I’m sooo tired

I think John Lennon is singing for me. I won’t have a cigarette, but a glass of wine is at my elbow. Don’t see any rest to speak of for the next couple of weeks.

9 p.m. homework break

Maybe not until after that. When am I going to watch Martin Scorsese’s George Harrison documentary?? I have class those nights. Help!

Oh, wait. DVR. So I’ll stay up late and watch it. But then I’ll miss Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert! Acck. I’ll never catch up

Such is the world of a granny in grad school. But I’m not really complaining. I mean, I am taking a break to fart around with YouTube.

Well, maybe I’m whining a little.

Whatever. At least I can’t relate to this one.

If I persevere, there’s a degree at the end of this rainbow of books and notebooks.

Mess o' books and notebooks

Please remind me of that, and often.

Nobody’s fault but mine

You can add a new term to the definition of hubris: Laura Cartwright Hardy.

This week has been an eye-opener as far as grad school goes. Monday brought a 10-point (announced) multiple-choice pop quiz, for which I’d done every reading and reviewed everything I’d highlighted. I know of five I got right, two I got wrong and the other three I can’t even remember in the aftershock of how blank I went.

Yesterday I took an open-book, open-notes online test in Blackboard. Some of the answers I knew instantly, others I looked up to make sure, some I couldn’t find anywhere in my study questions or the book – and some I just couldn’t figure out what was being asked. The 55-question T/F and multiple choice test took me just over two hours.

I checked after last night’s class, and I made a freakin’ 90.25 percent. That’s a B. Damn.

It’s nobody’s fault but mine, though. It’s not that I thought 12 hours of grad school would be easy, I just expected perfection on my part. Which is silly, really, if you consider my history in school.

Elementary school was easy and I liked it, but mainly because it was fun. I made good grades, but not perfect grades. (I had trouble with conduct, for example, making my share of Cs for talking too much – imagine that – and with handwriting, which would surprise none of my former students, who did plenty of complaining if I wrote on the board. I used to threaten them with getting a custom font in my handwriting and doing all the handouts in it.)

I did decide to make straight As once – in the fourth or fifth grade (I’m thinking fourth) – studied hard and did. “So, OK, did that” was my attitude. Then it was right back to low-stress, good-enough grades. Mother says she was called in at least once and told I was a classic under-achiever. Whatever. School was fun.

Those habits persisted through junior high, high school (and the first attempt at college, where I majored in boyfriend and fun). I developed a super-strength math phobia in seventh grade (another story for another day), and if it wasn’t English, which I adored; yearbook staff, which I adored; Spanish, or anything art-related, I just did enough to get by.

Still managed to be an honor graduate, thanks to 5-point As in honors English. But I almost didn’t get to graduate – I’d slipped through the cracks without taking geometry. My counselor caught it my senior year and slipped me into a class with mostly sophomores.

I really tried in that class (for me, anyway) but couldn’t wrap my head around angles. My last grading period, I actually made an F, but my teacher gave me a D so as not to hurt my honor-grad standing. It was a parting gift, she said, and I’m sure she was glad to be shed of me.

But when I went back to college as a young mom of two and paying for it myself, things shifted. I made all As for 2 ½ years. Of course with an English major and psychology minor, it was mostly essay tests and paper-writing. I do way better with shades of gray than black-and-white thinking.

A few years ago, I’m pretty sure I set the curve on most things in my 12-hour CyberTeacher intensive summer school class to get my teaching certification back, but it was hands-on, project-driven and fun – except for the math-like Excel, which made me cuss and cry and  call my former-student/extra-daughter Camille to come tutor me.

After that, at least while I was actively using Excel, I was fine. Access too. Scary programs, though. (And don’t ask me to use them today – out of use, out of mind.)

John is alternating between laughing at me and being annoyed with me for getting so  worked up about my less-than-stellar performance. And actually, by about now, I’m kind of laughing at myself (writing is therapy for me).

Tuesday I watched my 5-year-old grandson’s first soccer game.

Wednesday I had a great birthday. Got nice presents and a groovy new dress.

Today my grandbabies are coming over for a visit. They light up my life.

And today is another day. So is tomorrow (Scarlett was right). So I’ll study harder. Or something. Or maybe Bs in grad school are OK, as my D&O professor told us the first day of class.

