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Nurse Mo wants you to ace nursing school!

WELCOME! Maybe you’re here because you’re starting nursing school, dreaming of nursing school or just getting ready to buckle down again for another semester. This blog is so much more than a blog, there’s also a ton of FREE educational resources!

At the top of the page, you see a menu bar with some headers…explore your heart out because this is where you’ll find notes related to nursing school, printable reference sheets, study aids, goodies to buy, a link to my e-book and loads more.

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TBT: First Round of Exams OVER!

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Greetings, Throwback Thursday fans! As has become the tradition around here, each week I share a blog post from my nursing school days. Enjoy!

Here’s the breakdown for how my first round of exams went…the first tests are always the most stressful since you don’t really know what to expect. So, in that regard I am very happy that they are over and done with!

First of all, a shout-out to Paige who calmed me down before my Anthropology test. I’ve gotten so accustomed to taking science exams with ONE CORRECT answer, that I was a little freaked out by the open-ended nature of this exam. I ended up scoring a perfect 100% on that one! Whew!

Stats is also going very well. The highet grade for the multiple-choice portion was 41…which several people earned. The highest grade for the free-response part where you draw charts, do all kinds of statistical analysis stuff was 76…again, several people got 76. But how many people do you think got 41 AND 76? At least one!!! :-)

And lastly, chemistry. I have just one thing to say to Robert Burns Woodward, the “Father of Organic Chemistry”: You can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

The first exam did not go as well as planned…I do not want to be one of those students who blames the professor when they don’t do well, so I will try to keep my belly-aching to a minimum. With that said, the general class consensus is that how the prof told us to prepare for the exam did not actually help. I spent hours and hours doing homework questions and felt rather unprepared for the test. The good news is, that 85% is the cutoff for an A…so I am still in the running. Whew!

In other news, hubby got a conditional offer from a fire department near Fresno. Can you say “commute” and “not-moving-to-Fresno” and “have-a-nice-drive-honey”? (originally posted 10/5/08)

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Happy “Start of the Semester” :-)

It’s the very best time of the year…the start of a new semester! All those beautiful pristine notebook pages, the fresh pack of pens, the calendar that looks so promising with all that available space for study sessions and “to-do” items. Take a moment and just let it all sink in.

Your life, as you know it, is over. (Joking…sort of!)

If this is your first semester of nursing (or pre-nursing), then realize that these first couple of weeks are quite the adjustment period. I remember one of the biggest challenges my classmates had was just knowing what class to go to, when to go, where to go, and what supplies to bring. We had something like 7 different classes first semester, so it was a bit daunting. Luckily, I had my Mega Syllabus and Master Calendar to help me keep everything straight. Do you have yours???

If you are returning for another semester, then you might be less excited now that you know what you’re in for. How about I be excited enough for both of us? Maybe this is the semester when you finally get to see a baby born, or the clinical rotation in the ICU that you’ve been dying to do. Maybe you’re super into psych nursing and can’t wait to spend time connecting one-on-one with your clients…I’m sure there’s something to get excited about (even if it is just marking off the days to graduation.)

If I could choose just ONE piece of advice to give new nursing students…I’d say RELAX…put the competitiveness behind you and focus instead on collaboration. Sure,

And, newsflash, this is what will help you the most when you’re out there on the job as well.

So with that…go forth and be awesome. Enjoy this next chapter in your life…and maybe reply in the comments and let me know what you’re excited about this semester!

Be safe out there!

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TBT: Anxiety Level 4

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Well lookie here! It’s Throwback Thursday time again! Each week I share a blog entry from my nursing school days. In this post, I’m stressing big time about the application process. I just want to go back and tell myself to take a chill pill, but knowing me I would have laughed at myself and stressed anyway. I never learn.

With the application deadlines approaching, I have noticed my anxiety level slowly inching up day by day by day. It didn’t help matters at all to find out yesterday that the university does not yet have all my transcripts. So, I’ve been sending rush orders (when oh when will I ever learn) and just hoping things arrive as they should.

Plus, today is a double-whammy test day…O-Chem (did not do as well as I’d hoped…boo) and Stats. My English class is coming to a close in the next couple of weeks or so and I will be SO GLAD to have those tasks out of my hair!

