Friday, January 30, 2009

The Honeymoon is Over

I am very excited at the beginning of each semester, not unlike a kindergartner starting their first day of school. I use the example of a kindergartner because I know that as children continue their school careers, their first-day-of-school excitement usually decreases with each passing year. As usual, my excitement was quite high a couple weeks ago. I remember thinking, "Ohmygosh! I'm going to be in school full time for the first time in over twenty years!! Am I going to able to do it??!!" (Insert a picture here of a puppy dog doing a full body wag, tongue hanging out of its mouth, ears erect and tail wagging at a brisk 100 mph.) Now I am thinking, "Oh . . . my . . . gosh. I am going to be in school full time for the first time in over twenty years. What the (expletive) was I thinking??!! Have I absolutely gone off the (expletive) deep end?? What is my problem??!!"

I think it's a fair assessment to say the honeymoon is over. Reality is setting in as I have a quiz and two exams in the next two weeks, a research paper due and more pages to read than there are sheets of toilet paper in an institutional size pack of TP from Sam's Club !!! Aaaarrrrhhhhggggg!! But then, I knew this would happen. Thank God for my cool laptop (thanks, Will!) and Starbucks.

Basketball season is almost over for Megan, but she will still be playing on a traveling volleyball team. At least this year the farthest away we will have to travel is to Atlanta, GA (3-1/2 hours south). Last year, the farthest away we traveled was to Birmingham, AL (5 hours west)and Asheville, NC (2 hours east). Most of the tournaments will be in Chattanooga, a mere hour and a half down the road.

I'm still running the race. I still have the goal in sight. However, I am looking forward to taking a break in Phoenix in March. That will be a time of refreshment and renewal for me. In the meantime, I need to study for a Spanish quiz next week, an Econ test Feb. 10 and a Spanish test Feb. 11. (Groan!) stay tuned . . .

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Happy Birthday!

Today was a special day for me. My oldest child, aka The Prototype, Aaron, turned 22. I am so proud of him! He is dual majoring in German and Communications at Berea College in Berea, KY. I told him that it's amazing he is 22 when I don't look at day over 35!

Aaron informed me last week he wants to continue his education to get his PhD. I can see him dual-Mastering in German and Communications and dual-PhD-ing in those as well. If anyone can do that, it's Aaron. He speaks German fluently and has been a communicator since birth. It's scary.

Aaron has an uncanny gift for voices, accents, etc. He reminds me of the late Mel Blanc (the voice of Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and so many other wonderful cartoon characters). One of my favorite voices Aaron does is "German Yoda". That one sends me into incredible fits of uncontrollable laughter that make my ribs hurt.

Aaron is planning on getting engaged sometime this spring/summer to his girlfriend of almost 3 years, Ashley. She's a very nice young lady that I don't mind having as a daughter-in-law. She will be a great addition to our family. My other two children love her as well.

I am very proud of Aaron - of the child he was and of the man he is becoming. I wish him well in the future as he and Ashley build their lives together. One thing, though. I'm not ready to be a grandmother just yet. I'm too young!!

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, January 26, 2009


As a nontrad, my attentions are often divided between school, work and family. I usually do a pretty good job of keeping all the balls in the air and focusing on what needs to be done. This weekend, someone threw a chainsaw into my juggling. My Dad had an MRI on Friday. The doctors found more cancer in his brain and a tumor at the top of his spinal cord. He will undergo "all brain" radiation beginning later this week. My parents are in Arizona and I am here in Tennessee. That's a long way away. It's hard to be so far away from them at this time. I will go out there for Spring Break in March.

I'm not sure which philosopher it was who said, "That which doesn't kill us makes us stronger." As I look down the course I'm running this semester, I initially thought it was going to be a typical cross-country course filled with the usual dips and turns. I did not expect it to be an obstacle course filled with unforeseen hazards. I know I need to stay the course and keep the goal in sight. I know I need to stay focused and help those around me (my family) to stay focused as well.

I also know I need to cherish each day I have with my parents and tell them often that I love them. I want my Dad to be around to see me graduate. If he's not, I know he's proud of me just the same. I want him to fight this thing. His family is not ready to let him go yet. I know there will come a time when we will have to let him go. And that's okay. He's been the best Dad anyone could ever ask for.

I don't know if it's proper to dedicate a semester to anyone, but I want to dedicate this semester to my Dad. I want to do my best because he's always done his best. I love you, Dad.

Friday, January 23, 2009

"Second Time Around"

Nan Mooney writes about two nontrads at It's interesting to read about other peoples' nontrad experiences. Even though they are all different, they all have something in common - the completion of one's education. As nontrads, let's encourage one another. If we know some aspiring nontrads, we need to encourage them as well - give 'em a little , "Yes, you can!" in their journey back to school to get that degree. It's not easy being a nontrad, but I could fill volumes with what I've learned!

