Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What Caused My Blindness, And Other Questions Answered.

This will be a short post answering several questions, I just forgot to answer in my profile, or in other posts. I have updated my profile, but here is the low down on what caused my severe vision loss.

I was born almost three months prematurely. It was a miracle I lived at all. My poor mother, from her accounts, had a very difficult delivery. I am grateful I was born on April 2nd and not April 1st. I regret I gave my mother a rough delivery.

In 1953 in the United States, it was standard procedure to put a premature baby in a pure oxygen environment. Unfortunately, it was later discovered, that a pure oxygen environment caused several serious problems. The growth of the retina is fostered by oxygen, but too much oxygen and it short circuits the retina. I always think of this like running too much current through a toaster, or other electrical appliance. It will fry the electronics. That is a crude, non-medical, version of what happens to a retina when there is too much oxygen. RLF also causes some brain damage, for me it is mild Cerebral Palsy. I am extremely fortunate that I only have balance and some coordination difficulties with my Cerebral Palsy. My spine is also curved like the letter s. I count my blessings that I can speak, read and breathe without assistance. My right leg is also one half inch shorter than the left leg. I believe that is again, from the Cerebral Palsy.

About twenty years ago, law suits were filed on behalf of us RLF people. I had a chance to get involved, but decided not to. There was evidence as early as 1947, that excess oxygen was a problem, but the US doctors hadn't proved it to their satisfaction, until, I believe 1954, or 1955. Before you get all worked up about how the US was slow to react to research, or new developments. I want to remind you of the Thalidomide tragedy. Again, the US hesitated to approve this new wonder drug as fast as Europe, and our population was spared a very sad batch of birth defects. Science is not perfect.

Mistakes get made. I have a good life and don't care to go trying to make a buck by punishing doctors, hospitals and insurance companies for following accepted practice at the time of my birth. I regret wasting so many years in being angry, mainly about how I was raised. I spent too much time playing "The Blame Game". I heard once, that God shows His love to you by giving you life. You show your love back to Him, by how you live the life you are given. As I continue to mellow out, taking reality as it exists, instead of cursing what ISN'T, my life keeps getting better and better. I wish I hadn't taken thirty years to arrive at this place, but I go at life now, like a happy puppy with a beautiful piece of steak. I am getting to experience a kind of joy and satisfaction, I truly didn't think existed. It is really out there. Never give up, give in or run away.

There is a difference between running away from something you can do, verses refusing to keep pushing for something that is not realistically possible to do. As as example, with my balance difficulties and coordination problems, not to mention being 52 years old, overweight and out-of-shape, I'd be foolish to go for becoming a professional ballerina!

Now, on to a completely different subject. I mentioned that, for a while, I took a drug called Zaprexa. I neglected to explain what it was for and how it helped me. Zaprexa is actually an anti-psychotic drug. It stops visual and auditory hallucinations. It also tones down the overall intensity of an emotional reaction. For me, I had a fear problem and an over reaction to everything problem. There was so much violence and chaos in my early childhood, that I was scared all the time. I always woke from sleep ready to run. I would cry and get hysterical and sometimes lose the ability to see, feel and hear. I'd come out of this state realizing I was screaming and couldn't stop. Looking back, it must have scared the hell out of my parents and my aunt. They gave me phenobarbital, to stop fever induced seizers. I believe part of that dynamic had to do with the extreme child abuse I suffered for the first five years of my life. I have always had the fear or ending up as crazy and violent as my mother. When she went off, she truly wasn't human any more. Only someone raised by a psychotic will truly understand what I'm talking about here.

The second time I was hospitalized, when I was afraid I'd try and kill the man who was beating me, I panicked and really cried. That was when my psychiatrist offered me Zaprexa. When I read what it was, I got hysterical again. I liked the idea of not crying so hard, for so long. I took a very small dose, as I am at the very fringe of psychotic symptoms.

