Wednesday, May 11, 2011

First Semester Almost Done

I have to laugh when I read my last post wondering "Is it Spring Break Yet?" as I spent at least 20 hours over spring break working on homework.  That was the ONLY reason I was thankful we weren't going anywhere.

So here it is, the end of the semester, and I actually stuck it out and continued to love it.  What an incredible blessing this going back to school has been.  I am so very impressed with the quality of education I received and I look forward to my future classes I have signed up for (well, not really looking forward to the building codes class I'm getting out of the way over the summer) - Codes, Problem Solving and Materials and Sources.  Problem Solving sounds so cool - from what I've gathered, we get put into different groups for 4 different projects and are given a scenario to solve with the group.  We'll obviously be not only learning how to solve our fictitious customer's problem, but also learning how to deal with the different personalities of our teammates.  What a great idea for a class!

I also really have grown fond of all of my classmates in both classes and have had fun learning about the different cultures and lives of the immigrant students too.  I really grew to like Yina and Luiza - Yina from Bejing and Luiza from Russia.  I am hopeful that all of our paths will continue to cross as we all work our ways through our degrees.

So, regarding the classes I'm finishing up this week, in Studio One, it as so neat how, with each week's learning and homework, we worked our way up to being able to present design boards on a project we worked on.  We were given a picture of a person who was to become our client.  We had to develop a story about who they were and what they wanted designed and build off of that by picking out furniture pieces and artwork that suited who we made them out to be.  We then had to incorporate that furniture into a first floor, floor plan and then draw elevations of three of the rooms from the floor plan.  So, the gal who seriously cannot draw even stick figures well, actually did learn how to draw floor plans and elevations with the help of tricks of the trade.  It was really challenging, but so interesting and I can actually say, fun.
Elevation of my client's bedroom
For Elements of Interior Design, we continued to learn about the different elements and principles of design and I really can't believe how much we learned in that class.  And, so much of it involves psychology and how our eyes and brains perceive different things, that this is right up my alley - I wanted to be a psychologist when I was young.  One of my favorite projects we worked on was a color project where we combined different colors of paint to create a neutral and then worked back out to it's compliment on the other side of the color wheel.  We then had to pick fabric and a stain color that coordinated with the neutral color we created.  I just really appreciated how we weren't just lectured at, but how we learned a particular idea and then had to do an exercise about it, which really helped to get it ingrained in my brain (I need all of the help I can get!).
Our neutral paint project
So to my teachers, I say a HUGE thank you - you both did an amazing job.  To my classmates - really enjoyed you all and YAY! One semester down.  And to Harper College - I really appreciate the quality education you provide.  And to my readers, if you're thinking about going back to school - DO IT!  If you are thinking, "I don't have the time or money", neither do I, but I found the time and through financial aid, etc., I also found the money.

Thanks for taking this adventure with me.  I'll be blogging about whatever life brings from here on out, some of which will include school, so I hope you'll continue to stay connected.

Enjoy your summer, everyone!!!  Woohoo, it's finally here!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is It Spring Break Yet?

No, I'm not complaining, just amazed at how much homework just two classes can create!  I have a HUGELY renewed respect for my two college girls who are going full-time and complain about their work load.  Now I get it - boy do I get it!  And, unfortunately all three of us have different spring breaks so there will be no little trips downtown or to our favorite, South Haven this spring for us to reconnect and renew our family spirit.

So, about school - a recent homework project of mine involved going online and to a furniture store (that we got in just in time as they were closing early because of one of our recent sleet downpours) to hand draw different types of furniture and to get all of their measurements.  It was an interesting assignment (that took me 5 hours to complete) as what I assumed an item to be judging by its name was no where near what it turned out to be.  My hand drawings left much to be desired with anything having claw feet looking more like it had the paws of a lion that was ready to up and run away and an office chair of a certain type ended up looking like the maid on the Jetsons, according to my loving critic of a husband.  While the process was tedious with a lot of erasing - ALOT of erasing, I learned so much from it!

I am enjoying the Fundamentals of Interior Design class much more and am learning A TON!  We have projects due in that class every week showing examples of what was taught in class and it gets more and more interesting as the weeks go on.  I really respect our teacher as she seems very skilled in this field and passionate about Interior Design.

