Wednesday, December 31, 2008


I am not a math person, but I am definitely a dog person. Luckily, one does not have to know math to own a dog. I have two. Jingle is an 8-year old black Newfoundland/Golden Retriever mix with a white spot on her chest. She loves the water. She's my exercise buddy - walking and running. She's also my shadow - where I am, she is there, too. We've had Jingle since she was pup. She was born on Halloween and we got her at Christmas. "Jingle" was the only name we could all agree on that sounded Christmasy, but not stupid. Her full name is Jingle Belle. She thinks everyone is talking about her this time of year. She's a very intelligent canine and I swear she knows how to spell.

Jack is a one year old mini-boxer/terrier mix who loves to chew on everything. We got him last Christmas as a rescue project. Boy, what a project! He house trained very well, just like Jingle. Both dogs whine when they have to go outside and "do the doggie thing". We've trained Jack to sit and speak. He has a very high, shrill bark. When he barks, Jingle howls. Jack is extremely social, to the point that whenever he's near Jingle or one of us humans, he has to be touching us. He's a very loving dog, too. He loves to be petted, have his ears scratched, his tummy rubbed, etc. He is quick to dole out kisses. He's not quite as intelligent as Jingle, but I'm sure he'll get there.

Jingle and Jack love to play together - wrestling, tug of war, chase, etc. They're great siblings. They're also great company. Jingle knows when we're about ready to leave the house. Her ears perk up and the look on her face is, "Am I going, too??!!!" (pant-pant). Jack looks up at us with his furrowed brow and says, "If she's going then I'm going!!" Jingle knows what it means when I lace up my running shoes - even if I'm just going to the gym. I have to remind her they don't allow dogs at the gym.

There are days when I swear my human children are easier to handle than my canine children. I wouldn't trade my dogs for anything, though. They make me laugh when they stick their heads out the car windows, ears flapping and tongues hanging in the wind. When I come home at the end of the day, Jingle is there to greet me with a big smile and vigorous tail wagging. Jack bounds down the stairs to have his ears scratched.

Roger Caras said, "Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."

Reflecting on 2008

2008 was a difficult year for me. One of my classmates, another nontrad, died of a heart attack the week before Easter. In May, a good friend moved to Madison, WI, my only surviving uncle died and my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. My husband lost his job in July. Summer was a challange.

Some good things did happen in 2008, though. I passed one of the most difficult classes I had ever taken (Intro to Computer Science) with a B, thus fulfilling my math requirement (Halleluiah!). My youngest son got a 2.5 GPA his first semester in college - I was just hoping he wouldn't fail. I had my first 4.0 semester. My husband got another job. My daughter made the varsity team in both volleyball and basketball.

To me as a nontrad, it seems that even the smallest things mean a great deal - things like:
1. Cooperative group members for the group project in my History class.
2. Hearing the dishwasher running as I walk in the house after a night class. It means I won't have to do the day's worth of dishes in the sink!
3. Encouraging comments from the prof on the last paper I wrote for his class.
4. Clean sheets - my husband has done the laundry.
5. A good doctor's report from my Dad.

Being a nontrad has taught me not only to look at the big picture (what classes do I still need? how is this situation going to affect my financial aid? what can I do to bolster my chances of getting in to Grad School?) but it has also taught me to look at the small things (coffee at Starbucks with my daughter, encouraging emails to my college-aged sons, and that the dogs have already been outside, fed and watered before I get up in the morning - thanks, Mike!) and to appreciate both.

In the closing hours of the New Year, I am glad to see 2008 go and I am looking forward to 2009. In spite of the current global economic situation, the civil unrest in many parts of the world and the grind of daily life, I am blessed. My Dad is still with us, my siblings are well and my children are all home for the holidays.

