On Friendship and Fantasy

Just plugging along, not a whole lot to see here. But, I know it’s high time for me to put finger to plastic key again and find something to talk about.
I suppose the most interesting occurrence has been the solidifying of a friendship at work. I’ve really gotten to know the guy to whom I referred a few entries back, as we continue to sit beside each other in our old section. We can sit there having deep talks about forbidden topics such as politics and religion, then start singing for the next hour or so. It really does make the workday go by a lot more quickly and enjoyably.
I know people have often said that this is an important reason why persons with disabilities should be employed: to really get that chance to connect with and become a part of a community. I certainly hadn’t thought I’d experience that in my current setting, though.
That connection is nice, but it demonstrates to me how few other such venues I have outside of the workplace. As the temperatures have climbed here, many of my friendly neighbors are choosing to remain inside and under the AC. I suppose I can’t blame them there, but it means I really need to find the neighborhood watering hole or something, someplace where I can go to party or just let loose for a while.
One would think I’d have found such a place after nearly half a year. Half a year already! I can’t believe I’ve been in Durham that long, as I can still clearly remember sliding on dangerous ice that pelted down relentlessly that cold, late January day.
Perhaps the biggest reason why I’ve kind of lived on the outside looking in here is that I’m a creature of habit. First, of course, I mostly just turn to my online friends for conversation. This is fine, but lacks some critical component as I’m re-discovering by my burgeoning work friendship.
Secondly, I still like to spend a lot of my off time in Chapel Hill, primarily because being in that environment makes me feel revitalized. I think though that the c-change is beginning, and soon enough this area will truly feel like home.
I want to close by offering support to an author who has crafted a book that very much explores issues surrounding friendship and disability. This book, called The Heart of Applebutter Hill, was written by Donna W. Hill, who I think has some degree of blindness herself. It seems to be a young adult fantasy piece featuring a 14-year-old blind girl named Abigail and her close male friend Baggy as main characters. Abigail’s guide dog Curly Connor, usually referred to as the “Fluffer-noodle” is also prominently featured.
During the school year, Abigail lives in a town called Applebutter Hill after having been banned from her previous locale due to a number of complicated societal reasons. She has to spend the summer with a family called the Blusterbuffs, (that’s another thing I like about this book, the strange names), because her primary guardian has left town to attend to some other business.
This story asks one to expand what one believes in, bringing back some of the magic of childhood imagination. For instance, the two main characters encounter a transportation vehicle that seems to be a sort of flying boat, and are informed that only they can see and interact with it. They also meet and take in an acorn that can expand and turn into a small man who can walk around on tiny legs.
I haven’t read the whole story yet, in fact I’m kind of just reaching the halfway point as I make my halting way along while on bus rides to and from work. But it is clear that these individuals will find adventure, get themselves into and out of troublesome situations, and generally grow closer as the story progresses. I obtained a copy from Smashwords for just $6.99, and I’d definitely say it was worth it. The writing is excellent, and one very quickly becomes swept away from mundane reality and into this interesting and unusual world. Also I’ve seen somewhere that the author uses proceeds from this book to help people gain access to Braille in areas where it might not otherwise be possible, a very worthy cause in my opinion. So check it out.

