Tag Archives: Education

Another Chapter

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Although I may be inconsistent in posting on my blog at times, I traditionally post on New Years, March 7th, my birthday (both belly button and recovery), Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Remembering the past year, I am reminded to “be careful what I ask for”, because 2013 brought many lessons about trust.  As I began this post, I read the post for New Year’s 2013. This is what I wrote:

A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing.  I have several words that seem appropriate, but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me.  I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad, yet much of it good.  I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust into my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself.   I survived the end of the world in 2012, so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!

I began the year trying to recover from the flu, and in spite of getting the flu shot, it was my Christmas day gift.  For the next few months, I would battle one round of bronchitis after the other.  Breathing treatments, antibiotics, injected and oral steroids became constant companions.  I would battle each round coming ever so close to victory, only to find myself pushed back into a corner once again.  In May, only two days before I was to take my grandson to the live auditions for X-Factor  complete with  Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato, I was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

All of these battles with bronchitis occurred as I prepared to begin my lifelong dream of going to college.  I stepped onto the College of Charleston campus in early January not sure if I would be able to survive as a college student.  I can now tell you that I not only have survived, but I have done well.  I have enough credits to apply as a degree student instead of a “non-traditional” student and I am only a few credits away from being a sophomore.  Did I mention that I have a 3.82 GPA?

Being sick for so long took a financial toll since I wasn’t able to work during that time.  The cost of COBRA for me to keep my insurance was over $500 a month, and I still had deductibles and copays. In October, the biggest financial hit came when my car blew the transmission.   Being without a car for close to two months was devastating, but I managed to finish school for the semester and keep my part time job.

As summer approached,  I was healthy again and was able to start a new fitness program.  It was another step in learning some great ways to exercise without a gym, and it was a thought-provoking experience in learning balance.  I was reminded that fitness goals and healthy living are a work in progress, not something to achieve overnight.

I managed a couple of very short trips this year.  Jan, Anna, and I took a day trip to Savannah.  We laughed, talked, shopped, discovered “Your Pie Pizza”, and walked all around Savannah even though it was still a bit cool that day, and had a great day.   I had to take a trip, have an adventure, and see a play for my three of my classes, so a short weekend trip with Ginger, Sassy, and Jerome made getting an A on all three papers easy.  Jan and I continued to have Friday adventures including doing some genealogical research, climbing an old haunted staircase in a house that was built in early 1800, and visiting a couple of library archives.  We did manage to find some great food along the way, as well.

So, what does all this have to do with trust? If you look at most of last year, you may begin to see that I wasn’t able to do things for other people the way I usually do.  Money, health, and time took away my ability to take care of others and do things for the people in my life.  All that was left for me to give was myself.  I have always been sure that “I” was not enough.  Last year, I had to trust my friends and my family with my vulnerability.  Every time they stayed by my side, supported me, bought me lunch, visited me, called me to  make sure I was OK, took me where I needed to go, went beyond everything I expected, I thanked God for showing me what trust and love are really about.

I didn’t learn to trust anyone as a child.  I didn’t understand love until I had children of my own.  I did not trust God, and I was not convinced that God would or could love me.  I do not believe God sends catastrophes, broken cars, financial problems, etc. into my life, but  I do believe God has used all of these things to help me learn about love and trust.  God continues to be  patient and understanding with me.

I do not think I am going to choose a theme for 2014, but I will be writing to tell you about my year. I will give you one sneak peak at the upcoming year.  The “three stooges” (we must think of a better name) are going to see JILLIAN!

I hope you all have a blessed and wonderful New Year!

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Must Be Present To Win

 

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What does Luke Bryan have to do with “Must Be Present To Win?”   Those who know me won’t be surprised when I explain.   This post is obviously about winning.   Jan and I were in the car the other day and I mentioned that I was really getting tired of the song, “Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner.”

“I don’t think I know that song?  Who sings it?’  I was confused by her response since she is a county music fan and knows all the current songs.

