I rejoice in this opportunity.

A lot has changed since I last attended nursing school. I returned to my “home” university where I began my BSN 5 years ago (it’s an accelerated nursing Bachelor’s degree program). This time I’m married and my husband is deployed, which adds so much stability to my life this time around. I’m not driving several hours to see him every other weekend, I’m not balancing school work and a new relationship, and I’m a lot more capable of handling the stress of school. My husband’s GI Bill is helping us afford school without loans, and he has an income, which means that I am less stressed about finances this time around.

A lot of other stuff has changed. Being an adult student is soooo different and a great experience. Never underestimate the power of life experience. I feel like I have a better understanding of how to succeed, how to manage my stress, and how to prioritize my life. As an adult, I feel much more focused — like I’m a woman on a mission. And, really, I am a woman on a mission. I have a husband and life I look forward to returning to when this program is over, and I can envision myself actually using these skills in our new hometown. It’s a great feeling.

Having worked at the longterm care facility as a CNA, I now have a whole new perspective of EVERYTHING. I have seen disease processes up close, I’ve given more medications than I can count, I’ve given injections, I’ve performed wound care on a variety of types of wounds and locations on the body, and I’ve managed staff in a medical facility. I’ve assisted in the completion of nursing paperwork, I’ve sat in on meetings with families, hospice, and nursing staff, and I’ve taken part in discussions about nursing decisions. I’ve charted, managed a medication cart, and dealt with discipline issues with staff when I’ve been in charge. I’ve witnessed residents having psychiatric episodes and I was stabbed with a dirty needle during one such episode. When I sit in class or attend a skills learning session, I am building my base of knowledge, rather than establishing it. It allows me to understand things at a much deeper and higher level, and for once my grades are reflecting my understanding.

Maybe best of all, I have a real understanding of what I want to do with my nursing education. I understand the laws in the state where we plan to retire after my husband gets out of the Navy, so I am working toward goals that will make me marketable and enabled in our new hometown. Since I’m older and understand myself better, AND since we’ve been married for a few years and have established goals for our life together, I’ve narrowed-down things I am interested in doing in nursing and avenues I wish to explore. I feel inspired and ambitious.

I trust myself more now. During my first time through nursing school, everything was new and I wasn’t sure if I was really up to the task. I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but I wasn’t sure if I could be a safe, knowledgable nurse. Guess what — working in that care facility with a wonderful nursing team showed me a lot about myself, and one of those things was that I am capable of doing good work as a nurse. I’m already looking ahead to graduate school, contacting schools, and making inquiries.  I’m just over a year from graduation, so now is the time to think about these things.

I rejoice in this opportunity and revel in the satisfaction that I am finishing something that I started. I feel so lucky to have a husband and parents who are so supportive and encouraging. I am thankful that I married a man who values my life and career satisfaction too, and is willing to do hard things to help me achieve my goals. I respect myself for taking risks and valuing my own happiness.

(Mis)Adventures with the Veterans Administration. 

My husband and I are attempting to apply his Post-9/11 GI Bill to my nursing school tuition. It is now October, which means that we have been trying to make the GI Bill work for … ohhhhh … 3 months.

3 months, y’all. And there is nooooo conclusion in sight. 

In August, I applied to have the Bill applied to my tuition; my husband transferred the benefits to me almost 2 years ago. After a few weeks of not hearing anything, my husband and I called together. According to the rep, I had applied for survivor benefits … ??? I don’t even know how that happened. I reapplied (using the same application/website I used the first time, mind you), and we thought we were set. 

Fast forward to a few weeks later, and the VA rejected my request because the Bill had never been transferred. What? We called together again, and the representative hung up on us when she didn’t want to talk to us anymore (no yelling or cross words were exchanged – she was just short with us and seemed like she didn’t feel like talking/working). 

Oooookay. So then my husband spent his final few days before deployment trying to find someone who would help him figure out the problem. 

Insert me rolling my eyes. 

Once he thought he had everything straight, I called the VA and magically got a representative who was super helpful! Woooo. We are now waiting on an affirmative response. Waiting waiting waiting. 

