My ultra-boring life

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Drumroll please.....

I got my grades for the semester...and they are....straight As!  Well, an A and an A-, but I can live with that (ok the A- bugs me a little.  Especially because they dock my G.P.A. for it, but they don't bonus my G.P.A. for the A+ I got last semester!  Gypped!).  I thought for sure I would be getting a B in Book Arts but all my hard work paid off!  Hooray!

I'm already rewarding myself too much.  We've given into pressure ("Did you lose your little 32" TV yet?  Something so little is bound to get lost.") to buy a bigger TV so we found a super good deal on Amazon and bought a 60" 3D plasma.  I'm waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay excited about it.  Even though I don't watch that much TV. 

I'm also super excited because my brother Justin and his family are moving to Utah!  They've lived in Minnesota for years and years and I've never got to go see them, so I'm super stoked they are going to be so close now!  YAY!  More nephews and a niece to spoil and people to visit!  Eeee!

There was something else I wanted to say but I forgot what it was.  Dangit.  Everybody out there have a merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The semester is over!

I don't know how I did in my classes -- I just barely turned in my last paper 5 minutes ago -- but I feel relief for finishing.  And I think I did pretty well with the chapters of my book that I turned in for fiction writing, if I do say so myself.  If anyone is interested in reading them, let me know.

Now to get back to the housework I've been neglecting for the past few weeks in favor of school.  Ick.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Why you don't get a Christmas present from us this year

OK, in case you didn't know, we have cats.  Because we can't have kids, these cats are very dear to us.  Unfortunately, though, they are not insured.  We have a discount program with our vet (my uncle David Ormond), but that's the best we do.  Usually it's not too bad.  However, while we were gone for Thanksgiving, our cat Squeaker got in a fight with some other cat and by the time we got home it was abscessed.  So, some knocking out, head-shaving, stitches, antibiotics, over $500 and a very mad kitty later, we thought he was going to be better.  But no, he didn't like those stitches, so he pulled them out and got another abscess that was so bad that it swelled his right eye shut.  I think he's taking revenge on us for not getting him a Christmas present.  So Dave came out again and had to do even more cleanup on the poor kitty and THIS time he got a collar (aka 'cone of shame') to keep him away from the stitches and he's not allowed outside.  Multiple antibiotic visits because he won't take medicine orally (not even when mixed with treats) and over $700 this time.  He's even more mad at us and he's not pretty, as you can see.  But he should heal this time.  The other cats have mixed reactions to him -- mostly variations of fear.  Wouldn't you if a kitty came up to you looking like this?  We'll have to pay it off with our tax return -- which will also be going for cleaning the cats' teeth.  Sigh.  The things we do for love. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Writing and schoolwork

I got my 2nd draft back today and I did pretty well.  I just struggle with keeping the reader connected to the story through the narrator, with actual descriptions.  You have to do this CONSTANTLY and it's hard!  But I'm getting better and that's good, especially because my teacher says that I have a firm grasp of many other things with my writing.

My book arts class is still pretty fun though I have a ton to read before Friday.  I'm worried about my final project...it needs to be something of substance, and I have to make 20 copies!  We'll see what I come up with.

In other news, I voted today for the local mayor and city council positions.  We have the most influence there, so we all need to vote on days like today.  Now I'll have the right to complain.  :)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

writing critique needed

I'm turning in a couple of chapters of my book in class this week, so if anyone would like to help me by reading them (it's less than 20 pages), let me know ASAP!  I need the feedback by Wednesday the 2nd.  Thanks!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

School school school

I worked for like 4 hours on bookmaking today.  It was fun, but also frustrating because I couldn't get more done because I keep finding little things that I need.  But mostly it was fun. :)  Sometimes hobbies like this are hard because the little stuff isn't fun, but you have to do it to practice so you're good enough for the big stuff.
But even the little stuff is pretty fun with this, and it's good practice for me with my stupid perfectionist attitude too.

I found the perfect present for my brother for Christmas today, but I can't tell you what it is because you'll snitch.  but I'm way excited about it.

I made fancy caramel apples with my visiting teachers this week.  MAN they are tasty!  I was afraid that spending too much money on ingredients wouldn't make a difference but it sure did!  Now I need to find someone to save me from them and their high glycemic index. :P

Boy are you guys lucky I'm having writer's block for my writing class!  Without it I would be typing away on my story instead of typing away in here.  Monday I enroll for next semester and if all goes well I'll have the same professor next semester.  He's very good.

If any of you want to read the chapters I'm working on for my writing class just let me know and I'll shoot them to you, I need all the help I can get.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Book arts!

I got my supplies for my book arts class today and I'm excited.  So far for class we've explored a little bookmaking, and looked at some ancient books from the BSU special collections, and explored papermaking from a great papermaker out in Mountain Home.  Everything has been interesting and informative, but I have to say that this would be even MORE fun if I wasn't being graded on it -- but I wouldn't be very motivated if I wasn't being graded on it, either.  Even though it's cool stuff, it's hard for me to find motivation without the 'threat' of bad grades. 

My writing class is still awesome.  I'm excited about taking the same class from the same professor again next semester. 

But all this boils down to motivation.  I'm not working as hard and consistently as I need to on things.  By 'things' I mean EVERYTHING -- housework, homework, personal enrichment, everything.  I've talked to my counselor about this, particularly when it has to do with my perfectionism, and what I need to basically do is have a simple to-do list that I complete every day.  It's that simple.  It's not about being perfect, though much of me wants to be perfect and scares me away from trying anything at all.  I can do little things.  It's work, but I can do them.  So I downloaded the Franklin Covey app on my phone.  It's only a so-so app so far, but it helps me prioritize my to-dos.  Now I just need to DO things.  Slowly but surely, I will win this race!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

So now that I'm officially diabetic...

I'm finding that it's a pain.  Of course, I knew it was coming.  And I knew it would be a pain.  But knowing the pain is coming and actually experiencing the pain are two separate things.  There's a number of things I'm having to acknowledge now and balancing between the two extremes are tricky.

First, there's the things I can control: diet and exercise.  Dude, if I totally had these down I wouldn't be diabetic right now.   Diet is hard because I'm having trouble finding things that are cheap and easily accessible (and, quite frankly, that aren't gag-worthy) and that don't make my blood sugar skyrocket.  I hate going to the grocery store, and I'm not a very energetic or creative cook.  The only things that so far don't make my blood sugar jump are plain chicken or salad with some sort of protein or protein bars (which I'm getting sick of).  No more pasta, bread, cereal, or other quick & simple foods.  It's driving me insane.

Exercise is a joke.  I mean, I know it works.  It just works so little and so slowly that it's not enough to overcome the depression and just DO it. 

The only thing that seems to motivate me at the moment is testing my blood sugar.  Unlike diet or exercise, testing gives me pretty quick positive feedback when I've done something right. 

The other side of the equation are things that I cannot control: my broken metabolism, my aging body, and to a limited extent, my weight. 

I can't hate myself completely for my condition because of these few things that are out of my control, but I also can't push the responsibility away from myself like it was completely out of my hands.  I have to change what I can and let go what I can't.  Sigh.

