The blog is on hiatus until 11.21.11. See you soon!

Written November 14th, 2011
Categories: Uncategorized
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Taking Off Your Mask

(Image retrieved from Google images, original web site:  http://wallpaper.desktx.com/other/index_10.html)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

It is fall.  It is late October.  That means that soon children, and children wannabes (also known as “adults”) will don their masks and costumes and head on out the door in pursuit of treats.  Now is the time you have waited for – to be able to be someone else, if only for a little while.

This gave me pause.  I wonder if, in fact, it is not the other way around?  I wonder how many people go through their lives wearing the masks they felt they were destined to wear – whether by culture or family or education?  You may find yourself waiting for the end of the day, and the end of the week, so that you may remove your mask of “responsibility” and go outdoors and “play,” as you bicycle, hike or play games with your kids.  Maybe you pursue your other hobbies, such as research, reading, or writing the “next great American novel.”  Maybe in those hobbies lies the real you.

Perhaps it is when you are immersed in your creative project that you truly feel like you, for it is during these week-ends of “escape” that you actually feel unencumbered by the restraints of the workaday world.   You feel free to design those parts of your life that seem to complete who you are.

If this is true for you, then it may be time to think about allowing yourself to enjoy the fruits of the week-end all week long.  This is to say, why not pursue that which makes you so happy, feel so complete, feel so like you?  Why take your mask off only on the week-ends?

You assume many roles throughout your life.  You are a father and a son, a mother and a daughter, an employee or an employer, a customer, a driver, and so on.  However, there are those roles that speak to the heart of who you are.  That role could be a writer, or sculptor, or tailor, or photographer, or yogi – professions that are not merely roles, but reflect your artistic soul.  You find that you are your best self when you have allowed yourself to immerse within the waters of your creativity.

Start now.  Remove your everyday mask – and become you.

“You just think you can’t do it then you do it.” (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Heartland Community College, July 2011 “Alumni Spotlight” – Normal, Illinois)

Bett Atkins

Name: Bet Atkins
Class: Heartland Class of 2005
Degree: Associate’s in Arts

Interviewer: Colleen Reynolds, Director of Alumni Relations and Outreach

 

Colleen: The alumni spotlight shines this time on an alum who’s a single mom of seven kids who turned to Heartland at age 45 to start a new career, one that recently led to an award for her compassion.

Bet: Hi. I’m Bet Atkins. I graduated from Heartland Community College in 2005 with an Associate in Arts degree.

Colleen: I know that you’ve gone on and received your nursing degree as well.

Bet: I have. I graduated from Mennonite College of Nursing at Illinois State University in 2007. I’m currently employed at Advocate Bromenn in the I.M.C.U. I’m a day nurse and love my job.

Colleen: I.M.C.U., what does that stand for?

Bet: It stands for the Intermediate Care Unit. Originally, I was hired to work the step-down unit, which is one south, right outside the ICU. Last year, they merged my unit with the medical unit and made us one big unit. We were all together up on the fifth floor now.

Colleen: I’m going to take you back to the beginning of your academic career and ask you what led you to Heartland?

Bet: I knew that there were going to be some changes in my life and I knew that I would need to care of my children. I was a single, or I figured I was headed to be a single mom and I was. I started during the summer of 2003 and took two classes, then bumped up to full-time and took everything that I could take so I could graduate.

Colleen: So had you been out of the classroom for awhile?

Bet: Oh lord! I have been out of the classroom since really when I graduated from high school all those years ago in 1976. I took some college courses, got married, was a stay at home mom for a long time. I managed a bookstore in Peoria for awhile, and I loved that job. I just figured that it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I had the opportunity to take care of my grandmother when she was dying in 1979 and that cemented the idea that I wanted to be a nurse. I figured one day I woke up and I thought I’m going to be 45 this year and if I don’t do it now, I’m not ever going to do it and that at least I wanted to try. If I can’t do it and manage the kids and take care of everything else, then okay but I’ll have known I had given it my best shot. I just started those classes and taking those classes. I had great support, had a lot of fun. I had great professors. I loved Edie Wallace, Ali (Abu-Amr), Steve Rummel. Just a lot of encouragement from the professors here and a lot of encouragement from my church family.

Colleen: What else about your experience here helped you succeed and get that Associates degree and then move on?

