Saturday, March 31, 2012

Why can't people just do their jobs?

Today the family and I had to make a trip down the highway so that I could look at and test some self-service dog washing tables. I'd really like to open my own self-service dog wash in our town but I don't have the money to open the type of store I want. Plus, I don't want to take out a loan. I already owe the government enough money on a bachelor's degree and most of a master's that I'm not using, so I'd rather not have any additional debt if I can help it. The system I tried was nice but operated too much like a car wash with the timer clicking away at the same speed regardless if you had a teacup poodle or a mastiff. You couldn't judge how much it was going to cost to wash and dry the dog -- and "dry" was only implied. Air came out of the hose but if you expected a dog with short or long hair to be dried you just might as well put all the money in your bank account into the machine first because it was going to take a long time. I'd rather have a self-service dog wash where there are tubs and professional dryers (that work) and the people pay per pound (of the dog, not themselves). Then they're not rushed and making a huge mess and the dogs are actually cleaned and dried well enough you wouldn't be afraid of putting them back into your vehicle if you still had a nice interior. However, self-operating machines like that may be what I'd have to get if I can save/raise the money. But I'd certainly make the pricing a bit more reasonable and fair.

So, after getting Celeste cleaned, we decided we should grab some lunch. We decided to go to The International House of Pancakes (IHOP) because (1) it was close and (2) it's cheap. Plus, the restaurant has carpet which would prevent Celeste from getting greasy or having whatever the last person swept under the table instead of actually cleaning stuck in her newly clean fur. The restaurant was not crowded and we figured it would be a good place to pop in, grab a quick bite, and then head out on other errands before returning home.

I should have known once I walked in the door that it wasn't going to be good. The cashier and the hostess immediately began making "boo-boo" faces and voices at Celeste, trying to get her attention. I ignored what they were doing, in the hopes that they would stop, and told the hostess that there would be three of us eating there today. She asked if we wanted a table or a booth. I said a booth because it's easier for Celeste to hide out-of-the-way and she won't accidentally stick a tail or paw into traffic (which can happen under some very small tables). The hostess looked around and said, "Well, we have a table." I replied, "Then why did you ask me what I wanted if there really is no option?" She looked puzzled and handed a wet towel to a waitress and told her to clean off the table at a booth in one of the sections. We looked around the corner and noticed that she was cleaning off a table that was next to four other booths that were not occupied. I chalked it up to the fact that the other section might not be staffed at that moment or that they've got some weird seating ritual at this particular IHOP and waited.

The waitress came back and said that the table was clean. She looked at us as if she expected us to give her a gold star or something. The hostess said that we were next to be seated (there wasn't anyone else around waiting to be helped). Then the two of them debated over who would take us to our seat. The waitress grabbed the menus and asked us to follow her (like we're going to go somewhere else). As we reached the table, she looked down and said rather loudly, "Oh! I didn't see the dog! I didn't know you had one with you -- I'm allergic to them!" I gave Celeste the command to find her spot under the table and reassured the waitress that she wouldn't be in contact with the dog at any time during our meal. That didn't appease her and she repeated that she was allergic to dogs.

Now, just for clarification, unless the other person is so allergic to dogs that it would send them into anaphylactic shock, typical allergies to a dog (fur, dander, etc.) which does not create a life-threatening situation is not an excuse to prohibit a person with a service dog from entering an establishment. She could whine about it all she wanted, but I was well within my legal rights to have her with me. As she continued to complain I interrupted her and told her that Celeste had just been bathed, would not be moving from the spot in which she was currently laying until I command her to when we're leaving, and that we were staying right where we were to eat. I wasn't rude about it -- I just spoke matter-of-factly and even heard someone from another table comment that I was right.

So, after this our drink orders were taken and we didn't see the waitress again for quite some time. Other people were finally being seated in the same section. I began to watch to see if she was their server as well or if someone else was assigned to those tables and would we receive our items before the newcomers did. After seeing her running back-and-forth between the kitchen and what I assumed to be the supply closet to get disposable cups, she finally brought us our drinks and took our food order. Husband, Youngest Son and I began to secretly place bets on how long it would take two omelets and some pancakes to be made and delivered to us.

When after a while she returned with our food, we looked at it and could tell something was wrong. Husband and Youngest Son touched their pancakes -- cold and hard. Even the scoop of butter they put on the top of them wasn't beginning to melt. My omelet looked done but the cheese on top of it wasn't melted. Youngest Son even touched his eggs and said they were cold. We asked the waitress to return and told her that the food was cold. She said that the plates were hot and couldn't possibly understand how it could be cold. Husband asked her to touch the pancakes, to which she replied, "We're not allowed to touch the food." He stuck his finger into the stack and told her that they were cold all the way through. When she began to argue that they couldn't be cold, I reached over to Youngest Son's plate and picked up his two over-easy eggs and held them up for her to see. No yolk breakage. No heat coming off of them to burn my fingers. If you'd seen them you would have thought they were a practical joke piece.

She took the food back to the kitchen and then returned saying that she'd touched the food when she got back there and it was cold and she didn't know why and that she would tell the manager. She also said that within 10 minutes we'd have fresh, hot food. We did get hot food -- in less than 4 minutes. And it looked as if it was slapped-together just to get it out of the kitchen. Nothing was placed neatly on the plates or cooked the way we asked.

We took the food and started eating because by now we were starving. Others in our section told us that the restaurant had been having issues and they weren't surprised to see us sending food back. The first question that crossed my mind was, "If you know the restaurant is having issues with people sending food back, why are you here?" but I didn't ask it.

As we ate, we tried to stomach what we had and laughed when the pancakes that Husband ordered split apart as if they had been frozen previously and barely reheated. I guess the "International" part of IHOP is imported pancakes because every one was identical, right down to the dark coloring you'd see if they'd been done on a griddle. I've made quite a few pancakes in my time and I've never been able to get them all identical.

We continued to eat and a gentleman walked up behind Husband and asked if things were okay. No name tag. No identification of any kind. Husband asked who he was and when he identified himself as the manager, Husband said he wondered when he was going to show-up to see why we were upset with our meal. The gentleman looked puzzled. He had no idea we were upset. The waitress rushed over and told us that she had told a different manager and apologized to this manager for not making him aware as well and then began to describe all of the previous events to him. He asked if we wanted new plates of food, which we politely declined and explained that we weren't from that town and needed to get back on the road to finish errands and return home and waiting again for new food would put us even further behind schedule.

Husband and I have always joked that we're just cursed to receive bad food and/or service at restaurants. There was a time when Youngest Son was still an infant that we went to the same restaurant three times because they kept inviting us back for free meals after (1) I was poisoned by dishwashing liquid that had been spilled on the fish I ordered and (2) when we came back for the free meal after that incident a bee was found curled-up (and dead) inside a leaf of lettuce in Husband's salad. The manager of that restaurant admitted that they weren't making a better impression on us and was soon replaced. Sometimes we laugh when we're out because a manager will walk by our table and ask us how we're doing but not say anything to other diners. We wonder if they've got big pictures of us up in the kitchen warning them that we've had crap service at other corporate chains and to be on the lookout for us.

The manager said that he would look into what happened and disappeared. We started to eat as fast as we could because we didn't want anything except to get the heck out of there and back on our way. The manager returned and attempted to pick up the ticket that the waitress had laid on the table after bringing the second attempt at our lunch. Husband slapped his hand down upon the ticket and said that we would pay for our food. The manager looked confused and said that he wanted to pay for the meal. Husband said that all we wanted were two things to happen -- Number 1, for the employees to do their jobs and get it right because without customer satisfaction there won't be customers and then they won't have a job; and Number 2, for the employees to be advised on how to properly act around a service dog because they are working dogs and are not to be distracted when doing their jobs. The manager insisted again on paying for our meal, but we weren't going to allow it. We ate the food, so we should pay for the food. That always shocks them because a lot of times they're used to someone just trying to get a free meal. If we couldn't afford the food, we wouldn't be there in the first place. Plus, the bottom of the ticket has the order number and the 1-800-number the corporation wants customers to call to answer a survey and give comments on our visit.

And trust me, we will.

Friday, March 30, 2012

You may be a winner? Not me.

No new information today. No responses from my requests for information. No scheduling of appointments with the low-vision center. Nothing. Not even a wrong-number phone call or junk mail in the mailbox.

A pretty dull day, if I do say so myself. I'm not going to complain about it too loudly, though. A dull day also means nothing bad happened and that's a good thing.

Oh, and to those who follow this blog -- I'll still be posting tomorrow unless I'm deathly ill. I didn't buy a lottery ticket today. I couldn't see the sense in getting all fired-up over the surety that I won't win the huge jackpot when compared with the miniscule odds that I could maybe possibly win it. At least when I wake up in the morning I won't be disappointed that I didn't win.

Of course, if any of you do win, I can think of many good charities, research projects, and recently unemployed bloggers that could put even the smallest amount of money to very good use. Just let me know how much you'd like to donate.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Let's see what this gets me....

I've been trying to be patient about finding out why I wasn't reappointed to my position with a federal government agency. And, yes, I know that "at-will" employees can be hired or fired or can quit at any time for any reason (or no reason at all). But the more I see other friends receiving their reappointment letters -- and a well-deserved "Congratulations!" to them -- it's getting depressing being the only person I know so far who has not had their job renewed. And it makes me continue to wonder why since no one has ever complained about my work. Well, at least not to my face or through channels where something could be done about it.

So, today I took a risk. I'm tired of sitting and waiting for something to happen. I'm tired of always trying to "play it safe" and "keep my cards close to my chest" in matters like this. This might help me at least get an honest answer or it might totally blow-up in my face and ruin any attempt I could ever have at getting another position like the one I had. But I had to do something.

I contacted the Equal Rights Officer with whom I worked last year when I was obtaining Celeste and having issues getting reasonable accommodations for my service dog. I even tried to explain to "the powers-that-be" that having her would help me become more deployable and help me with my work since she would help mitigate any problems my disabilities would present. I never thought trying to get something I'm legally entitled to could be so hard! All of the letter writing and arguing over whether or not someone with no medical experience believed that my prescribed service dog would be helpful to me and appropriate for an office setting. It's not like she's going to do anything other than lay under my desk all day (except when I take her outside for walks).

