Saturday, August 29, 2009

Addio: Italian for 'a final good-bye'.

Addio Senator Kennedy, e, grazie.

Google: To use the Google search engine or MAP to look for information/locations on the World Wide Web.

today i took a walk down bleeker past macdougal and carmine and over to the west village. i tried to zoom in on magnolia bakery, hoping to catch a glimpse of my favourite vanilla cupcake with butter creme frosting. i used the up, down, left and right arrows on my laptop to stand across from the biography bookshop (and in my head I smelled the smell of used books and coffee) and then headed over to minetta park. as i crossed the avenue of americas i saw the take out where i used to get some damned good enchiladas and tacos. then i skillfully crossed houston street, taking a moment to pass le gamin, my cafe au lait bar and the angelica movie theatre marquee (where i saw some great films and some mediocre films) toward soho. i crossed the street toward the pet shop where martin picked out a nice squirrel toy and a miliner shop i photographed in honour of my mom who loves hats even more than me...walking past the spring street apartment where my friends lynn and marty live. on the way back i went out of my way to go into washington square park and the bench that hosted me many a morning, the dog run where mart lost a toenail and bled on the way to the vet in a nice, yellow new york taxi and over to the corner deli where einat and i used to buy yogurt for lunches together. the nyu student union and bookshop must be filled with kids now...i will be starting school myself in two weeks. last summer i was a thompson street girl with a book, a newspaper and a lot of glorious time on my hands. i slept surrounded by sara genn's paintings and relished the air from lupa, wafting up into the open windows looking out over the fire escape, past the sentinal water towers into the lovely mess that makes up new york/manhattan. i made friends (well, marty did, anyway) in the street and ate butterfinger candybars while window shopping. i had a crush on the guy who served us at the humas restaurant and when i ventured up north towards midtown and central park, i sat for hours on benches watching humanity and everything that makes humanity wonderful and horrible. the moma was where i wept in front of pollack and the hotdog stand right outside nourished me the way only a new york hotdog can. the upper east side wowed me, the upper west cradled me and riverside park was mart's favourite place to pee. a year ago today i was packin' up my stuff and hugging the walls of sara's apartment because i wanted to leave a part of myself imprinted on the crumbling old building and let it know how much I loved it- you can love a building, you know. and on my last afternoon i spent helping einy clean her apartment my belovedly old, old navy low ride boot cut jeans split up the back and i rode home on the subway trying to cover my butt... a google map walk isn't the real thing, but it seemed like a nice way to spend an hour today. and a nice way to remember and yeah, i cried a little. because the CITY gave me something: it gave me and mart its beating, buzzing, bellowing and beautiful self.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Abundance: Degree of plentifulness, fullness to overflowing.

Celebrating the abundance of the last days of August, of summer. I found an avocado!!! I am a Southern California girl and for me the avocado is like green, there will be guacamole for lunch...and humas and chickpea salad and a nice, cold Corona beer with a twist of lime because I FOUND LIMES, too! Limes and avocados come from Brazil and discovering them in the green grocer is like finding treasure! Happy end of summer everyone.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Conscious: Having an awareness of one's environment and one's own existence, sensations, and thoughts, aware.

I've been playing the Italian Superenalotto lottery over the past few weeks and yesterday the biggest win ever in Europe, around 143 million Euros, went to somebody in a small Tuscan village. They had a BIG party.

Yesterday while reading The New York Times I saw this:

'In the last 50 years, more girls have died for being girls than all the men who died in wars fought in the 20th Century.'

Maybe I did win the lottery. I mean, I was born 50 years ago to a middle class family, had enough to eat, clothes to wear, an education. I had the choice to have children, to work, to dream. And now I am going back to school.

The Chinese have a saying, 'Women hold up half the sky.' Many policy makers believe that by educating and empowering women we will secure a peaceful and prosperous future, focusing on women and girls to fight global poverty and extremism.

