How do I tell my story in 4500 characters or less?

That is the question I’m struggling with this week. How do I take all that I am, all that I am capable of and all that I’ve struggled with to get where I am, and sum it up professionally and concisely? How do I stand out and make them want me in their program? know I’m pretty damn awesome and I’m almost certain that they would too if they just talked with me for a few moments. That’s not how it works though. Those aren’t the hoops and the choice is jump or don’t. Don’t isn’t an option; that’s already been determined. And so the pressure is on as I attempt to put pen to paper (figuratively of course as no one actually writes anymore) and tell my own version of the hero’s journey in 4500 characters, including spaces, or less.

As a side note, on top of the usual craziness of my rock n’roll  single parent lifestyle I’ve been trying to get my dental school application around (including retaking the super stressful and intimidating DAT) to reapply. It’s all coming to a head over the next two weeks. Regular blogging will commence after this ginormous task at hand is complete. (Okay, semi-regular at best.)

Advertisements

Traveling Forward

 

It’s about 11:30 Sunday night and I’m not looking forward to Monday morning, this one more so than usual. It’s an After-Break-Monday. Not only did we have the weekend off but the kids have had a whole week off school and I had half a week. On top of that we went on a vacation, a real live, legitimate vacation. Well, as close as it gets. We left Tuesday evening around eight-thirty and drove 11 hours overnight to get to Georgia where two of my sisters, a brother-in-law, and a two-year-old nephew live. My parents started down Monday with two of my kids, my youngest sister and I followed with the other three. On Wednesday my youngest brother flew into Atlanta as well. It was basically the traditional family Thanksgiving displaced by five states. Maybe just a little smaller. I think we only had fifteen people at dinner. That’s small for my giant family.

So we went on vacation and celebrated Thanksgiving but come morning it’s back to reality. Reality has been stressing me out lately; I’m tired of reality. Life seems to be in one of those weird flux states where major changes are on the horizon, possible paradigm shift level changes. Except it’s not clear what those changes are going to be or what I should be doing to make them happen. Like most changes, this one (or maybe these ones) are driven by discomfort. Nothing really changes when everything feels okay does it?

For one, I’m almost done with school. The Bachelor’s degree part of it at least. Still no word on dental school (other than that they’ve received my application but that’s old news). I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t driving me a little crazy and stressing me out quite a bit. It’s at the prepare for the worst while hoping for the best phase now. More than half the interview sessions have taken place; realistically I need to be looking at what to do to improve my chances when I apply again in the next cycle, such as retaking the DAT. Jeez, why can’t I just get invited to interview already?!? I really don’t want to take that again. (said in an appropriately whiny voice) And I’m not sure I can afford to retake it. I mean, I can’t afford not to but i have no idea how I’m going to pay for it….which leads me to the next area of stress and uncertainty in my life: my job.

I’m still chugging away at the same third shift, part-time job that I’ve had for the past five years and it’s fine, but I’ve only got one class this coming semester. It’s the last two credits I need to graduate and I’ve decided to pay out of pocket for the class instead of taking another extra class to qualify for financial aid. On paper it’s a smart move but my pockets are a little empty right now. I’ll only have one day a week of classes starting in January, it’s time to either bump up my hours at work (if that’s even a possibility) or look for a new, full-time job. Maybe one in the field I’m graduating in. I have no idea how that process works though and if, on the very off chance, I do still get into dental school this year I’d only be working for a few months. However, if I don’t get into dental school I’ll have to start paying on my student loans in June(ish)…It might be time to pay the piper and that’s a scary thought.

Heck, the whole new job idea is scary!

I’m having trouble even fathoming what hours I’m available to work and what I’d like to do or maybe, more practically thinking, what I’m qualified to do. Not to mention how one even goes about finding a “real” job. Agh, so much unknown! Hopefully I’ll find something that will support my family a little more comfortably than we’ve been (it would be nice to actually pay medical bills when they come in instead of saving them all for tax time), something during day time hours that doesn’t require working the whole weekend every other weekend. That would be ideal…but even that’s intimidating. There’s a part of me that worries finding a normal, 9-5ish day job will make me so…so…I don’t know, ordinary?

