Monday, May 24, 2010


The title of this post is a catch-all - don't really have a title, but wanted to catch up on some "stuff".

Michael Antonio Dicianna in a fellow nontrad out in the western part of the United States. Check out his blog at I like the title of his blog, "Nontraditional Student Reaching Lifelong Goals". I think that pretty much says it for most nontrads - that we are setting and reaching those lifelong goals. Kudos to Michael on his latest A+ research paper. Fascinating topic.

Kudos as well to Studentmum, too. She survived another challenging term as well as a move to a new house.

I ended up Cum Laude this semester, so I did make the Dean's List!! Ya, baby! This old gal still has it!

Got Megan graduated, so the next step is to get her to college in once piece in August. I will cry all the way home. The week with grandparents was okay. Current situation (divorce) has everyone on edge. Let's just say the time could have gone a lot better than it did. But, it's over, Megs is no longer in high school and we are all moving forward.

Oldest son moved up his wedding date to March 12, 2011 - the weekend before spring break. Hopefully it won't be snowing that weekend! Youngest son is living in Chattanooga in the frat house for the summer and will soon be working two jobs.

So, what are the words of wisdom from this post? Life goes on - make the most of it. It may seem sometimes that we are so busy, we see life as a blur. I would encourage you while you have some down time this summer, to stop and not let life pass you in a blur, but actually watch what is going on around you - in your family, in your relationships, in your community. Take time to reconnect with your "sphere of influence" - people, places, activities. Take time to enjoy life - laugh, have some cotton candy, and take the dog (or the neighbor's dog) for a walk. It will do wonders for your mental health! Stay tuned . . .

Friday, May 21, 2010

Never Too Old

"I'm too old!" That seems to be the most common excuse to not go back to school. I am of the firm belief that one is never too old to go back to school. Learning should be a lifelong pursuit. Writing papers, studying, taking notes - it's all like changing diapers. You never quite forget how to do it!

While it may be true that age affects the way we learn, studies have shown that learning is good for your brain! Intellectual activity keeps those neurons strong and firing! I want healthy neurons, don't you??

If you are one of several thousands of people who are considering returning to school, what's holding you back? If age is one thing, forget about it! Returning to school as an older student is like jumping off the high dive at the neighborhood pool. Get out on the diving board, hold your breath and JUMP! You may scream until you hit the water, but then you realize the experience is quite exhilarating!

Life is an adventure to be lived! Don't be satisfied with rocking chair atrophy! Get out there and exercise your mental muscles and neurons. So what if it takes you another four years to finish a two-year degree? Next year when I graduate, it will have taken me 31 years to get my Bachelor's degree!

Thinking of returning to school but feel like you're to old? Hogwash! Just do it!! Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Warp Speed Syndrome

Is it ever possible to drop out of warp speed as a nontrad? This is the question I have been pondering as of late. My semester ended, but nothing slowed down at all. I am still moving at warp speed. My poor dogs get caught up in the stiff breeze I generate as I rush past them in the kitchen, throwing a cup of dogfood into their bowls. I guess as long as they get fed and have water . . . .

School update: I got 2 A's, a B+ and a B. That averaged out to a 3.75 GPA for the semester. I will have to wait a couple of weeks to see if I made the Dean's List. If you happen to hear a loud, "Yeee-Hawww!!!" at the end of the month, that would be me signifying that I made it. I will be attending summer school at night at the community college (Monday - Thursday) with the same teacher I had for Beginning Spanish II a year ago.

Homefront update: Megan graduates tomorrow. It is a bittersweet moment because she is my last child to graduate from high school. I will miss her desperately, but I am excited for the adventure that awaits her. Aaron, #1 son, has moved up his wedding to the weekend before spring break next year. These next twelve months will be busy indeed!

Work update: I am learning MS Publisher so I can produce the EECS Department's annual report, newsletter, graduate brochure and anything else they need done. I am also the Logistics Coordinator for another department conference this summer.

