Back To School Reading List


The best thing about going back to school? Getting an education? Pfft, don’t be ridiculous! Oh no, no, no; it’s Amazon Student (aka Amazon Prime) for 6 months then half-off Prime for up to 4 years just by having an .edu email address. Awesome. I love Prime but I don’t buy enough on Amazon to justify it on its own. I have always just done the free trials and worked them hard during that time to see if it is worth it in the long run. So far, no. But for free or nearly free? Sure! Given the recent hard line they are taking with Hatchette and now Disney, however, I am seriously questioning supporting Amazon in the future. For now I will just accept what is until I can make up my mind which direction to go.

Now my first newly minted Prime purchases? Books about going back to school. More than anything I wanted to make sure I remembered how to study smart. I never had terrible study skills, I just never really used them to the best of my ability. Lazy, scared and anxiety-ridden I guess.

And since I will be doing a whole lot of school reading in the next few years I decided to clean up my fiction reading list a bit before the quarter begins on Sept 2. But those books and that post are for another day. If you are curious about what I am reading I suggest you check out my Goodreads feed (its on the sidebar). I have been making decent attempts at keeping it updated this year since I wanted to actually track what I am reading. I will never guarantee it is up to date perfectly but honestly its not too far off the mark more or less.

Anyhow, back to college books. While searching I noticed that the majority of college directed books are old and out dated or filled with bad advice. Seriously, the selection is terrible. And the majority of books directed to going to college usually focus on teens. Fantastic I suppose but there are a lot of non-traditional students out there. I am certainly not unusual in that regard. So here I relied on reviews. And even with reviews these books are about 6 or 7 years old. Perhaps blogging has affected this chunk of the dead tree market as well.

The Adult Student’s Guide to Survival & Success by Al Siebert & Mary Karr

Lovely read. This was much more about getting in the right frame of mind for college as well as practical tips on what to do with yourself once there. Very concise and to the point, an easy read. I wouldn’t pay full price for it though IMO.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Going Back to College by Dolores Mize

Basically a longer, wordier version of the one above. It takes about 100 pages just for the chapters on deciding to go to college and choosing a college; something the former book did in only about 25 pages or so with more information. Sometimes less is more.

However, I do prefer this one over the former for anyone who has no college under their belt. Very simple things are explained like what credit hours are, etc. Redundant for me but insanely usefully for those not in the know and none of which are explained very well in the first book.

I do not like the stereotyping the author paints older and younger students with. She definitely creates an us vs them mentality. And she automatically assumes that an older student wouldn’t be “with the times”. Heck, this post was written on an iPad with a photo taken on an iPhone that was refined using 2 different apps! I think I got this, as would a healthy chunk of other non-traditional students.

Further this book has zero information about actually being in college. It only covers how to manage it, not how to study, etc. for that you need…

How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less by Cal Newport

This book is amazing. Now I know why it gets such great reviews. Full of strategies for getting As. Easy to follow and easy to explain. I did most of these tips when I studied once upon a time but even I learned some new tricks. I recommend this one for any college student, not just adult students.

Interestingly his suggestions on how to write a paper are exactly how I write blog posts!

The Elements of Style by William Strunk Jr & EB White

As much of a classic as this book is you would have thought I already owned it but that would not be the case. Matter of fact I never even read it until now. A classic reference book with the do’s and don’t’s of writing well. Something everyone should have in their library. And it’s only 90 pages, the perfect pocket book or stocking stuffer.

Jewelry by Jenni

Totally, absolutely not a sponsored post!

My sister makes jewelry. Beautiful jewelry matter of fact. If your interested in seeing anymore of her work check out her Facebook page: Custom Jewelry by Jenni


All of the above are items she has given me as gifts or items I have purchased from her. Yes, that ghost white pendant in the middle is a pearl. And the one next to it is an ammonite fossil. She makes all of the ear wires and clasps (not that hard, it is just a jig but they are definitely more interesting than the store bought ones). ETA: oops! I got corrected, she makes the fasteners and ear wires with just pliers, a hammer, and a chunk of steel!