Stay tuned . . .

How Do You Do It?

I'm not afraid to share my nontrad story with anyone. I think it's rather funny to watch most peoples' reaction when I tell them I am in school full time, working full time and Mom full time. Nine times out of ten, their response is, "I don't know how you do it!" To be quite honest, I don't know either. One does what one has to.

I am no different than the working Mom who has to get the children up, breakfasted, dressed and out the door to meet the bus or the carpool, as she herself is running out the door to the bus or the carpool. I am no different than the teacher standing in front of a class of fidgety third graders, trying to get them to focus enough to take a spelling test. I am no different than the cashier at Kohl's who comes in to work at 6pm after working a full day at another job, then goes home to take care of her aging mother. One does what one has to.

Nontrads are nontrads because we have a life outside of school. That life includes children, jobs, pets, mortgages, bills, debts, aging parents, and a host of other obligations. I get emails all the time from the History department and UT Student Government informing me of all sorts of cool lectures, clubs and other on campus activities. Unfortunately, many of those opportunities take place during the day while I am at work. There may be a rare occasion when I can take off work to attend a lecture that is related to my major. I don't get to participate that often in campus life at UT or Pellissippi State. That comes with being a nontrad.

There are some times when I feel like I'm hovering between my three worlds - student, employee and Mom - and not quite sure where I'm supposed to land. Maybe that's a consequence of trying to do everything at once. I just have to learn to do it patiently, efficiently, and calmly. Hmm. We'll see if that works. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Moving Right Along - Chapter Two

I am now officially in school full time. I attended my Spanish class at Pellissippi State last night. There are six of us from the class last semester. We huddled in one corner of the class together, sharing laughs and camaraderie. There are twenty people in the class. The professor is from Venezuela. She is about five feet tall with shoulder length brown hair. She wears a pair of glasses that make her eyes look really big - almost bug-like. She is funny. She asked us a couple times, "Is my English okay tonight?" I think it's going to be a good class.

We're having some great discussions in my History Honors class. Getting to the class is a workout in itself! I park a good half a mile away and have to walk uphill the whole way to get there. I can make it from where I park to the class in 10 minutes if I walk really fast! This morning, the elevator in the building was having problems, so I not only walked quickly to class, I also had to run up four flights of stairs. Whew! By the time I got to class, I was out of breath. Great workout! I took my time walking back to my car after class.

Tuesdays and Thursdays are my long days because I have History in the morning and Economics at night. I usually make sure I have more than just Soup at Hand for lunch on those days since I won't get around to eating dinner - either late or at all.

My running shoes are laced up, I've a good stride going and I hope to settle into my groove here before too long. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Moving Right Along

School is well under way. I start class at the community college tonight. It will be the last of my night classes and will make my schedule full time. Whew! Thank goodness for late night library hours and Starbucks at the UT library!

I have several goals I need to accomplish this semester - go to the WBHOF interview, complete the Baker Scholar application process, work on and compete in the EUReCA project, take my GRE, make at least a 3.5 GPA. I will hand in my paperwork for the Baker Scholar program today. By the end of the day, two of my goals for this semester will have been accomplished. That's a good thing. Little victories are worth celebrating.

One of the interesting things about higher education is the diversity among the profs in the way they teach, the way they expect papers to be written, when and how they post grades, the way they formulate exams, etc. It makes me appreciate the ability to be flexible: "Blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall bend and not break." I am making mental notes of what to do and what not to do should I ever find myself in a teaching position.

On the subject of moving right along, I watched the inauguration yesterday (on my desktop) and was inspired by President Obama's inaugural address. Even though it was not a "fireworks" speech, it was a good speech nonetheless. The main point I got out of it was, "Even though these are hard times, we cannot give in or give up. We need to dig in and move on like we've always done as Americans." Whether one voted for Obama or not, now is not the time for divisiveness, but for unity and for moving forward.

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, January 19, 2009

Giving it Some Thought

It's funny how one's mind tends to wander at the oddest times. I am sitting here at work, watching it snow, (a rare thing in Knoxville), and my mind wanders to the folks who suddenly find themselves without a job. Part of the reason for my brain's sojourn could be that the company I work for laid off three people on Friday. That may not seem like a huge number, but for our little company of 25 people, that's a big chunk. The President called us all together after the three people had left and explained the situation to us. He informed us that several of our competitors had laid off significant numbers of people earlier in the week.