For the first time in my life, I slept and didn't awake to every little noise. I dreamed in a way that felt really good, like some real healing was happening. I wasn't afraid all the time. This made my abusive lover angry, as I was so doped up that after he'd hit me for awhile, I'd respond with: "Are you finished, good, I'm going to study now." Eventually, I lost patience with his violence, but for awhile, he was angry because I was not a scared deer-in-the-headlights anymore.

I stopped Zaprexa because it is $8 a pill and I had to get my medication expense down. What is wonderful, for me, is that the new brain patterns of not being terrified constantly and having a little control over how upset I get have remained, even after stopping Zaprexa. I am truly grateful for the medications I take, and have taken. They have delivered me from a maddening cycle of chronic hysterical behavior, flashbacks and the dreadful full collapse of my life every ten years or so. I plan on researching how my drugs were discovered and showing you all some of the behind-the-scenes struggle that I'm sure went on getting these medications to patients. Drugs aren't a cure-all, but, for some of us, they have returned us to a level of successful functioning that has made a good life possible.

Monday, February 20, 2006

(Mis) Adventures In Management: Inspiring Your People.

My thanks to MacPhilly for being such a good sport by granting permission to retell this tale.

In this series I will make managerial errors for you - so you don't have to. Okay, listen up all you entrepreneurs, inventors and team leaders. The ego which gave you the outrageous notion that you could dump the current version of your target product, or service, to replace it with your new and improved version is the same ego which can be wrong! Yes, it can cause you to wonder off into, well, extreme flights of fancy. I submit my unexpected version of this lesson.

MacPhilly has an amazing mind. I know smart when I run into it. (I don't care what he thinks about his mind, trust me, this dude is smart.) I seriously plan on employing him within my invention project. We are also friends. I've worked for and hired friends before. Done right, it is a joy.

It is a lazy Thursday evening, MacPhilly and I are chatting on Skype. I planned on a quick check-in and then a return to my study of physics. Within physics, I believe lies the key to a new way of doing text to speech. MacPhilly was surprised I was studying physics and stated I was smarter than he. I countered that we are both smart, but maybe in different ways.

Some of my fondest memories of college were in calculus and physics classes. These memories are awakening. I relate that physics is like poetry to me. MacPhilly mentions that he hated algebra, but liked geometry. This is logical, he is very artistic and good with multimedia presentations. I then decided that with the correct, simple and beautiful diagram, MacPhilly would discover an entire new world. This assumption was my first mistake.

After signing off I went to my drawing program and began to construct the picture you see at the top of this article. It is simple, clean, clear and uncluttered, reducing my beloved subjects down to one of their essential components. You can take any angular quantity and break it down to its horizontal and vertical parts. To me, this is pure beauty. I crafted an email responding to MacPhilly's latest pod cast and let him know I couldn't resist sharing this simple drawing with him. I figured, since he mentioned that geometry was easy for him, my drawing would open up his mind like a can of sardines. He might even thank me. I mean, there was a triangle there and everything.

The second mistake I made was hitting the "send" button. It was early morning and I floated off to sleep knowing that I'd have a lovely email response waiting for me when I got up. Yes, part of the job of a manager is to inspire your people. I couldn't wait to read how MacPhilly would react to his new found appreciation of at least one aspect of physics: the force diagram.

MacPhilly to CyberGal: (My initial reactions to this email are in parentheses and in red).


So here's MacPhilly's response to the diagram (Gosh, he's using the Passive Voice!?) and the problem with it. (W-H-A-T???! There is NO problem with it!)

a. There's no such thing as a frictionless plane. (Your ungrateful - if you saw THAT demonstration, you'd probably have a heart attack. Sure, its not real, but dealing with The Coefficient of Friction is complicated. Trust me, you'd kiss my feet if you knew what a blessing a "frictionless" anything is.)

b. Who cares? (What? Sacrilege! Legions are turning over in their graves!)

c. (and the reason why I hated algebra) how can I solve for anything when everything is a variable? (Huh? The angle IS A, the variables give the theory of solution.) I don't even know the angle of the plane so I wouldn't even begin to guess at what anything else is. I hate math!
(Something tells me we are failing to communicate. What happened?)

l8r, (I'm thankful he's still willing to communicate. Man, where did I go wrong?)