Here's some of what I sent to him today (edited for privacy):
I've recently received a letter of non-reappointment regarding my [employment title] status. This is confusing to me because I've never in the almost-8 years I've worked for [Federal Agency Acronym Here] received a negative performance review and I am often requested for specific disasters. I have not been available the first part of this year as I have been undergoing ophthalmologic testing due to my inability to have my vision corrected above 20/50 with glasses. I am currently awaiting an appointment with the Low-Vision Center at [name of prestigious university here] so that they can help me find adaptive equipment and techniques so that I can continue to work. After the appointment, I'd planned to make myself available again.

Through friendships on social media sites, I've seen people posting that they've received their letters and so far I am the only one who's posted a non-reappointment notice. I have emailed my (now former) Cadre Manager, [Name], and his assistant, [Name], for additional information and have been given the following response:

[Insert copy of standardized response paragraph previously inserted into other related blog posts regarding "reason for non-reappointment"]

I even emailed [Name] asking if the reason for my non-reappointment was something negative because it would be fruitless for me to apply to another Cadre if there is something negative preventing my reappointment. Again, I was sent an email with only that paragraph in it. I've also seen the new FAQs for the NDRP transition and no new DAEs are being recruited or appointed, which makes the "free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre" statement moot. Additionally, the NDRP program is not currently accepting applications either as they attempt to transfer reappointed DAEs to the new system. However, I have sent my résumé to the IWMO liaison for [formerly employed location] who has stated she will share it with all other regions and HQ in the hopes that perhaps there might be an available slot somewhere.

I don't want to believe that it's because I now have a service dog that I've not been reappointed, but with phrases such as "a more nimble organization" in the paragraph sent to me it raised my suspicions even more.

If there is any information or advice you could provide, I would greatly appreciate it. This has all come as quite a shock to me and many of my (now former) co-workers. I do understand that as a [employment title] I am a temporary, intermittent, "at-will" employee -- but to receive no feedback regarding the reason why I would not be reappointed and to see terminology as mentioned above only makes me feel that [Federal Agency Acronym Here] is not willing to accommodate employees with disabilities. I hope I'm wrong, but that's the message I'm receiving.
Maybe I've shot myself in the foot with this. Maybe I'll just be marked as a "troublemaker" because I won't take "no comment" for an answer. Maybe I'll be a model for other disabled persons who have been indirectly discriminated against. Who knows what will happen.

All I know right now is that I feel better just for having sent the letter. And I've received advice/comments from family/friends on other steps I might be able to take if I still can't get an answer after this. Whether or not I get my job "back" is irrelevant. What's important here is knowing the truth. When you're the only person you know who's not been rehired but you're also the only person you know with a disability, it's hard not to jump to conclusions -- which is why I want the honest answer.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

I don't wanna post today!

With everything that's been going on recently, the last thing I want to do right now is sit in front of the computer and try to be witty. I went to my therapy session today and feel like nothing much came out of that. My therapist is stunned that I wasn't reappointed for my job and has the same outlook I have on me finding another job anywhere around here -- grim.

It's easy to look at the job services online listings and other search engines for positions and find things I'm qualified for or would be willing to learn. It's harder to go into the job location to fill-out an application, drop off a resumé or complete an interview with an 85-pound service dog with you that they weren't expecting. You can see it in their eyes. They're trying to figure out why you're there with your "pet" or how you could possibly be able to do any work if you're "that" disabled that you need a service animal, especially when you're not in a wheelchair or showing any visible signs of a disability. And the usual answers of "You're qualified, but not qualified enough," or "You're overqualified for this position" roll off their lips as if they've had their mind made-up all along (which, they probably have).

Today has just been a sucky day and I'm not in the mood to deal with much else. I had an idea for a business I could open that would help me as well as many others in our community, and then found that someone else is already starting one. And even though I know mine would be WAY better and most likely more successful, without the money to start it up, it's just not going to happen.

And now the "voices" are even arguing over which is more negative or depressive because that's what they do when I'm in a funk. It's gonna be a long night.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Non-reappointment not making sense

So, some of you will remember the other day when I posted that my job had ended because I wasn't chosen to have my position reappointed for another two years. In the letter I received, this was the explanation given:
March 24th, 2012 marks the end of the current appointment period. Per the Stafford Act and the Conditions of Employment, you have not been reappointed. However, you are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.
I wrote to my (now former) supervisors to request an explanation on why I wouldn't be reappointed, especially since I have almost 8 years with the organization and have never received a negative mark on any performance evaluations. That was on Saturday (March 24th) and I didn't hear anything back until today. Here's what I got:
March 24th 2012 marked the end of the current appointment period for all DAE’s. We were asked to evaluate our current work force needs based on (insert Governmental Agency Acronym here)'s mission. This required making some difficult decisions. Clearly we had people who had contributed to our mission for a long time and were good employees. However, our current and projected staffing needs meant we needed a more nimble organization, which required making some very hard choices. At this time, it was determined per the Stafford Act and your Conditions of Employment, to allow your appointment to expire. You are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.
I asked for the definition of a "more nimble organization" but only received the same paragraph in response.

"More nimble organization" -- what the heck does that mean? It's not like we're in the military having to carry packs of equipment on our backs. Heck, some co-workers I've seen have barely lifted a ream of paper to refill a copy machine. And if they're talking about age, I'm only 41 and most of my dearest friends who work with this organization (for now at least) are much older than I am.

I also asked if I'm qualified to apply for an appointment within another Cadre and received no answer. I then found the following information posted regarding the way all of the new changes are coming about:
Q: How will someone become part of the National Disaster Reservist Program? A: More information on opportunities and the process for obtaining appointments to the NDRP will be forthcoming in the next 60 days.

Q: I understand that there is a hiring freeze of DAEs now, is this true? A: Yes and no. Any person who is not currently employed by (insert Governmental Organization Acronym here), current local hires, and those who are seeking employment as a new DAE are being asked to wait until the NDRP is fully functional. Any Permanent Full-Time, Temporary Full-Time, or CORE employee who is transitioning to become a DAE will have their transition processed so that they do not have a break in service which would impact items such as their health care benefits.
As I read this -- and someone please correct me if I've got it all wrong -- there's a new program that will be called the NDRP. You can't apply for it right now but they might have information on how to obtain an appointment in it within approximately 60 days (this is the government, you know). And if you were a DAE but you're not one now because you weren't reappointed, you can't apply for a new position in a new Cadre because there's a hiring freeze.

This doesn't make sense! If you can't reapply for your job or for a new one in a new Cadre, then why tell us we can?

Now, there is a clause in our Conditions of Employment that says they can release us at any time for any reason because we're temporary intermittent workers. But I smell something fishy here. They talk about the type of "ideal" workforce they need, not simply that they have to reduce the number of employees. And for a number of people, myself included, who might have unavoidable "difficulties" in meeting the "ideal" (I'll let y'all work that definition out for yourselves), this doesn't sound right.

Well, that's all I'm going to say about it for now. I'm waiting on a call from the low-vision center so I can be evaluated for adaptive technologies to help me continue to be able to work, in this job or any other one I might be able to obtain. I've advised them that the rush to get me in isn't as much of a priority at the moment since I'm not in a position to be employed soon but they're still trying to help me speed-up the process. We'll see what happens.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Discovery's Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island and Unchained Reaction episode 2

Yeah, I know. I should have posted my reviews last night but I was really busy and the whole fence thing had me miffed. Today it wasn't any better as I found my decorative fencing around my precious morel mushrooms moved (looks like it was kicked), but I digress.

Last night was Discovery Channel's night for the new season of Mythbusters and for the second episode of Unchained Reaction. One was slightly impressive while the other was educational but way too hokey to believe.

I'll start with Mythbusters: Duct Tape Island -- a one-hour episode featuring only Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman as they attempt to survive on a desert island with only duct tape available to them. I had a feeling the show was going to be silly because the announcer said they had "an endless supply" of it. So, if you thought that the small pallet of duct tape that "washed-up" on the beach was all they had, think again. And we all knew that they wouldn't actually be in danger of starving or dehydrating because they had a camera crew with them. It's not like we're watching Survivorman, y'all.

In the intro to the "story," they show the outline of an island. Anyone with basic U.S. geography skills would have immediately recognized the shape as the silhouette of Oahu, one of the Hawaiian Islands. If you need more information, it's the island where Honolulu and Pearl Harbor are located. Oahu is definitely not deserted, but they were able to find a beach resort where they could film their show.

Oh, did I say "resort?" Why, yes I did -- and that's an important thing to remember while reading the rest of this review (remember "Turtle Bay" and Lost).

So, the guys are "stranded" and have to figure out how to signal for help, find water, find food, make clothing, make a shelter, stay focused, and escape from the island. Signaling for help was easy. They created a huge "SOS" sign out of duct tape and rocks on the beach. The down side to their attempt is that duct tape is gray and doesn't reflect well when covered with sand, making it harder for someone overhead to see.

When they attempted to find water, they did stage a good explanation of how you can't drink just any water you find lying around. Jamie (the brains) and Adam (Captain ADD-man) were each given different tasks to find water. Jamie used the shrink-wrap that covered the pallet of duct tape to make a solar still in order to collect water. While it's a good and scientific idea, a solar still would not make enough water for two people in a reasonable amount of time. Evaporation and condensation takes a while and it wasn't a plausible idea for them. Adam, however, did find running fresh water and made a water-bag out of duct tape so he could return with potable water for them to enjoy.

Both of the guys created unique shoes using duct tape which made walking on the hot sand, grasses, and rocks more bearable. Adam even made himself a hat since he is very susceptible to the rays of the sun on his fair skin, and so that people who are used to him wearing his Stetson while Jamie has his iconic beret (which was present) could tell them apart.

