Category Archives: family

Tribute to an old friend

IMG_0109His name doesn’t matter.  I found an old resume of mine, and I’m talking really old, and he was listed as a reference.  We lost touch at least 33 years ago, but this dear friend was important enough to have been listed on my resume on my initial job searches in Atlanta.  He didn’t want me to move.

As soon as my mother reads this, she is going to call me.  “Who are you talking abou?”  I’m not going to tell her.  I’m not even going to talk about it any further.  I’m going to savor the memory of this friendship, 30+ years ago, and remember fondly a larger than life person who passed away in 2016.  Some memories should just be savored and maybe woven anonymously into a book or something.

Our first meeting was not was by chance.  Someone recommended I contact him.  He was a valuable resource.  He restored my self confidence and opened doors I couldn’t have opened alone.  I was in awe of him.  He couldn’t believe I was a commercial pilot and flight instructor, plus a nurse, and he respected my intelligence.  He was kind and generous and a gentleman.  I was vulnerable but he did not take advantage of that.  He was older but he treated me as an equal.  He respected my opinion.   He introduced me to jazz.

So many fond memories!  His faith in me empowered me and helped make me become the person I am today.  I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.  I will always remember that.

I found his obituary last night.  He was preceded in death by his wife of 27 years.  She came along 5 years after I left so I didn’t know her, but I wish I had. He was a good person  was well remembered by all.

Rest in peace, my friend.

The Saga of the Sink, or Why I Believe in Design

Anyone who knows me well knows I have a low threshold for certain normal things.  I can handle a jet or a DC-3 losing an engine, but household things confound me.  What to wear is a huge decision.  I’m not good at it. I am easily overwhelmed by choices and decisions that a normal person might easily make, or even enjoy making.  I enjoyed these decisions when we built our last home, but we’ve moved to Macon and life has changed. I know my limits.

It was a leak in the kitchen faucets and mold that sent me over the edge.  I was calm at first, as we cleaned everything out of the cabinet.  I thought this was a repeat of our last leak, which was covered by our insurance, so I called that contractor.  The guy came out, removed the kick plate under the cabinet, and our sink fell down.  The contractor immediately denied responsibility and said this was a different leak.  I didn’t feel like fighting but when the sink crashed down, I lost it.

My husband is the kindest, most patient person in the world.  He took charge.  When we got to Lowe’s to find a replacement sink and faucet, there were too many choices. My eyes glazed over and Bob sensed a meltdown in my future. “You know, we should just call Bonnie.  She’ll know what to do.”  I married better than I deserve.

Bonnie Dowling is my friend.  We met at church and I trust her.  She has transformed our home and has saved us money.  She’s saved me time and my sanity.  She is a stunning individual, beautiful inside and out.  She’s smart and she’s talented, and she is always color coordinated.  I wish I had that talent. I trust her.

I believe in interior design.  I’ve tried doing things on my own, but Bob repainted the master bath three times in three years.  That’s pushing the limits of a very good and patient husband.  Bonnie helped me narrow down the color choices from the 4 million paint colors out there (and the crazy names!) to three.  I didn’t want to live in a box of crayons, though I love color.  Bob was happy to paint once more, but he drew the line at repainting every year.

Bonnie took charge and I could relax.

It hasn’t been easy.  Who knew there were so many different kinds of sinks?  One bowl, two bowls, lower center division so you can wash large pans?  Then you get into how many holes do you want for faucets and dispensers.  One?  Two?  Three?  And what do you want the holes for?  Soap?  Hot water?  Two controls for water, or one?  Do you want a sprayer?  If you want a sprayer, do you want it separate or part of the faucet?  Bonnie is a superhero.  Who knew there were all of these options and decisions?

Our home was built in 1996 and our sink is larger than normal, and we couldn’t have gotten one from Lowe’s anyway. No one sells a sink that fits the hole in the countertop.  A new sink with countertop modifications would have set off my husband’s defibrillator.  The best option was to use the old sink with its three holes and replace the faucet and sprayer.