But my daughter just told me I’m going to have to knuckle down or it’s not worth going. Sigh. The daughter is the mother to the mom.

She’s right. I’ve got to get into the zone. Hope I still can. Because deep down, still, all I want to do is dance.

Everyday people

I love that my 5-year-old grandson, Jude, classifies people as brown or peach, the names of the crayons he uses for skin color. To him, we’re all just everyday people, which make me hopeful that race relations are getting better a relationship at a time.

But race has been on my mind lately for several reasons. One is my Diversity and Oppression class. Of course it comes up a lot there.

Another reason is because some people seem to despise President Obama for having the audacity to be president while (half) black. Come on, people, aren’t we past that yet?

And recently a group of friends and I went to see The Help, which generated some discussion of our pasts. I didn’t have much to add to that conversation, really, because we never had any “help” or nannies (though Mother did hire a very nice lady named Juanita to do her ironing for a short time when she was having back trouble – Cathy and I barely remember it).

Call me strange (go ahead, it won’t be the first time), but I remember being proud and relieved to learn as a kid that I was part Cherokee and therefore not a WASP. I was very relieved to learn that neither side of my family had ever owned slaves.

The Cartwrights came to Illinois via Liverpool, England, so they were Yankees. My mother’s branch of Tacketts were town-dwellers in Arkansas and had at least one Cherokee in the mix. No slave-owners there (though the original Tackett, an indentured servant from France, ended up owning a large tobacco plantation in Virginia after he worked off  his indenture).

Mattie Ross, of Yell County, Arkansas

My mother’s mother was from Yell County (just like Mattie Ross of True Grit), and not only were her people dirt poor and co-mingled with Cherokee, but at least one of them fought for the Union.

In our household growing up, race was just never a topic. We knew the “N-word” was unspeakable and unforgivable and not used by educated people, but until North Little Rock schools were integrated my seventh-grade year, Cathy and I really didn’t know any black people (other than Juanita, who was more of a passing acquaintance). It was the Jim Crow south; I know that now, but we really were oblivious to what was going on.

We weren’t racists, and we weren’t colorblind. I guess we just had blinders on. But we had no preconceived notions, so I’m grateful for that.

Russellville, where my parents grew up, was a “white” town, and my mother’s father did think he was prejudiced, until he actually got to know black people. Corliss Williamson’s family moved in across the street, and Papa loved watching him growing up shooting baskets on the driveway. And Corliss used to mow their yard sometimes, just to be nice to the old folks.

People are never too old to change. You’ve seen Gran Torino, right? (If not, rent it. Now.)

I barely remember anything about this, but Mother says I came home from seventh grade crying one day because a new friend, an adult-sized black boy, had no jeans. His family was poor, so he had to wear overalls (hand-me-downs, I’m sure) and was so embarrassed that he wore his shirts over the overalls to try to blend in. She says I begged for my parents to buy him some jeans.

Somehow Mother found out his size and quietly took them to the school. Most of our own clothes were homemade (Mother, my grandmother and I all loved to sew, fortunately), but my parents were glad to do it.

I’m glad I’ve blocked who it was we gave them to.

And I’m glad Jude sees people as peach and brown.

Whipping post

“You want this. You chose this. You waited for this for years. You’re insane for starting with 12 hours. I’ve been tied (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo), yes, I’ve been tied (doo, doo, doo, doo, doo)) to the whipping post.”

These thoughts compete constantly in my head the past few days as the reality of 12 hours of grad school has set in. Don’t get me wrong. I love it.

It’s TONS of work, but I love it. I don’t have much time to read Newsweek, Mother Jones, O and Rolling Stone, all of which are piling up, (though I still take time to read the daily news), but I love it.

Movie-going has taken a hit (though I will see Contagion this week, come hell or high water), and my pile of pleasure reading will just have to sit for a while. But, seriously, I do love it.

I just was a bit underprepared.

My daughter told me I’d be fine with 12 hours, but that my biggest problem was that I’m a “social person” with lots of commitments. She’s right.

My mother tells me I’ll be fine. “You love to learn and you can do it,” she says. “Just remember to eat and get some sleep.” She’s right. (And aren’t I lucky at 56-in-a-few-days to have a mother around to reassure me of that?)