My friend Einat sent me the film, 'Paris Was A Woman', a documentary about the contributions made by a handful of women expatriates living on The Left Bank between the first two world wars, and as I was watching it I was reminded what a recent phenomenon it is that women should have the choice to go on to higher education. Once again, I feel incredibly lucky to be going back to school.

I have a photo of me standing in front of my dorm the morning my parents drove me three hours to Lawrence, Kansas for my first semester at K.U., which is amazing, because when I moved to Italy I threw away tons of pictures as there was no room to take them and no way to store them. I am barefoot, wearing Levis, my head tilted to the side, hands on hips. My mom and Dad unloaded my stuff and drove away.

I sat on the unmade bed of my dorm room looking at the light blue walls and caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror over my built-in drawers. I was lost.

At 18 I did not yet have the insight to understand what going to school (especially out of state) really meant. I was way too young...

When my old boyfriend went to school many years later he would comment on the much younger student body at U.C.S.D. (he was 33 at the time) commenting that they seemed oblivious to their good fortune- he, on the other hand knew how lucky he was. He was conscious of his good fortune. He felt like he had won a lottery.

And me, too.

Have a great Sunday, everybody.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Recurring: To happen, come up, or show up again or repeatedly.

I recently hung a detail of this Klimt reproduction in my house. The title, I discovered today, is 'Wasserschlangen II', 1904/07, Water Snakes II.

I have been having a recurring dream since the first time I visited Venice several years ago. I dreamt that I was taking a walk from canal to canal, crossing over floating bridges and sitting on stepways that disappeared into the green-grey waters, waters that were swallowing up her magesty, Venezia. At one point I slipped down those steps into the water and swam with white serpents, unafraid. They were unmistakably female, dancing upward from the undulating surfaces reflecting the splendor of two worlds, east and west, and the ochre, pink and orange buildings became liquid, too, the real buildings melting into their water counterparts and it was difficult to tell what was solid and what was not. (!) At one point, right before I woke up, I reached out to touch the wall of one palace, my hand passing through to another place...

Now the water snakes have returned but I am not in Venice anymore. The snakes are emerging from the screen of my mini laptop, the colour of hilighter pens- acid green and yellow- they are saavy and slick and unwavering.

Now these ladies are hanging in my house. Water snakes. My recurring serpents, revisiting, replying to my fears? My fears about school? About entering a world through the computer screen? Holding a hilighter pen to the page of a textbook?

I don't mind the serpents. I don't mind any of my recurring dreams.
Here is a list:
  • I rise up and fly around the room, my back just next to the ceiling. I have to walk myself down the wall to return to earth.
  • I am holding a kitten in my hand. But the kitten is the size of a thimble, cleaning its face with a tiny black and white paw.
  • I am on a cloud, sitting, and the light from the world below is shining up through the mist that surrounds me. The cloud is edible. It tastes like cotton candy. It always smells like cotton candy when I wake up. I can smell it when I wake up.
The air is thick and the humidity is stifling today. Perfect weather for water snakes...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Time: A nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future.

This is the 15th of August and a national holiday in Italy; most everyone has gone to the beach, the mountains or country to escape the heat and all the routines that await us as we move into September.

Summer. Last summer I was living (for two months) in The Village in New York City and I can say that it was the most magical summer of my life. It was SO GOOD that when I left the apartment I had exchanged with artist, singer and composer Sara Genn, I didn't even feel ripped off. I felt FILLED UP and so buzzed from my experience, I was ready to come home and see where that juice I got from the City would take me in 2009!
I rode that wave of energy and set the goal to return to school in fall 2009 and here I am.

