Sunday, March 25, 2007

Re-learning to Type YIKES!

Just after getting my eMac, 3 years ago I played Super Collapse for at least 2 hours straight and totally wrecked my right wrist. BUT I GOT UP TO LEVEL 3! Oh, never mind. I read somewhere that the Dvorak keyboard layout is easier on one's hands and wrists.

Ever the pessimist I ASSUMED I'd never do any work outside my house. So, I undid 40 years of QWERTY touch typing and totally converted to the new layout. It took almost a year to regain my normal 45 WPM typing speed. My hand and wrist did indeed stop hurting and I felt smug. I now mouse around with my left hand. Another hard to change habit pattern, however, pain inspired me.

Then God surprised me with a tutoring job at church, working with kids and (what else?) computers! Opsie, can't go switching keyboard layouts all the time, now can I? SO I got out my typing driller and have gone back to QWERTY.

Gt; me lfu; It's driving me NUTS!

QWERTY home keys: a s d f g h j k l ;
DVORAK home keys: a e o u i d h t n s

Thankfully the #'s row is the same on both systems. I'm up to 20 wpm, SO SLOW!

There a post!

One of my fans accused me of being a slacker. Well one of their podcast feeds hasn't been used in SSSSSOOOOO long - I had to chase dust bunnies off of it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Employment and Disability: How Religion Keeps Me Sane.

I have blogged on the problems of employment as it relates to disability before. But, this time, I got to stroll down my own employment/self-image/disability nightmare. Going out of the gate, I have some serious problems with out-of-control pride trying to hide the shame of being disabled. I used to hide behind money, but I recently attempted to build another Castle in the air around employment.

I truly enjoy dog and cat sitting. As a job it is almost immoral to be paid to do almost nothing, other then live in someone,s home, while using their computer to study and work almost as though I were at my house. I guess all the actual "pet" duties take up a whole thirty minutes. And that is stretching it! So, when I'm offered a small per/day rate, it makes sense to me. I was starting to feel real good inside about finally landing another part-time job.

The last job I attempted to land was a volunteer stint at a school for handicapped children. I managed to get "fired" from a volunteer position! Oh, how I wept over that one. Actually, there was a major fight in progress between my room supervisor and her boss, which I was unaware of. I became an unwilling ball in a truly ugly game of office politics. Even though I know these things to be facts. I was shattered in terms of looking for further work. When you can't even give it away...

The first real crushing piece of reality arrived when I put together my twenty plus years of housekeeping experience on a resume. Now, normally, that is some serious employment power. Not when you legally qualify to carry a white cane, but use a walker because your balance is worse then your poor vision. My landlord told me that it would cost him $10,000 to put me on his building insurance because I'm a tenant in the building I want to be hired to clean! Personally it sounds like a lie, but who knows?

Left that shocking interview in tears. The same old story, twenty years of any experience for the able-bodied is usually a ticket to success, but for the disabled, we are treated like you treat your four-year-old child. A child who presents you with a drawing of a car. It is cute, and you love her. But, in reality it is totally useless to you. I feel that the worst price of disability is never being allowed to truly "grow up". We are always reduced to a "less-then" status.

When you add to this toxic mix of rage and despair the years of knowing there is just something so wrong with you, it is easy to learn to hate yourself. Because there is something so bad that your parents were sad you didn't die at birth. Something so bad that my existence, by itself, was responsible (in their eyes) for destroying my parents lives. You have a very nasty feeling which never really goes away. I have learned to ignore these things pretty well, most of the time.

I can site chapter and verse of why my parents were all screwed-up and how God doesn't make "accidents". But my heart and feelings are still pretty mangled. In my younger, pre-Christian days I tried to make people meet my social needs through brute force, begging or manipulation. Eventually, I just got used to always being alone and realizing I had no clue as to how to deal with people in a successful, "like on TV manner".

Coming to God didn't magically change all of that. Because God is merciful and loving, he didn't immediately demolish my pride-castle-in-the-air. For a long time, it was all I had. I lived most of my life in my mind, daydreaming of the day when all my needs would be met and I'd be loved. That great day when I was popular and no longer poor.

Once firmly committed to serious emotional work, I had enough courage to attempt to deal with my 'reality'. Today God keeps me from getting totally lost in the depression over the conflicts around work, money and self-esteem. When I know I've had it, with the white flag waving and I'm screaming for mercy, God will handle whatever has demolished my adult. When your adult goes away, you are left with your little-kid self. That part of me really can't handle adult situations. God helps that part of my panic also.

