Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Plan B

I have learned that one must always have a contingency plan or a Plan B. My original plan for school was to graduate a year from now and pursue my Master's in Public History. Hmm. Plan B.

Due to a recent family crisis, I am resorting to Plan B, which was formulated this morning. I am reducing my class load from 16 to 12 hours next semester, which will extend my schooling out another semester or more. But that's okay. I will also be working 30 hours (75%) so I can get benefits and tuition reduction (keep your fingers crossed).

Sometimes, things don't always go as we had planned. I believe the mark of a mature and growing person is how we deal with those detours in the roadmap of life. (I know that sounds a little cliche!) Flexibility is so important. My life motto is "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall bend and not break." The only time constraint I have on getting my degree is self-imposed. As long as I am making progress toward that degree, all is well.

So set goals and make plans - those are good things. However, always have that ace in your pocket, that Plan B, just in case life throws you a curveball. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Using the Resources Available

Once my semester winds down, I like to do a self-evaluation. How did it go this semester? What did I do well? What could I have done better? How will I apply that to next semester?

There are plenty of resources on campus to make sure you, as a student, succeed. Granted, these resources are more used to seeing 18-20 year-olds than nontrads. Part of the tuition is an activities or services fee. The resources are there, are either cheap or free, and are convenient (on campus).

Some of the resources available to you are:
1. Tutoring: each department should have a pool of tutors. Some of the more difficult subjects (Math, Chemistry, etc.) will have a more visible tutoring presence on campus. Sometimes the tutoring is free. If there is a fee for tutoring, it is often negotiated between you and the tutor.
2. Writing: There is an office located either in the library or in one of the more visible buildings on campus. The folks who staff this office, very often student volunteers, are there to help you learn to write better. They will critique your paper and give you suggestions, but they will not write the paper for you.
3. Research: the library will have librarians who are solely dedicated to one topic. They are quite helpful when it comes to looking up resources for research.
4. Counseling: the student counseling center on campus is another free service. It's good to know they are there if you need them.
5. Office of Information Technology: Having a problem with your computer? This is the office you want to go to. This office may also be staffed with work-study students, GTA's and several university employees.
6. Gym: Your student activity fee covers this one, so make sure you take advantage of all the exercise equipment, exercise classes, etc.

What other resources does your school offer? Whatever they are, take advantage of them. They will be part of your success as a student. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Don't Forget the Most Important People

Studentmum had an excellent blog yesterday. She talked about getting her priorities straightened out over the holiday.

"I don't know of any other way to plan it to be honest, family has to come first at Christmas and I don't want to shut myself away all holiday, I think we need to spend time and go about as a family we have been remiss in that area lately, pressures of homework, studying, habit etc and have got into bad habits of doing our own things at weekends instead of planning trips out. I sense a New Years resolution coming on!"

As nontrads/mature students, we can get so caught up in the demands of school that we overlook time spent with the built-in support group of our family (whether it's spouse, children, parents, siblings, etc.). Studentmum is right - our families must come first over the holidays. Resolve to minimize your time with your laptop, schoolbooks and studying (or not do any of it all!) in order to spend time with your family.

For the most part, you will find that as you unwind with your family, you will gain a sense of renewal and refreshment. Take this time to build memories. Will the children remember that Mom went back to school to get a better job to be able to provide better for them? No. They will remember that Mom tossed her schoolbooks and laptop into the hall closet in favor of going outside and making snow angels with them. Your spouse will remember that you curled up with him before going to bed instead of curling up with a textbook. The children will remember using your laptop to put together a photo album of funny holiday photos instead of using your laptop to type out a research paper. Your family will remember that you went ice skating with them instead of retreating to the library.

There is a reason we have a Christmas break - to enjoy time away from academia. Keep your school stuff to a minimum over the break. But keep you family stuff to a maximum! Don't forget the most important people - your family. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 14, 2009

Take a Deep Breath

Deb Peterson blogged recently about how to "Relax Through Your Finals". She reminded us that the holidays are stressful enough without throwing finals into the mix. How true! I blogged about this topic on Nov. 16 in "Chicken Little and Feeling Overwhelmed".

I think one of the best ways to NOT feel overwhelmed during this holiday/final time is to organize your priorities. Right now, your number one priority is getting through finals. When that is finished, you will feel as if a weight has been lifted from your shoulders. What are some other ways to relax through your finals?

1. Simplify. As nontrads, we have to realize that the minute we stepped onto that college campus or got onto that website for the first online class, our lives became incredibly more complicated. Do not place the unrealistic expectation on yourself that you will still be able to have the same elaborate holiday you had before you became a nontrad. It's okay to simplify and not do all that you have done in the past. You may find that a pared-down version of the crazy holiday season will fit better into your lifestyle.
2. Delegate. Is there something that absolutely MUST be done? Let someone else do it! Delegate that thing to your spouse, your children or pass the tradition on to a younger sibling. Take this time to create unique "family bonding" experiences. Was the Honeybaked Ham forgotten about and now you have run out and get the grocery store version? It's okay. Take the kids with you to help pick out the "best" ham.
3. Be creative. Don't have time to get those Hungarian Nut Horns made? Get some Pillsbury sugar cookie dough, cut out the crescent shapes, and sprinkle the dough with chopped nuts. Call it the abbreviated version of the Hungarian Nut Horn and name the cookie after your family - the Jones Nut Horn.

Christmas is not supposed to be a time of running ourselves ragged, especially if we have had an exceptionally challenging semester. Christmas is a time of remembering that a very simple Man came into our world in a very simple way. It's a time of remembering those we love and giving the gift of our time to them. This is supposed to be your semester break, a time of rest. Don't go back to school exhausted from the break. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, December 11, 2009

Regrouping or Lessons Learned from Failure

I just found out that my attempt at a senior thesis was not accepted. I will not be allowed to continue on in the program. I cannot decide if I am angry and disappointed or relieved. Any anger or disappointment would be at myself because I took on more than I thought I could handle. I guess I am not supposed to be an academician. I am a bit embarrassed as well.
I feel like I still need to prove myself that I can be a serious historian. Not sure how to do that.

At this juncture, all I can do is step back and regroup. At least I did not get an F in the class, but the C will pull down my GPA. I am incredibly anal about grades and my GPA. A C also counts toward my credit total since it is still considered a passing grade (so I guess there are some positives in this whole fiasco).

So how does one handle failure and disappointment as a nontrad? I am desperately trying to find some lessons to share from this. This is the best I can come up with on the spur of the moment:

1. Admit your weakness. It's okay to say, "I tried. Perhaps I did not try my best, but I tried."
2. Cry if you have to, but don't dwell in that disappointment. Talk to a trusted friend or a counselor about the situation and your feelings. Give yourself time to mourn the situation.
3. Understand that you will live to see another day and failure and disappointment do not mean your college career is over.
4. Ask yourself, "What have I learned from this experience?" Everything we experience is a chance to learn and grow.
5. Do not burn bridges. Look at the situation for what it is, then let it go and move on. Take responsibility for your part of the situation.
6. Do not allow anyone to make you feel worse than you already do. Give yourself grace to fail. We fool ourselves if we do not acknowledge our humanity.
7. Turn the situation into a positive. Was this the kick in the pants you have been needing?
8. Realize you are not unique. Everyone fails at one time. Thomas Edison failed many times before he found success with the light bulb. He did not see his failures as failures, but as experiments that did not work. One day, he finally got it right.
9. Ease up. Were you putting unrealistic expectations on yourself?
10. View this as a chance to redefine and refine your goals. Failure may not have been the method of choice to do this, but here it is - use it.

I am sure I could come up with several more lessons if I sat here all night. That's not going to happen. I am going to mourn the situation and move on. My school schedule has opened up (since I will not be in History 408) and I can take a Geology class that will count toward my minor and toward my upper level distribution requirement.

Lesson learned from failure? Never give up. Stay tuned . . .


I am finally finished with school for the semester. Still waiting on History prof's decision about my senior thesis. Hoping that decision will come sometime today. There is a saying; "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!" If I am unable to continue on in the history honors program, I will regroup and find direction elsewhere. I know it will not mean the end of my college career.

I am looking forward to some much needed down time - spent with my family and friends, getting my house and garage organized and just not doin' much o' nuthen!

When I walked to the bus stop yesterday, I discovered my Geography prof was also waiting there. We had a nice chat about my future plans. She is a great teacher - very enthusiastic about her subject. I told her that, too. I believe that if I have a prof/teacher who is good at their job, I need to tell them. I'm sure they get more than their share of complaints. It is as important for the students to encourage their profs as it is for the profs to encourage their students.