I tried to sing a piece, but she still had no idea about the song.  I decided to Google it and let her listen to the chorus, so that she would be terribly embarrassed when she realized she knew the song.   I found it and played the snippet of the song I found.    I then discovered that the song is That’s My Kind of Night by Luke Bryan.  Here are the lyrics:
‘Floatin’ down the Flint River/catch us up a little catfish dinner/gonna sound like a winner, winner.”   So, I had it almost right.  And, she did know the song, of course.  I still haven’t lived that one down.

On a more serious note, two years ago I attended a day conference here in Charleston presented by Google.  As a surprise, they donated two newly released Samsung Galaxy Android Tablets.  The first was given away at noon and the second at the closing session of the day.  I had an appointment that couldn’t be changed, so I left just as the last half hour of the session started.

When I left my appointment I had several text messages and a couple of phone calls telling me that my name had been drawn to win the tablet.  HOWEVER, YOU MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN!   As you can see, I am not over it still.

You may know that it has been a rough few weeks.  Several things are going on, but primarily I am struggling because my car died.  Living in Charleston (very little public transportation), tying to go to school and work, and do all the other things I do is now a true challenge.  I have cried, screamed, and prayed a lot- trust me!

Yesterday, I received a call from the local pharmacy where I fill my prescriptions.   They announced that there had a been a drawing from all the people who used the online refill email last month, and I was the winner.  My prize is two tickets valued at $20.00 each to a trolley tour around Summerville on what is known as the Sweet Tea Trail.   While it isn’t a Samsung Tablet, I did win.  As odd as it many sound, that phone call changed my mood.  I didn’t do anything to earn this prize nor do I really deserve it.  I won simply because I did what I needed to do.

I began to think that life is like winning both of those prizes-you must be present to win.  If I choose to withdraw and be miserable or simply focus on the negative because I don’t have a car…or money…or my own home…you get the idea, then I lose.  I can’t enjoy those things that make life worth living…family…friends…laughter…you get the idea.

Being present simply means getting out of bed each day, doing the next right thing, being part of the lives of the people I love, laughing out loud, acting like a kid, working, going to school, helping where and when I can, having faith that God is present in my life no matter what the circumstances, and praying.   Some days I am going to be more present than others; we all have those days when we need to retreat and regroup. We might even need to cry sometimes.   A friend told me that everyone has a bad day; you just don’t want it turn into bad weeks and months.

Today, I have been present.  I got up early because I didn’t sleep well, but used the extra time to get a few things done.  I went to school with all of my assignments for the day complete.  I met my friends for lunch.  We talked and laughed and just enjoyed hanging out.  Right now I am supposed to be working on ten short summaries of essays for one class and critiquing three stories for another.  Instead, I decided to write this blog post, first.  (Please don’t tell on me!)   I doubt I will have chicken or catfish for supper today, but all in all, I would say I was a winner.

 

 

Things That Go Bump in the Night or Why I Can’t Finish My Creative Writing Homework

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It sounded like a genetically altered, monster sized rodent trying to scratch its way through my roof in the middle of the night.   I might have considered the many reasons this creature wanted to get through my roof and into my bedroom at 2:00am, but my mind was busy imagining other explanations for the noise that woke me up.   Let me assure you that the noise was real.  I know this for a fact because the dog barked and my daughter got out of bed to scour the outside perimeter of the house.  She gave the all clear, turned out all of the outside lights and went back to bed with the instructions to “take care of the boy” (the boy is my 16 year old grandson) if anything did happen.   My reply to her was, “He should take of me; after all, he has all those knives (my grandson has a collection of throwing knives).”

