Thursday, May 29, 2014

If I had Twitter #YesAllWomen

I don't have Twitter, but I am following the conversation.  Misogyny is such a huge factor in my life, like so many women...far too many women, all women.  Misogyny was a huge component of the fundamentalist religious practices I was escaping when I started this blog.  It's part of what I fight against every day that I have walked in reclaiming who I am.  It's integral to this blog as an undercurrent, and has been from the beginning. 

Since I don't have twitter, and I'm not going to register on Twitter just for this, I was going to facebook all day today on this hashtag.

Then, I realized, some of my stories will drive a wedge between myself and family members that I love.  Some because I know of at least two family members who will get angry and accuse me of attention seeking.  I know of one family member whose own trauma from rape is so severe that it drove her to alcoholism and some days she barely holds onto her sobriety now, and seeing that in my facebook would be traumatic for her all over again.  Others of my stories involve family members, ones that I genuinely love, but have caused significant pain with misogynistic behaviors themselves.

Instead, I'm going to compile what I would tweet, or post on Facebook here.  Call me a coward.  The reality is that the rape victim who has only seen two years of sobriety, and my father, who did one of the most painful acts, likely unintentionally on his part, are the reasons I will talk but do so anonymously on this blog instead. 

At the end of today, after I've posted all that I can think of, or have the heart to post, then I'll hit publish to this.  Because Yes, ALL WOMEN endure these acts.  We just don't always talk about them. 

#YesAllWomen I began experiencing the world of cat-calls when I was thirteen.  Every day of eighth grade, I had to walk through the litany to get to my schoolbus stop.

#YesAllWomen Two years ago, my grandmother posted a fake picture of a fetus on Facebook and said, "The only choice a woman should have is to spread her legs in the first place."  At least three of the women in her own family who saw that post were victims of rape. (And she knew that before she ever posted it.)

#YesAllWomen After my grandmother's post, I spent days comforting my sister in law, who was barely sober at that point, because of the trauma it retriggered of a rape she has never fully faced and the child my brother raises as his own because the biological father is in prison for her rape.

#YesAllWomen I was apparently a precocious child and liked to play with my own body when I was a toddler.  I have no memory of this, but I know this because the rest of my childhood I was told by my egg donor that I was a slut because of that behavior.  I was less than three when I did this.

#YesAllWomen It was only when I became a mother myself that I realized all toddlers explore their bodies and there was not something inherently evil and dirty about me.

#YesAllWomen Maya Angelou was one of my heroes.  I read I know Why the Caged Bird Sings the year before my own rape, and throughout my time learning to breath again afterward, I thought of her courage to live after her assault and reminded myself that if she could do that as an even younger girl, then I could find strength as well.

#YesAllWomen I am 5'6" and before my mid-20s when my thyroid crashed from too many pregnancies, my heaviest weight was 150lb.  My normal weight was 125-130lb.  Yet, I was told every day how fat I was, and I truly believed that I was.

#YesAllWomen I remember acting out sexually as young as age four, yet rather than trying to find out why such a young child was acting in a manner that SCREAMED she had been assaulted, I was called dirty and a slut, labels that haunted me my entire childhood, screamed at me from my own mother and father for years.

#YesAllWomen I haven't spoken to my own father about my rape in twenty years.  The last time we spoke, he informed me that it didn't matter what I or anyone else said, he would always know that I was at least partially responsible for my rape.  I won't speak to him about it ever again because I honestly don't know if he still feels the same way.

#YesAllWomen This weekend, I was giving my birthdaughter advice on how to navigate women's health issues.  She wants something other than birth control pills and the doctor she sees doesn't believe women should have access to anything such as a shot, implant or IUD.  I had to teach her how to find midwives or use Planned Parenthood because she simply wants an IUD.

#YesAllWomen I was shipped off to Hawaii after my rape and forced to live with my grandparents and then bounced around the homes of strangers.  My father told me not to come home until I was no longer pregnant, and he didn't care how I accomplished that.

#YesAllWomen My beloved grandfather, the only male who showed me what it meant to be an honorable and loving man told me the year before he died that I was just so emotional and difficult to handle when I lived with them in Hawaii.  I was 17, raped, stalked, pregnant and thrown away by my family and fifteen years later my grandfather wanted to talk about how I was difficult to handle?  And this was one of the GOOD guys usually.

