Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saying Good-Bye To "Wanderlust", My Dying eMac.

I'm a Macintosh person. I took it as a personal affront from Steve Jobs when she began to fail. Apple's DON'T FAIL! I resisted the temptation to yell at my Macintosh representative. How dare she not be able to perform "remote" magic and fix my 40 Gigs of external storage disc partition that had disappeared!

"Darling, when your USB ports fail intermittently its your logic board. You better get the new computer sooner rather than later," Janice Kempf has proven herself to be an exceptional Apple Rep. I trust her. She does exquisite customer service and I love the chance to buy something from her. We'd explored what I wanted for a new machine earlier in the year.

However, I had a plan. I wouldn't buy a new Mac until Leopard, the next operating system came out in October. Now, with only 4 months until this release I'LL HAVE TO PAY FOR A NEW OPERATING SYSTEM TO GET LEOPARD! Oh rage, scream, damn! Steve Jobs has me, and I know it.

Since Janice already knew what I was looking for in the next machine, she went to the refurbished things first. I had two great choices, three if I would take a 17 inch screen. I made my decision and Janice put it all together for the amount I had in the bank.

I thought that dropping over $1,500 would be fun. I was in tears. I had data to save, pleading letters to write, begging for geeks to "save" me and just some general sulking to do. This is NOT at all like my daydreams.

I am really getting to move up in the Mac. world, as my computer duties have expanded from small-time home consumer to part-time business person. As webmaster and whatever-they-need-I'll-try-it (for my church) business person, my poor eMac is just not powerful enough, or large enough to handle my new duties. I love my eMac. I feel sad to lose her. She is more then a machine. I grew up pounding on her keyboard, mousing myself into carpal tunnel syndrome on games and exploring Instant Messaging and Social networks.

Before Wanderlust I swore I'd never, ever, ever get on the Internet because my vision just couldn't handle it. I'd always leave a session of attempts in tears. But Wanderlust with reverse video, square box around-the-cursor and font changing capabilities brought the Internet to me. Now that I can see it, I LOVE it!

How did she get the name "Wanderlusts"? She started life in Southern California, a nice Republican area. For mysterious reasons I never figured out she got shipped to Sacramento, where she disappeared from the shipper's system. Having a box with no information, what did they do?

THEY SHIPPED IT BACK TO SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA! It only took three weeks to straighten out the mess, but I bet she was running away from my area which is totally Democratic. The Socialist Republic of The San Francisco Bay Area! She tried really hard NOT to come here! Our politics here are so scary. I had to call her Wanderlust.

For those of you not from this area in the United States, here's a sample of our local insanity. Feng Shui in San Francisco building codes! Gay marriages pushed through by the SF mayor, which were subsequently overturned in the courts. But that building code stuff just kills me!

Feng Shui, for those of you who don't know has to do with the spiritual benefit of locating objects in a room in specific places. It isn't enough to put a desk by the window for good lighting, but will its placement in the room contribute to good vibrations for the occupant! Our tax dollars at work.

When Wanderlust arrived I had the joy of setting her up and getting my very first Internet connection. Due to some @#$ with our local phone company, I have no land line. I had to go with cable. Comcast was more reliable then the "free" government service. For $71.20 a month I have flawless performance, excellent 24/7 customer service and basically I rarely think about them.

Jeez, I loved all the news, recipes, books, magazines, newspaper feeds and pod casts. I loved playing games with my mouse. Super Collapse killed my wrist because I did it for several hours straight! (Yeah, stupid, but I made it to level 4). I found jig saw puzzles, international long distance telephony (everywhere for free!) and digital photography. In short order I was living on my computer.

Via pod casting I ran into a geek back east who has become a valued and trusted friend. He can be crazy and shallow, but occasionally he gets deep and serious! He has taught me many things. We follow each others work and I look forward to invading his area in October of 2008 for the Ignoble Prizes. THAT is going to be one hell of a vacation!

But I digress. As I type this I feel sad because I can't give Wanderlust to someone who needs a computer, as a bad logic board is not a nice thing to share. Apple won't recycle my computer either. BUT had the balls to charge me an $8.00 "recycling fee" (!) on my iMac. GROWL, GROWL, GROWL!

