A Potential Change of Plans


Yesterday I wrote about my discussion about school with my therapist, and mentioned that she wanted me to contact my Texas Workforce Commission case manager regarding changing my action plan with them. Here’s why.

Late last year, I began working with TWC on a plan to get me back to work. They could either give me assistance with trying to get work in an area that I was already capable of doing, or they could give me assistance with retraining me for a job in a new field. I have two vocational certificates, one in massage therapy and one in pharmacy technology, and both of those fields require long hours on my feet, something that I can’t do anymore because of my back. So rather than risk returning to generalized clerical work, something that I’ve spent a good portion of my professional life doing, I opted to pursue education in a new field.

I initially looked for an associate’s degree in architectural drafting, but subsequent job searches turned up precious few leads statewide, and none within commuting distance from where I currently live, so I started looking at another field. After discussing my options with my case manager, I decided to go to my final meeting with TWC intent on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in mass communications. That meeting went disastrously, as I discovered from my case manager that everything that I’ve suggested as a potential field of study wasn’t considered feasible by TWC standards, and I was basically given the choice of accepting a certificate in medical billing and coding or walking out the door empty handed with nothing to show for my time spent with TWC. (TWC has a 90-day window to design and approve an action plan. This final meeting was on day 83 of my window.) So I settled for medical billing and coding and went home to research what would apparently be my new career.

It turns out that medical coders make decent money, better than I would have gotten as an architectural drafter, and there were better job opportunities, so I decided to make the best of the situation I found myself in and start looking into everything that I needed to do to enroll for the fall semester.

I had my orientation on Tuesday afternoon, where I learned what the next steps to enroll were, and I had a good meeting. I wrote about it on Facebook, and a friend of mine told me that she was pursuing an associate’s degree in essentially the same field out of state. I was curious, and after a few minutes of research discovered that Austin Community College, the institution that I would be attending for my certificate program, offered an associate’s degree in health information technology, which covers both medical billing and coding and medical records analysis. The potential for becoming gainfully employed would be increased significantly with an associate’s degree, so I filed that information away for pursuit after I had gotten the certificate and had worked enough to afford the degree, if the field interested me. I was further encouraged that the associate’s degree at ACC would transfer to Texas State for a bachelor’s degree in health information technology, so there would be the potential for even further education in the field.

I mentioned this to my therapist yesterday, and also mentioned that in the pursuit of the next steps for the certificate program I had learned that my former case manager, who had stuck me with this field in the first place, was no longer with TWC, and that my case was being handled by someone new. My therapist recommended that I reach out to TWC and ask what the possibility of switching my action plan to the associate’s degree would be. I didn’t really hold out much hope, but I told her that I would try. So this morning I sent my new case manager an email explaining the situation.

My new case manager called me this afternoon to follow up and ask a little more about what I was looking to do, and why. So I told her briefly about the background of my case and how I was pretty much assigned this field by my former case manager, and how the addition of the medical records analysis would increase both my earning potential and my employment prospects. She said that she would need to meet with me to discuss this in further detail, so I have an appointment on July 11th with her to go over my suggestion.

I honestly don’t hold out much hope for a switch, mostly because I know that TWC won’t cover the expense of prerequisite classes, and the associate’s degree program has five prerequisite courses before the start of the six-semester program. But at least I will have talked it over and found out the answer instead of assuming what it would be.

If I don’t get to switch to the degree program, that’s fine. It just means that once I get back to work, I’ll start saving money to be able to go back to school on my own, should the field prove to be interesting to me. If I do get to switch, that’s even better – an associate’s degree in one field is better than none at all to some employers, so even if I choose to leave the field eventually, I’ll have an education under my belt.

I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.

Progress on Several Fronts


I met with my therapist today.