#YesAllWomen My college best friend was my roommate.  She distanced herself when she started dating a new guy because she could sense I didn't like him.  I couldn't tell her that he had raped his last girlfriend, who was another friend of mine.  It wasn't my story to tell and the victim believed he was a "good guy" and she must have done something to deserve what he did to her.

#YesAllWomen  My college roommate has been married to that man for 15 years and I have never told her what he did.  I hate myself for that, but it's still not my story to tell her.

#YesAllWomen  Another friend from college is an up and coming urban minister in the south.  The friend who was raped by her former boyfriend found healing in her relationship with him.  They loved each other so much, he told her it was as if they were already married and should work on their sex lives as well.

#YesAllWomen  He broke up with that friend because he told her he could never marry any woman who wasn't a virgin.

#YesAllWomen  Another college friend was abandoned by her father at 12 when her step-mother was convinced her father would love her more than his new wife if she stayed.

#YesAllWomen At 15, that friend was raped by the son of the group home director of where she had been dumped (in a series of abandonments over the years).  She was dumped in a homeless shelter in the middle of the night, and told she was a horrible person.  The rapist never had any consequences.

#YesAllWomen Because that friend chose to speak up about the misogyny that had plagued her past, good Christian men in college thought she was fair game to tell all of their dirty little secrets to as well. 

#YesAllWomen She too had the witness boyfriend who loved her so much it was as if they were married and needed to work on their sex lives.  He dumped her because he could never marry a woman who wasn't a virgin too.

#YesAllWomen She married a music minister who was a "great" guy.  He promptly tied her up naked and drove her around the city to satisfy his sex fetish, among other horrific acts she endured with him, all within mere months of getting married.

#YesAllWomen She opted to stay with that man because she truly felt if she left he would sexually prey upon his two daughters, her two step-daughters that she loved.

#YesAllWomen At 19, my good friend's husband came home drunk one night.  She had to leave the house for over an hour at 3am to pick up her sister in law from work, leaving him in the house with their baby and a 13 year old babysitter.  The next day, the babysitter alleged he raped her.  I didn't believe the babysitter because I saw how drunk he was at midnight when I left.  I never was able to find that girl and tell her I am SORRY for doubting her when I realized how stupid I behaved to not believe her.

I'm actually going to stop adding to this list.  I realize no matter how many stories I add, there will simply be more I forget.  The bottom line is that the social conversation happening is REAL.  Every woman in American society (and frankly having been in enough other societies I can say there are places in this world it's even worse than in America but this is where *I* live), has had to face and deal with misogyny.  The deaths this weekend made this glaringly obvious to all of us, but we live with this every single day of our lives.  We don't know when it will crop up.  We don't know when we will be strong enough to say fu when it does.  We don' t know when it will cut to the core and knock us down.

And least a man take offense and cry out, not all men.  Here's the reality.  We are also all guilty of falling into misogynistic patterns as well.  That 13 year old?  I believed her rapist even when the DNA came back he was guilty.  I was just as guilty that day, and I can't make up for that.  My college roommate, I still feel tremendous guilt that she's married to a man who raped someone she to this day considers a good friend.  Yet, I cannot tell someone else's story openly and so still I say NOTHING about that situation.  My own husband was utilizing massage parlors.  Maybe he could tell himself that the prostitutes were free agents and exercising free will, and most likely the ones he used were.  But, he can never tell that to himself about the massage parlors.  My friend who married the sexual sadist?  The only way we can remain friends is that we never talk about that dark secret.  She's a national child advocate and known even on capital hill, and I know her secret and simply keep it, because again it's not MY story to tell.  My friend who helped calm me after my rape?  We ended up in an abusive trainwreck of a relationship when I was 19, one which he has asked me to not blog about because he is a college professor and a women's studies professor at that. 

We are not black and white caricatures.  As women we are not immune from subjecting other women to misogyny and stereotypes either.  We are human.  Each day, we encounter opportunities to make a choice.  We can choose righteousness, or we can fail.  We get that choice each time we encounter it.  Most of us are not fully evil, nor fully pure and good.  It's a daily choice we make. 

