that probably was never going to be the right choice for me. The one downside of all this is that I’ll have less time to spend with my co-residents, whom I love and whose friendships I cherish very much. They’ve been very supportive in the transition and I’m thankful that we’ll still share a few clinics and more importantly, many happy hours together.

Thanks to all of you who lived out this saga in real time through phone calls and emails; your support sustained me. Thanks for never giving up on me and more importantly, for never letting me give up on myself. Thanks for reminding me that life has a funny way of always placing you precisely where you need to be.

This isn’t the direction I set out on, but I’m so freaking excited to see where it goes.

MPH orientation today

MPH orientation today