Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The hustle is back

Yesterday morning I found myself driving in the rain to a town about 20 miles away to hit a "meet and greet" that a hospital had posted deep down in the body of a job listing. I had a feeling it was going to be fruitless but here I was again...looking for a job and needing to pound the pavement.

I am so utterly tired of trying to prove myself.

But, in retrospect, it doesn't seem to matter when I have a job or not, I'm always banging down doors and trying to explain to people what I'm about to do, and how awesome it is going to be.

And as I was driving in the rain yesterday morning, the road opened up. There were no trees, no highways, just open space. I knew this place. There were large fields laid out before me and I had an immediate sense of peace. This is Valley Forge, the trail I know and enjoy from time to time, especially when I'm training for a race. Why am I not training for a race right now. Why am I not embedded in these fields.

Oh right, because I'm in the weeds. I'm in the hustle. Again.

I'm no stranger to the hustle. I'm sure I have spent more hours in my life hustling for work rather than working, especially if you count schooling as hustling. This moment is reminding me of the cab in the rain (this post), and the shower that got cut short...those times in my life when I stared deep into that moment (like this post), poured out my heart, looked around me and realized, I'm worth so much more (and this post).

I'm in a good hustle this time. I chose my path, my schooling, a clear direction for this one. A very well-worn path, with many different trails branching off of it, all leading to a higher point on the mountain than I was ever going to reach in my previous travails. And I'm not talking about money - I'm talking about respect, a ladder, options, advancement if I want it, extra side gigs where you are not always low man on the totem pole...a little more autonomy on how your career will develop.

So maybe that is why I'm struggling. I want this whole thing to get started, so I can start on one of those many trails. I'm ready to run! Only, with so many options, I'm in a bit of overchoice! Like a FOMO, as the young people would say.

So a bit about me lately - I passed the dreaded NCLEX! It was a momentous occasion! I KNEW I passed it WHILE I was taking it. The questions were seemingly made for me - things I had studied in that very last week - areas where I felt completely strong - I actually had a moment where I said thank you to the test. Thank you to whomever sent me these questions.

So I'm on a bit of a high because in the following week I had two interviews! And today I received a call for a third. When it rains, it pours. They are all in completely different fields, at completely different hospitals. All would be good positions, but which one is great? And which one is great FOR. ME.?

And yet, yesterday, I still felt the need to drive in the rain to nowheresville hospital. What am I looking for. I don't want to make a mistake. I want to explore all these newfound options. I want to start in a place that's going to serve the rest of this career I would like to build. I want to start strong because I'm also not a young person and not a slow person.

Also, I still have no job offer...yet...

So I hit the road.

Always trying, Always doing...

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

5 tips on #nursingschool in your 40s

Hello, it's me again! Your "always doing, always trying" favorite twyn mommy.

I've been busy.

I know, you know.

It feels great, it really, really does. 

Introducing #club40. More on them later.

I think there is, however, in the back of ALL of our #newnursegraduate minds, the looming state board examination known as NCLEX. I have not gotten my "authority to test" (ATT) yet, and it's killing me slowly. I wanted to take my time studying, but I honestly just want to get the thing done and over with, too. So I wait. And I blog!

There's no way on Earth for me to recount all the funny and misty and awful stories I have from nursing school, at least not in the first post-post, so I thought I'd start with a "tips" post just to get the ball rolling.

1. Do find a right partner in life. Like, ASAP. 
So the first thing that set me apart from my fellow nursing classmates was the fact that I was a mom. There was definitely a minority of us. I would say, out of 88 classmates who started with us, maybe 8 were moms? So that puts you in a select group right away. And of those parents, a few of us were over 40, and that put us in a more elite group of special masochists. So inevitably someone who is likely not aware of the band Bananarama's existence will find out you have children and say "OMG I don't know HOWWW you DOOO it!!!"
My response to them was always this: My life is actually easier than yours right now. You are trying to mix in finding a mate and when to time children if you so choose, how you are going to pay for a wedding/house/car/dog, and who you are at the very SOUL of you, all the while trying to figure out whether we should add IV fluids or discontinue foley catheters. All of that other stuff is set for me, I just have to do this. 
Now it IS true that it WAS hard on me and my husband (see here), and maybe I didn't see the kids as much as I usually do, but for the most part we are a strong unit and the only thing we missed was couple-time together. We often traded-off kid duties in between work nights - who had to do what - and then divide and conquer.

