Monthly Archives: September 2014

Earning a College Degree in an Online World

Thinking of going back to school but dread the thought of sitting in a classroom for hours at a time?  Are you a full-time worker with a family who just doesn’t know how to squeeze a college education into your already busy life?    If so, then the online college experience is definitely for you.

As an online student for the past ten years or so, earning both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree, and currently preparing for a second Master’s, I have seen the successes and failures of many of my classmates in the online environment.    They sign up for an online program thinking it will be an easy way to get a degree, when in fact, the online venue is perhaps the most difficult way of earning a degree.  Unfortunately, there are “diploma mills” all over the place – institutions that will give you a passing grade no matter what just to give you the diploma.  But if you find a reputable college that offers online classes, do yourself a favor and take that step; I promise you won’t regret it and will discover parts of yourself you didn’t know were there.

During my own journey, I discovered many things about myself – things other people told me I had, but I never allowed myself to see.  I’ve put together a list of what I believe to be the top five traits needed to succeed in the online environment.  If you don’t have them when you begin, I promise you will by the time you get that diploma.

1.     Drive – If you are going to make the most out of this method of learning you have got to WANT to learn. Don’t just take classes thinking you’ll breeze through – trust me, you won’t.  But you have to be willing to work hard and put in the time to earn that degree.

2.     A Set Schedule – This will be difficult at first as you will have to find your niche within your daily/weekly schedule. All online classes have both an attendance and participation requirement; for example, you are given two to three weekly discussion questions that you must respond to by a specific day or days in the week.  You then have until the end of the class week to respond to at least two of your classmates.   A response must consist of “critical thought” – you will be told this in every class until you are tired of hearing it, but you’d be surprise how many of your classmates try to get by with as little as possible.  You will also have some type of written assignment or quiz – possibly both, depending on the class that will usually be due on the final day of the week; therefore it will take you some time to figure out how to work this additional responsibility into your life.

3.     Commitment – In case you haven’t figured it out yet, commitment is a BIGGIE when it comes to online learning. Unlike traditional brick and mortar colleges, you are not physically surrounded by students and a professor encouraging and at times pushing you to do the work. This time it’s all on you and there is no one else to blame if the work isn’t done.

4.     An Open Mind – You are going to meet all kinds of students in an online environment ranging from kids just out of high school to adults will families and full-time jobs to military personnel. I even had a class where one of my classmates was 71 years old!  Yes, 71 and she kept up with all of us!  You will be exposed to different cultures, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations in the online world; therefore, acceptance of others is key and if you don’t already, you will learn to understand everyone’s opinions and differences.

5.     Belief in yourself – This was a biggie for me, as obtaining a college degree, especially with the discipline required for this path, made me feel that adrenaline of accomplishment. You have to see yourself do it and know that you have what it takes to do this on your own.  It will not be an easy road, but you will be thankful and if that belief wasn’t there before, it will be when you are done.

As I said this will not be easy; it is not a walk in the park and if you are expecting to log into class and do a half-ass job, you will be sorely disappointed.   You might as well toss your money – along with yourself – out the window because that is exactly would you’d be doing – throwing your money and your future away.   However, if you take the experience seriously, do the work and create the friendships that are inevitably formed during college life, you will have tools to help you in your next phase in life – no matter where you go.

Coming Up Next….What does a typical class week look like and how do I get through it?

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Making a Difference

The Starfish Story
Adopted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eisley

One morning a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed upon the beach. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man walked for miles.

As he strolled along, he noticed a small figure that seemed to be dancing in the distance. It made him chuckle to think of someone celebrating life in such an open and uninhibited way. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent to him that the figure was not dancing. Instead, she seemed to be repeatedly performing some type of ritual or action.
He drew nearer still and noticed that this small figure was a child. She was carefully picking up starfish and tossing them into the surf. He was puzzled and struck by the apparent futility of the task. There were far too many starfish… many of them were sure to perish.

The man paused for a moment and then asked, “Why are you throwing these starfish?”
“It is high tide,” she replied, “If I leave them on the beach, the morning sun will soon dry them and they will die. I am throwing them into the ocean to save them – so they can live.” The man considered her naive actions, impressed with the child’s thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles of the beach. “There are thousands of starfish along here,” he said, “You cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young girl stopped. With childlike wisdom the she politely listened to the man’s words. Her face darkened. She chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, “You’re probably right,” she said softly. She looked down at the sand. Then she bent down, carefully picked up another starfish and threw it gently into the sea, far past the breaking waves. With a tone of gentle defiance, she said, “But I did make a difference for that one.”