My schedule has been pretty damn insane for the past five years. I went from working 74 nighttime hours in seven days and having seven days off to working 40 hours over the weekend every other weekend so I could go to school Monday through Friday as needed. When I went part time three years ago I was so relieved not to be working the seven days anymore, that’s a good sign that I shouldn’t just settle back into something like that again. I’m burned out on working nights and weekends but I don’t know if I know how to have a “normal” job and manage my life. It would certainly be very different for me. I’d have to run in the evenings or *gasp* early mornings  like all you other poor schmucks. I’ll have to grocery shop on the weekends or late at night. Weird! So weird!

It’s time to move forward, to transition and adapt. It’s a good thing. Having free weekends would be downright amazing. Not being overly stressed about paying my bills would be a giant relief. I just need to wade through this mess of fear and self-doubt that’s anchoring my feet to the ground, immobilizing me in my tracks. It’ll happen. I’ll get there one uncertain step at a time. In the meantime I’m avoidance cleaning today. I got a new vacuum cleaner and it’s amazing! So there’s that.

And to wrap this somewhat distracted but of drivel up, here are a some more pics from the trip to Georgia including Stone Mountain and a Thanksgiving day “Gobble Jog” fun run in Marietta.

Eyes on the Prize: A 10k Recap and Some Other Stuff

This weekend was my small mid-Michigan town’s annual Melon Fest. Really the only part of Melon Fest I take part in is the Melon Run. It’s been my favorite 10k race because it’s close to home (I literally jog to the start line) and it’s an evening run so no 6am wake ups on a weekend morning. I’ve even placed in this race both the years I’ve done it but this year I was going to pass on it. Right now money is tight and time running short. The melon run was going to be one of those minor casualties of the overly busy summer I’ve been having…until I saw that they were handing out growlers from a local brewery as prizes this year AND it fell on a weekend that the kids were home. That sealed the deal. Beer and running with my kids? It’s barely even a choice, I basically had to do this run.

This time I got three of my kids in on the fun. My oldest did the 10k “with” me (he was exactly fifteen minutes faster than I was), my eleven year old did the 5k, and my little guy did the mile fun run. As an added bonus a handful of the kids on my cross country team participated in the run with us since practice had been cancelled. The other coach is out of town doing an Iron Man and I was doing the Melon Run. So instead one middle school girl (who is quite an impressive little runner) ran the 10k (and won her age division) too while four of the high school runners and six middles did the 5k. Having such a large group of runners and parents made the melon run even more fun.

elijah melon run

There’s my little guy towards the end of his mile.

As far as the actual running goes, I wasn’t feeling my best on Friday. There had been a couple days during the week that contained very little sleep and, even though I was exhausted, I had not slept very well the night before. I was dragging and feeling a bit dehydrated throughout the 6.2 miles. I stopped at almost every water station and walked a little too. I was struggling to keep myself running and even the thought of winning a growler was losing it’s motivational pull. The race finishes on a gentle up hill and  I desperately wanted to walk that last quarter of a mile but there was no freakin way I was going to do that with my kids, part of my team, and other parents watching me. While my inner voice was complaining and whining, I forced myself to pick up my feet and push up that stupid hill to finish the race. It wasn’t pleasant but I’m glad I did it; I just barely made the Under an Hour mark…which to me is anything under an hour and a minute. My official time was 1:00:39. It counts.

melon run me & C

And it was good enough for second in my age division. Obviously my big guy won his and we got growlers so I was happy. Now I’ve got a complete set of first through third in my age division from this run. Of course, two are medals and one’s a growler but still, prizes all the same and who doesn’t love a prize?

Speaking of prizes, late the night before the run I got and email from the ADEA dental school application system saying my application was processed and complete. I had submitted it just ten days prior. They tell you it takes four weeks to process and I was sweating my perceived tardiness in getting the thing completed. Shortly after that email another came through, this one from the actual dental school I’m hoping to get into (and the only one I applied to), saying that they had my application. I know it’s a tiny tiny part of this whole process but hearing that the school has my application felt like big news to me. This whole dental school thing might actually be happening. Holy Shit!

