Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Last night I was at school until late in the evening (so what else is new?). At the beginning of my last class, which begins at 4:40 p.m. and is held in a big lecture hall in the basement of Cramer Hall with no windows to the outside, one of my fellow students came in and remarked to the class as a whole, "It is pouring down snow out there!" We all responded with various versions of "Really? Is it sticking?" She replied that it wasn't sticking here but it probably is in the suburbs. After class as I was walking back to my car I called my kids.
"Hi Carina, what is the weather like there?"
"I don't know, I'm watching TV." my 10 year old replied.
"Look outside and tell me if it is snowing there." by then it was just raining downtown but maybe, just maybe it was snowing at home.
"I can't tell, it's dark out, Mom."
"Fine, but go out and lock the chicken coop." She wasn't thrilled about going out in the dark to lock up the chickens but she agreed to do it and we hung up. My phone rang about three minute later.
"Guess what!! It is snowing!! Big fat fluffy flakes! We all are going outside to play, OK?" I didn't bother to mention that it was just as dark as when she didn't want to go lock up the chickens.
That is the thing about snow, it makes everything different. The backyard is a lot less scary when there is snow (and when your big sisters and little brother are with you). The world is quieter and more peaceful when there is a layer of snow on the ground. All the students in my class, who generally only talk to the people sitting right next to them suddenly were all talking together because, well, it was snow! I suppose it helps that I live in an area that doesn't get snow all that often; for us, snow is a special occasion. When I attended college in Utah, years ago, I was so excited when the first snow fell in October. My roommates, all from Utah and jaded to the specialness that snow is, all told me I'd be sick of snow by April. But you know what? When that snow came down in April I was still just as thrilled as I was in October.
When I finally got home last night, the snow was almost done and what little had accumulated on the grass, mailbox and back deck, was all gone by bedtime. But I was still excited because, well, it was snow!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

You Know You're Getting Old. . .

This week has been a rough one. My schedule this term is different than I have ever had and I'm not sure I like it. I go to school only on Tuesdays and Thursdays - but I go ALL day on those days. I leave the house to drop my son off at 8:30 a.m. and didn't get home on Tuesday until 8:00 p.m. I have made some alterations which will allow me to drive to campus instead of ride the train which will same me some time in the future. On Thursday it didn't save me any time because I had to go straight from school to the PTO meeting at the elementary school (I'm the president of the PTO - I know, I know, don't I realize I can say "no" to some of these things?). Going to the PTO meeting meant that I wasn't home until 8:30 p.m. I have Monday, Wednesday and Friday off but I spent them on homework and volunteering at the elementary school and doing housework. By Friday I was exhausted!! I ended up going to bed at 8:45 last night and slept until 10:00 this morning. That is how I know I'm old!!!
I think it will be a good term (if I can get over the exhaustion). I am taking an American Short story class from a professor that I adore, Shakespeare's comedies and a class called "Gender Class, Culture" which is supposed to be an English department class. This Gender, Class, Culture class is dual-departmental with the English department and the Women's Studies department and it is much more Women's Studies than English! I was going to drop it but it is the last required class I have (the other two are electives) and I couldn't find anything to replace it with! I think it will be ok but it will be very different. With all of these classes I already have lots of homework.
Let's hope that my 12+ hours of sleep let me get something done this weekend.


Monday, January 7, 2008

The beginning of the end

Tomorrow I start my last term of college. Well, actually it is my last term of undergraduate work. In March I will graduate from Portland State University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. In June I will, hopefully, start a Master of Fine Arts program at Pacific University. So while this isn't the end, it still feels like a milestone.
I went back to school at the age of 39 with four kids. When I started I met with an advisor who told me I "only" had 125 credits left! I figured I would be stretching myself to take 12 credits a term and when I did the math that meant that I had. . . . . a long time 'til I would graduate. I remember calling my husband on my cell phone from campus after that meeting and crying, "I can't do this, it is so long! I'll be 41 when I graduate!" He asked me how old I would be in two years if I didn't go back to school and I admitted that I'd still be 41. He said, "Do you want to be 41 with a degree or 41 without?" Pretty smart guy. The really amazing thing is that I did it! I made it through those 125 credits (except for the 12 I'm taking this term), and I'm actually going to graduate from college.
Graduating from college was one of those things I was going to accomplish "someday" and now it is actually here. It has not been easy. My kids were 14, 12, 9 and 3 when I started and it took a lot of juggling to make it work. I couldn't have done it without a terrifically supportive husband and kids who were willing to be independent. The best time was last year when there were five family members in five different schools (preschool, elementary school, middle school, high school and college). I told my husband he needed to go get his Masters and then we'd have six in six. His response was "Honey, one of us needs to be sane and I nominate me."
He's been amazingly sane and often was truly the only one of us who was!!
So, tomorrow is the beginning of the end. What a journey it has been.