We talked about the last two weeks – about the SCA event over the weekend, about how I managed to avoid much anxiety, how much fun I had, and how glad I was to be getting back into an area of the SCA that I used to enjoy very much. She was very pleased to hear about everything, and when I was quick to give credit to having the Zoloft on board she was just as quick to correct me. She said that most of what I did over the weekend was me, and not the medication. The Zoloft might have taken the edge off, but the complete lack of panic leading up to the event and the relative low amount of anxiety I felt during the event was because of my progress over several months and my own efforts were what kept the panic attack at the event at bay.

We also talked about school, and she mentioned that my classes over the weekend will go a ways toward preparing me for my classes in the fall. She was concerned that I was going to be doing four classes at once, but she was relieved to hear that I would be doing them sequentially. I told her that Austin Community College offers an associates degree in Health Information Technology that would expand on the learning that I would receive through the certificate program, and that the associates degree transfers to the Health Information Technology program at Texas State University for a bachelor’s degree. She asked if I could go back to Texas Workforce Commission and ask if they would greenlight the associates degree instead of the certificate program. It’s six semesters versus two, but it would open more doors for me at the end of my education, and presumably increase my asking salary. I told her that I have a new counselor at TWC and that I’d send something over to her tomorrow.

We also touched on my fear of dying. I mentioned that it had come up in the book that I’m reading on her recommendation, and that the entry wasn’t very helpful. The end result of that conversation was a little surprising. She wants me to do some soul searching to arrive at what I believe happens when we die. I’d never given it much thought beyond “if there is something, living a decent life on Earth is the best way to secure a happy afterlife, and if there isn’t something, living a decent life on Earth is its own reward.” But I suppose that over the next couple weeks I’ll be deep in thought about this so I can report back to her.

It was a good session today.

Back to School


I’m going back to school in the fall for Medical Billing and Coding, and today was my orientation at Austin Community College. It was a good session, but short, and likely would have been shorter had there not been  a couple of obstacles in the way.

When my adviser brought me back, she took my application, reviewed it quickly, then started telling me about the coursework that I would be taking. First semester was recommended to be three classes, then second semester would be four, and third semester was two more classes and the practicum. This differed from what I read online, but I figured there was a change to the program that hadn’t made the website yet. The fall 2017 continuing education catalog was just released today, and this was the first time that my adviser had looked at it.

I told her that I could likely take the full four classes since I’m on disability and not working during the day, and she told me that the fourth class was largely on campus, with some of it taught online. Again, this was different from what I learned online, but I went with it. Then she told me that she couldn’t find the class listed in the catalog, so she checked online to see if it was in the system, and it wasn’t, so she told me she’d have to get back to me with all the registration information I’d need for that fourth class.

It’s at this point in time that she asked me if I was sure I wanted to take the medical assistant program, and I corrected her. She looked back at my application and said that she must have read it wrong, and then she wondered about the medical assistant program being “on the run” and probably not something someone coming back from a disability would want to jump into. She was thinking medical billing and coding given that piece of information, and I told her that was what I wanted. So she scratched through the classes that she highlighted and started over.

She told me that there were two semesters, the first being all the non-coding classes, and the second being all coding classes and the practicum. That meshed with what I’d learned online, so I felt we were back on the same page at this point. She went back through the catalog to highlight the correct classes and noticed that one of my four wasn’t listed. She checked online and sure enough, it wasn’t in the system, so she told me she’d give me a call when it was live and accessible. She asked if I had any questions, and I told her that I’d never done online classes before, and would she give me an idea of what to expect, and she filled me in on how they were run. That was the only question that I could think of, and she said she was available if and when others came to mind.

We shook hands and I left, making a stop past the registration desk to make sure that when I registered later online, I knew what information they needed from the catalog.

The whole thing was over in about thirty minutes. It was a good meeting and I’m looking forward to registering. My next step is to contact my TWC liaison at ACC and start the ball rolling on tuition arrangements, and when she clears me – and I have information on the fourth class – I can get online and register. At that point, it’s simply a question of picking up textbooks and waiting for class to start.

The online classes are arranged differently than the classes on campus. Each class is taught sequentially, so I’m only taking one class at a time. The downside to this is that each class lasts just a few weeks, so there’s very little room for getting behind. I’m going to have to stay on top of my classwork in order to succeed in this program, but I believe I can handle it.