One of the off-ramps my gray matter took in its short drive was that of continuing education. How many of the recently laid-off are going to explore education as an option as opposed to going out and finding another job? We've all heard recently of the shortages of teachers, nurses, etc. Perhaps this is the time for people to go back to school and invest in another career in order to make up for those shortages. As our population continues to age, we will need more health care workers. Maybe we will see a shift in the labor demographics. We will always need doctors and nurses, teachers, law enforcement personnel and techno-geeks.

Education at the community college level is a good investment and not as expensive as a four-year institution. Hmmm - it's worth considering. Those folks who survived the Great Depression of the 1930s were innovative, savvy and not afraid to ask questions and take a chance. Just giving it some thought. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Numbers versus Words

It is my experience that one is either a numbers person or a words person. Rarely can one successfully be both. I am a words person. I think I have mentioned in previous posts that I am not a math person. My oldest son is very much like me - a words person. He is double majoring in German and Communications. It's scary. I wrote a piece a couple years ago called The Craftsman. I was in an English class at UT at the time - Contemporary Appalachian Literature. The prof, Russell Wilhelm, was an interesting person. He always has this befuddled look on his face and he always sported the "bed head" look. I learned a great deal from him.

Following is The Craftsman in its entirety. Sorry - I haven't figured out how to attached something like this to my blog yet.

The Craftsman

He is a woodsmith. He crafts wood the same way a blacksmith crafts iron. Today, he is standing in his workshop, hands in the pockets of his faded, blue overalls, admiring a rather large piece of wood. The wood appears to be a section of trunk from a huge oak tree. He remembers the tree. It was one of three large oaks that graced the front yard of one of the oldest Victorian homes in town. A young professional couple from the city purchased the house last year. Their renovation plans for the huge house did not include the trees, so they were cut down. He happened to get a hold of several large pieces of the old trees. They have been sitting out behind his workshop, getting seasoned and weathered. This particular piece of wood is quite large. He can’t even get his arms around it. It stands about four and a half feet tall.
As he walks around the piece of wood - looking, touching, listening - he recalls an interview he did last year for a big city arts magazine. The young lady who wrote the piece was writing about several Appalachian artists – a lady who was a quilter, another man who was a blacksmith, and a friend of his, Janice, who was a weaver. He told the young lady he “listened” to the wood, to what it had to say to him. He noted the environment the wood had been in – forest or private land, surrounded by animals or children. He became intimately acquainted with the wood and the life that was in the wood. He let the wood tell him what it wanted to be. The wood even spoke to him in his dreams. When he told the young lady that, she looked at him, raised her eyebrows and quipped, “Really? That’s quite interesting.” He thought she had just insulted him. No matter, she was from New York and had no idea what Appalachian art was about anyway. To her, this was just another article she had to endure on her way to a Pulitzer Prize. To him, the article was revealing the secrets of the Appalachian soul. It made him feel uneasy, the way she did not seem to care too much about what the artists’ work meant to them.
Janice told him once that when she was carding, spinning and dying the wool she used in her weaving, she imagined the sheep the wool came from. Janice was in 4-H when she was younger and raised sheep as her project, so she was intimately acquainted with the animals. She said she felt the texture of the fleece in her hands, turning it over and over, squeezing it and smelling it. She, too, asked her material what it wanted to be. He has a pair of wool socks she knitted him for Christmas last year. They are itchy, but warm.
He places his hand on the wood and feels the roughness of the bark. He closes his eyes and listens. He hears the birds singing outside, the wind rustling through the trees and a woman crying. He opens his eyes and knows what is in the wood. He picks up his tools and begins to craft the woman. She is clutching a folded American flag to her breast. Her head is bowed and her eyes are closed. She is grieving for a son, a brother, or a husband. He gently chips away at the wood as the woman slowly begins to appear. He tenderly carves her face, her hair, the tear on her cheek. He reverently carves the flag.
He stands back and looks at the woman. He feels as if he knows her and he shares her grief. Perhaps he has listened to the wood too long. He covers the woman with a white sheet and turns out the light in the workshop.
Another day, another time, another craftsman. She is a wordsmith. She crafts stories the same way a blacksmith crafts iron. Most people would call her an author, a storyteller. The tools of her trade are words. Her best friend is an old, well-worn copy of Roget’s Thesaurus. Today she is sitting in front of her computer, fingers a blur over the keyboard as words pour out of her heart onto the screen. She stops and looks at what she has written – characters, events, settings. She ponders each word – looking, touching, listening. She is reminded of Luigi Pirandello’s play “Six Characters in Search of an Author”. The characters on the screen before her have come, begging her to tell their story. She hears their voices as she begins to craft the story. Like the tools of a blacksmith or a woodsmith, she uses words to gently shape the sentences, then the paragraphs that will become the story. She stops every now and then to run her fingers over the words on the computer screen. The voices of the characters urge her on. She reverently writes about the events, the situations that shape each character. She knows the characters intimately for she sees them everyday – at the Piggly Wiggly, Gus’s Gas N’ Go, the library, La PiƱata Mexican Restaurant, and the office supply store. They are her friends, neighbors, family members, acquaintances and normal folks she meets in her daily routine.
She stops again to read what she has written. She feels as if she knows too much about her characters and has shared too much in their lives. Perhaps she has listened to the words too long. She saves the story and turns her computer off for the night.
He is a blacksmith. Some folks call him an artist because of the iron pieces created in the bowels of his forge. Sweat drips down his muscular arms into his leather gloves as he uses tongs to grab the long piece of iron out of the fire. He quickly sets the piece on the anvil, hammering and shaping the red-hot metal. “Clang! Clang! Clang!” reverberates through his shop. He plunges the piece into a bucket of cold water, steam hissing in violent protest. He is a craftsman and he listens to the song of his hammer!

