Tag Archives: exams

canopy climb

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If I had taken a poll of family and friends last night, I’d say judging by most of their photos or comments or posts that yesterday wasn’t the easiest one. It felt like everyone was in a bit of a funk, which makes me wonder about the collective sharing of funk – does every gorgeous summer day feel even more beautiful when it’s backed up by twenty photos of beach sunsets and flip-flopped feet? Does an average day start to sour when everyone posts photos of a quiet still life and a vague reference to a challenging afternoon? I’ve come to really value this circle of friends that laugh (out loud) at the funny vignettes and send virtual hugs at the tough ones. I’ve rallied numerous time to encouraging chants that march down the column below the fifty-third photo of study material piles I’ve posted in seven weeks. I’m grateful, so grateful, for the little connections throughout the day, although I am starting to wonder if all of our (social and life) cycles have started to sync.

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Yesterday was kind of a tough day. I could probably list a dozen or more reasons why I was feeling like that – the days are shorter, and the night begins at four p.m. It was post-election day and pre-grand jury decision in a city that’s been anxious about both. I had another setback with my feet this week, an infection in the injured toe which requires a tough round of antibiotics that leaves me feeling tired and dizzy and with a strong metallic taste in my mouth that does not mix well with my morning coffee. I had an infection of a different sort in my computer at work, and I left work feeling annoyed and exposed. I plodded through the motions of the evening and put myself to bed a little earlier, with a book.

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I’ve been finishing a lot of things lately, which should make me feel strong and capable and energized, but I think I’m really just more exhausted than I realized. I finished a big project at work this week, and sending it off felt exhilarating for a few moments, before I started to temper my excitement with thoughts that it wasn’t good enough or it took too long to finish. I was more excited to show up for my last test than to take it, and more excited to take it than to actually find out if I passed it. Passing earlier tests gave me a a boost of encouragement during the process, but sitting down at the table each night to do the work is the part I’m most proud of. Even I’ve grown tired of the affirmation process.*

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These canopy climb pictures were taken a few weeks ago. I wasn’t at the event, but M and the girls were. I’m not entirely sure who took most of the pictures – it might have been the little one, since she was the only one not old enough to climb.

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I remember when they came home from the climb – they told me how fun it was, and how difficult it was too. They went up thirty or forty or more feet, inching their way up little by little. When I took the pictures off the camera last night, I could remember that afternoon exactly. I remembered the huge list of things I needed to get through that day, and I rushed through them in the hours of quiet I had in the house by myself. I thought about all the times we have to harness up in this life and start the ascent, step over step over step, and I’m starting to wonder if the return back to the ground at the end might be just as valuable as the climb and the peak. My body seems to need this quiet settling, a little time to trace back through the days to see what I missed. Time to transition back to old roles that were temporarily suspended. I learned long ago that transitions are difficult for me, and I’ve become pretty good at tempering expectations when I’m in the middle of them.

But sometimes transitions are tricky to spot, they can sneak up on you in quiet ways, in the change of hours and light and energy. I need to spend a little more time firmly planted on the ground before the next ascent.

…..

*tired perhaps, but still grateful. I’ve passed them all. Thank you all for your endless encouragement and virtual high fives.

piles, piles, everywhere are piles

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October is over. I feel like skywriting that across the clouds. It was a tough, tough month on multiple levels, but November is here! The slate is clean, although nothing else is. Now it’s time to face the piles.

I thought I could keep up with the pace of fall and study for four exams, but it didn’t take me too long to realize that the only way to extract an hour or two each night for the books was to forgo those things I normally would do during those hours between the kids’ bedtimes and my own. The piles started to build and they drove me completely nuts, gathering dust in all the corners. But to start them, to even take a few minutes to straighten up a stack or two, would have been a dangerous thing. The hardest part of sitting down to study was the actual sitting down – walking past all the things that needed to be done and then finding a seat among the mess, ignoring its very presence.

So now I have lots of piles, and lots more time to deal with them. Well, maybe not lots – there are plenty of other commitments to keep us occupied. But my evenings are a bit freer, and I’m resisting the urge to be manic about things. When I can break off a few minutes here and there I start, dustcloth in hand, recycling and trash bags at my side. My dresser is clean again, and there’s a book sitting on it. I read for pleasure again, under the covers, until my eyes are tired. It feels heavenly.