I've given my old eMac to a tech friend to use for spare parts. I also gave him the 80 GB external disc drive which had the 40 GB "disappeared" partition. It turns out that I just got my data transferred in time. The eMac logic board rendered the machine unusable for my friend and he said that 95% of the external disc was bad. I bet there was a very busy angel protecting that data as I transferred it to my new machine!

Here is the dirt on both machines:

eMac 1.25 Ghz, 40 GB Hard Disc, low-end graphics card, 17" CRT screen.
imac 2.16 Ghz, 250 GB Hard Disc, 512-something graphics card, 20" LCD screen.

As you can see from the photos above the new screen is huge. I can have a whole mess of windows opened at once and switch between them with a mouse click, rather then having to use expose. I named my new machine "Linda the iMac" as this dear soul gave me $50 towards the purchase when she didn't have squat for money. I thought her gesture was truly wonderful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Training a Cat: Why I Know Parents Are Saints!

Please note, this is an attempt at humor, with some truth thrown in here and there. See CyberGal doesn't do "children". I don't babysit, or do Youth Sunday School. When I go on vacation I attempt to stay far, far away from God's little gifts. I like kids in small doses. I drop in for an evening. So I am blissfully unaware of the character building friends of mine speak of when they discuss parenting. No more!

No, I didn't take care of a child, but I was instructed to "discipline" the owner's cat. Knowing absolutely NOTHING about how cats react to being thwarted, I assured the owner that the cat would not be permitted out of the house before 7 AM and would be back inside the house at 9 PM. How hard can this be...?

God works in very mysterious ways. How hard was it? It depends on whether I get points for never actually acting on my thoughts towards a yowling animal who has the endurance of an Olympic athlete!

I have bizarre sleep patterns no matter what's going on. I tend to sleep for three to four hours, get up at around 2 AM, work for a few hours and return to sleep for a good six hours. Taking medication to straighten this out leaves me too doped-up to function. So, since I have a very lose schedule, I work around my sleeping patterns.

The cat and I got on very well. She'd cry to get out between 3:30 AM and 5 Am and whether awake, or asleep, I can open a door and return to blissful slumber. But, now, I had a real challenge. The owner told me just to lock her out of my bedroom when: "...she becomes a pest." I thought this was a bit extreme. After all, Maggie likes me, there won't be a problem. NOT!

I woke up at 3:30 to her usual morning serenade. I tried talking to her. Her mewing got louder. She jumped on counters. She virtually screamed at me in a non-stop stream of feline invectives. She was mad and let me hear about it. There is nothing quite as frustrating as trying to ignore an angry animal with a will, determination and an ATTITUDE.

After the first hour of this heavenly bliss, I started thinking about teaching the cat like my mom taught me. Pick her up and toss her against the nearest wall! I confess my emotions were now all stirred up. I couldn't believe how angry I was becoming.

"yowl, yowl, yowl, YOWOWOWL!" Maggie is following me around the house. It never stops. Its only 4:45 AM and I gotta wait until 7:00 AM? Since she actually startled me with her leaping on a counter where I was pouring hot water for coffee, I cured THAT problem. I moved away from her so she'd know I wasn't going to strike her. I then hit the marble counter as hard as I could with a flat hand.


Ooooh, look at the flying kitty!

Blessed silence. Being startled by the unexpected noise, Maggie shot off the counter into the air. By now I was actively babbling incoherently at my Lord. "How do they do this without killing their children?" As I heard the soft ticking of a clock, waiting for my answer, the Yowler re-doubled her efforts.

When my cell phone alarm went off at 7 AM, I leaped into the air to let the suffering feline lose upon the world. By now, she'd given up and was nowhere to be seen! My rage returned as I realized she was going to take hr own sweet time exiting the house! Well, eventually, she sauntered into the kitchen and hung half in and half out of the doorway.

Once she did actually exit, I returned to bed and collapsed into unconsciousness. It didn't really feel like sleep, but I was all keyed up inside and couldn't figure out what was happening to me. I never remember having to apologize to God for so much so fast over anything before. I was being torn apart by a four pound fur ball with a will of iron!

