The Farewell Tour & Bean Traders

As I mentioned back in my Tell Me Something Good post earlier this month, Derek is officially in his 4th year of medical school. (Look for a post in the near future about what it’s like to be married to a med student.)

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Gotta love the scrubs.

We’ve been talking about Derek’s residency for years, but we’re at the point where it’s no longer an abstraction. Lately it’s started to sink in that we’ll probably be living in a different city in a mere 10 months. Derek will, of course, be applying to UNC and Duke, and we’re not ruling those programs out at all. However, we both feel that it is a great time for us to try something different if he finds a program he loves outside of North Carolina. We’re both adventurous and relatively unattached (no kids, no house), and fortunately I can find medical social work jobs wherever we go.

That being said, I absolutely love the Durham/Chapel Hill area. It will always be home to me, and I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if we end up back here someday. Because it’s likely that we won’t live here for at least 4 years, I decided that I want to do a sort of “farewell tour” of Durham and Chapel Hill with BNP. I’m starting a new series of posts about my favorite places to eat and play in the area, and I even added a new page to the blog menu called, “Durham & Chapel Hill.” I’ll compile all of my posts on the page. It’s mostly just fun for me, but it could be helpful if you ever visit the area or want to try something new. 

I thought that I’d kick things off with this post by sharing my favorite coffee shop/study spot: Bean Traders!

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You’ve seen their coffee on my blog many times already. Bean Traders always has a booth open at the farmers’ market. It’s my treat while I shop around.

iced coffee

Iced coffee, how I love thee.

I usually see this guy parked out front.

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I know Bean Traders is at the farmers’ market when I see their trademark van.

Bean Traders is only about a mile from my house in south Durham. It’s inconspicuously located in the middle of a strip mall. (My gym is actually in the same one.)

Bean Traders Coffee

Well hello there you hidden gem.

When you walk in you’re greeted by bright colors, lots of natural light, and friendly baristas.

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You can’t tell from this picture, but there’s a drink called a “dirty hippie.” It’s some kind of mix of coffee and tea.

One of the many cool things about Bean Traders is that they partner with many local business for their dairy products, bakery items, nut butters, candies, and desserts.

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Candy galore!

They also sell their own coffee beans.

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Love that “Drink the Love” sign.

I mean there’s a reason it’s called Bean Traders.

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The coffee is strong and delicious.

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It smells amazing.

I went here a lot during grad school for group projects or to study solo. There’s lots of space and free Wi-fi. The mismatched chairs in all different colors give it a cool, eclectic vibe.

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Bonus points for coffee served in mason jars.

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I got this almond-milk latte last weekend. Nom!

It is the best place to spend a quiet morning enjoying delicious coffee and reading a good book.

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The perfect Sunday morning. (P.S. I’m reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith AKA JK Rowling. Highly recommend it!)

I ❤ Bean Traders.

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Lentil Stew with Spinach, Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes Recipe

Hello friends! Hope you’re all surviving the heat. Late July/early August is always rough here in North Carolina. With that said, you’re probably looking at the post title and thinking, Who makes stew in July? Well, I do. I was wishfully think about the crisp, cool days of fall, my favorite season, and I just happened to have a few random items to use up that worked for a stew. So I decided to pretend it was a beautiful fall day and ignore the oppressive heat outside. Besides, I’m one of those weirdos who has no qualms about eating soups and stews all year long. Anyway, hope you enjoy it!

*Apologies for my sad, dim photos. Hopefully I’ll have a kitchen with more natural light in the future!


Lentil Stew with Spinach Sausage, and Sweet Potatoes 

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 3/4 to 1 lb sausage of your choice
  • 1.5 medium onions, chopped
  • 2-3 tsp minced garlic
  • 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 bag of spinach
  • 1 lb sweet potatoes cut into 1 in pieces
  • 1 cup dried lentils
  • salt and pepper to taste

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Quick note on ingredients: I used a mix of chicken stock and broth because I didn’t have enough broth, and it turned out fine. As far as sausage, I used Trader Joe’s Sun Dried Tomato Chicken Sausage, but whatever sausage you prefer or have on hand would work. Finally, I used spinach as my green because it’s what I had. Other greens would work just as well. Make it your own!

Instructions:

1. Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through if you’re not using pre-cooked sausage.

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2. Add onions and cook 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic during the last minute of cooking the onions.

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3. Add broth, sweet potatoes, lentils, salt, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered for about 25 minutes.

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4. Add spinach and continue simmering, partially covered, for 5-10 more minutes, or until the sweet potatoes and lentils are tender.

