Wednesday, December 31, 2008


With the new year around the corner, people are busy posting flashbacks or countdowns. I decided to combine the two! Here's a look back at University Mama's

ten+ new friends made

nine dollars per week spent on caffeinated products

eight a.m. daily departure (thank heavens for no 8 a.m. classes!)

seven textbooks that I bought but probably could have lived without

six hours of commuting per week

five hours straight spent sitting in a desk at school, three times a week

four-point-oh G.P.A.

three back-to-back semesters

two large notebooks full of class notes

If you are contemplating become a non-traditional university student in 2009 but think that finishing a college degree would take f-o-r-e-v-e-r, don't sweat it. Everybody knows that time flies in the "real world," but once a year is divided into semesters, it really flies. I speak from experience. I once thought dedicating two years to finishing a degree was an absurd reality, but here I am, wondering where time went.

You CAN do it. Write down "finish my degree" as one of your new year's resolutions today, then start taking the steps toward making your dreams a reality tomorrow!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Finish Line

I crossed the finish line today.

This morning I took my last final. Barring any unforeseen circumstances, I am finally an educated woman with a bachelor's degree in Communication Arts (Mass Communications).

I'm not going to lie: driving away from campus was pretty emotional for me. For the past year and a half, "college student" has been a large part of defining who I am. It also doesn't help that I'm a total "school nerd" (I love learning, homework, making the President's list--the whole bit). Of course, part of the emotion I felt was relief and accomplishment.

I'm still uncertain about the path that lies ahead, but I know that I am a better person for having run the race, especially since I've had my eyes on the prize for thirteen years!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The End Times

Slowly, but surely, I'm coming to accept that the end of college life. People keep sharing their congratulations and well wishes with me (the winter graduate list was recently printed in the newspaper), my mom sent me a cute "Class of 2008" graduation ornament for my tree (thanks, mom!) and my sister dropped off a very generous graduation gift tonight (thanks, sis!).

The strangest thing for me to have right now is TIME. This afternoon, I napped just for the heck of it. I surfed the internet aimlessly. I ate too many chocolate chip cookies just because I had time. My Christmas shopping is complete, I have wrapped up all my photo sessions for the year and I'm starting to regain some kind of control over my household affairs. So, for the first time in a while, I have time to waste! Granted, some of my "free time" will be used for studying in the next couple of days, but it is a strange and somewhat terrifying/liberating feeling to have time on my hands.

The world is my oyster!

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Journey Back to Normalcy

Today, I turned in the work for my guided study class and took two of my five finals. Afterwards, I joined my hubby (who graciously drove me to school, allowing me to get some last minute studying done) for lunch at a great Mexican restaurant followed by Christmas shopping. We were even able to get many of our Christmas gifts wrapped before we picked up the kids. This evening, the girls and I did a 15-minute cleaning marathon and managed to knock out the clutter and chaos that has been driving me insane in our living room and dining room (it's really amazing how much can be done in 15 minutes). My oldest daughter and I braved the cold for a while and tried to get a good photo of the moon which is looking especially mysterious tonight. Now, I'm in my pj's and getting ready to join my daughters for an encore presentation of Samantha--An American Girl Holiday movie.

I feel very accomplished today, not in the "hey, I'm somebody" way but in a "wow, I got a lot done" way. I'm starting to feel normal again, like I can actually handle the day-to-day things that I've neglected in favor of projects and study guides and late nights in front of the computer.

Honestly, I've kind of dreading the return to normalcy, but right now, it feels just right.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Finals Stress

I got up early this morning with the intentions of devoting most of my day to studying for tomorrow's finals. It's now 8 p.m. and I still have not cracked a single study guide or book. Things like last-minute photo editing (things that had to be ordered today before the Christmas shipping cut-off), a daughter's orthodontic appointment and a quick trip to the dreaded department store ended up being the major time suckers. I just spent the past hour trying to wrap up the final chapter in my guided study class only to find that my software program is too updated for the book I'm using (which means I will have to spend some time in the lab tomorrow--ugh!). I'm trying not to stress out, but I do admit to feeling slightly panicky. Mostly, I'm just bummed that there is a lo-o-o-o-ng night ahead of me. Bummer.

Maybe a trip down memory lane will help. Remember this jewel of a poem: 'Twas the Night Before Finals?

'Twas the night before finals,
And all through the college,
The students were praying,
For last minute knowledge.

Most were quite sleepy,
But none touched their beds,
While visions of essays
Danced in their heads.

Out of the taverns
A few were still drinking,
And hoping that liquor
Would loosen their thinking.

In my apartment,
I had been pacing,
And dreading exams,
I soon would be facing.

My roommate was speechless
Her nose in the books
And my comments to her
Drew unfriendly looks.

I drained all the coffee
And brewed a new pot,
No longer caring
That my nerves were shot.

I started at my notes,
But my thoughts were muddy,
My eyes were ablur,
I just couldn't study.

"Some pizza might help,"
I said with a shiver.
But each place I called
Refused to deliver.

I'd nearly concluded
That life was too cruel,
With futures depending
On grades had in school.

When all of the sudden,
Our door opened wide,
And Patron Saint Put It Off Ambled inside.

His spirit was careless,
His manner was mellow,
A grin on his face as
He started to bellow:

"What kind of student
Would make such a fuss,
To toss back at teachers
What they tossed at us?"

"On Cliff Notes! On Crib Notes! On Last Year's Exams!
On Wingit and Slingit, And Last Minute Crams!"

His message delivered,
He vanished from sight,
But we heard him laughing
Outside in the night.

"Your teachers have pegged you,
So just do your best.
Happy Finals to all,
And to all, a good test."

To all a good test indeed.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

What I Love About College (& Will Miss the Most)

Lately, the classroom conversations have been about one thing: enrollment and the upcoming spring semester.

"Did you get into that class?"

"Do you like that professor? Is he hard?"

"Will this class meet the requirement for my major?"


It's making me get all sentimental and emotional. Okay, maybe I haven't shed any tears, but it does feel odd not to be enrolling. It is weird to see all the requirements "zero-ed" out on my degree requirement checklist. It feels strange to know that all the students and professors that I have come to know and enjoy will no longer be a part of my life come mid-December.

If I were to pull a "David Letterman" and make a top ten list of things I will miss most about university life, it would probably be...

10. Discounts. I don't get to take advantage of them quite enough, but it's a great feeling to be able to get into a theatre production for free or save a buck at the movie theatre simply by whipping out a college I.D.

9. Ham & Cheese Sandwiches at the Market. I'm probably the only one on campus that likes these (I mean, it's only ham, cheese, and rye bread), but I do! Maybe it's not-so-much the food as the much needed break between class.

8. Wearing my "Good" Clothes. I've been a stay-at-home mom for ten years and my uniform of choice has often been "whatever's comfortable." Jeans and tees or hoodies are staples in my closet. Sure, I don these for campus life too, but I'm more motivated to put on my "cute clothes" when I'm hanging out with a bunch of 19 & 20-year-old girls for some reason. If I continue working from home, I may just continue the tradition of wearing my "good" clothes, just for kicks and self-esteem...maybe.

7. Listening to Morning Edition on NPR. I used to only relate NPR to those totally hilarious skits on Saturday Night Live, but now I am a total addict. It makes the drive to school so much shorter and allows me to get caught up on important news in what I feel is less biased and definitely less stressful than watching broadcast news. I mean, come could you get upset about plummeting market conditions while Mozart is playing softly in the background? I totally accept my new found state of nerdness.

6. Interesting Conversation. Most people in my household aren't really interested in journalism or issues therein. So, if I want to have any interesting conversations or debates about the field, I must meet-up with like minded people. Granted, not all college students get on fire for stimulating conversation, but some do.

5. Grades. Yes, grades. Being the over-achiever that I am, I have taken great pride in the fact that I would have had a perfect 4.0 GPA since going back to school had it not been for one measly "B" (darn you, Biology!!!). Sure, I have some real issues with perfectionism that I need to tackle, but I ask you: what feels better than getting a good grade? It's like a subliminal pat on the back!

4. Red Bull Energy Drinks. Now that I'm not going to be trying to cram homework, motherhood, and a "real" job into 24 little hours, I should be able to refrain myself from indulging in so much Red Bull. At one point, I could have just hooked up an IV of the stuff for simplicity's sake.

