Friday, May 29, 2020

Navigating the New Normal

Now that the stay-at-home orders are being lifted in some places, there is talk about a new normal.  What has become the old normal in cities like Ann Arbor, Michigan will be spreading to more rural areas that have not experienced living with restaurants that moved outdoors onto city sidewalks.  This old normal that blocks pedestrian travel is a nightmare for people who are blind, visually impaired, or using walkers and wheel chairs.  Tables and chairs are usually put next to the street, but servers walk in and out of the businesses at a fast pace as customers find or leave their seats.

If people who are living with disabilities are not included in the decision-making, the history of these communities will come full circle to a time when they were excluded rather than included.  We know what that looks like in ann Arbor because there are Grandfather laws.  These laws allow buildings to be exempt from having ramps, elevators that are used by the public, and doorways that provide easy access. 

After a fire, the Saint Vincent de Paul Thrift Store was returned to its original pre-ADA architecture.  A few years ago, Literati Bookstore was allowed to open in one of these old buildings that has three floors.  Events are held on the top floor where the coffee shop is also located.  IF a customer who wants to attend an event has a disability, the clerks will move the event downstairs to the main floor or they will turn on the intercom so the event can be heard downstairs as well as upstairs. 

I really wanted to hear an author and buy one of his books on an evening when I did not have the strength to climb the steep stairs.  I did not want to force the clerks to move everything downstairs, so I sat in a chair they brought for me on the main floor and just listened.  Another customer, also a senior citizen saw the accommodation that was made for me and requested a chair too.  That made me feel so much better because, as you know, those of us who live with disabilities really don’t want to attract more attention than we are already getting.  After the event, and during the book signing, a clerk took the book I purchased to the author on the upper floor and had it autographed.  I did not have the opportunity to meet the author or ask questions along with the other participants.  As “accommodating” as the young and apologetic and kind clerks were, this bookstore lost my business.

Do we really want to go back to the old normal?  Do we want to go back to the days that our grandfathers and grandmothers endured?  Watch the movies, Annie and Newsies, that are very entertaining as they show what life was like after the Spanish flu and during the Great Depression to see what their lives were like and how people with disabilities were portrayed.

I have been asked why I did not fight the discrimination I have experienced and chose, instead, to educate.  The answer to that question can be found in Seeing Lessons:  The Story of Abigail Carter and America’s First School for the Blind.  In 1832, Doctor Samuel G. Howe opened his home to young blind children like 10 year old Abigail and her sister.  As students were taught reading, writing, arithmetic, walking, recitation, music on the piano, and voice lessons, they were also taught to ignore slights, insults, and bullying.

The long history of the blind and visually impaired has been primarily one of coping rather than living.  Writers who are functioning with many different levels of vision loss are finally finding their voices and sharing their experiences through their memoirs, poetry, journals, blogs, books, and stories.  I hope more of these writers will create works of historical fiction and nonfiction to record the highs and lows of this amazing community that has been so welcoming to me.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Why Don’t We Get No Respect?: Part 2 of Why Don’t We Count: The Stimulus and the US Census are just the Tip of the Iceberg

In my previous blog post, I identified with Charlie Brown who just keeps trusting and trying to kick that football as Lucy keeps pulling it away from him.  Now I am identifying with Rodney Dangerfield, the stand-up comic, who is best known for his line, “I don’t get no respect.”  He would fit right in with the people on Social Security Disability and Social Security who live near or below the poverty line.  When it came to the stimulus, we were at the back of the line behind people who, it is reported, have been dead for at least two years.    These must be the same people who are voting while people who are vision impaired are going to court because they cannot cast absentee ballots.

Why don’t we get no respect?  Because we have been groomed by our families, health care professionals, rehabilitation counselors, social workers, educators, or peers not to make waves.  We are carefully taught that it is OUR job to adjust and not to expect the world to adjust to us.  The people and organizations that are looking out for us mean well.  They wabt us to be happy.  They don’t want to watch us weighed down by the struggles of everyday living as we also struggle to live with disabilities that are temporary, permanent, or chronic.  In other words, people either want to see us healed or happy.

There are two books, The Mayo clinic Guide to Stress Free Living and The Mayo clinic Handbook for Happiness, that aim to make our struggles manageable.  Books like these offer temporary solutions in a toxic environment that needs radical changes.  I would rather spend my time reading the history of the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 1990, the same year that I entered library school.  Without a lot more wave making, the ADA will not be enforced.  As I look back over the almost 73 years that I have lived with congenital glaucoma and the 30 years I’ve lived with cataracts, I have only one regret.  If I had it all to do over again, I would have consulted a lawyer as frequently as I consulted a medical specialist, government agency, or organization for the blind.

I am studying how to make waves by watching On the Basis of Sex, a movie about the life of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; reading Women and US Politics:  The Spectrum of Political Leadership; and considering the implications of “the nature of bias and the capacity of law to reduce inequality and promote social change” as they are being explored by Jamillah Bowman Williams, J.D., PH.D., Associate Professor of Law at Georgetown University who can be heard on You Tube.

At a time in history when the rest of the world is experiencing the social distancing that the blind and visually impaired have had to endure for centuries and when medical and legal experts are debating what patients should receive treatment when resources are scarce, those of us who are loving what is left need to be prepared as never before to fight for what is left.  We must respect ourselves and work together if we are going to be included in the business, legal, and nmoral decisions that our nation and our world are making.  

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Why don't We Count?: The Stimulus and the US Census are Just the Tip of the Iceberg.