Bonnie’s strategy was brilliant.  She sent me no more than five choices for anything.  This was more manageable than the 10,478 on build.com.  I chose one and then we had to figure out what to do with the rest of the holes in the sink.  That was relatively easy.  A hot water dispenser and a soap dispenser will fill in these other holes.  A piece of cake.

Compared to the sink, the cabinets were easy even though the cabinets themselves had been discontinued.  Bonnie had a super cabinet maker who was able to replicate everything.  No problem.  He could also remove our trash compactor and  give us additional cabinet space.

We received Bonnie’s bill for January today, and it took her only 5.5 hours to do what it would have taken me weeks to do.  She’s a pro.  She’s allowed me to focus on what I do best, growing my business and loving my family.  It has been stress-free.

I believe in design.  This isn’t a paid announcement or commercial of any kind, but just an affirmation following a bad experience fixed by a good designer.  It is an affirmation of friendship and respect for someone who knows what she is doing.  It is a statement of respect for a profession whose members provide a great benefit to their customers.  As I have told my children many times, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  A good designer can save time and money.

Disaster averted.

 

 

In memory of my friend

There’s a hole in the universe tonight.

Rich Rusk was a dear friend.  We fought for social justice with Come To The Table and with the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee.  We went to Rock Hill to meet a reformed Klansman.  We went fly fishing.  We held our own private remembrance services for Sam Hose, in Newnan.  This was an active friendship.  We didn’t just sit around and tell stories about Alaska.

True friends don’t come around very often, but Rich and I were fast friends from the day we met.

Rich came to Newnan with representatives from Southern Truth and Reconciliation and the Moore’s Ford Memorial Committee to talk about the Sam Hose lynching in Newnan, which occurred in 1899.  Someone was so concerned that Come To The Table was discussing Sam Hose that they called the sheriff.  Undaunted by the presence of law enforcement, Rich shared the story of the Moore’s Ford massacre and how the memorial committee sought reconciliation in the Athens area.  He thought we should do something similar to commemorate the lynching of Sam Hose.  We met at the lynching site each April 23 to say a prayer and leave flowers.   We would remember, whether anyone else did or not.

Rich was a writer.  He called his first book, “As I Saw It”, a tape-recorder book but anyone who knew Rich could hear his voice.  He wrote this book with his father, Dean Rusk, who served as Secretary of State under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson.  He said he wanted to write another book.  He also wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail and made it through several sections.

Rich was passionate about the environment and he loved fly fishing.  He enrolled Bob and me in a course at UGA so we could learn, too.  He knew we would love fly fishing. He and Janice took us to a Trout Unlimited banquet.  We took one trip to Blue Ridge to fish, in December, in the snow.  I’m a girly girl, but I put on waders and went out in the river.  I prayed I wouldn’t have to touch a fish, though I loved standing in the river, in the snow.  Bob caught a fish, but he didn’t want to touch it, either.

Rich loved anything outdoors.  There was one Saturday where he and Bob left Janice and me at their home to review the Moore’s Ford scholarship applications.  Janice and I had a fun day inside while Bob and Rich kayaked down the river.  Bob rolled his kayak and lost his glasses, and that trip was ever after known as the time Rich tried to drown Bob.  We were always kidding around.

Then there was the trip to Rock Hill to meet Elwin Wilson.  We loaded up in Rich’s van and drove to South Carolina, fascinated by the idea that someone who had done so many terrible things could reform and make peace.  We wanted to enlist Elwin’s help in getting the FBI to reopen the Moore’s Ford case.  We were successful in getting the case reopened, but no arrests were ever made.  Rich never gave up.

Rich was passionate about the environment and climate change.  He called a couple of years ago and said he was riding a bicycle from Athens to somewhere in south Georgia, with Waymund Mundy and two other people.  I thought he was kidding but we invited them to spend the night at our home.  I don’t think any of them made it the whole way on the bikes, but it was a fun evening.

When my friend was moving to Athens for graduate school, I called Rich in hopes he would have a rental that would work for her.  He didn’t, but he made some good suggestions.  That would be the last time I would speak with him.

