Thursday, January 30, 2014

Semester #2

So, school is starting again.

Last Semester—

Well, I made it through a semester of school with a 5 unit class.  Toward the end, I completely lost concentration.  Talking to some of the other students after the written portion of our final, while waiting for the oral portion, I realized I wasn’t the only one whose focus diminished as the class wound down.  I didn’t get all of the final homework done because I just wasn’t willing to stress myself out.  And I never think I study enough, so I can’t really judge but I do know that the material got a little overwhelming with passe’ compose (past tense) and indirect objects and pronouns.  Might have been a participle in there, too. 

The last few classes before the final were pretty fun.  One night, Abeer played us French music from several websites, both classic and contemporary.  Some were on Youtube, complete with lyrics, and some were from this website:  The next to the last class, we had a potluck with lots of quiche, baguettes, fromages and, yes, snails.  And no, I didn’t try them!  We also watched the film Coco Avant Chanel, a biography of the early years of Coco Chanel.  Thank goodness for the English subtitles!

I didn’t think I’d do well on the final test because a big part of the grade was two written paragraphs (not my strong suite). So, I was on pins and needles to see my final grade. The student portion of the college website was down for maintenance from mid-December to well into the new year, causing me no end of neurotic grief—I’d log in several times a day, because after all, it has to come back up SOMETIME… I was sweating a B, hoping those last few unfocused weeks hadn’t thrown me down to a C. When I was finally able to access my grade, I hesitated clicking on the screen that would tell me what might plunge me into depression. But I did and found an A! That night, I took The Husband out to dinner at Mimi’s CafĂ©, where we indulged in crepes, brioche and baked brie. Tres excellent! 

And, yes, I’ve kept up on my Memorize Words app on my phone, learning more French words. I signed up for, a magazine subscription app that includes a few French titles and bought a copy of Les Trois Mousquetaires for 50 cents, so I have plenty of reading material to practice!

Next Semester—

My parking sticker is firmly affixed in the left hand corner of my windshield. My book is purchased ($41.75 compared to last semesters’ $167!). The Husband came with me to get the semester sticker on my student ID. And when we looked for my new classroom, I realized it was my OLD CLASSROOM! The very same classroom where I took French. So, should I sit at the same desk or a different one?

This semester is College Writing. I’ve skimmed the book a little and it looks far less dry than I thought it would. The last time I took a class that I had to write papers for, the internet was in its infancy and microfiche ruled. I notice that this book has a lot of references to websites and social media. Should be an Erudite adventure (OK, I’m reading Divergent…).

Taking a Saturday morning class means getting up earlier than I do for work :-) I hope it’s interesting enough to keep me awake! Friday nights I’ll have to put together my Survival Kit-diet soda and a mid-morning snack! At least I shouldn’t hit traffic on the way and the parking lot might not be as crowded.

I did my due student diligence and looked up the two teachers with Saturday morning classes on  The woman had such horrible reviews--nasty, boring, liked to hear herself talk…  The man, Brandon Rocke, looks young and has a master’s degree in creative writing. His page in was small but positive. Not only is this class about writing for college assignments, it’s also about researching and critical thinking, so I’m hoping he’s got a lot of interesting things to impart every early Saturday morning for four hours!

I’m really eager to start writing. It’s something I haven’t given much time to lately and it’s one of the things I’ve always loved to do. So I have high hopes for a good grade but more than anything, I’m looking forward to the challenge of writing assignments and the thought processes of putting words together and building a cohesive story. 

The Future 

I really don’t know where I’m going with this whole education thing.  Some days I just want the knowledge and plan to just take the subjects I want to know more about.  Other days, I really do want to walk through a college campus in a choir robe and a mortarboard worn at a jaunty angle. But I have plenty of time to figure all that out...

By the time my French class ended, I was so ready for a break and for the first few weeks, I was glad to be away from the pressure of homework and finals.  But a week or so into January, I started to anticipate Going Back to School.  Gotta get to bed early tomorrow.  It’s a School Night!

Your intuition knows what to write, so get out of the way.

Ray Bradbury

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Thoughts About School

Since I can’t seem to write a proper blog entry, I’ll try doing a quick list of thoughts:

1. Going to school at night is very difficult. By the time 7pm rolls around after a full day of work (which has been very stressful lately), I’m pretty much brain-dead. Our teacher, Abeer, expects a lot of class participation. Normally, I’m the quietest one in the room, so add that pinch of lethargy and you’ve got me hiding under the desk!

