Monday, September 8, 2014

Growing roots

When II lost his job last year, we knew we were going to have to move again. I was thrilled at the idea of getting out of New England, but I knew it would devastate the children. This was precisely why we had decided to remain in New England and raise our children there previously. The job situation meant we had to go where a job became available and that was most likely going to be out of New England. The only thing I could promise the children was that I was throwing away the boxes and I promised I would not move them again.

Three weeks ago, I looked up from working on schoolwork and noticed there were six children running through my house and yard that were not part of my household. In addition to L's best friend who lives over our back fence, most of the children have at least one friend who lives in this neighborhood. Some of the kids have multiple friends around us. Baby J's classmate, the little girl he has a crush on, lives on the other side of the back fence next to L's best friend. This weekend, some child I had never seen before not only hung out with Ch but stayed the night.

There are children running around my house constantly. There are friends and coaches that often offer to help the high schoolers get rides to where they need to go. II is happy at work. I have both a volunteer position that I love, and a paying gig that helps with the heavy expenses that these children incur.

In short, this family is growing roots in this community. This is a good thing, since I am still serious that I have no intention of moving again. Yet, I see it everyday. I see it in the lines of children that go running through my house, often leaving me asking, "Who the heck is that?" I see it in the schools that love my children. I see it in the co-workers and bosses that affirm that II is great at his job, and that I am cherished in my work environments. I see it in the warmth we feel here in this community, and the settling and thriving that most of this family is experiencing now.

This is what I hoped for. This is what I truly wanted to see happen. I just wasn't sure that the children could overcome the trauma of this forced move to thrive again. When we got here, they were so hurt, so devastated, so struggling. Today, all but one member of this family is thriving and growing and making this place a home.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

It wasn't me

For the year I worked at the infusion center, I was constantly belittled, put down, told I was incompetent and occasionally yelled at by my boss. Given how long I had worked non-traditionally in nursing, I truly questioned if it was me. I even struggled with starting with IVs, something I am typically one of the best at accomplishing. There was one day that I struggled to start an IV on Ch and II understood just how badly I was struggling with the job. It was so horrible, if we had not moved I would have sought employment elsewhere just as soon as I had finished my Bachelor's degree and could do so seamlessly.

I got back to the south, to an area known for a strong good ole boy network, and spent months not finding a paying job. I knew what the problem was, but I couldn't accomplish anything to change that. My resume and my entire background read like an outsider. For most jobs I applied to, I didn't even make it past the first screening. For the few I did, the position was given to someone else.

Then, the local university was hiring for PRN positions in the student health clinic. The same university that runs the low income clinic where I volunteer and have for nine months now. Even so, I didn't hear anything back when I applied for that job either. When my NP asked me what happened to that job, that's exactly what I told her. I heard back from that job that week.

It took over a month for that job to interview, hire and start working. However, I just did my orientation this last week. They hired five PRN RNs for the clinic and are staffing two full time positions now, with the intention of staffing one full-time position and hiring one outright in the next month or so. It turns out, every single other RN they hired has personal ties to someone at the clinic. One is the best friend of one of the NPs. One is the former office nurse for the medical director at her private practice. One works with the husband of one of the NPs. One chats with the main nurse via text all day, so clearly has an established friendship. Then, there is me.

What is different this time is that no one is belittling me. No one is gossiping behind my back. I forgot to do something during my training and one of the NPs told the main nurse, who came and directly pointed out that I had forgotten to sign off like I was supposed to. Assured me she had reminded the NP that I was still straining and it was not a problem, just a reminder. The medical director worked one day and wanted to know an answer to a question. I confidently informed her that I was in my first week of training so while I did not know the answer to her question off the top of my head, I knew exactly where to find the answer. If she would give me a minute, I would look the answer up for her. I'm scheduled to work every week this month at the clinic. People ask me about myself. They communicate with me. They are friendly and assume I am competent instead of treating me as if I am incompetent. I am not even the only nurse there who took at break from traditional, wage earning nursing work at some point in time. No one acts as if my years of non-traditional work as a foster and adoptive mother was me *not* working. Rather, they express confidence that I am an experienced nurse.

I went through a lot of processing this year when I took my senior nursing management course for my degree. There were days I was raw and in tears to be required to learn academically how a nursing manager is *supposed* to behave and to compare that to how mine actually did behave. I realized in that class that my nursing manager in the infusion position meets the definition of an abusive boss. Last week, I realized it was never me. There was never anything wrong with my nursing, but with a pack of nurses so burned out that they should retire, and a manager so incompetent she should have never been promoted to management.