The past three months I’ve been sweating and stressing over the dental school application and getting it done and submitted. Everything else took a backseat while I struggled through June and July to get all the pieces in place. My running took a hit, there were no vacations or fun beach days, no extra work shifts, it all went on hold. But now there was email confirmation that I had gotten it done. All summer it’s been eyes on the prize and here was proof that the prize is within reach. It’s a great feeling.

growler prize

 

Slow that Roll

I woke up feeling like I had something stuck in the back of my throat. I couldn’t see or feel anything with my finger so I ignored the sensation and went about my somewhat hectic day. It was my oldest son’s family birthday celebration and I had thirty to forty people, most of them small children, coming for dinner. My family is laid back and fun; hosting a birthday dinner for them isn’t as stressful as entertaining that many other people would be. Besides, I’ve totally embraced the idea of “scruffy hospitality” (I’ve been meaning to write about that). But still, it makes for a busy day. As the dinner was winding down and people were drifting off to the backyard, front porch, or living room to relax and socialize I realized my throat hurt more than it had earlier. I went to the bathroom and AHHH-ed in the mirror to see what I could see. There, way in the back on the left side, was a white mass at least a couple centimeters across. WTF?!? So of course I tried to touch it.

Whenever I see white bumps in my throat I think strep. It’s happened before, it could happen again. I’m not very good about taking care of myself and regular medical care is something I definitely slack on but strep throat motivates me to seek medical attention asap. Plus I was scheduled to volunteer at a low-income dental clinic the next day and shadow a geriatric dentist the following. Even when I ignore my own health, I try to be conscientious about protecting other’s, especially the elderly. So, after everyone left, I trucked myself off to urgent care for a throat swab. I wish they’d just start selling those rapid strep tests over the counter already. But they don’t.

Turns out it wasn’t strep at all. I had an epitonsicullar  abscess. Basically an infectious mass was sitting on my left tonsil. Not contagious, but still requiring antibiotics. After asking about my gag reflexes and some reassurance that I would not, in fact, vomit on her, the ER doctor poked the mass and then swabbed it for a culture. She lectured me on the importance of following up in the next couple of days, saying that if the abscess didn’t go down with antibiotic treatment it may have to be lanced. That sounded simultaneously cool and dreadful. Downright cool to see on someone else, maybe not so cool to actually experience. So I followed her instructions.

The abscess did respond to the antibiotics. I was dragging for a couple days but at least I could still get my shadowing and volunteering hours in that week. I was really pushing to finish the required hundred by the end of July. I did not have time to deal with an infection! After that week the shadowing hours were done. It was a giant relief but my kids’ 4-H fair was immediately following. There was a bunch of craft projects to finish, horse show stuff to gather and prep, and parenting time logistics to haggle over. We got everything done in time but jut barely. There was a Thursday to Friday to Saturday morning that was downright insane. I may have broken my previously impressive record for Least Sleep in 48 hours. But things and people got where they needed to be and we all survived fair.

fair

Since late April and the end of the winter semester, I’ve been hustling to complete all the necessary items for my dental school application. I’ve been hurrying along to check all the boxes and get the thing submitted in as little time as possible. People would ask when the application is due, my reply was “As soon as possible.” Sure the deadline isn’t technically until October (January for some schools) but early applicants get first consideration for interviews and with a couple thousand prospects vying for a couple hundred spots you need every advantage you can get.  Those applications though, there’s a lot to them. It’s tough to get a hundred shadowing hours in when you’re in school, parenting five kids and their struggles, dealing with an ongoing change of custody hearing and you still have to work…because someone has to fund this rock n’roll lifestyle!

Originally my goal was to be ready to submit that bitch by the end of June, first week of July at latest. I quickly realized that just was not realistic. My self-imposed deadline for the shadowing hours got pushed back to the end of July with hopes of application submission very early August. It was touch and go for a while there but goals were met, the application was submitted at 1am on August 7th.