As a former student of psychology, I wondered if I'd really hit a nerve, causing a laps into the Passive Voice. He absolutely didn't understand the logic of my diagram. I've had five more semesters of math and three of physics. Come to think of it, using variables to show a theoretical overall solution may have come in during calculus, oops. I think an apology is in order. I'm struggling to comprehend this from MacPhilly's point of view. Has this kind of thing ever happened to me?

Yes, I now remember an amusing (for me) set of email and gift exchanges from a science buddy of mine. When I first started my blog, I let him know of its existence and received an impassioned speech decrying my dislike of opera. Yup, right there in my biography: "Like music, except opera and hip hop." His email spun an amazing yarn about how opera was one of the highest achievements of humankind. I had to stop reading, while I laughed. God love this guy, but get serious...

Since we are buddies I replied in more detail that I'd tried to "get" opera, but after attempting to view it on TV and even live, it just didn't make sense to me. The singing, especially the women sounded like screeching to me. A week later, I received several CD's of instrumental operatic music with his road map for my further re-education.

I was amused at his assumption that I would engage in his proposed course of study. After discovering the beauty of the instrumental version of operas, I was to purchase a recommended opera and "follow the English translation, line by line, while listening to the songs being sung." Visually, that is a task I really loathe to do. My basic reaction: snowballs will be forming in hell before I a) spend the money for a full opera CD and b) visually fight through that tinsy print of the lyrics as I listen to said opera. Again, I smile at this dear man's assumptions about my "learning to like opera". I want to pat him on the head, like a sweet, but deluded small child.

Was this how MacPhilly was reacting to me? Hmmm. After another round of email I found out that MacPhilly was just being a wise-guy using the passive voice. He was in no pain at all. Ah, another hypothesis down the shoot! He further enlightened me to the reality that I could produce an entire book of drawings and he'd still hate math, yeah, I don't see myself cuddling up with an opera CD any time soon, either.

So I will return to my frictionless planes and the wacky world of quarks, while MacPhilly continues to create beautiful multimedia work along with computer consulting. I will get my questions together and plum the depths of his mind for the gold, I know I can use. My questions may confuse him, but his information will further my inventive quest for a different text to speech system. Mutual respect continues between an artist consultant and a science math person, even if we don't totally understand one another.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

A Ministry Unawares: KSFO's Morning Show with Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan.

Special thanks to Greg M. Raab, for this lovely photo of Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan.
When in the San Francisco Bay Area, listen weekdays from 5:00 AM to 9:00 AM on KSFO AM Radio 560 or on the web.

In 1996, I was waiting for eye surgery. Returning to consciousness I remembered my problem. My left eye was pulsating and I felt like it would explode right out of my face. I had another three days to wait before the infected eye would be removed. Struggling out of bed, to make coffee, I now was aware of the background noise of my radio, a device rarely turned off.

Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan were involved in the typical morning banter of their drive-time radio program:


"No, no, listen, this is good. Three angels are discussing what type of engineer God had to be to create man. The first angel guessed God had to be a Mechanical Engineer, I mean just look at the bone structure, muscles and joints. No, The Angel Gabriel corrected. God must have been an Electrical Engineer because, the brain and all the nerves operate with electric current. No current, no body operation. No, Michael the Arc Angel corrected, He had to be a Civil Engineer --"

Lee: (very softly):

"There goes the license."


"... Because, only a Civil Engineer would put a Waste Disposal Site right next to a Recreational Area!"

I couldn't believe what I'd just heard and doubled over in laughter. Earlier in my life, I'd majored in Engineering, until my lack of mathematical skill, in Calculus, flunked me out. I totally enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, to a time, when I wasn't out of my mind with physical pain. For about five minutes, Lee and Melanie gave me the gift of forgetting about my pain.

