Wednesday, December 16, 2009

21 Years to Finish a Degree???

One woman did it! She started back in her 30s as a single mom and talks about the difficulties of juggling work/family/school and doing homework alongside her daughter. 21 years later, she has two degrees. I call that patience and determination. I'm grateful that my education is only taking three years! Whew!!!

Click HERE to read the article.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Semester Recap!

Goodness! Have I been a terrible blogger or WHAT? I wonder if there's anyone left to read my random musings? It just goes to show you how difficult this semester has been. I truly have felt at my wit's end at some points and completely overwhelmed with all of my responsibilities. Some days I would break into tears, and other days I would feel completely triumphant knowing that I was handling so much.

In the end, I survived. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger," right? I don't know that I feel particularly "strong," but I do feel relieved that the semester is over and that I came away with A's and a wealth of information (seriously--my brain runneth over).

Honestly, the absolute BEST thing that I did to improve my studies was to begin working at the school library as an assistant. It's so true that experience is the best teacher. It's been invaluable to be able to put theory into practice. I felt like I've had a true advantage over some of my fellow students who haven't yet had the chance to work in the day-to-day or continually learn from an experienced library media specialist as I do each week.

However, I will admit that working full-time has severely impacted my life. The job itself is not particularly stressful, but having less time to work on assignments, plan dinner, do housework, chauffeur children or just hang out with my husband has been stressful. There were many days that I just had to ignore the growing piles of dirty clothes and work on a collection development policy instead. I noticed that I had my hair trimmed less frequently (no time to make it to the salon), I rarely leave town during the week, and our healthy eating habits have started fading away. I did try to keep some things a priority. I didn't skip bedtime stories with the girls, I tried to keep a semi-regular exercise schedule and I tried to quit working on assignments in time to watch favorite television shows with the husband before bedtime.

So, the semester from Hades is over. Thankfully, I don't expect the spring semester to be quite so rough since I won't be taking as many hours and the workload shouldn't be quite so intense. Right now, I'm just trying to soak up some homework-free days and enjoy the holidays with my family before I get back to books...and blogging (I swear!). :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Somwhere Between "Losing My Mind" and "Only Slightly Crazy"

Where in the world have I been? Well, those of you who are truly University Mamas and Papas wouldn't be asking that question because you know that my current location is somewhere between "Losing My Mind" and "Only Slightly Crazy." October and the first of November have been, in my experience, the hardest part of the school year (or any part of year, for that matter). On the personal end of things, our family begins to juggle basketball schedules, 4H competitions, holidays, special events at church and in the community, etc. It's like there is a mad dash to cram in a bunch of stuff while the weather is still partially nice and the Thanksgiving/Christmas rush hasn't started. On the school end of things, it always seems like the biggest projects and papers are due during October/November. Add all these things together, and you have a recipe for extreme stress overload.

I kid you not: there were many nights last month that I sat at my computer on the verge of tears and/or a heart attack. Okay...maybe not a heart attack, but perhaps a chest pain or two. You know the feeling where you could hyperventilate if you were the hyperventilating-type? You don't? Oh. Well, that's kind of what it felt like.

In summation, October was miserably stressful.

I quite literally survived by sending myself e-mails and setting alarms on my phone to remind me of things. Everything from orthodontist appointments to "thaw chicken" showed up in my phone and/or inbox.

Thank goodness for technology...and for a family who has stuck with me and chipped in throughout this crazy roller coaster ride. The best news is...the semester's almost done!!!

(P.S. If only I had one of those combo washer/dryers that begins drying a load after it's done with the wash cycle. That, my friends, is what I call harnessing the power of technology for REAL!)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

This Is How My Brain Works Lately

i've got to finish my bibliography tongiht. i wonder if i have cited everything correctly. i really should double-check my guide. i need to email myself a reminder. i wonder what we should have for dinner? do we have any chicken in the freezer? do we have any milk? i really wish i had a big glass of chocolate milk right now. or milk chocolate! i have got to get my eating back under control. we were eating so much healthier when i wasn't working full time. wonder how i can keep my vegetables fresher longer. do they sell something for that? where am i going to find winter boots for the kids. what size do they wear now? i should just measure their feet. i need to keep a tape measure in my purse. or put their sizes into my phone. i wish i had a better phone. should i get a blackberry or an iphone or that new samsung thingy. has consumer reports reviewed them yet? i'd really like an iphone but i hear they're getting bad service. man, my back hurts. is it my shoes or plain ol' stress? i sure could use a massage. or a vacation. i'm really tired of whining about being tired and stressed. i wonder if next semester will be better. i hope so. because i'm tired. and stressed. wonder if there are any hershey bars left in the girls' halloween bags...?

Saturday, October 3, 2009

The Homework Excuse

Do you ever find yourself using your student status to get out of obligations or events? I admit--I do it a lot. I'm not being dishonest when I say, "I really need to spend the weekend doing homework/studying," because there's ALWAYS something that I could be working on. However, in theory, it's entirely possible for me to set aside one evening and get all my work done so that I could enjoy a much-needed day off to sleep in, reorganize closets or just hang out with my family. While people may understand (and, indeed, pity) my full schedule, they don't seem as willing to accept a response of "I can't do [fill-in-the-blank] because I just need a day where I don't have anything scheduled." They may say, "Oh, I understand," but their eyes say, "You just don't want to do it." That's why I use the homework excuse like a crutch.

As I write, it is lunchtime on Saturday and I am still in my pajamas. I haven't accomplished much other than eating the great breakfast my hubby prepared and washing one load of clothes. I tried to go back to bed and get a little extra sleep; that didn't work, but I read a chapter of a non-assigned novel instead. Oh--and I made a trip to the grocery. I can think of a long list of things I NEED or COULD be doing, but I don't mind admitting that I need some laid-back days like this to keep my nerves in check.

I'm already beginning to wonder....what will life be like without the homework excuse to fall back on? I've been able to pass out the homework excuse for almost three years now. I think I'm going to miss it. I guess I'm going to have to learn the art of saying "no"--gasp!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Tiny Victories

It occurred to me that I spend too much time on this blog complaining. I tend to use it as a outlet for my frustration and exhaustion because I know many of you out there in blog land are nodding your heads and saying, "Amen, sister! I know exactly how you feel!" Yes, there are a lot of obstacles juggling a family, a full-time job and a (nearly) full-time class load. Yes, it can be overwhelming. Yes, it sometimes feels like full-time failure because so many things get left undone. It's easy for me to feel defeated at the end of the day because it never seems like my "to do" list gets any smaller. But despite what I sometimes feel, I still manage to accomplish some things.

For example, today I:

*mowed the lawn while my hubby was away on business
*had a "heart-to-heart" with The Eldest and dealt out some parental discipline (I feel like she's learned a lesson and it won't happen again)
*helped a teacher find some educational research to help validate a very important program at our school
*washed one load of laundry (hey, it's something)
*helped The Youngest get her pig-sty room cleaned up
*unloaded the dishwasher and started a new load
*cooked dinner (though sadly, it was lacking in any veggies...but it still counts!)
*read "The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks" for 15 minutes (my "pleasure reading" for the day)
*read my daily Bible Study
*exercised for 20 minutes (not including mowing the lawn)
*helped the kids with their homework
*read a bedtime story to The Youngest

Victory!!! Tiny victories, but victories nonetheless. From now on, I'm going to try to keep it all in perspective.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Three Day Weekends: We Should Have More of Them!

Labor Day always used to feel like a wasted holiday. It always falls a week or two after school starts (or only a few days after school starts, for some), and it made me wish we could save it for February or some other bleak month when there are no holidays. However, this year I must say I am very grateful for the 3-day weekend, and it couldn't have come at a better time. My coursework has been very heavy lately (hence no blogging, if you've noticed). Last Thursday night, I devoted the evening to finishing up some school projects so that I could enjoy my weekend without cracking a book.

The weird thing is, I have this compulsion to check the discussion boards for my classes constantly now that we are entirely online. It's as if I'm afraid I'm going to miss something. That being said, I wasn't sure that I'd be able to stay away from my laptop...but I did! I made it all the way to Sunday morning (when I just popped in to make sure my group member had posted our project on the discussion board). Progress! I got back on this evening, but only because I felt that I had done sufficient relaxing. I visited my sister and my best friend in Texas, went shopping, took the kids to the water park, played tennis with the hubby, read a book (for pleasure!), and [insert dramatic pause here]...I slept in this morning. Heaven!

I'm trying not to think about the upcoming weeks which look to be VERY busy both at work and at school. Why ruin a moment?