My mother is at the age where she goes to a funeral every Saturday.  I’m just not ready for that.  I’m not ready to be old.

Rest in peace, my friend.  We will miss you.

Remembering

“Four shirts, four pairs of pants, a snow machine suit, and I’m still cold.”  Thus began my journal, on this this day in 2000. I was in Fairbanks, Alaska, flying a 1946 McDonald Douglas DC-4 delivering fuel to remote villages.  This contract pilot stent may very well be the craziest thing I’ve ever done and sometimes I still can’t believe I actually did it.

Why was I in Alaska?  Money.  Insanity.  Opportunity.  Adventure.  I already had a class date with Netjets of February 8, 2000.  I had sold my flight school and would finally get the airline job I had coveted for 30 years, and I really had nothing to do.  A month in Alaska would help me cover the gap.

I got my DC-4 experience flying night freight for Custom Air Charter out of Hampton, GA.  Not many people want to fly 60 year old airplanes, at night, without radar and at fairly low altitudes. Bob McSwiggan’s attitude was that radar “only scares the pilots.”  He was the owner, and besides owning a freight airline he is a tap dancer!  But that’s a story for another day.  The photo is not the DC-4 that I flew, but you get the idea.  In Atlanta, I flew the Carvair conversion, which you can see here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FfOmlb4SAU.

Flying a DC-4 was romantic and exciting, but it was hard work and sometimes dirty work.  The radial engines leaked oil and sometimes quit unexpectedly, but I loved those R-2000 engines.  On the ground, you had to climb on the wing and put a stick in the fuel tanks to confirm the fuel levels. In the air, you had to keep your eyes on the gauges and periodically pump oil to the engines. The instruments in the cockpit were appropriate for the 1940s.  It was just plain fun.

I got a call from a pilot friend in December to fill in for one of the pilots for Brooks Fuel in Fairbanks.  There aren’t a lot of qualified DC-4 pilots and initially I said no.  He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse –  I would be guaranteed 8 hours a day flying time, a ridiculous hourly rate, a generous per diem, plus a place to stay.  Off I went.

The place they gave me was so dirty that I washed my feet in the sink after I took a shower.  I lived off chicken pot pies that I could heat in the microwave.  The high one day was a whopping -17 degrees and another was -20, but I saw spectacular displays of the Aurora Borealis and I went to places you won’t see on an Alaskan cruise.  Cruises won’t take you to Beaver, Kobuk, or Alakaket.  We flew kerosene, gasoline, and propane.  When we weren’t flying fuel, we’d fly snow machines to these same remote villages.

I learned a lot on that trip, and will now summarize a few of those lessons:

  1. There are no words to describe the beauty of the Northern Lights, especially when you are that far north and that far away from civilization.
  2. Boots certified to 40 below don’t really work that well past -10.
  3. Always take shower shoes. If you can’t eat in the kitchen, you really don’t want to put your bare feet in the shower, either.
  4. People who live in remote villages work on a different timetable than those of us who like cities.  They won’t accept fuel during lunch hour or on weekends, but they’ll take a snow machine whenever you can get it there.
  5. When you’re in a different place with a different culture, don’t expect to feel perfectly at home. It takes an effort and you need to respect them.  When a native decides to give you a baseball cap, accept it with kindness and treasure it.
  6. A 2300’runway, covered in snow with mountains on either side, is a challenge when empty, but even more when the aircraft weighs about 50,000 pounds.
  7. Appreciate your ground crew. They are the ones who get to the airport at 0400 to put heating blankets on the engines.  Without them, you wouldn’t fly.  You don’t like to get up that early and you know you don’t like being that cold.
  8. To expand on #7, appreciate everyone and everything around you. We’re all in this world together so let us work together to make it a better place.  Together, we can.
  9. Remember this. Whatever it is, you can do this.  Whatever your situation, it is not worse than -27 and no ladies restroom (actually, no restroom) in Anektuvuk Pass, Alaska.  It will get better.  You will get to warmer weather.
  10. Look at life as an adventure. Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and experience life and to meet new people.  Maybe you’ll learn something and maybe you will gain a new perspective.

