Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Snopes.com: To Verify If That Hysterical Email Is Fact Or Fabrication.

Here is the link to snopes.com "content" page. This covers their philosophy and policies.

We all have friends who send us email when they learn of something they feel is noteworthy. As a Christian, I am called upon, from time to time, to get involved in petition-signing and / or a letter whiting campaigns. I've even re-published personal correspondence on this blog - after securing permission.

The first thing I look for in any correspondence is who wrote this AND who will receive my petition, or letter-sign-on. Two emails came to me recently which disturbed me enough to consider passing them on to a friend. A friend, who is too busy to have his time wasted via flim-flam.

I couldn't find an author / publication citation for a lovely story about 87-year-old Billy Graham leading a walk-through in New Orleans on his scooter. This was a thrilling account which would have gotten into some news story. The point of the email was that since NO PRESS reported this story, we need to get hot and bothered about poor and deliberately slanted press coverage.

No, it wasn't covered, because, although Billy Graham was in New Orleans, there was never the heroic walk-through with 25,000 people (after his crusade). These facts were verified by The Billy Graham Assoc.Thankfully, going to snopes.com and searching for "Billy Graham" brought up this story as the first entry. Once visiting the story's investigation page, I discovered the walk-through to be a fabrication. I was prevented from spreading falsehood and wasting my time, as well as the time of my friends.

The second hysterical email alerted me to the pending demise of all Christian Radio. Specifically, it would become illegal to broadcast any reading of the Bible over the public airwaves. Since I enjoy listening to Christian Radio, I got geared up to sign the email petition and forward it to everyone I thought might care enough to participate. I was also planning on reproducing the email on this blog, to further enlarge the scope of an effort to save Christian Radio.

Again, I went to snopes.com, searching the term "christian radio" Bingo! First story cited was this troubling petition. It is a really old hoax which has morphed into various forms, over the years. The FCC has tried in vain to clear itself of this insanity. When the Government needs a good hand slapping, I say: Let's Go! But, millions of letters, phone calls and emails have bombarded the FCC over a hoax! What a sad waste of people's trust and good name. I actually found myself feeling a bit sorry for the FCC being buried in this well-meaning, but misguided grass roots campaign.

I found snopes.com through a science site that was attempting to disprove some of the fluky "cure" claimo of the alternative medicinemovement. snopes.com appears to have no axe to grind. If its a real story, they guide you back to the original story and publication. If its fake, they document who they contacted and what they discovered.

I always look for the name of an author, or authoring organization. (ABC, BBC, or The San Francisco Chronicle, for example). If there's a citation, I go to the net and retrieve the original post. I then contact the author to get permission to re-publish on this blog.

I also check where my response email (and requested information) is GOING. Who gets my response? Usually you are to forward the correspondence to all your friends AND some other person or organization. If I don't see something, or someone who looks familiar, or is associated with the story. I don't reply.

Once the email is determined to be a probable hoax, I search for the story via the Internet, and the pro ported organization. When that turns up empty, I turn to snopes.com.

What's to stop someone from "pretending" to be from the BBC, etc.? Nothing, in the beginning. But, once the BBC is alerted to the evidence of someone writing things using their name without permission, lawyers become involved quickly. Why? The BBC can't afford to NOT be a credible news source. It doesn't take long for a hoax to travel around the world. I'm sure the BBC would take swift and decisive action against someone pretending to be one of their reporters, when they weren't on staff.

As the sign-off for a police podcast says: "Be careful out there".

My Work As A Housekeeper

Awhile back I put together a resume for a housekeeping job and discovered I've got over twenty years experience. Unfortunately, due to my several major disabilities I don't have a prayer of being hired, unless I'm already acquainted with the prospective employer. Now that I use a walker, it is easier to understand why my situation may give someone reason to pause. So, I get work word of mouth and all is well.

When I was younger and much cockier, I fell for the argument that I was too smart to do housework. It was beneath me. After some demolition of my pride, I realize that my low vision interferes the least with housework. I like cleaning things, especially when compared to cooking things. Hey, you make me dinner, I'll gladly do dishes and clean the kitchen!

One thing is crucial. Do things the way the homeowner wants, no matter how stupid you think their ideas are. I had one gal who insisted I wash down her tiled shower, weekly with Tilex. Tilex is strong enough to take layers of skin off one's hands. I knew this was asking for trouble. I went to the homeowner and said that she'd destroy the grout between the shower tiles using Tilex every week. She ignored me and I followed her instructions. About six weeks later one entire wall of tiles had fallen off the wall. She then decided to listen to me!