This summer, I've provided processing and emotional support for the assistant that worked in that infusion center. When I left, the manager and her hyenas turned their daggers at the assistant, who was an easy target for them. She started dating the manager's step-son mere months after she was hired for that position, and the manager continued to operate with that nepotism in place, threating this girl with her professional and personal relationships anytime the girl objected to the treatment she received. I have long encouraged my friend that she needed to seek employment somewhere other than under the authority of her boyfriend's stepmother. I have encouraged her that not all of nursing is like that microsystem in that infusion center. She went back to school with a dream of becoming a nurse herself, in spite of how those women treated her, and she told me it was because I had inspired her.

Yesterday, my friend gave notice. I was able to tell her how much different it is working under a better system, with different management and nurses who are not tolerated in the behaviors that occur in that infusion center. What happened there was not a statement on what kind of a nurse I am. In fact, it was my ability to impact the lives of my patients that kept me going when my manager was at her most abusive. In the nine months since I left, my non-paying nursing job has adored me. This last week, I knew for certain that it was never me. I no longer had to tell myself that. I saw it first hand.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Welcome to the south

The football team in town recruited my sons as players. My oldest got an unexpected reprieve when it was discovered the first of August that he didn't technically have eligibility. However, my second son is now a running back. I think that's what the position is called. I was so not athletic when I became a mother, and when A came home and was into soccer, I learned how to be a soccer mom. I have not learned how to be a football mom at all.

,p> Yet, Friday is the "BIG" game for the high school, as they are facing their cross town rivals. That means suddenly I have not only a HS team flag up in my yard, but apparently a sign with my son's jersey number and name. I would refuse, but it's my kid, and I absolutely have to support MY kid.

Much as I hate football, what I love more is that S is the child who was treated like a second class citizen until he came here. He played soccer but he felt he was lost in A's shadow there. As a football player, it doesn't really matter that he's not that good at the game. It doesn't matter that he's second string and hardly ever sees field time. He is part of the football team. Co-workers ask me for his jersey number so they can be sure to cheer for him at games...co-workers who don't have children who attend the high school but attend the football games because it's a community cohesion thing.

It's the south....and it's football. And for the first time in his life, my son is SOMEBODY. It is amazing to see my kid smile and feel special and important and.....NORMAL.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Good bye life

Five years ago, I re-entered the world to fight tooth and nail to be a full human again. I earned my Bachelor's of Arts in sociology. I buried a son. I earned my Bachelor's of Science in Nursing, which by the way I graduated Summa Cum Laude this time. Then I traveled to my graduate school orientation last week. Of one thing I am certain, I am about to give up my life for the last leg of this long journey I have walked.

I am only permitted to take six hours for the first term of NP school. It is a requirement by the University to ensure that all full-time students get enough of a taste without drowning that they can make up their mind whether to continue full-time or drop back to part-time. Since I am intending to not work to any level to interview with graduate studies, it will not impact my decisions whatsoever. However, for students who think they are going to continue working full-time and attend class full-time, this is certain struggle. The University wants them to make an informed decision, not merely drown and fail by getting in over their heads.

They said something at orientation this last week that was strong and compelling. Over and over again, the faculty, the President, the Dean of Students all said, "You would not be here if we did not know you can do this."

That is the truth I am going to hold onto for the next three years as I embark upon this dream. I love this program. The academics are rigorous. The didactic work I will do over the next 15-ish months will stretch me to the brink of sanity. I want to soak up and devour the knowledge that is being placed in front of me now. Then, when I have fully accomplished that, I will go back and prove I have the skills to actually BE a NP. I will spend a week going over my skills and will have to be approved to start my clinicals. I will then come back to do another six to nine months of nothing but full-time clinical work. I will earn my MSN and then immediately flow into my DNP. That will require more didactic and more clinical hours in that final year.

So many things to learn, so much challenge in front of me. In several terms, the estimated hours I will need to just study is 49-50 hours per week. On top of that, I still have to maintain my work at the low income clinic. I still have to be a mother. And, I am still homeschooling one child.