A friend innocently asked me about my wages on my cat-sitting job. He implied that perhaps I was being taken advantage of. "Oh, great, another 'pretend' job", I raged. I felt the beginnings of a nasty depression. Being he is a man who strives for justice and has built his own business, he gave me logic, as to why being slow should not prevent someone from making a decent wage. Say, instead of $40,000 a year, maybe only $24,000 a year. I tactlessly informed this babe-in-the-woods when it comes to the disabled (read blind), that the problem is about fear and prejudice, not logic.

Logically, it is stupid to shut out 75% of blind people from productive work. A friend has a degree from a top-flight engineering school. With his 3.9 GPA, he got interviewed by the CIA. For, on paper, he never mentioned this little "problem" of total blindness. He is the only member of his graduating class not to have a full-time job. He was sure that people would not waste his obvious brain power, grit, determination and courage. He never got hired for anything. He eventually gave up. So today, he collects social security, while living with his parents and a guide dog. He spends his days reading. Or rather, listening to whatever catches his fancy. He's grossly overweight and as far as I can see, spinning his 46-year-old-wheels waiting to die. He is still a little boy, playing peacefully in his room, while the world takes "care" of him. What a WASTE!

In Theory a stay-in-the-home pet sitter can get $175 a night! In theory I could get more per hour as a housekeeper. When I explored these possibilities with Maria. She became cold as ice and informed me that to double my wages would cause me to lose my jobs with her and her friend, who I also work for. I had come to her as a friend and my substitute mother. I hurt badly inside. Her solution was to question why I'd let a stranger know anything about my wages. My friend back east is by far no stranger, but she doesn't understand computer relationships.

I also had to face some hard truth about my planned vacation to Boston. Got to postpone it for yet another year. The new computer will be at least $1,400 and possibly as high as $1,900. I'll probably just end up getting the cheapest mac I can buy, if I go new, and just put up with the slowness. I really loathe this state of affairs. I can go with a refurbished mac, but that's a crap-shoot also. The ones that were available on Saturday are all gone now. So, Marie agreed to loan me the extra money for the computer. I only have $1,000 in the bank at the moment. All in all a truly awful day from an emotional perspective.

My friend back east suggested I talk to God. My first response was to sob at God that even though I may be getting screwed, I just can't handle this stuff any more. $250 in my hand is worth a lot more then a theoretical $1,000 out there in the bush. I knew it was time to go to church.

People at church see the problem. Blacks have a whole other spin on life. Having a bad self-image is the norm. Everyone gets it about arriving at the place where I'll take the crumbs, vs having nothing to eat at all. I just have to leave this one alone. I love sleeping with the cat. I realize how lonely I must really be, if having a ball of fur curled up next to me makes me feel physically better. (Oh, yeah, I'd love a cat, but where to I board my cat while I'm taking care of your cat?) So, the job is worth it to me. My depression is still here, but slowly receding.

About the only thing I'm truly thankful for in this current situation, is that in spite of feeling some very uncomfortable feelings, I'm not emotionally out-of-control. There was a time when this kind of emotional turmoil caused me to see and hear things that weren't there. There was a time when I thought suicide was the solution to all my problems.

Today, I want to live to feel and grow for another day. I do respect this part of my very real healing. Dumping my temporarily "unresolvable conflict" unto God helps me move from despair back to hope and a willingness to continue. I truly cannot imagine a life without a God I can talk to, lean on and love. Because God has been so wonderfully gentle with me, it is easier for me to cut others a bit of slack. This is truly a miracle of healing at the deepest level.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Blessings of Life: Dogs and Cats I have loved.

I have been cat-sitting here in the beautiful Berkeley hills for almost two weeks. Since I love dogs and cats, this is a dream job. Animals have been my healing strength more than once in my chaotic life. As I continue to reflect on God and His amazing creativity, I am humbled by a small black, brown and white kitty who has decided she can trust me. She has decided I'm safe to sleep with.

I lay very still as she makes the little circles, deciding exactly how and where she will lie down on, or near me. I can feel the faster pace of her breathing. As she drifts off to sleep her body twitches slightly, here and there as she releases herself into deeper levels of rest. I pray for the people and animals in my life.

