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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

17 days to go...

Sandi is in the middle of nurse anesthesia school hell.  You can imagine where that puts the rest of us.

There have been many crunch periods in the past 21 months since the program began.  I can remember a couple of stretches where Sandi appeared to all but be squeezed in a vice.  She didn't sleep well, had dark circles under her eyes from burning the candle at both ends and looked physically burdened.  Her workload and geographical circumstance made it so that she was deprived of the nourishing love (and, let's be honest, maddening frustrations) of our little family.  Either sleeping in Portland or being holed up at her sister's house studying, she was often isolated and walking her difficult path alone.

But I think this month, May, takes the cake as far as stress goes.  And when I say cake I don't mean dense chocolate sponge with smooth, velvety buttercream.  I mean dry, hard cake that was left uncovered on the counter for two nights.  Better yet, I mean two day old cake on the bottom of the trash can with coffee grounds and rotton vegetables on it.  But I digress.  I'm sure you get the idea.

Sandi is in her second month at a clinical site nearly an hour's drive each way.  She has been staying overnight on call one night a week to allow for the variance in training to go from asleep to responsible for someone's airway in mere minutes.  On the weekends she has been working feverishly on her senior project, a complex and lengthy production that requires endless hours of research, synthesizing of concepts and data and page upon page of writing.    She is profoundly exhausted and dipping into long dried-out stores for the energy to perservere.

Her project is due on June 1.  To add a little extra drama she is has a 5 day trip to the midwest coming up for a review course for her boards which means 5 days lost for project completetion. I can't remember the exact reason these events- the trip and the home stretch of the project- collided in a horrible calendar clash, but they did. 

So the past few weeks have been difficult to say the least. 

Whenever something comes up for discussion about a future event, Sandi responds with, "Just give me 17 days okay?"  Translation:  I can't deal with any more than I have right now.  Whatever it is, table it.

I have a long list of things to discuss with her, small requests for her time to fix this or help me brainstorm that.  But I am waiting, sometimes patiently, sometimes not, for her to have any energy to devote toward what is happening here.

If anyone out there is considering nurse anethesia school, I implore you to do it before you reproduce.   

The kids been having an increasingly difficult time with Sandi's absence.  It is as though they have hit their tolerance threshold for the whole thing and we still have six months to go until graduation.  I'm hoping for an improvement when June 1 rolls around, when this most intense stress is reduced, but I'm also not an idiot.  There has been no part of this journey that has been a breeze so I wouldn't begin to expect that in 17 days from now, with still 6 months of farther away clinical sites for her to travel to and boards to study for, that life will somehow return to normal.

The improvement I can see on the horizon is the one Sandi continues to reiterate to me in the "17 days left" mantra: when the project is over, she will have very little, if no, course work left and so she can at least have the weekends back with us.  Considering it will be summer that is merciful. 

I plan to fill the summer with all sorts of fun day trips and time with friends and family.  Perhaps this way the kids won't notice Sandi's absence as much during the week.  One can hope. 

I have to confess, though, in planning to go here for a few days or there for a few more, it is hard to avoid the hard knot of pain that it will be just three of us and not the four of us.  It is true that I am psyched for Sandi's program to be done- to have someone help me mow the lawn, carry the wood, help tackle the mountain of laundry, wrangle the kids when they are dirty and supper needs making, shovel the snow and take care of the ant infestation. And of course, I am so looking forward to a paycheck. 

But honestly, I most look forward to moving again as a single family organism, instead of in this stilted manner in which we have become accustomed, with one leg perpetually missing.  

A few mornings ago the girls lay on a heap on my lap on the kitchen floor, pouring their hearts out about how much they miss Mommy.  It was heartbreaking and all I could do was cry alongside them.  We all miss her and she misses us.  And we have to keep going because we haven't come this far to give up now.  We are all tired and can't help but asking, "Are we there yet?"

Allow me to also say how incredibly proud of am of Sandi for her ability to do this.  To manage the demands of such an intense program with the demands of a family is not an easy position to be in.  She has certainly gotten the short end of the stick most often while she struggles to balance these worlds.  I don't envy the position she is and I marvel at her ability to excel at such a challenging endeavor.   We miss her but we get to spend our time missing her at the beach and romping in the sunshine.  She has to miss us from a sleep-deprived state with her head in a book or existing in a sterile, windowless environment where people's lives often hang in the balance.

Our mailbox got hit last fall and still hasn't been fixed.  The mailman put a friendly note in our box that we need to raise it 10 inches.  Then a few weeks later he came to the door with a package and mentioned it to Sandi.  I wanted to call over her shoulder:  "Could you just wait 17 more days please?" 

Oh, and P.S...

If anyone needs anything from Sandi, get in line behind me and the girls.  I will elbow you and possibly flatten you if you try to cut.

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