I started my new job for the Electrical Engineering Department. My boss said she, the department head and I will be meeting after the first of the year to give me some more direction on this project. In the meantime, I am researching other EECS websites, making notes, and formulating a new layout for the UT EECS website. I am taking advantage of this time to get my ideas organized so I can present them in a coherent manner and make a difference in the department. The researching skills I am learning in school are coming in handy for this project.

I hope to have some answers about my senior thesis soon. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Winding It Down

Reading a few other blogs, about sharing this season, brain food, etc. I soon will have time to stop, breathe and read other blogs. Cool!

I have one last final tomorrow - Medieval History. This has been a challenging semester - some semesters are more challenging than others. This semester was challenging because I was on campus full time for the first time in almost 30 years. It was also a financial challenge because I quit my full time job, so our household budget took a bit of a hit. Still, it has proved to be a good thing. I start a part time job with the Electrical Engineering Dept. ASAP, but will still be hanging out here in the Computer Science Department. The new job is twice the pay, which is good. It will most likely work into something full time once I graduate. That's good, too.

I am reassessing the Master's Degree thing. May stay on campus and get a Master's in Adult Education. That's something I looked at a couple days ago. Not sure yet, but like my Mom told me recently, "You have your whole life ahead of you."

I am looking forward to the quietness between semesters. I am looking forward to spending time with my children. I am looking forward to finally getting around to cleaning out my garage (groan!). There's so much I need to get done that has been waiting for me. Time to start paying attention to stuff on the homefront.

My youngest son, who recently broke his ankle in two places (long story), likes to pick out a theme for Christmas. This year, he suggested a "Smooth Jazz" Christmas. Should be interesting. Not quite sure what he has in mind, but I'm sure we will soon find out! I am looking forward to his creativity.

What are your plans for the holidays? What are you going to do with your semester break? I hope you take this time to recharge, refresh and renew. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, December 7, 2009

Wrapping It Up

As I write this post, fire trucks are screaming through campus. Most likely a bomb threat pulled by someone who does not want to take their final exams because they chose to party instead of studying. That always happens, unfortunately. Speaking of final exams, I had my second final today. Two down, one to go (on Wednesday). I've made it this far.

I have to talk to my history mentor tomorrow. Not sure how that will go - all I can do is take him what I have (for my senior thesis) and see if that dog'll hunt. (Sorry - gotta have an East Tennessee sense of humor.) I have always told my children that when they go through a difficult situation, they need to stop and ask, "What am I learning from this?" So, what have I learned from this? The most important thing I have learned is to ask questions, get clarification, speak up if things aren't going like you think they should be going. I was frustrated and exasperated with the lack of progression on my senior thesis. I thought I was doing what I should have been doing. I am still in the process of analyzing this whole situation.

I guess the lesson I need to learn out of this is not to depend on other people, even when I am not sure what is going on. My educational experience is just that - MY educational experience. I am the one who needs to make it happen.

Mmmm - nice lunch of crow and humble pie! Chalk it up to "experience" and move on. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, December 4, 2009

Salvaging the Senior Thesis

I blew it. I will let you know if indeed I can salvage the thesis and stay in the program. Quite a humbling experience, to say the least. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, November 30, 2009

All I Want For Christmas . . .

I just read Deb Peterson's post, "10 Affordable Gift Ideas for Adult Students". The majority of the gifts mentioned were book bags. Build a better bookbag, and the world will beat a path to your door (or is that "mousetrap"?). Hmmm.

I was thinking about this recently (gifts for adult students) and here are my top 10 gifts to get the adult student in your life:
1. A gift card to a coffee shop (Starbucks or whatever is closest to campus).
2. If the adult student in your life has a school ID that doubles as a meal card, services card, etc., refill it for her - start at $25 or more. It's nice to have some "mad money" that no one else has access to - especially when the First National Bank of Mom has seen lots of recent activity.
3. A couple hours of quiet time by herself - "Do Not Disturb".
4. An audio book she can listen to and not read (since she probably has a huge 'To Read" pile on her nightstand already!).
5. A night of not having to do nothin'! Pamper her with a foot soak, nice candles, and soft music.
6. A gadget for her computer (wireless mouse, electronic media wipes, a new flashdrive, etc.).
7. Fill up her gas tank.
8. Take her car in for an oil change and a detail job.
9. Make dinner for her while she sits and listens to the children read or plays with the dogs and/or cats.
10. Offer to do her math homework.

I like that last one. I am not a math person, so if my husband would have offered to do my Statistics homework a couple years ago (then went over it with me), I would have been happy. The best gift for that adult student in your life? Be creative! If all else fails, get her flowers! Good luck. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Winding Down Again

Next week is the last day of classes here at the University of Tennessee. I think some of my classmates have already experienced "the last day" as some of them have not been to class in over a month. I don't know how people do that. I have to be in the classroom, taking notes and interacting with the other students and the professor - that's just my learning style -- hands on.

As this semester rapidly comes to a close, I am hard-pressed to say anything bad about it. Some of my classmates have moaned and groaned and have had nothing good to say. Even though some of my classes were a challenge (especially the one I struggled to stay awake in!), I have enjoyed every one of them. Perhaps that is a fundamental difference between nontrads and other students - most of the time, we enjoy the learning process.

I am a pack rat - I hate to throw anything away. I have kept my notes from classes I took two years ago! You just never know when you may be called upon to know something from a past class and instead of resorting to memory, you can refer back to your notes. I may need a bigger flashdrive for that as well!!

I enjoy school for a number of reasons - the learning, the social interaction, the real world human behavior lab a college campus represents, the cultural activities, etc. I enjoy being part of a culture that is so alive, dynamic and in constant flux. I may just have to major in "Student". Is there a graduate degree available in that? Hmmm. Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, November 23, 2009

You're Never Too Old . . .

I just read Deb Peterson's post, ". . . an unquenchable thirst for learning new things". She uses a quote from another source that gives Bill Gates as an example of lifelong learning. Bill is always ahead of the curve in learning new technologies and staying one step ahead of his competition because of his desire to learn new things.

I love to learn. As a student, I need to have a certain number of hours of "upper level distribution" classes - 300 level or above. There have been several times when my husband has asked, "And what does this class have to do with your degree?" Degree-related or not, the ULD classes have been interesting. I have taken things like Development Economics, Cultural Geography, Human Origins, the Pre-History of Tennessee and other exciting subjects. They were not necessarily something I was dying to know about, but I am glad I took the classes. I have become the Cliff Claven of . . . stuff. I know just enough about a smattering of subjects to make me somewhat annoying. I love it!

You're never too old to learn. From what I have read, learning keeps your mind sharp and is a tool against the onset of Alzheimer's. So is reading upside down. That's fun!

Continuing Education does not stop with obtaining your degree. Lifelong learning is just that - a lifelong process. I am enjoying it! What about you? Encourage others to do the same. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, November 20, 2009

Overparenting or The Challenge of Struggle

I am going to stray from my normal topic - nontraditional studentism - and address something I see as a disturbing national trend. That trend is the one of "overparenting" or "helicopter parents".

I have three children and I want nothing but the best for them. I have raised them to be godly, responsible, contributing members of society. I know that parenting is the world's most difficult job because these little people don't come with an owner's manual!

I was talking to a new friend the other day. She is four months pregnant with her first child. We talked about parenting - not as an extension of one's self, but as a responsibility toward another human being. A parent is responsible to raise their children to be kind, to learn to take responsibility for themselves, to know how to handle their emotions, to be compassionate and gracious, to be able to stand up for themselves and not be victims, and to be independent, strong and confident. I realize that's a tall order to fill.

How does one do all that? How does one know when one's child is ready for independence? How does one know how much independence to grant? How does one know when to step in and take charge? After all, parents are not supposed to be rescuers and enablers. Parents are supposed to be nurturers and examples.

I told my Mom recently that the best thing she and my Dad ever did for me what to make me figure things out on my own. When I had to move back home after flunking out of my first year in college, my parents were still raising three younger children. They did not have the time to rescue me. It was hard trying to figure out things on my own, but I did it. I don't think I'm psychology scarred because of that.

So many parents are so afraid their children will have to feel pain, either physical or emotional, and their fragile egos will be crushed beyond repair. I love to use examples from nature. My two favorites regarding children are the butterfly and the baby bird. When the butterfly emerges from its cocoon, it has to struggle. If we were to intervene and help the creature, we'd kill it. The butterfly has to experience that struggle so its wings will be strong and it will be able to fly. The same thing with a baby bird hatching from the egg. It has to struggle to get out of the egg. That struggle makes the chick strong.

