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.






Hunker down for the final stretch

Well, the good news is that I have all As thus far.  I’m not sure how long that will last.  I, by my own admission and knowing full damn well the consequences, did not do as well as I should have the last couple of weeks.  Part of it was mental and emotional block, another part of it was poor time management.  It was my fall break and then my kids’ fall break.   We needed a break. Then, I started feeling sick.

Unfortunately, it’s now time to hunker down and start working on the final projects for my classes.  Essentially, I think that’s going to be an extra hour per day for the next month.  I really need these final projects to go well as they are weighted anywhere from double to triple normal assignments in those courses.

Part of the battle is that I think my depression is back.  Part of it is stress from school; part is recent stress due to family issues, part of it is the Cubs.  Most of it, I believe is seasonal-affective disorder.  I’m up before dawn, getting to the lab just before sunrise, work, drive home at twilight or later, head to bed.    On days I don’t work, I’m hustling to get schoolwork done and am inside all day.

It’s a vicious cycle.  I’m down because I don’t get out, but I don’t get out because – I’m just so tired and drained.  Yes, I know I need to exercise.  I just don’t know how to fit it in.  Working on it.

Still, there are some bright spots.  Cooking with my youngest.  Trips to the game store on Friday nights. I play two games and then work on classwork.  Calling my momma on the drive home.  Hubs and I are making sure to um..connect.  I’ve worked on a couple of small creative projects.  I’ve hit the sauna more than once and I’ve had some good wine.

So, next on the curriculum – self care.  Not going to make it through the semester without it.



5 Weeks in. 5 things I did right & 5 things I wish I had done.


I’m almost in a groove. I feel like a 33 1/3 at 78. I don’t have a firm grasp on everything, but I’m keeping my head above water, and I’ve only had one really bad week. So, here’s my pre-midterm post-mortem.


  1. I invested in new tech. My hard drive was chunking, the cooling fan not working.
  2. Out of my three classes, only one is on campus. If I were single, I would take all my classes on campus and probably live on campus too. However, with the commute and kids, the online classes mean I have more flexibility to do assignments, network, and attend other campus workshops.
  3. I met with my advisor over the summer. Not only did this give me a preview of the program, but we discussed my plans and direction and was able to help me start networking.
  4. I took advantage of the university’s online and on-campus services as soon as I could. I did online orientations. I started the ball rolling with the career center. I did an intake with the counseling center. I also met with the reference librarian and explored the tech store. Sure, I took a few days off here and there over the summer and made the long drive. However, it certainly meant an easier/shorter on-campus orientation and first week.
  5. I WENT. I threw away all the what ifs, decided to trust the skills God put in me that I would survive, if not thrive, and I’m going for this. If things don’t work out, I’ll come up with something.


  1. Cleaned up my social media. No, there are no drunken orgies on my Facebook page. I discovered that, for most people, I was getting the same content from the same people on Twitter, FB, and Instagram. So I unfollowed some people on certain platforms, and I streamlined FB by taking a second and choosing “Hide All From _________)” for specific sites if I don’t want any more pictures of kitty cats, weird memes, etc. I’d just prefer to see personal updates on my friends and family. Pinterest is essentially for recipes now. Pocket is my read-later app. It’s starting to save so much time.
  2. Got my professional website up and running. It’s just taking so much longer than I expected because I decided to learn WordPress at the same time. AND I DON’T HAVE THE TIME TO DO IT.
  3. Hired a housekeeper for a deep clean and had my car detailed the week before school started. Because–I HATE A MESSY HOUSE.
  4. Taken some time off between work and school. My last day of work was on Wednesday. Orientation was on Thursday. I would have spent the day in a hot tub or pool at a hotel and read a trashy novel and everything I have on my to-read list. It would be the last pleasure reading I would have for two years.
  5. I wish I had started a diet and fitness program, and adapted to a sleep schedule. I haven’t been this tired since I had a newborn and a three-year-old. My body can’t function on less than 7 hours of sleep, Pepsi and Doritos like I did in my 20s. A higher protein/clean diet, consistent exercise plan, and sleep schedule started earlier in the summer would have helped my energy level when school started.

First Grad School Lesson – I’m old.

I was so beat last night by the time I got home, I was practically incoherent. Yesterday was graduate student orientation today. I’m here again today for what is essentially departmental orientation.

I’m skipping the convocation this morning. I’m on campus, but I decided to let my phone charge (have no idea why it’s not charging in the car), use my Daily Office app and do the morning prayers, journal, and try again to look through all the school materials and make some semblance of a plan. I consider the Global Leadership Summit my convocation; any talk of time management, professionalism, academic priorities freaks me out anyway. It’s like Dr. Halliburton, DDS telling you this is gonna hurt– a lot. She can say it’s going to hurt but until your nerve touches the end of her drill tip, you will have no idea how much. I get it. This is going to be hard. Just give me the info I need – syllabi, books, and a work schedule – I will figure it out.

But honestly, I’m exhausted and sore. I’m not going anywhere until I absolutely need to do so.

So, back to yesterday. I arrived early and decided to take care of some business.

WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. TEST THEM. WALK A MILE IN THEM. The same shoes I normally work at work without problem created blisters on my feet by 10 am.