All summer my mantra has been Make it to August. Just get through to August and I’d get some summer. There would be relaxing, crocheting, reading actual books, and as many beach days (preferably at a Great Lake) as I could squeeze in. Last week was the second in August. On Monday my kids (well, three of them plus one friend and one cousin) and I went to Lake Michigan. It was awesome, relaxing and enjoyable on so many levels. But we were out pretty late and the drive home included dropping the extra kids off and collecting the dog. We got home after midnight. As the only adult and the only driver on the trip I was exhausted. Three of us had to be up early in the morning for one of the many, many appointments we’ve had this summer.

made it to the beach

Made it to the beach. Yay summer!

Seven-thirty came way too soon. I dragged my sandy, dirty self out of bed for a much needed shower, woke the two boys who had appointments that day and rushed around like the insane person I sometimes am. Part of me desperately wanted to call and cancel the appointments. Traffic was going to be terrible and we were already running late. I didn’t even have time to make real coffee and where the fuck had all my little guy’s underwear disappeared to? But those aren’t viable reasons to cancel at the last minute.

Really I blame the underwear.

We left the house late. Again. I was exhausted and felt frantic and frustrated. Again. After fifteen minutes of driving slightly above the speed limit we were at a stop. And then a crawl. And then a stop. Cars as far as the eye can see. Ugh!

Maybe if I got into the right lane I could exit and take a short cut. When does that other freeway split off? I think that’s on the left. There had to be a quicker way to get there. We were twenty minutes late two weeks ago. Once is okay, twice is embarrassing. I really don’t know this area well. Is getting off the freeway actually going to save me time? Maybe Google Maps will have the answer.

I picked up my phone and hit the “recent places” tab in the maps app. My stupid fat fingers hit the wrong thing. I glance down again to find it, look up and OH SHIT! Mother Fucker!

The Ford Taurus in front of me had stopped. Instantly I know I can’t in time but I sure do try. Foot slams on the break pedal as I hear more than feel the crunch. Crap crap crap. I knew I should have cancelled these appointments.

After asking if the kids are okay and pulling well off the freeway onto the left lane shoulder, I jump out to assess the damage. Radiator fluid is flowing out of my car in large quantities. It would almost be impressive…if it wasn’t spewing forth from my car. The new one that I just financed three months ago. Fuck me! I’m not even sure who to call or what to do here, I’ve never been in an accident before let alone caused one. The guy I hit looks petty pissed as he begins making phone calls, not saying a word to me or even making eye contact. I can’t blame him, I deserve it.

In fact, I really had this whole craptastic situation coming. I could have listened at the first or any of the many smaller signs that I was just barely holding it all together and slowed down. The infection was the warning shot, I paid it no attention. Now the Universe was taking me out at the knees. It was working. Perspective was being gained. Things look very different when you’re flat on the ground looking up.

My pace of life the past couple months has not been sustainable, eventually something had to give. While I wish it wasn’t my Volvo I’m glad the only damage done was to my car (and possibly my already tenuous finances).

In two weeks things get more than a little crazy again. I’ll be starting my last semester of undergraduate classes. My class schedule is not good but my choices here were limited. My five kids will be back in school at the same time; it’s my oldest’s senior year. The fall is also cross country season. I’ve signed on to be my kids’ school’s middle school cross country coach. I’m simultaneously excited and intimidated. Part of me is wondering what I’m thinking taking that on right now…it’s a lot. My life is always a lot and I continue to add to it. I need to simplify, to slow my roll. The question is how?

great lakes

Not the same beach or even Great Lake that we went to this time…

 

Just Don’t Suck!

It’s one in the morning and I just finished this….

I call it the messy fishbowl.

If I was Chris Hemsworth people would be raving  about what a good parent I was, making my kid’s birthday cake myself even if it’s at 1 a.m. If I was Chris Hemsworth’s wife those same people would be tearing me apart for not planning ahead and making the kid’s cake earlier or, better yet, not being organized enough to order my precious offspring a fancy cake that probably cost more than some people’s cars. Luckily I’m neither. I’m just your basic Midwest mom with blue teeth (throwing frosting away is a cardinal sin even when it’s blue, a little too thin, and from a can).