At the present time, people like me who receive Social Security, SSI, or Medicaid are waiting for stimulus funds that were promised a long time ago.  Since they were announced, I prepared a book for publication, worked with an editor and graphic designer, and started discussing the audio version with the narrators.  The “self-published” book is out.  I have people to pay, but the stimulus funds are not here.  I was warned not to trust the Federal Government again even though the Congress and President pretended to be Mr. and Mrs. Santa claus and the Easter Bunny all rolled into one.  Now as I wait for the deposit of funds that might not arrive for a very long time, if ever, I feel like Charlie Brown kicking that football one more time and trusting that Lucy will not pull it away at the last minute. 

I should have known when I filled out the US Census form online that people like me don’t count.  This form is short.  It has questions about gender, age, ethnicity, and more.  It does not have any questions about disabilities.  If American Girl is able to create and sell dolls with a variety of disabilities, it seems that we should also count where the federal government is concerned.  Once again, and for another decade, we will not get important figures that can be used to make policy decisions that regard Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Insurance.  Counting with the federal government also counts at the state level where departments of human services distribute food, housing, and health insurance benefits based upon a person’s eligibility.  Without an accurate count, we don’t know how many people are eligible and how many people are falling through the cracks in the system.

If there is a long census form,  I have not seen one.  I couldn’t read it if there were one unless it were available online and screen-reader accessible to people who are blind or sight impaired.  I have to give the federal government credit for getting this far, but they have a long way to go.

Currently, some people who are blind or sight impaired and experiencing discrimination after completing their education and entering the world of the unemployed have opened their own small businesses with the encouragement of programs offered by the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired.  People with other disabilities have also been successful as self-employed workers and business owners who employ others.  Without census figures, we do not know how many people are in this category.  We also do not know how many blind and sight impaired people or people who are living with other disabilities are unemployed, underemployed, and seeking employment.  That includes senior citizens who do not have an income high enough to care for themselves and pay for the caregivers they need.

Numbers need to be counted at the federal level.  It would be worthwhile to also have each state have its own census because the poverty line is different in each state.  People who are living in Michigan, for example, and receive no benefits other than Social security because their income reached the poverty line, would be eligible for Medicaid in California where the poverty line is much higher.    It is my opinion that the poverty line in all states should be the same and all should be raised to match the California poverty line level.  A city in Michigan such as Ann Arbor is as expensive to live in as many cities in southern and Northern California.  Rents are so high that many professionals are living outside of ann Arbor, as far away as the Detroit area, and driving to work a long distance every day.  While rent costs might be higher in one place than another, the costs of everything else from food to utilities, clothing to health care are the same.

It is important to ask not just why don’t we count but when did we stop being counted.  I recently heard a local Lutheran minister who gives a few minutes of “inspiration” each day on a conservative radio station.  He meant well, but during his rant about something I forgot as soon as I heard it, he referred to people who want to count, “African-Americans, Latino-Americans, LGBT-Americans.  Then he added “et cetera.”  Et cetera?  When did people with disabilities get moved to the back of the bus?  Actually, when it comes to the US Census, our inclusive community that has members from just about every gender, race, religion, and nation wasn’t even invited to get on the bus.

The Secretaries of the US Departments of Education and Labor should be as furious as I am.  With a reported 70-80% unemployment rate among the blind and visually impaired seeming to be more legend than fact since we cannot get accurate statistics, such an apparent failure rate by these departments on behalf of their clients should at the very least call for a study to see if the roles of these departments should be combined under a new Department of special Education and Labor.

Meander, the Princess who had Ants in her Pants is for sale on Amazon along with The Misadventures of Mistletoe Mouse.  My writing hobby is taking time away from my job search  because it is time to start marketing again.  I have many books downloaded including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Marketing since self-promotion is my major weakness.  I like Mother Angelica’s honest and humorous approach to marketing, so I will borrow her strategy:  “Please buy my books.  I need the money.”  For more information, you may go to the following link or ask your local bookseller:


I hope you are loving what is left during these stimulating times.
 

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Need Relief from the News and Social Distancing? Read my New Release.

When Meander, Cinderella’s second cousin thrice-removed, is chosen by Charming Prince Fred to be his lucky bride, no one at Wildwood Castle is expecting the newest princess in the realm to be dissatisfied with courtly life.  But Meander is indeed an unhappy princess.  Wouldn’t you be if you were stuck inside a castle most of the time?  Read all about Meander, the Princess Who had Ants in Her Pants.  This hilarious fairy tale is a beginner chapter book for readers  Pre-K through 4th Grade.  It is available now as an e-book or print book from Amazon or upon request from your local bookstores.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Is Practicing Social Distancing making Us Anti-Social?

In a recent presentation sent to the Hadley Institute for the Blind and Visually Impaired community, a learning expert who is blind and recovering from a case of the virus discusses what we can do to protect ourselves and others.  The presentation is excellent and can be found on the Hadley website (www.hadley.edu).  The most important thing that Lisa said during this presentation is that we do not need social distancing.  We need physical distancing.  Most of us, blind or sighted, need more social connection during this very stressful and lonesome time.  While social connections cannot be made in person, they can be made by phone, online, or from a safe distance indoors or outdoors.

Everything that those of us who live with disabilities were taught about independent living is thrown out the window at this time when interdependent living is so important to all of us.  Now people are offering to pick up food or prescriptions.  Offering to read notices on apartment bulletin boards.  Businesses like Freedom Scientific are even offering free downloads of JAWS and Zoom Text products for a limited period of time.