3. Leaving my Home. I primarily work from home and it's likely that I will continue to do so after graduation. Sometimes, the walls feel as if they are caving in on me and the only thing that makes me feel better is getting out of the house...even if it's for a short walk to the mailbox. I really like how my school schedule mandates that I get out for some fresh air and actual human contact regularly.

2. The Commute. Actually, I look forward to skipping the 120 mile round-trip daily excursion, but I'm not being entirely contradictory. While I hate trying to stay awake for a long drive home after an exhausting day at school, I really enjoy taking in the scenery along the way. The mornings are an especially beautiful time when the sun is just peeking through and wildlife is wandering about. I'll miss watching the clouds and the multi-colored sky.

1. Students. I really love my classmates and have developed some friendships along the way. I mean, how could I not love them when they say things like, "you don't look 31" or "I thought you were like 24 and just had kids when you were really young," etc... They tell me their troubles & I sympathize remembering when I, too, had "been there, done that." We share stress and misery and occasionally food in an effort to rid ourselves of the former. We also have a lot of fun together, joking, sharing goofy YouTube videos, chit-chatting about our favorite television series, etc. It's safe to say, of all the things I will miss about college life, I will definitely miss the laughter I've shared with my classmates.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

When the Best Laid Plans Go Astray

The plan: spend all weekend in stretchy pants wearing no makeup and looking too scary to leave the house, thus propelling myself to sit in front of the computer for hours and complete the projects for my guided study which are due on Friday.

The reality: I brought my book home, but left my project CD (I'm creating projects from graphics & photos that are on the CD that came with my textbook) & my USB drive at school. School is 60 miles away. Professor is out of town, thus unable to unlock the computer lab where all my goodies are located.

The back-up plan: I don't have one! I'm really stressed out about all this. I spent over an hour working on one project yesterday; they are pretty time intensive. I have somewhere around 12 projects do the math.

On one hand, I feel kind of liberated from the school shackles that I had planned to be wearing. Suddenly, I have a weekend of nothingness to look forward to. That mean I can tackle mountains of laundry or do some online Christmas shopping or work on editing a last batch of photos.

On the other hand, I'm restraining panic right now. I HAVE to complete this project or I won't graduate! If worse comes to worse, I will sacrifice my 4.0 GPA this semester on the alter of "getting it done" and just turn in enough to pass satisfactorily....but it won't make me a very happy girl.

Deep breaths...deep breaths....I think I can handle this.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crunch Time

I'm tired. I'm stressed. I'm anxious. I'm worried. I'm excited. I'm exhausted. I'm working like a madwoman. I'm sad. I'm drained....

...but I'm almost a college graduate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Lessons from the Pilgrims

Thanksgiving is here. Yay! It's my favorite holiday.

Talk of Pilgrims always comes up in November at my house, especially if the kids have been studying them at school or want to read a selection from our holiday book collection. As I recounted the story of the Pilgrims in my head--the real story with its harsh realities, not the "happily ever after" condensed version often shared with kids--I saw many lessons that a nontraditional college student could take away from it.

One thing that I appreciate about the Pilgrims is that they accepted failure but didn't let it defeat them. Did you know that the Mayflower wasn't the Pilgrims' original boat? Actually, they had two boats: the Mayflower and the Speedwell. The Speedwell began taking on water shortly after departure and had to be sold. The Pilgrims didn't abandon their efforts; they just changed course. They combined passengers and moved on.

They managed to make it across the Atlantic, but it was winter by the time they arrived. They managed to build one common house. Nearly half of the Pilgrims died during the harsh New England winter. At one point, there may have been only six people well enough to help care for the sick. They stuck together and endured until the break of spring.

They didn't have homes or know how to farm the land, but they kept plodding on. Eventually, as everyone knows, they were successful in their efforts, mostly thanks to the native people who were willing to share their knowledge.

There it for thought. I hope you will be enjoying some real food this weekend and counting your blessings. I have so much to be thankful for, but I will admit that one thing I am especially thankful for right now is Thanksgiving break!!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Guided Study Procrastination

There's this really big part of me that is feeling kind of relieved these days. I have no more tests until finals, we are done with lectures in one of my classes, we are putting the finishing touches on a group project that I have no qualms about and there are no major assignments between now and the last six class days of the semester...but I think I've lulled myself into a false sense of security.

I've mentioned before that guided study or independent study classes have been a great addition to my traditional university classes and were actually part of the reason I am graduating in December rather than January. However, it is easy to put those classes on the back burner in favor of classes that seem more urgent. There are no timelines on my guided study coursework other than the fact that all lessons must be turned in by December 12th.

I've worked on the projects in bits and pieces, but I have yet to finish one complete section of the three classes I am working on.

I am confident that the work can and will be finished, but I have to constantly remind myself of it lest it get swept away to the farthest recesses of my backpack. My goal is to get it completed before finals. Lord knows I don't want to be studying for comprehensive tests AND trying to cram in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator lessons!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Group Projects

Group projects: you either love 'em or hate 'em.

If you love 'em it's are a slacker hoping to get a good grade with minimal effort on your part by allowing your group mates to do all the work.

If you hate 'em it's fear being "stuck" with a slacker and having to do all the work on your own lest it jeopardize your grade. You also probably hate the possibility of spending extra time outside of the classroom working on projects and/or the difficulties associated with trying to coordinate a bunch of incompatible schedules to do so.

I have always disliked group projects. Even when I was a "true freshman" I hated them. Back then, I was working crazy hours--sometimes up to forty hours a week. I barely had time for "regular" homework, much less anything extra time consuming. Plus, I felt out of place. All of my group mates didn't have jobs which meant that they had plenty of time on their hands to meet whenever they wanted; I was the only holdup. It was frustrating.

When I started back to school, I still disliked the thought of group projects mostly I because I worried about being paired with kids who could care less about school and don't mind sabotaging my GPA. (I'm clinching my jaws just thinking about it.) I also feared feeling out of place again, but in a different way. Nobody wants the "old folks" to be in their group, right?

I must admit, my back-t0-college experience has been the opposite of what I expected. The traditional-aged students have been welcoming if not downright befriending to me. In one class, my constant partner and I are "PB&J" because we work together so well and totally depend on one another. In another group project, I'm paired with three girls who are probably ten years my junior (I got a reality check when they all admitted to being too young to remember much of the Columbine shootings--I was pregnant with my first child when that happened!), but we have a great time studying together, encouraging one another and laughing...a lot. Plus, I know that I can count on these girls to do their part and they are as concerned about making a good grade as I am.

For me, group projects are no longer a thing to dread because I'm having so much fun doing them! Maybe the key is that my professors let us pick our own groups and that has allowed us to pair up complimentary personalities.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You Can't Have it All (Or Things That Have Suffered Since I Returned to College)

Hate to break it to you people, but you can't have it all despite what they tell you. Sure, I have a family, a job and attend college full-time, but there are plenty of things that have suffered along the way.

Diet & Exercise

Throughout most of the year, I have done really well turning my eating and exercise habits around, but the past two months have really taken a toll on them. There never seems to be enough hours in a day, so exercise is the easiest thing to skip on my "to-do" list. Eating well has also gone on the backburner because it takes so long to plan ahead and prepare healthy, balanced meals (keeping fresh items in stock when you live in the country can be pretty challenging). Somehow, I've managed to maintain (even lose!) weight this semester, but I don't feel as healthy or strong. I have a feeling that I'm losing the muscle mass that I worked hard to build and my skin just doesn't look as healthy. I'm not eating well and I'm not drinking enough water. Since I'm in class through lunch, I usually have a fountain drink and a package of carbs or nuts on the way home as my pitiful meal replacement. I used to pack a sandwich lunch and apple, but I can't even manage to get that together each morning. I'm not eating a hearty breakfast anymore (though I never skip breakfast entirely) and my family's dinner is, more often than I'd like to admit, just thrown together at the last minute. I'm frustrated with myself and my inability to get out of bed at 6 a.m. to exercise, but late nights and long days have weakened my will power.


The universal thorn in a woman's side: laundry. It seems like when I finally get to the bottom of my laundry pile, it only takes a day or two before it is out of control again. Why is that? It's so annoying! I've tried doing XX loads per day or doing a marathon laundry session, but inevitably, it gets the best of me. I have encouraged my husband to get a "spare" wife whose sole duty would be to tend to our laundry, but he doesn't seem too interested.


