Thursday, June 26, 2014

Wells Fargo's new customer service by un-truth.

I understand a bank is in business to make a profit. When customers request a "stop payment" on a check, there is probably some cost involved in dealing with this issue.

I only protest that between two different bankers I was misled. I had to cancel a stop payment and was led to believe that after canceling said stop payment "we'll take that off (the fee). I can't do it right now because it hasn't posted yet. So just call back".

When I called in today, going directly to a banker because I am almost blind and never enter numbers in fast enough. I explained my situation and was informed that a) even when a "stop payment" is canceled, they don't take any of the fee off the charged account, but b) since I was a good customer, they'd take off half of the fee!

I am thankful they took off anything, but I bitterly protest the illusion caused by the first banker. If she had said they wouldn't take the fee off, I wouldn't be angry now. The business causing this problem will refund any fees.

Since when is it OK to lie to customers to make them happy?

I've been with Wells for years. I like them because they are accurate and when there is a problem, it gets dealt with promptly and fairly.

This latest bit with customer service, leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I made sure the first banker understood I was referring to whether or not the fee would be removed.

You stumbled on this one wells Fargo, so, since I've learned complaining to you does nothing, I send it out to the Internet.

Also, on May 24th of this year you eliminated any ability to get a "direct deposit advance." Some change because of a new law. OK, fine. But the option is still on your website in several places. I am a webmaster for my church and find it hard to believe that changing your website is a "security" issue. More questionable information from the banker I spoke to this morning. Changing links, or eliminating a linked option on a website is NOT complicated. I barely know what I'm doing managing the church's website, but the problem of removing a linked option would take under 15 minutes!

Is this some new kind of management through Obfuscation? Careful people, its not working too well for the IRS right now, Just saying.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Beyond Therapy: Trusting Your Community

Although I've been done with actual therapy for years, I finally completed the process last Monday. Therapy gives you a theoretical framework upon which to re-build your life. You learn the how and why of what brought you to therapy. You eventually realize you are DONE! I may not know everything that happened to me, but I know ENOUGH. You leave counseling and begin actually living life.

I have many shame issues around my several disabilities. When our church plays the "drawing" game I have always declined to participate. You are in teams, you are given an object to draw and your team has 30 Seconds to figure out what you have drawn. This was the first year I dared to actually draw and be a part of this game.

A blind friend of mine lamented that I couldn't participate in the picture-guessing when others drew something. I decided not to be a downer on the other 30 people at the party and just accept this very small item that I couldn't participate in.

When my turn came I joked that I didn't want something really complicated like The Waldorf Astoria. I had to draw a Christmas Wreath. I quickly drew a sketch like I used to do for Physics problems and my team got it right away. What a victory! I felt so much better having made an effort, vs just sitting back wondering what it would be like to participate.

Unfortunately, my shame issues really got me in another area of my life. I use a walker and  hate the idea of using the lift on the bus. I got up before the driver had fully positioned the bus. I was parallel with the seats near the door when the bus lurched forward and I fell with all my weight on the right rail of my walker. I had the wind knocked out of me and it turns out that I cracked a rib.

Needless to say, when I can get back to my normal life in about a month, I'll ALWAYS take the lift! I can hear you all saying I have nothing to be ashamed of, but that damage is something God has been healing me of for years. (Guess I'm not done huh)?

Unlike when I was laid up after being hit by a car, this time, I follow directions and am totally thankful and at peace. People call me and I have folks willing and ready to assist me with laundry and shopping anytime I request it. I am so very thankful. People don't have to deal with me and having learned to be thankful does wonders for my general attitude.

I think of this phase of my life as the "lab" that goes with the "lecture" known as therapy.

Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year to one and all.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

News Addiction

Today I read another sarcastic commentary about how people are wasting their lives watching television. The Internet got a short mention, but compared to television, it was only a minor offender.

I don't own a TV, and don't try to watch it via the Internet. (I experience such a smug sense of moral superiority). However, I never met a news service I didn't like.

Our Women's Bible Study has decided to do a 40-day-fast not on food, but on other time-sealers. Reality escapes like: TV, shopping or complaining. (ooh, not ready to even attempt that one)!

So, I picked broadcast news (radio, pod casts and the very tasty (visual) RSS news headline feed.

After only one full week of seriously avoiding all my beloved news programs, I realize that:

  • I have more energy because I get an actual night's sleep instead of being awake until 2:00 AM and having to rise at around 5 AM. I was dragging constantly.
  • I'm accomplishing more real work then I have for the last six months! (Around the time I changed from getting some news to trying to get ALL of the news)!

I added it all up and realized I was listening to almost 39 hours of news a week! Sunday night was the hardest, as that is my special marathon night of  a glorious 8 hours of various news programs!

I am ashamed to realize how much time News Addiction was steeling from my life.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why I Don't Go To Movie Theaters Any More

The movie industry is bemoaning sagging theater attendance. They struggle to entice audience back (and it isn't working).

Funny how something so simple evades those guys in suits pulling down 6 figures. I just finished watching a rented movie via iTunes for $2.99. At a movie theater, $2.99 might cover some of the tax on my expenses for the evening.

I would get to pay $10 or more just to get in to see the movie. I'm forced to sit through at least 5 to 10 minutes of commercials, where the volume is turned WAY up. Eventually the movie I wanted to see rolls around.

Being an experienced movie goer, I've purchased my huge bucket of popcorn with extra butter. Popcorn for a price which makes me think of airport prices as being fair and balanced! But who can watch a movie without popcorn?

In the theater I'm subjected to the following "fringe benefits":

  • sticky floors with and without moisture
  • people talking to each other / their cell phones / the movie
  • Language used by 6-year-olds, in response to my request for quiet, which would shock a drunken sailor
  • people throwing things, usually popcorn, at each other, or the screen
  • inability to hear softer dialogue due to all of the above
Here at home I avoid all of the nonsense above, truly relax and enjoy a movie for only $2.99.

OK all you MBA's out there, which would you choose?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The "Hidden" Cost Of Abandoning Social Media

Back in August I got off A month later I also left I still have to leave several other social media sites, but I rarely used them and don't believe they are as abusive to me as was.

I am saddened today by receiving an "invitation" to join from a local friend. It was shown in my email as a "bulk" item; meaning it could have gone out to every name on my friend's contact list. I had a sick feeling inside as I pondered my friend innocently leaping into a world where she can easily become a victim of several "bad things" which can happen on the internet.

I emailed her privately and explained my refusal to re-involve myself with social media. To date I've heard nothing from her. I miss out on all those fun pictures and snippets of life she will share with (potentially) everyone. It is a lonely place to be.

However, when I was actively involved in social media, I noticed a serious disconnect. There was a vast sense of "surface" and "fluff" communication. Twitter is only 120 characters per message and the problem became very blatant over time.

I noticed a heightened sense of frustration as I tried to more deeply connect with people. No one has time for that any more. They are off to a conference, or a second job or (God forbid) they have to leave cyberspace to go home and relate to the real human beings in their family.

I have difficulty connecting with people. This is not news to me. I realize that cyberspace is no solution to feeling isolated. As the Bible so rightly advises "If you want friends; show yourself friendly" Busy business people aren't interested in me. I occasionally blog something of interest to that group, but usually, not so much.

I am concentrating on the friends I have at church. I take small steps in trust and have been rewarded with actual shared communication and time.

But, there is that "pull" to follow the crowd and "join in." I refuse this impulse because greed wins out. To re-connect with all those wonderful things on facebook makes my entire life and identity the property of anyone with money (advertisers) or time (stalkers, spammers etc.) I find myself away from the crowd, either "one step ahead, or behind" I don't know at this point. This willlingness to not follow the pack is one trait in a leader.

I accept this position, but am a little surprised to find myself here.

June 2, 2011 addition.

Several friends have left the madness. One woman, who made it quite clear she was married and only interested in friendship got driven off from some low-class men inquiring about dating her! (This is a woman who is openly dedicated to church life and I'm amazed she got that kind of communication.

The more I hear about violations of privacy on social media, the more thankful I am that I got out. I'm getting involved with a religious website. I'll find out in short order how trustworthy they are by the email I may or may not receive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

I Choose "Life"!

I've been busy living an interesting and dynamic life. Somewhere between 2009 and now I've embraced the discipline of growing up. I'm learning self-discipline and self-control.

The rewards? A social life I used to bitterly rage about not having. I've been elected to my church's board of directors. The board then voted me as the secretary for the board and the general business meeting. Even though we are a small church, I keep minutes that could be used by my State, if they wanted to check up on something.

I am now 165 pounds, walking 4 miles each day, except Sunday. I now wear a size 16-18 instead of a 22-24. I refuse to fall into a swamp of depression when a friend I care about insists on not taking proper care of themselves. I have said my piece and there is nothing else to do, besides pray that the real cause of my friends behavior will be healed by God.