I just know one thing: three day weekends are wonderful, and we should have more of them!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Playing Catch-Up

Weekends are for rest and relaxation, right? Then why am I spending it playing "catch-up?" I'm catching up on homework, catching up on laundry, catching up on quality time with the kids...and I'm STILL not caught up! Maybe I should just accept the fact that I never will be. Motherhood seems to be one of those occupations where there is no "I'm finished!" moment followed by permission to kick up your heels and relax.

Still, I am feeling a bit better now that I started a day without being woken up by an alarm clock. It also feels good that I've somewhat gotten a handle on my homework. I am concerned about a couple of things (one being a group project--only two other people have communicated with me about it, we haven't started anything and it's due next week). I keep thinking that if I can just get through a couple of weeks, I'll begin to get back into the rhythm and flow of things....or at least figure out the homework schedule.

On the upside, I'm SO glad I took my professor's advice and dropped a class before the semester began. First of all, I'd never be able to handle 12 hours of classes and a full-time job (especially since the class was a research class).

Another piece of good news is that the Education class I am taking for my teacher certification does not have assignment due dates; the only rule is that assignments must be completed in corresponding order. Then again, maybe this is bad news. I'd really hate for December to roll around when I'm being blasted with the Christmas holiday rush and suddenly realize that I've put off all of those assignments while trying to stay afloat in my graduate classes!

At any rate, I don't feel guilty hanging out with my kiddos, watching iCarly and painting our toenails tonight. At least I've caught up enough to do that!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

My Brain Feels Like Scrambled Eggs.

Let's see if I can make a cohesive sentence or two....

Have you ever felt like your brain is just a glob of scrambled eggs? Have you ever really tried to concentrate on something but felt like you were wading through a fog? Have you ever read one passage over and over in circles...and gotten nowhere?

This is how I've felt for the past few days. Actually, my days have been starting off fairly well. I'm not even complaining about the wee hours of the morning that I must get out of bed. But somewhere after 2 p.m., my thoughts become a little less defined. I think it's partly a drop in blood sugar, partly my body's realization that I need a nap and partly the thought of going home to tackle homework and grad school classes.

Since classes began last week, I have met my fair share of confusion and frustration. While I am truly thankful for web-based classes, they are the most frustrating thing in the world if you have a professor who is not on top of his/her game. You have to be VERY structured and VERY prepared if you are going to teach a web class. That, sadly, is not always the case. So, I have been dealing with the typical start-of-the-semester chaos AND trying to figure out, "Exactly what do you want me to do?" The latter has been made extremely difficult in some cases (in one class, we were given last year's syllabus...with last year's assignment deadline dates on them!). To make matters worse, some of my best study buddies that I meet at summer school have been moved into other class sections. (We are crying, "Conspiracy!"--lol!). I'm so thankful that I am not a first year student in this grad program or I would be lost. Sadly, I kind of know how things operate, so I just roll my eyes and keep on trudging through.

Meanwhile, I'm thinking of instituting a daily toast regimen to complement my scrambled egg brains. :)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Week in Review

Exciting. Apprehensive. Overwhelming. Invigorating. Structured. Challenging. Exhausting. Fulfilling. Enjoyable. These are just a few words that describe my back-to-work experience this week.

A few people may wonder how a simple position as a library assistant could possibly be invigorating or fulfilling. I can hear it now, "Don't you just shelve and check-out books?" There's actually much more to the job than that, but most people think that's all a bonafide librarian does anyway. However, because I am working on my master's degree in the field, I am privy to much more than a typical library assistant would be. I'm so excited to be working under a wonderful librarian who is basically treating the opportunity as a mentorship. We look at budgets and Accelerated Reader testing. We discuss policy and brainstorm on how the library could be rearranged. We are much more of a "team" than a typical librarian/assistant would be.

I have been pretty well exhausted this week, though. First of all, I'm not used to being on my feet all day. This is one aspect of the job that I didn't expect: I rarely get to sit because we are constantly busy and on-the-go all day. That adds to the tired I'm already feeling from trying to get back into a school sleep schedule rather than a "wake up when you want to" summertime schedule. I admit that I'm not doing very well on getting to bed early enough, but I have forced myself out early enough to get a tiny bit of exercise in (this week I need to work on doubling my exercise time).

My freezer meals have been a tremendous help so far. I'm already worried about running out of "goodies" because I either don't have time and/or energy to get to the grocery store after school.

I am a bit anxious about my grad school classes beginning this week. I'm taking nine hours this semester (glad I dropped one class earlier this summer; I could have never handled 12 hours and a new job!). I'm not exactly excited about coming home and getting started on homework when I have plenty of chores to take care of, dinner to cook and when I need to be supervising my children's homework/chores. I'm wondering where I will find the energy? Where will I find the time? The evenings are so short as it is...and we haven't even begun extracurriculars like soccer and piano lessons for the girls, yet. Still, I keep reminding myself that others are in the same boat. They lived and survived; so will I.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Too Tired to Blog

I have plenty to talk about since I started my new job & the kids have started back to school, but I'm too tired to type. Instead, I'll just share the most recent reason for smiling: my first publish in a "glossy" magazine. You can check it out on my photography blog HERE.

Monday, August 10, 2009

HI Ho, Hi Ho, It's Off to Work I Go...

Today's the day! I'm starting my new job as Library Assistant at our local school (K-12th grades). Wish me luck!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Preparing for a New School Year: Meal Planning

Recently, I mentioned that I was trying to make meal-planning a bit simpler. Well, apparently there's nothing like getting a full-time job to put your organizational efforts into hyper-drive! Here's what I've been doing to get prepared for the new school year:

Purse-Sized Meal Planning Grocery/Recipe Cards
Inspired after reading Nannygoat's 30 day meal plan, I downloaded some trendy & stylish recipe cards (here) and filled them out the most commonly eaten meals in our home. On the cards, I also included suggestions for vegetables and side dishes which are often a difficult decision in themselves. Since I made the JPG recipe cards and filled them out using Adobe Photoshop, I decided to send them to my local photolab for printing. I am slipping them into a small 4x6 photo album and will carry them in my purse. Now, when I'm out shopping, I can make sure I don't forget to buy that one pesky ingredient that I always seem to forget!

Once a Month Cooking (or OMAC)
I've heard a lot about Once a Month Cooking over the years. I've always meant to give it a try, but lacked the motivation and/or a free day to devote to cooking. However, the combination of the husband being out of town on Friday-Saturday and my desire to get things together before my first day on the job Monday gave me an opportunity to try it this weekend. The basic premise is that you buy groceries in bulk, spend a day cooking said groceries, package for freezing and enjoy your bounty of prepared meals out of the freezer for days to come. Many people actually try to make enough meals for an entire month, but I decided just to cook as much as I could and call it "good."

The most important part of this OMAC thing is the menu planning/grocery list stage. I spent many hours on the internet looking up recipes and tips for freezing. I found most of my recipes at where you can search "OMAC" or "make ahead" and find loads of recipes. Some people plan their meals based on which meats are on sale, but I simply chose things my family would actually eat. Then, I made out a huge grocery list and divided it by the sections in our grocery store (fresh, cold, frozen, canned) to help find things quickly and easily. I was dreading the trip to the store. In my mind, I imagined that it would take hours on end to find everything. However, since I went at the end of a long day of back-to-school shopping and I was ready to get home, I simply stuck to my list and got out rather quickly. I was also dreading the final tally on the check-out receipt, but it was actually just bit over what a typical excursion to the grocery costs. (Another reason why people like OMAC: it prevents waste and saves money in the end.)

Saturday was cooking day, and--I'll be honest--it was a long one. I started cooking at 8 a.m. and finished at 4 p.m. I'm sure I could have been a bit better with my cooking organization and saved time, but my "method" was to look around and ask, "What needs to be cooked next?" I also had two little kitchen elves who were a great help (and it felt good to be teaching them some cooking skills). I had to overcome my desire to constantly clean up and, instead, waited until the end of the day to clean up just once (though I did wash some dishes along the way). I used all my resources including my trusty crock pot and my bread maker. Here's what I ended up with at the end of the day (links provided to the recipes I used):

*Meat for tacos/spaghetti
*1 Chicken & Rice Casserole
*10 Breakfast Burritos (will do more after we see how they taste post-freezer)
*Shredded chicken (to use in casseroles or soups)
*6 Calzones (using this bread maker dough recipe)
*Pulled Pork for sandwiches (frozen in individual servings for lunches)
*Chicken Relleno (a new recipe, but quite tasty)
*6 Hamburger Steaks
*2 packages of homemade chicken broth (left from cooking chicken)
*10 slices of breakfast sausage (ready to be microwaved for a quick meal)
*Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread (thanks to my parent's overflowing garden--we made muffins instead of loaves)
*Fried Rice with Chicken (actually, I have the rice ready but I need to finish this meal today)
*2 packages of brown rice to be used as a side

I also froze pork chops and a roast beef that can be thawed and thrown into the crock pot. And, while I was at it, I decided to try my hand at Sticky Roast Chicken which I prepared and will be cooking for lunch today.

