Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Aftermath (Part II)

I’m exhausted so this will be brief, but chockful of visuals 🙂  My 58-year-old mother and I didn’t get out to the driveway until 3:00 p.m. so we got less done than I hoped, but when all is said and done, I think we did a bang-up job – my aching arms and back agree.  Here’s the results:

two-hours-of-workicy-layerthe-two-layers-of-snowy-badness

darkness-fallsunburied-car

 

So I’m going to veg for an hour and watch American Idol – hopefully, I’ll be able to get up off the couch and get back to work 🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Aftermath

So, after going through freezing rain, sleet and another mini-blizzard, the sun is out now at my house.  I took my first trip out to the front yard once the snow had trickled back to the barest of flurries and look what I found!

 bent-but-not-brokenmy-poor-car

 We’ve gone through plenty of ice storms here, so the bent trees are nothing new – besides, we were without power for a week after the wind storm in September because some of the trees didn’t bend but broke.  What makes me feel completely defeated is that I know once the whole thing is over today, I’m going to have to go out and start trying to dig my way out. 

 As I watched the ice piling up on top of the three inches of snow we already had on the ground last night, I kept hoping that the freezing rain/sleet/whatever-it-was – can someone please explain the difference between all those words? – would let up.  I have had to shovel out this driveway more times than I care to remember, but the worst was last year after the horrendous snow/ice storm we had in February.  Multiple inches of snow are hard enough to shovel, but when you sandwich a layer of ice in between the snow, the job goes from an hour and a half to five or six hours of back-breaking labor. 

premilinary-measurementMy son wanted to know exactly how much snow we had gotten, so we tried to measure the depth of the snow on our back porch – but when I tried to stuff the ruler into the snow, we discovered that the ice layer was too thick to penetrate with his little wooden ruler.  So we just measured the snow above that rock-hard ice – three inches.  When I went out front to take those pictures, I grabbed our yardstick and managaed to stab through the ice – all told, it looks like a little over seven inches of precipitation.

Here’s my dilemma:  I have a ton of major projects due next week and at least one of them requires me to interview people in person.  That means I have to be able to get out of my driveway but in order to do that I’m going have to spend the rest of the day today and probably a couple of hours tomorrow (since sunset is only four hours away) to even think about getting my car out of the driveway.  I hate asking for special consideration from my professors, but I’m at the point where I either need a deadline push or a little flexibility in my interview format – accepting email or phone interviews instead of in-person ones.  And of course, other courses need my attention as well, so I’m going to have to carve out time for those as well – add on top of all of this that my son is sick – he had a fever last night of 103.5 degrees and that means he won’t be able to go to school tomorrow, even if they are open.  Oh, how I love winter quarter.  On the bright side, I got my email notification that I can register for spring classes on Friday – so, at least I have warmer weather to look forward to, lol.

Well, I’m off to grab a quick bite to eat before I start my herculean effort – wish me luck!  🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Isn’t It Ironic?

Given what I’m working on right now – this commuting thing – today’s weather may provide plenty of fodder for my classmates to contribute.  I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of UC cancelling classes until 10:00 a.m.  It’s a little after 9:30 right now, and I just took these pictures of my driveway to give you a feel for the absurdity of the idea that I’ll be in class today.buried-drivewayburied-car

 

The best part is that it’s still snowing heavily enough to make shoveling a complete waste of time; by the time I got to the top of the driveway, the bottom would be re-covered already.  And of course there’s the predicted wintry mix that will make driving all the more exciting later today.  So, I apologize to my classmates and professors, but I’ll be staying home today – and maybe tomorrow if this precipitation doesn’t let up so I can dig my way out. 