Does this mean we abandon our responsibility in parenting? Heavens, no! But we need to allow our children to struggle through the hard times, knowing that we are there if they need us. Can you learn to walk for your 1-year old? No. She has to do it herself. How many times does she fall in the process? You are there to catch her and to comfort her.

The best gift we can give to our children is to to let them experience the challenge of struggle. If we do not allow them to experience struggle, they will never be able to fly. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, November 19, 2009

I Am An Expert - Sort Of

I am excited! Not only is this semester finally coming to an end, but I have also been invited to speak to the Pellissippi State Community College's nontraditional student support group. Being as organized as I am, I put together a PowerPoint presentation for my talk. I am of the opinion that if a group is worth addressing, it is worth having visual aids for.

Betsy Boyd, group moderator, made up a beautiful flyer advertising my presentation. I am humbled. I never thought of myself as an expert at anything except raising children - and even that is questionable sometimes! I guess I am an expert at this nontraditional student thing - sort of. I walked around for two years without realizing there was even a name for people like me - "nontraditional student". Then I found other experts in the field with even more expertise than me - like Deb Peterson, Elizabeth Sheppard, University Mama and Studentmum, to name a few.

While you are going about life on December 3, think of me about 2pm EST. I will be sharing my nontraditional experiences with a group of fellow nontrads at Pellissippi State Community College.

Oh, and did I mention my senior thesis has taken another turn? I am now writing about media censorship in WWII. Interesting. (sigh) Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chicken Little and Feeling Overwhelmed

It's that time of year again - holidays and finals. Parties and papers, festive ensembles and feeling exhausted, decorations and deadlines. Who planned this anyway?

Some days I feel like Chicken Little - my sky is falling - especially when the retailers so rudely remind us of that we only have so many shopping days until Christmas! Thank God for online shopping. That's one of my time-saving holiday secrets.

Other holiday/finals time savers?
1. Don't wait until the last minute - for shopping, shipping or studying.
2. Simplify. Is your family going to remember the elaborate holiday centerpiece you created or are they going to remember doing something fun as a family (such a board games and s'mores)? Have each member of your study group be responsible for one section of the study guide so one person doesn't do it all while everyone else copies from her.
3. Give your family the gift of your time. Barter with them - two dozen Christmas cookies for two uninterrupted hours at the library.
4. Celebrate simply. Finished with finals? Order out pizza and play a board game. Or nosh on fudge while wrapping gifts. Turn off all the lights in the house except for the Christmas tree, then sing Christmas carols acapella while snuggling on the couch with your children.
5. Do something for someone else. Put together a basket of stamped cards or magazines for a shut-in and taken it to them. Make a meal for a single Mom in your church or neighborhood. Offer to babysit for the young couple down the street so they can have a date night.
6. Learn to say "No". Family and school are priorities. You and I are not supermoms (or superdads). We don't have to do everything. Let someone else step up to the plate.

Above all, take time for yourself. Walk the dog in that brisk evening air. Curl up on the couch with a mug of flavored coffee and listen to Christmas carols or start knocking out your "To Read" pile of books that is sitting on your nightstand.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed when so many demands are being made on your time. Chicken Little must have been a nontrad. Remember your priorities. Don't sacrifice your school for your family and visa versa. Simple holidays are often the best. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finish What You Started

I just read a post by Deb Peterson. In the post, she stated a statistic - 40% of people who start at a four-year university never finish. I was part of that statistic two and a half years ago. Now, after all the work I have put into my degree, I cannot imagine not finishing. I cannot imagine not walking (across the stage to receive my degree) either.

What are some reasons people give for not finishing school? In my case, I flunked out of college, had to move back home and get my 2-year degree in three years. By then, I was discouraged and burned out on school. A year later, I got married and started my family.

I have heard a myriad of reasons for not finishing school: children too young, aging and/or sick parents, finances, divorce, economy, etc. Life happens. But don't let life keep you from fulfilling your dreams. Yes, school is a tad more difficult when you've been away from it for a while. So start small - take one class at the community college.

If you're unable to enroll in school at this time, get into the habit of learning anyway. Get on the local school's website and find out what's happening on campus - music recitals, cultural events, guest lecturers, etc. Sign up for a class through your local YMCA (anything from crafting to exercise to writing). Start a journal or a blog and document your journey back to school.

A wise man once said, "A journey begins with a single step." Like Deb Peterson said - don't just sit there and gripe about not having a degree. Go out and get it! You can do it! Finish what you started. Stay tuned . . .

Chewing on My Pencil

I read a recent post by University Mama. She says that October/November is the most stressful time of the semester. I have to agree. Once we get past mid-terms, it seems as if the professors realize they have less than six weeks to cover the rest of their material and they start pouring on the exams and papers.

That leads to only one thing - stress = chewed pencils, frazzled hair, and dark circles under my eyes. Poor UM sounded like she needed a vacation.

I think that mid to late semester during the fall is more stressful than mid to late semester during the spring because of the holidays. The only holiday one has to worry about in the spring is Easter. We also get a week-long break during the spring semester known as "Spring Break".

We know that this happens - mid-terms and the holidays - and it increases our stress factor. How do we deal with the added stress of the holidays in the midst of mid-terms and the end of the semester? Try these:

1. Laugh. It is often said that in the midst of stress, if you cannot laugh, you will cry. Laughter is much better for you. Find that place of laughter and laugh until your sides ache.
2. Take a day off. It doesn't matter if it is a weekend day or some day during the week. Use that day as a mini-retreat and do something fun. Do some Christmas shopping or buy a new Thanksgiving tablecloth. Do something that will decrease your holiday stress load.
3. Be proactive. Instead of waiting until the last minute to do holiday things (shopping, menu planning, etc.), take small chunks of time and work toward whittling down that holiday "To-Do" list. Plan ahead.
4. Recruit your family. Do you make a holiday centerpiece? Let your spouse or one of the children do it this year. Leave the holiday decorating to your children (if they are old enough). The decorating may not turn out the way you would do it, but does it really matter? You are giving your family a chance to develop their talents!
5. Communicate your expectations. Tell your family this is crunch time for you and you need some extra time to yourself to concentrate on school. They will have to do without you for a while. But make sure you tell them how much you love and appreciate their help.

Most of all, take a deep breath and say, "This, too, shall pass." Don't sweat the details. If it doesn't get done, maybe it wasn't that important to begin with. Give yourself grace. And get a new pencil. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


I am going to start writing for an online current event site. What's my topic? Continuing Education. I am going to take some of my posts here and edit them for "general consumption". That should be interesting.

I had to submit a sample of my writing. I chose the "What's Another Semester? or Choosing a Minor" post. I thought that subject was of some relevance. The site liked my submittal. Cool!

I'll let y'all know how it goes. You may want to look for me on in a few weeks. Stay tuned . . .

Learning Styles - Crutch or Tool?

Deb Peterson recently posted a piece about learning styles. Some people think understanding learning styles is a hindrance because it is akin to coddling. Hmmm.

When I was homeschooling, I took the time to understand my children's learning styles. I did not see the learning styles as a hindrance, but as a tool. Knowing the learning styles helped me to understand my children better. I did not cater to one learning style over another. If one child needed more help in understanding a concept than another, I was able to schedule some special time with that child.

Too often someone may use their learning style as an excuse or as a reason they cannot communicate with others effectively. As mature adults, we need to be able to work with different learning styles. Understanding my own learning style helps me to manage my time better and study better.

I am a combination of the tactile and visual learning styles. I learn best when I can touch it and see it. Just hearing about it is not enough. My middle son is like that as well. My oldest son is an auditory learner. You can tell him something and he'll take it and run with it. My daughter is a visual learner. My husband is visual as well. He can read about something and know it.

Shakespeare's Hamlet said, "We know what we are . . .". If I know I am a tactile/visual learner, I can make use of that to not only help myself, but to help others as well. Do not use self-knowledge as a crutch or as an excuse. Use it as a tool. Stay tuned . . .

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

I am almost there! I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. The last day of classes for this semester is December 1. Exams start December 3. I was excited when this semester began, but I am also excited that it will be ending soon. I fully expect to have some profound observations after finals.

As usual, I cannot believe the semester is almost over. Where has the time gone? I hope to make the Dean's List this semester. I usually set goals before the start of each semester. I am not sure if I have met some of those goals yet. It will depend on how well I do on my finals.

