Please Forgive Me. I Am A Grad Student.

April 18, 2013 at 8:24 pm (A Little Fun, back to school, Studies, Time Off Together) (, , , , , )

Not that I really have anything interesting to post in the first place, but life has pretty much been put on hold for the last 2 semesters.  I have been totally immersed in my studies.  A master’s in statistics does not come easy, especially when your background is in Theology and social services.

Hopefully I will have something interesting to post soon.  It is going to be a busy summer, but hopefully a little pleasure will be mixed with business.  I have finally agreed to go backpacking with Josh.  He has been asking for quite some time and I finally took pity on him.  So a few weeks ago he plopped this ball of plastic down on in front of me and said,

tent

“This is our tent”

Ummm….

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Twenty-Twelve

December 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm (A New Career, back to school, Employment, Finances, Job Satisfaction, Memories, Social Services, Studies) (, , , , )

Last year I said that I was glad to say good-bye to 2011.  Many people agreed with me.  It was a tough year.  As was the year before that…and the year before that…and the year before that…and half of the year before that.  It felt like we were in a game of Whack-A-Mole.  When we were finally able to peek our head above ground  WHACK!  We were bopped back down.

2012 offered a lot of promise.  It started out rough, got a little…well…a LOT rougher, and I think it has ended better than many of the years before.

A few days ago Josh and I took a (very chilly!) walk along Lake Michigan reflecting on the highlights of 2012.

January:

  • Despite being the slow months of winter, Josh saw a lot of success with his program.
  • I started my first semester as a graduate student.
  • Finally out of debt, after 4 years!
  • We picked up our first ever BRAND NEW vehicle (ordered on Black Friday, we had the sales guy so flustered he inverted a couple of numbers giving us a $2,000 savings)!  After 11 years Josh now only has one more broken down vehicle to work on!

033

February:

  • More success in Josh’s program during the slow months of winter.  I think they saw some of the highest number of hours served in the history of the program during these months.  The program is expanding so much Josh is having a hard time hiring staff to keep up!

March:

  • Day trip to South Bend.  We still don’t have money, but we wanted to get OUT!
  • Josh’s brother calls on a Wednesday to invite us to his wedding…Friday.  This was supposed to be the day Josh got terminated, but because of this call he had to push the appointment back.  Yes, they made an appointment with him to terminate him, but he was told they would be working out some issues with his boss.
  • We enjoy Chris and Katie’s wedding on the steps of the courthouse in Crown Point.
  • On March 9 I post this on FB: For the first time since shortly after our move back from Scotland we have money in the bank! After 4 years of working to get out of debt we did not ask for it feels SO good to have a few bucks that are not already claimed for bills.
  • On March 19 Josh was terminated (Josh’s comment at the beach: I didn’t have to work for my creepy boss anymore!).
  • I have no choice but to continue working at the same agency that chewed Josh up and spit him out.
  • Josh’s amazing staff came together and gave him a great going away party on their own time.  We are humbled by the love and support they show.

leaving5

April:

  • Classes end.
  • Josh is trying to get out of social services so not applying for those jobs, but he is not being considered for anything else because he does not have specific experience. I want to go up to those haughty HR people and tell them my husband is so ingenuitive he can make a Popsicle stand in the arctic successful and they are missing out!

May:

  • Josh finally starts getting unemployment.  We watch our finances slip back to their previous state of debt.
  • Josh continues the job search, trying to get out of social services.  After countless emails saying he will not be considered for a labor or manufacturing position because he does not have the experience he goes back to applying for social services positions.
  • Camping!
  • I enjoy meeting with high school friends Tiph, Jil, and Steph at Steph’s production of Listen To Your Mother.

June:

  • We celebrated my grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary in Michigan.

ann1

  • We enjoy our cousin Kristina’s wedding.
  • Josh is offered a job to start mid-June.  Neither of us feel good about it, but it is a job.  Josh tries to negotiate for more time off because of his experience, since they will not budge on the low pay, but they say no.
  • We take a road trip to visit a dear friend in North Carolina.  We love to travel but had not had the money to for the last 5 years.  We love nature and mountains and this was just what we needed.
  • Josh has an interview for another job the day we get back from NC.
  • I take my client on her vacation to Amish Acres where we see “State Fair”, eat out LOTS (I have the best ever root beer float, and I don’t like root beer!), shop at Shipshewana, and go on a horse a buggy ride.
  • I put in my two weeks!
  • Josh starts his new job, but is offered the other and quits after 4 days (He has yet to be paid for that one!).

