Friday, September 24, 2010

Perfect Autumn Night Friday Random Ten

I know I've been scarce; I picked up an extra shift a week at the restaurant-- a financial godsend-- and my school schedule has remained grueling. I've got another exam coming up Monday on all kinds of fun subjects-- alcohol and drug abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, suicide, etc. I've been hitting the books and online quizzes like a fiend all week.

Last Sunday, my son and I took a walk through Graceland Cemetery, a cemetery many historical figures are buried in. I'll post about that soon.

Like I mentioned, I have an exam on Monday on Psychiatric Nursing and then on Tuesday I start my new rotation, Med-Surg-- basic overall medical stuff. I'm nervous and excited. In the meantime, I'm out on the back porch sipping some Malbec, good tunes playing on my Itunes and enjoying this picture-perfect autumn night.

1. Cuts You Up- Peter Murphy
2. Yesterday's Not Here- Peter Shelley
3. The New Frontier- Donald Fagen
4. No More, No More- Aerosmith
5. Lose This Skin- The Clash
6. Wild Horses- The Flying Burrito Brothers
7. Rock'n Me- Steve Miller
8. Montego Bay- Bobby Bloom
9. Femme Fatale- The Velvet Underground
10. She Belongs To Me- Rick Nelson

1. It's funny how certain songs can bring you right back to a time in your life. This hit from Bauhaus alum Peter Murphy brings me back to a time I can hardly believe was 20 years ago.
2. The first solo album by Buzzcocks singer Peter Shelley, "Homosapien." I just got ahold of three songs that were on the vinyl edition, but not the cd-- thanks Itunes, and thanks Ron (my friend who is the biggest Bauhaus fan I know).
3. I sense a theme going here-- solo songs from members of famous bands. Steely Dan alum Donald Fagen's first solo album "Nightfly" was brilliant, and this song bore one of my favorite videos of the eighties.
4. Hands down my favorite Aerosmith song.
5. From the great "Sandinista" album.
6. I think I have five versions of this song. Was there ever a bad version? This one is sung by the late, great Gram Parsons.
7. Remember how huge the "Fly Like An Eagle" album was in 1976?
8. Great 1970 one-hit wonder, though I discovered when looking him up that he co-wrote Tommy James' hit single "Mony Mony."
9. Brian Eno, who produced the first VU album said "The first Velvet Underground album only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band"
10. Great country-tinged cover of a very funny (and deliberately ironic) Bob Dylan song sung by former teen idol Rick Nelson.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

I'm Still Here!

This last couple of weeks have been busy beyond belief. We had our first exam in my nursing class. Since I had just gotten my textbook a couple of Fridays ago, I had a huge amount of reading to do to prep for the exam and had to get online and do a bunch of case studies. It all paid off; I got an 84% on the exam. Under the grading scale we have, it missed a B by one point. Turns out, though, that it was one of the highest grades in the class; nearly the whole nursing class-- by that, I mean every second year nursing student. Nearly the whole sophmore class tanked the exam. The average was 78%. I'm not concerned about the C; generally, my first exam of the semester is my lowest. As I get to know the teacher and the material better, my grades tend to improve.

In the meantime, I have a bunch of work to do in the next couple of days for my first clinical rotation, psychiatric nursing, which is almost over. Somewhere in there, I had some work to do to prepare for my wife's birthday, which is today. A few weeks ago, she dropped her Iphone and cracked the faceplate. Since she couldn't afford to have the faceplate fixed, she talked ATT into giving her a Blackberry to replace it. However, she was very, very unhappy with the Blackberry. Fortunately, I was able to find a place to fix the faceplate for a reasonable cost, and I seripticiously had it fixed. We gave it to her this morning, and she was delighted. The bonus is that she's going to give me the Blackberry, which I think I'll find very handy-- I frequently have to send long text-messages to classmates. We're going to switch the phones over tomorrow.

Friday, I'm hoping to have a real post. In the meantime, I'm just posting a picture of the Green Mill, a tavern just a couple of blocks from my school, in the Uptown neighborhood. It was was once owned by Al Capone, who also hung out there; if you peek inside, you'll see the booth he held court in. It's the only booth that faces toward the door.

