One year down, one to go

It’s been a busy semester.

At this point, I still have my 4.0 GPA.

I have three jobs – one with the state, one freelance client (the other went out of business), and I sell Avon.

My health is decent, although I’ve gained 10 pounds.

I shucked my to-do list over break and read three books, went to the gaming store, and tried to chill.

Summer break?  Let me drag my redneck out – Hell nah!  I’m taking the two hardest classes in the program.  That sound you hear is my GPA going down the toilet.  That’s why I tried to stay pretty chill over break.

I have discovered three things.

  1.  I must have at least 6 hours of sleep a night, preferably 7. Otherwise, I get “slupid.”
  2.  I need to take either a nap, a sauna session followed by a cold shower, or a walk each day
  3.  Between work and school, nothing else will get done.  No sewing, no home improvement projects, no intense diets.

Looks like the only rays I’m catching over the summer will be from the Macbook screen.

Let’s do this.  At least to get it over.




No Yen for Zen anyway

My goal:


I’ve been dreaming about going back to Japan – specifically to spend time at a town or village with an onsen and ryokan.  I remember staying at a ryokan when I was 13 and it was otherworldly.    As good as life is right now, I know I need to recharge and escape a bit to relax and rejuvenate.

Even if I had the time and means to make the trip, it would be wasted.  Put me in yukata and on a futon, I’ll sleep for a week.  I’m so used to eating fast to get to the next assignment, chapter, thing on the to-do list, that I would not taste the delicate and exquisite flavors of the country.  And put me in a hot spring and would I enjoy the scenery? Nope.  I’d be like this little fella.


I’ve had a week of the new position, working at home, and managing other stuff and adjustments need to be made.  Time to rebalance and equation in my favor.



My to do list exploded.  I’m putting things into ASANA as best I can.  Still, I need to cull the lists, the notes, etc.  So, I’m having a


Am I working efficiently? No.  Am I in a “Distraction Jackson” mode?  Oh yeah.  I’ve done about 10 things that were a nuisance, but at least they are done and there’s less clutter for it.  Currently, I’m starting at the bottom of my email list and working my way up.

I finished two Udemy classes (and enrolled for a third – very cheap).  I won’t take the third class until probably spring break, but I got a great deal on it.  Plus I learned a few things from these classes that will help me with other projects already on the list.

See – I even got a certificate.  Feels like Kindergarten again.  Honestly, I’m just posting here because I still haven’t figured out my new website yet and I don’t want to lose these in the process.uc-jy2r0zv3uc-r2rug0c5

Back to the lists of lists!

No longer a GA, and I’m okay

I haven’t blogged anything because almost every aspect in my life has been unsettled since Thanksgiving.  My constants have been the love from God and my family and friends.

Short version:

  • I had a cancer scare.  I’m okay.
  • I had to have surgery over break.  I’m still healing.  I’m okay.
  • I resigned as a graduate assistant.  I’m okay.
  • I’m still enrolled in classes.  I’m okay.
  • I have professional opportunities in the pipeline.
  • I have supportive friends, family, fellow students (see friends and family), and professors.
  • I have more time to take care of myself and my family.
  • I’m going to be better than okay.

Long, disjointed version:

Let me first say that, looking back, I kicked ass last semester.  GA work had been either feast or famine.  I had a heavier workload than normal during the week before and the week of finals.  I didn’t do as well as I wanted to on one of my final projects.   I underestimated the scope of the project and ran out of time.

That being said, I accomplished the following:

  • Worked my hours.
  • Got all final projects in early or on-time.
  • Made it to my daughter’s winter concert (worked on final exam in the lobby)
  • Got everything done/in/packed up for my first biopsy the Thursday of finals week.
  • Got straight As.

A  b lump in the road.

I normally do not do breast-self exams.  I will never skip them again.

By sheer luck, I noticed a large, marble-sized lump on my upper left breast over Thanksgiving break.  I was able to get in to the breast center within the next two weeks to have a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.  After three docs looked at my boobs and pics of insides of my boobs – they came to the conclusion that… they couldn’t agree.   The mass was was large (robin’s egg) and in an area that my normal mammogram probably missed last year.  So, they wanted to perform a needle biopsy just to be sure of what they were seeing and to, quite frankly, cover their butts in case it was cancer.  The earliest they could get me in for the needle biopsy was the Wednesday of finals week.  I asked if one day made a difference because I would be on a travel restriction for four days afterwards.  (It didn’t.)  So, I scheduled the biopsy for Thursday.  I’d work my 20 hours, get all my schoolwork done, and be free to get poked and get ready for the holidays.

The biopsy took more out of me than I thought it would.  Not only was it emotionally and physically draining.  Sticking a needle in it inflamed the area – the lump doubled in size and started pressing on my chest more than it already was.  I also had a horrible allergic reaction to the dressing and broke out in blisters that looked like chickenpox/shingles.

Then, the results came in.  Inconclusive.  The tissue type didn’t match what the mass looked like and where it was.  I was sent to the surgeon the very next day and a lumpectomy was quickly scheduled for Dec. 30th.   I don’t remember much about the surgery or the couple of days afterwards.   The surgeon called a week later and said that the tumor was benign and that she would talk with me at my follow-up appointment (which was this past Wednesday).