July:

  • Josh starts his NEW new job.
  • I become advocate for Verda, who was previously my client.
  • Blueberry picking!
  • I enjoy occasionally meeting with Verda and her staff for coffee/lunch/ice cream.
  • We enjoy the LaPorte County Fair.
  • FIREWORKS!!!
  • Josh, Stacey, and I organize  help set up for Chris and Katie’s wedding (and party hard afterwards!).

August:

  • We enjoy our summerly get together at our place for our lunch club.
  • We fly (for the first time since we moved back stateside!) to SF to visit Stacey.  We had a wonderful apartment in San Rafael, enjoyed many restaurants (YAY restaurant.com!), and got in lots of nature with hikes along the coast and a visit to Yosemite.
  • Classes begin.
  • Josh is working lots of hours.

September:

  • Camping!
  • We join a great new small group.
  • I start my Thirty-One business!

kit

  • We say good-bye to our Brazilian friends Eduardo and Natalia.  😦
  • I have my first Thirty-One party.
  • Josh is working lots of hours, but he gets his first raise.

October:

  • We celebrate Josh’s birthday at his favorite place because he can get whatever seafood he wants (Red Lobster).
  • Camping!
  • I have several Thirty-One parties, but everything starts to become a blur because of classes.
  • Josh is working lots of hours.

November

  • We celebrate my birthday, but we had to squeeze it in quick because I didn’t really have time to celebrate.  We didn’t go out anywhere.  Josh surprised me with a beautiful lemon and raspberry cake he made and decorated.
  • Stevie had some of his artwork in ArtAbility.
  • Thanksgiving!
  • Josh is working lots of hours, but is caseload is changed to be more local.  He is allowed $300/mo for his expense report.  This was not even covering his mileage.

December

  • I feel like I am about to die as classes wind down.  I pulled 2 all-nighters in a row to complete a project.
  • Classes finally end!  I didn’t think I would make it!
  • Josh’s work finally starts to slow down and he is offered another raise.
  • Christmas!

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When Things Don’t Happen As Planned…

April 2, 2011 at 3:01 pm (back to school, Employment, Finances) (, , )

It was such a difficult decision.  So. Difficult.  I had so many emotions running through me and it was a dark weekend for me.

I had been doing poorly in my class.  My one and only class.  The one I had been working towards and had been so excited for for over a year.  At first it wasn’t so poor that I couldn’t bring it back up.  I was confident I would bring it up to a B on my mid-term.  I was confident about the mid-term.  I knew the material.

But the weekend after the mid-term I cried and was depressed and was angry.  My dream was falling apart.  I had one more week to decide if I should risk it.  Out of 250 points for the rest of the class I could only miss 20 to get a B for the semester.

That weekend I decided I needed to drop the class.  This was my ONLY class.  I couldn’t count on any others to bring up my GPA.  I HAD to have a B in order to be considered for grad school.  I was PLANNING to start grad school in the fall.  I would complete it in 3 semesters.  Then things would be better.  My life would change.  Our years of challenges and hard, hard work would come to an end.

I felt like a failure.

I felt stupid.

I felt like I should quit.  Everything.  EVERYTHING.

I didn’t understand what was going on.  I understood the material, despite the crummy textbook and despite the confusing teaching style of my professor.  I worked hard to find answers in other books and online.  I watched youtube videos of Berkeley lectures.

The next Tuesday I went to class, then I went to the peer tutoring I had been attending.  Rahm said he could tell I was understanding the material and doing well at it.  This made me sad and frustrated.  I DID know the material!  It was this horrid anxiety I felt during exams!  I blanked out.  I couldn’t remember things, despite having a formula sheet in front of me.  I even missed a WHOLE PAGE on the mid-term.

I talked to someone from the Department of Students with Disabilities.  They said if you have a diagnosis (what?!  I didn’t even know!) they will allow you to test in a private room and give you time-and-a-half for the exam.  I read up on test anxiety.   I thought about how I talked to my professor and she said there was plenty of time to get the exam done and that the formula sheet was meant to take the anxiety off.  Most students ironically don’t even need the extra time because the pressure it taken off.  One study said students with test anxiety score in the 12th percentile lower than their peers.  One article said test anxiety can start later in a student’s career.  It can start with one bad grade and spiral from there.

I thought about my surprise when I received my first homework assignment.  7.5/10; a C.  I panicked.  I needed the homework grade as a cushion.  She marked off for small computational errors and other minor issues, but I got the concepts correct.

Because of this, I couldn’t even make a case for myself that I was acing the homework, but panicing on the exams.

I realised I would not have time to figure out what is going on and to remedy it before the next quiz.  Nor did we have the money it would take to go through hours of therapy to come to some conclusion.

I HAD to drop the class.  And I waited until the day before the deadline.

