One Down, Two to Go!

I finished my first of three assignments for my comprehensive master’s exam tonight! It only took three days, as opposed to the five I’d allowed (and I was sick for a day and a half of that). It’s a 15-page hypothetical research study called “Increasing Exercise using an iPhone Application and Reinforcement.” It’s a similar design to ones I’ve done before, so it wasn’t too bad. Here’s a sample paragraph:

I even finished in time to meet the Wooldridges for dinner at a Thai place we used to meet at occasionally when I had a client on their side of town. We had planned to go last night, but I wasn’t feeling well. I thought about trying to reschedule for after my exam is finished, but we’ve been talking about going for about a year. I’m glad we made it happen. 

I plan to work on the second assignment for a few hours tomorrow, and then my aunt and cousin from North Carolina are coming to see me one last time before I move. I’m enough ahead that I’m not going to stress over taking the afternoon/evening off. It’s going better than expected!

The 3 AM Mouse

There’s a mouse. It’s possibly in my room as we speak. First I saw it in the hall two nights ago. At least I assumed it was a mouse. It moved pretty fast. Then last night I heard it in the corner of my room. I stood on a chair for a few minutes. The scurrying subsided, and I went to bed. The mouse didn’t like that, so it scuttled around again for 15 minutes or so. Then sleep. It was great. Then tonight, it happened again. 9:30 seems to be a time he likes, just as I’m settling in at my new bedtime. I slept till 11:30, then awoke for a couple of hours. Who knows why. It happens. At 1:00, I was just drifting off. I was so close. I was practically dreaming. But then the mouse. This time he sounded like he was under the blinds next to my bed. I know he wasn’t. But I was still partially-delirious from my migrainy day.

Finally, at 2:30, I got up. I took a melatonin, got a glass of water because I was suddenly dying of thirst, and sat down at my desk to fix a couple of things on a graph for work. That went much more quickly than expected. You know what else went quickly? A mouse. Right across my room. It’s not right. It’s my room. For one more month. Then he can have it. I mean, he should probably ask Martha, but she might welcome a new roommate.

I shrieked. But then I decided that mouse was clearly more scared of me than I was of him, so I jumped up and…well I didn’t really do anything, because I didn’t know where he went. I think maybe under the door into the hall. I bravely swung open the door and turned on the light, so glad to find nothing. It’s not that I’m scared of mice; I just don’t know what to do with a live one. Martha’s in Hawaii, but she suggested I buy a trap. If I had time, I would. Maybe it would be worth it to get some sleep tomorrow night.

My other thought is maybe I could catch him and train him for my comprehensive exam project…but I’m gonna sleep on it (the idea; not the mouse…at least I hope not).

A Migrainy Day

Every so often, I have a migrainy day. These are days where I don’t actually get a migraine, but I have a lot of weird – even scary – migraine-like symptoms. Today is one of those days.

It’s hard to explain to most people, especially those who don’t have migraines of any type. Those who have regular migraines, where you’re incapacitated for a while, understand somewhat. But most people with migraines don’t have this hemiplegic (one-sided paralysis) thing. That’s the scary part. That’s the part that I get a little anxious about when I’m by myself – actually, even when I’m not by myself, but especially then. Because it affects my speech, movement, and senses; and feels like it’s going to affect my breathing and swallowing, though I don’t think it ever really does.

Today I was making pizza, when my left thumb went a little numb. That in itself isn’t that big of a deal for me, but it sometimes means a migraine is on its way. But the problem is, I start interpreting everything as a symptom of a migraine, and then I can’t tell if it’s real or not. Right after I noticed the numbness, I saw a moth fly by in my peripheral vision. Then I realized it wasn’t a moth, but a floater. Again, not a huge deal, except it was an even more reliable sign that a migraine might be on its way.

A few minutes went by, and I was sure things were back to normal. I took some Excedrin, just in case. (Insert a little Leviticus humor, since I’d done the daily readings with Sara earlier.)

A few minutes later, I was typing and my left hand wasn’t entirely normal – I was able to type, but it took more effort than it should’ve. Then my forehead got more tingly, and then both feet and some random fingers. A little bit of a headache and a little nausea, but nothing that makes me think it’s going to be a full-fledged migraine.

I made some coffee, determined to push through it, because I was actually at a point where I was enjoying working on my paper. But the left hand was not cooperating, and I was dropping stuff during the coffee-making process (luckily not the coffee).

