BE PREPARED: Lessons Learned from First Podcast Interview Attempt

So, remember the idea I had of getting episode 2 of my podcast up by today? Well… not so fast. I guess one might say I had to eat a big piece of humble pie, in at least trying to fully grasp the challenges that would come with actually interviewing someone. I’ve sat on it for a little over a week though, and have learned a few things that one might think I’d have recognized from all of my years of listening to NPR and the like.

I’ll begin by saying that the issues I faced were by no means a result of my interviewee, a person whom I’ve known for many years from my time as a UNC student and considered a mentor throughout that rocky period. In fact, she tried to take my shakiness and do the most she could with it, clearly having experience in the area of participating in interviewing. (And just to give her the plug I still hope to in a future podcast but can’t at the moment for reasons you’ll see later, she is Dr. Brenda Mitchell, author of a wonderful hildren’s book called Anthony’s Adventures, Already A Winner!)

I suppose the first lesson learned is that listening does not equal doing? Man, I have a much higher respect for those who can carry on complex conversations, following different lines of thought and coming up with great questions to bolster or deepen the audience’s understanding of a given subject. Do they teach that kind of stuff in journalism school? Or is it something you just have to have.

One thing I’m sure they cannot teach is awareness of the need for time flexibility. Whenever you’re asking someone to speak with you and they’re willing to give of their time, you must be prepared for that time to shift due to changing circumstances. The interview had been scheduled for 2 PM on Saturday, but as I settled on the couch with my coffee at 1, she texted asking if I could go ahead with it. This meant I no longer had the 30 minutes prior to meditate and try to get myself into the right headspace, as well as working out exactly how I would record it. But well now I know that I had better do those things well ahead of time and not depend on things to stay the way they had been planned.

After coming up with a nominal solution, she would record the Zoom call and send it back to me as I discovered that one cannot record Zoom from the phone, we began. And therein lay my second lesson: it’s probably best to give the author heads up on what the topic will be. I’d vaguely told her that it was a podcast focused on disability issues, but hadn’t explained that I would talk about her children’s book which addresses dealing with bullying as a result of visible difference. Worse, I just launched right into the body of questions saying “and in this book” with no indication that the title would be given later, meaning she covered for me and told the audience what it was indeed called. Next time I’ll just make sure that the author knows I will give the book blurb prior to playing the recording, or I will go ahead and do it in the introductions.

I would have liked to learn whatever other lessons that recording held, though I could guess that some were to speak more slowly and give myself time to thing so that I’m not “um, ah, ur-ing” all the time, but unfortunately the file was too large to share easily. That was fine though, as I was already pretty sure it wouldn’t meet basic posting standards. So, I need also to make sure that I have already worked out how I will record things and whether I can get everything to fit together in the end.

This is a big mountain to climb indeed, but I think it’s still an idea worth pursuing. I’m trying to be really careful before attempting to get another guest to make sure that I at least have a good enough understanding of what I’m trying to do to experience success. I want after all to promote myself and to elevate others’ work who have taken the time to highlight an experience, the experience of disability within the world, that is important to me and so many others I know. I hope you will still give it a listen whenever I can iron out all of the kinks, and as always, I hope my sharing helps someone else who is considering podcasting.

On Music, Sleep, and Access: Slowly Making My Way Back

Feels like I’ve not written in a month, even though I have some entries posted. This is because, for that month, the pandemic and its restrictions had finally flattened me. I’ve not written in my book, which got to over 16,000 words by the way, and was reluctantly dragging myself into work at best. As with all of us I’m sure, it’s been a real struggle with me, living this becalmed existence, but I hope we’re on the backside of this thing finally! Numbers are coming down, now let’s just hold on and try to make it to the other side before we go too crazy.

Anyway, I’m starting to find my way back out of the doldrums, thanks to three things: the gift of music, improved sleep, and the remembrance of love.