So to close, I have to share that we are going through one of our business valleys as I write and we keep moving forward trusting that we are exactly where God wants us to be as we never get any whisperings or nudges otherwise.  And, the fact that this schooling idea came out of nowhere and picked up such steam, with doors flung wide open along the way that I could barely keep up that it, just had to be a God thing.  I am loving school and what I am learning so much and can so totally visualize our future with me designing our customer's kitchens and baths and having a showroom of fabulous cabinet displays that we just have to make it through this deep valley.  So if you wouldn't mind shooting up a prayer or two for new jobs and accepted jobs to come our way, I would be grateful!

I'm off to design a floor plan for a kitchen/living room as homework.  Also have a whole house space plan to rough draft this week.  The homework's piling up, but it's fun!


Sunday, February 6, 2011

Tools of the Trade

Well here it is 2 weeks from my last post - where on earth did the time go?

So, as I expected, I'm really loving Design Studio, the Fundamentals of Design class . . . while I am definitely learning so much interesting information and about what I've known all along, that interior design is so much about psychology and how our homes/rooms make us feel, I am more a hands-on person, not a lecture person (is anyone a lecture person?).  As part of taking these classes, I felt the need to transform my former craft room into a design room.  I haven't been crafting lately, so this was a perfect time for this transition.  It's so cool and affirming when timing seems to line up perfectly like that.  This is turning the page to start a new chapter for sure!  We had to purchase quite a long list of supplies for the class and I also purchased a portable drafting board to work on since I can't hang out on campus using their drafting tables.  I was like a kid in a candy store, walking through the art store ticking items off my list.  I love the drafting board I picked out (and was thankful that I took time really thinking out what I wanted to purchase for this) as it is very sturdy and portable (which ended up being such a good thing last night for I had to completely redo my homework that took me 3 hours to complete after I realized I had added up my room measurements incorrectly and couldn't fit the required furniture into the room.  By that time, it was 10 at night and I wanted to be upstairs with the company of the TV, so just moved my operations upstairs and completed the work without a problem.  OY VEY!).

Due to my life-long love of office supplies, having to purchase these tools of the design trade just about gave me hives!
I have to say that I am absolutely LOVING going to school and what I'm going for.  While I had visions of my junior high art classes and how horribly I drew buildings and how slowly I had to work to get my not-so-great artwork even done, I am actually keeping up with the class and able to complete the homework we've been given so far.  I feel as comfortable in both of my classes as if I'd been with these groups of students for years.  It feels REALLY good to be in this setting at my age, the age where I finally really don't give a rats patooty about what people think of me, so I am not at all shy about asking for clarification on something or sharing a frustration about how difficult something was to do, etc..  I was so painfully self-conscious and shy when I was in school in my youth that it was a huge distraction and I didn't get far with my schooling.  I truly think it's backwards that kids at the age of 18 are supposed to have the faintest idea of what they want to do with their lives and the confidence to carry it off.  So much money is spent on college educations that these days seems to go straight down the drain.  UGH!

So, with the deep freeze coming again this week, I will bundle up in my boots and my neck warmer that turns into a hood (that Kylie promptly, with more than a hint of sarcasm told me was quite the fashion statement) and will make my trek across the parking lots and the campus with my college luggage full of my tools of the trade and my portfolio without a care in the world what anyone thinks of me - and boy will I enjoy it!

If any of you are considering heading back to school, whether it is to complete an unfinished degree, to start a new career or to further an existing career, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It's hard work to be sure, but so very rewarding and life giving!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

First Mistake Could Have Been a Doozy!

I have made it through week one of school and, hey, I think I can actually handle this.  The day before I even started school I almost made what could have been a doozy of a mistake if my days weren't so flexible.  For some silly reason, I thought an "R" in the class schedules stood for Friday, and boy did I have my weeks perfectly figured out.  But after receiving an email from one of my teachers saying, "Classes will be starting this Thursday", I realized my error.  I am SO thankful for that email as I would have missed my first class with her and then made the trek out to Harper on Friday for no reason and wondered why on earth the class wasn't in session (or worse, been sitting for who knows how long in the wrong class that WAS being held at that time - that sure sounds like something I could have totally done).  Off to a great start, huh?!  Heavy sigh!

