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.

My Very Late 2019 Book Review Post

Already 2 months into 2020, and I still have yet to give an update on my 2019 reads. As usual, reading was important to me as I made my way through that tunultuous year. I only managed 51 titles in total, largely because of my opting to take on James Michener’s epic Chesapeake because it was published in 1979. More about that in the upcoming favorites list.

As noted, I read 51 books in total: only 7 nonfiction/memoirs, more than a usual helping of historical fiction, and a lot of sci-fi with unusual perspectives. In addition, I always try to make sure I read books from those considered underrepresented; women, racial/ethnic minorities, and even some with disabilities. Only 15 of my chosen reads were by men, and altogether about 20 came from the other two mentioned categories. I just like the broad sense of one’s world that can be gained by deliberately selecting from varied backgrounds.

Every year, I set the ambitious goal of keeping a table of and rating any book I complete. And every year I fail. I have, however, tracked all 51 reads and the dates on which I completed them. I will place the entire list at the end of this entry if you wish to see it, but will put up here a list of my top ten favorites with little blurbs for your quick consumption.

  1. Becoming, by Michelle Obama
    Even better with the former first lady reading it, this book reveals interesting insights not only on her and Barack’s rise, but also her family life, with so much of it sounding familiar to me.
  2. On The Come Up, by Angie Thomas
    Her follow-up to The Hate U Give, it takes place in the same universe and involves a female teen using rap to “come up” in a world of gangs and poverty.
  3. Where The Crawdad Sings, by Delia Owens
    I enjoyed this, because it was set on the NC coast during the 60s and 70s, though admittedly not in a place I’ve ever known of. “Marsh girl” has to survive and learn to fight for herself.
  4. The Red Pyramid, by Rick Riordan
    I like this kids book especially in audio, the first in a series that introduces Egyptian mythology in a fun way: dad traveling to England, people jumping out of cats, and siblings teaming up to save the world.
  5. Cemetery Road, By Greg Iles
    As always by this author, the quintessential Southern novel, great for the baking days of June. Mississippi: tangled love, death, small-town gossip, it has it all.
  6. WashingtonBlack, by Esi Edugyan
    This book starts out being about slavery, and becomes so much more. Master lets one of his smartest slaves go with his brother, and they embark on wild adventures into the sea, sky, and the great North.
  7. Solitude, by Dean M. Cole
    Called “Dimension Space for a reason, but it does not become immediately apparent. Last couple on earth first must meet, then try to unwind a disaster to revive humanity.
  8. The Shadow Lands, by Elizabeth Kostova
    Bulgaria in the modern and the past, shines a light on events there during and after World War II as a woman tries to return luggage. Told in Kostova’s slightly rambly but amazing style.
  9. Chesapeake, by James Michener
    Set in the region of its name, this 1000+ page tome explores a slice of American history from 1588 to 1979. Traces maybe 3 main families.
  10. Fountains of Silence, by Ruta Sepetys
    A rare book about life under Franco in Spain, with an American teen-aged photographer falling in love with a Spanish woman and following her into her life of challenge.

(Shameless plug: if you want to see my mini-reviews as they emerge, follow me on Twitter [Opens In a New Window] ). That’s just a snippet of what I enjoyed last year. Some fun reads, but many that makes one think. Certainly we already have many of those coming in 2020. Below, I will place my entire, unadorned list. If you do not care to look, then you have completed this entry. Hope you find something new.

