Job Days No. 3

Well, it amazes me to look up and realize that I’m already about a quarter of the way through year three at Durham’s LC Industries, my current place of employment. I guess I’ve made it something of a habit, mostly for my own records, to take an annual look at how things are going, and whether I’m making any progress towards where I would like to be. The last two evaluations have been at about this time of year as well, so I figured why not go for it?

First, I ask myself if my morning routine has altered any. It’s amusing to ponder how small changes here and there slowly turn into something quite different from what was, isn’t it?

  • 4:15: Alarm rings, I spend another three minutes checking email on the phone and coming up with every other conceivable thing to view to keep myself wrapped in those warm covers.
  • 4:20: I grudgingly roll out of bed, find clothes, and totter into the warm shower stream. Usually, too-loud singing commences and mingles with the sound of falling water that is largely undetectable to my unaided ears.
  • 4:35: Dressed and with socks on, I plug the phone into my table speakers and rock out to either Pandora, or increasingly, our local stations on TuneIn Radio. I like Pandora, but they tend to play the same stuff too often sometimes.
  • 4:45: After banging dishes around, I make a bowl of cereal, sometimes getting the kernels and droplets of milk onto the tabletop as well. Hey, I wasn’t built to function this early in the morning!
  • 4:57: I scramble around in the fridge to see if there are any sandwich products available, either Bologna and cheese or peanut butter and jelly, (crunchy, gotta be crunchy!). If the former, I have to make a concerted effort to remember not to leave the opened jar of mayonnaise on the counter. Man, I’ve lost at least 12 nearly full jars that way. (Refer to earlier bit regarding morning person status).
  • 5:08: Brush teeth while dancing to a tune in the living room, attempt not to actually sing while so doing as choking on toothpaste would probably not be a good idea.
  • 5:15: Out the door, on way to bus stop. I’ve gotten considerably better at crossing the street now as I know there will almost always be a point when it is totally quiet.
  • 5-35: Step aboard, while engaging random passengers in groggy conversation. I guess more and more people have come to know me with time.
  • 6: Catch second bus, fire off texts and more email with the Braille display as we whizz down the highway, and try to mentally prepare myself for the day.
  • 6:30: Arrive in break room, where I read till the bell rings, calling me to my station around 7 AM.

I guess the biggest difference is that I now make lunch nearly every day. I’m not sure if that helps or hinders me though, as once 12 PM rolls around and that stuff is being digested, I usually have to overcome some pretty powerful waves of sleepiness.

Now onto what I do in there. I still work in Light Sticks, packing ten to a box and vaulting them onto a conveyor belt as I had last year. Master Locks has pretty much reopened now, but I assume I will not return to that department and will just remain where I am for however long I stay at this organization. I’ve sped my production up about four times as compared to where I was, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be as dexterous as the true fliers back there. I guess that’s ok, as long as I no longer have people having to swarm around me nearly all day in order to ensure that my bin doesn’t get too far behind the others. It took me a while to understand the innerconnectedness of that whole area and just what was expected from me, but I think I’ve made pretty good strides nonetheless.

And so the final question: what am I doing to prepare for some other career opportunity. Well, still kind of trying to figure that out actually. I continue to learn and grow as President of the Norrie Disease Association, and especially in attempting to plan for our Third International Conference coming this August. (It’s harder than it looks! So many different things to juggle.) I have had a few at least semi-accomplishments though: successfully contacting two potential speakers/panel participants, getting initial info on a tour of the Perkins School for the Blind, and working with other board members to sort out registration challenges. It’s fun, dynamic, and definitely something that I think could help me down the road. Maybe I’ll work for a nonprofit in some capacity, who knows. I’m chewing on that…

So overall, I think things are going as good as could be hoped for. I’m used to just going in here and doing what I have to do, five days a week, and continuing to work on myself in other ways wherever possible. Still trying to fully sit back and enjoy the ride! Always appreciative of those who support me in doing this in subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Preparatory Thoughts

In pondering the next few days, I am inspired by a couple of my good blogger friends. I will mention them when referring to what they have said that so inspires me.

So here we are yet again, having arrived at that time of year when things either will or won’t change. Grad school? Some new way into my desired career? I’m still not entirely sure, but I do think long and hard about it as I jam light sticks into the packs each day.

