All Quiet

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Not much to report on the college front today. I sent an email over to my TWC counselors asking whether they’d be willing to put things on hold for a theoretical move into district, but didn’t hear back from them. At the latest, it’ll be the 27th when I go in that I will hear something.

Not much happening at home either. Spent the morning getting stuff on my checklist done then the afternoon in Secret World Legends doing what amounted to nothing whatsoever, as I had to stop and put the game on pause to program my radio show before I could finish with the map, and logging out without completing the mission erased any progress I’d made. I’ll tackle it again tomorrow if I have time.

I’m tired and ready for the weekend. Looking forward to going to bed, and might even get there early tonight.

College Roller Coaster

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Today I went to go deliver my sealed transcript to Austin Community College so financial aid could start working on my FAFSA. Everyone I talked with was helpful and easy to deal with. Hopefully this is a good sign about starting my education.

However, I did get a dose of reality when I learned the difference in the tuition for a three credit hour course between an in-district student and an out-of-district student.

In-district students will pay $255 for that three credit hour course. Out-of-district students will pay $1,089 for the same course.

Naturally, I am out-of-district.

So this has thrown a monkey wrench into things right now. Even with the generous assistance of Texas Workforce Commission that will only cover about half of my tuition at that rate, leaving me on the hook for the rest of it. If I were in-district, their assistance would cover it all, and I’d be going to school on what would amount to a full ride.

So now we’re looking at what our options are. The most obvious answer is to move somewhere in-district, but moving is a real pain and certainly not something we’re prepared to do right away. (Especially not in the heat of an Austin summer.) But will TWC let me put my action plan on hold long enough to make that happen? That’s an email for tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.

In other news, therapy was today and things are going so well that my therapist asked me if I would be available to answer questions that another client of hers has about the process I’m going through. I told her I would and she arranged a meeting, where I answered what questions the other client had and what they could expect in going through the process. She’s really happy with how well things are going for me, and she’s excited to see how I handle the stress of school. So am I, for that matter.

Needing Advice

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To briefly catch everyone up: I am on disability for mental illnesses, have been for three years now. I am improving somewhat, and so to help prepare for my eventual return to work I have gone to the Texas Workforce Commission for vocational rehabilitation services. I started this process back in September of last year. TWC has a 90 day window with which they can create an action plan for a client. My action plan is centered around me returning to school to get educated in a new field. I met with my counselor a few times and was in touch with him through phone calls and emails for a handful more, and throughout the process things seemed to be in flux. My initial direction, an associate’s degree in architectural drafting, was dismissed early on because of the lack of job opportunities and the fact that the program I was planning on taking would not educate me enough to hold positions in the field. After that, I started looking at a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. I have radio experience and thought this would be an interesting way to go. However, when I presented this it was dismissed by TWC as being too broad in scope. This happened on day 83 of my 90 day plan, so at that final meeting I was more or less given the option of medical billing and coding or nothing, and so I signed my name to an action plan revolving around getting a certificate in that field.

Subsequent research on my part revealed that there was an associate’s degree in health information technology available at Austin Community College – where I was planning to go for medical billing and coding – and that it could transfer over to a bachelor’s degree program at Texas State University. So I called my counselor to set something up, and was informed that my counselor was no longer employed by TWC, and that I had an interim counselor handling my case until someone could be permanently assigned to it. I called the new counselor and presented my situation to her, that I was in the action plan because it was the only option I was given at the end of the window, and that many things that I learned from my former counselor were eventually corrected very late in the process, so I wasn’t really given much of an opportunity to think anything over. In light of that, she said that she would be willing to take another look at my action plan.