So here is my point — here I am just trying to get education benefits. Can you imagine trying to get medical attention?! My university is super accommodating because they understand that the VA is S-L-O-W. We can wait for payment. But, what about those who can’t wait for help? What about those who have REAL problems who need help RIGHT NOW? 

I’m happy to see immediate care hotlines popping up and so many non-profit orgs filling the time gap by getting vets free mental health help right now. 

But we shouldn’t have to have this extra stuff, because the VA should work for our service members

I don’t have too many specific solutions to propose, but I often wonder if the VA would work better if it was run entirely by veterans and their family members, especially at the highest and lowest levels — where it matters most. Government supported community investment isn’t without precedent. 

Also, the VA needs to revamp their benefits website. It looks like it’s straight out of AOL-land, circa 1998. The links don’t work and it’s not smart device compatible. I can’t believe that vets can’t apply for benefits on their iPad or iPhone. Not everyone has a laptop or desk top these days, and finding a public access location isn’t easy for those with transportation or mobility limitations. 

Last, and perhaps most importantly, every base needs a VA rep who is knowledgeable about applying for benefits and benefits programs. My husband’s base does not have a rep, and it’s a big base with thousands of service members! Can you believe that? Having representatives on a base would ease so many headaches, especially for our retired generation who aren’t as accustomed to online communication and those with just one or two easy questions. I wonder how much telephone wait times would be cut if service members had access to a real person during business hours near their place of work?

Just a few thoughts. What are yours?

Here I am.

Do you ever find yourself in a moment where it’s as if you suddenly wake up and, as you shake out the cobwebs of sleep, you ask yourself, “HOW did I get here? What just happened?”

I had a moment like that yesterday … as I was driving back to my parents’ house … after a full day of classes … in nursing school.

This is where I am. For the past year or so, I’ve been working my tail off to get to this place. Returning to my original nursing program was the fastest route to my goal: nursing. The University nursing department so kindly welcomed me back with open arms. I feel as if I’ve come “home”.

So, here I am, living on the opposite side of the continent from my husband. I’ll graduate in 16.5 months with my Bachelors in the Science of Nursing (BSN). My husband will be deployed and on work trips much of that time, so it’s not as if we would have this time together anyway (insert eye roll).

I’ve been quiet because I haven’t had much to say. Once I got going in my CNA job, I put my head down and immersed myself in nursing school applications, work, and the precious time I had with my husband between his flight schedule, his work trips, and working crazy hours at my own job.

Perhaps now that I have “all this time on my hands” (oh, hello again, procrastination!) I’ll find the space to talk about being married and long distance, which is not that unusual in the military. Perhaps I’ll talk about using the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which is how we are paying for school. Perhaps I’ll even talk about being a “single mamma” to my TWO corgis (we got a second! Eek!).

Thank you for reading, lovelies. I’ll see you next post.

A case for being underprepared.

I love my job. Like, I really, really love my job. I love working with my elderly patients with memory problems. I complain to my friends and my husband a lot about how much I’m working and that I’m exhausted after every shift, but I complain with a smile on my face because, for the first time in my life, I have sincere and deep job satisfaction. I feel great about what I’m doing and I love being at work.

This experience has been an eye-opener for me. During the 3 years of our marriage, I’ve specialized in being over-prepared and always having a future Plan A, B, C, D, E, and F “just in case”.

Here’s the thing — I never could have predicted this job opportunity and its carry-through to a now-possible nursing career, regardless of the research I performed prior to moving here. While living in Japan, I thought my nursing aspirations were over. I assumed that I would have to enter a new career field because, had we moved almost anywhere else in the United States, that would have been the case. However, the laws here are different, and I’m able to work in the medical field by completing requirements, certifications, and bridge certifications as I go. This kind of path enables the state to have more qualified and practiced medical practitioners on hand and it gets people into the work force quickly. On my end, I have so many doors open to me right now, I’m like a giddy child.

Though I had too many pre-conceived ideas of what I would do with my time here, my husband persuaded me to take a few weeks and take it all in before charging ahead in what I thought I would be doing here. After a few weeks of taking it all in and focusing on getting settled, the perfect opportunity presented itself to me.

