Advice, Parents, Single Parent

Single parent of three kids? Haven’t set foot in a classroom in 20 years? Cristyn shares her tips for making the leap

Smiling white woman with red hair, in business attire
Cristyn Alspaugh, NU Scholar, Scholar of Stamina Bachelor of Business Administration

As the single parent of three preteen kidsand as someone who had not set foot in a classroom in over 20 yearsI have to admit I was a little afraid to go back to school. In fact, one could say I was petrified! I had the desire to go back to school, and I knew that I needed a college education if I was going to make a better life for me and my family But college seemed so daunting, so impossible. How would I be able to add school to an already full schedule? I have a fulltime job and my evenings were spent handling my responsibilities as a parent. My weekends were spent trying to find interesting and fun activities for my kids so that we could spend quality time together. Oh, and don’t forget cleaning the house, shopping, cooking, doctor and dentist appointments, school events, sleepovers, sports, and finding time to drink enough water! How would I ever find time for school? 

There were a thousand reasons for me not to go back to school. Time, money, my age, my insecurities about fitting in or even remembering how to be a student. I wanted to turn away. I would hear myself saying things like, “You can’t do this, it’s too hard, it’s too scary.” However, even as I heard myself piling on these negative thoughts, I could also heard my grandma’s voice in my head. Whenever I had been afraid to try something super scary (like broccoli) she would encourage me, telling me to “Be a brave girl.”  When I crossed my arms, pouted, and said “No, I can’t,” she would smile and explain that “Being brave isn’t about not being afraid. Everyone is afraid. True bravery is about being afraid but doing it anyway.” It’s funny how seemingly small lessons can have such a huge impact on our lives.  

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 2
Cristyn & three of her biggest supporters

The encouragement and wisdom of people in my life like my Grandma helped me take the leap to return to class, and I have now been a National University Student for over a year. I was amazed by how quickly I remembered how to be a student, dusting off the cobwebs on my study skills and hitting the ground running. I don’t want you to think it has been easy: Coffee and I have become best friends, and I have had to make some sacrifices; my house is a little dirtier, my shopping lists are a little longer, and the circles under my eyes are a littler darker. However, I can gladly accept these inconveniences when I compare them to how much I want a diploma. 

Happily, and to my surprise, one sacrifice I did not have to make was spending time with my kids. While I have needed to be more strategic with my scheduling, I find that I don’t miss out on my quality time with them. In fact, since I started at National University, my kids and I have a new thing in common: We are all students! I ask them about school and what they are learning about, and they ask me the same thingWe talk about assignments we find interesting, or classes that are difficult for us. They have listened as I have read my research papers out loud, appeared in some video submissions, made unintentional appearances in collaboratives, and even gave a thumbs up to this blog post. Best of all, they are learning every day how important higher education is, and how hard work is worth it in the end.  

If you are thinking about going back to school, no matter how far away you are from a degree, you can do this! I am convinced that single parents can do anything. If we can get little disgruntled people up, ready for school, fed, and dressed in a lastminute Halloween costume made from household items before 8am, we can do anything!  Remember, being brave isn’t about not being afraid, it’s about being afraid and doing it anyway. 

Cristyn Alspaugh Blog Post picture 1
Single-parent magic: Would you have guessed that this Halloween costume was assembled with five minutes notice?
adult learner, Advice, nursing, Parents, self care

2020 Goals: Self-Care in the New Year

By Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar (October 2019 Cohort)
Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Smiling young white woman with brown hair in professional attire
Stacey Beaver, NU Scholar

My life as an adult learner is filled with a seemingly endless to-do list.  Day-to-day responsibilities extend well beyond reading assignments, projects, tests and clinical hours for my nursing program. Even with the help of my supportive and understanding husband Scott, between childcare drop-offs, home maintenance, laundry, and other housework, I don’t have a minute to spare.

