Monday, May 17, 2010

Bragging Rights...

(It's a long one, but hey, it was a long journey.)

Last weekend was a busy one. It started Thursday night and ended Sunday afternoon. Today I took off of work to recover. Anyhow, the activities involved in the busy weekend included the following: My Mom graduated with an Associates degree in Administrative Assistance, Elli graduated with her B.S. in Nursing, and I had my annual pilgrimage up North to partake in opener. The highlight though was my wife's achievement. It was 3 years in the making, and they were anything but smooth.

Elli went to school initially at Madison. While there she gained the highly coveted degree that is Scandinavian Studies. Yup, that's what I said. It's a branch of History if I understand correctly. What do you do with that you ask? I honestly have no idea. She never really used it. There was a blip once with a travel agency and Norway trips or something like that a few years ago, but after college she moved up North with me to Bemidji while I finished my degree, and then went out west to teach skiing in Utah for a season, and then went with me out West to Montana for my internship. Along the way she held jobs at a few different banks as a teller, she worked at a tanning salon, and at a JCPenneys. She also did temp work. Once I graduated, we moved back to MN and I promptly procured work down at the VA, and she went back to work as a bank teller downtown.

For those of you with kids, if they ever want a degree in any form of history, do me a favor will you? Hit them. It's a pointless degree.

Anyhow, as she tells it, she came across Nursing while looking at the want ads and noticed all of the nursing jobs available (what a difference a few years make huh?). She then thought that may be something she could get into. She liked the idea of working with patients and hey, it seemed like it would be a steady job. So she ran with it, getting a Nursing Aid certificate and took prereq's for the School of Nursing down at the U of MN. The pre stuff took a year to do, and then she went ahead and applied. She had high marks, a little experience with the NA stuff, and had a rather strong application. She applied to both programs at the U and then we waited around for an answer.

Things did not work out as we had planned.

Elli got "wait listed" for both programs, which pretty much meant she shouldn't count on getting in. Lots of people were applying and it would be rather doubtful that a spot would open up. They pretty much told her this much when she called asking why someone straight out of high school would be a stronger applicant than her. This was our first taste of what type of place the U of MN Nursing School was. Anyhow, we pretty much went into plan B.

It should be mentioned now that Elli and I have never ever had a boring life. We've always had multiple things going on at once. We've pretty much had to juggle time our almost 11 years together. As a point of reference, the last time we had a weekend free together with nothing going on was back in March sometime. We won't have another one until July 4th weekend.

So what was Plan B then? We agreed that we didn't want to put Life on hold for her to get into Nursing school. So we thought that if she didn't get in for some reason, we would try to start a family and reevaluate later.

The summer moved on. Elli continued working as an NA at Fairview University, I went on with the VA worklife, and we just kind of went about our business. We didn't really talk about Nursing school or anything along those lines. There wasn't anything we could do. They were gracious enough to tell Elli how many people were on the wait list (lots) but wouldn't say were on that list you were. We moved into the long days of July, and one day while Elli was napping our fate was delivered to us in a form of a letter. I checked the mail that day and saw an envelope that for some reason thought was mine. So I committed a federal crime and opened up someone else's mail. I opened the letter and saw the seal from the U's Nursing school at the top. "Eh" I thought, "I went this far, may as well read what it says." And so I did.
"Dear Elli" it began, "Congratulations..." That's all the farther I got. I remember clearly stumbling in the driveway due to the shock. "It said Congratulations!!" I said to myself. It was from the Nursing School and said congrats. Which means she got in. I sprinted to the door, forced my mind to comprehend the difficult task of opening the door, raced through the kitchen, maneuvered around 200lbs of dogs, flew up the stairs and burst into the room where my wife was sleeping peacefully after a long nights work. Her eyes fluttered open sleepily.

"Hi!" I said.

"What do you want?" said my wife drowsily.

"You got in." I said as I showed her the letter.

She almost hit the ceiling. She was very much awake now. We hugged, reread the letter about 5 times to make sure it was what we thought, and then she needed to call someone. Anyone. She got ahold of her sister. Once the initial excitement went away, we then took stock. We agreed that we better stop trying for a baby seeing as though we were staring at 3 more years of school for her. We were both a little disappointed with this idea, but thought it was for the best. It would be just too hard to raise a kid with one of us in school full time and the other working full time, and her working while going to school full time. Where would we find the time to do that with a youngin' in the mix.


