Lament of the Non-Nurse

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Healthcare is all about nursing. I understand this. With 77% of non-physician roles in U.S. healthcare being those of the nursing variety, I can understand. They are the backbone of our hospitals. I am not a nurse. I had the option years ago, and I decided that, with poop being my Kryptonite and all, it would not be a wise career choice for me. I opted, instead, to help people breathe for a living. Thus I became the respiratory therapist. That choice has come back to haunt me in several ways.

The first of these started when I wanted somewhere to go from here. Nurses have so many avenues they can take to do this: become an instructor, a case manager, management at their facility, become an NP. What can the respiratory therapist do? Well, aside from becoming a Registered Respiratory Therapist from the entry-level Certified Respiratory Therapist, which I did the month after I graduated from respiratory school, there is nothing. Bachelors programs in respiratory are just starting to emerge, but a BS in respiratory gets us no more job perks, no more pay. You just get to say you have it. The majority of my bachelors-having coworkers got theirs in “health sciences”. Whatever that means. So instead, I opted to finish my BS in business administration with the added concentration of healthcare management. But then what? If there are only a handful of BS programs, there certainly are no masters programs. But my BS is in business anyway, so the MBA was a no-brainer.

So here I am. I am one of the more educated in my department, even in the hospital. My MBA is complete. I did well. I did it. So now what? Now I find a job.

I thought this part would be easy. Well, not really easy, but not this difficult, either. Let’s discuss my situation: I have spent the past eight years of my life working in the toughest in my field–adult critical care, and eventually NICU. To the layperson, let me explain further: I am a member of a critical care team who responds the emergencies in the hospital. We are called in when you or your loved one is at their sickest. We bring our skills, experience, and knowledge to you, make recommendations to the physician based on all of the above. We communicate with other members of the team, with family members, with patients. We assess and decide, then act. Repeat as often as necessary to the point that it is second nature to us.

So what does this tell you about me? Well, it tells you I can effectively communicate with anyone. I have non-English-speaking patients, when I am most certainly unilingual. I have deaf patients, blind patients, patients who are intubated and cannot talk, trached and cannot talk. My job is to find out what is going on with them rapidly enough to act. I have become, over the years, a master lip-reader. But that’s not all. The people with whom I interact each and every day have been anyone from a PhD-holding professor who was ill, down to a man whose education was limited to elementary school before he was put to work out in his family’s fields. On our professional team, we have everyone from housekeepers and registration clerks, who may only have a high school education, all the way up to senior management and physicians with advanced degrees. I. Can. Effectively. Communicate. With . Anyone.

Now for my work. It may involve looking at lab values that seem to others to have nothing to do with the lungs, but actually do. Watching vitals. Seeing how the patient breathes. Assessing vital signs. Looking at patient history to see what clues I can find. Listening to family members who may not speak the same lingo I speak. Look at x-rays, watch for clues. And I look at all of this, and since the physician is not there, I have to decide when we need to be concerned, when to call for more help, what I can do to help. So in a split-second, I have to take in this information from multiple sources–complex information at that, compare it to the knowledge stored in my brain, and formulate a plan on how best to proceed.

And under stress. The patient is either having trouble breathing, or even has stopped breathing, when I have to do all of this. Maybe their heart has stopped. Maybe their oxygen saturation is low. Regardless, I don’t often have the luxury of being able to take my time. I need to make a decision and act now, now, now. And while nurses have anywhere from 2 to 6 patients to care for, when I go into work, I have the respiratory histories of at least a few floors’ worth of patients in the back of my mind or in notes in the margins of my printed work assignment. If you figure the average respiratory rate is 10-20 breaths per minute, and there are usually 30 patients per unit, that it 36,000 breaths for which I am responsible in one hour of work on just one floor of the hospital. And I May have three or four floors. That’s a lot of responsibility and a lot of stress.

And I have done this for years of my life.

And then I got an MBA. So I understand finance and strategy, management and business law, marketing and accounting. I have been educated thoroughly in all of the above from a nationally-ranked program at a well-respected university. Add that to the ability to communicate with anyone, the ability to work under stress, the ability to extract complex information from multiple sources to formulate a plan….Nothing should stop me, right?

Wrong.

