Friday, September 3, 2010

Shades of Strength

Two things happened this week that have made me pause and realize I am finding myself again.

Yesterday, I attended an informational meeting for Graduate School. I miss teaching. I still teach my elementary schoolers some, but I miss full-blown, die-hard teaching. Consequently, I've made the definite decision that I'm going for the PhD in Sociology. May the good Lord have job opportunities available as I'm coming out of my education and training because I'm never going to get paid anywhere near worth what it will take to get there. However, going I am, and I'm dearly excited my future and my prospects with this.

Even so, I have some questions and some concerns. When I saw the Department was holding an informational meeting, I knew I had to be there.

Turns out, there were 2 Professors and exactly 3 students. Since Criminal Justice and Social Work are headed by the Sociology Dept, there was obviously room for variety in the room. Of the three students, one girl is looking for a Masters in Social Work. The other is thinking about....maybe considering...either Masters in Counseling...or Criminal Justice...or hey listening to others talk about PhDs in Sociology interests her as well.

I was there on a mission. I know what is required. I've talked with at least a dozen different PhDs in fields from Theater Arts to Biology to Music to Rhetoric and even Sociology. I was a teen when my father earned his PhD and had the privilege of being his research assistant on his Doctoral Disertation. Okay, I was unpaid but the experience he gave me was invaluable for me.

Still I have questions. And, those questions led to myself and one of the Professors talking long after everyone else left the meeting. It led down the path of both of us talking about our personal lives. Turns out he and his wife(female partner, not sure if its legally marriage and didn't pry) intend to adopt in the future.

Seriously, this man was a kindred spirit. He went into PhD not for the research opportunities but to TEACH. And, that is exactly the path I feel motivated to pursue. He was 30 when he went back. He's been out for 4 years now. He did his training in the same town we lived in 5 years ago. I actually already knew that because I looked at the program in that town and discovered he and his wife had moved from there to here.

It was just a really motivating and inspiring conversation. What truly hit me was when it came to a conclusion. He informed me that in just our short conversation (nearly 2 hours), I struck him as one of the strongest women he had EVER encountered. He said that people like myself, but especially women, usually have no problems building the career I want, even if they start later and are a non-traditional student. He thought I will do marvelously as I go along this path and let me know if he can help me in any way to let him know.

Actually, he sponsors both Ki Delta Kappa, the Sociology Honors Society and the Sociology Club. So, I sent him an email asking how to join both of those. I also checked my schedule for the spring and I'll be taking Theory from him this spring.

Strength. In two hours of conversation with me, someone called me strong. Its something I've heard in the past. I've often never been quite sure if it was a compliment or a passive way of calling me a witch to my face. This time, I knew it was a compliment and that its a character assessment I will happily embrace.

Today, I prepared for battle, polite battle but still battle. Our Pediatrician fired off a letter to fire us 2 weeks ago, exactly one week after his partner treated baby J for Rotavirus and we admitted we don't vaccinate our children before the age of two.

This isn't a vaccine diatribe. Our reasons for delaying and selectively vaccinating are ours. However, this was disclosed upfront with this doctor. As a matter of fact, this doctor came on recommedation from a non-vaccinating friend as being tolerant and respectful. Imagine my shock and surprise after 8 months of a respectful and friendly relationship to recieve a letter firing us for vaccines. Imagine my greater surprise when the doctor cited the unvaccinated status of ALL the children as the reason for firing us.

The ONLY child not vaccinated is baby J. There are a few vaccines we don't get, but for everything else, all of the children are fully up to date on their vaccines except L. L needs one series of vaccines. We disclosed that when we started coming. Our last doctor didn't have it in stock whenever we went and we moved before it came in stock. Because of L's extreme adjustment issues to new people and especially new doctors, we all agreed she would start that series on her next visit. She hasn't had another visit, since she's one of my healthy normal kiddos.

Three months ago, getting a letter like this would have left me turning tail and crying. This time, I got MAD. I knew what was behing the threat. I knew it was the partner. I knew it was J's Rotavirus. I suspected it went against the preferences of our doctor based upon the relationship we've already been establishing this year.

I won't tolerate bullying. I didn't tolerate it in 5th grade punks who targetted E last year. I won't tolerate it in grown men who have been Pediatricians for 20+ years and think they have the right to FORCE their opinions on their partner's patients.

It appears we have worked out the issue with our doctor. Time will tell, but he set us up for follow-up appointments well beyond the effective date of our "firing" so I have to assume he means it.

Before we left, he humbly and honestly admitted to me that this family overwhelms him.

I can understan that. There are eight kids in this family, and half of them have significant medical conditions. Far more than that have extremely unusual and convoluted histories. Three of them come with HUGE gaps in their medical history that cannot ever be recovered.

What he also cited as overwhelming him though, was a strong and knowledgable mother caring for these children.

My first response to the word strong he alluding to a witch here? Then, I remembered that it took our last doctor, our beloved family doctor that I miss so dearly, nearly a year to iron out how to manage the medical aspects of this unique family. He too was overwhelmed by the children. He was also intimidated by me. My strenght and assertiveness initially took him off guard. As he learned to handle the kids issues and began to see that strong meant I expected a partnership--not a dictatorship from either side, he learned that I'm a perfectly reasonable person...and a kick-ass advocate for my children.

Today, the new doctor saw the same qualities. I am strong. I'm also rational, logical and easy to get along with. I stand my groun when I need to, but I also choose my battles.

I realized, if this doctor sees that strength, then I'm getting stronger. I haven't felt strong in a LONG time. And, I haven't felt capable of protecting myself, my children, my family. I'd like to say I did it anyway, but I don't think I did. I let 4 of my kids get seriously hurt by the school system last year. And, I didn't do some necessary medical battles just because I couldn't.

I'm getting there again. I see glimmers of strength and I'm starting to realize that other people are seeing it again as well.

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