Bet: I think most of it was probably self-esteem. Heartland gave me a big boost in my self-esteem. You just think you can’t do it then you do it. Then you think okay I can do this and I can move on to the next step. It was just like I could get tutoring if I wanted it. I used Project RISE at times. Heartland had the daycare which there were times I needed those services. Like I said before, I worked part-time in the Financial Aid office as a student worker and met lifelong friends there. There are people that I love there that really encouraged me and wanted to see me achieve my goals. It’s easier when you have someone from the back pushing you. It really is.

Colleen: It sounds like you felt supported as a whole person, not just in the classroom.

Bet: I really did. I met people here that I love and would consider that they would be lifelong friends of mine. There were other students my age that were middle aged who were doing career changes. You tend to stick together and help eachother. You’re not eighteen or nineteen, just out of high school. You have full-time responsibilities as parents. Some of them worked outside jobs so going to school had to be the priority.

Colleen: So you went on and obtained your nursing degree. Where did that lead you?

Bet: It led me to Advocate Bromenn. I love my job. It’s fabulous. I can work three days a week, twelve hour shifts. I can pick up extra shifts if I want. It gives me time to be a mom which is a priority. When I leave work, 99% of the time I feel like I’ve accomplished something, that I have helped someone else. I feel like I had so many people help me as a single mom going to college, raising kids and a granddaughter that it’s kind of like payback and paying it forward that you go and take care of people. You know that they’re not at their best and you do what you can to make their day easier.

Colleen: Well then you must be very good at what you do because you received a compassion award in the first quarter of this year. Tell me about what that meant to you to receive that kind of an award or recognition of what you do everyday.

Bet: It was really nice, but I’d be just as happy to going about my own business at work. It’s very nice to be recognized by families. It was a family who thought that I had gone above and beyond taking care of their loved one. That’s amazing that they took the time to write the company and the hospital recognized me. I’m very appreciative of that but that’s not why I do what I do. I do it because I love people and I want things to be good for people. I want their outcomes to be good. I want to be able to set an example to newer nurses and my peers. What we do is very hard both physically and emotionally. You can get through the day by making someone’s life better just by being kind and loving. I think that to do what we do as nurses we have to genuinely love other people or you couldn’t do it day after day.

Colleen: Is there anything that you learned here at Heartland that has translated to what you do everyday, either academically or just about people?

Bet: I think all of my classes at Heartland prepared me for the next step at Mennonite. They gave me a good base foundation to build on the skills and knowledge base that I learned at Heartland. I think that just being back in a diverse population that was a lot of fun. You get to hear ideas and think about things that you have not thought about in a long time. I want to be as open minded as possible about everything. What I learned here helped me to be a better nurse. I loved my time here.

Colleen: You almost get a little misty-eyed when you think about it.

Bet: I actually do. For me, it was a really hard time in my life. Heartland gave me something to focus on, just class after class after class. It kept me from sitting there thinking my life is terrible. If you have something to focus on and if you have a goal and if you do your best to attain that goal, it might take you a little bit longer, you might be 45 years old in class with a bunch of 18 year olds, they were all great.  They accepted me. It was like they were other children of mine. I felt that it was such a good thing for me. It was the best move I could make. Everybody was just so supportive. It’s just such a great cultural experience here. There’s things to do and outside of classroom events. We’re lucky we have Heartland.

Colleen: Is there anything else you would like to say to students attending Heartland today?

Bet: I’m not anybody special. I’m just Bet. If I can do it, you can do it. I occassionally run into single moms who were floundering andI tell them my Heartland story. I went to Heartland when I was 45 and I had kids at home. If I can do it, you can do it because there is nothing so special about me. It was just determination and wanting to be able to provide a good life for my kids. It was my kids who were my driving force. I want them to have a good life and Heartland enabled me to move to the next step which was at Mennonite and then be able to get my job. I just can’t imagine doing anything else with my life.

Colleen: Bet Atkins, we think there’s something special about you. We’re happy to have you in our latest spotlight. Good luck and continued future success.

Bet: Thank you very much, Colleen.

Noticing the Details

Written October 16th, 2011
Categories: Life Experience, Self Discovery
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(Photo credit:  reprinted from Princeton Center for Yoga and Health posted 10.16.11 on Facebook)

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Today I ran across the above photograph that had this caption beneath it:  “Even if something is left undone, everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn.” (Elizabeth Warren).  It does not seem possible, but we are into the waning months of 2011.  Much of the country is past the peak of the fall foliage.  Thanksgiving is only a month away, and that will launch the craziness of the holiday season. This quote suggested that, even with all that lay before us, we must stop every once in a while and just exhale.