As for finding food, Jamie was rather ingenious and successful in spear fishing. He used bamboo and wood shards to create a multi-pronged spear and even added a small duct tape retrieval string and marked the center of balance to make it easier for him to throw. Once he got off the shore and into the water, he actually speared a small fish. True, he'd need a lot more than that to feed both of them, but it was successful and fun to watch. Adam, however, was running around in the jungle after feral chickens. Realizing that he could not catch one on foot, he first tried a simple snare trap with duct tape "wire" (which didn't work) and then made a net out of the duct tape with which to catch a passing chicken. The first chicken "caught" escaped through a hole in the side but the second was successfully captured. Then, Adam made the announcement that the chicken they would be seen eating in a later scene was store-bought and not the chicken he had just caught. The part he didn't explain is that feral chickens are protected as wildlife in Hawaii and cannot be captured without special permits/licenses. And Jamie didn't eat the fish he caught either. Both sat on the beach with their duct tape bag of fried chicken and duct tape platter of raw tuna and discussed how proud they were of their hunting abilities.

Adam created a "permanent camp" out of duct tape with hammocks and even a small table and stools with a duct tape chess set (to help them stay focused). It seemed odd that they'd try to make a "permanent camp" if they were trying to escape from the island, but it's television and if you try to reason it out too much you'll just give yourself a headache. Jamie made himself a surfboard out of duct tape and took it for a quick float in the ocean (he wasn't able to stand up on it). Finally, the guys made an outrigger canoe that surprisingly weighed just over 100 pounds from bamboo and duct tape that carried them and their "6-week supply of rations" out into the ocean. I was impressed that they were able to make it over the breaker waves without the boat twisting or sinking. Jamie even noted that the only water he was having to bail was what Adam was sloshing into the boat with his poor rowing skills. Finally, they "found land" and disembarked their canoe, only to find they were back on the same beach as before (cue comedic sound effects and rimshot).

And why wouldn't they return to the same beach? They never left it. Well, except to sleep and eat and get refreshed before continuing the shooting for each of the seven days they were out there. They did not sleep on their duct tape pads nor in their duct tape hammocks. They stayed at the Turtle Bay Resort with the rest of the crew and used locations that were utilized in the filming of the show Lost. That way, they knew were everything was an how easily to get their inventions built and useable. In one of the outtakes Adam makes a comment that there are too many footprints in the sand for it to be a deserted island. While it was fun to watch, it was quite disappointing to know that they weren't really trying to survive at any point. Sure, they showed how duct tape can work in many ways, but it still took all of the fun out of it. I'm sure they did it that way because the insurance companies wouldn't want Discovery losing two of their biggest stars.

And Discovery has used two of their biggest stars to hawk their new show Unchained Reaction. I'm not sure how much of it really is/isn't Adam and Jamie's idea, but having them introduce the theme, pretending to watch the building of the chain-reaction gags, and then coming out to "judge" and announce the winner doesn't really sell me that it's their idea. I wasn't impressed with the premiere episode, but I thought I'd give the second one a chance.

In the "Fire and Ice" episode, a team of aerospace engineers went up against a team of special effects specialists. They had to use fire and ice in their contraptions and had to have a minimum of five gags that would continuously set off the next as well as be innovative and entertaining. Halfway through the build, Adam and Jamie "gave" each team a compact car that they had to incorporate into the middle of their machine and it all had to be completed within five days.

The aerospace engineers did some really neat things with the fire and ice and showing fire making steam and melted ice (water) conducting electricity after salt was added when it was tripped into a tank. They even got the closest to a Rube Goldberg Machine concept because they stated that they wanted their machine to raise a flag at the end in a miniature moonscape diorama. Sadly, the beginning of their machine didn't work as planned but they did get the flag raised in the end, after nearly hitting Adam and Jamie and special guest judge Adam Sadowsky, president of Syyn Labs and creator of the Rube Goldberg machine for the OK Go video, with a rocket that flew across the room into a refrigerator to trigger the flag.

The special effects team didn't get as technical but were a lot flashier with their contraption. They used fire and ice in their gags as well as melting a huge block of ice in a cauldron of fire to turn a waterwheel underneath it to trigger another gag. They had explosive results and it was a lot of fun to watch. They won the contest because their machine worked and had no issues.

I think what I became the most tired of hearing throughout the show was how they were trying to impress Adam and Jamie. It was always "Adam and Jamie would want" this and "Adam and Jamie think like" that but Adam and Jamie aren't really in the show. I'll probably watch the next episode to see if the third time's the charm on getting me to like it. But at the moment, they could take Adam and Jamie out of it, make it about creating actual Rube Goldberg Machines (that have to complete a specific task) and it would be a lot more fun to watch.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I want another fence

What is it with stupid neighbors who don't understand property lines? The same ones we've been having issues with still haven't removed the concrete they poured almost two years ago that's on our side of the line. They also still haven't moved their bratty kid's tree (which isn't growing very well -- not my fault, I've not touched it).

Yesterday, the gentleman who mows our yard came and made sure that everything looks good for the beginning of spring. We even found some morel mushrooms growing in part of our yard. They're now surrounded by decorative wire fencing so that the stupid neighbors realize that (1) they're ours and (2) to leave them the heck alone. I plan on using them in something nice after they get a little bigger and I don't want their kids coming over and killing them. Our lawn mower even made sure to trim gently around them so they wouldn't be damaged and finished the yard by also making sure to trim around the line of marking string we stretched between the two pins denoting the property line between our house and our stupid neighbors.

Today, the stupid neighbors decided to mow their yard and promptly cut the string. Instead of attempting to repair it or letting us know (it is our string, after all), they threw it away. And, instead of digging-up and moving the little tree, they tried to make it better. Husband finally went out and spoke with Mr. Stupid Neighbor and informed him that we had agreed that when spring arrived, everything would be moved/removed/etc. so that we can expand our driveway to our property line as planned. Mr. Stupid Neighbor thought for some strange reason that we were going to sell him the strip of land his concrete is over the line and where the kid's tree is. He wants us to sell it to him because his property line on the other side of his house is actually inside the house on the other side of his. He never bothered to have a survey done and never knew that he bought a crappy plot of land.

Husband explained that we were not going to sell the strip of land and Mr. Stupid Neighbor said everything would be gone within the week. We'll see. But after their conversation, the bratty kids came out and were playing baseball, using our new fence as a backstop. And they nearly tripped over the metal "fencing" I placed around my mushrooms.

Maybe I can save enough money to have another fence built on our side of the line from where our privacy fence ends all the way to the pin at the front of the house (it marks the easement of the curb owned by the City). It wouldn't be a big fence. Just something nice and decorative. Something that wouldn't block anyone's view if they're pulling out of the driveway. Something that would give the stupid neighbors the idea that we take our land/house ownership seriously and don't want their kids or friends or vehicles or dogs in our yard unless we invite them.

And I don't see that happening anytime soon.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Officially (via post) unemployed.

March 24th, 2012 marks the end of the current appointment period. Per the Stafford Act and the Conditions of Employment, you have not been reappointed. However, you are free to apply for an appointment within another Cadre.
Not exactly the letter I was expecting to receive today, but there you have it. I've worked with the government since 2004 and as a temporary, intermittent employee, they can choose to reappoint or not at will. I thought my work was strong. I have never received a poor performance review. And I have even had people request for me to be on their team(s) because they know about my work ethic and ability to get the job done.

In one sense, I'm not happy. I don't know why the appointment wasn't renewed and I'm not used to having a job and then not having one without another lined-up waiting in the wings (it's actually quite embarrassing). In another sense, it now relieves the stress of what would happen should I be called-out to work in the immediate future before I finish my work with my doctors and therapists regarding my vision issues and how I'll be able to keep working with them. And, by not having to travel cross-country I don't have to worry about trying to get on a plane with Celeste and having issues with other passengers.

True, the job has always been temporary. It's kind of morbid, when you think about it, being the only person watching The Weather Channel and rooting for the hurricane so that there would be work so I could pay my bills. Oh, I'd always temper that with the hopes that no one would be killed or seriously injured. Just enough damages so I could use my skills helping others and making sure there's food on the table back home.

I've emailed my (now former) supervisors for a personal explanation -- just so I'll know whether or not it's worth trying to apply with another Cadre. If they're saying something awful about me that I don't know about, it would be foolish to put them down as a reference and apply with others who have or will hear the same things said. With today being Saturday, I know I probably won't get a response until Monday, if then (since everyone's busy). I hope that they'll be able to give me the information needed and perhaps suggest other Cadre managers that I should speak with regarding applying to work in their units where my education, experience, and talents would be well-suited.

Am I angry? No. Am I happy? No. My feelings at the moment are mixed -- which is not unusual for someone who's bi-polar. It's weird to think that a lot of my friends will continue their careers without me and we won't have those wonderful stories to tell together of the good and bad times we shared. Many of my friends taught me what it was like to work in this field; many of my other friends I helped get started on their way.

If nothing else, I can look back at 8 years of employment with the satisfaction that I did my job. I did it well. People were helped because of me. And even though I didn't always receive a "thank you" or a "kiss my backside" (depending on the situation), I was there and did the best I could. And knowing that my best helped others achieve their best, or at least attempt to get back to "normal" after what was possibly the "worst" time in their life, makes a big difference to me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Final test result received!

My neuro-opthalmalogist just called with the results of my ERG test I had last Friday. He apologized that he'd not contacted me earlier with the results. He thought that I still had the test to take and not that the results were waiting on his desk (since he runs the lab for the university).

The ERG (Electroretinography) came back normal. All of the little rods and cones in my retinas were firing signals to my brain during the test as they should, with the typical degeneration that would be seen in a 40-year-old patient. And he reviewed the MRI results again and said that there were no signs of strokes, tumors, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), or anything else that he could see that would be causing my optical problems.

I'm very relieved. At least we now know that there's not something incredibly serious and/or possibly life-threatening happening in my brain. The only down side (which he admitted as well) is that we still don't know why I can't see at night, why my vision cannot be corrected with glasses to better than 20/60 (bordering on not being legally able to drive at any time in our state), and why I have headaches so often every month. But the best thing I heard come out of his mouth was this -- that it's not just "all in my head." He believes there's something wrong and believes that I'm not making it up. Finally!!! Someone understands!!!