Do you think you have the ability to make a difference as the little girl did in this story? Could the small things you do each day make a big difference? Sometimes we fail to realize the power that we have within ourselves to reach, stretch, grow, and support others along the way.
Remember that each and every one of us is here on this amazing earth to serve a purpose and to make a difference in the lives of those around us…not one individual is insignificant and no random acts of kindness are too small.
Is it possible that the little things you do could make a huge difference to someone else? Could that little bit of difference make all of the difference in the world? Do these small things determine who we are, who we will become, and what we stand for in this world?
Has anyone ever made a significant difference in your life without knowing the impact that he or she had on you? Many times we do not know the difference that we may have on the lives of another person (either positive or negative) – but you have to keep faith that even if in some small way, your efforts have made a positive difference. Keep in mind that having this perspective and approach to life will have a positive impact on your own life too.

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Stupidity and Ignorance – Look In the Mirror Before You Judge

As I was perusing my usual social media sites last night, I can’t even begin to tell you the number of quotes and pictures I came across depicting the stupidity of people. I stopped counting at ten – but some of the most popular ones were, “Duct tape can’t fix stupid;” “Don’t argue with stupid people;” and the always affectionate Maxine as she states, “I have met my quota for stupid people this year, I am no longer taking applications, thank you!” While I enjoy a good laugh and yes, at times have made a comment directed at the stupidity of someone in my office or a total stranger in a grocery store or on the road, I began to contemplate the question and the difference between stupidity and ignorance. I think it’s time to make it clear.

People in and of themselves are not stupid – some of the decisions they make may very well be, and some of their actions may be, but that does not automatically label them stupid. If that was the case, every single person on the planet would be considered stupid and there would not be a place big enough to hold us all. Think about it – when was the last time you made the wrong decision about an event in your life. You had to suffer the consequences – but does that make YOU stupid? No – just human. I’ve made many stupid decisions in my life – but I won’t bore you with them all – if I did, this would be the longest blog post in history. But let’s just say that I learned from every single one and I hope it has made me a better person.

Which brings us to the term ignorance – being ignorant has gotten a bad rap over the last few years; however, the official definition of ignorance is “a state of being uninformed (lack of knowledge). I’m the first to admit that I can be ignorant about things, like the inner workings of cars, politics, statistics, and why it is easier to break into a freakin’ house than to get a damn pill bottle open when you need it. But I digress. We are all ignorant – recognizing that is how we begin to learn.

When I decided to earn my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and minor in Forensic Science, I thought my years of watching CSI and Law and Order would allow me to breeze right through the program. Unfortunately, halfway through the first course I realized how little I knew and how ignorant I really was about the whole subject. Once I realized that I was not CSI’s Catherine Willows incarnate, I opened my mind and was able to learn the material. As a result, I graduated with honors and will be finishing my Master’s Degree in Organizational Management in three weeks. See….ignorance + open mind = endless possibilities!

Let me leave you with this final thought. The next time you are tempted to call someone stupid, think about the actions in your own life. Stupid decisions do not create stupid people – merely people who are taking the long way to learning the lesson they need to.

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Customer Service is it out there?

Through the Whispering Pines

I thought I would tell you what happened last winter out here in Forest. It took a while to recover thus the late report.

I went into such shock that it became necessary to take a nap late on a Saturday afternoon. It was either that or figure if it was five o’clock somewhere and visit Miss Merlot to overcome my emotions.

Every time you turn on the news these days all you hear are the horrors of the world we live in. If you don’t get your fix of world and local news to damage your mental stability you can always find a reality show to fill in the gaps.

Me, I’m from the old school. WORK being a four letter word of the right sort and I’m going to tell you that it still does exist and it’s about to give itself a facelift.  You corporate types might…

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Freak – by Jennifer Hillier

They say that a sequel is never better than the original; however, this is not the case with the thrill ride that is Freak.  Dr. Sheila Tao is back recovering from her injuries sustained when Ethan kidnapped her.  She and Morris are trying to find their way back to each other and ultimately her job at Puget Sound State University is put on the line.  But if she thought her nightmare was over , she was dead wrong.  Someone new, but familiar is after her and is out for revenge.

Like her first novel, Creep, the story took some time to get into, but not as long as the first.  The twists and turns after the first ten chapters or so don’t stop and although an avid reader of mysteries will figure out the surprise that Hillier has planned, the roller coaster to get there is a one hell of a trip.