Last week, I had a job evaluation. The supervisor concluded that I have indeed improved in nearly every area, and especially in speed of packaging and quality of the final product. These areas of growth didn’t necessarily occur passively, but rather I had to generate some active strategies to cut down on wasted time and still maintain or increase efficiency. I believe that these strategies will be useful for me wherever I end up.

I posted about this on Facebook, and some suggested that I should just make sure not to settle or even be too entirely pleased with my current situation. Well there is some truth to that, but I believe that in order to get what we want, we have to work hard on taking a more positive inclination to our lives. I’m telling myself this more than anyone else, because I’ve never been particularly good at doing so. I can gain something useful from this little job, if only that I can pay rent, travel, and get the stuff, especially iPhone and accessory-related, that continue to enhance my independence.

I’ve been pondering this since reading Amy Juicebox’s post What I’m Thankful For after their Canadian Thanksgiving celebration. Thanksgiving, MMM food! Anyway, I’ll try not to think about that just yet, as while it will mean bountiful food, it will also portend the beginning of the real cold months.

Second, I dove-tail a bit off of Natasha Ramsey’s post entitled Passion? Do I know what it is? Do you? Boy am I ever trying to figure this out! I posed this question to my Twitter followers once: does everyone have at least one thing that they’re good at? If so, how do we find it. I’m not really sure if I can move on until I do, but then how will I find it if I don’t actually move on. It’s the old chicken and egg problem.

I’m hoping to get some kind of momentum by attending the Thorpe-Mitchell Diversity Scholarship dinner this Thursday. I had won this scholarship while in grad school, which then led me to meet Dr. Brenda Mitchell, the person I considered my mentor. It’s been far too long since I last spoke with her, mainly because I have so little time outside of employment to venture over to the University of North Carolina. So, it will be nice to catch up with her and the rest of those folks, and I’ll try not to get too down on myself based on my current situation.

The thing is, they want us to speak to the audience about where we’re going and how the scholarship may have ultimately helped us get there. I know what people have to say regarding my possibly returning to grad school and largely agree. Have I thoroughly considered other options? Will I be financially prepared. Well, I hope so. Very tentatively starting conversations with people about Master’s programs in either Communication Studies or Journalism. As far as I know, grad school is still my best chance to make more happen. And the thing for which I feel the gratest passion is this thing I’m doing right now: writing/blogging. So, I’d like to take a shot at making something happen with that. As I learned last time, you may as well not even mess with grad school unless you’re going to be able to find that drive! So, we’ll see. Still a long way to go before I know what will happen.

I suspect I will post a bit about my experience at this scholarship dinner. I think it’s pretty cool that I was even still invited. How do you feel about your current job/career? Is it anywhere near your passion, assuming you’ve figured out what that is?

The Real Deal 5: Show Over, What Next

For many, the show doesn’t end till Saturday, July 19. But my time is up on Wednesday the 16, a day I haven’t been looking forward to.

I have to think that I have come up with the most ingenius packing solution ever. I’d just taken all of my clothes out on arrival, and put each outfit back into the bag once I was done wearing it. Thus, really nothing to do prior to departure but make sure I’ve collected all newly acquired goods and found somewhere to squeeze them in. It wouldn’t do to forget my $50 Bluetooth speaker!

I’d set the alarm as a precautionary measure, but don’t need it. I am awake by 6:15, and out of the door in an hour. In the elevator vestibule back on the main floor, I meet two of the most well-known individuals in the ACB who assist me to the check-out desk. We take an outdoor shortcut that I wish I’d known about earlier.

As soon as I turn in my keys, I step outside to find that my super shuttle vehicle is already there. It is only 7:40 and they aren’t actually due to pick me up till 8. I think a couple of others join us as well, and so it takes a minute to get everything stowed and all inside. Soon enough though, we bid the Riviera Hotel adieu and head back towards McCarran International Airport.

Despite having had several flights without being tagged due to an expired ID, I am not surprised when they call me asaide for this issue again as they had in Raleigh. It seems like once that cat is out of the bag, it won’t be put back in. So, I must in fact do something about it now, a truth that is proving harder to rectify than it should. The darn DMV isn’t really open in a way that accommodates working people! All of the other three-letter acronymed government agencies probably don’t like me either. It will be dealt with eventually, somehow.

