Archive | December 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,300 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 22 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

I’m Feeling Led

I had planned to end and begin the years on a positive note, but I’m feeling heavy for a friend this morning.  She posted yesterday on Facebook something that alerted me that she was not doing well.  I spoke to her and found out that her husband left two days before Christmas and was not coming back as he had said he would to “work things out”.  I listened to her telling me the tale of the past six months in her marriage and tried to console her.  So many marriages dying around me. All people around my age and with children the age of mine.  I think how close Bob and I came to becoming a statistic and pray that some how these folks can find a way to forgive and put things back together again.

I especially pray for Christian friends to surround these couples and lift them up in prayer,  A friend of mine who divorced her husband after she discovered his affair said that she was “dropped” by various Christian friends afterwards.  I pray that doesn’t happen in these cases.  Divorce isn’t “catching”.  It’s just a very sad choice to make.  I hope I can be there for my friend and see what I can d for her.

Last Night

Last night I was hit with an abdominal pain so strong it felt like labor.  I went and laid down in the bed for a while, Then tried going to the bathroom to relieve it.  I realized I was spotting red blood.  So after a half hour of it not going away, I got my husband moving and we went to the hospital.  It started to subside but just down to a dull ache.  SO a lot of poking and prodding later, the doctor decides to do a CT scan of my stomach at two a.m.  They found gallstones without active evidence of disease.  The pain’s gone this morning, so we don’t know what went on. He wasn’t convinced that the gallstones were causing the pain or the bleeding.  So I’m to call my ob-gyn about the bleeding and my doctor about the gallstones sometime today.  We’re operating on about 3 1/2 hours of sleep. So pray that if it is something to worry about, we’ll find out and that if it isn’t, I’ll never have any trouble again :).

I’m a bad one going to doctors because of my work with disability, I know the symptoms of everything that can kill you.  So my mind goes to the worst possible scenario every time,. And I’m bipolar so I blow everything out of proportion in my head.  I don’t bother the doctors a lot because I know this, but last night, I was convinced I had either an ectopic pregnancy or a ruptured cyst of some kind.  I listed off all these things I was worried about, and he asked if I had been googling stuff.  I said no, and my husband said she doesn’t have to.  🙂  So that was my adventure last night.  Just pray that Bob can make it through the day at work.

Sleeping

Need to watch myself today–I was up late supervising the slumber party last night.  We didn’t get to bed until close to 11.   I normally go to bed around 9.  But I don’t think I was awake long enough to get hypomanic or manic today.  We have a quiet day at home planned for today, and we’ll have to see how that plays out,.  I may try to nap this afternoon to catch up on the two missed hours.  Those of you with bipolar know how important sleep hygiene is.  Hopefully if I do get high energy I can channel it somewhere useful

Put together an awesome day of shopping yesterday.  Bob and the girls went and bought Hallmark ornaments at half-price in the morning, and I scored a London Fog animal print mid-length coat at Belk’s for only $50, which I had in gift cards. So it was a successful day.

Have a project due for a local magazine I used to write for–Mississippi Christian Living.  I asked if they would take an article on my bipolar experience, and they agreed.  So I will write up a piece for them and send it in soon.  I pretty much know what I’m going to do–I just have to write it out.  Another outlet to try to reach the Christian community about this disorder and what it means to people.  I’m excited for the opportunity.

I also need to redo my syllabus for my Comp II classes.  We have a new book–I’ll use many of the same readings, but I have to change the page numbers, etc. for the class schedule.  So that’s another project between now and New year’s.

So time to face another day.  Hope it’s a good one for all of us.

Merry Chirstmas!

So Christmas has come and gone for another year.  We had good times with friends and family again this year–everyone behaved themselves at my parents’ house and at my in-laws’, so that was a blessing.  We all got various things we wanted-I got to open and hang up my newest purse purchase–a purple Coach.  My oldest daughter got a coffeemaker for her dorm room, my middle child got soundtracks for “Doctor Who” episodes, Bob got almost the entire James Bond series on DVD, and my youngest got a Lego Friends Cruise Ship to put together. Of course there was more, but those seemed to be the highlights.

We’re going out today to do a little shopping once the refrigerator repairman gets here.  I got gift cards to Belk’s and plan to look for a new long brown London Fog coat.  Bob’s going to buy Hallmark Ornaments half-price.  And we plan to go out to eat for lunch at one of our favorite casual restaurants.  Then my daughters’ friends get to come over to visit and spend the night  So we have to clean up the house a bit before that. But we have an enjoyable day planned out, and I’m looking forward to it.  Hope all your Christmases were merry and bright!

Work and Disability

I took the evaluations to heart and spent the summer reorganizing the syllabus and making different selections of material to read that was much more accessible and understandable.  I spent another semester teaching one course of Comp II and felt that it went much better than the first—the students didn’t seem to struggle nearly as much as my earlier ones had.  I was well on my way to enjoying myself in the classroom again.

Not too surprisingly, I was able to keep my benefits while teaching because the pay was woefully inadequate.  They were paying the same amount per class as they had been paying eighteen years before when I first applied to teach there when I moved to Brandon.  A few semesters later, the pay was raised, but I could still teach up to three classes a semester and stay under the earnings threshold for continuing my benefits. I pay taxes and Social Security on my earnings—I am not paid in cash or under the table so I am staying within the law working on a part-time basis.