May this New Year find us with friends and family, holding each other close and loving each other well. May this New Year bring us renewed zeal and strength as we strive toward reaching our goals. May this New Year teach us to be more kind and generous people. Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Goals vs. Resolutions

Every year about this time, people start making lists of New Year's Resolutions. By the second week of January, however, most resolutions have fallen by the wayside. Why? I think it's because most folks try to do too much too soon. For example, if it's your goal to lose 20 lbs this year, start off small. Make one change at a time. Tell yourself, "I will not eat cookies (or drink soda, or snack when bored, etc.) or other things that cause weight gain." Set a goal, do not make a resolution. Set a goal that this week, you will not eat cookies. When you achieve your goal, celebrate, but not with food. Buy a book you've been wanting to read, or go see a movie with a friend, or do something else constructive. Never reward yourself with food. If you happen to mess up and eat cookies, don't fret. Just reset your goal and work hard to achieve it. Small victories are still victories - celebrate them.

The same principle works with being a nontrad and achieving goals. Set small, realistic goals, then celebrate them. If you're a procrastinator, set the goal that you're going to register for classes on time so you don't have to pay the late registration fee. Then, take the money you would have paid for the late registration fee and apply it toward a household expense or buy yourself a cool pen to take notes with on that first day of class! If you're habitually late for class, set a goal to be there before the prof (on time). Keep track of your punctuality. Tell a good friend you've been on time to class all week. Good friends are great cheerleaders.

It has been my experience that when I set a small, realistic goal and work hard to achieve it and do achieve it, I am more apt to set more difficult goals and work even harder to achieve them. For example, I was determined to pass Computer Science 102 last spring semester (spring 2008), especially when my lab T.A. told me I shouldn't be in the class. I passed with a B, thanks to tutoring and hard work. Achieving that goal showed me that I am capable of passing a difficult class. It also showed Richard, my T.A., that he was wrong!

In this New Year, don't make resolutions, for they are easily broken. Instead, set small, realistic goals and celebrate when you achieve them. What are my goals for this year? I want to see if I can have another 4.0 semester. I want to be able to go to school full time and work part time. I want to get a good score on the GRE so I don't have to retake it. I want to get to know the profs in the History Department better. I want to love my family better.

Good luck with your goals. Set them, achieve them, and then celebrate them!

Monday, December 29, 2008


As I face the New Year, I face some changes. Due to budget cuts, UT is "downsizing". That means that there will be fewer classes, they will be larger and, as always, I will see an increase in my tuition. So, that leaves me thinking, "If there will be fewer classes at UT, will it take longer to get my degree if I continue to do what I'm doing now (work full time and school)? Do I need to quit my job and go to school full time and work part time? How does the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame internship figure into all of this?? "

I tell my husband and my children that: a) Blessed are they who are flexible for they shall bend and not break, and b) always have a Plan B in case Plan A doesn't work out (have up to Plan Z if necessary!). I will have more information about future changes once I go through the WBHOF interview. Knowing changes are coming but not knowing what they are can be a bit unnerving.

Dear Abby told one of her readers this morning, "The New Year is about the begin. The less baggage you take into it, the better." 2008 was not a great year for me and it will soon be just another "learning experience". I need to resolve what needs to be resolved, forgive what needs to be forgiven and look forward to the New Year and the changes it will bring.

I am blessed - with family, friends and Hope. My wish for other nontrads this New Year is that you will continue to pursue your dreams. Don't let the economy, budget restraints at your school, or fear of change snuff out the flame that burns brightly within you. Fan that flame with encouragement and optimism and move forward! Good luck!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lifelong Learning

Deb Peterson writes about the importance of lifelong learning on her Continuing Education blog, I have often heard that one way to stave the onset of Alzheimer's is to keep one's mind active. One skill I acquired when I home schooled my children was the ability to read upside-down because I would have the child read along in their textbook while I read with them. I tell my children all the time that life is a learning experience. When they experience something difficult, I tell them to ask themselves two questions: Where do I go from here? and What have I learned from this experience? One must always move forward through life's tough times, but I digress.