In any event, I am far less rattled this time by being subjected to a more aggressive security apparatus. I am mostly relieved that I will indeed get to depart Las Vegas. I had started to contemplate how I would get an apartment, job, etc there. Kidding, I think.

My flight departs at 9:30, and so by the time all of that is done I have only to stand at my gate for 10 minutes while waiting for a flight attendant to run over from a just-landed plane so we can have a full crew. I should’ve recorded the silliness of those attendants. I think her name is Sally, and she has us all laughing from the second she starts talking.

I also talk to my seat mate, an older woman who says she had been a real estate broker, but retired since 1980 to travel the world. Can I get that job? She also states that her husband wears hearing aids as wel, having lost his hearing due to age. They live in a small town outside of San Francisco, and have traveled from SFO to RDU, where they will then be driven to an NC town called Reidsville to meet family. I’ve heard of this place, but never been there.

Once airborne, I have three bags of peanuts, a pack of cheese crackers, two bags of chocolate chip cookies, and some kind of delicious chips. Fear not though, I don’t actually eat all of that while onboard. I just stash some of it in my tote for consumption later. I opt to purchase WiFi, because it is a 4 and a half hour flight and my phone is at 99% charge. I was most wanting to hear the NLS Talking Books narrator speak during ACB General Session, so I scrambled to get the WiFi set up and hoped perhaps they’d be slightly delayed as they usually are. Only this time, she seems to have spoken on time! Bah, I missed it.

Not much else of substance happens.
After flying around some “weather” we arrive more or less on time.

“In the airline industry,” Sally begins as soon as we touch down: “many say that landings are like a box of chocolates. Ya never know what you’re gonna get. Wouldn’t you say that one was coconut cream?” This drew clapping from the cabin.

Bladder mercifully emptied inside of the airport restroom, I head downstairs to await the unnerving bag reclamation process. I really start to fear that mine will not arrive, as it is just about the last to come trundling through, but finally it does show up.

At this point, the time change already begins to descend upon me like a wave. Still, I choose to catch the bus back home and save more dough. While waiting, I meet an individual who says he has flown in from Seattle and is barely remaining upright too.

And that is pretty much the meat of my trip. I’ve spent most of my summer counting down to it, and now that it has come and gone I’m not sure how else to remain motivated. The first couple of working days back, Thursday and Friday, were excruciating, especially as we’d run out of our normal work and were doing some other blah task. I finally started to adapt on Friday afternoon though, and did better with it today. Still it has me feeling, lonely? somewhat depressed? I just don’t know. Needing to move on! But trying desperately to figure out where to. We shall see. More whenever there are new developments.

I definitely enjoyed my time at convention and the people I hung out with, friends new and old. Thank you for a nice time.

A Crazy Workday’s End

This post is kind of an extension of what I’ve already put in my Facebook status. Monday fun day? It had been a pretty good one until…

It’s about 2:25. I’m keeping myself awake with the many thoughts buzzing through my head regarding preparation for my coming trip, plans once I get out of there today, and the like. And keeping myself awake is an effort, as I’ve managed only about two hours of sleep the night before. I still get wound up like a kid when pondering travel!

Eventually, maybe five minutes later, I start to smell something. Because of my 2007 experience with a fairly significant fire, it takes no time at all for my nose to identify it as the first toxic whiffs of something burning.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the fire alarm starts chirping shortly,” I think to myself. If only I’d had the good sense to sling my bag onto my shoulders and place cane in lap while I continued working, which I could have done.

Sure enough, “deet, deet, deet”.

Naturally, one’s first instinct in that situation, even if one thinks it is a drill, is to just jump out of the chair and make a beeline for the nearest exit. This gut reaction is tripled when there is already an acrid smell in the air. Part of my mind, the asleep part, says don’t worry about taking a half second to grab your stuff. It’ll probably just be a drill anyway.

It wasn’t.

I grab an arm as it hurtles by, and we shoot a good ways across the factory floor, into another vestibule, and finally outside. This is why they suggest that totally blind individuals get assistance in a fire situation, because we don’t use the routes we’re used to. Given that, I left not only my trusty, much-needed cane, but also my bag behind.