I've been thinking a lot about time over the last few days and am trying to picture myself juggling my work schedule with the hours I will have to dedicate to school all the while taking care of my body, soul and mind.
This August I have been able to teach one day a week leaving six other GLORIOUS days to rest, practice yoga morning and evening, walk the dog, study, read and write (I am writing a book) and see a few friends for a chat or day trip here and there.
This morning I am in bed blogging and feeling lazy, Martin snoozing at my side, trying to picture the cold mornings in November before the heater goes on, getting out of bed early enough to do yoga, take the dog for a long walk and write as I usually do while studying three or four hours a day and working as much as I need to/can. (And I will try to do all of this while keeping my sacred Sundays completely and utterly free!)
I am a freelance teacher and work contract to contract. This is fabulous because I don't have to go to the same place every day and I can set some of my schedule to meet my needs or preferences... but the truth is, I pretty much work from morning to night- professional people want to study English in the evenings, kids after school, exam prep students are going to university so they come in the mornings and lots of my consulting and business English courses are done over lunch. I am a busy girl and I like it that way. (Oh, and I need 8 hours of sleep per night.) The question is- when am I going to study?
This blog entry is a challenge to myself to set my goals, tell the universe what I need/want, and, see if I can achieve a little more balance in my life this year to make room for my commitment to school.

WHAT A TIMELY TIME FOR ME TO BE STUDYING Reading Graphs and Tables IN MyReadingLab. HERE IS THE PIECHART EXAMPLE (Figure 4: A typical day for a college student) REPRODUCED TO THE RIGHT.
IN ITALIAN WE SAY, magari, or, 'I should be so lucky...'
or 'from your mouth to God's ear!' Ah, there's the rub...

Here is how it works: I write my perfect schedule and let's see if I can make it happen! (...with you, the reader, as my witness!) Let's test the 'name it and claim it' philosophy together!

I intend to work more with my training agency as an instructor in business English (I earn more per hour in these courses) AND I intend to work near home (=less commuting by bus to companies outside my immediate neighbourhood). This means I will take less private students, sending the overflow to a new American teacher who has recently moved here, thus boosting her earning power at the same time!
Ok, so that's the challenge. The first week of September I will go to my training agency to see how our new courses are going and see if I can help with marketing and planning.
I have a good private client base, and the privates who start in September will be the ones I take; the ones who sometimes drag their feet starting later in October I hope to pass on to other teachers.

Tick-tock. A nonspatial continuum, indeed.

Work hard...
and don't forget to BREATHE.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Prize: Something worth striving for; a highly desirable possession.

Keep your eyes on the prize. Don't be afraid. Everything is gonna be alright...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Change: To go from one phase to another, as the moon or the seasons.

Over the bridge of twenty-nine years.

My best friend Rita (college grad) with me (dropout) in 1980 and me now..............
(Black and white photo by Carla Fortina)

Ripe: Sufficiently advanced in preparation or aging to be used or eaten. 2. Thoroughly matured, as by study or experience; seasoned.

I am ripe, seasoned and ready.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

System: A group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements forming a complex whole.

Before I start this entry, I wish to clarify that this could be considered my 'stand-up comedy routine' on living and working in Italy and is not meant to be overtly offensive to anyone. It is meant to enlighten and entertain. That said, if you are curious, read on!
Some observations on Italy's public educational system.