Finding these pages from my journal was a tremendous treat.  Sitting here warm and safe in our home in Macon, Georgia, I can’t believe I actually did it.  Am I the same person who took off that day for the trip of a lifetime?   Would I do it again?

I just don’t know.

Mindfulness and Intentionality

 

The holidays are a perfect time to think about mindfulness and intentionality. It is easy to get caught up in buying gifts for people who don’t need anything, resulting in spending valuable time and money on things that aren’t important. Mindfulness allows us to enjoy the holidays through our presence, without the undue pressure of juggling what is important and necessary with what we feel we need to do. Intentionality allows us to make the important decisions and weigh the cause and effects of our decisions.

The simplest way to think about being intentional is doing the right thing for the right reason. Being intentional means making decisions that lead you towards the intended outcome. It is drawing on your inner strength to make choices that are right, in a purposeful and deliberate manner. It is weighing the pros and cons before making a decision, and choosing to be an active participant in life. I know my decisions may not be right for everyone, and that is okay. I accept responsibility for my life and my decisions, and I am aware of how my decisions will affect others. I recognize that I do not live nor work in a vacuum and that actions and decisions have consequences, therefore I act intentionally and consider all outcomes.

Part of being mindful is paying attention and being present. Mindfulness involves the deliberate attention to what is going on around with you. It is being aware of the people around you and recognizing their worth. It involves looking at people in a nonjudgmental way and accepting everyone for who they are. This is actually one of the most important lessons I learned from my father, who taught me to treat everyone as if he or she was the most important person I had encountered that day. As Mayo Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Being present and treating the people around you as if they were important is the first step in building the solid relationships that will help you be personally and professionally successful.

There are consequences to every decision you make and some of your professional decisions can have a profound influence on your personal life. I made the decision to sell my business and pursue a doctorate, but I gave little thought to how it would change our lives, even the lives of my adult children. The demands on my time virtually eliminated any normal family time for the next three years. While none of us now regret my decision, there were times when everyone had to make sacrifices. I left a lucrative corporate job to teach, and that has resulted in lifestyle changes. I wish I had involved my husband more in my decisions, as he was the one who had to bear so much more of the workload at home. Sometimes the tough decisions and the results can be hard to swallow, but if you are deliberate in your thinking and consider all angles, the tough decisions may be a little easier.

We’ve just come through a very difficult political election. Many of us have not been mindful in things we’ve said and the conclusions we’ve drawn, and some of us have been unfair to people who are close to us. There have been articles about people who dreaded Thanksgiving dinner yesterday, and others about acceptable topics for discussion. My hope is that we can come together and approach the future with both mindfulness and intentionality, and heal some of the hurt of the past 18 months.

My final goodbye, with so much love

img_5317My father, Webster Marlowe, 84, of Palatka, Florida, died peacefully in his home on Monday morning, October 10, 2016. He is survived by his wife, Marie Benedict Marlowe, my brother and me, his sister, Katherine Long, of Liberty, SC, four grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews. He is preceded in death by 10 brothers and sisters and two great-grandchildren.

Daddy was born December 1, 1931, in Jacksonville, FL, to Thomas Lee Marlowe and Ola Alberta Cantee. I could never remember whether it was December 1st or 2nd, and if I called him on the 1st, he tell me to call him again on the 2nd. Many times, I forgot. He grew up on Park Street and graduated from Lee High School. His family was active at Trinity United Methodist Church, and my dad represented the Jacksonville sub-district at the Southeastern Jurisdiction Young People’s Leadership Conference. This is where he met my mother, the former Sarah Athelene Payne. She was 16 and he was 18, and he would eat her breakfast since she did not eat. Daddy joined the Army and would hitchhike to Thomasville to see my mom.