I wake again, very early this morning. I'm now on my side and miss kitty has made a cozy nest behind my bent knees. She has positioned herself to have as much physical contact with me as is comfortably possible. I marvel at the beauty of God's creation. Ever take the time to truly examine any plant near your home? I concluded, as a teenager that God must exist, because of the beauty I saw in a Bay leaf, examined under a microscope. No man could have fashioned that.

Animals respond to prayer. I do not know if they see angels, or just feel the difference in my attitude, when I focus my attention off the mundane and turn to the eternal. I have seen dogs sit in wrapped attention as I pray. I have seen cats sit quietly while I pray, and then, when I am finished, they leap and twirl in the air with joy.

I know animals sense far more then we give them credit for. They may not understand your words to them, but they know when you are happy, sad, angry, or sorry. I have learned the subtle ways of sadness my charges express as they realize their "people" are gone, when I first arrive to stay with them. I have frustrated more then one pet owner because their cat will come when I call, but will absolutely ignore their owner!

I have helped abused animals recover from a bad kitten-hood, or puppy-hood. I really believe one must be mentally ill to deliberately injure a defenseless kitten, or puppy. A roommate of mine rescued a stray kitten after she saw the apartment manager drop kick it off the property. She breathlessly told me the story, securing my permission to include a kitten in the shared apartment. She ran downstairs and reappeared with a beautiful smokey-gray, trembling, drooling and terrified kitten. This kitten was lovely. Her fur was not shiny, but a flat charcoal /smoke gray. So, what else, we called her Smokey.

Since I was not working at the time, Smokey became my cat. I'd hold her in my lap for hours. She eventually stopped trembling and drooling. She was afraid to purr while awake. She'd purr as she was drifting off to sleep. But would wake and leap straight up in the air at the slightest noise. After several years, Smokey decided it was safe to purr and sleep.

She was a determined trouble-maker. Cats are nocturnal, so about 11 PM, it was time for her to rock 'n 'roll. I was trying to sleep, but heard her leap somewhere and suddenly a heavy picture crashed off the wall followed by a loud yowl from a cat underneath said picture. I rescued one cat and my roommates expensive artwork. Smokey thus learned not to bat at things hanging on the walls!

Smokey was the first cat I really got to be close with. She slept on my chest, or along the side of my body. When I left that apartment and the roommate who I couldn't bear to live with anymore, Smokey never forgave me. That cat refused to even let me pet her. I felt just terrible. But I was living in a no-pets situation. Smokey suffered a lot when I left.

The next cat I got close to was Sandy, a friend's cat. I cleaned her house and Sandy showed me how a helpful cat can keep even a determined housekeeper from making a bed. When I came to my friend, the night my batterer threw me out of the house, Sandy stuck really close to me. She wrapped her little body around my arm when I slept. I could feel her little heartbeat. Things come around full-circle. I helped an abused kitten, and a cat was helping me recover from two years of being battered.

Dogs and cats both show affection, but their styles are very different. A dog will greet you, after you have left a room for five minutes, like you are the return of Jesus. A cat won't even react when you return to a room - unless they want something. Cats come on their terms. Dogs just worship you.

So, I share my musings about beloved animals I've known, tended and loved. My life is richer and fuller for the part my four-legged furry friends have played in my world.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Humor: Analogies and Metaphores From High School Essays.

Note: Every once and a while something shows up in your inbox which is so bad, its good. Read through all of these. This is a new twist on the old theme of REALLY bad writing.

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides, you
know like gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled around in his head, making and breaking alliances
like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free softener.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy
who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high
schools about the dangers of looking at solar eclipses without one of those
boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was
room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just
before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as-like-whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot-three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of
his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock-like a surcharge at a formerly
surcharge-free ATM.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling
ball would not.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled
with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie,
surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy
comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry
them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the
grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left
Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19
p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that
resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds that had
also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East

18. Even in his last years, my grandpappy had a mind like a steel trap, only
one that had been left out so long that it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, just like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil,
this plan just actually might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating
for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a
real duck that was actually lame. Maybe from stepping on a land mine or

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg
behind her, just like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing their kids around
waving power tools at them.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if
she were a garbage truck backing up.

26. Her eyes were like limpid pools, only they had forgotten to put in any
pH cleanser.

27. She walked into my office like a centipede with 98 missing legs.

28. It really hurt like the way your tongue hurts after you accidentally
staple it to the wall.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

My Friend Thinks He's Fat: Memories of Dieting HELL!

