Negative Negative Niche

One of the main reasons I decided to pursue a degree “at my age” was due to the fact that I became a displaced worker.  I found myself forced out in the streets to compete for jobs, and my competition had an upper hand, they had a degree.

Up to that point in my life, I had been able to survive without a degree in my specialized career, which had 15 years of experience to shape and make better. However, when my career ended, my specialty was no longer needed, and I was unable to compete and if I had any desire to survive, I had to make myself marketable and in my case, that meant I had to pursue a degree.

In the midst of this, I must confess, that yes, I did find a job.  But the job was not what I termed a “specialty”.  I took great pride in my previous career, in being an expert, of knowing everything there was to know about one thing and now I suddenly found myself a jack-of-all-trades (master-of-none).

In my new current job, I am not an expert at any one thing, but rather, I am able to perform many things and thus make myself valuable to my office because there are very few things (but they do exist) that I can’t do.

So I found it quite interesting today when my biology professor explained interactions within species.  He talked about a term that biologists use when studying biodiversity.  Have I lost you already? Ok, let me back up.

Biodiversity, that’s the study of different variations of species. Kinda like two skunks that look the same (smell the same) but they are not really the same, there is some characteristic that makes them different from each other, so much so, that these two different skunk species, will not breed with each other.  They (the skunks) know they are different.

So back to my original thought.  The term my professor referred to was competition.  It’s labeled as a -/-.   Yes, a negative/negative, because technically nobody wins, or do they?  My interest was piqued!

Some species live in an environment where they can survive but they are competing for survival perhaps for space, food and other resources.  Sometimes that environment can have changes or events, such as dry or moist, warm or cold climates, that affect the species.  Some species, even though they can survive within these extremes, choose to remain in a “specialized” area or “niche” where they can only survive within that niche.  Others he termed as “generalist” that move and adapt within the extremes, and adjust if their environment goes through changes.

His examples of some generalists were pests of sorts—you know, sort of like rats and cockroaches.  But he said, these pests (generalists) will survive simply because they adapt and are not reliant of one specialized area.

competition

So, the point I’m making here is this, I kinda felt like he was talking about my career.  Do I still want to be a specialist and thrive in just one thing? Have my “niche” per say? Or do I want to keep being a generalist, which at times can be a pest for others, but will ultimately assure my survival?

This certainly leaves one wondering, “Which is the better choice?”  I’ve always felt that being specialized gave you (me) the upper hand, where you were the expert, people rely on you and they come to you for expertise, and then you can die happy.   And here comes the dang cockroach, showing that, sometimes you have to adapt in order to survive.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm—DANG COCKROACH!

Girl on the Piano

“Everybody told me this ‘girl on the piano’ thing was never going to work.” 
― Tori Amos

We are already in the middle of the semester and I’m in the midst of planning my Summer I, II, fall 2014 and spring 2015 classes.  “Slacker” is not an adjective to describe me when it comes to planning my schedule.  I’m only 19 hours away from my degree.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Yes, it’s true.  Spring 2015, I graduate.

I can remember my first semester in 2009, math. At times I didn’t think I’d get through the class.  Especially since I hadn’t completed an algebra equation since 1980.  There have been many doubtful moments and now here I am on the final lap.

This journey has made me realize that it’s never too late to do something you have always wanted to do, no matter your age.  As long as you “want to” you can do it, and it all starts by placing one foot in front of the other.

I look back to 2006, when I became a displaced worker and I was forced back into the workforce to compete for a new career.  I remember how I had my whole identity wrapped up in this one career.  If I’ve learned anything during this process, it’s that you can’t attach your identity to a career.  The world is changing. Technology changes, and for that matter, everything we do is constantly evolving. If you want to keep up, education is your best vehicle.

I look forward to seeing my own evolution after I graduate.  As a matter of fact, I’m going to pursue graduate school. “Never stop learning!” is my new motto. (Oh and if you didn’t know what my old motto was, it was, “It’s never too late!”)

Music Group SprMag12 21Nov11 (TN) Photographer Danny MeyerSpeaking of which, did you know I have always wanted to play the piano?   Yeah, nobody else did either, but I have. When I was a little girl my dad would take us to my grandfather’s house and I remember my step-grandmother had a piano.  It was covered up and nobody was allowed to touch it.  I would just look at it and imagine my fingers on the keys.  I also remember that she gave the piano away to an aunt who kept it outside in the back yard, exposed to all the elements and nobody ever played it.  I’ve never forgotten that piano.  Well, I’m about to put a check mark on “learn to play the piano” for fall 2014 as I enroll in Piano 1122 as my 1 hour elective credit.  Maybe I can play my favorite song, “O Holy Night” for Christmas.  Yeah, definitely, I’ll say it again IT’S NEVER TOO LATE for this girl on the piano.