True, he did mention that all of this could just fix itself with time. That would be wonderful. How much time, though, isn't known. I can't put my life on hold waiting for something to magically happen. He also said that, technically, it could just get worse in time. That's not terribly reassuring either. But, he's got an idea to at least help me cope with it and make the best out of what vision I do have remaining.

He's going to refer me to the university's low-vision center/occupational therapy center. There, I can work with them using what I can do and find adaptive materials/equipment to help me be able to work and continue a "normal" life. Driving may still be an issue, but they can help me with that or at least help me get assistance with my employer for reasonable accommodation. And, with them being part of the same university, any marked changes -- better or worse -- can be noted and directed to my doctor quickly so that he can see me if needed and help us determine a more definite "diagnosis" of what's happening.

But, at least I know it's not something genetic that could pass-down to my sons and I know Husband is feeling much better knowing that there's not a ticking time bomb in my head. He said he always knew that I was crazy, so now knowing that there's nothing else wrong up there is fine with him.

I didn't get all of the answers I wanted, but I got what I needed. And, yes, I may be crazy -- but at least now the "it's-all-in-your-head diagnosis" can be laid to rest.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Youngest Son: Unplugged

Teenagers. They think they know it all. They think that they're the first person to ever think of or do something in the history of everything. They believe they're invincible, physically and emotionally, and that they can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and that parents will never know the difference.

Where have I heard this before? Oh....that's right! I posted about how Youngest Son tried to abuse his Facebook privileges and posted items that were not appropriate. And that post was only two days ago! And guess what? He tries to pull another stunt like I won't punish him twice in a week.

Today I allowed him to look at his Facebook page while I monitored everything he viewed. I only allowed him 15 minutes of time online because he's still on my naughty list for the previous infraction. Today, however, he did use common sense and didn't repost items from his friends and even avoided watching videos some had posted because he knows that the house rules say he's not allowed to open documents or watch videos without prior permission (because of the possibility of viruses, etc.).

This evening, he went into where the family computer is and asked Husband if he could look at his Facebook page. Husband was in the process of signing-in to a website and told him that he (Youngest Son) could not look at his Facebook page at that time because he (Husband) was using the computer. Youngest Son stomped into the living room where I was watching television. I had not heard anything from the other room and asked why he was so upset. He told me that Husband had stated that he (Husband) would never supervise him while he looks at his Facebook page and was upset about it.

I went into the other room and asked Husband why he wouldn't share the responsibility of supervising Youngest Son on the computer. Husband said that he didn't say that and called Youngest Son into the room. Finally, I got to the truth -- that Youngest Son had lied to me in order to try to get me to make Husband let him (Youngest Son) use the computer.

Wrong move.

My kids have known all their lives that one of the worst things to do is to try to play Husband and myself against each other. Asking for permission from one and getting rejected and running to the other to ask the same question hoping for a different answer is not allowed. And getting caught doing it, well, that's just going to make any punishment worse.

So, tonight I decided that Youngest Son needs a good example of just how much he won't die without Facebook. Or the Internet as a whole. Or his cell phone. Or any other electronic devices.

That's right. I've unplugged a 13-year-old, much to his disappointment, and he can now learn for the rest of this week and all of next week (into the weekend as well) what it was like when his father and I didn't have video games or text messaging or television (except when the news was on when our parents watched it). Nothing electronic will be allowed. Not even small toys that run on button batteries. He can read, draw, walk the dog -- lots of activities that generations of us did before every child seemed born with a Nintendo DS in their hands.

He'll only be allowed to have his cell phone when we leave home (in case of emergencies) and when he's at school (for emergencies only as well). No portable game systems. No console game systems. No MP3 players. He can use his calculator for math class but he won't because he doesn't need it. And he can listen to the radio when he's going to bed because he's got the same problem I have -- if it's too quiet when trying to go to sleep, sleep never comes.

And Husband and I won't be punishing ourselves through this. We can use all of the electronics we want. We can watch the only television in the house when we want (he'll just have to go to his room). And we can play all the video games we want, even though we won't. I've always hated it when trying to punish a child and ending up being on the receiving end of the same punishment (no television, etc.). Now he'll have to deal with hearing us going on with our lives while he contemplates the error of his ways.

Hopefully he will learn from this, even though it does give me an easy topic to blog about when nothing else happens during the day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Spike TV - Get off my lawn!

Yeah, I know. Spike TV is supposed to be the "all-guy"/"testosterone-only" television network with shows like Deadliest Warrior and 1000 Ways to Die. But, as I've fully admitted, I'm not a typical female. I've never been comfortable in frilly dresses or with lots of makeup (unless it's special effects makeup for Halloween or the theatre). I can't stand to walk past the annoying pink aisle in every toy store where every incantation of Barbie and her "friends" live. I like hunting, fishing, reenacting, shooting -- typical "guys-only" activities. The only dresses I own are either for Halloween/theatre costumes and my wedding dress (which I certainly can't fit into anymore).

So, anyone who personally knows me knows that watching Spike TV isn't that unusual for me. Tonight, Husband said he wanted to be sure to catch the season premieres of Auction Hunters and American Diggers. Auction Hunters usually isn't that bad. The personalities on the show -- Ton Jones and Allen Haff -- aren't annoying and do admit that they don't always strike it rich with what they buy. There's not a lot of staged "drama" as shown on other storage-unit-purchasing-shows. The guys are funny, honest about what they don't know, and occasionally find some really awesome items that make me wonder why I can't find the neat stuff they find around where I live.

But tonight's premiere of Auction Hunters was supposed to be a live show where the guys and other buyers would get to bid on four large vaults stuffed with a variety of items. Watching them were an invitation-only group of experts in militaria, precious metals, firearms, and other collectables; each of them were waiting for their chance to see what was pulled out of them and hoping to land a great bargain. Ton and Allen spent $5000 on one vault that they felt had the most items they could resell and make a big profit. Spike TV also agreed that whatever the profit they make, the network would match it dollar-for dollar to Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan. They even kept a countdown clock running throughout the show and commercials because the guys were limited to one hour to bid, buy, dig, and resell the items in any vault they purchased.

They found a lot of collectible toys, but no really valuable items in the toy pile that would have made them worth a lot. They also found a 1920s-era electric guitar made of aluminum and an amplifier made by the same company that sold for a decent price. They sold a business safe as well which was probably from the 1930s and received a decent amount of money. But, throughout the show the host kept telling them how much time they had left and Allen kept complaining that it was rude and distracting for him to do that. The clock kept ticking and they sold a 1980s boombox and a reproduction Dr. J uniform (packaged with an authentic autographed photo), but they still weren't out of the red. Finally, the last item they pulled out of a trunk -- a wheel-lock pistol -- sold for enough to give them a decent profit and the network said they'd boost the donation to $25,000. How scripted is that? It was painful to watch them sift through items and stack things in different areas instead of trying to sell something. I'd have pulled out a box, seen what was inside of it, and put it up for auction to the crowd. They were invited there to purchase items, so you know they had money to spend. But, Allen and Ton just kept digging and arguing until the last second (literally) when they sold the huge pile of "collectible" toys. And I say "collectible" in quotation marks because the types of toys they found were made for the collectors' market, which means they're not because no one would ever play with them.

After that was over, I figured I'd give American Diggers a chance since it's only a 30-minute show. That was 30 minutes of my life I'll never get back.

The idea behind American Diggers is that Ric Savage, a former professional wrestler (of only 7 years) and his crew drive around America looking for places that might have a historical significance and ask the property owners if they can dig on their land. Tonight's premiere episode was in Alaska as they were trying to find relics from the gold rush. I couldn't help but laugh hysterically as the first houses they went to had owners that didn't want them anywhere near their property. One guy finally agreed to let them dig and agreed to a 70-30 split of the profits. So, Ric and his crew went out and found a few cool items (a bear trap, pick axe head, two-man saw, panning tin) and brought them into town and sold them at a local antique mall. They then returned to the land-owner and divvied-up the profits.

They're lucky they weren't in our area or where I used to live. The people in these areas are well-known for greeting strangers at the door with a minimum of one firearm and perhaps a large growling animal. I'm also not sure about this show because in the description online it says they "target areas such as battlefields and historic sites." If they attempt to do their digging on a national battlefield, they'll have a nice surprise when the historic preservation organizations and the law enforcement authorities show up since unauthorized relic hunting is illegal. Even if they don't find anything "of worth" in their digs, going onto national park lands and many historical sites with the intention of relic hunting is illegal.

And the Spike TV website says that they have found lots of Civil War bullets, Civil War artillery shell fragments, and Native American arrow and axe heads. By the way, "arrow heads" are called "projectile points" in the archeology/anthropology/historic preservation communities. Obviously, these guys aren't really interested in preservation of any sort, except for their bank accounts.

I don't think the show will last past the episodes already taped, but I could be wrong. I doubt it, but I could be wrong. There are already lots of preservation/collection publications that also educate their readers on what they've found and how to avoid being scammed. This guy's show (and magazine by the same name) is just wading into the deep end of a genre that doesn't really need another player that more than likely will sink instead of swim.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Youngest Son in deep doo-doo tonight!

Teenagers. They think they know it all. They think that they're the first person to ever think of or do something in the history of everything. They believe they're invincible, physically and emotionally, and that they can do what they want, when they want, how they want, and that parents will never know the difference.

They're wrong, of course. Dead wrong. Really wrong. Absolutely wrong. Hysterically wrong, even.

And just as I was about to post on my blog that nothing of any interest happened today other than hours and hours of rain, thunder, and lightning, I saw it. I went to my Facebook account to see what my family/friends have been up to over the past few hours and enjoy some pleasant entertainment. Little did I know that I would be seeing things -- suggestive photos, offensive phrases, etc. -- in my news feed. Not from my adult friends, but from Youngest Son.