September 14, 2007)

My husband tells me I am a word smith. He's the number cruncher. I love to write. One of these days, my name will be on a book in Borders. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Participating in Your Children's Education

As a nontrad, I am pulled in several different directions at once - work demands, family demands and school demands. So when some of those demands blend together and become less demanding, it's a nice experience.

Several nights ago, I was standing in the kitchen eating my dinner. (I had gotten home from school late and was starving!) My daughter walked in and we began talking about the genocide in Rwanda in the 1990's. Megan is taking a Creative Writing class in school and they are learning how to write personal narratives. As an example, the teacher read to the class from the introduction of the book that the movie "Hotel Rwanda" is based on. Megan said she was shocked by what the author had to say, his experience and his perspective on the whole event. I had to do a project last semester in my history class re: the genocide in Rwanda. I purchased Gen. (Ret.) Dallaire's book, "Shake Hands With the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda". Gen. Dallaire was the commander of the UN peacekeeping troops in Rwanda. Megan and I talked about the Rwandan genocide and both the US's and UN's failure to respond to it. She had some very probing questions. I took her to Gen. Dallaire's book and to some other research I had done. Megan was shocked that such an event could happen and that she didn't know anything about it (she was 3 at the time it occurred).

I was excited to be able to engage Megan in conversation about an event that is part of history, albeit not a very good part. She was excited to learn about primary sources (Gen. Dallaire's book), that not all events of that caliper make the news and that she could have an active part in learning about history. Megan told me that most of her history books and classes were very boring. I emailed my history prof and related the experience I had with Megan. He said he fondly remembers "teaching moments" with his own children.

As parents, we need to be participating in our children's education. That doesn't just mean helping them with their homework or chaperoning field trips. That means engaging them in conversation about what they are learning, listening to their thoughts and comments about the subjects they are exposed to, and creating an atmosphere where they can ask questions and not feel silly or stupid for asking those questions. Participating in your children's education is like digging with them in the dirt for worms. You show them where to dig, give them the proper tools to dig with, teach them how to dig and then you find that wriggly worm to put in the can. The wriggly worm is their question. It may seem a little uncomfortable or you may not know what to do with the worm, but you still need to pick it up, look at it and put it in the can. You'll get your hands dirty and it may get a tad smelly, but that's okay. In the end, the worm is in the can and you can go fishing!

If you're a nontrad and a parent, take time out of your education to participate in your children's education, too. It doesn't matter if they are in Kindergarten or a senior in college. You'll learn some really cool stuff from one another.

Stay tuned . . . . .

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Technology is Great! (Maybe)

I got my new toy today - a laptop computer. For some folks, that may be a real yawner. For me, Miss Get-The-Latest-Techno-Gadgets-When-They've-Been-Out-For-Five-Years-Already, it's a pretty big deal. I'm no computer geek, but this machine is pretty sweet. It's got 4GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard drive, a built-in webcam, standard wireless, and lots of other cool features. My oldest son wants to trade me his two-year old model for my latest and greatest. I told him, "No Deal!"

The main reason I got the laptop is to make my computer use more mobile. I can take notes faster longhand than I can typing. I just type them up after class or the next day. Good thing, too, because I've had classmates who put out an APB for notes and I usually have mine typed up and can email them right away. I take notes in outline form. A high school Biology teacher, Jim Walker, taught me to do that. Pretty good way to take notes.

