This past month I have been really starting to focus on my art skills, specifically drawing.  I know, I am supposed to be focusing on writing, but I had a bit of a sidetrack.  I am still working on my writing, but that is for another post.  I found a wonderful book on creating “Imaginary Characters: Mixed-Media Painting Techniques for Figures and Faces” by Karen O’Brien.  In it she says to draw 100 faces so you can develop your own style, so I decided to draw 100 faces.  I thought there was no way I was ever going to get them done, but not only did I finish them today, I can actually see where I have started figuring out my style.  I mean I have been painting doll faces on cloth for art dolls for years now, but there is a big difference between painting faces on sculptured cloth and a face you draw with pencil or paint on paper.  My goal is to make the transition from 3D dolls to 2D flat surfaces, and this exercise has helped me see where I need to improve, plus where my style is going.  I must say I am so surprised at the difference between the first 20 compared to the last 20.  I posted some of my first drawings and final ones below.  I am now going to venture on and draw 50 hands and 50 feet, as they are both my nemesis…  My hands look like claws and my feet look like clubs, so if I am ever going to be able to go into fashion illustration it would be very helpful to be able to draw an entire person, not just a floating head or a lady with a head and torso, but no arms or legs.  I think that would be rather creepy.  

I would like to encourage anyone who is wanting to learn a new skill to sit down and make a plan, go to the library and find books on the subject, talk to others who are already doing what you want to do, and then practice, practice, practice.  I must say you will have such a feeling of accomplishment when you start comparing where you started to each step of your journey and the clear improvements and skills you have developed.

I will be posting pictures of my practice drawings of hands and feet as I complete them.  I have also not given up on writing.  Starting Monday is Book in a Week again, so I have a goal of writing 50 pages this next week, so we will see how far I get.  Till next time…

First few faces:

Final faces:

Quite the difference if I do say so myself….

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Upfront I’m going to say I am not a medical professional, doctor, counselor, etc. so any advice I give pertaining to depression is only from personal experience.  I am 54 and have been fighting depression for at least 35 years.  I also have loved ones, friends, etc. who deal with different types of depression, and I know what works for me and them, but if you know someone, or even yourself, that is talking about wanting to die, dig a hole and lie in it, find a bridge and jump, or other things that make you wonder, you need to get them/you help.  It isn’t like the old days when everyone knew Aunt Sally had mental issues, but no one talked about it, while she fell deeper and deeper into her depression.  There is still a lot of misinformation about depression, and someone who has never experienced it really has no idea of what you are going through.  They can be empathetic, but until someone goes through the debilitating condition of depression, no one can truly understand.  With that said, it is that time of the year when depression really seems to hit people.  I have gotten emails from people trying to figure out if a loved one is really depressed or how can they tell.  I have friends and acquaintances who are feeling down and are on the edge of just being blue and having depression.  I do believe it is something about this time of year.  Not only is it the holidays, but it is also a new year.

Part of the problem is everything you see or hear seems to talk about how the holidays are not complete unless you are with family and having the perfect holiday get together.  The kids come in from college and aunts and uncles come in and everyone meets at grandmother’s house and it is a big happy event.  Well, very few families can live up to that picture.  Some people have lost all their loved ones, either to death, distance, or being estranged either due to the other person or themselves, so when you see those commercials or hear your coworker talk about their big family events, it really could get a person down.  Even when you have all your family able to come together that doesn’t mean everything is going to be good.  For years we were happy when we were able to get through a family event with no fights, screaming, or other assorted issues.  Someone asked me how my Christmas was and I told them everyone got along, the food was good, and I got to see the grandkids, so it was a great day.  Sometimes that is all you can ask for.