My Mom, 71, is a career educator. She graduated from college in 1958 and went back to get her Master's in Education in 1978 - 20 years and 6 children later. She had to "retire" recently to take care of my Dad who has cancer. Mom successfully fought cancer herself two years ago. When she told me she had retired, I questioned her, "Are you sure??". She finally 'fessed up. "Well, I told the local school district that if they needed a substitute, to call me." You can take the teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the classroom out of the teacher. I told her she is going to die teaching. That's okay. She'll go out doing what she loves the most.

I guess that's where I get my love of learning from - Mom. I am continually encouraging my children to do their best in school, to take advantage of every learning opportunity they can, etc. I would much rather read than watch TV. UT provides many opportunities for the students to expand their learning outside of the classroom with visiting department guest lecturers, various film and speaker series, and a great relationship within the community. I have learned a great deal from films and lectures I have attended. It has been a great experience.

Lifelong learning has to be intentional, though. There are so many opportunities for learning. One doesn't necessarily have to return to school. UT offers non-credit courses. Classes in various subjects are available through community centers, the YMCA, online, etc. Life is an adventure to be lived to the fullest!

Friday, December 19, 2008

WBHOF Archive Internship Interview

I have an interview with the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame on January 8. They may want someone younger and with more experience than me. However, as I have stated before - nothing ventured, nothing gained. I have never interviewed in the "museum world" before, so this will be good experience. Life is an adventure to be lived. My children are almost out of the house, so I am able to risk a little more now than when they were younger.

Is it scary? Yes, because what if? What if I am offered the internship? I would have to quit my 26K a year job and live on my husband's salary or at least find a part time job. And in this economy, it may not be so easy to find another job. There is a great deal to think about here. I will take it one step at a time. After all, no use worrying about what might be when it isn't even, knowhatimean??

Tuesday, December 16, 2008


I remember when my children were little and we'd go to the public pool. They'd eventually want to go dive off the diving board, but they weren't quite brave enough to jump off alone. That meant that I would have to tread water (with my feet only - every try that??!! It's hard!!) under the diving board while holding out my arms to them, coaxing them to jump off into my waiting arms. After several episodes of that, they would work up the nerve to venture forth off the high dive. Not wanting to be the target of a failed physics experiment in acceleration, I would stand by the side of the pool and encourage my progeny to "Jump! You can do it! Just close your eyes and jump!"

Well, today I jumped. I submitted my cover letter and resume for the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame Archive Intern position. I'm not sure they'll even be interested in me with my lack of archival experience. All I can so is submit my information. The position is unpaid, which means several things: we'll be functioning mostly on my husband's salary unless I get a part-time job somewhere, we'll have to stick to a bare-bones budget, there's potential for more stress especially in today's economy. But the experience would be incredible!! This is just the first step. If I don't get a call back for an interview, no biggie. I will stay at my full-time job and stick to the current plan.

This all comes on the heels of four months of unemployment for my husband. He started a new job mid-November. The Archive Intern position would be great, but it would be risky. I am a Christian and I believe God allows things in our life for a purpose. Is this His purpose? Don't know. I do know that if one is afraid to risk, one misses out on a great deal.

Stay tuned . . . . . .

Friday, December 12, 2008

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained

I am on the emailing list for the History Department at UT, so I receive all sorts of interesting emails pertaining to my major. That's how I found about the need for volunteers at the East Tennessee Historical Society, the Baker Center Scholar program and the EUReCA program (Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity). I received an email yesterday about a Archive Intern position at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame. It sounds like it would be right up my alley and what I want to do with my degree. The only drawback is that it is a non-paid intern position. Hmmm. I decided I will apply for it. If I don't get it, nothing lost. I still have my full-time job (that pays ok) and I can keep plugging along. Still, it would be great to have the experience under my belt. We'll see what happens.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


E. Sheppard sent me a comment. I thought I'd include her blog here: We non-trads need to stick together, yes? Life as a college student can be rough enough without throwing in a full or part time job, children and a spouse (and pets), and years since you've opened a textbook, written a paper or had to study.

