The Murph Challenge over Memorial Day Weekend

May 27, 2015

Over the weekend, Micheal & I participated in the Murph Challenge at Crossfit Undeniable (you can learn more about the Murph Challenge here).This Crossfit Hero WOD was organized to pay tribute to LT. Michael P. Murphy (SEAL). I previously knew very little about Michael Murphy, but thanks to the coaches at Undeniable and a viewing of "Lone Survivor", I got a taste of how remarkable this American Hero truly was. I'd be lying if I said I didn't cry while watching the movie... and yet this is just one story of what our men and women experience in the armed forces (Lone Survivor is a movie about Michael Murphy and the courageous men who fought alongside him). The work required for the WOD pales in comparison to the dedication, struggle, and commitment these heroes display on a daily basis.


I completed the full challenge, without a weight vest and with modifications. For pull ups, I did jumping pull ups on rings and for push ups, I did them on my knees. Just like every workout in Crossfit, the coaches can modify anything to be at the appropriate level for each individual. Some people did 1/4, 1/2, or 3/4 of the workout, and others did the entire workout as suggested. I'm so proud of Michael for finishing the workout with a 20 lb weight vest - way to go! The workout was humbling and challenging, but dedicating a little bit of sweat and hard work seems like very little compared to those who have given so much in the armed forces.

starting line

We had 55 participants show up to complete the Murph Challenge at Crossfit Undeniable - it was a full house! We all had to share pull up bars/rings and space, but it was really great to see how many people came for the event. 

Completing some of my jumping pull ups
Michael mid-way through the Murph Challenge
Michael finishing up his last mile of Murph and proudly carrying the American flag
Michael and I with two of our favorite friends, Todd & Heather (who also completed Murph)
The men of Crossfit Undeniable who completed the challenge with a weight vest
Michael & I after completing the Murph Challenge
I finished the complete Murph challenge (without a vest) in 50 minutes and 30 seconds
After everyone completed Murph, there was a BBQ/potluck lunch for everyone to relax and enjoy each other's company. The people at Crossfit Undeniable really are incredible (and did I mention there was monkey bread!?)

Munching after Murph
Life is just more fun with these lovely people
I hope everyone had a good Memorial Day weekend and took a few minutes to honor our nation's heroes. 

A Day In The Life : Full-Time Nanny

May 19, 2015


I did a post on my previous blog about a day in the life of a Peace Corps Volunteer and I thought I might do the same thing again. Only this time, I'm a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) working as a full time nanny, preparing to start medical school in the next few months. My life looks really different!

Ali Edwards had a challenge on May 12 to document a day in your life and I'm just a bit slow to get this posted. I'll link this up to her website as well once I publish the post on my own blog (scroll all the way to the bottom of that website and you'll see links to other people's posts too!) 

The good? I think this is a fairly accurate representation of most of a typical work day for me. 

The bad? It doesn't show a typical evening with a trip to the gym and tutoring students for some extra cash (which typically happens a few times a week). My evenings generally aren't as laid back as depicted in this post, but hey (think: dinner is made around 9 PM most days)

Here goes!


6:20 A.M. || Alarm goes off. Kibi cat is sitting at full alert, ready for his human to wake up and feed him. I drag myself out of bed and start to get ready. 


6:45 A.M. || Feed the pets and start to get lunch packed


7:10 A.M. || Finish making my breakfast smoothie, gather my belongings, kiss Michael good-bye


7:16 A.M. || Out the door & on my way to work


8:00 A.M. || I've arrived at work by 7:30 A.M., put my food away, said hello to Nicki (Annabelle's momma), and play time has begun!


8:32 A.M. || We get all bundled up in the stroller and head out for a quick walk. It was a little chilly in the morning but we went for a walk around the neighborhood for some fresh air.


9:10 A.M. || After we get home from a nap, I turn on NPR One for a few minutes while we play so I can hear the most recent headlines.



9:27 A.M. || After a walk and some play time, Annabelle is ready for snack and some solids. Look at that happy child! :)


10:05 A.M. ||Annabelle goes down for a nap, so I make myself a cup of tea and catch up on some emails.