And while I'm whining...if I see that retarded pastor on the news saying that Mormonism is a 'cult' one more time I'm going to get mad.  'Oh it's not a sociological cult, it's a theological one' he says.  Well crud, sir, if I knew that all it took to put a pejorative title on something I didn't like was to make up one of my own definitions for it and use that, I would do it more often.  Let's use the term 'bucket of stupid'.  I'm gonna use the term 'bucket of stupid' for people who preach a religion that 'comes from God' without believing in revelation or authority, and then call other religions 'cults'.  Now, you can be a good, moral person and still be a 'bucket of stupid,' that's just fine.  In fact, if you take 'bucket of stupid' in a negative way at all, that's your own fault, because according to MY definition it has nothing to do with the traditional pejorative 'stupid'. 

Now, do you see a little hypocrisy and guile there?  Good.  Because that's EXACTLY what that pastor was doing.

Frankly, Mormonism is not a cult.  Well, technically if you follow dictionary.com's definition, ALL religions are cults, but if you are using it as a pejorative, it just doesn't apply, not even by that idiot pastor's definition of cult (except for the fine print, which was 'whatever we say is a cult is a cult').  We are Christians.  We believe that Jesus Christ is the literal Son of God who died for us to save us from our sins.  We believe that Jesus Christ founded our church, through Joseph Smith, by revelation and authority.  It irritates me when people say I am not Christian the same as it would irritate you if I said your wife's a whore.  Word hurt, especially when they are mean, spiteful, and not true.  I believe in Christ.  I believe in the Bible (just not that pastor's uninspired and cherry-picking reading of it).  I believe that Christ hasn't abandoned us, that revelation, prophets, miracles, etc., exist not just in ancient Jerusalem but in other places and times because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  If you have more questions about my faith, visit www.mormon.org.  Or just ask me. 

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Birthday Joy

Sorry so long no post.  I been bizzy.  School this semester has been an interesting mix -- an absolutely wonderful, inspiring writing class that makes me want to rewrite my whole book to perfection, and a frustrating, expensive, but soon-to-be obsessive book arts class.  I'm not up to a level of functionality to adequately tackle these things the way I want to.  But feeling motivated is nice!

But on the title subject -- my family has gone together to buy me a Kindle Fire for my birthday and I am way excited!  It doesn't come out for another month and a half, but I think it'll be awesome.  I haven't been taking tablets seriously because they just seem so expensive, but this seems much more practically priced.  It's just gonna be nice and I'm excited.

In the meantime, it's conference weekend and so far at least 2 of the talks have been just for me.  It's been wonderful.  You can check out the talks at www.lds.org and doing a search for General Conference.

Have fun!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Is Amazon Evil? | | AlterNet

Is Amazon Evil? | | AlterNet:

'via Blog this'

I just found out that Amazon is probably evil. Which is bad, because I need them to sell my book(s) someday. It's also bad because I'm kind of addicted to them.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First day of class

So, with no institute (see my last post), now I only have one class on Tuesdays/Thursdays: Intermediate Fiction Writing.  I originally got this class because it fit best in my schedule (all the other sections of the class were evening classes), but upon further research I found that it also has a great professor.

So I went to class today, full of trepidation, and was thrilled at the format of the class.  No reading list, no required genres of writing, just an open, intense series of workshops on writing.  The goal: improve your writing wherever you are weak.

Why, I asked myself, does this fill me with trepidation, even fear?  Even now I'm all tense thinking about it.  I decided that a) it's very important to me, b) part of me is still unsure if I can do it, and most importantly, c) If I DID do it, actually finish a decent piece of work, that would be the single greatest accomplishment of my entire life.  And seeing it like that makes b) all the more daunting.  There's this little voice in the back of my head that constantly tells me, and has told me since I was very small, that "you can't finish anything big or hard or important."  So anything I perceive as big, hard, and/or important (which college wasn't, in my perception) gets a big anxious flop response from me.  Ugh.  Overcoming that is going to be harder than simply writing, in my opinion.  baby steps babystepsbabystepsbabysteps.

No Institute for Me. :(

For those of you not members of my church, Institute is religious instruction offered to 18-30 year old members and generally associated with a college or university.  I attended and graduated from Institute during my years at the University of Oklahoma and I LOVED it, so much so that I attended for a few more years when I moved up to Boise.
However, when I started going back to school last year here at BSU, I was reluctant to take Institute classes again.  Too much trouble and bother, I thought.  But parking here at the university is horrendous, and institute parking is close to campus and free, so I signed up for classes again.  I found that the classes were wonderful and enlightening, a highlight to my day.
Today, however, when I showed up to sign up for classes, I found that they have instituted a new rule: no more taking institute classes if you are over 35.  Which I am.  They gave me a parking permit anyway, which was awfully generous of them, but even though it meets my original desires from last year, I am saddened.  Now how am I going to get my uplift before class?  Sigh.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Talking Politics 101

This is something that's been bugging me for a while now, particularly from one of my friends on Facebook who is particularly egregious.  Sometimes we just throw courtesy out the window when we talk politics (or anything else we feel passionate about), and it's not only rude, but ineffective.  So I'm laying out some pointers.

1.  Don't insult the other side.  Don't.  Just don't do it.  Don't talk like your position is the only intelligent position, don't make fun of people who don't see things your way.  If you can, stop even FEELING this way, but at the very least stop SAYING it.  No one will be convinced by being told they are stupid, and it's just not funny. 

2.  Don't back up your position with biased sources.  It throws your credibility out the window.  If you start throwing out Rush Limbaugh quotes, the only people who are going to keep listening to you are the Rush Limbaugh fans.  Same with Huffington Post or Sean Penn. 

3.  If you don't like the majority rule where you are, consider moving rather than whining all the time about it.  Yes, we should remain politically active.  But most of the time the approach is just a matter of opinion, not a moral dilemma, so going to extremes to fight the majority is just going to make a lot of people unhappy.  So if the place where you're living has too many gun-toting, Christ-loving, Republican capitalist pigs, consider moving to San Francisco, Oregon, or even Canada.  Or if there are too many tree-hugging, weed smoking, liberal, communist subversives, make your way to Idaho or Utah.  Or learn not to care so much.  Seriously, people.  There is a solution that will make most people happier. 

4.  If  you MUST say something, and you're being polite and using a source that's as objective as possible, please do your research before mouthing off.  And no, I don't mean 'I heard this from a comedy show' (even though they MAY have a good base point).  Actually look up the research, and if you can, look up data from the opposing viewpoint as well.  It may open your eyes enough that you find the need to mouth off diminishing, but if not, then at least you are showing your audience the respect they deserve. 

5.  Study a bit of logic and apply it to your arguments.  Are you using ad hominem attacks?  What about straw men?  What about a dozen other logical fallacies?  Not only do these types of attacks get the other side all riled up, but they make you look stupid.  Sure, if you're preaching to the choir you'll get lots of support anyway, but it's a good idea to prepare for an opposing viewpoint anyway.

6.  Assume the best of your opponents.  I mean, seriously.  Most people who don't like Obama as President are NOT racist, most people who argue for global warming are NOT enviro-nazis.  To jump to extremes is both disingenuous and insulting. 

It's 4:57 a.m. so I can't think of any other points, but I had to get those out there so I can go back to sleep.  The point of this is that conversation is better than rhetoric or attacks, and we can all at least be civil one to another. Please, let's play nice. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The 3 Aspects of Fighting Depression

I had a good talk with my counselor last week.  We were talking about fighting depression and how you need to maintain a balanced battle against its evil.  It's a balancing act, but with diligence and hard work, you can really make progress against depression.