The Green Mill has been in at least two movies. In Michael Mann's 1981 movie "Thief," it is the tavern that the lead character, portrayed by James Caan, hangs out at. In Stephen Frears' 2000 movie "High Fidelity," there's a scene where John Cusack's character Rob has a drink with his sister, portrayed by his real-life sister Joan.

And in my real life, it was where I had my first date with Cynthia, in 1992, who eventually became my second wife.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Anxieties and Goals

This weekend, things slowly returned to normal around here. My mother-in-law returned to Minneapolis, to a husband with a new knee.

The week preceding it had been a little stressful. My son's insurance autopay hits at the beginning of the month-- as does my tuition payment and rent. Somehow I pulled more than a thousand bucks out of my ass-- some good shifts, and a couple of picked-up shifts helped a great deal. As the final week of my mother-in-law's stay coincided with my second week back to school, I felt the grind.

Kim and Mel drove my mother-in-law back to Minneapolis, leaving Adam and I to have a guy's weekend here. I switched shifts with a friend of mine, so I worked Friday instead of Saturday, so that we had a rare Saturday night together. Adam had mentioned how it was in the old days, when it was just he and I; I'd buy cheese pizzas at Aldi's and we'd make our own pizzas, custom-topping it with our chosen ingredients. I got him a cheese pizza, and got myself the gluten-free pizza crusts that the Jewel's grocery store near our home now sells, and we went to town, topping our pizzas with turkey italian sausage, turkey pepperoni, veggies and a bunch of other healthy goodies; we've made an agreement to both lose weight, and I have to get my blood pressure down, before my doctor carries out her threat to put me on blood pressure meds. We ate our dinner and then streamed a Netflix movie we'd chosen.

He went back to his mother's house on Sunday, and on Monday I had something I hadn't had in ages: a day to myself.

I knew I should have been studying-- my textbook finally arrived on Friday, but I took a little time to kick back, get some stuff done around here and indulge a little in watching "Pawn Stars" (or, as my son calls it, "White Trash Antiques Road Show") on the History Channel.

As I got ready to finally sit down and study last night, I recognized the I had a pretty high level of anxiety. I took a half-hour walk in the lovely, cool Chicago evening, musing about the changes in the neighborhood in the last 24 years I've mostly lived here, and in the changes in my life. Fatherhood, unexpected career paths, old friendships that have grown stronger, new friendships, relationships, marriages. As I count down the months to my 50th birthday, which will coincide with finishing nursing school-- the same damned week, can you believe it?-- I'm alternately amazed and amused at the path my life has taken. I've quoted my old friend Michael before on this, and it bears repeating: "You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans."

When I got home, I cracked my textbook, looking in the syllabus to see what I needed to read for Wednesday's class. I had to laugh out loud; it was the chapter on anxiety and anxiety meds.

A couple of years ago, when Cubs great Ryne Sandberg was inducted to the hall of fame, he was interviewed. He talked about a period of a couple of years when he left the game because of marital problems. He talked about how through his whole career, he would get butterflies in his stomach before each game. When that stopped, he knew his passion for the game had left. He took the time off, straightened out his situation and came back. The butterflies returned.

After I read and synthesized the material, I realized that I felt this way at the start of every class, and when cracking open every textbook. I have the irrational fear that I'm going to read it and not get it. And of course I always get the material in the end. And I know that it'll keep happening through the end of school.

Today, I had clinicals. I worked with a severely mentally ill patient, who I'll be working with for the next few weeks. On the way home, I talked to a classmate whom I catch a ride with every day about it all. We talked about the financial stresses this has caused each of us, what we sacrificed in time with our respective spouses and our kids, and sleep and everything else. And we both realized that we had no regrets whatsoever. In every regard, we had made the right decision to do this, from the standpoint of job satisfaction, economic future, job security, passion for what we do.

This journey, this path I've chosen, this decision I made over three years ago to get into the medical field is now within sight. A little over 29 weeks of school; 9 months of time. There are going to be some more months of pulling off financial miracles, some more time lost with my family, more lost sleep, more anxiety. But in the end, I"m confident I'll pull it off. In the end, there's a career in a field that not only fascinates me, but will give me the financial resources to fulfill the life goals that will require financial resources, and give me the peace of mind to pursue the ones that don't. And in the end, I realize that the sacrifices I made to do it will make it mean that much more to me.