I am finding that many people who are socially distancing themselves are becoming anti-social.  They seem so cranky when you interrupt their TV viewing, computer explorations, Alexa concerts, and streaming movies that I feel worse after I attempt to engage with them socially.  Some are obviously listening to too much news, political commentary, and virus debates.  Their rhetoric is bombastic, belligerent, crude, immature, and uncharacteristically boring.  Rather than having an original thought, they are repeating what they heard or read.  It is like having a discussion with a walking, talking, research paper.  “According to ….” 

In 1968-69, I was a dormitory resident assistant in a residence hall for girls.  At the beginning of the academic year, we Ras were given sensitivity training.  The academic landscape was changing, and university staff needed to be prepared to work with students from a larger variety of environments, experiences, and races than ever before.  It seems that this is also a time in history when sensitivity training and discussions are needed.  I, for example, am suddenly overcome by the word, “live,” when so many people are dying or coming down with a potentially deadly illness.  I cringe every time I hear the word whether it is in an announcement about the return of “Saturday Night Live” or the “Live from NPR News.”  “Live streaming” an interview with a political figure has the same result.  I know.  I am just a poet and writer who is more sensitive to words, their meanings, and their effects.  I’m not going to conduct a survey to see how many people have the same reaction.  I am just going to add this to the list of things that I hope will not still be bothering me when the current challenges are over.

I did stay up past my bedtime and watched “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.  Hearing a sports announcer doing a play-by-play of popcorn popping and an banana ripening made it worth losing some much needed beauty sleep.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

"It Came Just the Same."

Christmas came just the same in spite of the Grinch who stole Christmas, and Holy Week that will end on Easter Sunday came just the same in spite of the Coronavirus.  May this time of solitude show you that you are never really alone

God Bless.

Saturday, April 4, 2020

True Confessions: More Sick Satire including a Practically Perfect Parody of a Saturday Night Live Presidential Skit from a Perplexing Perspective.

“Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.  I wrote another sick satire after promising that I wouldn’t.”
“How long have you been telling lies, my child?”
“Since my senior year in high school when a classmate and I inherited a gossip column, ‘Eye Witness.’  If students didn’t rat on each other and put juicy tidbits into our drop box, we made stuff up.”
“Fake news?  You wrote fake news?  I am not sure that is pardonable.”
“Oh, please, Father.  I haven’t told a lie since.  In fact priests always throw me out of the confessional and tell me I am scrupulous.”
“Oh, dear.  That is bad.”
“I know.  But what is even worse is that I thought it was a compliment until I looked it up in the dictionary.  For my Penance, do I have to stop writing sick Saturday satires?”
“Of course not.  They are the only thing keeping me going until Sunday morning now that Saturday Night isn’t live.”
“Then what is my Penance?”
“For the rest of your life, my dear, stop trying to be perfect.  If you pay attention, someday you might be President of the United States like Jefferson, Lincoln, or Trump.”
“Wow!  That would make me the first vision impaired President of the United States of America!”
“Sorry, my dear, but you would not be the first person to be President who has been vision impaired.  You would be the first to be sight impaired.”
“I think Gavin Newsom, the Governor of California who has severe dyslexia, will beat me to it.”

 
A Practically Perfect Parody of a SNL Presidential Skit from a Perplexing Perspective

The President of the United States called for a press conference in order to make an announcement to the American people.  As he gets near the podium, the shouting begins.
Journalist 1:  Now what, Tweety Bird?”
Journalist 2:  Where’s your mask?  Your puss is going to break the cameras.”
Journalist 3:  “Speaking of masks.  Why are they all white, you racist?”

The President steps up to the podium.
President:  “My fellow Americans, you’re fired.”  Turning to Mike Pence, he adds, “They are all yours now.”
Mike Pence dropping to his knees and throwing his arms around the President’s legs:  “Oh, no, not that!”
Hilary Clinton:  “That’s deplorable.”
Nancy Pelosi:  “One down and one to go and I’ll be President.”
Dr. Fauci turning to whisper in Nancy Pelosi’s ear:  “Your test came back positive.”
Nancy Pelosi:  “I’m pregnant?  But I’ve already had five.”
Head of Planned Parenthood:  “We can take care of that, dear.”
Planned Parenthood Assistant:  “Do you know how old she is?”
Dr. Fauci to Nancy Pelosi:  “You are not pregnant.  You are too old to be pregnant.  You have the virus.  Doesn’t anyone in Washington know what a fact is?”
Debby De Vos:  “Wasn’t ‘fact’ taken out of the textbooks along with ‘God’ when the definition for ‘marriage’ was changed?”
Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, to the Governor ofCalifornia:  “Who is this Pence guy?”
Gavin Newsom, Governor of California:  “Some guy from Indiana.”
Andrew Cuomo:  “Where is that?”
Gavin Newsom:  “Didn’t they teach you anything in school?  It is below Chicago and above New Orleans.”
Debby De Vos:  “Did Governor Cuomo spend his early years in a public school?”

President Trump unwraps Pense from his legs and returns to the podium.
“After consulting with my Vice President, I have changed my mind.  I am the only Man big enough for this job.  I will not let you down, even though you have let me down, you ungrateful mere millions.  Instead of firing all of you, I am just grounding you until the pandemic is over.”
Melania:  “I thought it was too good to be true.  Another nine months in this drafty old place.”
President trump:  Nine months plus four more years, My dear.”
Melania:  Sobs uncontrollably along with the Press.

