Vacation Valium and College Chromebook

Late Saturday night I returned from a week+ vacation to Walt Disney World.  I had planned very thoroughly to fit in all the rides and shows and parades and random street performers, and then my mom encountered a medical issue and plans flew out the window.  We still had fun, we just didn’t get to do nearly as many of the fun things we expected to do.

Two days before vacation I had finally managed to get my follow-up appointment with the psychiatrist, and she prescribed Valium.  I was very nervous about taking it, fearing that she’d think I was taking too much, even though in reality I kept it down to less than half of the amount I was allowed and haven’t touched it again since returning home.  I really just needed help getting through all the crowds and stress of vacation.

My other stress was that I originally was scheduled to be taking a class right up to early August and we planned vacation in the short gap between the end of that class and the beginning of fall semester.  It turned out I couldn’t take that class and had a couple of months off, but vacation was already scheduled and paid for.  So I spent a lot of time receiving e-mails from professors about syllabi and Blackboard sites, and panicking that I couldn’t be at home preparing for the new semester to start.

On our way home we spent the night with my grandmother’s cousin and her husband and they were kind enough to let me print my syllabi and start writing assignments in my planner.  I still have one class in which the syllabus is not available (the semester starts today!) and my planner is already crammed full and I don’t know where I’ll fit those assignments.  I’m feeling very overwhelmed by the fact that I decided to enroll full-time this semester.

As we were riding in the car and I was trying to look at e-mails and Blackboard on my tiny little phone screen, I got very frustrated.  There was a simple assignment that needed to be written in Microsoft Word and uploaded, and I could have done it in the car if I could just figure out how to actually edit a Word document on my phone.  I also remembered that even as a part-time student I have struggled a lot with access to the computer.  I’m at my best academically when I first get up in the morning, but that’s the same time that mom plops down in front of the computer and goofs around online for 2-3 hours straight.  When I have to watch hours of video lectures and write on discussion boards and write papers for 12 credit hours of classes, there is no way this is going to work without me wanting to strangle her.

So I did the one thing I could do on my phone: read a bunch of articles and selected a convertible laptop/tablet.  I had very quickly decided it would be some sort of Chromebook, and my criteria were that it needed both keyboard and touchscreen, needed to be as small and lightweight as possible, and needed to be capable of running Android apps.  I found the Asus C100PA-DB02 Chromebook Flip.  It opens as a laptop but can be bent all the way back to use in tablet mode, or left partially open in a couple of ways so that it will stand up.  With a 10.1″ screen and weighing 2 lbs., it definitely meets my easy portability requirement.  And this is one of the few Chromebooks that has access to Android apps built in without having to enter a special Developer mode.

Our mail was on hold during vacation and I’m supposed to go pick it up this morning.  The Chromebook just arrived at the post office a couple of hours ago so it should be in the delivery that comes out around noon, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to snag it from the mailman when I pick up everything else.  T-minus 65 minutes until the post office opens!

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Expressions of Aging

My great-grand aunt died in late March.  Her funeral was held on a Monday, when I needed to be at my practicum class at college.  While on campus, I was in the student union racing past some random booths that were set up for various organizations.  I saw one that said “social work” and turned around.  The Social Work program was promoting a contest they were running for images related to aging.  The winning image will be used on materials for the Social Work program that promote aging issues.

While at this booth I met one of the professors from Social Work and briefly spoke with her about my interest in the MSW program.  When I got home I sent two e-mails: one to this professor to provide a further introduction about my background and interests, and one to enter the photo below in the contest.

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I received a call today that my image had been chosen as the winner.  I had to fill out a form to get the prize, and the professor who ran the contest also wants to interview me for the department’s newsletter.  I am excited and terrified, but I think mostly excited knowing that my beautiful great-grand aunt is going to be immortalized on these brochures.