So now I’m kind of stuck. I’m almost certainly not going to get the actual migraine – the debilitating headache part. I would’ve gotten it by now I think. That’s the good news. The other good news is that this is a good reminder that I need to buy some more magnesium before going to Kenya. Every few months I run out, and usually within a couple of weeks after that I have an episode. This time, I’ve gone a couple of months without it and been fine – maybe because I’ve been eating more fruits and veggies. But, every other time, it was reliably close in time to when I had stopped taking the magnesium. So I’m reasonably confident it helped.

The bad news is I really need to be working on the school assignment, and there’s no reasonable way to do that right now. Not only is it hard to type with my left hand not working right (phone typing is easier because I use my right thumb and my left forefinger, which I’m told is an unusual combination but it’s fastest for me); but also the weird sensation of using my hand when it’s like that amplifies the paranoia. So I canceled my client, I’m drinking my coffee, and reminding myself how much of a blessing health is. This kind of issue is a very rare occurrence these days, so I just take it as a sign that I need to slow down a little. That’s probably not at all what it means, but it’s all I can do.

Oh! Right in the middle of this, I saw this HUGE bird that I thought was a hallucination. I think it was the biggest bird I’ve ever seen outside of Africa or the zoo. The picture doesn’t quite capture its hugeness. It better not eat our white squirrels.

Funny Kenya Visa Story

I’m getting my oil changed right now, and even though I could be doing schoolwork it wouldn’t be very efficient, so I’m blogging instead.

I had to get a visa for Kenya. When I realized this, I had flashbacks to getting my visa for South Africa – where everything that could’ve gone wrong did. So I was happy to discover that I could do the whole process online: no two trips to DC within a week, no background check that came back incomplete, no parting with my passport when I never know when I’ll need to make a quick trip to Canada or Mexico. None of that.

I logged on from my phone and filled in some simple data. Then it asked for a picture of my passport – easy enough from my phone. Next, it asked for a copy of my itinerary or letters of recommendation, or anything I had that would prove I was going there for the reasons I said. Hmm. That’s a little harder from my phone. I had an email of my itinerary, but didn’t have a saved document on my phone that I could attach. So I went to my email and took a screenshot of the email from Global Autism Project welcoming me to the program. It was not at all official-looking…

I attached that picture, and then moved on. Next, it asked for a passport photo. Not a picture of my passport, but a different photo taken to meet the criteria for a passport – specific number of pixels, specific dimensions, white background, framed just right, etc. There was no way I was gonna do that. I searched the house for a white background, and finally settled on the little door going into the attic crawl space. I got down on my knees, made sure only white was showing behind me, and took a selfie. I was wearing my pink bathrobe and had slept with my hair braided, which meant it was now looking very similar to a bird’s nest. I’m not being humble or self-deprecating. I deleted the picture, so I can’t prove it; but it was likely the worst picture I’ve ever seen of myself.

I submitted this application, assuming it would be rejected. My thought process was that I didn’t want to lose the info I’d typed, and I was hoping they’d just send me an email saying I needed to attach real documents and get a real picture, which I would then do from my laptop.

I was supposed to get a confirmation email, but didn’t. Then I got distracted for a couple of weeks, and finally checked in today. Status: Approved. Bam. Welcome to Kenya.

Sleep When You’re Dead

So far my schedule for school work and my comprehensive exam is progressing nicely. I finished all my schoolwork for the week this morning, and I predict I’ll finish the first assignment for the exam by tomorrow night. So today, I started feeling a little complacent and thought maybe I could take a nap, since I got up at 6:00 and had been (more or less) working for 6 hours. 

Then this little voice said to me, “If you have time to nap, then you have time to go to the gym. You can sleep when you’re dead.” (That little voice sounded suspiciously like Casey.) So I went to the gym. I’m not quite sure who I am these days…

#wecandohardthings #sometimes #othertimeswearelazybums

Game Plan!

It may seem like a waste of time to blog about a game plan for using my time wisely, because it takes up some of that time. But, A: I’m voice transcribing this as I make coffee and on my 5-minute breaks; and B, writing is how I process things. So in the long run, I think it pays off. I blogged last night about my comprehensive master’s exam I asked to do early, but then when it arrived I spiraled into panic mode (disclaimer: panic mode for me is just basically regular mode, with more coffee and blogging).

So, I have 3 weeks – 22 full days – to write 3 8-10 page papers, which each require extensive research. This is on top of my regular school work, which includes a couple of good-sized assignments during this time. But I have a plan!

• I’ve been going to the gym 3 days a week and doing exercises at home 2 days a week. I’ve got to temporarily cut that down, at least a little. I think the gym workout is more effective, so I’m going to eliminate the home workouts, and cut down to 2 days a week at the gym. That will give me about 3 hours a week total. I’m going to try to replace some of that missed exercise with walking around while I read my textbooks or watch school videos on my phone.