I have fought long and hard for all of the above. When I heard that my friend is (once again) back in the hospital, possibly facing more body-part amputations, I fell into a stooper of helpless rage.

After a quick call to a friend, I forced myself to stop staring at a wall and get up and take my 4 mile walk. It took over 3 miles before the downer mood lifted.

My being all bummed out will not bring change to my friend. Serious prayers, as I have been praying have a good chance of changing the underlying issue. Once that issue is cleared up, my friend will truly rise to the kind of newness of life I have discovered.

I've also returned to a favorite hobby of making a latch hook rug as a Christmas present this year. I will be writing in detail on all of this, but my life is turning into the real deal.

 I have something to do, someone to meet and somewhere to go, the three basic building blocks of a fulfilling life.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Quick Update On Why Government subsidized Housing Doesn't Work.

Happily a small community near me has a nice web page where they advertise when SECTION 8 or CITY-BASED housing options become available..

I am 57, legally blind AND use a walker. My current room is a 30-stair walk-up, (no elevator). Yeah, its probably illegal, but Landlord is excellent. (Besides suing him out of business would not secure me a better place to live. I'd just have NO place to live).

This city has 7 (seven) units that will become available for seniors (62+ ). My 2 major disabilities don't matter at all!

God, I love The Americans With Disabilities Act. Because of this legislation, I've become invisible!

There is a lottery of 100 (one hundred) spots that is being gathered now from (ready)? 10,000 (ten thousand) applications!

I am staying put and am not bothering to throw any paper after this particular mirage!

7/10,000 = Actual units/resident need = .07%

I no longer feel insane to realize that the government attempts to 'help' the poor are non-existent for me!

I finally let all of the government options lapse.

For the Hayward list, I was 153,482 in the run for Section 8.

In Berkeley I was 57,028. Actually got a voucher, but my disabilities were clearly stated on the application NOT to qualify for the building. So, I lost my place in line for a lie. This run to a voucher took over eight years! Can you say 'shell-game' anyone?

In Oakland I was #1! Yeah, for years. Every time a new HIV/AIDS patient came through, (you guessed it)! I was shot down to #2, or sometimes even #3. After years of this I finally let it lapse.

If I want to believe in fairy tales, I don't need the government to assist me.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Open Letter To The ATU From An Angry Bus Rider

I am nearly blind, use a walker and rely solely on "public" transportation. Here in the Oakland, CA area that includes AC Transit and BART. Every so often one of these unionized entities decides to play a nasty game of "chicken" with their management.

AC Transit, at the moment is having a labor/management dust-up. A court injunction favored the union and they return to court on the 30th for a continued decision. (Oh, blah, blah, blah).

So, while the union goes to court, management says that the new "unapproved" contract went into effect Saturday, 7/17/10. The union can't strike (yet), so they are having what is termed "a rolling sick-out". So double the normal absent drivers. Buses are severely delayed, or just cancelled all together. This is bad for passengers and the brave drivers alike. Passengers are late and on crammed buses with other angry customers. They end up yelling at the driver, who is attempting to continue to work under dreadful emotional conditions cited above.

I am going to have to take a cab from my home to where I can connect with BART (a rail system) that is (so far) not on strike. Oh how wonderful that prospect of paying for a cab on a fixed income.

I've heard sob stories from both sides. They are accusing one another of lying to the public. Well, frankly, I hope Alameda County just shuts the whole system down. It will be a drag to have no bus service, but I believe some fortunate folks who are currently employed (far above the minimum wage) need an attitude adjustment.

If AC Transit is shut down, those same drivers will look back with longing for the-non-existent job they just couldn't tolerate. Now facing unemployment and truly terrible minimum wage jobs they will get to discover how many of their former passengers are forced to live.

ATU, you think Alameda County won't shut the system down as a way of trumping a strike? I refer you to a group of former air traffic controllers who tried it under Reagen and gee, they're gone from that job.

Better think it through before you force Alameda County to "solve" this money problem, more dramatically then you ever dared to imagine.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Withdrawel From All Group Social Media In Response to Facebook.Com Abuse

When social media started I loved it. It was the high tech equivalent to "water cooler" conversation in brick-and-mortar office. Since I virtually "live" on my computer this new form of "community" was perfect.

Companies honored their privacy agreements. What you desired to be kept private actually stayed that way.

Then got really big and popular. They just couldn't resist the pull of all that interpersonal data not being shared with advertising firms and God-knows-who-else. Now, if a friend of mine clicks something which pulls them into being picked-up by other cites, I'm dragged along. I say "hell no!"

If I know you well enough to have your email, or phone number we can remain in touch. Otherwise, I'm beginning the somewhat difficult process of "pulling out" of social media.

I believe this slow exodus of users from social media will be the beginning of the downfall of another abuse of customer trust. Greed never learns.

When you permanently delete your account, it isn't "real" for 2 weeks, while someone prays you change your mind. ba-bye! ba-bye!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'm Living The Life I've Always Dreamed Of!

No, I haven't abandoned this blog. I have just been busy living my new kind of life. A life filled with common-sense eating, exercise, work, play and God. Here are the vital statistics from last March (2009) to today:

Last Year: 205 pounds.
This Year: 182 Pounds  -23 pounds. Sometimes I'm down as low as -30 pounds.

The great news is I'm keeping the weight off, improving my physical fitness and have finally gotten totally off white sugar. God, that is a FIGHT!

For the first time in years my Dr. didn't yell at me during my physical. She looked at my lower blood pressure, pulse rate and weight and KNEW I'd finally gotten some sense about caring for my body.

I walk 2 miles a day, between 3 and 6 days a week. I don't try to power walk, or anything like that. I just walk at a quick, but comfortable pace with my ever trusty walker. My entire body is changing shape and I'm getting muscle tone where I never had it before.

More later. The true joy of the physical was flunking the "clinical Depression Checklist". I had "never" for all 4 questions! Nutrition works, but for those of you who want the "quick fix" it took about 9 months before I started noticing some of the changes listed above. To truly "heal" a damaged body takes time, discipline and that awful p-word: patience.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bringing Every Thought Under Control. Fighting Negative Emotions.

Sitting at my computer in numb disbelief I ponder what the State of California has done to me. After I get through paying Medicare, HMO (they work together), rent, Internet, cell phone, bus pass, food and Netflix I have a whole $12 left at the END of each month! Rage begins to build. Losing all perspective I march down to my landlord's office to tell him of this lousy state of affairs. I do nothing to mask my rage. My landlord's two dogs begin fighting.

I remember immediately that my emotions are out of control and feel bad that I have encouraged some kind of problem between two loving animals. The dog fight brings me back to reality. I have a situation, not a disaster. God hasn't vacated His throne, but I need to grow up emotionally.

When I go to church and play "pity me, like I'm pitying myself" games I get gently, but firmly put in my place. When I am honest and state why I'm upset, I am comforted and gently reminded that I am still blessed. (But it is alright to be sad, or angry. You just can't attempt to stay in that unhappy place).

Oh how I hate hearing similar things in church all the time. "I was mad because I had no shoes, until I saw a person who had no feet." This encourages perspective and gratitude. (From time to time I detest being told I should remember to be thankful).

I heard from a friend last night. She was very down. Thank goodness I have learned a bit of restraint. I don't like looking at someone Else's depression when I feel close to depression myself. I resisted the very real temptation to tell her to "get over it."

Like me, she loses perspective, getting mad, jealous and envious. With those things ruling her mind, she then settles down to remember what a total failure she is. (Man, I flirt with this stuff constantly).

I have made some money with my work. Being alone in a house with a cat, or a dog can be difficult. Without the weekly church meetings, it is very easy for me to get lost in ME. Before my friend called, I'd been pondering my choices about my money:

Go to hotel for a night with an expensive dinner OR
buy new walking shoes, a computer desk and new shelving.

I cannot do it all. I fought despair all day, but gave in a bit with a nap. I felt my attitude deteriorating into apathy, despair, rage. Coming up the rear - good 'ol self hatred. (You know you could have gotten off the system and gotten a real job, if you weren't such a lazy failure).

That last bit is a total load of garbage. Back to what I know works.

God I am thankful for ...?
God I trust You and I will continue to put you first in my life.
God, help me to start thinking of someone else, who isn't blessed like I am, RIGHT NOW!

My friend and I had a good long talk. She thanked me for helping her get perspective. I have to thank her for showing me how important the constant reinforcement of church has strengthened me for the times my work forces me to be alone. I clearly see that my emotional strength and stability comes from hanging around God and His people.

Yes, I need medication. Without it, I believe I'm a spider who needs to be killed. But with a stabilized mind I have some say as to how depressed I become. The consequences of letting myself fall into a total emotional collapse are harder to recover from, then the effort it takes to stop an emotional slide before it turns into a physical, chemical reaction. Said reaction would require medical intervention. Funny, I believe I'm learning to actually grow up.