My favorite is this one with a natural geode:

Note: the fake gauges were not made by her but I was too lazy to retake a perfectly fabulous photo of my necklace.

Being Plus-Sized & Odd-Shaped Tallette

Dear Chickadees,

Would you all like to know why I quit fashion/style blogging? I highlighted some reasons previously but I have a lot more, some I will share and some I won’t. Basically it revolves around the anonymity of the internet and what options I have.

I know I was linked and ridiculed on Smack blogs. I can see where I am linked from with IP addresses of the people who visit. I know what terms you use to find my blog and how you may have gotten here. That is to say, I saw it all when I was laughed at and mocked. For the most part I didn’t care. It is the internet, those are the risks you take when you put yourself out there. It doesn’t make it any easier to digest by any means nor does it make it okay but this wasn’t the main reason I quit blogging last year. Oh no, the main reason I quit was the very reason I should have continued.

I will repeat for anyone who doesn’t know me. I am 6’2″, wear a size 13 shoe (sometimes 12W) and I am definitely plus-sized. I learned a long time ago to see what fit me first then decide if I liked it. How messed up is that? Shorter, thinner, individuals don’t have to do that. But that is how manufacturing is done; there are few selections in my size range.

For example, I don’t go shoe shopping in stores. I do a size search online and browse my size, which they probably don’t even carry a great selection of in the first place. My local DSW does not carry shoes in my size in store, online they have a tiny selection. When I was a girl it was much worse. I hit my full shoe size around 12 years of age or so. At that time I was basically limited to boys shoes. Nothing inherently wrong with that of course, I mean, Chucks are unisex after all. But finding dress shoes was an issue. And I like glitter and colors and styles that most boy’s shoes are not manufactured in. I remember having a difficult as hell time finding dress shoes for my grandfather’s funeral when I was 13. My aunts took me to several stores before we found a pair of plain black flats.

My main issue, while blogging, became that I was constantly trying to provided fresh looks or pieces to display but I literally had no selection to do so. I was wearing the same outfits over and over because I had nothing new to contribute. And you can only photograph the 1 outfit so many different times and ways before people get bored with it.

I was never tired of writing (though I did get writer’s block from time to time) nor was I tired of blogging or sharing in general. I was tired of being me, in my body, with my shape.

What brought this dose of honesty on? Megan aka Princess Lasertron wrote a blog post about breaking into Plus-Sized retail. She is co-owner of an online store that I adore called Hello Holiday and an “internet friend”. I use that very very loosely as I have never even met her and we live in the same city! I just don’t know how else to label her. I met her on a message board years and years ago and have been Facebook friends with her ever since.

I have purchased exactly 1 clothing item from Hello Holiday. And I would totally purchase more clothing if not for fit. They have done a good job so far providing plus size clothing options but like most plus-sized items, the manufacturers/designers think that everyone plus size must be short. The dresses, some of which are very cute, are just too dang short. Luckily, I know the height of the individual who models the items. This isn’t a criticism of either Megan or Hello Holiday. I just wish I had better selection other than just getting by. Which is the point of her post.

Can you imagine how frustrating thrifting is to me?

Anyway, that ultimately is the reason I stopped blogging my outfits. I wasn’t interested in spending buckets and buckets of cash on clothing that I didn’t really like and only bought because it fit. And if I didn’t love the items I was wearing, I wasn’t finding new ways to wear anything and I was getting talked about on Smack blogs then why bother blogging at all?

I needed time and took it. I’m still not happy with my selections. I still don’t have as much to wear as I would like and I still re-wear everything in the same tired old ways. I don’t really have an ending for this post, it just is the way it is. And I’m frustrated about it as are many others. I don’t know if I can do anything about it though. Hopefully others out there can.

