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.





Stressed out about stress

Sometimes, the orientations I’ve attended (in person and online) and other articles I’ve read on grad school really do nothing more than instill self-doubt on my ability to handle it.

This TED Talk about harnessing the benefits of stress talked me off the metaphorical ledge.

Still, I’ve been proactive and contacted a former graduate student who went through a similar program in the department.  Essentially, she told me to start taking care of myself NOW and get in a routine.  I’m  goring to try to start that on Monday – when I start using my new planning system.

Thanks to my commitment to well-being through Wellbutrin and my buddy Buspar,  I’m doing okay managing dysthymia and anxiety.  However, stress exacerbates the anxiety.  I tend to forget things, have disrupted sleep patterns, my mind goes into overdrive, and I vacillate between mute and motormouth. I REALLY don’t want that to happen.

So, I made an appointment at the university’s counseling center for an intake appointment BEFORE the semester begins.  That way if I do get in a crisis, I can get help faster.  I may never need it, but since I’m in my over prepared mode, let’s count it as good idea and one less thing I may need to stress about.






Planning and Procrastination – a zero done game.

Intro:  I’m recovering from a day-long massive panic attack.  This post was inspired by Mother Suzanne’s “How Are You? Really?” sermon title which, by God’s grace, I stumbled upon.

As I write this, I have 31 days until my first day of class.  Which means about 25 until my official orientation. (Note:  My laptop died -it’s been a long road getting it repaired so this was about two weeks ago.)

I am not ready.    I am overwhelmed.    I am self-doubting – about grad school, about my major, how I can afford this.

I am starting to shut down and invert into my head which goes from overthinking and panicking to trying to block it all out and just hold it together without crying in the same minute without pulling into the rest stop of logic and pull-yourself-together.

I can’t get my head out of my ass to get it in gear and I’m going nowhere.

I’ve not worked on my website (not to mention this blog) in what seems like forever.  I’ve not done ANYTHING remotely related to school this week except make two on-campus appointments:  one for a library tour and the other for the counseling center.

My house is a mess, so it’s not like I’m “pro-craft-inating” or trying to focus on getting it in order before I’m there only to sleep and shower.


I won’t pass Jour 601 if I can’t pass Time Management 101. Time management is the main challenge for grad students according to every online orientation I’ve attended.  And that’s for those who are young, without families and can walk across the street to get to class.

I can’t remember where I recently “read” it, but someone who makes more money that I do talked with someone who makes more money than he/she does and that person treats time like Dave Ramsey treats money – plan it down to ZERO.  Just like Dave gives every dollar a purpose, this other dude gave every minute a purpose.

So, in an attempt to pull back on the expressway of life, I’ve started looking at planners to start Aug 1st.

I love my Sacred Ordinary Days planner.  I just don’t use it as much as I planned.  How in the world can I get all I want to get done with THREE daily project spaces.  (Yes,  I know that’s what priorities are for and truly–more than three priorities does stress me out).  I just don’t know if it’s compatible with grad student life.

There’s the SELF Journal.  Looks very similar to the Bullet Journal, just with goal setting.

I liked the Bullet Journal method when I used it.  It was time consuming, but I did like it.  I gave it up shortly after getting my SOD planner because I wanted to simplify.  And because I didn’t have a decent journal and wasn’t going to spend the money on one since I had a journal I needed to use and it’s not quite as compatible.  I did see a rather expensive notebook at the BSU bookstore and will check it and other planner out when I go up next week.

There’s the academic version of my husband’s planner (AMZ Link).  Might be too rigid and not enough space?

Michael’s has some gorgeous mini-planners by Recollections that can be used in a binder. They seem kind of small.  However, they have separate topics.  So I don’t have to get distracted by the menu planner when I’m budget planning.  The drawback–how long before I lose one?  Do I want integration or separation? (I can’t really answer that yet.)

And there’s the Day Designer available at Target.  I found my daily version in the store.  I don’t see it online, but here’s the link to the others.  There’s no room for notes like in a Bullet Journal system, but I do like the three goals (like the Sacred Ordinary Days) and the fixed times on the daily schedule.  There’s also great guidance on how to use the planner and plan your days.

Now that I have my laptop working (for now):

I bought the daily Day Designer at Target.  I bought a Moleskin chapter notebook for an upcoming conference.  I found some smaller lined (not dotted) half size journals on clearance at B&N to use to take notes and use a modified version of this system as needed.  I start Aug 1, so I will have a couple of weeks before school starts to get used to it.

Sorry for the untimely post on time.  I have a strong premonition that my next post will be on a new laptop.