The Wedding, The Wetting, and Work

Friday:
Work. Or at least I used to call it that.
I punch the timeclock, grab a seat in the breakroom to listen to my NPR stories, then saunter onto the floor to start my day.
“Ok folks,” our supervisor says during our regular morning huddle meeting “we’ll begin by finishing what we were doing yesterday.”
That involved re-counting tiny round things, the nature of which I couldn’t identify. Ostencibly to verify that the number was correct, but more likely to remain somewhat occupied.
Ah, the summer doldrums return. Much of this week has involved working for small stretches, then waiting patiently for another task to be devised. The department to which I had defected the previous week no longer had need for my, or the others who had followed me, services. This is common at NIB-affiliated workshops, and especially as we await the end of the government funding crunch.
One of the results, and perhaps I’m not entirely displeased with this, is that we get the week of July 4th off without pay. Ah, of course I could always use the money. But at this point, I could also use the time for relaxation, contemplation, and preparation. I will still be up to quite a bit in the coming week.
So we make our way through the rest of the day in that vein, and I can barely suppress my cheer as I finally head for the door and freedom at 3:20. The duffel bag strap digs into my arms as I jostle myself aboard the Triangle Transit 700 bus that will take me to Durham Station, where I will then hop onto the free Bull City Connector for the short jaunt to the Amtrak Station.
Once at that ticket counter, I find that the trains are yet again sold out! Well the coach class seats are anyway, meaning that I will have to upgrade to business. I must show my appreciation to that agent though, as she asks me to hold off on the purchase for a minute while she attempts to squeeze me into coach somewhere. That was simply unavailable, and so I paid $47 instead of the usual $26 in the interest of just reaching my destination.
And I had only an inkling of what I was in for. This endless Carolina rain has and continues to reak havoc throughout the state.
The train departs Durham approximately 15 minutes late, but the time posted on the Amtrak iPhone app optimistically projects that we will make up much of this difference. But first a storm in the Triangle socks us, and then a much more violent storm screams in as we approach Charlotte. This last causes us to slow to what my GPS app tells me is between 7 and 10 miles per hour, meaning that it takes us nearly an hour to traverse from the entrance to the Queen City to its train station at 1914 North Tryon Street.
My patience is definitely gone by this point. I know of course that that situation is beyond their control, but am surprised that they can’t at least go 20 miles? I guess the tracks become too slick. I do make fun conversation with another passenger who says she’s been onboard since just prior to Washington DC. It could always be worse?
Once we finally arrive, my uncle collects me and we slosh through nearly knee-deep water. I say a prayer that my electronics will somehow survive the continuing deluge, and happily they do. In the car, Angel the poodle immediately says hi with tongue and tail as I make small talk with my uncle and cousin. My uncle, who is already zonked by this point, nearly takes us to the place where he and my Aunt used to stay off of Beatties Ford in the northwest part of town, instead of to my Aunt’s current residence near Providence Road. Luckily, we manage to slide on and arrive safely at our destination.
By this time, it is nearly 11 PM. I am saddened by this, because now I won’t get a whole lot of time to just sit and chatter with my cousin. Of course, I have to accept that those days are largely over with his now being married, a realization that I am fine with but just note as being another part of getting older and adjusting to change. We smack on a dinner of barbecue chicken and sides, yammer for approximately another half hour, and call it a night.
Saturday:
The vibrating phone pulls me to at 7 AM. I roll over, bring up the NPR News app, and continue listening to the stories from the day before. I’d tried to do so on Friday night, but a while after since they made longer no. So, I couldn’t deny that sleep was needed.
For breakfast, I have a hard boiled egg, it’s been a while since I’ve eaten that as they used to make my stomach protest but seem not to have an averse effect this time, sliced turkey sausages, grapes, and strawberries. Then I shower, put on my suit which if I manage to attach the photo one of my sisters took of me you’ll get to see, (yeah I know that some of you who only read my blog haven’t actually seen a picture of me) and headed out.
My mom says that the suit I have chosen has some red in it, which was my late Aunt and cousin’s mom’s favorite color. My mom has worn an outfit with red in it as well, in acknowledgement of her memory. I find that moving.
We reach the venue where the ceremony is to take place at approximately 10:20. It’s a recreational building at Charlotte’s Freedom Park where wedding receptions, birthday parties and the like are held. My uncle says that the architecture is some of the best he’s ever seen, with flat roofs and colors that blend in with nature. They even have it so that shrubbery grows right up against the side of the building, and the shaded areas are particularly effective in combating summer heat.
As we wait for things to begin, I chat with my Aunt and younger cousin while enjoying some mints provided by the couple. I like the little jar they come in, as someone says the seal is particularly strong and useful in camping or other outdoor areas. This may come in handy in a couple of weeks for me, as I have an exciting trip that may or may not happen then. Details forthcoming.
More friends and family trickle in, and we all note, only half jokingly, that we wish to do a better job of staying in touch. The first person I meet used to work with the Charlotte Beep Ball team on which I once played, but has baked the wedding cake for this gathering. Then I talk with another beep ball player who is one of the most energetic people I know. Finally, we all make our way back to our respective seats and settle in for the show.
To begin, they play snippets of Brandi’s version of Everything I Do I Do It For You, and another song I unfortunately can’t recall. I assume the couple is approaching the front of the room and the reverend ensconced there as these play.
Vows are exchanged, somewhat nervously but with a laugh whenever a little slip of the tongue or early reaction occurred. The whole thing probably took 15 minutes, but it’s as they wanted things, simple and to the point. I think they definitely still managed to achieve memorability, which was the most desired outcome.
Then there are the pictures. I bet photographers make the biggest portion of their income on weddings alone. Of course I’ve not yet had the experience of being groom, but it seems he and the bride participate in hundreds of photos. I and my family are shot in various group configurations with the newly weds, with me sometimes conjuring up smiles just from the amusing way they have to turn my head.
Once this is done, we reach my favorite part: the food! What? I have a delicious and giant meatball smothered in some kind of sauce, a couple of chicken tenders, a tuna sandwich, and some pineapples, along with a small goblet of punch. Licks lips. Then they rolled out the cake. I’m not exactly sure what that flavor was, perhaps German chocolate? I of course eat it with another big smile on my face.
And that is largely all of the substantive portion of happenings. My cousin and his wife depart for their weeklong vacation on the Isle of Palms, just off the coast of Charleston South Carolina. After making video statements to them about what we hoped their new life together would be like, (I sound silly and have a hard time speaking in a straight line as always, why can’t I speak like I write!) we all head out as well.
So as I tried to say then, I will again now. First, I again extend an official welcome to the newest member(s) of our family, as her folks are also included. My cousin and I spent many a night talking about the kind of person we would like to find and marry, and I feel that he is very blessed and fortunate to have found the one he has. I am excited to watch the ways in which they will grow and develop, and thank them from the bottom of my heart for the way they helped me both in finding and connecting to good times and in staying alive during the tougher times. I plan to do what I can to support both of you when I can, and especially as I hopefully begin to attain some financial stability. Here’s to Calvin and Corliss, many pleasant years together.