If we listen to our stories, we can hear the hurt, we can learn to be aware that it exists, that this bombards women every day, and I cannot even speak to what my LBGT brothers and sisters encounter because it is SO far beyond my comprehension that if I encounter misogyny that can threaten to tear my life apart for being a common variety female, what horror they must endure for being so much different, something that society still refers to as deviant and aberrant (they are NOT, do not confuse my words, but they are referred to in this manner by far too many).  I'm not excluding what they endure in this.  I simply recognize I cannot speak to their experience because I cannot comprehend it.

We must listen.  It is in listening and realizing it permeates us and all around is, only then can we be aware.  Only in realizing that these thoughts, these acts, these experiences are REAL can we learn so that we can change the conversation, and we can choose better for ourselves the next time we come to a crossroad where we have to choose.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Things they don't tell you

Rape.  Yes, I'm going to talk about it again.  I'm talking about it because I am one in four.  Yet, I have enough years after my assault that I'm not afraid, and I don't have any of my identity tied into what anyone things about my assault anymore.  As a society, we hide rape in a shroud of secrecy.  It is spoken in hushed corners, someone knows someone who knew someone who got raped once upon a time.  Once in awhile, a celebrity comes forward and speaks of their history and for a brief moment we give this thing a face.  Then, it fades back into oblivion and we go back to the hushed tones again.

One in four women.  We're not talking about something rarely seen here!  We're talking about 25% of women in our society.  This crime is something we are woefully unprepared to face.  We see it as an act, a one time event that is frozen in time.  (And I am not even speaking to the concept of male sexual assaults that we barely even have a handle on as a society now.)'s not.

I remember that day like it was yesterday, and yet it is clouded with the fog of memories and time now.  I remember being stunned.  I was so groomed in the concept of being polite that never did I at 16 understand anyone would hear me say no and not honor it.  It was so far outside my sheltered, groomed little world that it took my breath away.  How could I say now and he respond as if I said nothing.  Why didn't I kick and scream and bite and run?  Because I was told to be polite and I didn't want to make a scene.  Yet, in not making a scene, my no, while firm and consistent, was completely disregarded.

The next day, I was left shocked, puzzled, desperate to understand what just happened...and then the horror of feelings the pangs of ovulation two days after the assault.

Yes.  I knew him.  I agreed to go on a date with him.  He gave me the creeps but my father was the pastor of the church and his mother was the youth minister.  I was told I had to accept his invitation and I had to be polite.  Go on one day, and then I was off the hook and could find a way to distance myself from him.

No one told me after that day he would just SHOW UP wherever I was, pawing all over me, acting possessive, touching me in ways that made me want to vomit, even in front of my own family.  I still trenched in the polite rule that I would move away, and he would follow.  I would go to the store, and he would suddenly be there.  I would avoid his phone calls, and he would be standing outside my house.  I would ask my parents to quit telling him where I was, and they would shrug their shoulders.  I would get into my locked car, and there would be yet another letter waiting for me.  I would wash my clothes and my underwear would be missing.

He declared that I belonged to him.  He wrote letters daily, and even more than daily, telling me that God had promised him I belonged to him, and I merely needed to realize that truth.

No one told me that if I admitted I was not a virgin, I would be called a liar.  I had exactly two sexual partners before my rape.  One was a long-term, long distance boyfriend for several years.  The other was a long-term boyfriend that I dated for my entire Junior year of high school.  Yet, the minute I admitted I was nota  virgin, I was no longer allowed to say I was raped.  I learned VERY quickly to lie about my past and claim to be a virgin.  It was the only thing that made my rape legitimate.

No matter how many times I told him to leave me alone, he was still THERE.  I got really loud with my no's.  I met and dated another guy, who was the only person who seemed to grasp what was going on.  Yet, I think I overwhelmed him that I was acting out sexually in ways I never did before.  I am forever grateful that that guy protected me from what I didn't understand was going on by being the brakes for both of us.  He was also the only person who seemed to grasp I was being stalked, and how freaked out and scared I was.  He was more than willing to step up and get this creep away from me, but he was the only person in my life who got it, and who was trying to help me.  I had only met him within days of my rape.  He reads my blog.  You know who you are, CM.  Thank you.  Thank you for being the only safe thing in my life after my rape.

