College Station, TX

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Isaac Benjamin

The last few weeks have been filled will lots of different emotions. We were filled with overwhelming JOY when we found out we were pregnant on November 15th after we took 8.. yes, 8... pregnancy tests! (The pictures only show 7- we saved the 8th for a few days later!)

We made plans to go home for Christmas to surprise our families with the good news. We were realizing that our lives were about to change and we couldn't have been more excited. Our house instantly went from a comfortable size to too small with discussions of turning Nick's "I love me" room into a guest room and making the third bedroom the baby's room. (As you can imagine, Nick wasn't too excited about this idea! Why do we need a guest room anyways?? Ha!) I also downloaded a baby name app on my phone and began questioning Nick daily on his favorites. Each week we got more and more excited, and were having a harder time keeping the news from our family. Seeing Nick kissing my belly and talking to baby saying things like "Don't make mamma throw up today!" and "I can't wait to meet you!" have brought me the most incredible feelings of joy and love for both him and our baby.

Unfortunately, the next part of the story isn't as happy.

On Wednesday, November 30th while I was at work, I started bleeding. I texted Nick immediately and told him I needed to talk to him. Luckily, he happened to be walking out of the sim building, where phones aren't allowed, just a few minutes after I sent the message. I was in shock and couldn't even think of what I needed to do. I hadn't really told anyone at work that I was pregnant so I couldn't just tell them I was bleeding and leave, so I paced around the halls for a good 10 minutes. I searched for my managers that I had told, and couldn't find them anywhere. Finally I found the charge nurse and I told her what was going on. She walked with me over to Norfolk General ER which is connected to the heart hospital where I work. Nick arrived as I was getting my vitals in triage. They did a few exams, 3 different types of ultrasounds, and drew what seemed like all of my blood for testing. After 9 hours in the ER, we walked away with the following information: They were 95% sure it was a regular miscarriage but there was still a 5% chance it was an ectopic pregnancy. They did not see any gestational sac on the ultrasound which meant I had either miscarried or that the pregnancy had implanted somewhere other than the uterus (most ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube which can be very dangerous for mom). My hcg level (the hormone in your blood when you're pregnant) was over 5500 (1500 is considered a likely pregnancy). They told me to follow up in 48 hours to have my blood drawn again to make sure the levels were trending down to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and to make sure that everything had cleared out. Overall, we were very happy with all the doctors and nurses taking care of us in the ER. They were very compassionate and informative and we are so thankful for all of them.

Before leaving the ER, we had the chaplain come in and speak with us. She talked with us about grieving and healing and asked if we had plans to name the baby. Nick laughed and told her how I started asking him the day we found out we were pregnant what his favorite names were. I had a feeling that the baby was a boy and of course Nick was always hoping for a little boy he could teach to fly. We looked at each other and at pretty much the same time said two of our favorite boy names: Isaac  Benjamin. Isaac means laughter and Benjamin means right hand son. So we decided to call him by name: Isaac Benjamin Choffel, or IBC like the root beer :)

I followed up with my primary care physician 48 hours later and they drew my blood to check hcg levels. They told me that since it was Friday and the lab was closed on the weekend, we would have to wait until Monday for the results. This was a bit frustrating seeing as ruling out a possible life threatening situation  would have to wait 3 days. We called Nick's sister and brother-in-law, Ashley and Jason who are both OB/GYN's in San Antonio, TX to get their opinions. We talked to Ashley, who was very reassuring, and said that the important thing was the levels were drawn and that it should be fine as long as I was asymptomatic.

It was a long weekend waiting for results.

The nurse finally called me at work Monday and informed me that the levels went down to about 3800 but that we still needed to schedule a follow up ultrasound just to make sure. Scheduling an appointment to see an actual OB/GYN was another huge pain we had to deal with, but long story short, we ended up getting an appointment Tuesday, Dec. 6th (today) at Portsmouth Naval Hospital. The Dr. was GREAT. She did another ultrasound and we had my hcg levels drawn again. Unfortunately we left the hospital this evening with just as many questions as the doctor had. She DID find a gestational sac on the ultrasound, however it wasn't nice and round like she would expect to see. It was slightly deflated and misshapen which she said was a little bit worrysome. The baffling thing is instead of my hcg levels going DOWN like you would expect to see, they went UP to 11,000. The conclusion: inconclusive. We have to come back Thursday or Friday and have more blood drawn and another ultrasound to get another data point and figure out what is going on in my belly. We are trying not to get our hopes up too much but at the same time we remain hopeful and know that this is all a part of God's plan and that He will take care of our family!