11:43 A.M. || Annabelle wakes up from her nap and I get my lunch ready. I heat up my leftover chicken curry (recipe from Nicki!) and give Annabelle a snack to keep her happy while I eat.


12:33 P.M. || Dance Party! Annabelle loves music so we turn on some jams and dance it out in the kitchen while I prep her food for lunch.


1:59 P.M. || After she ate lunch, we headed outside again to go play. We went for a long walk and went to hang out up by the pool and the tennis courts. Nothing was cooler than the bleachers though - - she wanted to climb all over them. She's a little monkey!


3:26 P.M. || During Annabelle's afternoon nap, I continue working on a blog post for medical school applications. You can find the finished post here!


5:05 P.M. || Back at home, giving Kibi cat a few snuggles before I go do anything else productive.


5:40 P.M. || Mid-way through making dinner - creamy sundried tomato pesto chicken pasta!


6:07 P.M. || Washing, drying, and chopping fresh greens from my mom's garden. The prepped greens will go in smoothies throughout the week.


7:00 P.M. || Michael is home for dinner and excited about booking flights for his mom to join him to watch the Crossfit Games in California this sumer.


9:22 P.M. || Arrived back at home after a trip to Best Buy to get a screen protector and case for my new tablet that arrived in the mail earlier in the day. I'll be using the tablet for medical school!


9:29 P.M. || Reeses Peanut Butter eggs and the last episode of True Detective. Michael may or may not have covered my eyes and ears during the scary parts, but either way, I loved the show.

After the show ended, it was time to get ready to go to bed! And there you have it folks... a day in my life as a full-time nanny.

Medical School Application Tips

May 14, 2015

It's that time of year! Medical school applications open up in the next few weeks and the experience can be quite nerve-wracking. Period. 

If you're anything like me, you've spent years preparing for medical school. It was my dream, my goal, my driving force. I knew I wanted to be a doctor and I worked really freaking hard to make sure I was well prepared. I did well in my classes, I found extracurricular activities that I genuinely enjoyed, and I built relationships with mentors that would be able to write me a recommendation letter. I spent years prepping for medical school. 

I was ready. But the one thing left to do was an application. [Gasp!]

Why was it so darn intimidating? 

Perfectionists, planners, and OCD students alike... I would like to encourage you to take a deep breath. It's truly not as bad as it seems (looking back on it) and I've outlined my best tips and advice to working your way through the application. 


BEFORE YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT BEGINNING YOUR APPLICATION

There are several things you can do for yourself before you even start an application that will make your life much easier in the long run. It may seem unnecessary at first, but believe me, I'm so glad I did these things in advance.
  • Contact potential references for recommendation letters.
    • Arrange to talk to potential references to ask them whether or not they would be willing to write you a recommendation letter. Meeting in person is always preferable, but a professional phone call or email would work as well. Pay attention to their enthusiasm about helping; you really don't want someone to have a say in your future if they don't seem excited about helping you out. (Side note: choose people that know you well!)
      • If you are going to take a gap year or do something else for a while before you apply to medical school, make sure you stay in touch with your references. While I was in the Peace Corps, I sent bi-annual updates about my life to everyone I had asked to write me a letter. This helped them understand how my new life experiences affected my life and also made them feel more familiar with me when writing a recommendation. I highly recommend doing this! 
  • Research which schools you would like to apply to
    • Depending on whether you are applying to MD schools, DO schools, or both - get yourself a copy of MSAR (Medical School Admissions Requirements) for MD schools (you can order a hard copy or pay to have online access) or the Osteopathic College Information Book (CIB) for DO schools (which is a free pdf download).
    • Thumb through the schools to get a feel for where you might like to apply. Consider geographic location, specialty programs/honors tracks, admissions requirements, etc. 
      • I made an initial list of schools I was interested in and then I did more of my own research on the school websites. Take plenty of time to decide whether the school would be right for you!
    • Create a rough estimate of the cost of your primary/secondary applications. Plan to finance the application costs or consider applying to have your fees waived if you're eligible for that. It adds up quickly!
AS SOON AS THE APPLICATION SYSTEM OPENS
  • Order transcripts in early May 
    • Transcripts can take a while to process, so I recommend ordering your transcripts as early as possible. It will save you a potential headache in the future. You definitely don't want your transcripts to be the reason a school needs to wait to look at your file!
  • Send out letter requests via Interfolio
    • Since you've already talked to your references, now would be a good time to send out an interfolio request if you haven't already. Ask them to upload their letter of recommendation to that site and you'll be able to send it out to schools as soon as they do. Be sure to explain the details of how to upload and when you will need the letter. Using interfolio was very easy for me and it won't cost them a dime to use it. You'll pay to send them out to the schools, but they don't have to mess with any of the letter submissions themselves.  
PRIMARY APPLICATION

