Brain and body boot camp

So much to say, so little time!  I just completed my first week of dietetics classes.  My career exploration over the past 6 months (and really over the past year, if you count the PA school detour) led to this point.  I’m about as sure as I can be that this is a good decision, maybe 98% certain (and yes, that 2% unsure is really scary for me!).

Anyhow, I am enrolled part-time at Fontbonne University.  Over the next three years, I will be completing the junior- and senior-level dietetics coursework (9-11 hours/semester), followed by a year-long internship (unpaid and you pay for the privilege) before I can sit for the R.D. exam.

I plan to continue working part-time, so classes plus paid work will be a full-time job.  My current coursework is pretty basic, which is okay, because getting back into the swing of being a student, and balancing work, school, and home, will be enough of a mental challenge for now.

On the physical side of things, I am on campus three days a week, and I plan to bike for as many of those trips as possible.  The 15-mile round-trip bike ride is much more than I’ve been doing recently, since most of my weekly “errand” rides are within a two- to three-mile radius of our home.  Fortunately, the weather gods have been smiling on St. Louis, which has made the bike commuting quite pleasant, if not entirely easy (so far, the trip home always seems easier than the trip there).

In case the additional 45 miles of biking a week weren’t enough, Matthew and I just started another aerial silks class.  It took us awhile to find something that worked with our schedules, but after a 5+ month hiatus following the Intro Silks class, we began Silks 1 last week.  I was pretty nervous going into it, but Intro Silks, plus some open gym sessions, evidently drilled things into our brains and muscles fairly well.

Our first Silks 1 class also marked the first time we traveled to Bumbershoot by bike.  Despite being a perfectly bikeable [just a hair over] four miles away, the timing and weather conditions during the winter session consigned us to car trips (or walking plus bus for me, a couple of times).  So in addition to the extra biking to school, I’ll be getting an additional 8.5 miles on the bike with this.

This sudden increase in activities will leave me less time for writing, but I am using Twitter and Instagram more (yes, I may be a bit addicted to my four-month-old smart phone), so follow me there if you haven’t already!


All the biking

I just returned from my first (of many?) bicycle trips to Fontbonne University.  I am in the process of enrolling in their dietetics program, though it’s not yet a done deal.

Anyhow, it would have been 15 miles round-trip, but on my way home I went an extra mile out of my way to bypass a stopped-on-the-tracks train (see reality of delay).  Definitely farther than I’m used to riding these days, especially in warmer temps, and very full sun on the way home!

The past week has been all about the biking (78 miles total, which is a lot for me these days).  Last Thursday, I biked to the store to get some supplies for Saturday.


On Friday, G and I biked to his school for some end of summer school festivities.  After seeing him take to this [much too small] bike on the school playground, I joked that maybe we just needed to get him a pink bike.


It was pretty hot when we biked home (he was on the tag-along), but he was a trooper.  He took a great nap that afternoon!

Saturday was a scorcher, which made it perfect for the World Naked Bike Ride.  I decided that after two years of the blue tutu, I needed to change things up a bit.


“Lady of the Lane” refers to lane control, as I explained to a few inquiring minds throughout the course of the evening.

‘Twas another great WNBR in StL — always sad to see the ride come to an end!  We did continue the festivities at a lovely after-party hosted by some friends, where we were joined by additional bikey friends, some who rode, and some who didn’t participate in the ride.

We probably covered 25 miles in the course of getting to the ride, the ride itself, and then back home, and on Sunday, I was okay with having a little bike break.

It wasn’t a complete break, though.  On Saturday afternoon, I assembled the Hooptie for Big Blue, and we installed it on Sunday morning (the installation was MUCH easier than the assembly).

Unfortunately, we discovered a big oil stain under the rear wheel — for whatever reason, the internal hub was leaking.  I decided riding the bike in that condition might damage the hub (maybe equivalent to driving a car around without any transmission fluid?), so other than a tiny Hooptie test ride, Big Blue is out of commission.


