Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Anne Carter, M.Ed.

Do you know how long I've wanted to write that?!?!?! 
Anne Carter, M.Ed.  There.  I did it again. 

I picked up my diploma and my parents threw me a big party, so now it truly feels official. 

 Outside Curry, the only buildings in which I ever had class... thank goodness.  Even though I was a student at UVA for 5 1/2 years, I remained lost and disoriented on campus, every. single. time!  Maybe I should have taken a geography class while I was at it? 
 This building was completed during the time I was a student there.  I absolutely love the Palladian windows, and my best/hardest/most challenging class ever met around a big conference table, right beside that window. 
Jeff and Pax went with me when I picked up my diploma.  Most embarrassingly, Jeff had a kazoo in his pocket and took it out to play Pomp and Circumstance when I collected my diploma from the University Registrar.  They were not amused, and neither was I.  He made up for it, though, for taking me out to lunch.

A longer, more elaborated version of the toast I offered at the party:

From the very start of my Master’s program in 2007, I didn’t quite fully believe I would ever see this day.  That first fall semester, the road ahead seemed so long, and so lonely.  I was unique among my peers in that I was a part-time student but a full-time mom.  I wasn’t fresh out of college, like some, and I wasn’t a seasoned teacher with decades’ worth of experience, like others.  In the beginning, juggling the demands of a baby and a preschooler and hoping for another down the road, I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to manage being Mom and Student.  Yet my parents, particularly my mother, had already paved the way through their own examples.  Both of them earned advanced degrees when I was a kid.  Apparently their method worked:  in 2009, my brother finished his Master’s, juggling the needs and demands of his own growing family.  Finally, it was my turn. 

 The journey was indeed long, sometimes lonely, sometimes filled with tears, often rewarding.  When I think back to this time, I will remember two professors in particular who challenged me and pushed me and helped me thrive.  I will remember several classmates with whom I shared triumphs and tribulations.  Above all, I will remember those who supported me in the long and incredible journey:  my friends.  And my family. 

You, Friends, who were so generous in allowing me to use your children as guinea pigs in the many practical applications I was required to do for each coursework requirement.  You listened to me rant about this particular assignment or that demanding professor, and you asked how my classes were going.  You consulted me for advice on book selections or reading strategies, allowing me to test out my newly-learned literacy language.  You supported me, you encouraged me, you cheered for me, and when in doubt of what to say to me – you recommended I go enjoy a glass of wine.

And my family.  This journey would have been impossible without you.  Aidan, Leo, and Pax, you were so patient with me, both when I needed to study, and when I needed to use you as test subjects.  You kept me company in the basement as I read and wrote papers, quietly playing with trains or, as one photograph reveals, sleeping on my back in the Ergo as I typed.  You were excited to hear about my teachers and classmates, and were proud to tell your friends that I was a student, too.  Mom and Dad, you cheerfully and tirelessly provided child care, week after week, so that I could attend class or work on a paper. You celebrated with me after every big assignment or class was finished, and you reminded me how to dust myself off and keep going when I was discouraged and frustrated.  You led by example in your own pursuits, and I am proud to follow in your footsteps.  And Jeff – you are my biggest supporter, my loudest cheerleader, my most trusted partner.  Everything I’ve said about the support of our friends and our family describes you, tenfold.  I am humbled by your endless commitment and support of my education.  You helped me fulfill a dream, one that started in our earliest years together.  You never doubted that this day would arrive.      

Henry David Thoreau implored, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”

Thus, it is because of each of you here today that I was able to go in the direction of my dream, and it is because of you that I am living the life I had imagined:  a life full of friends, rich with family, a dream, actualized.  I will never be able to say it enough: thank you. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Proverbial Sons

Inspired by a sweet little idea I saw in a magazine, I asked Aidan and Leo to complete the following sentences.....

Good things come to those who....
--love you (Leo)
--believe. (Aidan)

People who live in glass houses....
--should always wear shoes (Leo)
--should think of others, not just themselves. (Aidan)

If you don't have anything nice to say....
--you should not say it.  (Leo)
--count to 10 and think of something nice to say (Aidan)

Life is a bowl of...
--cereal (Leo)
--choices. (Aidan)

You can't have your cake and....
--ice cream.  (Leo)
--dinner (Aidan).

You can't teach an old dog...
--tricks (Leo)
--the way of life.  (Aidan)

The early bird catches...
--worms.  (Leo)
--dreams.  (Aidan)

A woman's work is...
-- a watch.  (Leo)
--undeserved.  They shouldn't have to do it if they don't need to do it.  (Aidan).

If wishes were horses...
--then they would gallop to the barn. (Leo)
--I would ride to freedom.  (Aidan)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Mama Bird

No one mentions the Mama Bird....

