Friday, February 27, 2009

Now Is Your Time

Deb Peterson blogs today about this commercial - Kaplan University commercial. Very cool!

In 1964, Bob Dylan released his third album, "The Times, They Are A Changin'". Those words are very apropos to the times in which we live - economically, physically, socially, technologically. Perhaps those words are more applicable now than they have ever been.

As a nontrad, I need to be flexible in many ways. I need to know that, even though I am in a traditional university setting, it is anything but traditional. Technology in itself has grown light years from where it was when I first started my college career (1980 - University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona). The socioeconomics of the 21st century are not what they were in the 20th century, even though this century is a mere babe at only 9 years old. Physically, I am not 20 anymore and I can't pull all-night study sessions. Yet, I know I have many more years' worth of life experience under my belt than my average classmate.

I like the Kaplan commercial because instead of the normal online school offerings (still trying to fit the student into their mold), the gist of the commercial was, "We want to be what you need us to be in an educational institution."

I had lunch with a friend of mine today, Elaine from the Dodge Plan Room here in Knoxville. I was telling her that I love being a student. I also told her about submitting my application for the Student Advisor position in the College of Arts and Sciences advising at UT. I know that if I wait - to move forward with my education, to find a part-time job, to go to school full-time instead of part time - I may not get any of that done at all. The professor in the Kaplan commercial tells the room full of students and the students listening via podcasts and Internet that, "Now is your time."

Now is my time. Now is your time. Now is the time to pursue the dream of finishing that degree, going to Grad School, making a difference. There are days when I wonder what I am doing on this campus, in this library, writing this paper, studying for this exam, drinking this coffee in the library at 1am. My education is my future. The times, they are a changin' and they're not gonna wait until I am ready to change with them.

Stay tuned . . .

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Where Seldom is Heard A Discouraging Word

My Mom greeted my weekly phone call one night by singing these words to me. She wanted to know how school was going for me. My Mom is one of my biggest cheerleaders. She went back to school to get her Master's in Education when my siblings and I were in middle school and grade school. Have I mentioned before that I am one of six children? My Mom is a very brave woman.

I was perusing through E. Sheppard's blog this afternoon (she's listed on my blog list, I was very encouraged by all the great information and encouragement I found on her blog. There have been times as a nontrad when I have been very discouraged. E. Sheppard's blog is great for lifting that burden of discouragement!

I took a Computer Science class a year ago that was the most difficult class I have taken to date. It was even more difficult than Statistics. The class was basic computer programming. If it was not for the teacher and her constant encouragement, along with an excellent tutor, I would not have made it through the class.

As a nontrad, we need to surround ourselves with people who are encouragers. We need the support of other nontrads, whether they are "newbies" or veterans, whether they are online, like E. Sheppard, or whether they are on campus. Encouragement is the lifeblood of a person who is undertaking a difficult task.

Several years ago, during the summer Olympics, there was a female marathon runner who stumbled into the final lap of the marathon. Overcome with heat and exhaustion, she waved off the officials and others who tried to come to her rescue. Her Dad finally came alongside her and ran with her to the finish line. She wanted to finish that race under her own power. Her Dad realized that and his encouragement enabled her to do so. The encouragement of others - family, friends, other nontrads - will enable us to reach the goal of finishing the race strong. Go for it! (Thanks, Dad. I love you.)

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, February 23, 2009

Joined at the Hip

I hate to admit it, but my laptop and I are joined at the hip. I feel lost without it and wonder how I ever got along without it? My carpool buddy, Dennis, calls my backpack my "appendage".

I spent this past weekend in lovely Louisville, KY at a volleyball tournament with my daughter and husband. As always, my laptop and schoolbooks were in tow. By now, the other parents are used to seeing me with my head buried in my schoolbooks or my laptop while I wait for my daughter's team to play. They know not to speak to me unless I initiate the conversation. That means I'm coming up for air and I need some human interaction.

While some of the other moms went with their daughters to the mall after their matches on Saturday, I stayed in the hotel room and took notes on my Anthropology readings for this week. My daughter, Megan, is such a sweetheart. On the way up to Kentucky on Friday night, she took my laptop in the backseat and designed a lovely screen saver for me. Of course, she also informed me how delighted she was that I always brought my laptop with me. It is her portal to the "outside" world of Facebook, etc. And I thought she liked me for me. Hmmm.

