And Then There Was Nothing

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Today I did as little as humanly possible. My week has been hectic and stressful (at least relatively speaking) and I felt the need to just take it easy today.

I still paid all the bills, though, so there was a little adulting that happened in a whole lot of goofing off.

I didn’t once look at anything relating to school. After yesterday, I needed the break. I know that when school starts I can’t do this, but I need to try to go into things gradually instead of all at once. I’m glad it looks like I can only do one class this semester. It would be a perfect opportunity to dip my toes in, so to speak, before diving in headfirst.

And in keeping with that whole being a slug theme today, that’s about all that I’m doing to put in this post. More tomorrow.

Boy Howdy There’s More

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This morning I met with one of the advising specialists for Health Sciences at Austin Community College, and learned that while I did a ton of research into the field of cardiovascular sonography, I didn’t do that much into the degree program.

I went into my meeting knowing that I had to take the TSI assessment test, I needed to go to an Area of Study informational meeting, and I needed to register for classes before school starts in the fall. I walked out a little bit tharn (that’s the term used for “frozen in terror,” for those that didn’t read Watership Down).

Before I get into that, let me reassure you that I am even more dedicated to this degree program after my meeting. It went very well and my advising specialist was extremely nice and welcoming. I learned an awful lot and found out how to learn even more when I got home. So I did.

There’s a three-page long document called Sonography Programs Advising Checklist that I was linked to. The first step in this process is to print out the checklist. Okay, done, no problem. Next, I need to complete sonography student lab volunteer sessions for diagnostic medical sonography, diagnostic cardiovascular sonography, and vascular technology. Each session is an hour long and consists of roleplaying the “patient” for students to practice their ultrasound techniques. For additional points on my Applicant Ranking Worksheet, the criteria that determines who gets admitted, I can sit for up to four sessions per specialty, so a total of 12 hours in the lab. This is understandable, it’s designed to let prospective students know what they’re getting themselves into firsthand, and also shows a little bit of how the students learn. Next, I need to explore the ACC Sonography website, being careful to read everything. I’ve just spent the last several hours doing just that, and printing several documents out for easy future reference. I also need to complete the mandatory online information session and verification post tests, and print out the form that shows that I’ve done that. This, too, has been completed. After that’s done, I need to schedule a Sonography Program Advising Session, and take several completed forms with me, including my immunization form. (Because of the false starts in this process prior to settling on sonography, I’ve already got most of this done and will complete it early next month.) And then comes the requirements to apply.

First off, I have to have applied to the school, something I did months ago. I have my student ID number, student email, the only thing I’m missing in that department is a physical student ID card and a parking permit. My immunizations need to be complete. I need to have completed College Algebra, Anatomy & Physiology I (more on that in a minute), Anatomy & Physiology II, and Applied Physics as prerequisite courses, and I need to have earned a minimum 2.7 GPA on them, although to be competitive for a spot in the program that needs to be 3.5 or higher. I need to have completed a Certified Nurse Aide program (more on that in a minute too). And I need to take the Test of Essential Academic Skills (TEAS), a test used in nursing and allied health programs to determine an applicant’s proficiency in reading, math, science, and English and language usage. Somewhere in there I need to get my basic first aid and CPR certification and prove it’s current as of the date I apply to the program.

Finally, there’s the matter of earning additional points on my Applicant Ranking Worksheet, which I can do by taking the co-requisite courses (the non-sonography courses that are part of the degree program – English Composition I, Interpersonal Communication, Introduction to Psychology, Ethics, and Essentials of Medical Terminology) and working as either a volunteer or paid person in direct patient care for at least 80 hours. If I were an EMT-Basic, LVN, RN, radiology technician, or paramedic I could get even more additional points on my worksheet. Naturally, the higher the score, the better your chances of getting in.