I'm honest enough to admit it--my parenting skills have not been as stellar as I'd like them to be. I've denied my kids' requests to help with knitting projects or postponed storytelling time on occasion. They often get in bed later than I want (I'm talking 9:30 instead of 9, but still...). I can't seem to get them to the hairdresser often enough. I sometimes forget to check their homework folders until it is almost too late (because I use the time they spend outside playing with the neighbor kids to do homework). So, okay...I'm not a terrible parent or anything, but I am getting a little sloppier than I'd like on the Mama end.


I find that there is SO much going on in my life, it is hard to just "chill" because there is always something I could be doing. It's been a while since I've watched an entire movie or read a book (for recreation) because those things are pretty time-intensive. I do have one saving grace: the DVR. Husband and I usually record our favorite sitcoms and watch one or two before bedtime most evenings. Even when I could be working, I try to take a sitcom break with the husband because a little something is better than nothing.

I used to be the kind of girl that remembered everyone's birthday, wrote letters to grandparents and shared photos of my kids with friends. These days, my family blog has been neglected for months in lieu of homework, I rarely remember a birthday (until its too late) and my grandparents get their updates on the family through the grapevine. I really hate these changes and I'm hoping that this too shall pass when I no longer have class projects or crazy commutes.

To give credit where credit is definitely due, my husband has been a real champ throughout this university journey. He has filled in the gaps during my inadequacies from laundry to housework to reading with the kids, and he even understands (and sometimes encourages) eating out when my plate is full. (No pun intended.)

If you are contemplating returning to school as a non-traditional college student, you should definitely consider who could be the "gap filler" in your life. You may have plenty of cheerleaders, but "gap fillers" are what you really need to be successful both in the classroom and in life.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Value of University Education...from the Wiz

This afternoon, as I was doing my homework while my daughter watched "The Wizard of Oz," I giggled when I overheard the scarecrow asking the Wizard for a brain. This is what he said:

"Why, anybody can have a brain. That's a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous
creature that crawls on the Earth or slinks through slimy seas has a brain. Back where I
come from, we have universities, seats of great learning, where men go to become great
thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than
you have! But they have one thing you haven't got - a diploma. Therefore, by virtue of the
authority vested in me by the Universitatus Committeatum E Pluribus Unum, I hereby
confer upon you the honorary degree of Th. D...that's Doctor of Thinkology." *

Good news for those who are worried that you don't have what it takes to get a college education: according to the Wiz, you don't have to be a brainiac....just learn how to think deep thoughts and you, too, can have a diploma!!

*Special thanks to for posting excerpts from the script...because, even though I'm getting a diploma soon, I had no idea how to spell "pusillanimous!"

Friday, November 14, 2008

The "F" Word

The "f" word: my professor said it two classes today. It was like music to my ears.

That's right...she brought up finals. :)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Only Ten More School Days!

I can hardly believe that I can count the number of class days left using only my hands! Whoo-hoo!

Want to take a quick trip down memory lane with me?

I remember my very first University Mama blog post like it was was the post where I how I ended up postponing my degree in the first place.

Over the past three four semesters I've discussed my insecurities about being "the old lady" in class, the differences in college life from "back then" to now, why I think it was a good idea to get my degree traditionally rather than online, even occasionally wondering out loud "why am I doing this?"

It's been a wild--and sometimes exhausting--ride as a thirty-something non-traditional student with a family to care for and a business to run, but I know that at the end of these last ten school days, I will FINALLY have the peace that comes from marking that enormous, ever-present "to-do" off of my bucket list.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Research Papers

I love to write and I love to research, but I hate to write research papers. I'm not sure what my hang-up is with writing for academia. I guess it's that I feel like my creativity is squelched by end notes and abstracts. At any rate, research papers are an almost inescapable part of university life; here are a few resources that I have found helpful:

Easy Bib: Why am I always "a day late and a dollar short?" My pal introduced me to this site just as we were completing our papers. It's a free service that create your works cited page. You have to enter in all the vital information, of course (like titles, authors, dates, etc.), but Easy Bib automatically sets up your entry in the correct style and will alphabetize all your entries. Sweet!

Tips for APA format: Having only written in MLA style in the past, I had to do a little research about APA style. The OWL at Purdue website was the one place that I kept coming back to when I had questions, and it answered them all for me.

The Elements of Style is a must-have book for any writer. This book focuses on the fundamentals rather than forms of writing. Since there is more to a research paper than making sure you have your title page formatted correctly, Elements of Style is a great resource to help professionalize your writing.

MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition
is another must-have book for every college student's bookshelf. If you're required to use APA format as I was, the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association would be a great resource to have as well.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

From the Kids That Brought You President Obama...

Okay, so that blog post title may not be entirely true, but according to some of the stats that are being reported, voter turnout for the 18-29 crowd really jumped this year. Considering that most young voters favored Obama two-to-one, there may be some semblance of truth in my blog post title after all!

I thought it would be interesting to play the "fly-on-the-wall" and do a lot of listening around the classroom yesterday as I expected a lot of post-election chatter. I will tell you that I live in a very red state and there were a great deal of students (more than I expected!) who were planning to vote for McCain. Here's what was going on in my classrooms today:

9 a.m.--Guy recounts his evening at his place of work (I assume a bar or restaurant), mentioning how one guy came in whooping and hollering after Obama's win. He mentioned how one girl that he worked with was getting aggravated--not because of the Obama celebration--but because the whooping-and-hollering guy wasn't an American citizen. He's African.

When discussing the electoral college, one girl says, "Why don't the McCain supporters move (spread out across the country) so they can get more electoral votes?" (She was joking, probably a little half-heartedly, though.)

10 a.m.--Classroom is strangely silent. It's usually a very chatty place.

11 a.m.--African student (mentioned above) shows up for class giddy & blasting an "Obama, Obama" song from his cell phone. He recounts his beer-filled evening: neighbors called the cops as he cheered in the front yard around 11 p.m. (he was alone) then he walked back into his apartment and blared the "Obama, Obama" song through his stereo speakers. He writes the total electoral vote on the board and "400 year of oppression are over." Other students giggle; they are used to his antics. They also sarcastically tease him about how they are so glad that prejudice has been completely wiped out of America in a single vote and how every American must have obviously been a bigot until this day. In true non-partisan form, we all join him at the computer to watch a YouTube video of the (fake) candidates having a dance-off (with a surprise guest appearance from Sarah Palin). At some point, someone mentions his non-citizenship status, but he says, "My wife and son are Americans, so that's enough for me." He even says, "I love America!" (though most days he spends classtime telling us what's wrong with the country compared to European nations).

From my guesstimation, most people in this class were McCain supporters. No one tries to start arguments or complain.

12 p.m. Other students talk about how they stayed up watching the election (and drinking, of course). One guy said "I just kept drinking because I'm a Democrat, but I voted for McCain because Obama scares me." He wasn't talking about the man Obama, but Obama political ideology.

Talk turns to media coverage (a likely topic in a journalism class). Things that were mentioned:

*calling states for a candidate when only two percent of the ballots have been returned
*how it was hard to choose between real coverage (CNN, Fox, ABC, etc) vs. fake coverage like Indecision 2008 (Comedy Central)
*breaking down every single exit poll by black vs. white voters (argument: no other ethnicities were mentioned and "I thought this election wasn't about race?")
*only cutting to the reactions of the African-American communities after the election was called (again, the argument that the media made the election about race)

Someone (of mixed ethnic heritage herself) asked how a person of mixed ethnicity goes about choosing "one side or the other" when determining race.

(I must mention, these kids weren't being racially biased. They really were frustrated with a society that says "don't see people in black or white" but then basically reports everything from a "black or white" perspective. This was particularly confusing to them as black and white Americans will soon be in the minority compared to the Hispanic population.)

1 p.m. Girl comes to class wearing her Obama shirt that she picked up in California. "Wasn't it great?" she asks with a smile. Another girl (a Caucasian, since we're breaking down by race again) mentions being angered by an African-American guy who didn't seem to care about the historical significance of the election,. She also mentions how she was almost brought to tears herself by images of Jesse Jackson crying at the Obama post-election rally (she didn't mention Jesse Jackson by name--I'm not sure she knows who he is--but this girl is not the emotional kind).

Looking back over the semester, McCain supporters were much more likely to discuss politics in class while Obama supporters were more visible, wearing Obama t-shirts and put "Vote for Obama" buttons on their Facebook pages, etc. I'll leave it to the political parties to determine all the psychology behind those behaviors.

For now...I'm just glad the election chaos is over because I have a lot of homework to do! :)

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Life Lessons: The Classroom in Action

Everyone in the United States and throughout much of the world knows that today is a special day: Election Day.