Because I am looking through these jobs, and seeing that many of the leadership opportunities are asking for someone with a nursing background. Why? No idea. We respiratory therapists go everywhere. A nurse may be hired to work in one specific unit. I can go anywhere in a single night, giving me intimate knowledge of the work flow of every patient care area of the facility, from behavioral health up to the ICUs. And I know healthcare. And I know business. At first, I noticed this trend, and I was a little discouraged, but I figured that I would find the right role  But today, I came across a posting for a pulmonary unit. They need a director. Perfect. Except, as I scrolled down reading the job posting, toward the end, it listed a RN as one of the qualifications. They want someone with my clinical experience, an MBA….and a RN.

It is what we all deal with everyday–we non-nursing patient care staff. We are skilled, we are experienced, we are valuable to patient outcomes, but this is the hand we are dealt, and frankly, it sucks. Part of me wants to just go to nursing school for a couple of years so I can say I did. But I shouldn’t have to do this. I have worked hard. I have done well, completing all three degrees with academic honors. I have the experience under my belt. This is just ridiculous.

Nursing is the backbone of healthcare, but I have yet to see a backbone accomplish anything without limbs, without muscle to hold it upright, support it and ensure it can move and flex in the ways needed. And it’s high time that the rest of the body gets some respect.

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These are the Days

16 Days. Of course I type that while I am supposed to be awake putting together a 45-minute multimedia presentation on integrated marketing practices for class tomorrow. My final project for a marketing elective to round out my requirements for the almighty advanced degree. John, in his awesomeness, brewed the strong coffee for me before turning in for the night. And I can’t quit thinking. I can’t quit thinking, not of integrated marketing as I should be, but of the uncertainty of my life right now. Have you ever been in a place where the things you spend your days doing no longer feel like they are what you should be doing? Where you feel like maybe your real life awaits you, if only you can survive this short little interim? That is this place. These are those days.

My views may possibly be skewed. I realize this. There are people who have devoted their entire lives to do what I have done for the past eight years. They keep doing it, content with their contribution to the world. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is honorable. I’m not selfless enough. I feel like I have spent the past eight years paying dues to the world, to my being in general. To the spirit of my mother, who died from lung disease. I’ve been a good girl, and I have been good at my job. There are, in all honesty, people who are breathing today because of the work I have done. I have been there to help babies who could not help themselves. I have been there when families have said goodbye to parts of themselves. I have wiped brows of the dying, delivered tough love when necessary, compassion when it was needed. I have put myself and my family last. And now, after all of these years of doing that, I want to do something different, and in my warped mind, I have earned that. Not because I will, in just 16 days, have a piece of paper with my name in beautiful calligraphy saying I have completed some requirement set forth from society, but because I have paid my dues in other ways.

People ask me what it is I want, and I always answer with a “we’ll see” kind of shrug. I love healthcare, am passionate about healthcare. And I want to leave some sort of mark on this industry that is on a higher level than the one I am currently leaving. And I want to do so in a way that allows time for me, time for my family.

Lately, I have been thinking a great deal about my path through higher education as a non-traditional student. Evan was about 2 when I put on a  backpack for the first time since my mom died, which was eight years before that. Evan is 12. I will finish this long road about 2 weeks before the ten-year anniversary of that first time back. And I have thought about it. I have allowed myself the luxury of pondering just sucking it up, reaching deep, and going straight into a Ph.D. program or a JD, even. And then I think of them. Of Evan and Zach, of John. And what I want is no longer about a higher degree or prestige. Now, when I think of what I want, it isn’t grandiose at all. It’s simple stuff. Little things that aren’t luxuries to most, but have been to me in these years where I have tried to do it all.

I want to come home and not have to rush off to class, be able to eat dinner with my family at a normal hour around a table with food we prepared at home. I want to watch a movie with John without worrying about homework I should be doing or, better yet, am actually trying to do with said movie playing in the background. I would love to take the boys to a movie or park on a weeknight for no reason at all. Maybe even go on a weekend hiking trip. Maybe John and I could have a real date once in a while. Or I could read a book that has not a damned thing to do with academics at all. I want to blog more. Maybe I could revamp this one a little bit with all I know about social media marketing and content creation these days. I want to join a gym and be able to go–and not some lame attempt a a resolution where I don’t have the follow-through because, hey, thinking I would even have the time for a workout each day was optimistic at best, even closer to being the world’s dumbest idea. No, I want to actually go. And work on myself a little bit, and not just on cramming my brain with as much knowledge as possible.