You know that feeling when you feel like you’re either on the verge of crying or throwing up? That’s kinda how I feel today…the three coffees I’ve had so far probably haven’t helped. I think I will breathe a BIIIG sigh of relief once all my apps are in and I can just RELAX. Of course, then the waiting will drive me crazy, but it will be a different kind of crazy altogether. (originally posted 9/30/08)

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TBT: Essays, CPR and gadgets

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For this week’s TBT, we look back at the nursing school application essay I wrote way back when. Awww….

My Essay, CPR and My First Nursing Gadget!

So, I thought I would show you guys my essay that I wrote for one of the programs I am applying to. Let me know if, in the words of Meredith Grey, you would “Pick me…choose me!”

When I graduated from college in 1994, I wanted a career that was fun. With this goal in mind, I pursued a career in advertising. Now that I am older, my priorities have shifted and I now aspire to have a career that is a direct extension of my values. It is of great importance to me that what I choose to spend my time and energy doing is of value to someone besides just me. I want my existence on this earth to matter to someone. I want to know that someone’s day was better because I was there. I think we all have a responsibility to each do our part to make the world a better place. Spending the past fifteen years writing advertisements has, in hindsight, not afforded me the personal growth and enrichment that I find so valuable. It is my desire to now devote my energy to a more meaningful career, and there is nothing more meaningful for me than caring for others.

To me, nursing is an irresistible collage of compassion and science. It blends the fascinating complexity of the human body with our most fundamental need to care for one another. Being a nurse will grant me a front row seat at some of the most monumental moments in life. It will allow me to witness both birth and death, courage and recovery, joy and sorrow. I cannot envision an honor more great, a purpose more noble or an adventure more compelling than being a nurse.

On another note, got my Healthcare Provider CPR card today. Whoo-weee! Though it would stink if someone actually collapsed in front of me, it would be pretty cool to try my new skills. The class was supposed to go from 8-12, but thankfully I got out around 11:30-ish. I had a test at 1:00 in Anthropology so I was able to grab a quick bite at the crepe place next door to the college beforehand. As for the test…I think I killed it. Stay tuned to find out!

Annnnd, I am happy to report that I am now the proud owner of a red Littmann Master Classic II Stethoscope! My husband got it for me through his job, so I am excited! I hear these are fabulous ‘scopes, and I’ve already been listening to the heart and lungs of anyone who will hold still. Of course, I have no idea what I’m doing, but it feels very “nurse-y” and I like it! (originally posted 9/27/08)

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Why you should care about capnography and ETCO2

Capnography and ETCO2 monitoring is one of those super cool things that seem so simple at first blush, but that can really provide you with a lot of very useful data. But first, what the heck is it?

Capnography is a way to monitor carbon dioxide levels using waveform technology. See? I told you it was super cool! Why is this important? Think back to your gas exchange physiology…what is it that drives your need to breathe? Is it low oxygen? Nope. Is it high carbon dioxide? Yep! So, it stands to reason that monitoring the MAIN thing that spurs the respiratory drive would tell us loads about how our patient is doing in the ol’ gas exchange department. When you use capnography to monitor your patient, you will be looking at the “end-tidal CO2″ (ETCO2). Your “end-tidal” (as it is often called) is the amount of carbon dioxide present at the end of each breath. Staying with me? This handy number and its corresponding waveform can tell you a lot about your patient, and usually you’ll see it on the ETCO2 BEFORE you see it on your pulse oximetry. Now we’re beyond super-cool…we’re moving into Mega Cool territory here.

For the purposes of this blog post, we’re just going to cover the highlights of ETCO2…enough to “get you by” in your adult critical care rotation. If you want to jump down the rabbit hole, there’s a ton of great (and complex!) information at www.capnography.com, a really comprehensive and nurse-oriented website at Covidien, and a nifty article by the AACN here.

Normal end-tidal CO2 ranges from 35-45, and alterations can basically tell you quickly if your patient is breathing adequately. Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of alterations in ETCO2 levels…to see examples of waveforms, check out the Covidien website, it’s awesome!