2. Next semester, I’m going to try to get a Saturday morning class and see if that works better. Even though it would be 4 hours instead of two 2 hour classes at night, I think that might be easier.

3. I can’t hear French. OK, I can’t comprehend (comprends) French that well when I’m listening to it spoken. I’m such a visual person that I seem to need to visualize the words but I can’t understand it well enough to do that yet. I don’t think we’re expected to be able to do a complete, understandable conversation with French 1 (Thank God!) but we do have oral portions of our tests that Abeer has had to slow down to 78rpm for me to understand… Last night, I took the final part of our latest test with Abeer asking questions and me answering--not too bad but she still had to repeat and mime some things.  LOL!  She really wants me to succeed.

4. I can’t hear French and I’m trying not to stress about it. It’s my weakest thing and that’s ok. I’m not taking this course for anyone but me and I’m good with this. I’m trying to listen more to the video’s on our Supersite (our homework site) from now til the end of the semester because I want to do my best to understand it but I don’t want to get to that point where I’m giving myself anxiety attacks. Also, Tutor Joel suggests listening to spoken French while reading the script of what’s being said, so I can associate the words with the sound.

5. Now that I have a beginning knowledge of French, I’ll continue to read a lot and use the second half of the expensive textbooks to continue educating myself. I subscribed to some Etsy newsletters in French and in planning a trip to Paris and Normandy in 2 years, I log onto French websites and attempt to read those. There are plenty of places to ready French, so I’m not worried about running out of interesting things to translate.

6. I bought a Memorize Words app for French. It starts with flash cards of new words, then tests you on those. Then you can move on to concentration, word match, word find, Invaders (match the article to the noun before the noun dropping from the sky blows up the city!) and even Hangman games in French. It will keep me interested after class is over.
7. I don’t enjoy doing homework but neither do I loathe it. While doing the sometimes endless homework on the website and in the workbooks, it amazes me when I’m on a roll, making an effort to finish just one more assignment. Ok, now maybe another one, I mean as long as I have the books out and I have the French mindset goin’ on. It’s my personal mental challenge.

8. Love my Kindle! I think I’ve mentioned before that the French-English dictionary wouldn’t let me search on the Kindle app on my phone but it does on the device itself. It’s come in very handy!

9.  Not sure how I wound up with an 82 out of 80 score on my last test but I’m happy with it.  Unless I totally mess up the next one or two quizzes and the last big test of the semester, I should come out with a good grade for my first college class.  Not bad for an old girl!

10. The Spring Semester catalog came out today.  Yes, there’s a Saturday morning College Writing class I was thinking of taking.  But there’s also a History of Art: Impressionism to Present online class that I want to take.  And there’s philosophy…  And geography…  And Literature… Why can’t The Husband and I find a Sugar Grand-daddy who’d take us under his wing and grant us the gift of unlimited leisure time???

11. I feel like I’ve been in a cocoon in this class.  The teacher really does want us to succeed and the majority of the kids are funny and nice to each other.  When someone’s stuck for an answer, they start whispering to help them.  We all laugh at our wrong answers.  I never feel judged or stupid, even though I do feel “senior” sometimes, just by virtue of my advanced years.  I don’t know if I’ll feel this safe in future classes.

12. Less than a month left of school.  With all the craziness at work (the company I’ve worked for for 25 years was bought out in late September, worked a lot of over time and double time) and a few other stressors, it’s been a wild ride.  Two nights a week at school, most Saturdays (and some Sundays) devoted to homework, Wednesday nights out doing wash (washer broke down weeks ago…), then throw in some quality time with The Husband and The Cats.  Whew!  Just gotta get through these last few weeks and I get 6 weeks off.  I’m planning to celebrate with a new tattoo!

It is not necessarily at home that we best encounter our true selves.  The domestic setting keeps us tethered to the person we are in ordinary life, who may not be who we essentially are.

Alain de Botton

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Time Flies!

Don’tcha hate it when things have been going along smoothly and then, bam!  Everything happens at once!

Yup, I decide to go to school and the business gods decide that and working full time just aren’t enough to fill my days… and nights… and weekends.  Two and a half weeks ago, I got to work to find an email saying the company I work for was sold.  It’s been controlled chaos ever since.  Through the transition, I’ve been working overtime and a smidge of double time, some of that on weekends.  It’s been challenging, to say the least.  But there’s light at the end of the tunnel.  One more payroll with special handling next week and things should settle back to normal.  I’m lucky that we’re all being retained, with our benefits and seniority, so I can’t complain.  Yawn and whine a bit, well, yeah…

Then, I realized that I should have been doing homework in the workbook and lab book (listening to MP3s online and answering questions) all along, in addition to the online work…  *sigh*  So, I spent what I’d hoped would be a restful weekend catching up on all that…  I will say, though, it was a good  review for the big test we took last week!