Out into the blazing sun, where everyone milled about chattering and awaiting that eventual all-clear that usually comes. 2:45, 2:53, 3:00, and 3:15 pass. Quitting time is 3:20.

“Ok,” one of the supervisors pipes up as we draw near to that time, “they’re not letting us back in because the smoke is too thick. Anyone who can still leave, please consult with a supervisor to get a ride to the other side of the plant where all buses will gather. If your stuff is inside, you’ll have to wait. I’m in the same position, as I’ve left my keys in there!”

I and a couple others groaned, knowing we would miss the 3:30 departure of the 700 bus to Durham Station. It was even worse for the individuals who needed to meet paratransit. I think the supervisors agreed to take them home.

Fortunately, I suppose, not much else happens. I guess the fire folks just gathered up all of the items we wanted and brought them out to be reclaimed by about 4. They inform us that the smoke is so thick we may not be able to go in tomorrow either, and so I’ll have to check that before attempting to catch the bus. The biggest issue while waiting is the intense sunshine, causing every part of me to go bone dry.

All things considered though, it could have been a lot worse. I don’t know what may have caused the fire, and wonder also why it took a good 5-8 minutes after I smelled it for the alarms to kick in. Perhaps we’re gonna need to speed that time up a bit. And despite the inconvenience caused by doing it, I still believed I made the correct decision to skidaddle rather than gathering my things, especially as I hadn’t done so when I first noticed something amiss. I can replace those, but I can’t replace me!

Definitely not the plan I had for today, but that’s how life works sometimes. Now I’ll suck down this pizza and not feel guilty about it, and then it’s outside to read. I guess I can say never take a moment, a thought, a breath, for granted. For things can change before you even know it.

Getting To Know You

I have always found it interesting the ways in which we become aware of those around us. I think especially among those who are blind, we are often not fully aware of the degree to which others watch, perhaps learn from, and become familiar with us from afar.

I especially noticed this this past week. I had to miss a day of work, because my left ear, the good one, decided to ring really loudly and make it difficult for me to function. This usually happens when we experience drastic swings in temperature, but for some odd reason it occurred on the day before said temperature changes took effect. It ended up being a plus, as it created an opportunity for me to go grocery shopping during the day. Less crowds, easier to get in and out, etc.

When I returned to work the next day, I was somewhat amused by the number of people who came up to say they’d noticed my absence and missed me. They knew my name, but I couldn’t really tell you who they were. In addition to my blindness, I am also atypically quiet in there. I’ll speak when spoken to, but generally I remain lost somewhere in my thoughts. I suppose this also explains how so many end up just getting to know me in a hands-off sort of way.

The phenomenon of knowing starts long before we even begin to speak. I’ve had the pleasure of participating in many of my twelve nieces and nephews’ upbringing, and was always amazed by how attached to me they became. They each seemed to have their own ways of preferred connection: one I could lure into a calm state by using a strap, another liked to listen to me whistle a tuneless melody as I walked him up and down the hall, and a third just needed to know I was in the same room as he was. This last one left me feeling like perhaps I could actually hypnotize him, as I could say “you’re getting sleeeepppy,” in that funny, dragged out voice and he would indeed quiet.

They would also, I believe, demonstrate that they knew I was unable to see them. Whether they thought this by choice or fully understood that my eyes didn’t work, who knows.

My niece, for example, would make a humming sound as her little legs propelled her along the floor and to me, until she was able to tap my leg.

And once, the strap-loving nephew decided I needed assistance into the laundry room to put my clothes into the hamper, and then back into my mom’s room where he knew I liked to watch sports with my dad. He may not have even been a year old then, and hadn’t really developed speech yet except for the ability to make a sound that approached “here”. Then he grabbed one of my fingers and led me around the house. I guess he’d seen enough of me nearly tripping over his and others’ toys. It was cute.

Even nonhuman animals are capable of getting to know from afar, of course. I think primarily of the little toy fox terrier that my sighted cousin had when he moved into our Charlotte apartment in 2008. I have never become as close to any living creature as I did her. Sad? Perhaps.

She especially enjoyed interacting with me when I sat in the big, comfortable swivel chair I had at my heavy oak computer desk. She’d tap her little head on the side, stand back a few inches, and watch me turn to face her so she could then leap into my lap. Then she’d lay there, picking her head up if I began to talk to her or demanding attention occasionally with her paws.