First the music, as we all know it can be one of the best forms of therapy. I sort of accidentally came up with the idea a few days ago to listen to every year’s hip hop and R&B and Pop playlists on Apple Music of the 1990s. I’ve only gotten through 1991 and 1990, having started them in the wrong order because initially I’d just wanted to hear songs from 30 years ago, and these tracks both take me back and make me feel a lot better. And the good news, from my perspective, is that I’ve got songs to listen to in this way probably till early April or so, when it will hopefully be warmer and I can get outside for some sun again.

And speaking of sun, sort of, I (or more truthfully my wife) undertook a few steps to try and help me get my sleep back on track. It had gone dangerously off the rails, and especially when trying to get that all-important set-up sleep on Sunday night to prepare for work. First, she got me a My Pillow, that pricey pillow that makes all kinds of promises about its ability to change your sleeping habits and life for good. I broke it in this Friday night, knowing I would have time if I indeed found it harder to sleep instead. And at first I did, because the pillow kid lower than I’ve gotten used to with the two-pillow Elevation I’d had before.

Then Saturday, she’d ordered me some Melatonin gummies. They’re actually pretty good, and you take two of them to get a three-mg dose of that stuff. So I tried those, along with re-elevating that pillow on Saturday night, and I’ve really slept like a baby sense. It’s meant feeling so much Better at work, and slowly but surely getting back to where I feel like doing stuff afterwards too though of course being tired after a long workday is normal anyway. We don’t really know whether the pillow or Melatonin are truly doing the trick, (I joke that this is because our experiment is not enacting one variable at a time) but I don’t really care as long as something works.

She’d gotten me that for Valentine’s Day, having remembered my recent statements about how a lack of sleep was effecting me. I got her flowers from 1-800-flowers.com, mostly as a physical expression of the love I feel. Acquiring them wasn’t a lovely experience at first, as I couldn’t get the site to populate with choices based on my zip code. After fighting with that thing for hours and just about throwing up my hands in frustration, I finally selected the automated SMS feature. It was pretty cool, allowing me to make a series of choices then providing me with a link to pay for the order at the end, similar to what Apple did when I ordered the iPhone. This does not, in my opinion, replace the need to make a site accessible to blind users and really all users, but I guess it’s a fill-in and hope people keep working on longer-term solutions.

And to finish this post with a bonus that is related to said accessibility, because it’s one that had rocked the blindness community and threatened to send us back a ways, I was pleased to discover that Domino’s Pizza finally made its app accessible at least on iOS. It has gone from the least usable app to order pizza and other goods from them to the most usable. I don’t know all of the things that happened behind closed doors to make this possible, but I’m sure it was a big win for our advocates after the big fuss they put up in court wishing to not have to comply, and a reminder to let all of our voices be heard. So that’s a little motivation for me and hopefully for all of us, as we all try our best to survive the grind.

Black History Around The World Through Books

As some have said, Black history is not just American history, but also global history. People of color have had an impact on culture and life in nearly every country, to greater and lesser extent, and one of the most interesting ways to explore this impact is through fiction. So, I’ve somewhat randomly chose six novels that take place in various world regions and look at how Black folks coped “then” and are coping now. NOTE: I do not actually know if all of my chosen authors are Black and am ok with that, as the told stories still hit on important themes in ways that few other novels have.

I’m currently working on two of the novels, and the other four I might have completed by the end of February, but who knows. The first of my current reads is The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate. This story, set in the Louisiana of 1987 and 1875, takes a look at what happened after slavery. Sharecropping, scratching out survival by traveling through dangerous parts of the then-forming country, and most importantly, as the title suggests, an attempt to find people lost or scrambled about during slavery. The 1875 story tracks a specific family as three women, who had to disguise themselves as boys to get by, work their way through Texas and encounter issues that alter their lives forever. In the 1987 story, we see the descendants of this family and its house as they cope with the politics of what should or shouldn’t be taught in schools, particularly represented through a teacher from out of town who dares to venture into the controversial with a class project, because she sees that the kids strongly relate to it. The story is captivating and I’ve nearly completed the 15 hours of audio.