Setting goals is always a good thing - it gives us direction. In the midst of a crazy semester when we wonder, "What the heck?", our goals will help to keep us focused. These are just a few of the goals I set:

1. Survive being on campus full time.
2. Focus and apply myself toward getting good grades (translation: get all A's!).
3. Get to know more people on campus.
4. Get to know more people in the History department.
5. Don't stress out over research papers.

There have been some interesting things happen in my classes this semester as a result of my goals. I am part of a study group in Geology. My study buddies are less than half my age. It's fun. I have written two book reviews and had two exams that have been research papers. I have gotten to know the secretary in the History department.

I will be glad to get this semester over with so I can concentrate on my home and my family. I also need to get geared up for next semester. There is light at the end of the tunnel and I have every confidence it is not a train. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, November 6, 2009

While We're on the Subject . . .

I just read a post by University Mama. She is stressed and needs some downtime. Working full time, being a student, and having to still be mom and wife is a hard thing to do. I know. I've done it, too.

My friends would often tell me, "You need to take care of yourself. You need to do something just for you." I would think, "I can't do that. I have school, work and family to take care of. Who has time to take care of me?"

I am finding that I must take care of me if I am to keep up with everything else. A broken-down me does not do anyone any good. Our society functions on, and advocates, go, go, go! However, there are times when we have to say, "Stop!" and "No".

I want to give University Mama a cup of coffee and make her sit down while I fix dinner or make cookies for her. Her post reminded me of myself last spring semester. I was moving so fast that when I finally dropped out of warp speed at the end of the semester, I had a hard time with doing nothing.

Yes, it is hard to be a nontrad when life is happening all around you. That's why we have blogs and support groups. No one understands the life (and demands of life) of a nontrad like another nontrad. I give a big shout-out to University Mama. Do the best you can and tell your family you love them (over and over and over). But do take some time for yourself - whatever you like to do that makes your heart sing. Listening to that song is a good thing. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, November 5, 2009

All Work and No Play

When it comes to schoolwork, I am very serious. I have spent so much time at the library, they are now naming a study room in my honor (just kidding). I was told I could get my own study nook, too. I am giving that some serious thought.

However, ever since the semester started, I have been incredibly tired. At first I thought the fatigue might be due to the fact that I am on campus full time now. I exercise, eat right and drink plenty of water. (Yes, a trip to the doc is already planned.) Hmmm. I read an article on MSN today that stated one reason for fatigue is an all work, no play attitude. I am like that - all work. I have had several people ask me what I do for fun. Now that I think of it, I really do not do that much for fun. I need to get out more.

I thought about some of the things I like to do:
1. Attend First Friday in downtown Knoxville - the art galleries are open, there is live music, there are wine and cheese tastings.
2. Attend cultural activities on campus - the Cultural Arts Committee's schedule for this year is quite diverse. I plan on enjoying some of the attractions they will be bringing to campus.
3. Attend lectures in my major - that may seem somewhat nerdy (ok, ALOT nerdy), but I enjoy hearing experts share their experiences.
4. Sports! I enjoy attending UT men's and women's basketball, volleyball, and baseball. Being a student means I get reduced price tickets.
5. Music - the College of Music is always having recitals and special group concerts (UT Jazz Band, UT Symphonic Band, etc.).
6. Christmas wish-list shopping - kind of like window shopping. It's fun to go with a friend and just look at clothes, housewares, etc.
7. Walking - I love to walk. I don't mind walking - anywhere. One item on my Life List is to either walk across the state or across the country.
8. Baking - as long as there are no deadlines for when I must have something made, I enjoy baking. I like creating good things to eat!
9. Loved ones - I enjoy hanging out with my family. Now that my children are all adults, we have a different relationship and can relate on a whole different level. It's cool!
10. Writing - I enjoy writing - poems, prose, whatever. It's therapy for me.

There are plenty of opportunities for me to do something fun. Being on campus is a great place to look for something fun to do. I guess I need to grant myself permission to do those things. All work and no play makes Zickbee a very dull (and tired!) girl. How about you? Will you give yourself permission to do something fun, that takes your mind off school and refreshes and renews your soul? I am going out of town this weekend to the mountains of North Carolina. Ahh! I can feel the stress begin to dissipate already! Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lost That Lovin' Feeling?

Everybody has the feeling of, "I hate school." I don't really hate school, I'm just a little overwhelmed with all there is to do right now, especially with my senior thesis. It's not going as well as I anticipated. As I was walking back from my History of Mexico class (in which I desperately struggle to stay awake and not drool on my laptop), I thought, "What the heck am I doing here??"

What is one to do when one is on the verge of school burnout? The following are a few ideas:
1. Self-evaluate the basics. The burnout could be caused by a myriad of things other than, "I really don't want to be here anymore." Have you been sleeping well? Eating well? Exercising? Are you taking on more than you can handle? Have you had any "me" time lately? If you don't take care of yourself, who will??

2. Go talk to a mentor, an advisor, a trusted friend on campus or in your department. They may be able to see the situation from a different perspective and give you some encouragement. They may be able to help you remember why you're in school in the first place and can help to get you refocused.

3. Take some time off. Don't study or clean house on Saturday. Instead, go for a hike, walk the dog, go Christmas wish-list shopping, grab coffee with a friend, go antiquing. Go do whatever makes your heart sing and forget about school for a day.

4. Spend some time with your family. They may not have seen you for a while. They'll appreciate the time you take to be with them.

5. If you are truly feeling overwhelmed and burdened by school and the joy is gone, step away from it for a semester or take one class next semester. Simplify.

Only you can determine if this feeling is temporary or long-lasting. Take time away - from homework, from the computer, from campus - in order to help you determine where you stand with school. As a nontrad, school can be overwhelming when life is happening all around us. That's why it is imperative we take time away for ourselves on a regular basis. I'm talking to myself here as well.

Lost that lovin' feeling? Take time to step away and go find it. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wait a Minute . . .

I have been going great guns for several weeks now because of school, my daughter's volleyball and the Electrical Engineering workshop I helped with. I finally have a chance to stop and take a breath. The workshop is over, daughter's volleyball team is on their way to the state tournament, and I will have some quiet study time this evening.

My oldest son, Aaron, is working on his Master's in Communication Studies here at UT. On his day off last week, he made the comment that when he finally had a day off and dropped out of warp speed, he realized how tired he was and how much he had to do. He is like me - we function best when we are moving at warp speed. Drop out of warp speed and the rest of the world catches up to us.

Aaron's comments made me realize that, as busy as we can get as nontrads, we need to take the time to drop out of warp speed every now again, we need to wait a minute. Wait a minute and take a deep breath. Wait a minute and watch the sunset. Wait a minute and hug your children or spouse for just a little longer. Wait a minute and share a laugh with a close friend. Wait a minute and just stop, close your eyes and listen to the birds singing in the trees.

It is good to stop and wait a minute. I have an Aaron Copland CD that I listen to when I am stressed. My favorite tune is in "Appalachian Spring". It's a piece called, "The Gift To Be Simple". I love to close my eyes and just let the music wash over my weary mind. What better gift can we give ourselves than the gift of waiting a minute . . . to experience the simple things in life? Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Study Group

Last night, I had two study groups to attend. They overlapped, so I stayed longer at the one for the class I had an exam in today. I believe it helped.

I put an announcement on the board on Tuesday in Cultural Geography. My prof walked in, saw it and said that's the kind of thing she wanted to see in her class. Today she asked me how many people attended the study group. Out of a class of 25, we had 8 people, so that's about 1/3 of the class? She thought that was pretty good.

I don't mind studying solo, but there's just something about the interaction back and forth with other people that helps me to retain information longer.

How about you? Do you so well in study groups? They are another tool that's good to have in your "Success in School" toolbox. Use it! Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

An Interesting Observation

First off, I want to give a shout out to the Karns Lady Beavers volleyball team who beat the Farragut Lady Admirals tonight to take the Division 1, 2-A regional volleyball title. Great job, ladies! Jai-Ho!

That brings me to the reason for this post. I wore my Karns Beavers volleyball wear to school today - my royal blue t-shirt and matching sweatshirt. As I sat down in my History of Mexico class, the guy sitting behind me asked, "So, did you play volleyball at Karns?" I thought, "How old does he think I am?" I said, "No, but my daughter does." His eyes got wide. "How old is your daughter?" he asked. "Oh, she's a senior this year," I responded, smiling as I turned away. I thought he was going to fall out of his chair. I guess when you don't look like you're almost 50, people don't think you are.

That seems to be a common reaction when I tell people I have children - grown children. Their chins hit the floor. I guess I have been blessed with good genes. Thanks, Mom and Dad.