• I’m going to try not to let my diet suffer during this time. It takes quite a bit of prep to eat 9 servings of fruits and veggies a day. I may subsist on smoothies for a while, which isn’t ideal – because they can spike your blood sugar, and also I just don’t like them that much – but that may be what ends up happening.

• I have been trying to work ahead a little bit, so that by the time I leave for Kenya I wouldn’t have to do any schoolwork those 2 1/2 weeks. I’ve been a little bit stressed over that, because my courses are not laid out ahead of time as much this semester as they usually are. But now that concern can’t be anything I even think about. I cannot attempt to work ahead at all during these 3 weeks. After March 7, there will still be a few weeks to try to get ahead before Kenya. And one of those weeks is Spring Break, so I won’t be accumulating new school work that week. So for now, I’m taking that concern off the table. The bare minimum is what I will put into my regular school work; the majority of my focus will be on this exam.

• Sara and I have been FaceTiming daily Bible readings, and sometimes there’s 30 minutes to an hour of conversation before we get around to reading. I considered cutting out that whole thing, but I don’t want to sacrifice my spiritual habits. But I am gonna have to make a strict “readings only” policy for 3 weeks.

• Fridays and Saturdays: these are my secret weapons, since I don’t work most Fridays and I’m not out of town any of the next 3 Saturdays. However, I am working this Friday for a couple of hours, my aunt and cousin are coming to visit this Saturday, and the music day fundraiser I’m organizing is the next Saturday. But most of the work for that is done, and I know my family will understand if I have a textbook glued to me during the majority of our visit. And I still have 2 Fridays and a Saturday marked off during this time where I can focus on school all day.

• Work – I was considering asking my boss if I could train the new girl a couple of hours a week outside of my regular clients. I am no longer planning to ask that. I also have a big reauthorization report and a monthly report due at the beginning of next month. There may be no way around doing the re-auth, which will take 3-4 hours, during this time period. But I plan to see if I can do it 5 days later than usual. It shouldn’t be any problem to move the regular monthly report back a little.

• Miscellaneous – I have dinner plans Thursday, an oil change, a school interview I have to figure out, picking up Martha and Margaret at the airport Saturday (they’re in Hawaii), and all those little things that come up unexpectedly. There’s no use panicking over life happening, because it always does. It’s better than the alternative.

• Reinforcement – A person can’t work nonstop. They end up crashing and getting less work done then if they had kept a moderate schedule to begin with. So I’m determined to build in lots of short movement breaks, some drinking coffee on the deck while I watch videos or something, and even an occasional 20 minute break to watch Netflix. Grad school is part of life; but grad school isn’t life. And my philosophy is that if one has to suffer, it should be grad school. So far, this mentality keeps me working really efficiently, so that I can still do the things I want, and neither has had to suffer. Hopefully the rest of the semester will continue that way.

So that’s the plan. Besides that, it’s just going to be about staying on task and not letting a 5-minute break accidentally become a 30-minute break. I need to work on one of these assignments each week. I plan to try to get all my schoolwork for each week done on Monday and Tuesday at the latest, then spend Wednesday and Thursday researching, and Friday through Sunday writing. If I can do this schedule this week too, even though I have a late start, that will give me an extra Monday and Tuesday at the end of this 3 weeks to finish up any loose ties.

I feel slightly less panicky about this than I did last night. The plan for the next 4 hours before work is to finish an assignment I couldn’t do last week because I didn’t have the textbook I needed (it was a reading error; not a forgetfulness error), and then to get as much done of this week’s work as possible. I did not sleep well, but I’m up and the coffee has been flowing for a couple of hours. I’m feeling cautiously optimistic!


This is my last semester in my master’s program. Hopefully. If I pass. And don’t die. I asked my professor if I could take my comprehensive exam early, because it’s usually done at the end of the semester; and with Kenya, moving, and all my other end of the semester assignments, that just seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. So I’ve been waiting to hear. And, in the meantime, I’ve started to get overwhelmed with my other classes, which are badly organized this semester, and therefore unnecessarily stressful. So, of course, not ten minutes after sending Sara this, regarding my instructors causing me undue havoc:
My professor emailed me my comprehensive exam, which is due 3 weeks from tomorrow. The comprehensive exam consists of 3 assignments: a hypothetical experiment, a functional analysis and treatment plan of a target behavior, and something about designing a training system I’d use for supervising staff. Each assignment needs to be 8-10 pages, with references and research and all that. And, again, it’s due 3 weeks from tomorrow. And I asked to do this early. 😑

And I don’t even have my friend Hollie to assure me I’m going to do fine.

I’m going to bed. I’ll see my friends, clients, and the outdoors again in 3 weeks and 1 day.