I loudly yelled for him to come into where the family computer is and asked him what in his little head thought that posting or liking these items was appropriate. He denied clicking on one but said that the second photo was funny. He'd only looked at the top of the photo and didn't see the graphic imagery in the bottom. He also had "liked" a page about a cartoon character that I reviewed and found every-other post had something offensive, or at least inappropriate for a teenager, in them. And this wasn't for a cartoon character designed for adults (i.e. Family Guy, The Simpsons, anything from "Adult Swim," etc.). This was for a kids' cartoon show -- so obviously this was not an authorized page.

He'd finally earned between 5 and 10 minutes of Internet time to check his emails and Facebook page without us having to stand directly over him. Guess what's happened to that?

I made sure to post on his page using his account (since I don't allow my children to have Internet accounts for which I don't have password access) so that all of his "friends" would see the new rules. Any future inappropriate posts by him will be deleted and any inappropriate posts to his page by his "friends" will be deleted and reported to Facebook. And the "friendship" just might be terminated as well.

I respect his privacy as a person by allowing him to do those things which need to be done in private behind closed doors (bathing, dressing, etc.). But, as his parent, I assert my ability to check on anything he has or brings into the house to ensure that it is deemed appropriate for a teenager and not something that we do not allow. That includes anything "brought into" the house via the Internet. My house; my rules. And his older brother can attest to the fact that those rules are absolute -- he got caught a few times with inappropriate items and faced consequences for it. As long as someone is residing in my house without paying rent, their share of the utilities, and insurance, I get to see everything. And with Husband having previously worked at one of our state's penitentiaries, he's very good at quickly turning-out a room to make sure nothing is hidden.

Eldest Son has tried many times to warn Youngest Son about how things are going to be as he grows up. With the 10-year difference in their ages, Eldest Son knows what Youngest Son will be facing in school with friends and enemies alike. He's tried and tried to warn Youngest Son that "Mom isn't stupid! She will find out! And your dad will too and if he finds out first he won't hide it from Mom!"

Poor, poor Youngest Son. He thinks he's so mature. He has no idea just how much more maturing he's still got to do. And he'll be doing it without the company of a lot of friends if he doesn't straighten his act up now.

Monday, March 19, 2012

One test result finished....

Got a call from my neuro-opthalmologist today. He received the results of my MRI from Friday and wanted to let me know that everything on it was fine. I was quite relieved 'cause usually any time a doctor calls you so soon after a test it's not always good news. He was happy to report that there are no tumors or lesions or signs of any strokes. The bad news is that it still leaves us with no answer as to what's causing my vision to decrease so rapidly.

I still have the results from the ERG to receive. Maybe they'll give us some answers. I asked him what would happen if that test came back that everything was fine, too? He said he wasn't sure and maybe it would be something that would fix itself in time.

Fix itself? In time? When you have to work for a living and you're already limited in some ways by another disability, you don't really have time to wait to see if things get better. I've tried applying for a new job closer to home but, even though they're not legally supposed to discriminate, I can tell that finding a new job while having a service dog with me isn't most employers' idea of an "ideal employee." Regardless of the fact that she wouldn't impede my or anyone else's work and the company/organization wouldn't have to do anything other than provide a reasonable accommodation for the two of us, I can see by the look in their eyes that their minds are already made up but they can always cover it by saying the usual ol' standby excuse I get, "You're overqualified for this position."

Guess I'll go back to the waiting game until I hear about the other test. This week is Spring Break for Youngest Son. Would like to take him somewhere fun but (1) Husband can't get off work, (2) can't really afford it with the medical bills, and (3) it's forecast to rain like the dickens here every day this week. Maybe we'll take a day and have a "Harry Potter" or "Star Wars" marathon and eat nothing but junk food. He may not like the idea as much but I think it's pretty darned awesome.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Discovery's "Unchained Reaction" premiere - Meh...

When I heard that Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman were going to "sponsor" a new show on Discovery Channel, I figured that it would be entertaining and educational, just like Mythbusters. I knew it couldn't possibly be as good as Mythbusters because the guys weren't going to be in the show. They just present the task for the episode and "watch" until it's time to judge the efforts.

Unchained Reaction at first sounded like an awesome idea because everyone enjoys seeing Rube Goldberg machines and even the Mythbusters had created one for the holiday season one year and showed how hard it can be to get it to work correctly. However, the official definition of a Rube Goldberg machine is that it's an overly complex invention used to perform a simple operation. If you've ever played the board game Mousetrap, you've used a Rube Goldberg machine. Many cartoons throughout the years have shown Rube Goldberg machines for everything from waking a sleeping person to peeling a banana. They're fun to see and even more fun to try to create in your mind. Youngest Son keeps telling me he wants to make one. I discourage him only because (1) he doesn't really have a task for it to perform and (2) I'm afraid of the damage it will cause my house.

The new show, however, doesn't give the teams a specific task to perform. There's a theme for the program -- such as heavy-versus-light and fire-and-ice -- but no ending operation that has to be completed. That would make sense on why they don't refer to the contraptions that are built as Rube Goldberg machines. The teams are given five days and the same materials with which to make their contraptions. When I saw the previews, I thought they'd be competing to see which could complete the task in the most inventive way. They are judged on their inventiveness, but without the common task at the end, it's just not as thrilling. Well, it's not as thrilling to me, anyway.

Rube Goldberg machines have become more and more popular recently. As mentioned above, the Mythbusters completed a very complex one for their show. The band OK Go made a music video that incorporated a large Rube Goldberg machine that assisted in playing some of the music and giving the "big finale" at the end. Some companies are even putting them into their commercials as entertainment and to stimulate consideration of their product, as if they could design one then their product must be just as ingenious.

However, watching two groups trying to sift through a pile of junk to create a "machine" which doesn't perform an actual operation other than to have one gag trigger another isn't quite as interesting. In the premiere episode, they paired-off a group of electrical engineers and a movie set/prop construction team. Right from the beginning it was obvious who was going to win. The winning team had the advantage of practical building experience, a firm understanding of what Jamie and Adam wanted to see, and the ability to work together. (Hope I didn't spoil it for you if you didn't see it.)

Maybe the next episode will be better. But if they can't get them to have a reason for the machines or at least show more of the building and less talking about what Adam and Jamie are "watching" (it's SO obvious they're not "tuning-in" via their laptop), then I don't know if I'll be able to watch the whole series. And that will be quite disappointing.

I'll give it another shot next week. For now, I'll just look forward to the season premier of Mythbusters as they have their "Duct Tape Island" episode.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Am-Dram: WE DID IT!!!

Congratulations!!! Our last performance tonight was awesome! We had a great audience and everyone remembered (most of) their lines!

I got there early (as usual) to help re-set the "stage" and make sure the props were ready for the actors. I did the speciality makeup for those who needed it and started watching as the audience arrived. A few at first, which was nice but they also were very early. We didn't open our doors for ticket sales until 6:30 p.m. and some were arriving as early as 6 p.m., which is unusual for a small community theatre production. Then when we opened the doors, more and more people arrived. And more people. And then a gentleman brushed past me "backstage" and asked if there were more chairs. I had no idea who he was or what he was talking about (found out later that it was the husband of one of the Board members). I looked out from my hiding place and the seats were full! He and a friend of his added more chairs. About 15 minutes later, they came back and got more chairs.

I told the director that we were still selling tickets and I'd decided to hold the house (meaning we wouldn't start the show on-time so more people could get in and seated). I kept watching the people coming in. Some didn't sit in the folding chairs provided -- they decided to sit on the small benches built-into the columns. People were all trying to make sure they had a great view.

The next thing I knew, the actors were taking the stage. I hadn't told the director that we were ready yet -- he'd just given them their pep-talk and said to "Get out there and do it!" So they did. And people were still buying tickets. But, they're onstage so we've got to get started. I walked out and thanked everyone for coming and gave the usual spiel about silencing cell phones and keeping conversations to a minimum but encouraging them to laugh and enjoy the show.

And, boy, did they laugh! The audience got all of the jokes, "oohed" and "aahed" when they realized something was going to happen, and gave the cast a standing ovation at the end. All of the actors did very well and I was very, very proud to be their technical director/designer/stage manager/prop master/everything else that needed to be done person. We had a great company and I wish we could have done more shows. We wanted to do more than two, but next week is Spring Break and most of our cast (either being a teacher or working with the school district) will be gone. Oh well, our two performances will be remembered for quite a while.

Now we just have to think about what show to do next. I'll be helping Youngest Son's junior high with their production of "The Borrowers" in April. Maybe we'll do another show in the fall. But for now, I'm going to put my black clothes and makeup kit away for a little while.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Yup, brain's still in there....

Finally home from across the state!! Had to go there with Husband again to have an ERG and an MRI and the ophthalmologist wanted them done where he was so he'd be sure to get the results quickly.

The ERG is an electroretinography -- they put six or seven different drops in your eyes; put electrodes on your face and a "wire" (feels like a hair) inside your eyelid; and make you sit in a dark room with your eyes shut for 20 minutes before putting your head into a machine and flashing bright lights into your eyes while constantly saying, "Don't blink!" Fortunately, the technician I had let me blink every now and then, but I kept wanting to reach up and move the "hair" out of my eye before remembering that it was supposed to be there. And I asked what I was supposed to be looking at since I felt like my eyes were paralyzed. She said there was a red dot at the back. I saw three red dots and asked which one. She said there was only one in there. Wondering how this test is going to turn out....

Then I had to go down to have an MRI of my brain and optic nerve. I'm claustrophobic and was not really happy that I had to be in one of the closed-style MRIs, but they at least put some good music into my headphones so I could listen to it instead of thinking about being a large person in a small tube and hearing the magnet whirl around and around. It took about an hour and at least they confirmed that my brain is still in there, so I feel better for that.

Now comes the waiting game. Usually, they said, the results are known within 24 to 48 hours. With this being a weekend, I have no idea how long it will take. I'm just gonna relax for the rest of the evening and save my energy for tomorrow night's last theatre production.

G'nite everybody!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Am-Dram: It's opening night!!!

