Monthly Archives: June 2014

I am a nontraditional college student, and I love it!!!

I grew up in Fairfield Connecticut.  I went to Roger Ludlowe High School (now called Fairfield Ludlowe High School I believe). This school was not just a high school, it was called a “College Preparatory” school.    So I guess they expected us to go to college.

There were about 400 kid who graduated in my class of 1984, and I expect a great many of them did go to College.  Some went to work and a scant few of us went into the military.  I was one of the military route people.  Not that I didn’t consider college.  My parents certainly asked me if I wanted to attend college. But they had strings attached.

My old brain (which admittedly is full of holes) remembers the conversation like this:

Mom&Dad: “If you choose to go to college, we will pay for you to go.”

me: “I am not sure I want to go to College.  I don’t want to go to more school.  I am sick of school.”

Mom&Dad: “Well if you go, we will pay, and when you graduate we will buy you a nice car. But if you drop out or flunk out and don’t finish you will have to pay us back all the money we spent on your education.”

Well, all I heard was the “pay us back” part.  I really didn’t want to go to school anymore, and to be honest if I had attempted college, I would probably have flunked, or dropped out, and knew I was going to owe my parents thousands of dollars.  No way I wanted that!!

Besides, my older brother had joined the Navy, and he was doing okay, so that is what I chose to do. I joined the United States Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, and had a successful 20 year career!

Bahrain 2003

Bahrain 2003

After retiring from the Navy I got a job at a local Dermatologist, and started working.  College never really occurred to me, besides who had the time for that….??  I was working full time and had two small children….

Fast forward a few years.  Virginia Senator Mark Warner sponsored a new GI Bill aimed at military personnel who were on Active Duty during the tragic Terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. This bill was signed into law in July 2008, and went into effect in August 2009.

I knew nothing about this new GI Bill, until a patient told me about it.  I was intrigued.  The Post 911 GI Bill would pay for 100% of tuition for me because I was on Active Duty for three years after 9/11, and would also give me a housing allowance and an allowance for books.

So in Fall 2010, I was enrolled at Tidewater Community College (TCC) to earn my Associates Degree in Science.

It was a bit daunting, being a 45 year old lady in college classes.  Most of the people in my classes were just a few years older than my children.  However, I will say that having lots of life experience seemed to give me an edge, because I knew things I was being taught, merely because I had lived a little, and had learned some things along the way.

I graduated from TCC in December 2012, and applied to finish my Bachelor’s at this awesome institution:

oducampus

I LOVE LOVE LOVE going to college!!!  Walking around campus, and doing schoolwork in the library, attending classes, all of it!

It still feels a little strange being old enough to be most students’ mama, but nobody has ever treated me too differently because of it.  The only time I was ever treated differently because of my age was in my Women’s Studies Class when one of the students referred to me as “Miss Carol”.  I am sure her upbringing had taught her to use the Miss as a term of respect for “older” folks, and it made me smile. Most students accept me as one of their own, and treat me the same (almost) as everyone else.  Sometimes at first they are a bit standoffish but when they realize that I can relate to them on their level, they change and treat me as a peer.

I am taking the summer off from classes, but will be back to them in the Fall.  I decided last semester to double major. I was already a Psychology Major, and decided to add  Women’s Studies as a second major.  So far that has been a great decision, and I am thoroughly enjoying my Women’s Studies classes (a different story for a different day).

If all goes as planned, I expect to graduate in May of 2015 with my Bachelor’s Degree and will have to figure out what to do with all that I have learned.

 

Real Food: How Changing My Food Changed my Life

I have recently written about my oldest son Joe Cool, and how he is growing up way too fast,  and The Genius, and how he is now enrolled in College, and I have even written about Karol and how our struggles have made us stronger. 

Today I want to write about me.

In April of 2013 (just over a year ago), I was desperate to lose some weight!  I was over 230 pounds, which did not make my 5’5″ frame happy.  My cholesterol was high.  My good cholesterol was low and the bad cholesterol was way too high.  My sugar was high and I was prediabetic.  My doctor gave me the “let’s check it again in three months and if it is still high we will need to think about medicine” talk.

I had decided I was either going to gain 20 pounds and try out for the Biggest Loser, or ask my doctor about bariatric surgery.  I had tried Weight Watchers, and to be honest while it may work for others, the whole “eat whatever you want” program does not work for me.  I had tried doing it “on my own”, and that got me to over 230 pounds.  So much for that.

Then Karol and I went to see Jillian Michaels when she was in Newport News at the Ferguson Center.  Now we LOVE Jillian.  And not just because she is hot.  She is smart, and tough, and fit, and well, she is hot, so there is that.  Something she said clicked for me.  I can’t even tell you exactly what it was, but it was something.  Karol and I came away from that INSPIRED!  We immediately went out the next day and bought her books, “Master Your Metabolism”, and “Slim for Life.”