Anyone else want to share photos of their snow-covered adventures in driving?  Email them to me and I’ll toss some up here – I’ve got the time today 🙂

*** Danielle

Just a little postscript:  Does it seem odd to anyone else that the city of Cincinnati declared a snow emergency and UC still opened at 10:00 am?  Or how about the fact that Xavier, Mt. St. Jo and NKU all closed today, but not our beloved institution?  As I’ve been fervently keeping abreast of the weather from the safety of my basement bedroom, I have stumbled across articles speculating that Nancy Zimpher might possibly be leaving us for the State University of New York’s vacant chancellor seat – I’m pretty tempted to say, “Hallelujah!” and call it an answer to prayer. 🙂

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 3 Comments

Calling All Commuters!!

I’m going to be writing about commuting over the next couple of weeks, and I need your help!  I’d like to look at the types of commutes we non-trads face to get to UC, and what – if any – additional steps or stops are involved.  I’m particularly interested in talking about the longest commutes, the most complicated routes and any commuting horror stories that you all have to share.  You can post your stories as comments here, or if you’d rather, just email them to me at daniellefrink@gmail.com – please include your first name, age and major, regardless of how you submit your info.

Thanks in advance – I’m looking forward to comparing traffic trials with everyone!! 🙂

*** Danielle

January 19, 2009 Posted by | Student Life | 1 Comment

Snow Daze

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

This weather is driving me nuts – it waits to start snowing in earnest until I’m getting ready to leave for school, regardless of what time of day that is.  I spent two hours Monday morning and an hour and a half this morning cleaning off my ridiculously long driveway (see photo collage), just so I could get my little front-wheel drive Cavalier up to the street.  There is no time of the year worse for commuters than the winter.  And of course the university’s policies on cancelling classes reflect one more way we non-traditionals are discounted or ignored.  My normal 35-minute drive to campus has been as long as two hours when the weather was nasty; the stress of driving in that kind of mess makes it feel like days of white-knuckling my way across a frozen bumper-car course. 

It’s not that I expect classes to be cancelled every time a white flake hits the ground.  I understand that missing even one class meeting can lead to as much as 10 percent of expected material being passed over in a course – in the case of those classes that only meet once a week especially.  But I wonder if the professors and administration ever think about how dangerous – or potentially expensive – it is to expect students who live off campus to make it to Clifton in awful weather.  I’ve lived in Cincinnati most of my life so I’m not unfamiliar with driving in the kind of slop we get in winter but now that I’m a mom I find that it’s a lot more nerve-racking – all those grown-up worries like paying for damages to my car if I slide into someone or off the road into a tree, or what would happen to my son if I were seriously injured (or killed).

I’ve got to wrap this up so I can start preparing my dogsled for the trip to Clifton – I have one evening class today, just in time to drive in rush hour both ways if I’m really unlucky and traffic is bad.  For all the commuters out there, non-traditional or not, drive safely and good luck this winter – here’s hoping we won’t have to miss any classes this quarter, unlike like the three or four days classes were cancelled last winter (which only happened after I was either already in Clifton or done for the day 🙂 )

*** Danielle

— Postscript to the story:  It was snowing like it meant it when I left for class Wednesday afternoon, so I left early.  By the time I got to Northside, it had completely stopped – at least until it was time to head home.  Between the break I took at 5:15 p.m. and when class was dismissed at 6:45 p.m., it had snowed enough to cover the sidewalks and parking lots in Clifton, making for an exciting drive home.  Thankfully, the roads were well treated – for the most part – but none so nicely as my own, which is pretty far off the beaten path.  Today’s ridiculously cold temperatures will provide a different kind of challenge – how to stay warm outside without broiling in class.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments

Bed-Time

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like older students are getting the short end of the stick these days at UC.  The loss of dependent coverage in student health insurance has certainly put students with families in a tight spot.  Those who have small children and need accessible childcare will likely do better to check into their neighborhood daycare center – there is a waiting list for the UC Early Learning Center, which is not exactly conveniently located for West Campus students (see map).

But the final straw came last spring when UC announced their plans to close Morgens and Scioto Halls, the on-campus graduate and family housing.  While no one could argue that the buildings needed to be revamped to meet modern safety standards, the head shaking and grumbling really began when we found out that BOTH of these halls would reopen as traditional dorm housing, being rented on a bed-by-bed basis.  Even though I don’t live in Clifton, I was left scratching my head at the conversion from apartments to dorm rooms in buildings that have been home to graduate, international and non-traditional students.  The university is encouraging these student populations to return to Morgens and Scioto when the renovations are completed, but I have to wonder who thinks that is either a good idea or likely to occur.