We will be sure and update everyone as we continue to get more information and results. Prayers are welcome and appreciated!

Nick, Laura, and Isaac Benjamin

Saturday, October 15, 2011


It has been a roller coaster 2 months here in Virginia. I've had good days and I've had some not so good days. Ok, so I've had some really really crappy days! One thing I'm learning, though, is God's timing is perfect, and He has wonderful plans for us! It's not always easy to see, and I struggle with it every day.. Why am I in this new place with no family, I barely know anyone, I didn't get the job I wanted, I'm getting paid less than I expected, I have to work nights, all my friends from school got jobs in the areas they wanted, and if I had stayed in Texas I could have too, my husband is gone to Key West for 2 weeks doing what he WANTS to do, and at some point in the near future will leave me here alone for 6+ months at a time...

I've been going to this bible study for military wives on Tuesday mornings and we've been doing this devotional "Tour of Duty...Preparing our Hearts for Deployment" by Sara Horn. 

This past week we read the passage in Genesis about Joseph and how his brothers were jealous that he was the favored son so they sold him. He ends up in prison, and because he has so much faith in God, he ends up working his way to the top. He credits God with being able to interpret the dreams of a cupbearer and a baker, and tells them to not forget about him, and to tell the Pharaoh what he has done. Well, they forgot, and it was 2 years later before they remember Joseph. But God never forgot Joseph! His timing is perfect, and there was a reason it took them 2 years.. The Pharaoh had 2 disturbing dreams that he couldn't find the meaning of. The cupbearer then remembered Joseph, so they sent for him. With help from God, Joseph was able to interpret the Pharaoh's dreams and explained that Egypt would have 7 years of abundance followed by 7 years of famine. Unless they took immediate action and placed someone very wise in charge of grain storage, Egypt would face ruin. Enter Joseph as the someone very wise! He became basically #2 in charge of Egypt and saved tons of people from starvation! WOW!! 

I like to think that's how I ended up here in Virginia with my super cute husband and my new job! Did I ever think this is where I would be at 24? Nope! I was planning on graduating from A&M and moving to Colorado with Anne and Dave to be their slave laborer! I've never been much of a beach person... mountains please!! Then I met Nick... who is in the Navy... which operates at sea... meaning they have ports at the beach... which would be why I now live at the beach and not in the Rockies :) But if it weren't for all these "detours" and unexpected backroads, I would never have made it here. And if we didn't have the "downs" how would we be reminded that we need Jesus?? If our lives were perfectly smooth, everything was perfect and went as planned, it would be easy to forget that He is responsible for it all!

My friend Sarah and I were having what I will call "off days" last Saturday when our husbands left for Key West. I asked her if she would like to come with me to the bible study on Tuesday morning and she said yes! She ended up loving it, and bought the devotional that day, and asked off work for as many of the following Tuesdays as possible so she could keep going. She said it was "perfect" and just what she needed. She said she grew up going to church but hasn't been for a while. Maybe all my struggles with this military life lead me to sign up for the bible study so that I could help bring a friend back to church. Maybe that's far fetched, but I like to think it could have something to do with it. And if that's the case, it's totally worth it.


Yes, the rumors are true.. I got a job!!! I will be working HERE starting October 24th! I will be on the advanced heart failure unit (AHFU) full time, which for nurses is 3 12-hour shifts per week. The only downside is I will be working nights. Unfortunately this was pretty much the only area hiring new grads, and nights were the only shifts available! Oh well, I will get paid more per hour, and can put my name on the list the first day of work to switch to days when a spot comes available.

