#604 – Been a While, Hasn’t It?

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So hey there, how are you doing? Been a while, hasn’t it? I have over two months to catch you up on, and that has been a hectic time. My apologies for disappearing, but there have been reasons.

The last time I wrote to you, I was just getting ready to start the spring semester with 14 credit hours and was preparing to move. There have been a lot of things going on, so I’m going to split this up into categories instead of trying to remember the last two months chronologically.

School: Fourteen credit hours is a lot to take on at once, and with two pre-requisites and two co-requisites on my schedule – and a target of applying to my program a year from now with at least a 3.5 GPA – performing well is very important. I’m taking anatomy and physiology I and applied physics (both pre-requisites) as well as English composition I and something called Effective Learning (both co-requisites), and none of these are really easy courses. I’ve been worried about my performance, especially since I’ve missed at least two class sessions in all four classes thanks to various illnesses, and my reading is falling further and further behind. However, here at roughly the halfway point of the semester I’ve got a high B, in A&P, and As everywhere else. That’s on target for my goal GPA – now if I can just maintain this for about eight more weeks, and hopefully bring that B up to an A, I’ll be very happy indeed.

Home: We’re moved! On moving day we’d not packed up even half the apartment when folks started coming around about 9:00 am, so we knew we were in for a long day. However, we had a lot of friends that came to help us, and by noon we had packed everything up and gotten the vast majority of our stuff down to the truck and assorted vehicles, ready to take it to our new apartment. By 4:00 pm everything we’d brought over in the first wave was either inside the apartment or on our patio. All the furniture was in place and my wonderful mother-in-law had almost completely unpacked our kitchen. That left only a few things to do on the second day we’d set aside for the move, and it seemed like in the blink of an eye our environment had transformed. We had moved from a 34-year-old 2/2 apartment in a less-than-ideal part of town to a ten-year-old gated community in one of the nicest places in town as well as a freshly renovated unit. We moved in about two months ago, and even though we’ve still got some stuff in boxes it still feels a little like us moving into a resort. And then the bills came in. We are estimating that our rent and water bills would be comparable between the two apartments – but our rent includes a surcharge for a reserved covered parking spot, something that wasn’t even offered at the old apartment, so, all in all, we’re paying less here than we would have been at the old place. Our water bill is half of what it was, as is our electric bill, and our internet bill is cheaper for service faster than we had by an order of magnitude. Even our car insurance has gone down. The only expense that’s gone up is our monthly fuel bill – my wife’s commute has doubled in length and four days out of five that trip is being taken twice to allow me to have the car for class.

Health: My anxiety has been doing very well given the added stress of a heavy course load, and only in recent weeks has my anxiety been really elevated. (More on that in a minute.) My blood sugar has been slowly rising, and this morning I recorded the highest glucose reading I’ve had since my diabetes has been controlled, so I’ll be going to the doctor soon to talk about that. Good thing too – my blood pressure has been on the rise as well, although part of that is likely due to school stress.

Family: I got a call from Mom one day a few weeks ago with her telling me that she was in Dallas strolling around the thousand acres that she’d just bought, and wanted to know what kind of cars we wanted her to buy for us, and took special care to point out that she had a private plane on call to whisk us from Austin to her property in about an hour and a half. Since that point, my dad has apparently taken over $2000 out of her account and changed her banking password and disappeared with her car. She figured he’s gone for good and is talking with a divorce lawyer about what she needs to do to file. Fortunately, her brother and sister-in-law have been visiting on the weekends and keeping her company. Here’s the problem: Mom is in a skilled nursing facility in North Carolina and has been unable to walk for well over a decade. My father passed away in 1995, and both her brother and sister-in-law are also deceased. There’s no property in Dallas, there’s no money for his and hers cars, there’s certainly no private plane. My thought is that she has a chronic infection that’s been causing hallucinations for weeks, and despite the facility supposedly treating it her symptoms have not abated. If she were living in the past, then I’d be more concerned about dementia setting in, but this is all new stuff that she’s telling us, so it seems to be more hallucinatory than memory loss. The good news is that the ball has finally started rolling to make me a secondary medical power of attorney for her, which means that the facility will now start calling me, her actual son, when they need to advise us of treatments and progress in her conditions, as well as the family friend who’s local to her and who has been taking care of her for years – and who is her primary medical power of attorney due to his proximity to Mom.