Watson “helping” me with homework:

So far I’ve been doing ok on the quizzes we’ve had:

I hope I did almost as well on the test last week.  I didn’t start off well--part of the test was done on a scantron, you know those papers that you fill in the bubbles for your answers.  Several of us (thank goodness it wasn’t just me!) used pen and the machines won’t read the answers unless it’s in #2 pencil…  So Abeer has to grade those individually, plus the written parts of the test, so we should get our grades next Tuesday.  Fingers and toes crossed that I did ok.

In class, we’re moving along: greetings, university/classroom, verbs, adjectives, conjugation, time…  But speaking is slow and putting sentences together is still tricky.  But the class is pretty fun.  We do a lot of verbal activities in class and everyone tries to help everyone else and there’s a lot of good natured ribbing and laughing.  Most of the students are in their early 20’s and I haven’t figured out yet whether they like me or just consider me a strange being in their midst.  They do encourage me and I’ve exchanged phone numbers with a couple of the kids who I sit with at the back of the class, Nancy and Rudy. 

I’ve also attended a few tutoring sessions.  Very helpful!  Abeer, our teacher, is really fun and patient but she has to move fast to keep up with the curriculum.  Joel, our tutor, has the luxury of taking a little more time with explanations and getting us to talk and pronounce better.  And we have the opportunity to ask specific questions that we need help with.  Last week, I had him all to myself since no one else had signed up for that block of time.  We’ll see if that happens again this week.

So, student life is going well but I wish I had more time to do the actual studying…  Soon, life will quiet down and I’ll have more time to go back to a more organized study pattern.  At the beginning of school, I was establishing habits that seemed to be working and I’d certainly like to get back to that.  I feel like I’m flying by the seat of my pants and that seat is going to rip and I’ll be in a free fall of French garble!

One thing I really want to do when I finally get some time is to plan a trip to France in 2015.  I always love the planning phase as much as I love the travel itself.  I’ve been thinking of what I want to do there and now I’d like to make a proper wish list of places to go.  It’s occurred to me lately that I don’t want to stay exclusively in Paris.  I’d like to visit more of France, maybe take a cruise on the Seine (I know The Husband would like that, too).  The more I think about what I’ll use the French for, the more I’ll keep it up.

Speaking of keeping up, I’ll try to write more often here.  It’s what I started the blog for, after all!

Here’s the parking structure that welcomes me every day I go to school.  Just thought another picture in the post was needed :-)
Tomorrow is a new day: begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, September 2, 2013

First Week of School

So much to tell!

My stomach was all upset Tuesday, my first day of school, but the nausea was completely unnecessary.  I think it’s going to be a very successful semester.

Here I am--had to have the traditional First Day of School picture :-)  Too bad my eyes weren’t open yet…

Here are my observations, reactions and whines:

**I got to school my first day an hour and a half early, anticipating horrible first week parking.  I drove around the structure just long enough to see that the best option was to go up and park on the outside tier, where there were still plenty of spaces.  It actually took me three times as long to leave at the end of the night as it did to find my parking space!  Second night, I lucked into a space half a tier down and it only took twice as long to get out :-)

**Had a leisurely snack wrap and soda at the nearby McDonald’s.  Then walked back to the zoo--I mean, the campus bookstore.  I looked for what I thought was my French 1 textbook.  Went into shock and left--more later.  Second night, I drove through and got a burrito to take to school.  Here’s where I ate:
Nice, huh?
**Before class on the first night, I sat on a bench in the shade and read for a while.  It’s been an extraordinarily mild summer--of course, the first week of school it turns blazing hot.

**First night I didn’t think I was the oldest in the class but the second night thinned out (people dropping, not coming back…) and so now I know I definitely am.  That includes the teacher…

**The classroom--can you say “sardines”?  Little desk/chair combo’s with just enough space to walk through.  Claustrophobia!  Even the teacher doesn’t have much room to move.  Like I said, though, we lost some folks, so the second night wasn’t so bad.  With a few empty seats, it doesn’t seem so squashed.

