Denver Report Card

It’s been a month since we left Denver so I think it’s about time to release the infamous “Report Card” for Colorado. In reality, neither Jason nor I have lived in Colorado for over 8 years, not to mention the last time we were living in Colorado, it was with our parents. So, needless to say, we were excited for the opportunity to see what it was like to live in Denver…on our own…as adults.

And I just can't hide it!
And I just can’t hide it!

Some aspects-beer, for instance- proved plentiful and delicious. We also enjoyed the food scene immensely. But there were things I expected to be better established- like public transportation or bike lanes. I know we technically lived in Aurora, which is very different than Denver proper, but I still feel that certain aspects about Denver were not what I expected at all. So, let’s delve a bit deeper, shall we?

Food: 9

Don't judge
Don’t judge

During my first month of work, I got into a discussion with one of my coworkers about food in the Denver area. She and her husband-huge foodies- frequent the Denver food scene, so she bequeathed a list of recommendations that, along with our own discoveries, blew us away. We truly enjoyed all that the Denver (and Aurora!) food scene offered. Some of our favorites included Il Posto a classic, upscale Italian restaurant, The Yak and Yeti for Indian food and beer and The French Press for breakfast. There was Kirk’s Soul Kitchen- they make the best fried okra, even though it hurts the Carolina half of my heart to admit it. Their fried chicken was also pretty damn incredible. Our neighbors, Eric and Jennifer, took us out to their favorite Korean restaurant where I fawned over my spicy Kimchi soup and we stuffed ourselves with all sorts of unique and flavorful dishes. Eric also shared his cooking expertise with us by making Japanese curry- words fail to express how delicious that was. We enjoyed some tasty thin crust pizza at The Walnut Room with my cousin Carmen and her husband CW. We didn’t try Tacos Seline until a few weeks before we left, which is unfortunate because it was  just down the street from us and serves up some mean street tacos. But the ultimate experience, the cou de gras of our food exploration, was The Populist. A small plate themed restaurant with a unique assortment of ethnic and classic dishes. You know those mind blowing meals that leave such an imprint on your psyche that you remember every single succulent item that you ordered? Yeah, that happened. It’s happened only a handful of times for us, most notably at Nana’s in Durham but also at Nosh in Colorado Springs. After Jason and I left the restaurant and for weeks afterward, we kept talking about that meal. I eventually came to the conclusion that The Populist was best restaurant experience I ever had. (For the record, it is not the best meal I’ve ever had. That credit belongs to the notorious Mama Malone-chef, artist and Italian queen. Grazie!) The food in Denver, though, was remarkable, variable and thoroughly enjoyable! So why not a 10? Call me picky, but I was disappointed by the lack of farm to table fare. I am aware that Colorado doesn’t boast the same growing season as North Carolina, and I certainly can’t expect the same variety, that’s simply ecology. Still, I expected a lot more Colorado livestock offered in restaurants and I was kind of disappointed. I mean, isn’t that what Colorado is known for? Beef? Well….okay Colorado is known more for beer (and other vices). Speaking of beer…

Libations: 10

Why is anyone surprised by this? Colorado’s beer scene is incredible, and I’m not just talking about New Belgium and Oskar Blues. I’m talking about the small microbreweries that are everywhere. Everywhere. One of the first things we did in Colorado was venture to Jason’s favorite brewery in Ft Collins, O’Dell. We hit up Dry Dock in Aurora (delicious and creative), Left Hand (a classic favorite), and Lowdown (also delicious). We spent most of our time at Coda, and I am so very glad we did. Coda, a small brewery that opened only a year or two ago, happens to be located in a small apartment/condo area right behind the hospital. One of my favorite memories from working at Colorado Children’s involved a horrible day and a general invitation (by me) to drink beer at Coda after work. We gathered, drank beer, told stories, got to know one another a little bit better, and I hope they continue to gather there after work, because it is so, so incredible. One of the things I love about Coda is the variety and quality. Maybe one or two beers are constants on the menu (Sleepyhead and Dogcatcher are two all time favorites) but most of the time it constantly changes, and it is all really good. They don’t serve food, but you can order from the pub across the street and they will deliver it to you at the brewery. I can’t be the only one who thinks this idea is five shades of brilliant. Colorado just keeps surprising me with the beer scene. Cheers to the Rockies.