That is an important consideration for people who wish to return to work while on Social Security benefits.  Important aspects to remember are the earnings threshold, the fact that you can continue to draw benefits for a three-year trial work period, and the fact that your Medicare benefits can extend even longer even if your Social Security benefits have to stop.

Supplemental Security Income has much different rules, ruling out almost any work while drawing benefits.  Check with the local Social Security office to see what those rules are currently, since the earnings threshold changes just about every year.

I’m now teaching two classes a year of Introduction to Creative Writing for a homeschooling co-op in my area as well.  Keeping the work low-stress has been the key to my being able to hold down the job.  Only working two or three days a week has been a good schedule for me thus far.  If I can keep out of the hospital, I may entertain the thought of going full-time with the college in the future.  I’ll have to pray long and hard about that—seeing how the benefits and pay would stack up against whatever extra stress I would go through teaching more classes and taking on other administrative tasks that go with full-time professoring.  Or I may find some other work altogether.  I just know I need to seek God’s counsel and find out what he has in store for me next!

The First Semester

I met that first class in January 2011 with a little fear.  I had planned it so they would spend most of the time writing in class, an exercise called diagnostic writing where I could assess their strengths and weaknesses and address them as a class.  I went over the syllabus, had them all introduce themselves, and then set them to writing for the rest of the hour and fifteen minutes we had left.

They were an interesting bunch. I had a few older non-traditional students, but most were freshmen one semester removed from high school.  Some were very competent writers, and others were a little below average.  I had some veterans of Gulf War II. I had a mix of races as well, some white, some African-American, and some Hispanics also.

As far as my teaching went that semester, let’s just say we were all learning together.  I had to reacquaint myself with the routine and the classroom management while dealing with a different type of student than I had taught at Mississippi State.  This school had students who did not have high enough college entrance scores to go to a four-year college, and they were much less versed in the literary tradition than the students I remembered.  I had to go over concepts in more detail in class so they could understand them.  By the time I got their first papers analyzing fiction and saw how they were struggling, it was over a third of the way through the semester.  I tried to catch them up, but my style of teaching kept some information just out of their reach.

I remember teaching one extremely funny play that depended on the students having at least a passing knowledge of Franz Kafka, John Milton, Jonathan Swift, William Shakespeare, and the infinite monkey theorem to get all the jokes.  A fellow named Chris just looked at me and said, “All I know is they’re talking about a bunch of books that I haven’t read,” while I was trying to explain the play.  That was humbling for me—I couldn’t assume they were getting the material if they didn’t ask questions since at times they were too confused to know what questions to ask.  Somehow we all stumbled through the semester without anyone failing the course due to my inadequacies.

The Interview

I went in to talk to her about a week later.  She explained that classes had started, but enrollment was up enough that they knew they would need teachers the next semester as well.  We talked about my experience at State and how I could handle the classes, what my class policies would be, what the college would require me to do, and all other matters related to classroom management.  It wasn’t so much a job interview as it was an orientation session for what I would be doing.

Partway through the interview, I took a deep breath and explained that I’d like to start out teaching only one class because I had bipolar disorder and did not know how much work I could handle.  I told her I was experimenting to see if I could work at all.  She took the information in stride and said that she would be glad to work with me to see how much I liked the work and how much I could handle. I was shocked at how easily that went over, too.

I spent the fall semester planning my syllabus and course policies. I read the book and selected the readings I wanted to teach on.  I would be teaching Composition II, which included literary analysis and research papers. I studied my old Composition II materials from when I was at State and developed my strategies and methodologies for teaching.  I pulled out old handouts and even old final exams, which I planned to use again after modifying them somewhat.  I got as prepared as I knew how, even investing in new clothes to wear to class since I had been out of the public workforce for so long.

How I Fell Into My Job

In fall 2010, I received an online newsletter from one of my former publications that included a news release from a local community college.  They were looking for people to teach English classes. A Master’s degree was the preferred qualification, with some experience also preferred.  The release indicated that a rise in enrollment led them to put out the request.

I thought for a little while.  I had taught English Composition while working on my graduate degree.  I was at complete loose ends—I hadn’t been admitted to the hospital that spring so I felt that I was doing well enough to attempt to work.  The college was only a few miles from home, so commuting wouldn’t be much of a problem. I decided to call the English Department and see what could be worked out.

I got the department head and explained I was calling in response to the request for English teachers.  My interview was very short and sweet—she asked my degree and experience, told me I would need to have my transcript mailed to the academic dean, and asked me to come in to get copies of the textbooks.

I was shocked.  I hadn’t expected it to be that easy.  Bob came home that night, and I told him, “I think I’ve been hired for a job teaching.”

I told him about the opportunity, and once I explained how I hoped to keep it low-key and part-time, he was all for me going to talk to the department head to see what I could do.

The Results

The process can take a while, depending on how quickly the agency can collect your medical records.  Call all your medical providers and alert them to the fact that Social Security will be requesting your records.  Always fill out forms promptly and send them back so that you can get a decision as quickly as possible.  Go to all appointments that are scheduled for you and be as honest as possible about your condition.

If you do not have insurance and cannot work full-time, filing for benefits can be a big help in both realms of needing treatment and income.  If you are found eligible for Social Security benefits, within two years if the condition persists, you can become eligible for Medicare, which will pay most of your hospital and doctor bills.  If you meet the income threshold for Supplemental Security Income, you can be immediately eligible for Medicaid, which will also cover prescriptions for your condition as well as medical bills.  Be persistent in pursuing your claim and as honest and open about your problems as possible so that you can be found eligible if your condition is severe enough.