2019 Book List
Becoming, Michelle Obama (1/1-1/15)
Tailspin, Sandra Brown (1/1-1/29)
Next Year in Havana, Chanel Cleeton (1/1-1/21)
Verses for the Dead, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, (1/21-2/1)
Unsheltered, Barbara Kingsolver (1/21-2/11)
On The Come Up, Angie Thomas (2/8-2/19)
Not A Sound, Heather Gudenkauf (2/13-2/28
Adrift, Tami Ashcraft (2/20-2/26)
Where the Crawdads Sing, Delia Owens 2/26-3/9
The Wife, Alafair Burke )3/1-3/30)
The Red Pyramid, Rick Riordan (3/9-3/20
The Liar’s Child, Carla Buckley 3/12-4/4
The Rising Sea, Clive Cussler (3/20-4/9)
Daisy Jones and The Six, Taylor Jenkins Reid (3/29-4/8)
Hidden Figures, Margot Shetterly (4/4-5/3)
Severance, Ling Ma (4/10-4/23)
Run Away, Harlan Coben (4/17-5/17)
More Than Words, Jill Santopolo (4/23-5/3)
Collapsing Empire, John Scalzi (4/30-5/15)
Cold Waters, Debbie Herbert 5/5-5/15)
Ocean Country, Liz Cunningham (5/16-6/16)
The Mystery of Alice, Lee Bacon (5/16-5/22))
Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein (5/18-6/12)
Cemetery Road, Greg Iles (5/23-6/15)
This Fallen Prey, Kelley Armstrong )6/13-7/7)
Night of Miracles, Elizabeth Berg (6/16-6/28)
Recursion, Blake Crouch (6/17-6/27)
The Other Americans, Laila Lalami (6/28-7/10)
Washington Black, Esi Edugyan (6/30-7/25)
The Monkey Idol, K.D. McNiven (7/8-7/31)
The Dreamers, Karen Thompson Walker (7/11-7/25)
Gemina, Amy Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (7/26-8/15)
Never Have I Ever, Joshilyn Jackson (7/30-8/12)
DC Trip, Sara Benincasa (8/1-8/16)
It’s Not What It Looks Like, Molly Burke (8/11-8/19)
Solitude, Dean M. Cole (8/16-9/5)
Conscious, Annaka Harris (8/17-8/28)
The Never Game, Jeffry Deaver (8/20-9/14)
The Shadow Land, Elizabeth Kostova (8/29-9/22)
Multitude, Dean M. Cole (9/6-9/29)
The Friends We Keep, Jane Green (9/22-10/7)
The Secrets We Kept, Lara Prescott (9/29-10/16)
Chesapeake, James Michener (9/29-1/13)
Ask Again, Yes, Mary Beth Keane (10/17-10/26)
The Supermarket, Bobby Hall (10/27-11/1)
Born to Fly, Steve Sheinkin (11/2-11/7)
Lady in the Lake, Laura Lippman (11/7-11/18)
The Last Astronaut, David Wellington (11/18-11/28)
Fountains of Silence, Ruta Sepetys (11/29-12/12)
Blind spot, Brenda Novak (12/12-12/25)
Scarred, Sarah Edmondson (12/26-1/9)

ValDayVersary: On Leaving Newly Wed Status Behind

Happy Valentine’s Day! If you are or have been married, or I suppose even if in a long-term relationship, you and your partner have probably developed an insider language. A collection of words that mean something only to you, or that do exist in other contexts but not with the same connotation. For example, my wife and I have demonstrations and counter-demonstrations, a concept that originated from pressing the button. It’s… a long story. But it brings us much amusement.

But my favorite word creation is ValDayVersary, a combination of Valentine’s Day, her birthday, and our anniversary, which all happen to fall within days of each other. When I first proposed this idea, she of course said “You better not wrap all of that into one day. I want all three celebrations!” And naturally, that’s what it has turned into: a two-month reveling in our relationship and all we have that kicks off each year. It really sets a tone that can carry us forward through all kinds of craziness, the likes of which we discover as we encounter unusual obstacles.

I think this kind of creativity is key to surviving and thriving in a partnership that one expects to last for a life time. Though I certainly don’t know everything yet, as our newlywed status ends I feel that I am now qualified to give some advice in how to work with your significant other in a way that hopefully both of you find pleasing.