When I returned to UC in the fall of 2006, I considered moving on campus.  The apartment-style housing offered in Morgens and Scioto was the only one I considered, since I wanted to bring my son with me.  Ultimately, financial constraints – more commonly known as being flat broke – kept me from relocating to Clifton.  I’m now at the point where I might have been able to afford the move, but the idea of trying to live in the communal setting of a dorm with my eleven-year-old boy is laughable at best.  Even if I were alone, I think I would find living with that many of my younger classmates to be too distracting.

Thankfully, the kindred spirits of non-traditionals – graduate students – are trying to rectify the situation.  The Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) surveyed 1,071 graduate students about the proposed changes to housing and the consequences of the rather late announcement in March 2008 that the halls would need to be cleared out by August 2008.  Based in part on the results of the survey, the Graduate Student and Family Housing Task Force submitted a housing proposal to President Nancy Zimpher on Dec. 1, 2008.  While the public version of the final report has not been made available yet, I obtained a copy of an earlier version through the GSGA’s website. 

          For an overview of the situation check out Madison Galster’s article on the report.

Not surprisingly, 96 percent of the survey respondents preferred apartment-style housing over the “bed-by-bed” model.  The bed-by-bed model would mean significantly higher rent compared to what residents were paying in Morgens and Scioto prior to the renovations, according to the report.  The increased rent would make this style of housing exorbitantly expensive for students with families.  In response to the cost issue, the task force offered two recommendations; rents in the new model should be equivalent to what residents were paying before (with a separate pricing scheme for students with families) and that students should be informed as to the required occupancy of their rooms before they sign a lease.

The second recommendation also relates to the concept of roommates, another consequence of the new model.  Common sense drove the recommendations of the task force in this regard; students should be allowed to select their own roommates, while students with families should be exempt from sharing their space at all. 

With the recent announcement of Stratford Heights becoming an official part of UC housing, rather than simply affiliated, I wonder if the plans for Morgens and Scioto might be altered at this late date.  Next year there will be a phenomenal increase in on-campus housing for undergraduates interested in dorm-style living.  But the websites for undergraduate and graduate housing at UC illustrate which group has higher priority – there are only recommendations for the graduates, either affiliated housing or private rentals.

All of this led me to wonder what other local universities offer their graduate students.  Xavier, Miami, Mount Saint Joseph and NKU seem to operate on the same presumption that those pursuing post-graduate degrees can take care of their own housing needs – affiliated housing and rental listings are all they have to offer on their websites.  However, heading an hour north on I-75, the situation seems to improve; both Wright State and the University of Dayton offer on-campus housing to graduate students that takes into consideration their needs – apartment-style rentals rather than bed-by-bed.

While I talked a lot about graduate students here, it bears mentioning that we non-traditional students generally suffer from the same issues and have a lot of the same needs.  In fact, I have found that in general I have more in common and am more comfortable with grad students than some of my younger classmates.  But I think it is obvious that we need to speak up about these decisions that negatively impact our college experience.  I worry that the recent changes in housing and student health insurance are just a sign of a larger change in priorities – it feels a lot like we’re getting the brush off here, and I think it’s high time someone explained why the university is focusing on the needs of traditionals and shutting us old farts out in the cold.

*** Danielle

January 11, 2009 Posted by | Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments

Moving Day

Just a brief explanation for the new location of my blog:  I was unable to overcome the technical glitches that plagued my earlier posts, so I picked the blog up in its entirety and moved it to this new, streamlined site.  I will be posting my thoughts on another type of moving-day topic – the graduate and family housing situation – later this weekend.  I’m working on pulling together some more specific information and a couple links.