She most showed her understanding of my likely limitations once when I’d taken her out for relief. I guess I’d gotten lost in my thoughts, and she decided we’d go for a longer walk. She probably had tried to get my attention somehow, but I didn’t notice. Next thing I knew, we were on the other side of the street and behind that set of apartments.

“Look what you’ve done!” I yelled as I tugged on the leash. “Now how on earth am I gonna get back home?”

She then slipped through a narrow fence, causing her collar to pull hard and come off of her neck. Now if she’d done this with my sighted cousin in tow, she’d think “freedom!” and “game time!” and take off. However, she probably knew that I couldn’t catch her, so she sat down a couple of feet in front of me and waited for me to reattach the collar. Then, she got ready to cross the lot and, probably, correctly head for home. I didn’t fully trust that we could do this safely though, so I pulled back on the chain. I believed she then deferred to plan B, which was to find an apartment with a human inside that I could ask for help. I did this, and an old man who walked with a rather pronounced limp assisted us back to the right place.

I’d guess that getting to know one another, and discern likely motives, has significant survival advantages. And, of course it helps us get whatever it is that we want from another, as well as to give to others what they might enjoy. I’m not sure blind folk will ever be really good at fully understanding tendencies, since there’s so much we miss by lacking observational abilities at least from a visual standpoint. But, I certainly do pick up on and have an uncanny memory for voice, smell, and other odd quirks. Just something I’ve been pondering all week. How much do you pick up from others as you go about your day? Are you always watching as a new individual comes into a room? What about other kinds of sensory information.

Job Days Redux

Assuming I’ve done this correctly, you should be reading this as I’m at work. this is because I’ve decided I’d attempt scheduling a post for the first time. Interesting idea.

Last year at about this time, ok a couple weeks earlier I’ll admit, I’d written a piece about the job I did at my current employer. At that time, I worked to assemble combination locks, getting my hands all greasy from the bodies as I piled them onto a tray with attaching chain. The orders for that dried up at the end of May, and it’s been so long now that I’m not entirely sure I can remember how to do it anymore. I think they’ll get us up and running over there again sometime soon.

One of the reasons I’ve opted to post about my current work is I saw via a Twitter follower that this is National Supported Employment Week. Or maybe that was last week. In any event, it’s a time to think about disability and employment.

According to what I learned from my brief stint in a graduate-level Rehabilitation Counseling program, Supported Employment pairs a person with a disability, usually a condition that’s may require a bit of adjustment to effectively do the job such as Autism, Intellectual Disability, or another developmental disability, with a job coach or trainer. The levels of SE, as it is often abbreviated, can vary based on a person’s needs. It is a good program that helps to bring meaning to the lives of many and engender pride and satisfaction and accomplishment. I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who choose to enter careers that make this option available for those who can use it.

While I and most blind and low vision people don’t really use supported employment, we are still often employed in sheltered settings as I cuttently am. These are workshops that hire people specifically based on their disability status, and they at least provide some basic level of work, often as routine as the job I’ve done before and that which I’m now doing.

I currently am in a section where we make light sticks that soldiers can use in the field, and that don’t require batteries to work. I think they have some sort of chemical that becomes active when the top is broken off. We do the whole thing, from placing them into foil, packing them ten to a labeled box, and putting them onto a conveyor belt to be packed into larger boxes for shipment. I am one of the packers who place the boxes onto the belts. You can hear how that sounds here, if curious.

When the sticks are in high supply, the days sail by. However, I’m already noticing that we seem to be heading toward the typical summer trickle. So I’m more often finding myself with head bouncing off of chest or worse, off of the sharp edge of the pocket that holds the box as I rapidly shove sticks in on a specially made workstation. Fun times.

And on the subject of time, my routine has changed markedly little. I guess if anything, I feel I’ve somehow become more efficient with my use of time. I can shove down a bowl of cereal, make a sandwich, and complete other tasks all while still practically asleep. Then it’s to the bus stop, where I now usually have a couple of other companions waiting with me, come wind, rain, or freezing cold! Thankfully Spring seems finally to be settling into the Southeast.