While the main purpose of this blog is to motivate its readers to return to school, fulfill their dreams and take a chance, you still have to put the brakes on every once in a while.  There is joy in just stopping.

A friend of mine and I make a point once a week to walk through the roads near my home.  I live in the South, so our path is filled with live oaks dripping in Spanish moss.  There is always the fragrance of some sort of flora and greenery in the air.  As we walk, I am amazed at what she sees.  We will be chatting away, and she will stop suddenly to pick up an object from the road – usually it is an object that is out of place, such as a spoon.  She will examine it for a second and perhpas take it with her, or leave it behind.  It depends on how she thinks she can use it, or maybe she might just save it for a little while as a memento of an enjoyable conversation.  Her ability to see the details brings a fresh, new perspective to a walk along a familiar path.

As we rush forward toward 2012, and the busy-ness of your life begins to dictate your days, take some time to slow things down.  It is going to be tempting to try to cram events and errands into the week as the days start getting shorter and colder.  But, find a quiet corner, or a new path for a walk, or look overhead at the evening sky and the stars that are piercing the crisp fall air – and deeply inhale.  Exhale and enjoy the moment.

“Inspired by life …” (Success Stories Series)

(Reprinted from Cape Fear Community College, Alumni Spotlight, 10.28.10)

CFCC Alumnus Chelsie Ravenell models some of his latest design work. Photo Credit: Reese Moore

By Alicia Gronneberg, CFCC Foundation Intern

Chelsie Ravenell was born in Charleston, South Carolina and relocated to the Wilmington area in 2003 to play basketball at Cape Fear Community College [Wilmington, North Carolina].  Growing up in the “ghetto” (as he describes it) Chelsie realized after high school that he needed to do something with his life and CFCC gave him that opportunity.

“Cape Fear Community College gave me a second chance at life,” says Chelsie, who returned to school at age 24.  “In high school I got all C’s, but while I was playing basketball at Cape Fear I had a 4.0.”

Chelsie was enrolled in the business management program but also had a not-so-secret love for fashion, modeling, and designing clothes.  While Chelsie had always been interested in fashion and refers to himself as “the stylish dude who won best dressed in high school,” he found his true inspiration for fashion design after his uncle passed away.

“My uncle lived in my grandmother’s house. When he died we were cleaning it out, and I came across a brand new sewing machine—that’s when I taught myself how to sew.”

Chelsie started designing some of his first fashions while he was still enrolled at CFCC and while his friends often teased him for it he never let it hinder his work.

“The guys would be going out, and I would be staying home to sew,’ says Chelsie.  “I would go out the next night wearing something I made and people would really like it—it got me excited about what I was doing and continued to motivate me to make more and more.”

A few years later Chelsie created his clothing line, called KennethBeatrice, in honor of his grandmother and uncle—it was because of them that he began to fulfill his dream.  “Inspired by Life,” is the moto that Chelsie lives by.  He says he was inspired to design by the people who have passed away. “Through my line the people I have lost live on, and I will live on through the people who wear my line.  With that motto and mindset you never run out of ideas.”

Chelsie now spends his time between his hometown of Charleston, New York City and Los Angeles where he is a “one many army—designing, making, and marketing” his clothing line. He was recently featured as a semi-finalist during Charleston Fashion Week’s 2010 Emerging Designer Competition.

Trusting Yourself

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Image downloaded from smstemplates.net via “Google images”)

 

 

Recently, a friend lamented that his mother “never trusted her intelligence.”   She had started college, but never completed, and became content in her position as a teacher’s aide, rather than a teacher.  Of course, one is not necessarily better than the other.  However, the reason for her not pursuing her degree – not trusting her intelligence – is an interesting one, and may lie at the heart of why a nontraditional student does not return to college, even though earning a degree might allow the potential student to go to the “next level” of her/his profession.

 

Each of us is the unique result of our background, family environment, culture, education, religion and experiences.  Because we adapt to our circumstances, we may come to believe that our upbringing and current cultural environment has predetermined our future.  For instance, you may have been raised in a blue-collar environment where the nobility of labor has been emphasized, rather than the pursuit of higher education.  Perhaps, no one in your family has ever earned a bachelor’s degree, so you see it as something that has no application in the “real world.”  You may have even shared with co-workers your curiosity about college, only to be teased and ridiculed.  Yet, there lies in the back of your mind a curiosity, a stirring of interest, in how pursuing a college degree could enhance – and change – your life.

