A Student’s Guide to a Successful Semester


“It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.” Dr. Benjamin E. Mays

Photo credit: GregFellows.com

This is truly a historically significant moment in my life! August 26, 2009…Two years ago to this very day, I was a non-traditional college student who decided to put on my big girl undies and wade out into deep, dark waters… in pursuit of higher education. Mind you, it had been 27 years since I had last set my eyes onto the insides of a school textbook. Thoughts of failure were lurking, but I had goals to achieve and a dream to live, so I refused to let them stop me.

“Consider the postage stamp:  its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there.” – Josh Billings

As I opened the doors at entrance 10 of the FVTC campus, I was timid, fearful…and truthfully, a bit nauseous. I was afraid of swimming with the barracuda… classes like Business Math and Culinary Applications, and downright terrified at the thought of bumping into the ravenous sharks -the younger generation of students who would surely tease, point, and poke fun at my expense as I fumbled my way through cooking rotation classes.

Despite my fears, I was incredibly excited at the opportunity to learn and hone skills that would help place me back into the workforce, but still… I silently sobbed inside. The inner tapes of my mind were playing ancient messages. (The “voices of the devil” as I would later learn to tag them.) The tapes were blaring negative messages at me, telling me that I had no place or right to sit in a classroom and learn. They told me that I had been given an opportunity for a successful life…but that I had blown it. I had mapped out a life of failure for myself through my past actions.

“The cycle of God, the good, is broken by a single act of negativity. The cycle of negativity is stopped by choosing the good — not just once, but again and again until it is goodness that prevails in your life and in our world altogether.” – JOHN MORTON; “The Blessings Already Are”

This is for all of you new students out there…The ones who are afraid to try, or who are fearful of change. This is also for those of you who are facing difficult challenges in your life. You know who you are…You’re secretly wanting to give up that dream of yours. You’re afraid of embarrassment and/or failure, so you’re about to quit. I’m pleading with you to keep your dreams and goals alive!

As I’ve stated time and time again, (at times more for my own heart to hear than for others)… life is for the living. Make the most of EVERY day you are blessed with. Set goals for yourself and then act upon them. Use baby steps if you must, but start the adventure now…before it’s too late.

Here is my tried and true method for goal-setting:

  • Set weekly, monthly, and term-length goals – Make sure to set goals for effectively managing the time needed for classes, studying, family time, and work commitments. Oh, and don’t forget to plan for some social time, too. All work and no play quickly leads to stress and burnout. If you don’t own a day planner or have a calendar program on your computer or Smartphone, now would be a great time to invest in one. I happen to love Evernote. The best part: It’s FREE!
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Keep your goals achievable and realistic so that you won’t be disappointed if/when you can’t achieve them.
  • Reward yourself when you accomplish a goal. This doesn’t have to be anything expensive, and it probably shouldn’t be…base the size of the reward on the size and depth of the goal. When you finish a small goal, rent a movie, treat yourself to your favorite coffee drink, spend some extra time in a bubble bath, or take the family out for dinner. When you make it to the finish line of a long-term goal, then it’s appropriate to go all out with a big reward.

Please learn from my mistakes and don’t waste any more precious days, weeks, months, or years. There will never be a “perfect” time to do anything. Just DO it! The kids will always come first and you will always have commitments that are seemingly more important that bettering yourself. Your significant other will always need you, and there will always be bills to pay. If you’re worried about finances, you should be, but there is a large amount of scholarship money just waiting for someone to ask for it. Before I started school, I used every excuse in the book to avoid going. The excuses got old as I started regretting my life more and more.

NOW is the time to make time for YOU! Mistakes are never failures if we learn from them. Live and learn from every experience. Jump in to the deep end and start swimming toward those goals. NEVER GIVE UP ON YOUR DREAMS! Don’t let anything stop you…especially yourself.

I’m forging into my final semester of an educational experience that has been nothing short of miraculous and wonderful. In a million years, I would never have guessed that little old me would be embarking on graduation. But I persevered and decided to swim below the murky, dark waters. Once I did, I found that there is a beautiful sea down there to behold. Jump in my friend…the water’s warm and wonderful!