On the day of my first class, the weather was warmish (for January - it was hovering right around the freezing mark) and, thankfully, I left way early so I could be sure to find a good parking spot and find my way to class on time.  I got to school in 30 minutes, so that was great, and I headed to the lot I decided would be the best one to park in only to find MANY people milling around on foot in neon vests (and did I detect a bit of a smirk), there to tell us that, "Hahahaha, you silly fools, this fabulous lot is FULL, and I mean FULL - get to steppin'!"  So, I was directed to the next lot over that is of course, that much further from my class.  I find a spot, open my door to get out and see a swirling puddle of icky, oily slush that looked like it could have eaten me alive if I dared to step out into it (or at least would have for sure ruined by shoes).  I find another spot and get all settled to start the 1/4 mile trek (and I'm not exaggerating) to my class and immediately realize that this is NOT a day for cute shoes or cute hair.  It is winter humid out and windy, so any semblance of a decent hairdo I had going on would certainly be lost by the time I got into class.  As I walked, I realized how nervous I was and Satan was whispering a myriad of lies into my ears - "You're too old for this, you silly fool!  Who do you think you are, thinking you can go back to COLLEGE at this time in your life?  Your brain has become mush with motherhood, turn around while you still have a shred of dignity left - LOSER!!!"  Isn't it amazing how when we just might be onto something good in our lives, these lies seem to literally be shouting in our ears?  NOT GOING TO LISTEN, EVIL ONE - BE GONE!  I do have to admit that when I saw police people scooting around on Segways, the very real thought did come to mind, "Hmmm, wonder how I could become one of them instead.  I always DID want to learn how to ride a Segway".  OY VEY!

So, in my first class, Interior Design Studio, I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised to find that about 60% of the people in the class are middle-aged women just like me.  And, when I say "just like me", I mean it.  No fancy, artsy, design-type dressers (though there is one woman with tres funky glasses - note to self, get some cool glasses!), just a bunch of nice-seeming woman who were dressed nice, but not over the top.  Okay, I can do that.  The rest of the class was comprised of college-aged girls.  No guys in that class.  I found out that in this particular class, we will be drawing up room designs and layout boards.  What???!!!  I can't even draw beyond a stick figure, how on earth . . .???    But, after purchasing my drafting kit, I am realizing that so much is done with templates and, yes, perhaps I can really do this.  The teacher showed us some sample boards from the last semester and announced about the second one, "This one isn't as good" to which I asked what made it "not as good"? and she said it didn't have enough detail.  To my untrained eye, it looked really beautiful.  Wow do I have my work cut out for me!

Then, on Thursday, I started my Fundamentals of Interior Design class.  After my wonderful parking experience on Tuesday, I had looked at a map of the school and I did discover a different lot to park in and felt pretty cocky about it and that I would even get a spot close to the apparent path that leads to the far end of my building.  Ha!  Not only was there no spot close to the path, but no spot in that lot period and yet again, I had to park in an even farther lot from where I wanted to go.  Oh well.  Along the route to my building, there is an outside staircase of two flights of stairs down and instantly, the thought occurred to me, "Dang, I'm going to have to climb back up those steps on the way back to my distant lot".  I will for sure be getting my exercise out of this adventure!  Hopefully, this is all just part of the current weight-loss plan.

In this class, there were, by far, more college-aged kids than we older women, one of them being a young man and one of the girls, I recognized from Cary Grove.  Interesting.  I suddenly felt so much less self-assured than in my other class and after the teacher said we would be giving an oral presentation at the end of the semester, I just about broke out in hives.  Did I mention that I never completed an Associates Degree because I didn't take a speech class as I was MORTIFIED to stand up and give a speech.  Hope that fear has waned greatly!  The teacher asked us all to make hand-written nameplates on paper and mine was so wretched that I was already uber-exasperated.  I really do have quite a creative side, I just need to figure out how to blend it into this world of design.

So, week one is over.  I already have plenty of homework and reading to do, but I'm loving it all and am so far, still very excited!!!  In my second class, we were asked to say what our dream job is.  It felt REALLY good to say, "I hope to own my own Kitchen and Bath Design Showroom and Studio when I'm done with my schooling".  I hadn't actually verbalized that specific dream for this, but there it is, it's out there and I sure hope it's part of God's plan for me/us!