Community: This is where the elevated anxiety comes in. It is not internal. I live in Austin, which has until earlier this week been dealing with a domestic terrorist that planted seven bombs in town, six of which detonated with two fatalities and several more serious injuries. The suspect had started to change up his level of sophistication as well as his delivery method, with one bomb exploding in a FedEx facility south of town, which had the whole of Austin on edge. That fear was almost palpable in the 48 hours leading up to police catching up to their primary suspect, only to have him die in a self-triggered explosion early Wednesday morning. The whole thing hit home with me on several fronts. A friend of mine lives just a couple miles from the sites of multiple explosions and was seriously considering keeping her kids home from school until the perpetrator was caught. Another friend of mine was told by police to stay in her apartment while they investigated a suspicious package left at the high school next door to her. One of the explosions was just a few doors down from a fellow physics student and she was being told to stay indoors until the all-clear had been given – she’d gone so far as to write our professor and tell him she’d likely miss class that day.

So that’s pretty much been my last two months. My schedule has been hectic and a lot of things I used to do on a daily basis have fallen by the wayside since the semester started. I mentioned this to my therapist a couple days ago and she brought up the excellent point that the important things, the medical reasons that I started keeping a daily checklist in the first place, are all being done more or less without fail, so I shouldn’t worry so much about keeping up with everything. She’d also like me to write more often, so I’m going to try my best to get back to at least a couple times a week. On that note, I’ll be around again in a few days with a shorter post.

 

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#593 – Finally

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Today I finally got my grades for algebra. I pulled down an 85.76% for the semester, for a solid B. I’m very, very happy with this, given the struggles I had with the second half of the semester.

Today has also been a very lazy day, and I’m going to enjoy it while I can, despite feeling guilty that I didn’t do more around the house.

It’s a far cry from last year this time, when I was doing very little because that’s all I could do at the time. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, but what was once the status quo feels like so much less today. I know I was doing the best that I could, and I’m trying to go easy on myself about it, but the guilt about not doing more today and about not doing more then is still fairly strong.

#585 – Luck, Both Good and Bad

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First, let’s get the bad luck out of the way, because it’s not that much fun to talk about. I had an algebra test last Thursday and I did abysmally on it. Like, might have dropped my average two whole grades bad. I still don’t have a score, but it will not be high. I also did not, on purpose, turn in a homework assignment today. I’ve had this assignment for about a month and like an idiot I waited until the last minute to try and get it done, and doing that drastically affected my test score. Based on that, I opted to cut my losses and start in on the semester’s fourth homework assignment, to be sure I’m doing the work pretty much as we cover the material in class.

That botched test is 21% of my final grade, as are all four tests for the semester, for a total of 84%. We’ll drop the lowest two quiz scores for the semester and average what’s left for 12% of my final grade. That means the four homework assignments will be averaged to give me the remaining 4% of my final grade, so in the broad scheme of things, taking a zero on today’s assignment won’t affect my final score that much.

There’s a backup plan for the poor performance on the test, too. There will be a comprehensive final exam given the last day of class, and that score, should it be higher than my lowest test score, will replace that score in the computation of my final grade. I received a 94 and a 95 on my first two tests, so the chances that my final grade will be better than what I turned in on Thursday is very high. I just need to spend some time in the learning lab between now and then to catch up on the concepts that I’m missing from the third test. Hopefully, that final will be good enough to get me back up to an A for the course.

Okay, on to the good news. We’re moving!

Those of you that regularly follow my blog know that the place that my wife and I live now is an older apartment on a boiler system, with pipes that regularly fail, leaving the complex without water for hours. The complex was built in 1983, so it’s seen better days.

While the condition of our current apartment is enough to warrant moving at the end of our current lease, the real impetus is to get me in-district for Austin Community College to drop the price of a three credit hour course from over a thousand dollars to below three hundred.

On Saturday we looked at one apartment and fell in love with it, so much so that we asked for an application on the spot and dropped it and the deposit off yesterday. Late yesterday afternoon we received word that we were approved for the unit, but that a move-in date would be dependent on when the apartment would be ready. Today we got that confirmed, and we’ll be picking up the keys on Friday, January 26.

But here’s the really cool part of this. The new complex was built in 2008, and is currently undergoing renovations. The unit that we’re getting is not currently renovated, but will be so before the move-in, making us the first occupants of the newly renovated unit.