Spring Meh!

MehMeh.  When was meh added to our English language?  It’s such a strange word and when I first read it on Facebook I wondered if it was an acronym but I couldn’t figure out what it was trying to say and to add more confusion there’s a non-smiley face icon for it too—so realization hit, it’s really a word.  That lead me to look it up and sure enough, it is a word.  Originated in the 1990s says Oxford Dictionary from The Simpsons no less.  I guess I didn’t catch enough of that show or I’d have joined the meh crowd sooner.

As an adjective, meh means unenthusiastic which can well summarize my first few weeks of the spring semester.  It’s not wow or bad it’s meh.  I’d love to be excited and engrossed in some wonderful knowledge but we’re not there yet.  I’m enthusiastically waiting for it.  It’s also not bad either where I’ve gone into panic mode which I’m very enthusiastically happy about.

So as I sit in class this semester and learn about evolutionary changes in our environment due to human population and wonder if there will be enough resources for all my needs during my lifetime and for my children, I also sit in creative writing and learn that the English language continues to also evolve with new words added every year that weren’t around when Shakespeare wrote his sonnets.  Can you imagine Shakespeare including “meh” in his writings:  Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and less meh.  Nah, it doesn’t have the right iambic meter and makes it sound so, hmmmm, I don’t know…..so meh?

The Insane Road of Effort to Success

As I look at the calendar, I count about 7 weeks left in the fall semester.  Not that I’m trying to rush it or anything, but maybe a small part of me is.  At the end of any semester I often find that it suddenly goes into this spiral of more difficulty.

Spiral of more difficulty? Yes, and I just wanted to say that I still have not mastered “test taking.”  No matter how hard I try, spending every night and every weekend immersing myself in the material, I still have yet to take an “easy” test.  I don’t think they exist.

I consider myself to be a good student and I work hard to earn my grades. I would even say that I work harder than most students because getting here was not easy and I’m fulfilling my dream to finally get the degree that was not possible in my youth.

cryAnd as I sit in class during testing sessions, trying to concentrate on the questions and choose the right answers, my minds spins out of control and I question every choice I make.  I try not to rush myself and I slow down my thought process which then, makes me question if my answer is really the right answer, or if I’m overthinking it.  See where I’m going with this? Insanity can take over in an instant.

So how do I fix my insanity?  I stop for a second and I look around the room at all the other students (who are half my age) and then I say to myself, “If they can do this, you know you can too.  You got this.” It’s like being in a room with all my children.  Of course I can do this!  And for the most part, my anxiety ceases and I get through it.  But then when the test is over I feel like I didn’t study enough, I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t know ALL the answers.  I can really beat myself up about it and I really shouldn’t.  It’s unnecessary, self-imposed stress.  I laugh about it now, but during the “cycle” I can be quite impossible to be around.

So what’s my point?  My point is this.  Nothing worth having is easy!  If you really desire to fulfill a goal you have to give it your all.  You have to wipe the dirt off your knees when you fall and get back in line to try again and again and again.  And as long as I give it my BEST every time, than no matter what, I haven’t failed, I’ve already succeeded.

Zygote, Teeth, Ethics & Pluripotent

Biology has been a surprising delight.  Imagine if you will, submerging yourself for an hour and fifteen minutes, twice a week, in details about how each part of your body works.  From human’s original cell formation (that’s a zygote) to learning that our teeth dictate that we were not made to be vegetarians, but rather, we are created to eat all forms of food.  Our teeth tell us that.  Who would have thought?

A perfect example of this is a cat–CatThey don’t have the same teeth structure that we do.  They are missing the molars in the back because they can catch food, hang on to it with their large fangs, tear that baby up with their incisors and swallow it—no grinding necessary—ha.

Digestion and Nutrition are where we are currently in our studies.  I have learned so much, and in some cases, more than I need to know, about how food moves through our body and what it does to our body.  I can tell you that this is definitely a much needed course for someone who needs healthier habits.  If my doctor would have explained the detail that this biology course has taught me I may have been more apt to follow her advice and I’ll never look at a potato the same way again.  Perhaps this will inspire me to develop healthier habits because I now know the chemistry behind it, what my body needs or doesn’t need, how we damage our body by what we choose to ingest and how some damage is just irreversible.