I did get a lot of church work done while the Yowler was out at play. But, she wouldn't come in at all to eat. At night, she wouldn't eat even her beloved "treats". Now I had a torrent of guilt to keep my anger company. Why am I being so cruel... No, I've got to do what the owner requested. "Dear God, please tell the cat what's happening and tomorrow will be better, right? Thanks Lord."

By day three I discovered I could confuse the cat into momentary silence. I decided to imitate her in pitch, attitude and volume. Maggie actually turned full around to face me. In shocked silence she sat looking up at me like I'd just floated in from Mars. Long story short, she cried, I suffered. She refused to eat, I worried as she was beginning to lose weight. It just went on like this day after day, after day.

I then noticed that awful feeling one has when they have to do something they loathe. I was afraid to go to sleep at night because I knew that at 3:30 AM, we'd start all over again. Now I had depression to go with my guilt, worry and impotent anger. Hmmm, when I get off this gig, I might have to get my medications changed. Great. I could just see telling my Doctor this story! Probably commit my butt into the hospital for sure!

So, its finally over. Eight days of discovering several worrisome traits I didn't know I had. Realizing that my mother, in spite of her troubles and illness didn't actually kill me. Now I know enough about my personality to realize it wasn't because I didn't try to drive her to distraction! Yeah, you parents out there. You are all saints!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Notes From A Prayer Warrior.

For those of you not religious, this expression is used in Christian circles. I'm not sure if it is used in other religions, but I would suspect the function is covered, but maybe by another name. I love to pray. Prayer, for me, is simply "talking to" or "thinking at" God. I taught myself to pray in my teens as a Baha'i'.

At first it felt silly, like trying to have a conversation with ... Well, I'd start: "Hi God...", then I'd wait for a response! When none came, I was actually relieved, as an audible: "yes CyberGal," would have scared the life out of me!

I then decided I'd have to just trust that my prayers were being heard and acted upon. I didn't have long to wait before a friend admitted stealing cigarettes from my Cousin. This had put me in a very touchy position with my cousin. She assumed my guest had done it, but asked me if I'd stolen the cigarettes.

When my friend confessed I was out raged. My cousin and I had a very, very stormy relationship under the best of circumstances and THIS! I felt the temptation to scream at my friend. Instead, I thought a quick prayer to my new friend, God.

"What do you want me to do here?" I figured I'd wait to see if I remembered something from the Baha'i' writings. Within a few minutes I remembered some passages which dealt with forgiveness and kindness. (Two actions I really didn't want to take). I thanked God for answering my question and then asked Him to help me get over my anger enough to truly be kind and forgiving.

Something very curious then took place in my mind. I remembered how messed up my friend's home life was. I remembered how scary it was for me to confess anything bad to my cousin. It was like putting my neck on a chopping block and saying: "Here I am, go ahead and kill me."
I was not speaking to my friend as we walked and I talked to God. Once I had these new thoughts I frankly told my friend my new experiences with God and let her know I wasn't mad at her, (though I pleaded with her not to do it again). I then realized her silent response was because she was quietly weeping.

This established God for me. I prayed a lot as a Baha'i'. It probably kept me from attempting suicide as a teen. I had such awful bouts of loneliness for people. I'd been grounded for a year and was not allowed to leave the house, except for school. No phone and no outings anywhere. I remember feeling an isolation so strong, it was almost physically crushing.

I chanted the Baha'i' prayer "Remover of difficulties" five hundred times. It is about three lines. Chanting helped me live better with life as I found it. God came to me in other wonderful ways. I would listen to the radio and strings of songs would be played that I particularly enjoyed. I came to understand that God was doing this for me. It was a kind of caring. It made me very happy, when most of my life was abysmal at best.

Prayer kept me from fighting more with my cousin then I did. I hated her and her ways. Once I got married and found out how she'd mismanaged some money my mother had left for me, I was so angry I feared I'd try to torture her. I told my husband not to let me leave our home until I calmed down. I seriously wanted to torture her. Not kill her, but to inflict as much physical pain and emotional anguish on her just short of killing her. I wanted to do this over and over again.

