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!