You are going to feel like you're just a number... and you kind of are. Use that to your advantage, rather than feeling like you've completely lost your identity. Filling out a primary application is tedious and quite annoying, but unfortunately, there is no way around that. I'll speak to my experience with the DO application (AACOMAS) since I opted not to apply to any MD schools. On the AACOMAS application, the only writing you'll need to do is your personal statement and explanations of your work, extracurricular, volunteer, and community service experiences.
  • Personal Statement
    • This is where you get to SHINE! So many characters to highlight why you'd be the perfect candidate at their institution. Yes, it's a blanket essay for all the schools you apply to, but don't let that shy you away from talking about what makes you unique. 
    • Your personal statement should answer a few key questions: WHY YOU? WHY MEDICINE?
    • Get creative! I'll have another blog post dedicated entirely to the personal statement, but try out a couple different ideas and find what works best. 
    • Consider your audience. AHEM... your audience reads dozens of essays
      • I can't imagine having to be on an admissions committee. How painfully boring and also difficult to turn students away! Read your essay through the eyes of an admissions committee member - have they read 1,000 essays just like yours? Or do they want to meet you at an interview?
  • Experiences
    • These descriptions are shorter and should have a more direct feel than your personal statement. My approach to this was to (1) state what I did (2) point out any roles and responsibilities I had during that experience and (3) what I took away from the experience/how it will help my career in medicine. 
  • Editing Advice
    • 1st round of editing: have your best friend/significant other/relative read your essays and experiences section to see if it sounds like YOU
      • Don’t lose sight of YOU. Sometimes, it's easier to say what you think a school wants to hear, but believe me, they do not want canned answers. I remember writing a first draft of a personal statement and after sending it to my best friend, she literally just told me it wasn't going to work. She said, "That's not the Tate I know. You left your soul out of that. Say things like you mean it and write from your heart."  Was I irritated? Most definitely. I had no desire to go back and re-do something I had already finished. But believe me - I am SO glad that I did. 
    • 2nd round of editing: have anyone else willing to edit look over your writing for spelling/gramar errors and general flow 
      • It can be tough to find people who will actually edit your work. People are busy, so be sure to give them more than enough time so neither one of you gets stressed out about it. If you can't find anyone to help edit, you can actually pay people to edit your work. Someone recommended that I look at fiverr.com - a website where you can pay $5 to have people do various things - but there are tons of English enthusiasts ready to edit your work for a few bucks. That's always a great option if you need a second set of eyes - but be aware that they have a turnaround time as well. 
    • Don't be afraid to let go of an idea
      • I wanted to be creative and write a personal statement that related back to yoga. I could explain it all -because I actually drafted it - but it was a lot of unnecessary creative work. It would have been great - but it just wasn't. It was too much to try to cram into my character limit and I ended up selling myself short by not giving enough characters to my explanations of why I'd be great in medicine. Take home message? Give it up if it isn't working and move on to something else. 
  • Time frame
    • Earlier is better
      • AACOMAS applications can be submitted as early as June 1. If at all possible, submit everything on that date. Sure an extra week or so won't kill you, but there are thousands of other applicants that will absolutely be submitting their applications as soon as they can. Do yourself a favor and apply early so you can maximize  your chances of getting a secondary application and an interview. 
SECONDARY APPLICATIONS