2. Then find the right study partner in your nursing school life. Like, ASAP. 
As I mentioned above, the crowd started to mingle in the first summer/semester of nursing school, and people started to find their people. I didn't intend on hanging out with the mommies and over-40-set, but it just so happened that we had the same goals, the same priorities, and understands what one means when one texts "C has a fever" thirty minutes before lecture is about to start. So we naturally gravitated towards each other. I found some awesome millennials to study with, and a fantastic clinical bestie who was old enough to be my - cough - niece, maybe - but at the end of the day I found my most reliable study group to be the one filled with ladies who couldn't study past 10 pm and whose LAST goal in life was to make it to the class-organized pub crawl.
My inevitable trio of ladies each had different strengths and where one could be organized about what was due in class #1, the other could be organized about what "SIMV" meant and the third could put together research like a badass mofo. Yup, that's how we rolled.
I don't care how independent you think you are, and how great a student you USUALLY are, find a partner in nursing school. You have to talk things through. Especially at post-post conference (which, if you didn't know, is the time after you meet with the clinical professor to discuss what happened with your patients that day to talk with your friends about what REALLY happened with your patients that day.) Also, you will see each other on the hospital floor again someday, so you might as well be buds now.

3. Speaking of what a great student you USUALLY are, check your GPA at the door. 
I'm smart. No, honestly, I'm like book smart and test-taking smart and also have some really beautiful degrees. That sh** don't mean a thing in nursing school. And you'll think, like I did, that it doesn't really apply to you. But it applied to EVERYONE in nursing school. There were still plenty of type-A classmates who got (mostly) straight A's, but they had to WORK for it. And I WORKED my A$$ off for my grades as well, which were still mostly A's, but THE HARDEST A'S OF MY LIFE. Check your GPA at the door. How you do on assignments and tests doesn't matter as much as your level of understanding. I found my understanding of psych, for example, to be quite strong, so I ended up studying less and less for each test. I was doing better and better relying on my own understanding of the material and my judgment calls. At the end of the day, nurses make a LOT of judgment calls. So you have to be a critical thinker. If you memorize the way the magnesium and calcium channels work in the muscles it's not going to serve you as much as understanding what happens to the whole body if you interfere with them. As our first nursing professor chanted to us on our first day: "C's get degrees!" And I thought she was nuts but she was absolutely right to tell us that. Remember it's not about the grades, it's about your future patients.

4. Speaking of patients, for Pete's sake, GET TO KNOW THEM. 
Your patients will be your best teachers. I remember during one of my first weeks in my first rotation, one of my classmates was bored. I told him to go talk to his patient! I got a little "mom" on him, but it was true! Even if I found myself with nothing to do, I would talk to my patients or their family members. They SO appreciated it, and it taught me a lot about their disease processes. I would simply say, "What is it like to keep kosher in the hospital?", or "How did you first find out you had aplastic anemia?" It meant that my professors never found me sitting at a computer screen, which helped them to trust the work that I was doing, and now that I'm studying for the scary NCLEX exam, I have pictures of people in my head for certain diseases. They say you shouldn't answer questions based off of clinical experiences, but it helps my UNDERSTANDING, the importance of which you learned about in tip #3 above.