First and foremost, as the Wesley Snipes character said in White Men Can’t Jump, “listen to the woman”. To be more inclusive, listen to the “other half”. People will let you know, either directly or indirectly, what they want. Especially in the beginning, she would sometimes say “You should buy me some flowers or something tangible to express your love for me”. I didn’t take this the wrong way, understanding that it was a way to get a newbie like me who had never been in such a sustained connection, to understand the basic expectations. As time has gone on I don’t have to be told these things, as I absolutely want to do them. The indirect hints take more attention, as she might say “I sure could use a new bag,” or “it’s been a while since we’ve had a meal out together”. Of course not everything is material in nature, as usually the most valuable thing you can give of yourself is your time. Just be aware and pay attention to what the person is saying in that regard, as I discovered on wrapping up year 1 that I had missed some subtle cues that led to missed chances to connect.

Speaking of, for me at least a very important element is to make each other laugh a lot. Life serves up enough challenges to cause anyone to crumple from the weight of it. We work together to conquer these challenges, but whenever we have the chance and are up to it we enjoy joking around with each other both verbally and physically. And to me at least, that has rapidly increased the sense of bonded purpose between the both of us.

I do not know what awaits us going forward, but I am becoming more excited as experience and age education us on how to not only deal with whatever life serves, but also to have a lot of fun while doing it. Here’s to your laughs, language, and love. I find it hard to believe that it has already been five years since that first Valentine’s Day when we met, and our origin story really kicked into gear. (Funny side note, as I wrote that, Michael Jackson’s “Remember The Time” came on as I was writing this part). What do you remember of the beginning of your relationship? Have you developed any strange language between the two of you?

Tampa Times: The Big Question (Monday 1/20)

My wife Carrol and I consider ourselves seasoned travelers. Because of the trips we’ve taken (Charleston 2015, Asheville 2016, Williamsburg 2017, Wilmington 2018, and Miami 2019) we have a pretty good understanding of what is amazing and what is just meh. So as our trip to what was supposed to be warm! Tampa Florida begins, I am filled with trepidation. The “Big Question” in question concerns our hotel choice, the West Wing Boutique, which turns out to be located in a less-than-great part of town. I worry that, despite all of the reviews, I will have to whip my phone out and book another property. But… well we’ll get back to that later. Let’s just say that she must trust me, because I usually select the properties, running them by her for approval before going final.

Things start smoothly enough. As a result of an online conversation with Delta Air Lines, we are upgraded to Delta Comfort for both flights. This means more leg room, and also a generally quieter, less bumpy experience as we knew from our first trip to Boston together. While I am of course pleased with this arrangement, I still point out that the company needs to work to create accessible seat maps so that I can make a choice about where we are to sit. After consuming the long crackers they provide, we arrive in Tampa earlier than our ETA of 10:30 AM. I think it has finally occurred to someone to schedule more time than necessary, thus vastly reducing delays and causing passengers to build the time into their itinerary.

The Tampa International Airport is large, so we spend another 20 minutes or so making our way onto one train and then another before arriving at the rental car facility, where she chooses a comfortable Nisan. Then the fun begins.

Knowing that it is unlikely, we decide to first see if our room is available for check-in. As we approach the hotel, a 30-minute ride along I-275 North, she sees two individuals standing in front of the building smoking. I think that this, as well as the general look of the area entirely, made her nervous, in turn making me nervous. Upon entering the loud lobby, we are told that we must wait till 3:30 and try again to see if a room has become available.

So off to breakfast we go, at a restaurant called Village Inn, which seems to be mostly present in the Tampa area. The people there, as well as the other places in which we ate, are very friendly. Because this was Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they are understaffed and only using a fraction of the available tables. This is not a big issue though, and I enjoy the cheese omelette, sausage links (they had run out of the homemade patties I really wanted) toast, and hash browns.

The last significant thing we do on this day is visit downtown Tampa. We are underwhelmed, as this location is fairly quiet and nothing seems to be happening. We are unable to locate some kind of bus tour, as we like to find when visiting major cities. So we just sit on the riverwalk for a few minutes, then head back to the hotel in hopes that a nap might be had. I should note as well that the temperature was only low 60s, rather than the 70s we are hoping for. But we do avoid the deep freeze that hits North Carolina. I made a joke before our trip to Miami that historic cold fronts would follow us whenever we seek warm weather, and thus far it actually seems to be happening.