Part of me thinks when I finish this I still want a PhD in Nursing. Part of me simply wants to survive these next three years. I know two things right now. First, what life I have held onto is about to be gone. Second, I have to focus on simply getting through the next three years.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Orientation #1 completed

I can successfully and properly identify types of plagiarism now. That was the culmination of the online orientation I had to complete before going to the in-person orientation for NP school next week. If a new student has never taken an online class before, the information would be highly useful. It would be even more useful if they computer illiterate. Since I am neither of those, it reached a point where II kept looking over and saying, "I'm sorry, that just looks painful." Gee thanks, darling.

I have one assignment to complete in my last class of my last undergraduate coursework. It's due Saturday. It's an academic paper on healthcare and spirituality. I'm writing on the HIV/AIDS trends in the African American population and the role the AA church plays in this trend. After II complained that I bogged down my computer with too many journal articles, he helped me get the new laptop functioning properly so I could print them. One day this week, I will lock myself in my bedroom, spread out all of my sources and start composing. This is the part I am good at. I write well, and I enjoy what I do. It isn't a stressful assignment in the least. I just need to get through volunteer work tomorrow before I can hunker down and accomplish it.

When we knew we were moving at the end of last year, I thought I would hold off on graduate school for another year. I then realized this spring that I am tired of the lack of challenge I feel with undergraduate work. I thrive in an academic setting, and I desperately wanted to start doing academic that challenge me instead of bore me. The decision to apply for grad school was made at the very end of the time left to meet the deadlines, but I pushed through and did it anyway.

Five years ago, I caught II in his cheating. My world fell apart on me five years ago in that discovery. I had an associates in nursing, my RN license was inactive, and I had a half finished BA in sociology. I was deeply entrenched in homeschooling at all costs, even though I recognized that I was dying inside and the kids were almost as miserable as I was. I thought I was happy, but I was also stuck. I had a lot of fear that immobilized me and left me powerless in my life and my world.

I don't even recognize that woman I was five years ago. I have earned two bachelors' degrees. I have rediscovered my passion for learning and teaching. I have ushered a large family of children out of the fear and isolation they too were stuck in, and brought them into a world where all but one are thriving. I have buried a son, and become a working mother. I have also gotten accepted into multiple graduate programs and by the exact five year anniversary, I will start coursework for my NP training.

I am amazed at how far I have come in five years, and how far I still have to go to finish what I started.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

New experiences

I'm still not quite sure how and why we do school supply shopping this month. I've had kids in public school for five years now. You would think I could get used to it. Yet, I still don't. For instance, my kindergartener and second grader are each supposed to bring 12 glue sticks, multiple boxes of already sharpened pencils, multiple boxes of crayons, and an entire assortment of odds and ends otherwise. Meanwhile, my older kids have no actual lists so we fudge basic supplies for them and assume we'll hear any specific requirements for the Junior High and High Schoolers once school starts back. I just don't quite understand the point of all of the high quantity school supplies. I remember when I was a kid, we provided our own supplies, but it seems to me that perhaps the elementary teachers are simply pooling supplies and then distributing them to each student so no one gets left out. I am not entirely sure, and since I still feel like a public school newbie, I just do what I'm told.

So, school begins again this month and all of the children are excited. It's been a good summer, probably our best in several years, but the routine and structure of their school year is welcome for all of them. I've had to repeatedly tell certain children that in a family this size it doesn't really matter if they have an expectation of a new backpack because it's a new schoolyear. Show me a worn out backpack and I will replace it immediately. Otherwise, they will continue to use the same one the had before. We also don't buy a fully wardrobe of clothes. They each get one new outfit, but they all have so many clothes they can nether keep track nor properly care for all of them. The last thing I'm going to do is add more clothes to Mt. Laundry that never gets better already.

This year is quite a threshold of schooling and mothering for me. It is my oldest child's last year at home, his senior year. II is already placing bets with the boys at how much will mom cry this year, and ultimately at his graduation. Yes, I'm going to cry. I cry as A grows up. I never thought I was the crying type of mother, but I cry just the same. Just as big is that this is baby J's first year of school. My great, big boy who has a birthday late in the year and consequently misses the cut-off for the school year will actually be six shortly after school starts. He has been oh so excited and intent upon starting school for two years now, and this year it is his turn to head off into the great big world.

I don't know if my mother's heart can handle this one. Worst of all, I will miss their first day of school entirely. In fact, I will miss most of their first week of school. It occurs the same week as my mandatory, on campus orientation for my NP program. II is taking a vacation day to be here for their first day. For the rest of the week, he'll drop them off at school on his way to work and C will pick them up off the bus in the afternoons.