It’s so strange to me. When I started this, I thought, “MBA: the CEO’s degree. I’m want to be loaded.” It isn’t about that anymore. It’s about enjoying life and having the means to do so comfortably. There is only one material possession I even want, and it is going to sound worse than it is: that new Mercedes CLA 250. Sounds greedy and ridiculous, right? No, because in reality, it is only about 3K more than I paid for our current car and I bought it used. And the current car is too big for me to feel comfortable driving with my vision issues. So sounds crazy, but really isn’t. But anyway, here I am at the end, and the salary isn’t the thing anymore. The job is, the career is, the comfort is, but the money isn’t. And I am saying this about 2 days before I have an interview for a position that would pay more money than I have seen in my life–about 5 times my current salary. And now I suddenly don’t care. Well, I mean, I care in that there is a minimum I can take. I worked hard and paid a lot of money for my MBA. I can’t just give it away. But money isn’t the key determinant.

So here I am. Sixteen days from the big finish. And it feels like everything in my current life is winding down so I can start the new one. So these are the days. The days of excitement, of anticipation. Of anxiety and uncertainty. Of endings and new beginnings. Of wrapping up and starting anew. Of sheer panic mixed with resolution and calm.

These are the days I have to let go and hope it all works out, that it proves to have been worth it.

And if it does work out, these are the days I get to lean back, prop up my feet, and tell myself that after ten years, I earned every damned bit of it.

Doing It

f8d17c34937d9c3215bfbbe00f6c78efI would love to give credit where credit is due for the above, but I have no idea where I got it. But this is the post where I finally talk about the other side. Of course, from the title of the post, you probably envisioned a juvenile describing the loss of their virginity, a la American Pie. Well, though I have my childish moments, I am not a juvenile and, though I hate to break this news, the whole virginity thing  went out the window a long time ago, folks.

No, this one is about setting a goal. One that seemed massive at the time. One that seemed highly unlikely. And then it is about reaching that goal. Or at least having the reaching of that goal so close that its taste is on one’s tongue.

I’m going to start the discussion off by telling you (or perhaps reminding you, in case I have mentioned it before and have just forgotten) that my first attempt at higher education was less than successful. My mom was sick. No, I mean, she was really sick, but she didn’t really reveal this to any of us.  So I spent my senior year of high school noticing how Mom was in and out of the hospital more and more. Somehow she convinced me to go to college anyway, but she kept getting put in the hospital.I was the first one in my family to go to college straight out of high school, to be labeled “the smart one”. She was proud, I think, and so I went. On several occasions, I would call home to discover that she was in intensive care. So there I was, a coddled kid away from home for the first time; a music major trying to study something I loved so much when really, I just loved to play and my mom was my biggest fan. And my mom was a home, dying. I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t do well at all. My grades were barely passing. I had gone from the smart kid in honors classes, to the one who couldn’t hack it. When mom finally dies about 2 weeks before final exams, I just dropped out. I couldn’t do it.

It scarred me. Mom’s death did, but the whole experience did also. When my life was calm enough, when I could look back on that time, I wondered about many things. Was I really just stupid? Was it the circumstances of the time in my life? Maybe I wasn’t college material after all. But I saw my life as it was unfolding, and I knew I could do so much more. And I met John, and he saw it, too. And he talked me into enrolling in some classes.

Just a couple of classes. I read that line to him just now. He smiled. He knows what he did just as much as he knew what he was doing then. Just a tiny spark. At a tiny community college where they do more training for careers than anything else. But I had been to a large university before, so I could tell that the classes seemed to be of the same caliber. Still, self-talk does weird things to us. But I enrolled in their respiratory program. I took the weed-out classes that all nursing and allied health students have to take. These careers, these jobs are stable, so these programs are usually turning applicants away. They make some of the prerequisites really difficult to separate the candidates by who will most likely be successful. And I had to take those classes. I aced them all. My classmates would hate me because I would wreck the curve. I literally scored greater than 100% for a couple of them because my professor curved others’ grades and didn’t feel it was fair to not give me the same point advantage. Still, the self-talk continued.