When I went in to meet her, I showed her the award plans for both the certificate program in medical billing and coding and the associate’s degree in health information technology. I explained that I wanted to do a job that required the higher education. She went to consult with another counselor there and eventually asked me to join the two of them in the other counselor’s office. They told me that they would be willing to look at changing my plan, and because of the way that my former counselor wrote it up, it would be an easy administrative switch and nothing more, but they explained that it would be an uphill battle finding work in the field. They presented another option to me: sonography. I told them I wasn’t prepared to make a decision that day, partially because I wasn’t about to be railroaded into yet another field that I had had no time to research on my own and partially because I was going to head home from that meeting, grab my luggage, and hop on a flight to Phoenix for my father-in-law’s funeral, and they gave me two weeks to think things over.

During that most recent meeting, I was told that regardless of whether it’s a certificate program or an associate’s degree, TWC would only pay out $173 per semester. I filed that away for a time when I could discuss it in depth with my counselor, and so today I sent her an email stating that if the assistance was truly only $173 per semester, there’s no way I could afford even the certificate program. She wrote back and told me that this was the case, so I asked her what my options were. She told me that she wanted me to wait until I had heard back on my FAFSA application before making a decision to opt out of school, and then she forwarded me another series of emails that she’d had with TWC’s ACC liaison, wherein the liaison said that the assistance was either $3,000 maximum for a certificate program, or $173 per credit hour, plus books. I wrote back telling her that $173 per credit hour was a lot more reasonable and that I’d do my research into sonography and get back to her at our follow up meeting later this month.

So here’s where I’m at with this decision.

Pros for health information technology: the action plan already lists health information technology as the direction that I’m going; the associate’s degree easily transfers to a bachelor’s degree program.

Cons for health information technology: jobs are scarce; there’s almost no opportunity to sit down; while employers can’t discriminate by law, the vast majority of people in the field are older women with 30 years experience.

Pros for sonography: the pay is significantly better than health information technology; the job outlook is phenomenal; I have had a passing curiosity on how sonography works for some time; the field was recommended by a senior counselor based on his knowledge of the job market.

Cons for sonography: while it’s not as bad as health information technology, I would still be on my feet a good deal; changing the action plan to sonography requires a rewrite and separate approval, which may not come despite a senior counselor saying that if there’s any problems in the approval process to send the decision makers his way; shift work may have me working nights and/or weekends.

Given this list of pros and cons, I’m leaning in the direction of sonography, but want to get your take on it. If you have an opinion, please let me know either here, on Facebook, or on Twitter. My follow up meeting is on the 27th, so I’ve got about a week to mull this over.

Let me know if there’s something that I’ve missed. I look forward to hearing from you.

So Sleepy

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Today was a pretty lazy day. I did a few chores around the house, but largely I took it easy. I was supposed to go see my doctor for a non-urgent issue today after dropping my wife off at work after lunch, but I was falling asleep at stop lights heading back towards our place, so I called and postponed that appointment.

A good portion of my day was spent in Secret World Legends. Recently I had an issue on my main character with progressing on the central story line – I couldn’t get past a locked door and the game managers couldn’t figure out a way to fix the bug. They were able to jump start my character past that point in the story line, but it meant that I’d miss out on all the stuff in the zone beyond the door. I figured it was a small price to pay to be able to play again, and besides, I could always see what I was missing on another character. This morning I did a mission that somehow managed to reset the locked door so I could get through it, and that zone became available to me again, so I spent the day on that character exploring the new areas.

We had friends come over for a visit during the early evening – they were dropping off the Cards Against Humanity Bigger Blacker Box that we lent out on Saturday for the party – and we had a good visit, talking about all sorts of things of common interest. It was good to see them again.

As I type this, I’m beyond exhausted. I’ve been tired all day, and I can’t wait to go to bed. I have an early morning tomorrow, but there will be plenty of opportunity to catch up on sleep once I run my morning errand. Looking forward to that.

Gooey

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Man, do I feel good.

Today I had a friend that offered to have my wife and me come over for massages to help test out her new in-home studio. We visited a while before our massages and had a good visit. It’s the first time we’d been to visit her at her new place, so we got the nickel tour. My wife went first while I waited, and then it was my turn.