After serving in the US Army during the Korean War, my parents were married and Daddy enrolled at High Point College. I was born in 1954, and to quote my mom, I was “the apple of his eye from birth.” My brother came along two years later. There was never any doubt that my dad loved me. His long-time secretary always said that the only difference between the two of us was the plumbing. img_5186

Long before Mr. McGuire would give Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) his one-word advice in “The Graduate”, Daddy was approached by someone to start a plastics company in 1955. Daddy said that his first question was, “What is plastics?” He co-founded Flex-O-Pak in 1955 before leaving for Rex Plastics in 1959. In 1965, he struck out on his own and founded Southern Film Extruders in High Point, NC. Daddy worked day and night to make the company a success, once even triggering my mom to bring his pillow and suitcase to the plant. He was a member and national councilman of the Society of Plastic Engineers, and we often traveled with him in the summers.

During one trip to New York City, my mom took us to see a game show called “Say When.” Before the day was out, my mother became a contestant on the show. Our short trip was img_5314extended, as she continued to win. Among her winnings were a car, a fur coat, a pair of beautiful Rembrandt table lamps, and a trip to the Virgin Islands. My dad made sure my brother and I got to go along on the trip, where we were entertained by a member of the Duke Ellington orchestra. Perhaps this is where my brother and I both developed our love of jazz.

In the mid-1960’s, Daddy decided he wanted to learn to fly. Cecil Lawing was his instructor, and Cecil had a Cessna 175. Daddy loved flying, but my mom said it would be life or death before she got in the plane with him. Death it would be, as my mother’s cousin was dying of kidney failure and family members were being tested for the possibility of transplant. Daddy loved flying and soon would purchase a 1956 Cessna 172, N7214A, which would become my plane as soon as I got my license.  We spent most Saturdays out flying.  One of Daddy’s favorite stories was taxiing in at the airport in Myrtle Beach and being asked, “What are you doing flying Suzanne’s airplane?” I was in trouble for that, because he knew then I was flying to the beach when I was supposed to be in school.

Southern Film Extruders continued to expand and Daddy eventually took the company public.  He had locations in Florida and in New Orleans, so he was gone even more than ever. My parents divorced and my relationship with my dad changed. Divorce is not easy on adult children, either, and I was often put in the middle by both of my parents. Daddy and I would be estranged for months at a time but if I needed him, he was there. I never doubted his love.

Daddy moved to Palatka in the 1980s and eventually became an active member of the Carraway Seventh Day Baptist Church. He and his late wife, Beverly Marlowe, began the “Joy In the Morning” ministry for unwed mothers, which provided assistance for more than 100 single mothers. On a trip to Haiti, he found his passion and learned to build artificial legs in order to serve Haitiian amputees. Over his 20 years of travel, he even had “repeat customers” whose original legs had worn out or been outgrown.  He began his travels to Haiti when “Baby Doc”B96D2A1E-F9D8-4984-9ACD-FC01B69EB444.JPG Duvalier was in power, and was in Haiti when Aristide was overthrown by military coup. None of this dampened his passion for Haiti, nor did the violence he witnessed frighten him.  His faith and his passion were stronger than the fear. Daddy would more than 50 mission trips to Haiti and three to the Dominican Republic, bringing artificial limbs to needy recipients. My dad loved Haiti and the Haitian people.

Since mid-July, I’ve watched my dad wither away. I’ve sat at his bedside and helped him fulfill his final wishes, except for training his replacement in Haiti.  That I could not do, but I tried.  He was just too frail and I couldn’t get the young man here fast enough.  By mid-September, Daddy was barely eating and walking was a struggle. The phone call on October 10 was no surprise, but I know now he is at peace.  Even my mother made the statement that no one had greater faith than Webster Marlowe.

We’ve planned a memorial service for Saturday, October 29, 2016, at the American Legion Post 45, in Palatka, FL, at 3:00 p.m. ET, and we’ve asked people to consider contributing to Haitian ministries through Bethlehem Ministry, http://www.bethlehemministry.org, PO Box 48387, Athens, GA 30604.