The new place is on the first floor, a very welcome change from the second floor apartment we’re currently in. My wife has chronic back pain and the stairs have been aggravating that for years. There are at least a couple of handicapped spots right by the walkway our front door is in, in case she needs it after a rough day.

The complex is extremely nice. It’s a gated community, and there’s a 24-hour fitness center, a gorgeous pool, a rec center with TVs and a pool table and even a Starbucks-branded coffee bar, a cyber cafe, a dog park, and a gift wrap station. It’s nestled in a quiet community that’s close to everything – the closest H-E-B (that’s the local grocery store chain here in central Texas, and it’s hands down the best store we’ve ever had) is within walking distance and doesn’t require even getting on a main road, and there’s a medical center right beside that. If I could get in there after I get my degree, it would be amazing to be that close to work. The apartment is less than five minutes away from the ACC campus my degree program is taught at.

We knew we were going to have to downsize when we started looking, so the move from a two bedroom, two bath unit to a one bedroom, one bath was expected. That’s pretty much the downside to the place. There are hardwood floors everywhere but the bedroom, a washer and dryer included in a laundry room large enough to hold both the washer and dryer and our small chest freezer, a garden tub, a security system, ceiling fans in the living room and dining room, a sizable patio with additional storage off of that, a good size coat closet, a nicely sized walk-in closet off the bedroom, and built-in shelves between the bedroom and bathroom, plus valet garbage service. And then there’s the kitchen.

The renovated kitchen will have all-new granite counter-tops, an all-new tile back-splash, all-new stainless steel appliances (including a full-size refrigerator, a built-in microwave, a glass-top stove for easy cleaning, and a fantastic dishwasher) a pretty big pantry, and a new sink with garbage disposal and fixtures including a retractable hose. It is the largest kitchen I have ever seen outside of a single-family home.

We’re also taking advantage of a move-in special that cuts our application costs somewhat and shaves our first three full months of rent in half. So really, the only two downsides that I can think of are that we’re moving to a 1/1, and that the kitchen sink isn’t double-sided. That’s it. Everything else in the place is a plus.

We got so lucky with this place.

We’re already trying to determine what’s going where, and what we need to get for the new place, and starting to think about what needs to go to our off-site storage facility.

There is one more downside that I can think of, but it would be a downside regardless of where we moved to – this move is taking place the second weekend of the spring semester. My ability to help with the move is entirely dependent on what my course load is going to be like at that time. That can’t be helped, though, so we’re going to have to be extra nice to the folks that come help us with the move.

We’re both so excited about this move, and I’ll keep you posted on how things are going.

#581 – From One Extreme to the Other

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On Monday I wrote about being late for class because of construction along my usual route, and about how I was planning on leaving a little earlier than usual tonight to make up for it. Well, it’s been a cold, rainy day here in Austin and so I bumped up my departure time a few more minutes because of the weather.

Class starts at 6:00. I pulled into my parking space at straight up 5:00.

Somewhere in there is a sweet spot for me to arrive early enough to catch my breath from the walk before class, without waiting for the better part of an hour to do so. I aim to find it soon.

Classes went well today. I learned quite a bit in both classes, and the rest of my day was pretty good also.

#579 – May You Live In Interesting Times

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And boy, was today interesting.

Algebra class went off without a hitch, although it was a close thing – I used the last sheet of notebook paper I had taking my final notes, so once class was over I had to go buy another pack. While I was at Office Depot I perused laptops for school and got some fairly good information on a few. And then I headed home.

The afternoon passed fairly quickly and I went to go pick my wife up from work. We came home, ate a dinner that we’d cooked yesterday, and then I headed off to biology, giving myself my usual hour to get there and get settled before class. I always arrive 15-20 minutes early to avoid being rushed.

And that’s when things started going off the rails.

I take back roads to get to campus, rather than chance getting caught in interstate traffic and being late. If there’s traffic – and there always is – it’s usually pretty consistent. Not today. Today started a construction project on my usual route, and for over a mile five lanes were reduced to two, one in each direction. The backup was horrendous, but despite this I managed to get to campus and park pretty much as class was starting, so if I missed anything it wouldn’t be much.

Come to find out, when I walked into the classroom my instructor was sharing the last touches of a recipe for some Italian dish he’d made over the weekend, and I didn’t miss a thing.