I’ve been experiencing a fair amount of pain in my left shoulder recently that’s been aggravated by the position I hold my phone while I’m working on it. I told my friend about it and about the broken kneecap, and she said she’d pay special attention to both areas. She went lightly around the knee, but she used trigger point therapy on my shoulder. It was a little uncomfortable, but tolerable, and the rest of the massage was straight relaxation.

The timing was perfect, coming just a few days after the trip to Arizona for my father-in-law’s funeral. I almost fell asleep on the table while she worked. She turned me into a puddle.

We visited for a while longer when we were both done, and then headed out for a bite to eat before coming home.

As we were leaving I took note of the amount of pain my shoulder was in.

There was none.

It wasn’t diminished. She didn’t just help. The pain was completely gone.

Since then I’ve been very careful not to aggravate it again. Some of the pain has since come back in the hours since the massage but it’s nothing like what it was.

I’m trained in massage therapy, though it’s been years. I never learned trigger point but was aware that it could be very therapeutic in certain situations. I didn’t imagine that it would help this much, and I am indebted to my friend for giving me the first pain-free moments I’ve had in weeks.

Plans Thwarted

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This afternoon we went to a barbecue put on by some friends of ours. We saw a few mutual friends that we already knew, a few that we hadn’t met yet, and one that we haven’t seen in years and years. The food was great – pulled pork and coleslaw bagel sliders, pork ribs, sausages, a phenomenal corn dish made with corn, cream cheese, and garlic, and other assorted munchies. The food was fantastic and the company was awesome. The plan was to eat and then throw water balloons at one another and then retire inside for a game or three of Cards Against Humanity. We carried our new, improved Bigger Blacker Box that contains about 90% of the entire CAH line.

Things started coming undone when the bottom fell out and made the water balloons superfluous. All we needed to do to get a proper drenching was just go stand outside for a few seconds, and we’d be soaked to the bone. It was mentioned that of course it rained now that water balloons were purchased for the occasion.

The other thing that affected me and my wife is the bad headache that I started coming down with shortly after we started eating. I tried to tough it out as best as I could, but it just wasn’t having any of my socialization nonsense, despite taking something to combat it. So we said our farewells, left the Bigger Blacker Box for them to enjoy, and headed home.

I hate that we had to leave early. I was enjoying myself and feeling very comfortable being social, which my regular readers know is a recent thing. Just two months ago I would have hidden in the house and done anything I could to keep from being social. My therapy is really producing results, and they are assisted by finally getting me on an effective medication regimen. The capstone on the recovery is the stuff that I’m learning in The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Sixth Edition by Edmund J. Bourne, PhD. While I’m in the process of giving the whole book a once-through read before really starting to get in-depth with the recommended exercises, even this first reading is revealing a lot of new techniques and mindsets that are helping me a great deal.

It was mentioned to me recently by a friend that my normal seems pretty normal these days, and I’d have to agree. I haven’t had a bad day in a couple months, perhaps even longer. I hope this trend continues. I could really get used to a more normal normal.

Back At Home

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My wife and I are back in Austin following an emotionally draining trip to Phoenix to say goodbye to her father, who passed away a week ago. I’ve detailed each day’s events in this blog, so regular readers will know what we’ve been through and how it’s affected us with our particular mental illnesses.

The flight was cramped and very warm. The window shades were down and each air vent was opened all the way before we boarded to try and cool down the cabin as much as possible. For the most part, passengers kept their window shades down and their air vents open throughout the flight, although there were a few people that wanted to see the sun. It was fairly dark in the cabin, so much so that some passengers had to turn on their lights to be able to read. Excepting for my wife and I almost literally sitting on top of one another, and the oppressive heat, the flight was actually pretty nice, with only a little turbulence.