My second read is A Good Neighborhood, by Therese Fowler. I was compelled to grab this title because it is set in my home state of North Carolina, though no specific city is named. In the Oak Knoll neighborhood, a long-time resident becomes upset when a million-dollar buyer has a house constructed that ruins her favorite tree. Things become complicated when the mom prepares to sue the well-off father of the other household, even as her son starts to like their teenager. This story is a lot more dynamic than I kind of thought it would be, especially as we see the complex interracial reactions that occur between them all and the ways that class, and especially the experience of poverty, also plays into it.

As it happens, both of these books are set in the United States of America. The only other book in this country that I plan to read is Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas. It’s the third in her Garden Heights series, which began with The Hate U Give. I assume it’s kind of stand-alone-ish, as it examines the life of Maverick (the family patriarch) seventeen years prior to that book. I think it’s gonna take a good Look at life as a black boy in a tough neighborhood, set in a major, again unnamed, city.

The fourth book I am considering sounds interesting to me. It’s called HowThe One-Armed Sister Sweeps Her House, by Cherie Jones. It takes place on an upscale beach in Barbados, an island I know little about and am fascinated with. In an NPR Weekend Edition interview, the author discusses things like the power of braiding hair in Black culture and how some people can be, well swept under, if they are seen as less.

The fifth book, called Africaville, is by an author named Jeffrey Colvin. This story is set in Nova Scotia against the Great Depression, And apparently examines how three generations of one family are affected by prejudice during that time. Again one in a region I know next to nothing about, which intrigues me. It is also narrated at least in part by the excellent Robin Miles.

And my final choice, which I’m sure is going to be equally well narrated, is Purple Hibiscus, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. This story, as does most of her work, examines life in Nigeria and some of the challenges that arise because of ideas about treatment of women by men in particular. I’ve read two other of her novels, Americanah and Half of A Yellow Sun, both of which were excellent. So I’ve been meaning to check this one out as well.

Of course there are so many books on my wishlist that I could read for this purpose, and I will read them over time. But I thought this would be a fun way to get a sense of life for Black folks within and outside of my own circle and my own country.

On Becoming a Writer, and Alex Trebek

In a recent Writer’s Bone podcast, I heard Bethanne Patrick, whom I consider my mentor whether she knows it or not, speak about how she discovered she was a writer. It interested me for a few reasons. First, she noted that much of her writing desire came from listening to her mother’s reading to her as a kid. But she didn’t really make a true attempt at writing till late 30s/early 40s, dabbling first in book reviewing and slowly expanding her reach.

Obviously this had a great impact on me. I consider myself having walked a similar path, in many ways. Rather than my mom reading to me to get me started, I grew up listening to my sisters as they practiced reading aloud. I was so moved by the power of words to carry one to other places and paint pictures of things not previously imagined. From that, I’ve always had a little of a writer’s bone, if you will, as I wrote the letter that took some of my classmates and me to Washington DC in the sixth grade. And the year before, I’d tied with one of the teachers’ daughters for first place on an essay I wrote about Martin Luther King.

So while I’ve pondered for years really trying to get into the writing field, if you remember from an earlier post this year, this pandemic has caused me to go all in in a way I had not done before. I was watching Sister Act 2 the other day, and Whoopi Goldberg’s character quoted a Reina Maria Wilke (don’t know if that’s how her name is spelled, but…) quote to the then-angelic voiced Lauryn Hill’s character. She said Wilke had said something to the effect of If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think of is writing, then you’re a writer. This was to me a revelation. Writing is not something for which I have to be hired to establish legitimacy, though I’d very much love if someone hired me to do it. It’s something I can make up my mind to “be.” Certainly looking up to people like Ms. Patrick helps a lot to spur me on.

My writing, and all of its initials factors, was also brought to life by watching the quiz show Jeopardy! over the years. It’s funny, but I can’t really say when I started watching. I do remember it seemed the categories were a lot harder then. It caused me to pick up National Geographic and other magazines, along with the 1961 World Book Encyclopedia our school had in Braille at the time, badly out of date but still fascinating, to learn an out the world around me. I kept watching with my dad as I got older, and in college when homesickness hit. So it is with a heavy heart that I thank Alex Trebek for all that he brought to my life and so many of our lives. It is no exaggeration to say that I might not have the command of words and the understanding of geography I do if I had not consumed that show so regularly.