Prep School

Image from

Well, I thought I would take come coding classes to brush up (read: learn) coding skills. My adviser said I didn’t really need to learn to code for school.  I still think it’s a good idea, so I think I will hit CodeAcademy for HTML and CSS early next month.

I’m working on five goals now:

  1.  Reacquaint myself (read: actually learn how to use) Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and MAYBE Dreamweaver.
  2. Get my portfolio website up to snuff
  3. Get an acceptable resume into the career center
  4. Learn Blackboard – the system for online classes.
  5. Review HTML and CSS

Online class materials will be available in early August.  No word yet on when book selections will be available.

I found a few old Adobe Classroom books I had on the shelf.  I’ve also looked into a few at the library too.  However, I’m also looking into – a division of LinkedIN.  I get free access through the university.  There are tons of online classes, videos, and even career-track training.

What I really need to prep is my sleep schedule.  I need to get up earlier if only to do laundry and read my devotions.  I’m not a morning person (unless I’m going to the race track), my bed is very comfy and, more often than not, I wake up tight in the arms of my hot Latin lover.  It doesn’t get much better than that!  However, with the long commute, I need to start getting up early now to get used to it.

I guess this is my first lesson in grad school priorities.  Nothing will get done unless I carve out a specific time.

Lesson learned.





Graduate School Motto – “Be Over-Prepared”

Yes, I’m a list maker, a box checker, a prepper.  This grad school thing is a BFD.  I want to be as prepared as possible because I already feel behind.  I’ve never taken an online course with a timeline and real responsibilities.  The journalism dept. uses Macs and I’m running a six year-old Windows PC.  I can barely use the Adobe CS 5 I have now.   I’d buy new tech now and get started, but I need to wait for my student loan money.

I watched 2-3 of last year’s orientations online and traveled to the on-campus orientation designed for summer students (got my student ID while I was there-hello student discounts, goodbye long line on orientation day).

The orientations covered the nuts and bolts of online classes and graduate assistant expectations. I’m glad I watched the orientations from last year before participating in the orientations for this Fall.  This allowed me to think of questions beforehand and ask them without missing any big details.

The summer orientation day was more productive than I thought.  I arrived early, despite a car issue,  and scoped out buildings and the parking situation.  It was nice being able to drive to the university and navigate campus without the traffic that occurs when classes are in session.  I found the Starbucks and the Taco Bell and got my student ID.  I found the hotel on campus and checked the reservation policy.   My commute is long enough without adding snow and ice to the mix.  So, that’s my back up plan.

I had previously scheduled a meeting with my faculty adviser for the same day.  She gave me a tour of the building and some of the departmental resources available.  We talked a bit about where I was headed with my research and she suggested key people to meet.  She also added to my summer to-do list.  She suggested I learn WordPress and get an online portfolio.  My new portfolio website will be in WordPress. And, she gave me tips on how to save money on parking and books.

The orientation program itself felt like a 33 RPM on the 45 setting – very fast.  Essentially, it gave me a checklist of things to do:  check out the tech center, schedule a tour of the library, get started with career services (another post in itself) and to use the recreation and fitness facilities.  I’m not sure if I’m going to have access to the facilities (there’s a fee for that, but I may slide under due to only having one on-campus course and being a commuter).

I’ve registered for the Fall orientation and, thanks to attending the one for summer, already know which breakout sessions I’ll attend.  I need to review the online class video and hopefully find some BlackBoard tutorials so I know how to view and turn in any assignments.

I’m tempted to head up for another on-campus day (maybe take the kids) and get the library tour out of the way, see the art museum, and visit the tech center once I find out if I really need a Mac.  I’m still waiting on my GA assignment and would like to meet my new boss before classes begin.  So, I suspect I’ll go back up in late-July/early August and try to combine everything – maybe add in a visit at the career center and counseling center.

Still, part of me wants to just chill this summer because it’s going to be the last time, for a long time, that I have any “spare” time.   Once school starts, I’m going to have to schedule almost every hour of every day.  So, I think it’s time to make another list – of the things I want to do before school starts.

  • A few more snooze-bar cuddle times with my handsome husband
  • Some board games with the kids
  • Soaking up the sun and the zen in the hot tub (it came with the house)
  • Read for fun
  • Go to a baseball game
  • Catch a movie
  • Read the Sunday paper over coffee
  • Get the house in order as much as possible
  • Spend time with friends and family

I’ll keep working on learning Adobe CS/CC.  I ordered a few books on Macs from the library.  The website will get done.

I think the best thing I can do is to be prepared that I won’t be prepared for everything and to believe in myself.