  • A  decrease in your ETCO2 with a partial loss of your waveform: consider a partial airway obstruction (airway collapse or secretions in ET tubing if intubated)
  • A gradual decrease in ETCO2 to < 35 mmHg: consider hyperventilation as the cause
  • A sudden drop to a very scary low number and a loss of the waveform: apnea…are they even breathing? Better go check!
  • An increase in ETCO2 (above 45 mmHg): air trapping such as in bronchospasm or asthma. The waveform takes on a distinctive “shark fin” appearance when this occurs. Increased ETCO2 can also be due to rebreathing of CO2
  • A gradual increase in ETCO2: consider hypoventilation due to sedation

Ok, now we get to the absolutely coolest thing you can use ETCO2 and capnography for…CPR! Adequate, excellent, hard-and-fast CPR will produce ETCO2 levels that are closer to normal (20 to 30-ish), while lack of CPR (or really bad CPR) will produce ETCO2 levels that are practically nonexistent. The point is, keeping an eye on your ETCO2 during CPR will let you know if the compressions are adequate AND will alert you when there is a return of spontaneous circulation…your ETCO2 will suddenly perk right up to normal levels. Now how amazingly cool is that?

I realize this just touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to capnography and ETCO2…but when you see it in your critical care rotation you’ll have a basic understanding of why it’s being used and what it can tell you. If the subject interests you, check out those links and impress the heck out of everyone you see (even the respiratory therapists!).

Be safe out there!



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TBT: Application Craziness

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Hey, it’s Thursday, and we all know what that means! A time-traveling peak back to my nursing school days. This post highlights the nursing school application process. How fun!

As part of my journey to becoming an RN one must test one’s patience and good nature by undergoing the application process. Here is what mine entails:

1) Ordering transcripts for RUSH delivery because I can’t do anything in advance, that would make too much sense!

2) Ordering catalog descriptions for all pre-reqs and co-reqs that I took out of state

3) Taking the TEAS exam (scored in the 99th percentile!)

4) Taking a test to prove my reading proficiency (killed it!)

5) Getting CPR certified…not just the regular CPR, but one for healthcare professionals (doing that tomorrow)

6) Meeting with counselors at two different colleges

7) Traisping all over campus getting my out-of-state pre-reqs signed off by the dean of each department

9) Re-taking the TEAS exam (first time was a charm…why mess with a good thing?)

10) Writing an essay about why I want to be an RN (daaaamn good essay!)

10) Studying for and taking the GRE (December 1st…gulp)

Most of this has been accomplished in the past couple of weeks, so yeah…I’ve been pretty busy.

On top of that I am taking four classes this semester…my final pre-reqs for my top-pick BSN school: A survey course of o-chem and bio chem, Stats, English Composition, and Cultural Anthropology. The good news is, my English class is half a semester, so I’m almost finished! I just have one more big paper to write, and then my final assignment is to re-write my first essay…cake! October 15th is also the deadline for the rest of my apps, so come October 16th, I will be feeling a lot less stress! I have decided that taking my A&P II class over the summer was actually a really good thing…now all my other classes seem so sloooooow. I needed a break!

So here is the application plan…

Top pick: State school by my house…they have a regular BSN and an Accelerated Second Bachelor’s…Either one would be great, but I’m kind of scared of the accelerated part, so I’m hoping for the two-year BSN.

Second pick: Local ADN program that works in conjunction with an awesome local hospital.

Third pick: ADN programs at various CCs in the area.

Decision dates are around the end of November…so we’s gots some waitin’ to do ya’ll. (originally posted 9/26/08)

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TBT: Organic Chemistry

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Happy Throwback Thursday! Each week I re-post a blog entry from my nursing school days. In this post we are revisiting the joy that is Organic Chemistry. Have fun!

So what is 2,4 Dimethylhexane anyway?

With opening lines like that I plan to be ASTOUNDING at cocktail parties. So obviously this semester I am taking Organic Chemistry, but before you start freaking out let me clarify that this is a survey course of O-Chem and Biochem…so it’s not as horrific as straight O-Chem. I’ve heard it’s actually not that bad…AND, we get to make soap! Cool!