I went through the pantry and took out the foods she did not want us to eat.   I gave all of it away to the local food bank or friends.  I just couldn’t in good conscience throw it away when there is such a need at our local food bank, so it went to those who could use it.

Then we went shopping.  We switched to grass fed beef, antibiotic and hormone free chicken, milk and yogurt. Organic fruits and vegetables. I only bought organic whole wheat pasta and organic brown rice.  Total food change in our house.  At first the kids complained, but when they tasted “Real” food, they changed their tune!

Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Green living

Photo courtesy of Blue Planet Green living

We also joined Jillian Michaels online, and started her fitness plan.  To be honest, that was the hardest part of the whole process.  Trust me, I would be pouring sweat every day that I did her workout.  But then I saw a meme that said: “Sweat is your fat crying.”, so I tried to make my fat cry at least 4 days per week!

sweat is fat crying

Of course because I am a dork and a doctor phobe, I did NOT go back to the doctor to get my blood work done and follow up as I was supposed to.  The three months stretched into 6 months.  When I saw her last it was in October, which was 5 months into this life change.  I had lost 20 pounds, but my blood levels were not improved, which is why she wanted me tested again in 3 months.

Well, I saw her two weeks ago.  I had my blood work done a week before I went to see her, and I was on pins and needles that entire week.  I resigned myself to the fact that I would go on medicine if my sugar was still high, and had braced myself for the “you still have more weight to lose” talk.

Well, imagine my surprise when I heard EXACTLY The opposite of what I feared!

Instead of, “Yes you need to go on medicine and still have weight to lose Carol.” I heard this instead:

“Your good cholesterol is up 7 points.”

“Your bad cholesterol is down 5 points.”

“Your sugar is down 6 points!”

“Your blood pressure is perfect.”

And the thing that still amazes me and fills my eyes with tears:

“You do NOT need to lose any more weight.  It is NOT about weight, it is about how you take care of your body.  You have made lifestyle changes that have greatly increased your health.  Just keep those up.  If you lose more weight and that makes you happy, great, but I am VERY happy with your results!!”

WOW!!

Within one year of changing to Real Food and adding exercise to my regimen, I have made a significant change in my health.  I have lost 35 pounds, and my insides are healthy!!!

Full disclosure:  I have not really lost any weight since February, and only work out about 3 times a week, and canceled my subscription to Jillian Michaels website in May.  I found I no longer need her website because the changes we made last year have just become the way we live now.

However, I really would like to lose 20 more pounds, so I am determined to increase my exercise to 4-5 times per week, and take my calories down to 1250 per day.  However, if this is the weight I stay, then I am okay with that as well!

Now, I do want to say that I know my story is MY story.  There are thousands of women who are large and are perfectly happy, healthy and fine with their body.  I was not happy, or healthy.  I do not advocate the “everyone has to be thin” beauty ideal.  I advocate the “be the best you that you can be, and be happy in your skin” beauty ideal.

healthy over skinny

So the moral of this story is that I was that girl who had resigned herself to a life of being overweight and taking medicine, but with a few changes, I have changed my life in a way that makes me healthier and happier.

 

 

 

 

My 14 year old is enrolled in college….ohhhh myyyyyyy

I have two biological children and two step children.  I have always had nicknames for them on this blog because they were under 18.  Well, that was when I started.  Now the oldest (L), is almost 22, The Hunter is 19, Joe Cool is 17 and The Genius is 14 (almost 15).  So, with their permission I will begin using the real names of the oldest two.  L is Katarina and The Hunter is Brandon. However, since the other two are not 18 yet, they will keep their blog nicknames for now.

I recently wrote about Joe Cool,   but today I want to talk about The Genius.

To be completely honest he is NOT a genius, but I started calling him that because he is a smart kid who gets A’s and B’s in school, always does his schoolwork without needing reminding (which ALWAYS had to be done with the other three), and is a bit of a nerd. (Loves Minecraft, Dr. Who, Sims, etc).  So The Genius just seemed appropriate.

When he was in 8th grade we attended a program put on by the Suffolk Public Schools to talk about the towns International Baccalaureate (IB) program, Dual Enrollment, and Governor’s school.  These are Academic programs that require more work than a “regular” diploma and can benefit kids, particularly when it comes to college.  It never occurred to me that The Genius would NOT go to college, so off we went to learn.

He did not want to attend the IB program because it is not held at the high school where kids in our neighborhood go, but at a school much further away.  He would have to ride the bus for almost an hour each way, and most of his friends would be at the high school where we are zoned.  So that was a big NO from him.  Because kids have so little control in their lives about stuff, school is one area I have always tried to go with their wishes, so the IB program was out.

Then we looked at Dual Enrollment, (DE).  There are two DE programs in Suffolk.  One gives them a certificate, and one gives them a General Studies Associate Degree upon graduation from high school.  So he opted for the Associates Degree program.