Megan's team won the bronze medal this weekend. Not too bad considering there were close to 50 teams at this competition. Several parents of the girls on Megan's volleyball team have expressed their admiration at my "powers of concentration", ability to "stick with it" and "I don't know how you do it!". I told my husband that I don't want people to admire me or to be impressed with me. We each have goals in our lives. There are steps we need to take to accomplish those goals. I am no different from anyone else who desires to accomplish a goal. My steps are just a little more visible.

In the meantime, have laptop, will travel and study. (groan!) Stay tuned . . .

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I usually title my emails to friends, family members, co-workers, etc. "Stuff" when I don't have a particular subject in mind or when I'm not quite sure what I want to say.

I was amused by the posting on Deb Peterson's blog re: Are older nontrads stuck in the 70's? My best friend in Phoenix is a museum archivist for a local Native American Community. He is a self-professed "stuckee" - stuck in the 70's. Steve is not a nontrad, but the 70's were a wonderful time for him. He loves 70s music, 70s fashion, 70s nostalgia. I think sometimes we tend to cling to the times in our lives that were good for us. We have to realize we can't live in those times, that we need to move forward and live our lives progressively. No, I don't think all older nontrads are stuck in the 70s.

E. Sheppard sent me a comment along with some encouraging words. Thank you, Elizabeth! I appreciate your encouragement. When one is juggling lots of stuff at one time, it's nice to know one has cheerleaders. Elizabeth mentioned on her blog that she was down (from Kentucky) in my neck of the woods a few weeks ago visiting the Museum of Appalachia - one of my favorite places. I got to meet John Rice Irwin, the founder of the museum, about a year ago. I was so tongue tied! He's shorter than he looks in photographs, but he is quite personable. I hope you come back to the Museum again sometime soon, Elizabeth. The Fall Homecoming is a great time to visit the museum as well as the 4th of July Anvil Shoot.

Friends are wonderful cheerleaders. Steve is a great cheerleader. So is my friend, Jenny, who just moved to Raleigh, NC. When I go back to Phoenix for spring break, I will be spending time with some of my friends. I'm looking forward to that. It's important to have cheerleaders as a nontrad because there are times when you feel, "What??!! Was I thinking??!!" That's when the cheerleaders step in and shout, "All the way down the field, six points!" They help one to refocus and move toward accomplishing one's goals.

There's my stuff for the evening. I need to get back to homework, studying, de-stressing . . . Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

When You're Overwhelmed, Take It In Bite-Sized Pieces

As a nontrad, its very easy to become overwhelmed by all that needs to be done - school, family, work and life. How does one handle all this stuff at one time? Take it in bite-sized pieces. If you're a list maker, make a list of what you have to do. I would caution against putting huge tasks on your list - things like "Clean house, study for test", etc. A bite-sized piece would be, "Vacuum, review notes from last week's class", etc. A bite-sized piece is one specific part of a task.

When faced with a huge task, like studying for a test, ask yourself, "How can I make this more manageable?" Break down the task into several different smaller tasks. Studying for a test can be broken down into: read the chapter, review terms, review notes, form a study group. Cleaning the house can be broken down into: vacuum the rugs, clean the bathroom, dust the living room, do a dark load of laundry. When you finish a bit-sized piece, cross it off your list. Pretty soon, all the tasks will get done and you won't be so overwhelmed.

Some people get overwhelmed when they look at the big picture, but smaller tasks don't seem so intimidating. I find that if I take just a few minutes to break up a task into bite-sized pieces, I can get more accomplished. Stop, take a deep breath, and take it in bite-sized pieces.

Stay tuned . . .

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Hangin' in There

Time for another progress report. I got a D on my first Econ exam. The teacher said it's my final average that matters. I told him this grade (68) will pull down my final average. That's a tad disappointing. I will have to work extra hard to pull that average back up. I'm up for the challenge! Don't know how I did on my Spanish exam. Several classmates thought they did not do that well.

Meanwhile, I am trudging through my other classes. It looks as though the majority of my siblings will be out in Arizona at the same time I am to see my Dad. That's a good thing. I keep expecting a phone call that he has passed in his sleep. This is very hard on all of us, especially my youngest sister.