Never give advice on something as touchy as dieting without asking permission. I asked and my friend said: "no". Unlike my sicker, more co-dependent self, I dropped the subject, but my friend's post made me sad. I think loathing dieting and chasing after "beauty" are second only to my hatred of child abuse. I'm not worried about my friend. He knows who he is, where he wants to go and how to get there. But his post reminded me of some issues that pain me deeply.

My friend is all freaked out because he's porked up by 30 pounds. Hell, my MD would have a religious experience if I only had to lose 30 pounds! I come in at the "grossly obese" 80 pounds over where I should be. But unlike my friend, I don't see this as a huge problem, as there are mitigating circumstances. Psych meds ALL make you gain weight and HOLD onto it as though your body is in starvation mode. When you can't lose weight on Atkins - I didn't cheat either, you got something pretty powerful keeping that fat in place!

My friend mentioned that he is happy, in another post. He didn't start to gain weight until his self-satisfaction and life happiness went up. But, he also doesn't have the free time to exercise, he once had. He is also getting older. Yeah, as you get further away from twenty, it is harder to shed those pounds. So, I wish him well. Thank God he isn't going to go crazy-crash-diet diet pill crazy!

When I hear someone lament being overweight I want to sob. The child abuse refugees I've seen who get trapped into this cycle do things to themselves worthy of a long stint in a psychiatric hospital - but our culture calls starvation-thin beauty.

Here's the deal. Just like having heaps of money will not automatically make you happy, having the perfectly fit / healthy body BY ITSELF won't do it either. I was a mentally ill, socially maladjusted dweeb with no friends, who was 20 pounds overweight as a pre-teen and teen. Due to my cousin's theory that all I needed to do to get popular was to get thin and look right, I dieted until I was passing out in gym, with teachers sneaking me food on the sly! What did I learn?

I went from a "fat" mentally ill, socially maladjusted dweeb to a thin, mentally ill, socially maladjusted dweeb and NOTHING in my social life changed. Although passing out in gym did generate "stranger" concern. Until I got the professional help and medication I needed to truly have some hope of acting "normal", even at a size 8 (5'4" 100 pounds), nothing changed.

I achieved the above morbidly thin physique while living with the man who battered me for two years. He liked his gals THIN. So, he regulated my food intake. (Yeah, I SURE know how to pick 'em!) As soon as I got to eat real food again I drifted back up to where I am now, about 80 pounds over my desired weight of 120 pounds.

While I will fight tooth and claw to protect my mental health, I just can't get that upset about the physical side of things. I do try not to seek out diabetes, or having a stroke, but with the addition of huge quantities of brown rice - which I truly love, all my numbers are well within normal range! Yeah, my Dr. couldn't believe it either, but my numbers say I'm physically healthy, as I am. 'Cause I'd have to be facing death or hell to seriously revisit the world of dieting.

I think of a dear friend up north. She had a childhood that made my story look like a cake walk. Man, did she get emotionally mangled! Last year, before we'd re-established contact, she was over 500 pounds and DYING of her addiction to food. Its just like being an alcoholic, but your drug of choice is food. Its really hard to treat, as abstinence, is not an option. That's called anorexia something else this poor woman has been through. She got so messed up, that she's been written up in medical journals because nobody could believe body chemistry could be that 'off" with the patient still alive! I LOATHE child abuse.

This gal is a really cool person. Full of spunk and vinegar. She's a cool mother, a fun friend and a loving wife. But every so often that child abuse stuff sends her off into another cycle of bulimia, trying to eat herself to death. But, she has gotten it together with God and a church community and things are looking much better these days. She eats to kill her pain of just plain hating everything about herself. Yes, she's in therapy (still), yes, she's been to all the recovery groups, done all the diets, plans and even a few become successful in 20 minutes programs. Now, after over 40 years of struggle, she is beginning to see that she wants to live and can actually accept being loved by God and other people. She is even toying with at least liking herself.

When we resumed contact I was so saddened and angered about her almost dying last year. She has no clue about how cool she is. It just made me heart sick. But prayer keeps my own anxiety at bay, as well as giving her the strength she needs to continue to heal.