My Econ class is in a new building with new classrooms with all the latest and greatest technology. The teacher is still trying to figure it all out. Luckily, they haven't abandoned the good old standby whiteboards. The only thing is, there usually is not a dry erase marker around when you need it. Omer is constantly pushing the wrong button and it takes a few minutes for the projector to warm back up once he accidentally turns it off in the middle of his PowerPoint lecture. Then the screen goes up when he wants it to come down. Again, thank goodness for the white board.

One thing all my profs/teachers have to say on the first day of class is "Make sure your cell phones are silenced when you come into class." That was something I didn't hear when I started my college career 20+ years ago. There are some places in the library where I can't get a signal on my phone. I know - it's the Dead Zone and I don't have the network dudes of Verizon.

Technology is great (ever see Napoleon Dynamite?), yet it has its ups and downs just like everything else. I may just decide my laptop, at 5.1 lbs, is too heavy to lug around and leave it at home. Then what's the use of having it? I'll look cool at Starbucks! Ha! The non-techno geek eases her way into the Techno age. At least I can text. My older sister, 10 months older than me, is text-illiterate. She can receive texts on her cell phone, but doesn't quite get how to respond to them. I tell her, "Just push the 'reply' button, type on the little keypad and then push the 'send' button!" She's better off talking on the phone - even though she always answers her cell phone like she's surprised there's someone else on the other end.

Such is life. Stay tuned . . . . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I just read Tina's blog about her Mom. Tina is following my blog. I like the way Tina laid out her blog about her Mom. She uses shades of rose and burgundy and includes photos of her Mom. The memories she shares are priceless. Tina's blog is a special way to honor her Mom. Thank you, Tina.

As I read your blog, I thought of my own Mom. In many ways, I am very much like my Mom. Sometimes, that makes me angry (her temper, her sarcasm). But in other ways, it's good (her love of learning, her hospitality to friend and stranger alike, her love of family). My Mom is 71 and she fought both breast and bladder cancer a couple years ago. She has a cochlear implant because she started losing her hearing when she was 45. She lost her eldest brother in April of 2007 and her youngest brother in May of 2008. She is the oldest in her family. Now there is just her and her little sister, 15 years younger, left.

Tina says in her blog that she wants to remember as much of her Mom as she can and that she will mourn her every day of her life. I hope sharing about your Mom on your blog brings you comfort, Tina. I like the memories of your Mom. I like the pictures of your Mom. She looks like she was a wonderful lady.

I'll see my Mom and Dad again in March when I go to Phoenix for my spring break. I will hold them just a little closer and for a little longer because I know they are getting older and will not be with us much longer.

Thank you for sharing your Mom with us, Tina.

Off and Running!

I feel like I've run a 10k marathon and I haven't even been in school a week yet! This is going to be challenging semester - have I said that before? As I write this, I am in the library, taking a break from typing up my notes from Anthropology (5 pages handwritten, front and back, college-ruled notebook) on Monday night. I type my notes because it helps to organize my thoughts. It also helps to organize my notes more since I make little notations here and there in my notes (drawing arrows because this comment might go under that point or that comment might go under this point). I usually study off my typed notes.

The library isn't too crowded tonight. I know it will get more crowded as the semester goes on. My daughter wants to come study with me. She likes to come look at all the hot college guys. Typical 17-year old.

I ordered a laptop computer today. My office supply company account manager gave me a good deal on it (thanks, Will! You're the best!). Of course, once my son, Aaron (the college senior) heard about all the bells and whistles it had on it, he wanted to trade me his 2-year old laptop for my brand-new one. I said, "Uh, no. This baby's mine!" So, I will have a new toy by the end of the week.

Can't spend too much time blogging tonight. Need to get back to typing notes. Going to be a challenging semester. Hmmm - seems to me I may have mentioned that once already, or twice, or three times . . . Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, January 12, 2009


"Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing." Abraham Lincoln

I am now four days into this semester and have attended all three classes I have at UT. Classes at the community college start Thursday, so my Spanish class doesn't start until a week from Wednesday. All I can say is, "Uhhhh . . .". Wow. Oh, my goodness. This is going to be a challenging semester indeed. I know I am not an underclassman anymore and that classes are supposed to get more challenging as I go along. So, buckle up and hunker down.

As I stand back and look at these classes, I have resolved that I will do well, I will succeed, and I will finish this semester without pulling my hair out.

It will be worth the celebration when I finally finish my degree!!

Stay tuned . . . .

Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Need a Good Multi-Vitamin

The new semester is only three days old and I've already read close to 60 pages of text - and that's just for two classes! Yikes! I think I'm going to have to find a good multi-vitamin. You know the post about the running shoes? That was rather prophetic. I have a feeling this semester is going to be more like an endurance race. My husband has promised to help with Economics and Spanish. Thank goodness.