Yes, it was a long day, but I feel a little more under control and relieved knowing that, if all else fails, there is something in the freezer to eat!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Big Changes Ahead

First, I had to make the transition from "Mama" to "University Mama." Then, I had to get used to commuting three times a week rather than twice a week. Then, I had to figure out how handle summertime and summer school. After that, I had to get into "life-after-college" mode when I finished my undergraduate studies, and quickly transitioned into accepting "life-in-graduate-school." Then, there were the three weeks where I had to remember how to live in a dorm and eat in a college cafeteria. Yep, I'd say I've had to make plenty of changes and adjustments over the past three years....but none as big as this one.

After 11 years of being primarily a SAHM (stay at home mom), I'm going back to work full-time!

I was excited to learn that I'd been hired as a library aid at our school. This is excellent on-the-job training for me (not to mention that I'm now getting paid for practicum hours I needed to fulfill anyway). A great resume booster and I'll be working with a top-notch librarian. For someone in my position who is studying to be a librarian, you really couldn't ask for more.

While my photography business has kept me busy, I've never had a steady work routine. I've always had the freedom to schedule doctor's appointments or hair cuts during the day. I've never had to fight the crowds at the grocery store when the hungry masses are just getting off work. I've always been able to leave town for anything from funerals to visits to old friends without major scheduling issues, even while a student at the university. I realize that those days are over to some extent, and that I will have to make significant changes in the way I do things.

I guess a part of me is a little sad to see the SAHM part of my life pass by. It was good while it lasted, but my girls aren't so little anymore. Our plan was for me to stay home until our youngest went to kindergarten. I did, and now it's time for the next step in life. To be honest, I do perform better when I'm adhering to a fixed, regular schedule.

Then, there's the part of me who is nervous about juggling graduate studies with a full-time job. I've always felt sorry for my classmates, most of whom are full-time teachers trying to get homework done while finishing their lesson plans, too. Still, I should be grateful that as an aid, I will not have such a significant work-load. I don't even have to be at school on teacher in-service days or anything.

There are so many questions and ideas and plans rolling around in my head these days, I can hardly sleep. Monday--my first day on the job--will be here soon. I feel like there's so much to do to get ready!

Monday, July 27, 2009

All Quiet on the Homefront

Back in June, I didn't think it would be possible to totally forget about school, but I'm proud to say that I have successfully managed to do so in July! The first few weeks of July were insanely busy with work, community and church projects and/or travels. Last week, we packed our bags and headed to the beach for our annual family vacation on the Gulf of Mexico. It was wonderful. As I laid on the sandy beach in the warm sunshine and listened to the waves crashing on the shore as my kids and husband giggled having fun in the background I realized something: I was RELAXED. I wasn't worried about anything. I read a stack of books just because I wanted to not because I had to for a class. I had no idea what time it was, and I didn't care. I wasn't even thinking about anything in particular, I was just enjoying myself and the simple pleasures of life. Times like those are so rare in my busy life. I wish there were more, but I understand that the rarity of those moments is also what makes them so valuable and treasured.

There are only a few weeks--maybe three?--until class begins again. I've tried to clear my work schedule so that I can get a few household organization and cleaning chores completed before the school year begins. Today, I'm trying to organize an easier way for menu planning and grocery shopping (something that I hate to do and always seems to suck away my time). I'm currently reading about Nannygoat's 30 Meals Plan and also checking out new recipes at $5 Dinners. My biggest obstacle is finding recipes that coordinate with our family's lifestyle eating (lower carbs, no refined or processed foods, lots of veggies, etc.). Any of you non-traditional college students have any recommendations on menu planning, healthy eating and/or simplifying grocery shopping?

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Quote for the Ages

I recently stumbled upon an interesting blog called Langwitches about integrating learning through technology. But regardless of whether or not you care about integrative technology, one post listed this quote should capture your attention:

"It is bad enough that one cannot learn anymore for the rest of one’s life. Our ancestors were able to hold on to the education they received in their youth; instead we must relearn every five years, if we want to keep up with the times."

--Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

This quote completely validates my personal learning and teaching philosophy which can be summed up as: "You don't have to know all the answers, you just have to know where to find the answers" and "Learning should be an ongoing, lifelong adventure."
Funny thing is, von Goethe lived in the early much more does this quote apply to our fast-pasted, technological-based world today?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I passed!

Today I was able to access my "unofficial" teacher certification test scores online...and I passed! I'm breathing a big sigh of relief because I would have been totally embarrassed had I not passed!

I'm a little uncertain of what I have to do next and I can't find out until I call the state's department of education on Monday. If I understand it correctly, it will happen like this:

  1. I must be reviewed by a panel for licensure (Teacher Competency Review Panel or TCRP). I understand that it's not in-depth, but an approximately 15-minute interview.
  2. TCRP forwards recommendation to state department of education, I pay any required fees and I am given an initial teaching license. I think that means I might be able to teach this fall, but I'm not certain.
  3. I must complete a certain amount of professional education. In my case, I must complete six hours. The amount of hours varies from person-to-person based on their working/professional experience within the field they will be teaching. (In other words, I couldn't be a florist and just walk in and get a teaching certificate.) I can complete this after licensure. I think I will be completed with this portion of the requirements by December having taken one class in my master's studies this summer that should meet half of the requirements and the other class to be taken in the fall.
  4. I must take the OPTE (Oklahoma Professional Teaching Exam) which assesses a person's knowledge about skills needed by educators in order to teach successfully. I can not take this test until after I receive my initial license, but I must complete it in order to receive a five-year teaching certificate. I plan to complete this test this fall.
  5. Like all first-year teachers in the state of Oklahoma, I must be assigned a "mentor" during my first year who will regulate my progress and (I assume) be available for guidance.
  6. When I complete my graduate studies, I will also have to take the certification test for Library Media Specialists. Additionally, I plan to take the English certification test since I was an English Ed major as a "traditional" student.

I'm pretty excited and much relieved. I will be calling the TCRP as soon as possible so I can get my interview set up (hopefully this summer) and send my resume to our local school administrators. I feel like I'm finally making progress!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Summer Vacation

"Vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it." --Robert Orben

According to this quote, I haven't officially started summer vacation. Even though my days are still busy and full, at least it's not filled with course work! I'm trying to catch up from being gone but so far, softball games, appointments and birthday parties have prevented me from doing so (yesterday I hosted a tea party for my daughter's 7th birthday--it was fun, but time consuming). I'm thinking I might be able to find an hour to hang out at our backyard pool today. Maybe I'll mow the lawn this afternoon and get so hot that the cold water will be irresistible to me. Here's to hoping!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Home Sweet Home

I'm home again and summer school is over! I'm SO glad that I did it--definitely worth the time commitment to get nine hours (nine tuition-free hours at that!) completed. For now, I'm going to focus on SUMMER and enjoy a little time with my family.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Time to Wrap it up

For almost three weeks we've had a great time at summer school learning, laughing and enjoying one another's company, but I think we've finally reached our threshold. It's clearly time to wrap it up here. Everyone is beginning to get cranky and sensitive. There is a lot of whining, complaining, and finger-pointing going on. People are starting to sweat the small stuff.

Personally, I find it amazing that we've lasted this long. Usually, when you get a bunch of women together for weeks on end, the drama begins before the end of week one--lol!

Like I've said before, I'm really glad I had this experience, but I will definitely be really glad to get back to my home, my family and my life, no matter how crazy it all may be. :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Great Resources

Summer school has left me with a variety of valuable tools and resources, including:

  • a new circle of friends and acquaintances for networking, brainstorming and who can help me survive the rest of grad school
  • a list of electronic resources and online tools of which I had no previous knowledge
  • books that I can use to create lesson plans
  • ideas or "lessons learned" from other teachers who have "been there, done that" so that I don't have to
  • more university contacts that I can turn to during grad school (for help) and beyond (for references)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

On Time (and How It Flies)

It's funny how getting older changes how you view even the little things in life. Take exercise, for example: what once seemed like a huge waste of time (because there was plenty of metabolism to go around), now seems like a necessity. When I was a true freshman, time seemed to pass so slowly. It seemed like each week was dragging, postponing the arrival of the weekend. A semester seemed never ending. It was incomprehensible to think about four years of college-that was an ETERNITY to me!