"Come to the edge," [s]he said.
They said, "We are afraid."
"Come to the edge," [s]he said.
They came.
[S]he pushed them...
...and they flew.
-Guillaume Apollinaire
I pushed another one out of the next today, and as I expected, he flew.  He soared.  He never even looked down, so confident was he in his place in this world, so sure of his footsteps down the path blazed before him by his older brother.  Leo started Kindergarten today. 

And Aidan began his year as a third grader, in a new, upper elementary school serving grades 3 and 4. 

But it was a hard day for Mama Bird, and perhaps harder still for the last baby in the nest. ... I think Pax summed it up pretty perfectly for the both of us.  This is how my heart felt this morning watching my two big boys head off to school in the bright yellow bus. 

 Some things don't get easier the longer you parent, and this is one of them.  I can't quite articulate yet what was so hard about this morning, about the 2:1 ratio of school boy: home boy, instead of the house full of boys I most prefer.  I can't quite articulate it, yet Pax, in his magnificent wordlessness, does a pretty outstanding job of illustrating my sentiment.   

 And yet it is this photo below that is my favorite, because it speaks to what my heart hoped for most of all, shows what I've coached Aidan to do for Leo in these first weeks of school. I asked Aidan to protect Leo, watch out for him, represent our family to Leo and act as a guardian for him.  I reminded Aidan what it felt like in his first weeks of kindergarten, and made sure he knew how lucky Leo was to have Aidan on his side.  The full truth is that after a summer of bickering and squabbles, I wasn't sure Aidan's sweet and compassionate nature would shine through quite bright enough when it was his middle brother in need of some light. 

But it did, and he delivered.  From reports on both sides, the (horribly long) ride home was filled with kind words and sweet laughter.  Tonight, hearing this account, Mama Bird was able to smooth tired feathers and tuck small wings into warm nests with the understanding and contentment of knowing that at least there is soaring and flight to enjoy in place of the empty holes left in the nest. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Epic News

Drumroll, please.....

Jeff Carter has a new job!!!

Yep. We were pretty surprised, too.  (Although this is probably old news to you, by now, since I'm still playing blog catch-up).

After three years of struggling with the demands of night shift floor nursing, Jeff landed a job that is Monday - Friday, 9-5, no weekends, no nights.  We are elated, and I feel very proud of Jeff.  What began as a casual inquiry turned into an in-person meeting, scheduled for the day before we left on vacation and ended up being an actual interview.  Three days later, as we strolled toward our rental car parked next to the beach in Ventura, California, Jeff's phone rang and it was HR with an official offer for the job.

Jeff's new title is Clinical Application Analyst/Programmer for the medical records company called Epic.  In plain English, he is an experienced nurse working to improve the computer technology used by doctors and nurses for patient records and care.  Leaving hospital floor nursing was a bittersweet parting, though, for many reasons.  Jeff is a kind, compassionate, extremely competent nurse who is beloved by staff and patients alike.  He made lifelong friends and was mentored by an incredible group of seasoned nurses.  His nights were filled with stories - funny ones, poignant ones, troubling ones, traumatic ones, joyous ones, sorrowful ones - and he never grew tired of collecting those stories, remembering those stories, sharing those stories.  I never grew tired of bragging about my husband, the neurosurgery nurse.  And being among the ranks of those who work night shift was a badge of honor I wore with pride.  We did it: and we survived it.  And yet, the schedule was beginning to take a toll on the health of our family and of Jeff.  Change is good, then, even when change is hard, or different, or unexpected.

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." -Anatole France.

Although it is too soon for Jeff to name all the things he loves about his new job, here are just a few I re-discovered immediately:
1.  My bed gets made every day, with no one messing up the sheets in the middle of the day.
2.  I can fling my drapes wide open, any time I want.
3.  I no longer dress in the dark; I haven't left the house with mismatched shoes in one month!
4.  I have someone with whom to share my morning coffee. (Oh wait, strike that.  Pax, Leo, and I have someone else with whom to share our morning coffee.)
5.  I can leave my house, sans children, every evening  (And let me tell you, what a hoppin' joint it is at 9:00 p.m. at our local bar Food Lion!)

But the best part?  is knowing that this man finally feels rested, more relaxed - and is happier and healthier at the return of a diurnal schedule....  
...yet in his new job, he remains, first and foremost, a nurse.

Soft Soles - by Nikki Grimes (from this children's poetry collection, which I love). 
You walk like a whisper
'long the hospital hall,
tell patients you pass
not to worry at all.

You rush to your ward
 on cushions of white
to smooth and fluff pillows,
set everything right.

You bathe fevered foreheads,
give needles with care,
and chat with those patients
who've no family there.

Truck drivers are cool, 
and firemen aren't bad,
but Kyle plans on being 
a nurse like his dad.