I can recall many of the lessons on Democracy that I had been taught as a child from the fabled tales of George Washington cutting down his father's cherry tree to the more serious matters of civic responsibility and service. I vividly remember my American Government professor (who slightly resembled a Viking in my mind) who with all the passion and gusto he could muster, plead with our 18-year-old college selves to get involved in the political process, even encouraging us to save our pennies and buy an expensive meal at a political fundraising gala so our voices could be heard. I remember how, during times of trouble (war, terrorism or natural devastation), Americans rallied together for the common good. All of these things factor into the importance I place on voting and being a part of the democratic political process.

Sometimes, as a parent, it's hard to remember how much influence you have on your child's life. I began to think about how much I had talked with my kids about political matters, and I was pretty surprised to realize how little we had discussed it.

I decided to change that.

A month or so ago, I decided that I was going to get up early on Election Day and take my kids to the polls with me. Since that time, we've discussed how often people get to vote, voting restrictions/age limits, why I will/won't vote for a certain candidate, the difference between state and national government, etc. None of these conversations were in depth, mind you; they were just kid-sized nuggets of information.

This morning, my kids got to see how voters check in, what a ballot looks like, how to fill out a ballot and how ballots are cast for a final vote. The only effort on my part: getting out the door a few minutes early and letting them watch over my shoulder. There's just some things that can't be taught in a classroom.

I feel like I have completed my civic duty for today, both as an American and as a parent.

Studying for the 21st Century

I think anything that makes life easier or makes information more accessible/portable is cool. Sometimes I wish I lived in a metro area and had to take the train to get to work just so I could watch podcasts on the train; it just sounds hip!

As a commuter student, it can be difficult to manage the transfer of information from school to home and vice versa, especially when you are working on many different computers. It can also complicate studying on-the-go. You've heard about my love of old-fashioned index cards , but since I am also somewhat of a self-proclaimed technology geek, I have been looking at the many online study aids that are available to students.

SyncNotes seems to be one web application with promise. You can synchronize information between the web and all your many techno gadgetry (computers, cell phone, PDA) so you will always have access to the information you need no matter your location. You know what that means, right? No more excuses for not studying!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

A Good End to a Bad Month

October was a terrible month. It was a want-to-pull-my-hair-out-slightly-overwhelmed-and/or-exhausted kind of month. Translation: "I've never been so happy to see November!"

No matter how crappy the month may have been, I've got to admit that it ended--and November started--on a good note due to the following:

*Professor and I figured out an alternative route for the guided study classes that I am taking (the extremely time-consuming ones that I feared I would never complete).

*I came home to a SPOTLESS house that my husband had graciously cleaned on his day off. Walking into a clean home always melts the stress away. I was able to let go of all those nagging "undones" (well, all except the nagging laundry "undones").

*My sister came to visit.

*I enjoyed the yearly hayride/trick-or-treating with a trailer bed full of friends from our small town...and we were able to leave our coats and hot chocolate at home this year!

*My best friend and her son drove up from Texas like a stealth bomber and made a totally surprise visit (in coordination with my sis and hubby). It was like having a surprise birthday party except without the "growing older" part (yes, she even brought dessert!).

*Said friends and family members helped me eat all of the children's Halloween chocolate quickly so I wouldn't be tempted by it for a week. I's a tough job but somebody's gotta do it! Don't worry--we left plenty of Starburst and Skittles for the kids; I'm not tempted by that at all. (lol!)

*I went to see High School Muscial 3 at the theatre with the kiddos. I'm not gonna lie: I'm a fan. It was cute.

*I went for a drive in the country and enjoyed the beautiful autumn leaves.

*I relaxed.

*I got an extra hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Saving Time.

Moral of the story: there's never anything so bad that a little time with friends, family or a pillow can't improve.

So, bring it on, November...I'm ready for you.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Mama Guilt

Today is Halloween and I'm in class today. My youngest daughter wasn't very happy that I wouldn't be able to attend her party at school. We did have the conversation about how lucky we have been that I have been able to attend almost (if not all) of her school functions since there are many mommies who can't because of their work schedules. Still, she still whined, "Can Daddy come to my party?" Thankfully, Daddy is stepping up to the plate (as he always does) and making baby girl happy, but that leaves me here, dealing with mama guilt. I know my kids will have to deal with disappointment in life and I know that I can't be all things to all people all the time, but the realization of these facts does not lessen the feelings of guilt.

I seriously considered skipping class today. What is more important: reviewing notes on communication theory or being a part of an event that is the highlight of my kid's month? My professor won't give me a big smile and hug when I walk into her classroom, but I would get that in my daughter's kindergarten class.

In the end, responsibility brought me to campus (I had my broadcast team's video and they wouldn't be able to work without it), but the whole shenanigan reminded me that freelancing after graduation might be the right path after all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

You think COLLEGE is hard....

This came from a e-mail that is frequently forwarded on the internet. I checked out it's authenticity and it is real. One of the educators from back-in-the-day that helped write this test mentioned his students' inability to pass the it. He described how many of them were blushing and had elementary-like answers for many of the questions. Make me feel better; we're just as "dumb" now as we were back then!


This is the eighth-grade final exam from 1895 in Salina, Kansas, USA . It was taken from the original document on file at the Smokey Valley Genealogical Society and Library in Salina, and reprinted by the Salina Journal.

8th Grade Final Exam: Salina, KS - 1895
Grammar (Time, one hour)
1. Give nine rules for the use of capital letters.
2. Name the parts of speech and define those that have no modifications.
3. Define verse, stanza and paragraph4. What are the principal parts of a verb? Give principal parts of "lie," "play," and "run."
5. Define case; illustrate each case.
6. What is punctuation? Give rules for principal marks of punctuation.
7 - 10. Write a composition of about 150 words and show therein that you understand the practical use of the rules of grammar.

Arithmetic (Time,1 hour 15 minutes)
1. Name and define the Fundamental Rules of Arithmetic.
2. A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?3. If a load of wheat weighs 3,942 lbs., what is it worth at50 cts/bushel, deducting 1,050 lbs. for tare?
4. District No 33 has a valuation of $35,000. What is the necessary levy to carry on a school seven months at $50 per month, and have $104 for incidentals?
5. Find the cost of 6,720 lbs. coal at $6.00 per ton.
6. Find the interest of $512.60 for 8 months and 18 days at 7 percent.
7. What is the cost of 40 boards 12 inches wide and 16 ft. long at $20per metre?
8. Find bank discount on $300 for 90 days (no grace) at 10 percent.
9. What is the cost of a square farm at $15 per acre, the distance of which is 640 rods?10. Write a Bank Check, a Promissory Note, and a Receipt.

U.S. History (Time, 45 minutes)
1. Give the epochs into which U.S. History is divided
2. Give an account of the discovery of America by Columbus.
3. Relate the causes and results of the Revolutionary War.
4. Show the territorial growth of the United States.
5. Tell what you can of the history of Kansas.
6. Describe three of the most prominent battles of the Rebellion.
7. Who were the following: Morse, Whitney, Fulton, Bell, Lincoln, Penn,and Howe?
8. Name events connected with the following dates: 1607, 1620, 1800,1849, 1865.

Orthography (Time, one hour) [<>
1. What is meant by the following: alphabet, phonetic, orthography,etymology, syllabication
2. What are elementary sounds? How classified?
3. What are the following, and give examples of each: trigraph, subvocals, diphthong, cognate letters, linguals
4. Give four substitutes for caret 'u.
5. Give two rules for spelling words with final 'e.' Name two exceptions under each rule.
6. Give two uses of silent letters in spelling. Illustrate each.
7. Define the following prefixes and use in connection with a word: bi,dis, mis, pre, semi, post, non, inter, mono, sup.
8. Mark diacritically and divide into syllables the following, and name the sign that indicates the sound: card, ball, mercy, sir, odd, cell,rise, blood, fare, last.
9. Use the following correctly in sentences: cite, site, sight, fane, fain, feign, vane , vain, vein, raze, raise, rays.
10. Write 10 words frequently mispronounced and indicate pronunciation by use of diacritical marks and by syllabication.