First, there's the physical battle.  Medication, sleep, exercise, diet.  This is the part that many people, including myself, really struggle with.  Medication for me is easy, I have quickly seen the effects of both taking and not taking my medicine.  But sleep is hard (I just want to sleep all the time, and the compulsion is tremendous), and diet and exercise are even worse, because it usually takes a long time (up to 6 weeks even) to see positive effects.  I'm not that patient.  But I can't ignore the plethora of studies that link exercise to well-being, or obesity to depression.  I have to fight better.

The Second Aspect is Social.  Getting out helps me tremendously.  Talking to people.  Interacting.  Improving my relationships.  When I let the depression win, I stay home and don't interact.  Sometimes I even think a lot about how people don't like me or how I don't have any close friends anymore.  Getting out, no matter how hard it is, fights these feelings.  I'm decent at this.  Not great, but not bad either.

The Third Aspect is Educational/Occupational.  It involves working at something and getting positive feedback for it.  I've improved a lot at this since I started going back to school, but I wasn't very good at it before and I fear for how I'll be after I finish school.  I think it's harder when you have a job -- be it a paid job or simply the essential job of taking care of a family -- that doesn't give you much positive feedback.  But if YOU can find yourself satisfied with a job well-done, then that's all you really need!

So I'm working on these Aspects in myself.  One inspiration to me is my sister-in-law Sienna.  She is very smart (just finished her Master's in English) and a great Mom and is very active.  She struggles sometimes too, but she is GREAT about fighting it with exercise and diet and getting out and doing good things.  Yay for Sienna! 

So keep yourself balanced and keep on fighting.  You can do it!

What if -- ?

School starts next week.  I'm nervous.  The 'what if -- ?' scenarios keep going through my head.  What if I'm not good at this?  What if the professor doesn't like me?  What if I can't pull myself out of this funk and get some work done?  It's pretty intimidating if I let myself think about it -- which is why, I believe, thinkers have such a hard time with depression.  If we take too much time to think, what ifs and its evil cousin yeah but start creeping in and cripple the just do its.  Yeah but is the evil cousin that applies to the past -- 'you did so well in that class' is countered by 'yeah but I only had 2 classes' or 'yeah but the class was easy' effectively negating the good thoughts about ourselves. 

The way I started learning to cope with the yeah buts was by looking outside myself after I was told that negating someone's compliment with a 'yeah but' was rude.  I need to smile, accept it graciously and say 'thanks.'  So even if I'm doing it to myself, I need to smile, accept good thoughts graciously and say 'thanks.' 

What ifs are a little more pernicious because they get confused with thinking things through to avoid disaster.  But what ifs are usually low-probability negative things that you can't really control -- at least, you can't control them by fretting about them beforehand.  You simply do your best and deal with problems when and if they actually come up. 

So let go and just DO GOOD.  Be anxiously engaged in a good cause and do your best.  Things will work out.  Sometimes bad things happen, but just deal with them when they come.  You'll be fine.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Lookit me!

I have redesigned my website!  Jake helped...okay he did all the technical parts...but now if you go to www.dyany.com (or just click on Home over there on the upper left of this page) you will see a whole new piece of niftyness.  There's not much there right now -- mostly just links to websites, and my genealogy, but I'm working on a way to post short works of fiction and stuff.  That's tricky, because if I ever want to publish them I can't have posted them on the web.  So it's tricky.  Anyway, that's what I have going right now.  Please give me feedback!

Monday, August 08, 2011

Leavin' on a Jet Plane

First of all, I have to apologize to American Airlines regarding an April post I made about my brother's ticket.  Turns out that (admittedly it took them a few months) they DID finally do my brother a service and they sent him a voucher he can use towards future air travel.  Yay!  Yay for customer service!

Then I booked my Christmas vacation tickets through Delta using miles.  Normal price: $509.  My price: $10.  Yay for miles!  And I get to go see my family again!  It's the Dittmer year for Christmas, so we're ALL going to be there, and it's a gonna be crazy. 

Speaking of traveling, our reunion in Bear Lake went splendiforously, most of the extended Dittmers were there, plus we got to see some Packs too.  Not too much sunburn but a whole lotta fun.  Even though the water was so high that there wasn't much beach.  Crazy. 

School starts in 2 weeks.  Are you excited?  I am!  And scared, of course...this semester looks SO COOL that it can't possibly live up to expectations.  We'll see. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New genealogy page

I recently updated the genealogy I have posted online.  Here is a link to it.  Not only is it WAY cleaner, with many more duplicates merged and a couple of names better verified, but it's much nicer to go through because I did it with a new program called RootsMagic, which so far is WAY better than PAF.  If you hadn't seen the genealogy I posted before, it was a pain to go through.  This new stuff puts it together in pedigree chart style, with links to sources and details and everything else.  When it comes to doing genealogy in general. RootsMagic makes it way easier to check with new.familysearch.org and to check and merge duplicates and do research in general.  They have a free version, which is good for just trying it out, but I recommend, if you are serious about genealogy, to be a big spender and fork out the $29.95 for the full version.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Motivation

I'm sitting here listening to music and, until a moment ago, playing solitaire.  Meanwhile, I have a messy house, 20 lbs of cherries needing canning, barbershop music to practice, and half a dozen other things I need to be doing.  I think that one of the things I struggle with is finding motivation to get things done that I need to get done.  Part of me wants to have some big, dramatic purpose for moving forward.  Like, it's easy to die for something important.  But living for something important?  Or something seemingly not-so-important?  That's much more difficult.  Life rarely has some big, dramatic purpose.  It's made up of little things that add up to make us what we are, give us integrity and character.  Like, in a journey. each little step doesn't seem important, but without the little steps we wouldn't make it to our destination.  Every great person out there became great through the little things -- all the great moms become great by doing the little things like cleaning and raising children every day.  All the great authors become so by writing over and over, word after word.  Even though many of those words are crap and never see print, they all add up and are the background structure for the greatness.  Great marriages are built up of thousands of acts of kindness and words of encouragement.  But I struggle with seeing the forest for the trees.  As one of my favorite songs says, "I want to change the world/instead I sleep".  So keep breathing.  Keep moving.  Keep making, and growing, and cleaning, and canning, and all the other little things that make us up into what makes us great and wonderful.  You'll get there.  Putting one foot in front of the other.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Something I forgot to mention about family reunions

Is length.  We've found anywhere from 1 day (just a picnic or something like that) to 3 days to be ideal.  We did a whole week once and that was just way too much.  1 day is good for local reunions, but may not work for big reunions where people have to really travel.  I know I, for one, would never spend the money on flying or drive lots of hours to just go to a picnic.  But if the scale is really big, I may not want to spend 3 days with a bunch of people I don't know, either.  So pick your length carefully.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Planning a Good Family Reunion

I LOVE planning family reunions.  Partially because I love going on vacations.  Partially because I love being with my family.  Partially because I'm a nerd.  So I've planned a few, and am currently planning a couple more, and I've learned a few things that I figure I could share.

There's a few things to consider when planning a reunion:
  • Scale (who to invite)
  • Cost/budget
  • Location
  • Schedule
  • Activities 
 First and most important is scale.  This affects everything else.  Is this going to be all the descendants of your great-great-grandparents on your mother's side?  Or is this just your parents and siblings?  The further back you go, the older your general attendees are going to be, so you need to plan accommodations and activities accordingly.  Plus, the further back you go, the more spread out the attendees will be so they won't know each other as well and that will affect your activities also.