Finding a job in Virginia was MUCH more difficult than I thought. Even getting my foot in the door was a struggle. I tried calling, emailing, and even going to all the hospitals to try and just TALK to someone with no luck! I had to keep reminding myself that it is not in my control, and that His timing is perfect. Once I got past the frustration of job rejection, I was able to relax and I found myself in a much better state of mind. Not 2 days later, my neighbor tells me that a guy he works with is married to one of the head recruiters for Sentara (the largest hospital system in the area) and that he has her personal cell phone number for me to call her!! I called her that night, and she told me that critical care and mother/baby units are extremely difficult to get into as a new grad, but if you want critical care, the heart hospital is a wonderful place to start, and they hire new grads. She said "Come to the job fair this weekend, come find me when you get there, I'll take you around and introduce you to the managers, and if you don't have a few interviews set up by the end of it, call me on Monday and I'll set some up for you." Ummm, answer to prayer, yes?? I was able to set up a few interviews on my own at the job fair, and was interviewing that next Wednesday! One of the interviews was with the cardiac ICU, and the manager was actually standing in line waiting to talk to me because they were some how impressed with my resume!? Not sure how that one happened hah!

I was a little nervous about what to say if we had a conversation something like this:
Them: "So what brings you to Virginia?"
Me: "My husband's job"
Them: "Oh, great, what does he do?"
Me: .....

Technically they are not allowed to ask me this question, but sometimes they do. Am I supposed to lie about it because they weren't supposed to ask me about it in the first place? Do I tell them the truth because I have a conscience? Do I tell them only part of the truth? I was afraid my chances of getting a job would be hurt if they found out I was a military spouse. By law they can't not hire you because you are a military spouse, but it would be pretty easy to not hire me for other reasons, like that I have ZERO nursing experience! It'd be pretty easy to pass off a no-hire for something like that! I called my friend Erin who is a radiation therapist in Seattle to ask her advice. (Her husband Colin is a P-3 pilot stationed at NAS Whidbey Island. Nick and Colin met in Pensacola at the very beginning of flight school, and Colin and Erin were both in our wedding party). She had some great advice, and I felt much better about it after talking with her.

So I get to my interview and there are 2 ladies from the unit interviewing me. (Since the units are all so closely connected, I got to pretty much just do one interview for a few different positions) One interviewer was the manager that I had met at the job fair, and the other was the nurse clinician, whom I hadn't met yet. The other lady comes in first, and she begins looking through my resume. Not 2 minutes after she starts perusing, she says "Hmmm.. Corpus Christi..." and I'm thinking oh no, she's onto me! Then the next words out of her mouth were "My husband got his wings in Kingsville!" Part of me is jumping for joy because Nick did too! The other part is cringing because I don't know what to say at this point. She hasn't technically asked me, but I'm pretty sure she already knows. Do I keep silent or fess up? Then, of course, she asks me what made me choose Corpus. Blast! I nervously start giving my half scripted answer that Erin helped me come up with.. "Many people have advised me not to disclose the full truth..." and before I get any further she says, "Why!" *Big sigh of relief on my part here!* Then she goes on and on about how they love the military here and blah blah blah... Turns out her husband flew F-14s!! It was funny because she was getting so excited talking to me about it and at the end of the interview she told me "I had so much fun reminiscing with you!" Thank you God!! They told me they loved interviewing me, and that they wanted me to come in and shadow on the unit for a few hours so that I could make sure it was something I wanted to do- They wanted ME to give THEM the ok before they offered me a position. How cool is that?! I've never heard of a place doing that, but it totally makes sense.

I ended up shadowing in the AHFU and in the cardiac intensive care unit. The CICU was the first unit I went to and it was a CRAZY day. Lots of stuff going on and it was a bit overwhelming. Challenging for sure. They don't normally hire new grads in there, but they thought maybe I was ready (something on my resume made them think this.. not sure what it was seeing as I just graduated and have no experience!!) The only time they hire new grads is if they have done their externship in that hospital or in a cardiac ICU, which I had not done. Needless to say I felt very overwhelmed! The next day I shadowed in the advanced heart failure unit which was MUCH more relaxed and slower paced. I felt like I could almost jump on the unit right there and be OK so that's good! I was torn because I really wanted to work in the ICU and knew that I could do it with lots of independent study and orientation/training, but didn't know if they would even offer me that position. The manager in the ICU said they had just hired a new grad last week who did her internship there, and that she didn't know if they could handle another new grad at that time. I was not expecting to get offered the position, and thought that if I was supposed to be in there, they would offer it, and if not, I was supposed to be somewhere else! Turns out I was right, and they offered me the heart failure unit position.. with the plan to transfer to CICU after I got some experience! Perfect! I know that if I got the job in CICU right away that I could have managed it, but I also know I would probably be a wreck for a while trying to keep up and be good at my job! With Nick being gone a lot and him possibly deploying within 3 months, I know that it would be too much emotionally for me to handle. I have a hard enough time dealing with him being gone sometimes! If I were to have a bad/stressful day in ICU and wouldn't have him there to come home to or even talk to on the phone every day I don't know what I would do! Now I'm aware that this WILL happen someday and that I WILL have bad days even on the AHFU and I won't always have him there when I get home, etc. but the stress level starting in the ICU is like 10x more than the AHFU. He knows what He's doing!!!!

