Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Haunting

Apparently, the movie, "The Haunting" is based on a true story. Hmmm - I won't go see it because I don't like scary movies like that. My version of "The Haunting" takes place in the UT library.

As a nontrad on campus, the library has become my home away from home. It is much easier to study at the library instead of at home because there is no one here whining in my face (my dogs), I don't have to yell, "Can you please turn that down?!" and I don't have to answer the phone. So, the library has become my favorite haunt.

Where do you "haunt" to study? The local Starbucks? or Panera? or another relatively quiet place? Wherever you "haunt", remember to take a few minutes out of your haunting to stop and have Coke or get a blueberry muffin or a cup of soup. Take a break from studying every now and then just to get refocused and keep your sanity. Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Take Time for Yourself

I've heard those words many times - "Don't forget to take time for yourself." I don't think I'm very good at doing that. Maybe I think others will think I am selfish if I do take time for me? Or perhaps I feel that going to school is me time? As much as I still enjoy being a student, schoolwork is one of the those things I need set down and walk away from sometimes. Otherwise, I'll get burned out.

We all need that time of renewing and refreshing and refilling. If one is a Christian, one believes a daily quiet time, time spent in prayer or reading the Bible, or going through a good Bible study will be the source of that renewal. Still others, who are not Christian, may believe that time in nature, time alone with a good book, or with friends, etc. may be the source of that renewal. Whatever your beliefs, however you choose to be still and be refilled, take the time to do it!

I enjoy being alone in nature because that's where I see God the most. The beauty of nature is very renewing to my sometimes tattered soul. Listing to contemplative music is also very refreshing for me. When I was at my parents' house for spring break, I ran two of the four mornings I was there. When I got to the top of the mountain, I stopped and listened. I heard nothing but the buzzing of the bees, the call of the mourning doves and the sound of the small morning breeze. It was so quiet. It was very refreshing.

Other ways I take time for myself are: getting my nails done, wandering alone through the mall, walking through campus on a cool spring evening, walking my dogs, sitting out on my back deck with an ice cold glass of sweet tea or a chocolate milkshake from McDonald's. Taking time for yourself doesn't have to be expensive or time consuming, but it does have to be renewing, refreshing or refilling - the three R's of keeping one's sanity. Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Great News!!

I was just informed by the History Department that I received a department scholarship! I am so excited! I applied on Monday for a scholarship through the History Dept. There were two - one based on grades and one based on financial need. I was notified by email that I got the scholarship. Don't know how much it is yet, but I am "expected" to attend the History Dept. Scholarship Banquet in order to officially be awarded the scholarship. I am soo jazzed!!!

Getting the scholarship puts me closer to my goal of being able to be on campus full time. Of course, I've emailed all my family and friends to let them know. The last scholarship I got was in eighth grade. That was a while ago.

You know the wall I blogged about in my last post?? I just got my second wind!! Stay tuned . . . .

The Wall

I've heard that when one is running a marathon, there is a point during the race when one "hits the wall". I believe that is a point of total physical exhaustion due to the intense physical activity, yet one knows one must keep going in order to finish the race. I'm there.

I have hit the wall with just about five weeks left in the semester. I am totally exhausted from staying up late to do homework and getting up early to go to work. My interest level has waned, even though I still love being a student and I know I have a goal to accomplish.

However, I think my exhaustion has very little to do with school. It has everything to do with other things going on in my life - a work situation that is not going well, a marriage that is on the brink of collapse, and a beloved family member who is fighting cancer. School is easy compared to everything else. I need to stay focused because I can see the finish line and I know the goal is in sight. I can't do anything about my Dad. I've done my best in my marriage. I've been above reproach at work. These things will eventually work themselves out.

In the meantime, I am hoping to be able to chillax tonight and sleep in tomorrow morning. I need some down time. Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Back in the Saddle

All good things must come to an end. So it was with spring break and the visit with family and friends. I enjoyed my time in hot, dry and sunny. The day after I left, it was cold, wet and rainy. I came home to jump right back into school, spending three hours at the library Sunday night after arriving back in Knoxville at 1:30pm. A student's work is never done!

My daughter (and husband) met me at the airport with a lovely vase of flowers. Megan thought of a great idea. She had gotten some shells on the beach in Florida and put those at the bottom of the vase instead of glass pieces or marbles. I was impressed with her creativity.