At the hotel, as we walk the long halls on the second floor after successfully checking in, my panic builds. This cannot be a bust, this cannot be a bust… She opens the door with the key, and immediately exclaims: “wow!” We are greeted with an amazing suite that contains a living room/kitchen with love seat, a bar, a fridge, two chairs at a low table for eating, and a totally separate bedroom. The bathroom is very nice, having been appointed with full-sized towels that are almost like sheets. They also provide a bathrobe and slippers for use during and after the shower, which is nice. The only thing Carrol does find odd is that the front wall of the bathroom is made entirely of glass, and must be obscured with a curtain if one wishes for privacy. Overall though, it is the fanciest room we have stayed in.

That concern disposed of, our feeling about the trip finally begins to improve. Crashing, we awake around 6 and head off to dinner at Chili’s. Other than enjoying the room’s ambiance for the remainder of the night, nothing else significant happens. More on Tuesday.

Anatomy of an Audio-Described Blind Man’s Binge

I’ll bet you’ve done it before. Bounced onto your couch or recliner, bowl of popcorn or snack of choice in lap, you tap your smartphone or use another tv-connected device to access a series you’ve desired to watch. Then you allow yourself to sink in, emerging occasionally for bathroom breaks and the like.

I have never really been inclined to participate in such activity, given the difficulty involved in keeping track of programming and even the challenge of making a choice on which to watch.

For me anyway, this has begun to change with the introduction of Apple TV+. They seem to have a relatively small amount of content, but I’ve found myself liking nearly all that is available via the app so far.

Naturally, I signed up to check out the series “SEE,” which takes place in a society where blindness prevails and sight is seen as a curse. I confess though that I have not been as able to get into this series, personal preference, but I highly recommend that you watch for yourself as you may like it, and especially if you’re into stuff like Game of Thrones. I do think it’s cool that this sort of programming is getting into the mainstream while giving actors with blindness or low vision a chance to perform on-screen.

I have, however, enjoyed other programming therein. Some of my favorites are The Morning Show, which examines the world of broadcast journalism and how it has been effected by the Me Too movement, and Servant, a show I admittedly don’t entirely understand but enjoy for its strangeness.

But my favorite thus far is For All Mankind, which imagines that the Soviets have beaten the United States to the Moon, thus causing the Space race to continue. Apollo 11 does make it there, sort of, but the nation’s mood continues to spiral down as the Soviets one-up NASA out as far as I have seen in the series, which is episode 4. The story arc is pretty good, but at points they try to address so many elements at once that it becomes a bit clustered. But as a Space junkie I am intrigued by the concept. They certainly assume a level of knowledge by the viewer, so I suspect that this, as with other programs, will have a subset of really interested individuals.

Without question, I would not be able to get into any of these shows if not for audio description, the essence of which I have chronicled in a prior entry. I think we really have rounded that bin where mass media companies are starting to understand the importance of bringing in those with blindness, even while confessing that initially I thought that activism herein would largely be fruitless. I applaud those who charged ahead anyway, and thank them as I now benefit from such progress. I also think that the mixing of audio-described tracks has vastly improved, so that they no longer have to aggressively turn down the movie’s sound in order to convey what is happening. This makes it immensely more enjoyable. So here’s to the (described) future, and continuing to suck us in to these online networks as with the rest of the population.

Just What The Doctor Ordered

I have meant to write this post for the longest time, but life and things keep getting in the way. And I don’t really expect that to change at the holidays, but I really need to go ahead and get this said.

“Just because you don’t know, doesn’t mean it’s not happening”.

This quote brought to you by my wise cousin, and while it can of course cover a vast array of life issues, he and I were specifically referring to medical maladies.