Geography (Time, one hour)
1. What is climate? Upon what does climate depend?
2. How do you account for the extremes of climate in Kansas ?
3. Of what use are rivers? Of what use is the ocean?
4. Describe the mountains of North America.
5. Name and describe the following: Monrovia, Odessa, Denver, Manitoba, Hecla, Yukon, St. Helena, Juan Fernandez, Aspinwall and Orinoco.
6. Name and locate the principal trade centers of the U.S.
7. Name all the republics of Europe and give the capital of each.
8. Why is the Atlantic Coast colder than the Pacific in the same latitude?
9. Describe the process by which the water of the ocean returns to the sources of rivers.
10. Describe the movements of the earth. Give the inclination of the earth.


Man, this makes me feel much better about those comprehensive finals that I have coming up!!!

I Wish I Was a Coffee Drinker

I'm. So. Tired. So very tired. I've pretty much been sleepwalking since the beginning of October. Plus, my tiredness had given birth to a Red Bull addiction. I wish I could stand the taste of coffee; it would be a much cheaper addiction to maintain.

Last night, it dawned on me that I only have like a month and a half of school left. If I can hang on for 49 DAYS, I'll be okay!!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Hanging On think I might be able to survive....

Friday, October 24, 2008


I get by with a little help from my friends....and my advisor.

Today, after getting out of class early, a classmate and I were discussing an upcoming career fair with my advisor. One conversation lead to another and soon he and I were talking about freelance writing. Long before I went back to school, I had been doing a bit a freelancing here and there. I have read several books about the subject and I still follow blogs on freelancing regularly. Still, I have a multitude of questions that nag me and he was kind enough to let me vocally weigh the pros and cons with him. We also discussed other career options given my circumstances. I appreciated his honesty and practicality. He didn't try to sell me the overused American favorite of, "You can do anything that you want to do!" or, "You can be anything you want to be!" But he did say one thing that stuck with me: "(Freelancing) is what I envisioned for you."

My husband has encouraged my writing over the years and friends or family members have often sent kudos my way. Yet, it is easy to shrug off their compliments. It's hard to trust the words of loved ones. They might be a little biased, after all.

So, to hear that my professor--a person who knows my writing style well and who knows the writing world well--"envisions" a future for me in freelancing....well, that makes all the difference. When we were discussing the nagging questions about the field, I mentioned to him that I wasn't sure that "my fragile ego could handle all the rejections." He laughed and agreed that rejections are a big part of the experience. But, somehow knowing that he understands what the job takes and believes that I am up for the task makes me more willing to open up to the possibility of rejection in the first place.

Today, I left with a peaceful feeling; a feeling that I'm finally headed in the right direction. The past year has been a difficult refinement of myself, and I almost feel as if I am coming back full circle. I've explored a variety of career options, learned new skills and learned a whole lot more about myself in the process. But I've got to give credit where credit is due: my advisor has been an invaluable resource throughout this experience and I'm grateful for his help.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

There's No Such Thing As Perfect

Ever had a professor who doesn't seem to believe in perfect? I think I have one. Whenever I make an 'A' on a paper, it inevitably comes back as a 98 or 96 or something 90-ish but there are never any markings on the paper indicating the reason behind the grade.

It's quite confusing--if there are no mistakes, shouldn't I get 100%? If there are mistakes, shouldn't the red ink pen politely point them out so that I can learn and grow? Maybe it comes down to the simple fact that my professor believes that no one is capable of perfection...and I guess I would have to agree with her.

(But I'd still take a 100.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

To Facebook or Not to Facebook?

That's the question...anyone have the answer?

The dilemma: how to keep up with fellow students after college.

Anyone in the working world knows that networking is very important. What if the guy that sits next to you in Biology finds a cure for cancer? What if a girl from your group project someday owns her own company...that you want to work for? How do you stay in touch with these people who are chock full of potential? On top of that, it might be nice just to stay in touch with people that have become your friends, right?

Facebook is the obvious answer. Every single college student in my class has a Facebook page. Everyone. I know MySpace is popular in other areas, but in my neck of the woods, Facebook reigns supreme.

The simple answer would seem to be: get a Facebook account. Actually, I have one, but have never set up a page (I did it once just to see what "Facebook" actually was). But, it's not so simple after all.

One, I don't know how I feel about 30-somethings and older being on social networking sites. I know...that sounds biased, but it all started when I overheard a 45-year-old mom of a teenager telling a friend that she was going to post some pictures of an event on her MySpace page. It just sounded...weird. Really? You have a MySpace page??

Two, do I really need another giant time waster? Blogs and email and texting and forums...these things eat my time already.

The only thing I can figure out is to ask for e-mail addresses the old fashioned way (nevermind that the "old fashioned way" when I was in school was to get someone's permanent address). But, e-mails often changed or don't get checked (especially if you're busy on Facebook--lol!).

I don't know....what's your plan to stay in touch? Or do you even plan to stay in touch with your classmates?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Video On Demand Rocks

Homework. Oh yeah...that little thing.

Somehow, when I decided to extend my fall break for a week instead of two days, I managed to forget about a little thing called homework. This morning at 9 a.m. when I was blow-drying my hair when it dawned on me: I have about three projects to finish!

So here I am, blogging on my workstation while watching All the President's Men on my laptop for my Media Ethics class. (I's a hard job watching a young Robert Redford in action, but somebody's got to do it.)

Amazon's Video On Demand service. Can I say, I love this video on demand stuff? First off, finding a movie from the 70s in my part of the world: not an easy task. There are no big chains like Blockbuster out here in "the boondocks" and my local video store has maybe forty new releases (a.k.a "nothing from the seventies"). I'm not a Netflix customer (yet) because I have a hard enough time keeping up with my favorite TV shows that I have recorded on my DVR. Maybe frequent movie nights will become a habit after graduation.

Needless to say, Video On Demand was a lifesaver (or, at least, a homework saver) for me.

You know what this means? I'll probably become an addict. Yep, I'll probably start searching the Video On Demand listings constantly, downloading and saving movies to watch on roadtrips or anywhere I'm likely to be stuck without television or internet (because you can download the movies and store them for up to 30 days before watching...and you don't have to be connected to the internet if you download free Amazon's Unbox software). But if nothing else, it will be great for "research" purposes (insert me flexing quotey fingers and a little "wink wink" on the side). :)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Extending Fall Break

Somehow, my two day fall break has turned into an entire week off. It all started when one of my two professors told us that he wouldn't be here this week. I hated the idea of driving to class for half of my classes, but I didn't think I had any other options. After the weekend passed, I had so many things to do/people to see that I decided to take Monday off. My initial plan was to be in class on Wednesday and possibly even drive up on Tuesday to get some things done. Then I discovered that my kids were out of school on Wednesday for their fall break and their Daddy was busy at work, so I had to stay home with them. And I didn't bother to go to school on Tuesday, either. So, in the end, I will have had a week off from school.

I gotta say, it's been really nice. I'm getting caught up at work, I didn't even bother turning on my alarm clock this morning since the kids didn't have to get up for school and I've had time to go on extended lunches with old friends. When I was in the working world, I used to call time off like this "mental health days"--you know, calling in sick when you don't really have a physical illness per se, but just need some time to recoup and rest. They worked then and they are working now!

Monday, October 13, 2008


Gas has now dropped under $3/gallon (at least in my part of the world). I'm so happy I could hug my Honda!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Index Card Update

I had another test this week so I turned to old reliable--my trusty index cards--for studying once again. My young friend promptly made fun of me when she came to class...and then she asked to borrow a few.

Go figure. :)

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm truly thankful that it's Friday and even more thankful that next week is Fall Break! It was especially hard to drag myself out of bed this morning. Yesterday, my family drove to our state's largest metro area (okay, so there are only two really official "metros" in our state...). We were attending the state fastpitch softball tournament that our school was a part of, and we went a little early to get some much needed fall shopping out of the way. It was a productive and fun trip, but it couldn't have come at a more difficult time for me. I loaded my laptop (TGFL--thank goodness for laptops!), my index cards, a pile of research I had printed off and a textbook into our already full SUV. On the drive up, I studied for a test. It was a very technical-oriented test, so it was difficult to focus between the blare of sports-talk radio, the whining from the backseat ("Are we there yet?") and the motion sickness (not to mention that I have almost zero interest in this particular subject). Luckily--or not so luckily, I'm not sure which--the ballgames were actually running almost two hours behind. While my family was sitting in bleachers with the rest of our small community, I was crammed into the passenger's seat of our vehicle with a laptop and papers scattered throughout finishing a rough draft of my research paper which was also due this morning.

