Maybe Not


The plan today was to sit down and conquer at least part of my algebra homework (there are at least 50 questions, easily) in the attempt to get ahead of things over there. Instead, I started my work day by going through the ten review questions that were expected knowledge on day one of the class. I’d scanned then previously and knew that I didn’t know how to do some of them on there, and I wrote about that yesterday. When I took a few minutes to really read everything, I found that the first two questions were fairly simple. And everything after that was beyond me.

I started to seriously rethink my resolve from yesterday about doing well in this class. I started considering whether it would be wiser to withdraw and take another class to prepare me for college algebra. And while I started reviewing my options, I decided to do a little college-related housekeeping.

I started by grabbing my two syllabuses and plugging known dates for homework, quizzes, test, and exams into my Google Calendar. (The calendar on the school’s webpage will import over to iCalendar, but I’m on Android and not iOS.) While I was at it, I reorganized my algebra syllabus somewhat – because of the day missed on Monday thanks to Harvey all the instructors carefully organized calendars and schedules were incorrect, and so he had gone back and scratched out almost two full pages of the syllabus and added a corrected sheet to the back, out of order. To make things easier for me, I went back and copied the two-sided syllabus and inserted the new calendar and test schedule in their correct place.

Thanks to a late start and some problems with getting my school laptop and my printer to talk to one another, by the time I’d finished this it was about half past eleven, and I decided to take the rest of the morning off to continue to process the situation with the algebra class.

In the end, I made the decision to go to the learning lab on campus to try and get myself up to speed as much as possible. I figured that because of that, my initial plan to work on algebra homework was shot, and so I decided to instead work on the rest of my biology homework that’s now due next Wednesday and salvage something useful out of the day.

It took me until around 5:00, but I managed to read the second chapter in the biology textbook and do the related homework. My first homework assignment is complete!

I’ve taken the rest of the evening off to relax and do whatever comes to mind, although my checklists are still a priority.

Tomorrow morning I’m heading into the learning lab to get started on the algebra work that’s ahead of me.


An Uphill Climb


I went to my first algebra class this morning. Things look pretty straightforward. There will be ten take-home quizzes, about eight homework assignments, and four tests plus an optional final. But there’s a bit of a catch.

As part of the syllabus I received today, there’s a sample test of things you should already know how to do coming into this class. I glanced over it, and could immediately tell that I didn’t know how to do some of the stuff on that test.

The recommendation that was made is that if there’s a lot of that test that you can’t do (and soon, because of deadlines), you might want to take a step back and do an introductory course instead.

I’ve been thinking that over all day today and I think I’ve reached a decision about what I’m going to do.

I’m going to bust my ass to get an A in this class – no matter what extra work I have to do in order to make it happen.

I have spent my life letting things get the better of me and giving up because something didn’t come easily to me. No more.

This is going to be a tough semester, and I’m glad that I’m doing this with only one other course. That gives me the time to dedicate to getting things right.

Online assistance. Learning lab. Tutors. Anything that’s going to help me excel at this class is fair game.

But not tonight. First homework isn’t due until the 11th, although I want to finish it much sooner so I have time to ask questions if I need to. I can start this tomorrow morning when I’m fresh. Today’s been a hectic day and I’m a little fried.

The uphill battle starts tomorrow.

The Homework Begins


… well, kind of.

Last night was my first class for biology fundamentals, a class designed to prepare me for the entrance assessment for anatomy & physiology I, which is a pre-requisite for my actual degree, diagnostic cardiovascular sonography. Even though we spent the whole session reviewing the syllabus and getting tips and tricks on studying and campus life, we were assigned homework, that being to watch the four and a half minute long video on Texas’s new campus carry law.

My instructor said that we would have around eight homework assignments for the semester, and was very clear what that first assignment would be covering. However, he didn’t state that anything was due yet, and there hasn’t been anything posted to our class Blackboard stating that homework would be due soon.

So I started it anyway.