5. Remember your 'other' life and what's truly important. 
There are advantages to having lived a little before going back to nursing school. Education is truly wasted on the young. It baffled me when classmates wouldn't show up for lecture but then would be cramming in an all-nighter before an exam. If you had gone to class, you wouldn't need to cram the material? But that was my bit of wisdom and zen. I had done this umpteen times already, and I didn't have anything to prove to anyone, so it was easy to remember what works for me and how I was going to succeed.
For me, how I was going to succeed, was with my friends and family. The grandmas. The hubby. The bestie. The mommies. One of our professors told us "whatever you did before nursing school to unwind, KEEP IT UP!" And for some that was running/working out, for some it was drinking/food, yoga, name it. For me, it was hanging with friends. Specifically, my mommy tribe. They were my rocks and kept me grounded. My bestie took the kids every other day to help me study.  The grandmas took turns on extended breaks. They reminded me that I was doing a cool thing, but that at the end of the day, what my kids ate for lunch was also swimming around in my brain, and that's ok.
Look what my bestie made me. 

Have you ever seen a more supportive tribe of ladies? 

Speaking of rocks, back to hubby... he and I have an agreement that anything we do is ultimately to better our life together. I had to always remember at the end of the day that he is the one who wants to hear how the exam went first, he is the one who's paying the bills (at the moment), and he is the one who is going to give me his CBC results after every physical until one day I tell him to stop eating ice cream haha. Keep your eye on the prize, which is a better life for yourself and your loved ones. That's why you are pursuing a new career in healthcare, isn't it?

Ok I hope this gave you a little peek into the last year and a half (ok three years) of my life! What a doozy! Back to studying, I know, I know...back to studying....

Also, here are some 'after' pics of that nursing-school-project of hubby's...see before pics here.  He did the floors, the dry-wall-wall, the ship-lap-wall, the door, the mouldings, the closets...he learned a lot this year too!

And now you see why I'm loathe to study....le sigh....#lovemybedroom

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Always doing, always learning...a lesson on birth for #newnurses #newmothers #motherseverywhere #moms #laboranddelivery #doulas