So whatever or whomever is your inspiration, I hope you can join me in dreaming big. Especially in this year where, and I’ve probably said this in other entries but it bears repeating, we have nothing but time on our hands. Be well and stay safe.

Trials and Travels: A Comparison of 3 Recent Reads

Isn’t it funny how, without intending to do so, one can end up selecting three books for simultaneous reading that seem to share the same underlying themes? Well truthfully of late, all of my chosen titles are alike in ways I couldn’t have anticipated. Examples are four straight books that featured persons with diabetes, and five (six?) With some kind of painter character.

Given that, I could randomly pick any grouping I wish and make them work as a collection. But the three I’m going with here are Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain; Ghosts of Harvard, by Francesca Serritella; and Three Ways To Disappear, by Katy Yocom. Each of these stories is driven by the crazy things that can happen as a result of a mother’s love and/or her mistakes, mental illness, and big secrets. The secrets I shall not give away, at least to the best of my ability, because they represent big plot twists and might therefore be considered spoilers. I will, however, do a brief summary of each title and then talk about how they compare and contrast.

Chamberlain

This book caught my interest because it is set in North Carolina, as a quick perusal of this author’s catalog shows is common for her. The past meets the present as Anna Dale, born in the late 20s, is hired to paint a mural for the Edenton NC post office. (This is a real town, to which I’ve never been but I have heard of.) Being from the North, she encounters the kinds of racism and even outsider-ness that one would expect in a small Southern town of the day. She works with an African American named Jesse Williams who then becomes a major artist and makes as his last action a wish to have Morgan Christopher help to restore the Dale painting and to be released from the prison where she is held for supposedly causing a drunk driving accident. We are then bounced back and forth in time over alternating chapters until the story’s apex.

Serritella

Whereas Chamberlain’s book takes place in a lesser-known small-town environment, this story is set at Harvard: a place we’ve all heard of but know little about. The amount of insider information Serritella, who went to that school also, provides through her characters’ observations is fascinating. Cadence (Cady) Archer has chosen to attend this university despite, and maybe in some ways because of, her brother Eric’s having taken his life there in the prior semester after a protracted struggle with schizophrenia. This is similar to Chamberlain’s book, in that Anna was driven to follow her artistic dreams after her mother died, perhaps of suicide, while experiencing bipolar disorder. In Serritella’s story, Cady’s mother has a particularly visceral reaction to her daughter’s choosing to attend Harvard, going as far as to withhold assistance on move-in day and skip out on the drive from Pennsylvania where they live. Of course, mom comes to regret this decision later, and its initial upset probably drives Cady to make many questionable decisions throughout. Then Cady’s life and experiences there takes a strange and rather interesting turn. Let’s just say you’ll quickly understanding the meaning of the title.

Yocom

This is also a story built largely on a mother’s regret for hastily made decisions and the depression, disguised as coldness toward her children, that she feels as a result. Opening in 1970s India, twins Sarah and Marcus, along with their older sister Quinn, who will later become something of a painter and raise twins of her own, live a privileged life of big houses, servants, and the like as their father works as a doctor in a local hospital. A tragedy befalls them and the family, minus the father and Marcus, relocate to the US.

Told alternately through Sarah’s and Quinn’s perspective, we see Quinn and her mother especially struggle with the events that occurred over there and the incomplete information they both have on what actually went down. I like how Yocum shows Sarah and Quinn telling the story as they remember it and in so doing demonstrates the fallibility of memory and ways we can so easily reshape it.

Sarah, on the other hand, has difficulties in establishing her own identity. She is ultimately drawn back to India to work in tiger preservation after a long but dangerous career as a journalist. It takes time, but Quinn eventually accepts Sarah’s choice to relocate and their relationship, maintained through email and expensive calls, is strengthened. After all, this book’s “present” is the year 2000, so the technology is not yet as robust.