Tact is everything. I find it is best to follow given directions, and then, after a few months, I can suggest changes. Remember, before you came along, they cleaned their own house. You are not indispensable.

Because of my low vision I am flexible on wages. I prefer to get paid by the job and not by the hour. Since, I work slower, why should someone have to pay more for the same work because of my low vision? I find out what they paid the last person and start with that rate. My work speaks for itself and I've had the joy of bonuses and raises in recognition of the quality job I perform.

If you can't supervise yourself, this isn't the job for you. I prefer to work alone. I am used to having the house to myself for a weekend. It messes up my rhythm when people are around. Sweet Maria, is easy. She stays put while I work and doesn't hover over me. I can't stand the hovering supervisor who is afraid I don't know what I'm doing. There is money which is too painful to secure. Working for the hovering supervisor, or the person who insists on treating me like some kind of lower species, are two situations I walk away from.

I don't do elder-care, or any kind of medical care for people. Sometimes, when people say they want a housekeeper, what they truly want is an inexpensive nurse. I also don't work for actively out-of-control alcoholics. Very painful and traumatic experiences I won't EVER repeat.

It is better to clean a home once every week, then to have to do a full muck-out after several weeks. Dogs and cats are job security. Ah, yes! Shed, my darlings, shed! I've never met a dog yet who doesn't play a type of vacuum cleaner tag. I just know that whatever room I need to vacuum, Hanna will lie down somewhere on that particular rug. Cats love to "help" me make beds.

The cat accomplishes this feat by leaping under the sheet I'm attempting to put on said bed. I remove cat to the floor, but by the time I've returned to the sheet - WHOOMP! The cat's BACK! The only real solution is to place helpful cat outside the bedroom and close the door. The cat will then cry pitifully behind the closed door. I have to be strong, I tell you. I just have to be strong.

Staying over night in sweet Maria's house has several "situations" I must remember not to call the police about. There are two different kinds of trees which drop, or throw things at the house. The plums crash down on the roof, while the flowering bushes twirl their seedpods in a tight loop and then they let fly. It can sound like buck shot hitting the windows! I have nightmares of calling the local cops only to be told they can't arrest falling plums!

Since I take care of animals and or clean homes I get a variety of wonderful "perks". Gourmet coffee and expensive food treats of all kinds keep me coming back. I get to use the home computer, TV or piano, while keeping animals company. I have to get the cat inside by eight PM. She then cries at the kitchen door for about twenty minutes, to see if I'll relent and let her go outside once again. An electric blanket is a luscious experience. The cat drapes herself around my lower leg and we drift off to peaceful sleep, warm and toasty.

At around five-thirty in the morning, miss kitty is ready to get up and start a new day. I, however, am NOT a morning person. Swing shift was invented for me. So, I let the cat outside and crawl back into bed.

The part of housework I like the least is good old furniture dusting. Man, I don't see a change. Whereas, when I 'oil' the furniture, it looks absolutely stunning. I've learned to use a small raglet to get most of the oi on the furniture and not just on the rag. Forget about using wax-based products. Oil is really the way to go.

I have discovered a trick when using any product which boasts that you don't need to rinse it off the surface. THEY lie! I have seen floors change color after being cleaned with a floor cleaner and RINSED. Yes, its extra work, but when you hear the family rave about how you've transformed their home, the extra work is worth the effort.

A final note. Things get broken, misplaced and used up. Always tell the truth. Be ready to replace what you break. It happens to the most careful of us. Never attempt to lie to the home owner. I am continually amazed at the following situation. An acquaintance goes on in great detail about how they've stolen from their current employer. Then they hit me up for a job! Now, the number one problem with house cleaners, is a lot of them think the homeowner "won't miss it". When you go out of your way to establish truthfulness and openness with the homeowner, the rewards are amazing.

I'm not tempted over money, or most things. But, I've been tempted to eat something the wife is saving for the husband. I don't eat that home made banana bread, no matter how badly I want to. This trust is extremely important. If I'm supposed to stay over for a weekend for dog care and cleaning, I won't take my wages if I'm too sick to clean the house. I'm a greatly complimented when my abandoned wages are returned to me, even though most of the work didn't get done.