I headed upstairs and made a quick stop in the bathroom where I suddenly remembered that there was a fire extinguisher and rope escape ladder in the closet.  I decided to grab the fire extinguisher and take it back to my bedroom.  It would make a great assault weapon in case a pack of marauding villains or monster sized rodent tried to get in.   I crawled back into bed and sat looking out the window.  I was able to scrutinize my backyard, the neighbor’s backyard, and the adjoining golf course.   After feeling somewhat satisfied that we had managed to scare away whatever caused the noise, I was able to go back to sleep.

The picture I shared on this post was one shared by a friend on facebook tagging me as the person most deserving of the comment.  The people who are closest to me know a secret kept from the rest of the world- I have an incredibly overactive imagination.  My friend would tell you that this is an understatement.    I believe the words I have heard about my imagination include astonishing, bizarre, and unbelievable.  Oh, and let’s not forget dramatic.

I have to admit there is truth in what they say.  I have been this way all of my life.  My imagination was my salvation as a child growing up in alcoholic and abusive homes.   It helped me workout the worst case scenarios in my head in order to survive when some of those imagined ideas became reality.  My therapist once told me that I needed this survival tool as a child, but that I might need to replace it with something else.  Although it may be hard to believe, I am much better than I used to be.  I try to follow Pooh’s advice to Piglet, “What if it doesn’t happen; which is, after all, the most likely outcome anyway.”

However, the imagination is still fully intact.  This brings me to my dilemma.  Why can’t I write a simple story for my fiction writing class?  I have been thinking for a couple of weeks and can’t come up with a single good idea.  Flying fairies, talking animals, alien invasions, cheating spouses, dysfunctional people have all been turned into great stories.  I don’t know if there are any more original story lines out there.  Maybe it is like American Idol when they tell the contestants to take someone else’s song and “make it their own.”   I just don’t know.

I have another couple of weeks before the 5,000 plus word story has to be in a first draft form for review by the professor and my class.  I know something will come to me.  I just hope it comes soon.  As soon as that story is revised, edited, and turned in, there is another one due.  I think that perhaps I need to sit down and simply start free association writing.  I can hear Dory’s voice now encouraging me, “Just keep writing, just keep writing, just keep writing…”

 

No Safety Net; No Harness

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I watched as Nik Wallenda walked on a 2-inch-thick steel cable, 1,500 feet above the river on the Navajo Nation near the Grand Canyon without a harness or a safety net.  I can’t count how many times I held my breath when the wind blew or he would seem unsure of the next steps.  My friend and I texted as we watched, wondering how much longer it would until he would reach safety on the other side.   The faces of those on either side of the tightrope were filled with apprehension and concern.   While viewers watched around the world, many questioned his reasoning for taking on something so dangerous without the aid of some type of safety device.

I think most of us have felt that we were walking a “tightrope” at some point in our lives.   That’s where I am right now.   One year ago, in July, I took those first steps out onto my tightrope.  I walked out in full confidence that I was prepared in every way for the journey.  I believed this was the path I was supposed to take.  I had a harness and a safety net in place.  I was afraid, but most things in life don’t come without some risk and willingness to follow an unknown path.

The thing is, once you are out on that rope, looking back can cause you to falter or even fall.  You have to focus on each step and keep moving toward safety on the other side.  When I stepped out, I couldn’t really see the other side.  I just knew I couldn’t stay on the edge of the cliff any longer.   Somewhere along the way, I lost my harness and my safety net.  I am out in the middle of the tightrope today, and I still can’t see the other side.  Things I had planned didn’t go the way  I believed they would go.   John Lennon’s song says, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

The part time job I counted on fell through and a second part time job did the same.  Several months of being ill ended in a short visit to the hospital.  Medical costs, paying for COBRA (health insurance), unexpected bills and car repairs depleted the savings that would take me until mid October when I would begin collecting Social Security Retirement.  For the first time in more years than I can count, I am without health insurance.   Safety net and harness are gone.