                                                  The end   

 
If you are all fired up and eager to be a part of the political scene as a participant instead of an arm chair critic, I recommend that you start reding online biographies of everyone who is expressing an opinion, looking for your vote, or making a decision on your behalf.  Wiki is a good place to start.  Then you can move on to biographies on BARD and Learning Ally, and from your favorite bookseller.  Since I read some of Donald Trump’s books before he became President when I wanted to learn more about how to make business decisions, I decided to give the ladies and the Democrats equal time.  Women and U.S. Politics, Know your Power by Nancy Pelosi, and A Fighting Chance by Elizabeth Warren taught me that the lack of experience, the lack of an education beyond a BA in Political science, or the lack of a law degree need not keep a person a mere political observer.

 Warning to Parents who are Socially Distancing their Children:  Shoving children into a corner and telling them that they are meant to be seen and not heard might turn them into future court jesters, comedy writers, and educators.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Do-It-Yourself: Measuring Up Ruler Cross Lenten Activity

 I had an idea for a special Ruler Cross that I wanted to share with others this Lent.  For this craft activity, all you need is a 12” ruler and a 3’ yard stick.  Intersect the two tools at the 6” mark on the ruler and the 1’ mark on the yardstick.  Then put the words, “How do I Measure Up?” or “How do We Measure Up?” or “How Do You Measure Up?” at the top and a copy of the 10 Commandments at the bottom by arranging them all under the Ruler Cross or by placing five commandments on each side of it.  There are many versions of the Ten commandments online  from which to choose.

 Because I am visually impaired, computer impaired, and my library with its helpful computer clerks is closed, one of my volunteer readers helped me from a distance.  Sherry Warden, the current President of the Washtenaw Association of Retired School Personnel and a retired special education teacher who is a member of my church, put the ruler and the cross on the floor in order to take a picture of it.  She sent the image to her email as an attachment before adding the words on her computer.  The Ruler Cross can also be attached to a wall without any words and simply gazed upon during prayer and meditation as you ask yourself, “How do I measure up?”
                                                                                                                
 In addition to using the Ten commandments, you could be creative and make your own list of commandments such as the Ten Commandments of Being Stuck at Home.

 You might enjoy listening to the song, “From a Distance,” on You Tube or Alexa while you work.  May your Holy Week be filled with many blessings as you bless others from a distance.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Saturday's Come and Gone Already?

Saturday Night Live” is still not live, and I have been holding out on you. I wrote a sequel to last week’s post , “Death Italian-Style,” for you to enjoy, however, I was overcome with grief after hearing the news about Italy on Friday and Saturday.  I had to take a time-out and compose myself before I could share more tasteless and politically incorrect material.  While the Italians, my ancestors are emotional and passionate, Americans are a curious bunch whose behavior  during a time of grief and suffering deserves equal time, Death American-Style.  If my grandparents had not emigrated more than a century ago, I might be writing Divine Comedies like Dante in a land where formalist poetry was perfected and poets are respected.  But alas, I am here and must wilt where I am planted.

Virus-related deaths American-Style:
1.      The Virus.
2.     Fatal blows during a battle in the grocery store over the last roll of toilet paper.
3.      Starvation after ratting on the teens who deliver your groceries upon seeing them playing together in the park.
4.     Anticipatory anxiety when you learn that the stores are all out of men’s and women’s hair coloring products.
5.     Daydreaming about how you will spend the money you will get while walking in front of a car.
6.     Unexplained circumstances after telling a Libral Democrat that you are an Independent.
7.     Unexplained circumstances after telling a Conservative Republican that you are an Independent.
8.     Electrocution after plugging your smart devices into the power strip while your hands are dripping with sanitizer.
9.     Being run over by a mail delivery truck after you say with pride, “I just sent a Thank You note to President Trump.”
10.  Murder when your spouse learns that YOU are his or her virtual date.
11.  Food poisoning because you did not read the expiration dates in your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator after eating out in restaurants for many years.
12.  Dehydration because you would not drink anything but bottled water.
13.  Shock because your grandparents who died on a romantic anniversary cruise left all of their money to the Save the Seaweed Foundation.
14.  Loneliness because Alexa stopped talking after the cable bill wasn’t paid
15.  .  Laughter, but not until SNL is back again.

It was announced today that another Italian-American, the children’s award winning author and illustrator Tomie dePaola, died at 86 after a fall.  Many of his works are available in audio from BARD and many other sources.  Some of his books are autobiographical.  One of these books tells about the day his mother heard about Pearl Harbor on the radio, Things will Never be the Same.  He also wrote I’m Still Scared about his childhood experiences in 1941 during World War II.  This is a reminder that children are watching and learning from us how to deal with fear, suffering, and grief.  These are, perhaps, the most important lessons that parents and educators will teach.

Things will never be the same, but I can guarantee that they will get considerably better because I am NOT going to write any more tasteless and politically incorrect humor.  There is already more than enough online to keep us laughing.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth

It is impossible to make definitive projections and predictions about the current Coronavirus because there are too many variables.  We need facts along with the figures, but we are not getting them from government agencies and health care decision-makers around the world.  How might the large number of deaths have been prevented:  Regular Chest X-Rays.  Primary care doctors ask if you are a smoker or have been a smoker.  They ask if anyone in your family had lung cancer.  They conduct all kinds of regular screenings for breast cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, and blood pressure.  Why aren’t they testing for lung diseases that cannot be detected nor diagnosed with a stethoscope?