We ended up getting home and in bed somewhere around 1 a.m. I reluctantly set my alarm knowing that I would have to get up early enough to get two children bathed and make sure the oldest finished her homework (she claimed motion sickness prevented her from travel study, too). I was also stressed about the amount of housework that I needed to complete especially considering that I have family visiting this weekend and visitors throughout the next week (immediately followed by out-of-state travel during fall break). Plus, it is busy season for me at work and I have lots of catching up to do.

I seriously contemplated skipping my first class (Fridays are slim class days anyway), but I didn't think I could really get much marked off of my to-do list in an hour and I really needed to be in my other classes. I did, however, arrive late only to find out later that the professor didn't even take roll (I could have missed class!!!).

Ugh--frustration and regret.

On the upside, I managed to make it through the day without falling asleep in class or at the wheel (I credit some of that to my friend, Red Bull energy drink), and now I'm off to finish my housework. And cook supper. And get started on my photography backlog.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Book Tag

Just when you think they've run out of blog tags....they come up with a new one!

My pal, Bethany, has challenged me to the following:

*Grab the nearest book.Open the book to page 56.
*Find the fifth sentence.
*Post the text of the next two to five sentences in your blog along with these instructions.
*Don’t dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one: pick the CLOSEST.
*Tag five other people to do the same.

This will be oh-so-exciting because my book is a textbook: Adobe Illustrator CS3 Revealed! Here's the quote from page 56:

"Using the Character panel, click the up and down arrows in the Kerning text box to experiment with higher and lower kerning values, then change the kerning value to -40."

Gripping, edge-of-your-seat reading material, eh? Just think: you, too, could be reading such interesting stuff every day like me!

(Oh--I'm going to break the rules and not tag anyone else on the grounds that I have already tagged too many people this year and I don't want to annoy any of my cyber pals).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bailouts & Breastmilk & Squirrels...Oh My!

I mentioned earlier that in my Media Writing class, our latest project was to write scripts for a television broadcast. Our professor is pretty laid back, so she welcomed pretty much any kind of script including purely fake news which my group tackled. So, in light of the fact that it's Friday and this University Mama could use a laugh and a break from reality, here were the topics of our broadcast:

Lead Story: The presidential candidates and their VPs were killed in a tragic motorscooter accident. They were filming an ad dressed as clowns and riding a motorscooter together as a symbol of bipartisan cooperation. Biden--who was driving the scooter--swerved to avoid hitting a squirrel, causing the team to fall off the side of a cliff and crash to the earth below (no word on why they were filming on the edge of a cliff). The accident brought up serious issues about clown impersonation, even prompting professional clowns to release an ad saying, "Clowns are professionals, not a bunch of bozos wearing fake noses and big shoes." People are stunned about the tragedy and wondering where the country is headed only weeks until election day. Hillary Clinton, who was on-location for the filming with her pet squirrel, said that the accident "saddens her."

Other News: Today, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke announced a newly revised federal bail-out plan to help stimulate the fragile U.S. economy. The plan has been changed to include relief for any Americans who currently owe more than they make, which is almost 90 percent of the country. This is good news for homeowners who borrowed beyond their means and for the banks who loaned to them in the first place. People who suffer from chronic shopping disorder are ecstatic about the decision that will nullify their outstanding credit card debt, according to the N.A.S.S.—the national association of super shoppers. The revised bail-out plan is estimated to cost over 500 trillion dollars and will lead to the ultimate demise of the United States Treasury. However, recent polling shows that 85% of Americans believe the plan is a good solution for the current economic crisis.

The PETA organization recently requested that Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream stop using cow's milk for their product and start using human breastmilk instead. They claimed that milking cows is cruel and that milk supplies can often be hazardous. PETA suggested establishing human dairies which would provide plenty of breast milk for ice cream and provide employment for crack addicts, apparently solving the issues of mistreatment of animals and securing a safe milk supply.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Seperation Anxiety (From My Index Cards)

I had an index card emergency the other day. Yes, you heard right: an index card emergency.

I was preparing to study for a test and realized that I was completely out of index cards. This posed a huge problem for me. How would I study?? I always use index cards to study. I can't just read notes. I can't write out questions and answers on a piece of paper. Know why? I'm weak. I would cheat! I would look at the answer while trying to myself. Pathetic. The only way I can curtail my wandering eyes is to put the answer on the back of an index card.

So, I begin my search. I started with the husband's office. No luck. He suggested the lumber yard, the grocery store or the drug if there were many more businesses to choose from in our tiny town (Have I mentioned that our town is only 12 blocks wide? That should give you some perspective...). The lumber yard was already closed and I had luck at the grocery the last time I was in dire need of index cards. Unfortunately, I think I bought the last pack of cards there six months ago and they hadn't been replaced (guess they aren't a high-demand item around here). I make my final stop at the drug store hoping that in our local pharmacist can save the day for me because the other alternatives are: a) drive 34 miles to get a 70 cent package of cut card stock b) do without.

I nervously approach the counter: "Do you happen to have any index cards?" I ask. The pharmacist calls from behind, "Do you want five by seven, three and a half by two, hinged...." He makes his way over to the eye drop and nasal spray section and retrieves a handful of various index cards. Why didn't I think to look there instead of the school supply section? Silly me.

I was able to continue my test preparation in peace, thank goodness. Thanks to those little index cards, I think I did pretty fair in the end, but who knows how this saga would have ended without them?

(And how in the world do people study without index cards anyway??)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Roller Coaster of Emotions

Yes, I am a girl therefore I can be moody, but yesterday, I noticed my emotions were on a crazy roller coaster ride. It went something like this:

ANXIETY: We were discussing our upcoming test and even though I have always tested well, I was fretful because numerous students have told me that this particular professor's tests can be difficult.

ANGER/RESENTMENT: We played "Jeopardy" in class to review our test material (kudos to the professor for creativity). My partners and I soon found competitiveness taking over and rearing its ugly head. We were angry that our buzzer wasn't working, felt cheated on a few answers, resented the one girl in class who seemed to know every single question..... I'm thinking "Jeopardy" might not be a great idea after all if it is going to cause such high blood pressure.

EXCITEMENT: In my Public Relations class, we had a guest speaker. Right now, I'd really like to pursue a PR job, so I was naturally excited to have someone who could share his first-hand experience with the field.

REGRET: Said PR guy began to spout off his many internships held while in college. I have had one and hoped to have another this semester, but there was no time left to give at the end of the day. In short, my family obligations outweighed the need for another internship. Nevertheless, I still felt regret for all the potential networking and experience I lost out on. And, once again, it felt as if there was no hope for a "country girl" to land a PR position when the majority of PR jobs are in the big city.

HAPPINESS: I didn't have to listen to a lecture. That always makes my ADD-hard-to-pay-attention-for-an-hour self happy. Plus, we were recording our fake news segment and I laughed...a lot.

MORE HAPPINESS: Back-to-back joy as I learned that we are going to be watching a movie in Media Law this week. Awesome!! (To clarify: movie was for educational purposes and, sadly, no popcorn was involved.)

SATISFACTION: Our entire broadcast crew has figured out the rhythm and flow to producing segments. We are actually ahead of the entire class even though we have the fewest number of team members in our crew.

FRUSTRATION: Returning my glasses which actually make my vision worse. Frustrated that I paid almost $200 for plain ol' reading glasses (which you can pick up at any drug store in America) when, from what I can tell, I might not need any in the first place. Hoping I can get my money back in the end or frustration may turn to anger.

EXHAUSTION: I'm not sure why school is so draining, but by the time I get home, I'm pooped!

FEAR/UNCERTAINTY/WORRY/ETC: My consent companions who show up when I'm driving or going for a walk or whatever, usually related to "what will I do after graduation" or "what do you really want to do with your life?" I ask them to leave, but I'm certain they will try to show up again tomorrow.

See what I mean? It's a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions. Don't worry--I medicated with a package of peanut M&M's and felt better. :)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Don't Forget to Blink

I've been having a bit of trouble focusing. Not focusing as in "I can't concentrate on one thing" (although one could argue...), but focusing with my eyes. I wore glasses my entire life until about four years ago when a optometrist told me that he could write me a slight perscription but I didn't have to have it. At that point, I ditched glasses for good.

Since that time, I took on a job that involved countless hours of computer time and then I decided to go back to college where I would be reading endless chapters from my textbooks, reading projected slides on the walls of my classroom and significantly adding to the hours I spend glaring into a computer screen. Things have started to get noticably fuzzy for me again, not to mention that I've been coming home with frequent headaches. So, off to the optometrist I went.