So welcome to the new site and if there’s something you want to talk about – TELL ME!!! 🙂

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Student Life, Technology | Leave a comment

Working Vacation

I have to stop apologizing for my extended absences – maybe by not having them.  Fall quarter ramped up during the last three weeks and I ended up working on projects every day for ten hours at minimum and barely made my deadlines.  I’m truly beginning to appreciate the difference in being a senior from previous years – turns out higher level classes involve a lot more work than I remember. 🙂

Speaking of work, here I sit during my winter break posting to this blog – as a way of avoiding doing work around my house.  I passed up the annual family trip to Florida with my parents and son, in theory because someone had to take care of our pets – can you board goldfish?  In actuality, I stayed here to a) enjoy the solitude of a house without my mother barking orders or my son popping his head into my room every fifteen minutes to tell me he’s bored and b) to catch up on all the household chores that I had to ignore this past quarter.

So far, I’ve mostly tried to relax and played a lot of video games, but I have managed to get my own laundry done, unpacked a few boxes from the recent clearing of my storage unit and even do a little homework – yeah, that’s right, I’ve got so much reading for the next quarter that I needed to start during my supposed vacation.  Here’s the thing that very few traditional students can truly appreciate about being an older student with family obligations and homes to take care of:  The world doesn’t bend to your needs simply because you’re busy and have other obligations.

So while my younger classmates are winging off to family vacations or traveling to Miami to root for our Bearcats (more on that later), I’m at home trying to simultaneously relax and catch up on three months worth of chores AND get started on homework for next quarter.  Part of what I’m doing during these three weeks isn’t just for me – my son’s bedroom is beginning to overflow with stuff because he has boxes of school papers going all the way back to first grade; he’s in fifth now.  The remnants of my former domestic life are no longer costing me $80 a month; instead they are cluttering up my parents’ already-full garage. 

I consider my awareness of the impact of my actions on other people as a sign of maturity; four years ago, I probably would have felt picked on if someone fussed at me for inconveniencing them.  I freely confess that I retained my youthful obliviousness of the needs of others well past the time when it was age-appropriate.  So when I see signs of this “me, me, me” attitude in my younger peers, I both empathize and worry for them. 

One thing that has surprised me about these youngins is how often they really put forth the effort for assignments in classes that they view as important.  While it would be great if they appreciated the importance of all their classes, I actually think it’s admirable that they increase the amount of energy they expend on something other than partying and text-messaging each other.  Maybe that’s a sign of impending maturity in them – maybe five years from now, they’ll be forgoing some long-awaited vacation in order to fulfill their responsibilities.  Hey, a mom can dream right?  After all, I view my younger classmates as a window into the future for my own child, and any indication that they aren’t complete hedonists makes me feel a little better about sending my boy off to college someday.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity | Leave a comment

‘Tis the Season

Finally, the end of the quarter is in sight – I’m looking forward to being able to take a breather from the non-stop work I’ve had this fall.  And who doesn’t look forward to the holidays – family, food, presents… Of course, that’s the downside too, especially for we student parents – where do we get the money in this nutty economy to put some boxes of fun under our trees for the little ones?

 I’ve been desperately trying to avoid thinking about this, but with the biggest shopping day of the year less than a week away, I’m out of time.  A shaky economy does have it’s perks – like a tank of gas for less than $15 – but it makes me wonder if it wouldn’t be better to skip the brightly colored baubles and instead stick my money in my mattress or some equally crafty financial plan.  I feel guilty spending $10 on a prescription – what will it be like if I drop $50 on a video game?

 I’ll admit this may be ageism on my part, but I don’t think that most of my traditional peers comprehend how scary this whole economic turmoil is.  Maybe it’s just because they didn’t grow up with grandparents who could remember in detail what it was like to live during the Great Depression – I feel like we more mature learners have a better grasp on the potential disaster that could be coming.  Of course, I’m not exactly an economist so maybe I’m blowing the whole thing out of proportion. 