**Textbook--$162.50!!!!  Well, to be fair, it’s a textbook, two workbooks, a lab book and the key to the Supersite website that goes along with the class work.  When I saw the package at the bookstore that first night, I really thought I was looking at the wrong thing…  Then someone in class had already gotten it and quoted the price.  Amazon only sells the textbook, not the other things and even that was outrageously expensive…  The teacher says it covers both French 1 and 2 and most people just take the first class and use the book to continue their study afterward…  And to add insult to injury, the textbook is loose leaf, so then you need to get a binder!!  The Husband went out and bought me a purple one the next day :-)

  So supportive!

**Our teacher’s name is Abeer and her first language is Arabic but she sounds like a native French speaker.  She’s a lot of fun, working us hard but also making us laugh.  For some reason, she reminds me of Kate Winslet in The Holiday.  She doesn’t really look that much like Winslet but it’s something about her facial expressions. 

**We are required to have four hours of tutoring at the Skills Center, with two more for extra credit.  Joel, the main French tutor, came to speak to us the second night, explaining all the rules.  He can take a number of students at a time, so it won’t necessarily be one on one but he’ll have time to answer the questions we don’t get to in class and keep us current on pronunciation and grammar.  All tutoring is free, which makes me very happy because I know I’ll need it for math…
**The first week, there are stations set up around campus (see the blue canopy in front of the library) to assist you with questions and information.  So thoughtful.  Since I’ve been to this campus before, I was ok but I’m sure there were a lot of straight out of high school freshman who needed a little guidance.

**The bookstore is very efficient.  Tchotkes and snacks at the front, books by alphabetical order of the class name in the back.  I went late Wednesday afternoon, the day between my classes, so I could have the package and look through it before my second night.  All of the registers were open and the line to pay snaked through the aisles.  A young guy behind me talking to his girlfriend nailed it: “Yeah, they have you walk through the aisles so you’ll grab a greeting card for your aunt’s birthday, a bookmark and an energy bar”.  I admit, since I was writing a check from my savings, I figured I might as well buy a t-shirt and support my school…

**Never thought I’d have to relearn the alphabet but it was like first grade all over again!  The pronunciations are very different, especially Y (i grec--how do they get that??!!).  We’re already speaking in class and doing some conversation.  I’m there to learn, so I did do some speaking in class--but I didn’t raise my hand to do the whole alphabet--although I did spell out my name :-)  I’m usually The Quiet One, so this is going to be interesting!

**This morning, I logged onto the Supersite and took a look around.  There are no assignments yet, so I clicked on a few things and watched some video’s in French--they go along with the lessons.  Right now, we’re on greetings and goodbyes.  Once we all have our books/website keys, required by tomorrow, it will start to move a lot faster.  Whee!!!!!

“Life is only as interesting as the number of times you say yes.”

Harvey Fierstein

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Last Step Before The First Day of School

This morning, The Husband and I dragged ourselves out of bed early, so we could be at the Student Center to get my school ID.  I knew I’d be having my picture taken, so what to do with my hair was a topic of discussion in my head for a few days.  Curly?  Straight?  Since you get one picture ID, then each successive semester you get a sticker updating the ID, this is for posterity.  How did I want to present myself?  I’ve always blown my hair dry and relatively straight and this new, shorter style has been liberating in that I can let it dry naturally and curly, so curly it is.  And what to wear?  I didn’t want to wear anything too “old lady”--my definition of that deserves a blog post of its own--so I decided on a boat neck striped shirt.  I figured not much of it would show but I like that shirt and how it makes me feel.

So, we got to school and the parking lot was fairly empty, which is the last time I’ll see it that way.  I know from now on, it’s going to be a madhouse.

Anyway, we walked across the pleasant little campus, to Building 200.  Signs led us around the corner to a little patio with a half dozen wrought iron tables and chairs.  Since we were 45 minutes early, we were actually the first ones there.  As people wandered in, they took seats and many, like us, communed with their cell phones.  Some kids had parents with them for support--one girl was French braiding her mom’s hair.  Other people sat and stared--apparently, also like us, they hadn’t had their caffeine fix yet.  There was one man older than me and a guy probably in his late 30’s.  The rest were young freshmen.