At first I thought my situation was a fluke and could only happen in this particular location, but then I realized that it’s not a fluke. In fact, I was in the same situation in Japan. However, instead of listening to myself and applying for positions with the Red Cross, the Naval Hospital, etc, I did what “everyone” was doing and taught elementary school-aged English classes. I hated it, but I did it because I thought it was what I was “supposed” to do. Eventually I left those jobs and found my own way, but it took me almost 2 years to get my head on straight.

So, based on my experiences, I implore you to keep your mind and heart open when you arrive in a new place. Do your research ahead of time and arrive with a few ideas, but also arrive knowing that every state is different, every town has different job opportunities, and you may be able to do something in one place that you were not able to in another. You may end-up with new and better opportunities in your new location than you did in previous locations. Sure, the opposite can happen, but maybe it won’t. Maybe, because you kept your mind and eyes open, you will always find a new opportunity.


Aircraft carrier life for the sci fi nerds among us (me).

My husband and I have been watching Battlestar Galactica for the past two weeks. It sounds super nerdy (it is), but it’s also a great representation of what life on an aircraft carrier is like. The “battlestar” is a futuristic space aircraft carrier, complete with a CAG, CIC, flight ops, squadrons, and all kinds of Naval aviation stuff. My husband appreciates that it’s mostly accurate, to a point where it’s humerous. For example, catapults are used to launch the space-jets into space from the battlestar. Catapults would be extreme overkill in space, but it’s accurate for the current, sea-based Navy! Also, some of the inner components of the space-jets are identical to the inside of a F-18. It’s a lot of fun watching the show with him because I’m learning about what he does for all those months he’s deployed … which is coming right up … again … :( 

FYI – it’s not available on Netflix. We found a (legal) website that has all the seasons. I’ll post the site later because I can’t think of the name right now. 

Finding the right coach & making the most of the coach-athlete relationship.

My lifting coach and I had a quick, interesting conversation a few weeks ago about athletes who coach other athletes vs professional coaches; this conversation got me thinking …

As a coach and an athlete in two different sports, I have insight into this topic. Because I know how to be a good coach, I also know how to have a good relationship with my coach.

I spent 7 years chasing the Olympic/National Team dream in rowing; I eventually moved on to coaching, which I’ve grown to love much more then competing, and I’ve built long-lasting professional relationships with my rowers. Then, over the past 4 years, I’ve transitioned my body from rowing to lifting. Though I don’t have any desire to compete in lifting or other related events, like figure or bikini, I’ve worked with some of the best coaches in the business, especially right now, and I’ve built professional, beneficial bonds with my coaches.

Here are some thoughts about how to find yourself the right coach and how to make the most of your relationship with your coach:

Begin by being very honest with yourself about what you want, what you can afford, and what you’re willing to put into your relationship with your coach. Do not over-commit yourself when you begin working with a coach.

Know that there is a huge difference between a personal trainer and a coach with a specialty. Personal trainers are perfect for “the generals”, such as losing weight and basic but thorough workouts. If you envision yourself doing a leg day, arm day, etc, find yourself a personal trainer at your local gym. If you want to enter a specialty area or your goal is specific, like gaining a lot of muscle, starting strongman comps, etc, find yourself a specialty coach. I enjoy power lifting, so I work with a power lifting coach who has tons of experience. I would never ask a personal trainer to coach me in power lifting, and you shouldn’t either, no matter what they claim they can do.

Seek a coach with the education and experience you need to achieve your goals. This sounds hard, but it’s very easy to do. If you have never lifted weights before and want to learn the basics, most anybody with a personal training license is right for you. If you need guidance on nutrition, look for someone who has a certification or degree in nutrition. The internet is your friend. Google your location and what you’re looking for, and Google will present you with many options! Coaches specialize in a variety of areas: obesity weight loss, physique and bikini shows, body building, strong(wo)man, etc. If you want it, somebody does it!

Professional coaches are compensated appropriately for their time, so if you can’t pay them for their time, they cannot afford to give you their time. This is a business deal, not a statement about your worth or potential as an athlete or person. I see so many people online commenting to professionals, “I’m a student/unemployed/etc and can’t afford to pay you. Can you give me advice anyway?” The correct answer is no. Professionals need to be compensated for their time. The only people who receive “free” stuff are seasoned athletes who are already at the top of their game.

