Saturday, May 12, 2007

Maggie The Cat.

Here are my pictures of dear, sweet Maggie. She was rescued from the pound and is around three years old. The picture where she is lying on the floor belly facing the camera shows her under the influence of catnip. All she did was smell it on a toy I rubbed with the fragrant leaves!

I also have the story of the excellent photo that walked away. Just as I snapped the shot, dear miss kitty walked out of view. I got a most lovely shot of the rug! Thankfully she doesn't seem to mind my use of the flash on my automatic (thank God!) digital camera.

Since I have Cerebral Palsy, I have trouble holding perfectly still. Thanks to something with this camera, it takes very clear photos (in spite of its operator). What a joy this camera is for me. No more waiting a few days to see the results. A cable into a nearby computer and I can see my "victories" and delete my "defeats".

When I first started cat-sitting Maggie, we got along, but she had other things to do. I was simply the door person and her "feeder". She'd let me pet her once or twice but then she wanted to go outside. I have to follow her owner's instructions; she is inside the house at night, no matter how much she cries.

My semi night shift hours confused her at first and she would meow for an hour before realizing I wasn't going to let her outside after her "in for the night treats". To get her door person up at 5 AM involved Maggie jumping on the bed and walking up my body to my chest, where she'd stand and loudly meow at my formerly sleeping self.

Eventually Maggie decided I was an acceptable bed cushion and occasionally sleeps with me. I love feeling her breathing and movements while she sleeps. When she sleeps she twitches and moves around a bit. The hardest part of this job is the "Maggie withdrawal". I have to go home and there is no warm ball of fur near my left leg. I miss her for a couple of days.

This is my third session with Maggie. She has continued to amaze me with her personality and expanding expressions of affection towards me. I refuse to believe it is all catnip induced. I do not make a habit of giving her catnip, as it seems to have a profound affect on her. She comes back into the house about 8 Am and used to just eat her food.

Lately, she truly put on a cat ballet for me. While she eats, I'm sipping my first cup of coffee for the day. I didn't see her around for a while and figured she was patiently sitting by the back door waiting for me to let her outside. She was in the kitchen, but didn't want to go outside. She led me back into the living room and began her performance with a two foot leap, straight up into the air. In mid air she flipped her body around and landed to do a graceful somersault.

Now that she had my attention, she pounced on her cloth mouse. This cat should try out as a pitcher. She tosses the mouse into the air and bats it clear across the living room area! This has to be at least a twenty foot swat. I'm impressed (and laughing).

Now, she is running flat out, (bounding really), body fully extended. She is so graceful. She continued her antics for over an hour before finally requesting to return to the great out doors.

Maggie also likes to sit in my lap while I listen to music. I pet her and she licks one of my wrists. Nothing like warm, moist sandpaper kisses! We sometimes play with her toys together. She has a cloth fish with a long piece of yarn attached to it. I didn't realize that she and I were grabbing for the same piece of yarn and she pounced with her claws extended. I felt her claws begin to attack my arm. She literally froze in mid pounce and looked at me. It was like she was saying: "Oops, human arm! Oops.".

I talk to my animals. I assume they understand me. If not my words, then the emotional intent of my words. I count down the last couple of days before their owners return. I praise their good behavior and warn them of their bad beginnings. Every animal I've ever worked with will always make a noise if I'm looking for them. Animals come when I call them, even if they won't do it for their owners!

I love this particular location. The house and area are beautiful. The transportation via bus from here, however, can be hard on my nerves. We are on the side of a mountain peak and the roads are narrow and windy. I can not tell where I am at all when riding the bus. I make my speech to the drivers about not being able to see well enough to find my stop. I then pray frantically that they don't forget me. I come home rattled.

Maggie always comes to the back door shortly after I arrive home. She hangs around for me to pet and talk to, while I unwind from another trip somewhere. Shopping is easy, but it is at least two hours from here and back. The bus driver always calls my stop, but yesterday he tried to teach me about ringing the bell to tell him when to stop. I once again explained about my bad vision. He finally understood and apologized. No wonder he didn't seem eager to help me, if he thought I was just being lazy!