 

Last Wish

My dad is in his final days. He wants to see his grandchildren, great grandchildren, and his sister and we’re going to make it happen. It won’t be easy; Daddy and his wife are frail and Aunt Kitty. His wife is visually impaired and Daddy has dementia on top of everything, so the bulk of the load falls on my niece, Brandi, who is his 24 hour caregiver. My brother and I are supplying love and financial support.

The logistics of traveling with a hospice patient requires contracts and coordination. Besides the rental car, there are the obvious medical needs. Daddy is planning seven nights on the road, four at our home and three in a hotel in South Carolina. He sleeps about two hours at a time. Dementia is challenging; sometimes he’s with us and sometimes he’s not.

Brandi asked me whether I was sure I didn’t want them to stay at a hotel. No, he’s my dad. Her response was, “But he’s a handful!” Yes, I know. His medications have been adjusted and titrated, and sometimes he’s okay but sometimes he’s not.

Food restrictions? “No shrimp, catfish, pork, or anything like that,” she said. “And no spaghetti. He doesn’t like pasta, spaghetti sauce, and nothing with any red dye. He’s very worried about red dye right now.” Hmmmm…red dye? He might have dementia but he has very specific opinions.

My daughter is working on sleeping arrangements but we’re not sure what we’ll need beyond that. We’re playing this by ear.

His brother waited until he saw my dad, and was gone before Daddy got out of the driveway. Last wishes can be tricky, especially with someone so frail.

This will be interesting. I want to make this next week memorable for everyone. He’ll see his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I had not heard the lyrics to Carly Simon’s “Like a River” in a very long time, but she talks about how she is no longer waiting for her mother, as a daughter, as the part of their lives together is over. I have wanted my dad to come and visit ever since we moved here, but I never really pushed it because of his health. He’s coming this time on his terms, and I will cherish whatever days I have with him. It is his last wish.

I have certain movies that I watch for different reasons. I can watch Brian’s Song and cry without anyone questioning whether I’m okay. Airplane makes me laugh myself silly and the quotes sometimes come out at the most inappropriate times. And right now, the thought that comes to mind is, “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.” I have to find humor wherever and whenever I can.

But to quote Gone with the Wind, “Tomorrow is another day.”

September 11.

September 11. Home.   Not happy. I should be flying. Nothing to do but maybe I could go play golf. 8:45 a.m. I hate morning television shows but I go into the living room and turn on the TV to CBS. Before I’ve brewed my tea, the nightmare begins. My cousin calls first. Ken wants to know I was safe.  Phone calls continue throughout the day and night. No one can believe it.

Days earlier, I had been in Columbus, Ohio. “Please, Chris. Please! Let me go out early!” I begged and pleaded but the answer stayed the same. Chris said I needed to stay home. What did he know. I just wanted to fly. I was already going out on September 13, and I was wrapping up an extended tour. It was a game to work your schedule so you could fly on your off days and stay home on your work days. This meant $$$.

The airspace was reopened on September 13 but our passenger didn’t want to go. My copilot was a skinny guy from Alabama. The silence over the airways was deafening. I thought of “The Stand” by Stephen King, where everyone disappeared. Periodically we’d key the mic and ask ATC if they were still there. Yes, but quiet.

As we crossed over Richmond going into Baltimore, we were told to look out for close traffic on our wings. I never dreamed of a military escort, not in my wildest imagination. When we arrived at Baltimore, our identification was checked before we got off the plane. It was a somber day as we awaited our passenger, a senator from Wisconsin who was attending the memorial service. We could still see the smoke when we approached White Plains, a few days later.

Flying changed. My attitude towards flying changed. I had imagined being hijacked but I never imagined an aircraft being used as a weapon. Each time I went to Hartsfield to meet my aircraft, my luggage was searched. My underwear would be strewn out over the table, my uniforms pulled out and wadded up, and my battery operated toothbrush turned on. Nothing was ever put back correctly so I now had to allow extra time for repacking. That was minor, though, compared to the realization that we were no longer safe.

There are four days in my life that I will never forget. The day President Kennedy was shot, the day Martin Luther King was assassinated, the day Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon, and September 11, 2001. Of course I will always remember our wedding day and the birth of my children, and there are probably others, if I think about it. Each of these events changed the way I saw the world.