Luckily, the crock pot is out and ready to go, I'm caught up with the laundry, and we cleaned the house this morning, so I'm starting out the week on a good note. I will be able to get my laptop tomorrow, so that makes things even better. Unfortunately, the weatherman is predicting colder temps for the week, possibly winter precip on Thursday. I'm a chihuahua when it comes to cold - the temp drops below 70 and I freeze.

Luckily I've had my flu shot and there's a Starbucks in the library. Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, January 9, 2009


Once a year, during my spring break from school, I go to Phoenix, Arizona to visit my parents and my friends. I go alone, without my family. It is the only break I get from school since I work full time and am in school all year long - fall, spring and summer.

Last March on my return trip to Knoxville, we hit some pretty major turbulence. It lasted for about 20 minutes. Turbulence in an aircraft always makes me nervous because in every airline disaster movie, turbulence seems to signal impending doom.

This latest economic downturn is like turbulence in an aircraft. Does it signal impending doom? I'm no expert so I'm not sure. Are we headed for a depression? Again, not sure. We are most certainly in a recession. Is this like the pre-Great Depression times? I don't know. All I can say for sure is that, like turbulence aboard an aircraft, one must ride this turbulence out, too. I've heard that the economy is not supposed to get better until 2010. 2009 could be a very long year indeed.

I would tend to err on the side of caution and remember this little ditty: "Use it up, wear it out; Make it do, do without." You know all those folks who lived through the Great Depression? Most of them are no longer with us, but if we can find some folks who lived through the Great Depression, I would spend some time listening to their stories to glean wisdom about how they survived it. Studs Terkel, a great author who died in 2008, wrote "Hard Times", a book about folks who survived the Great Depression. I need to read through that again. Then I need to sit down and fasten my seat belt. We're in for a bumpy ride.

Making the Best Decisions

As a nontrad, we are faced with all sorts of decisions that can be so easy to second guess ourselves on - Do I go to school this semester or do I defer until next semester? Can I afford to take more than one class? Should I apply for financial aid? Day classes or evening classes? Should I go to summer school? - and so on. How does one know which decisions are the best decisions?

Advising goes a long way in helping one to make good decisions as a student. But what about those other opportunities that come along - scholarship programs, internships, etc.? I think one has to go with that "gut feeling". I just let the WBHOF know that I was no longer interested in the Archive Intern position. I think it would be a great opportunity, but my focus right now has to be on my education and helping my daughter finish high school and move on to college. I told Karen at WBHOF that I thought the position would best be served by someone who has less on their plate than I do.

When faced with a decision, one must weigh all the options. I usually make a list of "pros" and "cons". In the case with the WBHOF, the cons outweighed the pros. Sometimes, I am willing to take a risk and go against the cons. In this case I wasn't. I am thankful for the opportunity for the interview. As with everything else, it was a learning experience.

The First Day

Yesterday was the first day of the new semester for me. I also had the interview with the Woman's Basketball Hall of Fame for the Archive Intern position.

School went well. I am looking forward to the new semester. My classes will be challenging, but I like that. I've already pegged a couple of over achievers in my Econ class that I can go head to head with. Don't underestimate this old lady. I can be as competitive as the next guy. Did I mention I'm a member of Phi Alpha Theta, the History honorary society at UT, as well as a member of Phi Kappa Theta (the honorary society for 2-year institutions of higher learning)? I belong to three professional history organizations as well. But, I digress.

The WBHOF position looks interesting and it would be good experience. However, during this economic downturn, I'm not so sure that quitting my job is the best thing to do. Will an opportunity like this come along again? Probably not. I already have a great deal going on this semester and I don't need the added stress of worrying about finances. Even though working full time and going to school full time will be stressful, I think having to worry about keeping my house would be even more stressful. I am building some good relationships with the folks at the East Tennessee Historical Society. Perhaps that will lead to something when I am ready.

In the meantime, I will continue to keep plugging along and enjoy another semester of being a student, employee and Mom. Stay tuned . . . .

Thursday, January 8, 2009

I'm So Excited!!!

Ouch! My brain hurts and I've only attended one class. I walked into my History Honors class this morning five minutes late because I misjudged where I needed to park and how long it would take me to get to class. If you've never been to the UT campus, or East Tennessee for that matter, it is quite hilly. I will definitely get a good workout walking to class.

The History Honors class is going to be a brain stretcher, that's for sure. We were trying to come up with a provisional definition of "History" in order to answer the question, "What is history?" That's not an easy question to answer nor an easy term to define. Dr. Freeberg is very good at challenging what we think we know. I am looking forward to this class. I am also looking forward to this semester. I figure if I can survive Introduction to Computer Science, I can survive anything!