Rolling Smash Book Tote

I collected items for my college Smash Book all through fall semester and never worked on putting things in because I was so disorganized.  I’d also like to be able to take it on the go in case I have a lot of free time somewhere or visit a friend who has tons of stamps and punches and will need my other supplies in order to use them.  I looked at rolling scrapbook totes in the various craft stores and couldn’t convince myself to buy one, but then I got home and watched YouTube videos of how people organized theirs and fell in love with one of the ones I had seen at Hobby Lobby.  I also saw a clever idea in a different video about using plastic photo boxes for organization, so I ordered the tote and the boxes and eagerly awaited my chance to fill them.

Warning: This will be a very image-heavy post.

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This is the grey chevron rolling tote from The Paper Studio.  I ordered it online from Hobby Lobby when they were offering a 50% off sale.  I definitely wouldn’t recommend paying full-price.  The exterior has a plastic coating that makes it waterproof and easy to wipe clean.

The left and right sides each have a zipper pocket and a mesh pocket.  The back has a tiny mesh pocket to the side of the handle.  I’ve filled the zipper pockets with washi tape and the side pockets with roller stamps and ink pads.

Interiors of the front pocket and two side pockets.  The side pockets each contain a 5×7 Iris photo case full of washi tape.  One is thin tape in a variety of colors.  The other is standard size tape in school colors, plus a Smash Book tape and one from a Messy Box.

Contents of front pocket and side net pockets.  6×6 scrapbook paper, index cards, Mod Podge, and metal ruler.  Stamp pads from Messy Box and Let’s Color, Smash stamp, phrase roller stamp and date roller stamp from Messy Box, and a very old date roller stamp from my childhood.

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Here’s a view inside the main compartment.  It has an adjustable divider (which is held in place by Velcro) that contains various pockets and elastic bands for holding small items.  I’ve placed mine far forward with just the Smash Book in front of it, so that there would be plenty of room to fit in all the photo cases.

The front and back sides of the divider.  The back is holding Sharpie pens and metallic Sharpies, paintbrushes, Prismacolor accessories, and a few random writing utensils, plus some rubber bands and pencil grips in a clear pocket.  I haven’t come up with anything to put in the other clear pocket yet.  The front side has a lot of tools that will be shown in a separate picture.

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Here are the contents of the front of the divider.  Fiskars edging scissors, regular scissors, glue dot runner, stapler, tape dispenser, bone folder, rotary cutter, Prismacolor pencil sharpener, tiny sticky notes, erasers, Prismacolor blending pen, Smash scissors, corner rounder and hole punches, extra tape and staples.

Organizers inside main compartment.  Top left shows a marker board that I use as a surface for spreading glue and two Iris project boxes.  One contains large sticker sheets and some Smash Book inserts.  The other contains all the papers and brochures I’ve collected from college that might go in the Smash Book.  Bottom left shows my smaller set of Prismacolor pencils (48 count), watercolor pencils, and gel pens.  Right shows eight of the 5×7 Iris photo boxes with various supplies in them.

All the 5×7 photo boxes from the main compartment.  Top left ones contain small sticker sheets and small ephemera from college.  Top right ones contain chalkboard postcards, Tattered Tangles coloring sheets, and Smash Book smash pads.  Bottom left ones contain various pockets and a set of Smash Book ephemera that is school-themed.  Bottom right ones contain Project Life cards from the Kraft Edition core kit and the Childhood Edition-Wellington mini kit.

I worried a little in the back of my mind that I’d buy this tote and do all this organizing and then just sigh and say “So pretty!” and still not work on the Smash Book.  As it turns out, I’ve done 7 pages since I got organized.  I have completed pages about admissions and my goals, my first visit to campus for an advising appointment, and my orientation day.

 

The Day I Knew I Would Graduate

Early in 2015, I applied for assistance in job hunting from Vocational Rehabilitation.  By the time my plan was officially approved, I’d already been hired in my current job, but they retroactively paid for Joan, the employment specialist who had helped me.  Hank, the Vocational Rehab counselor, was available to help with additional problems.  A few months into the job, I was considered stably employed and my case was closed.