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Creep – by Jennifer Hillier

Jennifer Hillier’s debut novel about Dr. Sheila Tao and her young lover/stalker is a pretty good read; although I wasn’t as blown away as the reviews by others would indicate.

Sheila Tao is a psychology professor at a local college and engaged to Morris, the potential love of her life; however, she is a semi-recovering sex addict and having a steamy affair with Ethan, one of her teaching assistants. When Morris proposes to Sheila (totally unaware of her addiction or affair), she happily accepts and breaks it off with Ethan. Unfortunately, Ethan is not amenable to bad news and does everything he can to stay a part of her life, including kidnapping and torture.

Don’t get me wrong, the suspense was there, but it took awhile and it wasn’t until I was about two-thirds of the way through that I actually felt that “can’t put it down feeling.” The last 10-20 pages did it for me and as I was devouring the last few words, it was at that point that I couldn’t wait for more.

Luckily, I started the sequel – “Freak” a few days ago so we’ll see if the momentum can keep up.

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Are Heroes a Thing of the Past?

Last night I was watching Criminal Minds and one of my favorite aspects of the show is the quotes one of the characters recites at the beginning and end of each episode. I’ve made artwork out of some of them and from time to time when I need a reminder of something I will turn to them. The quote from last night’s episode was from Bernard Malamud: “Without heroes, we are all plain people and don’t know how far we can go.”

This got me thinking about my own heroes as a child – who I wanted to be like and tried to emulate as I was growing up. I was a big Wonder Woman fan and even had Underoos (remember them?) that mimicked her costume. She was my hero each week as she fought the bad guys and showed compassion to those around her. At the other end of the spectrum, I adored Catwoman from the Batman series. Although no one can compare with Eartha Kitt’s version of the character, those who came after her didn’t taint my image. Even though she was a villain, I thought she was awesome and would play act in my bedroom as a child that I was her.  It’s funny how back then, it didn’t take much to keep a child happy.

We don’t hear a lot of talk about personal heroes today.  We have our military and their heroism and honor goes without saying.  But when it comes to those who impact our own individual lives, no one gives it a second thought.  We are all so busy trying to stay ahead of everyone else, we have forgotten about – and don’t give credit to – those who helped us become who we are today.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that my heroes are those that have encouraged me when I had nothing left; who told me I could do whatever I wanted and be whatever I wanted no matter what.  They have loved me unconditionally and never judged or questioned me.  While they may not have agreed with every decision I’ve made in my life, they supported me without question.  Isn’t that the mark of a true hero?  Take a moment and think about the heroes in your own life; you’d be surprised how many you have.

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Dear God – May I Ask You a Question?

While I have never been a particularly religious person, I do believe in God and I know there is a plan for all of us that will become clear at some point in our lives.

We have all had bad days and at times may wonder if in fact there is a God – I know I have in the past, but anytime I have those feelings, I read the story below and it reminds me of the saying “Man plans, God laughs.” I hope you enjoy it as it is a good reminder for all of us that we may want what we want, but it may not necessarily be what is best for us. Peace!
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Me: God, can I ask You a question?
God: Sure

Me: Promise You won’t get mad
God: I promise

Me: Why did You let so much stuff happen to me today?
God: What do you mean?

Me: Well, I woke up late
God: Yes

Me: My car took forever to start
God: Okay

Me: At lunch they made my sandwich wrong & I had to wait
God: Yes

Me: On the way home, my phone went DEAD, just as I picked up a call
God: All right

Me: And on top of it all off, when I got home ~I just want to soak my feet in my new foot massager & relax. BUT it wouldn’t work!!! Nothing went right today! Why did You do that?

God: Let me see, the death angel was at your bed this morning & I had to send one of My Angels to battle him for your life. I let you sleep through that
Me (humbled): OH

God: I didn’t let your car start because there was a drunk driver on your route that would have hit you if you were on the road.
Me: (ashamed)

God: The first person who made your sandwich today was sick & I didn’t want you to catch what they have, I knew you couldn’t afford to miss work
Me (embarrassed):Okay

God: Your phone went dead because the person that was calling was going to give false witness about what you said on that call, I didn’t even let you talk to them so you would be covered.
Me (softly): I see God

God: Oh and that foot massager, it had a shortage that was going to throw out all of the power in your house tonight. I didn’t think you wanted to be in the dark.
Me: I’m Sorry God

God: Don’t be sorry, just learn to Trust Me…. in All things , the Good & the bad.
Me: I will trust You.