I have a beautiful story to share! I recognize I haven't written a word in these last two semesters of nursing school, and believe me, there are stories! But let me instead take this moment to share a remarkable story from a friend of mine who just gave birth to her eighth child. You read that right: NUMBER 8. During this pregnancy, she also completed her doula training, and enjoyed using one herself (along with having her husband, a doctor, in the room). I think it is a wonderful lesson for moms, nurses, doctors, women, EVERYONE! Trust yourself, remember that life is always changing, and that every moment counts, even if you've done something many times before. Enjoy...
A few people have asked about baby's birth. I'm happy to share the story but having a hard time editing so you don't have to read a novel. Here goes.
For a week or so before her birth, I'd had several nights of prodromal labor: contractions from 11pm till 4am-ish every 5 minutes. This is not new for me, but I shifted my mindset to welcome them instead of getting frustrated by it. The night before she was born, though, I got a great night's sleep, and I woke up in the morning and began having contractions around 7:30am. Since this was outside the pattern for my prodromal labor, I kept track of them for an hour or so in bed, and they were coming every 9 minutes. I thought I was probably in early labor, and went about my day, and didn't tell anyone. I watched Queer Eye to relax and laugh and get the oxytocin flowing. When they were still coming after lunch, I told my husband and alerted my doula. I was not worried or stressed, because I knew my body takes a long time to get through early labor, and the contractions were not difficult to manage. By 2pm, I told my mom.
By 4:30 the contractions were 5 minutes apart and I was feeling cranky. They required my concentration. Leaning over the counter, bed, or birth ball felt best. I listened to my birth affirmations. My husband and my dad took the kids to the pool to give me some space and I decided to get in the shower. When I got out, they were 3 minutes apart. I started to feel like I wanted my husband around, and I wanted to go to the hospital because the car ride was only going to get crappier from here on out. I called him back from the pool and we left for the hospital just after 6pm. We arrived at L&D around 6:45pm. There was an L&D tour going on and a big group of expectant parents got to watch me do my calm breathing through several contractions as I leaned over the waiting room chairs while my husband checked me in. LOL -- they got an up close and personal tour! My doula arrived soon after we did.
In triage, the staff was not thrilled with my decision to decline the IV, but went with it. I also declined a cervical exam in triage. I was not thrilled with having to stay still so they could get a fetal and uterine strip, but I tried to relax through it so we could move on. I listened to my birth affirmations and relaxation track on repeat. L&D was packed and there were no available labor rooms. Because they believed I was "really in labor," they gave me a "special care observation room" which is a teeny tiny room with glass sliding doors that looks out on a nurse station and is not set up for deliveries. For a moment I was not happy about this, but I let it go. My doula and my husband closed curtains and dimmed lights and took care of making the best out of the situation. It was lovely to hand that stuff over to the doula and not even think about it. I got in there about 7:45 or 8pm I think.
The OB did a cervical exam then and I was 3-4cm dilated and 80% effaced. This doesn't sound like much, but I wasn't worried, because I knew I take a long time to get to 5 or 6cm and then things really fly. I breathed through my contractions and listened to my tracks and used a bunch of different positions while the nurse tried to get yet another strip on the monitor. My husband and the doula managed this situation and I let it go.
Just after 9pm, things picked up tremendously. It now required every ounce of my concentration. I felt frustrated because no position seemed to take the edge off, no matter what I tried. I felt I was changing positions with practically every contraction. By 9:40, I was mentally feeling done. I tried so hard to keep my body relaxed and calm, and let it do what it needed to do. The power I felt in my body was overwhelming, and the contractions felt like they were one on top of the other. I told my husband I wasn't having fun anymore.  I was standing by the bed and had a contraction and my water broke all over the floor. Suddenly I just knew I had to climb on the bed -- I was on all fours and another contraction hit and I knew she was coming right then. I couldn't speak but I remember thinking, "Surely either my doula or my husband will realize I am having this baby right now" - and my husband suddenly ran around behind me, lifted my gown and caught her head. One more contraction and small push and she was out. I was on my knees on the bed in total shock -- I had no idea I was that close to delivery, and I was just thinking, "OMG, I did it. It's over." I couldn't even move.
When the doula saw her coming, she alerted the nurses (I had no idea about any of this going on) but it took them a couple minutes to actually make it in the room -- so they called the time of birth 9:47, when they arrived; but she was actually born a couple minutes earlier. The staff helped me turn around and sit down and I got to hold my baby. It felt so normal for me to deliver her into my husband's hands. I was never worried about staff not being there. It seemed like it happened exactly how it should and it felt right. I felt safe and confident with my husband and the doula there.
I love this story because it totally goes against the "rules" for dilation -- I went from 3cm to baby in 2 hours. And when my body decides to push a baby out, it happens in seconds. I did not feel her start to move through the birth canal until after my water broke, and she just flew out. I did bear down a little and focus my breath downward, but I didn't push hard. My body did that on its own. My husband says that when I told him I wasn't having fun anymore and I didn't know if I could do it, he knew we'd have a baby in 5 minutes. I wasn't sure if I was really close or just *wishing* I was close. He had better perspective, LOL. I had no tearing, no stitches, and needed no post-birth pitocin.
I have zero regrets about this birth -- it was hard and overwhelming for a little while there, but it's left me feeling strong and healed and reassured that my body isn't broken after my previous baby's birth. I loved how it all worked out. I loved having a doula; I was happy with my choices in the hospital; and the staff supported me even if my choices weren't their choices. When I left the room to go to the postpartum unit, the charge nurse told me he wished all the moms had their babies like that-- and I thought, well, if you left them alone they might!  I had to be stubborn to have as few interventions as I did, but it was totally worth it. And I had the Dream Birth Team with my husband and the doula there.
Everything on my birth plan happened as I hoped, except for the delivery of the placenta - after an hour it was still hanging out in there and I was sick of being "not quite done" giving birth, so I had the OB put a little gentle traction on it and it came out. It's OK to change your mind. It's your birth! Being in control of your decision making is the important thing. 
Interestingly, one of the hypnobirthing books I read suggested writing down your ideal birth and visualizing it, and running through it in your mind regularly. I had always had my babies in the middle of the night or early morning with no sleep, and I thought it would be nice to sleep well, wake up, and go into labor...and labor during the day instead of the middle of the night. So that's what I visualized, and that's what happened! I thought it was kind of woo-woo and never expected it to happen that way, but it did. Wild. 
Your birth, your body, your decisions. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

Women be Wise: What the Husbands Can Do. #nursingschool

This reminds me, I really need to get the sheet music for this. I first heard it more than 20 years ago, so I'm sure I'll get around to it eventually.