When I was planning to be away for summer school, three weeks seemed like a pretty good chunk of my time. I was sure that the week would pass slowly and the weekend too quickly. Now, I'm back in my dorm room preparing for my final week here and I'm surprised at how quickly time has passed.

When I first stumbled upon the program, it did seem like a giant leap of faith and commitment on my family's part to dedicate three weeks of summer to school, especially since it meant living on campus. Yet, I decided to look at it from a long-term perspective, deciding that the benefits far outweighed the negatives. It really has. Just think: I have added six hours to my transcript in the past two weeks. SIX HOURS!!! By the end of this week, I will have added another three! That's without even mentioning all the great people I've met here, the fact that the whole program is FREE and that I've had time to focus on some personal goals. so thankful that I took advantage of this opportunity.

Here's to one last week of class....then, "Summer, ho!!!"

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It's been a couple of weeks, but I thought I would post about my experience withe OGET and OSAT as promised.

As I've mentioned before, on that Saturday I got up bright and early (5:30 a.m.) after only four and a half hours of sleep to take two of the three required teacher certification tests in my state. I was a little nervous (okay, a lot nervous) even though I usually test well. Mostly, I just didn't know what to expect.

I was more than a little frustrated when I showed up at 7:15 (as my admission ticket said to) when I had to sit and wait for almost an hour before I could start the test. Lesson learned: next time I will not show up until 20 minutes before the test begins.

I started the morning with the OGET which is the Oklahoma General Education Test. This test covers all major subject areas and cover the basic competencies that high school graduates are expected to know. I was not at all worried about the Reading and Comprehension portion of the test. I wasn't even concerned about Science (because those questions usually rely on reading comprehension and answer elimination). I was, however, nervous about the Math portion of the test, particularly Algebra and Geometry because I haven't used them in such a long time! I was also kind of concerned about my History competencies. I spent extra time studying both of these subject areas. I was greatly relieved when I heard (through an online chat board) that the Math symbols and equations were given in the test. Whew! One less thing to cram into my brain! Still, I had to figure out how to use the equations, so I kept practicing. Also, on a recommendation from a friend, I brushed up on all the major wars in history--who was involved, where they took place, how it began/ended, etc. This test surprised me in several ways:
  1. There were few Science questions
  2. There weren't very many History questions (at least, not as many as I expected)
  3. I don't think there were any questions about wars at all and it was mostly American History
  4. The Math was tolerable
  5. The essay question at the end was not difficult, especially since they pretty much gave you both sides of the argument and you only had to pick one
  6. Still, the essay took more time for me than I expected (maybe because I had to hand write rather than type?)

I completed the test in about three hours, then left for lunch and a short break before test #2: OSAT.

The OSAT is the Oklahoma Subject Area Test, which means it is the test covering the subject area that you are planning to teach. I took the Journalism test this time, though I later hope to take the Language Arts/English test. I really felt like I would be better prepared for this test having just come out of Journalism school in the fall. Still, I did some extra studying just to be prepared, but I was still surprised by the test:

  1. Several questions had answers that were just slightly different. If I wasn't totally confident, I just had to pick one. I did this more often than I thought I would have to.
  2. Having been a portrait photographer for almost five years, I didn't anticipate having any problems with photography questions. I was told that there would be many photography questions, but they weren't at all like I expected. There were no technical questions over f-stops or ISOs or shutter speeds. Instead, there were questions about whether or not you have to identify subjects in a specific photo or questions about how a particular photo was framed.
  3. Many questions regarding technical journalism issues (like laying out pages, developing photographs) seemed quite dated. There was one question about how to develop an image in the darkroom. Nobody does this anymore in the real world--almost everything is digital and it certainly would be for a public school. We didn't even have a darkroom at my college! So, I had to rely on the information left in my brain from the time I spent in a tiny closet developing pictures for my high school yearbook many years ago. Hope my brain didn't fail me!
  4. This was the biggest shocker of all: I actually felt more confident in my Math answers than many of my journalism answers! I didn't expect that at all!

I'm anxious to get my scores, but that won't happen until at least June 25. Until then, I've got to start preparing for the Language Arts subject area test and the final test requirement: the professional standards test.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Mama Tired. Very Tired.

Today is the most tired I have been in a while. I'm really dragging.

It may have something to do with the fact that I didn't go to bed until almost 1 a.m. and then the sunshine pouring through my window woke me up before 6 a.m. the next morning. So, instead of rolling over and going back to sleep like a normal person, I got up and went to the gym hoping to beat the "regulars" to the elliptical machines. Instead, the girl at the desk asked if I was there for the morning class. I was feeling rather adventurous, so I simply answered, "Sure." Then, for the next hour I was taking part in "Track Attack" (you pretty much get the drift of the type of exercise I was doing). I came back feeling rather refreshed, productive and ready to tackle my day.

Of course, had I remembered what the day was to entail, I might not have felt so optimistic.

Last week, I truly enjoyed our class. The topics aligned with my interests and abilities well and our assignments ended up being so much fun. We literally laughed until we cried making a funny promotional video! This week, however, is one of those classes that is a required drudgery. It's a topic that just doesn't really inspire anyone. It's "Cataloging and Classification" which means that we are learning about all the different ways that books are cataloged/organized for libraries. Very technical. Very dull. It's a necessary evil--you can't have a library unless books are arranged in an orderly fashion and can be easily located--but it's still a very stale topic.

That's not to say that I can't find the silver lining: my teacher is wonderful and has great ideas for lesson plans, my group is amazing--we work so well together and enjoy one another's company, and we have been able to use some of the tools that we learned about last week to make our group project a little less difficult and more entertaining, etc.

But the bottom line is that this class--or today anyway--has exhausted me. Even if I had gotten more sleep last night, I still think the end result would be the same. I ended up collapsing on my bed for a few minutes after dinner, then my friends took me to Sonic for a little caffeine wake-up call. I'm feeling much better and looking forward to a quiet night of either movie watching or book reading. Here's to hoping that Mama's batteries get recharged for another long day tomorrow...the day we find out what our next two assignments will be!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Students, Technology and the Future

We watched this video in my Educational Media Production class this week. Does it frighten you or inspire you?

(For me, it was a little of both.)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun...Even Old Girls!

Yes, we've been working hard at summer school, but we've also been having a good time. I've enjoyed getting to know my classmates (who are all female, by the way). We've shared stories, laughs and even our stashes of dorm room snacks.

I guess this is kind of a "do-over" for me. I never found my "niche" on the college campuses I attended as an undergrad. I never found a group of friends to fit into and, honestly, at the time I wasn't worried about it (I was more worried about working and visiting boyfriend--the one who eventually became my husband).

So, here I am, 32 years old sharing late night talks, taking silly photos, working out at the gym with friends and driving to Sonic to get a free root beer float just like any regular college gal. It's actually been refreshing for me to get away for a bit, clear my head, and feel footloose-and-fancy-free without so many responsibilities to bear. I don't think about what's for dinner (because dinner is cooked for me!) or where I need to be at 8 p.m. (because I don't have to be anywhere!) or if I have anything to wear tomorrow (all my clothes are clean because it only takes one load of laundry to get it all done!). Granted, I wouldn't want to live this way forever, but I hope this experience allows me to come home rested and refreshed for a change.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

College Student Communication in the 21st Century

Now that I find myself back at one of my old colleges, I can't help comparing how things have changed since I was a nineteen year old freshman. The campus is a little different--there are new buildings and landscaping and such--and it also seems a lot smaller now that I'm "all grown up." The food seems to have improved (we finally got to eat in the cafeteria....much better!) and there are many computer labs to choose from these days.

One of the main differences I now see between life for a college student today versus latter years is the availability to keep in touch with people. Just today, I have used my cell phone to call at least three people, texted the same people, IM'd (instant message) a friend (while I was in class, no less), checked my e-mail, and communicated with friends from all over the United States via Facebook.

When I was a traditional undergrad, very few people had e-mail. No one had a cell phone. To keep in touch with my friends and family, I primarily wrote letters. Can you imagine a college student today whipping out paper and pencil to write a letter to someone? If I had only had a few of those communication conveniences back then, I think I would have adjusted much more easily to college life.

So, all-in-all I'm glad that these things exist to keep people connected. I definitely feel less homesick knowing that my friends and family are just a click or a phone call away.

