#586 – Back To It

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Hello, readers, I’ve missed you. No, really, my days have been kinda weird without having my blog to end the day so I can record what’s going through my mind at the time. So I’ve decided to get back into the daily habit of writing, even if it’s a pretty boring, mundane post.

Finals are over, and I’m just awaiting grades. Biology shouldn’t be a problem, but algebra tripped me up in the second half of the semester, and I would be overjoyed if I could squeak out a B for a final grade.

The move is happening slowly but surely. Less than six weeks to go, and there’s still a lot to do.

I’m exhausted writing this, so I’m going to head for bed and talk to you more at length tomorrow, when I have all the time in the world to write.

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#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.

Pretty Average Wednesday

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I went to drop my wife off at work, I went home, I went to algebra, I went home, I went to pick my wife up, I went home, I went to biology, I went home.

Today basically came and went.

(The screaming headache I have says this is all you get tonight. I will take the time tomorrow to write a little more about what’s actually been going on with me. There’s not that much to tell, honestly, but tomorrow is going to be a little different – my first therapy appointment since switching to a once-monthly schedule.)

Don’t Worry, Little Brother, There’s More

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I’m so tired right now I’ve tried three times now to write this blog post so it makes sense, so at this point I think I’m going to do something quick and dirty.

Today was another algebra day. That’s what I get for putting off a month-long homework assignment until the last week. Next assignment I won’t be doing that. I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve got a half-day’s worth of work to do tomorrow in between my algebra class in the morning and my biology class in the evening, plus I also need to be studying for a biology quiz tomorrow night. Then on Tuesday, I have a full day’s worth of homework to do to wrap up the assignment, as well as an algebra test on all this material at the Testing Center sometime before it closes Tuesday evening. Then Wednesday morning I turn in the homework. Going to be another busy week for me.

It makes me wonder if I can handle a full class load. Handling these two have been challenging enough, although I am doing quite well in both classes, so there’s that. I just hope that when I move from two classes this semester to four next semester I won’t get overly stressed about it. That’s one of the things my therapist and I have been working on together, preparing me for this level of stress and human interaction.

It still seems strange to me that at the beginning of 2017 I would barely leave the house for anything other than a mandatory trip to a doctor’s appointment. I would sometimes go out to eat on a slow night at a slow restaurant, or go see a movie I really, really wanted to see, but those occasions were uncommon. I never drove unless I had to, I usually had to be coaxed out of the apartment when I left it, and I was going out of my mind with boredom. But this year has been transformative. I can’t believe how far I’ve come in a relatively short period of time, and I have my excellent, excellent therapist and equally wonderful psychiatrist to thank for this. The therapy that I’ve been receiving for years worked up to a certain point, but things really started to click when I got on a more effective medication regimen earlier this year. The meds helped the therapy stick, and it’s been that way every since.

Whatever happens next semester, I’m sure I can handle it. Might be tough going, but I got this.

(Okay, that wasn’t so quick and dirty. Sorry for rambling, y’all.)

Doesn’t This Thing Ever Leave?

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Remember that cold that I was dealing with a week ago? It got better. For about three days. And today, I am dying. I’m coughing my brains out, my nose is alternately congested and runny, my throat is sore, I’m utterly exhausted, and I can barely keep my eyes open. I think I was ready for bed at around 6:00 tonight.

Today’s been another productive day at the algebra mines. Had some troubles but at the end of the day I’d gotten answers to all my questions, at least all the ones that I can do over the computer. (I still have three graph-related questions, two with drawing the graph and one with reading it – I could try scanning that page in and sending it out but the scans aren’t the best quality and the detail necessary to accurately read this graph gets lost in the process.) This time management system seems to be working rather well for me. It’s only day two, though, so we’ll see how things continue to unfold.

Right now I just want to go crawl into bed and sleep this cold away. Wish it worked that way.

That Went Well

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Yesterday I mentioned that I needed some time management skills with our radio station’s manager, and she gave me some advice that I took to heart.

Her recommendation was to use an Android app that has, among other features, a 20/10 timer. When that’s activated, it will count down 20 minutes for you to do whatever it is you’re trying to accomplish, and then it gives you a 10 minute time by which you take a break. You don’t finish what you’re doing, you stop right then and there and do something else for ten minutes. When the timer goes off at the end of those ten minutes, you’re back to work on whatever your project is. And the cycle repeats.