Looks like I am not going to drop out of warp speed anytime soon. I have a few tips to share for those nontrads who may find themselves in the same boat - suffering from WSS - Warp Speed Syndrome.

1. Your house: If you keep things picked up, it will look less cluttered. Adopt a "Once-a-Week" attitude - vacuum once a week, clean the bathroom once a week, dust once a week, etc. Do one task each evening. Saves time and headaches. Feel free to adjust the schedule if you have small children or a long-haired dog.
2. Your car- same thing - "Once-a-Week". Go through the car and toss the junk out once a week. Keep a plastic grocery bag in back to toss garbage into as you go. Treat yourself to a car wash every other week - going through the car wash may be your only time to slow down.
3. Your family - unfortunately the "Once-a-Week" thing will not work with them. You're going to have to go to "Twice-a-Week" - for a family meal, for a quiet family night, for going out to ice cream together. Try a different twist on things - eat out on the deck. Grilled cheese sandwiches on the deck can be elegant.
4. Your pets - kill two (or three or four) birds with one stone. Again, this is not a "Once-a-Week" thing. Taking the dogs on an evening walk will not only give the dogs their exercise, but you will get exercise, destress and you can take family members along. That's three birds. The fourth one is that you will be getting out and will get a chance to slow down just a bit - depending on the pace your dog keeps.
5. Yourself - this cannot be a "Once-a-Week" thing at all!! You are the only you that you have, so you need to take care of yourself. Functioning at warp speed can spell disaster if you do not do things like - take the time to destress and slow down, make sure you eat properly, get a good night's sleep and laugh.

What are the signs of Warp Speed Syndrome?
1. Everything is a blur - your spouse, the kids, the dogs, your friends.
2. You start speaking in cryptic sentences - like not finishing one sentence before starting another.
3. Your body slows down at night to go to sleep, but your mind is still moving like Jeff Gordon at Daytona.
4. You can't remember the last time you did whatever (not necessarily that whatever).
5. You stop at the stop sign waiting for the light to change.

Find a time to put the breaks on and just . . . . . do . . . . . nothing! My "put the breaks on" will come this weekend - taking my Mom to the Farmer's Market downtown, downloading with Megan once it sinks in that she is out of high school - forever, and enjoying time with my sons and their ladies.

I need to go get a car wash. Stay tuned . . . .

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stop and Smell the Roses

There is a climbing rosebush by my back deck that is currently bursting with blooms. On Saturday morning, as I let my dogs out to do the "doggie thing", they both stopped and smelled one of the large blossoms on the bush. I laughed. Even my dogs know to stop and smell the roses!

I had my last final this morning so I am finished for the semester. Now some time to relax! Megan graduates in less than two weeks. I will be busy preparing for a house full to guests, so my time of relaxing will be a tad short-lived. However, it is important to take some time to download and just do nothing!

As a nontrad, I am so used to functioning at the speed of sound. I have to remember that it's not always good to wake up each morning and immediately jump into warp drive. There is something to be said for relaxing and taking the time to destress from the semester. No more papers to worry about, no more exams to study for, no more rushing to class at 8:55 am.

Healthcare and mental health experts will tell you it is important to let go of stress, that it manifests itself physically (high blood pressure, weight gain, insomnia) and mentally (inability to concentrate, irritability) and can shorten the average person's life span by a couple years. With that in mind, what are some good ideas for destressing?