I know my friend faces similar temptations. Thankfully, she has the means to secure some therapy. A process which will unlock some of those terrible prisons of her past. She claims I helped her. God helped us both. I prayed to Him as I spoke to my friend. He answered questions for both of us. I see growth and hope.

Financially, it isn't as grim as I first stated. I save some money each month which brings my play money down to $12. Maybe I can accept having to WAIT until I've saved the money before I just go out and buy something? What a concept. It seems silly, but if I save money first, I can give myself those lovely moments of having money to just "blow". Maturity requires planning, whereas letting myself just be impulsive causes me to borrow money. I'm tired of having people ask me, "But, what happened to the money..." If I never hear that question again, this self-discipline thing will have been totally worth the struggle.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Gads, My Life Has Been Totally Transformed: Different Calendars For Different Things.

I am in love with Gmail and most things Google. They offer a calendar with your account and it is great. It is easy to add or delete or change an event. They also included the ability to have shared calendars with friends. I get the concept, but most of my on-line friends live thousands of miles away. They also haave a way for one person to have several different calendars.

I stopped and pondered why in the world would I want to have more then one calendar when I'm the one involved in all activities listed on said calendar? (One color calendar).

When you start really moving from surviving to thriving, you have more energy to do
things. Events started to overlap. I found myself attempting to figure out overlapping job duties. Cat job ends in the morning and dog sitting starts as soon as I leave cat gig. Now I had a reason to visually understand when different events were happening on the same day. Coloring Book 1A. (Multi-color calendar)

Make separate calendars for dog , cat and church. I hated the thought of having to re-enter events from one calendar into another. But all I have to do is go to the calendar drop-down menu within any event and select a new calendar. BAMB! New color for an already established event! Darn, what a concept!

Long ago, back when I had a paper week-at-a-glance book, I learned that if you didn't make it into my calendar, you didn't exist. I have a terrible memory for details like that. From time to time I'd double-book myself at two events at the same time! Lunch with Cathy AND cleaning a house somewhere. That book with all my events in it saved me more then once.

Now the same thing is all on-line.

In having to do this I am stunned to remember the time when I had very little to do and even less willingness to engage with events (even if I did have something to do). Now I have all sorts of things happening all the time. Just the way I like it.

Calendar reminds me of re-occurring stuff like bills (I choose not to pay on-line automatically), Dr. and social appointments, work and the mountain of church details I need to know.

Tools don't make sense until you have a need for them.

Once Again I comprehend: I've moved out of even recovery and into having a "real life."

I rarely have to stop, turn around and face some memory which I need to "process". Depression does come, but most of the time it is like being tempted to visit an old habit. When I don't want to do, or face something. I feel that pawl come over me. A feeling like I've lost everything good in the world. I have decided to fight that with a dose of reality.

Yeah, I have financial issues and problems, but: " THIS IS THE DAY THE LORD HAS MADE AND I WILL rejoice in it." (Psalm 118:24.) I start to find things that are good with the "right now." I hate the rain, but I'm dry and warm on a bus. I'm thankful to have somewhere to go. I'm thankful there IS a bus. AND I'm thankful I am not so disabled I can't ride said bus. I find the more I practice the above, the faster the depression leaves.

Now I am growing more of a conscience. I used to "lift" certain material off the internet with the help of friends. I discovered I can't do that anymore. When I tried it last week and went to church to pray, I couldn't pray. I knew I had to fes up to bad behavior and resolve to get rid of what I'd swiped. I had to make up my mind to steal no more. OUCH!

Close friends are more then happy to teach me all those "little things." I never learned in childhood. keeping yourself honest with others and yourself stops a whole lot of people issues, too.

To living life!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

(Re)-Learning To Play The Piano Is A Lot Like Life.

My Casio keyboard is standing against the wall in my room. I've made up my mind I'm going to find someone to teach me to play the piano by ear. I refuse to fight with sheet music any more. I found an audio course on the net by Bill Brown, who provides Music By Ear" lessons for very reasonable prices.

I made a CD of the first course and took off for two weeks of cat-sitting in a house with a real Grand piano! I indulged those silly images of me wow-ing some audience somewhere. But I played the piano in college and I know it can be done. I forgot about the "frustration" element.

Of course the first few lessons were a breeze. Mary Had A Little Lamb never sounded so good. Heck, this is EASY!

Then Mr. Brown brought me back to reality. I learned the C major scale. I remembered some of the cross-over, Cross-under finger movements, so I proceeded, perhaps a bit slower.

Then he taught me something totally new. In every key, there are chords built within that key. My job was to learn the chords: C, F, and G. How to move from Chord to chord with each hand separately, and then (the real challenge) playing both hands at the same time.

Years ago I injured the fourth finger on the right hand, the ring finger. It is permanently bend up at the joint closest to the fingertip. Playing notes without adding that lazy fourth finger is do-able, but playing three fingers at once and not laying down that fourth finger is darn near impossible.

I quickly found that I can tolerate a total practice time of ten minutes. Half on scales and the rest of the time on those dreaded chords. I see progress, but only at a snails pace. I believe it is this very frustrating time of drill learning which keeps many people from continuing with an instrument. How many times in life have I gotten bogged-down and just quit?

Yeah, my sorry blundering will clear up into correctly played chords and tunes. My time will increase, but I have to be patient and consistent. That "a little bit everyday" routine. I can do this like a motorist at a stoplight gunning the engine, or I can accept reality and relax. Slow is not the same thing as making NO progress. That is, unless I just walk away in disgust and let someone else learn to play, while I drift into jealousy. It is a situation entirely within my control.

I choose to hit it again tomorrow for at least ten minutes and I'll report from time to time, as my skill level increases.

Say "ba-bye" To Ethics: Thanks Microsoft

I never thought I'd see a business so blatantly abandon all ethics.

When times were good Microsoft gave away free domains for life when you signed up for Office Live. After the passing of time they had to change the terms. Existing "free" domains stayed that way, but the new people. You've now gotta pay. That's fair, as we've all watched the current economic upheaval. But now EVERYBODY pays. "Free" isn't "Free" anymore.

Microsoft's addition to this year's lexicon: "Its a change".

Microsoft back pedals on "free domain for life": Buzz Out Loud #1038:
Enjoy this pod cast. They do an excellent job with this sad tale.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Learning To Embrace Unpleasant Tasks As Part Of A Great Life

This morning the temperature was mild, the sun was streaming through the curtains and the cat I'm looking after was outside at play. Thanks to my Brita water filter pitcher and portable coffee maker the house had that great scent of freshly brewed coffee. I sat at the dining room table with deep satisfaction, looking over my prepared meal. All I had to do now was enjoy it. Something stirred in my mind. Why haven't I been doing things like this all along?

Usually, when doing pet care, I'd either eat what the owner or I bought. I'd choose the easy, frozen and quick. Substantial nutrition: corn dogs, pizzas, Fudge Brownie Ice Cream and lots of instant coffee.

After six weeks of a very scary bout with the flu I changed my diet and my world. No white sugar or chemicals. I have gone organic. But I know how my employers would react if I asked them to provide water filtration and "only-organic-fresh-blah-blah-blah" food. Most people assume a fresh carrot from Safeway is the same as a fresh carrot from Trader Joe's, or Whole Foods. No, but I realized it was my problem, not my employers problem.

Now I require a medium suitcase and a backpack along with my walker when I am away from home for work, or even on vacation. I have to plan, work and plan again to keep up my new diet, even when I don't feel like it.

I didn't want to go to all that effort for a ten-day job. But drinking unfiltered water really bothers me after a few days. So, I cleared the laundry out of my medium suitcase and started packing.

Water filter and new portable coffee maker, filters, coffee, medications, vitamins, jar of nuts, produce from my refrigerator that had to come with me, or wilt while I am away. Sigh, then I had to deal with clothes and toiletries. Organic soap, shampoo and after over ten years a new Gelette Fusion razor. (Whoa, that is a great razor). I could feel my back ache under the load of the backpack.

I caught myself toying with the temptation to "forget the whole thing". But I am afraid of getting sick again, so I began this new adventure. Medium suitcase on walker seat, backpack on my back and I'm off to work. Bus drivers and fellow passengers were wonderful. I had use of the bus lift and passengers were eager to help with the suitcase.

Getting up and down stairs is now a two part process. Suitcase goes down on first trip and then I come back with the walker. Then suitcase rides the walker and I continue the journey. I was shocked at how I resented having to do all this extra work.

A few moments in prayer reminded me of how fortunate I am to a) have a job to go to b) have the ability and strength to walk and lift weight and c) the funds to buy the water filter and coffee maker. Some people can't walk, or carry, or buy anything. They are bedridden and too sick to go anywhere. Returning to being grateful for the many good things in my life stopped my "Its tragic, me having to work so hard" pity party.