Three members of my family died from diseases that were related to cigarette smoking during most of their lives.  My father had his first heart attack at 45 years of age and his second and fatal heart attack at 50.  My sister died of bone cancer that started in her lungs.  Her son, my nephew, died recently of brain cancer that started in the lungs.  Cancers that start in the lungs are not detected until they spread to other parts of the body and are often too late for any treatment to work.  People who smoke cigarettes, pot, or breathe second-hand smoke at home or at work on a regular basis should be tested.  People who live in areas where there is poor air quality should be tested.

As to the current problem, deaths caused by the Coronavirus, medical researchers need to gather the data from medical histories or autopsies to ascertain what preexisting medical conditions patients who died from the virus had.  The “facts” that we were given about Italy is that people were dying because they have an older population.  How many of these people smoked?  How many had preexisting medical conditions?  How many worked in or lived in places where the air quality is poor?  The same questions could be asked of china.  The rush to bury the dying, especially from cremation, guaranteed that these relevant data cannot be gathered.  It is not too late, however, to gather this information in America before the number of cases has peaked.

Anticipatory anxiety is scaring people to death.  At this time, is it wise to run ads for prescription drugs on TV and during the news programs that list the possible side effects that run the gamut from simple to rare?  Has anyone researched the number of people who are not taking their medications because of the anticipatory anxiety caused by these ads?

Medical “research” has convinced us to drink bottled water instead of tap water, not drink  bottled water, drink filtered water.  It has convinced us to eat eggs, not eat eggs, eat only so many eggs per week, eat only egg whites.  Along with fearing the Coronavirus, we are supposed to fear lactose, gluten, packaged foods, preservatives, canned foods, and anything that is not organic.  When I went to the Mayo clinic decades ago, a GI specialist said, “Food is fun.”  This expert contradicts the current studies that are being paid for by “researchers” who are anything but unbiased and able to skew data to say whatever their big business benefactors desire.

 All we need now is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  Common sense and the common good require nothing less.  

Friday, March 27, 2020

Social Distancing for People who Live Alone and Can't Stand Themselves

 Me, Myself, and I went for a long walk.  I wanted some quiet time to relax, but Myself and Me just could not shut up.  “I should be writing.”  “I should be job hunting.”  “I should be reading something important.”  “I should not have run out to buy the Nestle’s Crunch Bars after learning just how well this Canadian company is treating its employees—and because it is Lent And….”

 I admit it.  I talk to Myself even though she is my inner critic who once sounded like my mother but now sounds like my children.  I also talk to Me.  She is my inner comic.  She keeps Me and I entertained.  When she gets sad, she just looks in the mirror and finds something to laugh about.  Myself does not laugh.  She says things like, “That is not funny.”

Something very strange happened recently.  I was looking for a song that was recommended by a friend on You Tube.  The first video that came up was not the music group.  It was a video of Steve Martin talking about his comedy course.  OK.  This is a mystery.  Is the Alexa on my desk now critiquing my humor?  Did she tell the computer or google to find a class for me about how to write better comedy?  Did my computer do it?  Has Artificial Intelligence come that far?

Or is someone spying on me via my email?  I did recently write to a friend that the reason I have had few dates in 30 years is because Steve Martin is not available.  I have loved him pure and chaste from afar since I watched him in My Blue Heaven.  Jeff Daniels was my first celebrity crush after I watched him in Heartburn.  He lives just down the road and has a great sense of humor, but his song lyrics….  Well, you know.

“Isn’t it interesting,” I ask Myself, “that my celebrity crushes are for men who acted in Nora Ephron movies?”  Myself responds, “No.”  Me says, “You are so adorable.”

“You?”  How did she get in here.  Three is a crowd, but four is just frustrating.  I don’t think I have enough hand sanitizer or Clorox Wipes for all of us.

I learned on my long walk to a nearby mall that banks and credit unions really like social distancing and might see Me by appointment.  FedEx is the hotspot in town where people are as starved for the sound of a human voice as Myself is and are , like Me, avoiding sitting down at their desks.

I was standing in line at the grocery store at a socially correct distance when A man cleared his throat as he walked too close for comfort since he was not Steve Martin or Jeff Daniels who can share their virus with me anytime.  I did not throw him to the ground.  Myself did not scream, “Is there a lawyer in this joint?”  Me, as always, was understanding and gave the man a look that said, “I’m not perfect either.”

By the time I got home from my walk, Congress had voted on the aid package for Americans who are being hit by the virus.  All I can think of is the Broadway musical, “1776.”  What, I wonder, will “2020, the Musical” be like.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

A Gift for All Moms and their Quarantined Kids

When Mommy Puts Her Jeans On
by Susan Bourrie


When Mommy puts her jeans on,
It’s a special time, you see.
It means she has a lot to do
And needs some help from me.

When Mommy puts her jeans on,
We might clean house all day.
But if I do a somersault,
Mommy always stops to play.

When Mommy puts her jeans on,
We might start planting flowers,
Then sit and talk and watch them grow
For hours and hours and hours.

When Mommy puts her jeans on,
It might be time to make
Oatmeal cookies, whole-wheat bread.
They smell good when they bake.

When Mommy puts her jeans on,
We rest the way I like.
We have a picnic in the park
And ride on Mommy’s bike.

When Mommy puts her jeans on,
I know whatever we do
Is going to be fun for both of us,
So I put on my jeans too.