“It’s just a community college, Andrea. When you were at the real university, you sucked. You’re not really smart.”

And so I finished that program. With honors. I was recognized at graduation. I took my boards. I got my license. I started working in my field. And some part of me wanted more.

I wondered if the old dream of medicine could really take flight. I wondered if it was just because it was a community college. And so I enrolled in pre-med classes, to finish my bachelor’s.

And I got pregnant with Zach. And put on bedrest. I had been doing well, too.

More self-talk. Telling me I was silly. Telling me I was foolish. And then I didn’t want to do it anymore. I wanted to ensure my children would grow up in complete financial security with their mother present. I realized I had been given a gift with each of them, and I was taking that for granted. So I did some soul-searching, determining what it was I wanted to do. What I really wanted.

And I enrolled in an undergraduate program. Straight A’s. It was community college all over again. I nailed everything I touched, and I finished summa cum laude. But I did it online. And so I thought to myself, “Yes, but was it really hard? Was it really a challenge? It was just an online program!”

And so I told John that I wanted to go on to my master’s. To my MBA. And I remember when I was telling him this, that my heart skipped a beat. I really wanted it. I meant what I said. But thus far, every attempt at what I have really wanted has either fallen through or been derailed by my own shortcomings. To speak of this out loud was unimaginable, because it gave life to what I wanted. It gave me some accountability to myself. So I looked, and I discovered that the university practically in my backyard had a nationally-ranked MBA program. I applied.

They weren’t supposed to actually accept me.

And on the eve of my first class, I was so nervous. Walking into my first class, I got butterflies. They were going to laugh me out of there. I wasn’t smart enough. More self-talk. That girl needs to learn when to shut her mouth.

Because I have nailed it. In a few weeks, I start my last semester, which includes my corporate governance capstone. On December 19, I will be able to put MBA behind my name. And for the first time, I can try and try to self-talk myself out of this all I want. The logic counteracts it. I am doing this. I am doing it. And as I prepare to enter my last semester, it is becoming more real. I hope my mom is watching. I hope she can see. Maybe what she saw in me all that time ago was more accurate than what I saw in myself. And I can kind of see what she was seeing.

The Admissions Mistake

This is such a strange time for me. Well, “surreal” would be a good word.

I am wrapping up my undergraduate education. I received my last shipment of textbooks from school this week, considering I tripled my classes again. You may recall that I tripled last session with the plan of doing it again this session, all to finish in time to start grad school. The idea of making me wait was to ensure the course load wasn’t too much for me. It wasn’t and I got straight A’s again. If I pull it off this session as well, I will honestly be able to say that I have not gotten a B at all. And I will have completed my BBA that way.

Hmm. Completing my BBA. Let me talk to you about my higher education. I was the first one to go to college straight from high school in my family. I was supposed to do great things. I had been in the gifted classes all through my education, and was contemplating pre-medicine as my major. The problem was that I played classical flute for years and years, and I was good. My second choice was a music major. My mother helped me make the decision, stating that medical school was for the wealthy. Full financial aid was not a likelihood back then as much as it is now. So I went with music. And where I was good, that was the biggest blow to my ego. Because they were all good. I was one of the worst of the really good ones, and even I knew that to create a career in music, you really have to be the best. That was immaterial, because I didn’t finish. Mom was at home, dying. I was treated for a horrible deep depression. The classes that were to be so easy ended up being the greatest challenge just to show up. When mom finally died, it was just too much and I dropped out.This gave my brothers and sisters in my dysfunctional family even more reason to gloat: Andi, the smart one, couldn’t cut it.

Years later, John talked me into respiratory school. I needed a job that would pay what we needed. Suddenly, I was in the medical environment that I was fascinated with as a teen. And when it came to the advanced chemistries and physics, I still had it. I took to it like peanut butter to jelly. Maybe I had made a mistake listening to my mom from the beginning. Maybe medicine is where I belonged all along. So I took as many courses as I could, finished the respiratory degree–it’s just an associate degree–with twice the number of credits I needed to graduate, all because I knew that I wanted to go further. But life and bills got in the way, and my plans to immediately finish a premed degree fell through with the obstacles I encountered. It took several years before I got to the point where I could enroll. And I did. I was chugging along as a premed/ molecular biology major, prepping for my MCAT and working on med school applications when I got pregnant with Zach and bedrest happened.