As for was kind of a long one. It started out with the unexpected announcement that the cafeteria is being renovated, so we have been rerouted to the Ball Room for mealtimes. That means we don't have full access to the range of cafeteria foods normally offered. Still, it has been an improvement. At least there is salad, veggies and fresh fruit! Also, the afternoon class time was very long. We worked in front of our computers from one to almost five o'clock without a break--without so much as standing up to stretch! On the positive side, we did seem to accomplish much more today and we are starting a fun video project. Plus, part of our assignment was to set up a Google site, so I was able to get a head start on my electronic portfolio. Yay! Now, I'm off to finish my warm green tea (something I had never tried but was encouraged to do so by a classmate--now I like it!) and read a book (The First Year by Harry Wong) before bedtime. I have to rise and shine early so I can get a warm breakfast before they put it all away and only leave cold bagels or cereal for the late risers.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Summer School: Day One

Today was the first official day of summer school, though we had to be here early Sunday evening to check into our dorm rooms. So, I've officially been here 24 hours.

I'm having a serious case of deja vu and suddenly remembering all the little things that have to be worked out between roommates. We have private rooms but share a bath. We also share a full-size refrigerator that is located in my room. I had forgotten how much etiquette is required when living in the dorms. You have to figure out things like whether or not you will leave the doors to your room open or closed. Closed feels rude, especially if you like your suitemate (I'm fortunate that I do!), but open all day means phone calls are not very private and you might be annoying your neighbor with your music. You have to figure out subtle ways of figuring out whether or not someone is in the bathroom and if flushing the toilet cause your suitemate to be awakened when they really wanted to be sleeping in. Are you required to do everything together or at least always invite one another along? Like I said, I'm very glad that I was paired with someone that I was at least familiar with before we arrived and we get along well, so none of these issues have been a problem. It's just strange to be back in the place where you have to figure all this stuff out!

I would be lying if I said I wasn't homesick. Class time is a great distractor, but when you are back in the quiet dorm rooms with a huge amount of free time (compared to being at home), it really makes you miss the activity of your on-the-go family. And their noise. And their hugs. It didn't help when my youngest called crying hysterically last night. It was seriously heart-wrenching to hear her saying, "I want you to hold me!" in between sobs. Turns out, she was just upset with her Daddy who made her clean up her messes, but it still didn't make me feel any better about it.

On the upside, I'm starting to know a few more names and have met some great ladies. I feel very confident in the course we are taking this week (it's basically a Media and Technology class) and we are doing some fun projects. I have so much free time (because we don't have homework; we do everything in class) that I am getting to read some books that I have been wanting to finish and I have time to exercise (I even started my day with a walk/run and hope to end it at the gym tonight).

But as for far, no good. :( We have been limited to the food in the student center so far because regular summer school doesn't officially begin until tomorrow, which means the cafeteria is closed. We have been limited to hamburgers, fries and chicken strips. Yum--a big, greasy mess. We opted to go out for dinner tonight. Hopefully, we'll at least have some veggies at the cafeteria tomorrow!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Test Day

Despite only getting four and a half hours of sleep, I managed to survive my OGET and OSAT test day! I'll reflect on the tests later, but for now I have to pack. I'm leaving tomorrow for summer school!

OGET is the Oklahoma General Education Test and OSAT is the Oklahoma Subject Area Test: both are required for teacher certification

Thursday, May 28, 2009

My To-Do List

  1. Finish proofing almost 200 engagement & bridal photos
  2. Create blog post for engagement photos sneak peek
  3. Get oil changed and tires checked in the car that will be making the four hour drive to campus this weekend
  4. Go to the dreaded Wal-Mart to purchase snacks and supplies for the kiddos and myself for our travels next week
  5. Get caught up on "regular" laundry before husband and daughter return from youth camp with mounds of dirty clothes
  6. Finish reading the book club selection, "Copper Sun" by Sharon Draper so I can return the book before leaving Sunday
  7. Figure out what I'll need for three weeks in a dorm (maybe it would be easier to decide what to leave at home!) and pack it
  8. Pack my two children who will be visiting friends and my sister in Texas and attending day camp next week
  9. Buy a few groceries for the hubby so he won't starve (or eat out)
  10. Exercise (I missed the last two days because of our busy schedules)
  11. Create "gag gift" for a friend's birthday as payback for a Christmas stunt
  12. Make a notebook for the babysitter with all the do's, don'ts and "where to find it" information
  13. Fill out day camp enrollment forms, make out checks for said camp and copy insurance cards
  14. Clean out vehicle
  15. Put away all photography gear from this week's sessions
  16. Make a deposit at the bank (10 miles away)
  17. Get a pedicure!!! (I promised little daughter we'd have a "girl party" while Daddy & big sis was away)
  18. Clean house (the chore that never leaves my to-do list, so it seems)
  19. Water garden
  20. Breathe

Sunday, May 24, 2009

To Panic or Not to Panic....That Is the Question

A week from today, I will be loading my car and driving four hours away to stay in campus housing for three weeks without my family in order to complete a significant portion of my master's degree studies.

Part of me wants to panic. Okay, the biggest part of me wants to panic because I keep thinking:

  • I'm stressed about all the things I meant to get done before I left (that I haven't).
  • I'm sad about all the things I will be missing while I am gone.
  • I'm nervous for my husband and the babysitter whose task it is to keep my six-year-old entertained (she announced that she was already bored by 10 a.m. the day after school let out).
  • I'm worried about making it through eight hour class days without getting a migraine.
  • I'm wondering how well I will get along with my classmates. Will I be the odd man out because I am not a certified teacher nor have I ever taught?
  • Will the cafeteria food be bearable? I have valid fears: I lived on this particular campus the year before I married, and the smells from the cafeteria made me nauseous as I passed by each day. I still claim it was the worst food in the history of university cafeterias! Even the salad and cereal was unsuitable to eat, in my opinion. No joke! I lost so much weight that year....

On the upside, there are several things to look forward to in this experience:

  • I get to meet new people and (hopefully) make some new friends. If not, it will be a great exercise in networking.
  • I will have completed nine hours of courses in three weeks. There is no other way I'd be able to graduate in a year's time if not for this intense session.
  • I won't have to cook any meals and I will only be responsible for dressing myself, cleaning my tiny dorm room and keeping my small stash of laundry clean. What a load off!
  • Evenings should be free for reading a good book or working out at the really nice Wellness Center (they are even having Zumba classes!) or taking a walk around the track just like I used to do in the "good ol' days."
  • I don't have to be in class until 9 a.m. which means I can sleep in if I want!
  • If the cafeteria food is bad, maybe I will drop those last few pesky pounds before we head to the beach for vacation!! :)
  • It's free! All of this is free even down to the textbooks and meal plans. Whoo-hoo!

I decided that instead of looking at it as being gone for three straight weeks, I'd take it one week at a time. I will only be gone five nights before I can come home for a short weekend. That's not bad. I'm pretty sure the week will pass much more quickly than I anticipate. Between Zumba and working on my portfolio...well, you know what they say: "time flies when you're having fun." ;)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Now I Remember Why I Hated Math

It's a lazy Sunday afternoon here. I am thankful for a nice morning at church, beautiful weather, a lovely lunch and a wonderful nap, but now it's time to hit the books. It's a little difficult to muster up the desire to study when you're not in school; it feels a bit uncalled for. Yet, the reality is that my OGET and OSAT tests--the general test and subject area test for teacher certification in the state of Oklahoma--are looming and I haven't really put much effort into studying for them. But study I would be awfully embarrassing to fail a test that is supposed to encompass the basic skills that any teenager in the state should have in order to graduate from high school!

I downloaded the study guide and have been tediously making my way through it. Language Arts generally come easy for me, and I don't usually have a tremendous amount of difficulty with Science, either (so long as you're not asking me to become a endocrinologist or something), but Math....Math is my Achilles heel. I distinctly remember coming home in fourth grade with giant tears rolling down my face because I had a "C" on my progress report in Math. Fractions were killing my straight A average and my hopes of perfection (lol)! From that point on, I struggled in Math, though I usually found a way to keep my grades up to an acceptable level that wouldn't induce serious crying fits. I actually thought, for a moment, that I might enjoy Geometry, but eventually, I would run into some sort of equation that I simply could not wrap my mind around and would, once again, have to come to terms with my shortcomings in Math.

Math was always the subject area with the lowest score on any standardized test that I ever took. In fact, I never attempted taking the SAT because, although I probably would have benefited from a test that was largely based in Language Arts, I knew that the other half (being pure Math) would kill my score.

All this to say, here I am at thirty-two years old trying, for the life of me, to remember how to do linear equations and line graphs. It's very frustrating, to say the least, but it's also kind of a nice challenge. I've noticed that a great many things that I could not fully understand as a teenager or younger adult have actually become a little less difficult over time. For example, I find it easier to understand some foreign languages or at least understand how they are conjugated, though it once was my most difficult class as a freshman in college. So, as I study these equations that once made me sweat and worry and find that I can actually solve them after all (even though I have not found reason to use those skills in the 14 years since I have been out of high school), it makes a girl feel pretty good.