First stop: bookstore. I wanted to make sure I didn’t have any items to pick up and I needed to return a purchase made on a previous trip. I decided just to check the books in my department. WHOA!!! What do you mean there’s a new edition of one of my textbooks. THIS DOES NOT MATCH WHAT YOU HAVE ONLINE. I’ve already purchased what is showing online from a third party vendor. There aren’t any used ones because this is a brand new edition. It’s only $10 more to buy it than rent it. FINE, I’ll take it. That will be $200. To add insult to injury, the work-study student taking my plastic advised me to tell my student that I could return it the first week of class. MY STUDENT??? She thought I was a parent!!!

Then it hit me. I am older than my mom was when she sent me off to college the first time.


Second stop: Technology Center. I was having a few issues with my Apple Pencil. They didn’t know that much more than I did. However, I did get info on some possible software I might need, purchased a much needed Adobe keyboard overlay, and figured out that I need to come in again next week with my laptop and iPad for assistance. They can get the software downloaded, installed, and set up faster than I can. Things were going fine until I asked the student employee to write down the info she just told me. She thought I was a professor.

Then it hit me. I’m old enough to have taught these kids when I briefly worked as a substitute teacher.


By that time, it was time to head back to the orientation venue and I was hobbling along. So, I get to the building and there are stairs.

I get settled in and the sessions are similar to what I’ve seen online except — there’s a campus tour. No thanks – I’ve already been to most of the buildings anyway – if only to go to the bathroom.

I felt every little rock in the sidewalk substrate on the way to the breakout sessions.
The break out sessions were definitely worth the pain. I met a fellow grad student with whom I connected earlier this year. I hope she and I will be fast friends and slow walking partners. There was one other student around our ag and a commuter to boot. Someone asked a question about a dress code. The faculty advisor’s response was not to show up at work in pajama pants.

Then it hit me. I am old. I do not own a pair of pajama pants that are even Wal-mart worthy. I would never think of wearing them to a class or even work. And I worried that my “union hall” fashion sense would be an issue. Do people really need to be told this? Evidently, yes.

I skipped the mixer. Yes, I know – it’s a bonding and networking opportunity.
Honestly, after the day I had, I just wanted to shuffle to my car and go home. The only bonding I wanted to do was with my kids (it’s my “long” week on the custody rotation) and the only network I was interested in was NBC (Go USA!).

Today, I’m clothed in slacks and a top and shod in wide-width walkers that will never coordinate with anything. They didn’t admit me to this fine learning institution for my fashion sense anyway. At least it’s not PJ pants and flip flops. I may have to make allowances for being old, but self-respect is ageless.

WOW – Overloaded, Amazed, and Strengthened

I hope to write more about this later but here’s how the last few days have gone:

I attended the Global Leadership Summit as a guest of a local communications firm.  I learned leadership skills, received a spiritual kick in the keister from several speakers, a paradigm shift from two, and strength and comfort for all.

I received my graduate assistant assignment.  I know a little bit and that’s comforting.  I’m following what Pastor Bob told me:  It’s not a problem until it’s a problem, so don’t make it a problem.  I talked to one of my professors.  I will be doing work that ties into what I want to study and also, that answered some concerns I had after one of the leadership sessions.

I received my tuition bill.

I bought supplemental materials for software I will be using.

Let’s do this!!!!




One of the things I love about my university is the services and support system that’s already available to me before I take a class.

Career services REALLY wants me to find employment after graduation.  They have resume services, online portfolios, interview prep and a host of other services.  The first thing I completed was a personality assessment and there was really nothing new there.  What had me worried was that the program offered career suggestions and none of them were anything I would be comfortable doing.  I get why they were chosen, but not for me.   So I quickly booked a phone session with a career counselor.  It’s not that I’m unsuited for my chosen career; I need to look for jobs within that field that play to my strengths.    Thanks to a conversation with one of the librarians, I found out that there may be opportunities to engage with another degree program for training.  I may or may not get a master’s degree in that area, but the skills will help supplement my area.

That’s the entire reason I’m going to grad school.  As Danielle LaPorte puts it:  Do a little more of what you want to do everyday until your ideal becomes what’s real.

Want a PDF ? – click here

I also scheduled an in-take appointment at the counseling center.  I may never use it, bit I won’t have to wait as long to get help if I need to do so.  I only get 12 one-on-one appointments for each academic year, but there are support groups that I can join to fill in the gaps.  The appointment was productive and the therapist believes that I’m on the right track with the prep work I’m doing and my commitment (so far) to ramping up my organization skills, adapting activities to still feel connected to what’s most important to me, and trying to delegate what I can.  The therapist reinforced that I will need to be more deliberate about the choices I make (especially in how I spend my time) and to narrow my priorities.  We also talked about self-care and the need to adapt and schedule it so I make healthy choices and options.

I think I’m done making trips to campus until orientation.  There’s not much else I can do until I find out my GA assignment and know my schedule, what tech I need, and the resources for my classes.

I’m feeling more confident than ever that this is the right decision and that I can do this.  So confident, in fact, that I turned down a full-time job opportunity with the blessing of the hiring director because I will be more valuable to the team once I graduate.