So after all of this education I have had, I still do not have a bachelor’s degree. I am one educated bitch, in everything from music to the sciences to business, but no baccalaureate degree. That is all changing in about 6 weeks. It seems so strange to be getting a business degree, though. I never dreamed that this is where my life would take me. I would have never thought I would have an aptitude for this field. Honestly, I never thought I would love it. And I honestly thought I would never finish anything higher than my respiratory degree. For some reason, everything I tried has fallen through, and I thought someone was trying to tell me something. Of course this disbelief is compounded by the fact that I will not be donning a cap and gown. Since I completed it in an online program, graduation is across the country at the actual school, and I will not be traveling just for that.

Where I should be excited about finishing the degree, I am anxious. Five days after the end of these next classes, I start B-School. And I am seriously questioning my ability. I do really well at the role of big fish in a small pond. The times I have played the role of small fish in a big pond, something has happened to make me choke on the damned pond water. And I suspect that, even though I am going to a smaller, more elite private university, I am going to be the small fish. I’m afraid that I am the admissions mistake. You know what I’m talking about. The one, every year, that they let in by some fluke or flaw in their system of evaluating applicants. The one that really shouldn’t be there. I have so many questions, so many doubts.

Yeah, I produced the resume they loved. I’m the diversity factor. A woman. Coming from healthcare, not a business field. My application was amongst those of investment bankers and area business leaders, or simply new twenty-something college students fresh from the dorms and delaying the inevitable of going to find work by starting grad school immediately. So I can picture them going through the stack and thinking, “Hmmm. Respiratory Therapist? With an undergrad business degree?” Bizarre, yes. Then my transcripts. My 4.0, immaculate transcripts, with perfect grades in anything from music performance to human genetics. Psychology and Cardiopulmonary Anatomy and Physiology. Organic Chemistry and Corporate Fucking Finance. A’s. All of that shit. Well, you can think that this is one area in which you cannot argue. That was my point in sweating my grades so much through all of this. My grades will never limit me. I ensured that. But I have developed my own doubts. What if those grades are from schools that are too shitty to count? I have mastered the art of being a student, but other than Corporate Fucking Finance, none of it has really been a challenge. Well, maybe O.chem was, just because I hated the class, and now it doesn’t even matter that I did it. My point is, what if my GPA isn’t an indicator of my abilities at all, but an indicator of how easy the classes were?

What if I don’t belong there? What if I choke? What if I manage to navigate successfully and then there is no place in this world for a respiratory therapist with an MBA from a nationally ranked program? Then I am left with the most expensive piece of paper in the history of paper-making.

I guess I could have saved you the time you have spent in reading this by saying two simple words: I’m scared.

I don’t want to be the admissions mistake.

I Can’t Afford It: The Inevitable Rant About PPACA from the Inside

I don’t usually get all political up in here. It just isn’t my thing. I have read countless comments on Facebook about the Supreme Court’s decision about the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. That shit is everywhere. And everyone has an opinion. “Everyone is entitled to healthcare…” Yeah, okay. Great. Kumbaya, and all of that jazz. If you are disadvantaged and need medical coverage, and there is a way for you to get it, I am all for it. We have programs like that in the U.S. We have for decades. Yes, they suck a little more than the insurance one pays for electively. If I am out of food, and I go to a food bank to get food for my family, the items I get, though appreciated, are not of the same quality I would buy if I went to the grocery store and shopped for myself. You take what you can get. I’m sorry to sound so blunt, but it’s true.

I’ve said it before and I am going to say it again: I used to not have insurance. John worked at a job that paid him $8/ hr. and the benefits were almost $700 per month. Evan was a newborn. So I took an eq\ually crappy job as a housekeeper at a hospital where the insurance was about $400/ month. I essentially  worked for the insurance When the income got to be too little, I went to work on a degree that would pay me what we need, both in income and in benefits. And I’m not afraid to give you the straight dope, though it is poor etiquette. I gross over 8 thou a month. I bring home about 4K of that. What???? Why? Well, simple, really. I pay over half of my income on taxes and pesky little necessities like medical, dental, and vision insurance. Right now, that is the lay of the land. It is how the shit falls.

