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 . . .