HIYOH & the First Month of Dental School

Back in May of this year I started planning my first real hiking trip: a three day trek on the Appalachian Trail (which then became a three day hike on the North Country Trail). In my quest for knowledge of all things hiking and backpacking related I joined a couple of Facebook groups for women who hike; they were a little intense but quite helpful and interesting. One of the phrases I heard quite often in these groups was “hike your own hike”. It was repeated as a kind of hiking mantra or motto.  But it seems a little obvious right? Everyone is one their own journey and moves at their own pace and all that. Yeah yeah. Blah blah whatever.

Months later, in August, as I was running a trail half marathon with little to no training that phrase popped back into my head: hike your own hike.

It occurred to me that the same holds true for running: you are running your race and no one else’s (even when you’re running with or right next to them). That aspect of personal improvement and competition with yourself is something I’ve always loved about running. And at that moment I was on track to run the worst (time-wise) half marathon I’ve done to date but I actually felt proud of myself, like I was doing okay. I was running my own race and I was killing it (compared to myself and my expectations for myself). My sister died in early June, barely two months prior; it put my summer off to a bad start. After that I had a couple weeks of bare minimum levels of functioning. Then my work schedule got crazy (partially to accommodate some of the time off I needed to be with my family); I was working a few nights in a row and then having a few days to function as a normal person. Up and down, back and forth, awake for 24 hours straight then trying to sleep during the day but also trying to not waste the time I could/should be spending with my kids. The thing about working nights is that messes with your body beyond the exhaustion part of it, going back and forth between being awake all night and trying to function during the day multiplies those negative effects.

SO there I was on the morning of August 4th (which, fun fact, happens to be my former wedding anniversary) running slowly through some random woods in Michigan as the day got hotter and more humid by the minute feeling not too bad about myself and my race. I definitely wasn’t winning any awards on this one but, considering the circumstances and the challenges I’d faced, that was okay. I was running MY race; my unique life experiences had brought me to that place and were a part of the accomplishments of the day. No one else was dealing with exactly the same things I was so maybe even if they were faster it wasn’t a big deal; we were playing with different decks. (Then again maybe it was an even bigger feat. Who knows what personal struggles brought them to that moment of their lives.)

Fast forward another few months (okay, two) and here I am, not running or hiking much but I’m finally starting to grasp the full meaning of “hiking my own hike”.

I started dental school this fall. The average age of my class is 24. There are a handful of people who are turning 21 this year. Most of the others are 22 or 23. I am not; I’m a non-traditional student. A really non-traditional student. I’m 38, a single/divorced mom with five kids, the oldest of them just a couple years younger than some of my classmates.

We have very different lives, my classmates and I. There are a few who are 30 or close to it and a couple who are married. Pretty sure I’m the only one with kids. I’m one hundred percent sure that I’m the only one in my class with five kids. But right now (and for the next three and a half years), these are my peers. These are the only other people in my life who really understand the demands and expectations I’m dealing with.

Dental school is Crazy; the course load is insane! (22 credits this semester) And it’s literally a complete reversal of what my schedule has been for the past seven years. I’m awake by 5:30 every morning (some days closer to 4) and out the door by 6:15 (okay, 6:30 the weeks my kids are home). I spend two and a half to three hours a day commuting to school. Two days a week we have roughly five hours of heavy science lectures (and a couple others) in the same classroom. It’s hard.

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Balancing dental school and family life…it’s messy sometimes.

But I expected that. It’s dental school, it’s supposed to be hard. (If it was easy everyone would do it.) The one thing I didn’t anticipate is how isolated and lonely I feel some days. Dental school, like nursing school or any other set program, is one of the few times in your adult life you are surrounded by people going through the exact same thing as you. Typically that produces some deep-seated friendships and a strong sense of camaraderie among classmates. And I do feel some air of community with my classmates but often I’m set apart by the differences between their day-to-day and mine. It’s been taking a minute to get used to.

Much like the race, different circumstances and life experiences brought everyone to this place. While we are (according to the school) all high achieving and highly qualified individuals we did not go through the same process to get there. We are not all dealing with the same challenges and struggles as we adapt to dental school either; some of us have trained more than others. While I’ve been struggling to find my place socially, I’m finding that my crazy life experiences have prepared me for dental school in ways I could not have imagined. I’m used to juggling a wide variety of demands and having very little free time. I know how to prioritize things when everything id SO important but you just don’t have time to do it all. And functioning optimally on little sleep has been my way if life for a while. Heck, I’m less tired than I’ve been in years because now the five hours of sleep I’m getting is actually at night. (Sleeping at night is AMAZING, y’all!)