With all of this busyness, it’s no surprise that I have not made enough time for self-care.  Self-care is emphasized over and over in my nursing program as a vital tool for managing stress, achieving a sense of calm, and re-energizing one’s self.  Between having a daughter and starting my nursing program, I had let many of my previous self-care habits fall to the wayside.  My daughter is almost two years old, so it’s been a while: Almost two years of driving by the gym I pay too much for, eating an embarrassing amount of fast food, and taking no time to indulge in the things I love most like warm baths or the sauna.  So, I am making a commitment now to treating myself better. I encourage you to join me in my first self-care change: ditching my fast food habit.

Here is how I plan to do it:

Eat Real Food:

I will try to incorporate as many unprocessed and unrefined foods into my diet as possible.  Examples include fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains.

variety of vegetables on display
Step 1: More fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole grains

Meal Prep:

Too often, I have used the excuse that I don’t have time to pack a lunch before I head to clinical or lecture.  Meal prepping will allow me to spend less time every day worrying about what to eat, and instead dedicate a specific time to planning and preparing meals for an entire week.

flat lay photography of three tray of foods
Step 2: Prep multiple healthy meals at once

Drink Water:

I know it’s time to ditch the super sweet coffee and soda.  It’s so easy to take in unnecessary calories and added sugar in drinks, not to mention the cost!  I have a tough time drinking plain water so I will try to dress it up with lots of ice and a sprig of fresh mint or slices of cucumber.

sliced lemon fruit in glass picher
Step 3: Get fancy to drink more water and less soda and coffee

I hope that building this habit of making my own nutritious meals will nourish my body and mind, not to mention help my pocketbook. I hope this post inspires you to join me in making this change, or to commit to your own self-care goal. While it can be hard to justice the time at first, I promise that taking care of yourself will recharge your batteries and ultimately give you more strength and time as you move through your academic program at NU.

 

 

 

 

adult learner, Advice, self care, Undergraduate

Loving Yourself in the New Year

JD 3

J.D. Melendez

B.A. Pre-Law Studies

NU Scholar – October 2019 Cohort

close up of christmas decorations hanging
Exploring Love as a single person during the Holiday Season

Regarding that four-letter-word… LOVE

Here we are. Another holiday season, and the New Year is fast approaching. I gave up the whole “New Years’ resolution” thing a while back. Instead, I wanted to reflect on what I feel like I got right in 2019, which is LOVE. In November, I turned 38 years old, making it more than four years since I was in a committed relationship. If someone were to tell me five years ago that I’d be single and living alone with my dog Tita today, I probably would have laughed.

To be single at 38 was never my plan. More and more of my friends and family members are having children, getting married, building families, or adjusting to life with their new partners. As for me, I am instead learning the art of falling in love with who I am. I’m proud of my decision to separate from the person I am not, to move away from old behaviors that no longer honor the man I want to be. I have finalized my divorce from toxicity- both toxicity that was self-created, and the type of toxicity that I was welcoming into my life, ignoring the red flags that kept popping up everywhere. I had developed a habit of looking at those red flags, and then just painting them green. Sound familiar?

Being single by choice is not an easy thing, especially in one’s late 30s. Throughout my singleness, I continue to challenge myself to fight for my own happiness, without using another person as a crutch. By trial and by many, many errors, I have learned how to be self-sufficient, starting with something as simple as walking to the pharmacy on my own to buy flu medicine when I needed it. I forced myself to go to a movie theater by myself, to enjoy a solo steak and lobster dinner. I’ve traveled all over the world by myself (or sometimes with my dog). Through all of this, by learning how to love myself I became better equipped to love my friends for who they were, and I found myself spending time with and getting to know family members that I had rarely engaged with. I pushed myself to find a meaningful cause in my immediate area and volunteered my time and my resources to others, with no expectations or reservations. More than anything else, I started to live an authentic life; in turn, I found that others were more and more showing me who they genuinely were, with no pretense or masquerade. Traveling the world enabled me to connect with others and experience the joy of the universal language of humanity: A smile, a polite “thank you,” a nod of acknowledgment to complete strangers in the London subway, hugs from both Palestinians and Jews while in Israel, and a humble interchange of life experiences with students in China. Each time I get to experience another slice of life in a different part of the world, I come back home completely in love with humanity as a whole.