I began learning a new lesson about work when I went on the mini cruise to Vancouver Canada. There were experiences aboard ship that I found jaw-dropping wonderful. Moments of religious splendor, being awed by the beauty and size of the open ocean. The food was as good or even better than what I enjoyed at Squaw Creek up in the Sierras.

There were also moments where I wanted to scream in total frustration. Due to the Swine Flu outbreak, all ships bound for Mexico were diverted. Many of them came to Vancouver. Each ship carrying between 2,000 and 7,000 passengers. We were ship four and instead of leaving the ship on schedule, we were hung up in the bay for almost an hour before we even got to the dock!

The last morning on a ship is a bit insane. Everyone has to eat and get their rooms cleared out by a certain time. Then we all gather to get off the ship and WAIT. That entire morning tried all my spiritual skills. While hating the situation I remember longing for the "easy" Courtyard Hotel vacation with a hot tub in the room... Man, I'll never do this cruise stuff again!

Then I remembered some of the great parts of the cruise. Maybe some of the good part comes with something that is hard. This was an entirely new concept for me. I'd learned it on the job, but I'd always shied away from "hard" everywhere else in my life.

I had already planned to do a longer cruise to visit the glaciers of Alaska. But I kept coming back to this having to wait issue. Waiting in line for food, during the safety drill and while Canada processed our ship to come into their port. Yeah, I'd put up with the hard, because there were other parts of a cruise which are completely worth the effort.

I now realize I've had to take this same lesson into life in general. It is a bit difficult to lug my extra things to a work location. But, it is so nice to have the water I like and fresh brewed coffee. It is also worth the effort of preparation when I sit down to a lovely omelet, or complex salad. One thing about fresh fruit and vegetables, they have work associated with their presence in a meal.

I am shocked to realize that as a child, the neglect I experienced taught me all the wrong things about caring for myself. My parents were troubled, ill people. However, I lived on jars of cold baby food until I was put into a foster home at age seven. My parents were arrested for child neglect while I was taken from them in a police car.

When this came out in therapy my Doctor got extremely upset. I was nowhere near having a clue as to why this wasn't a good way to care for a child. Most of the time mommy remembered to keep baby food in "my cabinet" and I could get it whenever I wanted. My Doctor pointed out that this scheme also made it possible for my parents both to be in alcoholic stupors without having to feed their child. (oops).

My mother hated having to deal with me. Sadly, even after years of therapy and being around loving friends, I still carried that pattern of loathing to put in effort for myself. Now, if YOU were coming over, heck, I'd bust my back to make it all nice. But for me?

Up until my diet change, I'd hate to do work for myself so much I'd sometimes not bother to go to the store when I needed food. I'd just live on rice, or noodles, or whatever was around.


Just like in my childhood!

Oh nuts!

This is very painful to write. Until I wrote of it, I'd never realized my "funk" about not shopping was just re-visiting my life of being a neglected child. Now that it is out in the open God can cure me of it, like He has freed me from so many other crazy patterns from the past.

I long to tell you all, that knowledge will set you free, but I've known about the baby food deal for 20 years, but never realized I was still acting out that self-hatred I learned from my mother. I'm glad I finally got the lesson, but God, how I hate the never-ending process of attempting to have a normal life, learning to thrive, and not just to survive child abuse.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Once You Stop Eating Chemicals & Sugar, This Diet Is Self-Correcting.

Well, its rolling into the 3rd or 4Th week of seriously eliminating as much crud from my diet as is humanly possible. I've hit that time we all know so well. It isn't new, novel or exciting anymore.

Oh Lord, I hate having to explain to people at church why I no longer eat deserts, why I don't drink Coke, or 99% of what's popular as "comfort/party" food. I find my mind longing for, oh, chocolate cake, Doritos and sugar and milk in my coffee!

I discovered that putting milk in my coffee sets off the "this would be PERFECT with some SUGAR longings. So, (sigh), I now take coffee black.

Last Thursday the ladies at church had a real "tea party". We were exploring this as a possible fund-raiser for later in the summer. It was totally awesome. China tea pots, decaffeinated tea and HEALTHY food. Salad, Fruit medley and baked chicken. I felt free to chow down. It was all wonderful.

Suddenly I saw (out of the corner of my eye) that platter of already sliced yellow cake with chocolate icing go by. I stopped my friend and got my piece of this "no-no, oh-heck-I-can-get-away-with-this." desert.

I was surprised that it didn't taste as good as I remembered, but I cleaned up my plate.

Friday I woke up late feeling "strange". I sensed that something wasn't right. I felt like I was sick enough to have to not go to noon prayer. Nah, just lazy. I got up and -- aw-oh! I had the "trots".

It took almost 12 hours for my poor digestive system to stop having its tantrum. I had plans for this day and holding court on the throne was not on my agenda.

So, now I realize that, at least when it comes to sugary deserts, my body will force me to give them up. That is a first!

Once the sugar again cleared out of my system, I returned to my stronger state of health. I have slight lung congestion, but I suspect that is simply my immune system finally having enough room to clear out some of the damage I've done to my body via over 10 years of smoking cigarettes, pot and hash.

Well, that's it from the health front. I will be writing of my two mini-vacations (with pictures) over the next few weeks.

I have to brag. I worked 11 hours today, taking frequent brakes, but no actual nap and I still have energy to take care of a blog post, dinner and spending some time with a vaporizer. Its a miracle I tell ya, just a plain miracle.

Since I don't use the Gabriel Method CD, what do I do to replace that part of his plan? I spend at least ten minutes a day sitting in God's presence thanking him for what I desire. A truly healthy body.

I thank Him for helping me to root out all those old memories of abuse which still make me angry. I have to "release my right to punish". 'I release them and pray that good things will happen to them. If I am grinding my teeth in rage while I do this, I know I still have to work on that person, or institution.

I thank Him for the gifts of protection and assurance, which are healing and bringing to the surface people I'd thought I was finished being angry at. When I catch myself wanting to hurt them, I know I have work to do. The more I do, the more stuff comes up. Getting rid of all that free-floating rage can't be anything but good for my body, soul and spirit.

Prayer really heals all that anger. After awhile, God shows me something about the person which causes me to see what they did in a more realistic light. Something which brings up my true compassion for them. Then after several more days, I realize I've stopped having the "rage fantasies". When those little movies of me smashing in a skull, or stabbing someone truly stop, I know I'm over one more person who is a lot more troubled then I have ever been.

Do I always want to attend to all of this? Heck NO, but I've learned through other hard lessons that the reward is in doing what is right every day, little bit, by little bit to create a tomorrow much better then I could imagine.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Finding a "sane" way to eat.

Shortly after my last post in March 2009, I went on a week's vacation to Portland Oregon. Eight of us went to support our pastor when he preached at the church of one of his closest friends. I overate, drank too much coffee and had a blast. Everything from hotel vending machine banquette Ala Junk Food, to a home-cooked soul food meal.  It was totally lovely. I'll share all the vacation goings on in another post.

When I returned home, within a day I was flat-on-my-back sick. After six weeks of mainly being bed ridden I called my HMO to see if they could give me a shot, or something. Our area was full of this dry cough, fever, sniffles and flu wipe-out. The frustrated advice nurse listed home remedies I'd always dismissed as goofy . A sinus clean-out with warm water, small amounts of salt and baking soda, inhaled (I thought of straws and cocaine). I was to sit under steaming water, while keeping my room humid with the steam and taking two over-the-counter medications. 

To my shock, this man actually asked me if I intended to follow his instructions! I figured I had already lost six weeks of work, what's another four days? I got better quickly, just like he said I would. Being that sick scared me into rethinking how I take care of myself.

For years, I've consumed three to five pounds of white sugar a month. Sugar I mainly use in my coffee. When running around in the afternoon, I'd just buy a couple of those small bags of Doritos and coffee for lunch. Well, sometimes I'd have that for breakfast, or dinner too. Yeah, I finally got it. I would have to change my ways, or face another bought with illness, like I had just gotten through.

I heard an interview with Jon Gabriel, who went from 400 pounds down to his normal weight in a year-and-a-half. After four years, he's still keeping the weight off. He had a method I thought I could live with for dieting, AND nutrition. Improve your nutrition, straighten out your thinking and attitudes about weight and then your body will loose the weight naturally.

I've been bothered by my 80+ pounds of extra weight for months now. This idea appealed to me because like John, I'd been through diet-hell. Both the health food and weight loss varieties. I never got healthy, or thinner.

The Gabriel Method is simple. He believes our average diet is really nutrition poor. He believes that our attitudes toward weight can literally keep us fat, no matter what we try to do to get thinner. I can vouch for the attitude thing because when I have been thin, I hated the unwanted sexual attention I received. Now that I'm 80+ pounds overweight I no longer get the unwanted attention. So, I mentally and emotionally feel "safer" being fat.

Jon also believes your subconscious will obey the pictures and goals you have for yourself. All three things work together to remake your body and life in about a year-and-a-half. I ordered the book and read it while cat-sitting in early May.