Turns out, my vision is actually pretty good, but I am getting a pair of reading glasses for reading & computer work. My eyes have gotten so used to having to constantly focus on something that they kind of get "stuck" in that position, so glasses should help my eyes not to work so hard.

One interesting tid-bit that I walked away with was that I'm probably not blinking enough. The doc said that a person normally blinks 16 times per minute, but when you are concentrating on a computer screen, it slows down to one or two times per minute! Yikes! Not only does that lead to eye strain and headaches, but it also creates dry eyes.

His solution: stick a note on my computer screen that says, "Blink." Simple enough.

So, the tip of the day: Don't forget to blink!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Out of My Element (Or In It?)

Today I was a substitute teacher at our local school. I was actually kind of looking forward to the experience because I did a quick count and calculated that I had not subbed in close to 13 years. Yikes! It really only seems like yesterday!! I was interested in being in the school as a non-parent to see what things were like (perception is often different than reality). Also, I was considering part of a "trial run" on my part. I am so conflicted right now about whether to get my teacher certification after I graduate or actually work in the field of my degree.

Guess what? I left today feeling no more decisive.

I really like the community atmosphere of the school, but I also know that no school is without controversy at times and there's always difficult parents or students to throw into the mix.

I really like the feeling of helping a kid understand a concept. I had to help explain pronouns and antecedents to 7th graders today (despite the fact that I totally couldn't remember what an antecedent was and had to look it up!). I really liked how it felt when I could break it down so the kid could "get it."

However, I didn't like dealing with the kids who were constantly distracting others and not getting work done. I know part of this has to do with the fact that I am not really the authority as a sub, but it is frustrating nonetheless. I'm sure that there have to be some helpful classroom management skills out there that I could learn if I did decide to teach.

I really, really liked how quickly the day passed. There aren't too many jobs that are considered 8-3 (of course, few teachers actually leave at 3 and many end up working evenings and weekends), but no one would argue that it isn't a great job (time-wise) for a mom.

There are so many conflicting factors that both draw me to teaching and at the same time, make me want to run in the opposite direction. Plus, I've got to remember that I can't base the teaching profession on our small school--most schools aren't like ours.

I'm even more confused than ever before. Maybe I should move to a communist country where they can just assign me a job so I can get on with my life.

{just kiddin'}

Monday, September 22, 2008

Early Birds

I've never been a morning person.


So, you'll understand why I think it's quite an accomplishment when I say that I crawled out of bed at 5:50 a.m. this morning, exercised for 40 minutes, warmed up breakfast (because I put on my Holly Homemaker apron last night and whipped up some blueberry muffins from scratch, thank-you-very-much), showered, dressed, managed the dressing/hair-fixing of two more females in the house, dropped them off at school and still got to school on time.

I do realize that plenty of grown-ups actually get up before dawn each day and this is nothing new in the world of the average adult, but as Mr. T would say, "I pity the fool." It's been a great perk of being a stay-at-home mom for ten years.

The thing is, as badly as I hate to hear the alarm go off before sunrise and as badly as I hate to roll out of bed and exercise before my eyes have even adjusted to the glare of the t.v. set, it actually has made my days much more productive: I get my exercise out of the way for the day, I get to shower and dress in peace before the kids arise, and if I'm lucky I might even get a few extra chores done before the madness of the day begins. Yep, it's working out pretty well for me (I just wish I could somehow figure out how to give up staying up until midnight).

I guess they were right: the early bird does get the worm...or at least a few extra minutes to eat her worm in peace.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Is Every Job Just "A Job?"

Throughout my life, it has been my goal to have a career, not a job...not just any career, but a career that made a difference. The young dreamer in me once aspired to be an astronaut complete with adventure and meaningful scientific research. I distinctly remember a night when I laid in my bedroom floor as a kid drawing a sketch of a large house filled with individual apartments--a homeless shelter for families (though I'm sure I had never seen a homeless person by that point in my young life). My high school teachers encouraged me to join their ranks. I thought that perhaps I might be able to inspire minds with creativity in the classroom or at least show love to a kid who might not get much at home. And, of course, I always desired to be a mother--the ultimate opportunity to make a difference in the world.

I became a mother, a teacher (though not in the education system), a sometimes adventurer, and do-gooder (though I have not built any homeless shelters in my time), but something has happened to my career ambitions in the year since I headed back to college. Suddenly, the idealism of my youth (and adulthood) has faded. Though my classes usually invigorate me with new excitement about what could be, suddenly every job--even the ones I long for--just seems like... a job.

It is often quoted, "find something you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life." I totally believe this statement to be true because I there have been times when I was glad to work overtime or weekends or late nights because I was loving every minute of whatever it was that I was doing. I have always had one or two jobs floating around my head that I would love to try if given the opportunity, but lately, those things just seem unimportant or impractical or just another way to pass time. After all, I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are living their dream job who watch the clock all day or live for the weekend. They go through the motions and get the work done, but it's still a job...a way to make money.

This new attitude of mine is disheartening. I wonder if it's fear talking. I am finally arriving at the jumping-off point of my life, the time I am supposed to swim confidently in the direction of my dreams. But leaving the familiar behind is difficult and filled with "what-ifs."

Still, I continue to wonder...are all jobs just "a job" in the end? Will I ever be able to turn off the alarm clock each morning without moaning and groaning because I am excited about the opportunities of a new day?

I hope.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Today, a guy makes an announcement in class (and in front of our professor) that you can go to and (what else?) rate your professors.

I've gotta say, that would scare me as a teacher. People say things on the internet under the security of anonymity that they would never say otherwise. I can only imagine what kind of mean-spirited things that show up on our end-of-the-semester class "satisfaction" surveys (whatever they're called). Still, I would think that there would be less negative reports on the surveys than there might be online because the audience is different: one is written knowing that the professors will get all comments sent to them, while website reviews are written with a student audience in mind.

I decided to investigate the site for myself.

I looked up the professor that I believed to be the hardest and most strict of all the classes I have taken. Granted, this was a professor that I loved because I learned a tremendous amount about a subject that I cared so little about, but I felt that others probably didn't share the same affinity. There was a zero tolerance policy for tardiness, cell phones and in-class snacking...three things that college students love.

Wow. I was wrong! Out of 7 pages of reviews, only 2 were negative and the rest praised the professor's excellent teaching skills and understanding of the subject matter. I was floored. Even the negative ratings weren't so negative.

Of course, there were some professors with negative ratings, but--let's face it--not all teachers are great teachers. I don't believe in publicly bashing someone, but if there are specific complaints about a class, I think it's fair to address those things.

When I fill out the end-of-semester surveys, it's been my policy to always end on a high note. Even if you have a complaint, I think you should report a positive to balance it out. If you have no complaints at all and/or really enjoyed a class, I think you should report that as well both for the benefit of "the powers that be" and the teacher him/herself.

Everybody likes to get a pat on the back. I'm glad to see students using this website to do so.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Campus Organizations

The one thing that I feel like I missed out on by side-stepping college in my younger days was campus organizations. Actually, I was involved in at least one back in the day (it was a pretty cool one--we booked concerts on campus and dealt with the behind-the-scenes stuff) but there were so many other great opportunities that I missed out on. Many students probably don't understand the potential that organizations have for networking and contacts as well as once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that could impact their careers down the road.

Yesterday, I decided to hang around for the first meeting of our department's campus club. I'll admit, I felt out of my element as a "grown up" joining a campus club, but I tried my best to get over those feelings because I really want to be a part of some of the activities that this club usually plans. Last year, I missed out on a chance to visit a radio station, a television studio and a major (really major) advertising agency.

Many people promote being a part of campus organizations for the resume boosting potential. Personally, I don't think this applies quite as much to the adult student because employers are more interested in your work history and job skills set than whether you were a Delta Delta Gamma or sold plants for the Biology Club. But it definitely can't hurt.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Kickin' It "Old School"

Yea, the college students are pretty cool with me being a University Mama and besides the wedding ring and the gradually developing forehead wrinkles, you might not be able to tell us apart.

Unless it's during a class lecture.

You see, the new generation does one of two things during lectures:
a) listens
b) checks their Facebook page (if we are in the computer lab. For the record, it is a really annoying and disrespectful habit that I can't believe professors don't crack down on).

What do us "old timers" do? Take notes. Yep, notes with actual pen and actual paper. Despite the risk of carpal tunnel, I take notes. Despite the fact that I am contributing to the depleting the rain forest, I take notes.