I found out that I did not make the cut for the Baker Scholar program. That's okay - nothing ventured, nothing gained. I am going to submit my application to be a peer advisor. If I get that position, it means that I will need to quit my full time job. That's what I have wanted to do anyway. It will allow me to go to school full time. My employer informed me last week that after this semester, I will not be able to take any more day classes. If I can get a part time job on campus, I will be able to work that and go to school full time. Right now, my schooling is most important. I don't want to be in school for the next three years because I can only go to school at night, though.

The semester gets more difficult as time goes on, but I am hanging in there with everything - school, my Dad, etc. Stay tuned . . . .

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Keep on Keeping On

It's been a rather stressful week - between the situation with my Dad, exams at school and a huge project at work. I breezed through my Econ exam last night. I have no way of knowing if I did well or not on the exam. Econ is not my thing and the questions seemed somewhat vague to me. I'll know how I did on that in a couple of days.

I got a B+ on my last history paper, "What is History"? The prof for this class is tough. He wants to make us good writers as well as good historians. It's a tough class.

I have a Spanish exam tonight. I was up until almost midnight last night doing homework. I got a 60 on my first Anthropology quiz (over the readings for that week). The teacher gave us extra credit for just being in class Monday night. It was a beautiful day on Monday and that carried over into a great evening. My Anthropology teacher wasn't surprised at the high absentee rate Monday night due to the nice weather. This time last week, it was snowing and cold with temps in the upper teens. This morning, it's 64 outside.

I meant to call my parents last night, but got so busy with homework, the time got away from me. I will have to call tonight. In spite of all the stress, I know I need to stay focused and just keep on keeping on. Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Borrowed Time

I should be studying for two exams I have next week - Econ and Spanish. Instead, I am emailing my brothers and sisters. The news about Dad is not good. We are trying to figure who can go out to see my parents and when. I will be going out in a month for spring break.

Dad's doctors said they were not going to give him anymore chemotherapy since it doesn't seem to be doing any good. They told him to go home and call hospice. He said he wasn't ready for them right now. My Mom is holding up well. She is the firstborn of four children, two of whom are gone - her brothers. There's only Mom and her sister left. Mom is a rock, but I've seen her scared side and she is terrified of losing her Love of 48 years.

My youngest brother reminded us that last May, Dad was given 7 months to live and that was without doing anything. Here we are, 2 months past that and Dad is still with us. Matt said Dad is living on borrowed time. There are many prayers being said for my Dad.

As I run the race of school this semester, I am also running a race against time for my Dad. We all know what the eventual outcome will be, we're just hoping he has a few more months. Death is never convenient.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Hanging in There

It's time for another progress report. I had a history paper due two weeks ago. It was the first draft of a project due at the end of the semester. My history prof tore it to shreds. I spoke to other folks in my class and he did the same thing to them, so I didn't feel so bad. The prof is a nice guy, just a tough prof. But, this is History Honors, so we aren't supposed to be slouches. Tomorrow I have a Spanish quiz, next week I have my first Econ exam. School is moving right along.

In the midst of all this, my Dad is not doing well. My Mom told me the other day she "didn't tell (us kids) everything" about my Dad's latest MRI. Not only did the docs find more cancer in Dad's brain and at the top of his spinal column, but they also found it in his adrenal glands (on top of the kidneys) and in his sacrum (at the base of his spinal cord). I'm trying to focus on my schoolwork, but my parents are very close in my thoughts. My Mom said the docs haven't given up and neither should we. One of the side affects of the radiation that my Dad is going though is memory loss. That will be hard on all of us. I suggested to my siblings that we each make a "memory book" of our families for Dad, using one of the small photo albums that one finds at Wal-Mart.

Mom told me last night she has been writing as therapy and has several books entered in competitions close to where she lives. She said she wants Dad to live to see one of her books published. I would like that, too. I know this is a very hard time for her. I'm glad she finds therapy in her writing. I recently went through a time where I, too, found therapy through writing. A very good friend of mine moved away last year and I had a hard time letting him go. It helped to write about him. I once heard a poet say he wrote poetry because it was cheaper than a therapist.

Life moves forward. It has to. I cannot stay in one place and hope to grow as a person. This weekend, I will be in Chattanooga at a volleyball tournament with my daughter, laptop and schoolbooks in tow. My parents will be finishing up with Dad's all-brain radiation treatments. My friend will be thawing out in Wisconsin.

Life is dynamic. We live, we grow, we learn. Stay tuned . . .