This semester will definitely be a challenge. I told my husband I am going to rent a room at the library. Thank God there's a Starbucks there! My Economics class starts tonight. After class, I plan to go home and do some serious vegging while watching the Oklahoma Sooners stomp the Florida Gators (I hope!)!

I mentioned in a previous post that "I feel as if I need to lace up my running shoes, get situated in the starting blocks and get ready to run my heart out!" I've started running and it doesn't look like I'm going to slow down anytime soon! Stay tuned . . . .

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Deer in the Headlights

Classes at UT started today. I went to get my books. Campus wasn't as crowded as it is during fall semester. I got lucky and found a metered space close to the bookstore so I didn't have to make the hike halfway across campus. It is a Winnie-the-Pooh day here today - quite blustery. I'm glad I didn't have to walk that far.

As I entered the bookstore and fought the crowds to get to where I needed to go, I looked around at faces of those folks who were so much younger than me and it hit me. "What the heck am I doing here??" I stood there for a minute, frozen like a deer in the headlights. It was one of those moments one sees on TV, where the character is standing there and everyone else is either blurred from moving so fast around her or everyone else is moving in slow motion. Then I remembered my mom and my sisters who went back to school to finish their education. I saw the face of my friend, Steve, who has been such an encouragement. I heard my daughter say, "I am so glad you're a student here (at UT)!" I remembered the encouragement my Computer Science teacher, Ms. Mayo, gave me. I thought, "It's okay. I belong here."

As a nontrad, those moments of uncertainty may come more often because we think we're "too old" to go back to school, we're "past our prime", we can't compete with younger folks, we forgot how to study, the ol' gray matter just ain't what it used to be, etc. It's okay to experience those moments of trepidation. Just don't stay there. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. History is full of examples of people who reached their "prime" when they were in their 40's and beyond.

As I walk into my classes this semester, I know 90% of the students will be half my age or younger. Chances are my teachers will be my age or younger, too. That's okay. My goal is to finish my education. My mom and dad, my sisters, my friends and my family are all behind me as I strive to achieve that goal. I may have moments of uncertainty, but I am certain I am going to keep moving forward!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Calm Before the Storm

I start back to school on Thursday. It will be a full day for me. I start off with my History Honors class from 9:40 to 10:55am. Then I have my interview at the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame at 3pm. My evening class (Economics) goes from 6:30 to 7:45pm. I am hoping my Econ teacher (a grad student) doesn't keep us the whole time. I want to get home to watch the Oklahoma Sooners whoop up on the Florida Gators. My daughter was born in Oklahoma, so the Sooners hold a special place in my heart. No one in Tennessee likes the Gators anyway.

I am watching this semester approach like I watch a scary movie - with my hands covering my face. The last time I went to school full time and worked full time was over 20 years ago. Can I do it again without a) pulling my hair out, b) making my family crazy and c) getting fired? I hope so. I have enjoyed these past few weeks of relative sanity. I have been researching material for my EUReCA project, studying for my GRE, looking for the best deal on a laptop, spending time with my family, and trying to get my garage cleaned out. It has been relative calm before the storm.

Now I feel as if I need to lace up my running shoes, get situated in the starting blocks and get ready to run my heart out! This is going to be an interesting race this semester. My Econ teacher is a grad student from another country. Hope I'll be able to understand him. My History Honors class subject is about the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Knoxville from 1915-1925. My Anthropology class is about the pre-History of Tennessee. I will not have the same prof for my Spanish class (which I'm taking at the community college again). History is my only day class. Econ, Anthro and Spanish are my night classes. My only free night during the week is Friday - when my daughter plays her basketball games.

Add into the mix that my daughter will not only be playing on the varsity basketball team, but will also be on a traveling volleyball team again and will have tournaments out of town once every three weeks. Last spring, I took my homework with me to the volleyball tournaments. The other parents knew that when I had my backpack out, they needed to leave me alone to study. It was fun dividing my time between being a cheerleader for my daughter and being a student.

Whew! Someday, this will all be over and then . . . . I'll be in grad school! In the meantime, I will keep plugging away, one semester at a time (sheepish grin, sigh of resignation).

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ready, Set, Organize!

Deb Peterson, of, has had some great posts in the last couple days regarding organizing your thoughts and goals for the next year. Being organized is one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself as a nontrad. It's easy to become overwhelmed if you look at all that needs to be done as a student - applying for financial aid, advisement, determining which classes you need and putting together your schedule, trying to balance school, home and work. Whew! It's easy for me to be organized as a student, but more difficult for me to be organized as a Mom and a student. The following are some things I've tried to help with getting my family organized:

1. Dinner: invest in a good crockpot and some crockpot recipes. The crockpot will be your best friend when it comes to making dinner on the nights you have class. Let it cook so you (and other family members) don't have to. Make enough for leftovers (for lunches, next week's dinner, etc.). Make up a menu for a two weeks' period. Post the menu so the family knows what's for dinner. Shop off the menu (saves time and money!)