If you’re new (and even if you aren’t!), it’s okay to work with a newer coach or trainer. This has worked out really well for me in the past because we were able to grow together. However, make sure they have the proper certifications. New trainers will sometimes give discounts or other perks to new clients — if you’re short on funds, these are great people to work with. It’s a win-win.

Before you begin working with someone, interview them. Ask them all of your questions to ensure you’re going to get what you want. For example, I have some medical concerns, so I made sure my coach was aware of those things and could work around them. It’s okay to walk away if the interview shows that you aren’t a good match, or walk away if the trainer or coach doesn’t want to be interviewed. Professionals will want to “interview” you too, though that may be done during your first session. If you have specific needs, talk to them before your workout. Any true professional will be okay with an interview. If you’re not sure what to ask, I recommend these questions: “Who in the fitness industry inspires you? What fitness professionals do you look to for workout and fitness ideas? Have you worked with someone like me before? What kind of education and training do you have in this field?”

Once you’re their client, keep the lines of communication open, but base that communication on what you are compensating them for. As a coach, I make it very clear to my rowers how and when they may contact me. This isn’t just for my convenience – it’s also to ensure they receive a timely response! If you’re only paying the trainer for the time you spend together, you should keep your questions until your next session, unless it’s something urgent (like you are injured, etc). I would not Facebook-friend their personal account or other personal social media accounts unless they make it clear that that’s okay. That goes for you, too – let them know if they are out of bounds.

Some clients challenge their coaches and trainers. They may read or view something online that is different than what their coach has them doing in the gym. As a coach, I want my rowers to talk to me about new ideas so that we can have a dialogue, but I expect them to keep the dialogue professional. They’re paying me because I have more expertise and experience than them. I am always open to new ideas, and as a coach I will try most anything once to see if it works, but most times I know better, just like my coach knows better than me. If you think you know better than your coach, why are you working with them?

This seems like an obvious one to an outsider, but I see a lot of people making this mistake — do not work with someone just because they’re “hot” and you’re attracted to them. As a female, I generally look for female coaches and shy away from super attractive male coaches (this isn’t the case with my current coach, but my previous coaches were females). I have a few friends who aren’t getting great coaching but are paying a lot of money to spend a few hours a week with a hot dude. If that’s your goal, great! But if you want more from your coach, find the right person, not just the most physically attractive one.

Sometimes clients and coaches/trainers outgrow each other, and that’s okay! I am training someone who hopes to make the US National Team. Once she’s on the Team, I don’t expect her to come to me for training advice anymore; conversely, if she doesn’t make the team, I expect that she will find another coach. If you feel like your goals have changed, you’re ready for something new, or you’re just not jiving with your coach or trainer anymore, it’s okay to move on. Keep the separation amicable. All of us in the sports and fitness industry know that our clients won’t always be our clients, and that’s part of working in this industry. Also, it’s okay to “take a break” for a month or more. Sometimes we need a little time away from the gym for personal, professional, or other reasons. Don’t be afraid to take that time. We professionals want happy clients, just like we clients want happy coaches.

My last point is an important one: Is it better to hire an athlete who is a coach on the side or a professional coach? I’m going to base this on my personal experience.

When I was an athlete trying to make the top tier in the rowing world, I dabbled in coaching to help make ends meet. I enjoyed applying my knowledge and working with people who were new to the sport, but I was not a great coach because I was more focused on my own success. This isn’t a question of holding others back for my betterment — my rowers had different goals or were not eligible for the National Team — BUT, I was focused on my own schedule, practices, etc, so I couldn’t give all my energy to helping my rowers improve. Now, as someone who is no longer trying to be a top performing athlete, I can dedicate my time to learning how to be a better coach and fine-tuning the nitty-gritty of the sport.

While some professional coaches keep their hands in the fire, so to speak, do not be afraid of hiring a specialty coach who is no longer in tip-top shape or winning national and international titles. I no longer look like a coxswain, but that’s because I’m no longer trying to be a coxswain — I’m a coach, and a darn good one.

Finding my place in the weight room. 

I have a confession:

I am not comfortable in the weight room.

Since I started lifting 3 years ago, I’ve lifted regularly in 8 different gyms. Some were commercial and some were military, but my experience has been the same: deep insecurity with my physical presence, deep insecurity my physical expenditure, and even deeper insecurity with the attention that my presence and expenditure cause.