**While writing this blog post, I received a text from my friend informing me that Coda is no longer. I guess there was a founder “divorce” and now it is a new brewery with sub-par beer. RIP Coda, I hope we meet again someday…

Outdoors: 10

After spending 8 years in North Carolina, the people in Colorado seem a little cold by comparison. There is an exception to this. Example: while enjoying a picnic with our friend Jen, a lady walked by and immediately struck up a conversation about her son and her love of Japan. We had no idea who this lady was, but she was amazingly friendly. Something about the outdoors makes Coloradans super friendly. We are at our best when surrounded by nature. I have to say, there is undeniably something in the air in Colorado that makes you want to be outside- even in the snow. It’s just refreshing, almost cleansing.

Though we didn’t get up to the mountains as much as we would have liked, we did get to revisit some favorite hikes along with a few new experiences like a snow shoeing adventure in Grand Lake. I spent tons of time on the Highline Canal Trail which ran behind our apartment complex and connected with the myriad of trails in the Denver area. Even though that trail was surrounded by residential areas and highways, I still felt like I was far away and on most days you could see the Rocky Mountains in the distance. I can’t help it, those mountains soothe my soul.

COLifeZones_Panorama

Transportation: 7

Let me start by saying that Denver’s bus system was so much better than Phoenix. Infinitely better. Light years ahead. That being said…snow can really mess up your commute and buses are no exception. Now, we lived right along a main bus line that took me straight to the hospital, which was beyond wonderful. Normally the bus ride took me about 15-20 min. What I didn’t realize is how little they plow the streets in Aurora. As in, they never plow them. Even buses need plowed roads to get anywhere. So to say that the bus system was sub par would be unfair because the only time the bus was unreliable was when it was snowing. Which, as it turns out, happens a lot in Colorado during the Winter months. I thought for sure Colorado would be one of the more bike friendly cities but biking- even on the nice days- was surprisingly challenging. In order to safely get to the hospital, I had to weave through neighborhood streets in a very roundabout way because none of the major roads have bike lanes. Construction was always impeding my route as well, so on several occasions I had to take a detour, sometimes taking me a half a mile out of the way. I eventually came to the conclusion that until the light rail is completed, Denver will be a difficult city to navigate by public transportation. We may just hold out until then.

This could be promising...
This could be promising…

Work: 8

Children’s Hospital of Colorado is beautiful and has some really cool features, like their very own blood bank. When you transfuse blood and platelets to children on an almost daily basis, there is something so powerful when you realize that they may be receiving your blood or platelets. It connects you to your work in a very concrete way. They also have their own radio studio that plays music through the television and hosts Bingo games for kids to play in their rooms.The hardest thing about the job was getting readjusted to being an outpatient nurse. When you work on an oncology floor (inpatient), patients and their families usually grow accustomed to having a different nurse every night. There is the occasional patient that spends so much time in the hospital they request their “favorites” but generally speaking, families are pretty cool about switching care providers every 12 hours. In outpatient, you don’t spend as many hours with these patients but you see them on such a regular basis that they grow very familiar with who the nurses are and they can sniff out a newbie very quickly. Pair that with the fact that this location hadn’t had a travel nurse in seven years. I was surprised by the amount of suspicion I was met with by many parents and patients. Understandable, as I am sticking your child with needles, but it is unnerving to walk into that, even with four years experience under my belt. My coworkers were wonderful, helpful, supportive and amazingly awesome. I just missed inpatient. I think that, while we don’t have children, working as a floor nurse might be more my style.

Yep, I totally just admitted that. Shocker.
Yep, I totally just admitted that. Shocker.

So the score is… 8.2

Not bad, Denver!! But we’re not done adventuring, yet.

Happy New Year to all and to all a good night!

My sister and her husband made a bet over whether or not Jason and I would actually leave Colorado after I started this contract. I’ll admit, it was a fair assumption that we wouldn’t want to leave. However, I’ve realized that part of the reason I haven’t written a blog post in some time is that I’ve been trying to think of a way to express my feelings without seeming ungrateful or just plain pessimistic. There are some realities about living in Colorado that I enjoy immensely and some that I didn’t expect. For those who don’t want to waste their time with trudging through my pretentious monologue about first world problems, I included pictures to sum it up. 

You're welcome
You’re welcome

 

Let’s start with finding an apartment. We tried AirBnB (which is what we did in Phoenix), thinking that it would be a lot easier to just find a furnished place in Denver rather than haul our stuff up to an apartment from our “storage unit” in my parents basement. This proved harder than we initially thought. Apparently, finding a place to live anywhere near Denver is hard and overpriced.