The observation is this - and it comes from a friend of mine: you are as young as you feel. There are some days when I feel very old. Those are the days when I don't feel good, have a ton of stuff to do, or realize my oldest will be 23 soon. Yikes!

One reason I enjoy being a student so much is that it keeps me young. There is a certain energy one picks up from being around younger people. I find myself saying "like" as a filler in my conversation. That's a bad habit I need to get rid of. I also find that life can be very exciting and full of promise. So what if I'm almost 50? From what I hear, 50 is the new 30. And 30 is the new . . . whatever. I appreciate a beautiful day, an umbrella without holes in it and a Grande Non-Fat Decaf Mocha Latte with a shot of raspberry.

I also appreciate it when a professor acknowledges my "profound" comment in class or the way I've crafted a point in a research paper. I appreciate it that the much younger students in my Geology class have included me in their study group. I plan to bribe/reward them with brownies the next time we get together. I appreciate it that my Environmental Geo prof from two years ago still remembers me!

I've heard it said that being young is not necessarily age, but it is the attitude of one's heart. Yup. Like, I am really starting to, like, get the hang of this full time student stuff, dude. :)

"You're as young as you feel." How do you feel today? Stay tuned . . .

Friday, October 16, 2009

What's YOUR Excuse?

I recently read a post by University Mama about how she uses homework as an excuse to get out of doing those things she really doesn't want to do. I laughed, because I have been there, too. My homework is such a convenient excuse! Most of the time, it's a legit excuse as well.

For the past two years, my backpack has been my constant companion. One friend of mine used to call it my "appendage". These days, however, my backpack isn't my only buddy. Larry the Laptop or Myrtle the Mini are also close at hand. I like Myrtle because she's small and doesn't say much, but she's very handy. Myrtle also doesn't weigh as much as Larry, so hauling her around is much easier on my back and shoulders.

My daughter is on her high school volleyball team and she has played club volleyball for the past two years as well. That means I (and Larry or Myrtle) go to lots of volleyball games and tournaments. The parents on the team have gotten used to seeing me with my "appendage". They know when I am holed up in a hotel room or in the corner of the gym at the top of the bleachers with my computer that I am studying and don't want to be bothered. I am only social when I want to be. I don't lolly-gag around making small talk, etc. I am a woman on a mission.

There have been many times when my husband has had to do the volleyball parent thing because I have had a paper due, an exam to study for or a project I had to work on. I, too, am wondering what life will be like without homework. What will I use for an excuse then?

I am not an academic stick in the mud, though. I have been known to break down and do fun stuff. It's just that I REEEAAAALLLLLYYY like being a student! Hmm - now there's a thought. Maybe I can become a professional student! How's THAT for an excuse??!! Stay tuned . . .

Fall Break

Campus looks like a ghost town! It's fall break here and campus is deserted. It's been cold and rainy. The wind is blowing the leaves around like tumbleweeds as the lone car on campus putters down Volunteer Boulevard. One can almost hear the theme from "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" wafting through the hallways as the eagle screeches overhead.

Okay, so I've watched too many westerns. I grew up in Arizona, home of the original Old West ghost towns. There are still people and cars on campus, just not as many. I think there was more activity on campus during the summer than there is over fall break! I know Christmas break will be even worse! Such is life.

I am working over fall break because a) my counterpart decided to take off for three days, b) my boss is off on Fridays and needed me here and c) if I stayed home, I'd do absolutely nothing! This way, I get a chance to catch up on homework, work on Electrical Engineering workshop logistics and catch up on homework. Did I mention I was catching up on homework? Such is the life of a student.

It's good to have a break from classes. Everyone needs a little mental health time now and then. Come Monday, we jump right back into school and mid-terms. Yea! Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What Does Your Education Mean to You?

What does your education mean to you? A chance to influence the future by being a teacher? A second career after "retiring"? A better job from updated skills? A chance to pursue a lifelong dream? For one young man, his education, or better yet, lack of education, meant life for his small community.

You can read about this remarkable young man, William Kamkwamb, at William was kicked out of school because his parents couldn't afford the $80 to send him to school. William began to spend a great deal of time at the library. A book about energy and harnessing the wind caught his eye. William built a windmill on his family's farm. He used bits and pieces of whatever he could find to build the simple apparatus so his family could have electricity and water. William was 14-years old at the time. Now, at 22, he is a student at the African Leadership Academy, an elite school in South Africa for young leaders. William's family and villagers thought he was crazy when he built his first windmill. That soon changed when his creation started generating electricity and pumping water, first for his family, then for his village. And all because of one young man's curiosity about the wind and his determination to make life better for his village.

As nontrads, we have something our younger counterparts don't have - life experience. We know what the "real world" is like. Many of us are juggling families, jobs, aging parents and the cost of life in general as we pull all-nighters in order to finish research papers and study for exams. That's what our education means to us.

Like William, our families and friends may think we are nuts in our pursuits. Yet, it takes courage, determination, hard work and good old-fashioned spunk to return to school in the midst of life. Perhaps you're questioning your decision to return to school because it's overwhelming or you failed that last exam or you're having writer's block on that research paper or you're the oldest student in a class of pre-20's.

William took what little education he had and silenced the naysayers of his village. He pressed on. You can, too. Press on and press in. Your education means your future. Be a windmill. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, October 5, 2009

What's Another Semester? Or - Adding a Minor

I have decided to add a Geology minor to my History major. That would mean I will graduate in December of 2010 instead of summer of 2010. Some of you may be thinking, "What value does a minor have? Do I really need to add a minor? What if I don't have time to add a minor?"

First of all, if you are up against financial, job or time constraints, don't add a minor. However, if you are not limited by any one of those three factors, it may be worth considering a minor.

Why add a minor? Depending on the minor you choose, it can make you more marketable and create more opportunities for employment. In my case, I am adding a Geology minor because a) I love the subject, but hate the math involved in a Geo Major, and 2) my History major will show prospective employers I can communicate while the science minor will show I can think critically/logically. Communication and critical thinking skills are a good package.

Do I really need to add a minor? No. You don't have to do anything. However, unless you are majoring in something quite lucrative, adding a minor would be a plus. In addition, the value of a minor depends on the minor itself. If you are an Education major, a science, social science or math minor would increase the spectrum of classes you are qualified to teach. If you are a liberal arts major, like English, History, Classics, etc., a science minor would open the doors to further writing, researching and analytical positions. The best thing to do when considering a minor is to speak to an advisor in your minor department. They would best be qualified to give you direction as far as how your minor would fit in with your major.

How do I know what to minor in? The first person to ask would be an advisor in your major department. They may ask you questions about your interest, what classes you've taken that you really enjoy, etc. An advisor can help you whittle down the choices for a minor.

How long will it take to get a minor? Most minors are about 15 hours - that's one heavy semester or two light semesters. My Geology minor is 16 hours (due to labs). I am going to split it up between three semesters (along with the classes I need to finish taking for my major)- spring 2010, summer 2010 and fall 2010. I will be taking 16 hours in the spring, 3 hours in the summer and 13 hours next fall.

With the job market the way it is, staying an extra semester in school will be to my advantage. Adding a science minor may also make me more desirable for grad school. A minor should never be a hindrance or a detriment. It should only be a positive thing in your college career.

So, what's holding you back? Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Stay tuned . . .

Friday, October 2, 2009

Shout out to PSCC Non-Trads

Borrowing a page from Tina Fain's Sara Palin playbook, I'd like to give a shout out to the PSCC Non-Trads. Hey, Y'all! Betsy leads a non-trad support group at one of the local community colleges. We have exchanged several emails about "older students", non-trads.

Deb Peterson has blogged about the opportunities available at the community college. I, too, have extolled the advantages and virtues of the community college because I have been a community college non-trad as well. There have been several times over the past couple of years when I have taken classes at the university AND at the community college. I've been a bi-schooler. It is doable!

I applaud Betsy and her desire to walk through the non-trad experience with so many people. It's not easy being a non-trad when you have a job, a family, a mortgage, aging parents, a special needs child, etc. It takes courage to go back to school when life is happening all around you. The best thing to do as a nontrad is to get into a support group, to be in a like-minded community.

Thank you, Betsy, and all the other Betsys out there who are willing to walk down this road with us. God bless you! Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Weather is Changing

It seems that here in K-Town, we have skipped right past fall and gone straight to winter. One day it was 80-something with unbearable humidity, then overnight, it went from a high in the 60's with a low in the 40's! Granted, to some that may seem like spring or summer, but to us folks here in the hills, it's a tad nippy!