That’s right, we (putting myself firmly in this statement) need to do more about fear of confronting possible issues with our bodies, those that we can see through clear changes and those that might need to be diagnosed by a specialist. Remember when I last wrote about acquiring my first real primary care physician? As the whole blood pressure saga, for which a solution is still being sought, began? Well as I prepared to transition into marriage in mid 2017, I was forced to relocate to Charlotte. This, along with the fact that my awesome doctor, really a resident, was about to leave the practice with which I was associated anyway, caused me to lose contact with her.

Long story kind of short, I didn’t bother re-establishing another physician until my employer, or more specifically its insurer, forced me to do so at threat of rising premiums. I visited this new doctor in December, almost to the date of this posting, and found him to be relatively friendly but…

Now let me preface this by noting that most medical professionals, even those who do not work out for me individually, are doing the best they know how in their field. I know that every day they make difficult, life-changing decisions on the fly, and I give them all the respect for that. But it must be said that some are, shall we say better at really listening to the patient? than others. Bedside manner, they call it. When this does not happen, it can compound the fear and nervousness one already feels when dealing with changes that may or may not be occurring for various reasons.

“NOTE: Ellipses mark redacted information). I would speak to him stating that “lately my …”. “Oh, well this is normal, I would say” was his reply. “Ok? But I’m also experiencing …”. “Yep, that happens in most people under your circumstances.”

“Well can you administer tests at least?” *silence*

(Internal thought) Ok then, why am I even here!

Now, another mistake I had admittedly made here was scheduling my appointment for late in the day, sometime after 4:30 PM on a Friday. But I’m a working man with not a whole lot of time to take off, and this office makes those hours available. So as a patient, I figured all should be ok.

I went to visit this doctor a couple more times, each with the same result. So just before my birthday, I kind of made the decision that I would not bother anymore. But life has a way of showing us when ideas we may harbor are not the best ideas, and due to some sad occurrences in my own family I was compelled to return to the office and ask for a different physician. And my goodness, how much of a difference it makes. She immediately rolled her chair over and sat in front of me, listening carefully to my needs and explanations of what I felt was happening to me. She examined me closely, took thorough notes that she reproduced for me to take home, wrote up a couple of prescriptions, and had the lab run tests. And I realized at that instant that all the anxiety I was feeling had been generated by the responses I had received over prior months. Of course all this medical stuff still scares me some, but when I feel like I have someone who is going to get down there and battle with me to figure out what may or may not be going on, I also feel empowered. So I leave you with this nugget: if you feel you are not getting or have not gotten what you want from your physician, please ask for a change. On a basic level, it will help you to seek that preventative care we all should seek. At a deeper level, it just might save your life.

Freezing Fall Farm Fun

When was the last time you found yourself on a farm? That wide open feeling, the fresh air washing over you with a crisp, Fall tinge. Most of us rarely go to such environs these days, choosing to take so-called “outdoor time” at pools, ball games, and the like, to the extent that we bother with outdoors at all. And even then, our heads are buried in small screens.

Well, I got to visit a good-sized farm in Pittsboro, North Carolina for a “weenie roast” with my wife and some of her co-workers. About 30 miles from our Cary apartment, the absolute quiet I experienced when stepping from the car made it feel as if I had traveled not only a great spatial distance, but also back in time.

Of course, I had never met any of the individuals present, but they had heard lots about me and so were not surprised with the self I present. Handshakes and introductions were passed around, and I immediately began to worry about the cool air as we were starting at 4:30 PM and the yard’s big trees stopped what little sun might have been available. And cold was the day’s theme.

Initially, we just milled around near their fire pit, and I made small talk with anyone in the area. All of her co-workers are female, and they brought along their husbands, boyfriends, and children. Someone’s daughter had attended the University of North Carolina at Charlotte as I had, so I of course had to represent 49er nation.

