Monday, August 31, 2009

How do I stay awake during class?

Dear Mom:

How do I stay awake during class?



Dear Sleepy:

I remember hearing a story not so long ago of a guy who fell asleep in class. He didn't wake up until the class was dismissed. Only after he'd gone to the restroom, did he notice the terrible secret-he had a lovely saying written on his face.
If this is you, I apologize for letting your secret out to those who didn't see you walking down the hall. In either case, it's really not a good idea to fall asleep in class even if you're afraid of seeing the words, "I am a cute guy," written across your left cheek (face that is).

As for me, this would be as good a reason as any to stay awake-except for this.
You may just learn something. If you haven't had enough sleep the night before, or have struggled to stay awake because the professor is well, boring, or the subject doesn't interest you quite near as much as "you know who" from across the room, or you would just rather be someplace else, listen up.

I tried this trick not too long ago.

I was in one of my classes. We meet at the un-heard-of hour of 8 a.m. (the hour I had signed up for, mind you) and I was just scrambling for a little shut eye when I realized I had begun to zone out. My body was in the chair, but my stomach, well; it was wondering what to eat for breakfast. The night before, I was up too late and the following morning I'd slept in as long as possible, not giving myself time for that most important meal of the day.

To make a long story short, I could have been that dead guy in "Weekend at Bernies," being carried around all day long. I was that dead tired. It was hard for me to focus, and participating, well, let's just say I was sitting quietly in my chair.
I have learned some things since then, and re-learned a few others.

First, always get a good night sleep. I know, I know, you have homework. You have a life outside of college. But you also have a life inside college. Seven to eight hours of sleep a night is essential for not only good health, but for mental and emotional functioning, and personal safety as well. Not surprisingly, only about 11 percent of students get it.

Second, eat a good breakfast. Simple enough, but harder to do when you are running out the door.

Third, study the material. Sure, your teacher may not ask you any questions on the text, but by looking over the material, you will be better prepared to contribute to class discussions and ask those questions if she does. By being prepared, you are not only better able to understand the material presented, but to be an active participant, and less likely to close your eyes.

Fourth, get some exercise. Walk the stairs to class instead of taking the elevator. Take the bus instead of driving your car. Take a morning walk before school. Most experts suggest at least 30 minutes of exercise a day will help you feel less sleepy.
Last, stress does wonders to your body. It can make you feel as dead and listless as a drowned cat. I know it and feel it every day I forget to take some time to smell the roses. Take some time.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Mom Remembers

I still remember the morning.

I was sleeping easily in my bed, not wanting to get up and face the day.

A call came.

"Did you hear the news?" a voice asked. It was my sister-in-law and she was babbling about some buildings in New York, screaming into the phone. "You need to turn on the television!" she wailed.

I told her, half asleep, that I would, and then hanging up the receiver, closed my eyes and tried to go back to sleep. What did she mean the buildings? What had happened in New York? I couldn't sleep, suddenly got up from my bed and walked downstairs to the television. I was not prepared for what I saw.

It was like I'd suddenly been whisked into a horrifying movie, the reality of which didn't hit me for some moments. I watched the World Trade Center crumble before my eyes, and people, so many people rushing from buildings and down streets through white ash and destruction. Later, I would watch news broadcasts and see people dropping from windows, others walking through streets, blood dripping down their faces.

"The hijacked planes were used as a bomb to destroy [the] buildings and the people in them," I wrote in my journal the day following the attack. "At last count there were 800 lives taken. The TV was on all day yesterday and I have been a little slow in getting my day going. I am thinking about all of the people-dead because of a senseless act."

Soon enough I would hear about the terrorists, the heroes of flight 93 and the loved ones left behind. I would begin to pray more fervently than I had in previous days, and speak kindly to the lady ringing up my groceries at Smith's. For almost two weeks, no one would cut me off in traffic and I would think twice about doing the same to someone else.

Nine days following the attack, I recorded, "In the midst of war, it is difficult to see adversity as anything but terrible and life-consuming. But because it is also an opening of the soul, we can look at ourselves, and perhaps for the first time in months or years, discover where we have lacked, where we have forgotten. We [can] begin to see anew what is truly important in life. It isn't the stuff, or our jobs, or the business of the day-it is each other."

Here's to never forgetting.



Friday, August 28, 2009

I have a difficult teacher!