Second is cost.  Family reunions take money, how are you going to figure out how much to spend and how to collect it from the attendees?  On figuring how much to spend, a good rule of thumb is to use the median income of the attendees, rather than the average (averages can be skewed too much by outliers).  That is, if most of the family is lower-middle class, plan for that range, ignoring the 'rich' uncle -- don't expect him to foot most of the bill.  The bigger the scale of the reunion, the more you will have people that would struggle to get there and the less people will care about going, so keep that in mind as well.  I have found that there are a few things that help a ton, one being family trust funds (i.e., when great-grandpa dies he leaves money in an estate especially marked for reunions) and the other being serious advanced planning.  I've had reunions where we calculated the costs, divided by attendees, and collected monthly amounts per person for over 2 years.  That works well, especially if you round up on what is needed. 

Location is easy if most of your family is in the same area.  Have it local.  But if your family, like mine, is spread out all over the country (or the world), then you have a tough time.  Do you plan according to the location of the organizer, or do you try to do someplace central, or someplace with sentimental value?  I really can't answer that, because it depends on the budgets and tastes of your family.  But if you do it according to the location of the organizer, you MUST switch organizers on a regular basis to make it fair to the outliers. 

Schedule.  We've found that reunions every 2 years is usually a good amount, especially if you can pass off between families every year (e.g., Mom's family this year, Dad's family next year).  If the scale is BIG, do it less often, if it's small, you may want more often.  As to time of year -- if there are kids in school, you have little choice but to have it in the summer when the most people are available to come.  But if you're all empty nesters or home schoolers, try having it in the off-season.  It's fun, open, and much cheaper!  Whether you plan around a holiday is up to your family, with pros being that people get an extra day off work but cons are that people often have other plans on holidays. 

Activities.  Keep activities varied according to ages, with the younger kids needing more planning.  The older your attendees, the fewer activities you'll need to have -- family members getting together often just want to sit around and visit.  Also, try to cater to the tastes of the group -- I wouldn't necessarily plan a camping trip for a bunch of computer programmers, for instance. 

Don't worry about having EVERYONE there.  Same as with life in general, you can't please everyone, and not everyone is going to be able to make it to your reunion.  Try for the majority and let the rest go.  Make sure to take lots of pictures.  Wear sunscreen.  And have fun!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbeds - Lifehacks

The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbeds - Lifehacks: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Nothing really surprising in the list. Though I am often personally surprised at the people I know who think they have time to get to those dreams 'later.' Who put off school, or marriage, or kids, or other dreams when they are easier to do. We all have the same 24 hours in a day! We have many of the same choices to make! Now what are you going to do? We have so much more control than many of us realize, and yet we have so little time before the health starts to go. So cram those days full! Cram 'em!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Canning

Looks like I'm gonna be blogging more for the summer.  It's good practice for writing, I suppose.  Maybe I should put more thought and effort into my blog posts?  Nah.....

Anyway, I talked to my Relief Society president today about starting a canning group and I ordered a cherry pitter because for some reason I'm way excited about cherry season coming up later this month.  I have a ton of canning stuff, and I even have unopened flats of empty jars in the garage from past years of getting excited about canning.  Plus, I have a TON of canning recipes -- 2 books in the house, but also a ton in e-mail because I used to belong to a yahoo! mailing group called Creative Canning Cuisine (CCC) that was all about safe (i.e. FDA approved) canning recipes.  It was a pretty awesome group, just too much e-mail.  Anyway, so I'm excited about people coming to my house and canning.  Cherries.  And cherry pie filling.  And cherry almond jam.  Mmmm.  

Oh, did I mention I'm on a diet?  :P   No wonder I can't stop thinking about cherry pie. 

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Music

I've added some more music to my playlist at the bottom of this page.  Specifically, they are some ukulele covers from my cousin Stephanie Pack and they are quite good, especially considering that she just finished high school and only made the CD  for her brother for Christmas or something.
I've been listening to music a lot the last few days as I struggle to find meaning in the long, empty days.  While the struggle still exists, the music really helps.  Today I was able to do lots of laundry and some other household chores as I be-bopped to the tunes.  I'm working my way up to writing something meaningful.  So watch this space!  (Right now I'm just practicing.)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Weather

It's cold and gray and rainy today.  I love it.  I love living in a place that's not hot and humid from April through October.  It's supposed to be nice tomorrow though -- sunnier and a bit warmer, but not hot.  We're going to have a barbecue with our neighbors and I'm excited.  I feel like the weather is helping me slowly build up my functionality, like I can do a little more today than I did yesterday.  We can ALL do a little better today than we did yesterday, but sometimes it's a little harder than at other times.  I planted flowers in my big flower pot out front yesterday and we'll work more in the yard tomorrow -- it's almost as rewarding as temple work, but even harder to make myself do it!  But there's just something about being outside DOING things when the weather is fine that seems to fulfill a measure of our creation.  Ahhhhh.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Progress!

Well here I am again.  Didja miss me?

School is out for the summer.  This is both a good and bad thing.  It really stresses me out, even though I got all A's this semester (yay!), but I need that focus, that drive.  It really worries me since I've been home the last week (I was in Utah for a couple of weeks right after school got out, going to weddings and visiting friends and family), because I'm so BORED and having a hard time getting myself to just do the things I need to do.  Clean the house.  Exercise.  Write.  You know, be productive.  It's very hard with the depression to approach this in a 'baby step' kind of way, slowly building my functionality.  At the beginning of this week I wasn't sure I could do it at all, but by today I've been a little better every couple of days so I'm a little more hopeful.  It's not all black and white; all or nothing.

One of the things I'm supposed to be doing is logging what I eat and do on www.loseit.com for my doctor.  It's actually a pretty good site, you plug in how much you weigh and other things, and it tells you how many calories you can consume and tracks your activities and such.  I've not been very good at this but I've been better the last couple of days -- you should try it.  It's also a social site, so you can follow your friends' progress if you want.

Another thing about the weddings I went to -- they were both temple weddings, for time and all eternity, and they brought me to tears.  They were both for cousins that I know somewhat well (sort of) and it was so awesome to see them there doing this.  There's just something so...happy about this sort of thing.  So I bought a new temple dress and new temple shoes and hopefully I'll talk myself into going to the temple more often.  It's hard.  But it helps.  There's a special spirit about it that is so wonderful, if I can just get past my personal stresses.

In other news, I took Jeff to my in-laws today.  Yup, he's officially moved out.  It brings me a lot of mixed emotions.  No more worrying about him, no more insults, no more special meals because he's such a picky eater, no more of a lot of stressors.  But I feel like such a failure.  Like we didn't teach him enough in the two years he was here; we didn't instill enough respect and discipline.  He'll get a lot of that at his grandparents' house, but I'm not sure it will come with the love he also needs.  My counselor says that I need to remember that I STILL did some good, I just can't feel it right now.  I hope I feel it someday.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Love

I just watched Michael Buble's music video for "I just haven't met you yet."  While it was fun, and in general I like Michael Buble, I couldn't help but be bothered by the show's premise and how much it reflects an idea of society of "the One" that we fall in love with.  I used to believe that that could happen sometimes, but I'm increasingly of the idea that that's a load of hooey.  Love isn't something that just happens.  It's not some magical power that makes you lose your faults and suddenly have a simple, easy fulfilling relationship with someone.  You have to work hard at it and work hard on yourself.  Once the initial endorphins wear off in any relationship, you have a choice -- make it work, or not.  So many people these days have been brainwashed by the idea of "the One" that they think that once you reach that stage, that they should just go and keep looking to try and find the magical "One".  That's why there's so much divorce and people just plain deciding that marriage isn't worth the trouble.  So come on, people.  TRY.  work at it.  You can do it.