With much love and more posts in the works,

The Phoenix Rises Again

If you subscribe to my feed (you still do after a year?! Holy crap, thank you!) you may have gotten hit with a few posts a couple nights ago.

I started blogging on another blog about a month ago. But frankly I missed this place; this history, this name and any of you that stuck around. Not to mention I still own this URL, still had everything set up and other things associated with hosting a blog. So I changed my mind and moved my posts from that other blog to here. It has had a number of different focuses over the years, what’s one more? I still have more posts to move but didn’t want to do all of them at once. So here I will stay.

Yes, I still wear clothes. Sometimes I miss posting photos of my outfits but I don’t miss the criticism or smack blogs. Yes, I might share that kind of stuff (I always did on Instagram while I was taking a breather) but don’t necessarily count on it and it will be nothing formal. And I am not posting all the time. I am not setting a schedule. That is what killed it last time for me. Too much pressure! I am just going to write when I feel like it, about whatever I feel like writing about, including, but not limited to, going back back to school in my 30s, style, life, etc.

I fully intend to talk about school. Going back was a tough decision. I still do not believe that a degree should be mandatory just to enter the work force; it is not necessary for the majority of jobs. But I want to learn a new skill set, I have seen problems I want to solve myself. Yes, class is probably going to kick my ass here and there. I am embracing that. And writing about it.

So what happened in the last year or so with me? I pushed a lot if things to my Instagram so if you want to see what I was up to I strongly suggest checking that out.

I visited Seattle & the Pacific Ocean for the first time last October. While there we even hit up the Hoh Rainforest & Forks (so not a Twilight fan but it was lunch time and that’s the only thing around – figured why not?). I fell in love with the whole area. Wish I could move there!

My husband and I then went to Florida and the Bahamas in May. We first visited Walt Disney World (my first visit ever to a Disney Park, and my husband’s since he was 8) and then hopped on the Disney Dream for a 3 day cruise (a first cruise for both of us!) and hit up the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios (again first time) just before the expansion opened. Little bit unhappy I missed it by -this- much but oh well. I preferred Disney World anyway. Rode my first roller coaster there! See, I’m very scared of heights but Disney relies on thrills for their coasters so I did Big Thunder Mountain and Space Mountain both. And I wasn’t going to let heights stop me from going on the Tower of Terror. I have wanted to ride it since it was built nearly 20 years ago. We even went twice – I just shut my eyes to the view for the most part!

We loved the Disney Cruise so much we booked one on board and are now going to Alaska next June! Never been to Canada (we board in Vancouver) and have never been to Alaska even though I have friends there and my grandparents lived there for several years when I was a kid. Definitely looking forward to it!

Oh and I am going home (Colorado) to visit my family in September.

I make no promises about the future of this blog. I really, truly, love to blog. But as this is just a hobby and I run out of time in my daily life to do everything I wish I could, including writing, I promise to try my best.

Why I Failed My 1 Year of College


I’m going to share something very painful for me. It is something I have lied about, told half truths over and have fudged the truth about as I never wanted to discuss the details. I will say I learned a great deal, I’m just not happy about why I had to learn it.

I failed my freshman year of college. I failed so badly that if I hadn’t left school for all of my reasons outlined below I would have been suspended. As it was I ended up on academic probation in my second semester.

Why? A lot of reasons, so I shall start at the beginning.

1. I picked my college poorly.

I had very little guidance in which school to pick. My grandmother went to college much later than normal (she went back in her 40s), my mother attended community college and most others had military training and little to no college. To top it off I am the eldest of my siblings. There was no one in my life saying “look, here are the important parts and why you need to pick this or that”.

My entire goal was to get decent financial aid and get the hell out of Nebraska and away from the tiny farm town where I attended high school. I had lived in Colorado until I was 14 years old and I am not a small town girl. Living in Nebraska depressed me completely. I just wanted to get away. I applied everywhere I could that had the program I was interested in (Biology with an emphasis in Medical Technology).