She also suggested I set aside blocks of my day dedicated to various tasks – part of the day for homework, in my case, part of the day for leisure (it’s important that you not neglect your own self-care), part of the day for doing chores, etc. On the days I’m in class, I set aside those days for going to class and learning, and leave the homework to the days I don’t have class. In my case, since I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, I would reserve a block of my day for homework on Tuesdays and Thursdays, for instance.

In the end, I decided against the timer, partially because I was planning to modify the 20/10 principle and partially because I didn’t want to pay for an app that I was only going to use a small portion of its features. I simply set alarms on my phone to tell me when to work and when to stop.

The modification that I was planning was to do a 40/20 hourly cycle rather than two 20/10 cycles an hour. I felt like taking a 10 minute break twice an hour didn’t really allow me to do much of anything during that time, but 20 minutes was more workable, and besides, 40 minutes isn’t that long to sit for a session of schoolwork.

I set my alarms for Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Sunday, reserving Saturday as a day completely off from school, something that I feel is very important to help me maintain my sanity. The alarms start in the 9:00 am hour, take a break during the noontime hour, and finally end for the day at 3:00 pm. Each hour, the alarm to tell me to work goes off at the ten minute mark of the hour, and the alarm to tell me to take a break sounds at the fifty minute mark of every hour. That gives me a break during the last ten minutes of the hour and the first ten minutes of the following hour. I chose this time for a specific reason. Right now Secret World Legends is holding its Halloween event, which includes a repeatable raid that starts at two minutes past every hour. That gives me twelve minutes to stop schoolwork, go to the restroom, refill my drinks and grab a snack, and log into the game, and eight minutes to complete the raid. That’s plenty time time for this mission, as the fight is tough but fast. At the end of each run-through, I check my loot, park my character by the entrance to the raid, and log out to the character select screen. (In SWL the character select screen will remain active indefinitely, but at the end of a 15 minute timer in game your character is automatically logged out and your game client is shut down. It’s infinitely faster to stay on the character select screen than to start up the game client each hour.)

I recognize that right now my workload is very heavy and time-sensitive, since I have a major homework assignment due on Wednesday, and I’d barely gotten started on it, so I added alarms for the 4:00 pm and 5:00 pm hours, and added Saturday to the list of days they sound. And then I waited until today to try out the system and see how it works.

This morning when the first alarm went off at 9:10 am I spent a few minutes setting up the apartment for study time – brought up a Pandora station of quiet instrumental music, refilled my coffee and water, went to the restroom -before starting to study around 9:20. I kept my head down and didn’t check the time at all during that first session, and the alarm to take a break went off before I knew it.

During my break, I left the office we have set up in the second bedroom and came out to my main laptop set up in the kitchen and caught up on conversations that were transpiring while I was studying before logging in to do the hourly raid mission. Before I knew it, the raid was over, and the alarm to get back to work sounded. I dropped everything at that point and went back into the office for another session of homework.

The process continued through the 10:00 and 11:00 am hours. When the alarm for break time went off at 11:50 am, that was my cue to take the next hour off for lunch. This was designed to coincide with my wife’s lunch hours, so I can spend time with her either face to face if she comes home for lunch, or on the phone if she stays at the office. Today she came home and we had a nice, somewhat leisurely lunch together. It wasn’t long before she headed back to the office for the afternoon, and I busied myself with leisure activities from that point until the alarm to send me back into the office sounded.

The afternoon went much as the morning did. Some hours I got a lot done, some not so much at all. But I was making steady forward progress on the daily goal I’d set for myself when I laid out what had to be done and by when. It turned out that I needed both hours I added, plus a few minutes more, to be able to make my goal, but I did it. I’ve spent the rest of the evening spending time with my wife.

This system seems to be working very well. It’s only one day so far, but I felt very productive while following my alarms through the day and I hope that will be the case tomorrow as well.

Before I set this system up, I was starting to panic over all I had left to do. Now that it’s broken up into manageable 40 minute long chunks, it doesn’t seem so hard after all.

Should I have learned this years ago and implemented it much, much sooner? Most likely. There are a lot of areas in my life where something like this could have come in handy. I’m a little put out knowing that it took me to this point in life to learn this pretty basic life skill, but my life has hardly ever worked on the schedule that I expect it to. I’m just glad that I’m learning it this early in my educational career.