Back to Anatomy & Physiology I for a minute. There have been so many students that have taken and failed this course since it was instituted that they now give an assessment test that you need to score a 70% or higher on in order to place into A&P I. There is a list of test objectives, so you’ll have an idea what to expect on this test. That list is six pages long. I can either study for it on my own, or I can take Biology Fundamentals, a course that exists only to be preparation for this exam. Because it’s not part of this or any other degree program, it’s almost certainly going to have to come out of my pocket and not be covered by my agreement with Texas Workforce Commission.

The Certified Nurse Aide is a certificate program that lasts 5-10 weeks and covers two classes. Neither of these are credit toward my degree plan, and because of that this is likely also going to have to be paid for by me. But at least I’ll have a fallback career plan if things don’t go well with sonography.

There are other requirements as well, like a long list of psychomotor skills and abilities that an applicant needs to be able to do for prolonged periods of time. I might not be able to do them all now, but I can work on it while I’m in school. Besides, I have a feeling that once I’m in school, I’m going to start dropping weight.

The program has four clinical sessions throughout, and the locations are assigned by the school and cannot under any circumstance be requested by a student – you go where you’re told. The trick is, the service area for these locations can be anywhere from Waco to San Antonio, and for those not familiar with Texas geography, that’s as much as a three hour round trip, five days a week for a semester.

I’m going to need to find some way of getting a second car. There’s no way that we can manage that kind of commuting for both of us with only one vehicle. It’s not going to have to be nice, although that would be lovely. It needs to run reliably and not dump me on the side of the road somewhere. That’s going to be something that’s going to come in time, however, plenty of time to figure out our options.

So that’s what I have to do to get into school. It’s a boring list, and I knew it would be more extensive than “take these prerequisites and you’re in” but I didn’t quite expect this much. Fortunately I’ve gotten some of these things done already or will be taking care of them fairly soon. It’s no matter, though. It’ll get done. Not sure how tonight, but it’ll happen.

And There’s More

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Today I set an appointment with Austin Community College’s Student Accessibility Services office to discuss my disability and what they can do for me, if anything. The perceived stress of school might be enough to trigger a notable setback in my progress. I’m hoping not, but I’ve noticed that really stressful times tend to be difficult for me even now.

So I have three outstanding appointments with school, one tomorrow to see my academic adviser, one next Tuesday to talk about my disability, and one on the 26th to officially introduce me to the Health Sciences program.

Three months ago, I would have probably lost it over so many changes to my status quo happening all at once. It still boggles the imagination to realize how far I’ve come in such a short period of time.

But this also reminds me of how bad things were for me at one point. When I moved back to Texas in 2012 I was not the best, but tolerable enough to be somewhat active in the SCA and somewhat social. Then things took a turn for the worse and sometime in 2014 I had a very steep decline in my condition. I almost refused to go out and do anything, I stopped driving unless I had to, I couldn’t go to the store, even with my wife with me. Things were bad and they stayed that way for several months, with only rare instances where I would step outside my comfort zone for anything.

I started to really turn the corner earlier this year, occasionally testing the waters to do things like go out to eat and go to the store with my wife for short trips. I didn’t have the annual dip in my activity level during the winter that I’d recorded the previous two years. I wasn’t really looking forward to change, but knew it was going to have to come soon, and I’d better be ready, so I pushed myself to try things again. And then I changed my anxiety medication. Once that happened, and once it had had a chance to build up in my system, I started making rapid progress.

I often attribute the change to the medication, but in reality I’d been working on this change for well over two years. The meds just changed my brain chemistry enough for it to suddenly be easier to do the things I was already doing, and without the biological obstacle in the way the behavioral progress sped up.

I still have bad days, but they’re few and far between now. They’re not really bad days anymore, more like bad moments in the day, suddenly there and gone just as quickly. It feels more like what I imagine “normal” is like.

And I’m kind of liking the difference.

Picking Up Speed

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So there have been several updates to my school saga this morning.

First and foremost, I discovered that the Individual Plan for Employment amendment that Texas Workforce Commission and I did regarding the switch to cardiovascular sonography was approved – and in fact was approved before I ever got a copy of the plan in my hands! Everything’s a go with TWC!