When a Nook isn’t a Nook

After conducting a LOT of research on the Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers, I took the plunge several weeks ago… into the crystal clear waters of Nook ownership. I bought the Nook Color, and I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve, but not for ordinary reasons. Truth be told, I really don’t enjoy reading much. Other than cookbooks, that is. I hate reading because I have the attention span of a 2-year old…and the eyesight of an 82-year old. It’s pathetic, really, but I’ve learned to adapt. Anyway, I bought the Nook for two specific reasons… it has Android app functionality (at the time, I had a Blackberry phone and was jealous of everyone with a Droid or iPhone)… and because the salesperson eloquently explained that I would be able to purchase textbooks for use on my new Nook reader. I was sure he had taken some form of illegal drug before making that statement. I retorted… “Are you serious?! I won’t have to squint to read the font in my 350 page law books anymore, I’ll be paying 30-40% less for e-textbooks than I had been for traditional textbooks… AND I’ll finally be able to play Angry Birds and Words with Friends?! Where’s the nearest cash register??

CHAPTER 2: The Sucker Punch

Many nights were spent in bliss as I downloaded fun, free and completely frivolous apps to my Nook. I even had access to some great magazines like Taste of Home and Martha Stewart Living, while doing my part to keep the earth green (and my living room a little less cluttered.) All the while I looked forward to this week… when my financial aid funds for the fall term would be available and I could finally experience a decent savings on my textbooks. As with any good book, life must also hold a big bad villain. In this case, the salesman at Barnes & Noble was the nasty guy. He either didn’t know his product well, he out-and-out lied to get the sale, or he knowingly misled me, because I learned this morning that unfortunately, none of the textbooks sold at the FVTC bookstore are available for reading on a Nook. *Insert waterworks of sadness here* I pleaded with the sales associate at the bookstore to tell me that she was wrong…all the while believing that it was just an enormous misunderstanding. No such luck. What I COULD do, she informed me, was to download the NookStudy software from the Barnes & Noble website onto my home computer and/or laptop. THEN I’d be able to purchase and use the e-textbooks. In no way, shape, or form do I wish to tote around a laptop, case, and cables all day long. Then try to cram them into my locker while I go to cooking classes. So, I reluctantly purchased paper editions of my textbooks and walked out of the bookstore cursing the skies above.

I still don’t get why the software is called NookStudy when it has absolutely NOTHING to do with the Nook, but whatever – life goes on. Since my new Samsung Mesmerize does everything the Nook does, plus 100,000 other things, Brian has claimed ownership of the Nook, proving once again that great books AND life offer happy endings… Now I just need to convince him to accept my Words with Friends request!

I’d better make sure that you’re comforted well after such a sad story. Make a pan of this…. It always helps make me feel better!

OVERSTUFFED MEATLOAF

To make the stuffing

1 Tablespoon butter
1 cup uncooked baby spinach
1/4 cup diced zucchini
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg
1/4 cup bread crumbs

Melt butter over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add zucchini, mushrooms, and onions and cook about 3 minutes, until onions are softened. Turn off the heat and add the spinach, tossing until wilted. Let cool slightly, and then place into a bowl. Using your hands, combine with the ricotta cheese and egg. Layer the mixture in the middle of the meatloaf mixture (recipe shown above) and proceed with meatloaf recipe.

To make the meatloaf

1 lb ground beef
1/4 red onion, diced
1 egg
1/3 cup bread crumbs
3 Tablespoons chili sauce
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/4 cup shredded cheddar jack cheese

Combine all ingredients except tomatoes and cheese in a large bowl, then separate into two equal portions. Place 1 portion into the bottom of a greased loaf pan. Place filling on top of mixture (recipe below) and top off with remaining meatloaf mixture.
Bake at 375 F (325 convection) for 40 minutes. Place diced tomato and cheddar cheese on top of the loaf and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

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