When the idea of returning to college started to become more than an idea, I e-mailed Hank to ask if there was anything Vocational Rehab could do to help.  I was mostly thinking of advice – helping find services on campus and the like.  I started school in August before I was able to meet with Hank, then we had to go through the lengthy process of writing a new plan for his supervisor’s approval.

In our final meeting to finish up the plan, Hank read to me the expectations of Vocational Rehab that I would have to meet.  One of them was to attend school full-time.  He didn’t notice, but I started crying.  I was about to tell him that I was wasting his time, and get up and walk out.  There was no way I could register for more than two courses for Spring and he was asking for four.  As I opened my mouth to excuse myself from his office, he mentioned that due to the nature of my disability and the fact that I also work, he could modify that requirement.

My state of panic subsided, and by the end of the appointment it was a state of shock and elation.  I’d been hoping for advice and encouragement, and expected that if there was any financial assistance involved it would be, at most, some help with textbook fees.  Hank gave me some conditions I would have to follow, such as maintaining at least a 2.0 GPA and following the university’s code of conduct.  Beyond that, my major responsibility was to file the FAFSA each year and accept any grants and scholarships that were offered.

With those conditions met, Vocational Rehab would pay the remainder of tuition and fees, textbooks, transportation (including the on-campus parking pass), and a commuter meal plan to cover the days I have to be on campus.  After follow-up with Hank, we have established that they don’t need to consider the parking pass until the start of Fall 2017 as my current pass runs through the end of Summer sessions.  We also will not be doing the meal plan as my scheduled classes are online for next semester, but it will remain in my plan in case it’s necessary when I take on-campus classes in the future.

That was the day I knew I would graduate.  I had taken a huge leap of faith by applying and enrolling in college when I didn’t have a reliable source of money to get through it all.  With every exam I take and paper I submit, I remember Vocational Rehab and am overwhelmed by gratitude all over again.

Food Bank Donation Tips

My college has a food bank for students.  You have to show a student ID, fill up your bags, and then sign and date a paper, with optional checklist to indicate what types of items you took.  Every two weeks you can get a bag of toiletries, and you can either get one bag of food a week, or two at a time if you only come in every other week.  Not long into the semester, they offered me a tote bag, which made it much easier to visit because I could carry the food with me to class without embarrassment, versus having to hike way back to the car and hide it in my trunk.

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I don’t think I ever filled my bags as full as I could have, even taking fewer than the allowed amount of bags some weeks when I was feeling particularly guilty about being there.  Over the past semester I’ve made several observations about suggestions I could make to people donating to a food bank.  These are especially applicable in a college setting, but the general ideas apply elsewhere too.

  • Please choose packages that have individually wrapped items inside them.  For example, instead of family-size bags of chips, get one of the variety packs of single-serving bags.  The food bank will split them up so people can take just a few and more people will get some.
  • Granola bars go quickly and there’s always demand for those.  Usually there’s enough oatmeal to go around, but consider cream of wheat, which also comes in single-serving packets.
  • Reconsider the choice to donate a bunch of canned vegetables.  Everyone donates the canned vegetables, and there’s an overabundance of them.  Think about more unusual vegetables (maybe asparagus?  hominy?), beans, and fruit.
  • Many people may not have reliable access to a refrigerator and/or stove.  Think about items that are in smaller packages to reduce leftovers, and items that can be eaten uncooked or microwaved.
  • There’s usually lots of soup, but if you’re willing to spend a little extra (or find coupons or a good sale), the single-serving soups in the microwavable containers would be really nice.
  • Dried fruit.  Just fruit in general, but things like raisins and fruit leather are rare to find and would make a great snack when people have to rush between classes all day.
  • Please no ramen.  I know you can buy a huge bundle of them for a very low price, but the idea of the food bank is for people to get at least somewhat healthy foods they can’t afford.
  • The microwavable cups of pasta and cheese are very popular.  There’s usually a good supply of those, but how about the similar cups of instant mashed potatoes?
  • Toiletries are wonderful, but would be even better if people could donate a wider variety.  There’s always plenty of shampoo, conditioner, and soap/body wash.  There’s plenty of toothbrushes, toothpaste, and deodorant, and a lot of these items last for quite a while.  Mouthwash is pretty rare, as are floss and the little floss picks.  I have never seen Q-tips there, and those can be bought in little travel packs that would be good for donations.  Also, travel packs of tissues.  As someone with extremely curly hair, I can say some of us would be very grateful for cans of mousse to tame the curls.
  • Also consider cleaning supplies and baby supplies (diapers, wipes, formula, etc.)  Even in a college, there are plenty of parents with young children, and this would be even more true in the wider community setting.