I believe prayer might have saved my cousins life. I had the sense not to act on an anger so strong, I truly felt energy radiating from my eyes. I knew enough to realize it was a dangerous, cold, calculating vicious thing. I was afraid of my anger. I prayed to God for help. It took about three hours before I calmed down, but I know God gave me the strength to resist a very real temptation to hurt my cousin.

When I became a Christian I was amazed at how Jesus worked when the Baha'i faith didn't. Just reading the Bible introduced strength and hope into my world I'd never known before. With all my mental illness, Jesus had much work to do, to even position me where I could rightly comprehend "the good news". God let me wander through several different Christian movements before I really "got" what Jesus actually did for me.

I knew he healed me, but the sin thing and the Holy Spirit-as-a-man made no sense to me. I didn't think I'd done wrong in relation to what had been done to me! (Now, after almost 25 years as a Christian, God has gently shown me my darker side. I now have enough emotional strength to handle taking responsibility for my bad behavior). I've learned the freedom of working on the problems in my life and leaving you and your problems to God and prayer.

So here I am in The Church of God in Christ. My entire small church is full of people with similar spiritual gifts. We are all a bunch of coffee drinking, fun-loving prayer warriors. Warrior just means you are willing to PUSH! (Pray Until Something Happens). Since I am alone a lot of the time I think stuff to God all the time. I just give Him permission to receive anything that goes through my mind. God has taught me that He respects our privacy and boundaries. When I get into a snit and don't want to have anything to do with Him. My God-noise leaves.

I was in an alcohol recovery program in San Francisco, just before becoming a Christian. I had played around with some very dangerous magic and I believe God saved me from being killed from some evil something that was attempting to crush my skull from all directions at once. How did I get myself into something like that?

I was so angry at God and everything else. I decided to scientifically prove there was no God by going through the Bible and attempting to do all the sins God really hated! Yeah, that is a very, very stupid and dangerous thing to do. I quickly realized that God really had a thing against any kind of magic. So, I found me some Pagans who used Nazi stuff to get energy to do their "rituals". They would take the energy from the Nazi objects and literally bless trees. I didn't really understand what they were doing. But the house we were all in was "infested" with some of the nastiest spiritual energy I've ever encountered.

My husband was exorcising something from an upstairs bedroom. I was in the basement with my lover. I perceived this entity was coming down the basement stairs. I put up my shields and all of that, but it made mince meat out of my protection as it landed on me. I knew if the pressure on my skull didn't stop I'd die.

To answer your next question; was I drinking, or doing drugs? No, it was so frightening, what took place, I wished I had been. But I was totally sober and knew I was in some big trouble. I shot up a foxhole prayer to God: "OK, I'll never doubt You or the Bible again. Please get this thing off of me!" All the pressure and the appearance of everything in the room being blood red stopped. I was alive.

But there had been something in that room. Every object capable of holding liquid was filled with a tarry substance which stank. It was an indescribably bad smell. I am very lucky to be alive. I was so arrogant and angry. I have wondered how God kept His patience with me for such a long time, in light of such over-the-top behavior.

So, back to how I got my "God noise". I'd just come out of all that awful stuff with magic. I'd gotten tangled up with something called a "psychic vampire". This is another human being who has the ability to tap into your body's energy and drain it. I started feeling like I had the flu all the time. I started having very strange nightmares. I started feeling another person attempting to take over my body from the inside out.

I had to get help to rid myself of this "presence". I was still very scared to be alone in a room. As I moved through the alcohol recovery process, I was rewarded with my own room. For most a real privilege, preparing one to return to real life. I was terrified beyond words.

I begged God to protect me. I was now a Christian, but I knew I couldn't tell anyone what I'd been through. Most people hear stories like that and blow it off. God answered my prayer. He had friends in the program give me statues of Jesus and pictures of Jesus. They sensed I was very frightened and said I could look at the statue and the picture of Jesus and He'd help me. I believed them.