Three weeks after the rape, I found out I was pregnant.  It was the second worst day of my life, and my 17th birthday.  It meant I had to tell my parents about the rape, that I so desperately did not want to tell anyone.  I contemplated just getting an abortion, but I didn't know how and I didn't have the money to do so.  I was also fully indoctrinated in the pro-life concept that it's never okay to abort.

I was thrown out of my home.  My father wanted to hide what happened.  My egg donor wanted to get her hands on the baby.  My friend, he had to go back to his life as he had only been local for the summer.  To his credit, he offered to claim the baby, to marry me and to take me back with him if I wanted.  He had known me for three weeks.

They don't tell you that may want to kill yourself after a rape.  They don't tell you that you cannot remember to breath, and everyone and their brother thinks it's their business to demand you tell them what has happened.  They don't tell you that for the rest of your life, people will ask if you were a virgin when you were raped.  What the hell does that have to do with anything?  Does no mean something different because you weren't a virgin?  Absolutely not!  Yet, you will be asked, as if people think they have a right to even ask, much less know the answer to that question.

They don't tell you that you will wake up in cold sweats for years after the assault, reliving the details of that assault all over again, as if it was happening again.  They don't tell you that twenty years later, while in a long-term relationship, you can make love to your husband and STILL trigger back to that moment.  They don't tell you that this trauma is not dependent upon whether you were a virgin, whether you knew your attacker before the event, nor whether you fought loud and hard enough to earn the right to call your assault rape.    This legacy doesn't come because someone deemed your rape legitimate.  It comes from the act of having your own body violated and your control over your body ripped away from you by someone who thinks they had some right to do that to you.

They don't tell you that twenty years later, no matter how much you love the child that came from the nightmare, you can still look at them and see HIM.  They don't tell you that your own child may one day tell you, it would have been okay if you had aborted me.  They don't tell you that love and guilt will forever mingle in that child for you.

They don't tell you that if you don't keep the child, your other children will have to learn about rape so very early as you grapple with how you help them understand you will not get rid of them simply because they know you placed another child for adoption.  My oldest was three the first time she asked me if I was going to get rid of her.  All of my children heard of rape younger than I ever wanted them to hear, simply because it was part of who I am.  On the one hand, it means my children are aware of violence against women in this world.  On the other hand, there are times you simply cannot protect their innocence when you live in the aftermath of sexual assault.

Yes, you will find your strength. You will not be a victim but a survivor, and you will choose your own path and embrace your voice.  But, they don't tell you that it will never leave you.  Sexual assault becomes ingrained into the fiber of who you are, it becomes part of your psyche.  It presents a trauma that can be retriggered the rest of your life, no matter how much you are convinced you are "healed" or "over it."  It's still there. 

I was told to be polite.  I was encouraged to ignore my own instincts and lectured on not embarrassing my parents.  I was never told that you should never be polite when it comes to protecting your body.  You should not care what anyone else thinks.  If your body is threatened, you fight to protect it.

There's something else they don't tell you.  They don't tell you that if you find your voice and speak up, others will follow.  They don't tell you that when you stand up and say I am every woman, others will stand up and say me too.  They don't tell you that you are stronger than this assault, and that you have a right to speak up.

July 17, 1993.  That was the day someone made me a victim.

I can't give you an exact date of when I became a survivor, but I AM a survivor, because he violated my body.  He could not take my soul.  That is mine and only mine.  He hurt me, somewhere deep inside where the scars are permanent, but he did not destroy me.  You are not alone.  If you are one in four, know that.  You are not alone.  And while there is deep trauma and pain, there is also incredibly strength and fortitude inside of you as well.  You are not the sum of what was done to you, but the totality of who you are when you rise up and fight back.

We are your sister, your daughter, your mother, your friend.  We are still here.  We have a right to be safe, and a right to demand society pay attention and know this must stop.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Solidarity--Yes All Women

For four and one half years, I have written strictly about myself, my own journey to find value and truth again, to reclaim who I once was and should love myself to be again.  More and more, I feel the need to stand up and publically speak about social issues, and I have held back because of my deep commitment to keep this blog anonymous.