So I spent this week getting all my paperwork, pre-employment physical, and new scrubs purchased (we have to wear navy blue) so I'm ready to go next week. Nick has been in Key West since last Saturday so I've been having fun with Sarah, who's husband is in class with Nick and is gone also. Thank God for friends and the great people I've met here already!!


Monday, September 19, 2011

House Projects

Since moving to Virginia, I have tried to find ways to keep myself busy while looking for a job! Luckily, I am in love with DIY, being creative, and finding ways to repurpose old items. I have recently become slightly (ok, maybe a little more than slightly) obsessed with this website and have found all sorts of great ideas and tips!

One thing I've been working on is refinishing an old mirror. An old, very heavy mirror with the backing NAILED to it. Not something you see anymore! My idea is to use it in our half bathroom downstairs, and replace the boring old stock mirror. I don't have a picture of it before I started, but it had white/light green paint all over it. I had to use paint stripper and a sander to take all the paint off before staining it. Here's what it looks like after staining: 
I just finished putting the mirror back in, and nailing it all back together, so I'll post a picture of that once it's all done!

My next project is to strip and re-stain this beauty I scored at a consignment store for $29! 

I was in great need of a nightstand, but didn't want to pay over $100 for one that isn't even real wood! This thing is solid and heavy, and I think once it is stained the same color as the rest of the set, it will look awesome! Especially for $29 :)

Last weekend, we had planned to have Nick's class and their wives over for dinner so that I could meet everyone. We were in the middle of painting several walls, so we had at least 4-5 different sample colors all over the walls. I wanted to have the house all nice and together looking before everyone came over, so I had planned to finally make a decision and get the walls painted. Nick went rafting in West Virginia for a bachelor party this same weekend, and everyone was coming over at 6 pm on Sunday night, so I had 2 days to get the kitchen and the wall in the living room painted! (This was also the weekend before taking my NCLEX- so another reason I didn't study much!)

Luckily, I have met some great people here already, and one of them (Bo, the precious dog I rescued in Corpus's new momma!) came over and helped me paint!! She and her husband (who is also in the Navy) live one block over and they recently bought a house too. They have been doing lots of painting/renovating so we decided it would be way more fun to have painting parties and help each other out. She was a huge help! Thanks, Stephanie!!!
Here's a few pictures of the painted walls! Sorry some of them are so dark.

Nick's wedding gift to me. I think it's a perfect place for it because it's so visible!

Found the white shelves at Goodwill for $2 each 
The gray matches my yellow mixer so well!!!

We just hung some curtains (got them on clearance at Target.. with gift cards!)  yesterday! They still need hemming, but they look AWESOME!
More to come soon!
--The Choffels


I passed, I passed!!!!!!
Well, at least the "unofficial" results I had to pay $7.95 to receive say I passed! Praise the Lord!! I KNOW the Big Man was watching out for me. I had a TERRIBLE time finding the motivation to study for my NCLEX (The nursing licensure exam). There were too many other exciting things catching my attention around the house whether it was painting, cleaning, or spending time with that darn good looking husband of mine! 

Isn't he cute??
Luckily, to graduate from our program, we had to take an exit exam, which is basically a cumulative exam from all of nursing school. It is very similar to what we will see on our NCLEX exam, and we are required to pass it in order to graduate. Since I was more than ready to be in Virginia living with my husband, and not in Corpus Christi, I was super motivated to pass this exam! I also knew it would be a great review for my NCLEX, so I studied a great deal. I ended up doing very well on it, and the instructor said I was "right on track" for taking my NCLEX, which was very reassuring! When it came time to study for the real exam, I felt like I was just reviewing information I had already studied a thousand times! This was good and bad. Good because that means this wasn't the first time I was studying the material, but bad because I was bored with it and tired of studying the same material over and over.