1. Get rid of your schoolbooks - either sell them or put them away in a box in the back of the clost under the stairs. Take time to disconnect from all things school related.
2. Give yourself permission to just sit. And do nothing. Sit on the back deck with a cup of coffee, sit on the living room couch and pet Fido, sit on your front porch and watch the mockingbirds chase the crows, sit in the backyard and watch the sun set. It's okay to just sit and not have a notebook and pen or open laptop in front of you.
3. Take a walk - slow, leisurely, contemplative. I work on campus, so this is my home away from home. Now as I walk through campus, I can walk and enjoy what I am doing instead of having to rush to get to class on time.
4. Tackle that "to read" stack of books on your nightstand.
5. Do nothing over the weekend except spend time with that group of folks who dirty your house, leave their socks under the couch and don't see the overflowing garbage in the garbage can - your family. Who cares if the house looks like someone is conducting nuclear bomb testing under your property? Have a set time to clean up your house. As for now, immediately after finishing your semester, just go hang out with your family. They, and you, will appreciate the "no pressures" time you make for each other.
6. Bake cookies, make banana bread, make homemade ice cream - do something yummy and creative.
7. Turn the alarm clock off on Saturday morning and get up when you get up. Enjoy that time in bed with what's-his-name or what's-her-name. They need your attention, too.
8. Finally, if you're a woman, go buy yourself a plant or some flowers. There's something renewing about green growing things. If you're a guy, go to Home Depot and smell the lumber.

The whole point? Chillax! You deserve it! Stay tuned . . .

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Winds of Change

As I write this post, I look out my office window to see the wind pulsating through the magnolia tree just on the other side of the wall. My window is open and I can hear the noises of the machinery and men who are doing renovations on and near the football stadium (my office is just across a large parking lot from the football stadium). Just outside my window, they are putting in a new green space, complete with a waterfall, picnic benches and lots of green grass. You can be sure I will frequent that green space once it's done.

There are many changes occurring on campus. These are the last few days of finals, so many students are gearing up to head home for the summer. Commencement is next week and summer school starts on campus in little more than two weeks.

There are many changes occurring in my life. I will be entering my last year as a senior (I've been a senior for the last year and half!). My daughter graduates from high school in two weeks and will head off to college in Georgia in the fall. My oldest son will be getting married in March. I will be facing an empty nest - alone. I have learned not to shun change or to run from it, but to embrace it, to face it head on.

What about you? Are you new to the world of nontrads and this is probably the most frightening thing you've ever done? Are you smack dab in the middle of your nontrad experience wondering, "What was I thinking??" Are you on the tail end, perhaps graduating this month, or maybe you are like me and have just one more year to go? Wherever you are in your nontrad student journey, you are facing changes - a new beginning, getting your second wind, putting school behind you and getting on with your newly-degreed life. The winds of change are blowing - marvel at them and see what settles out of the whirlwind! Stay tuned . . .

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Forest and the Trees

Yesterday, Saturday, May 1, Megan, her friend, Kelsey and I, visited the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest outside of Robinsville, NC. It took us a couple hours to get there because of the weather and because we had to go through Cherokee National Forest. The road through the forest is apparently quite popular with motorcyclists because it is very winding. We had to climb to 4100 feet, then back down to 2500 feet to get to the JKM Forest.

The trip was worth it! The trees were huge! They were at least 12 feet around and 50 feet tall. The wildflowers were amazing and plentiful - may apple, Solomon's plume, Solomon's seal, white and purple violets, foam flower, white and read trillium and several others. We heard palliated woodpeckers and other birds. The stream that ran through the forest was beautiful as well. It was a fitting end to a week that saw the completion of another challenging semester.

That brings me to the reason for the title of this post. Sometimes, we can have a very challenging and difficult semester - lots of papers, perhaps a math class that is very difficult, maybe a professor that has an attitude, or situations in our personal life that make it difficult to concentrate on school. Those things are the forest. It's easy to get lost in the forest.

We need to stop and look at the trees and see how beautiful they are. Is there something you are learning from your research on that paper topic? Is there a classmate who understands math and is willing to be in a study group with you who has made the class a little easier? Has the professor's attitude made you kick it up just a notch and demand a little more of yourself? Has the situation in your personal life made you realize you need to pull back a little on school to give more to your family? Whatever the case may be, it's worth stopping to look at the trees.

There is a saying, "You can't see the forest for the trees", which means you can't see the big picture because you're too busy worrying about the minute details. Sometimes, those details are worth paying attention to so you can see the big picture, "A forest is made up of many trees." Stay tuned . . .