Wishes and Dreams

Sorry so long without an update.  School stresses me out and puts me into a 'I can't do anything if I'm not doing my schoolwork' mode.  It's fun and great but soooooooooo stressful.

I'm doing it for a good reason, though.  Trying to fulfill that lifelong dream of being a good author.  Not necessarily a best-seller, though that would be nice, but to actually write something that makes a DIFFERENCE.  I read all this great literature, with all its layers and complexities and metaphors and symbolism, and I can't help but be overwhelmed and depressed.  How can I do it?  How can I possibly write that well?  Then the therapy-driven part of my brain tells me I'm a good writer already and cites evidence from the classes I've already had and the feedback people give me.  I just need to work at it.  And there's the rub, I guess -- work.  When I was a child, I was 'saved' from everything that was hard, which taught me I can't do it.  But I can.  I've done it before.  I can do it again.  And I'm learning more, so I can do even BETTER.  I'm really looking forward to next semester; I've heard really good things about my fiction professor, so I'm hoping it will really help. 
Right now, though, we need a new mantra.  No more 'I can't.'  Now, repeat after me: I CAN.  I CAN WORK HARD.  I CAN ACCOMPLISH THIS.  Rinse.  Repeat. 

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Gripe

I'm a little ticked right now.  Not for me, but for my brother Joey.  Last year he planned a much-anticipated trip to Italy.  Because he was going in peak season, the plane tickets were $1300 (!).  But due to unforeseen circumstances, Joey couldn't go last year as planned.  He contacted Expedia, from whom he had bought the tickets, and they charged him another $100 to change the tickets and said he had 1 year to re-book the trip.  So he planned and planned for this year, and my brother Tony was going to go with him, but when he went to book the trip, Expedia said he had to contact American Airlines because the tickets were through them.  When he contacted American Airlines, they said he had had 1 year to TAKE the trip, not BOOK the trip like Expedia had said, which year ended in 1 day, so he basically lost $1400.  What kind of crap is that?  What kind of customer service does that to someone, especially for something so expensive?!  So I'm ticked, and I'll never book with Expedia or American Airlines. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Unadulterated Shout-out

I have to give an unadulterated shout-out for my Uncle Dave.  He's a vet here in the Boise area and he's been taking care of our cats for as long as we've had them.  He does a great job -- all the shots they need, none they don't, and he COMES TO YOUR HOUSE.  That's right, no more loading the cats in the carrier and taking them to the vet!  He has a completely renovated RV that he does the work in.  And right now they have a new special where you can pay just $15 a month ($10 more per month for extra pets) and get a slew of benefits, including 2 exams per year and basic shots, plus lots of other benefits.  Our cats hate him but we LOVE him.  He keeps our babies healthy.  If you want to check him out go to his website.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Learning and self-perception

I was in a panic this week.  Anxiety attacks, worry, worry, worry.  I had a linguistics test, 100 questions, and the material is HARD.  Oh, how I worried.  I also studied though.  You can't JUST worry, that's not productive.  So I studied, and made flash cards, and highlighted, and read, and studied.  Finally test day came.  I took my pencil to class and took the test.  Just taking it was a relief, but it was an extra relief to see it wasn't as hard as my often-psychotic mind was telling me that it was.  The studying helped.  A lot.  And the praying helped.  A lot.  And the next day the test results came in and guess what.  I had a 94%, the highest grade in the class.  In both classes, even.  And the professor gave us our ranking for the semester thus far, and guess who's number one?  Me!  Which means that not only am I a nerd, but I am also a worrywart, and no matter how much circumstances and God try to prove to me that I am smart, I still don't believe it.  I would much rather believe the idiots who try to tell me that I am stupid. 

Now the challenge is to believe it enough to be at peace with myself, but not so much that I get all cocky and think that I can skate by without hard work.  Which I keep getting tempted to do in my other class, which is also very hard.  Why is everything so hard?  I think it's because I'm lazy and I'm afraid to try.  It takes 90% of my effort just to TRY, and then I'm exhausted.  Dumb. 

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A great Dichotomy

A discussion on the forum I frequent has reminded me of the fact that there are basically three types of Mormons/Christians. 

What non-believers often focus on are the "hellfire and damnation" type.  Nothing and no one is ever good enough, so you should constantly feel really guilty, or hopeless, or both.  While it is true that no one is perfect, the important thing is that we are trying, and repenting.  To focus on shortcomings is to deny the Atonement of Christ.  The biggest way I've seen this destroy lives is through children who grow up feeling hopeless and/or unloved because the love they are shown is conditional on their obedience, so they feel that God's love for them is conditional as well and they will never 'earn' it. 

What I see increasingly, though, is the "feel good" type.  As 2nd Nephi 28:8 says, "And there shall also be many which shall say: Eat, drink, and be merry; nevertheless, fear God—he will justify in committing a little sin; yea, lie a little, take the advantage of one because of his words, dig a pit for thy neighbor; there is no harm in this; and do all these things, for tomorrow we die; and if it so be that we are guilty, God will beat us with a few stripes, and at last we shall be saved in the kingdom of God."  I see this attitude way too much lately.  "oh that commandment is too hard to keep, so I won't be held accountable for it,"or "we'll just do the work for Uncle Jim after he dies, then all will be well."  God will not be mocked.  We are supposed to keep the commandments, that's why they are there.  God's love for us cannot be changed -- He ALWAYS loves us -- but there are laws in place that must be kept before we can live with Him again.  That's why the atonement is there...but we have to USE it.  It doesn't just magically take care of everything by itself.  We have to repent.

Then there is the third type -- those few who battle on to keep the commandments, repent, and have faith and hope in the Savior and His redeeming sacrifice for us.  I think most of us struggle and slip into the first or second categories on occasion.  I know I do.  Boy howdy.  But the Lord is always there for us, waiting for us to repent and come unto Him.  He even helps us do it. 

Monday, January 31, 2011

Finding blessings

I am unable to have children.  I had problems with my body from the time I was young and the hysterectomy I had four years ago kind of sealed the deal.  On top of that, adoption is very difficult and expensive, and with depression at the level I suffer it, impossible. 

When I was younger, I imagined that I would grow up, get married, and have kids.  I always thought getting married would be the hard part.  It was hard...but at least it's possible.  Now I have a great husband, and I'm getting used to not having kids.  It's...interesting.

The LDS church is a very family-oriented church.  After Christ, family is the number one focus.  I have heard many people complain that because they are single or because they can't have kids, that they don't fit in or feel welcome.  I find that not to be true.  While it is true that there have been hard times and even a few misunderstandings (especially in the early days when people didn't understand why I was childless), I have found my faith invaluable to coping with loneliness and childlessness.  Any offense that was felt was because I took it -- not because it was given.  