The next problem is we are entering a new year.  This makes a lot of us think about all we didn’t accomplish in 2015.  How we are getting older and time is passing faster and faster, so if we don’t get our crap together we are going to find ourselves 10 years from now in the same situation, just 10 years older with less options.  That can really get a person to fall into a funk.  Then people do that whole stupid resolution thing.  You are just setting yourself up to fail on that one.  So, you are going to get in better shape, how are you going to do it?  Writing a vague list of things you want to change or do different in the next year is basically just writing a shopping list and then not going shopping.  Until you break those resolutions down into workable goals with time deadlines and a plan to make it happen, you are just asking for failure.  You have to be careful though when you set goals, as you don’t want to set goals so easy you can get them done 15 minutes from now, but then you sure don’t want a goal so difficult you couldn’t accomplish it in a year, let alone in a month or week.  One of my goals is to lose 50 pounds before the end of the year.  Good idea, but how am I going to accomplish that?  Am I going to keep doing the same thing I’m doing now up until December 20 and think I can starve for the next couple of weeks and make my goal?  Of course not.  I need to make a lifestyle change.  Do things differently daily, weekly, and monthly.  Have a plan written down of how much I’m going to work out each week, what will I eat daily, keep a food diary, etc., so I have the ability to fulfill my goal instead of at the end of 2016 wondering where the year went and still needing to lose at least 50 pounds.

But, I will get back on track here, when it comes to depression there are so many types that it really is hard to tell if your friend or loved one is depressed, unless they are so far in that they are not even functioning anymore. One of the emails I got this past week asked about hermit mode.  The person goes into hermit mode with some people but not others.  I gave them this quick overview on depression and thought it would be good information for others.  Just about everyone at some time in their life gets the “blues.”  That is when you just don’t feel like yourself.  Some people say they are in a funk.  They just aren’t happy.  They are focused on the negative and feel bad.  This can be brought on by anything from hormonal changes, the weather, etc.  There are some parts of the country where they have such long winters, short days, and gloomy days that people go into depression.  For this type of situation, they get special lights that mimic the sunlight.  They sit under it for so long per day and they get to feeling better.  Most people who are just blue don’t need medication.  They can still function, but are just not themselves.  They probably need to talk to their doctor, but most people should not be given drugs for the blues.

We then get into clinical depression, bipolar, etc., the conditions where the person is so deep into their depression they have lost all joy in their life.  They can’t get out of bed.  They quit taking care of themselves and normally when they get to this point they need medication.  With a bipolar they are either very high or very low and not much in between.  With your clinically depressed they will go into hermit mode not wanting to talk to anyone.  If they are not deep into their depression they may be able to function enough to go to work or do activities of daily living, talking only with those they have to, trying to make people think they are okay, but once they get home they shut the door and try to hide from the world.  But, this is just a short overview of different types of depression, as there are so many types of mental illness that if you or a loved one are acting different, withdrawn, strange, etc., then it may be time to find professional help.  Don’t forget there are a lot of online sites that have questionnaires that can help you figure out if you or a loved one do have a problem.  There are also hotlines to call if you feel like you can’t take it anymore, as nothing is so bad that it warrants taking your own life.  With that said, I promise my next blog post will be more uplifting and fun…  I may even talk about “the girls.”  Until next time….

It is now time to say goodbye to 2015 and welcome in 2016.  This past year I have done a great job of ignoring this blog.  I didn’t mean to, but when it came time to sit down and write I just couldn’t figure out what to say.  I know there were plenty of things this past year that were worth talking about.  There were several times I just wanted to rant about situations, but the words just didn’t come out.  I mean you have the whole Black Lives Matter movement.  I’m sorry, but doesn’t every life matter whether you are white, black, yellow, brown, whatever?  Yes, I’m a white woman who doesn’t have any idea what it is like growing up a young black man, but I am tired of all white people being blamed for slavery, segregation, etc., when most of us were not even alive during those times.  With that said, I am really tired of people saying that those of use who do not want the refugees coming to America are cold hearted, racist, or whatever.  I have no problem with immigrants.  My great, great grandparents were immigrants.  They went through Ellis Island.  If they didn’t immigrate I would not be here, but the big difference is they had to go through Ellis Island.  They had to go through vetting, health checks, and then assimilate into the community.  The problem with a lot of the refugees is they are strong young men with no family with them.  Doesn’t that seem a bit strange?  In a time where terrorists are trying to reek havoc in America, the last thing we need to do is just open the borders and let anyone come in.  If that makes me cold hearted then fine, I think we we need to be more careful than any other time in history, as I don’t want my children and grandchildren to be affected by terrorists we freely let into our own country.