On this topic, I really cannot.  If you haven't read the news this week, a young man in California killed six people and then himself because he was sexually frustrated by women, having turned them into objects who rejected his quest to have sex.  He also had Asperger's. 

As the mother of two teens with Asperger's, I find this trend bothersome.  One of my Asperger's children is thriving in life, the other is struggling mightily.  Yet, if either were to choose violence, it would not be because they have Asperger's.  My one struggling has told people that because they have Asperger's, they cannot tell the difference between right and wrong.  That is garbage.

Yet, boy or girl, Asperger's or not, every one of my children are aware of violence against women.  Every son I have raised gets the talk about how to respect women's boundaries, just like every daughter gets the talk on how to protect their bodies.  I do this because I was raped.

Mere weeks before I turned 17, I agreed to go on a date with the youth minister's son.  We were supposed to go to the county fair, and while I had icky feelings about him, this was a public place so I thought it would be okay. 

Then, at the last minute, he called because it had rained that day and he wanted to eat dinner and watch a movie at his house instead.  He said he mother would be there.  I was uncomfortable, and my egg donor told me I was being ridiculous and rude.  She pressured me to go, reminding me to not cause a scene and be polite at all costs.

Therefore, I was polite when his other left us alone in the house.  I was even polite when I said no to sex.  I continued to be polite as I repeatedly said no, and eventually I was polite while he ignored me and raped me instead.  I was polite until the next morning when I wasn't in a daze and really realized what he had done to me.

I got pregnant.  I got shipped to the furthest reaches I could be sent and still be in the U.S.  I got told I could not report my rape to the police.  Hell, I even got told by my father that I HAD to give my rapist's mother all of the "gifts" and letters he had left me after he raped me where he repeatedly told me that God had promised him I belonged to him.  I got told that no matter what I said, my father would always know I was partially responsible for my own rape.  I got told that my underwear missing from the drying that was in the unattached garage was just me making things up and overreacting, though four of my best pairs of underwear disappeared.

Meanwhile, my father forced me to give him blow by blow details of my rape, supposedly so he could confront my rapist and have the "facts" which was the most humiliating, re-traumatizing thing he could have ever done.  It was pointless anyway.  I was forbidden from reporting my rape, so I never even had the chance to tell my story to the authorities.  Yet, my rapist told my father that I got on my knees and begged him for sex.

Begged him for sex?  Anyone who knows me knows that that is so far from my personality it is laughable.  Even my father knew it.

So my rapist walked away with no consequences at all.  I ran into a girl a few weeks after my rape, given that I had lived in that town for two months and knew no one prior to my rape.  We compared notes and I learned that I was victim #6.  To the best anyone could tell, I may have been the first he actually raped, but he had certainly tried with two others, one of which he was chased from the house by the girl's father with a gun.  Oh how I wished I had been protected nearly half as much as that girl for years afterward.

So, I talk to my sons about how to never violate any girl's physical boundaries and never, ever rape someone.  I talk to my girls about no means no, and if no is not respected do NOT be polite.  Fight, scream, kick, yell, do whatever you must to protect your body from an assault, even if you know the guy touching you.  I've also taught ALL of my children if they ever see a girl fighting someone off, to step in and help protect her.

I was 16 and I was raped.  I have been haunted by my rape my entire life.

Know what happened to my rapist?  I looked him up last week for some reason.  He got married two years ago, to a girl the same age as the child that was conceived from my rape.  They had a baby last year.  I can only breath a sigh of relief that the baby is a boy.  And I still wonder how many more have there been after me, because there is no way I was his last victim anymore than I was his first.

Yes, all women.  We all face this risk, and we must all learn to protect ourselves.  One in four women are sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.  I am that one in four.  I am not alone. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to pay for it?

The hard reality is that going to graduate school requires money.  Since moving back to the south, I have a volunteer nursing position that I work, but it's heavy on the volunteer.  I love my job, but I won't be making a dime off of it in the near or distant future, even though I would like to continue working it throughout the next four years of graduate studies.

There is always the stand by of student loans.  Certainly if I secure nothing else, then I will use student loans, especially for this first year.  However, I would very much like to avoid more student loan debt.  Given how late in the academic year even my first graduate program made an admission decision (not based upon anything I did, nursing programs appear to run behind other programs for the most part), non student loan financial options are rapidly evaporating.