This morning I had the oil changed in my car.  The service person came out to tell me that my windshield wipers were separating and I needed new ones.  They would be happy to replace them for me.  I asked how much it would cost.  He shrugged and said, “Not very much at all.  It would only be about $30.”  I forced a smile and explained that  I couldn’t afford that right now. I stopped at the grocery store and spent a long time trying to decide what I could afford to buy today.  I am trying to eat healthy foods, but Twinkies and canned foods loaded with sodium are much less expensive.   A friend invited me to meet them at the water park today.  I had to say no.  I came home and tried to figure out how to budget for the rest of the month since I have car taxes and a parking ticket to pay.   Just as a sideline, the parking ticket was very unjust but that will be another blog post. I wonder if I will be able to afford my books when college classes start back mid-August.

Long ago, I promised myself that I would never be in a place like this again.  My friend JanF. was filled with wonderful saying.  She would remind me to “never say never because if you do, life will surely teach you a lesson about that. ”  Much like Nik Wallenda, I have people in my life who question my decision to step out on the tightrope.  They are the ones who believe I won’t make it to the other side and they are waiting to be able to say, “We told you so. ”   Like Nik Wallenda, I pray and believe that God is going to protect me and be with me throughout the journey.  And like Nik Wallenda, people ask, “How can you ask God to help you when you put yourself out on the tightrope?”

I sometimes say the same things to myself.  Yet, I am very grateful to now have a job.  It is part-time with no benefits (at least for now), but it is helping me maneuver this tightrope.  I am blessed to have family and friends who are cheering me on.  My daughter and her husband have opened their home and allowed me to share it with them.  My health is good, for now.   Someone is helping me with a plan to get my medications at a cost I can afford.   Right now, my car is running well with the exception of the windshield wipers.   Perhaps the tears I cry from time to time help keep the tightrope free of dust and debris, just as Nik “spat on his hands and rubbed it on the sole of his shoe for grip” when the cable gathered dust.”    Nik carried a 43 pound balancing pole.  Faith and prayer have become my balancing pole.

Maybe I was wrong in saying that I have no safety net or harness.  When the ones I had in place failed, it seems God provided new ones.   His may be much stronger and better than the ones I counted on to protect me.   I can’t let fear stop me from moving forward, one step at a time.  Nik talked about an earpiece that allowed his father to talk to him and encourage him as he walked across the tightrope.  I don’t have an earpiece, but if I listen closely, I can hear God talk to me and encourage me.  What better harness or safety net is there than that?

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A Lesson In Less

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My friend sent a link to  a blog post today.  She said it reminded her of some conversations we have had recently. The author is someone I haven’t read before.  I took a minute to check out her site and quickly decided to follow her.   Her name is Allison Vesterfelt and her blog is “Learning To Live With Less. ”  You can find it on her website here.

The post my friend shared was called. “You’ll Never Have Enough Money for Your Dream.”  I have been concerned about money and my financial future for about  year now.  It started when I quit my full time job with amazing benefits because…well, I was miserable.   I won’t go into everything that happened that made me so unhappy at a job I had loved for more than 12 years.  I prayed, I talked to friends and family as well as my therapist and I knew I had to leave.  I decided the timing was right to pursue a lifelong dream of returning to college.

According to my well thought out plans,  if I worked part time I would enough money to live comfortably until I was able to collect social security retirement the following year.  Little did I know that my world was about to implode.  My already shaky marriage ended.  I moved in with family and cut expenses.  Two major car repairs, several months of being ill, and a part time job that fell through at the last minute changed all the well laid  plans I had in place.  There is a saying, ” Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”  (Yes, John Lennon did record a song with those lyrics but they came originally from Allen Sanders and were published in Readers’ Digest in 1957.)

I am still almost 4 months away from being able to collect my retirement and I basically out of money.  I have started a part time job and I am grateful to be employed and back in the field that I enjoy.  As of the end of last month, I am no longer able to afford the COBRA and keep my health insurance.  I am living pay check to pay check and that is a place I swore I would never be again.  Never say never.