Sure, AM radio is basically a place for commercials to be interrupted with some programming. While Lee and Melanie toil in a studio to create daily content that is fresh, interesting and captivating, their banter colors the lives of millions. Drive time commute nightmares are eased with a joke, or aside comment. Drivers recognize fellow listeners by noting who laughs and when. Householders everywhere are stumbling out of warm beds towards coffee pots, breakfast and another day. Children are rousing and getting ready, (willingly, or otherwise) for their school day. Some listeners are already at work, relaxed by the banter.

But then there are the folks who are ill. How many times have I been burning up with fever and the flu, to find relief from talk radio? Sometimes relief is caused by the unavoidable on-air mishap. I'll never forget a news cast, on another station, where I could clearly hear the newscaster was fighting the urge to laugh. When they were to break for a commercial, the male anchor completely lost all composure. While his fellow anchor was trying to read the news, the boom mike she was using was slowly collapsing. The woman bravely followed the mike, finishing the news cast lying on the studio floor, reading the news copy she was holding in her hand Thankfully, sponsors are forgiving of these things, as radio people try to faithfully read the commercial copy which is the life blood of their stations.

Then there are the shut-ins and people in long-term recovery from any number of difficulties and conditions. Through it all the voice of your favorite radio personality keeps you company and sometimes they give you the strength to continue a hard fight.

So to KSFO, Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan, The Morning Show, and to radio people everywhere. You are more then entertainers: you are a ministry unawares.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Admiration: A Totally New Experience.

I'm alerting a friend to the "adults only" nature of a pod cast I found very amusing. He responded that the guy was a bit too crude for him. I held my breath, waiting for the rest of this speech. My friend had no further comment. He simply staked out his personal preferences and went on with his life. My relief was palpable. No snide comments about the quasi-state of my Christianity, no contempt and no mood crushing reactions like: "I just don't know how you can listen to (fill in the blank) and call yourself a Christian." This is terrific. The quality of personality has gotten radically healthier. I used to attract the self-righteous, now I seem to be attracting the mature. How in the heck did that happen?

Somehow, as I continue in my 52nd year, I no longer care so much what you think about what I do, or who I am. When I encounter people still trapped in the "...but what would they think" pattern, I get restless and lose interest. For me, it is a dead-end street, spending hours, days and sometimes years trying to please the (imagined to be) so powerful "them". The secret is: most people are too busy with their own life and problems to think too deeply about you. Your close friends prove your value by seriously giving of themselves and their precious (never enough) time. I was deeply touched when, after a 7-day cruise, the first thing my friend did, upon returning home, was to call me. She had a great time and I was overjoyed to share it with her. I didn't realize I was so high on her 'value' list.

I realize my entire approach to life and people has changed. I watch what others do, and take notes inside on behavior I want to try out. One of my friends has an excellent gift of tact. I really want to get a bit more of her style, as my subtle-as-a-truck method, occasionally causes me problems. She has restraint. She understands that her mom and her are from two completely different generations and there is some stuff her mom will never understand. So, she holds her peace. God, I admire that. I'd be putting my hand up in a stop gesture and making a useless speech!

Another friend is supporting a household of five counting himself. He takes on back trouble, allergies and other sundry irritations in stride, as he goes forth into the world to make a living. I spoke to him about how impressed I was with his behavior. True to his middle class background, he felt he wasn't doing anything all that special. Oh, I beg to differ, I could tell you stories from the ghetto! I have tucked away in my mind, remembrances of this man's gutsy approach to life. More than once, I've pep-talked myself back to doing a dreaded housekeeping task by remembering some of his challenges and determination to "go through".

My new church is one of the most amazing gatherings, I've ever encountered. It is fun to go there. I have more energy after going, then I had before the meeting. A church full of people who aren't trying to run my life! They are busy with their own adventure with God. They actually seem happy! I've been around a lot of Christians, and a truly well-adjusted one is rare.