I'm telling myself it's just four days, but it still is sad for me. I have only ever had one other first day of kindergarten experience. L went to kindergarten but only lasted a month before her grief overwhelmed her and I had to pull her back to homeschooling. So my second and last experience will be lost, but I do have 13 more years to love on my baby boy beyond that week. It will have to be enough.

In the meantime, we continue to get everything gathered up. Four kids need haircuts. The teen boys still need their outfits. The baby boy needs underwear. Yes, he owns underwear, but he prefers to go without, so he needs an over-abundance so he has NO excuse to go to school commando. Baby boy has a kindermat for naptime. I need to find out if he's allowed to have a pillow or blanket or something, because that mat seems awful sterile by itself. L was required to have something small enough to fit into her backpack, but we also did not supply mats, because her school did half day kindergarten. I'm not aware of anyone locally that does half days, and since J is older than most kindregarteners, I'm find with his going full days. The child who wanted a new backpack has a perfectly good one, so was told no. J got onto Amazon and got his first backpack, a Mario brothers one, and his lunchbox, a Scooby-doo Mystery Machine one. Everyone needs to get new socks. It seems this house has a sock monster living in the washing machine and everyone claims to own no socks again, as they do every fall. Otherwise, just a few forgotten odds and ends left to secure and then they all go off to school for another year. I am hoping that with the security that we are not moving again, that these kids will settle into school this year and get back to thriving. They need that opportunity after the last three years.

Monday, July 28, 2014

In for a penny, in for a pound

When I applied to Nurse Practitioner schools this spring, I had a school that was a guaranteed admission. For twice the standard application fee, no requirement for the GRE, and no need for references, all it required was a solid B GPA and the high application fee and nearly everyone is admitted to the program.

I almost applied to the school as a back-up. Then, I realized that I would never be happy to go to such a school. Yes, it will graduate a functional NP, but it won't satisfy my yearning to truly learn, and it won't make me proud to hold the degree. If I'm going to do this scary step for my future, what purpose would it serve to just have a piece of paper. The tuition at that school was actually slightly higher than the other schools I looked at, and they appeared to give no assistance for finding local preceptorships--the backbone of all NP programs.

I did not do it. At the last minute I decided to value myself and have enough confidence in my abilities to not apply for a fall back school. Instead, I only applied to schools that were top notch, had high academic standards, and were ranked very highly amongst NP schools. I only applied to 'reach' schools, the kind that would be my dream but might be shooting a bit too high and prove to be unattainable.

It was a gamble to make that choice, but I decided it was a gamble worth taking. II asked me what I would do if more than one of those programs accepted me and I refused to even consider it. I was so focused on getting just ONE program to accept me, that I refused to make any decision about what I would do if more than one did so.

By June, I had been accepted into the state program that was highly ranked and highly recommended to me. I had also been accepted into my absolute dream school, one that is arguable Ivy League of NP programs and one of the oldest and consistently top ranked programs in the country. Tuition was nearly identical for the two programs.

For nearly two months, I have wrestled with the decision on which program to attend. With the fall semester just a stone's throw away now, I knew I had to make a final decision yesterday. Then, I had to do the appropriate thing of notifying the other school that I was withdrawing my registration in their program.

There were a few differences. One program starts clinicals before even making a dent in the dydadic work, which makes me nervous. However, that program also has better opportunities for independent research projects. Both have high pass rates for the certification exams. Both have strong repuatations. Everytime I thought I had made a decision one way or another, I questioned my decision.

At the end of the day, the state school only offered the MSN, which will not be sufficient for my career. My dream school, the one that I dreamed of since I first entered nursing admitted me to the DNP program. This will mean I don't have to re-apply for DNP programs once I finish the Master's coursework. Their pass rates for the national certifications is 100%, and you simply cannot do better than that statistic. While the other program was in the top 100 nursing programs, they were in the top 25. Yet, the bottom line was the DNP versus the MSN.

I have notified my academic advisor for the state program and have mailed an official withdrawal letter to the program director. So it seems a decision has been made. As a dear NP friend said to me, choose the program that in ten years will make me smile to see it on my degree. I believe this is the right program.

I'm working hard to finish all of my orientation, registration, and financial aid requirements so I can move forward. I am setting up an office area in my bedroom and a computer dedicated to just my graduate studies. It all comes together and I finally pass a threshold that has been before me since I was 20. In a few short weeks, it will be behind me and I will be in the final three years before I can finally settle into a career for my future.