But think of it this way:

1. Dealing with the Financial Aid Office is like dealing with your banker or mortgage company.
2. Sitting through a boring class is like sitting through a boring meeting.
3. Going to the Registrar's Office for your records is like going to DMV.
4. Writing a paper for class is like writing a monthly report for your boss.
5. Doing a Biology lab is like patching up Fido after he's had a run-in with the neighbor's cat.
6. Group projects are the same at school as they are at work - some folks work hard and others are slackers.
7. Studying should be a breeze! Think of all the homework you've helped your children with!
8. Geology class is like playing in the mud with your children.
9. You should ace Introduction to Computers if you've ever had to set up a home computer.
10. Eating in the Student Union is alot like eating at home - noisy and messy - but with more variety.

See? Non-Trads have practical life experience that traditional students don't have yet! Hang in there!!

NonTrad Population Increasing

This is a good article about non-trads. Even though it's about a young lady attending school in California, I think it applies relatively well to most non-trads (except for part of the US Dept of Education's definition of a non-trad as being a "single mom" - not all of us are single parents). I believe that as we see more job layoffs and downsizing coupled with a sagging economy, we will see more non-trads on college campuses (both 2-year and 4-year institutions) as "older" people decide to return to school to upgrade their skills or begin a new career.

I'm Perfect.

Okay, almost. I'm finally finished with this semester and I ended up with a 4.0! I am in shock! I've never done that before - EVER! The 4.0 may be a one-hit wonder. Not sure if I can repeat it any time soon, but at least now I know I can do it! I am going to treat myself to a nice dinner at the Bonefish Grill! I love their Bang-Bang shrimp. So, Bang-Bang Shrimp, a nice LARGE glass of white zinfandel and some Chilean Sea Bass should make for quite a nice, "Atta Girl, Connie!", don't you think? My excitement will be short lived, however. I will have to get right back at it because I have to study for my GRE, write two short essays for my Baker Scholar application and do research for my EUReCA project (Exhibition of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity). Add celebrating Christmas into the mix and you have life moving at the speed of light. So goes it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Lessons Learned from Being a Nontrad

I was journaling earlier today about my experiences as a nontrad. I thought that I would share some of the lessons I had learned from being a nontrad. We all know that life itself is a learning experience. I tell my children that life is an adventure and a learning experience. We are never too old to stop learning. Here are the lessons I've learned (so far) from being a nontrad:

Lessons Learned from Being a Nontrad:

1. Go for it! Nothing ventured, nothing gained: life is an adventure - live it!
2. Get to know your profs - they are a valuable resource (and come in handy for letters of recommendation).
3. People are impressed by your story.
4. Ask questions and bug the heck out of whomever you need to until you get a satisfactory answer.
5. It’s easier to study in the library that it is to study at home.
6. Starbucks is addicting- especially if there's one in the library on campus.
7. Ask for help – whether it’s tutoring, the prof’s opinion on your paper’s rough draft, etc.
8. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
9. Study groups are a good thing, even if they are with people who are half your age.
10. Develop at least one friendship in each class. It’s good to be able to have someone from whom you can borrow notes from if you have to miss a class or two.
11. Join at least one professional organization relative to your major. Take advantage of what it has to offer. Attend at least one of its conferences. (Think: professional development and networking!)
12. Take your favorite prof to lunch.
13. Don’t be a slacker. It pays to work hard and even harder still.
14. Don’t forget to spend time with your family - they're making the sacrifice, too.
15. Take your spouse out to dinner at the end of the semester as a way of saying, “Thanks for your support”.
16. Keep copies of your grades, transcripts, and what classes you have taken to date. You never know when you may need a hard copy of your records.
17. Join any honorary societies relative to your major - looks good on your resume.
18. Get to know a librarian - she knows her way around the library better than you do and is invaluable when it comes to research.
19. See your advisor at least twice a semester just to make sure you are when you should be with regard to your required classes. You don’t want any last minute surprises!
20. Get to know the profs in your academic major department - again, a good resource, networking and letters of recommendation.

Good luck!

Almost There!