There are piles in my head as well, piles and piles of things I’d like to do. Things I’ve been missing, things I’ve wanted to write about here, things I’ve wanted to make and finish around the house. I have to ease back into things slowly, catch my body up to my head. Testing forced me to but blinders on so that all of those other things that occupy my brainspace wouldn’t be a distraction. Let me tell you – that exercise was the hardest by far, way harder than anything I was tested on. My head doesn’t quiet easily, and now that the blinders are back off, there are so many, many things to dabble in and dance around. I don’t want to jump from project to project. I’ve been operating in a mode of focus and finish, and I think it suits me. I feel strong, I feel capable, I feel organized – despite the chaos of the endless piles and piles around my feet.

toe-nado and other misadventures of late

When I wrote the post entitled “Four More Days”, I imagined them as this sort of gentle winding down ritual as I transition from life-while-testing, to life-post-testing. For starters, the material for this test felt more like a review of information that I already know and understand. And to be completely honest, I was pretty much mentally checked out of the process at this point. Slugging through these exams has stretched my brain a little too much, and my muscles a little too little – my head and my body ache most days. It took me two nights to get back into studying for test seven, then we were out of town for the first weekend, and I hosted two big events as well. Of the thirteen days I gave myself for test preparation, I only cracked a book for half of them. Despite my lack of motivation, I was feeling pretty good about things last week. Which was sort of smug of me I’m now realizing. The universe was watching.

Here’s a quick photo recap of what I did other than study over the past two weeks:

We walked in the Light The Night Walk in memory of my niece.

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Both sets of grandparents came into town for a quick visit and to attend the Grandparents Breakfast at F’s school. I employed the grandmothers for set up and then manned the event on Monday morning.

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I coordinated, baked and then hosted the edible portion of the Open House at F’s school. My committee members were awesome – they ran with the food ideas and the spread looked amazing.

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But I still had to bake, set up, run, and clean up after the event. Five minutes into Saturday morning’s setup, I let a folding table slip and it hit my right big toe like a croquet mallet. I was wearing open toed sandals. It wasn’t pretty.

After a few minutes I regained my composure, and as people started to arrive at the school I pushed my toe thoughts to the back burner. Later that afternoon in my empty house, I pulled out my study materials once again, and noticed that my toe had started throbbing. It had drastically changed colors and the nail looked suspiciously funky. It really started to hurt, and I really started to freak out – imagining a fracture, or some sort of injury or misalignment of my newly reconstructed toe and all its hardware. I’ve been forced to focus on my feet for sixteen months now – fractures and surgeries and boots and rehab – all of it came rushing to the surface. For three hours I tried to take my mind off the pain and the internal destruction but it didn’t work. I finally called M and asked him to come home with the girls. I was a complete disaster by that point – a bundle of pain and frustration and indecision about what to do next.

I called my dad, I called my doctor, and I cried. A lot. I learned later that, as I studied (and sniffled) downstairs, my debacle had a new name with the upstairs crowd. It was dubbed toe-nado, like sharknado, but with less fins and more tears. It might still be a little too soon in my book for that kind of humor, but I’ll admit that it was the perfect storm of pain-stress-hunger-exhaustion in the living room that night.

But then I had a plan. Sunday morning my foot was x-rayed, hardware and bones were intact, and the nail was declared a likely lost cause. I could work with that, and I settled back down for my last day of studying.

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Monday morning I was positively giddy with excitement about the test. I was singing out loud, dancing around the house (on one foot), planning out my afternoon and evening after the test. I skipped into the testing center and was stopped at the door by the crowd. A crowd of unhappy people.

Here’s the CliffsNotes verson: The testing center upgraded the computers in one lab and their software throughout on Sunday. They were physically working on it past midnight, and the system was not working at 6:30 Monday morning. So I was seeing a crowd of people that had been waiting for hours, and a staff person was debriefing them on the situation. They let everyone know that they were trying to resolve the situation, and they would stay until midnight again if necessary to let everyone get through their tests. I plopped myself on the floor in the corner for the wait because there was no way I was leaving. Two hours later I was on my third or fourth computer – none would advance beyond the first page of the test. Thirty minutes after that I was on a working one… until the screen went completely black for several seconds mid test, and I thought briefly that all my work had been lost.

It returned, but the screen continued to appear and disappear every few moments. I kept going, even when they asked if I wanted to stop. I was on a mission by that point. I was finishing that test no matter what. They could blindfold me, I didn’t care. I was ready to be done.

I honestly have no idea how I did, or if the issues I was having on the screen and the other larger issues of the testing center will affect my final score, but I feel pretty good about my efforts. Regardless, reports have been filed and I’ll be able to retake the test again at no additional charge (and hopefully as soon as possible).

For right now I’m focusing on the fact that I’m done. Really done. I set a goal – seven of them in fact – and I did it. It wasn’t always pretty or graceful, but quite honestly, most things rarely are.  This life is sticky-sweet and messy; things change, plans change, sometimes dark and smashed beyond repair. God knows we understand that in our family better than we ever have before. All we can do is show up and sit tight, work through the dark spots, bring as much beauty to the table as we are able, and count ourselves lucky beyond lucky to be able to take a seat.