I enjoy watching Maggie walk across the carpet. Her movements are soft and graceful. I marvel at the wonder of getting to see, up front and personal another one of God's magnificent creatures.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Recovery: The Delusion OF A Life Without Suffering.

I have many bitter memories of being picked on, shunned and mocked because I am almost blind. A long time ago I said to myself: "If I wasn't blind, this wouldn't be happening to me!" Then I took that natural rage and turned it in upon myself. I was helped in this orgy of self hatred by the fact that my parents also believed that my existence caused all of their problems. Recently, I had a very painful encounter with someone experiencing a week moment.

A remark was made which stirred up all my self-hatred around being blind. I really have been going through it, over a childish comment, made in a weak moment. What was said, or who said it is immaterial. I have been depressed for weeks. Not the type of depression which sent me to bed, but the type of depression which showed up anytime I wasn't otherwise occupied with some mental task. I was seriously wondering if I was in need of a medication change. I just wasn't able to shake a nagging self doubt with a depression overlay.

I would find myself re-examining all of my "accomplishments" and wondering if I really did a good job, or was just being lied to as a "poor little blind girl." I know it reeks, but I truly wondered if anything I'd done in my life was of any real value. (This is the stuff that suicide attempts spring from). I prayed for God's help with my attitude. I was really stuck in a pit.

I then remembered a book I'd read years ago. The Road Less Traveled. Where a psychiatrist confronts some of our fondest illusions. It begins with a version of the above. Blaming our problems on some condition or situation; the "if only I was or wasn't" trap. He then states the truth: LIFE IS DIFFICULT. My own version: Life has suffering in it.

Oh, the years I've wasted spitting at fate over the illusion that I'd never hurt again, if I just wasn't BLIND! No, I would only hurt over some other issue or circumstance. When I really began to believe the above, a whole lot of self-loathing, tension and sadness departed from my mind. I wasn't the cause of anything! A wise pastor taught: "hurting people HURT people."

I upset a friend who shared an observation about me and a situation. Now, if I wasn't disabled, I would have been upset by some other observation made by my friend (who was in pain). I would only have a change of script and setting. My "life" play would still contain periods of pain.

Oh, how free I began to feel. I now could more readily understand another friend who pointed out that one of his life struggles (when younger) was over not being handy with tools. He wouldn't know how to do plumbing, if his life depended upon it. But, give him a computer, now when it comes to technology... But he felt left out when the guys in his circle of friends would start talking about building things, or plumbing problems.

Now, I see what a global condition this is. If someone wants to cut you down (they really don't mean to, but they are hurting and you are in their field of vision), they will attack your most obvious weakness. A woman who wants to have a baby, but can't have one is cut to the quick with: "Well, at least I'm a REAL woman!" My computer buddy is hit with: " Oh, yeah, I forgot, all YOU know is computers...", My sense of acomplishment is smashed with: "That's real good for a BLIND person...", An older sister is battered from: "Yeah, and your brother is RETARDED...". The list is endless. Another example of the expression: Misery loves company.

Freedom for me is realizing it isn't my business what people think of my work, my decessions or my faith. My job is to DO STUFF, God's job is to handle the results. I neither love or hate myself today, because of my disabilities. They are one aspect of who I am. The important FACT is that I'm one of God's kids and He made me. I am no mistake, or accident. Now realizing I'll never earn a: "gets you out of pain" card, I can let go of a lot of unnecessary self-hatred because of a condition.

The other wonderful discovery of this day has to do with how clearly my friends understand my chemically imbalanced coping abilities. I share part of a chat:

me: I am finally getting over the depression that whole bit with @#% threw me into. She really messed me up for awhile.
Phillip: Honey, @#% didn't throw you into anything. she said or did something stupid and about as sensitive as toilet seat. Your reaction to what @#% did depressed you.
me: Yes, that's right. But, I'm finally coming out of it. A very painful set of reactions.
Phillip: Yes, and I realize that much of that is chemically induced on your part. The good part is that there is also much of the reaction that isn't - and that God is working you through the process of not reacting to what other people say or do - and just believing in who He said you are. Which will also help the chemical part not kick in as much. Aren't you excited?
me: Yeah. I am excited about living a totally new kind of life, as I continue to learn to have real faith.