Bedtime was the worst. I'd listen to Christian radio, but the terror would come on me. I finally got honest with God. Please give me something from You, so I won't feel totally alone and unprotected. I figured I'd rather hear something, than see something. I began to perceive a soft sound almost like a ringing in my ears. It isn't exactly the same. I have had real ringing in my ears and it is very different. I began to see that God had a personality and a will, just like me. He would not do "tricks" for me. I tried to "demand" my God noise to show up at my will. No dice. He's not around to entertain me, or satiate my curiosity.

When I'd pray, however, I would find that soft noise. Sometimes, when I really get into prayer, with my eyes closed, I see soft light, but that is rare. When I think about God, or am trying to share about Him, my God noise is always there. I can "hear" when others are praying for me. I don't hear words, but the God noise shows up when I'm doing something really spiritual. Like, when I'm listening to a song by The Rolling Stones! I never know who is praying, but the fact that someone is praying for me is totally obvious via what I was doing before I heard the God noise.

Being around other people who love to pray teaches you things. "Standing in the gap" for someone is attempting to pray while they go through what they asked you to pray about. Say, someone is asked to lead the Praise and Worship service. I have experienced people standing with me when I have faced difficult things. It is a joy to give that gift to a fellow traveler.

Some people have an entirely different prayer style. One friend claims he can fire off a healing prayer in thirty seconds! His prayers, for me, are very effective. He has a different constellation of spiritual gifts to share. Prayer style isn't important, it is where your heart is in relation to God.

So, I had to be up and praying at 7:15 for my friend. He just requested a quick prayer from me. I only do quick prayers when I'm in the middle of falling... I prefer a "chat" with God about whatever I've been requested to pray about. I run through the actual request the person has asked me to pass on to God. I then go through and claim promises out of God's word that apply to the situation. Somewhere in all of this, I laps into thankfulness for having a friend in the first place. Being thankful for everything is a wonderful way to keep your mind out of the emotional swamp of child abuse.

So I got up at 6:50 to have some time to drink some coffee to get my mind into shape so I could pray. I'd been fighting with a project the night before and didn't get to bed until about 3:30. But, I don't talk to anyone intelligently, until I've had some coffee.

Before Coffee: "Our Heaven, who art in Father..."
After Coffee: "Our Father who art in heaven..."

I have a wonderful set of memories about being dragged to a sunrise service before I was saved. I howled in protest and demanded coffee. This group didn't drink coffee, so I was out of luck. Fine, I got down on my knees at the top of this dew covered grassy hill to pray. The next thing I knew, someone was waking me up. Yeah, real spiritual, this one. Right.

At my first Church of God in Christ church, they held retreats which were actually endurance marathons. Meetings started at six AM and didn't break up until eleven PM over a three day weekend. The only way I could function was to drink lots and lots of coffee!

On my last retreat with this church, I'd been through a revelation about how important it is to pray when you tell people you will be praying. I got a kind letter from a friend thanking me for my prayers. (At that time, I prayed during the week with a partner at a set time.) He said that my prayers really helped get him through some stuff.

Only problem, when he thought I was praying, I was sleeping! I'd let my partner call me in the morning. No call, no prayer. Man, did I feel bad over that one! So, when we went on retreat to this monastery run by Franciscan Monks, I was determined to be up in prayer at 6 AM, when we were supposed to BE in prayer.

I had a good laugh when I discovered the coffee situation. I have no idea why these dear Monks need coffee that is so strong as to make Pete's coffee look week, but there it was! They had this little dispenser, where you'd take a packet with a cap at the top and slam it into the device to make a cup of coffee which almost raptured me without The Lord!

It was an absolutely beautiful retreat site. I'd get my coffee and sit on benches which overlooked the lush countryside. As I drank my first small cup of coffee for the morning I realized I was sweating and feeling very alert! (Over one eight ounce cup of coffee? What did Monks need this stuff for?) I thanked God for making it possible for me to truly be awake to talk to Him. Man, that coffee was something else again.

The other situation for a prayer person is how people are drawn to you to "share". They instinctively realize you can help them, even if they aren't religious. You are taken into people's confidence. I've had this happen to me all my life and have heard almost everything, I thought.

