Did I Tell You The One Where Christmas Break Would Not End?

1476175_10202797128275919_1196886460_nTeachers everywhere were rejoicing. Of that I have no doubt. It started all extra-nice. (See above photo for evidence.)  It was snowy outside, warm and cozy inside, and the boys loved each other. I was having visions of piling up on the soda, toasty warm, watching our favorite movies, reading our favorite books. Cocoa would be in hand, complete with marshmallows. Zach in his footed pj’s, Evan in his flannel sleep pants, me in sweats.  The world shut out, and the ones I love shut in against the cold. There was no school for me, and only my 3 scheduled days of work per week. It was going to be great.

Then this happened:1480549_10202798469749455_592936327_nIt snowed. I love our street in the snow. The houses look so cute and cozy, the neighborhood becomes a Thomas Kinkade painting. We put up the Christmas tree together. This year, Zachy was really able to  participate, which was adorable. I kicked the OCD into low gear as he put the ornaments too close together, and somehow resisted the urge to tweak them ever-so-slightly the entire time that tree was up.

This year, I even managed to somehow get all of the Christmas presents for the boys wrapped before anyone knew what they were getting. This was about as successful a Christmas as I could’ve asked for, considering some of our previous misadventures. The whole next day, the boys broke  played with their new things. Then Evan remembered how fun toys can be when you are only 3, and Santa brings you things like racetracks for toy cars or little train sets. And it dawned on Zachy just how cool big-kid stuff can be.

Magic: Over. Bubble: Burst.

Next thing we knew, there were fights. “Mommy, Evan did________.”, squealed Zach. “Mom! Zach has my _______.”, whined Evan. And so it went all the way up through the end of their Christmas break. It seemed like the longest one in the history of winter breaks. I seriously thought I was going to die. To make matters worse, I was fresh out of school. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t have that distraction. With me home more, John felt he deserved a break, and left most parenting matters to me. I’m certain the grey hairs on my head have multiplied as a result.

The eve of their first day back to school, I was working the ICU. It really is a good thing my patient was in a medically-induced coma and couldn’t hear me or tell on me. The tv in his room was turned to the news, where I saw the update where the boys’ first day back was called off due to weather.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

I’m sure my wail reverberated off of the walls of the ICU, into the adjacent waiting area and throughout the rest of the hospital. Nurses from outside the room rushed in to see what had happened, as I’m not generally an alarmist at work.

That day. That day I had been dreaming of, hoping for, wishing on….My hopes were crushed. My spirit broken.

The fighting a home got worse as cabin fever started in. Snow kept dumping on us. Just when it would start to clear up, more would come. And then it didn’t. The boys were finally going to go back to school. I was relieved, and by that time, I think they were as sick of us as we were of them causing chaos.

And then that “Polar Vortex” bullshit happened. Anyone remember the “I can’t put my arms down” scene in A Christmas Story? Well, we will never have a modern-day version of that. They cancelled school because it was too cold. For not one day, but days-yep, plural. When we were kids, our parents would just bundle us up. We waited a little closer to last minute to go to our bus stops. But our bus stops weren’t at our driveway, either. Generally, we had to walk. If it was dangerously cold–as in losing digits to frost bite despite gloves or mittens—my mom would crank the heat in the car to warm it up while I was getting ready and then drive me to the bus stop, where I would sit in the car until the bus was in sight. The lowest it got here was 2 degrees, and I am sure that I remember it getting a lot colder. As a matter of fact, I just googled that and discovered we had temps as low as -25 in 1985 in Cincinnati. But they closed school. There was no snow or ice on the ground, no slick roads, no frozen pipes at the school. It was just cold.

It seemed like winter break was never going to end. John and I were never going to have a single moment of peace. Armageddon was going to strike, Hell was freezing over, and we would have to home-school the children from now on. I was on the verge, man.

Finally, on January 10th, the boogers got on the bus and headed back. They were out of school for 29 days in total. I sincerely hope they tack the extra unplanned missed days onto the end of the school year. I am now on a mission to treasure every moment of silence until June, and promise to never take a peaceful moment for granted for as long as I live.

Finally,

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.

Where in the Blue Hell Did Bitchypants Go?

So it seems that grad school is crazy. Well, grad school plus full-time employment plus parenting and wifedom is crazy. My life goes like this these days: Friday, Saturday, Sunday—sleep a little, wake up to eat and study and hug my babies, then off to work for 13-hour nights; Monday—get off of work in the morning and try to sleep for a few hours, then wake up and write any papers that are due; Tuesday through Thursday—classes for both John and I. In between, I squeeze in more study time. Somewhere in there, we squeeze in appointments for Evan and Zach’s speech therapy.