From the beginning, my intention was to apply for federal scholarship programs for healthcare workers.  There is one for providers that will pay for medical school or nursing practice school.  Then, there is a second one that will pay for nursing studies.  Both of them have a service commitment requirement that says I would have to work in underserviced patient populations for as many years as the scholarships covered. 

The problem is that the admission letter came so late that one of the two scholarships closed while I was putting the application together.  Neither of the programs would let me even start the application process until I had an actual admission in hand.  So, I lost out on the better scholarship.  The second scholarship is need based, which after my income, a severance package and a relocation package all in last tax year, my financial need appears very low, especially if you don't account for the large family (and their crazy, rapidly expanding medical bills again).

I have two days left for the second federal scholarship, the need based priority one, and one of my letters of recommendation is not sending an email link to the professor who keeps trying to help me set it up.  I am very afraid that I am going to miss the deadline on this second scholarship on this problem. 

Today, I scrambled.  I applied for the nursing scholarships at my university, even though the Financial Aid office cannot tell me if they have already been decided though they have not yet been awarded.  I researched other options and found a state nursing scholarship I have to apply for directly from the Board of Nursing.

I also found the graduate school information on assistantships.  There are teaching assistantships for the nursing department.  I truly do not know if they are reserved for the DNP program versus the MSN program, but I am applying for them just the same.

I thought I was through all of the rush and stress once I got my applications in.  We had yet another child crisis hit us and I missed 10 days on hitting the ground running on financial aid options.  Those 10 days may have eliminated the bulk of all of the non loan options available. 

The best option would be a teaching assistantship.  The deadline for those is July 1st.  They don't require recommendations from anyone else, nor are they need based.  They are academic based, which would be fantastic if I hadn't scored such a marginal GRE score when I was sick.  Even so, I think my academic record is strong enough that I should stand at least a shot at these options.  I will apply for those in addition to everything else before Thursday and then I wait and see whether I will be scraping by and racking up more debt or whether I will be able to breath this upcoming year.  Student loans will cover tuition.  It will not cover my costs that I will have to drive to clinicals two days per week and once a week to a health assessment class this fall.

It just seems to be more of the we never, ever get ahead struggle we've had all these years.  I keep reminding myself to stay focused.  In four years, I will be a nurse practitioner and half of these children will be grown.  We WILL get ahead then simply because we will be bleeding out money less and bringing in money more.  It would be fantastic if I could get either a PRN job or something other than student loans to cover graduate school for the next year.  The federal scholarships I can apply for again next spring, just not before then.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Graduate school

Despite all of the work I have done on myself, on reclaiming me, on addressing my very low self esteem, there are days that my self doubt overwhelms me. When I walked away from my sociology program as a 20 year old burn-out and instead enrolled in an Associates in nursing program, it was because I decided I didn't actually want to earn a Masters in Sociology and become a disaster relief coordinator afterall. Instead, I wanted to become a medical provider. However, I did not want to go to medical school. Oh, I could have gone. I had a top-notch GPA, I was doing fine in school, and the medical school where I had a legacy claim through the Legal Maternal Bitch and my sister was begging me to go apply to their program. They contacted me directly and through my sister at least half a dozen times, expressly communicating that they put a high priority for legacy claim students and I was a perfect candidate for their program.

I had two problems with becoming a physician. First, I didn't want to devote over a decade of my life to training, and have to choose to either miss the chance to have a large family, or walk away from that training just so I could have a large family. Second, I had encountered nurse midwives after my rape, who had changed my entire viewpoint on how you approach medicine. I knew if I was going to be an advanced practice provider, it was going to be through the nursing model of care, a model that I felt was far more holistic and saw the patient has a total entity and not the mechanics of specific disease processes. If I had known what an osteopathic doctor was, I probably would have become a DO when I was young. However, by the time I knew about that option, I had long walked away from all of that.

When I went to nursing school, I did so with the full intention of going straight through and becoming a nurse practitioner as quickly as possible. The point of getting the associates first was merely that the associates program had better pass rates on the board, and that working as a RN while completing the rest seemed like a wise financial decision.All of that changed when I met II, and suddenly the idea of a family and motherhood was no longer abstract but attainable and right in front of me. When I first left my career to devote to motherhood, I fully expected to come back in a few years. When it became clear that motherhood was a more long-term career, I incorporated my nursing into that job description by adopting special needs children.

