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Thread: a personal update, information about Orchidtalk, and more 2022

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  1. #1
    Real Name
    Bruce Brown
    My Grow Area
    Favorite Orchid(s)
    Cattleyas & Slippers
    Join Date
    Mar 2003
    Member's Country Flag

    Cool a personal update, information about Orchidtalk, and more 2022

    A couple years before the pandemic we were in the process of upgrading the forum software and had worked for a few months getting things ready for one of the largest upgrades we had planned in some time. Life for us changed quite a bit starting in 2018. Then, of course, Covid19 hit and the world changed. For 25 years I taught college courses at two local universities. In March 2020 with about a two-day notice, I was asked to move my courses online (something I had never done) - literally the work to make the move was done over our spring break week that March. I had previously canceled my Friday class that week because I was requiring my students to go and see a production in the theatre department on the Thursday night before classes paused for spring break the following Friday. (And students notoriously skipped that Friday before spring break anyway!) I had no idea that I would not see those students face-to-face in classes ever again.

    Around 6:45 in the evening on that Thursday, setting in a dark theatre with a mix of students from three of my courses seated all around me and throughout the theatre, I received an email from the university alerting the faculty that we needed to notify our students that all courses would be moving online on Monday after break - that tomorrow, Friday, would be our last face-to-face class until likely sometime in April (the university administrators were really optimistic...). It was shocking!

    Anyway, you likely can guess the rest of that story. I taught completely online the remainder of that semester as Covid never let up, and in the fall, I choose to teach face-to-face following all the guidelines (masks, distance, sanitizing all surfaces after each class, and using student mobile devices to deliver any handouts, tests, ect - no physical documents exchanged hands). My classroom was moved to the theatre stage and single chairs were placed on a grid that included 6 feet of space between each student. Half of the class was on the stage floor, the other half in the risers spaced out the same way in the theatre seating. My courses were limited to 20 people. I was about 16 feet in front of the first row and had to wear a microphone because of my mask. I could hardly hear students when they answered or asked questions. It was extremely difficult to teach with those restrictions but the students were amazing and we made it through.

    Thankfully the university required all people who returned to campus to follow the CDC guidelines; I believe it reduced the number of deaths that followed, but of course there were several. As you might expect the university lost several faculty to early retirements because of the new way of teaching and, as I mentioned there were even some deaths due to Covid - two students deaths (luckily not students that I knew personally - but tragic none-the-less) before I finally quit teaching in the fall of 2021. It was all a bit overwhelming. Life changed for everyone.

    Let me back up a bit: After I left my tenured teaching position at the end of the spring semester 2018, something I never imagined I would do, I was a bit lost. The faculty contract I had with the university where I worked for 22 years had an agreement that the university would buy my house (with many restrictions you can imagine) if I ever wanted to leave the university. (It was a recruitment tool to get faculty to come to this small town and private university.) So, I took advantage of that offer and sold our house. This meant that we would also loose our beautiful greenhouse that we built 20 years ago when we moved to Arkansas too. It was difficult, but necessary. I took three months of a fall semester and built a new greenhouse on a part of the property we were not selling to the university. We moved our orchids and other plants over to it and by mid-December we were out of the house we lived in for 22 years. This was fall of 2018.

    We purchased a 33 foot travel trailer and parked it behind a rent house we owned. It was a much smaller house, but since Lou had a job as Director of the local counseling center, we decided to stay in this town that had over the years become our home. Our plan: remodel the rental house and move in.

    We lived in the travel trailer with our cat, blue and gold macaw, and pug from mid-December 2018 until sometime towards the end of February 2019 when I finally had enough of a remodel done we could move into one large room in the former rent house. We ended up selling the travel trailer during the early months of that summer since we were now inside a house again. I continued teaching at another local university, be it only part-time as a visiting professor through all of this remodel. This allowed me time to completely renovate the house and still have a tiny income. It was fun and exhausting and exciting all at the same time. The renovation is basically complete now three years later.

    As I mentioned earlier, I left teaching completely in 2021. That meant we were living off of my savings/retirement and Lou's job at the counseling center. I needed to find another job and eventually realized that I needed to create something or we would have to move to another city and I really didn't want to teach full time ever again. Lou was, after 8 years managing a community mental health counseling center, ready for a change too. So, together we decided that Lou would make the move into private practice and leave the agency life. This required another big change as we would loose our health insurance and a steady salary. To complete this process we had to learn how to credential with insurance companies and navigate the complexities of medical billing, etc... It was like going back to college but on high-speed. So, in October of 2021 I started learning the ins and outs of insurance credentialing and billing. I learned CPT codes, insurance modifiers; made lots of amazing contacts throughout the state... this list goes on and on... .

    Long story shortened: We were able to get Lou in contract with several commercial insurance panels as well as with some federal ones. So, we opened a new business, along with a long time counseling colleague. We named our business: Summit Reach Counseling & Psychotherapy. Since I was not a licensed counselor, I would be responsible for management, client retention, facility maintenance, scheduling, and medical billing. It likely would not pay me much as we were all starting from zero again. After several meetings with our CPA and our attorney about how to develop this business, I decided that I would create my own business as well and use my new learned skills to help mental health professionals who would like to make a change to private practice. I discovered not many behavioral health professionals, working in agencies, knew what I had spent months learning. So, I turned that into a business and created Arkansas Mental Health Credentialing & Billing Services. In just under eight months, I now have clients all over the state of Arkansas. And, about 75 percent of those clients who hired me to get them on insurance panels, have put me on contract to do their medical billing as well. As you can imagine starting a new business took an amazing amount of energy and time, but now it seems to be leveling out and we are doing alright again. Life is sort of getting back to normal....

    Our orchids have been severely neglected. Many died over the winters since we moved them into the new greenhouse. I still have not run gas lines out to it and have been heating it with oil-filled heaters every winter. It is a wonder that any of the plants survived, but lots have - in spite of any real care we have given them beyond water, pest spray when needed, and a little fertilizer.

    The forum community here was also neglected by me too. I never finished the updates we worked so hard to complete. BUT - that is about to change. Last weekend we moved the forum to an updated server that is speedier and has a high tech spam prevention firewall that blocks harmful bots that try to mess with the systems and software. It is our plan to go back to the updates we started working on nearly four years ago. It will take some time, but it is now the plan again. So, within the next few months, we will be working on software and design updates that will make the community more modern and user friendly.

    Thank you to those of you who have stuck with us through all of these changes. And to all those that have joined over the last few years too. Did you realize that in March of 2023 our community, OrchidTalk Orchid Forum, will celebrate 20 years of being on-line and 100% free? Pretty cool if you ask me!

    Anyway, that is a lot of a story to read, and if you made it this far, thank you. I'm so glad to share this space with you and look forward to sharing more orchids and stories in the future.


  2. #2
    Real Name
    Ray Barkalow
    My Grow Area
    Join Date
    Oct 2012
    Oak Island NC


    Kudos to you both, Bruce!

    Career transitions are tough enough within an organization, let alone an almost total divergence.

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