With my current coach, I workout once per week with him and three times per week at my local gym. He gives me weekly programming (workouts) to do on the three days I workout without him.

The following is an honest discussion of my experience. I don’t have many gym choices where I live, so I can’t just “go somewhere else”.

Like many women, I struggle with the concept of taking up space in public. I’ll gladly give up my seat on the train, move down the bench a few feet, and otherwise go out of my way in public to accommodate others and not take-up more than my “fair share” of space. This pre-programmed space insecurity extends into the weight room.

In the weight room, it’s impossible to not take up space. I need the whole squat rack to complete most of my workouts, and I need it for at least 45 minutes per session. If it’s available for me to use, I worry that someone is waiting on me to finish or that I shouldn’t be using such an important piece of equipment for my still-novice lifts. I don’t know who this somebody-in-waiting is, but in my mind I am in their way and I need to take up less space. I feel the need to rush through my precious workout to accommodate this unknown person.

Beyond taking-up square footage, I am also worried about my physical form taking up too much space. I’m not a svelt size 2, like most of the women I encounter in the weight room, looking attractive and barely sweating. There I am, a full size 14, grinding through squat sets with well over 100 pounds on my back, long bar, wide butt, thick waist, and taking up all the room I need. I’m not skinny and I jiggle. I am not in Lulumon’s latest cute ensemble, and I know the stares I catch in the mirror aren’t in admiration of my physique.

I am also embarrassed by my obvious physical expenditure in the weight room. I am a woman who sweats: from my head, from my back, and from everywhere else, too. No matter what I wear, it’s soaked 10 minutes into my workout. Additionally, noises escape my pursed lips when I’m exhausted or working especially hard. I’m a loud breather. Sometimes I grunt when I’m benching. I think I sound like I’m having sex or panting like a dog, and I endeavor to stop whatever noise I’m making for fear of attracting attention, even if it detracts from my lift. And, perhaps most counter productive of all, I try to make as little noise as I can with the weights. Metal weights make noise. Racking and unracking weights makes noise. Deadlifting makes a lot of noise. To control the noise is to wreck the lift and possibly injure myself, but I do it by force of habit because I don’t want to attract attention to my femaleness and my taking-up space in the weight room.

And it’s not just my femaleness or the space issue, it’s my whole package: my out-of-shape body that is carrying too much fat in my midsection, my bright red face that is gushing sweat, my loud and heavy breathing, and my boobs, butt, or whatever body part that is prominently displayed as part of the lift.

Unfortunately, my resting bitch face does not prevent men (and only men so far) from interrupting my workouts, sometimes midlift. “You’re doing front squats wrong” (I wasn’t doing front squats); “You’re lifting too much weight” (too much weight for what?); “You’re not getting full range of motion. You should back down on the weight and go ass-to-the-grass” (go away); “Your programming (workout) doesn’t make sense” (GO THE FUCK AWAY, IDIOT). One guy made derogatory comments about my body right in front me. A trainer loudly told his client that I wasn’t working my “Barbie muscles” like her. Wtf are Barbie muscles?! I actually laughed out loud at that one.

Most insidious are the stares. Yes, dude, here I am, lifting in the gym. The gym I pay to go to. In full-coverage attire, sweating my butt off, literally. No need to look at me while I deadlift your body weight. Yes I’m new. No my technique isn’t perfect. Please stop staring.

These confessions might sound a bit extreme, but they’re coming from a rape survivor. I don’t like attention from strangers. In fact, one of the primary reasons I lift is because I want to be able to protect myself and those I care about.

With all that said, I realize that I need to change myself and my mind, because I can only control myself. If I’m sound in mind, the externals matter less.

So what if people stare? I don’t know for sure that they’re thinking mean thoughts or even forming an opinion about me. So what if someone is waiting? My workout is just as important as their’s, and they can let me know if they’re waiting. So what if I take up space? We all have a right to exist, just as we are, deadlift safety zone area, squat rack, weight bench, and all. And, if people are going to make asanine comments to me, fine. I mean, really? You’re wasting your time by watching my workout so closely as to form opinions about it?

Dude, get a hobby. Might I recommend weight lifting?