Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Almost done

Today, when I loaded the 34-pound bag of dog food into my cart, I realized that the next time I need dog food, clinicals will be over.

The next time I pay my mortgage, clinicals will be over.

Two more grocery shopping days until clinicals are over.

By the time I get my tax refund, clinicals will be over.

Why are clinicals so awful, anyway? You'd think that if I want to be a nurse, I'd enjoy the time spent actually caring for patients. I do like caring for patients. What makes clinicals awful is the whole experience of being the nursing student on the unit, i.e. someone who doesn't belong and is universally viewed as an idiot by everyone else. There is no species lower than the nursing student in a hospital. And everybody knows you're a nursing student because you must wear your school uniform, with school badge affixed to the shoulder--the mark of your subjugation. You spend each clinical day feeling like you're in the way, like you don't belong and everybody whose path you cross is judging your performance. Each day is an endless tension.

But it's almost over. The clinical part, anyway. There's half of this week, plus two more full weeks and that is it.

Still have not heard if I have a job, but I did get an email from the hospital where I interviewed (on January 12) saying that there are many qualified applicants, etc, etc, and that we'll hear around April 30th. I haven't applied anywhere else. I've been too busy, for one thing, and I can't start working until after we get back from Rome anyway. One cool thing about the hospital where I interviewed is that they don't expect you to start working the minute you graduate. They actually encourage some relaxation time between the stress of school and the stress of starting a new job. So if they do hire me, at least I know they won't give me a hard time about my plans for Rome.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sadness at the library

I almost bought a tee shirt that said "It's always happy hour at the library" because I am always happy at the library, except for last Tuesday. I got a notice in the mail stating that I was being billed for a lost book, only this was a book I had just returned. Naturally, I was filled to the brim with righteous indignation. Down at the library, they agreed that it was very strange and directed me to the circulation manager, which sounded ominous. And it was. Two seconds later she had produced the book, with obvious water damage to the pages.

Now I looked like a jerk, and the thing was, I had checked that book out for Drama Queen and she had probably spilled the water on it, but I couldn't say that to the circulation manager because then I'd look like someone who blames her children for her own mistakes. So I paid the $30 and left the library with an urge to throttle Miss Drama Queen.

At home, Drama Queen denied spilling anything on the book. She remembered particularly that it had been damaged when we checked it out because a homeless man had been sleeping at a library table nearby and as she flipped through the stiff pages she'd worried the sound they made would wake him. Great. I paid $30 for someone else's irresponsible behavior.

I know I should have pointed out any damage before we checked out the book, but our library has put in self-checkout machines, so there's no human interaction anymore. Drama Queen is lucky that the homeless man was such a convenient memory bookmark. And now we own a knitting book that we didn't want anyway.

Quick book reviews.

Bellwether by Connie Willis. I've loved everything I've read by Connie Willis, who is a science fiction writer, but whose books are more appealing to history and literature lovers than space geeks. She does have a bad habit of using the same comic or descriptive devices over and over throughout her books, but how can I not love a writer who creates characters who deliberately check out lonely library books in order to prevent them from being discarded? Or a character, a scientist, whose only resource for managing a difficult flock of sheep (animal research) is a description of sheep behavior in Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd. In other words, Willis' characters behave and think pretty much exactly as I do which leads me to believe that Willis herself is pretty cool too. In Bellwether, a statistician who is researching fads for a large science corporation (HiTek) crosses paths with a biologist who has lost his funding for a big project. The two of them team up on a new project on fads. Bonus material: each chapter begins with a brief description of a fad from history, dating back as far as the 1200s. Great fun and a quick read.

The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester. This book tells the story of the Oxford English Dictionary and how one of its most valuable contributors was a patient in a "lunatic asylum for the criminally insane." A sad story, but well worth reading.

The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger. I know, everybody else read this nine years ago. I am always behind the times. At times the forced drama of the writing is irritating, but the passages about the history of the New England fishing industry are fascinating.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Life in a small town: The bus stop meeting. Hurrah! We saved our bus stop. But was it ever really in any danger? The meeting took place in the cafeteria of the neighborhood grammar school. We all sat with our knees up to our ears, waiting for the city manager and the public transportation manager. The television media arrived. (Television. This really is a small town.) Our new neighborhood association president, who is young and cute and earnest, spoke about how there are good arguments for removing the bus stop but that there are equally good arguments for keeping it. Ah me, what to do, what to do.

The anti-bus stop man stated his case. I know him, of course, since he's a neighbor. He's a nice guy--a tad eccentric, but nice. It appears his ultimate goal is for no car to ever be allowed to drive past his house, and the first step in achieving that goal is to get rid of the bus. While he spoke, the woman sitting behind me who is famous for blocks around for her beehive hairdo, kept up a running commentary of irritated mutterings. I wondered if she was going to start heckling Mr. No Bus. I'm not entirely clear on why she is so strongly in favor of the bus stop, since she's not really the type to be a champion of public transportation. I think she has a personal policy of always being in opposition to anything that Mr. No Bus wants.