Am I glad to be employed? Of course, as it’s leading to so many more freedoms. But I still desire to do something more with my existence than this. I admit to finding figuring out just what that should be is proving more of a challenge than I’d thought. Perhaps I can do one of these reviews every year, as a means of gauging my progress or if any has been made.

Riding the Rails, and Happy iVersary

So, its been a little while since I last wrote in here, mostly because I’ve been in my own head trying to figure stuff out. Have I made much progress? Hmmm, maybe not. I thought I knew what I was going to do next but am now quite unsure. The only thing I know is that some kind of change is needed, and soon.

So last Friday was my birthday. The unlucky Friday the thirteenth, of course. On the whole though, I would have to say it turned out to be a great, much needed day in which I felt connected to others, and as if I mattered. I took what is probably my last day off for the year and bounced around Chapel Hill, enjoying the nice weather and fraternizing with those known and not yet known.

Then when I got home, I was pleasantly surprised by my fun neighbors who had decided to buy me some delicious cake and a fun birthday card, the audio of which I may record when I get back home. It says

Don’t just stand there,

And when you open it, it plays a snippet of Celebrate Good Times.

And finally for that weekend, I got to spend some time with my cousin. He and his wife came up to attend a wedding in Durham, and also took me to Texas Roadhouse where I consumed some great country fried chicken and mashed potatoes, both smothered in cream gravy. Man, I’m making myself hungry writing that. I wanna go back there for more!

At this moment, I’m headed to my hometown of Charlotte for another birthday dinner, made I think by my aunt and for me and my uncle whose September birthdays are relatively close. I don’t know what’s on the menu just yet, but look forward to it nonetheless.

I’m on a crowded Amtrak, where I can hear someone’s blaring music. I was about to say walkman, but then my 90s flashback ended. No wonder we all aren’t able to hear anymore!

I, on the other hand, am typing on my iPhone using the Fleksy app. I’ve had this thing, or at least some version of it, for a year as of tomorrow. Ice said repeatedly that it has changed my life, and that continues to be true.

In acknowledgement of that, I thought I’d quickly highlight twelve of my favorite iPhone apps, one for each month.

There of course is Fleksy. Admittedly, I haven’t used it much since April or so, but that’s primarily because I do my longform typing on the PC these days. It is great though, as I can just sling my fingers all over the screen in an approximation of the keyboard, and rapidly produce words and sentences.

My second favorite these days is a gaming app called Dice World. Is has helped kill many an idle hour at the workplace. Dice games of Farkle, Pig, yatzy, and a fourth whose spelling I’m not entirely certain of.

The third app is Amazon’s Kindle. My latest book reviews of up and coming authors attests to that.

Fourth would be the first I ever downloaded, Serotek’s iBlink Radio. I enjoy this one, because it gives me access to so much information in and about the blindness community.

The fifth, well sort of, is Facebook. I don’t know if I like so much what they’re doing to the side itself, and especially posting so many status updates in the notifications section, but I do appreciate that they now have an accessibility team that tries to make the app and associated experiences better for us.

Twitter is now doing similar, but I still prefer using the Twitterrific app, my sixth listing. They have a grey team who will respond if users report that they are having issues or wish to learn more about a function.

Speaking of responsiveness, I also sometimes enjoy using Earl, an accessible app that allows you to hear the news read by a dedicated electronic voice. The audio is pretty high quality, and one can control story selection simply by speaking to the device. It aggregates news from several major sources, and allows gathering of other sites as well.

My eighth, although I must admit I don’t entirely understand what I’m doing and why, is Solara. This is a game where you fulfill quests by using an ever expanding group of heroes to fight bad guys, and increasing the size and strength of your castle fortress. If anything, it too is a great time waster.

Because I’m tired and feel like it, my last four apps will be sports related. MLB At Bat and college football radio make for great audio of games, and are relatively accessible. NFL Mobile now works too, though I’m hoping they will make getting to the game fees less cumbersome soon.

For score checker apps, I use Sports Alerts, and another that I really like called Team Stream which pushes notifications whenever news becomes available on any of your chosen favorite teams.

If any of these interest you, they should easily be found in the App store. If not, let me know and I’ll find the link. More soon.

Goin’ to Carolina in My Mind

Nothing can be finer,… than sitting in a jam-packed coffee shop near the UNC campus.