After a little more chattering, alternating between big, wooden chairs placed around the perimeter and standing in front of the blessed fire pit heat to increase my core temperature, we grabbed a table to eat some food. I had a hot dog piled high with Cole slaw and ketchup, some baked beans, cheese balls and a cold cup of sprite. As we sat, the little kids played and rode around with a small tractor, and we laughed as the ten or so cows made their lazy way around the open pasture. “It’s a real cow!” A woman from the North shouted, making everyone laugh even harder.

Once everyone had gotten their fill, the real fun began. We all, numbering approximately 30, scrambled aboard a sizable hay-filled wagon to be pulled around that same circular pasture by a tractor. This hay was compacted into solid bales though, lining both sides like benches, so one did not end up with hay in every undesirable place as I have on previous hayrides. Someone exclaimed that the cows might charge us, but of course they just lopped along in a line probably wondering what we all were doing. I actually found it less cold while we were in motion than I had sitting out at the tables, perhaps because there were so many crammed into a not-so-big space.

On returning, we all gathered around the fire pit again for s’mores with roasted marshmallows. Being the city slicker that I am, this was my first time eating a s’more. I liked the complementary flavors of graham cracker and roasted marshmallow, though I managed to make a little bit of a mess. But then maybe a s’more isn’t a s’more unless you get good and sticky.

After consuming and washing up as best we could, we took seats around the fire and continued the merriment. By this point, nearing 8 PM, I needed to place myself in front of a blasting heater and feel my fingers again. So I suggested this as gently as I could, and the party was already kind of breaking up anyway. Just as we readied for departure, a cute German Shepherd wanted to introduce himself to me by aggressively trying to leap into my lap. I found it amusing though, as I love dogs.

And that was about the crux of it. I enjoyed it as a different kind of experience, giving me the feeling of a Fall Harvest celebration and, as I said at the beginning, something that we just don’t do enough of anymore. And it sure did give me a new appreciation for being warm! More adventures await.

The Big Four-Oh: On Birthday Blessings

I remember a time long ago when 40 was old. Well it’s not so old anymore as I find myself thundering across that line. All the cliches apply: the ever-faster revolving roll of toilet paper that represents time; the lengthening field of decisions, some good and some questionable, that litter the path behind me, and the unrealistic view of the past that often makes me feel that I want to go back. And speaking of time, if I’ve done it correctly, you will see this post at the exact time of my birth.

While I do miss plenty from my former life iterations, I think the more important thing to do as I enter a new decade is to look both forward and at what I have around me right now. And what I have is a log.

First, I am very blessed with my wonderful wife, who gives me a gentle nudge when the alarm buzzes, due to my unaided hearing. I reluctantly slide out of bed to start the workday, assuming a position on my knees where I sort of meditate while gathering my clothing. It helps me to sort my thoughts and get ready to head in.

Another individual who makes me feel blessed is my four-legged therapist. I know I’ve claimed her as my daughter, but she is a wearer of many hats. And if you have one, you likely know of what I speak. She saunters over to my table as I spoon some breakfast in, and bangs on my chair asking for a pet. I often wonder if she does this solely for herself, or because she wants me to feel better as I prepare to face the world. Studies have shown, and I know it to be true, that dogs have an uncanny ability to sense the underlying social and emotional needs of the humans with whom they live. Oh, and as I”m heading to the door, she has this bizarre routine where she barks frantically in my direction and basically chases me out. I’m… not sure if this is a good or bad thing. It gives early-morning amusement, though.

And in looking forward, the last five years of my adulthood have been the best of said period hands down. Certainly a large part of that is due to my partner, but it also comes from the idea that maybe finally, this career thing is getting into motion. Remember the Technical Writing project I wrote about way back in July? Well, after a month of quiet, it moved into the next phase. I have officially started training with an organization called SourceAmerica, with whom I suppose my company has a partnership. These folks have as their mission to help people with disabilities find better employment. To that end, they have created a series of training courses online that offer different test modules at the end to check what the individual has learned. I have been registered for 24 of them, running the gamut from writing-related issues to accessibility, and even addressing my need to gain confidence and decrease shyness in the work setting. I am liking them thus farm though some of the courses present tests that are difficult for me to complete on this Mac. I’m thinking it likely that I will soon need a Windows PC.