So much money lost on the tuition, books, transportation, wages lost for not working.

I decided I would first work on the certificate at Purdue North Central.  I was never very impressed with their program, and now I am even less impressed.  I have been sending emails for 3 weeks to the math department and have heard nothing back.  I looked over the list of classes for the certificate and the list of classes offered last year and the coming semester.  Three out of five of those classes have not been and will not soon be offered.

If I am working on a certificate I do not qualify for FAFSA.

I have been looking at other colleges and universities nearby.  No one offers the program I need.

More frustration.

 

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My Morning Walk…

February 7, 2011 at 4:14 pm (back to school, Fun Photos, Studies) ()

Chicago, 6:45am 2 weeks ago…

 

 

 

Chicago, 7am last week…

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First Day

January 18, 2011 at 9:49 pm (A Little Fun, A New Career, back to school, Studies) (, , )

Yesterday I automatically woke up at 4:30am.  Don’t know why.  I think this made it easier to get out of bed when the alarm went off at 4:45 this morning.

I waited 40 minutes at the train station for my train.  I was 10 minutes early.  The train was at least 30 minutes late.  South Shore was kind enough to make the announcement that the train would be 10-15 minutes late.  The radio reported the trains were on time.

As I stood in the rain listening over my music for the horn I debated whether it would be better to take the train and be late (I only have 5 minutes to get to class when the trains are on time) or to drive in the sleet, in the dark (my night vision is not the greatest), in bad traffic and be late.  I guess I made the right decision because as I was getting into my car I heard the ding signaling an announcement and shortly after the parking lot was suddenly flooded with others heading back to their vehicles.

It only took an hour and a half, traffic was not great.  I arrived in Evanston at the time my class was starting.  Now I had to find parking.  Parking in this area is difficult, to put it kindly.  I found a spot at a meter and prayed I had some quarters.  They were a staple in our car when we lived in Chicago, but not any more.  The meter said “1 1/2 hours for $1.50”, but I’m wondering what you got 1 1/2 of because the meter only gave me 60 minutes.  That was all I had.  I had to give up another little supplication that I didn’t get a ticket.

I made it to my class 10 minutes late, but fortunately someone save a seat for me.  Right in the front.  Middle.  About 3 feet away from the overhead screen.  I was frazzled, my hair was in my face, and I was doing what I could to avoid an embarrassing snot situation.  There at the front of the class.  I’m not sure I absorbed much.  Statistics, that is.

After making a mad dash out to my car to move it to a non-metered spot after class, I was happy NOT to see an orange envelope hanging from my window.  Now I have to pray I don’t get one in the mail.

I found a spot several blocks away and made my way back to campus to take care of some business.  I walked in circles around campus because there is construction and many paths are closed.  I got the ID.  I went to meet with an advisor who couldn’t help me and sent me to someone in the mathematics department.  On the other side of campus.  He couldn’t help with my specific question either.

I felt like I deserved a coffee after all of this and popped in to one of the many independent coffee shops in the area.  LOVE THIS!  There are so many different ethnicities in the area and I was getting so excited about all of the potentials for lunch.  Oh, wait.  I don’t have money to eat out.

I turned down the street I THOUGHT I had parked my car.  Then I went down next.  And the next.  This isn’t like me to lose my parking spot and it unnerved me a bit.  But I saw the Devon Market and went in to look around and this cheered me up.  Josh called to see how my day was going and as I was babbling and randomly walking down the streets I found my car.

Although I wanted to get home and get started on homework (I’m in a training all day tomorrow), I thought it would be great to drive through our old neighborhood since I didn’t plan to have my car any other time.  I saw some new buildings and couldn’t believe that one of the dilapidated apartment buildings that housed immigrants was gone and a Dominick’s in it’s place.  A stop at my favourite Middle Eastern Bakery was necessary and I got falafel for tonight’s dinner.  That makes me happy.

I wanted to take a picture of my first day on campus, but the sleet and the wind off the lake didn’t really make me want to linger long enough to take out my camera.  I do hope to have more time to post about my experience coming full circle and studying once again in Chicago.

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Exhausted!

July 20, 2010 at 2:37 pm (back to school, Employment)

I am very near the point of exhaustion.  I have been running, running, running.  Sometimes I feel guilty for saying that because I am not actually moving all of the time.  Most of it is spent sitting at the computer doing homework.  But that is pretty much what I do all of the time I am not at work.  And I keep getting calls from people at work that want to meet with me outside of my working hours for various reasons they wont divulge to me.  This could not have come at a more terrible time and I am really tired of working a job that I cannot leave at work!