My Dad looked older and was moving slower. My sister and I talked with my Mom to try to determine which things my Dad was (or wasn't) doing were a result of recovery from the radiation and which things meant the cancer was advancing. I think we gave her a pretty good list of things to watch for. Dad knew who we all were, so that was good. It was good to be with my brothers and sisters again. We were all together for the first time since my parents' 40th wedding anniversary in 2000.

I had an interview yesterday for a student advising position with the University. It was a group interview - kind of like a moderated group discussion. There will be a total of 24 people interviewed for only 6 positions. As I sat there, I thought the interviewers will either think I am too overqualified, too matronly or not representative enough of the student population or they will think I have lots of good experience, a friendly face, and know the system. The "moderator" told us we'd know within two weeks if we got the position or not. My Computer Science teacher from last spring wrote my letter of recommendation and talked to two people in the department for me, so I hope that will help my chances.

Was talking to a friend tonight and he asked what was going on in my life. I was trying hard not to cry when I told him about the stress of work and marriage (primarily), my Dad and school. He reminded me of the good things - my children, my friends. We weather the storms and we move on, yes?

I was just scrolling through some of E. Sheppard's posts. I see she has been down in my neck of the woods! Cool! E, have you ever been down here in the fall? You really must come hike the Smokies when the leaves are turning. It will leave you breathless! Stop by the Apple Barn in Pigeon Forge for some apple fritters while you're here.

I must get back to my schoolwork. I remember when I first started blogging. The site I went to in order to learn how to blog advised to "blog once at least once a week". So, here's my at least once a week. Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, March 20, 2009

Moving Right Along

Beautiful weather here in Sierra Vista! I have been running every morning since I have been at my parents' house. Think I may sit out tomorrow because my legs are telling me they need a break! The desert is so quiet at 7am - only the sounds of the mourning doves and the breeze rustling the underbrush.

My older sister and I accompanied my parents to my Dad's doctor's appointment in Tucson today. While my Dad was getting medication, my Mom, sister and I did a little shopping at the mall across the street. It was good to have some female bonding time. This evening, I showed my Mom how to play Mahjong on my computer. We've been making some good memories.

I talked with one of my history profs this afternoon about my interview on Monday. She told me the Advising Dept. is looking for students who can empathize with others and direct other students to the resources on campus available to them. As a nontrad, I think I am pretty familiar with the resources available on campus. I have taken advantage of quite a few of them. My interview with the Advising Dept. for the student advising position is Monday, March 23.

Haven't heard anything from work other than from the new executive assistant to complain that she didn't know the password for the front phones. Hmmm - if that's all she has to worry about while I'm away . . . .

Today is my Dad's birthday. It will be a happy celebration for us all because he has outlasted his original prognosis by three months. We hope he will be around for many more months. This week has gone by quickly. I have enjoyed my visit to Sierra Vista and I don't want to leave. However, I know I have family and other responsibilities waiting for me back in Tennessee. I just hope the Vols (men) win their bracket in the NCAA tournament tomorrow morning. Go Vols!!

Stay tuned . . . .

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Spring Break in the Southwest

I have been in the sunny Southwest since Sunday. As usual, it is nice and sunny and hot here. The temps are 10 degrees above normal, which means Phoenix is supposed to be in the 90's this week. Yikes! I stayed up until 11:00 last night Arizona time (2am ET) working on my Anthropology paper and getting caught up on emails. Whew!

My Dad looks older and slower. Otherwise, he is still there. That's good. My sister and brother and I are doing projects around the house for Mom. It's good to be here and share stories and hang out with them. My family thinks I'm crazy for bringing my school work to do on spring break when I am supposed to be relaxing and having a good time. I need to make sure I make the best use of my time. Bringing my school work with me is making the best use of my time. I will take some time to relax and enjoy my family, though. All work and no play makes for a very dull girl - I know!

I promised pictures of the sunny Southwest. I hope I'll be able to get some downloaded on here. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, March 16, 2009

Larry the Laptop

My laptop, whom I've affectionately named Larry, is now my new BFF. Larry accompanies me everywhere. He's the strong, silent type. The only time he doesn't cooperate is when I don't feed him - like most men. Larry can multitask better than most men. I'm grateful for that.

I was in the airport in Chicago yesterday (ORD or O'Hare) and had a few minutes to spare so I hauled out Larry and started working on my Anthropology paper. Larry saved me from boredom on the plane when I got tired of reading Anthropology. Luckily, when Larry decided not to cooperate, it was in the middle of a game and not in the middle of a paper. His battery was dead.

