Wednesday, August 14, 2013

So, so, so angry

I don't even know where to start. Maybe I'll start with this disclaimer that states: This is gong to be more of a maybe-I-don't-want-the-whole-world-to-read-my-journals-when-I'm-dead journal type entry so feel free to back slowly out of the room to a safer place. If you are still here, I will start by telling a story.

Once upon a time I thought I would go to nursing school. This was not decided on a whim, it was percolating in the back of my mind for decades, but the idea stayed nicely in the back of my mind as I got on with other things in life. Like getting married, having children, having more children, and having yet more children, staying home to raise them, and occasionally taking a class here and there. Don't misunderstand me here: I did exactly what I wanted to do for my career. I fought long and hard with a husband who didn't have experience with women who chose to stay home and raise a family and could hardly believe it was possible to live with one income. To his everlasting credit, he sucked it up, exercised enormous amounts of faith, and supported me in what I know was the right thing for our family. We now have the "I'm so glad you stuck to your guns and we did it the way we did" conversation although more often than not, I feel like I am on the other side of the argument with "I wonder how screwed up my children are because they had a crazy mom at home in their face their whole lives growing up?" But that is a story for another day.

When the older kids were in college I thought that it was finally my time to start but just when it came time to commit to a program, life again jumped in the way and I thought, "Well, that was fun but I guess it's not what I'm to be doing."

Fast forward 3 years and through a series of what I can only call miracles, I was accepted into a nursing program that has turned out to be the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. It's hard for so many reasons but here are a few:
  1.  It's an accelerated program that is mentally overwhelming. I feel sometimes that I haven't taken a single class to prepare me for what we are learning and that everyone is speaking a different language. Add to that a couple of outright insane teachers and a time frame that expects me to learn a semester's worth of information in one month. Reading a 1,200 page textbook in a month has become the norm. But, with lots of prayers and a very supportive and forgiving family, I have been able to spend the necessary time to keep my straight A average.
  2. It is physically exhausting to be a nurse. Here again I have been so blessed to have a doctor that began mentally kicking my behind last year and has helped me lose weight and get fit. I have good shoes (seems like a small thing but I always have had foot issues) that enable me to work 12 hours a day running, standing, walking and never once have my feet hurt. My legs get tired but it's no worse than anyone else in the program is feeling and they are mostly 15-25 years younger than I.
  3. The stress level is more than I have ever experienced. There are so many ways to be dropped from the program that I have to be vigilant on all sides at all times to maintain the testing average, class average, additional computer program testing average... Every time a class finishes, I find myself sleeping on and off for  2 days and then it's time for another class.
The hardest thing of all is the inability to do the mom/grandma things that I love above all other things. I missed two college graduations this year, my daughter-in-law had repeat cancer surgery and where was I? Not there. My other daughter-in-law has been dealing with her own struggles and can I help? No, not with time or mental energy. Girls call from college and I find myself distracted by my own worries and stuff. I go days sometimes seeing Allan only because he is asleep in bed next to me while I'm studying into the night, but not having time or energy for a real conversation. Grandchildren are growing, being born, do those Texas boys even remember who I am? I am writing this bawling because the sacrifice seems too much, but every time I think it's time to stop, I am prevented in ways that let me know that Heavenly Father has a different plan. I am not alone, He watches over me and has allowed opportunities for other family members to step up into my place and serve each other while I cannot. That is perhaps the greatest blessing of all.

This month's course is very laid back with class only once a week and the rest of the time quite easy with zero stress. I decided that I would sneak off to Texas to meet a boy I haven't met and spend time with two wild children and their parents. It was going to be a surprise---just show up at their door. It's not often I feel like that can happen but Kit is going there the day after, Allan and Kacey are driving through 2 days after that so I knew they would be home. I have been getting so excited and haven't allowed myself to call or talk with them because I didn't trust myself to not say anything that would give it away. Today, I left the house at 4:00 am and arrived at the airport ready for my trip only to get to the counter 3 minutes late. Three minutes? The woman at the counter seemed to feel the need to teach me a lesson about being on time to the airport. She said that in those three minutes they had given away all the standby, it would take too long to go through security (and if you know Fresno, you can get through the whole process in 10 minutes) and were nearly loaded and ready to take off and the flight was closed. The end. What? What? I stood there unbelieving and was in such shock that I could only hang my head and cry, gulping back sobs. She did offer me the one seat on the 6:00 flight for a mere $1,000 dollars more (this is a flight on a propeller airplane to LA---something wasn't right) or I could leave at 2:30 this afternoon and arrive at midnight, 8 hours of travel and a terrible arrival time. In the end, she graciously changed my flight until tomorrow, "But you must be at least 30 minutes early" (insert grumpy face here), all the while I can barely talk having tears streaming down my face.