I'm now fully 6 months into my express nursing program, and I have to say, my husband has I mean, REALLY, stepped up to the task.

I can't believe how much he has supported me through this! And although he is usually motivated by money, it is not like I'm coming out of this with a six figure salary or anything. I think he is just enjoying the changes that are to come, and altruistically, excited to see me put my energies into something that will [hopefully] be a successful career.

Cuz, Lord knows, I have been putting my energy into career paths that, let's just say, never really gave me that energy back. It doesn't mean I didn't enjoy every minute - I really did - I'm just ready for a new challenge that will also give me some stability and self-respect.

And I honestly want to help people. I've always felt that way, and I even saw performing as a way to bring people joy, and that is who I am, at the core of me. I know that now.

But the other day, I was in the mood disorders unit at the psych hospital [my current rotation], and I was sitting in group therapy. I was listening to patients speak, and the heat was blasting in the room. And it had been a busy weekend with the kids, and I was up late the night before, and I was getting tired. And I was tired of listening to people whom I didn't think I could really help. I was getting mad. I have been coming home and saying to my husband, "those people weren't sick today. I couldn't help them." And on this day, I did not have that spark in me, that inner being that was screaming "give your heart and soul right now!" And I realized why.

I had already given my heart and soul to something. Twice.

First - of course - it was performing. I've been through many times throughout that journey where my SOUL was crying. It was heart-wrenching. It was the most frustrating time of my life. I don't want to go back.

Second - being a mom. I am done. I have chosen my path. My children are my everything - I've given them two halves of my heart and it no longer resides in my body, only in theirs. I want everything for them in life, and I want to watch them use all that energy for good in their lives.

So I no longer have that heart and soul to give. Love and care, yes, but not heart and soul.

Which brings me back to my husband. Who, let's be honest, I've given a little piece of my heart to as well. But this was supposed to be a funny post.

Stuff that comes out of his mouth, like:
 "I'm at your disposal this evening"
"I had this kitchen under control earlier!"
"Ugh, you mean the dishwasher didn't run? This sets my whole process back."

And my new favorite, when kids are screaming/crying/homeworking/dressing/eating:

"I got this."

He even arranged the fruit in the basket, y'all! FRUIT THAT HE SHOPPED FOR. CUZ THE KIDS NEEDED IT FOR THEIR LUNCHES. Cuz, oh yeah, HE DOES THEIR LUNCHES. ERRYDAY!

I'm not going to even begin to describe to you the construction project he has taken on during this time. We'll just call it, "The Wall Project", and I will admit to you that, he is basically carpenter/designer/architecting this whole damn thing himself.

And in the middle of all of this, we hit the teacher conferences. And he does all the damn talking.

Because what the f*&# do I know about what my kids are currently learning?!?!

Ok, ok, I have been paying attention to some of that. But not all of it! And certainly wasn't going to be the one to say what he did, which was:

"So what should we be doing at home to support that?" 

SAY WHA???! 

He is rocking this whole 'primary parent' role. Our roles have reversed, we keep joking, because I am the one who is losing track of the calendar, what day it is, and what shows are on which night. I don't even have time to watch TV right now!

I love him. I hope I get to keep him after all of this. 

Although he says there is an expiration date. It's called GRADUATION! So you'll help remind me of this beautiful time, won't you readers? When he was primary parent. And it was good. So so good.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

What I tell people about myself #nursingschool #puttylike

As you know, I started nursing school.

It's only been nine weeks, y'all, this is crazy. I feel like my brain is full already.