So, I say to anyone who is contemplating the liquid protein, diet pill, you can take this and lose weight while you sleep routine. STOP: its a sham. A bit of protein, carbs, veges and dairy each day is a place to start. Something simple. Don't try to live on Twinkies, smoke to reduce, or coffee alone. Here's a concept: be nice to yourself! Would you ever try and make a friend diet the way you are willing to make yourself do it! I bet not!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Revisiting the Joy of Learning, (in spite of low vision).

I have very mixed feelings about returning to college, even though there are subjects there I'd love to try and pass, this time through! Until I left college (and the dream of ever returning) and turned my attention to the Internet and the world of the computer, I'd given up on ever returning to school for anything. Too many painful, in-your-face confrontations with vision that always seemed to fail me in places and ways I couldn't find a work around. And then there were a few extremely bitter and painful confrontations with professors and their prejudices.

Sure, I went through the "Disabled Services Department" for help. Hey, the guy had tenior - so they rolled over on their backs like a scared puppy. Great. I changed majors from Psychology to ENGINEERING!

Now, that's a grand choice for the nearly blind! If I'd had the brain power, I believe the department would have stuck by me, but after three semesters of Calculus, my classmates brains made a leap I couldn't follow and I washed out.

Not really bad, as ninety percent of ALL prospective engineering majors don't make it. But, as usual, I was hanging out there, way out there. Lot of guts, but perhaps lacking in a realistic acceptance of my disability. Naah, its nice here in de nile!

So, I have been building my life on what I can really accomplish. With some serious help from Phillip, my church's website is up and running. Our church is cranking out the grant paperwork to purchase our current building and convert it into an after school tutoring center. We will then move to a historic church elsewhere in the city.

When pastor called for teachers, he said they must have certification. I knew I didn't have it and wasn't willing to venture back to SF State for much of anything. I have seen the meat grinder of a blind person bucking the educational system in an area like teaching. I got guts, but I don't have THAT much courage.

So, in spite of a strong temptation to "beg" for a position, I kept my mouth shut and attended to my in place duties. I kept the website up and more-or-less current and put out a printed bulletin every week. Then I got sick and everything got way behind. It was early February and our website was dealing with December activities. Woopsie!

When I finally got back to church, pastor said he wanted to talk to me. (I bet he does. Do we have a webmaster around here?) I waited for a gentle request to get off my duff and update the website. What pastor actually shared shocked me completely.

"You were the first person I thought of. I want to hire you to tutor computers in the after school program. I believe in you. I just know you can do it. I watch you. You get discouraged, but you don't give up." Here is where wisdom stays quiet, so I jumped right in, informing this dear man that I had no degree, teaching credential, or certification!

"Sister, I don't care. You have taught me about the computer. I believe in you." Friends, it felt so good. I wanted to go out and do something worthy of his opinion of me. I knew I'd need to study about the Microsoft side of things, fast, as most of the donated equipment would be PCs.

Once again, Phillip came through, recommending a wonderful tutorial site: Virtual Training Company. For $30 / Mo. I can study anything I want, as much as I want. So, I did a demo lesson bracing myself for the ever popular tooth-pulling pain of all my vision prevents me from doing. These lessons are short videos. Videos I can PAUSE, REWIND and REPLAY. That pause feature is like a miracle to me.

The instructor clicks something on the screen. I hit pause and have the time to inspect the screen, until I locate what has been done and where. This is the thing which used to make school intolerable. By the time I figured out step one, the class was on step ten! I always felt like I was trying to play solitaire with 48 cards. I never could really comprehend the full scope of the material presented. So, I learned to read books, always playing catch-up.

This lovely website has made it possible for me to concentrate on LEARNING without that horrid frustration of being behind and NEVER being able to really catch up. It feels wonderful. Because the lectures are divided into very small segments, three to seven minutes, you have time to actually digest what is happening. For the first time ever, I'm not all freaked out about having to deal with a PC. I now understand the screen layout, how it is different from my Macintosh and how it is the same. I will learn how to adjust the PC so I can read it more easily. I have a sense that this tutoring adventure is truly doable.

We hope to start working with kids in May, so I have time to get up to speed on a variety of subjects. Since I can now get electronic textbooks and can leave the physical book behind, I can get my basic algebra skills back, along with a bit of accounting. As far as tutoring on the computer goes, I've got a lot of experience on the Macintosh side of things. Translating over to the PC is not an entirely new venture. Both systems do pretty much the same thing, but they accomplish tasks differently. I am truly grateful for the technology which has opened up the world of learning for me, in a way it has never been available before.