Well, I could go on, but that isn’t the reason for this post.  This blog is going to take a change of direction in 2016.  I have decided to focus on an exit plan out of my career that makes me unhappy.  I was telling a friend a couple of days ago that life is too short to be miserable.  If it is time to make a change then do it.  Figure out what you want to do and figure out how you can make it happen.  For me, I am going to start focusing on my writing.  Fiction writing as a matter a fact.  I have been stalling, not sure why, but have been saying I was going to do this for the past 2 years, but I’m not getting any younger, and my job isn’t any more enjoyable, so what am I waiting for?  What are you waiting for?  What in your life have you always wanted to do but have let life get in the way?  I think for me it was more depression standing in my way, but that is for another post.

I have decided to document my journey onto a new path.  This year I have the goals of losing 50 pounds before the end of the year, draw/paint at least an hour a day, and then focus the rest of my energy on writing fiction. I’m sure I will throw a few posts here and there about “the girls,” as that is always a popular subject, and my journey through life daily fighting depression and knowing others who are struggling also, but the main focus is to help myself and others to make 2016 the year that is the year of true change in our lives.  The year that I/we finally make the changes needed to make a difference in our lives.  I encourage you to go on this journey with me.  Make a list of things you have always wanted to do, places you would love to see, basically a re-connection with the dreams of your past… As it is finally time to make them happen.

When most Americans think of 9/11, they think of the terrorist attack in New York City.  When I think of 9/11, I think of an event that changed my family’s life forever, but it was 9/11/1996, the day in a split second things were never the same.  This year is the 19th anniversary of my husband’s massive stroke.  On the morning of September 11, 1996, we were all getting up to get ready for work, school, etc.  Hubbie was sitting on the toilet getting ready to get up and take a shower.  The next thing I know is he is speech is all garbled, one side of his face is drooping, and at the age of 36 he was having a massive stroke.  I told him to stay where he was and I would get help, but when I returned he was face first in the clothes basket unable to move.  The rest of that day is kind of a blur, between the paramedics coming out and trying to figure out how to get him out of the house.  At that point he was a very big man, so it took some effort to move him.  We were living in a little town called Cleburne, Texas, and when we rolled up to the ER, the head nurse said he isn’t staying here go to downtown Fort Worth to Harris Hospital, where they have the equipment to take care of him, which this is the best thing that could have happened for us.  He probably would have died if he stayed there; they just were not prepared for this type of trauma. 

Next thing I know I am in the ER and the doctor comes out and tells me Gene had suffered a massive stroke, a right ganglion bleed that was too deep to operate on, and could only bleed out 5 cm because after that all organs would shut down and he would be gone within 24 hours.  He stopped bleeding at 4.5.  We made it past the first 24 hours, then a week, and then the doctors started telling me he would be in a nursing home for the rest of his life, couldn’t dress himself, walk, or anything, basically a veggie in a home.  I told them they were crazy, we had three young teen kids, and I was not going to be left by myself to raise them, he was going to leave the hospital and come home.  The doctors told me physical therapy was out of the question, but I had a young physical therapist who told the doctors he was too young not to try.  He could still talk and eat; the rest would come with work.  The main neurologist told us we were all crazy, but agreed to let him going into PT, and he was there for 2 months.  He was in a hospital in downtown Fort Worth and we lived 45 miles away one way in Cleburne.  I already had to do the commute daily for my job in downtown Fort Worth, but now I was doing 2 round trips a day – seeing Gene before work, going to work, going home to situate the kids, back to the hospital to spend time with him before his bedtime, and then home again.  I was living on 2 hours of sleep a night but knew at some point he would be coming home.

Finally, two months later Gene not only left the hospital, he walked out of it.  We had to go by and tell the neurologist that we proved him wrong, and to this day I bet he still thinks about that patient he knew was never going to function again, and he did.  The journey wasn’t easy.  He had to relearn how to sit, stand, and walk again.  Simple things like getting dressed were very difficult, but he persevered.  From that point, I became the breadwinner of the family, which I was not prepared to be and still struggle with, but 19 years later we are doing okay.  We still have challenges with his health, things not related to the stroke, but we make it work.  I know that we never know what is going to happen in our lives and how in the blink of an eye our loved ones can come down with a life threatening disease, airplanes might crash into buildings,  or a natural disaster can hit and wipe out large sections of towns.  We just never know.  What we do know is that we only have so many days on this earth and we need to make the most of them.  When disaster hits, you find out who your friends really are and through their help you are able to persevere, rebuild, and move on.  As we were able to put our lives back together, so were the people of New York, and us as a nation.  Right now there are many Americans who are doubting our ability to overcome the issues in America right now, but we are a strong people, who know right from wrong, and when it comes down to it, we will band together as a nation and make it work, which is what 9/11 represents for our nation.

