Tag Archive | grad school

Running down a dream

The first semester of running down a dream is over – last test was Sunday (online classes; go figure), and now it’s back to the house-remodeling/Christmas-present-wrapping/getting-back-in-shape twist.


You may have noticed I’ve been blog-slacking for the last week. The final semester end-run was all encompassing, and yesterday I was drained. But last night we saw “The Descendants.” (Hurry, don’t wait, to see it!) George Clooney is amazing, and the whole Hawaii vibe is relaxing, despite the heavy subject matter.

Can’t recommend it highly enough.

And today I got back on the Wii Fit Plus program, which tells me my balance has taken a hit over this semester – doesn’t take long at this age to lose ground. I’ve Wii-weighed most every day and steadily worked out, but not to my normal levels.

Time to get back in the saddle.

If I’ve learned anything in the gerontology classes, it’s that we’ve got to look our for ourselves and take care of our bodies and minds. I’ve resumed the NYT crossword puzzles, too.

Life resumes. More later. Walls to be painted upstairs.

Mele Kalikimaka.

Thinkin’ problem

Yes, I admit I’ve got a thinkin’ problem – school’s always on my mind. It’s hard to relax, hard to unthink. This a particularly hellish week and it will end, but in the meantime, I’m on the edge of the ledge.

Music can always talk me down, but it’s hard to remember even to turn it on when you’re hopped up as a hamster on highballs. Must relax. Deep breaths.

The schoolwork piles up, the laundry piles up, the filth in the house piles up. Fortunately, my grades have gone up too, so maybe it’s worth it.

Tonight I’ve done a bit of therapeutic laundry and floor-scrubbing (the dogs got a not-quite-empty honey bear out of the recycling bin, which made for a bit of a mess), after taking time to go to Jude’s soccer game and visit with Sylvie on the sidelines. And now I’m listening to some good music and hitting the blog, which is way more fun than writing scholarly papers.

Of course tomorrow I might be regretting taking some personal time.

But I’m determined not to let life get away just because I’m in school. Time passes all too fast and things happen when you’re not paying attention. I need to remember to pay attention to life, too.

Tonight, when Zuzu, who’ll be a year old (already!) Friday, came after the broom, which to her is an ever-so-fun toy, and I ordered her to “leave it!,” she did! Just like that. When’d she get so grown up?

Annabelle turned 9 months old today – such a big girl! And Sylvia will be 4 months Friday. Wow.

In the big picture, is it worth retaking a test I made a 95 percent on to try for a better score when I could be spending time with the grandkids, the hubster, the dogs or seeing “Moneyball,” which we hope finally to do tomorrow night? These are the questions that keep me awake at night.

I’m fighting the urge to retake it. I’ve got papers to write, more tests to take, more reading to do. I need to move on.

Wish me luck. I’m trying.

Time passages

This falls under the category of random musings on life, I suppose, but yesterday was a good day. Reminded me that no matter how crazy things are right now, life is short and time passes more quickly than you can imagine.

Got up early and worked nonstop (except for an exercise break) on school work in order make it to a dentist appointment, then to grandson Jude’s soccer game. Came home after the game, walked the dogs and ate Digiorno pizza  while we watched one episode of “Weeds.” Then it was back to reading the Medicare Primer.  

In other words, nothing extraordinary. But all good. Even learning I have to get a replacement crown, which will cost a small fortune for a granny in grad school didn’t put a damper on things. It’s the original ugly crown I got when Liz was a tiny baby, so that puts it at close to 31 years old.

I’d nursed Ben his last four months (poor boy got a bit cheated) while pregnant with Liz, so the teeth took a bit of a hit. I remember like it was yesterday when the tooth broke – I was in my bamboo Bentwood rocker, possibly with a baby in my lap, and eating Crunch ’n’ Munch when I thought I bit a really hard piece of popcorn. I spit it in my hand discovered it was half a tooth. 

Twenty-four was young for a crown, but crown technology has much improved, so it’s all good. The ugly one goes.

When I was just arriving at the dentist, Liz called to ask me to bring “Ten Apples Up on Top” to the game – Jude had volunteered that he had the book and his kindergarten teacher asked him to bring it today. When his mother asked him where the book was, he said, “At Lolly’s – it’s in my closet.” Sweet how casually he considers this his second or third home (there’s also Papa’s house in NLR).

At the game, I got to hold Sylvia, who somehow has grown exponentially in about three days. Time passages are amazingly swift. (And that song came out the year my baby boy was born, 1978.)

And I got to visit with one of my wonderful soccer players from NLRHS, Susan Day Mulhearn, who was coaching the opposing team with her brother, Cliff, also a former student. Her three children are precious and she’s a beautiful and gracious – and sweet as ever – young woman.

Another joy of the soccer fields – beside seeing my grandson play and just a general love of soccer – is seeing my friend Amber McCuien, with whom I taught at Central and miss seeing regularly. She also has a player in the 5-year-old league.

Being on the field makes it hard not to coach from the sidelines – it’s not my job, but old habits die hard.

Like goofing around when I should be hitting the books, so it’s time to stop. I’m making a renewed effort to remain calm about things (ask me in a few days how that’s working). I’m tired, but I’m learning. I have an excellent and handsome husband, great kids and grandkids, and a fairly healthy mother and stepfather. A lovely stepdaughter, two fabulous dogs and some wonderful friends.

And everyday for almost 15 years I’ve awakened NOT married to my first husband (another story, coming soon).

Perspective. Must keep it at all times. It’s a beautiful morning.

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.

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!