Since I know many of my readers also go through the following. I make the observation that, in spite of my faults Phillip is still my friend. Oh how we abuse survivors have trouble BELIEVING that some one else can actually like, or love us!

I just put that doubt in the drawer with the other things I have to ask God to help me believe are true. Never forget, if you do matter and you are worthy of love, then you are responsible to DO something. It is not all right to sit around and cry because you THINK you don't matter and you THINK nobody loves you. This trap is one of the devil's most effective tools against children of abuse. We have to learn that practing faith is in the very fabric of our lives.

I have to practice faith that God will heal, or save, or teach. But I also have to have faith that I am His child, that He sees me through the eyes of Jesus and that since I'm God's child, why wouldn't another one of his kids find me interesting as a person? (Kinda takes the wind out of that pity party I've been throwing...).

Recovery: It Ain't Always About ME!

When you are first sorting out your abuse and or neglect issues from your past, there is a time when EVERYTHING is about you. As you progress in recovery and as the intensity of the memories calms down, a fresh prospective can grow.

One of my chronic complaints (violins here) is over the issue of getting a ride to church. I know I'm growing up, because today when I was forgotten, I didn't go into a total emotional blow-out. I prayed to have victory over this issue. I truly know, that if I was in an emergency, someone at my church would attempt to move heaven and earth to help me. I suspect the husband of my ride-giver may be back in critical condition in an Emergency room somewhere. It's not always about ME!

Even if it comes down to just being "forgotten". I rarely need a ride to church, from these people. It would be easy to drop me from the radar, as this was a particularly busy week at church. I am secure enough in myself to know I would have been picked up, unless, something happened.

I am re-learning how important it is for me to put God first in my life. I heard several wonderful sermons on the radio, so I can't say I didn't get any teaching. I was at my work location to receive an important call from the cat owner. This may be the reason I was NOT picked up. I rest in the assurance that God has it all under control. I was ready to go. I now have a reason to thank God even more, for those times I DO make it to church. I praise God that I'm getting emotionally strong enough to not take every event around me as a personal attack.

Recovery is discovering the world really has people in it, who like you and try to do right. But, Jesus Christ walked on water, most people haven't gotten to that yet. I am free to forgive, love and return to church another day. I am free to have a good day in spite of a slight disappointment. I am free to enjoy the life God has given me for this day. Tomorrow isn't promised to us.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

A View From The Other Side.

For those of you not blessed with a major disability, immerse yourself in this very well crafted tale... Author unknown.

Imagine: You've just entered your office on what may well be the most hectic, stressful day of your life. Suddenly you realize all of your reference books, piles of paper-work and notes are covered with little bumps. In fact, you discover there is not one single printed word to be found. Every scrap of information necessary to do your job, is now in Braille.

Imagine: you rush back out of your office, wildly looking about, peering into offices, staring over the shoulders of clerks. Everybody is calmly doing their job, using Braille. Mysteriously they have learned the language overnight. Only you, it seems, were overlooked. For some unknown reason, you are permanently and totally Braille challenged.

Imagine: you dash for the door hoping the rest of the world has not gone mad. It has. In the elevator, you're not sure which button to press for the lobby. Someone has to help you. They stare at you as if you are stupid. Pausing at the news stand, you are unable to tell one magazine from another. You can't stand it, you need to go home and collect your thoughts. But at the bus stop, there's no way of telling which coach is yours. You back away, not wanting anyone to know, and you decide you'll call a cab. Of course, you only brought bus fare and lunch money, not nearly enough for the taxi. Remembering your bank card, you pull it out as you run back into the lobby. There, at the access machine, you stop short. The card has turned to Braille, and so have all of the instructions on the machine. You'll have to call home and ask for help. Funny, you never paid much attention to the telephone dial and now, in your growing state of confusion, you don't recall which number goes where. You are so alone, so frightened, you actually begin to weep.