I felt pretty good until 2 days before the exam when I started freaking myself out just a little bit. I was making myself nervous because I hadn't studied as much as I thought I would have, even though I felt prepared. I went to sleep early the night before the exam, knowing I have trouble sleeping if I'm nervous about something. I was almost asleep, then OF COURSE, several jets fly DIRECTLY over the house, 10x louder than they have ever been before... and they've been extremely loud! And it wasn't just because I was about to fall asleep the night before my big exam.. I couldn't even hear Nick talking, and his head was right next to mine!

It took me another almost 2 hours before I finally fell asleep, so I ended up getting about 6 hours total. I was tired the next morning, and all during my test. I kept praying for only 75 questions and my prayers were answered! (NOTE: The NCLEX is scored weird. You have to answer a certain number of "difficult" questions in order to stay above the "passing" line. You can have anywhere from 75-265 questions to accomplish this. If you have answered enough hard questions and have stayed above the passing mark after 75 questions, then the test shuts off. You keep going until you've answered enough to pass, unless you run out of time or questions!) If the test shuts off at 75 questions, that doesn't automatically mean you passed. You could have failed so miserably, the computer says "Wow, this girl has no hope of recovering, she should just stop now!" I felt confident enough when the computer shut off at 75, I had passed and I wasn't TOO nervous about it. And I was right!!! I'm SO relieved it is over! Now to wait for my license number so I can apply for more jobs!!

- Laura Choffel, RN, BSN :)

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Maybe I should run for president. I think our life in the past year includes more "change" than Mr. Obama's overwhelmingly popular campaign slogan.
Since January of 2011, I have:
- Moved twice- once cross country. Well, technically 3 times if you count unloading the trailer in Dallas after moving everything from Corpus Christi in order to take a vacation for a week before heading to Virginia! This is my first time ever living out of the great state of Texas!
- Married the love of my life!
- Bought a house
- Graduated from nursing school, making this my second bachelors degree
- Traveled from the West to East coast in 4 days
- Backed a trailer up my long, narrow driveway by myself!! OK, so this isn't really change, but you had better believe I'm proud of this fact, so I figured I would go ahead and list it.
- Been in an earthquake and hurricane all in the same week.. welcome to Virginia!
- Purchased a sewing machine and re-taught myself how to sew.. made all my bridesmaids gifts!
- Become an excellent stripper. Get your mind out of the gutter- a paint stripper! I've been learning to re-finish old furniture! More on that to come...
- I know there's probably more stuff, but you get the idea.

I have now been in Virginia for 2 weeks. I was hoping to get out here and immediately get a job since there is that thing called a nursing shortage everyone has been talking about, right?  Well, partly right. There definitely is a shortage of nurses, but the hospitals just can't afford to hire them. Especially new nurses with no experience. Because of the economy, older nurses whose spouses have lost their jobs, are staying at theirs or are trying to go back to work, so us new nurses are competing for the few available spots. I also did not realize how good Texas really has it in terms of the job market. Texas has definitely not been hit like the rest of the country, and I'm seeing that firsthand. Also, I think I have "military spouse" written all over me. "I've just graduated from a random nursing school in Militaryville (Corpus Christi) that you've probably never heard of if you aren't from Texas or aren't in the military (red flag #1), and I'm moving to Militarytown (Virginia Beach) (red flag #2) where I have no family, friends, or connections whatsoever. Before that, I went to school at Military University (Red flag #3)(Texas A&M) where I met my now husband. Oh, and that recommendation letter that was sent to you a few months ago? Make sure you change my old last name to my new one because I just got married (Red flag #4). And finally, I will be licensed in the state of Texas (icing on the cake) because it is my "home of record" meaning that is where I still claim my permanent residency. This is allowed for military and their spouses since we will be moving so much. I was hoping that having 2 bachelors degrees and graduating summa cum laude would help me get a job. Frustrating. I take my boards a week from today, so hopefully that will make me more marketable. Prayers please!

Enough ranting!

Even though I haven't had a job, I've managed to keep myself busy with projects around the house but I'll save those for another post.

Not sure if anyone will actually read this blog, or how religiously I will even update it, but my hopes are that I can share with our family and friends some of the ups and downs of this military life!

--The Choffels