I had a simple battle plan. At every meal and snack eat something nutritious as well as the other food  I was craving. As my nutrition improves, many of the cravings for junk food will leave. Drink filtered water, not ordinary tap water, to cut down on the chemicals coming into my system.

This is the easiest nutrition improvement scheme I've ever seen:

  • Add things with omega-3's (fish, nuts, oils and or supplements)
  • Eat some protein (meat, eggs, etc.)
  • Eat some raw vegetables and or fruit.
The mental work is also manageable:

  • Work on finding ways to feel "safe" every day. 
  • Work on getting used to thinking of myself as healthy and thin. This brings up what I fear, abuse, etc. 
  • Know that it is possible to truly get healthy and have a different, energetic and satisfying life.

He claimed that as the nutrition improves, the energy level would improve to where exercise wouldn't be as difficult. I have found this to be true after only a few weeks of attempting to follow the Gabriel Method.

He provides a CD, or a free download of the CD with the book. The CD messes with your brain waves and helps you image all of the above. I've had seizures and didn't like how the weird CD music made me feel. He recommends that people with seizure conditions DO NOT use the CD. It was a bad feeling for me, so I just take the ideas of his book and add them to my daily prayer life.

When I ran out of white sugar, I just didn't buy any more. Surprise; I went through drug withdrawal! It was like a milder version of getting off alcohol. This made me angry. I didn't realize white table sugar is a DRUG! Yeah, just like caffeine in coffee. 

Oh, yes, the "coffee headache". Makes sense, Caffeine is a drug and I'm addicted. But I am angry that table sugar is a drug also and I was addicted to it.. 

After several days of laying around sleeping, I rose from bed and noticed I was feeling better. Not leap over walls better, but something good was starting to happen.,

I next began taking omega-3 capsules along with my vitamins. I did exactly as John's book suggested. I discovered I really wanted oranges, spinach and more oranges. I'd have a cheese sandwich, or eggs, or my yogurt and protein mix for breakfast.

Lunch and dinner are huge salads with vegetables and fruit. One night I had a lovely dinner of one of the largest artichokes I'd ever seen. This thing was the size of a small pumpkin! Gads, was that good.

I stopped shopping at Safeway and began shopping at Trader Joe's. They carry organic products. Things which  have less sugar, or no sugar. They feature food with no extra chemicals added. I love grabbing any vegetable I fancy. I bought a bunch of avocados, bags of dark leafy salad mixes, nut butters, oatmeal, raisins, mixed nuts, bread, butter, milk, yogurt and a bag of oranges. The ingredients lists are short and in larger print.

I only had $50 on me and got ready to put back some of that lovely food. It was only $40! I almost wept at the checkout stand. So home I went and ate three basic meals a day with several snacks, if I wanted. I began to drink 8 glasses of water a day too.

I HATE drinking water. Had to chase down a Britta filtering pitcher. Reviews and friends all recommended Britta as the best filter for a low price. So, now I have a 144 oz pitcher to filter water. I figured it was not really necessary, but I do not like the chlorine smell in the tap water. 

So I tried this "filtered" water.  It reminded me of that great water we used to get at the office water cooler. Within hours I was craving water. I just couldn't seem to get enough of it. Coffee with this filtered water tastes so much better. I noticed my elimination patterns were changing. I just felt better, not as shaky or off balance. I could do almost twice as much physical work before becoming sore. I felt like I was getting more out of my sleep time. I actually could stay awake for an entire day, with only a short nap, or no nap at all. 

So now, I'm dog sitting, eating non-organic food and drinking unfiltered tap water. I don't like the smell of the water. Its like my throat wants to close up when I try to drink this water. But its only for 3 days. Next time, I'll have a portable 72-ounce Britta filter for when I'm not at home.

I am fully off white sugar and doing my best to stay away from any chemicals. Sweet Maria is a little amazed at the change in my food requests. Instead of ice cream and pizza, I now want fruit, vegetables, yogurt and chicken. 

She was going to get me my beloved garlic bread, but made me a quiche instead. The garlic bread has a lot of junk in it. I'm glad she didn't get it for me. So, with very little sacrifice, I'm working my way to health. What keeps me running is refusing to EVER get as sick as I was for that awful six weeks of being in bed.

So, for awhile, when our church has a dinner with all the things I love, but choose not to eat anymore, I stay home. I know it will be a few months before I can be in a room with all that sugar and chocolate. I plan on visiting lovely healthier versions of chocolate, but not for a few months.

The real shock of all of this is realizing that God is teaching me that I am safe in the world. Not because the world has suddenly become "safe", but because God will protect me. When something makes me nervous inside, I ask God to protect me and give me wisdom as to what, if anything I need to do in the situation. My body then just relaxes. That is new and I consider it a miracle of Gods grace and healing. I have literally been "scared" all my life. Now that life long habit of fear is gone.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Don't Change Dosing Schedule If You Are On Psychiatric Medication.

Yes, friends, I am fine. My very extensive testing through my HMO found me totally normal. What I realized after a bit of time passed is I changed the time I took my psychiatric medication while trying to fast with my church. Yeah, if I'd checked in with my psychiatrist, she would have brought me up short FAST.

But, I made sure I sought out advice from people who knew nothing about the heavy-duty medication I take. Why? I wanted to show off to my fellow church-goers that I was among the SUPER SPIRITUAL! (Yeah, I hear ya. That was REALLY dumb).

It is our old friend fear. I was afraid I wouldn't really be "loved" unless I marched with the others in my congregation who were fasting. Here's reality: they love me not for what I do, but for who I am in Christ. I don't need to DO anything. They love me because I am one of God's kids. Oh, how hard that lesson is to learn!

I also got a deserved verbal thrashing from a friend who does know something about medication, fasting and insecure, Eager Beavers such as myself.

I have to remember to ask God to help me stay away from those "old tapes" which I still carry around inside. I was really shocked at how easy it was to fall back into that old behavior of: It may kill me, but I'll do anything to get you to love me".

Even after years of work and a nice life, I still get snared by my past. I have to say, this slide backwards totally astounded me. I thought I was done with that kind of acting out. No, I guess not.

How To Survive A Heart Attack When Alone

(This is very valuable, life-saving information I received by email).

Let‘s say it’s 5:50pm and you're
driving home (alone of course) after
an unusually hard day on the job.
You're really tired, and

UPSET ....

Suddenly you start experiencing severe pain
in your chest that starts to radiate out into your
arm and up into your jaw.
You are only five miles from the hospital nearest
your home.
Unfortunately you don't know if you'll be able to
make it that far











Saturday, January 31, 2009

Quality And Ethics Be Damned: Buyer Be A Late Adopter.

Go to this link and read this outrageous story: 
To some of my friends who say I'm unreasonable and expect too much from companies. Here is the proof of my frustration. "getting it out always trumps getting it right" (!! Emphasis added). If it wasn't such damned common practice I believe it would come under a legal matter about deceptive advertising. 

Currently a peanut butter paste company is in hot water because it appears they knew their product was contaminated and sent it out the door anyway. Eight people have died from this corporate attempt to boost profits.

Well, sure bad software isn't a life and death issue. Yeah, well F-R-A-U-D is fraud no matter how you justify it. Sure, I know the first release of something will have Unforeseen problems. I'm not speaking of that unavoidable situation. 

I railing against a company who knows damn well the software isn't "ready for prime time", but pawns it off on its customers anyway. I hope and pray the current economic meltdown will shake some rare "common sense" into some of these companies and their minions. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." If you engage in this despicable practice I hope you fail and fail big. Yeah, Apple, you too.

I'm still using Apple's next-to-newest operating system: Tiger because I don't trust Leopard to be really ready for prime time, even yet. Little problem reports squeak out here and there. I am going to wait until I'm forced to change. Then I won't waste so much of my time and productivity trying to get around problems that were known about before the software left the company. 

A pox on all of your houses!

Finally! A Petition To Congress Against MLM Pyramid Schemes.

It has been sadly documented that most MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) "business opportunities" only cause 99% of their members to lose money - and not petty sums either. A real business model is very different from MLM.

A real business has a product or service to actually sell to customers (not at all involved in the business). That same business may also have a sales force to do the selling. BUT this sales force's size and locations are tightly controlled by the company. No real business wants 15 salesmen in a territory where only 2 of these people can actually make a living via their selling practices. Note that a real franchise controls how many restaurants reside in an area to avoid market over saturation. 

MLM's on the other hand CLAIM they have a product to sell. (Yes, it exists, but it is a "cover" for where the "real" money is made). The real money is made by getting other people to join the "business" as distributors. (sellers of the business, not the product, to other individuals). There is absolutely no control over the sizes of the distribution networks, or where they develop. The product which is used to "hook" a new prospect into the business, is actually sold to distributors, public sales are minimal, as making new distributors, not product sales is where the money lies.