Yeah sure, it’s been ten years since I took anatomy and I don’t remember the enzymes of the TCA cycle or glycolysis but my other life skills are coming in pretty handy.

We’ve all got different tools, strengths, and skills and we’re all out there using them to get where we need to be. I guess that’s what hiking your own hike is about.

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Not the Time

It’s just shy of four-thirty in the morning; I’m sitting at work, a little bored. Some stray thought wanders across my idle mind, I’m not even sure what, and suddenly I want to know what her last post on Facebook was. Actually I just wanted to see her page in case there was something significant there. And then I felt a need to see what the last thing my sister posted on Facebook was. I need to know.

But knowing means I have to dig through all the other posts. The ones from people remembering her; the ones from the day of her memorial service, that emotional, hot Saturday a month ago (just about exactly). The ones in between too, in that dead period (pun only slightly intended), the void spanning the space before the memorial service. And, of course, the many many thoughtful, sad, tragic posts from friends, family, a community reeling in shock in the immediate aftermath of my sister’s sudden death.

But I’m at work. And it’s four-thirty in the morning.

This is not the time. I don’t have the space for what this look-back stirs up. It seems to be a theme of late.

Because I’m not the husband, not the parent, not the children, life allegedly moves on and fast. I’m not a part of the local community that may or may not be still coming together over the loss of their power house, my sister. I’m just out here on my own trying to carry on, politely thanking the few aberrant “I’m so sorry for your lost” type comments that occasionally trickle in.

There isn’t space for all the tears that refuse to stay in. They’re seeping out as I move from one place to the next. At work. At the grocery store. At the 4-H fair. Here, there, everywhere. But it’s not the time and this isn’t the place.

(This post is in relation to this…)

This grief is making me tired.

I wanted to be writing about backpacking in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula today, to be sharing with you some details, lessons, and views from my recent adventure. But I can’t, not right now. Life as we know it has been interrupted. There’s been a huge bump in the road, a snafu. A shift in the fabric of the universe.

My sister died. And that’s all I can think about right now.

It was sudden. I’m stumbling around wondering what exactly to do with myself, as I have been for the past 28 hours or so. My family came together last night, all who could make it, to cry and hug (two things we do not do often); to offer support and share the pain that each of us were just beginning to feel. There’s been an outpouring of condolences, thoughts and prayers, and well wishes on social media as well as multiple organized efforts to help her husband and two young children through the next few weeks. It’s touching to see the reach my sister has had in her community. She is, or was, an amazing person. Everyone is sorry and sad.

This loss, her death, the permanency of it is only just starting to sink in. It’s still catching me off guard as the initial news did. A sucker punch to the gut, a riptide pulling me off my feet to sweep me into the tumultuous depths. Waves of numbness followed by deep, hollowing grief are washing over me, changing the shape of my soul. I’m not sure what to do with it all, not sure how to adapt, how to be okay today. Or tomorrow. Or next week.

There aren’t words in my head, there is no vocabulary for a world without my sister in it.

My sister and her daughter circa 2014

Impatience

I think of myself as a relatively patient person. I worked with kids for years then I moved on to traumatic brain injury patients. Both jobs relied on keeping cool and being patient with whatever situation arises. Even now, on a regular nursing floor, I understand the importance of being patient even though there are ten million other tasks to complete.

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I rarely have road rage. (Unless someone cuts me off.) I can make a (usually) unbroken cheesecake which requires so much waiting and patience for a properly finished product. I just don’t get riled up easily.

BUT, then there are times when I’m extremely impatient. Waiting in long busy noisy lines gets me. I’m impatient when other people are running late and I’m meeting them. It drives me crazy.  And once I’ve made a decision, I just want it to happen.

This is also the case with New Year’s Resolutions. I just want them to happen. Unfortunately they are all things that take time. As I mentioned, I’m job hunting, and, probably, driving everyone crazy because I’m talking about it so much. I just want to know what that next step is going to be. Now. I want to know now and I want to begin down that path now! However, everything moves slowly in the healthcare world. So I just have to be patient and wait.

