I am done with school. For now anyway. I’ve completed my bachelor’s degree and my diploma will arrive sometime next month.

I finished school on the Friday before Christmas. The next week I was busy with Christmas shopping (I’d hardly started while in school). Hubby and I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at his parents’ house. He spent most of the time curled up on the couch with a nasty cold, while I visited the family and helped his mom make Beef Wellington (yum!).

On Sunday, Hubby was too sick to join me for my Dad’s Christmas party. He really wanted to go, but I made him stay home and rest. I had a great day helping prepare dinner, putting together puzzles with one of my nieces and one of my brothers, decorating the tree, and opening gifts.

After dinner Dad invited me up to his in-laws’ place; he needed to pick up a couple of things and thought I’d enjoy meeting them. We visited for about half an hour and just when I was starting to think that I should really head home soon, Dad received a text. It was his wife wondering why we’d been gone so long. (To make sure I’m not giving the wrong impression: I really like Dad’s wife, but she’s not my step-mom. She is more like Dad’s life partner that is also becoming my friend. Since I don’t use names, I’ll just call her Dad’s Wife.)

When we got back to Dad’s place, the house was dark and the door was locked. Both of which are unusual. Someone unlocked the door from inside, and I stepped in as the lights came on and everyone shouted “Surprise!” and started blowing on noise makers.

The room was decorated in my school’s colors (red and gold/black) with streamers and balloons that said Congratulations, Amanda, and 2010. My younger niece came over and covered my eyes. My sister slid something over my arms while Dad’s Wife messed with my hair. When my niece uncovered my eyes, I saw a black tassel hanging to one side off of what I was sure was a graduation cap (even though I couldn’t see myself) and looked down to find myself wearing a bright red gown.

I looked around the room and saw that all of my immediate family was there; my Dad, my sister and nieces, all of my brothers, even Mom.

I was shocked. I’d been under the impression for a long time that Dad didn’t really care that I was in school and maybe even disapproved. On top of that, Mom and Dad have an extreme dislike for each other. The last time I recall seeing them in the same room was at my wedding reception eight years ago.

I had no idea what to say or do. I am not used to being the center of attention. When I’d had a moment to take it all in, my sister disappeared for a moment and some music started (Pomp and Circumstance, the traditional music that is played at graduation ceremonies).

Dad took my arm and walked with me into the living room, and then someone told me to turn my tassel to the other side. One of my brothers or nieces asked me for a speech.  I had no idea what to say, and was already on the verge of tears.

I said something like “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was born” (a joke for my brothers). I went on to say “and my mommy and daddy raised me right. And I went off to school, but had no idea what I wanted to be so I dropped out. Then I found what I wanted to be and so I went back, and I worked hard, and I finished. And thank you all for being so patient with me.”

I’m pretty sure I really did sound that dumb.

The party was great. Mom made an amazing cake and gave me a beautiful frame to put my diploma in. Dad gave me a beautiful pearl bracelet and necklace. (I was in shock again. My dad doesn’t do big gifts like that.)

Everyone visited and had a great time. Mom and Dad even had some polite and very comfortable conversation.

I regret not having the presence of mind, while I had my whole family in one place, to ask for a family picture. Perhaps in the spring when my niece graduates from high school I’ll get another opportunity.

The reality of being done is just starting to hit me.

Even at the party, it seemed unreal. Then this past week I received an invitation from Capella to attend commencement, and the reality of being done and not being able to actually attend commencement sunk in.

I am grateful to my family in so many ways for the party that they threw me and their support over the past five years. I don’t know how I can ever express it, but I’ll definitely try.

Now to enjoy some of my new found free time.

My last class! Is it over yet?

It is almost time. I started working on my bachelor’s degree in the spring of 2005. Actually, let me rephrase that. I returned to school in the spring of 2005. I had about one year worth of general credits that transferred from my time at WWU when I started at Capella.

Now, I’m starting my last class. My dreaded last class. I’ve heard rumors about this class over the past year, and it seems the rumors are true.

Holy crap ton of work! I’m not kidding. My textbook alone weighs at least ten pounds.

The course is called “Business Capstone Project”. It should be called “Business Capstone Projects”. Plural.  There are three main components to the class: Discussions (40% of my grade), an individual course project (40% of my grade), and a group project (20% of my grade). Both projects have a strategic focus.

It looks like the group project alone will be as much work as any other class I’ve taken since I returned to school. It looks like it will be fun though. Well, as long as I’m not stuck with a group like my last group project; I did most of the work on the group presentation, we had to give a presentation via a conference call, I had bronchitis, and no one else got the material well enough to present.

My group looks like they will be good though, and the project will be interesting. It is a business simulation that takes place over 8 years, with each week of the course being a new year. This week doesn’t count because it is a practice week.  The entire simulation is strategic business decisions, but it will play out like a game with each team’s strategy impacting the other teams. No cute little avatars dancing across the screen though, that part is a little disappointing.

The discussions are the typical discussions that my classes have had. Read the text, read an article or a case study, analyze them, then discuss with the other students.

I’m a bit apprehensive about the solo-project. It is a critical analysis of the strategy presented by a case study. It is supposed to be no more than 6 pages (including references) and it counts for 40% of my grade. I am not good at being concise, so I expect it to be a major challenge.

Well, this really isn’t what I had in mind when I started writing. Apparently I needed to vent a bit.

Bed time! I’m going to try to get up early enough tomorrow morning to meet up with my east coast team mates for a team meeting before I have a bit of social time tomorrow afternoon.

The [school] life of an online student / professional

I’ve mentioned before that I have a full-time job but am also in school finishing my bachelor’s degree through Capella University. For my friends who are thinking about returning to school, and for anyone else out there who may be considering online education, I will semi-regularly write a bit about what it is like taking classes online.

Deciding to Return to School

I regretted dropping out of college until I ended up in a job I loved and realized that I never would have found it if I’d stayed in school. Once I had some sort of idea what path I wanted to be on, I decided it was time to go back to school.