I started forming these ideas as a mental list, so that once I graduate and find a steady job I can go back and donate all the things I wish they’d had while I was a student.  Hopefully others will find these suggestions helpful as well.

Midterm College Update

I kind of disappeared for a while.  I’ve been super busy with school and work and other work, but wanted to check in and let everyone know I’m still out here.

I was scheduled for Abnormal Psychology for the full semester and Personality Psychology for the second 8-week term.  Abnormal is great.  So far I’ve earned 81%, so even if I gave up now I’d have a B-.  To get an A I need to complete the remaining short journal responses and average 45% on the last two exams.

Personality Psychology just started last week.  I’ve earned 11%, with another 5% pending for a 2-page essay.  I hadn’t written a paper in almost 10 years, and never in APA format, so I took my rough draft to the Writing Center to get help from a tutor.  I didn’t make all the possible changes she suggested, but did some work with citing sources and changed the topics in my final paragraph slightly to have something to cite.  The tutor was very helpful and I will definitely use that service again.  I did have to follow up with some formatting advice from a friend, which was also helpful.

On November 2nd I get to register for spring classes, which will be Lifespan Development and Cognitive Processes.  These topics are less familiar than the ones I’m studying now, but both classes are entirely online so test-taking is a bit easier.  I’m skipping out on the 3-week winter term and using that time to study for the credit for prior learning exams.

All in all it’s going a lot better than I expected.

Credit for Prior Learning

When I registered for college and received the finalized statement about my transfer credits there were 20 courses for which I still needed credit.  Three of these (two general education and one for my psychology major) I had taken before but they did not transfer in correctly.  I managed to acquire syllabi from my previous colleges so that my advisor can try to get those transfer credits adjusted.  So that would bring my total number of needed courses down to 17.

Then I went to orientation and discovered credit for prior learning.  Two courses I need (one general education and one for my major) have DSST exams I can take to get credit.  Even with buying a book to study and paying for the exams, that will only be around $200 per course rather than the roughly $1,200 it costs to take it through the college.

There is also an advanced writing course for general education for which they offer a portfolio option.  Given that I was an English major for a while in the past, I am reasonably sure I can manage a passable portfolio.  Now we are down to 14 classes.

Then I had a moment of panic.  I looked at the admissions requirements for the MSW program and saw that it requires courses in psychology, sociology, and statistics.  No indication of how many courses.  Obviously my major will cover the psychology, and hopefully the statistics class I need for my major is enough, but what about sociology?  After asking and being referred to several people, I finally got the answer that I only need one course in each area and the ones I transferred in would be sufficient.

But wait – the only sociology class I have credit for is the one I’m trying to get moved over to psychology because it’s required for my major.  So again I would need a sociology class and would have to take the intro class because it’s a prerequisite to everything else.  Mom was clever enough to ask if I could test out of that, and in fact there is a CLEP test offered for that course.  So there’s one more text book I need to buy and study, but I’m not going to push myself to finish that one anytime soon.

If you’re going to college and need some general education requirements, even if you’re a new high school graduate, look into the credit for prior learning option at your college.  Even if you don’t have a lot of experience with the subject, you can probably pass the exams if you’re good at studying and learning on your own.