Results for tag "going-back-to-college-2"

Back Surgery ~ Back To School Obstacle #1

Well, Hell’s bells and dog toenails, it sure didn’t take long for my back to school adventures to get derailed in a big way. And since I can’t seem to ever do anything half way, my return to school is delayed by back surgery – a massive, 6+ hour long 360 lumbar fusion. Here’s what happened:

Oklahoma State University Student Union

Oklahoma State University Student Union

Last summer, I was on campus for my daughter’s freshman orientation. It was almost a year since my last back surgery and I was doing well. There I was, climbing the stairs like a rock star with my sunglasses perched on the top of my head, a hot venti vanilla latte in one hand and my purse in the other. Now, I could tell you guys that I was paying perfect attention to everything around me… I could, but that would be lying. I must confess that I have been known to be a little distractible – especially if multiple venti vanilla lattes are involved. Wind me up, put me in a group of chatty, over-caffeinated moms and hijinks will ensue in short order.

So there I am: laughing, joking, have three simultaneous conversations… I’m a multi-tasking fool and I’m doing anything and everything except paying attention. Then my perception shifted. Seriously. The world seemed ku-xlarge7-300x300to tip on its side and everything started moving in slow motion. All I could hear was the thud of my own heart. People sounded like they were trying to have conversations through vast layers of clear Jello. Yep, just like in the movies. Sounds hokey but hey, who am I to argue with observable facts?

All I remember is twisting myself protectively around my Styrofoam cup of Columbian goodness as I cried out: “No! Not my coffee!”

Some people are extremely quick witted and spew out quips and one liners so fast… I’m envious. I wish I’d had some witty thought or jovial comment but all I wanted was whatever it took so I didn’t spend the rest of the day tromping around campus in coffee stained clothes because, in case you’ve never tried, you just can’t go to the restroom and rinse coffee out of your clothes. All that gives you is wet, coffee stained clothes. Been there, done that. Multiple times.

The last thing I remember was a sea of horrified faces and outstretched hands, fingertips grasping in a futile effort to prevent the careening train wreck happening before their eyes. All my friends know that I’ve had two back surgeries and a neck surgery. The absolute last thing I needed to be doing was falling.

latte-art-dali-clockHave you ever noticed how long it takes to fall? To the casual observer, everything happens in a split second flash. But to the unsuspecting victim of life’s vagaries and affinity for practical jokes, falling takes forever. Time moves like cold paste. I swear it felt like I had time to walk out to the car, get some spare change and go get another cup of coffee.

By the way, you gotta watch those Barristas at the coffee shop in the student union. The coffee is excellent and the shop is always busy, cranking out latte after cappuccino after frappuccino. They’d probably fall over if someone ordered (gasp) a coffee, black. But, because they were so swamped that morning, I ended up with fully leaded coffee instead of my usual decaf. I’ve been almost 100% decaf for years and this one, tiny, miniscule error was the beginning of my demise. So, if you are a decaffer or a half caffer, be sure that’s what you’re getting, otherwise, mayhem may follow your footsteps.

Now, back to the story. After spending an eternity in eerie, airborne silence, I hit the stairs on my back – and bounced. I kid you not, I actually bounced. Everyone froze for a split second (which felt like at least an hour) waiting to see if I was hurt. Then, the spell broke.

boromircoffeememeI was swarmed with people trying to help me up. One of my mom friends took the latte, still clutched in my hand like the flame of victory, while another friend took my purse. I climbed to my feet with all of the grace and agility of a giraffe on roller skates, snagged my cuppa Joe and raised it high, showing everyone that I had spilled nary a single drop. I took my seat to the sound of applause colored with both relief and awe. I had wrestled Ricky, the demon of certain public embarrassment, and emerged victorious.

Back Surgery

The next morning, I could barely move. That hoary old cliché about “an ocean of ______” where in my case, I filled in the blank with an appropriate expletive and the word bruises, not only made perfect sense but was also 100% accurate. [Stupidity Alert: Now, did I pick up the phone and call the doctor?]

I honestly kept telling myself things were going to get better. Three months later, the pain was still bad. You know how they always ask you to give them a number between 0-10 with 0 being no pain and 10 being the kind of pain you get from being a guest at a sadomasochistic torture chamber in some alternate universe? I was at a 7 consistently. I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, my back wasn’t going to get better on its own. So did I grab my phone and call the doctor?

klutz_logoWeeks passed until I ended up falling again. The pain in my back was so [insert your favorite dramatic adjective, expletive or colorful metaphor here] bad, I stood up and passed out. This time, I went to the doctor. Diagnosis: concussion. I kept waiting for the back pain to subside but when it continued to get worse, I called my neurosurgeon. (What? Doesn’t everyone have a neurosurgeon in their speed dial?)