Five years ago, when II destroyed everything about my world, I had to go back to school and back to the idea of a career. I had walked away form nursing and was nearly certain I could not salvage that dream.I considered going to medical school, but the reality that it would require too much sacrifice from my children was too high a price for me to pay. So, I considered sociology/criminal justice.

Yet, the entire time I was earning that bachelor's degree, I had a professor, someone I consider a friend now, who happened to be the academic advisor for the nursing program. He wouldn't leave me alone. He hounded me and challenged me and pushed me that I belonged in nursing, as an advanced practitioner. I told him, more than once, that I had burned that bridge and could not revive it. More than once I re-visted it, called the board of nursing, spoke with the program directors of multiple undergraduate and graduate programs going back over the question yet again--could I go back? He never let up on me for over two years.I found one way in that state to salvage my nursing, but it was going to require I pay for a re-entry program, one I would never qualify for financial aid to cover. I was wiling to ask my sister to help me, even though I would pay for that with more than just a pound of flesh, but it was the only way to salvage my nursing.

Then, Micah crashed and suddenly we were moving states. The new state had none of the requirements the former state had. To go back into nursing, I merely had to take my re-activiated original license from another state and apply for licensure by endorsement. Then, working in the infusion center for 13 months solidified my nursing. While there, I made the choice to go forward with the nursing afterall.

The voice that had badgered me for two years had been replaced by several other voices, NP and RN friends who individually and in one voice continued to hound me that I was meant to follow this path.This spring, I nearly gave up. I backed out of applying for graduate programs...and then changed my mind a mere two weeks before the deadlines.

Crashing my GRE in December because I had taken it while sick had completely sapped my self confidence. Having to push my final four credit hours to the summer term because of financial aid issues had left me weary and frustrated. I was ready to quit, ready to believe I didn't have what it takes to accomplish this dream at all anymore. Despite being told I MET the minimum GRE for the graduate programs, despite having it pointed out that all of the programs gave waivers for the requirement even based upon my GPA, I still wondered if I had what it takes.

Then, when I made that sudden change of decision two weeks before it was all due to be submitted, I made a bold step. If something is worth doing, for me it is always worth doing right. I eliminated the give-me programs from my application pile. Every single school I applied to was a top 100 school in US News & World Reports. One was lower than the other three, but it was also local which brings some distinct advantages despite being lower in the rankings than the other programs overall.

When I sent in my applications, that voice that LMB put into my head when I was so young, that voice that hounds me and tells me I'm never going to be good enough said, "You fool. What made you think you could get into a top level nursing program. You're going to be rejected by all of those programs. Three of those programs were in the top 25 schools and the other was still in the top 100. You couldn't even settle for something slightly lower. You'll fail."

Today, the voice may still hound me. I have four more years ahead of me, and they are going to be even more challenging than what I have already faced. That health assessment instructor who challenged me to do an advanced assessment under her guidance last summer, despite my only taking an undergraduate assessment course was certain that I was capable of palpating a liver, a kidney, and a pancreas. This fall, I am going to have to learn how to do that on my own, without hesitation, and most definitely without freaking out. I'm going to have to learn how to assess patients, how to diagnose conditions, how to treat the whole patient and not just the presenting symptoms.

I am going to have to learn how to actually BE a nurse practitioner.I have to learn because the first of four programs that were all reach schools, that were all 'this could be the best school of them all' sent me a letter. It started with CONGRATULATIONS. With that one word, the last step of this amazing, heartbreaking, strange journey of getting to the rest of my life starts.

In four years, I will hold a Doctorate of Nurse Practice. I will be Doctor II, unless I follow through with a niggling through of changing my name back to my maiden name, but I will still be Doctor. If any of the other four schools send me an acceptance letter, I will have to choose one over another, and at least two of them were clear that they would not make their decisions until next month. Any of these programs would have been a privilege and honor to attend. Any of these programs will make me a doctor in four years. I am in.

Now I have to quell the fear of failure, but never again the fear that I am not good enough to get in.