Fast forward.  I’m getting to where I’m not in pain all the time, but I still have problems sleeping and bending over – and a sharp pain at times.  I didn’t call the doc because I already had the follow up scheduled.  It’s now time to go back to school.  I drive to Muncie on Monday  morning and by the time I get to school, I am wiped.  I felt every bump along I-69 and every pothole on SR32/67. I need a pain pill but I can’t take them because they make me sleepy and loopy.  I e-mail to request a meeting about the GA.  I’ll meet with the doc on Wed and give them an update.   If nothing else, thank them for their help and give a status update that I will have some appointments to work around.  I come back on Tuesday and Tuesday night, I’m in tears.  I’m hurting, I’m exhausted.  I can’t focus on studying.

Wednesday – I found out why I’m not back to normal yet.  I’m okay, but I’m not healing properly.  I have pulled stitches, a hematoma, and deep tissue damage from the surgery.  Oh, the sharp pain is a popped stitch.  It will dissolve, but it feels like a sliver of glass right now.  The tumor was the size of a small chicken egg and very deep.

On Thursday, it took me three hours to make the drive to Muncie and get settled.   I had to pull over due to nausea and was so shaky and sick when I got to school that it took me about 45 minutes to get to a point where I could work.

The meeting was quick and gracious.  I can’t do the commute, at least for a bit.  I can’t work from home. I can’t, unfortunately, “volunteer” my services  (there was no way I was going to let my profs get behind on projects – pay or no pay).  I was going to need to work more anyway to pay off my medical bills and I have some opportunities to pursue. We agree that I should resign – effective immediately.  It was a difficult conversation, but a good one and I have nothing but admiration and respect for our department chair and administrator.

Filler:  Changes

If everything had stayed stable at the time I started the program, I’d still be there.  Things just got more complicated.   My ex ran all of the logistics for the kids last term and has a new job with retail hours.  When he got the job, I changed my schedule so I would not be on campus three nights per week – even though it got me off schedule for my own research and degree.  That’s okay—I filled up with practical, online courses.  I also reached out to my network about possible opportunities after spring semester and I may have a part-time job offer (in the field), with benefits.  AND—the company did a report on last term wants me to do some work for them too.  I need the money because we have a high-deductible insurance plan. So, my having my plan B, C, D, and E in my back pocket, I think I’m going to be okay.

So, today, it’s homework and sleep catch up, grocery shop and celebrate my baby girl’s 12th birthday.

I’m going to be better than okay.  I would not have traded the last semester for anything – even more sleep.  I can’t wait to see what’s on the road ahead.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christa…

Nope, that’s not a typo.

I was exploring some new (to me) Adobe apps on my iPad one night.  Once I learn good lighting, I’ll retake some of the pics.  So, I thought I’d try to take a picture of my friend’s dress.  It was deep red with either black or navy horizontal stripes.  Yes, Christa makes horizontal stripes look good.

After a bit of manipulation, I made what looks like wrapping paper.  Get this–the golden part of the picture is actually her hair. The brightest part of the picture was a little bit of sunshine over her shoulder.

I modified the original image in Adobe Capture then used Canva for additional manipulation.


I’m looking forward to winter break  so I can complete the tutorials and really learn what I’m doing!

Grad School Life: A great article by The Guardian

What’s life like for a postgrad student?

Some hints from the article:

“Postgraduate wellbeing: To-do list

  • Try to contact prospective postgraduates through social media, and take part in orientation trips around the city and university.
  • Freshers’ week, clubs and societies are there if you want them. Graduate centres lay on socials and events too.
  • Take advantage of courses in study and research skills laid on by the university.
  • Look after yourself. When you are busy, healthy eating can go out of the window.
  • Be as social as you can afford. Unless you set aside time, study will overtake your days.
  • While it doesn’t earn money, volunteering can keep your CV ticking over and help structure your week. “Anything as long as it takes you outside the academic bubble,” says one postgraduate.
  • Stay organised, keep time and “panic” early to get on top of work. Assignments might come thick and fast after the first week. If you’re unsure, ask for help – bother professors, tutors or pastoral-care professionals.
  • Sport or physical activity is a great stress buster.
  • Try to avoid flat sharing with undergraduates, who might have different schedules and agendas.”

I’d also add to streamline social media so you are keeping in touch personally and professionally without being distracted by cat videos.  Follow your college, department, program, and graduate school on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for great articles, news, and support.

Be deliberate about spending your time.  Just like Dave Ramsey assigns an item to every dollar, assign an activity to every hour or half hour.  However, don’t lose sight of the big picture.  Try make sure you are focusing on the big goals as well as the little to-dos.  But also…

Frontload your assignments and work.  Research early, draft early, get as much done as you can.  You never know when you are going to get sick, have an emergency, or (even better) an opportunity to have some fun.  Put yourself in the best place to stay on track for interruptions – good and bad.

Get organized – especially electronically.  I really struggle with this.  I have three different final projects and files saved in six places for each project.  Find what works for you and stick with it.

As my soul guru Danielle LaPorte reminds me almost daily:  “BALANCE IS A MYTH.”  Bishop Jakes also addressed this at the 2016 Global Leadership Summit – juggle – try to touch everything once.  Sometimes you’ll be able to spend more time on something that you neglect for a bit. 

Keep the big picture in mind.  Have a vision of what you want to study and your ideal job post-grad grad.  Remember, grad school is a means to an end and won’t last forever.

–Back to work, and to finals.