The other classes I am taking are: Introductory Statistics, Cultural Anthropology and English Composition. So, yeah…I’m pretty busy. I am also getting ready to start filling out my school applications…think positive thoughts for Sac State! I am totally nervous about Sac State…mainly because I do not get any of the extra points for things like knowing Mandarin or living in abject poverty. I may get two points since my parents didn’t graduate from college…but I’m so old…does that even count anymore?

Plus, since I went to college in Kansas, will they accept all my transfers? Totally stressed!!!!! On top of that I have to take the TEAS (Test of Essential Academic Skills) on the 11th, and the GRE on the 21st or so. Am I ready for the GRE? NO! I have taken the TEAS once before, but I think I can do better score-wise. I got a 94.1 and I’m aiming for a 96%.

I am sooo ready for winter vacation! Tom and I are thinking of going to Oregon for a few days skiing at Mt. Ashland, a few days at the beach and a few days in the town of Ashland. Since I’ll be starting at Sac State in January (positive thinking!), then this will be our last vacay for awhile.

Not sure if I updated ya’ll on my A&P class from this summer. Totally rocked it. Another A 😉 Though that class was horrendously compacted and the lectures were insanely long there is one good thing about it…now even my two hour lectures seem amazingly short! Yay for that! (originally posted 9/3/08)

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Product Review: Focus on Wellness

One of the things nursing students struggle with is staying healthy when life, school, work, family, studying, school, clinical, school is just so darn busy! I am a big believer in taking care of yourself (if you don’t believe me, see this post), and over the past couple of years have focused on revamping my entire lifestyle into one focused on vitality and wellness. Here are a few products I use daily that keep me going in the right direction (and away from the gallon of ice cream someone left in my freezer…haha!)

We all knew chronic stress is bad bad bad for you. Not only does it lead to high levels of Screenshot 2015-07-26 15.09.24inflammation, but it can wreak havoc on even the most youthful nurse causing unsightly breakouts and even hair loss! I am absolutely IN LOVE with this product (and trust me, I’ve tried ’em all!). Made with a mixture of biotin and a bunch of other “good-for-you” vitamins and minerals, Hair Skin Nails took my hair from super thin and scraggly to hair that’s getting thicker and stronger every day. My hair stylist noticed an improvement in my hair within thirty days of using this stuff! Due to a very unfortunate illness-related hair loss, I cut my hair into a very short pixie and this product saved me! My hair is now as thick as ever and almost to my shoulders. I couldn’t be happier! For more info and pics, click here!

I love love love getting in lots of greens each day. But sometimes I’m just too busy to Screenshot 2015-07-26 14.55.48create a delicious kale salad, so that’s where these babies come in. While powdered greens might sound kind of gross, they are actually quite tasty! You can find powdered greens at any health food store, and of course my favorite shopping center Amazon. Add to smoothies to boost your nutrition or just mix with water and gulp it down….tastes much better than you think! I think this orange dreamsicle flavor is my new favorite, but I’ve got some watermelon in the pantry I can’t wait to try! Having my greens is how I start each and every morning…a blast of natural superfood nutrition on an empty stomach and WHAM…I am ready to tackle whatever comes my way.

You may not think that your personal care products play a role in keeping you healthy, but they can certainly play a role in keeping you sick. Traditional deodorants are full of chemicals, and while you may be totally fine with this (no judgment here!) I prefer a more natural Screenshot 2015-07-26 15.17.47approach. The problem with the natural approach is that it usually isn’t very effective! That’s where Primal Pit Paste comes in! This stuff is amazing…absolutely amazing. I put it on this morning before going to the gym for a killer workout on a hot day and still smell fresh as a daisy. Seriously. Plus I love that I’m not smearing chemicals into my pores multiple times a day. And, because it’s not an antiperspirant, my skin still breathes and does what it needs to do to release whatever needs to be released when I sweat. My sweat just happens to smell pretty darn good, actually. If you love natural beauty and skin care products as much as I do…you’ll love this stuff! Don’t be scared of the price tag…since  you only use a pea-sized amount every day, this little tub can last a couple of months. Totally worth it and totally delicious smelling! Who doesn’t want to smell delicious?