Bourrie, Susan.  "When Mommy Puts Her Jeans On."  Humpty Dumpty's Magazine,
May 1986. (a poem featured for Mother's Day, Illustrated by Theresa Borell.

Website:  www.susanbourrie.com  Email:  bourries@gmail.com  

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Here is Help for Whatever Ails You

Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man
by Susan bourrie


Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man,
Came to town in a big white van.
He came to cure the people’s ills,
But not with elixirs, potions, or pills.

Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man,
Sang this song as he drove his van,
”Readabook, Readabook is my name.
Finding readers is my game.
If you have a quiet nook
Where you can go and read a book,
You’ll be glad I came.
You’ll be glad I came.”


He drove through town at a cautious speed


And gave the people books to read.
“You look blue,” old Mortimer’d wink.
“Read this and you’ll be in the pink.”
 
“I’m so lonely,” said Mary Lou.
“Would you tell me what I should do?”
“Read this book,” he said, “to the end.
Then go next door.  Share it with a friend.”

He gave a baby a picture book
And said, “You can just rest and look.”
He gave old Mr. Media
An entire encyclopedia.
 
He gave a boy several books in Braille
And said he’d send some tapes by mail.
“We all are getting as fit as fiddles,”
Said the boys who got books of riddles.

Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man
Left town singing in his big white van.
All the women, children, and men
Hope he will soon be back again.
 
Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man
Drove off singing in his big white van,
“Readabook, Readabook is my name.
Finding readers is my game.
If you have a quiet nook                                                                                   
Where you can go and read a book,
You’ll be glad I came.
You’ll be glad I came.



Bourrie, Susan.  "Mortimer J. Readabook, the Medicine Man."  Humpty Dumpty's
Magazine, Nov. 1986. (a poem used to coincide with National Children's Book
Week), Illustrated by Daryll Collins.
 
Website:  www.susanbourrie.com  Email:  bourries@gmail.com
 

A Recipe for Disaster?


 Medical Alert:  An abrupt change from your Dave Ramsey and university credit union recommended Beans and Rice diet to a Congressional-Pork and Beans Diet may be fatal as your financial health will be compromised.  Meanwhile churches and nonprofits will continue distributing meals.  Since it is Lent, expect more fish than usual.  While walking through the grocery store for exercise because you cannot afford to purchase anything until your next pay check, Social Security check, or Medicaid check arrives, notice that the items still ON the shelves are nutritionist recommended foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products including yogurt, cereals that won’t give home-bound kids a sugar high such as Cream of Wheat and Cheerios, and whole grains such as corn meal.

 Many people ask my 102 year old aunt how she has lived so long.  Her answer:  “I don’t do everything doctors tell me to do.”  There are former athletes at two major universities in Michigan who wish they would have heard and followed her advice.

I do not believe the incredible story going around talk radio that the reason the coronavirus spread so quickly in Italy is that Italians were encouraged to hug their Chinese coworkers in order to prove that they are not racist.  Italians are NOT huggers, at least not the Sicilians that I grew up with.  An index finger thump to your chest while someone was making a point during a perpetual argument maybe, but never a hug.

I know what a recipe for disaster looks like because I sat through one of those boring university credit union seminars that are supposed to tell you how to get out and stay out of debt.  Talk about bait and switch.  Meetings like this end with an offer to see if you qualify for a 0% consolidation loan that will change to a variable rate loan in less time than it will take you to say “Pass me the ketchup.”  These delicacies come with a side order of interest that accumulates if the loan is not paid in full.

I know why Donald Trump was elected President.  HE reads the small print or has several lawyers read it for him.  He read the fine print in the election rules just as we have to read the fine print in the bankruptcy rules.  The laws have changed and most Americans can no longer afford to file for bankruptcy or afford to hire a bankruptcy lawyer.  The money from the federal government has not even trickled down to me, and I’ve already lost my taste for spending it.  I wonder if it will come in an envelope stamped “Trick or Treat” by Halloween.

A recipe for disaster comes, like prescription medications, with possible side effects.  If you consume the Congressional-Pork and Beans Diet you might experience a bad taste in your mouth, a tight feeling in your chest, shortness of breath, chills, and muscle tightness in your fists and jaw areas.  These side effects should disappear within ten years, as soon as the Stock Market rebounds, or in November if your political party wins.

Bon appetite.

Monday, March 23, 2020

America, the Butterfly Quarantined

America, the Butterfly Quarantined 

by Susan Bourrie, March 23, 2020

 Worm that I am,
I crawl into
The darkness of uncertainty.
Unable to fight or take flight,
I freeze.
The heat of anger spews out.
Tears of grief follow.
 I am alone.
A crust begins to surround me
As ugliness inside escapes.
There is no one to comfort me
except my Maker.
If undisturbed
By hurry, worry, or curiosity,
I will emerge.
More radiant than a rainbow.
More beautiful than
A baby’s first cry
Or a senior’s last sigh.
With wings
That lift me as high as Heaven will allow,
I will become a more loving me.
If you dare to enter
And disturb my sleep,
You will lose the life you seek
And devolve into a worm
As history repeats.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Sunday Matinee: Hysterium is not Just a Character in A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM

It is delightful to learn on local news from Detroit that Book-Mobiles are once again taking books to children in some areas.  As these services are expanded, DVDs can also be included to enrich the lives of people who are dealing with cabin fever and library separation anxiety withdrawal.