My first assignment is to read chapters one and two in the textbook, define all the words in the chapter’s glossary, and complete the multiple choice questions at the end of the chapter. Today I finished chapter one before calling it a day.

It actually felt really good to have something to take up part of my day. Since I’ve been on disability for a few years, there’s not that much that I’m required to do, and so my days are largely unstructured. That’s one of the reasons that I started my daily checklists back in October 2014. The items on that checklist only cover so much of my day, and that leaves me with the rest of the day to fill doing whatever I can. As much as I enjoy computer gaming, reading, watching movies, and napping, there’s only so much of it you can do before it starts becoming a little tedious.

Homework took me about three and a half hours to complete, at least to the point that I did, and that’s running right along with the estimates that they give for giving a six credit hour schedule enough study time. So I feel rather accomplished for the day.

The other great part is that I have completed all of my non-time dependent checklist items but one – that being leisure. I now have the rest of the evening to do whatever I want to do.

And knowing just how productive I’ve been today is going to make that goofing off time that much sweeter.

Over the First Hurdle


Tonight was my first college class.

I was scheduled to have a morning class today but it was cancelled by the delayed opening due to Harvey, so the evening class was my introduction.

I left the house at 5:00 for a 6:00 class, and even taking the back roads and avoiding the gridlock that is Interstate 35 during rush hour I still took most of that time.

Tonight was basic introductory stuff. We went over the syllabus and got a few pointers on how to study. The instructor seems to be fairly easy going but is very no-nonsense.

In other words, precisely the kind of person that triggers my anxiety.

I sat in the back of class tonight and raised my hand when appropriate, took basic notes, found out that the book that the course catalog gave for this course was not the one that was being used (and so it will need to go back to the bookstore for a refund to Texas Workforce Commission, who paid for it – we will instead be using a free-online book from Rice University that I’ve already downloaded), and basically tried to look like I was paying attention to stuff that was already covered on the syllabus that I’d read front to back before coming to class.

After class, I went to the front and presented my instructor with my accommodation letter and note sharing authorization. He asked me what this was, I told him, and he responded with “Okay, I don’t need to keep this. So summarize what you need from me.”

And I almost froze like a deer in headlights.

I could feel the panic welling up inside me as I tried to give him the information that he requested. My mouth went dry, my mind started to race, I started stumbling over my words.

And then I stopped for a brief second, closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and continued.

This time I was clearer, more calm, able to focus on what it was I wanted to tell him instead of rushing words out to fill empty air. I got my message across to him, and he responded with what he could do. Quizzes would be a logistical problem, so I told him that I would do my best to take them in class, but that I might need to go to the testing center for my midterm and final exams. I also told him that while these accommodations were established for me, I’m going to do my best not to need them. He wished me luck but said that if there’s anything that I need from him to let him know.

I stopped at the restroom on the way out and by the time I’d finished up he was waiting for the elevator, so we went down together. While on the ride down, I asked him about his policy about bringing bottled water to class, and told him that I’m on a few medications that cause dry mouth. This is an accommodation that was specifically requested for my algebra class but somehow didn’t make it over to the accommodation letter for biology. He said that the campus “doesn’t want seven course meals beside computers,” but that a bottle of water was fine. He went on to state that I shouldn’t bring curry into class, because “it would distract [him] and [his] Cajun sensibilities.” I had a laugh and we went our separate ways in the parking lot.

The second interaction with the man was just fine. No panic, no fear. I’d managed to successfully fight it down.

So that was tonight’s introduction to college life. I’ll get a taste for what a typical class day will look like on Wednesday with both classes in session, and then I get to take a day off for Labor Day next week before really getting into the groove of the semester.

I’m not proud of the momentary panic attack tonight, but I am proud of how I handled it.