I’m really looking forward to getting this first step to getting back in the workforce underway.

Orientation Is a Go


So I got confirmation this morning that I was cleared to set up my orientation with Austin Community College, although I still have two vaccinations to do between now and the start of the second semester.

I called the adviser, and have an appointment for next Tuesday afternoon to go meet with her and get the lowdown on how to enroll and what books I’ll need. Then I can get that information in the hands of TWC and we can figure out how the books will be acquired.

Today’s been fairly low-key, outside of the flurry of school-related activity. I’ve been working on the summer event in Star Trek Online for a good portion of the day and having fun with that.

On the whole, I’d have to say I’m pleased with the progress I’ve made recently. Hope I can keep up the forward momentum, but it goes without saying that the wrong thing at the wrong time can drastically affect that. I’ve got the tools to minimize anything like that happening, but to be honest, I haven’t felt down in weeks. I’ve not necessarily been up all that time either, but it’s been even keel or better over the past few months. I’m happy with that.

Bending the Rules


Perhaps not bending them as much as redefining them.

I’ve been very careful through the last few months to write each calendar day in my blog, so there’s not a day that I’ve skipped along the way. Well, I skipped the 12th altogether.

Except that I haven’t been to bed yet, and it’s quarter to one in the morning.

So I’m going to redefine that rule that writing counts so long as it’s done between waking up and going to bed. I recall bending this rule before, so I think doing so tonight won’t be a problem.

Having said that, today’s been a somewhat productive day. I’m trying to determine if I’m far enough in the application process at school to schedule an individual orientation. I sent an email over with two questions, and got a short reply answering one of them. I sent a follow up question back and have yet to hear back on that. I’ll follow that up tomorrow with a phone call, I think. The sooner I can get this process underway the sooner I’ll be able to discuss all the tuition expenses with my TWC liaison.

We watched episode seven of American Gods tonight. I think tonight’s my favorite episode so far. Can’t wait for the season finale next week.

Moving Forward and Breaking Down


This is not the meat of today’s blog post, but it’s something that happened today, and I want to get it out of the way before I go on. I called the program coordinator for my certificate program at Austin Community College today and found out that she’ll accept my immunization form before it’s complete. (I’m going into a Health Sciences program of study, if you’ll recall, which means that there’s a ton of vaccinations that I need to document for school. One of those immunizations is for Hepatitis B, which is a three-part vaccination spread over six months. I’ve got the first two done, but the last dose won’t be due until after I’ve started the program already.) That meant scanning the form and sending the scan to their document agency today. Once I get confirmation that the document has been accepted by the school, I can call to set up an orientation appointment where I’ll drop off my application.

It’s been some time since I’ve been able to move forward with school and I’m excited that the ball is rolling again.

Now on to the part that I’m really excited about.

Tonight we broke down and subscribed to Starz through Amazon Prime. We got it for one thing, and one thing only – American Gods.

The adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel is in the middle of its first season on the network, and we’ve been wrestling with whether we wanted to spring for the subscription or not, knowing that the show would be likely the only thing we’d watch. I think our combined desire to see American Gods more or less along with everyone else finally tipped us in favor of forking out. Our budget is extremely tight right now, so the nine bucks a month is something that we needed to make sure was in the cards for us.

We brought up the service on our Fire stick and started perusing movies, just out of curiosity. We were overjoyed to see so many movies that we wanted to see – one of which I was just thinking about the other day. That made me feel better about the subscription, because it means there’s going to be lots more to Starz than we had initially thought.

We had turned on the TV for one reason, though, and that was to watch American Gods.

I’ve only read the novel once, several years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though, so I was really looking forward to the adaptation, but there’s a lot of details that I don’t easily remember. I’d be going into this with only a basic outline of the story line in my head.