 

You know you are smart.  People tell you that all the time.  You want to know more, but are not sure where to go or what to do.  It is so much easier to continue with the path of your life that you have laid down – retire with the same company, or perhaps your family’s business.  But, to do so does not mean that you cannot satisfy your curiosity about additional possibilities.  Allow yourself the joy of discovery, including the discovery of where your intelligence can take you.  Trust your intelligence.  Trust yourself.

“She is very determined …” (Success Stories Series)

 

LLCC Spotlight(Reprinted from Lincoln Land Community College web site, “In the Spotlight, retrieved 9.26.11)

80-year-old student inspires young college students

“It’s never too late to achieve your dreams,” says Marian Johnson

Ask LLCC students, faculty and staff about Marian Johnson and you’re likely to hear comments such as “she is incredible,” “she exudes an extreme amount of joy to everyone she meets,” “she has so many life experiences,” “she is an inspiration to many” or “she is very determined.”

At age 80, Marian was determined to graduate with an associate degree.

Marian led a full life before returning to school. At 27, she stepped in to raise two younger brothers, aged seven and 14, when her mother passed away. After both boys were out on their own, she began taking care of another brother who was injured in World War II. Throughout her life, she also served as a foster parent, helping to raise and mentor 17 children.

Retiring from Illinois Bell in 1982 after 37 years, Marian enrolled at LLCC to work on an associate degree in nursing. However, she was impatient to get back to work and switched to LPN classes offered at the Capital Area Career Center.  She then worked as a private duty nurse, retiring from St. John’s Hospital in 2003 and from Presbyterian Home in 2007.

In 2008, Marian returned to LLCC. She credits Dr. John Roberts, professor of history, with encouraging her to finish her degree. “Wild horses couldn’t keep me away from here. I have received a lot of support from faculty, staff and fellow students,” says Marian.  “LLCC is an extraordinary place no matter what your age. The younger students don’t treat me any differently; they involve me in conversations and discussions. They don’t seem to mind that I’m an ‘old lady.’”

Marian clearly inspires her fellow students. Her 19-year-old peer tutor, Natalie Richardson (shown here at Commencement with Marian) commented, “I think I learned more from her than she learned from me.  She taught me about life, which is so useful. Although she is 80, she’s embracing and pursuing something she’s always wanted to do.”

Marian graduated with her associate degree this May and says, “I’d tell anyone thinking of coming back to college that it’s never too late to achieve your dreams.”

Turning Your Life Upside Down

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

 

(Image retrieved from Google Images.  Web site for image: http://www.toxel.com/inspiration/2009/10/20/upside-down-house-in-germany)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ever take something that is really familiar and change it so drastically that it feels new?

I like to do that with furniture arrangement.  I change the placement of my living room furniture at least four times a year.   By reordering the center of my home, there seems to be a rippling effect into the other rooms.  I have to pass by the living room on the way to the kitchen, so I have the opportunity to appreciate the change several times a day.

When I travel long distances, I always fly.  This past summer, when visiting friends in New Jersey, I decided to take an Amtrak sleeper car up the East Coast.  I had never had such solitude and privacy when traveling before.  I was on the train for 13 hours and spent about half that time sleeping and the other half admiring the vista out my “picture window.” Although I enjoy the bird’s eye view that plane travel offers, the new vantage point from my sleeper car was refreshing! There is no question, I will be doing that again!

One of the courses I teach, I have taught dozens and dozens of times.  Last year, I changed part of it and that change infused new life into the course.  That went so well (and felt so good) that I completely changed the entire course for this year!  We have just ended the first week of the new term, and all of the things I used to do have been replaced by new lecture topics, new PowerPoint, and a new order of presentation of material.  It feels weird, but good.  It reminds me of buying a new pair of shoes that has a different sole and heel from your other shoes.  It feels weird, but there is a new awareness to how you walk and stand.

So, what can you do to gain a new perspective on your life?  What familiar things are you doing that you can rearrange, reorder and renew?

Taking college courses can help you do that – and it doesn’t matter what level of education you have.  One of my colleagues, who has two Ph.D.s, often takes the art and design courses that are offered to our undergraduates.  She is always amazed by the new perspective she has gained (with an added benefit of understanding the courses our students are taking).  These courses tend to turn her point-of-view upside down and she loves it!

If you have been considering returning to school – whether for your first college course or courses post-doc – now is just as good a time as any.  Although the fall term is already underway for most colleges and universities, there are fascinating workshops you can take through the Continuing Education department of your local college.  Check out their on-line catalog, and find the courses that will give you a new perspective.  Turn your life — or at least your perspective — upside down!