We removed the rear wheel (thank goodness for YouTube tutorial videos!), and I dropped it off at The Hub yesterday.  I’m hoping we have it back in time for my family’s upcoming visit — I have big plans for all of us to go on a bike ride, but Big Blue is an important part of being able to accommodate the whole group (five adults and two kids).

On Tuesday, G and I covered a good bit of ground, including a lab visit for routine blood lead testing.  He did great and was all smiles afterward.


That afternoon marked G’s first trip to Tower Grove Park (~3.5 miles away) on “Green Bike” (i.e., the tag-along).  He was very excited because it also marked his first time riding Green Bike on Kingshighway — we just used it for a short stretch, during which he pedaled along singing, “We’re flying; we’re flying!”

Last night, Matthew and I biked to the second-to-last Whitaker music fest at MoBot.  (Next week, we are hosting a Cycling Social ride for the final concert of the season.)

And that brings us up to my morning adventures.  I was a might disappointed to arrive on the Fontbonne campus and, after a bit of searching, find this less-than-inspiring bike rack:


You have to weave through parked cars and then traverse the rocky surface to access it.


The longtail might have been in danger of getting hit by car doors.  After my appointment, I did stumble across some nicer racks . . .

20150723_094747. . . though clearly they are not expecting too many bicycle commuters.  There is a covered walkway to the left in the above pic, and I would love to see the bicycle parking covered as well.  Secure, convenient, and well-designed bike parking is an important piece of encouraging bicycling as a mode of transportation.

On my return trip, I was plenty ready to be back home and out of the sun.  All was well until I encountered this:


Not only did the train come to a stop, it actually started rolling backwards for a bit (we were also delayed here on the way to G’s school last week).  After walking up to the tracks and confirming that the end was NOT in sight, I resigned myself to lengthening my trip a bit.  Fortunately, as a savvy cyclist, I had the skills I needed to easily navigate the reroute (east on Manchester to south on Kingshighway to west on Shaw), which included construction-related lane closures and the oh-so-special gutter bike lane on Manchester (I chose the travel lane and motorists were able to easily pass me using the center turn lane).

What color is my parachute???

As I mentioned in my PA school post, I spent some time with a career coach, as well as Richard Bolles’ What Color is Your Parachute? this spring.

I looked into paid career coaching services, but a friend recommended checking out what was available to university alumni at no charge.  I settled on that route as a first try — the only thing I had to lose was a bit of time.

The first meeting with the career counselor was rather free-form, bringing her up to speed with my career path to date: training, responsibilities, work settings, likes and dislikes, etc.

Before our second meeting, I completed the Strong Interest Inventory and shared the results of a previous Myers-Briggs test, and we discussed the results in our second meeting.

My Myers-Briggs type: ISFJ.  I am VERY strong for I (introvert vs. extrovert) and J (judging vs. perceiving), somewhat strong for S (sensing vs. intuition), and moderate for F (feeling vs. thinking).  These results are from several years ago, but your Myers-Briggs type tends to hold fairly steady.

New to me was the Strong Interest Inventory®, which has six “themes.”  The Strong Inventory defines themes as “broad interest patterns that can be used to describe your work personality.”  Your interests can change over time, so results here could vary between time points (in contrast to the Myers-Briggs).

My three highest “themes”: Investigative (moderately high), Realistic (moderate), Conventional (moderate).  Artistic and Social were also moderate, just a bit lower than the others.  “Enterprising” was my one “low” theme (so opening my own business would likely not be a good choice unless I had a business partner who ranked high for this).

Interestingly, I had a lot of “moderate” on the Strong Interest Inventory, and very little that was truly “strong.”  I’m not quite sure what to make of that . . . .

The program then uses your highest two or three interests to suggest occupations that are traditionally high in those interest areas.

My Top 10 “Strong” Occupations:

  1. Health Information Specialist
  2. Computer and IS Manager
  3. Dietician
  4. Production Worker
  5. Dentist
  6. Pharmacist*
  7. Respiratory Therapist
  8. EMT
  9. Vocational Agriculture Teacher
  10. Farmer/Rancher

So, there’s a clear bent toward something health and/or medical (1, 3, and 5-8) with some other random things thrown in there (vocational ag teacher???).