That's not to say that I'm finally figuring all this Math stuff out. It's still giving me headaches, I'm still thankful that it's a multiple choice test and I still hate Math...but I'm allowing myself a little bit of hope: maybe I'll pass the Math portion after all.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Graduation Day: The Recap in Photos

Rushing to the stadium after finding a replacement tassel

My wonderful, supportive family

My girls--I hope they know better understand the value of education, follow-through and keeping their promises

The cold & windy ceremony

My friends and family who are drinking hot chocolate in the warmth of a gas station while I'm still shivering in a stadium, waiting on the ceremony to wrap up

My best friend & her son who surprised me by coming up for the weekend

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Graduation Day: The Recap

So, if you've followed my blog long, you've known about my indecisiveness regarding whether or not to take part in my undergraduate graduation ceremony. I flip-flopped quite a bit, but decided to go ahead and do it, even if it were for no other reason for my young daughters see a cumulative end to my efforts and understand it better.

This week has been a doosey...lots of unexpected events and activities going on, lots of uncertainties for my schedule, etc. As late as Friday afternoon, I considered not attending the graduation ceremony and just doing something fun instead. But, I decided that I was tired of being indecisive and was going to stick with my original decision no matter what. When my six-year-old said, "I want you to graduate, Mommy," it sort of sealed the deal.

Overall, it was a memorable day. There were plenty of both positives and negatives to the experience. Here is a recap of the good versus bad.

Thumbs down:

Bad news
Several family members were unable to attend due to recently discovered serious health problems. In the end, I'm glad they didn't have to join us in sitting through two hours of speeches and freezing weather (see below).

To rain or not to rain...that is the question
There was a chance of rain and ominous, dark clouds filling the sky. The back-up rain plan called for the university to divide up into departments and take turns using indoor facilities. If that happened, my graduation ceremony wouldn't be held until 11:45 instead of 10 a.m. Since I live an hour away, I didn't want to bother rushing to campus to early if I didn't have to. When we didn't find any official rain plan announcements posted on the school's website at 8 a.m., we began to head that way. My sister asked, "What will you do if it starts raining during the ceremony?" My guess was that we would just get a good soaking. Fortunately, I only felt one rain drop during the event and a couple of rolls of thunder, but I couldn't count how many times I thought, "I wish this were an indoor ceremony."

Missing pieces
After parking in a "no parking zone" long enough so that I could toss on my cap & gown before rushing down to the football field, I discovered that my tassel was missing. Swell. The bookstore (which carried all our graduation gear) is not usually open on Saturdays, but I decided to make one desperate phone call to see if they were open and had any extra tassels available. They did.

"You'll have to buy it, but we have some."

Really? I just paid all this tuition and you can't spare $3.60 for a red tassel? We sped over and purchased one, anyway. During the moments where I was running into or out of the bookstore, I was thankful for the university's rule that we wear flat-bottomed shoes instead of heels for the ceremony!

I also regretted not bringing my cell phone with me. Not only could I have taken photos and played games during the boring speeches (I had forgotten how b-o-r-i-n-g graduation speeches could be!), but I would have been able to track down my family afterwards. I wandered around the field forever searching for my loved ones who promised me, "Don't worry about it; we'll find you." It felt very awkward to be walking around alone while masses of people gathered for photos, etc.

Freakish weather
FREEZING temperatures (high of 60 degrees....maybe) and the 20 mph wind gusts made the graduation ceremony quite an ordeal. People in the stands were huddled under blankets, and many had obviously dug out winter clothes to wear for the day.

I was sitting on the outer row with no one to block the wind, making it miserably cold. Additionally, I only brought one bobby pin along for my cap. I was terrified that my cap would fly off as I reached for my diploma and shook the president's hand. Thankfully, it didn't happen to me, but I watched it happen to many others.

After my portion of the ceremony, my family slipped off into a nearby gas station to get out of the weather and to drink hot chocolate...and I don't blame them one bit!

Medal Envy
I'll admit it: I envied my friends who made Magna Cum Laude or Cum Laude and got the extra rope or medal "bling" to wear around their necks. I missed Cum Laude by 0.02 points.

Someone recently mentioned to me that their G.P.A. started falling when they started dating their then-boyfriend now-husband. Looking back, my worst grades were my freshman year when I began dating my then-boyfriend now-husband, Tim! I have decided to officially blame my shortcomings on him. How dare he keep me from better understanding the finer points of conjugating German verbs? Just kidding...the blame was all mine. If only I had known then what I know now. Adult students rarely have a problem knowing how to study, but I was clueless coming right out of high school.

Bottom line: I was jealous. Wish I could have had a shiny medal of my own, but I'll have to just make peace with myself knowing that I had a 4.0 in my major and, as my husband likes to remind me, no one really cares what your G.P.A. is in the end.

Thumbs up:

My best friend surprised me by coming up for the weekend and going to the ceremony with us. I love her!! She has a way of making a girl feel special. She had already given me pointers on how to style my hair with the rather unfashionable cap. She even brought special hairspray so that I could follow through on my plans to curl my hair....even though we ended up leaving it straight (as you will see in the photos later). Irregardless, it was very thoughtful!

Also, I got to see my college friends who I've missed for the past six months and acquaintances within the department, too. It was good to see them, catch up on their lives for a bit and find out what's in store for their immediate futures.

Warmth (& No Sweat)
I was very, very thankful to be wearing a long robe with long sleeves on the cold, windy day. I had once been worried about sweating through those awful polyester things under a hot May sun, but never considered how helpful they might be in a spring cold spell! I was also grateful that the closest friends that I made in our department had alphabetically similar last names. Since we were sitting next to one another, we didn't have to feel awkward about huddling together for warmth!

When my husband was sitting in the gas station, warming up the children and chit-chatting with the locals, he heard about an authentic Italian restaurant in the next town over. We knew all the restaurants in my college town would be filled to capacity (it's a rather small town with limited dining facilities), so we decided to give it a try. It was fabulous! Since it had been so long since I had good Italian food anyway, it made the day extra special.

No Security Checks or Long Lines
Thank goodness our speakers were just alumni who had done well in the world, but not risen to the heights of say, President of the United States of America. President Obama is scheduled to give the commencement address at Arizona State University next week. Students have to arrive almost four hours early to pass through the Secret Service security check. Lines are expected to be crazy-long and, all the while, they will be waiting in 100-degree weather in the middle of the desert in an open-air stadium. Fun!

The Diploma
Okay, so I think it's rather hilarious that people sit through a ceremony and do all these "official" things like moving the tassel, shaking the president's hand and conferring degrees...but no one actually gets a diploma during the ceremony. I know this is standard practice, but it still seems pretty silly if you think about it. (It gives new meaning to the old saying, "All this hassle for a tassel?") Yet, when I picked up my diploma and opened up the envelope containing what amounts to no more than raised-letter wording on heavy paper, I really did feel a sense of accomplishment. Yay, me!

Would I do it all over again? I don't know. I still stand by the fact that it was a lesson for my children in the importance of finishing things. Unless something really changes my mind between now and then, I don't think I will participate in the ceremony for my master's degree because the university is located much farther away and will take more effort. Plus--I'll be honest--it really was a pretty boring event overall. If I had not had not known the people sitting around me, it would have been a miserable experience.

In a nutshell, I guess I'm glad I had the experience, but I probably won't do it again...unless I get a doctorate! LOL!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lifelong Education

"Real ongoing, lifelong education doesn't answer questions--it provokes them. It causes us to see that the fun and excitement of learning doesn't lie in having all the answers. It lies in the tension and the stretching of our minds between all the contradictory answers. It makes us think for ourselves. It frees us all." ~Luci Swindoll

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Decision

I finally made a decision: I am going to participate in my undergraduate graduation ceremony. I'm trying to live a life of no regrets, so this is just one way to keep me from wondering "what if..." or "I wish I would have.." later on.