Taking Some Time (Success Stories Series)

Written September 11th, 2011
Categories: Community College
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(Reprinted from Eastern Illinois Community College “Spotlight on Alumni”)

Although not a Non-Traditional Student, Morgan Land’s academic experience at Eastern Illinois’ Community College illustrates how community colleges can help students figure out their career direction.  Non-Traditional Students, too, can take advantage of enrolling in courses in community colleges and seeking the wisdom and counselof the academic advisors.

 

Image

Clipart  

IECC Spotlight on Alumni – Morgan Land, FCC Graduate – Senior Counselor 
Morgan Land finds great satisfaction helping others improve their quality of life. As a Mental Health Specialist for Senior Life Solutions at Fairfield Memorial Hospital, Land is able to see positive results basically every day. Her clients are senior adults who suffer with depression, anxiety, or bereavement.

Land’s responsibilities include assessing the individual and facilitating group therapy. One of the first steps is performing a psychological and social assessment to determine if the individual qualifies for the program. This is done through a detailed history evaluation on the person’s childhood, education work, substance abuse, and so forth. A geriatric depression scale is also used in determining the individual’s need. The group therapy begins each day with an educational health topic, followed with discussions of life challenges and ways to cope with the present and future, and ends with a variety of fun activities that encourage cognitive stimulation.

Following her high school graduation in 2001, Land enrolled at Frontier Community College. She was fairly certain she wanted to pursue a degree in social work but not definite. “I knew if I went to the university I needed to declare a major,” stated Land. “By going to Frontier, I was able to take the general education classes and take my time to think about what I wanted to do. It was a good decision; the small class sizes were nice and having personal instructors helped me work through my ideas and goals.”

Land earned an Associate’s Degree from Frontier in 2003 and transferred to Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. In May 2005 she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work and remained at SIU-C until May 2006 when she completed the Master of School Social Work degree.

Prior to her current job, Land worked for Lutheran Social Services in Marion, Illinois. She started as a case aide working with foster care. Her duties as an aide included picking up children in foster care and taking them to visit with their biological parents. She was promoted to a case worker and remained working with foster care. In August 2009, she accepted the position with FMH Senior Life Solutions.

When thinking about where she is today with her career, Land credits her parents for a rational upbringing and instilling strong values and responsibility that have taught her to give back and assist people with their needs.

“Assisting people in getting their needs met and helping them improve their quality of life is great,” stated Land. “Watching the clients progress is amazing.” 

Too many choices?

(Photo copied from likeadayoff.blogspot.com under “Google images”)

 

 

 

 

 

 

by Carolyn Babcock, Ph.D.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a Non-Traditional Student (NTS) who said he was at a confusing place right now in both his academic and professional careers.  He had started back to college a couple of years ago after over two decades of entertaining the idea.  He took a few courses, did well, and was energized by the opportunities that were beginning to present themselves to him.  Does he quit the job he has held for over 20 years?  Does he fulfill a lifelong dream of opening a restaurant?  Maybe go into real estate?  How would this all be expressed on a resumé?

Sometimes when we discover that we have options – that we no longer are tethered by our current career choice – we can become overwhelmed with the sudden deluge of choices.  We can go from feeling that we are at a dead-end to facing so many forks in the road that we are frozen with indecision.

This is a “good problem.”  What these forks in the road mean is that you recognize that you have the ability to create your future.

But, what if you feel that you may have taken the “wrong” road?  Here you are, an NTS who is finally getting back to school.  You feel that time is already slipping through the hourglass so you think you cannot afford to make mistakes.  Well, you can take yourself off of the hook here.  There are no mistakes or failures – only results.  There is a story of the great inventor, Thomas Edison, that goes:  “Edison tried over 9,000 times to create the incandescent light bulb.  When asked if he felt like a failure, he replied, ‘No, because I now know over 9,000 ways not to create the light bulb’.”

This is learning.  This is experience.  Live your life without regret for the choices you have made thus far.  Because, without those choices, you would not have the information to make the decisions you need to make today.  So what if you take the road that did not get the results you expected.  Now you know.  Now you can make a more informed decision.

If the dilemma of “too many choices” is new to you – enjoy it!  It means that you have created numerous possibilities for yourself.  Think of it like a restaurant menu.  Your future should have many options.  After all, do you want to keep returning to a restaurant that has only one item on the menu?