There is a parable about a young man who went to God and asked him to make him strong.  God told him to go to a certain large boulder and push it up a hill.  Excited that he would be strong, the young man went to the boulder and pushed and pushed, but was unable to budge it.  Discouraged, he went back the next day to God, who told him to try it again.  Again he tried, but again he failed.  Over and over again the young man was told to push the boulder up the hill, and over and over again he could not do it.  Finally, in despair, he went to God.  "I guess I will never be strong," he said.  "Go look in the mirror," said God.  When the young man did, he found that he was bulging with muscles.  Pushing that rock every day had made him strong, though he had never been able to move it. 

So it is with life.  I have realized that the Lord gives us exactly what we need.  If we are bad, He often lets bad consequences happen to help us learn to stop.  If we are weak, He often gives us hard exercises to help us to become strong.  If we continue in faith, obedient and true to the course, we will be blessed, though often not in ways that we originally anticipated or wanted. 

I know that many people struggle with depression while having children.  But for me, that wasn't what was best.  Whether I am too weak to deal with both challenges or whether I have other roles to fulfill, or both, I don't know.  All I know is that there are blessings in this life, with or without children, with or without spouses, with or without many blessings we once thought of as necessary.  If we are faithful, we shall have everything good in the eternities.  Does the Lord know best, or doesn't He?  I believe that He does. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Kid History - Episode 3

Kid History - Episode 2

Kid History - Episode 1

Memory and plug for myfamily.com

Isn't it funny the things we remember?  For instance, I don't remember a heck of a lot from most of my classes the first time I went to college.  Certain things stick out, certainly, but I doubt I could do a differential equation to save my life.  But I remember that one of my friends had total and complete eyebrow control.  Because that was cool, I guess.  Useless, but cool.  Why can't I remember more of the useFUL things? 

BTW, any of you readers of my blog to which I am related -- please please please go and join the Pack myfamily.com site at http://www.myfamily.com/group/12011276 so I can excuse paying for the site!  Besides, aunt Janet posted some important but kind of private stuff on there that you need to read.  It's actually a pretty cool site.  Anyway, see you there!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Birds





Here's a picture Jake took of some owls in our next-door-neighbor's tree.  We hear them all the time.  I think they are Great Horned Owls.  Cool, eh?  We also went today to the Birds of Prey sanctuary place in Boise, that was awesome.  Got to see hawks and eagles and condors and all sorts of birds.  Learned lots of stuff.

Friday, January 14, 2011

From the Darkness

1st essay from Non-fiction writing

                The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.  – Henry David Thoreau, Walden

                According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the preeminent authority on psychiatric diagnoses, major depressive disorder is characterized by the following symptoms: either a depressed mood or a loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities consistently for over two weeks, marked functional impairment, morbid preoccupation with worthlessness, suicidal ideation, psychotic symptoms (i.e., perceiving things not as they really are), psychomotor retardation, hypersomnia nearly every day, or fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
                Check. 
                Check.
                Check.  Check.  Check.
                Before I was born, symptoms of depression would sometimes rear their ugly heads in my family.  I have a great aunt who committed suicide, as did her daughter.  I have closer relatives with many symptoms of depression, often left untreated.   Some of my earliest memories include staying up all night terrified of an otherwise uneventful day at school, throwing up because I forgot to return a nickel to a classmate, or becoming feverish and hallucinating after being exposed to swimming pools or lakes, of which I was somewhat phobic.  I grew up with fear and trepidation and a generally negative view of the world, despite a loving home environment and the best of parents.
                Over time, my illness became more subtle and more pernicious.  Less vomiting, more perfectionism, fewer hallucinations, more internally negative thoughts.  Going to college in the late eighties taught me much more than pure academia, including positive ways of thinking, and the fact that I was loved by others beyond my family.  I still remember the day it happened.  A friend took me to his parents’ house on the way to an activity, and they couldn’t stop talking about how neat I was because he had been talking about me.  For someone with depression, this was amazing – that people thought about me, positively, when I wasn’t there.  They even talked about me!  At times like this I actually felt joy.  But the stress to perform was tremendous.  It wasn’t good enough to simply pass a class, I needed to make at least a B.  I needed to have more than acquaintances; I needed a legion of best friends.  It wasn’t enough to simply be involved in activities outside of school, I had to be involved with everything.  It wasn’t long before I, like Shakespeare’s Danish prince, wondered,
To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life
Those thoughts were a profound warning sign.  Friends and church leaders persuaded me to be evaluated, and the questionnaire testing came back positive for depression.  But I didn’t have the money or the foresight to seek help beyond the evaluation yet. 
It’s hard to seek help for depression.  It takes admitting that you can’t function well on your own.  It takes a humility and meekness I did not yet have.   It takes good insurance, since not all insurance covers psychiatric care.  And it generally takes a support system that sees the problem for what it is – an illness, like cancer, the flu or MS -- rather than as a personal failing. 
Still, I fought the illness, the dark thoughts.  I surrounded myself with positive things and worked hard to stay on top of events – work, school, social life, service.   In fighting, I grew stronger, at least I thought.  However, the dopamine and serotonin receptors in my brain were determined to malfunction.  See, in depression the brain doesn’t function normally.  Generally there are problems with certain neurotransmitters, like dopamine or serotonin (things which I like to call “happy juice”), where either the brain doesn’t produce enough of them or receptors reabsorb them too quickly, before they can take proper effect.  There are many reasons why these receptors malfunction, some temporary, some permanent.  There are also many effects from the malfunction – the negative or psychotic thoughts, hypersomnia, all the symptoms I listed before.  The brain is a still a mysterious thing. 