I hope you enjoy any or all of these three semi-related but also rather different reads as much as I do. They all feature such lush landscapes and travel that they make for good consumption as my Stay-At-Home continues.

50 Days of Solitude: When and How To Return To Work

And it goes on and on and on and…

Almost eight weeks of mostly poking around the crib, trying to stay awake more than I sleep, and wondering what it all means. As states, including my own, tentatively begin reopening, I know that it is time for me to start contemplating what the “outside” is going to look like. One thing is for sure, it will not be anywhere near what it was for the foreseeable future.

I got a little taste of what to expect this past Saturday. My in-laws, needing supplies not readily available in their rural town and tired of being boxed in, decided to make their way up to oversupplied Cary to collect the gathered items. We paid them a short, appropriately socially-distanced and masked visit, just to say hello and talk to others for a change. Our hands grazed as we met, and I felt my own air pushed back into my face.

Ugh wearing that mask is not going to be comfortable, that much I know. Two good things about it though, I guess: A. You sure know how your own breath smells, and B. Others (hopefully) aren’t able to smell it. My wife did find some that are, well better than many, as they have a slightly cupped middle that gives you at least a little breathing room. I will of course wear them, as I understand that they are more for those who encounter me than for myself, but marbles. The eight-hour workday and transit to and for will be very long.

Speaking of transit, I am now trying to sack the admittedly somewhat involved system I had of taking GoCary’s Door-To-Door vehicle to the Cary train station and boarding the bus in favor of having the former take me all the way in. There are two main reasons why I hadn’t done this a long time ago. The first and most pressing is money: it costs just $2.50 to have them drive me to the station, but $8 to go all the way in. I think though that they have some kind of program that provides low-income individuals with a discount, so I will try and sign up for that and see what happens.

The second reason is more about my own needs I guess? I will feel more isolated, having little to no interaction with the wider community. I had gotten to know the five people I saw on a regular basis pretty well, and always enjoyed talking to them and whomever else I came across while waiting about any and everything. But with all these measures being put into place for who knows how long, I’m sure that such spontaneous encounters will not occur for a long time, and I might find it difficult to get assistance from others who wish to stay socially distanced. (I prefer to think of it more as physically distanced, as the last thing I need is to not socialize with folks in some way).

RELATED: The Cary Characters

I am hesitant about returning to work and will wait for them to call me back in while keeping a metaphorical eye (I’m blind after all) on the Covid numbers in North Carolina. I do hope things can get going soon, but I hope we don’t end up doing things too soon. We shall see.

Tele-Everything

So here we are, almost last week of April. And, I will have to make a massive push to meet that goal I set a few weeks ago. I shall give it a go, even with the relative dearth of content these days.

How are we? It’s been five weeks, and still no buildings entered, no person seen outside of my wife and her sisters. That in itself is unreal and would have been unthinkable a short time ago. Like all of us though, I have better days and worse days. The latter has kind of predominated of late, but I am praying that I’m starting to emerge from the fog and get going again.

Of course, a large part of my sustenance, and the thing that reminds me that life is still going on beyond these four walls, is the Internet. Can you imagine if we had something like this happen in the early 90s? How would we have stayed entertained. Found stuff to read. And most importantly, stayed connected.

Like all of you, I suddenly find myself doing everything online these days. First, I have already experienced three Zoom meetings: two of which were with the Norrie Disease Association. There was also a third wherein someone instructed us on making Google Docs accessible with screen-reading software. I was pleased to discover that the Zoom software is easily accessible, and I could hear people in fairly high quality. Plus, whereas our phone NDA board meetings tend to feel more stilted, the one we conducted over Zoom felt a little closer to the natural flow that occurs when in person. I must admit though that I still had (have?) Qualms about enabling my video, because I don’t know what y’all sighted folk are seeing or the reactions it may cause. It does show a nice still photo of my background, though.