And so I'm mad! Mad at the lack of compassion and ridiculous officiousness of airport personnel. Mad that I was late. Mad that I could only stand there crying. Mad that my short 5 day visit is now cut down to 4 (was it really too much to ask for?). Mad that I can't quit crying and just get over it. I tease that this program is causing us to have PTSD, but it's not really a joke. I spent the week before last crying over every single little thing that happened. And now this. I should feel grateful I still get to go. I should feel happy that we have the money for this opportunity. I should have perspective that it's a minor set-back, no big deal, whatever. But I can''t generate those feelings. I crawled in my bed, have been crying all morning, and am at the point where I just don't care anymore (see what I meant about the whole reading my journal stuff?) I have no reserves left. 11 months of nursing school has taken a toll that I am incapable of overcoming at this minute. I'm pretty sure that will change in a few hours and I'll find perspective, but right now, I'm just mad. And so, so, sad.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

How I spend my Saturday mornings

Yup. This is how I've spent most of my Saturday mornings since school has begun: watching Jr. High football. I love it except for the fact that it has been near or above 100 degrees for every single game and the stands always seem to face the sun (but what doesn't face the sun in California?) and as uncomfortable as I am, I get a little worried about the players, especially #71, my favorite starting center.
Lining up for the play and staring down the other players. That's his third favorite part of playing.

 Here's his second favorite part: the thrill of the snap!

And here is his favorite thing of all: blocking the players even when they are twice his size.
 He held this player off through the whole game
 Not MY favorite thing to watch but he sure does love it and is getting so much better at it. He's earned several "hammers" for his helmet this year. When I asked what that meant he said (I swear!) "Hard head".
Me: You get a hammer sticker for having a hard head? Uh...
Him: No mom, it's for hard hits.
Me: Oh. Well then... 
 The front line's had several plays where they've completely cleared the path for long runs straight up the middle and even a touchdown or two. When the runners brag about making the touchdown, Joe (gently I'm sure) reminds them who helped them get that touchdown. 

I never thought I'd love watching my own kid play football so much, especially when he comes home with bruises and cuts all over his body. By the end of the season his arms and legs are nearly solidly bruised.  I never thought I'd see a kid of mine proudly pointing to each bruise and explaining how he got it. Can you really get that giddy over hitting and being hit? I guess so, if Joe's anything to go by. And just a little shout out to all his siblings who helped him learn how to take a beating and still be laughing about it while in pain. I guess you all get a lot of the credit for who he is on the field.
 Go Team!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Be careful what you wish for...

So, in getting the wish of all wishes (for me anyway) my emotions have ranged from being higher than a kite, to dragging myself through the (metaphorical) sewers. You know the saying "It's all fun and games until..." Well, I found out what that "until" means. It means that you get to dream your fantasy dream about being a nurse until you hit the ground and have to spend the next 4 weeks at a flat-out run trying to get everything on the admission's list done "or you will be dropped from the program." Jeezelouise.

Try finding your immunization card when you had immunizations almost 50 years ago. So then you get to do the titer tests and pay an ungodly amount of money for someone to say "yes, you do have immunity for that." Then try to find a place that will do the immunizations you must have updated when your family doctor doesn't do them and the county health department doesn't offer them to adults.  Then get a TB test done, background check, drug testing (that's a whole nuther story in itself but note to self---don't do this on your birthday or on the day you start your period. That's all you get from me about this), get a physical, arrange for malpractice insurance, do the HIPAA training, sign-up for and start two classes you didn't know you would need before the end of school, figure out and finish financial aid junk, and on, and on, and on.  I'm exhausted and keep wondering what the heck I was thinking. You may think me shallow (I think I am also) but the one thing that has kept me going was one little paper included in my packet. It was the page that showed the various styles of uniforms I could order. I makes me so happy for some reason. I mean some of them are really cute! Then there is the page that outlines the classes I'll be taking. Gets my heart beating a little bit faster. Every. Single. Time. Let's start already!!!!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The results are in...

Here's what arrived in my inbox yesterday:

Dear Karen Barros,
Congratulations! The Admissions Committee of National University’s Department of Nursing has thoroughly reviewed your application for admission to the Nursing Program for the deadline ofJuly 13th, 2012. You have been choosen as one of our selected candidates for Cohort 9, beginning in November 2012 term.

Can I get a Woot Woot!?

I have no other words. Pretty sure I'm in shock because I'm not feeling much of anything except the full weight of what I'm a now committed to. But for today, I'm gonna just chill and enjoy being wanted and qualified.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Summer Fun???

For the last few months I have been working towards applying to a nursing program in Fresno. I thought that I was not ever going to pursue this again but after two years away from school, I one day just felt I needed to start looking into it again. I spent several unproductive weeks talking to the community college and several technical colleges about maybe starting with an LVN program but things just didn't work our there. The state colleges still have huge waiting lists (up to five years in some cases, straight lottery in others), I couldn't get the final classes I needed for the program for another year, and by the time I finished with that, I would have timed out some of my classes and would have had to start taking them from the beginning. None of that was going to work. Heck, I'll be fifty at the end of this month and there is no way I can take the time to start all over. That seemed like an answer to my question of should I or shouldn't I. But one day out of the blue (or whatever!) I thought about looking into National University. The next day I went to talk to an admissions officer and here is the gist of that conversation: You can start on Monday (it was Friday that we were talking) and take one class for each of the next three months and that will put you only 10 days from the deadline of applying for the November cohort. If you hadn't come in today, you wouldn't have made it and would have to wait until January to apply and then start in April. Whoa, so I had a whole day to decide if I could commit to a program that costs $1400 a course, and started in 3 days.