This time of new beginnings, of delving back into academic studies (I can reach my hand to the right or to the left on this giant bar and feel books, papers and laptops strewn everywhere) cause me to ache with nostalgia.

I’ve gotten into a comfortable habit of coming here at least a couple times per week, after a long day of mostly twiddling my thumbs on the day job, to be re-awakened. Many studies have proven that being in such creative environments can in fact be stimulating.

What I’m finding a little less stimulating though is that so many of my friends are leaving my fair state! It seems that California, with her promise of less humidity and perhaps greater employment, is re-claiming her former residents. I don’t know if living out there would be for me though, as the cost of living is pretty high and I’m not so sure about earthquakes. But then I guess we all have some sort of natural disasters to deal with.

I know that it’s pretty likely I’ll leave this state for whatever comes next, unless something unforeseen happens. But if I do, I’ll be happy that I got to experience life in three fairly different regions: Moore County and the Sand Hills, (country, country, country!) the Triangle, (Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill) basically the intellectual heart of NC, and the Charlotte area, which some derisively call the Great State of Mecklenburg.

Ah, my hometown of Charlotte. Right now, much of our national representation is due to the somewhat hapless Carolina Panthers (NFL). You know, I’m half tired of watching this team so often start the season in the same way. Facing the Seattle Seahawks, we managed to drop one late yesterday 12-7 when DeAngelo Williams, one of our star running backs lost the ball on the Seattle 7 yard line as we were going in to score. This happened, as do so many of our disasters, in the fourth quarter. But I should try and be a devoted fan and keep watching, hoping that maybe on the tenth anniversary of what will probably always be the best season in Panthers history, we’ll manage to recapture a bit of that magic somehow. Remember the infamous Super Bowl with Janet Jackson showing off a bit more than she should have? Yep, we were there!

And these are some of the things I’ve been pondering during my long hours at the table, thinking about all of the things that make our state unique. Wherever I end up going, I hope to settle back here once I’m fully in my career, and I hope that particularly our urban centers can become a bit more interesting so that we don’t keep bleeding off good, talented people. Until next time, from the Tar Heel State.

Just Another Insane Workday

Because what weekend doesn’t end crazily? I’m certainly hoping things get to be a bit more to my liking as this week goes on.
My cousin and I sit in the four-bedroom house, chatting. One of our old, favorite country albums plays in the background.
“Wanna go swimming?” he asks suddenly.
“Yeah,” I reply.
The delicious scent of fried chicken and baked macaroni and cheese follows us as we make our way onto the back deck and maneuver around a collections of chairs irregularly placed. I slip out of my shirt and shoes, walk down the stairs, dive in, and!… lurch out of bed toward the restroom, as I suddenly realize the problem.
I was mostly relieved that my clock only read 2:15, instead of the 4:15 that would mean I must go ahead and shower. But I made the classic mistake of browsing the notifications that had poured into my phone while it rested in my pocket, Do Not Disturb setting activated so that only the vibrating alarm would rouse me.
I don’t know if any sleep was had after that, but in any event it was far too soon by the time I did in fact have to make my way toward that warm-to-hot water. I turned on the brain cells as best I could, hoping mostly to come up with some kind of topic in order to keep my writing challenge goal alive of pumping out an entry every day of this month.
You know, I’ve never really done that. Oh sure, I posted in my Live Journal continuously for a little over 2 years, but not all of those were actually written entries. Many were those silly Internet memes, polls, or low-quality telephone voice posts. So it remains to be seen if I can measure up to this high bar. I do enjoy your feedback, as that may well be the thing to keep me going.
Anyway, back to my day. I chose to dress nicely, not because I had to but because it sometimes boosts my confidence and mood as the week begins. On stepping outside, I was glad to have made such a choice. It seems fall is coming in with a vengeance, or perhaps my already low cold tolerance levels have fallen further. They said it was approximately 63 degrees, but I stood quaking in my Sunday shoes as cars streamed by and I awaited a slightly late Durham Area Transit Authority (DATA) Route 11 bus.
On boarding, I flashed my Disability Discount ID card, deposited my pass into the slot and waited for it to magically pop back up, and took my sideways-facing seat. I was nervous, because that vehicle had a disturbing rattle as we headed down the road. It sounded this way when I took it on Thursday as well. I suppose there isn’t anything really wrong with it, but still.
At the Durham Station transit center stop, I made small talk with the woman I’ve seen fairly regularly for almost 3 months. She has a complicated story, the likes of which I’ve not entirely figured out. But it seems she’s from Las Vegas, has two children, and is either in her 20’s or 40’s. I get somewhat different answers on different days! She’s really kind however, and always has an encouraging word even though she doesn’t seem to feel all that happy with circumstances much of the time.
The Triangle Transit Route 700 that takes me on my second leg to work was also significantly late, arriving at nearly 6:15 instead of 6:00. Maybe today was just a particularly bad traffic day or something. This meant I got to work at 6:45 AM, and had only 15 minutes to clock in, suck down my required coke, and tune in to some NPR.
By clicking on the work tab, you can get a sense of what I do, or at least used to do, at this location. Today though is spent as much of the rest of these last two months have been, just kind of passing time. They did say some sort of project should be ready for us by tomorrow or Wednesday, thank goodness.
At about 2:30 my supervisor brought over a collection of belt buckles that we were to sort into piles of 100. This held us for most of the rest of the day, until we finally ran out of boxes into which we could place the piles.
You know, I’m trying to have a better attitude about all of this. An intelligent woman on Twitter pointed out that this was essential in order to eventually rise above my current situation. But I’ve spent almost exactly 10 years, as one could argue that I began my job search on July 31 of 2003, trying to find something that would really be desirable.
I know the numbers: 70% of persons with disabilities unemployed, and those of us who are fortunate to be working are mostly in sheltered workshops such as the one in which I currently work. I am, more than anything, glad to be alive in an era when I can realistically hope to change that not only for myself, but also to give keys, information and insight to others so they can change it as well.