I have discovered I enjoy having Larry around and I often wonder how I survived without him. Larry is a big part of my educational pursuits. Larry is with me in Phoenix because he is so valuable in my education. I take notes with Larry, do research from remote parts of the library, and enjoy lunch at Panera with Larry.

I often think back to when I first began my college career back in August of 1980. I think PCs were just beginning to make their presence known. Even then, PCs weren't for the common man. I am grateful for the technological advances that make it possible for me to stay in contact with my daughter on spring break in Florida, my sons in Kentucky and Chattanooga, TN and my husband in Knoxville while am in Phoenix. I am grateful that while I am sitting here working on school work, I can listen to my favorite tunes and email a couple of profs to request letters of recommendation for History scholarships. Whew! Now that's multi-tasking!!

More from the sunny Southwest later. Stay tuned . . . .

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Sweet Smell of . . . .Spring Break!!

It's finally here!! Spring break!! I am so excited I can't stand it!! Even though I am going to Phoenix and it will be a bittersweet time with my family, I will not be in class for a week, I am getting away from work (that has not been good lately) and I am taking a much needed mental health break. Okay, so my laptop and my schoolwork is coming with me, but still, I'll be doing schoolwork in a different place!

My daughter is headed to Florida for a week with two of her friends. My middle son goes back to school on Sunday - his spring break was this week. My husband will be flying solo with the two dogs. My oldest son doesn't have his spring break until April. It's so nice that my children are old enough to take care of themselves now. I can leave them and not have to worry about them - most of the time.

I don't mind flying and the trip is not too long. The time change is what usually gets me, though. Phoenix is now three hours behind Knoxville. Because Knoxville is not an airline hub, I have to change planes somewhere else. Still, I love to travel and I am looking forward to seeing some old high school buddies and hanging out with my brothers and sisters and parents.

I will try to remember to take some photos of lovely Sierra Vista and Phoenix to share them with folks who have never been there. I'll be blogging from the lovely Southwest. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, March 9, 2009

Memories of My Dad

My Mom sent out an email yesterday updating us all on my Dad's condition. The news is not good. My three brothers, two sisters and I will be gathering in Tucson/Sierra Vista over the next two weeks to spend time with my Dad and to say our goodbyes. We're not thinking of it as saying goodbye, but everyone knows it is.

My Dad has been the best Dad anyone could ever ask for. One of my fondest memories of him has to do with my daughter. Megan was less than a month old and we were living in Oklahoma City, OK. My parents and my youngest brother and sister came out from Phoenix for Thanksgiving. My Dad held Megan and said to me, "Looks like she's a keeper". Those were the most wonderful words he's ever said to me. I asked him one time if he remembers saying those words to me and he said he didn't remember. I will always remember, though.

No matter what happens, I am still going to try my best for my Dad this semester. I want to make him proud of me. I know he is. I love you, Dad.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Getting Good Advising

Before I start this blog, one quick aside. I'm a nontrad on a college campus, not an online student. That doesn't mean I have nothing in common with online nontrads - we're on the same freeway, just different lanes. I tried online (a Spanish class) and all I have to say is - you online nontrads have my total admiration and respect! Hang in there!!

Advising will make or break you as a student. If you get good advising, you will be in and out of school with as few headaches as possible. If you get bad advising, you will be in school twice as long as necessary. I had the best advisor for the first couple years of my journey. Her name is Julie Sass. She left UT to take a job at the University of Maryland ("Fear the Turtle!"). I miss her. She really knows her stuff.

Here at UT, we have a nice little program called DARS - Degree Audit Reporting System. This lists out all the stuff you need for your major. It tells you how many hours you need of what requirement, how many hours you've completed of that requirement, how many are in process and how many requirements you've completed. I did the happy dance when it said I finally completed my math requirement (think Snoopy).

It's best to schedule an advising appointment early and not wait until the last minute with the other 99% of the student body. That way, you and the advisor are not rushed through figuring out your classes and you end up with something you don't need, like the The Archaeology of Western Lowland Samoa, instead of something you do need like College Algebra.

If your school has something like DARS, use it. Prior to my first semester at UT, I had an orientation with Julie. She helped me to map out my first two semesters at UT. That's when I found out I'd have to do summer school. Once Julie got me started and showed me what to do, I pretty much could do the rest from there. Julie was my advisor in the College of Arts and Sciences. When I declared my major, I was assigned an advisor in the History Department.