Thanks for sticking with me and reading this REALLY long post.  I promise from here on out, they won't be anywhere near this long.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Going Back to College - Come on the Journey with Me

Hi Friends - I am so sorry that it has been so long since I've posted.  I spent two months doing a temp job for a friend who had a baby and the absolute next day after that was done, my dad went into the hospital.  After 3 1/2 days there, he was released with some much needed tweaks to his health and a week later, it was Christmas, then New Year's and, well, here we are, it's January 16th and I'm finally writing a new post.

One thing that came out of the time I spent doing the temp job was the chance to step out of our own office and to step back to analyze the next phase of my life as the mom of 2 college girls who will be spreading their own wings and getting on with the next steps of their lives.  So, with that job of raising them nearing it's end it's time to enhance my future with Randy and the work that we do, so I decided to head back to college myself to get certified as a Kitchen and Bath Designer.  During my first phone call to Harper College to sign up for this, the head of their Interior Design program said, upon finding out that I am a Certified Remodeler, "Well, let me take a look at your work, and we can clep you out of some of the beginning classes" to which I chuckled and said, "Oh, no, you don't understand, I know absolutely NOTHING about design, I need those beginning design classes".  My giftedness in being a Certified Remodeler is in running the company/office in general.  I am not at all in charge of any of our design work.  That would either be Randy or we utilize the talents of designers are our cabinet suppliers.  But, I do have a creative side to me and a HUGE passion for people getting the absolute most out of the use of their kitchens, so to be able to use that creativity and passion in doing our own designs is exciting beyond words to me!

So, I'd love to take you along on this journey with me.  I am anticipating some humorous stories to come out of this along with some realizations of who I am and who I hope to become.  Already, it has, well, I'm going to be honest here, annoyed me greatly that the majority of the people I have dealt with getting registered, getting my financial aid in line (have I mentioned that because of Chelsea being at Judson and Kylie now going to college, I qualified for a Pell Grant and, tada! get to embark on at least the first semester of this adventure for free - weeeeee!), getting my books, etc., have been people more than half my age who I have to say, are sorely lacking in the customer service department.  Come on younger generation, act like you are grateful to have a job; that you do, indeed, have a brain in those pretty little heads of your's and that you are happy to even be alive.  Seriously, if this is what our future generations think is acceptable at their jobs, we're all in HUGE trouble!!!  I have also come to the conclusion that the thermostats at colleges are not at all set for the comfort of premenopausal women.  I was so hot the other day that I seriously wanted to run outside and throw myself, face down into the snow.  I was SOOOOOOOOOOOOO hot!!!  Note to self, dress lightly or in layers (though, I have yet to find layers that I can wear that as I peel away, don't show off my unfortunately overweight body - but I am working on that, a story for another time).

So, come along on this new journey of mine, would you?  And, let's experience this middle-aged college adventure together.  It starts on Tuesday, so here we go . . .

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fun Ideas for Christmas

How on earth is it already November???!!!  Well, it is.  Halloween is over, so it's time to start thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas.  With how fast it has flown to get to this point, I thought it wouldn't be too soon to share these Christmas tips with you so you could plan ahead to take part in some of these ideas.  I hope you do and would love to hear which ones you are excited to try or ones you do try and how they touched your heart and the hearts of your friends and family.

I'm going to break these tips down into three sections (just click on the titles under the pictures):  One with tips for your family, one with tips for yourself and the other about simple gestures you can do to brighten the lives of others. 

Throughout the season, most of all, let's remember the reason for the season and do everything we can to be an example of Christ's character to everyone around us.

God bless and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Happy 35th Anniversary, Willow Creek Community Church!

35th Anniversary Service Program

This weekend, at church, we celebrated the 35th anniversary of it's beginnings.  Started in 1975, by a rag tag bunch of very young people, Willow Creek started holding it's original services in the Willow Creek movie theatre in Palatine, Illinois (one of the movies listed on the marquee was Woody Allen's "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask" - too funny and ironic).  God indeed showed up in that unlikely location along with 125 original attendees.  Now, 35 years later, Willow is in a beautiful location and building of its own in South Barrington. This celebration really touched my heart more than any of the other anniversary celebrations because of what our membership at Willow Creek has meant for our family and our lives.
I was not raised in a religious home.  By the time I came along, any attempts at church attendance had faded and the only time religion was ever introduced into my life was when I was invited to the church events of friends.  For some reason, I definitely felt like something was missing, but just couldn't get it figured out.