Book Review: Cruising Attitude, by Heather Poole

Right on the heels of my Audio Mo challenge success, well so-so that is, I’ve learned through a blogger I met on Twitter via AudioMo of another challenge that might well be more up my alley. This one, hash tagged #31WriteNow, dares its participants to write a blog post every day for the month of August. I have absolutely no idea if I can live up to that kind of commitment these days, and especially given that I’m starting class and have some kind of job, no matter how tenuous the latter may be at the moment. But, I can always use the stimulation of the attempt.
I’ve cashed it in on this week regarding the day job, opting to take tomorrow off and work on some more productive things. We did nearly nothing all of this week, but have some hope that things will begin to revive next Monday. We’re just having to pound through the summer doldrums.
My section partner didn’t show up today either, meaning I had no one to talk to. So I decided to start Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet, by Heather Poole.
A well-known flight attendant via Twitter and other social media forums, I’ve followed Poole for almost 4 years now. But upon already reading about a quarter of this book in one sitting, I can say that I hadn’t known as much as I thought about what her job really entailed.
Her tales begin with a couple of fairly recent stories about passengers experiencing medical issues onboard and the measures taken to assist them. Some were humorous, and others were sad. With these, Poole immediately establishes in the reader some of the wild emotional swings experienced by one who engages in this line of work.
In the following chapters, she takes us through her journey into being a flight attendant, noting that this was initially meant to be a short job while she awaited her bigger career as, well something. Just as so many of us young folk struggle with, Poole was having a hard time figuring out just what she’d wanna do.
After an adventure-filled stint with a small, very low budget carrier, she managed to make her jump to the big dogs of the sky. This involved a move to New York City that required quick adjustment to a life that she’d not anticipated and while building a friendship with a southerner who was also adjusting to the flight attendant role.
I obviously have a ways to go. But I’m sure that if her descriptions of intense training at a flight attendant academy, preparation for and survival of life in a chaotic Queens-area crashpad, and encounters with intimidating co-workers as she got started are any indication, her remaining stories will be a lot of fun.
I particularly enjoy Poole’s writing style. It gives the impression that one is sitting across the table and asking questions about how she got to this point. It’s all very conversational. As one who can’t get enough of travel stories, see my enjoyment of the Betty In the Sky with A Suitcase podcast, I unquestionably love this book. This book also brings home what I often hear attendants say: their job is about more than just serving drinks and pretzles. It’s about keeping us safe when we choose to be suspended far above the ground in a metal tube, and any attendant worth his or her salt really takes that seriously. If you check it out, you’ll see what I mean.