I’ve also learned more about Stem Cell research.  How many times have we chosen a side of the ethical argument where embryotic stem cells are used in research?  I’ve learned about iPS (induced pluripotent stem cells)—capable of producing many cells(Pluripotent—try using that in a sentence today-)  We have discovered the ability to create pluripotent cells from adult stem cells so that we may not have to have the embryonic stem cells.  Yet, iPS opens up a whole new set of ethical questions as to how far we will go with the science that is capable of creating human life.  I’m telling you, this subject was so fascinating that I used it as a science paper assignment for my English class.  Through the research process in my English class, I discovered that this science is so new we haven’t even put into place policies for health professionals to follow.  We don’t really have legislative laws that address it either.  As voters we need to educate ourselves on this subject so we can be more informed and help shape legislation on how we can guide the use of this science for ourselves and generations to come.

Let me get off my soap box now – I just want to add that my professor, Dr. Michael Dixon is awesome.  He is passionate about Biology and you can tell by the way he lectures in class.  As I’ve mentioned before, students can learn so much from a passionate professor.  I would recommend him in a heartbeat to anyone who has to take BIO 1410.  He’s not an easy professor, so if you are looking for easy, keep on going.  He also loves to remind us that we pay his salary and we’re going to get our money’s worth. He has standards people, NOW THAT is refreshing and pluripotent—capable of producing knowledge cells—

Ready for fall classes

Danny Meyer PhotographerSummer is quickly moving on and I’m looking forward to the fall semester, rather hesitantly I must admit.  My travel abroad in June was probably the BEST form of education that I have experienced, and I doubt that I shall experience that again anytime soon, but I must forge ahead to my goal.

I sat down recently to go over my degree plan.  You know, check all the boxes for “required” and “must have” and I’m finding that the list is nicely dwindling down. With a target of 120 semester credit hours (SCH) I am proudly at 75 SCH.  This fall, by some crazy notion, I’ve enrolled for 10 SCH.  Two of my classes will be on-line which we all know, is asking for trouble.  Online classes are not my best friend, but when you are working eight hours a day sometimes that’s the best option for time management.  I expect to be extremely busy this fall and there will be limited time for fun activities.  If I’m MIA you now know why.

My fall classes are as follows:  Human Biology and Lab, English 1302 and International Drug Trafficking.  I chose biology for my science credit only because I totally could not get into Astronomy. (Long story and I’ve already written about it!)  I’m hoping that this alternate choice will prove to be the better choice so that I can then sign up for the second biology class in the spring and place a check mark on my 8 SCH of natural sciences.  I’ve also been putting off English 1302 in hopes that I could CLEP the class.  With a second attempt at CLEP proving to be yet another “no pass,” I am now resigned to taking the class—online. I decided that the English department is just not capable of passing a CLEP in composition because they want you in their class.  How else can I explain the “no pass?” In the end it will probably be better for me because they are going to teach me to be a better writer! Which leads me to question this blog….?

International Drug Trafficking? It’s my elective choice.  Sounds interesting and since it’s online, it will be like I’m lost in a great news story.  This course is taught through our Center for Security Studies.   They have a lot of very interesting classes that range from border and homeland security to cultural competence, intelligence and criminal justice. Who wouldn’t be interested in all those topics?  

Cobblestones and Memories

DSC_1623How can I describe how I felt walking the cobblestone streets in Europe?

DSC_2547Never in my life would I have imagined that at my age (and we won’t say how old that is) I would be a part of a Study Abroad class with fifteen 20-something year-olds and that I would have the time of my life, nor could I have imagined the magnitude of the sites I visited.  I know it’s a cliché, but my single thought was; pictures cannot do this justice.  This refers to the Cathedrals, the Ruins, the Waterfalls, the Villages, the Food and clearly every single place we visited. I’ve been home about a month now, give or take a few days.  Yet the images of Europe remain so clear.

I wish I could add all the photos as vividly as I remember them to this blog, but it’s not even possible.  I haven’t even created my photo album yet much less had any photos printed.  As part of my plan, I purchased sketched image prints of some of the most famous sites, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral.  I then had my photo taken in front of each site and I plan on somehow combining my photo with the print sketch as one whole framed piece.  I’d like to create a gallery canvas somehow to place in my office, so that as I look at them, I can be reminded of these great places and the memories can come rippling back.