The weather is changing for me personally as well. Deciding to return to school full time and work part time was like a deciding to wait out a hurricane! I thought, "I've been in school part time for a while now, full time should be a piece of cake!". Yes and no. Juggling my classes is not that hard, but finding resources for my senior thesis and making sure I get all my homework done is a challenge. I go to bed most nights mentally exhausted!

The "winds of change" are blowing. The last time I did the full time student on a college campus thing, I was 18 - almost 30 years ago! A great many things have changed - mainly, me. I am more mature, wiser and dealing with the fact that I need to start a serious exercise/diet (what I eat and how much) plan. Oh, the joys of being . . . my age (notice I did not use the dreaded "o" word?).

My daughter is a senior in high school. She will be going away to college to play volleyball for a small school five hours south of here. The weather is changing. In less than a year, it will just be me, hubby and dogs at home. Hasn't been that way in close to 23 years. The weather is changing. Come May, I will no longer have school-aged children. They will all be in college. The weather is changing.

There have been unexpected bright and sunny days in my personal forecast. I was asked to assist with a conference the Electrical Engineering Department is hosting. I am getting to know EE Department heads and their assistants from around the country. The department head and associate department head here at UT seem pleased with my work so far. My boss is pleased with my work and enjoys having me in the department. My cumulative GPA so far this semester is a B+. I may have a chance soon to go talk to a group of non-trads at a local community college.

In spite of the changing forecast, I'd say my weather overall has been pleasant. How's the weather in your life? Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Brownies and Burgundians

As I sit down to write, I have brownies in the oven. The house smells wonderful. The only thing better than brownies is homemade bread. My daughter has a volleyball tournament this weekend. Her school is hosting the tournament, so we are in charge of the concessions. The brownies are for the concession stand. I hope the team does well. There will be 17 teams there - both high school and middle school. I am looking forward to a chance to show off Karns.

Now on to the Burgundians - Medieval History. I got a B+ on my first exam in that class. I was hoping for an A. I'm just a tad bummed. I got an A on my Cultural Geography exam, so I was very happy about that. Will get my History of Mexico and Geo tests back next week. Should be interesting.

I have to write a book review for my Medieval History class. I read "The Conversion of Constantine", edited by John W. Eadie. It is a collection of essays debating the conversion of Constantine - was it genuine or political? After reading the book, I tend to think Constantine's conversion was a political move - for a variety of reasons. There is a limited body of evidence for researchers to pull from, so it seems that everyone who writes about the subject is putting a different spin on the same information. It's rather droll.

I still love school, even though being on campus full time for the first time in close to 30 years is somewhat of a challenge. I still have to be Mom, Honey and friend! Wow.

I was talking to a friend of mine today that I've not talked to since the end of last semester. She was amazed at what all I am doing. I told her that I did not go to summer school, so I had some down time then. But when I dropped out of warp speed at the end of last spring, I think I got whiplash! I have to admit that as hard as it is, I am a warp speed junkie! I love being busy with school because I love learning. I enjoy the challenge of balancing school and life. Yes, I know. that sounds sick. I just love being a student!! Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Geology, Geography and Gringos

Last week I had three exams - History of Mexico, Medieval History and Cultural Geography. The History of Mexico exam was like writing a research paper in an hour and fifteen minutes. The Medieval History exam was some matching, some fill-in-the blank and two essay questions. The Cultural Geography exam was all essay - with a two-inch space in which to write our answers! The prof didn't want us going on and on about the questioned topic.

I have one more exam on Monday - Geology 101. There is going to be so much information on that exam! It feels more like a 400 level class than a 100 level class. I am studying for that exam this evening.

I have not gotten any of the exams back from last week. I am anxious to see how I did. The first exam is usually like the first paper - most people do okay on them. If one has not had that professor for a previous class, one does not know what the professor expects on their exams and papers. It's good to get past this first exam and onto new material. I will be more prepared for future exams in that I know what the professors expect.

I also have papers due soon (in two weeks) for my classes (except Geology). I love to write, but sometimes I am not sure how and what to write on the first paper because I am not sure what the professor expects. There are several things I know to expect: first, there is a very strict university policy against plagiarism. Students get kicked out of the university for plagiarism. Second, I know that I will need to proofread my papers closely - misspelling and grammatical errors will not be tolerated on a paper. Third, I need to pay attention to length. Several professors have expectations for the length of the papers. They said their students need to pay attention to the length requirement because papers that are longer than required can result in a poor grade.

Being a full time student again takes some getting used to. I find I am having a harder time studying. I don't know why that is. Part of it could be that I am having to use more brain power now for longer periods of time. I can't just shut off school when I walk into work. I am slowly, but surely, getting used to the demands of being a full time student. Most of my profs know my story - that I have three children almost out of the house and I am returning to school to finish up my education.

After I study for my Geo exam, I need to read for the rest of my classes. I read before going to bed and on the bus in the mornings - I need to take advantage of the time I have in order to keep up with my schoolwork.

I hope everyone else's semester is going well. Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, September 14, 2009

Exam-ingly Exhausted

Getting to bed late again - that will be the norm for this week. Wow - one quiz, three exams and a minor project. My last exam (in this round) is a week from today. This being a full-time student stuff is hard work! I am grateful to my boss for allowing me to use the vacant office next to hers as a quiet place to study.

I think I am breaking one of the cardinal rules of exam taking - get a good night's sleep (right, Elizabeth?). I am getting used to the full days and full nights. School and volleyball (daughter) take up 95% of my time. What do I do for fun?

We had a volleyball tournament in Charleston, SC over Labor Day weekend. On Sunday, my husband and I took a boat out to Ft. Sumter, where the Civil War began. Then we took a carriage ride through Historic Charleston. It was very cool! I was so excited about it. When I told my daughter, she called me a nerd. Yes, I am a Histo-nerd and proud of it!

Need to turn in for the night - History of Mexico essay exam tomorrow (groan!). I want to make the Dean's list this semester. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, September 7, 2009

Saints, Spaniards and Swine Flu

Whew! My family is finally over the swine flu. My daughter had it worse than I did - she ran a fever of 102+ for a couple of days. We both got on Tamiflu which is a wonder drug! My sympathies to anyone who gets the swine flu. Make sure you go to the doc, get diagnosed and get Tamiflu.

Megan missed three days of school and I missed two. I found out that schoolwork, like laundry, multiplies exponentially. I missed one day in each of my five classes. I may has well have missed a month. Even though I did work at home while I was sick, it still seems like it piled up on me.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), I have a paper due in my Cultural Geography class. I know what the paper is supposed to be about, but I am having a hard time putting it into words. I have an exam in my History of Mexico class a week from tomorrow. I got an "A" on my medieval History Map quiz. I knew I'd ace that one.

My History of Mexico exam will be about how the Spaniards' arrival changed the lives of the indigenous peoples in Central Mexico and Oxaca. The next exam for Medieval History will include some of the writings of St. Augustine as he voiced opposition to the rise of Arianism in the early church.

Wow. Lots of stuff to do in the next two weeks. And on top of that? I am helping to coordinate the logistics for an Electrical Engineering conference at UT at the end of October. That requires getting online to find the department heads for over 200 college Electrical Engineering programs. I have nothing else to do! (groan!)

Will I be able to keep all these balls in the air? Hope so! Stay tuned . . .

Monday, August 31, 2009

In The Thick of Things

School is now well under way. I had my first quiz last Friday in my Medieval History class and I have a paper due in Cultural Geography on Sept. 8. Nothing like jumping in with both feet the first couple weeks of class. And to top it all off, my daughter has the swine flu and I have a cold. I am trying to get through my classes today so I can go home and go straight to bed. I may have to miss my Geo lab tonight. Such is life.

I have not seen many adult students so far this semester. I have seen perhaps three adult students. I'm sure I will see more as the semester progresses. I am not sure if we have an Adult Student Association on campus anymore. I am supposed to have lunch one of these days with someone from the Dean of Student's office to talk about adult students.

Not much else going on this last day of August other than I can't believe the summer is over. Where did it go? Gearing up for a busy semester. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Little Fish in a Big Pond

The office where I work borders one of the busiest intersections on campus - Volunteer Boulevard and Andy Holt Drive. My office is right across the street from the library and business building - also very busy places. In the morning and at noon, there are two campus police officers at this intersection. It's their job to make sure cars and pedestrians get along.

Last week, my Master's Student son told me that he saw the entire student population of his Alma Mater cross the street in front of him at this intersection. There were 1,500 students at Berea College. That might be about half of the senior class here at UT. Needless to say, this is a very big and very busy campus. Makes me feel like a little fish in a rather ginormous pond.