I've now got a date with a cap and gown on May 9th!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Still Conflicted: To Walk or Not to Walk

I can't decide whether or not to walk in my university's graduation ceremony. My thoughts have evolved in this order over the course of the past six months:

  • Of course, I'll participate! I worked hard!
  • I really want to walk so my kids will know that education is important.
  • I feel so distanced from school now that I've been away and moved on to grad school...maybe I shouldn't walk.
  • Honestly, would anybody really miss me if I didn't walk?
  • If I did walk, would my family just feel obligated to come. I don't want anyone to feel obligated to come.
  • The graduation ceremony is going to be like three hours long. In the sun. On a football field. And I only know a handful of people there. Hmmmm....
  • If it rains, the ceremony will be moved indoors and I will only have four tickets. That only leaves one extra ticket for anyone other than my husband and children!
  • I'm going to graduate from grad school next spring. Wouldn't I rather walk in that ceremony?
  • Grad school graduation will be farther away and we would have to stay in a hotel. Maybe I should walk now and skip grad school ceremonies? Plus, I won't know as many people there...
  • THREE HOURS in the sun and wind??? I dunno....
  • But my youngest daughter doesn't understand college or that I've completed something. This might help her understand.
  • Maybe I do want a day of praise and glory.
  • I don't want a day of praise and glory...that's silly.
  • I already paid for all of the graduation gear in my student fees...might as well get my money's worth.
  • Will I regret it if I don't walk? After all, I looked forward to it for years.
  • My dad told me the story of a man who drove hundreds of miles to attend graduation ceremony at this school. He thought it was important...maybe I should, too.
  • I already have plans for that weekend. It's Mother's Day weekend and we really need to visit my husband's mom. I shouldn't change those plans.
  • I don't know what to do.

This is another one of those situations where I wish someone would just step in and make my decisions for me. Right now, I have a signed "Graduate in Absentee" form sitting signed on my desk, but I have been unable to mail it (though I filled it out a week ago). University friends say, "yes--come back!" but they probably won't miss me (who knows if we'll even see one another). My family says, "it's your decision." My husband and friends like to give conflicting reports: one minute they encourage me to do it and the next they tell me they might not have walked if they had to do it all over again. It's honestly not as important to me as it once was, but I do wonder if participating might help my kids understand the importance, the sacrifice, and the honor of university studies.

Maybe I'll just flip a coin.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Getting Off the Hamster Wheel

Here we are at the end of another productive yet absolutely CRAZED semester.

Last week, my husband and I took a cruise to celebrate our 10th anniversary (it was two years ago--we're a little late) & the completion of my undergraduate degree. I left my cell phone at home and only checked e-mail once a day for five minutes in order to send a message to my kids back home. While I was on the trip, I enjoyed laying in the sun and reading (for leisure!), listening to music or napping. I enjoyed long, three-course meals and sharing interesting conversation with strangers. I enjoyed walking around a small Mexican village, watching the locals who obviously had fewer possessions and money but seemed equally (or more!) happy with life.

However, it wasn't until I got home that I realized how truly unburdened I had been on that trip. When I am at home, I feel compelled to check e-mail and Facebook twenty or more times a day. Many days, I don't enjoy the sunshine or feel the breeze because I am sitting behind a computer all day. When I am at home, my cell phone is in my possession almost 24 hours a day and I feel compelled to answer it each and every time it rings. When I am at home, I live and die by a calendar--never are there unstructured days for "wandering"--and taking a nap would just lead to guilt that time would have been better spent doing something besides sleeping.

Even worse, every time I travel, especially outside of the United States, I come home so frustrated by the things that occupy our time and thoughts....the things that we fuss and fight over/for...the things that we consider most important. Those things, for the most part, are utter ridiculousness. In the grand scheme of life, they are foolish things that don't really matter.

I am certain that life is for more than a busy calendar. I'm sure that I'm supposed to have enough quiet, unhurried time in a day to have thoughts or rest or simple pleasures. I know for a fact that I shouldn't feel like a hamster in a wheel.

I have decided that something needs to change in my life and I'm trying to figure out the best way to clear out the clutter and simplify my life somewhat. Waiting for the "next semester" or the "next stage of life" obviously doesn't work--getting to the next stage means things are just different, not less busy in my experience.

Right now, the best bet for simplification seems to be to shut down my photography business. My business is definitely "small" in all aspects of the word, but it can be very time consuming nevertheless. Though I have been mulling it over for a week (actually, I mull it over every year, it seems), I am still hesitant to do away with it completely for several reasons:

a) it provides income
b) people respect and enjoy the work I do
c) other than motherhood, I have held this position longer than any other job
d) it gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment

This business has been my baby, my brainchild, my sweat and tears. Even though my hectic lifestyle prevents me from enjoying the work like I once did, it is difficult to say the words, "I'm done."

Also, there is the money matter. I am preparing to enter the teaching world. Education, as we all know, is not a particularly lucrative field. In fact, right now it takes me a month of substitute teaching (averaging twice or three times a week) to make similar take-home pay as one photography session. Now, before you start to think that photographers are making a killing and robbing you blind, let me tell you about one major difference. In education, I walk away at the end of the day with no further obligations (well, more-so than some professions--no job is 100% this way). With photography, the time committed for a photo session is just the beginning. I spend much, much more time editing, cropping, posting to the web, fulfilling orders, etc. Do you know what that means? There is no separation between home and work for me. Between my university classes, substitute teaching, hauling kids to ballgames, church obligations and the like, I crave time at home to be just that: time at home and nothing else. Besides, money isn't everything.

All this to say, I think I am on the verge of making a very important decision. It both relieves me and scares me, but something must be done. You know something is not right when you find yourself envying simple life of the Mexican senorita who sits on the sidewalk mashing masa and selling tortillas from an egg crate!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Good Stuff

I feel like I have spent the majority of this semester whining on this blog. Shame on me. It hasn't been all bad, really! Sure, it's been stressful, I have felt even busier than usual, and my assignments have been super time consuming, I can still find some silver linings in the grad school clouds.

  • One of my professors was willing to negotiate our assignment list meaning many due dates were changed and several assignments were reduced in size or deleted from the syllabus altogether.
  • All of my professors are very understanding about the fact that we have families and jobs to juggle. Generally, if we have a hard time getting an assignment turned in on time, they are willing to work things out with you.
  • I expected to be in class every Monday night from January through May. Instead, we only met about twice a month and next week (still in April) is our final class date!
  • One of my professors was very organized and her class was very structured. Plus, she was very quick to respond to questions and grade assignments. It made life SO much easier!
  • I have one other classmate at my ITV location...thank goodness! Having someone to contact with questions was so helpful. I am so glad I didn't have to go at it alone. Plus, it always helps to have a classmate that you can vent with.
  • We always have plenty of time to eat dinner in-between classes. Honestly, I was very worried about this. Sitting in class from 4:30 until almost 10 p.m. without food or caffeine could only mean one thing for me: migraines. Mama's gotta eat! Fortunately, our teacher always gives us a 30-minute break.
  • It was tough reading so many books this semester, but I really enjoyed it. It helped me have a reason to read some books/authors that I wasn't familiar with and might not have read otherwise.

See? I AM capable of seeing the glass half full...are you shocked? :)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Insanely Busy

I don't know why all my blog posts seem to come back to one theme: I'm busy and/or there's not enough time in day. So sorry for the boring, repetition, but it's so true.

This week has been another jam-packed one-thing-after-another week with a couple of unexpected events to deal with thrown in for good measure. It seems that April and December are the two busiest months in my year for some reason. Sure, they both contain the two biggest holidays in our household, but for us, Easter is not usually something that takes up huge portions of our month--it is very big spiritual celebration but not so much a time-consumer. I think it's because those two months are the end (or the near end) of semesters both for myself and my kids. Not only are school activities on overload, but we are also in the middle of soccer season. Plus, since the husband and I are taking a mini vacation/anniversary celebration/graduation gift cruise this month, it has added extra stress to my already nerve-wrecking schedule. Here it is, Saturday night and I haven't finished all of the homework due for Monday. I have one major project due a week from Monday but I also need to complete the work that is due the day after we get back from our cruise so I can just enjoy my vacation and leave the work at home.

Fortunately, I have cleared my calendar this week. I am only working one day (and that is subject to the weather cooperating) and I plan to slug away at homework. However, being the week before Easter, I will have daily mid-day interruptions as I attend our community's Holy Week luncheons. Not to mention the gigantic piles (and I am not kidding when I say "piles") of laundry waiting to be done. As always. I need to help my daughter with her 4H speech that she will compete with while we are gone. I need to gather things for my mom (who will be keeping the girls while we are away) and prepare for Easter. Oh--and I am in charge of my kid's Easter party at school this week. I guess I should also think about packing at some point when I'm not busy worrying about exercising/eating right/drinking enough water so I can feel comfortable in my bathing suit....or busy worrying about any of the above said things! *Sigh*

But on a positive note....only 4 more weeks of school left!!! I can't wait until MAY!!!!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crunch Time

My instinct told me to hold off on getting ahead on any assignments this semester. My instinct served me well. Turns out, my professor is swamped with grading and decided to negotiate off a couple of major projects. WHEW! I really can breathe easier now. AND....I'm on the downhill slide of the semester!!