Opening night finally came and went and it was great! Oh sure, there were parts of scenes that were skipped and people forgetting lines or props, but that happens every opening night. Fortunately, the audience didn't notice the errors and the actors kept right on going. I kept a close eye on the prompt book to make sure I could give cues to people when their "normal" cues were missed so they could get onstage. We even had one actor stuck "upstairs" because his whole introduction in one part had been omitted. I found a spot for him to enter and we at least were able to get him where he needed to be. I'm very, very happy about the production we gave.

There were some non-theatre-related things that happened tonight that drove me insane. First, the doors weren't supposed to open to the public until 6:30 p.m. The place where we were having the play, though, has its doors unlocked until 9 p.m. every night, so people were coming in and sitting down without realizing it was a play. Once we got them to buy tickets, we were trying to figure out some rough sections but there were people in the audience and we didn't want them seeing what we were doing. I also had to get two of the actors' makeup completed and on the way into the building the shoulder strap of my kit had come undone and it flipped on its side. When I opened it, everything was mixed-up and it took me a little while to find what I needed. Being a OCD makeup designer and expecting to find everything "in its place" had me frazzled for a bit.

But the most irritating/stupidest things that happened tonight happened around Celeste. She was "backstage" (we didn't really have a stage so we couldn't have a "back," just an area where we would hide) and while I was organizing props on one table, one of the other actor's friends/family came back there and started petting her. Husband pointed out the "DO NOT PET" signs on her backpack and the people were like, "So?" He had to tell them to stop and go away before they would. Then -- and this one stunned all of the people standing around me -- our assistant director was sitting at the table selling tickets and eating her dinner. I'd seen her having some rice and something Chinese and trying to keep from making a mess before the audience arrived. While I was "backstage" again, two older boys came up to me and said, "We spilled some rice up front. Can we use your service dog to go eat it and clean it up for us?"

I (insert slang word for human excrement) you not. They really came back and asked to use my service dog as a Hoover to clean their mess. I was stunned. Everyone else around me was stunned. It was all some could do to keep from laughing and I could tell they wanted to but were afraid I'd be angrier if they did. I gave them a very terse "NO!" and told them to get away from me. I didn't care about being polite at that time. I was counting-down to the beginning of the show and couldn't believe the stupidity of the question. Of course, during the play when people would be "backstage" and drop something they'd tease me and ask if she could eat it for them. It's kind of funny as I look back on it. But the funny bit is really overshadowed by the ignorance and rudeness of what happened.

So, at least I survived opening night. If it was a complete bomb I'd planned to post the opening song from "The Producers" Broadway show (even though I never really thought it would be one). Fortunately, it was awesome and we've got another show Saturday night. Tomorrow I'll be having my brains scanned again, so maybe I'll get a nap. I'll let ya' know how it goes when I get home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A nice teaching event today

*Whew!!* No theatre today. No rehearsal. No frantically trying to find props. Only have to get Husband to practice his lines tonight so we'll be ready for opening night tomorrow. Have been trying to spend today not thinking about the production for a change. I've not been successful at it, but I've been trying.

I did get to see my therapist today. She could tell that things haven't been going so well. She asked how last Wednesday's appointment was. I told her and said she should read my blog for more details. She asked how the show was progressing. Again, I told her and said she should read my blog. She asked if blogging has been helping and I wasn't sure what to say. I think it has but then there are days I wonder. Plus, she thought it was a great idea and a good way to keep-up with what I'm doing/feeling/etc. but hasn't been reading it. Glad I post for myself and not for her.

In the waiting room today there were small children. Two were about 6 or 7 years old, another was younger, and another was not quite 2 years old. Of course, when Celeste and I walked-in, she became the center of attention. Parents started trying to grab their kids and the "Don't touch the doggie!" chants started. The toddler ran to her and hugged her before his mother could grab him. When they're at that age where they don't understand what a working dog is and can't communicate themselves, I look to the parents to keep their kids in line. The mother apologized profusely but the little boy was just fascinated. She kept telling him "No" and pulling him away from Celeste while trying to get him interested in some of the toys they'd brought.

Having seen the toddler do this, the other three came over and started to pet Celeste. Their parents tried to grab them away from her and apologized. I told them not to move the kids but I also told the kids to not touch her. I then explained, in simple terms, that she is a working dog and cannot be petted by others. Of course, the kids looked at me like I was some insane lady and by now the toddler had snuck back over and gave Celeste a big wet kiss. She wasn't happy about it, but she wasn't going to do anything, either, since that would be against her training.

I had Celeste and the children sit on the floor. Every now and then they'd try to sneak a pet or try to get her to kiss them. I showed them her vest and backpack and for the ones that could read I showed them the "DO NOT PET" patches. I explained that she has to be paying attention to me and that if someone bothers her, she can't do her job which makes her upset because she's a working dog. The older boy asked if she was like the police dog they'd met at an event in town. I said that the police dog is a working dog too but that he and Celeste don't do the same jobs. His mother said, "Remember when the police officer said you couldn't pet him until he said it was okay?" and the boy replied that he did. I said that the same rules would apply to Celeste and any other dog with a vest or backpack that they might see. The youngest girl was quickly bored and wandered off but the older kids were fascinated. I explained that they should never touch a working dog unless they've asked the owner/handler first for permission. And I told them that they have to get the permission first because some working dogs can't be petted or played with and to never try to pet a dog they don't know. The two kept reminding each other about the "DO NOT PET" patches and asking first as they caught the other trying to sneak another pat on the head.

When the parents and children left, one of the other patients came into the waiting room and said how beautiful Celeste is and asked if she was trained or if I was training her. I explained that she is a service dog and assists me all day, every day. She told me how blessed I am to have a dog like her and that I must feel very lucky, which I do and I agreed with her. She asked me if I minded talking about Celeste and what she does for me. I told her that I didn't mind and the lady volunteered that she has PTSD and always wondered if a service dog could help. I could see my therapist looking out of the doorway at us and I said that Celeste has helped me immensely before she began to tell the lady what a major change in me she's seen and how much she enjoys Celeste being in our sessions.

The lady began to ask more questions -- What is it like to have the dog with you? Do you have problems going places? What does she do for you? All the typical questions that are usually asked (and not always to my face when people think I'm blind or deaf and can't hear them). I answered her and we talked for a moment about how my life has changed in both good ways and bad. I told her that once you have a service dog you can't hide your disability because there's a four-legged "billboard" basically announcing it and that there are times that the public just doesn't (or won't) understand why you have one when you "look just fine." She said she'd never thought about that but for her she'd rather have the "billboard" and could deal with stupid comments on her own. We laughed and my therapist said she'd talk to the lady's therapist about whether he/she believed that a service dog would be a good addition to her treatment. Then the lady thanked me and I went in for my session.

I'd been feeling really frazzled and angry over the past few days, but getting to sit and educate others on service dogs and how they can help people with "invisible disabilities" was awesome. When I left for my appointment I could barely stand to be anywhere and was just sure I was going to scream or cry or do something because everything had been so negative recently. Watching the kids understand to not disturb a working dog and helping another PTSD survivor realize that there is another way without tons of medication to mitigate your disability was very therapeutic. Even more therapeutic than the therapy session -- and I didn't have to pay for what I did in the waiting room.

Maybe I'll actually get a chance to sleep tonight. I probably won't since I'm sure the voices (which have already started again) will be reminding me of every little thing that has been going wrong with the show and worrying about my doctor appointment on Friday when I try to go to bed. But at least today I feel like I've accomplished something positive. And for now, that will do.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Am-Dram: Stress level critical....

Just got home from last dress rehearsal for our production. Not very happy. Actually, there are lots of people not very happy at the moment. Director came and helped bring in new set pieces early (which I greatly appreciated) and then left for the local school's junior high band concert. Myself, Husband, and another actor in the production all had to miss seeing our children in the concert because we had to be there for rehearsal. I spent over an hour by myself trying to set-up the "stage" because no one from the community theatre "community" has volunteered to help with sets or props (except for the people in the show and I really, really appreciate them for that). I tried to answer questions on why things were set-up like they were (I changed the arrangement of the furniture so people would get on-and-offstage quickly) and why we couldn't have things we wanted and why things we had before we didn't.

All I could do until the assistant director arrived was apologize and make-up answers the best I could. I have no authority over the building we're using and I have no authority on the Board to make decisions. I even tried to placate the press representative (which we need because we've not had much advertising) into staying for just a few moments longer to get really good photos of the main actors who were coming in but a little later than we expected.

We didn't finish the run-through tonight. Lots of lines and entrances were missed. I told everyone before the rehearsal that I was not going to be giving lines tonight. I hope they all take the next day (we don't have a rehearsal tomorrow and we open on Thursday) and review, review, review.

Me? My Xanax and I have a date tonight. And tomorrow. And I have to see my therapist tomorrow, too. I just want to get through Thursday -- then I can deal with the new crises called "Friday" and "Saturday."

Monday, March 12, 2012

Am-Dram is harder than it looks!

Well, the countdown has started. Things are starting to fall into place, but many other things are still really in need of help.

Our first dress rehearsal for our community theatre's play is over. And we've only got one more to go.

Sadly, because it's a play and not a musical, not as many people will come to see it. We know that already. When we did Seussical: The Musical in 2010, we didn't sell-out any productions but we filled the theatre very well. That's because when you have a huge cast and the majority of them are children, you get all of the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, distant cousins, etc. lining-up early for tickets. This production of Arsenic and Old Lace is adult-oriented and has no children's parts. For that reason alone, we're not predicting a high turn-out for the show. We'll have people who come to see all of the shows and everyone who comes should enjoy it. We've even censored the language (not that there was much of it to begin with) to make it a family-friendly show.

