Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Holiday Survival

Hopefully by now all my fellow nontrads are enjoying some downtime from school - between-semester break or a week off for the holidays. I have always had family around me for the holidays, so I don't give much thought to being alone at the holidays or not liking the holidays. However, as I was perusing through some of the subjects on my homepage this morning, I ran across this headline, "Deaths Spike Around Holidays". A rather grim headline, I know. But it got me to thinking about some things.

As a nontrad, I have been traveling at warp speed since August. Now that I have had the chance to drop out of warp speed, I am forced to take a look at things around me. My house needs a good cleaning, I need to get together with some friends I have been neglecting because of school and I need to pay more attention to myself, especially in light of my recent divorce.

I could get rather maudlin and mopey because this year is different from last, but I chose not to. This year's Christmas will be better than last - I will be surrounded by all three of my children and their respective partners. That's a good thing.

But what about those people who do not have family and friends around them at the holidays? Or those who have experienced a recent loss due to death or divorce? Or those who are on shaky financial footing this year? How can we reach out to those in our nontrad community who are dealing with the "Holiday Blues"? Let's try a few things:

1. Extend an invitation to those people you know who will not be sharing this holiday with family and friends. I have asked my church pastor and several other people at church to keep their ears and eyes open for folks in my congregation who may not have a "home" for the holidays. I have extended an open invitation to them.

2. Volunteer at the local soup kitchen or food pantry. Your time will make someone else's life just a little bit better. Take some friends with you and make a day of volunteering. The more volunteers, the better.

3. Stay close to those who may be exhibiting signs of depression. Be a listening ear, a sturdy shoulder, a compassionate friend. Signs of depression can be found on websites like Encourage that person to seek help. Commit to accompany them when they go to get that help.

4. Check in with elderly friends and neighbors. Take them a nice Christmas ornament and some stationery with pre-stamped envelopes, or food for their pet, or just sit and listen to them share their stories.

5. Designate one day as a "Do Nothing" or a "Mental Health" day on the midst of all the holiday craziness. Sleep in, breathe deep, take a walk, play board games with your family, listen to your favorite Christmas CD. Don't worry about the dirty house or the overgrown backyard or the million and one other things that are calling your name. Sometimes we just need a day of a whole lot of nuthen.

Take this time to download, de-stress and disconnect. School will start back up soon enough - for you and the kids. Work will once again call your name in urgent, stressful tones. Take this time to invest in the most important things - your family, your friends, and yourself.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all. And in the words of Tiny Tim, "May God bless us, every one!"

Monday, December 20, 2010

Barking Dogs, the Smell of Pine and Basketball

I am enjoying my downtime. My dogs are outside having a barkfest with the neighbor dogs as I write this. One neighbor left me a note in my mailbox teling me my dogs bark too much. The other neighborhood dogs howl when the fire truck in the neighborhood goes by, but mine don't. I guess he just doesn't like barking dogs. Such is life.

Megan and her boyfriend picked out a real tree for me this year, so my house smells like a pine forest. It's a very soothing smell for me because it brings back memories of camping with my parents in the forests of northern Arizona when I was younger.

Megan's boyfriend in the only senior on his high school basketball team this year. Needless to say, we have gone to several of his games and will be attending one this evening as well.

Elizabeth Shepherd, from the Moon and the Willow Tree,, encouraged me in my academic pursuits. She said going back to school as an older student really is difficult. I think one of the main reasons why is because life is happening all around us. I have continued trudging through my classes in spite of attending Megan's volleyball tournaments in Georgia every weekend in September and October, working through the residuals from a divorce, an aging parent and a host of other things going on in my life. Do our younger counterparts have such hectic lives? Of course not! That's where we nontrads need to stick together. We need to encourage one another and spur each other on.

Yes, being a nontrad is a challenge that not many people pursue. We are to be congratulated for having the stick-to-it-iveness and courage to forge ahead. We will make it through this, these hectic days of life and school. We will walk across that stage and get our diploma. We will look back on this and be grateful to family and friends as they encouraged us on our journey.

So, fellow nontrads, I raise a glass of egg nog in your honor. May your next term, semester, etc., be better than the last and may we all reach that goal of getting our degree with honor and dignity! Bottoms up! Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Downtime and Life-Long Learning

The semester is finally over and I didn't do as well as I had hoped. This was a rough semester with my daughter's volleyball tournaments all over Georgia during September and October, problems with my ex-husband from summer to the present, and not finding a tutor for Spanish. I could whine about it, but I won't. I need to give myself grace and enjoy the downtime I have. I ended up with 3 B's and a C+ for a GPA of 2.85 - my lowest since my freshman year at the University of Arizona in 1981. What does that mean? Just that I need to focus and work harder next semester. I won't be taking notes for the athletic department next semester, so my nights will be free for studying.

I do want to mention a fellow nontrad, Michael A. Dicianna at He had a 4.0 semester. Way to go, Michael!! And to all the other nontrads out there who had another great semester, kudos!! Our hard work will pay off!

I always tell my children that no experience is wasted if you learn from it. As nontrads, we advocate life-long learning. And that should not just be in the classroom. Life-learning happens every day if we let it. No matter what we experience, good or bad, we need to let it become a learning experience.

I am submitting two paid internship applications to be a student researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, TN this summer. I have already submitted one but am waiting on the other one until my English major sister critiques my essays for the application. A friend of mine told me that even though the internships are highly competitive, the administrators try to get a mix of older and younger folks. I hope my interest in Environmental Studies and population and the environment will be enough to get me in the door.

With that said, I will enjoy my downtime over the holidays with my children and friends. School doesn't start back until January 11, so I have plenty of time to gear up and resolve to finish my college career strong. Stay tuned . . .

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Almost Finished

The further away I get from this semester, the lighter I feel. I took my Spanish final yesterday and am hoping I did well enough to pass the exam and the class. I spoke to other classmates who were also just hoping to pass the class. I am not alone in merely wanting to get through that requirement as opposed to using it to pad my GPA. I still have to finish writing my history final. Will hand that in today.

I got together with some of my Sociology 465 classmates last night. The professor, Dr. Jones, was also there. It was a great time of sharing memories and laughter. I wish all classes could end that way. It's good to download and reflect.

Now I can switch my focus to my family. My divorce will be final on 12/17. That has been a rough journey as anyone who has been divorced knows. But that's a whole 'nother blog entirely. All I have to say about that is that I have been through hell and I am still standing. And in May, I will be walking across that stage to get my degree. So, bully for him!

On to more important things - downloading from this semester. I always take time to reflect on the semester just past and look at the lessons I've learned. As I ponder this semester, the following comes to mind:
1. Don't neglect homework! I would have done better in Spanish if I would have taken the class more seriously and spent time learning the material instead of trying to breeze through it.
2. Hard work is good. My Sociology class was rough because of the group project. We worked hard and learned a great deal. Many of my classmates have said the same thing.
3. Take time to relax. My stress level would have been less if I would have taken time to relax now and again and laugh more often.
4. Take advantage of extra credit, guest speakers, etc. These opportunities make for a richer education experience.
5. Don't take yourself too seriously. It is good to be a serious student, but being too serious leads to banality.

When I was a junior in high school, I took an advanced biology course. One of the things the teacher pounded into us was, "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny". Translation: species reproduce themselves. I have tweaked that phrase a bit. My take on it is, "Anality recapitulates banality." Translation: If you take yourself too seriously, you become irrelevant to everyone else but yourself.

So, in honor of my semester being almost finished, I lift high a pint of Blue Moon and say, "Cheers!". Stay tuned . . .