The At Home Post 1: Learning to Function in This New Reality

And oh what a difference a week makes. If I thought things were strange at the time of my last posting, well they are just plain unheard of now. Other than an appointment to get my heart checked, (sort of a long story that resulted from random passing out/vomiting on the floor and being taken to the ER [ugh hospital bills!] Fortunately all is normal though) I have not seen anyone but my wife and her sisters. When the weather is warm, this is ok as I can step out onto the balcony to feel the kiss of much-needed sunshine and relax in the lounge chairs for hours. Or we can take a socially-distanced walk around the neighborhood as we did this past Sunday night. But when the temps and rain fall, as was the case today, it can result in a sense of sluggishness, isolation, and perhaps depression.

I should acknowledge first that for folks who actually come down with this condition and sadly in some cases even die, things are a lot worse than just finding it hard to not be around others. I think one thing that is making me nervous though is hearing about all these people who continued to function through their symptoms, potentially exposing others like myself, who are coping with health conditions, to the virus. This comes from the usual American ethos that says we should not take off if we can even walk to work, and it’s a tough thing to shake overnight.

I certainly have taken off though, and I sort of hesitate to say this, but I am using this time to better myself. Being able to get adequate amounts of sleep and take the time I need to see to my health needs have meant I am experiencing the best two weeks, from a physical perspective, that I have all year. I’m teaching myself to write cover letters and searching for positions I might find interesting. I’ve even found that I have enough stamina to work through job applications that may not as well cooperate with screen-reading software and feel a deep sense of accomplishment when I manage to get a particularly difficult one submitted.

And of course, I am remembering to have fun. How I wish I could turn on some good sports! But now that I have a better understanding of how this thing works, I am also glad for the many that they went ahead and canceled those leagues when they did. The spread may have been incalculable otherwise. I am enjoying music a lot, and particularly the Apple Music playlists, both those that they create and ones I have made myself. Check out my list My Life The Soundtrack if you also happen to have Apple. It’s composed of 80 songs two per year from 1979 to 2018, and it’s fun to press shuffle and see what comes up in that grab bag.

And finally, I am reading. Trying to find books that aren’t so much about criminality, though that’s actually a lot harder than it might looks. A really good one I am about to wrap up is The Perfect Wife, by JP Delaney, where Abbey emerges five years later and soon discovers she is not who she thinks she is. It’s hard to tell you anything without giving too much away, but let’s just say it explores what exactly it means to be human, and who has the right to identity. It’s an interesting concept that suddenly lots of writers are examining.

So how are you dealing with this stay-at-home stuff. If you are an “essential worker,” I say God bless you. I hope you are holding up and staying safe, and thanks for continuing to do what you do to keep us supplied. I know that it is often those with the least income who feel compelled to keep plugging in this time, so I just wish you well. See you all in April.

Job Days No. 7: Work in the Time of Covid

In my last post, I spoke of my own entry into an unwanted “new world” of illness and coping. Since then, it seems we all have found ourselves with an unthinkable menace: a pandemic. This has caused uncertainty in how to proceed among nearly everyone, all the way up to the world’s great governments. We all live on edge, trying to figure out how far this Covid-19 will go and how long it will last. (I read somewhere, I wish I remembered which site, that the Novel Coronavirus is to Covid-19 as HIV is to Aids, in that one causes the other. So they’re not necessarily interchangeable as terms, though common usage has tilted in this way.)

Anyhow, like the rest of you I find myself trying to adapt to restaurant closures, fewer supplies being available at grocery stores, and the most difficult of all being mostly stuck at home. One of the great challenges I face is whether to continue going to work. The place has not yet closed, so I sort of hesitate to leave needed dough on the table. And unfortunately, my position definitely cannot be done from home. They are starting to practice social distancing measures though, making sure that the fewer and fewer of us who arrive each day do not sit directly across from each other and are spaced as far apart as the equipment allows. I do believe that at some point soon some sort of total lockdown will be issued, but until then I will just wash my hands a lot, try not to touch my face, and hope that I have not been passively exposed.