When the doors opened, the two girls who’d arrived just after us made sure I was in the door first.  Are college students just more polite than the norm or maybe I’ve just only experienced the nice ones at school, so far.  No, I’m not anticipating surly teenagers but…  we shall see.  Anyway, we were led into a room where they’d set up chairs and tables in a kind of obstacle course that led to the desk where you presented your paperwork for inspection.  Hmmm, that sounds very Casablanca!  You’re required to show your zero balance for class fees and the payment for the ID.  Check, check, double check.  Onto a small room with a section taped out on the floor for you to stand for your photo, like at the DMV.  A sweet young guy with a Police K9 t-shirt on chatted a bit, then explained there was a 3 second delay with the camera, so don’t smile til “3”. :-)  A short wait in another room, and shazam, my student ID was hot off the press!

Collected The Husband, who’d waited outside, and headed back to the car.  Here’s the picture he took to commemorate the event:

I bought him breakfast and lamented that the picture he took was too close and I look awful.  Crepey neck, wrinkles everywhere and my teeth look weird.  But here it is anyway, because more than anything, I think I look happy.  There is a huge element of silliness in being so excited about these little things--ID’s, parking stickers, new notebooks--and that’s a gift.  We should all be happy with the little things!

So, I think I’m getting nervous.  No second thoughts, just wanting to get the syllabus and textbook and get this show on the road.  I want to see how hard the homework will be and push myself to talk in class and memorize stuff.  Failure scenarios abound--a crappy teacher, not being able to understand the grammar, flunking tests…  In 5 more days, all will answered!  Well, some anyway. 

I’m irritated that they don’t put the syllabus and textbook title online before class, so you can be prepared and not basically waste the first night of class by not having all the info already.  We do have a class website online but so far, all it has is the names of the students and teacher.  It gives you a place to link your own website, so I put my Etsy shop in there.  Never know, might get some holiday business from my classmates!

Anyway, next Tuesday is The Big Day.  I’m going to school right from work, even though class doesn’t start until 7.  I want to get parked--Lord knows how long that will take…  Then I’ll walk to a nearby McDonald’s for a snack wrap dinner and some reading time.  That’s one thing I know I’ll be sacrificing--I probably won’t get to read as much for pleasure.  But that’s ok, it’s a good trade off.  Eventually, I’ll be able to read books in French. :-)

Never think you’re not good enough yourself.  A person should never think that.  People will take you very much at your own reckoning.
Anthony Trollope

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Van Gogh is Official

Here's the sticker that officially lets me park at school.  

Yes, my van's name is Van Gogh.  

Let the Parking Wars begin!!

I have never looked in the mirror and seen a person I didn't like.

Nell Carter

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bonjour, Mes Ami!

So, guess what class I was able to register for~yes, I actually got French 101!  I really thought I’d end up with the College Writing class, since there was only one French class available at the time I wanted.  Then Young Mare reminded me that most of the high schoolers probably took elementary French within the last few years, so maybe my chances were better than I thought.  And, voila, French class, here I come :-)

Maybe I’ll finally be able to read the French Marie Claire Holiday magazine I bought a few years ago, to help me learn to read French…

And this French version of Cinderella…

I bought a French dictionary for my Kindle a while ago.  The story of my Kindle: A few months after I got the Kindle, I had to replace my simple phone and decided to upgrade a bit to an Android.  Happily downloaded the Kindle app and found that easier to use than the Kindle itself, so I sent the big grey device to my mom, thinking she’d be able to use one of the large fonts since her eyesight was failing.  Hmmm…  Mom’s not really a device person, so after she and Cousin Paul fussed with it for while, she sent poor unwanted Mr. Kindle back to me.  Where it sat in my armoire, wishing someone would read its stories.  Meanwhile, I had downloaded the French dictionary to my phone.  Apparently, the phone app doesn’t have a search feature, so if I wanted to find a particular word, the word most likely to be muttered while flicking through pages was Merde!  But one day recently, while fantasizing about French class, it occurred to me to try the dictionary on Mr. Kindle, who does have a search function.  And again, voila! Mr. Kindle has a new lease on life as my little electronic study partner. 

I think it’s beginning to sink in that I’ll be out of the house two nights a week and studying most of Saturday and I’m sure there’ll be the occasional midnight oil burning.  What is most concerning me is my ability to memorize and process at the college level.  I have a real desire to learn French, so I’m hoping that will help me to absorb everything and retain it.  I think if I can do well with this 5 unit/hour class, that will really give me a boost of confidence.  I’ll try to keep the woeful, what-made-me-think-I-could-do-this? posts to a minimum.   Actually, I think one underlying reason for starting this blog was to be able to keep myself pumped and positive, so there may be some venting here and there but I’ll do my best etre heureux (to be happy-according to Google…).

Next week:  The Saga of the Student ID
“God doesn't require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.”
― Mother Teresa