July ended up being a great month. Elli got in, and we were rapidly moving forward with that. She got everything squared away as far as admissions info and was all set to start school. At this point I should tell a little back story. When Elli was initially wait listed, (i.e. rejected) from Nursing School and we decided to try for a family, we would joke about that this was us we were talking about. "You know what's gonna happen don't you?" one of us would ask the other, "We're gonna find out that we have a baby on the way and then also find out about the same time that Nursing school will have an open slot". We'd just laugh and say how silly the other person was.

I was typing at the computer. It was a rather hot day. Elli walked by me in an unusual way. I remember thinking that. She's the worst at sneaking, and she was definitely up to something. But I really didn't pay her much notice and she retreated back upstairs. Type type type went I. A few minutes later she came back down, acting the same unusual way. "Remember how we said that I would get into Nursing School and then we would find out that I'm pregnant?" she asked me. "Ya." I said still typing away. It was then she layed down "The Stick" so that I could see the positive sign. I was floored. I didn't even think about how we were gonna do all of this. I was just uber excited that we were gonna be parents.

The Summer went by and Fall came. Game on. It all began. Elli was kind of nervous being that pregnant student. Not that there's anything whatsoever wrong with that, but you know, it's just kind of a thing. Anyhow, I think she was relieved to find out that the class was basically split down the middle: Those baby faced youths straight out of high school doing this as their B.S. degree, and the other half composed of the philosophy, history, and swimming pool management degrees held by the older students. She fell into the appropriate crowd and went about her business. The first semester of school was relatively quiet. She did great, got bigger, and the only mixing of the two was due to her bouts of throwing up. She has a great story of taking the bus where vomit is involved, but I'll let her tell that. Anyhow, she made it through the first semester. We both agreed though that that would be the easy one. The real fun would start towards the middle of the next one.

March 2008 came very very fast. You're never ready when your child shows up. Try going to school AND working when that happens. As the date came closer, Elli made the arrangements with the instructors and they were all understanding. She did fine maintaining the work while also getting everything in order for the baby to show. Then Tuesday March 4th happened. Specifically 3am March 4th. Elli came up complaining about back pain (she had since been sleeping on the couch for the past 2 months or so because it was more comfortable then the bed) and it wasn't going away. Complaining about "rhythmic back pain" to be exact. I'll spare you the details, but Daven was born at 1:40 in the afternoon on that Tuesday.

Elli was back at school the following Monday.

And life got exponentially more complicated. Now, instead of having to worry about our schedules and time we needed, we had our little son around as well. Thankfully Daven came late enough that Elli could be on Maternity Leave from work through the rest of the semester. We would then have the whole summer to figure out the logistics of school and parenting while working. All the credit for that goes to Elli. She found the daycares, asked the needed questions, came up with the budget, and just took charge and owned all aspects of being a working Mom who goes to school. I just did was I was told and tried to be supportive.

For the following 2 years, it really wasn't as bad as either of us thought it would be. We were swamped sometimes and yes, we had many many arguments along the way. We got overly tired and sometimes felt overwhelmed. But those storms passed and we realized that we would make it. It got easier as we got used to the new schedules. We also found time for ourselves as well. We were able to still compete in athletic activities, we travelled a little bit, and Daven seemed to be thriving along the way.

At this time, a shout out needs to be given to our support team. There is no way, NO WAY we would've been able to do this without help from our family and friends. We always had someone come through for us with daycare needs to cover school or work, or someone would offer to take the little guy for us so that we could have a date night or if I was at work someone would offer to watch Dav so that Elli could get caught up with school. Thanks to everyone who pitched in either with time or words of encouragement. There were plenty of times both of us were getting down on morale and you would pick us back up by saying we were doing fine and it will be done soon. This accomplishment belongs to you all in a way as well.

And the end did come. On May 14th, 2010 Elli graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.S. in Nursing. Seeing her walk down the aisle with the other grads while Daven was playing with cars on my lap was an incredible experience. I don't mind saying that I got a little choked up. Here I was with our son watching my wife celebrate an enormous accomplishment. Very few people would be able to pull off what she did, and others who could pull it off would have a tough time doing it as well as she did. But she made it. We made it.

I'm tremendously proud of what Elli did. It was hard on both of us, many times more so on her end. But she did it, and even though she won't gloat about it, I already have to everyone I know. All that's left to do now is for her to pass the NCLEX and then secure a job (which may be a whole nother battle to go at), but I'm not worried about either of those. The hard part is over, and she came through just fine.

Congrats Elli!! Daven and I along with everyone else are extremely proud of what you pulled off. Thanks for being a wonderful Mom through it all and making it go as smooth as you did. We love you on this end!

P.S. Can I buy a boat NOW?

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