Summer Time

And the livin’ is… well ok I guess. I still gotta slog to work every day and manage to hold myself together through the 8+ hours.
No more lying on the floor nearly comatose, enjoying the cool, flowing air and the cadence of a well-narrated book. Or swimming in vastly overcrowded public pools with kids from every background. Ah, I really miss those days sometimes.
Even as we reach summer solstice and celebrate the longest day of the year, I think maybe nature lost the memo on that occurring. I’d initially dressed in a short-sleve shirt and shorts until I opened the door and was hit by a surprisingly cold wind. My trusty iPhone said the temperature came in at only 57 degrees as of 5:15 AM. Brrr! I’m thinking this particular season will be cold and wet, in contrast to the Sahara-like experience we logged last year. I want my heat back, man, because I’ll be missing it when old man Winter makes his return.
I’m slightly disappointed with myself for not writing at least something last week, but I just couldn’t come up with anything stimulating enough. I realize though that if I really want to do some sort of professional blogging, then I’ll have to learn to just sit here in front of the keyboard and dig stuff from the recesses of my mind. But I suppose it’d help in that situation that I’d be writing about some specific category.
Speaking of categories, or perhaps sections?, I’ve been moved to a different one now at the workplace and it’s actually turning out not to be too bad. I’m hoping things have stabilized enough now that the perceived immediate threat I spoke of recently has discipated.
The thing I enjoy most about that new section is the people. There are three of us in particular, and we can get onto talking about music from the beginning of the day till the end. The guy, who usually sits beside me, works in my previous section also, but I’d not really taken the time to get to know him. And the woman, sitting across from me, is also a pretty cool person who has started talking to me more and more as the week has gone on. She took Wednesday off and he didn’t show up today, each time drastically changing the dynamic and vibrancy of our discussion.
Hopefully this fun work environment will persist for at least one more week, and then I’ll head down to Charlotte for my cousin’s wedding. That’s going to be exciting, especially as I get to meet and fellowship with my family in the process. I can remember my sister’s wedding, the first non-traditional ceremony I ever attended, being quite good. I also went to a good friend’s wedding last year, where an outdoor reception featuring delicious food and a live band was had. I’ll be interested to see how this goes.
And that’s really all for now. I’m still working on my DC trip, which I keep pushing farther and farther back into July. I did find the blog post explaining how one registers for a tour of the NPR headquarters, so that’s definitely a start. I plan to have that happen some time soon. Back with more, probably next Sunday on how my trip to Charlotte and the wedding went.