When Randy & I got married and got started on a life of our own, we were an absolute mess!  We had no idea how to handle our finances and just two months after our wedding, our marriage was in shambles and I felt I had made a mistake and wanted out.  But we stuck it out and continued to make a chaotic mess of things.  I went through life mocking those who followed Christ and tried some funky spiritual offerings that just lead me further down the wrong road.  I still felt something was missing and would talk to God about wishing I knew who he was and how to pray, but it wasn't until we had our first precious baby and nine months later lost her to Pompe's Disease, that I decided it was definitely time to get this God stuff figured out.  My sister, Nancy, told me about a concert at a church in South Barrington called Willow Creek Church and we went to it with a work friend of her's who attended there.  I was absolutely enthralled and completely intrigued with the amazing Christian concert that they put on.  I looked around the Lakeside auditorium and the large size of it and thought, I could come here anonymously and see if I can make any sense of this Christianity stuff.  I would attend services and sit up in a balcony section with my arms firmly crossed over my chest, still thinking these Jesus freaks were freaks indeed!  Randy wouldn't attend with me for a time, but I finally coaxed him into joining me (I think the dug-in heel marks are still out in the parking lot) and we heard very relevant, applicable messages about God that kept us coming back.  The music and dramas were equally incredible, so we made many efforts to return.  I would continually ask Randy, who was brought up in a very religious home to explain the Jesus element to me over and over again and I just couldn't buy it.  But one day (wish I documented the exact day), in my parent's living room, he explained it yet one more time and for some reason, the lightbulb just went off and I actually understood what it meant to accept Christ as my savior.  And, accept him I did.
A beautiful, fall view of the Willow fountain
Over the years, as we had our two healthyand beautiful girls, we brought them to Willow, but for some reason, they just couldn't accliminate to Promiseland as real little ones, so we lost a few years here and there while they were little (and let me tell you, when we'd get notice that they were beyond consolable, the walk from the balcony down to Promiseland was LONG and exhausting).  But, the day came, when we could finally attend on a regular basis and we did.  We learned amazing lessons on how to have a healthy marriage, manage our finances well and raise our children to love Christ and to instill morals in them that never seemed to matter to me before believing.
On the bridge among the willow trees
And, now, fast forwarding to today, I thought of how far I/we have come through our attendance at Willow and how our daughters are now, at the ages of 17 and 20, God loving, serving, wonderful young women and I can't be anything but eternally grateful to Bill Hybels for following the vision he was given so many years ago and to Willow for all of the opportunities we've had for learning, belonging, serving and giving over the years that have built up our spiritual lives to what they are today.  I have also made some of the best friends through Willow that a woman could ask for (and you all know who you are!).  Has our marriage been all wine and roses - far from it.  But because of what we've learned, we've stayed loyal to one another and devoted, even in the worst of times.  Have our daughters been perfect angels throughout the years, staying on the completely straight and narrow path themselves, of course not.  But, again, because of what we've been taught and the support the church offers, we've done our best and as a family, we've gotten through the lumps and bumps and hills and valleys and are a very happy, loving family with a hopeful and bright future.  And, all of the glory and praise goes to God for it all!!!  I truly don't think I'd be saying that today if it weren't for Willow.  I'm pretty certain our marriage would not have survived losing Jessie and God only knows the pain and chaos we may have endured in our lives, far worse from what we already have.

When I look at where Kylie and Chelsea are these days and I reflect on where I was at their ages, I just marvel at how amazing God is with Chelsea attending a Christian college (and loving every single opportunity and minute of it!) and Kylie being in a worship band and wanting to major in worship arts in college.  I am not at all bragging on them, but I am indeed bragging on God!  I couldn't be more grateful!

A large cake in the lobby with rubber bracelets at the base that we all wore according to the decade we started attending
So, Happy Anniversary, Willow!  I owe my life to God and the fact that I even walk with him to you!

Bill Hybels newest book and a book about the 35 years of Willow
And, as a side note, everyone who attended the anniversary services this weekend received a free copy of these two books.  I was so thrilled as I've been trying to get my hands on a copy of "The Power of a Whisper" and now, when I need it as such, I have it in my hands - as a gift.  Again, thank you!