  • Teachers do not study Child Development in their certification.
  • The certification process itself does not work very well and has a dog-chasing-tail, jump-through-hoops preparation that makes very little sense and discourages many from becoming educators.
  • Teachers earn between 23,000.00 to 32,000.00 (gross before income tax) equivalent in U.S. $ per year depending on whether they teach at the primary or secondary level and on how many years they have been teaching. Teachers with 15 years or more experience are at the top end of salaries. (2005 figures)
  • Teachers are placed on pedestals and kids are considered untouchables.
  • Disruptive children are not removed from the classroom as there is no place to send them! (No principle's office!)
  • Many teachers never award a perfect grade of 10 on an exam even if the child answers every question correctly. This is meant to inspire kids to always strive to achieve more. (This makes no sense in my universe, but hey, that's just me.)
  • Kids are rarely praised for their efforts.
  • The rigourous primary, middle and high school program means that most children have at least a half hour of homework a day( including Saturday which for many kids is a school day) from age six, increasing to one hour a day in middle school and may increase, depending on the high school kids choose, to two or three hours a day.
  • Kids carry their books back and forth to school in backpacks that weigh around 5 kilos each and these backpacks end up on the floor in the aisles between the desks in a classroom and are a hazard to anyone walking through! (Many of my kids ask me about school lockers! They have seen them in American films and are fascinated by the phenomenon!)
  • These books are purchased by parents every year at a cost of about 250 Euros per student per year.
  • Students who attend the Scientific and Classical high schools study Greek and, at the Classical, Latin. This builds critical thinkers from an early age and reinforces a rigidity in learning which welcomes following processes and discourages creativity in the classroom.
  • Exams are about memorising material. Teachers do not give students much information on what may appear on a test. The kids have to know everything.
  • There is a promotion between middle and high school which includes written and oral exams which are given in front of an impartial panel of educators from various schools in the region.
  • The big one, or maturit√† exam, happens at the end of the last (fifth year) of high school and can cover any material studied during a student's five years in high school.
  • Young Italians often lack respect and discipline and 'talk back' to teachers on a regular basis. Young Italian males show even less self-discipline than do their female counterparts.
  • Guns and gun violence are not a problem in Italian schools.
  • Public university is free.
  • Parents pay a tax directly to the government at a rate of about 1000 Euros per year for their kid to attend university. This tax puts stress on many an Italian family as the average salary in Italy is between 800 and 1,200 Euros net per month (the average company paying 50 to 100% tax on each worker, depending on the industry and work contract agreement). Since the conversion of the Lire to Euro in 2002, the cost of living has literally doubled while earnings have stayed the same. It should be noted that like all European countries, a national health care system makes medical visits, medicine, hospitalization and treatments for serious diseases available to all.
  • The majority of university students live at home.
  • Many degree programs in university do not require that students attend class or lectures. A philosophy student, for example, may not once enter a classroom during a semester, instead, reading on his or her own and taking an exam to test knowledge covered in a textbook.
  • Professors are generally not available to their students for conversations or meetings. (Many of my students who saw the film, 'Lions for Lambs' were impressed by the relationship between the professor, played by Robert Redford, and his student; half of the film is spent on their conversation during the professor's 'open office' hours.)
  • A large number of people attend university in Italy. The unemployment rate is very, very high and many graduates do not find jobs.
  • There is an underlying feeling that who you know is more important than what you know and this blocks many individuals from achieving professional success, promotion or satisfaction. Italians are highly self critical and readily admit that this system of nepotism is their downfall yet they remain unsettlingly stuck and most would say that there is not much hope of changing this mentality.

  • It is not surprising that many people have asked to look at my ESC catalog of undergraduate studies enjoying the variety of courses offered and are intrigued by how well the system is organized and implemented. Many of them have said they would prefer to pay more for school if it meant better organization and more options. They scoff, however, at the cost of an average four-year public college education in the U.S.A. of $ 7,000.00 per year. There are private universities in Italy but none of them approach the costs of their counterparts in the States.

  • My students have also been impressed at the availability of Federal Student Loans to attend school. One of my friends has been living independently since she was 20 years old but cannot qualify for a loan at the bank because she and her father are still considered a 'family unit'. She is 33 years old.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Cognition: The mental process of knowing, including aspects such as awareness, perception, reasoning and judgement.

Day 4 of MyReadingLab.
This online study guide supports my 'Intro to College Reading and Writing' class following the text, 'Bridging the Gap'. I am in hell.
This is day 2 of Stephanie trying to grasp the concept of supporting ideas. I teach this stuff in my Cambridge and Toefl exam courses with my non-English speaking students including how to outline a subject, write introductions, topic sentences with supporting ideas, summaries and conclusions. Now, you would think that I would be able to pass out of this particular study area!
It occured to me that either,
a. My brain is softer than I thought
b. I am not very bright
c. Maybe I think differently or,
d. All of the above

This reminds me of a story. My sister Val has a fabulous daughter named MacKenzie and long story short sent her for a short period of time to a Montessori school when she was 4 years old. At one point early in the year, Val was summoned to school for a meeting with one of MacKenzie's teachers who was concerned with a cognitive test Kenzie had taken that week.

