Busy, Busy, and the Meaning of No

I generally function best when chronically over-scheduled. At least I used to. Right now, I’m struggling a bit to find my center amidst the chaos that I’ve created in my life by taking on a project (or five) too many.

So what am I so busy with?

  • Studying for my NCC specialty certification exam, which will make me an RNC-NIC (instead of the regular RN), meaning I am an acknowledged expert in the field of neonatal (newborn) intensive care nursing. This certification isn’t required in my field, but it’s highly encouraged, and I’m hoping will give me a leg-up on the competition for grad school admissions.
  • Studying for the GRE – the grad school entrance exam. Now, normally I wouldn’t even bother studying for something like this. I tend to test very well, so even the big ones don’t usually cause me much concern, but it’s been about 17 years since I’ve seen some of this math and scoring above the 75th percentile will definitely give me a shot at getting a coveted fellowship in the grad program I’m applying to.
  • Preparing my application for grad school – I’ve decided to pursue a combined NNP (master’s degree that would allow me to sit for certification as a neonatal nurse practitioner) and PhD in research. The application process takes a while though. I need to gather professional letters of recommendation (really good ones if I want a chance at that fellowship), complete a resume, write a 3-page single-spaced statement of intent to explain why I want to be a PhD and why the school should want me in their program, take the GRE, and have transcripts sent from every college I have attended (which amounts to four, because I am old and studious).
  • Hosting an in-service for my unit and my sister hospital’s NICU, which involves 4 long days of teaching the same material over and over again to a couple hundred nurses. Sounds more boring than it is. So far I’ve learned a lot and gotten some good questions posed by the folks who are there to learn. Gotta love learning while you teach.
  • Revising the skin care policy for infants across two hospitals, which includes reviewing research literature, collaborating with experts, and figuring out what needs to be updated, why, and how to put it into practice.
  • Putting together a video game guild so I can play regularly with my husband and son. This might sound like a less important goal, but given how little free time I have these days and that this is one of the few areas where we can all interact with a shared interest at compatible times, trust me, it’s a vital one.
  • Getting help for Mom (my grandma) who has been having an increasing battery of neurological symptoms for years without a reasonable explanation. This means going to get her (110 miles away) and bringing her up here to the land of actual medicine at least once a week for appointments and tests. Four hours of drive time in the car, between the trip there and back, plus an unknown amount of time in the waiting room tends to suck a lot of my time away.
  • Still working as an actual nurse – believe it or not.
  • Trying to keep my house from falling down, the bills from going to collections, and the trash from burying us all because of the neglect all those things tend to suffer when I get really busy. While my husband is a very modern man when it comes to expectations regarding gender roles, he isn’t very good at the physical acts of cleaning, maintaining the house, supervising the kiddo to get his chores actually done, or managing the bills and finances. He helps me out in so many other ways that I give him a pass on this one, but it’s one of those situations where if Mom doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
  • Keeping up with the kiddo at school – PTO meetings, parent-teacher conferences, etc are all filling up my fall schedule. Not to mention the dentist appointment, the optometrist, the annual physical, the school dances and functions…
  • Pulling a 4.0 in my bachelor’s program. It’s a lot of work, but at least I’m learning something, right? Well, mostly. Some of the classes are more work and more value than others. Some of them are more work and less value. Regardless, I am doing my best to maintain my GPA in range for that fellowship.

The Fellowship of the Ring

Ok, so there’s actually no ring involved.

The fellowship I keep mentioning, in case you were wondering, is a rare opportunity to study at graduate school with all tuition paid and a monthly stipend of $1400-1800 for the first year of your studies. This equals out to be about $25-30k of tuition and cash. It’s offered for two reasons: academic excellence, and diversity. The diversity fellowship applies to diversity for a whole host of reasons including but not limited to ethnic minorities, disabled students, and underserved populations. I have the GPA and credentials to qualify for the academic fellowship if I can pull a 75th percentile or higher score on the GRE. Given my heart condition, I may well be qualified for the diversity fellowship. As you can imagine, I really, really want this fellowship.

Now, qualifications aside, this is a seriously competitive opportunity, split across the entire school’s incoming graduate class. Even meeting all the academic minimums for consideration does not guarantee a win. It’s one of those things where you do the best you can, send in your app on time, and cross your little fingers and toes.

The Meaning of No

What I’m not doing right now:

      • Quilting for the quilt committee at work – my work hosts a quilt committee that allows nurses and other volunteers to make quilts to send home with the babies who have been in our unit for longer than a week. This allows us to provide the parents with a hopefully positive send-off after what was certainly not the start they had hoped for. I have completed quilts in the past but just don’t have time right now.
      • Picking up shifts for co-workers. I still pick up a few hours here or there on occasion, but I have been saying “no” more and more often in the past few weeks. My priorities right now are on the academic pursuits and my family, rather than working and my manager, whom I adore, (no, she doesn’t read this blog) is completely on board with that, leaving me a guilt-free way to say “no thanks.”

Best Buddies: Carrot and Wheatley

        • Fostering additional cats – we currently have Carrot and Poppy. Carrot is waiting to be big enough to neuter before going back home to his first foster-mom, my niece who found him when he was a week old. Poppy is waiting for a forever home, but is much too shy to tolerate being at the pet store on display. She’s a gorgeous orange and white cat, very loving and no trouble at all (unlike my twin boy kittens Fanti and Mingo). If you’re interested in adopting Poppy, let me know in the comments! I’ve told the Cat Adoption Team (C.A.T.) that I might be willing to take on a kitten or two in November (after I clear a few things off my plate) but no more fosters for now, please.
        • About 40,000 other things that I want to do, should do, or could do right now if only I had the time… like make a baby quilt for my niece’s soon-to-be-born daughter, read for fun, start prepping for a couple of research reviews and studies I intend to pursue on my own, become an ice cream taste tester, blog more,and hit the gym like I am supposed to.
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So yeah, over-scheduled, as always. It could be worse though. What’s keeping you guys busy this autumn?

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