The one I landed at I never visited but it gave me the best financial aid package I could muster. Would I have done better applying to any of the University of Nebraska locations? Probably. But I just wanted out of Nebraska and never even applied.

2. I was a big fish in a little pond in high school, quite the opposite in college.

I scored a 32 on my ACTs and I had a 3.76 graduating GPA in a school with a max of 4.0. I was 6th overall and the top 3 were Valedictorians. I rarely studied as I didn’t need to. Everything came easily to me. I never really developed bad study habits, thankfully, I just didn’t do much of it. I was in the Gifted and Advanced Learners program all through school and usually took the more advanced classes with others my level. Even then I excelled.

At college everyone was like me. Sadly for me I picked a school that at the time was a very good school, one of the highest ranked local universities in the country.

I didn’t know what to do with myself my first semester. I just assumed I would get through it just as I always had. I kept assuming even when I was much beyond that point and couldn’t find my way back. I had a very rocky end skidding into Winter Break.

I did manage to start both fresh and strong my second semester. I went to every class, I buckled down studying. I did it all. And I had excellent grades until Spring Break. But by then other factors (see below) came into play and I gave up. I stopped going to class and didn’t turn in anything. I failed every class as a result.

3. I didn’t research my professors and/or have a college mentor/advisor.

Thank god for Rate My Professor now! It wasn’t around then and I was not a good fit with a couple of professors. I just didn’t know that until it was too late. I had picked classes based on the time and subject matter. Big mistake on my part. I flat out failed biology (the intro class for my major!) due to an incompetent professor. I never could figure out what she wanted for answers on her quizzes. It certainly wasn’t the lectures nor was it the book.

And I had no idea what to do for myself in college. I had no one to guide me. You can certainly say I had an advisor. I did, but I had no idea I should have spoken up about being 1st generation. I was embarrassed about that so my school never even knew. I never said a word. That means I bumbled my way through. Poorly I might add. My college boyfriend was in the same boat. At least now I am not afraid to speak up and I have my husband if I have to!

4. I was poor. Very poor.

I was so poor I had to do quite a bit of outside work just to pay tuition even with a full financial aid package with lots of grants and scholarships. Never mind any living expenses and books. My first semester an aunt purchased my books for me, a gift I have always been grateful for. But by my second semester I was so broke I just photocopied sections from a friend and checked out the remainder from the library. And I still needed more resources. I never went anywhere or did anything as I had no money. I had no decorations in my dorm room, save what could be printed from a printer. I had no food even though on the dining plan I was expected to provide 1 dinner for myself a week. I ate 1 package of Ramen as I couldn’t afford anything else. Ultimately, this point is why I dropped out and what I tell everyone. I didn’t have enough money to keep going. Not even to fake it.

Much worse than that was some family issues which resulted in my mother not filling out the FAFSA form. The Pell Grant is the only reason I could attend college. Without it? Not a chance. Spring Break was when I realized it was never going to happen.

Which leads me to my last…

5. I was screwed up emotionally.

I was homesick. Very homesick. And it wasn’t for Nebraska. It was for places I knew, people I knew, family, etc. I have anxiety and it peaked at this time due to these, and many other, factors.

I was super lonely too. I made a few friends but only a few. I felt out of place as I had two separate snotty, rich, roommates neither of which liked me. I lived alone my second semester.

I didn’t think I had anything to offer anyone. As a result I stayed in my dorm room most of the time. The second semester was worse. Especially after Spring Break. So I turned tail and headed home where I got a real job.

Why didn’t I go to college before now?

A number of reasons. Mostly it was not knowing what I wanted a degree in, my working hours interfered with being able to go to class (thank you for online classes!) and I had a shit ex-husband. He took advantage of me, screwed up my credit, cleaned out all savings and in general put me on a path that took years to recover from. I was just about square when the economy bottomed out and I couldn’t afford it on my own. Ultimately, I decided about 2 years ago to go back but didn’t do anything about it until this summer. That’s my anxiety talking I guess.