 I know that one area of common ground I share with my younger classmates is the fear of what this will mean for my future employment opportunities.  Although it will depress some of my professors, the primary reason I came back to school was to get that prized piece of parchment that’s the key to more profitable employment.  Now I’m left to wonder if I’ll end up having to go back into the dreaded fields of retail and hospitality – that fancy term for restaurants and hotels. The horror!

 Compounding my fears for the future, my journalism professors are becoming obsessed with “informing” us about the straits of magazines and newspapers.  They say they don’t want to discourage us from continuing on in our chosen field, but they want us to be aware of what we’ll be facing.  All we hear is “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”  I’m sure other majors aren’t faring much better.

 In the end, I really think the non-trads feel the pressure of the wonky economic twists and turns more than our younger peers.  We already shoulder a lot of the burdens that college is preparing them for, so, while the current crisis might make them worry about the future, we old farts don’t have the luxury of thinking that far down the road.  The potential troubles they might see down the road are knocking on our doors now – so we have the added “fun” of coping with finals and trying to parce out our measly cash reserves for Christmas shopping and our utility bills.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Maturity, Student Life | Leave a comment

Feeling Like Methusaleh

For anyone new to the blog, let me say welcome.  And on that note, I’m starting to wonder if I’m all alone out here – am I speaking your language or am I totally off base?  Speak up – use that snazzy little comment box down there!!!

Here’s a familiar, yet depressing, scene in my classes: the professor is explaining something, perhaps why celebrities don’t normally bother suing tabloids for libel, and after searching for a good example, settles on something that happened over 15 years ago.  Midway through describing what happened the professor will toss off a comment like, “Of course, you all are too young to remember that.”  At which point, my head bangs on my desk and I choke back a groan.

There are many variations on this theme; I’ve had professors refer to their entire class as young people under the age of 25, I’ve tried to contribute some insight to a class based on my slightly larger body of knowledge (like talking about how interesting Geraldine Ferraro’s comments on Hilary Clinton were in light of Ferraro’s own place in campaign history) only to be faced with blank stares from my classmates or, maybe the worst experience so far, actually having a “professor” who is significantly younger than me – although I imagine this is a far more common occurence for non-trads older than myself.

Of course, I’ve also faced the reverse problem – the professor uses some current event or public figure as an example and I have no idea who or what they are talking about.  This is particularly embarrassing for me because I’m a journalism major and should keep up with the news more, but there are only so many hours in the day – ultimately, I sacrifice knowledge of the hottest new hip-hop artist or the most recent escapades of Paris/Britney/Lindsay/etc.

Nothing can make you feel like an old fart as a discussion of your musical interests.  While I still manage to have some more up-to-date interests (Nickelback, Daughtry, Staind), the majority of my musical interests run to what is now classic rock – I shudder even as I type those words.  I have to resist the urge to smack myself in the forehead and say, “Doh!” when a classmate comments that they like The Police too – their parents used to play them all the time.

And maybe it’s a sign of maturity on my part – rather than becoming an old stick-in-the-mud – that I can’t stifle a groan when someone starts talking about the latest Will Ferrell or Jack Black movie.  My comedy interests come in two flavors: stand-up and romantic.  Outside of those, I appreciate small doses mixed in with more dramatic material – I’m a West Wing-snarkiness junkie.  Of course, my dislike for sexual pie humor or lame single-entendres only further underlines my distance from what is … um … hip? … cool? … happening? – I went too far there, I know that’s out of touch.

But maybe that’s the beauty of mixing non-trads with their younger counterparts – it’s a fairly simple way to mix the two mind sets and possibly lead to a little extracurricular learning.  Maybe I’ve encouraged some of my younger peers to broaden their musical horizons (not likely) or opened up a new world of movie entertainment (my answer to the Blades of Glory fans has always been Clue – a far classier movie).  And certainly I appreciate the pointers on what’s new in the world of pop culture – it helps me keep a step ahead of my adventurous 11-year-old son – soon to be a teenager.  There’s another shudder – better stop before I fall out of my chair.

*** Danielle

January 10, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity | Leave a comment