The result of all of this? I am, as of the end of this current semester in a couple of weeks, 75% finished with my MBA, according to the handy degree progression tool on my school’s website. If I take 4 classes in January, 3 during the summer, and 3 next fall, I will be finished in December of 2013. Done. Done done DONE. (And my January classes are already scheduled.)

The other result is that I have fallen off of the blogosphere and all of my bloggy friends and followers have either forgotten that I exist or hate me now. I’m sorry. Know that my absence has been for the greater good, because—surprise—I am really good at this whole business thing. I get it. I am thriving on the challenge. Because, although life is hectic, I cannot tell a lie and must admit that I love every stimulating minute of it. The projects, the exams, the papers, the presentations. Working with international students from entirely different cultures and hearing them talk about their homes. Being with really bright students and brilliant professors who know me. Finding out that, not only do I love marketing, but I am good at it. I GET IT. And for the first time, I am challenged. Before this, my challenges were limited to challenges of time management. This challenge is not only time management, but intellectual challenge as well. I mean, I got my first B EVER. Microeconomics. Because the shit was hard. Really difficult.  And there is  a level of respect there, too. Because I am a degree-holding professional and my peers and professors understand that. They seek my opinions. They ask for my input and ideas. The treatment of a grad student is so much different than that of an undergrad.

So I have a couple more papers and a final exam left in macroeconomics, and I am finished for the semester. I hope to blog some during the break. At some point, I will get my texts for next semester and start preparing for the next marathon, but I will have some time to be on here a little. If you’re still out there, let me know.

Time Flies (Still)

So the boys had some more photos taken with a coworker of mine who is working on honing her photog skills. She has taken their photos before, and this time she got some great candid images of my babies. We met her at a gorgeous park in Cincinnati, which is a prime spot for photography, it would seem. Well, at least there were a bunch of others there that day for the same purpose. We saw baby bump photos, wedding and engagement photos, and family photos being taken. I just wanted some playful, casual shots of the boys, as they are growing up before my eyes. And as always, I see the photos and I still see the newborns they once were. Time goes so quickly, and with grad school now, I am always hustling and bustling to and from one destination or another. And I miss them so much. While I wasn’t looking, Evan turned eleven years old. Two more years with him until he is a teenager. I want to clutch them to me and beg them to slow down. In the mean time, I remind myself daily that I am doing all of this for them. At some point, so help me, I will be able to honestly say that I can give them anything they want. Anything. The best home, the best education. Opportunities that they may not have had if I had not pushed myself to get these higher degrees. But in the meantime, I keep my nose to the grindstone, cherish every tiny moment I am given with them, and count the days until I am finished.

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.

Conditionally

So, if you read my last post, you now that my experience with the GMAT was painful. And that the powers that be decided I had to take the damned thing. Yeah, whatevs. What you do not know, unless you delved into the comments, is that I found a big pair of lady balls and called the MBA Advisor at my first-choice school. And told her the story. About how I meet every single requirement but the damned score breakdown. So her words? Basically she told me it had to be a fluke, that either I got some really difficult questions in the beginning and that psyched me out, or my math section was abnormally hard—Basically, that there had to be a reason that the math score didn’t match up with my academic record or the remainder of my GMAT score. She’s right. We started talking about the courses I have taken and my performance in them. Corporate Finance. Financial Accounting. Stats. Calc I and II. A. A, A, A, A. I even got an A in that damned corporate finance class and am thanking my lucky stars that I do not have to take it again at a 600 level lest I kill myself. Seriously. So wtf gives with the GMAT math? Because the GMAT is an asshole of epic proportions. But…She told me to NOT SCHEDULE THAT TEST UNTIL I HEAR BACK FROM  HER. She said she was taking it to the dean.

So anyway, she had me fax my unofficial score report to her. I got no response, so I gave her a day or so and called to see if she got it, which is when she asked for my resume. By now they have received my app, my resume, my unofficial GMAT score, and my official transcripts. All that was left were my letters of recommendation, cover letter, and hard copy of my resume. I mentioned as much in my email and that I was sending those in this week. I was waiing for a phone call from her when a funny thing happened.

I decided to empty my email inbox of spam. There were so many emails where I had been out of the loop recently that I was about to just declare email bankruptcy when I spotted it. She had replied.

“Andrea, with your existing GMAT score, your excellent GPA, and the resume you sent, you are fine for conditional admission. Do NOT retake the GMAT.”