Recently, however, I had a conversation that totally stopped all rational thought. I am astounded to be trusted like this. I hurt for the people involved. My job is to pray. My pastor has preached about praying people losing their intercessory gift because they gossip instead of pray. It is a very, very serious and sacred responsibility.

I am grateful to my accountability/prayer partner for helping me adjust to a whole new level of holding something in confidence. She has had the same situation. We prayed together to help me truly turn the situation over to God. We never speak of details. Can't make a mistake if you keep it all under wraps. I learned that from my Psychologist. If you don't talk about it at all, you can't slip up.

From mental illness to constructive living. Not bad, my Lord, not bad at all. (((smile))).

Sunday, July 01, 2007

My First Designer Hat.

As many of you know, I have some problems with what it means to be feminine. Now that I'm starting to explore imitating women I respect and admire, I realize I was jealous. All I knew from my background was that I sure as heck didn't want to be anything like my mother.

Look at the other 1950's role models. "I Love Lucy" is on the top of my barf list, but I hated all the happy family shows, as that world and my world were universes apart. I remember being confused in the 2nd grade when I noticed that both parents in "Fun With Dick and Jane" dressed in fancy clothes. My parents spent their time nude, or in filthy bathrobes.

Please understand. My mother was extremely mentally ill. I mean no disrespect towards her. One of the things I am really looking forward to in heaven is meeting my parents whole, healthy and happy. But I decided that being a male was the safest way to go. I didn't like my father's passive behavior, but when he'd finally hit my mother, she'd worked on him for hours!

I tried the gay lifestyle and wasn't any more successful in those relationships, then I was with the guys. I don't hate men as a matter of course and I just couldn't buy some of the politics of the women's movement. Although not being "cute", "frilly" or "stupid" was fine with me.

I am now deeply involved with my small church. We dress up for Sunday Service and the women are requested to wear a dress for every meeting (no matter how the men slep in). That is one of my sticking points, but to continue.

I am around truly noble, positive, smart and beautiful women. When they dress up on Sunday they sometimes have a hat to go with their jacket dress, or tailored suit. Most of the dresses come down to the floor, so I see a lovely woman walk in to church, wearing a flowing purple jacket dress topped with a matching hat. When she walks, it looks like she is almost floating, or flowing across the floor. I found myself wanting to look like that, to act like that. To have the quiet dignity which enables these women to confront with compassion, to love without shame and be fully alive as whole human beings.

I now realize that Phillip's knowledge of manicures, hairstyles and fashion scared me. It felt like he knew more about being a girl then I did! Until being with the women of my church, I'd never been around too many positive female role models. Now that I'm getting some idea of how if "feels" to be a woman, Phillip's skills don't intimidate me as much.

So, this year our annual District Convocation was held at the Oakland City Center Marriott. Aside from meetings and the regular classes of a conference, there is an entire long hall dedicated to selling the kind of clothes we like to wear for church. A very conservatively dressed, but glittering version of Dolly Parton. Sequins everywhere. Silver, or gold purses and hats. Also,beautiful shiny blouses that look almost like a mirror in fabric.

The hats are amazing. Everything from the squat and sequined (like mine) to the tall and or floppy. These hats are perfectly matched to the color of the outfit. The look is stunning. So, I was pretty sure I was going to try and get me a hat for Communion Sunday.

I figured on spending no more then $50. Well, it turns out that the lady selling the hats made them! She sold me a hat that had to be worth $120 for $80. I threw in an extra $10 because she was being so kind. I plan on doing a full news story on her and her business, later in this blog.

My friends at church were happy with and for me. They engaged in the friendly banter of sisters: "Ooh, girl, I'm scared of you!". I picked out the hat on my own and I've been told I did a very good job. All I know is I feel truly lovely and feminine when I'm all in white with this beautiful hat. It is easy to remember to move slowly and as gracefully as I am able. I seem to have less of a problem falling back into trying to act like a tom boy. It is a nice feeling.

See, there must really be a God (for my atheistic readers), because only a move of God could take a frustrated Jack Ryan want-to-be and turn her into a woman unafraid and unashamed to finally be who and what I really am.