If you’re dreading the fact that you are not in an intimate relationship with someone this holiday season, please know that there are many others like us who choose to give ourselves the most valuable thing in life: Our time. You can’t get time back, you can’t promise anyone your tomorrow because there is truly no day but today. So, today, please take the time to vote for YOU, to be YOUR best advocate, and love and accept yourself unconditionally. You cannot read a book or take a course on love because it’s a spiritual journey that’s uniquely yours. You’re the author, and you have complete control of the narrative.

Perhaps you and I will meet as we travel this journey together. Work towards love, it is there for the taking. I promise you that LOVE NEVER FAILS and that it will ALWAYS be the answer!

blur-bokeh-bright-burnt-450301
Excited to continue this path in 2020!
Advice

#Goals & Being a Student-Parent

A woman with long dark hair in professional attire against a soft-focus natural background
NU Scholar Karrie Yi shares her tips as a full-time parent, student, military veteran, and military spouse.

Karrie Yi

NU Scholars April 2019 Cohort

Bachelor of Arts in Early Childhood Education – San Diego. U.S. Navy Veteran

Every day as a mother of twin boys, a veteran, a wife to an Active Duty military service member, and a fulltime student, hard work seems to follow me like a shadow. Sometimes this shadow is friendly, and other it gets overwhelming. Hard work became a part of who I am years ago, and I have learned to embrace every challenge and view it as a self-improvement milestone. In doing so, I have learned to change my perception of this hard work from a daunting “shadow” to a softer “silhouette.” First, I start my mornings early and give myself the necessary time to fully wake up and enjoy my coffee.  This time to myself gives me the energy and focus to change my perspective on any shadows into silhouettes of opportunity. As I drink my coffee I ask myself some easy questions like “What can I do today? and “What tasks have a deadline today or coming up?” Then I ask myself my favorite question, “Was that coffee good enough to start the day?”  

Besides a decent cup of coffee in the early morning, my motivation to continue comes from my amazing family, which consists of my twin boys and my Active Duty husband (whom I met while I was also active duty). My husband and I see eye to eye on the importance of constant self-improvement and taking ownership of our lives and goals, supporting each other’s educational and career pursuits while also acting as active role models for our boys. As a family unit, we understand the level of commitment and time needed to achieve each and every family member’s individual goals and dreams. In teaching my boys at a young age, I can actively show them how the silhouettes of hard work aren’t meant to be feared, but are a natural part of life. The simple tasks that teach independence all require hard work, but also instill self-ownership in one’s actions, education, and professional life. These silhouettes push each of us to confront obstacles and to build our personal legacies. 

            I came to National University to complete a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, with a dream of building my own child learning center from the ground up. The NU Scholars Program offers me amazing leadership development opportunities, connecting me with community leaders whom I can learn from and who can help me achieve this dream. This program also connects me with equally dedicated, talented, and likeminded peers who support me in maintaining and pushing my high standards and accomplishments. Finally, this program continually connects me with mentors who help guide me through my educational experience. I am so appreciative of National University and of the NU Scholars Program for giving me the tools that I need to start my journey as a professional and as a leader.  

Military, Navy, nursing, Parents, self care

Meet Pam: Veteran, Nurse, Parent, Student, Scholar!

Pam Schreurs White Coat Ceremony
Pam at her White Coat Ceremony, four months after writing this blog post – Congratulations Pam!

Pamela Schreurs

Bachelor of Science, Nursing

https://portfolium.com/PamelaSchreurs

https://www.instagram.com/pamela_schreurs_nuscholar/

Greetings! My name is Pamela and I am a mother to two wonderful children, as well as a nursing student at National University.  I am also a US Navy veteran, and my husband is currently active duty.  It can be a struggle being a full-time mom and nursing student (especially if a spouse is deployed!), but I have felt very supported since starting my journey at NU.  In my downtime I enjoy spending time with my kids, volunteering with Girl Scouts San Diego, and taking time for myself.  One big take away from nursing school has been that self-care helps make you a more present nurse and parent.  I feel blessed to have had fabulous instructors who incorporate integrative therapy into the classroom, and I am excited to weave meditation, aromatherapy, and guided breathing into not only my nursing practice, but also my home life.