Oh. Ok. Yeah, no more of that GMAT shit. And then I stopped to think about what she said. By then I had closed the email. So I reopened it. And got hung up on the word “conditional”. Until I remembered that my BSBA will not be completed until September and they cannot grant me full admission into the MBA program until that is finished. So what did she really tell me?

She told me I’m getting in. To one of the top B-schools in the whole friggin’ country. Not only that, but to the most competitive program at one of the top B-schools in the country, since it means they will basically be waiving all of the first year MBA courses for me and I will finish the degree in a year. Basically, because of this, you have to have your shit together to even avoid them not throwing your app in the garbage immediately upon receipt.

She told me that I fucking did it.

And then I started crying. And I picked Evan up and swung him around. And Zachy and I danced around the room. And I anxiously waited for John to come home from class so I could tell him. But I didn’t get to tell him because, as soon as he pulled into the driveway, Evan was running toward the car, shouting, “Daddy, Mommy did it!!! She did it!”

I did it.

I really did.

Conditionally.

While I Was Away

I’ve been busy. I’m sorry. I’m a horrible blogger. And the truth? I’m still busy. I honestly have no business creating a long list of catch-up posts when there is so much I should be doing. So I am going to try to catch you up in this one post, if you are still out there.

School: I’ve got a couple more classes under my belt. More A’s. I’ll be finished with my business degree in September. I’ve been working on the MBA applications. More on that in a sec.

Evan: Evan is still…Evan. They’ve changed his meds several times. Some of it has been good and some bad. The bad changes are the ones that had him literally awake for days, dark circles under his eyes, palor. It broke my heart. Until one day when his teacher called and said he fell asleep in school and we had to bring him home and let him sleep for almost 2 days straight, only waking him to get some fluids in him so he didn’t dehydrate. I hate it all and would love more than anything to just be able to take him off of all of them and get them out of his system, but I kow he can’t function without them. Now things are finally looking up. He came home last week, excited and proudly presenting this flyer from school. Turns out they are having baseball sign-ups and Evan wants to play. We signed him up. He’s never played a sport before because he has never shown interest. But we jumped on this, even taking him to get fitted for a glove and bat, getting him training gear. He’ll start practicing here at home this week, since he is too old to play tee-ball, and this is actually pitch baseball.

Zach: Zach was officially assessed at the 12-month level, developmentally speaking. He has started therapy after officially being labeled as developmentally delayed. I had some very overwhelming days where it struck me that I have one child with Asperger’s and another who is DD. I had to get past that to carry on. In the meantime, in absence of any verbal communication, the therapist has started teaching Zachy to sign what he wants. Simple things like “more”, “drink”, “all done”, “eat”, and “help”. He can finally express what he wants to us instead of having a meltdown because we cannot understand his grunts and shouts. And with this development has emerged some attempts to be verbal. He can get the intonation of the syllables of words, but nothing anyone can understand yet. But he is trying, which is more than he was doing a month ago. He continues to be social and adorable and loving. And he is so smart. He can clearly understand anything you say to him. He hs favorite places and knows the routes to those places and will cry if you turn the opposite direction in the car. We just have to catch him up a little bit.

Grad School: I got letters of recommendation from my direct supervisor and department director at work. I wrote a stellar cover letter and drew up a new resume. I had my transcripts sent yesterday. Yet about a month ago, I was having a weak moment, so I scheduled a time to go into my first choice school and speak to them about my potential for admission. I was armed with nothing more than an unofficial printout of my undergrad work. She basically told me there was a very little likelihood that I will be turned away with my academic record. But I have to take that damned GMAT. You may recall that I took two weeks off at the end of January to prepare for and take the test. And then I psyched myself out and wouldn’t do it. That was the low point where I called them and made the appointment. And then I bit the bullet and scheduled the damned thing. And tried and tried to prep for without the advantage of time off from work or school. As a matter of fact, I have finished two more classes and started 2 more in that time frame. I still feel underprepared. My stomach has been in knots for days. As in butterflies and queasiness. The exam is tomorrow. If all goes well, I will be started at one of the top-ranked MBA programs in October. Oh, and that’s another thing: because I went back and did an undergrad business degree and will be fresh from that with immaculate grades, I am elegible for their accelerated program. In other words, they will give me credit for my undergrad and I will only have 8 classes left to my MBA. So by Summer of 2013, I will be an MBA. Yeah. No pressure. I have to get in. Have to. No other options. I even submitted all of the financial stuff for grad school, and at a very expensive private university, I will even have all of that falling into place.

So there you have it. While I haven’t been present in the bloggy world, I’ve been doing plenty. I look forward to catching up on everyone’s blogs and hopw you’ll forgive me for my absence.