How many nursing students have trouble sleeping at night? I remember waking up from Screenshot 2015-07-26 15.31.34dreams about bone landmarks when I was studying A&P…how do you get back to sleep after that? This app, called Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson, is what lulls me into LaLa Land on those nights when my brain just won’t shut off. This guy has the MOST RELAXING voice and he takes you on a guided meditation to help you shut down your overactive neurons and relax all the tension in your body starting at your toes and going all the way up to your forehead. Sometimes I feel like I’m having a secret romance with Andrew because he talks to me more at night than my husband does…haha. You can download Andrew’s apps in the App Store or check out his goodies on his website. Get the Zzzzz’s you need so you can refresh and recharge!

What do you do to stay healthy, rested, relaxed and sane? Share in the comments!

Be safe out there!

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Dealing with nurse jerks and bullies

nurse bullies

Nursing school is stressful when things go as planned. Throw a bully or total jerk into the mix and the stress-o-meter can go into overdrive. I remember the first time I encountered a nurse bully and I have spent an immeasurable amount of time thinking of what I could have said (notice I don’t say what I “should” have said). I am just so thankful that this particular nurse was not working on the unit I was assigned for clinical, so after our brief encounter I didn’t have occasion to ever see her again (though I sometimes wish I would, just to make use of all the things I “could” have said…haha).

I was a 2nd semester student, bright-eyed and full of excitement for my first day of Advanced Med Surg clinical rotation. There was something so expectant and hopeful about second semester clinicals. No longer a complete newbie, I was looking forward to “putting it all together” and really working on my time management and critical thinking. Plus I had the SWEETEST clinical professor who was such a calming and nurturing presence, it was exactly what I needed to keep me from going into a nerve-induced wackadoo psycho spinout of pandemonium. Anyway, the point is, I was really excited about this rotation. I was walking with my nurse buddy, Collie, up the steps of the main entrance when a nearby nurse said in a snide voice, ‘“Here come the students.” I was stung with the amount of venom in her voice and surprised. Wasn’t she once a student herself? Instead of making a snappy comeback about how amazing it was the she had emerged from her mother’s vagina with her RN license in hand, I instead just said something along the lines of, “Yep…first day of clinical” and smiled and went on my way. But inside I was seething, and thus spent the whole day thinking of snappy comebacks I knew I’d never have the nerve to say.

Even today, I still cannot fathom the source of this woman’s disdain. I love working with students. They’re so eager and ask such great questions. They usually jump at the chance to do whatever they can to help and are so appreciative…what’s not to like? But this nurse isn’t the only one who was a total jerk. There was a charge nurse on a medical floor who was notorious for not liking to work with students. The rumor was she took those days off so that she wouldn’t have to be there during our clinical days. She was, however, there on the day before clinical…the day we would arrive to the hospital to choose our patients. I knew I would have to deal with this woman so I approached it as I would any workplace jerk. Here are a few tips on dealing with bullies, jerks, and all-around unpleasant people:

  1. Understand that there’s likely a reason for this person’s disdain. Perhaps they have had bad experiences with students in the past. Accept it and move on. It’s not you, it’s just an unfortunate situation and you shouldn’t take it personally.
  2. Be direct and professional in your dealings with them. Don’t waste their time with chit-chat or rambling questions. Your goal is not to get them to like you. Get to the point. If nothing else, they’ll appreciate that you mean business.
  3. Be courteous in your communication and demeanor. Maybe they roll their eyes when you approach, or groan inwardly when they see you are about to ask a question. Nevermind that. Say, “Excuse me. Do you have a moment to _________.” Then say “Thank you” and move on.
  4. Bite your tongue. Yes, you may have all kinds of snappy comebacks percolating in your head, but this is not the time to use them. Take the high road, though it would be really interesting to ask, “How did you deal with bullies and jerks when you were a student?” It’s a legitimate question and just might make someone stop and think…use sparingly though!
  5. Lead by example. Get in there and do some work…be helpful, do things before they’re asked, work your tail off and focus on your patients.