We almost found a place near downtown but this woman was charging a pretty hefty price for an “apartment” that was more like a room in a boarding house. When we tried haggling with her, she acted personally affronted that we would even suggest such a thing!

What I expected:

They had the best apartment!!
They had the best apartment!!

What actually happened:

Awwww snap...
Awwww snap…

In the end, thanks to our friend Jen, we found a great apartment close to the hospital that I could either bike or take the bus to work. My in-laws generously let us use their guest bedroom furniture so we didn’t have to rent it, and we just hauled a bunch of our kitchen stuff up from my parents’ place. Really, Colorado was the best location for us to have problems with finding housing. I mean, it’s not like we have a shortage of people we know here. But still, that lady was kind of a jerk.

I guess we dodged a bullet there...
I guess we dodged a bullet there…

 

Being back in Colorado means MOUNTAINS and I have been so happy to see them on the horizon, but once we started approaching Thanksgiving, spending time in the mountains was quickly replaced by spending time wistfully looking at the mountains and wishing I were spending more time there. What we really spent a lot of time dong on our weekends was driving. Usually to Colorado Springs….but at least the mountains were closer to look at there.

What I expected:

Sound of Music

What actually happened:

You speak truth, Bob Ross
You speak truth, Bob Ross

I was also disappointed to find that I didn’t love the job at Colorado Childrens. Please don’t misinterpret- everyone is welcoming, I still love what I do, and I feel very appreciated. But I started travel nursing to really challenge myself and expand my skills. Initially, this job did just that. I learned a lot about how different hospitals treat different types of cancer, sedation recovery, and how sickle cell is managed for patients at altitude. Then, something totally unexpected  happened….I got bored. I thought for sure I would love being back in an outpatient setting and feel more in my element, but I surprised even myself when I started watching the clock day by day. Granted, the flow is completely unpredictable in a way that it rarely is in the inpatient world. Some days I start by watching the clock and finish my day running around like a crazy person, but I couldn’t believe how slow some days went and how much I missed having an extra day off during the week. Working four days a week is HARD! I think Phoenix Children’s may have converted me to an inpatient nurse!

What I expected:

Boom! Let's do this...
Boom! Let’s do this…

What actually happened:

Oh my gerd it's only noon???
Oh my geeerrrddd it’s only noon???

I was super excited to be living so close to our families during the holidays, but what I didn’t expect was the amount of time we would be spending every weekend (and sometimes weekdays) at a family function. I always get a little stressed out during the holidays. Since our families live so close to one another, it’s important to me that our time is equally split. In the past, this stress is usually concentrated over 1-2 weeks. It never occurred to me that this stress would start at Thanksgiving and extend into Christmas. It also never occurred to me that the effects of it might turn me into Scrooge. Me. Buddy the Elf.

What I expected:

Buddy

What actually happened:

HUMBUG!!
HUMBUG!!

Let me perfectly clear- I don’t want it to seem like our families put any kind of pressure on us. I take full responsibility for stressing myself out. They were just excited that we were here, and we certainly didn’t want to say no to the opportunity to hang out with them. After all, we were finally close enough to visit every weekend!!  So that is what we did. From Thanksgiving to Christmas. Every weekend. 

So much driving
So much driving

I did try to extend my contract here at Colorado Children’s. I wanted to extend because I thought we could use another month to see if things settled into a normal routine after the holidays. I honestly can’t pinpoint exactly when I started to get bored in my job, but I do suspect that it happened right around the time I found out my they couldn’t extend me. Not getting my contract extended kind of threw me for a loop. It was hard for me to extract my feelings about my job performance from the fact that they simply did not need another traveler past the end of my contract.  I felt as though I was doing a good job and I wanted to believe that this would influence their decision. The reality is that hiring a travel nurse is expensive, and there is no point in keeping me if I’m not needed. The people that work there have been there for a while with no plans of leaving any time soon. The nurses that are on maternity leave will be coming back to work by the time my contract is up. Really, it’s a testament to the unit that everyone stays there as long as they do. 
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. For all the stress of the holidays, we have really enjoyed living in Colorado. We just wanted more time to do all the things and see everyone. But…if there is anything I’ve learned this year is that all things must change in some way, shape or form. It’s time for us to move on to the next exciting location (more on that later)! As much as I wanted to do Christmas cards this year, I thought it more appropriate to do a picture montage of all the exciting changes we experienced and adventures we had in 2015. Interestingly enough, I found my feelings of gratitude, joy and love to be more profound during the New Year holiday than any other this season. Thank you to all who have been a part of this exciting year!