The teacher had shown Kenz a series of three figures and asked her to put them in order.
fig. 1
a little girl
fig. 2
a little girl licking an ice cream cone
fig. 3
a little girl with an ice cream cone

She explained to my sister the correct order was:
fig. 1
fig. 3
fig. 2
Explanation: a little girl gets an ice cream cone and eats it.

Then she proceeded to show Val the order Kenzie had chosen:
fig. 2
fig. 1
fig. 3
Kenzie's explanation: a little girl eats an ice cream cone, when it's gone she asks for another one!

Post script: My sister did take her daughter out of that school the very next week.

Tomorrow I will attempt to cross over into the dimension of supporting ideas. (Then I intend to treat myself to some gelato.)
I guess I do think differently and now I have to train my mind to think in a different way.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Reality: The quality or state of being actual or true.

My books arrived on Wednesday. I ripped open the box, admired the covers, flipped through some pages, took a look at the tables of contents and stood them up end to end on my work table. My fall semester at ESC = two GE courses, 8 credits = 'Intro to College Reading and Writing' and 'The Pursuit of Happiness in American History' (don't you LOVE that title?). One of my coursebooks came with a membership to MyReadingLab, a marvelous online class that follows one of my textbooks. I sat down and registered, navigating through the site, finally arriving at the Diagnostic Pre-Test which I hankered down and took. Reality set in on question three.

Let me explain. I am an optimist (see my blog When I left my job, sold all my stuff and said goodbye to everyone in my San Diego life ten years ago to move to Italy I walked onto that airplane with one suitcase and my cat Mary and did not look back. When people asked me if I was afraid of leaving my country and moving to a new place/culture without a job intact, well, the truth is, I never allowed myself to be afraid. Otherwise I probably wouldn't be sitting here today. So, I am on the airplane, over the Atlantic and I have a panic attack. Reality set in. I was MOVING. I was on my own.

I had been preparing for that moment for twelve years. It was not a whimsical, mid-life freak out. I trained to teach English, I saved the cash, I did my research. I had a reservation for my first night in a hotel room in Milan that took cats and a friend in Tuscany to stay with for a few weeks while I was looking for a job and my own place.

In the middle of my panic attack I repeated my mantra: "I am a wave in an ocean of peace" and tried not to think about the fact that I was flying over a big body of dark water, surrounded by snoring strangers , far from the familiar, heading into WHAT? And then, I BREATHED. (I remembered to BREATHE!). I put my hand in Mary's carrier and she started to purr.

In Milan I called my sister, best friend and boyfriend. My sister did her best to comfort me. My girlfriend reminded me that this was my dream. My boyfriend told me to get on the train and look out the window to remind myself of why I was there----------Reality set in. I was living my dream and I wanted to be

So, I am working on MyReadingLab and it hits me. I AM GOING TO SCHOOL. What does that mean? I will be reading and writing TONS, have to organise my time because I work forty hours a week and my brain is out of shape. Just as I was heading to the refridgerator to eat a large container of cherry yogurt, I stopped myself and made a list of what I know. WHAT I KNOW:

I know that I can read, like to read, am interested and curious and heck, I can do that. I just need to take breaks from studying, stretch, drink water, take the dog for a walk.
I know that I can write. I need to follow a writing structure, but, hey, I can do that. I like writing. I write everyday.
I am organized. NO, ORGANIZED. Working and going to school. That is why I chose to study online. I can study in my pj's.....
Yes, my brain is soft. But this is my chance to beef it up, leave behind my preconceptions, open my mind, think critically.