Okay, fellow Nontrads, some of you are there, some of you are almost there! What am I talking about? FINALS!! We're almost finished wading through papers, presentations and exams. I still have a killer Anthropology exam to take Monday night. Yuk! My weekend will be spent studying. Out of three classes, that's my only final. My history prof this semester didn't believe in finals (is he a god??!!). I did well enough in my Spanish class that I don't have to take the final. Yea! I will be holed up at the library all weekend working on my study sheet and studying. Luckily, I did the extra credit and received all the points possible. Whew!! That will help.

If you're a first semester nontrad, how was it? If you're an experienced nontrad like me, I raise my glass to you and offer you encouragement to hang in there. One day, we will have our degrees in hand and it will all be worth it!

My plan for next semester is to attend school full time and work full time as well. Call me crazy. I will be entering the History Honors program in the hopes that it will give me a "leg up" to get into grad school. I'll keep you posted as to how I do with all that.

Again, I want to encourage all the first time nontrads - hang in there and keep going, even if it is just one class at a time! Returning nontrads - we're in this together! Send me a comment and let me know what your experience has been like!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Penny Foolish

This is a good blog. She has lots of good information, especially for first time bloggers. Also has a good list of links to check out.

A Journey Starts With a Single Step

I started my journey two years ago by taking Statistics. Stupid move. At least I passed the class with a C+. But, I digress. I decided to return to school to finish my Bachelor's degree in History. The majority of my 20+ year old credits from my AA degree transferred, so I started as a Junior. At the time I decided to go back to school, I had one child starting college and two children in high school. I also work full-time. I hate math, so I thought I'd tackle that requirement at the community college first. Thank God, I passed the class.

My first class at the University of Tennessee was Social Psych. It was a cold, rainy Wednesday night. I was so excited to be going back in school! When I got out of class, I wanted to share my excitement with someone so I called everyone I knew, but no one was home. I finally called my son in college (in Berea, KY) and cried on his shoulder. He asked, "What's wrong??!" I cried, "I'm back in school and I love it!" There was a long pause, then, "Oh. Well, good for you!" He thought I was crazy for loving school so much, and two years later, I still do.

It seems to me that as an older student, school is easier. Sure, it's still a pain to have to type out my notes, make up study sheets, memorize formulas, write ten-page papers, spend long hours at the library, figure out what the foreign TA is saying, juggle group times, etc., but I love learning! I find that I relate more to my profs than to my classmates. I guess being around younger people keeps me young, too, because most of my classmates can't believe I have children their age!

There are a few drawbacks to being an older non-traditional student, though. Especially working full-time and going to school. I have to take most of my classes at night and they tend to run a tad long. Sometimes I miss out on some of my sleep. My employer, who is a UT alum, has generously allowed me to take one class during the day on my lunch "hour". I am very grateful. However, I still have to be Mom when I get home. I still have a daughter in high school who is involved in sports and I need to go support her when she plays. I usually take my homework to the games and study or write during time-outs and half-time.

Having a mortgage, car payments, and all the other financial obligations that go along with life leaves little money for school. I rely on financial aid. It helps that three of us are in college (both sons and me). But that will change this spring when my oldest son graduates. There is a new organization on campus at UT - the ASA, Adult Student Association. When I heard about it, I thought, "Where were you when I was trying to navigate through all this stuff as a new non-trad two years ago??!!" Oh, well. I can say I've learned the hard way.

Currently, I have completed my math requirement - that's a huge deal! I took Computer Science as the second half of my math requirement (that's a whole 'nother story) and passed with a B - yea!! I will enter the History Honors program next semester, which will most likely add another semester onto my plans. I want to go grad school and the honors program will help with that. I will also be in school full time next semester as well as working full time. Yikes!

For anyone who is over the age of 40something who is asking themselves, "Am I too old to go back to school? Should I even attempt to go back to school? Can you teach an old dog new tricks?" The answer is no, yes and yes. Just do it! It's like jumping off the high dive. Close your eyes, grit your teeth and jump! You won't regret it. I don't.