Speedy decisions are not my strong suit but both Allan and I were overwhelmed with excitement and good feelings. He because he knows how happy and content I am when I'm in school and me because I could finally, maybe, sorta, see a way to reach a dream I've had for many, many years. Seriously, every road block I threw in the way, every obstacle I could invent was blown away by minor and major miracles. Financial worries? No problem, let Me email you about a program you might not know about. Driving back and forth in that big clunking car of ours? Hey, why don't you look into getting a car from the Fresno Mission? Don't think you can do the math? Let me give you the best and easiest stat teacher on the planet.

So I took the classes, and applied for the program. Next came the biggest hurdle to date: the TEAS test. I bought the book, purchased the practice test and proceeded to completely melt down. I swear it was like I'd never taken a science, math or chemistry class in my life. But I studied and studied and studied. One night I was outlining one of the study books and it was as though I could see myself in the very situation that I had first learned the concept I was studying. I don't know how to describe it but for example, when I was reading about the periodic table I could see myself in my chem class listening to my teacher explain it. That was a very powerful experience. but even with all that help, I still couldn't get over a 74% on any of the practice tests. But the night before, I had an overwhelming feeling of peace and was relaxed and calm. Come what may, I thought.

20% of the application process was based on an essay written on the day of the test. The school offered a free seminar on essay writing and I was going to attend but that morning one of my visiting teachees called and asked if I could take her to the temple that morning. "No! I need to study!" was in my head but my mouth said, "Yes." My heart prayed that somehow I would be blessed for this sacrifice but I had little faith. A couple of days before the test I decided to spend the day writing an essay on a random subject relating to nursing school and had Michayla and Tori edit and critique it. I choose to explain some of the experiences in my life that had led me to nursing as a profession. Imagine my surprise and awe when as I watched the proctor write on the board the prompt for our essay: Question #2---Describe some of your life experiences that have contributed to your decision to become a nurse. I'd say the Lord allows tender mercies for even those of us with barely a little seed of faith.

The day of the test: First was the one hour time to write our essays, then we had 4 hours for the test. I took nearly every minute of the time, checking and rechecking and guessing at the answers to the questions. I was one of the last in my room to finish, about 50 of us. When you finish the test, you immediately get a score and print it and hand it to the proctor. I was not pleased with my 83.4%. There is no way I could complete for a spot in the program that admits only 20 of approx. 120 applicants with that low of a score. I gathered my stuff and trudged to the front to hand it in. the woman looked at it and said, "Great score!" What? She said that it was the highest she'd seen all day. What? Yeah, good job. That's when reaction set it. I barely made it down the stairs and to my car while sobs were building in my chest. By the time I got in, I was full out bawling and sat there for over twenty minutes blubbering and sobbing. I didn't think I was that stressed, but apparently, I was and the relief of just having it done and out of my hands was overwhelming. Looking at the printout, I was shocked to see that I was in the top 94% of the national average and 85% of the program average. Maybe I had a chance after all.

We were told that results of our applications would be sent out at the end of the month so imagine my surprise when I got this email the next week:

Dear KarenBarros,
Nursing Program applications are reviewed on a point based system. We look at four major areas: 1) number of attempts to pass your core sciences and statistic pre-requisite courses, 2) math and science based GPA, 3) the TEAS score and 4) the proctored essay. Each section is weighted to determine your overall admissions score.
The Admissions Committee of the National University Department of Nursing has thoroughly reviewed your application for admission to the nursing program.Unfortunately, your score is not high enough to be included in the top twenty, chosen to be in the November 2012 cohort.
You are welcome to apply for the next application deadline, which isJanuary 18th, 2012.

I was shocked. The rest of the email was about ways in which you can reapply, etc so I spent a few minutes looking it over and wondering if this was a final answer: NO. About fifteen minutes later I went back to my email and found this waiting: 

Hello Student,
My Email account just sent you a denial letter. Please disregard!!! It malfunctioned and send every applicant a denial letter. AGAIN, please disregard. I don’t have the top 20 students selected yet.

Oh. My. Heart, you may begin to beat again, thank you very much.

So, that is my summer adventure so far. I am still waiting for an answer and even though I don't expect it to come until the end of the month, every time I open my email, my heart skips a beat or two. I can't imagine not getting into the program, and I can't imagine getting in. So I'll probably be happy and depressed either way. Not sure how prepared I am for a program that lasts 23 months and expects between 60 and 80 hours a week of your time. But every time I think about being in the program, my heart beats a little faster, I can't catch my breath, and I feel like I'm floating. I'm either allergic or in love.

To be continued....