New haircut

I recently got my hair cut. Not just a trim but a full make-over. I went from long blonde hair with was usually up in a ponytail to a short very curly bob which was dyed a dark reddish brown. No way you could miss the fact that I got my hair “done.” No one could claim ingnorance on this issue. “Oh, I didn’t notice’? I don’t think so! So I went about my life for the next few days expecting people to comment on my new look. I wasn’t disappointed, just about everyone I saw made some comment on my hair. These comments ranged from one friend who literally squealed “I love your hair. It is so cute!”, to people who made really ambiguous comments like, “oh, you cut your hair.” No comment on whether they liked it, whether it looked nice, just stating the fact that I cut it. Most people made generally positive comments without overwhelming enthusiasm. At least, that’s what it sounded like to me.
You see, when I was in the sylist’s chair, I went through a wide range of emotions. I was ready for a change so I let her do just about whatever she wanted to. When she described the changes she wanted to make I was a little worried. When she cut the first six inches off, I was really scared. But, as the appointment progressed, I started to get excited, and by the time we were done, I loved my hair! I called my family on the way home to warn them that it was a pretty big change but that I was really excited. However, when I got home they were is a good word to describe the looks on their faces when I first walked into the room. They quickly recovered and told me they really liked it. I think my husband was less than convinced, the look in his eyes didn’t match the words coming out of his mouth. That was when the first shred of doubt crept into my mind.
For the next few days I began to doubt myself more and more. Everytime someone gave me a compliment that was, to my mind, a little less than enthusiastic, I would think to myself, “Maybe this haircut wasn’t such a good idea. Maybe this color looks horrible on me and they are all just being nice. Maybe I look like a geek!” Because of this growing doubt, my own responses became less sure. My friends would ask, “Do you like it?” I would now say, “Um, yeah, I like it.”
The thing is, when I look in the mirror, I like what I see! I’m enjoying this new look. But I’m letting what everyone else thinks to influence my enjoyment of my new style. I’m notorious for this. I once bought a killer pair of boots that I fell in love with even before I found out they were on clearance for a ridiculously low price. I brought them home and tried them on for my husband.
“What do you think?” I asked.
“Well, if you like them. . . “ he answered.
The boots went back to the store the next day.
Why do we do this to ourselves? I know I’m not the only one. My sister recently returned some new clothes she bought because her husband admitted that he didn’t really care for them. I have talked to a girlfriend who repainted a room because someone didn’t like the color. But if that color made her happy, why should it matter what someone else thinks? If my sister liked the clothes she bought, she should have kept them and worn them because of the way they made her feel. If I smile every time I look in the mirror at my new hair, then it shouldn’t matter how enthusiatically people respond. But it does. Well, it did. Through this experience with my hair I have come to some conclusions about life.
First, as long as I am acting in a legal manner and am not harming anyone around me, most especially my family, I should live life in a way that brings me joy. New haircut, new boots? If it makes me happy then I should go for it. When I am happier, it allows the people around me, most especially my family, to feel happy too. No one likes a grumpy person, especially if they have to live with them!
Second, I am a much happier me when I am living true to myself. If I try to live my life to please everyone else, or to fit into some mold of what I’m supposed to be/look like/ feel like, I turn into a very grumpy person. Refer to above for how people feel about grumpy people!
Of course, as in everything, there are exceptions to this. If I was going on a job interview, it would be wise of me to dress, look and act in a way that would be pleasing to the employer. “Why did I wear cut-off shorts and a bikini top to this interview? Because it makes me smile!” Probably not the time to be following your bliss. But in normal daily life? As long as I’m legal and not harming anyone. . . . (although if I went to the store with my kids in cut-offs and a bikini top, it would probably be harmful to their psyche - especially if we ran into one of their friends!)
This all leads me back to my hair. I really like my new look. There are still people around me who aren’t thrilled, though to their credit they haven’t complained too loudly. The important thing is, this haircut makes me smile, and smiling is a good thing.