There was a time when I was the mom who made this…

cake

The not-so-messy fishbowl. Back when I put real effort into making my kids’ birthdays awesome. Okay, so that’s not the actual cake I made. I didn’t do the whole Jell-O water and fish jumping out at the top but it was pretty damn close. My then-young kids were thrilled. I was an awesome mom back then, even my kids thought so, but then again they weren’t teenagers. Things were different then.

In my defense, the current fishbowl cake was sprung on me this afternoon and I didn’t have to wait until this ridiculous hour to decorate it, I just procrastinated via a beer and Netflix (aka solo Netflix and Chill). This one is for my nephew whose sixth birthday is tomorrow, actually today now. My sister just had a baby a couple days ago, her fifth. (Yeah,that’s a thing in my family. I totally started it though). She was having a rough day so I went to help her for a bit and came home with the task of making the birthday cake. I figured I could do that before picking my own kids up from school for the evening but that didn’t happen and here I am finishing a cake after midnight on a weeknight. It’s not beautiful but it’s not terrible either. In other words, it doesn’t suck.

In three days I’m taking the DAT (dental admission test). It’s a big deal and I’m more than a little worried about it. I really haven’t studied enough; I am not ready for this. As I’m writing this I find myself wondering if I can move my testing date back. I doubt I can and I know that’s a bad idea. I shouldn’t even be wasting time thinking about it. The dental school application process is time sensitive. A couple thousand people apply; early applicants are processed first and given interviews first (if they’re chosen to be interviewed). I need to take this test now and I need to do…. average on it.

Yup, you read that right average. Although right now it doesn’t feel like that’s all that easy (#selfdoubt). I’ve been trying to maintain the ideal balance between terrified and self assured here but as test day approaches the scales are tipping towards terrified. There have been many pep talks interspersed with moments of panic. My perfectionist’s heart is struggling in this situation because I know I am not going to do great. But, like I said, I don’t need to do great, just okay.

See, all the other pieces of my dental school application are already complete or on their designated trajectories. The DAT is the only unknown piece. I’m pretty sure the rest of my stuff is looking good, very good, and overall I think I’m an excellent candidate for dental school. I’ve got a pretty good gpa with high grades in all my math and science classes (except that one C), I have years (like six) of dental field experience, my required 100 shadow or volunteer hours are in progress….(there’s more but I’m not going to bore you with all of it) As long as I do okay on the DAT I’ll be good.

I’m a big fan of mantras and lately mine has been “You just have to Not Suck. Just Don’t suck!”

Much like the cake I was making when I should have been sleeping or studying a few days ago, my test score doesn’t have to turn heads and wow people. It just has to NOT suck.

Scan_20160526 (2)This IS the actual, nice and neat fishbowl cake I made for my son’s birthday ten years ago. Those black dots on the fish are gel icing carefully applied to Goldfish crackers to look like eyes. I took the time to put eyes on Goldfish crackers. I curled Fruit by the Foot like fancy party ribbons. The little half smile on my five-year-old’s face (and the fact that he let me take a picture) show how excited he was that day and how utterly satisfied he was with his special cake. My nephew had a similar look on his face when the messy fishbowl cake was set in front of him. He didn’t know or care that his cake wasn’t perfect, it was his and it didn’t suck.

Lately I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube videos and TED talks by Brene Brown. She’s a social researcher and author who talks and writes about fear, shame, and vulnerability. Fun stuff, right?  Much of what she says about perfectionism resonates with me. I’ve realized that the past few years of my life have been a slow, arduous march towards self-acceptance. I’m not totally there yet but I’m getting closer. Things like this dental school application process take me back a little even while they’re showing me how far I’ve come. I feel the old bend towards perfectionism wanting to take over but also don’t feel like it’ll crush me if I don’t measure up get in the first time I apply. At one time that would have been the ultimate failure. Now I’m pretty sure I’d just do a little better at whatever needed improvement and try again. So my goal this week is to do the best I can and just not suck. It’s the antithesis of perfectionism: Just don’t suck!

I’m pretty sure I can do that.