The pro-bus stop side got its say via the elderly lady who lives there doors down from me. She pulled a handwritten speech from an envelope and read it, frequently referencing other neighbors who weren't there, but who are busriders: "There's Mary Smith who lives way down the hill and she's been working at Timberlake's Drugs for thirty years, and she rides the bus and she's a real nice lady, and there's Mabel Townes, and she has bad feet and..."

We were all able to reference the helpful diagram that Mr. No Bus had drawn and taped to the wall, but the meeting was at an impasse. It became clear that the city officials had no intention of moving the bus stop, or (as I had been told) removing the bus route's loop through our neighborhood. Ah, but what about lowering the speed limit? No, not happening. Speed humps? No. Mr. No Bus asked the Director of Public Transportation if he could just order his bus drivers to slow down to 15mph when driving around our park. "I can order my people to do anything," said the Director, and I admit he looked really sexy when he said that. Despite the Director's omniscience with his "people" he will not order them to slow down. "We can't have a special bus speed limit," he said in tones that just barely hid his derision.

And there it is folks. One person doesn't want the bus, other people do want it, and ultimately the status quo is maintained. There was more to the meeting, such as a visitor from another neighborhood association who came to warn us about the large camp of homeless people in the woods on the edge of our neighborhood. The candidate for county sheriff passed out his card. In the post-meeting chit chat I met a man who already knew about me because of my famous bunny. I noticed that the television cameras were long gone.

The Mediterranean Temperament

Last night Drama Queen, Miss G, and I went out for dinner and then to the Richmond Ballet. We went to a Greek diner, and I was feeling grumpy because I'd been unable to find an outfit that looked good, and my hair was terrible. We approached the counter, and the owner shouted, "Ah, three beautiful sisters!" This was more brazen flattery than I am used to and I blushed as I ordered three souvlakis. The owner affected amazement. Was I Greek? I admitted that no, I am not Greek and the owner turned to his cook and demanded, "How can they be so pretty if they are not Greek?" He asked us to give him more time for our souvlaki. "I will make it fresh, for you," he said. And when he brought it to our table, "For the Greek sisters." The girls commented on his flirtatious nature. "Just wait until we get to Rome," I said. Indeed, I am somewhat worried about how to screen my daughters from male attention in Rome. I am hopeful that not even an Italian will try to hit on a young girl in the presence of her mama. (Not that the Greek man was hitting on us. And anyway, he totally destroyed my grumpy mood.)

Monday, March 09, 2009

Spring break

It is Spring Break and I am trying to make it productive, yet also restful. I ought to get dressed every day, at least. No, I have a list:
  1. File our taxes
  2. Complete research project for OB clinical
  3. Complete research project for my Nursing Dimensions class
  4. Complete reading assignment for OB
  5. Study for pediatrics exam which will be when we get back
  6. Apply for nursing license, which includes various sub-steps like getting another passport photo and getting the form notarized, getting my transcript sent to the board of nursing, and paying $130.
  7. Apply to take the NCLEX exam--another multi-step process with another hefty fee-$200.
  8. Figure out how to get Euros for our trip to Rome.
Here it is Monday, and I've completed #s 1, 2, & 8. I had been really worried about the Euros. I know you can use your ATM card in Europe and I know we can use our credit card too, but I need some cash on hand when we get there. The nice man at the bank was helpful, but I have learned that there's no way to get Euros without getting screwed paying a hefty fee. There's a cool thing called a Visa Travelmoney card, which is like a debit card that you load up with cash that you can then withdraw from any ATM in Europe. You can reload it with cash if you spend it all. It's safer than a credit card because if someone steals it, it's not linked to you, personally, and I think, like traveler's checks, you can get the money back and there's no fee from the bank for using a foreign ATM. It sounds almost too good to be true, but then I learned that you're charged a 7% fee when you withdraw money in foreign currency. (WTF? The whole point is for you to be able to have easy access to foreign currency.) You can buy them from your bank too, but blah, blah, blah, this post is getting boring.

Then there are all the things I have planned, but have not put on my list. Mr. McP and I are going to a children's performance of the Richmond Ballet on Tuesday, and I think I'll take my girls to the adult performance on Wednesday. I'm getting a haircut on Thursday.

Tonight is the big neighborhood meeting to SAVE OUR BUS STOP. We live on a city bus route, something I've always considered to be convenient and desirable, but now one of the neighbors has decided he doesn't like the noise of the bus, and according to other neighbors, it looks like the consequences of that might be eliminating our bus route's loop through our neighborhood, which would be inconvenient to people like me who sometimes take the bus, but, more importantly, would be a serious hardship to all the people who already live a long walk from our stop--the extreme southern limit of the bus route--and who depend on the bus to get to work. So I and several of my neighbors will be at a meeting with the city transportation manager this evening to advocate for our bus stop. In my opinion, the bus, which passes my house on the half-hour all day long, makes very little noise, and in any case, people who object to public transportation should consider living outside the city. The bus drivers are invariably cautious and I do not perceive the buses as posing any traffic danger to pedestrians in the neighborhood. And why ONE person's complaint would prompt the city to remove our bus is beyond me. So there.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Saved by snow

I want to thank everyone for their kind comments to my last entry. It has been tough lately, but, as you all said, something will turn up. Then we had one of those magical snowstorms, the kind that creates a holiday for everybody. The snowstorm didn't get me a nursing job, but it did give me two extra days to sleep in.