My Diversity and Oppression professor (LOVE that class) tells us that in grad school we should expect to spend two to three hours outside of class for every hour in class. So, three in-class hours times four classes equals up to  36 hours + the 12ish in class.

Nine hours is full-time. Now I understand why.

Textbook/notebooks are taking over the kitchen.

Oh, and there’s this thing called Blackboard that takes a lot of time, though it is pretty fun. You get to chat up a storm on issues that matter, but you also have to check it constantly for extra assignments.

Blackboard, a huge part of college in the 21st century

College has changed.

But life goes on. Yesterday I took time to have a very fun lunch with a few members of my high school graduating class, and last night Cathy (little sis) and Paul and John and I kept the babygirls during the Razorback game. The girls were angels and we had a ball (I’ll spare you the extreme poopage story that had Cathy and me almost falling down laughing), but I couldn’t have made it without baby sister’s help.

I came home to a pair of bifocals broken into tiny pieces, courtesy of Zuzu, who was letting me know she hadn’t had enough quality time in the past few days. But Cathy and I took the doggygirls on a long walk this morning and they’re properly crashed on the floor now, so I don’t have to feel guilty about all the homework/studying required this afternoon.

Mom, I’m bored. You’re always on that computer.

I made it through my bachelor’s degree – while raising two toddlers – on coffee, chocolate chip cookies, apples and no sleep. This time I hope to do better nutritionally (though a large iced coffee in a Rubber Soul glass is at my elbow as I type, and wine and dirty vodka martinis, shaken, straight-up, are nice coping tools).

As for the sleep, that remains to be seen.

Mainly I hope to stay sane. (Music helps – and my son gave me  Drive-By Trucker’s Greatest Hits last night for my birthday!) Time will tell. And time waits for no one – which means now it’s time for homework.


Ain’t wasting time no more

So, this is what 12 hours in grad school (for a master’s in gerontology) looks like. That’s just the textbooks – also included is massive reading of articles and chapters from other books, as well as some full-length (and cool) feature films that deal with aging issues. And massive writing of papers, and quizzes and tests.

First semester books

Hope 12 hours doesn’t fall into the “what was I thinking” category. I know I want the degree, and my dreams have started talking to me again, so I’m sure I’m on the right track.

Can’t be as tough as finishing the last two years of my bachelor’s degree (English major, psych minor, massive reading) with two toddlers, right? And this time it’s (lots ’o) cash on the barrelhead, instead of student loans to cover tuition and daycare. So there’s that.

And I’m determined not to let it eat my life. High on the priorities list will remain grandchildren, exercise, other family and friends (two- and four-legged), blogging, and, I hope, at least some of my volunteering. (The West Memphis 3 are free, but the fight isn’t over.) Low on the priorities list will have to be reading for pleasure, housework (hooray!), sleep and most other activities.

I’ll make lists but remain flexible. Or ignore them after making them. Must stay calm. Procrastination runs deep in my veins, so that’ll be a battle too, but, again, must remain calm.

To remind me to do that, a new tattoo, done masterfully by Brandon Johnston at 7th Street Tattoos

Jansport bookbag in “Bleeding Heart” print

It says “shanti” in Sanskrit, which translates to “peace.” (And, no, it doesn’t really say “soy sauce” or any other epic fail; my Nepalese friend Bimal Poudel proofed it for me.) It’s turquoisey-blue for the fifth chakra, which is the center of communication and creativity in thought, speaking and writing. In balance, it’s great. Out of balance, you’re screwed.

The intention is to have something to focus on if I’m feeling stressed or blocked.

And it looks really cool, too.

On the plus side, as well, I got an iPad for notetaking and the cutest Jansport book bag. John likes to tell people that now I have the complete Mac set: an iMac (but it’s old), a 15-inch Macbook Pro, a 32GB iPod Touch, a Verizon iPhone 4 and now a 32GB wifi iPad.

But he just got his first Mac, a 13-inch Macbook Pro, and he uses the iMac all the time, so he’s a convert himself, finally. (We were a mixed marriage for years.) He’s also super-supportive and a grad student too – he gets to go for free since he turned 60 and is taking two Conflict Mediation weekend seminar classes to work on the certificate to go with his law degree.

So Lolly and Pop go back to school. And we won’t be wasting any time. 

And to end on a happy note, here’s Jason Baldwin walking in Memphis!