This month we started 'clinicals', which is where we do 12-hour shifts in the hospital and practice our clinical skills like real nursey-nurses.

And here I go again...trying to encapsulate my life in a pretty bubble for people. Not just my fellow classmates, whom I've been getting to know, but also patients, who frequently like to turn the conversation back to you [yeah but I'm trying to ascertain your family history of heart disease, lady...]

Well, my life does not work that way. It no-go-straight-line.

And do I use the word "crazy"? Say, "oh yeah, I'm a mess", or "all over the place" turn of phrase, make people feel comfortable putting me in the "other" category of the bubbles in their mind?

Not usually.

Here's where I find myself going:

First off, I'll say I was "in music" or, "a musician." I've always defined myself this way. Even when I got my Actor's Equity Card my husband/then boyfriend would say, "can I tell people NOW that you are an actress?" and I would say "NO WAY, people think actresses are CRAZY and have no skills." I guess old habits die hard. If I get a chance to elaborate, I'll say that I performed musical theatre, wrote musical theatre, and also worked arts administration jobs. And then if I get a chance to go further from there, I'll say that the last full-time job I had in music was recruiting music majors for the University of Maryland. All of which, I loved, of course, so what brought me here?

From there, I'll say the NICU. [Now I feel like this post is sounding like If you give a mouse a cookie...he'll want some milk to go with it...and if you give him some milk....he'll want...] Well, it's true. This is how I've been threading the pieces of my adult life together for others. And I can imagine it is difficult for a 22-year-old classmate of mine to understand how I got here now, but they might as well get a 3-D illustration of what "letting life happen" can do. I'm happy. Get into it.

So I'll say I had twins, and they were born super early [oh, how early?] 29 weeks, and we spent two months in the NICU, and I found myself chatting with 60 different nurses, and the seed was planted to go into nursing.

Oh that's cute, they think, mommy wants to work with babies. That makes sense in my mind.

But then, if I have a third conversation with a person, it might be revealed that my parents work in Hospice Care. And the other day in our lecture for "transitional care" I mentioned Hospice, so now all my classmates think I want to go into Hospice, which would be totally fine for me, I grew up with it and feel very comfortable talking about death and end-of-life care. I can imagine this is the most real that it gets, and it kind of screwed up my mother's way of interacting with people so hence the reason I say what I mean ALL THE TIME and IT'S TOTALLY ANNOYING I GET IT BUT I CAN'T HELP MYSELF.

Here's the fourth conversation. You've now learned that I'm a mom, and most of the time, I truly love it. I wouldn't mind being a professional mom for a living. But since my husband didn't want to foster 20 children in our house, I thought I could get paid to take care of people in other settings. Boom. Nursing.

Here's another tangent I might get into: I love school. Remember that time, at band camp, when I got a Master's degree in French from Columbia? That was funny. That throws THE WHOLE thread off. You have to expand your bubble. Or put me in multiple bubbles inside your head. It takes a lot of love to do that.

A quicker tangent: college admissions. When I recruited those music majors at the University of Maryland, I did a lot of higher ed administration and actually managed people. I was best at working with people. I tried to get back into college administration, but I cried and cried when I thought I might actually get offered one of the jobs. I didn't want to travel away from the family, and I didn't really care about where the state of our university system is going. Ohhhhh it's baaaaaaad. Probably coulda mada lotta moula tho. How ironic that I interviewed where I am going to nursing school now, though. Ironic, I tell ya!

Another tangent: I was trying to make it on Broadway. If you want the quickest way to put me in a bubble, I will likely say this. Oh, did you perform in anything I would know? No, no I didn't. I did experimental theatre [bubble], but we did a European tour [bubble] and I also performed Grease regionally [bubble] and was in Motherhood, the Musical here in Philly [bubble] but you didn't see any of those so just imagine me standing in line to audition for Rent [original production] six times in the 90's and you'll get a nice picture in your mind. Or read this post. 

I pop. ALL. the bubbles.

Thanks, Emilie Wapnick, for making me feel ok with all of that.
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