So while I am not too keen on spending even more of my very hard-earned money to support those who did not have the wherewithal to go out and do what I did–find a beter job, better benefits—I simply cannot afford it. I am not living high on the hog. We have one car. My husband rides his motorcycle in good weather to save on gas. We try to limit our dining out these days. I clip coupons. We live in a house that is way below our means because it is cheap despite being in a nice, white-collar neighborhood. And though I am off for my neck and shoulder right now, I work every God-forsaken hour my employer will allow me to work in order to make more, to pay more in taxes…you get the drift. I cannot afford more of my tax dollars to go to support your healthcare. I will take care of you when you are ill. I will risk contracting any infectious disease you are carrying because someone has to. But I am not willing to sacrifice the well-being of my children to pay for you and yours. I’m sorry.

And there are other misgivings I have about PPACA. This part is coming from a healthcare professional who works in the trenches, from someone who is wrapping up a degree in business \with a concentration in healthcare management. Hospitals rely on reimbursement. They do. The naional average for Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement revenue is around 60% of hospital revenue. The hospital I work for receives about 80% of their revenue from Medicare and Medicaid. That’s a big ol’ piece of the pie. The pie that determines the amount they can do for their community, the services they provide to their patients. And guess what! For added fun, those coffers are getting pretty shallow. Hospitals are fighting harder for less dollars. And we can expect more and more of these patients. This would seem like even more reason for the PPACA, right? Nope, and here’s why:
The PPACA also has implications for providers. More stringent guidelines to provide more cost- effective care. Nothing wrong with that. One of the yardsticks with which providers will be measured is their readmission rates. Currently, there are a few diagnoses where hospitals are penalized for excessive readmissions. As a part of the PPACA, four more will be added by 2015. One of these is COPD.

And that is whete the respiratory therapist in me gets all fired up.

COPD. The bain of my existence. My livelihood. But these are the worst patients that CMS can use to penalize hospitals for readmissions. I understand the concept: if we’re doing our job, the patient won’t be readmitted within a certain time frame. The problem is this: while some COPD patients are dream patients, I would say the majority of my patients are non-compliant. They won’t quit smoking while their alveoli fight with each other for every breath. They pick and choose which of their respiratory meds they take and when. (No, inhaled steroids are not going to work if you only take them as needed, and you should not stop taking them just because they don’t work as rescue inhalers.) And toward the end, they could be in and out of the hospital every week. So if hospitals stop getting reimbursed adequately for these admissions, they lose progressively more money as time goes on. That is the same money they use to attract and recruit higher-credentialed staff. The same money they use to provide indigent care. The same money they use to obtain equipment. To maintain equipment.

But my other problem? We all speak of the access to care. Well, if you live in the U.S., you have access to care. If nothing else, you can go to an ER where we have to evaluate you. That is access. What is truly lacking is a way to pay for it.

Is the U.S. healthcare system having trouble? Yep. I don’t blame hospitals or providers. I don’t blame insurance providers. Thete are many pieces of the puzzle, in my humble opinion. Lawsuits. Malpractice insurance. ER abusers ( by this, I mean drug-seekers, etc.). Doctors being forced to practice defensive medicine. (And if you don’t buy that, ask me and I’ll tell you the crackhead story.) Drug patents. And us. Yes, us. We want the latest and best. When a standard x-ray is sufficient, we still want the CT. When a cheap generic drug will work, we want the brand. And doctors are stuck. Patient satisfaction is a reimbursement buzz word, and if they don’t give us what we want, we get upset and don’t stop until we get it. Whatever it is, it may not be the most cost-effective, or even the most effective. We need to leave doctoring to doctors.

So, yes. I am a healthcare professional. I am hopefully a future hospital administrator. And for all of these reasons and more, I am completely against the PPACA. And I will vote accordingly in November.

If This is Sexism…

There is a photo I posted on Facebook a couple of days ago. It is the screen shot of my new schedule of my first MBA semester. The comment I put along with it was, “Can I just say how totally kick-ass I think it is that all of my professors for my first semester of my MBA are women?” I think most people got it. Some did not, and one of the comments I got was from the girlfriend of my father-in-law, who prides herself on being more progressive. She asked why this would matter and stated that, to her, I sounded sexist.

Hmmm.