Once a distributer, you are strongly encouraged "forced into" buying the so-called product. Books, videos and seminars are also hard-sold to distributers using the ploy of wanting to really make it means you buy x, or go to a seminar. The distributer is spending all their income and personal savings for the books and seminars. Their sales never can cover their actual costs, even when they manage to build a large network of distributers working under them.

This system is doomed to fail. I have seen churches and self-help groups torn apart when one of these "business opportunities" comes into the group. A church is supposed to be in the business of religion and personal salvation (Christian model), not in church members fighting over who will get the new prospect for "their network". It is ugly, immoral and should be completely illegal.

Finally, a petition we can sign to (hopefully) get Congress to stop this terrible misrepresentation of "business". Obviously, the poor, desperate and inexperienced are the most common victims of these "business opportunities". Sadly, once victimized people try again with another MLM figuring "this time will be different". It won't be.

Please sign this petition:

Main website:

I have left the actual address for you to see, so you can check out the site for yourself to verify that this is not a set-up, or spam. I have donated to this site and personally vouch for their reliability and trustworthiness.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

What A Difference A Diagnosis Makes.

I've been so busy living life, I've not had time to blog. I finally got to see my favorite author Scott Sigler live in San Francisco for the bookstore session and the pub crawl held after wards.

Being I am afraid of San Francisco in general and The Mission District in particular, I booked a luxury room at a Days Inn complete with a hot tub for one night. I've had lots of fun and enjoyment.

I've also had various kinds of work: for my church, house cleaning and animal care. This last weekend was a dog sitting gig in Berkeley. I planned to blog all about Scott and San Francisco, but life had some serious surprises in store.

Monday, Jan 12Th I was at sweet Maria's cleaning her house. I thought I'd better wash the cup and glass she keeps by her bed. I have been neglecting this task and felt it was time to reprogram it into my routine.

I'd gotten two pairs of new running shoes, which fit my feet better (surprise), but new soles sometimes catch and DOWN I went. Glass coffee cup in left hand, drinking glass in right hand. Oh, that sound of breaking glass and sloshing liquid.

I hate falling. It happens to me from time to time, but this one was a bit different. I didn't remember "tripping" on anything, but it could have been my new shoes. Yeah, that was it! I scrambled for an explanation while I surveyed the mess before me. Sweet Maria did not come running up the stairs (thank God). I called out that I was alright.

I'd slammed my left cheekbone into the side of the toilet and THAT hurt big time. I was partially covered in sherry with small cuts on my left hand. Amazingly, the water glass and its contents were still intact by the bath tub. I picked up the broken cup, mopped up the floor and prepared to come down to explain to Maria that I'd broken a cup.

I also headed for her bottle of Ibuprofen as my face was really hurting. Maria said I was not black and blue. I only had a small red spot on my cheek. She calmly checked to make sure I was okay and then returned to her newspaper.

I went home and doctored my cheek as my normal system of denial kicked in. Another fall, broke something, but nothing to worry about.

That Wednesday, the 14th I did my Alameda account. Funny, I just fell down twice on a hard wood floor with no stumbling, or tripping. I just seemed to topple over to the right. Hmmmm.

I was looking forward to the weekend of Martin Luther King's Birthday. A full four days with Maria's beloved Newfoundland, Hannah, blogging and a bit of work just to keep me honest. I sent John and Maria on their way around 11 AM and took a nap until about 3:30 PM.

I had junk food this weekend, as I just didn't feel like cooking for myself and I just wanted some good old "crap" as my Dr. calls most frozen, processed food. My thoughts drifted back to January of 2008. Dr. Kim is a friendly, humorous and down-to-earth internist I really trust. Any Dr. who inquires: "Have you been eating a lot of crap lately?" in reaction to my unusually high blood pressure reading, is a Dr. I can and do trust.

When I laughingly requested a definition of "crap", she shot back "Stouffers". Oh damn, that's some of my favorite stuff. Dr. Kim then explained about the high salt, sugar and chemical content of such foods. A little of such is okay, but I'd lived on frozen foods for three weeks before seeing her. I'd been cat sitting and living on an entire freezer full of crap.

Dr. Kim smiled and gently said: "No, one pizza every once in a while. Not a regular thing. I suspect when you return to more natural eating your pressure will come down." How can I argue with a Dr. who knows how good Stouffers can be? It was true, cut down on the processed food and my blood pressure quickly returned to normal.

But by God, this weekend (returning back to this year, 2009) I had two pizzas, two frozen pot pies, ice cream and several rich goodies left over from John and Maria. I hit that pizza running. Damn, it was so good.

I fell again. This new kind of falling, to the right when not tripping over something. Well, hell, probably I am just not paying attention. Later in the evening I was enjoying a small cheese sandwich and wanted to read the label on the cheese, so I could buy it for myself. I looked down and was reaching for my glasses on the dining room table when my entire world changed.

I felt myself falling again, to the right. I'd knocked my dining room chair over the last time I'd fallen. This time I was thrusting my right elbow out to try and keep from hitting the dining room bar. I felt my elbow hit and go clear through the back of the rattan dining room chair. Oh Jesus!

Even I couldn't ignore this series of events. I'd made a lovely two inch wide hole in the back of their rattan chair. They had one of the chairs restrung and I remembered it cost about $300. I had the money, but how in the hell could I explain what happened?

I was only slightly scratched up, but badly shaken. Something wasn't right and I had better get my butt into my HMO come Tuesday. I need to try and explain why I'd taken to breaking furniture!

I began to try and find out what was going on. I noticed short times of slight dizziness. Now that I was hyper alert, I always held onto something. I dreaded going outside. I felt dizzy on the brick path with the uneven stairs. I began noting and remembering. It was something which seemed to have started slowly about two months ago. But it wasn't constant either. Oh Jesus!

My HMO was their usual polite, efficient, and kind self. The general advice nurse kicked me up to the next level after only a few sentences. The guy at the 2Nd level had me booked for that day at 3:20 pm. I felt kind of foolish, because it wasn't something I could duplicate in the office. The Advice Nurse said that it happens like this some times.They were going to check it out and track it down.

My Dr. was her usual wonderful self. I laid it out and she asked questions. We established that what I had was a bit unusual, but she'd start out with full blood work and then a brain scan.

Oooh, brain scan, made me feel a little clammy inside. Then Dr. Kim started messing with my body. She had me touch my nose and then her finger. I had trouble hitting her finger using my right hand. I wasn't totally accurate on the left, but I didn't know how much my low vision played into that problem. Although the last time I did that test with another Dr. I hit his finger dead on from both sides. I could feel my fear starting to make itself at home.

"Do you have a case worker?" Dr. Kim's question hit me hard, Jesus, do I NEED one? No, okay, she'll sign me up.

She then wanted to see how unstable I was. She stood before me gently putting her hand on the top of my head and pushing back. I started to fall much too quickly. She swept me up in her arms and proceeded to scare me senseless.

"... you may need to look into assisted living. You do live alone?" My mind flashed on the nice "assisted living" situations I've seen. Ah, joining the bingo set. Where loving people in white, or pink talk loud to you and scream about "... joining us in the activity room for bingo," Holy SHIT!

I felt my eyes fill with tears. I forced control and continued with the interview. Yes, I lived alone. How do I know if I loose consciousness when I'm alone? Not a real good answer to that one. Oh Jesus, looks like I DO need to join the bingo set.

Dr Kim was very kind. I shed a few tears in her presence and she said I could stay in the cubicle for a while to get myself back together. (Oh yeah, right, I'll just walk out of here and have a Mocha down on the first floor. While I MOURN THE LOSS OF MY ENTIRE LIFE!)

I basically was in shock. I wasn't rebelling. I knew this falling business could hurt me real bad. Oh God, maybe I'll be able to get a room mate. (That would be an easy sell: "Come let us live together, so when I fall and pass out, you can call the medics.") Yeah, professionals handle that stuff better. I kept going back to "assisted living" and bingo.

Well, I've longed to stop doing housework, but hell, I can't even give these dear people the usual two weeks notice. I heard the lyrics: "The party's over, my friend." I was just in a daze. Well, at least I now had a shot of getting some assistance with housing. That, at least was some comfort. (Note to self: ignorance is NOT bliss).

Wednesday morning I did hear from a very tired social worker who brought me up short quick. "Honey, assisted living is at least $3,000 a month. If you don't have that. Well, see there are too many people chasing too few resources." I stopped her to inquire about the dangerous situation I was facing and also letting her know I was legally blind. The blindness is now a block to get into certain programs. Due to all the lawsuits, housing for disability is segregated by "insurance risk". Yeah, blindness is a bigger problem than, say only having walking of mental functioning issues.

Then this woman let me know what she didn't know with the stunning question: "Well, honey, doesn't the Blind Center have something for you blind people?". OH JESUS!

There is no one "Blind Center" and there ain't no such animal - I've searched. It was up to me to find what I needed. She only worked with "Assisted Living" people who needed no stairs weren't her job (!) (Crap, this is getting to feel like a Monty Python episode.)