Now if you thought the primary application sucked, you're in for a treat. Secondary applications are different for every school and there's no way around all the work that's in store for you. Generally, each school will send you a separate application that has a handful of different essay promts for them to get to know you better. Once secondary applications start to roll in, you'll be swamped with essays to write. 
  • Ask/google for prompts you can work on ahead of time
    • Most schools won't advertise what the essay questions are, although I found a few that did. Ask friends in medical school if they remember the things they had to write about or do a quick google search to find example questions that may come up. It's helpful just to have an idea of what you'll have to write about so you can start brainstorming. 
  • Run a word cloud on each application & use those words to help them find what they’re looking for.
    • This might be one of the best pieces of advice that I followed. It takes a bit of work, but I found that it was very helpful. Grab the school's application/mission statement/program description/etc and copy all the information. Stick that copied text into a word cloud generator, like this one, and out pops the word frequency. You'll notice that each school has a distinct voice, if you will, and you should use that to your advantage. If the word cloud says that service, compassion, and intellectual curiosity pop up more than other words or phrases, you can put your money on the fact that that school wants to attract students that embody those values. Gear your essays to reflect the values they are looking for, but don't ever make it up. If you have a way to spin your life experiences along those values, great. If you don't think that those really define you, skip it. At your interview, you'll be asked about whatever you write about in your essays, so be sure that everything you say is genuine.
  • Customize EACH essay. No matter how tempting it may be to copy and paste
    • You may find that some questions from different schools sound similar. And that sneaking temptation to copy and paste the last essay you wrote will be hard to ignore. But don't do it. Customize every essay to align with the schools mission statement, values,  etc. It may seem annoying, but it's definitely worth it in the long run. I wrote new, unique essays for every single question. And it sucked. But you know what? It sounded a lot fresher and more sincere than a blanket essay that might have worked for multiple essay prompts.
  • ANSWER the question. Seriously.
    • It seems ridiculous, but the struggle is real, folks. We tend to get excited and go off about something - without realizing that we filled up our character count without actually answering the question. I'm totally guilty - I did it too. Ask your editors to read the question stems as well as your essays to get their opinion about whether or not your answered the question. Nothing will annoy admissions committees more! They asked specific questions for a reason and if you can't pay attention enough to their question, why would they want  you to be a doctor? Harsh reality check. Answer the question fully. 
  • Deadlines are important! But earlier is better. Submit the first day you can.
    • Just like with the primary application, it is easy to put things off when life gets busy, but pay attention to deadlines. Some schools will give you deadlines for when your secondary application is due, others will leave it open ended. Set your own deadlines. The earlier, the better - obviously, but I know life gets busy. I frantically wrote essays during breaks in my 200-Hour Yoga Teacher Training in India, and believe me, there were other things I would have rather been doing. Aim to write, edit, and submit about 7 days after you first receive the secondary. This shows that you're interested in the school and able to produce quality work in a short amount of time... AND you'll be considered for an interview in a more timely manner as well. If a week isn't possible, try not to stretch it out to more than two weeks. 
  • Edit, edit, edit. 
    • Same as before. Have your friends/family/etc. edit for voice, spelling, and grammar. 
  • Keep track of everything by making a master chart. 
    • It's going to be easy to forget details. Do yourself another favor and create a giant excel spreadsheet to help save your sanity. Keep track of when you received a secondary application, deadlines, submission dates, ID#'s, people you talked to about status updates, etc. Stay on top of those details so deadlines don't fly by and you can remember what needs to get done! 
  • Follow up.
    • Follow up with schools to be sure they received everything they needed. AACOMAS will send you messages if they have any problems, so don't forget to check that inbox either. Don't assume that everything is fine just because you submitted things... ! Some schools send you messages to let you know your application is complete, but if you haven't heard from a school, call the admissions office and see what's going on. Admissions offices are SWAMPED. They won't notice if you're missing something until it could be too late for you to be considered for a secondary/interview. Be proactive and follow up!
AFTER YOUR APPLICATION IS COMPLETE : THE WAITING GAME