I remember when we moved after I had finished school. We had actually been homeless for a month before hand. We needed money. And somehow, after one of my first job interviews, I had a job making real money for the first time in my life. Complete with a sign-on bonus, relocation assistance, and other benefits. We went from sleeping in a fleabag motel with most of our posessions in storage to moving into a upscale, expensive rental. I did that. John didn’t have a job. But I studied my ass off as a nontraditional student in order to get straight-A’s, a list of professional contacts, and more, to set me apart from all of the other new grads in my field and land a good job. I was so proud. And when I called to get utilities turned on at our new, nice house, what happened? They didn’t want to turn them on, and told me to have my husband call back. I remember my response to this day: “Ma’am, I would be glad to have my Master call back, but when it comes time for a bill to generate and you expect to be paid, you will have to deal with me, as my husband doesn’t work. I am the head of this household.”

But it did something to me. That, along with my upbringing, have shaped me.

My mother raised seven children. Seven of the most ungrateful children in the world. She was married to my father all of her life. And she never had a job outside of the home. She did a good job, as we never wanted for a thing. I grew up with elaborate meals prepared three times a day. I never did laundry or dishes because my mother never wanted us to. Mom made our world go ’round and Dad footed the bill. But then Mom started to get sick. And by the time I was a senior in high school, she was too ill to take care of herself, let alone any of us. What did we do? We got her signed up for Meals on Wheels and a home health nurse. I was just a kid, still in school, but the next child in line from me was eight years’ my senior. And she lived right around the corner with her husband, didn’t work, and her children were in school. Interestingly enough, nobody had time for the woman who had raised them, who had surrendered her entire life to doing right by us. While I was at school, nobody could even be bothered to bring her lunch. She would be hospitalized and in the ICU, and nobody would come and see her. I would try to leave school, but by then I was a freshman in college and prohibited from having a car on campus, so I was reliant on family to get me home when the situation called for it. The night she finally died, however, they all remembered their way to the house to raid her jewelry box of the diamonds and emeralds (her favorite and her birthstone) that Dad had bought her in their 35 years of marriage. One sister even had her 4ct. solitaire into a jeweler for appraisal and sizing the very next morning. And what about Mom’s last days? She would cry because her kids didn’t come to see her. She was miserable because, once she had no more to give, they lost interest.

Never in a million years would I allow that to be my life. I don’t want it. She wouldn’t have wanted it for me, and I refuse to let her down. I am bound and determined to shirk the traditional gender roles and live my life how I see fit. You could call this selfish of me, but then I would remind you that I make my living helping people breathe when they cannot do so for themselves. And while this is most decidedly not a commentary on being a homemaker, it is a testament to the fact that, while my mother may have had limited choices, I do not. And I have made my choice. I will never buy into the idea that my ownership of a  vajayjay means there is a damned thing that I cannot do in this world.

So life has taken me down many paths. I’ve had many plans, some of which have worked and some of which have not. Sometimes I have had to backtrack to where the road forked and take the other path. This is the case with business. I came into the world of business because my life took a turn when I was surprised with a pregnancy right before applying to medical school. Sometimes, I mourn that, but Zachary is amazing and I do not regret the path one bit. I surprised myself with an aptitude for this subject: business. I believe I can reach the top of my game. But if I do, I will be in limited company.

Let’s crunch some numbers:

15.4%= The percentage of female corporate officers in Fortune 500 companies, as of 2011.

14.8%= the number of board seats held by women in the same.

2.4%= The percentage of female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies.

22= the number of female CEOs in  the Fortune 1000 companies.

Out of a thousand companies, only 22 have female CEOs.

(Source: Susan Gunelius @ www.womenonbusiness.com.)

With all of this in mind, I can say that it is “kick-ass” that all of my professors are female for my first semester of my MBA program. At a program that is competitive, nationally-ranked, and highly revered, at least in local business circles, these women are full professors, at the top of their game. I could say that there is a sparkling, crystal-clear ceiling made of glass that I would love to shatter, but these women have done it for me. For my mother, who died feeling like her life had no purpose. It is women like these who will ensure that my sons will grow up in a world where they do not believe that their gender makes them superior or inferior, but equal to their female counterparts. It is women like these who will change those God-awful statistics I just cited. And then there is the richness of the idea that, while women are so outnumbered in top business positions, they can make careeers of educating the men that edge them out for the top spots at these companies.