I really don't understand why this semester has been so incredibly busy that I can barely keep up with blogging. I mean, is 9 hours of graduate school really twice as hard as 18 hours of undergradate hours? I really don't think that's the case, but the evidence points otherwise, I suppose. I am working more than I have in previous semesters (I think), so maybe that is a major player as well. Regardless, I hope to find some time soon to share my reading list as promised. Until then...happy studies!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Blessed Spring Break

It's here! It's here! I'm glad to see spring break finally arrive, but at the same time, it's aggravating. There will be no relaxing on this spring break because I will be working every day but one. There will not be much of a break from homework on this spring break because I have a seven page in-depth study due on the Monday following break. Needless to say, it hard to get too excited about Spring Break.

That's okay. I'm holding out for the cruise hubby and I are taking next month.

As for classes, they are as frustrating as they ever were. I seriously have never been so frustrated with a professor. I've had professors who have bothered me with their point-of-view, general disorganization, pity for the slacker and so on, but I've never had a professor that makes it hard to do well simply because the expectations are not clear. I'm very concerned about taking any more internet classes with this specific professor. My saving grace has been ITV classes where we sort everything out. I won't have that with web-only classes (which are coming this fall).

But back to spring's here. I'm glad. The end.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Today I've felt terrible. Thank goodness I didn't have to work or be anywhere. I'm lounging around in my yoga pants and trying to get a leg up on my homework which overfloweth. After our face-to-face class meeting this week, I found out that my videoed book talk is late (even though the professor e-mailed me saying that it wasn't due until next week). Normally, I would freak out about this, but I've decided to take it all in stride. I'll send it in when I get it done tomorrow and I'll be sure to copy her e-mail just in case. And, if she still decides to take off for tardiness, I don't care. This class (or should I say, the class schedule) has been so confusing, I'm no longer striving for perfection.

I do, however, admit to being a little panicked. My family is supposed to be out of town this weekend, so I'm not sure what that means for the homework I have left to do. I know I can get some of it done on Sunday afternoon. I plan to carry my laptop with me, but I will have limited internet connectivity. I'm a little overwhelmed right now, I must admit. Homework is piling up as is the laundry and I have several obligations (one is an article I am supposed to be writing for a major trade magazine plus I'm supposed to be designing several pages for a photo directory in addition to all the "regular stuff" I'm a part of). I'm trying to keep my eyes on the prize: the cruise that my husband is taking me on for our 10th anniversary (that we celebrated 2 years ago) and as part of my graduation gift. I can't wait until April!!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Teacher Certification

After anxiously hovering about my mailbox for the past few weeks, I finally received what I'd been waiting for: a letter from the State Department of Education.

I had applied to participate in alternative teacher certification. In order to do so, you must have an undergraduate degree in a a corresponding certifiable subject area and working experience in the field also.

When I first headed back to school and decided to pursue journalism rather than English Education, my plans were to eventually try to take part in the alternative certification process, though honestly, I thought I would work work on the staff of a publication of some sort before doing so. Honestly, my field is not a high-demand subject area, especially for most rural schools so I didn't think that being certified in that area alone would be especially helpful.

Then, I enrolled in grad school and put myself in the position where I had to be certified before I could graduate from the program. I quickly put my resume and application together for the Alternative Certification Program, then waited by my mailbox for about four weeks.

I'm so happy to report that I have been accepted into the program, I only have to take six additional professional education hours in addition to passing my certification tests and I can get my initial certification in both journalism and/or speech/drama/debate. Once I complete my graduate studies , I will also take the test to be certified as a librarian. As you can see, this provides several opportunities for me.

I've been spending a lot of time as a substitute teacher in our local school system and I feel increasingly comfortable there. There has always been an adventurous streak in me that wanted to have an unusual or unique job. Sure, it'd be really cool to be a freelance journalist who travels to all corners of the earth gathering news, meeting people and taking photos of exotic lands, but it's not very practical when you have kids to raise or if you actually enjoy hanging out with your husband or if you like being part of a community.

I guess I've come to realize that family and community are two of the most important things a person could have. School systems are rooted in community, or at least in all the places that I've lived. And really, are there many jobs that are better suited for family life? Top it off with the chance to influence and possibly change lives....what could be better?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Stop the Clock!

Time is a mystery to me. When I was commuting to school three times a week this spring, I felt like there was never enough time to get things done...yet, I still managed to work, minimally keep up with housework and shuttle my kids to their activities. So far this semester, I only go to class once a week (and not even weekly, at that) and I am working less than usual. In fact, I have not actively been booking photo sessions at all lately. Yet, I feel even MORE pressed for time. I can't figure this out. Surely I don't have more assignments than I did when I was taking 18 undergrad hours. Maybe my classwork is more time intensive? Whatever it is, I sometimes wish I could stop the clock for a few hours to play catch-up. Whenever things get rushed and crazy, I find it even harder to concentrate. I find myself hopping from one activity to another without wrapping up the first (that is why I am blogging in my sweaty work-out clothes rather than taking a shower).

But the fact is, time marches on and so must I...

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Homework Commute

Just when I thought I gave up commuting to class, now I find myself commuting to finish homework! Today, I visited my alma mater (hee hee--that sounds funny) and spent three and a half hours in the library trying to finish my latest assignment for my Reference Materials class. I drove over thinking that I'd be able to complete two weeks worth of homework in one visit, but it was just wishful thinking. I wasn't even able to finish all of this week's assignment. It was worth the trip, though. As much as I love modern technology and the internet, sometimes there's just nothing better than using a real book for research.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Conquering My Reading List

I feel like I'm actually making a little progress and slowly but surely getting a grasp on what's required of me in my classes. Today was especially productive because, in one trip to our local high school, I managed to finish three assignments (observation, interview, book talk) and start another (bibliography).

I've also been able to wade through the gigantic reading list for my young adult literature class and decide what I'm reading when. That sounds like an easy task but trust me--it wasn't!

Plus, after combing through our local library system and high school's card catalog, I've also discovered what I can read for free. I love free.

I'm doing okay on my reading list. So far I've managed to read:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (my favorite)
Holes by Louis Sachar
Hero by S.L. Rottman
Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne (my second favorite thus far)

I'm considering starting another blog to share my personal book reviews on the books that I'm reading. Not only would it be a fun blog project, but it will be a helpful resource when I am a librarian and need to remember the plots and characters of these books in a pinch. I'm still on the fence about it. Maybe now is not quite the time to take on another project.
We'll see!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do Unto Others

Professors are busy folk--I get that. Many times, they don't have time to answer everyone's e-mails in a timely manner...probably because they are swamped! That's why students should try to take care of one another. Lately, I've had more of my questions answered by friends and random co-students than I have by instructors. I'm always so thankful when someone takes the time to reply to an e-mail or share a informative link or give insight on a project.

The best advice I can give on taking online courses is to live by the golden rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Take time to reply to an e-mail if you have the answer. Encourage a fellow student who seems to be overwhelmed. Direct someone to a good resource online or in a textbook. "Live" education is all about sharing ideas and online learning should be no different.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Internet Courses: A Love/Hate Relationship

I have a love/hate relationship with internet courses. On one hand, they make life so much easier. I mean, I can do my classwork while sitting in bed in my pajamas, or after I've just worked out when no humans would dare to be near my smelly, unsightly self. I can even do my classwork while I'm traveling. It's super handy. On the other hand, you are basically left to teach yourself. Remember the old Mike Myers sketch "Coffee Talk with Linda Richman?" It's sometimes as if a teacher posts all the necessary information along with a syllabus, then in true Linda Richman fashion says, " amongst yourselves."

I feel like I've spent most of my week trying to sort through all of my class information and create some sort of workable schedule. I still haven't successfully managed to do that because there have been so many changes to the syllabi and, adding to the confusion, several different reading lists are floating around.

It's frustrating! I feel like I'm spinning wheels even though I'm trying to get ahead. For instance, I managed to read a couple of books this week (working on a third) and have written partial book reviews for them. I thought I was doing pretty well since--by my calculations--I need to average two per week. I also made arrangements for my observation & book talk times next week (which requires me to read another book in preparation for that). However, last night I got a call from a classmate concerned about an assignment that she found online that is supposed to be due on Monday. I'm glad she called it to my attention because in all the syllabus-change confusion, I had no idea that it needed to be done this week!

I hope that after next week's face-to-face class, I will have a better handle of the flow to these classes. Ironically, the one class that I'm taking that is entirely online is easily managed; it has a definite "flow" already. Of course, that may be due to the fact that it is a class about online education methods!