Because it's going to be a smaller production, we couldn't afford to use the main community center theatre like we did for Seussical. It would be too expensive and even though I'm the technical designer/director for the show, the community center requires us to hire someone specific to run the lights and sound equipment, which is another cost on top of just using the theatre. There's stuff going on all around town and the school's theatre wouldn't be available and we even had to cancel one night's performance before we started because of an event happening in the same place where we'll be performing. We're using the lobby of the community center because it has a large staircase (for Teddy to run up-and-down) and it's cheap. The downside of it is that we (1) don't have any theatrical lighting so everything has to be done either practically (with actual lamps and candles) or imagined, (2) the area echoes badly and the sound of some actors gets lost in the rafters, (3) the audience will be the edge of the performance area (and some performing will take place in the audience), and (4) other people will be coming in-and-out of the building and we don't have any solid walls to keep external sound out. It's a technical nightmare -- and could explain why I've been feeling bad lately. If my name is on something, I want it right and as close to perfect as it can be. This is not easy.

Another downside to community theatre is that it's all volunteer. I'm not saying that I don't enjoy doing this. Volunteering my time/effort is enjoyable for me. However, I love our actors dearly but it's not the same -- you can tell them to be quiet backstage or to not go around the curtains where the audience can see them but that doesn't mean they'll listen to you. It's like herding cats at times.

But there are a lot of good things about doing this show, too. I'm meeting people in town that I would never have gotten to meet otherwise. We're becoming a close "company" and having a lot of fun when we're together. Everyone is enjoying seeing each other and helping each other with their lines, props, and costumes. Plus, with the exception of Eldest Son who's off across the state in college, I'm finally getting to do a theatrical production with all of my immediate family members. Youngest Son is helping-out backstage with props (because there are no parts for kids) and I even convinced Husband to audition and he will be playing Dr. Einstein. It's a fun activity to do together and I've enjoyed helping them learn more about something I'm very excited about.

Tonight was our first night "onstage" in our production area. A lot of lines were forgotten. Some actors were unavailable. Not all of the props and scenery made it to the venue. But everyone did their best. If they keep it up for our last dress rehearsal tomorrow and into our production nights, we'll be fine. If they remember how excited they were when they first got the parts and deliver their lines like they did in our first read-through, we'll be awesome.

Oh, and for those who don't know, "Am-Dram" stands for "amateur dramatics" and, no, I don't allow anyone around me to use the name of The Scottish Play. I'd say "break a leg" but I did that onstage in college and don't want to curse anyone else with it.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Daily post for 3/11/12

Okay. I'm upright. I can type. I feel like death warmed-over, but since I can post that's what I'm doing. I don't have a topic. I've spent the majority of the day feeling nauseous and my chest hurting. I'm pretty sure it's just stress over the play this week as well as my doctor appointment on Friday. Husband and Youngest Son are taking care of me and I appreciate it greatly. And now, I'm going to lay down again.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Good riddance, Petland!!!

I'm feeling much better today, so I don't think I'll be ripping my own head off anytime soon as was considered yesterday. I did take some medication, put ice on my head, and took a long nap until Husband and Youngest Son got home from work and school, respectively. I was hoping yesterday that today's weather would be good and I was surprised. It's not only good today, it's awesome! So nice and just the right temperature with just a hint of a breeze to make you feel like springtime is here.

Today we went and took Harley to the groomers at SetPmart. She needed a bath and her nails ground again. I clip them often but it's much nicer after they've ground them down with the Dremel tool because she's much quieter on the hardwood floors. I know Cat doesn't like it because Harley can sneak up on her, but I find it enjoyable. We decided that since there was still the chance of cold weather in this area for the next few weeks we wouldn't get her "Spring Shave" done until the weather stays warmer for a while. Now because she's part poodle, she's all fluffy and "poofy" but still has the schnauzer face. I know it won't last because she's not a girly dog and has already attempted to roll in something unpleasant in the backyard already.

One thing I was very glad to see in the town we visited is that another pet store -- Petland -- has gone out of business. They're notorious for selling dogs from puppy mills and even though they'll tell you they don't it's so obvious they do. I went into that store once when Cody (my previous service dog) was getting older and thought about self-training another sheltie to take-over his job (that's before the state laws were changed and you could train your own service dog). I'd been to the shelters and pounds and Humane Society kennels and hadn't found a sheltie. I thought, just for giggles, I'd go into Petland and see what they had. They were stocked with all of the designer dogs and purebred puppies everyone has been trying to get their hands on. So many kids were sitting in the little "viewing boxes" where they could play with a puppy while their parents sat there and listened to the kid promise and promise to take care of it every day as they were actually trying to decide how to finance the cost of the dog because, being a designer dog, they were very expensive.

I looked around and finally one of the underpaid worker-drones came up and asked if there was something specific for which I was looking. I said that I was looking for a sheltie because my current service dog was getting ready to retire and I wanted to have another of the same breed so that they would bond and the new one could learn quickly from the old one. She said that they didn't have any there that day. I feigned disappointment (I knew about the company and wasn't going to buy one of their dogs anyway) and thanked her for her help. She told me to wait a moment and ran off to the back room. She quickly came back with a piece of paper that said if I paid $1000 that day I could have a sheltie puppy in a week.

What?? No reputable breeder is going to just happen to have new puppies available johnny-on-the-spot. The only way you get what you want, when you want is when you use a vending machine -- and that's just what puppy mills are like. They cram dogs into small wire cages and breed the heck out of them. Then when they're no good for breeding or have gotten older, they dump them or, usually, kill them. Puppy mill dogs are so inbred they have many diseases and deformities that aren't identified to the new owners who take their lovely/expensive new puppy home and watch it begin to get sicker and sicker, if it doesn't just up and die first.

Cody was a rescued puppy mill dog. They used him as a breeder and dumped him when he got older. You could tell he'd never had human contact. Food was just pushed into a cage and if it stayed there he could eat and if it spilled that was too bad for him. He had no idea how to play. You could roll a ball towards him and he'd either look at it as if it was something amazing or he'd run and hide. When we got him after he'd been dumped, they'd shaved all of his beautiful long fur off except for his head and tail. Many puppy mills will do that so they don't have to worry about the dogs' coats getting matted or caught in a cage if they're a profit-making dog. If they're just one of the many waiting to be sold, they often don't care what happens.

I told the Petland clerk that I was not interested in a puppy mill dog and she became quite angry that I would even suggest that their dogs came from puppy mills. I told her that I'd reconsider my opinion if she would provide me with the name and phone number of the breeder so that I could check him/her out and see what types of reports might have been filed by other puppy owners from their dams and sires. She said she couldn't give me the information because I might go to the breeder and just buy the dog myself there instead of through the store. I asked for just the name of the breeder so I could check with the AKC (American Kennel Club) and the Department of Agriculture (that inspects breeders) to make sure I'd be getting a healthy dog. The clerk adamantly told me that she could not give me that information and that my puppy would be healthy because they have a vet on-staff (next door) who checks all of the puppies as they come into the store.

Sure, I'm going to trust a veterinarian that I've never met; never seen references regarding; and who isn't always there at that store to check-over an animal that the company plans to make a large profit on and believe that they're not being pressured to say everything is okey-dokey. I even went back to the vet's office and couldn't get any specific information on the vet, where he/she went to school, their specialties, etc.

After this encounter I saw reports on the news about Petland and how many groups were protesting their sale of puppy mill dogs. The state where I live is one of the largest puppy mill "sanctuaries" because people don't report the owners of the puppy mills and, if you did try to report them, they have no problem showing you by force (usually through the end of a firearm) that they don't want you messing in their business. There are many veterinarians in and near the town in which I live that I researched before I ever took my pets to one when we moved here that had many, MANY bad references and notices online for dealing with puppy mill dogs and signing health certificates of dogs that were transported across the country to new owners -- only to have the puppy become critically ill or die soon after arrival.

I am SO happy that Petland is closed. Okay, yes, if people want to argue about it, it's not good that there are workers from the store who now don't have jobs in this poor economy. But, I usually do research on any company/organization with whom I'm applying for a job, so if I knew that Petland was marketing in puppy mill dogs, I'd never work there. I'd rather work somewhere else for less pay than to watch the dogs suffer as they come in, aren't well, and are handled repeatedly by people who are "just looking" and can't really give the dog a forever home. Heck, I'd work part-time for minimum wage at the local pound or shelter before I'd take a full-time higher-paying job at a store like Petland. What kills me is that the website for this particular store is still up and the parent company is still taking "special orders" and operating out of another town. They had said they were closed for remodeling. Guess it was to remodel their way the heck out-of-town.

As I walked into SetPmart to pick up Harley from her beauty appointment, I took a moment and looked at the dogs and cats inside and outside the store that three different shelters had brought in hopes that they would be adopted. I saw many families looking at the dogs and playing with them. The puppies were obviously the most popular ones but I saw a few looking at some of the older dogs and even overheard one family saying they wanted to adopt an older dog because it wouldn't chew-up the house and they wanted to give it the best last years it could have. I smiled and looked down at Celeste who was staring at me as if to say, "You already have another pest in the house. You don't need any more." I scratched her ears and smiled at the shelter personnel and the families there. True, when Celeste's time comes to retire I'll have to have another certified service dog and will 99% get one from the breeder/trainer where I got Celeste. But when Harley's old and gray and her time here on earth is over, I'll definitely be back at the shelter. And whether it's a puppy or a senior dog, it doesn't matter. Shelter animals love you even more because they know that you've just saved their life and they'll do anything to make yours happy and safe.

Friday, March 9, 2012

I hate my head today

Okay....quick post because I said that if I could be upright and use the computer that I'd have to post each day. Well, I'm upright. I think I'm using the computer correctly. But my head is screaming at me today.

Yup, it's a migraine day.

I wouldn't even be up on the computer if the ophthalmologist's office hadn't called to schedule my ERG and MRI for next week. Actually, when they heard I was having a migraine they said they wish they'd been able to do one now. Too bad for them. My head and I are going back to lay down with ice on it to try to get rid of this.

So, there's the post for today. Hope you liked it. I'm not even sure what it says of if any is spelled correctly. I'm just trying to check-off my "duty" to post today.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Same info, different day - The continuing rant

Well, now that my eyes are working again I can get back to the rant I so wanted to start yesterday but had problems seeing my own fingers, much less the keyboard or the monitor.