I am one of those low income seniors who lacks basic cable services.  Due to a misadventure that occurred sometime between when I mailed my checks a few months ago and when my payments were due, two checks never arrived on time and still have not shown up.  Maybe they were in one of those delivery trucks that was in an accident that sent mail and boxes flying all over the landscape.  My Medicare supplement insurance company and I worked this out well together since they have a lengthy grace period.  Comcast Xfinity, however, that is a monopoly like AT&T, blayed hard-ball.  Extra fees were added to other fees that no one could explain.  I canceled the services and was charged a fee for that.  I took all of the equipment to the local Comcast store because their confirmation numbers by phone mean nothing and I was charged a fee for that too.  I was told at the store that I would get a refund.  Instead I got a bill for $30.  That was erased by phone by a customer services representative.  I was given the date when the $25 refund would be put into my checking account and a confirmation number.  It was never deposited in my bank.  If I had trusted Comcast, I would have been overdrawn because I am running like most seniors I know (many of them veterans) on empty and fumes.

I now have a digital antenna that brings in very few stations.  I get the news primarily from my battery-powered radio and the NBC Nightly News.  Where the movie, The Post shows what journalistic reporting was like before the Internet, on-air media celebrities are revealing that their primary sources are Twitter, Facebook, and callers.  The “news” is not necessarily fake, but it is certainly not verified.  Most of these “professionals” who either look good on camera or sound good on the radio and Internet would not have passed my university level composition, research writing, and advanced research writing classes.  As far as my writing for the professions class would go, it does not seem that the media has standards upon which they can be measured.  Either you pass or you fail, and most of them would fail.

One of my favorite movies is Superman not only because the music by John Williams is among his best but because it points out that reporters like Lois Lane don’t have to know how to spell.  I have no excuse with alexa beside me and the spell-checker making noises, but sometimes even these are wrong.  I catch some errors that are made by the computer as it transfers a copied text to the blog website.

If I were in charge of the NBC News Department, I would remove all coffee dispensers and other sources of caffeine because the on-camera celebrities are close to hyperventilating.  Everything is “Breaking News” to them.  It is only a matter of time before people start saying, “Whatever,” and turn on the Hallmark Channel for a Christmas in March movie.

Broadway, like any TV shows with live audiences, is closed, but Broadway and movie musicals and wholesome movies are still available.  I have many on my own bookshelf that I have not watched in a long time that I will list for you soon.  Some are available online.  Others can be purchased online to own or to rent if your cable bill was not so high that you had to choose between it and your food and medications.

One musical that I do not want to watch is Candide.  I read the book by Voltaire when I was in high school or community college because there were no Young Adult books back in the 1960s.  I also read Candy that was derived from Candide.  These books were not assigned by teachers.  Neither were 1984, Brave New World, and books by James Baldwin.  We were reading real books instead of comic books.  What I did not get during the 1950s and 1960s was any information about American history after the Civil War.  For some reason, there just never seemed to be time to get to the 20th Century.  Censorship or brain-washing?

Candide and its spin-offs are satires of optimistic determinism.  It is writers like Voltaire who will create future musicals modeled after A Funny thing Happened on the Way to the Forum when the current challenges are over.  As I learned in my Words  & Music class at The University of Michigan where I was taught how to collaborate with composers (Give them what they want and go away.), times like these are fodder for creativity.

Here is a list of musicals and movies that measure up to my standards:

On Moonlight Bay
By the Light of the Silvery Moon
With a Song in my Heart
The Sound of Music
1776
The Music Man
Annie
Inside Out
Lilies of the Field
Lean on Me
Hoosiers
Rudy
Something the Lord Made
The Disorderly Orderly
The Nutty Professor
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Dave

I’ve been unemployed for a long time, but I would not take President Trump’s job if it were offered to me on a silver platter.  I am a political independent who reads everything including his books.  I hope the next one will be The Art of Cooperation.

Helpful Tip:  Don’t put kitty litter down your garbage disposal.  A neighbor did and backed up the kitchen sinks in several apartments for a few hours.  While maintenance is trying to practice social distancing, I took a break from editing this post and walked to the nearby hardware store and bought a plunger.  I did not buy the liquid that gobbles up what is down the drain and makes sounds like there is an alien invasion or monster consuming the garbage.  Maintenance did come and fix the problem.  It was not easy.  This was just another lesson from the school of Hard Knocks. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

For Adults Experiencing "Saturday Night Live" Withdrawl: Virus-Related Deaths Italian-Style

Like so many Americans, I have been traumatized by the news coverage of deaths caused by the Coronavirus in Italy.  Since so many of us were turning off the TV in order to avoid these terrifying stories, journalists started putting a cheerful spin on a tragic event and showing pictures of just how resilient Italians are.  I am a third generation Italian-Sicilian-American who has a second generation Italian-Sicilian-American aunt who is 102 years old and was born the year of the Spanish flu.  She plans to live until she is 106 or so as her grandparents did in Sicily.  I am more concerned about her children who look after this spunky woman than I am about her.  After experiencing death and dying Italian-Style since my youth, I am suspicious not only about the pictures that are coming out of Italy but of the statistics or body count that we hear daily.  I have composed a list of what the media is now calling “virus-related” deaths.  I propose that for each Italian who dies of the Coronavirus, at least 14 people might die of one of the following virus-related causes.  This list might have been written by the dark comics on Saturday Night Live if they could phone it in and was inspired by their Coronavirus soap opera:
 
Virus-Related Deaths in Italy:
 