You see what I mean by negativeintopositive? I have decided to study everyday for three hours to get myself into shape. I start school on September 14th. I can do that.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Process: A system of operations in the production of something, ongoing movement.

In the days leading up to my first semester back at school I have been revisiting online orientations, tech and library tutorials and beoming familiar with academic writing styles using a multitude of resources provided. It feels like I'm doing yoga for my brain. Stretching, breathing into the tighter, less used areas and pushing, gently, just beyond my limit, each day getting more flexible, agile. I am a writer and so some of the tasks that lie ahead are not as daunting as they might otherwise be, but I am noticing that something inside of me is waking up! And, because I had some difficulties at school the first time all those many years ago, I cannot help but compare the 18 year-old to the 50 year-old. My mind can manage concepts and thought processes much better now. I am more experienced. More mature. I am more curious than I was at 18! Is that because I needed life experience to make connections to what seemed esoteric and beyond my reach?! Ha! I am having a good time! And confidence. Geez, I've got so much more confidence than I have ever had! It feels good to be here now with this in front of me and I feel priveledged to be able to do this now at this point in my life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Regret: A feeling of disappointment about something that one wishes could be different.

Having dinner with my friend Dorene a few weeks ago and talking about regret, I realised that I don't have any. Imagine if I regreted dropping out of school (and was bummed that without a B.A. I can't serve in the Peace Corps or participate in Teach for America) or if I wished I had had children or not spending my inheritance on a downpayment for a house (I traveled instead!). Regret cancels out the decisions I made, the way I have lived, the person I am now. Regret makes me a victim because I don't take responsibility for my choices. Regret is exhausting. No, I don't believe in regret but I do believe in learning from my mistakes and this empowers me. It also teaches me to forgive myself and others, too. I can see that for some people regrets may be a motivating force but for me it always seemed that planting that little seed of 'what if...' would bring nothin' but pain and sorrow. I'm lucky because I grew up in a time when I could make a lot of choices for myself- choices my mom couldn't have made so easily. I am grateful for this and happy to say, now I'm ready for school. In 1977, I wasn't. When I turned 50 last February I welcomed the half century mark willingly and with excitement. I have never been more Stephanie than I am now- more passionate, flawed, excited, compassionate, grateful and yes, celebratory that all the choices I made so far have brought me to this moment: I am here now. I can live with that.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Tenacity: Persistent determination.

This is my rooftop garden and this is a photo of a vine that grew through the wall and into the house with tenacity and determination. Pass through walls. Glass ceilings. Over the mountain to the other side. I am a graduate of the school of 'name it and claim it', a philosophy that Lee Russel, an extraordinary woman I worked with in a social service agency many years ago, taught me when I was 21 years old. She told me that I just had to tell the universe what I want and work towards that goal using all the resources I was fortunate enough to possess and it would come. Dream big. Bigger. BIGGER!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Dream: A wild fancy or hope. A condition or achievement that is longed for; an aspiration.

Ok, so, you may be wondering what I aim to achieve with my B.A. and M.A.T. (Masters of Arts in Teaching). Well..... I wanna teach school in New York City. Yes, when I finish I'm gonna go to the New York City Department of Education and apply for a job in the innercity. I want to work with kids who are at risk. Now I know what you're thinking. I'll be in my late 50s when I graduate. That's right. My late 50s. And, only time will tell and you'll have to stick around to see if I can pull it off. But you know what? All my life, I have achieved anything I put my mind to. I wanted to sing. I sang. I wanted a great love. I had that, too. I wanted a Chihuahua, to live and teach in Italy, to travel, to dance. I did all of that. Now I'm on my next ten year plan and here to say that you can do anything you put your mind to. My sister warned me that chances are I won't find a job when I return to the States. I love my sister and she is a very wise lady. But she told me this after finding a new job herself at the age of 58. I did not point this out to her. I let it be. My friend Lynn says I am tenacious. Like a bull dog. So, here begins the journey. It's gonna be hard. Scary. Exhausting. And, it's gonna be FUN.