The second point is going to take some explaining. Texas Workforce Commission requires that a client returning to school through TWC assistance take at least 12 credit hours per semester. I have four prerequisite classes: college algebra, anatomy & physiology I, A&P II (which requires A&P I), and introduction to physics (which requires college algebra). That’s four classes split into two semesters, and neither one of those will have anywhere near 12 credit hours. So it’s been a bit of a concern as to whether TWC would pay for those classes. (There’s a semester in the program that has only 11 credit hours, so this is a situation that will be occurring three times during my education.) I found out today that all I need to do is explain my situation and they can write a justification that will give me an exception to that rule. So even the semesters with a light course load will be covered.

Third, I have an appointment on Saturday, August 26 to attend my Area of Study information session which is basically an orientation to the department. Attendance in that session is required before I will be allowed to register for classes. Problem is, fall classes start on the 28th, and it will be impossible to get books through TWC’s channels in time. So I have another appointment with one of my academic advisers on Thursday to hopefully expedite the process somewhat. Hopefully that will give me enough time to register for the classes I need and get my books and supplies before the semester begins.

So that leaves the meeting with my adviser, my AoS information session, actual registration for classes, and acquisition of student ID, parking permit, and books to do before the end of the month. At one point I would have told you that it would be impossible to get all this done in time. Now, I’m not so sure about that. It seems possible, although it’s going to be a tight squeeze.

This is really happening. I’m excited and nervous all at once.


Now that I have definite confirmation of this being a real live thing, I’m adding a new category that will deal with my going to college – Think For Yourself. As with all my categories, its name comes from the title of a Beatles song. If you’re interested in this aspect of my life, and want to read everything that deals with it, you can search this category.

The Results Are In

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This morning I went to take my TSI college placement exam at Austin Community College. I’ve been worried about this test for some time, especially the math portion.

They say that the average student takes three to four hours to take the reading, writing, essay, and mathematics portions of the test. Knowing that there would be a full section of the math section that I just didn’t know, I expected to be done earlier than the expected time, but my wife and I planned just in case it took me the full time and she packed her lunch today instead of coming home, since I would still have the car for her lunch hour.

They don’t allow you to take anything into the lab with you – not cellphones, not scratch paper, nothing. They let me take a couple of pencils into the lab with me, but that was it. All my valuables were locked in a locker and the key stayed with me. In addition, they hold your license for safe keeping during the test.

I started the exam at 8:57 am. I finished at 10:46. It took me just shy of one hour and 43 minutes, considerably less time than I expected. That made me nervous.

Fortunately, I didn’t have long to wait. In the time it took me to head out to the locker and retrieve my belongings they had my test scores ready for interpretation by the advising office. I grabbed my printout and headed down the hall to advising.

I scored a 388 in the reading placement portion of the exam. The minimum score is 351.

In the writing placement portion, I scored a 389. It’s up to my academic adviser to interpret that score for me, so I’ve left her a voicemail and am waiting to hear back, at this point probably tomorrow. I’m unsure what the minimum score is, but I’m fairly confident that I passed that threshold.

My score for the essay portion of the exam is pending review, yet in the test scores section of my report, it gives my score as 8. It also says that I have a “clear and consistent mastery of on-demand essay writing,” so I’m assuming that an 8 is decent enough to pass. I’ll find out tomorrow with a call to the assessment center.

All of those results were expected. But it’s the mathematics placement score that concerned me.

I haven’t taken a general math exam in over 30 years. Some fifteen years ago I took a semester of pharmacy math, but that course in large part dealt with specific formulas used in the pharmacy field and imperial to metric conversions. I wasn’t expecting a lot out of my score.

The minimum score required by the TSI is 350. I scored 361. However, I didn’t relax until I heard my adviser tell me in so many words that my scores were “pretty high” and that I’d placed out of any remedial courses required for college.

That means a lot to my situation. My education is in large part being paid for by the Texas Workforce Commission, and they have very specific requirements about what they will and won’t pay for. They’ll pay for pre-requisites, but not remedial courses. My results today just saved me over a thousand dollars out of pocket.