Intersection of Concerns


I’ve been worried about the weather here in Texas. For those that don’t know, I’m in north Austin, and we’ve been getting rain very steadily for the past two days because of Hurricane Harvey. I haven’t seen any evidence of neighborhood flooding, but I’ve also been indoors all weekend and won’t go out on the porch when the rain is coming down hard, so it’s entirely possible I missed it. There’s a storm drain just a few feet from my front step, and while it’s raining heavily there’s often a river leading down the curb to it. It drains quickly, though, so unless it’s something truly catastrophic that river of rain is a short-lived one.

I’m more worried for my friends in other parts of the state. I know a few people down in Corpus Christi, near where Harvey made landfall, and I believe that they all were under mandatory evacuations. There are friends that reported large branches down in San Antonio, where they’ve largely been able to avoid the worst of it.

My deepest concern is for my many friends in the Houston area. The situation there is so bad that the National Weather Service has declared a Flash Flood Emergency for Life-Threatening Catastrophic Flooding, a level of emergency that the NWS has never declared before. Some spots in Houston are expected to receive as much as 50 inches of rain before all is said and done. I’ve seen photos of an intersection where the water was up to the stop light, some seventeen feet deep. I know there are fatalities in Harris County. I have friends that have been forced to leave their homes. I have others that left everything behind because the water was rising too fast for them to stop and grab even the essentials, and they’ve more or less lost everything to the floodwaters.

My friends in Houston have been checking in through Facebook, some marking themselves safe, others not daring to until the storm has left the area for good. The worst-case scenarios that the meteorologists were predicting are now the actual forecasts – Harvey is expected to head back out into the Gulf of Mexico and strengthen before making landfall closer to Houston, making their already dire situation even more so.

There have been questions about why they didn’t evacuate Houston. I think part of that is that no one expected that it would bear the worst of Harvey. Part is that the actual flooding happened so fast that by the time an evacuation could be issued, it would have been too late to safely get people out of the region. Another factor is the logistics of safely getting six million people to higher ground through essentially one interstate highway, that to Dallas, as San Antonio and Austin, the closest large cities to evacuate to, were dealing with their own issues with the storm.

The worst is yet to happen. To prevent failure of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, they will be doing a controlled release of water starting early tomorrow morning. This in and of itself is predicted to cause a rise in the water levels of the Buffalo Bayou of four to six inches per hour, on top of the rain that they’re still receiving. This release will flood homes downstream for several weeks, but this is being done to prevent an even more catastrophic event.

So many of my friends have been posting pictures of their property and how bad the flooding is there, with even the highest elevations beginning to flood. I honestly can’t recall any of my Houston friends reporting that things were just fine for them and that besides a little rain, nothing’s wrong. This is effecting everyone. It’s a terrifying situation to be in, and I wish there were something that I could do for them. My hands are tied here in Austin and if I were in Houston, where I lived for ten years, I’d be in the same boat as they are – pun intended.

My other big concern, as regular readers of this blog know, is that classes start tomorrow and my college education begins. It’s a big step for a 48-year-old, and I’ve been excited and nervous about getting started.

Earlier tonight I received word that because of Harvey the college is going to delay its opening until 10:00 am and all classes scheduled to start before them – including my 9:00 am algebra class – have been cancelled. So my own personal concern has been pushed back somewhat – my evening biology class is still on at this point, and I anticipate that won’t be changing between now and then.

Tomorrow is going to be a big day for me. I’ll report tomorrow night how things went. In the meantime, keep the Houston area in your thoughts. They’re in for a long, long recovery.

Stuff Gets Real


Tonight I had my first bit of panic since starting this process of going back to school. I got an email from my biology instructor detailing where class notes can be found, as well as the syllabus. It’s the first communication that I’ve received that was class-specific and it took me aback for a few minutes while it finally sunk into my thick skull that classes start in less than 48 hours.

Somehow it all felt unreal up to this point – the meetings I’ve attended, the hoops I’ve jumped through to get registered, all of it. I don’t know why it was the letter from my biology instructor that finally drove it home. It’s not a bad thing, mind. It was nervous excitement that I felt more than fear, although there was a good chunk of fear in there.

I really hope I know what I’m getting myself into.