If you don't know what classes to take or have questions about transferring classes from another institution, speak to an advisor. Back on December 5, 2008, I blogged about "Lessons Learned from Being a Nontrad". Lesson #4 was "Ask questions and bug the heck out of whomever you need to until you get a satisfactory answer." The basics are the basics and everyone has to get those out of the way (general education). But what about the upper level distribution requirement versus classes in your major, etc.? The advisor should be knowledgeable enough to help you sort out those questions. If you come across an advisor who doesn't seem to know their stuff, say something.

As a nontrad, these are the basics you need to know when you go to advising:

1. Will classes from another institution transfer?
2. Will classes from X number of years ago transfer?
3. What do I have to do to "petition" for a class to transfer? Is it worth petitioning?
4. Can I test out of a required class? (you may be able to test out of several semesters)
5. Does any of my work experience count toward class credit?
6. Do any classes I have had to take as part of my job count toward class credit?
7. Do previous certificate programs count toward class credit?

A good friend told me, "Don't work harder than you have to." That was in regard to computer programming, which I didn't understand anyway, but you get the point. If any previous experience you have, whether it's on the job or educational, can be counted toward class credit, use it! My credits were 20 years old by the time I decided to return to school. Another friend of mine told me she was told her 20-year old credits were too old to transfer and she had to start all over again. I started as a junior as opposed to her starting as a freshman.

Use the resources available to you. Ask questions, ask questions and ask more questions until you feel confident you have the schedule that is going to keep you on the right road toward your goal. In the end, you (and I) will have that degree and (hopefully) it will all be worth it.

Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Staying Focused During Summer School

Ray of Sunshine wrote me and asked, "How do you stay focused enough for summer school?" It's not easy! The primary way I stay focused is to keep that goal in sight - my degree. I thought about some practical ideas and the following is what I came up with. If anyone has anything else they'd like to add from their summer school experience, jump right in!

How to Stay Focused During Summer School:

1. Keep the goal in sight: What is your goal? It is to finish your education and get your degree!
2. Commiserate with classmates: Form a study group and meet out on the lawn in the school quad or at an outside table at a local cafe.
3. Study outdoors: You'll feel deprived if you spend the whole summer in the library and then you'll become resentful of your goal.
4. Declare one room in your house a "study free zone" where no schoolbooks are allowed, but chillaxing is always welcome!
5. Remember that there are at least 8-12 other people in the classroom with you as well as the teacher/prof. You're all in this together.
6. Remember that summer school is a short-term commitment. This, too, shall pass.

The Good Things About Summer School:

1. No tan line.
2. You don't smell like sunscreen.
3. You don't need to wear a hat.
4. That Philosophy class you were dreading is only 6 weeks long.
5. Not as much homework.
6. No sand in your bikini bottoms.
7. You can wear your Birkenstocks and Bermuda shorts and fit right in.
8. Smaller classes.
9. The teacher has "office hours" at Starbucks.
10. It's ok to take your shoes off.

Yes, summer school is a whole different beast. Used to be when I was growing up that summer school was for the bad kids who didn't pass the classes during the regular school year. Now, summer school is for the serious kids (like me) who want to get in there and git'er done!

A toast to all of us who will be braving the wilds of summer school this year (again). May our grades be hot and our classes be cool!

Stay tuned . . .

Friday, March 6, 2009

To Summer School or Not To Summer School

I remember when I was a child and summer meant swimming pools, hanging out at the mall with friends, riding bikes to the corner Circle K to get Slurpees, family vacations with my family and all sorts of fun stuff like that. These days summer means first session or second session of summer school?

I have been in summer school for the last three years. Two years ago, I took Western Civ I and II concurrently at night at the community college (Note: this is the ONLY way to take Western Civ if you need it - it's MUCH easier to take it a) at night, b) during the summer c) at the community college - otherwise, the traditional university class is a real bear!). Last year, I took Business Ethics, a Philosophy class (very interesting class with a crazy teacher!). This year, I'm looking to get my science gen ed out of the way plus take two classes in my major (History) during second session (July and August).

Summer school, even though one is cramming 16 weeks into 8, is a much more relaxed atmosphere ( I think). One can get the classes one needs in a shorter period of time. Summer school is for those classes you dread and really don't want to devote an entire semester to, but could possibly stomach for 8 weeks. If I had to advise someone between summer school and not, I would say summer school. If one wants a summer, just do one session - not both.