In addition to meeting with the career counselor, I also worked through some of the exercises in the Parachute book, which led to the creation of the petals for my flower (I’m still unclear on how, exactly, a parachute is involved; maybe it was used in place of the flower in a previous edition of the book?).  Anyhow . . .

My Parachute Flower

**If you have any ideas that pop into your head when looking at my flower, as far as career options that I may not have considered, please feel free to share!**

So.  I guess I’m at the “What Now?” point.  I’ve done all of the paper and pencil stuff, all of the research that can be done from the comfort of my own home — time to get up and out and talk to and shadow some people — but who?

I think my ideal occupation would be a health/wellness coach located IN a physician’s office/medical practice.  Someone to whom physicians refer patients.  Unfortunately, there is really no set-up for this in our current medical/health insurance model.  A dietician in a medical practice is probably the closest I could come in our current system.

Dietetics IS a strong contender.  To become a registered dietician (RD), I’d have to complete some additional nutrition/dietetics coursework as well as a year long dietetic internship (I explored this route when I started grad school 10 years ago, and I think it would be around 10 classes; I already have all of the science prereqs, as well as enough nutrition coursework to qualify for many “nutritionist” positions).

I’m also wondering if I should look at epidemiology.  It would use a lot of my existing public health training and knowledge, and I could probably take a few more classes and try to find an entry-level job.

In looking at the “top ten” list from the Strong Inventory, the other thing that might be worth exploring is respiratory therapy.  It’s not something I’ve ever considered, and my gut reaction is that it’s not quite what I want, but I also only have a vague idea of what would be involved.

So that’s that.  I’ve done a decent bit of work, but there’s still more to do before investing time and money in a specific path.

 *My mom always said she thought pharmacy would be a cool career; she’s probably saying, “I told you so,” right now — mother knows best???


PA school: And now, the rest of the story

In mid-September, I wrote this post, in which I debated applying to Physician Assistant (PA) school.  And then, radio silence . . . .

I decided to go ahead and apply, despite knowing that applying late in the game would work against me.  Since I didn’t know what the outcome would be, I wanted to keep my options open.  Writing more about applying to PA school in a publicly-viewable space, while continuing to explore other career options, seemed like a bad plan, hence the silence here.

I submitted my application one week before the November 1 deadline.  I was not expecting to hear anything until January (maaaaybe December), so I did my best to submit it and forget it.  I was one of over 700 applicants for Saint Louis University’s 34-seat program.  While well-qualified in some ways, I felt even getting an interview was a long shot.

Then, on January 16th, I received an email inviting me for a February interview with SLU’s PA program (they interview 80 people for those 34 seats).  It was both exciting and nerve-wracking.  The invite came right as G was sick with [his first bout of] pneumonia.  My flexible, part-time work schedule made it fairly easy to care for him, but I couldn’t imagine what we would do in that scenario if I was going to school full-time (in a very intense program).

Anyhow, I swallowed my fears and accepted the invitation, then realized that if I might actually be accepted, I needed to get my butt in gear and knock out a medical terminology course, the one outstanding prerequisite on my list.  That took a bit of doing — the official registration deadline at the community college had already passed, but I managed to wrangle my way into a course (thankfully, an online course).  Then I started researching “questions in a PA school interview.”

Interview day was ushered in by a snowstorm (that big snow we got in mid-February).  Most of the local schools were already closed for President’s Day, but those that weren’t, cancelled.  Interviews were ON, though I debated whether getting to the interview was worth risking life, limb, and car (which raised red flags about my commitment level).

I arrived without incident, though I did have a minor “this is not my regular bag so I don’t have a tampon and ALL (yes, I checked the bathrooms on all four floors) of the feminine hygiene vending machines are empty/broken” crisis.  After that panic-inducing start, the interview day, which included a Q&A session with current students, as well as three one-on-one interviews with various faculty members, proceeded without incident.