God: And don’t doubt that My plan for your day is Always Better than your plan.
Me: I won’t God. And let me just tell you God, Thank You for Everything today.

God: You’re welcome child. It was just another day being your God and I Love looking after My Children…

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When God Made You

The words to one of my favorite songs by NewSong.  Reminds me of some special people in my life; you know who you are.  Love you!

It’s always been a mystery to me
How two hearts can come together
And love can last forever
But now that I have found you I believe
That A miracle has come
When God sends the perfect one

Now gone are all my questions about why
And I’ve never been so sure of anything
In my life

Oh I wonder what God
Was thinking
When he created you
I wonder if he
Knew everything I would need
Because he made all my dreams come true
When God made You
He must have been thinking about me

I promise that wherever you may go
Wherever life may lead you
With all my heart I’ll be there to
And from this moment on
I want you to know
I’ll let nothing come between us
And I will even love you more

Now gone are all my questions about why
And I’ve never been so sure of anything
In my life

Oh I wonder what God was thinking
When he created you
I wonder if he
Knew everything I would need
Because he made all my dreams come true
When God made You
He must have been thinking about me

He made the sun
He made the moon
To harmonize a perfect tune
One can’t move without the other
They just have to be together

And that is why I know it’s true
You’re for me
And I’m for you
Because my world just can’t be right
Without you in my life

Oh I wonder what God was thinking
When he created you
I wonder if he knew everything I would need
Because he made all my dreams come true
When God made you
He must have been thinking about me

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The Myth of “We’d Love to Have You Come Back Someday”

Yep, I hate to say it but if you are ever told this when leaving one job for another, it is a total lie. Employers don’t really mean it and it’s sad that a company you may have worked with for so long would look you right in the face and make such an insincere statement.

This has been said to me a couple of times, most recently a couple of years ago when I left the position of Case Manager at a local life insurance broker-dealer firm to take a position at an insurance company that offered more growth potential. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my job at the broker-dealer; I enjoyed my coworkers, the interaction with the agents, and I even loved what I was doing on a daily basis. I had been there two years and after several conversations with my manager to discuss ideas and potential growth, the opportunity to spread my wings was denied…”budget reasons” I was told. Right then and there I had to make a decision; and ultimately, it was one I wish I had never made. When I found another job and informed by superiors of my decision, they understood my reasons and were supportive; on my last day, I was even told if circumstances changed within the office they would love to have me come back because I was “good at my job and the agents liked me.”

The job I took at the insurance company was not what it was made out to be. I was so unhappy; clients were rude, angry, morale was low, staff was berated and in my 11 months there I lost 20 pounds, my appetite and gained a blood pressure problem. Irate customers do not bother me; I worked in a call center for four years and I have spoken to my share of angry people, but the atmosphere there was toxic and more than anyone should be required to put up with.

Into the fourth month of my tenure there, I had had enough and began the dreaded job search. While perusing several websites, I came across a job entitled “Life Insurance Case Manager”. I was thrilled, this was the job for me – I had done it for two years – so I clicked on the “apply now” button. Boy, was I surprised (and happy) to see the name of the hiring company as my former employer! I applied to the job and emailed the hiring manager directly letting him know how much I wanted to come back and that I missed my old job as well as the agents and coworkers.

For the next couple of days, I was happy…I thought their decision was a no-brainer and I was anxiously awaiting a phone call telling me when I could start. I thought, why hire someone brand new that needs training, when you have someone who is available who knows the systems, software and business? By the third day, I had not heard anything so I emailed the hiring manager directly to make sure he got my email and my application to the job. Three more days and still nothing; on the fourth day, I received an email from the hiring manager that read simply, “The position has been filled. Much success in your future endeavors.” Um…excuse me?? What happened to “we’d love to have you back” as well as the praise and “atta girls” I received during my time there? Was that all for nothing???

I know now that salary was factor in their decision and I understand that, but a phone call to discuss the opportunity would have been nice. Leaving one job for another and not knowing what is on the horizon is a scary thing and when it turns sour, it can really hurt one’s self-esteem. Luckily I was able to find another job and I enjoy what I do. But there is a lesson to be learned for all the hiring managers out there who lose good employees to other companies. Do not offer platitudes and praise if you don’t mean them. Be honest with your employees, and don’t burn the proverbial bridge that we as subordinates are told time and again to leave standing in one piece. The fire can start both ways – who knows, you may need them one day.

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