Why? Well, for starters, old habits die hard. It's the way I was raised, I guess you could say. Secondly, some research has suggested that actually writing down information makes your brain more likely to recall it. Since I am a tactile learner (I "learn by doing") and visual learner (I "learn by seeing"), this makes sense to me. Plus, we all know repetition is the key to memory. We all know repetition is the key to memory. (See what I mean? You won't forget it now--lol.)

My younger co-eds simply download and print off the professor's typed PowerPoint notes. It certainly is not a bad way to study, but it's just not for me. I must have a photographic memory because I tend to remember how I wrote certain notes down & random things like where they were on the page, how they were organized, if I drew any corresponding doodles, etc...

Yea, right: photographic memory.

Anyway, my fondness for old fashioned note taking does tend to date me, but who cares. I say I'm starting a revolution. "What's old is new again," right?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Be Diligent

For high school graduates, going to college is mostly about learning how to manage life on your own without mom or dad or your really smart best friend, etc. doing all the work for you. "If you don't take care of yourself, no one else will do it for you." It was a lesson I learned a long time ago.

Applying those same principles to my college reentry, I have been very diligent about getting periodic degree checks through the Registrar's Office and double-checking with my advisor to make sure all of the requirements for graduation are on par. I'm sure I have tipped a "9" on the annoying meter, but I'd really hate for my graduation plans to go down the drain because administrators who have their plates full didn't notice that I lacked a few hours or one of my credits didn't transfer properly.

Sometimes, being annoying, I mean, persistent pays off.

Two weeks before the fall semester began, I noticed that my total credits were three hours short. I contacted the Registrar for one last degree check (where they look over your transcripts vs. degree requirements and let you know what you have left to complete). They assured me that it was being looked into and I never heard back from them. So, I asked my advisor who was sure we had worked it all out at the end of the spring semester and who was pretty certain that it should be okay.

Guess who's taking three extra hours this semester? Me, that's who.

My advisor said he hated for me to have to pay for another three hours, but I told him I would hate to not get to graduate because I didn't pay for three lousy hours!

Luckily, I am taking three one-hour classes so they are not extremely labor intensive. They are also self-guided which means I can turn in the work whenever I complete it all, but I have until December. I'm thinking about devoting an entire weekend to it just to get rid of it.

So, I'm not super-psyched to be enrolled in 18 hours this semester, but it could be worse. One guy in my class is taking 21 hours...and he' married with two kids under two years old. Yikes!!

Be diligent when it comes to your education, people!

Monday, August 25, 2008

No Parking. Literally.

I've always known that my campus has somewhat of a parking issue--after all, most campuses these days do--but I confess that I didn't know how bad it was until this semester.

You see, as a primarily Tuesday/Thursday student until this point, I have been blissfully unaware of all the early morning headaches that come from campus parking lots on the heavier traffic days of Monday/Wednesday/Friday classes.

Example: this morning, I arrived 10 minutes early to get a parking spot (I actually planned to get there even earlier, but I had to stop at the gas station first). I literally spent the entire 10 minutes circling three parking lots--one of which was so jam-packed that I could barely squeeze my tiny compact car in between the rows of rear bumpers. No joke: I had to roll my window down to make sure I wasn't going to strip the paint off of the side of my car. I ended up parking in front of someone's lawn on a side street and dashed into class with seconds to spare. It was definitely not the best beginning to my day.

After my first class, I resumed circling the parking lots like a buzzard to roadkill, hoping that some kind soul would allow me to have a prime parking spot near the building where all of my classes are located. Ten minutes later, I was obliged....just in time to dash back into the building.

Administration has implemented a $25 parking fee this semester in order to fund new parking lots in the future. Lotta good that'll do me at 8:54 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Friday, August 22, 2008

International Version Textbooks

In an effort to save money on textbooks, I always order online, usually through However, I purchased my Public Relations book through e-bay. I should have known something was "off" when I got a great deal on this expensive textbook, but I thought it was just another student willing to unload it at a low price in order to fund his/her next purchase.

When I received my textbook, I noticed the return address was overseas. It perked my interest, but when I pulled out the book, it looked great. As I was reading the back, I noticed that there was a short paragraph that basically said, "this book should not be purchased in the U.S." Then I saw "international version" printed on the spine.

Great. Just great. Now I've got an international textbook to somehow get rid of and I need a book before class begins.

I went back to the e-bay listing and, sure enough, the seller had clearly written that it was an international version but that all of the text was the same as the U.S. version. It was.

I'm not sure I understand why a textbook that is printed in the same place, uses the same materials and has the exact same wording as mine can be sold at a cheaper rate than its North American counterparts. I guess the American version comes with a little extra sprinkle of capitalism. : )

(That's okay, I like capitalism.)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Preparing for Life After College

I guess I naively fell into the assumption that college would totally prepare me for the working world. I would just walk into a prospective employers office with a short resume and newly gained diploma in hand and they would be THRILLED to see me.


Have you noticed how almost every single want ad in America wants a mandatory "3-5 years experience in the field" for entry-level positions? It's crazy. They won't let you get 3-5 years experience without a degree yet you can't get a degree and 3-5 years experience at the same time? The old proverbial "chicken vs. the egg" scenario.

I'm really fortunate that my department spends a good deal of time in hand-on experience. Our senior exit interviews includes a review of our portfolio that we are to have developed over the course of our studies. That's great, but any employer is going to be able to tell if your entire portfolio consists of college-related projects.

Today, I decided that it's time to add some portfolio pieces on my own! I guess I was emboldened by my article being published in The Baptist Messenger--Oklahoma's third largest newspaper--or the fact that my professor couldn't believe that Oklahoma Today had turned down one of my articles (I, however, was not so shocked). I came into college with experience in the field, but it is very limited. I have a real hankering to break into magazines. (I bet if I use the word "hankering" in a query letter, I'll be shipped off to print right away--lol!).

So, I sent in a query today (like 3 minutes ago). Who knows what will come of it, but I find that the hardest part is always just getting started.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The (Last?) First Day of School

Could today have been my last "first day" of school? Considering that I've already been looking into graduate school and/or teaching certificates, I'm going to go out on a limb and say "probably not," but you never know...

It was a really long day for me. I'm in class from 9-2 without a break and four of those hours are in the same classroom under the same glaring florescent lights and in front of the same computer screen. Ugh. On the upside, I was glad to see familiar faces and be able to chat with classmates that I already knew (it didn't happen that way last semester). And, another upside is that a lot of my classroom will be less theoretical and more hands-on which I always favor. Plus, I will be building my portfolio for prospective employers.

I still haven't found a solution for the food problem that I've been so concerned about, but I'll keep you posted--lol.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Looking Back

Almost a year ago, I was a nervous wreck the night before I began my college studies anew. What a difference a year makes. I don't have all my books ordered (though I admit, I have purchased all but two over the internet already), I'm not trying to frantically finish reading a 700-page novel (though I have read a handful of books in the past week), and I not making myself sick over unfinished projects (though Heaven knows I had a big ol' list of them). Heck, I don't even have my clothes ironed for tomorrow and I'm not sure if the car has enough gas to get me to campus even though I know I have to get up extra early and leave before my kids head out to school themselves.

I'm looking forward to this semester because every single class is an upper-level class in my major: Mass Communications. That means, I'll be studying things I love and I can't wait.

My one concern? Food. Yes, food. I'm afraid I will absolutely starve to death because my day starts at 9 a.m. and I don't have a break until 2 p.m.! My fat cells may start burning away in "starvation" mode or something!! LOL. (I guess there's something to be said for a granola bar in a backpack....)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Me? In a Sorority??

When I was a freshman, I was strongly opposed to sororities of any type. I told people that "I refuse to buy friends"--in my eyes, that was the equivalent of membership dues in social sororities. Besides, sororities had bad reputations for activities that I didn't want to be associated with.

So, imagine my surprise when I recently received a postcard inviting me to the Gamma Delta Kappa kick-off at our school this semester. I laughed as I held the postcard covered with blondes and brunettes posing for the camera. From the photos, I assumed it was just another social club (they didn't seem to be doing anything significant other than smiling a lot) and I guessed they must have sent out a mass mailing to all enrolled females.

Then I found out that it is the women's honor sorority on campus and that I had received an invitation because of my GPA. Hold the I really having these thoughts? "I wonder if they have any older students?" "It would look good on a resume'." "Maybe I should give it a try..." Then I laughed at the absurdity of it all.

The question is: why haven't I thrown away the postcard yet?