DE1

Within the first 9 weeks of his 9th grade year I talked to the counselor I was told was in charge of the program, Ms. R, and she explained to me the kids test in April or May and The Genius should listen for an announcement so he could get the information for testing.

Ummmmm, he is 14. He is NOT going to pay attention.  So I tried to keep up with it.  I called her again after the first of the year to “check in ” and make sure he was one “the list” so he wouldn’t be missed. She assured me he was.

Time goes by.  All of a sudden at the end of April I realize, hmmmm, I haven’t heard anything about this.  I ask him, and he of course doesn’t know.  So, I email Ms. R.  She emails me back and says the College Assessment test is THAT week, and I need to get her a form TOMORROW (I called her on a Monday), so he can take the test on Thursday.  Really??  What happened to The Genius being on a list and the parents being informed??  That should have been my first clue as to how this was going to go.

Now, I want to stop here and say that this particular counselor is my FAVORITE one at the high school.  When we were having struggles with the oldest child, this lady was RIGHT there, to ensure she graduated.  She cares about the kids, and I love her, so she got a pass, even though I was annoyed by it.

So, long story a bit shorter, the kid goes and takes his test.  We are told, “we will let you know the next step and how he did in a couple of weeks.”

A few weeks goes by. I do ask him about it,  but his counselor Ms. P, hasn’t called him in to talk about it, so I wait.

A few more weeks go by, I know college classes are about to start summer semester, so I ask him again.  No news yet.  Life gets crazy and I forget.

The last week of school I email Ms. R, who says, “well yes, he did very well, didn’t Ms. P talk to him?”  Um, no, she didn’t.  “Oops” is the response I get.

Not quite this but......
Not quite this but……

So my stress induced chicken with my head cut off mode begins.  I immediately call the school. Ms P isn’t in, so I speak to Ms. C, who is in charge of Dual Enrollment apparently.  She is new, so I have not met her, but she tells me everything I have to do, and I and The Genius get busy.

Of course I speak to Ms. C on a Friday, so we have to wait until Monday to get busy.  And I am working a full day on Monday….GREAT!

I have to call the college and make an appointment to go in and see one of two counselors. I leave him messages on Friday (apparently he isn’t in on Friday…go figure).

Monday am, he calls me and asks if I can come in THAT day, as he will be on vacation for the next week, and classes start NEXT WEEK!  Ummm, no, actually, I am at work today.  Is there someone else we can see this week?  Sure he says, cal Dr. S. “Good luck”, he says.  “Thanks”, I say

I call Dr. S.  She isn’t in on Monday……..great……

I do reach Ms. P on Monday on the telephone.  I express my concern and displeasure that we were never notified and are now behind the curve.  Ms P says, “I am so sorry, we were busy the last month of the school year.”  Wow, really???  “What can we do Ms. Rood to get this fixed for you?”

So I tell her we intend to apply for the scholarship that is available for DE (which I found out about on my own, thank you), and I need TWO letters of recommendation.  One from a counselor and one from a teacher.  She assures me she will get them done that day and I can pick them up first thing Tuesday morning.

Tuesday morning at 8 am I am at the school picking up the letters, and a formal transcript.  Check, one thing done.

At 10 am I finally hear back from Dr. S, who makes us an appointment to see her on Thursday (yesterday) at 10 am. Check, two things done.

In the meantime I have The Genius start writing his 500 word essay on why DE is a good idea for him.  How it will help him in life, etc….

Thursday we show up at the college at 9:50 for our appointment, and we are called in to see Dr. S at 11:00.  YAY!!  I love waiting an hour in an over air conditioned lobby.  Thank goodness for free college WiFi!!

We see Dr. S. who proceeds to let us know that one of the classes The Genius is supposed to take is over half way completed (of course the high school was supposed to contact us in early May to enroll him on time), however, the other class is online, but it is full.  (you have got to be kidding me).

However, she kindly just goes ahead and puts him in the class, and seems to genuinely care about my kid, so for that I am grateful, and thank her profusely!

So we walk over to get the book he needs, but the book store is closed on Thursday……of course it is.

So after all of this the kid is in the class. But my journey is not yet complete.  I have another form to take back to the high school, I have to get his attendance record while I am there.  Then today I have to go to Barnes and Nobel and try to get the book he needs for class, and we need to get his scholarship paperwork (which is too late for this semester of course) mailed.  There is no Pell Grant or other financial help available to high school students, so it looks like we are footing the entire bill for this semester……sigh…….

If you are still reading, thank you for your perseverance.  I feel like I have had to have lots of perseverance throughout this process as well.

However, the difference is that while you are almost finished, I still have much to do.

But at least my kid is enrolled, and on his way to earning a College Degree while in High School.  There is that at least.

de3