As we landed, I realized just how much I rely on the window being available. I tend to look outside as we descend to be able to gauge when to prepare for touchdown, but today there were so many people around me that kept their shades down I didn’t have a frame of reference for how close to the ground we were, and when the wheels touched down I was a bit shocked by it.

It’s good to be back home surrounded by familiarity and comfort. Both cats are inside and are currently snuggling with my wife as she takes a bit of a snooze. I’ve got my laptop back in its usual place and sitting in my usual seat instead of making do with the hotel desk situation. I’m about to go make a cup of coffee. Life is good.

And it’s relatively back to normal, or as normal as things get for us.

Rest in Peace

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Today was the funeral service for my father-in-law. We expected there to be some family drama but there was hardly any, and the service was very nice. We survived intact.

My wife did tear up during the service, as both she and I expected, but it was brief. I expect that at some point it’ll finally dawn on her and she’s have a good cry over it. I may be wrong. They weren’t very close except during the last year of his life, and even then it was a temporary thing.

We did get an opportunity to visit with some SCA friends of ours that have moved out to Phoenix. It was great seeing them and we miss seeing them more often.

The big social event this evening was a pizza party in the lobby of the hotel for the same family members that went to Texas Roadhouse last night.

As I write this my wife is very busily trying to get us as packed as she can for the trip home tomorrow afternoon. We leave the hotel at 9:30 am to head for the airport, and neither one of us want to leave things until the last minute.

As hectic and chaotic as things got at times this weekend, I’m still glad that we got a chance to see family. While this is all my wife’s people, they’ve taken me in and accepted me as family, and coming from a very small family myself, that’s a good feeling.

Tomorrow night we’ll be in our own apartment, petting our own kitties, and relaxing on our own couch. It’ll be a welcome rest after what’s been an emotionally charged and busy week.

As for my part in it, at no point during the trip did I feel anxiety. There were some situations that felt a little awkward, but that very familiar “fight or flight” instinct that I so very often get in social situations wasn’t there. My wife has been worried about how I might suddenly and catastrophically relapse back into being too anxious to function, but I’ve tried to assure her that it’s not going to happen. If it weren’t for just feeling better and not experiencing any anxiety, I’d put that on the back burner to deal with after we got home. This trip was for her to say goodbye to her father, and my job has been to keep her as together as I can during this time. But as I said, I’m fine. Tired, a little homesick, but fine.

Phoenix is a lovely city. The views are gorgeous and I got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen while I was here. But it’s oppressively hot during the summer, and neither me nor my wife do well in extreme heat, so this wouldn’t be a viable place for us to look to relocate if we ever decided to leave Austin. Austin has its own problems with heat, and we willingly left a climate that has four distinct seasons in order to live there among our friends again, and I don’t see us leaving Austin for the foreseeable future. I wouldn’t mind coming back to see Phoenix during the winter. My wife’s brother and his family live here, and it will always be a good thing to see our niece and nephew. But I think we’re going to avoid it during the summertime.

It’s been a good trip, but I’ll be glad to be back home.

Calm Before the Storm

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My wife and I are in Phoenix preparing for the funeral of her father. The service is tomorrow morning, and today we’ve been taking it easy, trying to avoid the 107-degree heat outside. We had breakfast with my wife’s mother, and in the afternoon my wife’s brother and his family came over to enjoy the pool and to visit for a while. We got to see our niece and nephew for a little bit before it was time to head down to the pool, and when they split off to the pool, we headed into our room to order lunch and to relax until dinner this evening. We’ve got ten adults and three kids that are gathering for an evening at Texas Roadhouse (at least that’s the plan, they don’t take reservations and a thirteen-top needs some advanced notice) and after that likely back to the hotel room for the evening.

We’ve got a little bit of time before dinner, so we’re thinking it’s going to be a good opportunity to catch a nap. Both of us are tired and we’re still preparing for the service tomorrow, where we suspect there might be some family drama that’s been building for some time. Hopefully not, but we’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

The squishy hotel bed calls me.