SIDENOTE: A country song by the group Big and Rich called Stay Home just played on my Apple Music. It’s clearly written for this period. Interesting, first I’ve heard of such a thing.

Anyhow, my other tele-experience occurred yesterday as I spoke with the nutritionist to whom I had been recommended by my doctor. The medical folks of course use a proprietary platform, and here I also could not get myself to be seen. I asked her if this mattered, and she said not really. We had a good conversation, but the changes she suggested will require me to eat more unusual vegetables. Hmmm…

Other than that, still beating the job search grind. I’ve recently also acquired a representative at NC Works, the program that is run by the office that also administers Unemployment benefits. We’re doing the 11th re-design of my resume, but I think her idea, that of composing a combination resume, is one of the best. Not sure when or if I will return to my old employer, but amazingly to me they’re still open and about 80% staffed, according to their latest update. This makes me feel a little questionable about not going, but I also have a more complex set of health needs. Hopefully we’ll soon see these numbers start going back down if people can be patient a bit longer, and we’ll all be able to return to our lives and livelihoods.

In theory, I will be writing to you again on Sunday, then I’ll have to get entry number 4 in by next Thursday. Perhaps. Till then, stay safe.

On Goal-setting and Recurring Dreams

Before this Covid stuff began, I set a crazy goal to write the number of blog posts that correspond with each month of the year. Easy in January, not so much by December. Realistically, I’m already finding it difficult to do so as a malaise creeps in as day what? 18? Who knows, of this time locked inside rolls around.

I came up with this idea for a couple of reasons. First, I have set, and mostly successfully met, reading goals every year since 2015. I have no doubt that reading as much as I now am is increasing my comprehension and ability to take in large amounts of information quickly. I guess I am hoping to have a similar impact on writing, though this is admittedly a much harder mountain to scale. It depends on coming up with good topics and being able to wax poetic on them on a consistent basis, a benchmark which I can by no means guarantee.

But then that’s just it, isn’t it. I want also to get myself to post on a regular basis, as I must do if I hope to really turn this into something. So sometimes it will just have to do to sit here and bang on the keys, letting the thoughts stream onto my screen as I rock (literally in my recliner) to music streaming from my Bose speaker.

So what do I have for you today, after all that prattle? Recurring dreams. I seem to have them, or at least some really similar versions of them, more than the average bear. If asked, I would put them into three categories: some kind of crazy family drama, college or high school oddness, and not reaching my destination on some form of transportation.

The family dreams naturally leave me the most unsettled. They usually involve people arguing back in my childhood days, or me doing or saying something at home that I definitely shouldn’t. I mostly feel like these occur because I need to call my parents, something I do not do nearly as often as I should. In the latest of these, I break an oven when trying to prepare some sort of meal. Perhaps that just means I need to stay out of the kitchen?

Then, there are the dreams of going back to school. In one of the more amusing of these, Tupac is teaching a class at the Governor Morehead School for the Blind. I do not know about what, but of course the room was packed. Mostly though, I’m in my college dorm room wondering if I should have registered for classes by the time we get to the day before. Or I somehow still have a room even though I am definitely no longer a student at the university, and live in constant fear of getting caught. In another, the housekeeper encounters me in the hall and tells me “you have to go downstairs because you’re in the way!” “Can I go back in my room and get my stuff?” I asked. “No,” she says as she shoves me into an elevator that leads me into a basement with no exits and what sounds like a loud boiler going. It was scary.

The last kind involve getting onto some form of transport; a bus, train, or plane, and never quite reaching my destination. The plane starts to land, and just goes down, down, down, until I finally awake. Or the bus seems to continue on the highway for hours, days even, without stopping. In the latest, one of my sisters and I were on a train. We did reach our stop, but had to run nearly a mile to get out of the car before it pulled off. Somehow we managed to slam through the doors just in time. Without question, these transit dreams are the most common.

I wonder what these mean, if anything. Would you say you have recurring dream categories like that? Dreams have always fascinated me with their depth and complexity.

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.