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5. Allow stew to cool for 5-10 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

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ffff

4 Words 4th of July

As I mentioned in my last post, Derek and I hit the road for the 4th of July and spent a few days with my family. It was the perfect mix of fun and relaxing, and I wanted to share a little recap of the trip. Instead of my usual recap, and in honor of July 4th, I’ll be captioning with 4 words per picture.

Virginia is for lovers.

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Kentucky is for bourbon.

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My dad = chef extraordinaire.

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The spoiled rotten dog.

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Wine + funny movie nights.

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Four Roses Bourbon Distillery. 

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Bourbon encourages family selfies.

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Day at the pool.

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This sums it up.

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Hope you had a fun and safe 4th of July, too!

Courage Doesn’t Always Roar

I’m back in good ol’ North Carolina after a wonderful visit with my family! (Recap coming soon.)  Now that I’m back at work, I’ve been reflecting on a recent experience with a patient. It’s a complex situation that I obviously cannot delve into here on BNP, but suffice it to say that my patient and his wife has been through a lot.  I marvel at their ability to keep moving forward despite obstacles and let downs, and it made me think of the quote below.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ―Mary Anne Radmacher

May we all find the quiet courage we need.

10 Things I Learned From My First Year as a Social Worker

June 1st officially marked the end of my first year as a social worker. If you don’t know much about medical social work, check out this post. It’s been a rough year in many ways, but it’s also been one that resulted in significant growth for me, both professionally and personally. I was reflecting on the past year and decided I want to share a few things I learned in my first year as a social worker.

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1. Expect the unexpected. From personally delivering (aka riding) a motorized scooter to a patient’s room to being screamed at by patients about the hospital food to arranging an inpatient marriage ceremony  — you just never know what will happen or what you’ll be called to do.

2. Unconditional positive regard is the name of the game. I see a lot of people on some of the worst days of their lives. Either they or their loved one are sick enough to require hospital care. Due to stress, fear, exhaustion, personality, or some combination of these, people are understandably upset and perhaps not their most congenial selves when I meet them. And that’s OK. They don’t have to like me.  Frankly I don’t have to like the patients that I work with, nor approve of their actions. I just need to meet them where they’re at, without judgment. I try to be respectful and compassionate, and I always try to keep in mind that I know almost nothing about the person’s struggles and problems that led them to the moment I started working with them. Unconditional positive regard is something that I will constantly be working on, but I feel like I gained a greater understanding of its importance over the past year.

3. Burnout and compassion fatigue are real.  They aren’t just concepts in a textbook. I knew I was starting to get burnt out a month ago when I found myself feeling tired and overwhelmed and getting annoyed when patients or their families needed my help with complex social situations. I just wanted to do my assessments and get them out the door. That may sound harsh, but it’s the truth. If you’re finding it more difficult to care, you’re probably getting burned out.

4. Self-care, self-care, self-care. To be honest, the emphasis on self-care during graduate school always felt fluffy or overplayed, but I understand the importance of it now. The best way for me to combat burnout or compassion fatigue (see #3) is to take care of myself. The basics — healthy eating, adequate sleep, and exercise — make a HUGE difference for me. I also found that pursuing interests outside of my work, such as writing this blog or volunteering with Make-A-Wish, is especially helpful when work is frustrating. Finally, making sure that I leave on time has been a game-changer for me. It gives me a greater sense of control and helps me feel like work isn’t taking my time and energy away from me.

5. Advocacy is the most important part of my job. Whether it’s identifying systems-level issues that need to be addressed (like increasing access to palliative care options) or making sure that a patient’s voice is heard, advocacy is essential. In medicine especially, I feel like I need to hand out bumper stickers that say, “People have the right to make bad decisions.” I may not agree with someone’s choices, like when patients with an alcohol use disorder choose to go home instead of to a treatment program, but as long as they have the capacity to make their own decisions I will vehemently defend their right to do so.  There’s been more than one occasion when I had to talk to the medical team about self-determination because they were holding up a discharge to push patients to choose the option they felt was best. The medical team’s intentions were good, but it was still paternalistic. Sometimes this kind of advocacy doesn’t exactly make me popular on the multidisciplinary team, but I feel that it’s necessary to respect the patients’ decisions, regardless of my own opinions.

6. Social work skills are just as useful for coworkers as they are for patients. My role in the multidisciplinary team is as important as my direct role with patients. As a medical social worker, my work with patients does not exist in a vacuum. It’s not one-on-one work with a patient. I’m working with the patient, doctors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, nutritionists, etc. I often end up using the basic skills I learned (i.e., active listening, reflection, boundary setting, empathy, etc.) as a facilitator and to help smooth disagreements between disciplines.

7. Gallows humor is necessary. Like many people who work in healthcare, my coworkers and I make jokes about death and disease. The humor isn’t cruel, and as one physician in an article on Medscape put it, the difference between gallows humor and derogatory humor is like “the difference between whistling as you go through the graveyard and kicking over the gravestones.” Our jokes aren’t at the patient’s expense; they’re a coping mechanism to help deal with the constant stream of macabre circumstances.