At first, the neurosurgeon thought we were just dealing with arthritic stenosis. Surgery would fix it and there wasn’t any rush, unlike the first back surgery. After a flurry of MRIs, x-rays and myelograms, the plan changed. Evidently, when I fell the first time, I fractured a vertebra and shattered one of the bone grafts in my spine. The broken bone graft had dissolved, causing the broken vertebra to slip and push into the spinal cord as well as ruin the disc above it. The only thing holding everything together was a metal plate from the first back surgery and it was loose. Surgery couldn’t be delayed; in fact, it needed to happen sooner rather than later. Once again, the subject of paralysis was on the table and it was a serious consideration.

Next: I can’t have back surgery! I’m already enrolled in classes!


Going Back To College – Never Too Old For School

I decided I was going back to college. I already have a Bachelors and a Masters so why would I want to do this? After all, I’m not that young any more. But here’s the thing. I have always wanted to be a writer. That was what I set out to do in the first place but I got diverted by well meaning friends who worried that I wouldn’t be able to support myself as a writer. Writers live in some cheap, run down loft and drink to excess, right?

Even grandmas are going back to college

Even grandmas are going back to college

So I did what I thought was the smart thing. I got a degree in counseling. And I was good at it. But it almost murdered my soul. They neglected to tell us in grad school was that there are crazy people out there that will try to hurt you even though they came to you for help. They forgot to tell us that if you are personable, people will refuse to pay their bill because they decided to see you more as some kind of friend they vent to once a week rather than their therapist. I had four different clients declare bankruptcy and leave high and dry for thousands. I had to write off a healthy five digits worth of debt. After one especially nasty stalker client that broke into my office, I quit. I just couldn’t do it any longer.

I didn’t do anything for a long time. Then, finally, after a lot of poking and prodding from my family, I decided to go back to school and do what I had wanted to do in the first place.

Filling out the application was a lark and getting accepted was a breeze. The problem was that the university wasn’t sure what to do with me. I already had two degrees and they weren’t sure how to classify me. They still aren’t sure. But I got enrolled.

My first class was this past May. A three week summer class in Post Colonial Literature. I was incredibly anxious… okay, terrified. All I could picture was a classroom full of eighteen year old children that had gone to school with my daughter. I was going to be that old person. I remember seeing older people in my classes back when I was first going to school. Everyone looked at them like they had three heads or like they were going to morph into something dreadful at any moment.

I was pleasantly surprised. I fit right in and even made some friends. Granted, this was an upper division class and the “kids” were in their early to mid twenties but still, I wasn’t the three headed oddity. I knew I had done well but there was also a subjective component to the class grading.

Then there was the final. I did a presentation on Beach of Falesa by Robert Louis Stevenson. I had to learn how to do a Powerpoint. Crap. My daughter helped me figure it out. They never had this stuff when I was first in school. Hell, I had used a typewriter the first time around. Ah, technology – bane and blessing.

But then the unthinkable happened… The cool fonts I used in my Powerpoint didn’t show up right. Instead of the wonderfully artistic fonts chosen specifically because of their ability to convey the feel of the South Seas, the fonts defaulted to something like Tahoma or maybe it was Helvetica. The slides looked dreadful. I got rattled. I didn’t present as smoothly as I had envisioned it in my head. I sweated the grade and the waiting for grades to be posted was well and truly dreadful. But I got earned an A and no one had treated me like I had three heads or leprosy.

So here’s what I’ve got to say to those of you that are considering going back to college at 30, 40, 50 or even 60


Swallow those fears about being the oldest one in class. God knows, if I could do it, you can do it. We older students are what the university considers “non-traditional.” We are embraced and welcomed. I found that my professors appreciate the opinions of someone with life experience. It brings another level of depth and understanding to class discussions. We know things and think of things that the average college student, inexperienced in life, can not to see or consider.

We are there because we understand the value of education. We take the classes seriously and we do our best work because it means something more to us at our age. I’ve got a lot more to say about this last thing but I’m going to save it for another post.

Just remember, you are never too old to go back to college. If I can do it, you can too. I’d love to hear from anyone that has gone back to school. What was it like for you?

Just ignore this. It’s just a link for some of that technical code crap.