I’m a whole 2 days into trying to lose weight…with no results yet. Obviously.

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I’m realistic. Really. But it still tests my patience. I’m trying, so what do you mean I have to wait for results?! How many times do I have to go to the gym and not eat fries before I start seeing results?!?! (I do understand the reality of it all, honestly.)

I’ve got some long roads to go down, I get that. And I’m trying really hard to be patient.

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It’s that time again….I love a good New Year’s Resolution

I say it every year (2014, 2015, 2016 & 2017) and I’ll say it again, I love a new year’s resolution. I love the fresh start even if it’s just because the calendar is turning over.

Last year, 2016, was a maintaining year with no big changes. That was not the case for 2017. In April I graduated from nursing school and in July I left my job of seven years and started a new nursing job.

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It was so exciting to graduate and pass the NCLEX. However, I took a hospital job and I really don’t like it. I never enjoyed the hospital during clinical and I really dislike it on a regular basis.

Resolution #1: Get a new nursing job. Preferably one without a midnight shift and not in a hospital. After years of a messed up schedule- night shifts, weekends and everything in between, I’m really looking for something consistent and normal.

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Along with the change in jobs and the end of school I now have time. It was pretty elusive in 2016 but all of sudden I actually have downtime. I haven’t really made good use of it either. It’s time to get some other areas of my life together. Especially if, as a nurse, I’m going to be preaching self-care and healthy living, it’s time to take my own advice.

Resolution #2: Lose 50 pounds. With diet and exercise, of course.

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You know, the normal ones that everyone makes.

#3: Try some new hobbies. – I’m taking a photography class in January for six weeks with a DSLR camera. I’m interested to try my hand at something new. New hobbies might including cooking too. I’ve been watching a lot of Top Chef lately. Those meals and ingredients are amazing. It’d be interesting to learn just a little of that.

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I think those are it. They seem big enough to tackle for the year.

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Filing Cabinet Renovation Gone Wrong.

I’d been wanting a larger filing cabinet for awhile. I love some good organization. Plus I’d been using a filing cabinet I rescued from the garbage years ago that had a healthy dent and was rusting. So when I saw this guy at a garage sale for $20 I thought awesome! I’d try repainting it. Pinterest makes it look totally doable.

I read up on how to do it and purchased some spray paint. Seemed easy enough.

I sanded everything down and the few bits of rust. 20170829_121920.jpg

This one drawer took 2 cans of spray paint! It was so much. So before tackling the rather large base I thought it would be better if I primed. Make the spray paint go further, right?? This was only my second attempt to do anything with spray paint. I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Primed! Should be easy now right?

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Well, shit, everything is a different color now. How did that happen?!?! Not great progress. At this point I decided that instead of spray painting the base I should roll it. Spray paint wasn’t working in my favor. Rolling the base would work, right? I went back to Home Depot, for what felt like the billionth time, and purchased some Rust-oleam. The non-spray kind. I had a roller from when I was painting my walls so I didn’t get one. And there was my mistake. You definitely can’t use the same type roller. Why? Well it leaks fuzz everywhere.

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Can you see all the lint/fuzz bits?? Oh there were so many swear words.

This project was getting ridiculous and expensive. Also, on a side note. Rust-oleum really sticks to everything including hands. I painted a day before I was to attend a wedding. Not all the black came off. It was a look.

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This was after washing my hands! 😦

I had a very fuzzy discolored filing cabinet. I went back to the sander and Home Depot. I resanded and repainted with a foam roller. It’s definitely not perfect but it’s done.

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Can you see the spots I missed?? Ugh, I didn’t think they would show so much

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Quick Trip: Getting out of the slump

As I mentioned, I was in a slump. I didn’t blog or really do anything terribly creative. And, also, as I mentioned per my co-bloggers advice I just started doing stuff. One of the things I did was plan a quick road trip through Ohio with an old friend. I had been wanting to go back to the Columbus Zoo for years. I hadn’t been since I was a kid. So I persuaded an old friend who had vacation time to burn to take mid-week road trip with me. The Columbus Zoo did not disappoint! It was awesome and allowed for seeing some animals very close up.

 

After that we went to Cleveland and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The Hall of Fame was interesting and I enjoyed the fashion but I don’t feel the need to repeat it.

 

It was nice to get away with very little agenda and just because I could.

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