Needing Change, Wanting Work

Adulthood. Stress. The inevitability of expectations becoming reality. This seems to be my story.
Well, I’m not sure it’s quite reality yet, but it’s beginning to seem scarily close.
Remember the entry I posted near the end of April in which I detailed my pending plans for a summer trip or two? And how I talked about needing to hold back just in case I get bounced, at least for a time, from this job?
Well, I went to work today and was immediately concerned, because there was little to nothing to do. I spent nearly the entire eight hours, well ok I didn’t actually clock in till 9 due to another set of problems that I’ll get to later, in mind-numbing boredom. It seems no new orders have come in for the product we put out in my section, locks, in quite a bit, and thus all of the material has been used.
So to pass the time, I was given a tub with two different types of nails that I was to sort into piles in a different bin. It was busywork in the extreme. I’d grab one nail, drop it into its pile, deliberately count off either a minute or a minute and a half, and then grab another.
On top of that, it slowly warmed back there, as I suppose they’ve not really turned on the AC yet. While I am a big fan of warm weather, I either like to be outside in it or in a building with some degree of climate control. Its lacking, along with the generally aggravating nature of the work, made me a bit grumpier than maybe I would normally be toward anyone who attempted to talk to me.
I know there’s no way we could possibly continue to perform in that way for probably even a week. I’m really disturbed now and hoping that somehow some way we get some sort of order to work on.
I can’t afford to have this happen right now, as I suddenly find myself having to spend a lot of dough just to keep these hearing aids on. On Friday, shortly after having had my left-side aid shipped off for repair and a loaner installed, my right-side aid decided to die. I was thus stuck inside for the whole of the holiday weekend, which didn’t turn out so badly because the weather was fantastic. I just ate pizza and enjoyed some favorite movies from childhood to take my mind off of all the craziness and responsibility.
I have to pay $65 to cover repairs to my left-side aid, and will likely fork out another 70 or so in order to obtain a dry aid kit to hopefully avoid having this problem constantly in the future. So that’s the reason why I definitely need to keep some cash flowing in.
I guess this all is keeping me motivated to continue pursuing more meaningful career opportunities. As I reiterate, my dream is to work for either NPR or one of its local stations, perhaps as a social media person. They’re posting a lot of descriptions in an attempt to fill such positions, meaning that I may well be onto something. As it stands, I don’t really qualify for most of these positions. However, I’ve learned to view the descriptions as a sort of road map that tells me how to arrive at my destination instead of a roadblock that prevents me from getting there. This is an important shift in thinking.
One thing nearly all of the openings specified is a desire for the candidate to have some basic ability to design websites. To that end, I’m going to try and take a course this August that will cover a lot of the important components of web design. Offered by the Cisco Academy for the Vision Impaired (CAVI), they clearly place an emphasis on working with persons who are blind. They will teach such things as HTML, PHP, and CSS. Do I know what all of that is yet? No, but that’s why I’m taking it! They say you can come in on the ground floor and they’ll work with you to learn. It sounds intensive, but I’m excited to hopefully take a concrete step to opening the doors I need for advancement.
And that’s just a little of what’s been going on in my topsy turvy life. No wonder I’m exhausted already. Thank goodness for a shortened week.