The blog post made me stop and think about what is really important.  It also reminded me that nothing is ever guaranteed to us.  I have put off my dream of school for 40 years.  If I wait until I have time and money, it will not happen.  For the past few weeks, I have allowed fear to creep in.  I have compared myself to others and felt that I fell short.  It’s a place I visit far too often and I don’t want to stay there.

I hope you will take a moment and check out Allison’s website and blog.  I am going to order her book, “Packing Light: Thoughts on Living Life with Less Baggage.”  Well, I will as soon as I have enough money.  For now, I will read her blog and see what I can learn.

So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.

Let’s do it anyway.

– See more at: http://www.allisonvesterfelt.com/#sthash.fpcb8uk8.dpuf

So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.

Let’s do it anyway.

– See more at: http://www.allisonvesterfelt.com/blog/enough-money-for-your-dream#sthash.gPMdJPal.dpuf

So, what you don’t have “enough” money for your dream? Neither do I.

Let’s do it anyway.

– See more at: http://www.allisonvesterfelt.com/blog/enough-money-for-your-dream#sthash.gPMdJPal.dpuf

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Five Things I Want To Accomplish – Just Not Sure How

hard-list The challenge for Yeah Write today was to write a “list” post. I haven’t done one in a while and typically someone provides the list for the post. I debated for a while and decided to create a list of some things that have been on my mind recently. So here are five things I really want to accomplish, but I’m not sure how or if I can. #1. College Degree I recently started attending college. I have completed 12 credit hours. I have a long way to go. I can only attend part time since I still need to work part time. I left my full time job to make an attempt at this lifelong dream.  Academically I am doing very well, however life has been throwing curve balls my way making it difficult to know what to do next.  People often ask me why I am going back to school at my age and what I plan to do with a college education.  I try to answer honestly and tell them I have no idea what I will do my degree but I am pursuing it because it is what I truly want to be doing.  I love school-more than I have loved any job or other activity I have chosen to pursue.   Money is the one thing standing in my way. Of course, without a full time job, I have not benefits such as health insurance.   Some people suggest student loans and financial aid.  There are many reasons I don’t qualify for either of those right now.  I may be able to apply for those later.  For now, I will continue to follow this path and see where it will lead.  Oh, and I pray…a lot. #2.  Actress No, I don’t expect to be in New York on Broadway, however, it might be fun.  My dream for acting only takes me as far as a local theater in my community or at college.  I have had to play many roles in my life to survive and I have played them well.  Yet, the idea of playing a character on stage is thrilling.  I envision myself as Miss Hannigan in Annie or as one of the sisters in Arsenic and Old Lace. I took an acting class last semester and fell even more in love with the idea.  It will take going to many auditions and a lot of time if I get a part.  School and a part time job along with rehearsals and performances may be too much.  So, I will continue to pursue this dream. Oh, and I pray…a lot. #3.  Size 14 I have struggled with weight most of life.  I was overweight as a child and a young teenager.  I gain a tremendous amount of weight with the birth of each of my children.  I have lost weight in the past but never reached my target goals.  Injuries, illnesses, or life got in the way each time until I reached almost 300 pounds about 3 years ago.  I have been working hard to get the weight off but again injuries, illness and life keep interfering.  However, I won’t give up. I keep working towards the goal.  Oh, and I pray…a lot. # 4.  Financial Independence I have had some brief times of independence with money but it has not been a shining example of success in my life.  I have made huge mistakes in my life, some due to being undiagnosed bipolar disorder.  For the past ten years, I have done well and managed to save money.  Then I made the mistake of getting married.  Yet in spite of that major error in judgment, I managed to preserve my finances to some degree.  I am at a place in life at this time where money is a huge issue and concern.  I have faith that I am doing what I need to do and will keep working toward this goal.  Oh, and I pray… a lot. #5.  Faith

I, as many people I imagine, have had struggles with faith.  I was raised by people who presented faith and God in way that was confusing and well, downright wrong.  I have followed many different paths to God.  I have never lost faith but I have never really had the kind of relationship I truly want with God.  Some may sneer and say, “Whose fault is that?” and then some rather tired and worn out clichés.   I am back in church, I follow a twelve step program and continually work the 11th step, “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood God, praying only for knowledge of God’s will for us and the power to carry that out.”  Oh and I pray…a lot.