I’m also not one to binge watch anything, which is why I hardly ever start into a television series on any platform – I need a break after an episode and eventually those breaks get longer and longer until I downright forget that I’m watching a series. We started season one of The Last Kingdom a while back, an adaptation of my favorite ongoing novel series from Bernard Cornwell, and I got about halfway through the first season before trailing off. I’m going to go back and finish it at some point, I just never think to do so.

I think depression has something to do with that. Lately I’ve been going through the motions with much of my day, and only doing the bare minimum to get my checklists done. I haven’t found any interest in doing much of anything outside of what I need to do in order to get me through the day for some time now, and that manifests itself into spending endless hours just surfing the net for no apparent reason other than it’s something to occupy the time. Before I know it the whole day’s gone by and I’ve missed my opportunity to do much of anything about it.

So agreeing to watch American Gods tonight was something out of the ordinary for me, and this is part of the reason that I’m going on at length about it.

The other reason that I’m getting long winded is that the show is incredible.

My words really can’t do justice to how good American Gods is. They are sticking with the book quite faithfully (my wife, who’s read the novel several times and is quite familiar with it, says there’s only been one minor departure from the book so far and the rest of the differences are nitpicky details) and that thrills me. The acting is good – Ian McShane is a tour de force as Mr. Wednesday – and the script is fantastic. We mowed through the first two episodes back to back, and that’s something I hardly ever do. The only reason that we didn’t move on to episode three is because I still had yet to write today.

Going through Amazon Prime to subscribe means that we’ll not be watching live broadcasts on Sundays, but we’ll have next-day availability of new episodes, and being only a day behind is very acceptable to me. We’ll likely be caught up – there’s only been five episodes so far – before Monday night, when we’ll be able to watch the newly released sixth episode, and I’m already looking forward to having a regular Monday night activity for the next few weeks.

Not Fiction Friday, Sorry


I had great plans, but they got waylaid by real life, so no resurrected Friday Fiction this week, everyone. My apologies. Here’s what threw everything for a loop.

On Wednesday night I took a close look at the paperwork that I need to do for school in the fall, specifically a really close and thoughtful look at the immunization form. (While I’m not going into a field that has patient contact, it’s still a health science field that works at sites that could be exposed to various communicable diseases, so the vaccinations are a requirement.) I took a close look at the requirements for the hepatitis B vaccination regimen: Three doses, with the second at least four weeks after the first and the third at least eight weeks after the second AND at least 16 weeks after the first. I calculated my dates based on getting into see the doctor on Friday (I never drive on show days, so Thursday was out) and the earliest that I would be able to turn in my completed vaccination form would be June 23rd. That’s really close to the start of school, so I made it a point to call and get an appointment for today. The receptionist at my doctor told me to come in at 2:00 pm.

Today at 2:00 rolled around and I went in to see the nice folks at the front desk, neither of whom were the person that I set my appointment with. Speaking of my appointment, they told me that they couldn’t find my appointment in their calendar, but since the nurse was free, things would be fine. They checked me in and had me take a seat.

It wasn’t long before they called me back up and explained that my insurance wouldn’t cover the vaccines that I needed, and that one of them would cost $600 out of pocket, and furthermore they weren’t comfortable with having me have that high of a bill at one time, so they referred me to my pharmacy in an attempt to get the vaccinations done.

So I went home and called the pharmacy and got their out of pocket rates on the vaccinations – all a fraction of what they’d cost at my doctor’s office, for some reason. Thing is, that’s still a few hundred bucks, money we don’t have lying around, so we started working on how to get it paid for – something we were able to do earlier this evening.

So in the next couple days I’ll be going to the pharmacy and hopefully getting my favorite pharmacist to administer the vaccinations so I can start down this road sooner rather than later.

Oh yeah, got a call from the doctor’s office around 3:55 this afternoon asking me where I was for my 2:00 appointment yesterday. That’s right – Thursday. Whoever was handling intake yesterday set my appointment for the same day, despite me telling her point blank that Thursday was out and I need to come in on Friday. At least that little mystery cleared itself up.

So many details, and so little time left. This is coming up faster than I want it to.

Sit tight, I’m going to try and get a Friday Fiction out next week.