Summer school can be a good thing, provided you have the right attitude. It's short, it's (relatively) painless, and you're outta there in time to still get a Slurpee. Suck it up, grit your teeth and do summer school. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, March 5, 2009

More Stuff

Time for another update. It has not been a good week for me. I spent ten hours in the library last weekend studying for an Anthropology mid-term only to end up in the ER on Monday night and miss the exam. I was a tad angry. Went to the doc yesterday and she is ordering more tests to find out why I ended up in the ER. I'd like to know, too. The ER doc couldn't find anything conclusive. Hmmm - then why will I get charged so much for his services?? I think we should pay doctors only when the make an accurate diagnosis. And if we have to wait in their waiting room longer than 15 minutes beyond our appointment time, I think we need to start charging them. Ah, but I digress.

I am scheduled to make up my mid-term on Saturday morning at 9am. Pellissippi State Technical Community College is on spring break next week and UT is on spring break the following week, so I won't have Spanish class for two weeks. I had a Spanish exam last night that I hope I passed. (Yo quiero Taco Bell??)

I will be taking my laptop, Economics and Spanish books as well as readings for History and Anthropology with me to Phoenix for spring break. I will have an Econ exam after spring break that I will be studying for during spring break. Oh, well. I need to have something to occupy my time on the airplane and during layovers. The good thing is that I will also have an interview for the Student Advisor position in the College of Arts and Sciences Advising Department the Monday after I get back from spring break. I am looking forward to the interview. Also, if I get the position, I will get a break on tuition for myself and my son at UTC (University of Tennessee - Chattanooga). That's another good thing.

I am ready to move on from my current job into something that will allow me to concentrate more on my schooling. I have been with my current employer for 4-1/2 years. Things are getting crazy at work - layoffs, salary reductions, insurance surrenders, BIG lack of communication through it all. I know the economy is tenuous at best, but, like everything else I have ventured forward to try this semester, I am venturing forth on this one, too. My Computer Science teacher of last spring was going to personally deliver a letter of recommendation as well as words of recommendation to the department head of College of Arts and Sciences Advising Deptartment today.

Once again I have seen that flexibility is a virtue. I am thankful for teachers who will work with me in making up exams, writing letters of recommendation, etc. As I was waiting for my husband to pick me up from school last night, I noticed a flier posted outside a teacher's office. It listed 10 things to do to be a good student. Among those ten were, "Do your work" and "Get to know your teacher". (I need to somehow get a copy of that flier. ) It has been my experience that when a student works hard in the class, participates in the class and lets the teacher know who they are, the experience of that class is much better for the student, whether the student gets an A or a C in the class. You can bet that my teachers know who I am! Stay tuned . . .

P.S. I hope to be blogging from Arizona during spring break. May even include photos?? Hope I can get a photo of an Arizona sunset to post.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Library

I just finished spending six hours in the UT library - two of those hours were in a study group for my Anthro mid-term tomorrow. Good thing I took a nap after lunch today! I think there is a certain chair at the library with my behind print on it, I have spent so much time there recently. The folks at the Starbucks in the library know me by name now, not just by my coffee (they also know my major, my daughter, that I don't like my Anthro class . . .). We're just getting way too close.

One can tell it's mid-term time at UT. The library is wall-to-wall people. Good thing I have a laptop because to find an open desktop computer is a rare thing. To find a comfortable place to park my laptop is also a rare thing, so I go to one of the upper "quiet" floors and hole up in a study kraal. That means I have to resort to texting my family - no cell phones allowed.

Just a couple more weeks until Spring Break and then I'll be able to take a break - sort of. My laptop and schoolbooks will also be accompanying me to Phx, especially if I have an Econ test after Spring Break. Such is the life of a college student.

I tried to call the College of Arts of Sciences advising office on Friday about the my application for the position of student advisor. A very young, inexperienced college-work study girl answered my call, told me the person I needed to speak to wasn't there and proceeded to fumble around to try to get my information to leave a message. I doubt the message ever got to the person it was supposed to get to. That's just a tad frustrating. I will follow up on that tomorrow and will, hopefully, get to speak to the person I need to speak to. (sigh)

Monday night (3/2), I have an Anthro mid-term. Wednesday night, (3/4), I have a Spanish exam. This is going to be a fun week - as usual. And tomorrow at work we find out if we will have more layoffs or be required to take salary reductions. Stay tuned . . .