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The Economics of a Dream

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Curves, slope, variables, reverse casualty, AVC+FC/Q, TC=FC+VC, equilibrium, elasticity, and more. These are a few of the things from the class I started taking a couple of weeks ago. NO-its not a math class. That would be easier. It is Microeconomics and it is a summer, online class. Four months of teaching and learning crammed into four weeks without benefit of a classroom and teacher. Yes, I signed up for this  and another class. The other class is going well.  I was so excited about getting credits over the summer so I could declare a major in the fall.

The first semester I did so well. It was hard work but I did it and I did it with a 3.72 GPA. This semester I have done the first two assigned chapters (1 and 4).  I struggled with the homework and needed online support.  Now we are tackling chapters 13 and 14.  I had hoped all of the equations and graphs were a fluke from chapter 4 and we would settle into reading and learning definitions  and ideas.  I found out quickly I was wrong.  There are more charts, graphs, and equations.  Friday if our first of two exams.  I am faced with the dilemma of fighting what I believe is a losing battle or surrendering now and withdrawing.  If I withdraw, it won’t affect my GPA. It will just hurt my pride and ego.  I have until next Monday to make a decision.

I spent so much of my life being told I was a failure and I believed it. I have tried so many times to go back to school but life, family, work, and lack of money kept me from going back. And then I turned 60 and I could take classes free at several area colleges.  However, it still took over a year to find the courage to try it. I have loved every minute of it until now. I still love the challenge and the learning, but  I jumped in a bit over my head this time and it is perhaps a lesson I need to learn.

This is my dream and something I have wanted for very many years. I took some big risks to do this. Financially things have not worked out as I had planned. Life rarely goes as I plan and I image most of you would say the same thing. I recently found a great part-time job that allows me flexible hours to attend classes. In October, I will be eligible to start receiving my Social Security benefits. Health insurance is the one thing that threatens to turn my dream into a nightmare. I was able to keep my insurance from my last job but at a very high cost.  I am at the point where I can no longer afford to keep that insurance at over $500 a month.  I need to find a solution and find it quickly.

I am grateful for the  support of family and friends. They have helped me avoid the trap of my old thinking-“I am a failure and everything I do or try to do fails. I should just give up.”  I did a lot of praying and talking to friend, family, and even my old therapist before making this decision. I believe I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. Every door opened to make this possible.  I wrote a post during that time about asking for signs.  You can read it here.    There were signs everywhere I turned that I told me I was doing the right thing.  My friends Jan and Anna brought me a gift they found on a recent trip.  It is a magnetic sign that says, “If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it.” Just as I finished this post I got a notification of a blog post by my son.  At the end was a list of other recent blogs and the first one was titled, “Never, Ever Give Up, and Finish the Stuff You Started.”   Speaking of signs…

It is interesting that the first class to make me give in was an Economics class since it is finances that may stop me in my tracks.  In recovery circles, we say, “Don’t give up just moments before the miracle happens.”   Maybe there will be a financial miracle that allows me to keep my health insurance for the next few months.  Perhaps, I will be able to find a way to get all my medications from the drug company programs.  I’m not really counting on these things, although stranger things have happened.  I think the biggest miracle of all is that I am not ready to give up.   OK, I may give up on Microeconomics as an online summer course, but I am not going to stop fighting for this dream.

Alien On Campus

BH4xceEWMe-2What do you think about when you hear the words “high school?”  Do you have wonderful memories of friendships, proms, sports, and good grades?   On the other hand, are you one of the people who would rather forget that time altogether?