I’ve been very tired since getting home from the exam. I think the stress of uncertainty has gone away and I was putting a lot of energy into that stress. Now that it’s gone, I can relax, at least for the day. I’ve still got only a few weeks to pull everything together in order to make fall classes, and there’s still a lot to be done.

But this is one big obstacle down, and I can breathe again.

I Have Fear

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Today I tested myself with the sample questions that Austin Community College gave me for the TSI college placement exam I’m taking tomorrow. There are sections in sentence skills, reading comprehension, arithmetic, elementary algebra, and college-level mathematics. (There’s also an essay question that I didn’t do because there’s no way of scoring it before the exam tomorrow.) Out of 25 sentence skills questions, I missed two. I scored perfectly on reading comprehension and arithmetic, and I missed six of 20 questions in elementary algebra. I attempted to go through the college-level questions, but it was very clear that they were all beyond me. I took a stab at a few questions that I thought I could figure out, and I missed all of them.

This concerns me a bit, as my deal with Texas Workforce Commission says that they only pay for the pre-requisite classes listed for the degree. If I wind up placing below college algebra, then I’m on the hook for that course, and it will be at the greatly increased out-of-district rate, which will be over a thousand dollars for one three-hour course. That could derail my whole degree plan with TWC, and my mind is trying to figure out all the “what if” scenarios that could result.

I once read that someone describes that act of looking for all the “what ifs” as trying to determine all the places a served racquetball could land. It’s just impossible to do without much more information – where the ball was served to, how fast was it served, etc. This situation with my education is the same way – I just don’t have all the data in front of me, and so many things are still speculation at this point that there’s no way of figuring out all the possibilities just yet. With time and a little patience, the path ahead will become much clearer.

I have to remind myself that going in to excel isn’t what I’m trying to do. I need to give an honest assessment of my skill level, especially in mathematics, in order to be placed in the appropriate class.

Fortunately I’ll receive my results immediately upon completing the test, so there won’t be any suspense about where I wind up. Based on my pre-assessment questions, there’s no chance whatsoever that I’ll place out of college algebra, but hopefully I won’t place below college algebra, either. That’s my best-case scenario.

Here’s hoping. I’ll give an update tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed.

Back to Work

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Not me, not really.

My wife and I woke up this morning ready to spend a morning and afternoon goofing around on the internet, playing games, maybe watching a movie or two, when she got a text from her team lead. The Saturday dispatcher had called in, and no one else was answering their phone. Could my wife possibly work from 11:00 to 8:00 today?

We thought it over, and when she found out that she was pretty much the last resort she told them that she’d be in. So we finished our morning stuff and packed up the laptops to head into her office.

Her cubicle is rather big, and has enough room for both of us to put our laptops on her desk in addition to the office computer that’s already there. So we got there, she got settled in and brought up her work computer, and we fired up the laptops to keep us busy during what was a really slow shift.

Generally if a ticket comes in on the weekend, it’s because something somewhere broke. Not anything that you can anticipate, but you can’t not address such situations in a timely manner, so her day was spent monitoring her computer for new work coming in and playing on her laptop. Since I had no such work obligations to hold me back, I went straight for the playing part and left the work to her.

The day went pretty fast, faster than it would if we were at home basically doing the same thing. The change of scenery was nice and a welcome addition to my day. She had a few tickets come in, and some that took longer than others, but we managed to have a good time while there.

Her back and hips are really bothering her, though, and she had to take a pain reliever that left her a little too woozy to safely drive home, so I poured her into the passenger seat and took the wheel for the short commute.

Right now we’re contemplating what, if anything, we want to do with the rest of our evening. Getting back in game sounds like a good idea. So does closing everything down and going to sleep. I haven’t done hardly anything today but I am completely exhausted again.

Tomorrow promises to be more leisure time around the apartment, although there’s likely going to be a trip to the store in our future tomorrow sometime.