Dear Mom:

How do I handle a difficult teacher? I can't drop the class because it's the only time I have available.


Stressed out

Dear Stressed:

I know just how you feel. I have had my share of difficult teachers; and I'm not just talking about college.

When I was in the fifth grade, I had this pretty terrific teacher. We all liked him. His name was Mr. Wilde, and we thought his name fit perfectly. We were able to goof off in class, talk loudly and pretty much do what we wanted. We must have had assignments, but I don't remember any of that. I just remember how much fun I had.

The reason I mention this story is two-fold. First, I often think a teacher is difficult in the beginning when he or she expects more than the average amount of work from me. If I see tests, quizzes and the grand final on the syllabus all of a sudden I get freaked out. If I see that I have to write a lot of papers or that the teacher expects me to be in class-every time-or even if the teacher, bless his or her heart, expects me to get an A out of the class without offering even one ounce of extra credit, let's just say I'm a bit bummed out.

And then my greater senses take over. Did I really expect to get through college without having to make an effort, even stretch a bit? What would that degree mean if I was able to slide through every class? Probably not much.

Second, sometimes the teacher is difficult because he or she gives dry lectures, or ones I can't follow. This is hard because if I don't understand it, my grades are going to reflect it.

When I was young I used to be afraid to go up to the teacher and ask a question or raise my hand in class. I thought this would make me look stupid. Now, I know that not asking that question was stupid. I know that 99.9 percent of the time the teacher will be more than willing to help me, and if they're not, someone in class will be happy to help. And then, of course, there's the Learning Center on campus where I don't have to pay one red cent for help.

In the long run you can't change your teacher, but you can change yourself. Do all you can do in class to understand the material. Ask questions. Do your homework. Study your tests. Ask for help. Do I sound just like a mother?

You've got it.


Friday, August 21, 2009

How Do I Keep An Old Relationship Fresh?

Dear Mom:

How do you keep an old relationship fresh?


Bored to Tears

Dear Bored:

I can tell you first hand it isn't easy to keep an old relationship "fresh." The longer I've been married-and I'm going on 30 years mind you-the more I realize that things just ain't what they used to be.

This isn't always so bad. Because of the length of my relationship I feel much freer to express my feelings. If I have something negative to spout, it is much easier for me to do so. I am more comfortable in the relationship the longer I have been in it. I feel as if I can be my own person, and that my husband can be who he is as well. Dropped are all the games we played in the beginning; all the falsehoods about ourselves that we presented. We were on our best behavior, but with time came change and a falling away.

I am thinking this is what you must be feeling. Where is the romance that once was? Where is the fun? The laughs? Things have changed and you wonder how much longer you can wallow in the muck.

I remember feeling this way about a week after I married. Don't laugh, I'm serious. I was sitting outside the apartment, my new husband was at work, and I thought, "What have I done?"

Suddenly, a thought came to me. My husband and I could still have fun like we did in the glory days before we married; but I had to realize that with marriage came responsibility. We couldn't forever dwell on romance; there were other things in life that had to be taken care of: bills to pay, an apartment to clean, jobs and multiple tasks through our church service and other things that would surely come up.

In the beginning, of course, our relationship seemed more "fresh", but that was because we were only focused on the relationship. It was the beginning stages of romance, of love and all that goes with it. We didn't think much on the other stuff.

But the other stuff is a part of life too and I truly believe it's the compilation of romance, stuff and the working through it that makes a relationship "fresh." You want to spend time doing fun things in the relationship, but at the same time doing those necessary tasks of life. All relationships go through steps of transition and growth anyway. To expect your relationship to be completely the way it was in the beginning is not being very realistic.

What should you expect? Surprises sometimes-a dozen roses on the doorstep, a love note under your pillow, a call from your partner while you're at work-those things that kept your romance alive and ticking when it was new. You should expect to spend some time together doing those things you have always loved doing. You should expect to hear the words, "I love you." You should expect romance.

You should also expect some growing times, times when you must be separate so that each of you can go to work and times when you must do things alone. Perhaps he's in a bowling league, and you are taking a night class, times when you must clean the apartment while he makes dinner. And the bills… there is always the bills.

In the end, a true, growing relationship is always "fresh" because you are not dreaming of how it used to be, but making an effort as a couple to move forward to something even better.