Attendance: The frequency with which a person is present.

I should say that I did not get good grades in university. You have to study and go to class to do that. It was a long time ago and I can't remember everything clearly but I didn't even bother having my transcrips sent to ESC when I applied. I wanted to start fresh. So I am starting from zero.
I may be able to use my life experience to get Credit By Evaluation. My very nice student mentor suggested that after ten years living in Italy I could probably test out of Italian and therefore satisfy my foreign language G.E. credits. Gee, I wish I could, but the truth is, I don't speak Italian very well. I speak English all day long. I can ask for the kind of bread I want, order my coffee, even find the words to show my dismay over recent news about the Prime Minister Silvio Berluschoni and his tryst with an 18 year-old model, but I honestly don't think I can test out of Italian.
I was fortunate enough to accompany my boyfriend to some of his classes at Mesa City College and U.C.S.D. when he was going to school in the early 1990s. It was great, sitting in on a lecture on the Midieval University or Kant or a lecture on entropy or the depletion of our natural resources. And how proud I was to see him at his table every night, surrounded by tons of reading material, our cat, Dotti, seated under the green desk lamp (those classic kind that look studious and can be aimed in three or four directions)... he was a natural at school. Curious about everything. Logical. An avid reader. He was my hero.
The first day he went to school I picked him up and he apologized for being a few minutes late. 'Held up at the library.' He had gone there to get supplementary reading material. This floored me. I asked him, how did you know what you needed, without a list? "Hey babe, you gotta get commentary on all this stuff. You need help to understand Heigl and Burkeley...." Commentary, indeed. We all need additional commentary. That's why we have friends and the library. I have a library, too. And, I can 'Ask a Librarian' right online whenever I want. I am going to school online. I bought my books online and 'talk' to my mentor online and can have my writing critiqued online. I am online, baby. Online.

Acceptance: The state of being accepted or acceptable.

When I told my Italian friend Gessjica that I had received a letter of acceptance from Empire State College, SUNY, she squealed with delight saying, "Just like in the movies!" It's true. It's just like in the movies. Except I am 50. When I received my first letter of acceptance from K.U. in the winter of 1977 I was a high school senior sitting on my bed opening what I saw as a chance to escape from my family but I wasn't really ready for school. I wasn't much of a student and worse, did not know how to study (and I never asked anyone for help). I floundered in Biology and drowned in Math. Being an artist at heart, I flourished in English Composition and History of Art but waivered in my Solfeggio class because I was lazy and disinterested. I missed my studious boyfriend who had ended up at a private university in Texas and even if my college roommate was one of my best friends from high school I was lonely and disconnected, free of my family woes but cut adrift without purpose or direction. I knew I wanted to sing. Sing. Not study singing or listen to great singers in the listening lab. I wanted to be a singer so, a year and a half later, I left school and moved to San Diego.

Aid: To help or furnish with support or relief.

This is a uniquely American story: In 1994 I married my live-in boyfriend of 12 years for health insurance. Yes, for health insurance. He had it and I didn't. It seemed like a very good idea to me at the time. Now, all these years later I am still married to this person but I do not know where he is so when it came time to apply for financial aid to return to school, I had this little problem. Though I had tried, unsuccessfully, to get a legal separation several years ago, I was still legally married even though I haven't seen my boyfriend (I never liked the word 'husband') since 2001 and I had to somehow prove to the Federal Government that I am financially independent. Unable to call said ex-boy as a witness, I sent a letter pleading my case. Last week I was awarded my aid money. YEAH. YIPEE. YAHOO.

Dropout: One who quits school.

I dropped out of university a long time ago. And that was ok because I followed my bliss and became a singer and then I got a certificate to teach English and now I live in Italy and I love my job. I have been thinking about returning to university to get my teaching degree and last summer in New York my friend Silvia who teaches at SUNY told me about their online degree program. I start school this September.