I Wanna Go Outside,In The Sun!

ah, at last, Spring seems to have arrived in the southeast. And despite my having been cooped inside for most of it, I have managed to enjoy some of today’s goodness.
I am so happy that, as far out as I can see, we have weather that at least approaches 70, leading me to finally jettison my coat in favor of a somewhat thick sweater. Hey, my transition will always be slower than everyone else’s.
The biggest benefit to the change in weather is a discernable improvement in my mood. Yes, life here has been pretty good. But there was a part of me, a big part, that has felt kind of lonely while adapting to this new city. I can’t think of another time where I’ve located to a place where none of my immediate family or close friends live in that same town, so I’ve had to essentially start all over again.
I’d like to think I’ve made use of that chance, branching out and becoming more independent than I had ever before because I didn’t have those around who might have been nervous, with some good reason, about my doing so.
But there have also been days when I’ve just chosen to sit in here, comfortable, safe, and not daring to take a chance and see what I might be able to do. Feeling the warmth on my back and listening to people and birds cavorting around out there ease some of my nerves, and so slowly but surely I am emerging from that cocoon.
The same sort of thing is happening at work, where I opted to join some of my co-workers outside at a picnic table in one of their gazebos during lunch. This was nice, but the air had been filled with smoke from about 20 cigarettes. *chokes* I’ve been informed that there’s a non-smoking section not too far away, and I plan to try that tomorrow.
And speaking of tomorrow, my lunch lady is bringing meatball subs! Mmm. This past Monday, a day on which I may have slept about a half hour,she had breakfast that was also delicious.
On that sleep, man it’s starting to be a serious problem. It’s probably the only real drawback of improving weather for me, but now that I am employed it’s going to be a big one.
While assembling locks, I had that sillyy falling-down dream thing. I know you know what I’m talking about, and especially if you’re used to doing this on church pews. Suddenly out of nowhere, I feel like I’m about to fall over the edge of a ledge, plummeting to…, well, I don’t know. Anyway, it causes me to jerk embarrassingly then hope that somehow no one noticed the great rattling of that chair.
When this happened today, I was holding a lock in my hand that banged against the table loudly enough for the entire plant to hear. *sigh*. I know someone caught it, but there were no comments made.
On the other hand, I love that I’m starting to feel refreshed, renewed, recharged. I don’t know what this Spring holds, but I think it’s going to be some of the best I’ve yet experieced. I hope the same for you as well.

Job Days

One of the most salient things in my life at the moment is my place of employment: Durham’s LC Industries. Part of the National Industries for the Blind, it is one of the oldest workshops in that system. We get contracts to provide goods such as clothing, bedding, and the like to the US military.

I specifically work in a section called master lock, where we participate in every part of the loch assembly process. These are the small kinds that are closed with a shackle and reopened with either a key or combination. I get the chain started, pulling the various pieces together which sometimes include a small metal chain as well as the already mentioned stuff, and placing them on a tray. The person to my immediate left them inserts the ball bearings with some sort of long, cylindrical tube. Finally, he applies some grease. I’m not certain what happens to the locks after that, though in theory I will someday know how to do every job in that section.

I write about this so that you know a little about the kind of routine I deal with. Admittedly not the most exciting thing in the world, but then when I point this out to others, they usually note a similar feeling about their own employment. It’s just one of those things one learns to do, I suppose.

I remember before my entrance into the working world, I often wondered how people managed to function with these demands. My answer seems lately to be to have my life run on a predictable program that usually doesn’t vary much.

4:15 am: feel that odd vibration on my backside. I put the cell in that pocket on a pair of shorts.

oh goodness, what’s that? I think to myself. I don’t know, but just before I roll over and drift back into a state of bliss, it occurs to me that the alarm is going off.

aaahhh!

4:45 am: All necessary morning dressing has been completed. Still in a fog, I grab my iPhone, launch the TuneIn radio app, and check the latest edition of CNN radio news day. As I do, I madly shovel down a bowl of cereal, a pop tart, leftover pizza? Whatever I can still find in that fridge.