You may also encounter bullies among your colleagues as well. Maybe it’s a professor or another student. When it’s a professor, things get MUCH tricker as you are essentially dealing with an individual who holds power over you. Though every situation is different, here are a few things that apply across the board:

  1. Try to determine where the behavior is stemming from…is it prejudicial, is it because they heard a rumor they believed to be true, do you remind them of their daughter-in-law who they can’t stand, was there a miscommunication between the two of you somewhere along the way? Maybe they’re just a jerk, and sometimes that’s just all it is…unfortunately you can’t fix jerks.
  2. Keep your communication and interaction with the individual in question completely professional. Do not add fuel to the fire.
  3. Document. Document. Document. Document everything…when you turned in assignments, every email sent/received, document anything and everything. Plan to spend a little time summarizing conversations in a journal (especially if they are related to expectations such as an assignment or project). Keep a log of offending behavior including the date, time, location, any witnesses and precipitating factors.
  4. If the situation gets out of control…either it’s causing you stress or affecting your grades, you need to take further action. One step to consider is requesting a meeting with the professor and an uninterested third party to act as mediator. Describe your perception of the bully’s behavior and give him/her a chance to explain, achieve understanding or even apologize. If you feel this would make the situation MORE volatile, then you have no choice but to go to a trusted advisor and meet with them privately about your situation. If it’s another faculty member, s/he may have insight you do not possess and can be an invaluable resource for you. If the you-know-what really hits the fan, then your next course of action would be to approach your bully’s superior (preferably with your advisor present) to discuss the issues.

If your bully is another student, my best advise would be to ignore them, take the high road and avoid engaging them at all costs. With any luck they’ll lose interest when they realize you’re not an interesting target. If the behavior continues and affects your emotional wellbeing or your performance, then do all the things you would do if dealing with a bully professor.

Have you encountered bullies and jerks on your path to become a nurse? How did you deal with it? Leave your reply in the comments or shoot an email to straightanurse@gmail.com.

Be safe out there!


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TBT: Call me Super Nerd

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It’s that time again! Each Thursday, I dig up an old nursing school blog post for you guys…like an archeologist of doom. Haha. Enjoy!

I will be the first to admit that I am having The Most Un-Summer Summer Ever. I am taking the second component to Anatomy & Physiology and it is surprising how things like this just take over your life. One minute I’m chatty and interesting at parties and the next I’m only able to discuss lymph nodes and afterload. Riveting.

At this point I am halfway through the class…we have our third exam next Thursday, then there’s only one more “regular” exam…the last one is take-home, I’m thinking because it’s given just a couple of days after text #4 and there’s no way to assimilate all the information in that short of time. Plus, the final is optional, so as long as I do well on my next two tests, then I can kind of skate for the final week or so of class. So, that means only 2.5 more weeks of super-intense A&P. Yippeeeee!

So right now we’re studying the circulatory system, having finished up on the heart last week. I have to say that this stuff is much more interesting than I thought it would be…just the regulation of blood pressure alone is really really interesting. So, the good news is that even though I’m borING I am not at all borED. For this chapter, the main challenge is memorizing most of the arteries and veins of the body and being able to recite a pathway, say from the ascending aorta to the anterior tibial artery. I’m doing pretty good on all the extremities, it’s the trunk that is the most confusing…there are a lot of vessels in that area! I’m almost got the arteries down, though…and will start memorizing the veins probably tomorrow. Again, I am just riveting at parties.

What else is new? My hubby is interviewing with a fire department in the armpit of California, and knowing our luck this will be the one that he lands. Plus, only 5 guys showed up to the initial cattle-call interview and they’re hiring 3 or so. So, compared to odds of about 100 to 1, this is pretty good. The only thing I can think of to keep myself sane is that I’ll be so busy with nursing school that I won’t notice what an armpit I’m living in…is this the case? Anyone? I don’t even want to THINK about what would happen if I didn’t get into a program…that would be really not good with a capital R-N-G.

Ok, off to read all my other favorite blogs…wasting time when I should be studying is one of my guilty pleasures! (originally posted 7/8/08)

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