Yesterday I went against my better judgement and went blueberry picking.  I knew I would stress out about not studying and preparing for the time I would be tutoring with a friend, but I also felt like I needed something to relax.  I also NEEDED blueberries!  I have been SOOO looking forward to blueberry picking season and I usually go 3 or 4 times before the season ends.

Josh is super busy, too.  We have really been looking forward to the LaPorte County Fair, which is this week.  We usually have Thursdays off, so I was keeping that day open so we could go.  Last night Josh told me he has to work all day.  😦  He has worked every day for the last 2 weeks AT LEAST.  He is putting at least 60 hours in and can’t even recover any of that time because there are so many demands on him right now.

We are also finishing the kitchen.  It is going on 2 months and I had really hoped to be completely done by now.  We are having our small group to our house for a barbecue this Sunday, which we have been planning for a couple of months now.  Right now everything except our appliances (just delivered Sunday!!!) is in our living room and everything in our house is covered in dust.  We are going to be cutting it really close! 

In the mean time I am finishing Calculus.  We have one more lecture this Wednesday, then an exam Monday and our final next Wednesday.  I had high standards for myself and was hoping for an A, then just a couple of weeks into the class I was just hoping to pass.  I have recovered a small bit of confidence after the B- I got on my last exam (after he returned all of the exams and gave us 15 minutes to make corrections.  Only 3 others had marks higher than mine) and now I am hoping to squeak by with a B.  A friend who is a math professor and has been tutoring me this summer said that I am actually doing quite well for an 8 week calculus class.  Most in my class flunked the last exam.

So here I am spending time I shouldn’t be on keeping this blog alive when I should be studying.  I’m at a coffee shop and plan to spend the entire day here doing homework.

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Ready For Something New

December 15, 2009 at 6:54 am (back to school) (, , , , , , , , )

Typically a recession will hit social services much later than everywhere else. This happened when we worked in Chicago and it is happening now. We are now hearing news of the economy turning for the better, yet social services are devastated and there is no light at the end of the tunnel just yet.

As is the case with most agencies, there is a bit of fat that can be cut. And again, as is the case with most agencies, the ‘fat’ is cut from the areas that cannot absorb the cuts so well.

I am a DSP, Direct Support Professional. It is an entry-level, low-wage, high-stress, under-appreciated position. The work itself is rewarding. But obviously the bills still need to get paid. When I first started I signed up to participate in this thing called In Train. It is a well known fact that DSPs go not get paid well enough for the amount of work we do, so someone designed a curriculum to get DSPs certified, raising the level of training, and in turn raising wages. The state of Indiana was funding the classes at a community college and our agency was going to be given a grant for each graduate. When we graduated we were promised a $1 raise. It may not sound like a lot but that is more than a 10% increase. I signed right up!

Apparently, less that one year after this thing got started, Indiana decided they were not going to reimburse the agencies that were paying for our tuition and they certainly were not giving a grant for the graduates. Because of this our agency decided not to give us our raise. They told us this after just cutting most DSPs hours by 25%.

Those of us who had put hours into class time, homework, changing our schedules around, losing overtime, losing family time, and many more inconveniences, and REALLY, REALLY looking forward to the raise, were obviously upset. The reasoning we were given was that it was not fair to those whose hours were just cut if they turned around and gave us raises. That excuse didn’t seem very fair and logical for us.

So, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me (and many others). In the midst of all of this I decided that I was going to go back to school. I wanted a trade or something I could do that wasn’t entry level and near minimum wage pay. I had thought for a long time about doing accounting, so I revisited that idea. As I was looking around at schools and classes, I came across statistics and was very intrigued. I could not stop thinking about it. The idea of analyzing data got me very excited. I know, I’m such a nerd.

So I started looking around at statistics courses. I immediately knew that I wanted to get a certificate from a college with a good reputation. As one of my profs said in undergrad, PhDs are a dime a dozen. This is a pretty depressing thought, but it is becoming more and more true as colleges are pushing out degrees of low quality.

Anyways, I was looking at universities in Chicago and the only one I found to offer a certificate in statistics is Loyola. So I have been very excited to start the process of applying and such. To prepare for the math I will need I am registering at the community college to take Geometry/Trig.

This has given me hope to have something to look forward to. It has made things so much more positive for me and I can’t wait to embark on this new journey. It is going to be tough, though because there is no way I will be able to cut back on work and finances will be even more tight. I can’t imagine how we can tighten the belt even more! It will be a 2 hour commute for me as my classes will not be at the Chicago campus, but further north in Evanston.

Hear I am saying all of this and I haven’t even been accepted yet. But fortunately as a ‘mature’ student and as this is only for a certificate, the application process is much less rigorous.

I am so ready for this change!

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