Photo of the Week: Goodbye, Animals

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Taken August 14, 2014 with a NVIDIA Shield tablet.

My son has had summer school in the morning, followed by camp in the afternoon, for six weeks. Each day as part of our getting ready routine, I asked what animal he wanted me to sketch on his snack bag for camp. Each day, he told me a different animal. We did frogs, fish, a horse, a zebra, elephant, and so on. Today, he picked “goose”.

Today is his last day, and even though I’m looking forward to a couple of weeks together before we both start school, I’m going to miss these little animals.

Class I’m taking, Fall 2015

In case you missed it, I’m going back to college, starting at the end of August, as part of my four-step plan for world dominion success:

1) Go back to college. Finally get a Bachelor’s degree. (In something more likely to lead to a permanent position.)

2) Get a good job with decent benefits, where I am sufficiently valued that I won’t be a faceless, disposable, cog in the machine.

3) By staying on budget, get out of debt, and begin to line the cave with gold (aka, build up a savings).

4) NEVER WORRY ABOUT SUPPORTING MY FAMILY AGAIN.

After meeting with my advisor, I ended up registered for 17 units. Six classes. Basically, everything they’d let me take. That means that in the Spring, I only need to take three classes, all online. I’ll take at least four in order to be “full time”, but having that cushion of space means I’ve got room to take something where if the registrar suddenly figures out I need one more thing to graduate…

By next summer, I’ll have an AS degree in Business Adminstration, and I’ll be ready to do my year at state to get my BS.

To that, this semester I’m taking:

Intro to Databases
Principles of Accounting 2
International Business
Principles of Microeconomics
Fundamentals of Speech
Principles of Biology 2 (+ lab)

I’ve got to be on campus for the Speech and Bio classes; I was hoping to avoid it, because campus is 30 miles away, in another county. So it’s classes plus a 45 minute commute, each way, three days a week. At least the trip is beautiful, a winding drive through rolling hills and farmland. And it’s better to do this commute now, in the fall, before winter and five months of snow kick in.

I’m getting closer to actually being able to pay for all this. I’ve secured grants to cover my tuition itself. Not covered? Books. Lots of heavy, expensive books. Even renting them instead of buying them, they’ll run just over $700 for this semester, and I need that money in the next two weeks before classes start. (On top of my usual bills + groceries this month.)

Well at least it's not just me...

Well at least it’s not just me…

So if you’ve got work that needs doing, email me, maybe?

Big Life Change: I’m going back to college (and how you can help)

I AM OFFICIALLY A COLLEGE STUDENT (AGAIN).*

It was a tough decision. Being laid off from my job last month means that I have the time now to finally finish up my degree, and to actually switch to a major which will make me much more employable than my previous work in Art History. But with no opportunity to get Pell Grants or loans for school, I’m not being paid to attend college — I’m just adding full time school to my regular life, and without a day job right now, I’m already struggling to make enough money. How do I decide to spend money on college when I don’t know whether I’m paying my rent in a few days? How do I not go to school when I have this opportunity now, it will make me more employable, a much better freelancer, and generally a more useful person?

Ultimately, I decided to do my best, and make this work.

I’ll be going for two semesters at community college for an AS in Business Management, and then two semesters at state for a BS in Business, Economics, and Management (with a minor in public administration). I still need to come up with part of the tuition so I can start school — asap! — but I’ve been awarded grants that will cover 80% of classes and books, maybe a little more. It’ll be tough, balancing work, kid, and full time college, but hopefully I can get to where being unemployed and in debt is somewhere I never have to be again.

That’s if I can find the rest of the money to get started. If any of you have ever wanted to take a workshop from me, hire me as an editor, proofer, book designer, anything — or even loan me money until after the semester starts, now would be the time that I really need it.

How you can help:

  • I’m happy to offer a discount to anyone who books me for editing this month. Take advantage of me!
  • My next workshop — Plotting the Short Story — begins on the 15th. If you’re interested in a low-cost online workshop, packed full of exercises and advice from me and your fellow students, please check out my upcoming workshops. With school and work, I’m not sure how many of these (if any) I’ll be able to offer next year. Now’s the time to join us!
  • Don’t need any work done now but you’d like to help me buy textbooks and school supplies? You can donate to me via PayPal.

If you’ve got other work you’d like to discuss with me, need a mailing address, or have questions, please feel free to contact me at cuinnedits at gmail.

Thank you.

* At some point I should probably also tell the story of I used up all of my federal grants and maxed out my student loans going to the University of Pennsylvania, only to have it run out one semester before graduation… But that story depresses me so much. Maybe next time.

The Quest For Sleep

Since leaving my day job, I’ve had severe insomnia. I assumed it was stress related, and worked on reducing my stress, but also cut down on caffeinated sodas (which has other health benefits as well).

But I’m still not sleeping. I have good days, a couple of good nights of sleep, and then I lose control of it again. I either am “awake” during the day, but too tired to do anything useful, or I sleep poorly during the day and am up late, exhausted and useless. Finally, I talked to my doctor, and we did a bunch of tests.

He thinks there are two main culprits: my ADHD, and a couple of decades of bad habits with caffeine. I have had insomnia my whole life… (Ironically, several months ago I gave up the medication I was taking for my ADHD, because it was too expensive, and kept me up at night.) Most likely, my current bout of insomnia isn’t actually new.

My doctor said that my day job helped mask the serious sleep deprivation by giving me structure. I had to get up at the same time each day, without the option of going back to sleep during the day, so I compensated by consuming several caffeinated drinks each day. And, in the evening I was pretty much useless. But at least I was going to work. Once that was gone, I lost my anchor. And giving up soda cut down on how much caffeine I was drinking, which made me more tired —

Why didn’t that help me settle into a good night’s sleep? Because I push myself too hard. I forced myself to be awake to get things done, and compensated in unhealthy ways: more coffee, and overeating. Both of which interfere with sleeping, too. See, caffeine stays in your body up to 24 hours, and when not keeping you awake, it can still keep you from resting, by making you wake up more often during the night.

The solution is to make a big change, and then give it time to work. (It’s the being patient part I usually have trouble with.) The plan?

1) Get up at the same time every day, even when I’m tired.

2) Go to bed at least 7 hours before the alarm is set to go off. (8 is better.)

3) Start the day with one caffeinated drink. And that’s all. No more! Not at all, not the rest of the day. None.

4) Resist the urge to nap, eat too much, or caffeinate during the day.

5) Whenever possible, if I feel sleepy during the day: exercise.

6) Accept that I am going to be tired for a week, maybe a couple of weeks, until I get settled and my sleep cycle resets.

Now that I’m going back to freelancing, that last one is the hardest. At a day job, if I struggled through sleepily and was a zombie at night, okay, I’m still getting paid. When I work for myself, if I take time off to be a slug, not only do I feel lazy and useless, but I’m not making any money. I can’t afford to take time off.

But I’m going to be 42 this year. I’d like to be just hitting the halfway point of my life, instead of nearing the end — and if I don’t stop the “quick fixes”, who knows how badly that’s affecting my health? I have a chance to turn my life around now that I may not get again any time soon. In that case, it’s an easy choice.

I’m setting my alarm, going to bed early tonight, and getting up on time tomorrow. I’ve got a caramel dessert-like coffee drink waiting in the fridge. I’m giving myself permission to take it easy this weekend, and next week too. Maybe next month, if I have to.

They say you can’t put a price on your health. I’m about to trade my income for my self, and find out.