When things are normal, I am still mostly doing the same job I have for the majority of my seven years at good ol’ LCI: packaging light sticks. I feel like I might finally be getting up to everyone else’s speed, which means that I can be left in bliss and to proceed through my thoughts as I desire. I’m a natural introvert, but do try to interact occasionally.

The only tough thing these days is that work has become a lot less reliable than it had been. Well on looking at my previous Job Days post, some of that changeability had already crept in. The difference now is that by Wednesday each week, we will have usually run out of light sticks to package. This is because each truckload is relatively small, and they only come in on Fridays. So if no work is available in flatware, we must spend the rest of the week sorting folders or doing some other sort of busywork. The worst is when we have stretches where nothing is available at all, but fortunately these are few and far between.

Moving Forward

Before all this Covid stuff started, I was launching myself onto the path to become a CPACC, Certified Professional in Accessibility Core Competencies. This followed the SourceAmerica Training I had been doing for much of the latter part of last year, and is being completed through Deque University, a series of online courses offered by Deque Systems. The material is challenging, but no doubt my prior knowledge gained through an HTML course I had taken with the Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired has helped me tremendously. To this point, I have completed four courses: Accessibility Fundamentals, Designing An Accessible User Experience, Semantic Structure and Navigation, and Images. Now working on one that deals with colors. The visual stuff is the hardest, but I am learning.

And finally, I have just acquired another Rehab Counselor with the North Carolina Division of Services for the Blind. She reached out to me, and we are going to try one more time to see what we can make happen on the job front. I am feeling hopeful though, and might especially see if I can find something that allows me to work from home so that I can nix the work commute. We’ll see how this story continues to unfold.

PUT DOWN THE POP: On my unwanted entry into the ‘new world’ of Type 2 Diabetes

I am a newly diagnosed diabetic. This simple statement, confirmed by a long-dreaded but I knew much-needed test at my doctor’s office rocked my world more profoundly than anything I have recently experienced. It certainly seemed more momentous than the high blood pressure noted in my Ask Your Doctor post. But, it is what it is and now I must get on adapting.

According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 2 Diabetes results from the body’s inability to use insulin properly. The NIDDK, an arm of the National Institutes of Health, says that diabetes appears in approximately 30 million Americans, most 65 or older but becoming a factor by age 45. Either way you look at it, I’m younger than I wanna be with this condition.

What do you tend to associate most with Diabetes? For me, I often think of two great but sad movies, Steel Magnolias and Soul Food, in which the diabetic characters were ultimately unable to manage due to a desire to have children against medical advice and an unwillingness to alter eating habits respectively. Popular culture does not tend to portray this well, as with most conditions, I suppose because functioning well with it tends not to be dramatic. So I seek out hopeful stories, wherever they may lie.

My own story has, in the ten days since I have known for sure that I have it, consisted of a ramping up of knowledge and a gathering of needed materials to help me. (I would venture to say that this has actually been present a lot longer perhaps in a form that could have been mitigated, which is why it is so important to have a doctor who will test as you ask! Please y’all, don’t let your voice be silenced.) Anyhow, my current, awesome medical provider told me to make slow change that sticks. As suggested by the title, my most abrupt alteration was to immediately eliminate soda because it is BAD BAD BAD! I used to have a glass with dinner, and now substitute it with sparkling water or similar sugar-free beverages. She said I can still have coffee sometimes, and while it would be best to take it black, artificial sweeteners are also acceptable.

In addition, I ordered a talking glucose meter from LS&S Products, which I am waiting to acquire. This company makes products for blind and low vision people to maintain independence with whichever condition they find themselves, and while towards the upper end of the price spectrum, I am finding them to be a lifesaver. I want to get the talking blood pressure cuff as well, but that will have to wait.

So the take-home message for you, if you’ve not yet gotten it, is to monitor your health and listen to what your body is telling you. I had already lost nearly all taste for sweets and don’t even want bread all that much. I feel in some ways that my coping strategies, which used to involve consumption of brownies and such late at night, have come back to get me, but also acknowledge that some of this is genetic. Not that those strategies were ever all that helpful. I have since found that diving into a good book, finding a sporting event or perhaps just catching some Z’s are far superior methods for handling stress. If I accomplish anything with this post, I hope it is to help you avoid having to deal with this yourself.