Let's catch everyone up in the ongoing saga. A few posts back I related the story of what's been happening recently regarding my vision and the lack thereof. I've seen my optometrist; been referred to a glaucoma specialist; been referred to a retinal specialist; have had multiple versions of two different tests taken at each appointment; and was finally being referred to a neuro-ophthalmologist at a large, prestigious college/hospital across the state from me in order to determine what in the heck is happening. Yesterday, Husband and I drove three hours so I could have the scans and exams needed to identify the problem. I'd been advised that it would take a minimum of three hours for everything and readied myself for being shoved into large machines to determine what, if anything, is in there with my eyes and my brain that could be causing the problem.

After arriving at the doctor's office, I was quickly ushered back to a room where a technician asked me a lot of questions about my past medical history and asked me to read letters on the eye chart with my glasses on because my new prescription isn't correcting me to 20/20 (which is what got this whole thing started). She then had me stare at a notepad with a grid on it and asked me to describe what the lines looked like. With one eye I could only see half of the grid and with the other it looked like the lines were wavy and my brain was trying to make sense of it and I started seeing boxes "popping-up" from the page. She looked at me and scribbled notes on her paper. She gave me a color-vision test, which I'm pretty sure I passed easily other than perhaps mistaking a "6" for an "8" because those dots are so small. She asked me more questions, dilated my eyes, and checked the pressure inside of them. It was normal, as I could have told her. In fact, it was lower than it's been in the past few exams.

Then, and here's where I started to get irritated, she asked me why I was there. I told her it was because I was referred by a retinal specialist who said he couldn't help me because a glaucoma specialist said I didn't have glaucoma and that I should see said retinal specialist and that his office was to have emailed my files to this doctor who is part of the same practice and if they needed the files they could go down the hallway to get them. She nodded and wrote more information down on her paper and finally looked in the computer and found the notes from the retinal specialist. She asked me to go out into the smaller waiting room and wait for the doctor.

Celeste was with me (of course) and we made our way to a small seating area to wait. Upon arriving at the seating area, a large African-American woman began to jump up-and-down and grab everything she owned and kept repeating, "It's a dog! It's a dog!" Great....the last thing I needed....someone to cause a scene because my service dog is with me and they don't like them. I calmly replied to the lady that, yes, she is a dog but that she's a trained service dog and would not bother her. The woman continued to try to find a seat -- any seat -- near where her stuff was but not close to us. She nearly sat on two other ladies patiently waiting their turn or for someone who was being seen. She continued to protest loudly that she didn't like dogs and that there was a dog near her and she didn't like it. I had already scanned the room with what vision I had after my eyes were fully dilated and saw no other vacant seats except the one I chose which also gave Celeste a small area to lay down so that should would be out of the main flow of traffic. I sat down and said, in as polite of a voice as I could muster by this time, that Celeste would not come near her and would stay under my seat by my feet. This did nothing to appease the woman who began to tell me that I couldn't sit with the dog and continued to make a scene. Finally, and I know I shouldn't have, I replied, "Look! If you'd sit down and shut up, she wouldn't pay any attention to you because she is trained to keep her focus on me! Your tantrum is actually putting me in danger because she thinks you could be a threat and is now not paying attention to me as she is supposed to. Be quiet and don't look at her!" The other ladies in the seating area giggled under their breath but I know it wasn't the most polite thing to do. The woman sat down and tried to become one with the arm of the chair farthest from us and Celeste quickly crossed her front paws and put her head down to rest.

The doctor soon called me to come back and be seen and Celeste and I left the seating area, still hearing slight giggles from the other ladies and hearing more protests from the woman who believes dogs shouldn't be allowed wherever she is. He was a nice gentleman and asked a lot of questions about my past visual history (which isn't good) and he performed some basic visual field tests. I'm so tired of having to look at someone's nose and tell them when I can see their fingers and how many they're holding up. I could almost give lessons on how to fake it because they all use the same pattern and the same number of fingers on each test. But, I'm desperate for answers and I tried really hard to stare at his nose and not look around for his fingers and made myself wait until I could actually see them before answering. I didn't get some of them right. Sometimes I thought there was only one but he was actually holding two. That was depressing.

He said he wanted to do a specialized visual field test that would better determine my peripheral vision. I asked if it meant sticking my head into the large, white, fish-bowl like structure and clicking when I saw dots of light appear on it and he said it was. I sighed because I knew it was going to be another one of the same tests I'd just done back in January and in February. I told him I'd had those tests before and even referred him to the large stack of papers I was given that had their results. He said he wanted to do this "different" version because it worked more on my peripheral vision instead of my entire field of vision. I walked back to the waiting area and blindly tried to find an empty seat FAR away from the woman who was still upset from our previous encounter.

The doctor's technician came and got me and we went to do the test. The difference between this test and the others I'd taken was that she manually controlled the dot of light and I had a washer in my hand and was supposed to tap it on the table when I could see the light. She kept reminding me to tap the washer and I said that when she turned the light on I would. We both realized that she was using a light too small and faint for me to see. So, she changed the size and intensity of the light often and I clicked the washer on the table whenever I could see the dot. It's very hard to keep yourself from looking around in the dome because you want to see the light or verify that you saw what you thought you saw. When the test is done by the computer, it registers if you look away from the target area. This one didn't and I hope I did it correctly. One bad thing about it was that my eyes were dilated and the bright lights kept creating shadows that made it harder to see each new light. Like when you stare at the sun or have a flashlight shown in your eyes and then you can't get that annoying spot out of your vision? Yup, it's like that but with dozens of those spots and new ones being created every second.

I finished the test and was led back to the seating area. This time I wasn't seated near the lady who hated dogs but ended up next to a family that thought Celeste was for show-and-tell. They wanted to pet her but weren't sure if I would let them (I could overhear this conversation as they thought they were whispering but also believed she was a guide dog which would automatically make me blind and deaf) and were quite shocked when I looked at them and told them they couldn't. Then they wanted to ask me why I had her if I could see and what my medical condition was. No questions about her and what she does -- just very personal questions about me and my history. I was very pleased that the doctor called me back to his exam room so I could get away from them.

I put Celeste back into the corner of the room and sat down to await the result and find out what is causing all of my problems. He said that I did well on the test and actually did better than he thought I would and that it all must be in my head. My jaw dropped when I heard this. I explained calmly (because by this point I was so stunned at what I'd just heard repeated for the umpteenth time that I wanted to scream) that ever since I was 19 and started having to wear bifocals and was first diagnosed with lattice degeneration that I've been hearing that "it's all in my head." I asked him why I can't see at night unless something is brightly illuminated. He said he didn't know but that if I was worried about it and was afraid to drive at night to not do it. I asked him why I'm having problems seeing items in my visual periphery and why my vision can't be corrected to better than 20/50. He said he didn't know but that his specialized test (done by a human, not a computer, remember) said I should be fine. I then asked again why even during the daytime when I'm driving I can't read the road signs and have to guess at what they're saying and that I use my GPS everywhere I go because it sits closer to me and I can read the street names on it because I can't read the road signs. Again, he said he didn't know but that if I was concerned about driving I shouldn't do it. I asked him if there were any answers he could give me and he said that when I went back to my glaucoma specialist that I should tell him all of this.

What??? By now I was between numb and furious and those two feelings kept changing back-and-forth quickly within me. I told him that I wasn't going to be seeing the glaucoma specialist anymore because I don't have glaucoma and that's why I was referred to the retinal specialist who looked at my eyes and said he couldn't do anything for me either. The doctor said that the retinal specialist (who is a part of the same practice, remember) wasn't known for taking very good notes and didn't really send much info to go on regarding what he thought about my eyes.

I thought I was going to scream. Really scream. I could not believe that I was hearing the same old line -- "It's all in your head." I even told him that if it was "in my head" and I was making it up I could most certainly think of a lot of better things to dream-up than this.

He finally decided that I need to have an MRI and an ERG (electroretinogram -- basically a big word for a test to determine which parts of my retina actually work) because I could be one of the few with normal-looking eyes but who actually has a problem. Normal? When I was in my early-twenties I had a doctor looking at retinal photos who thought he'd entered the wrong room because I was sitting there and he said that the photos looked like the retinas of an 80-year-old. But, at least now he'd decided that the big tests (which is the whole reason I was referred there) needed to be done. But he couldn't do them. Not that day, anyway. The person who ran the ERG machine was out and I'd have to come back.

After three hours in the doctor's office, I went home with nothing. I was told that the purpose of that visit was for me to have the MRI and ERG and figure out what was wrong and to expect to be there at a minimum of three hours for all of it. Husband took the whole day off work so that he could drive me there and back and hopefully get some answers. Nope. Nothing. The doctor's office is supposed to call me back today (maybe) to schedule another appointment for the tests I was expecting to have done yesterday.

When we were in the elevator of the parking garage and finally had some privacy I told Husband what the doctor had said, followed by a sharp expletive that I won't reprint here. I'd stamped my foot and said it loud enough without realizing that we were arriving at the level where we'd parked that I startled someone waiting to use the elevator. I apologized and we mad our way to the car. I cried on the way home. Husband is very understanding and has been constantly reminding me that whatever is wrong we'll deal with and that he'll always be there to help take care of me. I thanked him again and again but couldn't stop crying because I was so frustrated. I'd just been told the exact same thing by a doctor -- supposedly one of the best in the field nationwide (and will probably cost me a fortune) -- that I'd been told over and over again.

Today both Celeste and Harley can tell I'm upset. I'm sitting and waiting for a phone call that may or may not come to schedule an appointment for me to go all the way back and maybe, just maybe, finally get some concrete information. Something....anything.....information so I don't have to keep my life on pause while I'm worried just what I'll do as this continues to worsen and worry about what my last vision could be.

So, there you have it. Either I'm going blind from a mysterious cause that no one can diagnose or I'm bat-crap crazy and my brain is telling me I can't see things that I really can, which is an incredibly stupid thing for it to do since I need my vision to continue designing for the theatre (which I enjoy) and, more importantly, so I can work to pay-off all the bills I'm racking-up (which isn't as enjoyable but needs to be done). Oh well....I guess the standard "SSDD" (I'll let you look up what that usually stands for) idiom is certainly alive and well in my world.