5:15 am: time to hit the door, as the bus departs in twenty minutes. Out the door, into the street’s shoulder due to this neighborhood’s notorious lack of sidewalks, and on my way. It’s about a half mile walk, just enough to get the blood flowing to my brain. I also just recently mastered crossing that somewhat busy street by myself, which is very fortunate.

5:40 am: listen to the passengers mostly snore at that hour. I also use twitter and the local newspapers to get me caught up on what’s going on in the area.

6:00 am :arrive at Durham Station, the city’s transportation center. It’s no Grand Central Station, but there are a few people and buses moving around. I make my way to the next bus, which takes me on to the plant.

6:30 am : after clocking in, I make my way quickly to the soda machine as my nervous system is flooded with hormones in anticipation of caffeine. I can barely get the change in the slot quickly enough. I then open iBooks on my entertainment device and settle in till that evil 7:00 bell rings. And from that point, the routine is as initially described.

All things considered, I’m surprised how well I have managed to hold up. This is the first time I have held a position that requires me to work all five business days, so that took some getting used to.

Anyone with difficulty hearing understands the phenomenon where people say things right in front of you that they might not otherwise, figuring that you aren’t picking them up. This can be a good or bad thing, but lately its been quite pleasant as I heard my coworkers offering unexpected praise of my efforts. That definitely does help my morale.

So that’s today’s piece. I may set a goal, though I’m not entirely committing to it, to write a post in here every day as I did in my LiveJurnal during a significant portion of my employment in Charlotte. It helps keep the creative juices flowing. We shall see how long I go on with it.

Intro Post: Old hats may wish to skip

So I realized that since I zapped that other blog, I no longer have an intro post. This means that I should try and come up with one, right? Well its as good a time as any to examine who I am, I guess. Those who’ve known me a long time might wish to skip this post, but maybe I can make it interesting for you, too.

I was born. I’m told the day dawned cold and rainy, but I’ve also been told that it was Friday, September 13, 1979. I know that last wasn’t possible, since the calendars say the 13th was on a Thursday that year. In any event, that kinda makes for a good story.

I have a rare genetic condition called Norrie disease, which results usually in total blindness from birth due to retinal detachment. It also causes progressive hearing loss, which has been the more adjustment requiring part of things for me. It’s all good though: I have not and will never let it stop me from doing the same crazy things I always do.

Hailing from the queen city of Charlotte, I grew up in a family of five sisters. For much of my early life, my only real male influence was my cousin who is about a year younger than my 33. My dad then came into my life during teen aged years, and he has certainly taught me a lot about what it means to be a good and honorable man. And anyone should know that one doesn’t have to donate sperm in order to be a good father.

I went to high school in a small town called Southern Pines NC, and while I complained at first about being out of the city, it was probably the best thing I had done to that point. It allowed me to find myself academically.

Eventually I returned to Charlotte to attend the major university there, going on to experience even greater academic success as a psychology major. What is it that they say about psych majors needing the most therapy?

After five aimless years just working in a sheltered workshop for blind folks in Charlotte and enjoying living with my cousin, I made the somewhat random decision to attend grad school. I did this at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where I attempted to complete an MS in rehabilitation counseling and psychology. Let’s just say all that academic prowess I thought I had pretty much went out of the window. The program was supposed to take two years to finish, but I clung to that raft as it got sucked down the raging river for almost three. It wasn’t a total waste, though. Is anything, it showed me how not to adequately prepare for such an expedition.

Is I do make another go of that, I know now that I need solid, definable goals. I’m still working those out, but part of me is longing to do something in a journalistic capacity, as I had started to consider shortly after undergrad ended. I’m not really sure how to begin taking that from dream to occurrence, though. Just doing a lot of thinking.

And now I reside in Durham NC, where I again work at a sheltered workshop. The nice thing about this one though is that there is real potential for promotion, should I choose to take that path. We shall see how it all plays out.

Of course, there’s more to me than I could easily capture in one post. If you continue to read, you’ll see lots of stuff about books I like, my favorite sports teams, (I’m all about North Carolina except for the duke Blue Devils), music I love, and not surprisingly, the places I go. Feel free to chime in with questions or suggestions whenever you like. And most of all, enjoy.