I am inspired by these folks because they talk about what they are learning, doing and struggling with. They want to get better, but aren't ashamed to admit, when in their estimation, they dropped the ball. I have always been motivated to be real. If you want advertising and 'perfect' look at TV. I have never been, nor will I ever be, a perfect anything. How I admire my fellow church members. Parents who haven't terrified the personality out of their kids. Kids who respect adults, not out of fear, but by learning from their parents behavior. Younger adults who help a frail lady to stand, when she speaks. All done with no hassle, or fanfare. I have never seen this kind of thing, in a church, before.

Then there are people I know who are fighting long term illness or pain. I have never been one to suffer in silence. Especially, with physical pain, sit down,let me tell you all about it. I am amazed how the people with the really serious problems, are usually the ones you hear the least from. I absolutely respect that kind of self-control and restraint.

I am thankful I've lived long enough to heal to the point that I can admire people around me. I take little pieces of them deep inside myself and am bettered for it. I almost wept at church, when a teen got up and seriously talked about respecting how her mother had handled a serious illness. This was no butt-kissing exercise. When you are around real, you know it. What is amazing, is how people take pieces of me and find comfort and strength. It has been a long time in coming, but I like being a regular member of the human race.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

On Tithing: "Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord"

We've all seen the movie The Ten Commandments. That dramatic moment when Moses has led the newly freed Egyptian slaves out of Egypt. He leads them right to what appears to be, their deaths! The Red Sea is in front and the Egyptian army is behind them. Then Moses introduces them to a part of God they've never seen. God is going to perform a miracle and they will walk through the parted Red Sea, on dry ground. As a final footnote, God will leave the path free of water long enough to trick the Egyptians. They begin to cross the dry ground that is in the middle of The Red Sea. Once they are beyond the point of safe return, God removes the restraint, and the water returns to its natural course. The enemy of the former captives is totally and utterly destroyed before their eyes, with no effort on their part. God is still asking people for that kind of courage today.

You can't hang out with Christianity long before you are confronted with a paradox. To follow one of God's laws will lead to personal disaster and not to follow that law will lead to spiritual ship wreck! I document my current battle over tithing. I will not come out well in a lot of ways. I realize, that in spite of years of therapy, work, research and some serious effort on my part, old tapes are still driving and motivating my decisions and attitudes.

My denomination believes in tithing. Ten per cent right off the top, period. Compared to the thirty to sixty per cent Doctor Scott demanded, this should be a walk in the park. It is most certainly not. Part of the reason I walked away from all church involvement for two years, was to reclaim that tithe. Made more money happen instantly. I had no difficulty finding ways to spend this new-found ten per cent. Internally, I began to slowly come apart. Oh sure, stopping my medication dragged me through a mental health crisis, but there was another crisis. Spiritually I was adrift in a world with absolutely no structure, help, or anchor. I didn't doubt God's love, but I began to question my Christian Salvation. This is why I stand in awe of my atheist friends. I was broken by the utter loneliness and futility of a world without meaning. Life seemed to be a very bad crap shoot, where I was one of the objects in play. Without the Bible, and its plan of right and wrong, why should we not let forty-year-old men make love to ten year-olds? Due to my own experience with sexual molestation, I had an answer for that one, at least.! For me, a world without God, is a world I refuse to live in. Suicide isn't just an option, it is the only rational choice. To be alone, with just myself is more frightening to me then burning in Hell.

So, I have returned to church, and am facing the tithing-by-faith challenge. True to my usual, less-then-mature approach, as I realized my options, I stayed away from church, so I'd not have to think about it. After a week, my Pastor, one of the most authentic Christians, I've ever encountered, called to find out what was going on. I will not lie to God, or my pastor. I try not to lie to anyone, but those two, I've learned the hard way, aren't worth the price of lying. I let my Pastor have a dose of the brutal world of Dr. Scott. Living on rice and beans for months on end, searching phone booths for extra money and a hundred other things, large and small I did to feed his bottomless pit of faith-giving. Highly un-Biblical, by-the-way. When people are manipulated, and threatened into giving, none of the promises associated with giving hold. God wants honest, heart-felt joy in giving, not gut-grinding guilt. My pastor listened and stood his ground. He knows, that for himself, he must tithe. He simply told me to pray. I shot back that I had no intention of praying. I knew what was being asked of me and I'd do it, and wait to get screwed by God one more time! (I didn't say that last part, but I implied it.)