So class went as class usually does, and as I was pulling out of the parking lot I noticed a familiar and unwelcome sensation – my blood sugar was crashing, and I didn’t have a thing with me to counter it. I called my wife to tell her I was stopping to get something in my system, and she stayed on the phone with me as I picked up something to immediately counter the crash and something else to smooth things out in the longer-term. I stayed in the parking lot and ate and waited until I felt the crash subside then drove home, talking with my wife the whole way.

Once home, we queued up our newest movie purchase – Wonder Woman – and enjoyed an impromptu movie night to close out the day.

All in all, not a bad day, just full of little things to make life interesting. Sometimes those are the best days.

#575 – Registration and Revelation

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Today’s big story is that I completed my registration for spring classes, and I have a monster of a semester ahead of me. I’m taking anatomy & physiology I, applied physics, composition I, and effective learning, a skills class that Austin Community College requires all students to take prior to the end of the first semester of their degree program. That’s 14 credit hours, but that’s not the brutal part.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’ve got composition in the mornings and effective learning in the afternoons, finishing up my school day at 4:20. The trick is that I’ll need to leave and go straight to my wife’s office to pick her up – she gets off at 4:00 and will have been waiting for close to an hour by the time I can get there.

Mondays and Wednesdays are going to be the test of my ability as a student. Anatomy & physiology starts at 12:00, and applied physics starts at 3:00. Both classes have lecture and labs, so from noon to 5:50 I’ll have only three ten minute breaks.

The real trick is trying to figure out how to manage my time to handle that kind of a workload. The recommendation is that I spend about 40 hours a week outside of the classroom studying, and that means that a lot of things will have to be put on hold for the four months I’ll be working that schedule. I think this is going to be the most difficult semester I’m going to have throughout my degree program, and certainly will be the heaviest courseload.

I went to meet with Student Accessibility Services to arrange registration for my final class today and was told that in the 15 years that she’s sent students to take the A&P entrance exam that I took and passed on Tuesday, I’m only the second one that she’s aware of that passed that exam on their first try. I’m rather surprised at that – I thought the entrance exam was a little easier than my biology midterm, and certainly more straightforward.

Tomorrow I have no obligations, other than to work on homework, and I cannot wait to kinda stick to home. It’s been another busy week.

#573 – Double Celebration

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Today is mine and my wife’s fifteenth wedding anniversary.

We arrived at the date pretty easily. I asked her, while we were in the beginning stages of planning what was supposed to be a trip to the justice of the peace, what I could give her as a wedding present. She told me that she’d always wanted to get married on Halloween, ever since she was a little girl. I didn’t even think about it. “Done,” I said immediately. And that’s how we arrived at our wedding date.

We’re each other’s rebound relationships, hers from an unhappy first marriage and mine from the worst girlfriend I’d ever had. Neither one of us thought we were going to last, and I don’t think either of us intended for it to at first. We were both sort of licking our wounds and we were helping one another heal.

We’ve never stopped healing one another.

She is very literally the best thing that ever happened to me. She is my inspiration for wanting to fight so hard to be better and to improve myself, something I’ve spent a long time striving for and only now am I able to make some concrete moves to better our situation. She is my cheerleader, my confidant, my partner in crime. She understands me better than I understand myself most of the time and no one has ever known me better, not even my parents.

I’m very lucky to have her.

Happy anniversary, babydoll. More than there are stars.


So yesterday I told you that I was planning on spending the day studying for an anatomy & physiology entrance exam that I intended to take on Wednesday following algebra. I studied for a while and then had a dentist’s appointment, and on the way home got a wild hair to go take the exam today while I had time. So I did.

There were fifty questions on the exam, covering a wide range of topics. Passing is 70 percent.

I missed ten questions. Good for an 80. Passing.

What this means is that in a few days, hopefully as early as tomorrow, the automatic hold my college places on registration for anatomy & physiology I will be manually lifted, and I can add it to my courseload for spring.

Thanks to the anniversary and the passing score, what was initially plans for a quiet, simple dinner at home morphed into a very special night out at the local Brazilian steakhouse. We had a magnificent meal and a lovely dessert and came back home to watch our traditional Halloween movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, just her Jack and my Sally on the couch together.

It’s been a glorious day worthy of celebration.