So, I complete a home, groom a pet and earn my pay. The house is clean and I'm a bit of a dusty, sweaty mess. There is nothing nicer, after wrapping up cleaning a house, then to jump into their shower to relax and refresh. Another fabulous perk I receive is the use of all that expensive bath stuff. Bubbles, fizzes and fragrant hair care products. I get all the joy of expensive property and pets with none of the headaches.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Recovery: Emotionally Thawing Out.

One of the real tragedies resulting from major child abuse is your total inability to relate to life around you. Oh, sure, you are alive, you "appear" to be living, but inside you can't be reached by anyone. You are locked in a prison of terror.

One of the true shocks of therapy was learning that for most people, there was a difference between an event viewed on TV, or at a movie and actually living an event. For me, TV was more real than my "real" life. (another one of those: "oops" moments, where I again scrambled to try and "construct" reality).

So, as I continue in this fascinating, but at times, very strange new world of mental health, I'm discovering my emotions in real time. I'm experiencing the emotional reactions of other people and animals in real time also. It is most interesting and totally new to me.

All of this growth springs from my ever decreasing fear level. I cannot emphasize too strongly how much my fear kept me locked in an emotional deep freeze. It used to be, I'd go to an event, feel nothing while actually at the event and only "experience" it as a memory. A memory, when it was safe to feel, later, when I was alone. This is severe isolation which can be difficult to explain to people.

While at an event, I'd attempt to "act" correctly. Since I was alone most of the time, I learned most of my social skills from TV. If you give me a gift, I'd "act" happy. If you were punishing me, I'd attempt to "act" like I cared enough not to act up again. I just would look for something I'd seen, or read somewhere to "show" the expected reaction. But, my emotional core was not there at all. Only when safely alone, would I be able to process what had happened.

However, I feel very deeply about people who are close to me and have a way of touching your emotions. I care deeply and can express it in written communication. People would give me feedback like: "This is the kind of card that is very emotional and makes me uncomfortable." To which I'd draw a complete blank. I had no idea what my friends were talking about. To me, it was all like a big math equation. I do behavior A and (according to TV), you'll react with emotion X. You express emotion Y to me and I'm expected (according to a novel), to react with emotion Z in response. I always felt like I wasn't quite all there. I totally related to the Simon and Garfunkel song, Fak'in It. Hell, that WAS how I managed my world. It was all a gigantic theory, I felt like i was working without a net..

But of late, sweet Marie has managed to get past my old defenses and actually touch my emotions. Sometimes when I'm giving her a scalp massage I can truly feel her reaction. I sense emotions as physical things. If you could see them, it would be like little puffs of energy coming off of the person reacting. This little cloud of reaction drifts towards me, I feel it and it goes away. I first noticed this with Hannah, the dog.

I was giving her a tummy rub and I suddenly became aware of a swarm of reaction coming from the dog to me. It was like a swarm of little puffs of feeling coming from the dog to me. She was very happy. It made me joyful to interact like that. It was all new to me. I also wondered if I was having some kind of altered state due to a possible medication problem. I do not always feel emotions, but I believe when they are particularly strong, is when I tend to sense they are there.

The next time I experienced the emotional reaction was from sweet Maria. She had fallen into a light sleep as I massaged her scalp. I was happy to be there and I again noticed emotions. Same general reaction, but she felt different from the emotions of Hannah, the dog. Bigger bits of feeling in each Little emotional puff. It was really quite pleasant to experience this.

But, I hadn't noticed any changes on my side of the emotional equation. Then Maria and I began sharing more Girlie Days with lunch. It has been established that I absolutely adore garlic buttered, french bread. So, Maria has taken to buying me one or two loaves of this bread, when I come to dog sit. It really stirred something way down deep inside me. But, I'm not afraid of Maria, so I wasn't afraid to accept her demonstration of affection.

Then came Christmas. Maria, my dear, you really got to me. Now I know what it is like to feel emotionally vulnerable and uncomfortable. I had so much joy, I almost cried. Since I'm saving money for both a new computer and a Boston vacation, I assumed my "Christmas" present of $100 would automatically go into my savings account.