Anyhow, as you read this I am sadly on the way to work. NO birthday off for me this year, as I sucked up so much of my time earlier. Hopefully it will still be a good day though. Thank you all for helping it to be so just by caring.

DC At A Glance (Part I)

Life, at least my life, is largely defined by the journeys on which I embark. These can be solo excursions, or as has been the case for me during the last five years, partnered jaunts that open up my perceptions of travel in a way I cannot often get when alone.

My cousin, his wife, my wife, and I recently took such a vacation to our nation’s capital, Washington DC. We set out on Thursday August 22nd by the light of the moon, and returned on the 25th fairly early in the morning. It was our first road trip of this magnitude, with the four of us actually riding in one vehicle to a destination, but we thoroughly enjoyed it.

Our primary tour site was the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. After a Friday morning spent by ourselves (my wife and I had breakfast in a huge, multi-story Burger King wherein the cashier asked her “is he your son?” Surprised I’ve not gotten this question more often) we piled into an Uber and headed to that museum. I had gone to the National Holocaust Museum, so the concept and floor plan were similar. Instead of going up though, as you do in the latter, we descended into the bowels of the earth, where we would begin our trek through African American history.

The first thing you feel is claustrophobic, being stuffed into a fairly narrow space with people pouring through it. Naturally, this is the portion wherein we learn about the slave ships and what it was like for the many people who were fired to come to these shores from 1619 till the mid-1800’s. We believe they created this pinned-in feeling on purpose, so that we would get as much of a sense of what the sailing was like as is possible in a building.

The history, or what we saw of it anyway, was pretty much the stuff you know about: the Civil War and Reconstruction, Jim Crow and segregation, and the fight for civil rights. They did make it come to life though even for this blind person, with tons of audio and even artifacts, such as a train car that designated where the two races should sit, a Whites Only waiting room, and the like. The most poignant exhibit there, and the only one of which no one could take photos, was the Emmett Till Memorial. First, we had to stand in a long line to enter. Then, we passed a casket at the door, and listened especially to his mother speak about why she wanted his body to be presented at the funeral in the same way that it had been mangled by those who killed him in Mississippi. Many cried.

After this point, the museum takes on a generally lighter feel by highlighting the achievements of well-known basketball players and media personalities like Oprah, who has a significant stake in the museum. I also like that they have a Contemplation Room that allows you to come to terms with whatever you felt while seeing the tough exhibits and meditate near a fountain. Finally, we found the gift shop nearly impossible to enter, because the line was really long. My wife had intended to purchase a magnet, but gave up on this pursuit when the rest of our party called in search of us.

If you have been to DC, you know that it seems to rain nearly every day there. All four times I have visited have ended in soaked clothes, if not shivering cold. While we did not encounter the latter this time, it was late August after all, we did end up running through a gentle but steady drip to a restaurant called the Penn Quarter at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue. My cousin and I both opted for Chili Cheese Burgers, his turkey and mine beef. We marveled, because the server took all of our orders without taking anything down. While our wives were away, she ambled back over to the table to ask about which burgers we had indeed ordered. The place got louder as more people packed inn but it remained easy to hold conversation. We contemplated taking the Metro back to our hotel, as the rain had finally stopped by this point. But they decided that the logistics would be too confusing, so we grabbed another Uber and headed back in. Our accommodations were at the Days Inn at 4400 Connecticut Avenue NW, a decent spot by Days Inn standards but not particularly flashy. It’s good for a room and rest. It’s also well-located, as there are several Italian restaurants within easy walking distance, as well as a delicious bakery about which I will write in the next installment. By the time we hit that door though, my tiredness instantly caught up with me and I dove under for an hour and a half. I have no idea when I last walked like that, but ultimately it did feel good. Back with Saturday’s fun hopefully tomorrow.