We can’t forget.

Lost – A Very Short Hospice Story

I had no idea where I was going so I called Trevor. It was a bad neighborhood and besides being our chaplain, he was an ex-cop. There were good people on the street, but trouble lived nearby. At least Trevor knew where we were going. Or so I thought. Hospice patients only die at night, at least that’s how it seemed. It was my turn to go out and pronounce and no way was I going alone. Not to this neighborhood and not to a strange home. Trevor and I agreed to meet at a nearby intersection.

I followed closely behind his car. My first clue that Trevor didn’t know where we were going was how he kept slowing down. It was – literally – a dark and stormy night, and visibility was limited. Numbers were missing from most of the mailboxes so we couldn’t confirm the address and the houses were obscured by the trees and the darkness. We’d have to rely on Trevor’s memory.

We knew something was wrong as we approached the house. Where was everyone? You would like to think there would be some cars there, since a beloved father, grandfather, brother, and friend was dying. What was going on? Where was everyone? Apprehensively, Trevor rang the doorbell. We waited. I rang it again. Finally, we heard movement when the door flew open. “I WON! I WON!” she screamed. We looked at each other, totally confused, and the lady abruptly stopped. “You’re not the Prize Patrol.”

Sometimes you just have to find the sense of humor.

Decisions, Decisions

All online schools and courses are not created equal. I happen to love distance learning and I work hard to provide my students with the best experience possible. As a student, I have studied under outstanding professors in the traditional classroom and online, and I’ve had horrible professors in both settings. As a faculty member, I work hard to give my students the best possible experience, regardless of the settings. I do this through personalization, engagement, and innovation, and received the James P. Etter Award in 2014 for my efforts. Many of my online students finish the class feeling as if they know me as a person, and some later become friends.

 

One of my few regrets is that I never went back to school for my MSN. My first degree was an ADN and I became a RN in 1975. I had a wonderful career but not in traditional nursing. I was in the right place at the right time and I took advantage of every opportunity, so the fact that my degrees were not in nursing was no problem. I have a BA, a Masters of Science in Health Policy, and a PhD in Organization and Management. I’m an Airline Transport Pilot, which is the PhD of aviation. I’ve worked hard and I’ve loved every step of the way. But I wanted the MSN.

 

I am a full-time faculty member at one of the best online universities. I believe in our organization and in our leadership. I have so much faith in our leadership that I am not interested in looking for another job. I’m here. I’m present. I work hard and I give it my best effort. But I wanted this additional degree. My husband said, “You have a terminal degree. Why are you doing this?” A very dear friend said the same thing. I said, “Because I’ve always wanted this and because I can.” One of my art teachers said I needed to think about being a human being and not a human doing, but I wanted it. It was a goal I had not fulfilled.

 

I recently completed my first course, an online 16 week course. I chose this established traditional, nonprofit university that offered a fully online option because (1) the degree is a lifelong goal of mine, (2) the specific program was not offered at my school, and (3) I’ve clearly lost my mind. The positives: (1) the admission process was easy, (2) the transfer credit process was a breeze, (3) their outstanding customer service during the entire process from student services and admissions, and finally, (4) a well-structured orientation. They really acted like I was valuable. Now for the negatives: (1) very limited involvement with the professor, (2) late grading with no feedback, (3) awkward course setup, (4) carelessness in the course setup, including typos in the grading rubric, (5) 16 weeks is way too long for this course. There were times I felt they were just pulling content out of the air to fill up space. This may be due to accreditation, but if I had designed the curriculum I could have cut the length.

 

Will I continue? I don’t know. I am taking a term off. I have had no quality of life, much like during my doctoral program. This is not a degree I ever plan to use so it isn’t like I need it; I’m doing this solely for the satisfaction of saying I did it and that I will have completed a 40 year goal. I have no plans to ever leave my job, because I love what I do and I have so much respect for the leadership. This goes back to something I’ve said so many time, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

 

But maybe I should. Or not. We’ll see.  But if you are considering online education, let me know.