I have no problem with this arrangement. Maria, however, explicitly stated that she wanted me to have at least part of that money to do something as a gift from her. She guessed I'd want to go to the Marriott for dinner. Tears welled up in my eyes. I have truly come to terms with giving up some of my normal "fun" activities now, for the money I have to save for later. I was completely moved by her love. It would be a real treat to go to the Marriott for a real dinner - about $50. Something I'd figured I'd not do again until mid October.

The last time I dog sat for Maria, I discovered a loaf of my beloved french bread in the Refrigerator, which she'd just put there for me to find. Again, I was moved to tears. It is wonderful to be able to react to life in real time, instead of "experiencing" it via a memory, later.

Now, that I'm getting weepy over things loved ones say and do, I understand that expression of discomfort. I'd feel really silly getting all drippy in front of Maria. But, I get the sense, it is meaningful to her. I love to watch others do "joy", so why should I be surprised if people like me doing "joy" with them also?

I did indeed go to the Marriott for dinner. It was a much richer experience then when I'm spending my own money for the adventure. I kept remembering how Maria insisted I DO something for Christmas. It was almost like I was having love for dinner.

It was a beautiful, totally new, encounter with a part of life I'm just becoming aware of. I am so grateful to finally be learning not to be afraid all the time. This is all so new to me. I want to continue documenting recovery as I'm discovering it. Guys, it is really worth the struggle to find mental health. Took me almost twenty years from when I first made a commitment to getting well in therapy to my experiences today. But, this emotions stuff is really nurturing. It is almost like another level of physical touch. Good bye emotional isolation and hello mental health!

Friday, January 12, 2007

Meet Hannah and Sugar-Bear: Two Wonderful Newfoundland Hounds.

Finally, I have some pictures of my beloved dogs to share. CyberGal had a senior moment, running off to my week long dog sitting job without checking to make sure I had fresh batteries in my digital camera. (Oh, yeah, as though you'd never done that, HA!) So, thanks to computers and the Internet, this first shot is of Hanna this Christmas.Yes she is a BIG girl.

Hannah is a Newfy mix. We don't know with what, but she has much longer legs than the usual Newf. She can easily drink coffee right out of my mug (when I'm dumb enough to leave the mug near the edge of the breakfast table.) Didn't seem to affect her. Only, now she barks with a Columbian accent.

Hannah is a slightly confused 120 pound lap dog want-to-be. When she was a puppy, she was allowed into someone's lap and she still tries to capture those heavenly days, but she is so big and tall, she can straddle your lap. She attempts to "cuddle" by leaning her weight in on the seated human she has come to visit.

Dog and cat sitting is a wonderful job for those of us who love animals. The only bad thing about the job, is, once the animal associates my appearance with the exiting of "their" people, they become unhappy and moody. Hannah gets the sulks. I'll pet her and she'll refuse to pick up her head, or move in any way. Unlike Sugar-Bear, who refused to eat or drink for at least twenty-four hours, Hannah recovers very quickly.

It is always best to meet with the animal I will be sitting before the owners go away. This step was omitted on my first official dog sitting job with an extremely high strung Dalmatian. This poor creature cowered under a coffee table, drooling, whimpering and trembling for our first three days together. It really tore my heart out. So, I now have a hard and fast rule about meeting the pet in the presence of their owners in their home.

This beautiful photo above is of Sugar-Bear, who died a few years ago. This photo was an international contest winner, featured in a magazine about Newfoundland Hounds. Sugar-Bear was built like a pure Newf. She had shorter legs and a bit thicker build. She was extremely laid back and NOTHING bothered her. Well, except when I'd show up and John and Maria would disappear for a week, or weekend. THAT bothered her.

I have many sweet memories of my charges. Sugar-Bear would always show her affection for me by licking my ears. I'd be sitting on the floor, petting, or brushing her and we'd drift into this lovely petting, licking and laughing good time. Sugar-Bear, like every other dog I've known loved to be brushed. She'd routinely fall asleep while I'd brush her lush, soft inch-long fur. Hannah, on the other hand would rather do ANYTHING other then be groomed. I mean, she HATES it. But with long hair, one must be groomed. She's the only dog I've ever worked with who has managed to make me feel guilty when I bring out the dreaded brush. She lowers her head in resignation and then tries to high tail it out of the room. But I grab that collar and enforce my will upon her. She then lies down with a pointed sigh. Sheesh!

I will continue about my beloved dogs and cats in another post. Off to bed now, and dog sitting for the weekend.