2. Laundry: If you have children, teach the older ones to do their own laundry. This is a valuable life skill for them to learn anyway. Let them know they have to be responsible for "following through" their own laundry (putting it in the washer, the dryer, then folding and putting away). Leave the major portion of the laundry for the weekend. Enlist family members' help in following through on the laundry.

3. Lunches, Ironing, etc.: As much as possible, get your children to participate in keeping the house organized. Teach your family members to do things the night before - make their lunch, iron their clothes (if applicable), get their schoolbooks and sporting stuff organized and ready to go. That way, you're not running around like a crazy person in the morning, trying to get everyone organized while you're on your way out the door to class!

4. Dishes: Teach your children to use the dishwasher. Assign children and Dad a night to do dishes. If you are the only one doing the dishes, run the dishwasher before you go to bed at night.

5. Plan ahead: As much as possible, plan ahead. Communicate, communicate, communicate! Use a wall calendar and mark upcoming events (school plays, work schedules, etc.) for your children, exam days for you, days your husband will be out of town on business, etc. That way, everyone knows what to expect and when.

6. Use it: if you have to make cookies for a child's school, use the preformed frozen dough. Don't be afraid to go to a store like Sam's club and stock up on stuff you anticipate using (like the cookie dough, trail mix, etc.). Take advantage of every convenience you can. If you have to attend a child's sports competition, take your homework, reading or studying with you. Learn not to waste time.

7. Relax! Once word gets out you're Mom (or Dad), employee and student, folks will be incredibly gracious to you. My daughter's volleyball team knows I'm wearing those three hats at one time. They don't expect a lot out of me and can be very encouraging in my educational pursuits.

8. You: Remember to take time for yourself. If you don't take care of yourself, who will? Do something special for yourself at least once a week. Take some time off over the weekend to NOT be a student, but to enjoy your family and friends.

I'm still trying to get more organized. I guess it will be a constant thing because each semester will be different. However, the basics are still the basics (household chores and my school schedule). "Blessed are they who are flexible, for they shall bend and not break." Be flexible, learn to laugh at yourself and appreciate the small things in life. Reading "Sheep in a Jeep" is one of my favorite de-stressers. Try it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

How Do I Learn?

Before one considers returning to school, one should ask one's self, "How do I learn?" Are you an auditory learner (listening), a visual learner (observing) or a tactile learner (hands-on)? Do you need structure or are you good with just "going with the flow"? Do you easily grasp abstract concepts or are you more of a concrete person? Does listening to music help you study or is noise a distraction for you? Are you satisfied to merely observe or do you have to get involved with some kind of activity? Do you enjoy detail (a prolific note-taker) or are you more of a big-picture person (lecture summary is sufficient)? Do you enjoy studying in groups or are you a loner?

I am primarily a hands-on learner. I don't do abstract concepts well (like math). I like structure (to a point) because it helps me to know what to expect. Music is a study distraction for me. I need to be involved with an activity. I am a prolific note-taker to the point of being a tad anal about my notes (I take notes in outline form and type them up after class). I'd rather study by myself or with a friend, but not with a group.

The most important tools in my backpack are my planner (school calendar) and a class syllabus. At the beginning of the semester, I will transfer important dates from the syllabus into my planner (assignment due dates, exam dates, etc.). The nice thing about my planner is that it has all the important dates (holidays, finals, school days off) already noted.

Different profs have different teaching styles that don't always connect with my learning style. What do I do in that case? Skip class? Never! I tailor their teaching style to my learning style. For example, if the class is primarily a lecture (no visual aids), I fill my notebook with notes. If the prof uses visual aids, I will draw a picture to accompany my notes. If the prof assigns a great deal of reading in lieu of lecturing, I will take notes on what I've read.

When I home schooled, there were two books I'd recommend to every new homeschooling parent. They were; "The Way They Learn" by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias and "Different Children, Different Needs" by Charles Boyd. These books give insight on learning styles and personality types. Together, they provide a clue as to what learning arena may best suit your personality.

Shakespeare said, "To thine own self be true." In order to be successful as a nontrad, I need to know how I learn, what tools I can use to make my learning experience better, and how I can tailor the classroom experience to meet my learning needs. It takes time to get a handle on that information, but in the end, it's worth it!