My grandparents sent me to a very small, private, Christian high school.  I had only 42 in my graduating class. My insecurities and lack of self-worth followed me into those high school classrooms.  I felt like an alien who had been dropped into a community without the benefit of a handbook to understand the rules.

The school was downtown.  We all lived in different parts of the community so we didn’t have much opportunity to socialize outside of school.   There was no football team or cheerleaders.  The only sporting activity was basketball.   I didn’t have the grades to hang out with the smart kids.  My clothes were often handmade or those purchased were less than stylish.  I didn’t come from an affluent family, as did many of my classmates.   I spent much of my high school life trying to hide in the middle of a classroom.

I struggled to get passing grades.  My teachers labeled me an underachiever.  The teachers said I was very smart and the standardized testing proved them right.   They said all I needed to do was apply myself.  As an adult, I would discover the underlying problems that attributed to this dilemma, however at the time I didn’t understand. (You can read more about that here.)

Mandatory events and simple things like lunch made school even more difficult.   Classmates typically gathered in groups of three or more.  The laughter, whispering, and intense discussions of the clusters made the isolation even more evident.    I usually ate lunch with two other girls who seemed as much out-of-place as I did.  We mumbled about the food or our teachers; we never talked about anything more insightful.

I rarely pull out my yearbooks.   We had to pass our yearbooks around the classroom and everyone was supposed to write something. The heartfelt comments from classmates don’t make me yearn for the memories.  “Have a great summer.”  “It has been a fun year.”  “Good Luck.”

My college classes are only a few blocks from my old high school.  As I entered my first college classes just a couple of weeks ago, I was not ready for the flood of memories and emotions from my high school days to come rushing back.  I sit in rooms filled with students from 18 to their early 20’s.  They gather in groups to laugh, whisper, and have intense discussions.  I feel everyone stare as I walk into the classroom.   I see the fear in the eyes of my classmates as the professor dictates partners for a project.  “Please don’t give me that old person for my partner,” I imagine them thinking.    Yes, once again I feel the alien beginning to show.

Yet, somehow, this time is different.  I have come to like the alien in me.  I may have some different challenges than my classmates, but I also have the benefit of life experiences most have yet to discover.  I know that time is precious, friendships are to be cherished, pain is inevitable, and life is to be lived to the fullest.  I know there will be a few who take the time to get to know me; what an amazing surprise they have in store.

You may have guessed that I am one who would rather forget about those good old high school days. I can’t go back and reclaim them.   I can choose to make this time in college something I will look back upon with wonder and amazement.    Maybe I am just an alien on a mission.

Nowhere am I so desperately needed as among a shipload of illogical humans.     Mr. Spock in ‘I, Mudd’ Star Trek

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Pens and Paper

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When I was in high school, we used pens (or pencils) and paper for homework, tests, and taking notes. Granted I was in high school a long time ago, but things have certainly changed in the last 40 years.

We had the choice of blue or black pens.  They all looked very much alike other than the ink color.  Notebook paper and notebooks were fairly standard.  Shopping for school supplies did not require a lot thinking or a trip to the mall.

Today, however, we have pens in every shape and size imaginable.  We have ink in colors from black to fuchsia and many shades of purples, reds, blues and more.  We have pencils that can be erased while you are working, but in 48 hours they become permanent like ink.  We have pens that only work on special moleskin notebooks that can be uploaded to your computer.

Those are all available if you need to use paper and pen.  If you walked into some of my college classrooms you would see more laptops and tablets on the desks than you would notebooks.   There are still some professors who will not allow the technological monsters in class.  Students are forced to kill trees and use notebooks.  There is a more expensive alternative if you choose to purchase notebooks made with organic paper.

I must admit that I am guilty of opting for computers more often than pen and paper.  My handwriting has become more difficult to read over the past few years. I blame my computer keyboard for that.  Since entering the world of academia, I have purchased a number of notebooks, folders, and pens.  I am relearning to take notes.  Taking them is easier than making sense of them at home.  Fortunately,  our written papers for class are expected to be done using the computer.