I was part of the fourth round of interviews.  At that point, they had already interviewed 48 other candidates, and awarded some unknown number of the 34 seats.  Having made it to the interview stage, my guess was that my odds were a bit lower than 50-50 of being accepted.  I had quite a few questions/doubts about embarking on this path (i.e., a very intense, full-time, 27-month commitment while also being a mother), but I had pretty much talked myself into accepting, and damn the torpedoes, if they offered me a spot.

Two weeks later, I was notified that I was consigned to the wait list.  I was disappointed, but also a bit relieved.  While my interviews did not go badly, I would also not say they were great.  In retrospect, my heart was not in it, at least not all of my heart.  I can interview well, when it’s something I really want, but I’m not great at faking it.

I decided that I needed to take some time to evaluate what I really wanted for my life, and what made sense for me, not just something that sounded good, that I could do.  I set up an appointment with a career counselor at SLU (free service for alumni).  After our initial meeting, I checked out the latest edition of What Color is Your Parachute? and started working through some of the exercises (more on that in an upcoming post).

In early April, I was notified of my position on the wait list — number 25, i.e., “Better luck next time.”  I’m not exactly sure what my next step is, but I will not be reapplying to PA school this year (and likely not ever, but you never know).  At this point, I just don’t want it enough, or for the right reasons.  Now, to figure out what I do want . . . .

PA school — Full steam ahead?

I started this post last week with a working title of “PA school — An unreachable goal?”

I spent five months considering options, including getting a med tech or CNA certificate, and hunting for jobs (ideally ones that I could get without any additional education) that would give me more “patient care experience” for my physician assistant school application.  Five months with very few jobs to apply for, and zero interest in the few applications I did submit.

I was feeling like this whole PA school thing might never happen, when I looked at my work history and decided that, technically, I have [barely] enough hours to go ahead and apply now (for a fall 2015 start date).

Of course, it would have been much better to come to this conclusion in June, at the beginning of the application cycle, than in mid-September, just several weeks from the application deadline.  Better in terms of time, and better in terms of my odds of acceptance (the school I’m looking at considers applicants on a rolling basis — at this point, some of the spots for next fall’s cohort are probably already taken, so by applying late[r], I’m competing against a bigger pool for a smaller number of seats).  Sigh.

I went ahead and started completing the online application, which is ridiculous.  You have to enter, one at a time, each and every college level class you’ve ever taken: course title, course prefix and number, grade received, credit hours . . . talk about painstaking!  (I made it through undergrad, and I’m waiting on my grad school transcript to tackle those classes.)  This is in addition to sending them your official transcripts, which, of course, obtain all the info they’re making you enter.

With the exception of medical terminology, I have all the academic prerequisites (though some of them are a bit dated).  My overall GPA will be quite high, and my science GPA will be decent.

The fact that I have a degree in public health, and 7+ years experience in the field, should work in my favor.

Still, while my patient care hours meet the minimum requirement, they’re nothing impressive.  More clinical/patient care experience would be a plus, but it’s not clear that that is going to happen, certainly not quickly or easily.

The idea of applying now, and starting next fall (2015), as opposed to applying in the summer of 2015 and waiting until the fall of 2016 to start (two whole years away), is appealing (and frightening).  I feel like I’m just cooling my heals otherwise and giving myself too much time to second-guess and question this whole crazy plan (you know, juggling an intense 27-months of full-time school and studying with having a family,  going into debt for the privilege, watching school bills eat up all the money we’ve saved to buy a house, questioning why the heck I have to do this, and whether “this” is the right/best option — should I be seriously considering opening a bike shop instead?).

I was all set to go for it, full speed ahead, and then I considered the application fee.  Two hundred twenty-five dollars.  Not that much money, but I’m not a gambler, and that’s what it feels like I’d be doing if I go for this now, instead of waiting for the next application cycle.

The thing is, I’m not sure I’d be anywhere different in nine months, experience-wise, but I would at least have the advantage of applying really early, and being in that first pool of applicants they consider.  I feel like I may need that advantage.

So, cards on the table, or bide my time???  What would you do?