She'd send me a list... At this point friends, I lost it. I started to cry and thanked her. I informed her that I had to end our conversation to go and "... play craps with my life." Man, I feared my life was going to end in me dying in the building by accident for my poor landlord to discover. Steve, my landlord has had that grim task before.

When someone doesn't pay the rent, when they are usually on time. He lets himself into their unit to discover, woopsie! They are dead. To say I entered the land of despair is putting it mildly. I had that kind of depression where it is physically tiring to move. Well, when I get stronger it is back to trying to get on Government Housing lists again.

I called the mother of our church, because I was so depressed. She could hear it in my voice and just listened as I stammered out my tale. I let her know that I wanted to come to church tonight no matter what. I was a mental mess, but I really needed to be at church with my church family.

She asked me about food in the house and I asked her if she could pick up a few things for me. I knew I just couldn't handle a run out to Safeway. She asked if she could do it the next morning. I said that was fine. I hoped I'd be better so I could do my own shopping. I could feel her kindness and love. I needed and received it gratefully.

At church I told the truth. My voice was a bit lower, as I wa still down. People were just plain gracious. People suggested Bible passages and shared some of their own struggles. People could see that, for me, this situation was a true test.

My Internet buddies were there for me also. People don't always know what to do when disaster shows up, but I have learned that when I let folks know what I need "just listen." or whatever, they are there for me. Thank God for the wonderful gift of humor.

People have begged me to go into professional comedy. Frankly, I avoid that, because I am at my funniest when my life is at its worst. Gallows humor has always been a favorite of mine The next morning, beleaguered patients lining up for tests at my HMO were full of some really funny observations.

Always wondered where all the people with gray hair, walkers, crutches and wheelchairs were. I found them. All lined up outside the blood work lab, ready for our 8 AM session. The best line of the morning, after 12 hours of fasting:

"When I was young, my body told my muscles what to do and they obeyed. Now my muscles remind my body of all the stupid shit I did when I was young,"

My humble contribution to the waiting throng was a partial rewrite to "What A Difference A Day Makes":

I used to be psychiatric
But now geriatric
What a difference a diagnosis makes.
Oh man, I'm so screwed.

After the blood work was done, I returned home to purchase a stool for the now potentially dangerous shower. I assembled the shower stool and again fell back into a funk. A friend has a real bad case of gastroenteritis. Basically, she's got real bad gas and tummy pains that keep her awake at night. She and I got into more great humor.

"A cane, a walker, a shower stool and you" Sounds like a really bad song, or novel.

I thought we could do an album and we could each have our signature tunes. Mine would be: "What A Difference A Diagnosis Makes" and she could perform: "The Put-Put Song," Yeah, it is amazing how the human spirit can rise above almost anything and make it funny.

Thursday I actually made it out of my house and back from Safeway. I feel like I've really been through something. I have to reclaim my life.

I may be getting some help on the housing situation and that is a relief. With or without outside help, I went over to to begin a search for a room with no stairs.Rents have dropped to where I actually HAVE several choices which look good. I've always had to find my own housing and why should this situation be any different?

I had to get humble enough to accept the idea that I need help. Somehow, the last two weeks have beaten a new trait into my being. Humble submission and cooperation. Man, some of us are so STUBBORN!

I get my very first MRI next week and hopefully they'll find some reason for my new symptom of occasionally just falling over for no reason at all.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

eReader : Why it is So Good, in Spite of My Low Vision

(Thanks to a polite comment request, I retrace some steps and answer questions specific to software and equipment, instead of my reading interests. My new post will be up, hopefully, by next Saturday).

I have 20/200 vision in my only good eye. Without glasses I can clearly see about three feet in front of me. With a 12x magnifying bubble mounted in a pair of glasses, I can read print sizes from the printed phone book on up. I have to guess at entries in a printed phone book, or an average printed pocket dictionary, as I can't really see the individual letters clearly.

Every low vision person I've met sees differently. What works for one, does absolutely nothing for another person with low vision. For me, 12x magnification makes 99% of print available to me. I have to hold the printed material right up near my face (about a third of an inch away from my eye). I can only read about an hour and a half, before I get slight eye pain and muscle and body aches, from holding books up so close to my face. I also have to have a 100 watt light bulb about 4 inches away from the side of my head when reading real print on paper in a book.

When I got my first computer I found out about reverse video. The print is write and the background is black. For me this was a true revelation. I got a Mac, as I'd always had serious problems "losing" the cursor on a PC.

The only way you can get the experience of seeing my screenshots as I see them is to temporarily adjust your computer so you get reverse video. Look in the accessibility control panel and you should be able to reset your machine to see my screen as I see it. For the last two screenshots, my desktop is blue, not orange, in reverse video.

On a PC the cursor is a dotted outline, which is very easy to lose track of on the screen. The Macintosh cursor is a solid black arrow. In reverse video it is a solid white arrow. I can see it well enough to find it again after clicking a link and being moved to another page.

The way my vision works, contrast is everything. Black background gives more contrast to the print, then black letters on a white background. I find it interesting that for normal vision readers, reverse video is distracting and is avoided when possible.

In order to produce the square box you see around my cursor in the 2nd and 3rd screenshots I do the following in the accessibility panel. I increase the computer's screen zoom magnification to its maximum, but only request the "preview" viewing area. This produces a nice drawn rectangle around the cursor. This is what I use all the time on my computer, to quickly find the cursor when I lose track of it. With the 12x magnification in my glasses, I can only see about one square inch of screen at a time. This is why it is so easy for me to "lose" the cursor while working on my computer.

I soon discovered electronic, or ebooks. I have a screenshot of an ebook in the ".pdf" format. Either Adobe Reader, or Preview recognize ".pdf" (portable document format). These programs are designed for editing and sharing office documents, not books.

I read by moving my head more then the material on the screen. With preview, (screenshot to the right), I have to constantly scroll down as I work my way through an ebook. It is very doable, but not my preferred reading experience.

I can use Page-Down, or Down-Arrow keys to scroll. Page-down moves too much of the screen before I've gotten to the lower part of the page. So, I have to use the Down-Arrow key.

I was shocked to realize that I could read at my computer for three hours or more, with no pain anywhere in my body. I sit with my back straight in my chair, with the screen elevated to be right in front of my face. I have a table with a tray for the keyboard and I type with the keyboard completely recessed within the table. (I've never had such good posture).

I discovered eReader (another program for reading ebooks) while exploring this new world of books made to read on a computer, or handheld device. Adobe and Preview read ".pdf" files, while eReader deals with ".pdb" files. Most of my ebooks are in the ".pdb" format, as that is the one I have found works the best for reading books on my computer.

eReader was designed specifically for the book reading experience. You'll notice at once, its full screen looks more like the page of a book, instead of an office document, with its wide margins and page separators.

On the next two screenshots, the screen is 21 inches.

As you can see from the full page screen shot of the eReader program, I still have the problem of this long document to meander through. But with eReader, when you adjust the page size, you don't have to scroll through the document line-by-line, but it redefines a page according to your window size.

I may start out with a book of 200 pages, but when I shrink the window, the page count jumps into the thousands!. I use one Page-Down, arrow-Down or Arrow-Right per page. When I began exploring handheld devices, it is still the best reading experience. I've found. (eBookWise and Palm Handhelds will be covered in my next post).

One final note on ebooks. I live in a very small room, making a library of thousands of books impossible. With eBooks I literally own thousands of titles, all on my hard drive. This technology saves on paper, ink and the energy to print the book. Here are the links to the programs I've been discussing.

Adobe Reader

Apple's Preview

eReader (go back to their homepage for the FREE eReader version).

Free eBooks (in .pdb format)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The JOY of Easily Looking Up Words While I Read.

Yes, this is a love story about my new Palm Tungsten E2 hand held personal data assistant. (PDA). Having low vision has always been a dreary fight when having to use more than one book at a time. I have to explain the bad old days to help you understand why I am shaking with joy at this change in my life.

I have a 12x magnifying bubble mounted in a pair of glasses, leaving my hands free. I would pick up the book, or lean way over to write on a piece of paper, as I have to be about half an inch away from what I'm looking at. I did not start reading on my own until the sixth grade, when a friend stole a 12x magnifier from her science class for me to experiment with. It opened up the world of books, libraries and dictionaries to me.

But when I was reading something and I'd run into a word I did not know, I would have a serious set of problems.