In July of 2018, I was accepted into the NU Scholars Program.  Through NU Scholars, I have been able to support peers’ community service projects, and am planning my own project hosting wellness workshops for elementary-aged girls.  I will also be hosting SafeZones LGBTQ literacy training for NU staff, faculty, and students to help promote a safe and welcoming environment for all who attend NU.

The NU Scholars Program has a strong emphasis on goal-setting, and I have learned a lot about how to set and structure concrete short- and long-term goals. My short-term educational goal for this year is to fully commit myself to the last two weeks of my psychosocial nursing rotation.  This is perhaps the most important rotation in terms of therapeutic communication and empathy, and I want to absorb everything I can before beginning my next rotation.  My long-term goal is to graduate with an excellent GPA in July – nursing school is tough, but I pride myself on putting in the work I need to maintain my GPA.  I cannot wait to have my kids help me put on my white coat in a few months, it is going to be one of the best feelings in the world!  After achieving this first long-term goal, my next long-term goal is to continue my education at a master’s level, focusing on pediatric mental health.

Clubs, Education, Graduate Student, self care

Hard Work: Becoming a Teacher

Bethany Rickman headshot

By Bethany Rickman, NU Scholar (July 2018 Cohort)

Master of Education with Single Subject Credential, English – Fresno

If someone would have told me, 8 months ago, that becoming a teacher while earning my Credential and masters would be the hardest work I’ve ever done in my life, I might not have totally believed them. You see, I’ve always considered myself to be a hard worker, and I’ve been able to accomplish most goals that I’ve put my mind to with relative ease. So, I assumed that this goal would be no different.  

But I was wrong. 

Or, rather, I was mentally unprepared.  

The truth is, I have never worked so hard or had to balance so many responsibilities, objectives, and, quite frankly, emotions, ever before.  

Now, this is not to say that I regret setting out to accomplish the goal of becoming a teaching intern and earn a Credential and master’s degree. It has been the most rewarding 8 months of my life. But it has also been the most stressful.  

Although I was unaware of the extent of the hard work around the corner, I was still able to draw on my past hard-working and goal-achieving experience, and combine that with the incredible support and resources I have received at National University.  

So, if there is anyone out there who is about to embark on a journey similar to mine, allow me to be the person who tells you that you are about to work the hardest you ever have in your life. But this warning is not meant to be foreboding, and it happens to come with some helpful tips: 

  1. Use the University Resources- National has an incredible library, writing center, and more! I have absolutely used the writing center on several occasions to help me finalize a paper or perfect my APA formatting. If you’re struggling to complete, perfect, or even understand your coursework, use these resources!  
  1. Create a calendar- You’re going to have so many assignments, observations, assessments, adjunct duties (or whatever the equivalent is for non-teachers) and they’re all going to happen on the same day! Ok, maybe not literally, but it will definitely feel like it. Having some sort of calendar of events will help you keep track because, trust me, you won’t be able to keep it all straight in your head. I’ve tried. And failed. Not only will a calendar help you remember important dates, but it will also help you prioritize and pace your workload.  
  1. Reach out to like-minded colleagues I have been so fortunate to meet dozens and dozens of incredible and inspirational colleagues in my time at National. Whenever I have a question about an assignment or need someone to peer-review my Cal TPAs, I have several people that I can turn to and trust to support me in reaching my goals.  
  1. Join a Club- Now, I know it sounds crazy to add one more thing to your plate when you’re already working this hard. But joining a club has not only widened my peer circle, but it has made me feel like I am part of the bigger picture here at National. Sometimes, being bogged down in work and coursework can feel isolating. You’re so hyper focused on your own goals that you don’t stop to realize what an amazing institution you’re a part of, and the role you can play in giving back. Since joining a club, I not only have an outlet to help relieve the stress of working hard, but I have also met more incredible colleagues and staff who also play a role in supporting me in my personal goals.  
  1. Make time for self-care- If there’s one last thing I can leave you with, it’s a friendly reminder that you are a human, not a machine. You need to stop and take a breath every once in a while. In fact, schedule it on that calendar that you just created. Whatever helps you decompress and re-energize so you’re ready to tackle your next goal, do it! You NEED it!  

Now get to work!