After I moved to Idaho, my ability to cope grew progressively worse until I lost my job and found myself as though dead, a cipher scarcely able to function, unable to create.  I was unable to function in the areas I considered necessary, and I found myself withdrawing socially, failing to do service as I had, unable to read or write or enjoy or even do the daily maintenance around the house that had once seemed so simple and basic.  I had reached the point where I felt I had nothing.  In truth, by then I still had a loving husband and friends and family, a nice home, and many blessings, but I was seeing through the glass, darkly.
                Depression is like drowning.  You’re in the middle of the ocean with nothing in sight but water and more water.  You’ve been treading water for so long that every muscle aches and fatigue is swamping you.  Sometimes you feel like you can keep your head above water, but other times you can’t.  You just can’t.  It affects every aspect of your life.  A typical day consists of sleeping, eating, and more sleeping when it’s at its worst.  Even television is overwhelming and unsatisfying to the depressed, leading my sister to state, “Depression is when even TV isn’t fun anymore.”  Dishes go unwashed because they are just too overwhelming.   You don’t talk to people because what’s the point, or even worse, you feel stupid and useless and unloved.  There were times when I would come home from a social event in tears, sure that I didn’t fit in and that everyone hated me.  Every setback is a deal-breaker and every good thing is swallowed up in the sea of despair.  Even your closest relationships suffer as you feel too ugly and stupid to be loved; every show of love to you seems like a lie or a trick.  Everything is irritating, you are snappish and sullen.  And no matter how often logic and evidence tells you that things can’t possibly be this bad, your brain just isn’t working right and warps everything to fit its dark manifesto, like a twisted lens.
                There is a scripture passage in the Book of Mormon that states that there must be opposition in all things.  If not, we couldn’t tell the difference between good and bad, happiness and misery.   I had known the misery.  I had lived that cold, empty side and I had had enough of it.  I had known, briefly in college, happiness.  I had known what it was like to hope, to love, to enjoy.  I knew there was something besides that which I was feeling.  I knew it existed.  I needed to find it again.  Find it and grab a hold of it and run with it.
I began to realize that I had to make choices.  I believe it was Corrie Ten Boom, a holocaust survivor, who told us that happiness is a choice.  Horrible things happening to you are not usually a choice.  Depression was not a choice.  But how I dealt with it was a choice.  I was miserable.  But there had to be things I could do about it.  If there were no cure, then at least something must exist to take the edge off.  Would it be worth it?  Was it possible to be happy even while depressed?  I had to formulate a hypothesis and test it, the hypothesis being that there was a way to fight the depression.  If this hypothesis was correct, I could find a way to fight the depression and feel better.  But depression is a fickle master.  Under the delusions it fills your mind with, there is no way to fight it.  No hope.  Again I found myself turning to scripture, this time the eleventh chapter of Hebrews in the New Testament.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.”  I didn’t hope – I didn’t dare – but I wanted to.  Whether that desire could be enough I didn’t know, but I had to try it.  I had to have faith that something really could help me, and act on that faith.
There is an old adage that says “good help is hard to find,” and nowhere is that more evident than in seeking competent mental help.  I tried half a dozen counselors, one of whom told me I was sinning because I was feeling bad about myself, and half as many psychiatrists.  Even with good people helping me, psychiatry is an inexact science.  There is a lot of trial and error with the medications, some doing nothing, others making it worse, each trial being plagued with questions: is it helping?  Is it helping enough?  Is it worth the side effects?  Is there something better out there than this?  But as John Lubbock (one of a line of Barons in England) says, “Happiness is a thing to be practiced, like the violin.”  Now there are things that help me.  After years of trials, I now have medication that’s suddenly like a life preserver in that sea of despair.  No longer is every eye focused on me and every person in the room thinking how stupid I am.  No longer do I snap at everything my husband has to say.   Counseling helps as well, if for nothing else than an authority figure telling me the dark thinking is wrong.  Not bad, just not true.
The people around me, my friends and family, have to make adjustments as well.  They have to recognize the symptoms that are a call for help.   They have to help encourage me, at just the right non-threatening level, to do more.  They have to put up with someone who doesn’t function up to the abilities of a “normal” person.   But what is “normal” anyway?  What does “functioning” mean?  Holding a job?  Raising good kids?  Not blowing up at people?  The dictionary simply says that it is “conforming to the usual standard, type or custom” or “physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.”  There isn’t a real definition of “normal” that can be applied consistently to behavior, is there?  I mean, for every culture it is going to change, including subcultures, down to individual families.  Everything that makes us different, or “abnormal,” isn’t necessarily bad.  Every tiny failure in functioning doesn’t make me unhealthy.   When it comes to depression even the definition of depression is warped by the illness.  I may therefore be better than I think I am. 
Bad things happen.  They happen to everyone.  Just because I’m depressed and I see bad things where they don’t exist doesn’t mean that I am somehow exempt from having bad things really happen.  The trick is knowing how to deal with them.  I lost jobs – I had to tell myself there were other jobs out there.  My husband lost jobs – I had to remind myself that there were things to help us even then and not to panic.  We moved, and I had to ask for help, swallow my pride, and ask for more help than I wanted to.  We have had to take care of a nephew because his drug-addled mother couldn’t.  The depression and inexperience with raising teenagers makes this difficult and I’m not doing as good of a job as I would like, but I have to remind myself that it has to be better than what he had before.  It’s really not that much different, dealing with the real problems and the depression-warped ones.  So in an odd twist of fate, perhaps according to the will of God, I am becoming stronger than some others in dealing with hardships.   I have depression every day, but perhaps this makes the bumps in the road less perceptible to me.  Depression, a blessing in disguise?  Perhaps.   To someone with my religious background and faith, it is. 
Every day I have to make choices.  What do I believe?  I believe I can fight this.  What can I do?  I can get up; I can function, however minimally.   Picking up ten things in the living room isn’t cleaning the house, but it’s better than what the depression tells me I want to do – sleep, sleep, and more sleep.  I get up.  And I get up in the morning.  I exercise.  I go out when the depression is bad and I need positive feedback.  I find commiseration in with others who suffer as I do.  I am going back to school in an effort to revive the creative part of me that was lost.  What can I be?  I can be happy.  No matter how much practice it takes.    