As the snow started falling Sunday night, I met Jon after work for a beer with some of our friends. Someone had the idea that we ought to go sledding. We have a sledding hill at our house. It's more of a bunny hill, but it provides a modicum of enjoyment, so everybody came to our house and we and our friends and our kids all played in the snow, migrating to the park across the street for a midnight snowball fight. I was taking a risk, since I had to get up at 4:30 for clinicals on Monday, but I counted on clinicals being canceled, and they were. Now I have survived another week of school, and next week is spring break. After that there will be a long, weary haul.

I read a lot, as you all know. For the past four years, at least, I've been reading from a list that I created for myself from Nancy Pearl's book Booklust. I've stuck pretty doggedly to the list, but have added books to it. In case you're unfamiliar with Booklust, it lists books under a wide variety of creative categories. Some categories are about specific subjects like "World War II fiction," others highlight specific authors: "Connie Willis, too good to miss." There's a "First novels" category, and one devoted to authors who graduated from the University of Iowa's creative writing program.

I am now getting close to the end of this list. I have dipped into the last category, World War II fiction. Indeed, it looks like finishing my Booklust list and graduating from nursing school may happen simultaneously. Or very close together, anyway. This is incredible when you consider that I started the list more than four years ago, before I even knew I'd be going to nursing school.

I had been reading From Here to Eternity by James Jones (WWII Fiction) but after 420 pages I was still waiting for it to be rewarding and I gave up. (I never committed to finishing every single book on the list.) I'm also reading The League of Frightened Men by Rex Stout (Rex Stout: Too good to miss). Like most mystery writers, Rex Stout created a detective character to star in all his novels, and his is the fabulous beer-drinking, orchid-loving, never-wrong, almost-too-fat-to-get-out-of-a-chair, Nero Wolfe. The books are told from the perspective of Archie Goodwin, Wolfe's right-hand man. The Nero Wolfe books were first published in the 1930s, and Archie Goodwin is what the Three Stooges would have called a "wise guy." He employs a colorful phrase for the simplest communications. The books are very, very dated, but still fun.

The other categories I'm reading from right now are "Texas," "Gore Vidal's historical novels," "What a (natural) disaster," "Connie Willis: Too Good to Miss," "Women's friendships," and "World War I fiction."

Now I need to learn to speak Italian. Today I had the brilliant idea to rent every single Italian-language movie at Sneak Reviews, C'ville's best movie rental store. Come to think of it, the only Italian I know comes from A Room with a View, one of my all-time favorite movies. I've been listening to an Italian language CD in my car. I'm trying to learn to get the accent correct before I start worrying about the meaning of what I'm saying. I have to spend spring break working on projects for school, but there should be time for a few films.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dark Days

Life is not so good right now. School seems harder than ever. I am exhausted. When I look in the mirror I see a haggard woman that I hardly recognize. The problem is that all of a sudden, nursing jobs for new grads have dried up. I am hearing about hospitals that have initiated hiring freezes, something that was unthinkable just six months ago. Charlottesville has only two hospitals and I interviewed at one of them and have not yet heard back. I didn't really want to work at the other hospital in town, but looked at it as my back-up hospital, but now they aren't hiring anyway. Two of my other back-up hospitals are not hiring--both of these hospitals are an hour away from me. There are other hospitals, all at least an hour away, but I have put off applying because I really don't have time for job interviews right now.

Q. But Patience, what about the nursing shortage?
A. With the economy in the crapper, retired nurses are returning to the workforce, part-time nurses are switching to full time, and hospitals don't have the money to invest in training new grads.

So I am doing all this work, getting up at 4:30am on clinical days, spending 8-10 hours writing care plans, taking exams, freaking out with anxiety about not performing well in clinicals (and pediatric clinicals are terrifying for me), for nothing. In previous semesters, the thing that kept me going was the knowlege that I'd have a good job that I enjoy at the end of it all and now I don't have that motivator.

Add to that chronic sleep deprivation and the stresses of home life, such as my kids being endlessly sick this winter, and I am a wreck. I can't carry on a decent social conversation, I've headache every single day for the past three weeks, my husband is frustrated with me, my kids are miserable, I can't find any enjoyment in life other than tea and books, and even the tea doesn't taste good anymore.

I'm thinking that if all else fails I could join the navy. Or work in a nursing home, but even the navy is more appealing to me than a nursing home.