This might just be the toughest part of the application cycle. Once your application is complete, give yourself a pat on the back. The application alone is a lot of work and takes up a lot of your time!
  • Be patient.
    • Try not to be a mess of stress. Schools will get back to you as quickly as they can, so you might as well go back to enjoying your life. You'll hear one way or another, I promise. 
  • Have a beer, glass of wine, spritzer, sparkling water -whatever you prefer. 
    • But really, you should celebrate. It's a huge deal to apply to school to become a doctor! Celebrate with loved ones and wait for the good news to follow. All the application nonsense will be worth it in the end. :)

Mother's Day 2015

May 11, 2015

Yesterday was Mother's Day and Colorado decided to dump some snow on us to celebrate. I woke up to a text message at 6:15 am from my mother that said, "This is ridiculous." She sent me a photo of all the snow in her yard and the trees collapsing from the weight of the snow. If anyone knows my mom, they know not to mess with her trees. I had a not so happy mother on mother's day. 

So, Michael and I got up and headed down to her place to help her beat the snow off the trees, uncover the flowers, and hope for sunshine. 
My brother drove down from Fort Collins to come visit my mom as well. Once we arrived, we all munched on some delicious waffles Michael made and had a lovely brunch together.
But no day is complete without some witty humor from Tanner... so he decided to entertain us with the last two waffle pieces and he turned himself into a range of animals you'll see below. What's your fave? It's just really hard to love anything more than the shark face...
Then we headed out to the barn to play the with baby goats. Three more babies were born the day after my birthday and my mom needed help naming them. We decided on Rocco for the bigger boy, Roxy for the girl, and Rudy for the small runt male of the litter (snuggled up with Tanner and I below). 
 By that point, the sun had started to shine and it was warm enough to want to play outside. Michael made a snowman, complete with dandelion eyes, and I must say - it's pretty darn impressive for his first snowman. (I know, I know. I don't know how the man has lived so long without making a snowman, but there's a first for everything.)
We brought Bear along for the Mother's Day adventures and he was so tuckered out by the end of the day. The poor guy just can't catch the rabbits or eat all the snow on the ground. No wonder he was falling asleep sitting up! 
 And although all of us would have preferred a nice day of weather, we all had a great time coming together to play with my momma and remind her how much we love her.

I absolutely adore you, momma bear. You have taught me so many lessons throughout my life, many of which I am certain you don't even realize you taught me. Your selflessness, ambition, and unconditional love remind me daily to strive to be a better person. You are my role model, my rock, and my best friend. I'm so very thankful to have such a close relationship with you & it has been so special for me to be back from the Peace Corps and see much more of you in my daily life. Thank you for loving me, standing by my side, and encouraging me in every way to follow my heart and dreams.

I love you more than you know. Happy Mother's Day!
Happy Mother's Day to all you mothers out there - you are so very loved.

26 Favorite Moments

May 7, 2015

In honor of turning 26, I compiled 26 of my favorite memories or moments from the last 365 days. This past year marks the biggest transition year of my life. Adjusting to life back in America was not quite as easy as anticipated, but it came with a lot of wonderful memories just the same. This year of my life looks a whole lot different from any other years I've experienced, especially when I look back to my list from when I turned 23, (although you'll notice that I have a thing for babies learning to walk! - see #25 on this list and #11 from my other list) 

Enjoy! 