As I “type” this post on my laptop, I am waiting a reply to a text message. (Yes, I use text messages more than I talk on the phone.) I sent a message to my friend who is a student at the college I attend.  I have my first test on Thursday and the professor didn’t give us any instructions.  The syllabus tells us everything but doesn’t say anything about tests.  I messaged and asked her if  we took tests with pencil or pen and did they provide answer sheets or do we bring notebook paper?   It may seem like a “Duh” sort of question, but I really don’t know what to expect.

There are a lot of things about going back to school that are a challenge this first semester.  I know it will get easier.  I had to figure out the online system where the professors post their syllabus, study guides, and more. I had to decide if I was going to buy new books, used books, or rent books.  Finding my way around campus is getting easier but I have no sense of direction and get lost easily.   The amount of reading, paper writing, and studying is more than I anticipated.  I didn’t study much in high school so I have to learn how to study.  And my book bag is heavy!

Just a few months ago I worked in a profession where I was well-known and respected.  Everyone knew me and I was comfortable in the office, meetings, workshops, etc.  People sought me out for advice and support.  I am now a bit of an oddity.   I feel like an outsider.  I am often very much alone in the midst of hundreds of people.

College has been a dream for a very long time.  I feel alive when I am in class.  I love being on campus.  I want this more than I have wanted anything for a very long time.  So, I will buy some pencils, put pens and notebook paper in my book bag, and study.   I just hope the professor can read my writing.   Wish me luck!

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Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?

joy-of-learning

I walked along the uneven brick sidewalk with the determination of someone who knew exactly where she was going.  Truth is I was watching my steps to be sure I didn’t trip while trying to sneak quick glances at the building’s names.  I was caught up in the sea of students who reminded me of my teenage grandson and his friend.  Huge book bags hung from the backs or shoulders of almost every student. Some walked briskly while others rode skateboards or bikes.  Most walked alone, however some were in groups of two of three.

I spotted the name of the building where I would take my first class.  It had taken a bit longer than I planned but I arrived, found my room and took a seat in the front row.  All of the early arrivals had taken the favored seats along the wall of the back of the room near the window.  I felt every eye in the classroom zero in on the older woman invading their classroom.  After all, college is when you experience life without your parent’s watchful eye.  It is much like allowing a spy into the enemy camp.

I am a non traditional student.  Most friends would confirm that I a non traditional person.  Physically, I am 61 years old but I don’t feel that old, I don’t act that old, and many say I don’t look that old.  I love my computer, laptop, IPad, IPhone, and IPod touch.  I text more than I talk on the phone.  I am up to date on contemporary issues, music, and movies.  Most of my friends are considerably younger than I am. I am physically active and although I am bit slower at times, I can keep up with most of them. I am not trying to ignore the reality of my age, but I choose not to be defined by it.

After only two days of classes I am acutely aware that I have been out of school for a very long time while my fellow classmates are fresh from high school or technical colleges.  My classroom learning was over 40 years ago.  If you’ve ever watched the show, “Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader”, you will see adults put to shame by fifth grade students answering basic school questions.   My analytical and critical thinking skills are not quite as sharp as my classmates. Class notes are a long forgotten skill.  My test taking ability will be called into service next week.   It all means I may have to work harder to keep up.

Yet, I am excited to begin this journey.  I love being in the classrooms.  My brain is like a sponge on steroids trying to absorb every moment of this experience.  I had all but given up  hope that this dream would ever become reality.   When my car broke down the day after my first classes, I will admit that I was discouraged.  However, after $1000 in repairs my car is back in service and I was back in class today.  Syllabuses (or syllabi), notebooks, folders, tests, homework, research, and papers are the things that fill my life today.   All I need now is “*faith, and trust, and pixie dust.”  (* Quote by J.M. Barrie in Peter Pan)

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