What do I do? How do I stay connected and not get lost? How to I participate in student life here in the big pond? I have several suggestions:

1. Form a study group in some of my classes. My Geology prof has already suggested that to us. My Geography prof has made us do some in-class assignments that involve breaking down into groups. That's a good thing.

2. Get to know the faculty and staff in my major department as well as the department where I work. I am getting to know my boss better. That's always a good thing, too.

3. Get to know at least one other person in my classes. If I see them in the library, at Starbucks or somewhere else, I can ask them, "Hey, aren't you in my (whatever) class? How do you like it so far?"

4. Talk to the people who serve me, get to know their names. For instance, I was at the Starbucks in the library so much last semester, the baristas and I got to know one another's names. Today, as I was leaving the Student Union, two of the baristas were behind me. I stopped and talked to Amanda. She's graduating this year.

5. Practice random acts of kindness - hold the elevator door, pick up a dropped pen, pencil, folder or umbrella, thank the teacher when I leave the class, start a pot of coffee at the office.

Even though I am a little fish, I can still make my presence known. How about you? Do you have any suggestions for becoming a noticeable little fish? Share them! Stay tuned . . .

Friday, August 21, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

All I have to say after my first "week" of classes is . . . wow. This is going to be a challenging semester. It has been a while since I've been on campus full time. The last time I did it, I was considerably younger. Still, I am looking forward to this semester.

I am taking sixteen hours. The course content is going to be so rich - cultural geography, Medieval history, the history of Mexico, physical geology and researching my senior thesis. I am looking forward to the challenges of this semester.

My boss also told me today that she will give me access to the vacant office next to hers so I will have somewhere to keep my books in between classes. I was flabbergasted! She said I could even come in after hours and use the office for a quiet place to study. That is very cool.

I know I can do the school thing, but can I do the full time school thing? That remains to be seen. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am confident I will be able to pull this off! Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Veni, Vidi, Vici - Sort Of

"I came, I saw, I conquered." That is one of only three phrases I remember from my high school Latin class. Today was the first day of classes at UT. I was on campus all day! Haven't done that in close to thirty years! Wow. I guess you could say I "conquered" that 30-year hurdle today!

I survived the first day of classes. It looks as though this will be a challenging semester. I am looking forward to it, though. The prof who teaches my Geology class is an 80-year old Geomorphologist who is very animated when he speaks. My Geo class is on "The Hill", so I will be getting plenty of exercise.

More later. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, August 17, 2009

. . . Go!

We're almost there! School starts in two days. My History Honors prof (senior thesis class) has already sent us a boatload of information to look over, read, etc. Ah, the life of a college senior.

I am looking forward to school. I love learning and being a student. This semester I have three history classes - Medieval History, The History of Mexico and History Honors. I will also be taking Cultural Geography and Geology 101 for a total of 16 hours. I think that's enough for one semester! This is the first time I will be on campus full time in almost 30 years.

Campus seems to be more crowded this year than last. Even last week, though we were between summer and fall semesters, it seemed there were quite a few students on campus already. Campus is usually more busy in the fall than in the spring. There are a few things I need to check on before class starts on Wednesday:

1. Classes: Where are my classes? Building and room number? I need to make sure there are no last minute classroom changes. I can check that by going online and accessing my schedule.
2. Supplies: I at least need to have one notebook and one pen before I start class on Wednesday. Do I have all my supplies?
3. Books: I still haven't purchased my books. I'll do that tomorrow - avoid the rush. I did not check this semester for cheaper books online. I will have to remember to do that next semester.
4. Schedule: this includes both work and class. I need to make sure I know when I am scheduled to work and how to coordinate my work and my class schedules.
5. Transportation: If I am going to drive to school, I need to make sure I get a parking pass. If I am taking the bus, I need to make sure I have my bus pass.

I think that's pretty much it. One of the nice things about working on campus this summer is that I have gotten to know my way around campus better. My boss sends me on errands all the time. I will not be one of those students with the deer in the headlights look. I will know where I am going!

My best to everyone as y'all gear up for the new school year. I raise my glass in a toast to all us nontrads - may this year bring new challenges, new friends, and also bring us closer to achieving our dreams! Bottoms up!! Stay tuned . . .

Friday, August 7, 2009

Keeping Good Records

My boss gave me a project to do this morning. My frustration grew as I progressed further into the project because the records I needed were not there. Now we are having to reconstruct the records from other sources. Those sources are scattered as well.

One piece of advice I was given early on in my nontrad journey was to keep hard copies of my records. One never knows when one will need to access those records and they may not always be readily available. Modern technology is great, but modern technology also crashes and gets hacked.

Ok, so what kind of records will I need to keep? Here are some suggestions:
1. Non-official transcript: This is usually free. This document will include all the pertinent information from your college career thus far - cumulative GPA, dept. GPA, classes taken and the grade received in each on, number of credits attempted, number of credits completed. This is an oft requested document.
2. DARS (Degree Audit Reporting System) report (or something similar): This document will have your cumulative GPA, your dept. GPA, and the classes you not only have taken, but still need to take in order to graduate. It also has the number of credit hours you have successfully completed as well as how many you still need in order to graduate. You should be checking this information on a regular basis throughout your college career to make sure you are on track to graduate.
3. Grade report: Your "report card". Keep a copy on hand as proof you did take x class and you did get x grade in x class.
4. Class schedule: It is not necessary to keep a hard copy of this from each semester as your grade report will serve as proof you attended the class. However, it's good to keep a hard copy of the current semester as non-official proof of your enrollment.

All the other normal records usually asked for (birth certificate, driver's license number, social security number, etc.) should always be within easy access for you but no one else. Twitter and Facebook got hacked yesterday. Common sense says that you should not put your vital information online (social security number, credit card numbers, etc.).

Who knows what value those hard copies of information may have one day? Your great grandchildren may be fascinated by the fact that you had to take Elementary Underwater Basketweaving as a requirement for your Liberal Arts degree and that you got a B+ in it! Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cutting College Costs

"It's going to cost me how much to go to school???!!" Sticker shock. It affects us all when we decide to return to school. Multiply that by the number of children you have in college as well as yourself and the total comes out to be . . . Wow! Where do I sign up for the next government bailout??

I've read quite a few articles on cutting college costs. However, they were all written by well-known and well-paid columnists who either have not been to college themselves in well over thirty years or have no children currently in college. So, let's get down to the practical nitty-gritty, shall we?

Other than tuition, what's the most costly item on your "Back to School" list? Textbooks! Last semester, I ended up paying over $250 for three books - THREE BOOKS! That was at the bookstore. *facepalm. My freshman son at UTC bought his books online through Amazon or on eBay. That's using your noggin. With regard to textbooks, there is nothing wrong with buying used books as long as they are the correct edition. One of the things I've done in the past is to check out the textbook from the school library and keep renewing it. However, the book is always subject to recall should someone else need it. You can also rent textbooks (see

One of my son's biggest expenses was food. Many schools have a meal plan you can purchase. However, there are limitations to some of the meal plans (# of meals a day, only certain places to eat, etc.). If you are a commuter to school, bring a sack lunch with food that is healthy, but not perishable. If you are in campus housing and have (a) roommate(s), you might want to think about going in with some of your fellow collegians and purchase bulk items at a place like Sam's or Costco. Buying in bulk is great for high volume items (toilet paper, computer paper, paper towels, coffee/tea/hot chocolate, etc.). You can also divide items like shredded cheese, hamburger, etc. Take advantage of the local farmer's market for fresh fruits and veggies. Earth Fare, a great whole foods store, just opened a new location not far from campus.

How many of us absolutely cannot do without our cell phone? Call your provider and find out how you can save money on your plan. Put the customer service department to work for you. Can't live without texting or chatting all day long? You'll need to learn to curtail your non-essential communication. There's always email, free on the computers at the library. And speaking of the computers at the library, if switching to a phone with less bells and whistles (like internet access) will save money, do it. My cell phone is like Captain Kirk's communicator - a basic communication device. I can phone and text - that's all. And that's all I need on my cellphone.

Other cost cutters are: take public transportation (if possible) instead of driving everywhere; recycle your old clothes and take them to someplace like Plato's Closet, Planet Exchange, etc. that will either give you money for your clothes or an in-store credit to purchase more clothes (The basics in clothing don't change that much from year to year); rent a movie or join Netflix ($10/month) instead of always going to the movie theater; keep an eye out for "cheap dates" - low cost or free activities you can do with family and friends; drink less alcohol and more water.

What are some ways you are cutting college costs? Share them with us! Stay tuned . . .