I thought the definition of sexism was believing in the superiority of one gender over the other, not the equality of the two. Am I wrong? Is it sexist to want more for your life? To have the personality that translates to the desire to challenge yourself and not stagnate? To expect that your gender will not hold you back and be happy when you find evidence that it will not? Is it sexist to believe that, because I have worked my ass off to improve the lives of my loved ones, I can do even more?

If this is sexism, sign me up.

We Do Not Beat Our Children, Schedules are Meant for Rearranging, and More Discoveries

We’re all about discoveries here in the Bitchypants household. Here are a few new ones.

We are finding the need to defend ourselves as parents. Not that anyone has accused me of anything. But still. Zach is into, well, EVERYFUCKINGTHING. He climbs up, crawls over and under, dives off of any surface he can find. And more and more, he is getting the little bumps and bruises of toddlerhood. And when you go out in public and your baby has a big bruise, you feel like you have to tell the story of how to everyone. He climbed up on a rolling toy…..he dove off of the arm of the sofa….he slipped and fell. This last one was a little harder to expalin. John was getting him out of bed in the morning and Zach was doing his usual game of “Catch me, Bitch” when John reached for him and Zachy head-butted John’s hand. Only John’s finger made contact with a little toddler eye. Yeah. Zachy go his first black eye. Insert big frowny face here. The evidence:

See! Even in the photo, he is climbing on a toy, reaching onto my desk. Seriously, kid!

Schedules are meant to be rearranged. Fo’ reals, yo! But here is the most awesome picture of the past week:

See that? No conditions there. Just my admission packet. For my MBA program. I am officially in. No ” You should be fine.” No “conditional admission”. Just……in. IN. IN!!!

So I made an appointment to schedule my classes for October and the shit got tricky. I only have three courses left to take of my first-year MBA program. What they call the foundation courses. And those are offered in intensive half-semesters. I finish the BSBA in September, so I could start the second half of the MBA session in October. Except none of my classes are offered then. They’re all offerred in August. They were going to make an exception and let me start while simultaneously finishing my last month of my BSBA, but ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME???? I have a job. And kids. And I do not have a death wish. Especially considering that my first semester of the MBA will be full of financial accounting, macroecon, microecon, and one of the 700-level courses. No. So the solution? This summer, while John is off of his classes, I am going to triple my BSBA courses so I will finish August 15th and can start the MBA the following week. So I learned that where there is a will, there truly is a way.

Evan is a Con Artist. Seriously.

All of this time, we have been fighting him over homework. He made a confession to his therapist. Since he gets perfect test scores, he can pass without completing his homework, so in his mind, why should he do it? So on the nights when he fights and has meltdowns, we try and try before finally giving up and sending a note to his teacher. The next day, she keeps him in at recess to do what he didn’t do the night before. But it got to be too much. And so she changed it up. Now, he gets a zero like everybody else. And the result? He’s doing his homework. And scoring even higher on tests.

The proof is in his science test from this past week. My kid has been conning us all. Little booger.

Zachy started speech and is making strides every day. And he is getting it. Proof? Yesterday in the car, John missed his exit on the interstate, and responded with a “DAMN!!!” And from the backseat, crystal clear, we hear this baby voice say, “Damn!” The other day Zachy was playing outside and he was getting close to the infamous snake sighting of 2010. And I exclaimed, “Zachy, no, SNAKES!” To which he exclaimed, “SAKES!!!!” N left out intentionally. We say “Bus”, “WalMart”, “Evan” or “Bubby”, “Eat”, “SpongeBob”. He signs for “more”, “please”, “help”, “all done”, “eat”, and “drink”.  And e has the  cutest, throaty baby voice that melts my heart. I realized this is the first time I am really hearing it.

I was thinking about the next month or so when I realized that I never requested off for Zach’s second birthday. I was assuming it would fall on Saturday this year since it was  Friday last year. But it is Sunday. It’s Mother’s Day. His second birthday. The 13th. Mom’s birthday used to fall on Mother’s Day sometimes, too. And I hate Mother’s Day. And this year, we really can celebrate. Npw more than ever, I think Mom sent Zach to me. And P.S.–how in the hell is he already going to be turning TWO????

I think that about sums it up. For now. I’m sure there will be more as drama unfolds. We always have some of that.