But now I am going to do my best. I have no other reason not to.

Research & Getting Organized

Research Getting Organized

I am a Pinterest addict. The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem, right?

Ever since I cinched a coveted invite sometime in 2010 or 2011 (I want to say it was just before Christmas 2010 – I was pinning wedding things and I wasn’t even engaged yet!), I have spent an extraordinary amount of time doing nothing more than perusing that which someone, somewhere, thinks is cool. Like all things in life you must wade through a great deal of garbage to find anything of value. Gigantic shock there, right? But there are gems. And it seems easier to find them on Pinterest than anywhere else. Google search anyone?!

Lately my guilty pleasure of a time waster is all about finding paper planner organization tips as well as study and college tips. The last time I was in school I used Mead single subject notebooks to take notes. Needless to say with the prevalence of laptops and iPads and the like note taking has evolved. Heck I take notes in meetings at work with my iPad so I’m not delusional about it in the slightest.

And digital textbooks you can rent?! Textbooks on Amazon for cheap? Fantastic! I still can recall the $150 biology book I had to purchase new (no used available) and was only able to resell for $20. This was 1999 I might add, so $215 and $28 in 2014 respectfully. What a joke.

Everything has changed and I am rusty. And it has been interesting reading about it from the eyes of traditional-aged college students. They have such fascinating ideas for things I never considered, not at their age and not now as an old lady of 33. The very reason I love the internet and what it is capable of! They don’t call me the Google Queen at work for nothing (and yes, they really do call me the Google Queen – I Google anything I want to know more about)!

But researching study and note taking tips was a natural side-trip from researching paper planners. I know myself well enough to know that I need one once more. I used one for years and years once upon a time; a smart phone “cured” me of that. But 2 school courses plus bills plus a multitude of other things (like truly sucking at grocery shopping and blowing more money than necessary) has enlightened me to the fact that I fail at using my iPhone as a planner and need to start carrying a paper version. Besides I like the slight “scrapbook”-like quality that results when you pour your entire life into a dead tree planner. It is definitely much easier to keep track of when something happened, where, etc.

So I did a lot of Pinterest research (and YouTube video watching) to figure out what paper planner would work best for me. One benefit of attending school later than the norm, I won’t waste money on things I don’t need or want and I know exactly what works best for me.

My first inclination, of course, was an Erin Condren planner. So much has been written or videoed about this planner that I won’t add any addition commentary. I love the pretty colors, the layouts, the ability to snap things into it without it being a binder (I hate binder planners; Filofax was eliminated immediately). But I truly hated the additional modules I would never use on each page and the day schedule layout. I don’t organize my day on morning, afternoon and night. I’m a list maker and would rather it just come in a way that works for me without a lot of additional add-ons needed. The large size certainly didn’t help.

Incidentally, my list making is what stopped me from picking up an Arc Notebook as well. I love the disks but I didn’t want to spend $50 and print out my own agenda pages (I dislike their daily layouts as well). I wanted it clean but colorful, simple, and easy.

It was then that I stumbled upon Personal Planner. Colorful layouts you design and it comes packaged neatly in a spiral notebook? Sign me up. I was able to design it exactly the way I wanted. Total win.

I found loads of reviews for them, just not very many good ones. It looks like they peppered the lifestyle/mommy/organization bloggers to get the word out about themselves a few months back. Too bad I read and/or saw very few objective, complete, reviews unlike with Erin Condren (who has done the same thing). So be it.

Regardless, my planner will be arriving later this week. Hopefully…I ordered it 2 weeks ago and it takes a bit of time to custom print and receive. I’m planning on doing a full video review then. I have Vlogged so rarely that I might as well do one.

Until then it’s back to Pinterest for a bit more organization porn!