Monday, August 3, 2009

What Am I Doing Here??!!

Elizabeth Sheppard posted a list of nontrad blogs on her Yahoo nontrad group. Some of the blogs have posts entitled, "I Never Signed Up for This", "Back To School For Grown-Ups", "Returning to College", "The Financial Aid Blog", "College the Second Time Around" and so on.

I remember when I decided to go back to school. I panicked. How was I going to pay for this? Would my employer let me take classes during the day? Was I going to get attacked walking through campus at night? How can I read five chapters a day and still work full time and still be Mom? How do I get my children where they need to go if my husband has to be out of town with his job? What am I doing here????!!! Making the decision to go back to school was a big deal.

I would love to get some of these nontrad bloggers together, sit down to coffee or tea and share stories. What was their impression after the first day of their very first class? I was so excited, I cried. Did they know what a FAFSA was? Luckily, I already had a child in college, so I was familiar with that. What did their classmates think of them? Many of my classmates could not believe I have children their age.

We each have our own stories, our own road to walk down, but we have a common goal - to get that degree! Whether it's an Associates Degree, Bachelor's, Master's or Doctorate, returning to school after you've been out for 5, 10, 15, 20 years and longer can seem like a daunting task, an intimidating proposition, a foolish dream. However, judging from Elizabeth's list, there's lots of folks out there doing it!

I would like to raise my glass in a toast to all my fellow nontrads, wherever you are on the road, "Just do it!" Stay tuned . . .

P.S. Just realized, I've been rather prolific today. Hmm - some days are like that!

I just got notified of a new website for non- and ultratraditional students. It is I briefly looked over it and something caught my eye. One of the articles on the site is titled, "I Can't Keep Up! What Do I Do?" Haven't read the article yet, but it sounds interesting. Another article of interest is titled, "Generational Learning Differences".

One of the things I think is important to ascertain before one returns to school is one's learning style. There is a book out there, though I'm not sure if it's still in print, called "The Way They Learn" by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias. In the book, Tobias not only addresses the three basic learning styles (auditory, visual and kinesthetic), but how one processes material (concrete or abstract) and how one filters that process. It is a very in-depth book. Along with Tobias' book, I would recommend "Different Children, Different Needs" by Charles Boyd. Boyd's book addresses the four basic personality types. Even though it is meant mainly as a resource for parents and children, it can also be a resource for understanding yourself in the midst of a new experience, like returning to school.

When I was homeschooling and I would meet new homeschooling parents, my first advice was, "Become a student of your children". In other words, watch your child, get to know your child one on one (difficult if you have more than one child, but not impossible). I would also recommend the two books I mentioned above.

Now, as a nontrad, I want to advocate becoming a student of yourself. If you're new to the nontrad scene, you may feel scared, anxious, inadequate. Take a little walk down that introspectiveroad and examine what you're feeling. All these feelings are natural. If you're not sure where you fall in the learning curve, take a look at Tobias' book on learning styles. If it's been a while since you've done something you really enjoy doing, take a look at Boyd's book on personality types. Once you understand why you feel the way you do about returning to school, you will be able to walk forth confidently and enjoy being a student again. Good luck!

Check out the studentagain website. Stay tuned . . .

. . . Get Set . . .

Many nontrads have a family as well as a desire to get/complete their education. I would be remiss if I did not include family preparation on my "To Do" list before returning to school in two weeks. The amount of family prep one has to do before classes start depends on several key issues:
1. How many children are there in the family and how old are the children?
2. Is your spouse willing to cooperate and help with household chores, meals, etc.?
3. What kind of support do you have from family, friends and neighbors?

If your children are older (high school and beyond), if you have a spouse who is willing to be a "single parent" for a couple of semesters, and if you have the support of your family, friends and neighbors, then you're waaay ahead of the game. What if your life isn't so ideal?

Here are some practical tips to help get your family prepared for you to go back to school:
1. Children: a) If possible, schedule your classes around their school day. You should be in school while they are in school. b) Ask a couple other Moms if they'd fill in for you in the event you cannot pick your child up from school on time. You will most likely need to list these ladies on your child's "Approved Pickup List" at school. Make sure you communicate with your backup, your child's school and your child in plenty of time when you know you are going to be late. c) Children love games. Make "Mommy/Daddy is going back to school" a game with your children - do things like, "How big is your backpack?" "How many books are in your backpack?" "What's the most unusual thing in your backpack?", "What are you having for lunch today?", etc. That will give them a little better understanding that you are in school, too. d) Take your children on a field trip to your school. Show them all the "cool" places you go, like the library, the student center, etc. Tell them they have their school and Mommy/Daddy has her/his school. Do something fun while you are on campus - check out a children's book from the library, get an ice cream from the student center, etc. e) Let your children's teachers know you are a student, too. They'll cut you some slack with Parent-Teacher Conferences, etc. f) Don't forget to spend some quality time with your children. Take a Saturday to just go to the park and enjoy the swings!

2. Spouse: a) Communication: make sure to talk about expectations - what you need from each other during your time in school. Do you need your spouse to take the reigns at home and be "Mr. Mom"? Do you need him to do a load of laundry every other day? Vacuum? Spell it out. b) If your spouse is not willing to or cannot cooperate (he travels a lot for his job), you'll need to learn time management. God invented the crockpot for working and student moms. Take advantage of it. Do a load of laundry while you're eating dinner. Enlist the children to help dust, vacuum, etc. on a weekly basis. Plan menus a week in advance so your older children can help with dinner, too. General clutter pickup will make your house look more organized. c) If your spouse is helping and not complaining too much about it, make sure you take him out to dinner as a way to say "Thanks for your support. I really appreciate you!"

3. Animals: a) You will obviously get no cooperation from the canine or feline children. However, someone does need to take care of them, too. Designate a child to care for the animals on a weekly basis - this will help to teach them responsibility. b) Taking the dogs for a walk is a good way to work off the stress that comes with having to study for a major exam, write a 30-page term paper, etc. Take advantage of the down time and the exercise! c) Nothing says "I Love You!" like the purr of a cat. Take advantage of this built in love-meter. d) Don't forget to water your plants before you leave in the morning.

Do you have any practical tips on family preparation for your return to school? Feel free to share them! Above all, our families need to feel that they have not been abandoned to various colleges texts, but that we still love them. Take the time to tell your family you love them and appreciate them. Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, August 2, 2009

On Your Mark, Get Ready . . .

It's a beautiful Sunday morning here in Ktown. I'm glad I mowed the lawn last night since it poured rain here about two hours ago. The sun is out now and my wildflowers are finally blooming because of all the rain we've had recently.

I was sitting here thinking about school - 17 days and counting! Am I ready?? Let me check my list:

1. Financial Aid: I recently filled out a Special Circumstance form in order to see if I qualify for more financial aid since I am only working part time now. Have you had changes in your financial status since you initially filled out your FAFSA? You or a spouse experiencing a job change, a divorce, even additional children in college could mean more financial aid. If you have experienced a change, find out if your school has a Special Circumstance form to fill out. Take advantage of the resources available to you.
2. Books: The bookstore at my school allows students to reserve their books ahead of time. I specified that I wanted used books if at all possible. The bookstore will notify me that my books are ready for pick up. All I have to do is go get them and pay for them. That service saves me time. I don't have to spend an hour out of my day trying to figure out what books I need, then standing in line to purchase them.
3. Schedule: About a month ago, my department sent out an email to all its majors informing them of classes that had recently been added. Several of the new classes were classes I needed for my major. Even though I already had my schedule figured out, I dropped one elective to take a class in my major. A word of caution, though. Don't drop a class until you know you can add the class you need. At this late date, most classes are already full and you may not be able to get back into your dropped class if you need to. Also, due to budget cuts, many universities are trimming their class schedules, so some much needed classes may not be as readily available.
4. Advising/declaring/misc. departmental stuff: If you're new to the nontrad population, the first thing you will need to do is meet with an advisor to figure out your class schedule. When you applied for admission, you were asked to submit a transcript. Any classes from prior colleges were evaluated and counted (or not) as transfer credits. An advisor will go over these with you and you can build your schedule from there. When I applied to UT, I was able to transfer in as a Junior. UT's policy is that you must declare your major during your Junior year. Once one declares a major, one is given an advisor in one's major department. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how well the faculty member knows advising. It can be a bit intimidating getting to know the faculty, etc. in one's department. Read a faculty member's latest book. That will be a point of commonality and may win you brownie points with the faculty member!

I think I have all my ducks in a row for school. Now I just need to make sure things are settled on the home front and I'll be good to go. Stay tuned . . .