  1. After a little over 2 years, I wrapped up my service in Peace Corps Botswana, said some awfully tearful goodbyes, and left the African continent with new life lessons and perspectives. 
  2. Bathing/Swimming/Doing some yoga in the Holy Ganges River in India 
  3. Completing my 200 hour yoga teacher training in Rishikesh, India with my dear friend and fellow Botswana RPCV, Mignon
  4. Day trip in Japan during a layover - can't complain! 
  5. Coming home from my time abroad and being with my family again
  6. Kissing Michael after returning from the Peace Corps (celebrating our ability to faithfully love each other throughout two years of a VERY long distance relationship) and going to see the Goo Goo Dolls at Red Rocks that night.  
  7. Being reunited with Kibi when I came home - - I sent Kibi on a plane to the USA and Michael very lovingly took care of my kitty while I was doing my yoga training in India. I was so happy to get back home and love on that lil' furball! 
  8. Spending some quality play time with my brother in Fort Collins
  9. Making moves! I moved in with Michael when I came home and we had our first apartment together. I promise he wasn't ALWAYS napping on the couch. But Kibi was always creepily staring if he did :) 
  10. Meeting Kai's class - Kai was one of the kiddos I nannied for years during my undergrad. His teacher worked with me during my time in the Peace Corps and I was their class pen pal. We wrote about culture and life in Botswana. The questions they came up with were priceless! This is a photo of me with Kai before his class came over to meet me. One kid said, "You're Tate!? Like, really, YOU'RE the Tate we saw in the photos?!" No big deal guys - I'm a celebrity among small children in Fort Collins. 
  11. My dad's side of the family all gathered for a big family reunion in Akron - with plenty of food to go around! 
  12. Tour de fat in Fort Collins - believe it or not, this was my first year to participate. We dressed up as the Mario Brothers and had an amazing day. Look closely - You'll see the fanny pack I brilliantly decided to strap to my bike, which later hit my tire and caused me to flip OVER my handle bars and onto my face. Cheers to that - we all had another beer. 
  13. Spending time in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains with my grandparents and looking at all the beautiful leaves changing colors 
  14. After not having my best friend around, our weekly dinners/play dates were some of my favorite fall occasions. I love you Lizzy! 
  15. I went on a road trip to Arkansas with Michael and his brothers to go visit his family. We ate way too much, played at the farm, and enjoyed his family's company!  
  16. A great sigh of relief - receiving my first acceptance to medical school! This may be one of my favorite feelings of all time - the moment when I realized all my hard work paid off and I get to be a doctor! So. Freaking. Fun. 
  17. Michael surprised me and bought a ticket for Kate to come visit over Halloween weekend. We dressed up as trolls for halloween and just loved on each other every other moment she was in CO. 
  18.  I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Douglas Country School District Student Council Conference. I had the opportunity to share my experiences after graduating from high school and how the skills I developed in student council helped me get there.I also taught yoga breakout sessions throughout the day to teach students how to manage their stress and get more exercise in their daily lives. It was so fun to see how much I've changed since I was in their shoes! 
  19. Spending Thanksgiving/Christmas at home with my family after so many years of being without them 
  20. I was accepted to three medical schools (hurray!) and I had to make a choice before Christmas to put down a deposit to save my seat in the class. After long and careful debate, I chose to stay in Colorado and attend Rocky Vista University. I made little scratch cards for my family to guess where I chose to go to school - and surprised them with my decision! 
  21. My first full season of skiing! First season pass, first pair of skis.. and definitely hooked on many more seasons to come. 
  22. Several Botswana Returned Peace Corps Volunteers happened to be in CO at the same time around new years, so we had a mini reunion in Idaho Springs. So much fun to be in the company of these fabulous people! 
  23. After months of saying I wouldn't love it - I tried Crossfit and completely fell in love. I'm so hooked. It has become a favorite part of my day! 
  24. I went on a trip to Utah with Michael and two of our dear friends in March. We had the chance to visit Arches National Park and doing some yoga at sunrise absolutely filled my heart with joy.
  25. I've been working as a nanny for this lil' nugget since I came home from the Peace Corps. I've been with her since she was about 4 months old, and watching Annabelle take her first steps was such a beautiful moment. I'm such a proud nanny!  
  26. And finally - two sweet baby goats were born on my birthday! My mom's goats have had babies every year that I've been away from home, so this is my first year to see the babies. I kept saying the goats would wait for my birthday to give birth .... and meet Daisy and Daffy (Daffodil) - seriously two of my favorite birthday presents... ever! (and I got to name them!) :) 
This year was full of wonderful moments that I will always cherish. I can't wait to see what the next year has in store for me! 

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