8.  The work will never be finished. Everyday I make a list of all the things I should work on, and inevitably I never complete my list. Every time I cross a few things off, a couple more are added on. It has taught me to prioritize and to accept that I will never be done. One of the best adjustments I continue to work on is letting go of the expectations I have for the day. I only get frustrated if I have an idea of how things are “supposed to go.” It’s best if I approach my days with curiosity, wondering what crazy things will happen that day.

9. Life is short. A small but significant number of patients I work with either die in the hospital or leave the hospital on hospice. And sometimes it’s completely unexpected. I recently had a younger person come in for what they thought were gallstones, but it turned out to be stage IV pancreatic cancer. His prognosis is about 6 months. Seeing how quickly life can change is a constant reminder for me to stay in the present and enjoy it and to make the most of the time I have with the people I love.

10. People’s strength and resiliency is amazing. For all of the death, loss, anger, and family disputes happening around me, I am always impressed and inspired by the strength demonstrated by patients and their families. I’ve seen a son step up to care for his estranged father who he hadn’t seen in 15 years. I’ve seen a man move heaven and earth to get his partner home so he could pass away with his beloved cat at his side. And I’ve seen a patient fight his way back from a devastating stroke, regaining the ability to swallow, walk, and speak, in order to live independently again. For all of the negative things that can happen, it’s imperative to remember these moments; people truly are resilient.

Charlotte Girls Getaway {Weekend Recap}

This past weekend was the most adventurous that I’ve had in a while, and I loved it.  It felt good to be really active and get out of my comfort zone.

Jenna, my best friend, organized a great weekend trip for a group of girls. We went out on the town in Charlotte on Friday night and spent all day Saturday at the U.S. National Whitewater Center. (Fun fact: USNWC is an official U.S. Olympic Training Site.)       

On Friday, right after work, my friend Julie and I hopped in my trusty 9-year-old Honda CRV and headed to Charlotte. We got to our hotel around 7pm and met up with Jenna and Sam in our room. After grabbing some dinner, we bar hopped around Charlotte’s Epicentre.

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Apologies for the extreme blurriness. Also props to whoever photo bombed us. 🙂

At one point we accidentally stumbled into some exclusive party for Charlotte’s 30-under-30. Whoops.

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Jenna and I trying to blend in.

We decided that if anyone asked we would tell people that we were the inventors of the flash tattoos we were wearing.

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#flashtats

There were a lot of fun bars, but my favorite was Rooftop 210. The music was lively, and it was the perfect night to be outside.

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The views weren’t shabby either.

It also had giant Jenga and corn hole, which as a game-lover, is a major plus.

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For the northerners out there, you may also call this “bags.” Let’s be real though, we all know that corn hole is a better name.

The night eventually ended with a lovely bucket of some sort of blue alcoholic substance. Which is NEVER a good idea.

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Jenna delivered the doom drink.

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Don’t try this at home.

Needless to say, the next morning was initially at little rough. Fortunately greasy, not-at-all healthy diner food cured my hangover, and I was ready to head to the whitewater rafting center.

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Pumped for a day of adventure!

Megan, another friend, met up with us there.

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Flash Five

Besides slowing down for a couple of intense thunderstorms, we were on the move all day.  We started with whitewater rafting.

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We had a blast, and our guide was great.

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We also completed a intermediate-level high ropes course. As someone who is scared of heights, it wasn’t exactly fun, but I was proud that I did it. Check out the video below if you want to see what it’s like.

After the ropes course we went on the mega zip. It’s a 1,123 foot zip-line. You launch from the top of the 46 foot Mega Tower and fly over sections of the whitewater rafting area. It was really fun and a great way to see the whole center.

Finally, we went to the Hawk’s jump, which entailed climbing up a 40 foot pole only to jump off of it. Trust me when I say it feels even higher than it looks in the video below.

It took me a few minutes to shake off the adrenaline from that one. My heart was pounding after I made it down.

We did a lot in one day, but there were still so many other things to do.

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The US National Whitewater Center also has trails for mountain biking or hiking, kayaking (whitewater or flat water), stand-up paddle boarding (whitewater or flat water), more ropes courses,  and climbing walls. We bought an AllSport pass for $54 that gave us access to everything. I think it’s an awesome deal for everything you can do there, and I would definitely go back again.  (By the way, it was quite the workout, too. I was sore for a few days haha.)

Going out in downtown Charlotte and our outdoor adventures were certainly fun, but the best part of the weekend was spending time with an awesome group of ladies!! Now we just need to plan our next getaway . . .

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