Imagine: you have always seen yourself as a leader, a visionary, a problem-solver. You will not run from this challenge. You shall succeed. You have a large mortgage. Once you have recovered from the great shock, you begin looking for ways to survive.

Imagine: you have finally made arrangements, through your employer, to hire a Braille reader, a process so complex and painful you plan to patent it and use it to torture Terrorists. Now you sit in your chair going quietly mad listening to the drone of your reader's voice, taking hours of time to cover what you once scanned in minutes, while others whip about you efficiently communicating among themselves via Braille-FAX and E-B-mail. You begin to feel the "ice" in isolation.

Imagine: you learn you are not alone. You are a member of a very small minority of Braille-Challenged people. There is, in fact, a Brailleless Culture; a history far too long and complex to discuss here. So, you become a member of the, Brailleless Association of America. (BAA) At the BAA meetings you find out about a number of small companies manufacturing adaptive equipment which enables Brailleless persons to access all of the Braille computers, FAX machines, Braille scanners and Braillers.

The expense is far more than you can afford, so you seek assistance from your employer. Your request is turned down. There are no requirements that your employer accommodate your disability.

Imagine: BAA, along with many other disability groups, battle in Congress for the passage of a Bill, guaranteeing you equal treatment under the Law. The bill passes and, despite subtle messages from your fiscal officer, money is, "found" for your accommodation. After considerable time and effort, the technician from the Department of Services for the Brailleless, has you on-line. Now you are able to scan Braille text and convert the little dots into letters, and through a very complex process, the Braille display on your computer is transformed into print. Finally, you are again up to speed, being your old efficient self, feeling good about your work.

Imagine: you are humming and smiling and cranking along in high gear. Suddenly, a message flashes on your screen and drives terror through your heart. New breakthroughs in technology have produced equipment so superior to the ancient junk--at least four years old-- presently in use, that your organization is upgrading the entire communications system.

The BAA, technicians have already informed you that your adaptive equipment is not compatible with it. You go to the, "Powers-That-Be" in your organization, and request a meeting to discuss this concern. You are told that your fears are groundless. You will not be forgotten. Following this meeting A rumor goes around hinting that you are trying to sabotage the new system, and your associates begin to whisper behind your back. They want the new system. It's far superior, more compact, ten times faster, and it's cool looking. They are sick of your "whining and constant complaining". You feel the "ice" settling in again.

Imagine: you have been forgotten. The new system is in place. Everybody loves it. You've been told not to worry, someone will be around to do what is necessary to put you back on-line. The "someone" they had in mind is the same technician who told you the system would not work. Despite your concerns, no one bothered to investigate before the equipment was installed. Once again you sit, going quietly mad while your reader plows line by line through the piles of Braille.

Imagine: you know you are close to losing your mind or your job--probably both. You must find other employment, but you do not want your associates to know you are finally beaten. You try to figure out a way to do a quiet job search when all information is only accessible in Braille.

One day you hear that your State has developed a central information center, called a, "kiosk". These information centers are being set up in easily accessible locations. The plan is for these kiosks to make government information and services available quickly and conveniently, to the public. Sort of a "one stop shopping center". You learn that lists of job openings are among the many services offered. This is perfect. This is exactly what you need. you discover your town recently placed a kiosk in the Mall. You go there on Saturday afternoon. There it stands, costing the tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars to create, but well worth it. In its ultimate form, the kiosks will bring virtually all State services right into your local neighborhood. You are thrilled as you step up to the controls. An automated voice welcomes you and brags about the wonders of this system. Breathlessly, you wait for your instructions... Then, the Braille display appears.

Imagine: they are dragging you away, shrieking at the top of your voice. Onlookers are amazed. They do not know how you managed to rip the iron bench from the floor of the Mall. None of them dared to try to stop you as you swung it over your head, again and again, smashing the kiosk into pieces of broken plastic, glass and twisted metal. None of them understand why you kept screaming the same words over and over.

"I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too! I pay taxes, too!......."