1.      The virus.

2.     Guilt because you did not get the virus while others are suffering and dying.

3.     Guilt because you did not prevent someone else from getting the virus.

4.     Guilt because you did not do enough for a person who got the virus.

5.     Food Poisoning if you are a son whose mother never taught him how to cook before she died.

6.     Food Poisoning if you are a daughter who was never allowed in the kitchen except to wash or dry dishes.

7.     Fear of getting the virus.

8.     Anger because someone died from the virus.

9.     Anger because of the cost of a funeral for someone who got the virus .

10.  Jealousy because your loved-one’s lover showed up at the funeral.

11.  Grief from a broken heart.

12.  Shock brought on by the reading of a will that leaves everything to the cat.

13.  Murder caused by married couples or siblings having the virus at the same time.

14.  Murder caused by a neighbor who is singing opera on a balcony across from a sickroom—especially if the sick person is a teen.

15.  Fatal injuries of zealous and melodramatic grievers who throw themselves on top of the coffin or into the grave of their loved one.

If you enjoy Italian humor, read The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames or the books by Adriana Trigiani.

If you need hope and strength , watch Mr. Smith goes to Washington and Why We Fight by the first generation, Sicilian-American, Frank Capra, who gave us It’s a Wonderful Life.

Please remember that laughter is the best medicine and “The joy of the Lord is our strength.” (Nehemiah 8: 9-12)   If you don’t believe me,, a mere court jester in “the Kingdom,” or The Bible, read Anatomy of an Illness by Norman Cousins or ask Google.
 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Together We Stand: March Madness and What is Making Me Mad

I won’t get to listen to the NCAA basketball competition known as March Madness; but if games are what people want, the librarians are ready to serve.  The award-winning Ann Arbor District Library closed at 6 p.m. on Friday, but patrons have already received two newsletters. Some services will still be provided online such as downloadable books or by phone.  No drop-offs.  No fines.  No over-due items.

The most recent newsletter includes information about how to sign up for an online game that is similar to the game that library patrons enjoy during the Summer when children are not in school.  Participants earn points to use later.

Librarians might also want to start a version of the popular Battle of the Books that has children read a certain number of books as a team and then compete against other teams.  When I was a child a very long time ago, we did not compete all the time as children today are expected to do.  We were encouraged to read a certain number of books,, give a brief book talk to the librarian to prove that we read the book, and then were awarded a sticker or large seal to put on a certificate.  I still have my elementary school certificate in a frame somewhere.

I believe that literacy and the “soft skills” will get us through these difficult times.  It is, after all, STEM and science that got us where we are today—and will, we hope, get us out of it.  Technology, however, has earned my highest respect as it is keeping us connected.

 Book Bound Bookstore in Ann Arbor sent customers information about how they will have curb service for sales after they closed.  Customers can call ahead and use credit cards.  If there is no list of bookstores that are providing these services, perhaps the libraries can add a link.  Gift cards for these bookstores would make great gifts for kids and rewards for good behavior.  Michigan will be providing two carry-out meals to low income students.  Why not books?  Or gift cards so students can buy books online?

Why I am experiencing my own “March Madness”:

1.      The test for immigration is not available in Braille.

2.     There are no self-driving cars that we were promised.  How are WE supposed to get to virus testing places when even bus services are being stopped or limited in places like Detroit and Ann Arbor?  How are WE supposed to get to drive-in banks and restaurants?

3.     Why aren’t independent living businesses promoting the sales of Braille erasures that will allow the sighted world that does not need to feel the dot on the number five on credit card keypads use them safely?  The Braill erasure is like a ball point pen that does not have a pointed tip.  Check out registers already have pens when people need to write their signatures.

The blind and visually impaired who have lived with social distancing due to discrimination and a lack of funding have a right to be angry when they see so much money now being passed by Congress to save the airline industry, Stock Market, and banks.  They should pass a law that remove the high interest rates that pay-day lenders are allowed.  They can encourage banks to eliminate their high interest loan fees and reduce them to 0% for anyone who is receiving Medicare or Medicaid.  Why?  Because most of us who went into credit card debt did so by paying for dental and vision services that are not covered by insurance.  Or we went into debt trying to be self-employed before we learned just how many roadblocks government regulations would put in our way.  HUD housing, for example, dos not allow residents to have a business in their apartments such as babysitting, tutoring, or an online business.  HUD housing does not allow a resident to put the address on a business card.  In other words, HUD residents can be employed from home  when companies don’t discriminate and if the company’s software works with screen-reading or other adaptive software but not if they are self-employed from home.

One more gripe:  I know I have more advanced degrees than one person needs; however, I looked into The University of Michigan Ph.D. program in English and Education because it would be such a good match for the research I want to do.  I was told by both the department and the office for students with disabilities that I would have to take the Graduate Record Exam.  It could not be waived.  Not only would that be a waste of time.  It would be a waste of money.  I did not need to take the GRE to be accepted into two M.A. programs at Central Michigan University or the Ph.D. program at Michigan State University.  Nor did I have to show GRE scores when I was invited to give talks at The University of Michigan School of Public Health or the School of Library Studies.  The University of Michigan, “The Leaders and the Best.”  I don’t think so.

How to Win Friends and Influence People in the Digital Age is available from the Braille and Talking Book Library.  I stopped reading it when I got to the part that said we should not correct, criticize, or complain.  Sorry, I want to win REAL friends.  For now, I am waiting for a cure and a vaccine for stupidity—including my own.