On going back to school


Sorry for the formatting.  I cut and pasted from Word which is simply not pretty, and I'm too lazy to go through the whole dang thing and figure out the formatting.  This is the 2nd essay I did for Non-fiction writing.  Nothing fancy in cites, but I hope you like it.

On the first day of classes, I was pretty nervous.  Would there be other older students in my classes?  How well would my aging body cope with the physical and mental strain of going back to school?  Would I stick out like a sore thumb?  What about my backpack?  Back when I went to school the first time, how you wore your backpack seemed to be pretty important with how you were observed by other students.  I didn’t want to get it wrong. 
I am a non-traditional student.
                As a former “traditional” college student, I find this difficult to admit.   There always seemed to be some sort of stigma to the non-traditional student – like they didn’t do things right in the first place.  This may be simply a product of my upbringing, but it seems in our society that we are told that life moves in a constantly improving continuum – grade school, high school, college, career and family, retirement.  Anything deviating from this line is not “normal” and should be avoided – though very, very few Americans actually follow this pattern in the first place.  Non-traditional students are only one of many roles that deviate from this false norm.
                The term “non-traditional student” isn’t that easy to define.  According to Wikipedia, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) says that most of the time it involves age and part-time status – in other words, if you are older than “just out of high school” and/or are going part-time, you’re considered non-traditional, which means that I qualify in spades, as do most students attending institutions of higher learning. 
                But what does this mean?  Nothing, in many ways.  A student is a student, right?  Non-traditional students pay their fees and go to class like every other student, right? 
                For me the differences were varied in both scope and intensity.  It was a very personal thing, going back to school 20 years later.  When I was 18, college was expected of me.  Promoted, adored, encouraged and blessed by parents and the powers that be with money, gear, and lifestyle choices.  This made it easy.  Natural.  Now I go back purely of my own devices, very aware of the idea – whether factual or not -- that I am doing this because I failed at something.  Either I don’t make enough money, or I don’t feel fulfilled, or I’m going back to finish something I was unable to complete in the first place, or I lack some social standing that comes from being “educated enough.”  For me, I wasn’t using or feeling fulfilled by my original degree, so, in combination with therapy for depression, I decided to go back to school.  It’s a slightly different reason than many have for going back.  But then, going back is always different from one person to the next.  For some, it could be the simple joy of being able to intellectualize with others with similar interests; to be able to talk to people about something more than the inanities of daily life. 
                My fears are not simply mine alone.  I have a nephew living with us, nearly the age that I was when I first went off to university, who reflects and magnifies all of my shortcomings.  “You’d better get a good job with that degree or it’s not worth it,” he tells me.  “You’ll just be wasting all of your husband’s money for nothing.”  He doesn’t understand study, work, personal responsibility, or the desire for good grades and makes me self-conscious of everything I am doing wrong. 
On top of this, there are my own fears that I just won’t be able to make it in school these days, at my age.  “Make it” is a purposefully vague term.  Straight As have never been necessary for my well-being, but As and Bs are.  On top of this, a sense of being accepted and liked by authority figures is important to me.  Will I be “good enough” by these criteria to feel fulfilled, thus making the endeavor “worth it?”  Am I even up to the task anymore?  I used to be a National Merit Scholar – one of the best and brightest; I excelled at school.  But now, is it fair to use old grades and test scores to let me in when they don’t represent what I know now?  How will school be different now that the internet is such a big part of our lives?  How will I fare against all of the whippersnappers in a school designed for whippersnappers? 
And yet, I keep telling myself, school is always good -- no matter how hard, no matter how expensive, no matter how time-consuming.  It always makes the people who make the effort to attend, better – though I have no source for that.  I receive nothing but congratulations and “good for yous” when I tell people what I am doing.  So what I am doing is good.   Then why does it feel so scary?
By the standards and determination of the NCES, 73 percent of all undergraduates in 1999-2000 could be considered non-traditional, so we certainly aren’t in the minority.  Many schools have programs specifically geared to the non-traditional student and some schools are geared only to the non-traditional student, such as the University of Phoenix, a popular national program.   Yet many universities are still geared towards the traditional, just-out-of-high-school, full-time student.   The culture is as I remember it being when I was a traditional student 20 years ago – all-encompassing in scope, almost parental in care and detail.  Are you eating?  Here’s a meal plan.  Are you broke?  Here’s financial aid counselors.  Are you ill?  Here’s a health plan.  Are you bored?  Here are activities.  I don’t need these things anymore, but I feel as if I am missing something by refusing them. 
Twenty years can do a lot to a person.  It can teach and edify them with a legion of experiences; it can dull and inure with repetition and hardship.  It can add skills; it can take them away.  Basically, 20 years can make you a different person than who you were, and can totally change your college skill set.  I’ve found that as I’ve come back to school, I’m a little slower and I don’t have nearly as much energy as I had the first time around, which is a special challenge since I now have a household to maintain and a child in my care, as well as having to commute 20 miles.  Having so many of class resources on the internet is a new thing for me as well, and I’m not as sharp as I would like to be.  But some of my skills, I am surprised to learn, have sweetened with time and my experience has taught me things that most of the whippersnappers just don’t know.  I have the experience to tell me that one way is an interesting way to write something, and another way is not.  I can walk up to a situation that requires experience that I have, and I can know it – times where my ten years at a single job make understanding something, like how to write a professional document, easy while whippersnappers in the class are scratching their heads.  It’s a nice feeling.  A rare feeling, but nice.  Different than the bright-eyed, naive schoolgirl I was 20 years ago. 
                As a non-traditional student, though, I am apparently not par for the course.  According to NCES, most non-traditional students attend two-year institutions, work, and drop out after the first year.  Most, apparently, aren’t going for a second undergraduate degree, either, which I am doing.   
                Another aspect of the non-traditional student is simply the factor of being an adult learner – which, according to Wikipedia and the great expert on learning Malcolm Knowles, is any person socially accepted as an adult who is in a learning process, whether formal education, informal learning, or corporate-sponsored learning.   Adults learn – through andragogy -- slightly differently than children and young adults learn through pedagogy (though pedagogy most often refers to learning in general, its original root means “child instruction” and that distinction is what I’m going by here).  Adult learners do best when the learning is purposeful, they are involved with other adult learners, they build upon past knowledge, skills, and experience, they share past learning with each other, and they are learning in an environment of respect.  Physical aspects of aging can impact the learner as well – for instance, I have less energy and more weight than I did the first time I went to school, as many of us older students do.  I need hearing aids and I’m on various medications that slow me down.   Quite a difference from the invincible nineteen-year-old that attended college in Oklahoma so many years ago! 
                What does this mean to higher education models?   According to www.worldwidelearn.com, the old idea of a well-rounded education is giving way to a career-oriented work training model: fewer core courses, more work-specific classes.  More courses and degree programs are offered online, and at a faster pace than traditional degrees, allowing more flexibility for non-traditional students who are working full-time jobs at the same time as going back to school.   Most universities offer night classes to accommodate working or child-rearing adult learners, and the anecdotal demographics reflect this – in other words, I hear there are far more students my age in the night classes than I see in my day classes.
                For me, as well as many other students, online courses aren’t a good option.  The lack of face-to-face interactions and feedback make learning difficult.  But because I am not working at the same time, it’s easier for me to take traditional, daytime classes.  So I am a non-traditional student taking the traditional courses, putting myself in an awkward situation.  For the non-traditional students who choose to follow this course, we will probably still find ourselves a fish out of water.  Is it worth it?  Undoubtedly.   It’s just that while sitting in a classroom filled with nineteen and twenty-year-olds, it doesn’t always feel that way.
                In an interview with BSU instructor Karen Uehling, she brought up the important point that young students and older students each bring something unique and important to the learning environment that they can share with one another.  Youth brings creativity and spontaneity, while maturity brings organizational skills and responsibility.   She wouldn’t exclude either group.
                One thing that I struggle with as I go back to school is fear.  The world out there is harsh, and I’ve learned that I rarely have a handle on what’s going on.  According to Professor Uehling, this is rather common.  In the adult student, she finds too much dependence on the instructor and authority; an irrational fear of failure.  As I speculate on this from my own perspective, I am not surprised.  Having worked for more than one authoritarian boss, we have come to sometimes doubt our own credibility against the authority figure.   
                All of this life experience leads to different motivations for adults and learning, according to Ron and Susan Zemke in the article “30 Things We Know for Sure About Adult Learning.”  Adults don’t usually seek out learning for the sake of learning, but rather in order to cope with specific life-changing events.  And since “the people who most frequently seek out learning opportunities are people who have the most years of education, it is reasonable to guess that for many of us learning is a coping response to significant change.”  The learning experiences adults seek out are usually directly related to the life-change events that triggered the seeking – so if most of the change being encountered is work-related, then most of the learning experiences sought should be work-related. 
                Not all learning is business, however.  For myself, I am not seeking so much a career as a purpose that builds me up, which also jibes with the Zemkes’ research.  “Increasing or maintaining one’s sense of self-esteem and pleasure are strong secondary motivators for engaging in learning experiences.”
                The culture shock is something I hadn’t considered when going back to school.  Finishing school the first time and trying to find my way in the working world was hard.  The “real world,” as people call it, is much harsher than college in many, many ways.  But once I was used to that, it made coming back to school again another culture shock.  But I must remind myself, the important thing is that I am here and that I am trying.  I don’t need to make straight A’s to succeed.  Remember, college is always a good thing.
                What are some things that can help with the transition of going back to school?  According to Professor Uehling in her book Starting Out or Starting Over: A Guide for Writing, there are many thought patterns we can do well to avoid:
1.        The “Last Chance” Syndrome.  This isn’t your last chance.  If you mess up or don’t finish or find you need different skills, you can go back to school again later.  Remember, school is always a good thing!
2.       The “I Have to Prove Myself” Syndrome.  Don’t be obsessed with grades.  Your focus should be learning and growing, not just doing well.
3.       Don’t belittle the skills you already possess.  Capitalize on them.
                The same difficulties exist for me as for any other student: time, money, resources, and difficulty of classes.  There are some difficulties I didn’t have when I was a traditional student.  Some difficulties I had then have gone away – the biggest of which is that I am not in a position where I need to learn how to be an adult (at least not completely).   As to the backpack question posed at the beginning of this essay – I’ve found it doesn’t matter and I don’t really care.  I’m back for my own reasons now, not part of the lifestyle or culture that is traditional schooling.  Besides, as www.worldwidelearn.com asks, how old will you be in a few years if you don’t get a degree?