  1. Put the book down, carefully, so as not to lose my place.
  2. Grab a pocket dictionary and start hunting down the unknown word.
  3. Realize I don't know how to spell the word and would have to go back to #1.
  4. Locate word in dictionary and try and read that really tiny print. I have learned to do some very accurate guessing by the "shape" of print that is truly too small for me to read. Not always correct: "boot" and "boat" look similar, but usually I'd figure it out via context.
  5. Return to the original book I was reading.
  6. Realize I no longer remember the thread of what I was reading.
  7. Go back a page or two to remind myself of what I didn't know.
  8. Find strange word again and realize I don't remember the darn definition. Return to #1!
Note taking in the library for research projects was almost as bad. I have always had a lousy short term memory and for sure, that gave me many hours of idea chasing. I learned it was faster to "guestimate" the meaning of a word. A very fast and lose system of having the vaguest notion of the meaning of say "habeas corpus".

I knew this was Latin and having something to do with legalese. That is a pretty crummy understanding of this term. I reproduce the following from my new Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary for that goofy phrase habeas corpus:
n{ME, fr. ML, lit., you should have the body (the opening words of the writ)} (15c) 1: any of several common-law writs issued to bring a party before a court or judge ; esp : habeas corpus ad subjiciendum 2 : the right of a citizen to obtain a writ of habeas corpus as a protection against illegal imprisonment
Now, that means something. I'm reading a legal book outlining the problem of "enemy combatants" as opposed to "enemy soldiers", those who commit sabotage and spys. Legally the Iraq war is a mess. A lot of the problem has to do with this habeas corpus stuff.

We were so freaked out after 9/11 we rounded up people we suspected of being involved in the three planes-used-as-bombs and tried to detain them indefinitely with no official charges. This is a problem, legally if they are under the rules of our Constitution. I find the whole thing fascinating.

I had no clue that the law made such fine distinctions between types of behavior in war. Now I have a dictionary that is up to all the Latin they want to throw at me. But now I introduce you to the miracle of today's technology.

Well, okay, actually the Palm device I bought was new in 2005, but I love eReader as a program and I absolutely love the way Palm does things on their little hand held device.

When I'm using my hands, I shake a bit because of Cerebral Palsy, so touching the screen with my finger usually delivers something other then the command I'm trying to execute. But with the stylus - a metal pencil tipped with plastic for touching the screen more accurately - works like a charm for me. So here is the new way of my world.
  1. I'm reading my law book, or the King James Bible (old and odd English), or some police forensics book and I run into something I can't even guess at, in terms of its meaning.
  2. I reach for the stylus held in its slot and pull it out.
  3. I high light the word, or in some cases, the phrase, with the stylus.
  4. My eReader program automatically goes to my dictionary, finds the word, or the words which are closest to it and displays the definition on my screen.
  5. When I've chased down any other words in the definition I don't know, I hit "Done" and return to my original text! It takes seconds and not minutes.
For the first time in my reading life I can actually learn something from looking up words in a dictionary. I had to check out this new dictionary to see if it had all the strange things I am running into with my wide range of reading material.

Wist, Wont and blain - all old English. This baby not only tells me where the word originated and where it traveled, but the YEAR of its origination! Oh, its like candy for my mind.

Habeas corpus and that other phrases came up as soon as I correctly guessed the spelling on habeas. So, I went to the front of the dictionary and took a look at their pronunciation key. (It is a bit strange). I'm not sure if it is because the font is foreign to my eReader program, or they just have a strange system.

I started reading the definitions of things like 24/7 and 411. While grazing through a few of these abbreviations, I discovered chemical formulas! Yeah, this thing is smart enough for me - I am absolutely clueless when it comes to Chemistry.

What is so satisfying is the fluidity of my learning. Since I no longer keep having to run around trying to remember what I was looking up, or what the word ment, or what was happening in the original book, I no longer get discouraged, or angry. This is truly a miracle in my estimation. Now, my six hours of butt time on buses each week will be filled with reading and learning. It is nice to listen to music, but after awhile, I get bored.

I have thousands of things I want to read. A huge library a friend put together for me of public domain ebooks and a hundred, or so ebooks I've purchased. I also have an eight volume set of Church History on my computer, which I can easily move over to my handheld, a bit at a time.

My real prize is the 37 volumes of the Early Church Fathers. Believe it, or not, I'm in volume four of the set. These are source documents and they are amazing. I read what people thought about the works of the Early Church Fathers in the History book, but then I check for myself what these men actually WROTE. Sometimes the differences are a little scary.

Kind of like what happened over the new puppy Barak Obama promised his daughters in his acceptance speech. A day or two later, I heard a report from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) that the dog had not only been acquired, but had tried to bite a reporter! There was a bit of ga-fawing and this quite proper Canadian ended her report with: "... we'll be sure to keep you informed of any breaking (or barking) news as it happens here on the CBC". Cute report, right?

I don't know what happened for sure. But several people I know, who have turned Obama watching into their new religion, have vigorously informed me that Barak hasn't even gotten the puppy yet. A dog did try and bite a reporter, Bush's dog snapped at a reporter who reached out to pet it. I'm still not clear on where the truth is on that one.

But more then likely, I'll end up reading about the truth as I romp through my ever growing library of electronic books. I now can read comfortably not only sitting at my computer, but lying in bed, riding a bus, or standing in line. Works great in restaurants too, when I am alone with a bowl of soup.

Lying in bed is still my favorite place to read, because it has been so long since I was able to set up lighting to where I could read printed material in bed. Who needs print? I can scan it into my computer. As long as I don't sell it, who cares? Well, that's illegal, or it will be, but you never read this and I never wrote it, right?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Customer (Lack of) Service Rant.

Since this business is stumbling toward making this situation right, they shall remain anonymous. However, the stupidity involved in this Sega is breathtaking and probably good for a few laughs as I unwind this romp with incompetence.

I'm cat sitting for some folks who have been traveling for the last 5 weeks. I responsibilities include: signing for packages, picking up mail and answering expected telephone calls. Not difficult, correct? Well, no. By-the-way, these folks are in Italy, as in out of the country and are 8 hours ahead of us time wise.

On my first week of duty I get a recorded message from a store reporting that the item sent in for repair is ready. They have five days to claim it, or it will be assumed abandoned. Well, this could be a big ticket item, I didn't know, but figured a quick call to the store would update the customer file. When my employers returned in a month, they could pick up said repaired item. (ignorance can be bliss).

Upon calling this establishment I ran into a 20-something dweeb who refused to update the customer file unless he was speaking directly to the customer. (Delivered with a vibrato which could have won an Academy Award. Patiently, I explained the situation about how silly it would be for these people to call from ROME ITALY. I again requested he simply notate the file, so the item would not be disposed of.

This clown then LECTURED me on how my employers: "should have taken care of this before leaving. Don't ya think?". Frankly, this tactic stunned me into silence. I didn't think to request a supervisor. So, I had to call Rome, Italy. (Joy).

Just a brief aside. I know from many lovely experiences with The Marriott Corporation, that it is possible to have a central file on a customer. This file is filled with reservations, reward points and preferences. For example, they know that I always call down for extra coffee. Magically, when I call the front desk, they not only know who I am, but in a friendly way inquire if I'm ready for more coffee!. If a HUGE Corporation spread all over the WORLD, can manage a filing system which is able to be updated from different locations and departments, why can't a national chain store manage the same feat?

I tried to call Rome from the employer's phone, but needed an "access code" I didn't have. Great, I'll buy some Skype Credit and do it through the computer. (Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we try to succeed)! Again, this should have been a simple transaction. Oh yeah, simple, sure.

Skype was easy and my debit card went through to a security system at my bank. Good, I'd waited until 12:30 PDT to call Rome, as not to scare the life out of the travelers with a 3:30 AM long distance call.

I had been through the bank's security system just a few days earlier when I'd set up Skype for unlimited Us and Canada calling. I knew my password and everything. For once I'd written it down and shot a copy to a web document. BUT since I was using a DIFFERENT computer, the bank denied the transaction!

I finally called customer service at said bank. This bank is extremely good at making you feel cared for while doing nothing for you. (I'm sure this is again a security measure). I like my bank, even when they try to sell me things I don't need instead of solving my problem.

I noticed I had another payment option with another source. I took it and got the required service, avoiding the bank's protection option. I shudder at how easily my information could have been used fraudulently, but thank God I was able to use my information NOW.

I put in the long distance call. The lady in Rome was very nice, but I had to spell out my message! By the time I got through this ordeal, I wanted to scream! Of course my people weren't at the hotel at the moment.

The next morning PDT, I get an email explaining the following situation. This is so amazing!
Before they left for Rome, they'd sent in a camera to be repaired. Store didn't manage to repair it, but damaged it instead. So, since they were leaving for Rome in a week, they RENTED a loner camera from this same store!

Am I crazy, or should this fact not have been noted in the file for the camera they were still trying to repair? I know, I'm using logic... The repair department and the rental departments have different files, which are not the same as the call center's file. Yeah, and for security, the call center people aren't given permission to update files anyway.

As I said, this business is attempting to redeem itself. My employers left no doubt that they would "deal with them... when we get back". So now I have to wait for a UPS package that requires a signature, hopefully to arrive today. I hope they will accept MY signature.

No Virginia: stupidity knows no bounds.