Factually, logically, if I tithe, I have no money for x, y, and z. It doesn't matter what is at steak. I consider it a very high risk to take. My guts clench up with the future-tripping imaginings of financial humiliations and personal want. Logically, I have several "light my own matches", options. When its dark, light a match, fool, at least you'll get some light! I can borrow extra money, I can not pay something or I can do nothing and lose out. There is one other option: do nothing (for real) and see what God will actually do. I spent years half-doing that last one, and since I never really let God take over, I didn't get to see if He would.

Hello bad parenting and horrid role modeling. I remember several very bitter lessons on what happened when I "trusted" the adults in my world. It was brutal and serious. I have known physical want and deprivation. The dog always had food, but I did not. I really learned, down deep inside myself, that no one can be trusted, I even screw-up. But, trusting me for me, worked out far better then trusting others. I carry that patterning right over to God. I have the sickening realization, that I have never really taken my guard down and stod still before God. To actually consider such a life-threatening move makes my mouth go dry. This is probably the way those freed slaves must have felt with The Red Sea in front and an army behind them. They had nowhere to run, like I do. I can fiddle around and find some kind of "out". I have pulled this countless times. Since I take my own course, I have to live with the consequences. I have never actually stood still to see what, if anything, God might actually accomplish. I sense a type of protection around me. The only thing I can compare it to, is when a woman is with a male friend and he feels she is under threat. Men are just wired to put out a kind of energy, something like a wall you can lean on. I've only felt it a few times, but even when you and the man are only acquaintances, if he senses thread, he would kill to protect you. There is strength in that. I believe God is showing me more of Himself. I am actually going to go for broke later today. Once I pay my tithe, I have to wait. I will deliberately hold off on doing anything out-of-the-ordinary. I sense a temptation to yield to a kind of terror. I choose not to fall pray to that.. Something is shifting inside. I believe I'm birthing a fundamental break with my past fear-based patterns. There is something clean, new and adventuresome about this. Frankly, I hope my fears are unfounded, as I'm tired of living in a world that terrifies me.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

What's Up With These People and Time? A Church Difficulty.

I just got back from attempting to attend a meeting where no one showed up at the scheduled time. My new church's one and darn near, only fault. They know they have a time problem and expect me to wait around for anywhere between a half-hour to an hour, in case they finally roll in. No, I will not agree to do that!

Tell me any employer who'd pay any worker who rolled in even thirty minutes late routinely. I have noticed, that in our busy age, people have forgotten how to plan ahead. I used to joke at my last church, that I WAS the plan. The pulling irons out of fire solution for throwing together the last minute xeroxed pieces from various places. With the aid of Nisus Writer,I'd craft and compile our teaching materials. I'd get a call, on a Tuesday, slightly hysterical, that they need it by Sunday. I have copied 100 xeroxed pages into Nisus Writer and delivered the job on time. (How many of you self-employed folks know about the all-nighter with coffee in one hand and a mouse in the other?) I have things to do, and waiting outside in the rain for a meeting, isn't a constructive use of my day.

Oh, but wait, where is my tolerance, patience and long-suffering? Yeah, sure, I may be more mature in my next post. Just remember the foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13) who had to buy oil for their lamps. The bride groom came and they weren't there (and got left out). Oh, but you counter with Samuel, the prophet (1 Sam. 13:7-13) being late and Saul taking on a priests job when he wasn't ordained. I interpret that as a problem between church workers. It would be like, if Pastor was late, and I jumped into the pulpit to take his role. As a new member, this would be a true no-no.

What, tolerance, patience and long-suffering? Naah.