I am thankful for the memories.  As I look through the photos I am transformed back to each moment and I find myself laughing and smiling.  We had a great time.  Now don’t get me wrong, with that many people in a group there is conflict.  That’s normal.  But it’s also funny to remember the drama and the small things that set you off.  For example, the one student who just could not stay with the group and would run off and was always the last one to return when everyone else was ready to move on.    I can’t forget also the advice given to me to by my young 19 year-old roommate to “embrace my natural side.”  That was in reference to me not fixing my hair.  Can you imagine me just going “all natural?”  Now, those of you that know me, know that I fix my hair. In Texas, “fix” means—shampoo, conditioner, product for smoothing, flat iron and a touch of hair spray.  And on days where there just isn’t enough time for a flat iron—mousse works really well.  There was no embracing of any “natural” to be had in Europe or anywhere.   But alas, I survived and we made it through and in the end we all laughed about it.  Well, I laughed and my roommate just smirked as she embraced her frizzy untamed, unconditioned mane.

In the meantime I sift through approximately 2000 plus photos and try to readjust myself to American culture—the fast life; short on time and full of “things to do.”  Fall is approaching and soon I’ll be back to studying and homework which now, sounds so boring and mundane in comparison to travel abroad with visits to Notre Dame, Palace of Versailles, The
Louvre and St. Chappelle.  I could keep going. 

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31-Hour Day

On Tuesday, June 4, we begin a 31-HOUR DAY…now most of you will note that there are only 24 hours in a day so a 31-hour day does not exist…but when traveling the globe from one time zone to the next, you can slip into the next day and keep on counting the hours.  That will be our case.
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We are set to meet at the airport in San Angelo at 11 a.m. on Tuesday and the schedule for that beginning day does not end until a scheduled dinner engagement on Wednesday, June 5 at 18:00 hour. Yes, I had to use my fingers to figure out 18:00 is 5 o’clock p.m.  I hope I can eat after such a LONG day.  Not to fear though, our flight from Dallas to Frankfurt is supposed to be 10 hours……I’m sure I can sleep then right?
We will be in Frankfurt until Friday morning and on the agenda are: Kaiserdom, Römerberg, St. Paul’s Church, Walking tour of “Frankfurt the Euro and Banking City” and Deutsche Bank.  In the meantime I’m busy looking up information about these sites.  I’m excited and want to know what to expect. 

So one week from today, begins our 31-hour day which is just the beginning.  In the meantime, I’ll be sure to sneak naps in as needed.

Preparing for Europe begins with shoes….

I’m not talking about my COMM classes today.  Why? You ask.  It just suffices to say that the real world experience that I’m learning through academic PR is just a bit too unreal for me and I’m so ready to end the semester.

Fear not though, a bright light in the end of the semester is that my summer study abroad opportunity is fast approaching.  We leave June 4th and I can’t wait.  We have been busy learning about the European Union (EU) through our homework and essays on current events.  We’ve also been trying to make a list of what the essentials for our trip are.  Dr. Norman Sunderman, our professor has these questions he asks us each time we report for class:

1)      Do you have walking shoes?

2)      Do you have rolling suitcase?

3)      Do you have a converter?

4)      Do you have a mini umbrella?

Seems simple enough right?  Well, not so simple when you start asking what kind of walking shoes?  This girl is seriously contemplating the description.  Please, don’t mean sneakers I beg.   And thankfully, no, they can’t be sneakers because you will have to wear them with business casual attire during our meetings and tours with European professionals…hmmm.  Heels? Definitely not.  (What do you mean no heels?)  You won’t make it on the European streets that we will be walking on, pushing our rolling luggage making our way to public transportation in the rain while we hold up our mini-umbrellas to protect us during daily rain showers.  So the shoes must be versatile enough to sustain a long walking day on European streets in possible rain puddles as well as serve to complement our business casual attire for image sake. The fashionista in me chose a pair of Clarks Mary Jane WAVEWALK.  Apparently they are going to give me a boost of energy as I wavewalk my way around Europe.

MaryJanesComfy as they may be, they aren’t much to look at.  I would never buy these for fashion’s sake.  But the serve both purposes—and we know how I feel about sneakers—so it’s my compromise.  To make me feel just a tad better I got two pairs one in Pewter the other in Black. My friend Jayna says they are awesome.  Yea, I suppose, that is if you like round toes and flat shoes. Sigh. I hope nobody looks at my feet.

Did I mention the other must have? The converter is probably the most important tool.  We need to be able to plug in our electronic devices in Europe and if we don’t have the converter we risk a small electric explosion by the super wattage power of Europe not to mention a disconnect from all modern conveniences.  That means no phone recharge, no laptop recharge, no flat irons and no blow dryers and for the men, that would mean no electronic shavers.  We all took our converters to class for inspection.  Guess who didn’t pass?  Yep, it was me. I had only the adapters for the converter, not the actual converter.  Ohhhhhhhhhhh, I said.  So much I don’t know.

adapter

So, that’s the status of my study abroad trip.  Stay tuned though, I suspect I will have many more stories.

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