If you would like to find out more about our life since the stroke, I wrote a book a few years ago that basically helps others understand what to expect if they or a loved one is affected by a stroke.  It is basically a guide of things I wish I had known before he had the stroke.  You can get it at Amazon.com – There is Life after a Stroke.  Till next time….

Well, I must admit I had no idea it had been so long since my last post.  I knew I needed to write new posts, but the last few months I must admit I have been battling my depression.  Every time I went to write I just couldn’t figure out what to say, so just didn’t say a thing.  It isn’t like there hasn’t been a lot of news items that upset me enough to tell my opinion on it, but when it came time to discuss the issue I just couldn’t get the words to form, so finally here we are, three months later and I am finally able to form a thought and put it on paper.  I’m not really sure what started this bout of depression; I think it became a situation where there were so many things that came up that finally it was just too much.  I do know that every year around my birthday I have issues, especially the older I get.  It seems like the older you get, the faster time flies, to the point that every birthday hits and you realize what you have not accomplished, and you have less and less time to get it done.  When you are in your 20s or 30s you can have an epiphany and decide you want to try a new career.  If it doesn’t work out, you are still young enough to start over again at least once or twice, but once you hit your 50s, you don’t really have the time keep starting over.  What really sucks is when you find yourself in a dying profession and you know you need to make a change, but you really need to think hard about what you are going to do.  More than likely if you go into a techie type profession you might end up working for someone who is younger than your own kids, which if you are like me, the first time they smart mouthed you or got snippy you would end up in jail for smacking them, which isn’t a good thing.

The other thing you have to look at is do you really want to go back to school?  Do you want to take the 3 or 4 years to get the degree and then start at bottom of the profession and work yourself up the ladder to where you finally make a good living?  If mean if you are early 50s, by the time you finish school, get in to a job, and then work through the levels of management and such, you are probably going to be in your early 60s and getting toward retirement age, if that is even an option.  I am not saying that once you get a certain age you are unable to be a productive employee, it is more of do you really want to be?  Do you really want to be the newbie at an age where you should be in management or running your own company?  I know that after working from home for 15 years the thought of going back into an office and dealing with all the politics that are normally involved, I am afraid I would hurt someone or tell them to take the job and shove it.  I used to be a wonderful employee.  I was quiet, did what I was told, and always finished what I started.  I was the one you stuck in a back office, gave a pile of work, told me what to do, and then you forgot about me, literally.  I wasn’t the one who was always up and about getting involved in gossip or such, so when it came time to go to lunch or celebrations or whatever, I ended up being left at the office wondering where everyone went.  I just put up with that and wouldn’t say anything.  I am now 20 years older and have come to the point in my life I don’t put up with a lot of crap.  I figure at this point in my life I shouldn’t have to, but then that kind of kills my ability to put up with office politics and not say anything about it.  At least I know this about myself, so it makes a difference when I start looking for an exit plan out of my current job.

The other problem with going out into the workforce again is my evil friend “depression.”  I never know when it is going to hit and hit hard.  When I get to that point I become very unproductive, sit and stare at the computer, and become someone you probably do not want to spend time with.  This isn’t conducive to fostering a good employee/employer relationship, as they like people who do their work, are someone personable, and don’t start crying because you look at them cross-eyed.  Well, I haven’t had that problem in a while as my meds help with that issue.  I know there are a lot of people who have been put on antidepressants who probably just needed to get a hobby, start exercising, or get negative people out of their lives, but there are many others who without medication wouldn’t be able to function in this world and apparently I am one of them.  There are some side effects from the medication I am not thrilled with.  I am not able to feel emotions like I used to, but sometimes that is a good thing, especially when you don’t want to cry at the drop of a hat, but sometimes you feel like you should be able to cry over something but the tears do not come.  But, I am sure those around me prefer the medicated me compared to what I used to be like.  I’m not saying I am always easy to get along with, as I do find myself getting more aggravated in situations that didn’t used to bother me, my patience leaves quickly, and going to the grocery store can become an experiment in whether I am going to get snippy with people or stay calm until I get to the car.  It can get a bit scary at times…

I’m not really sure what the point of this post is, other than for those who suffer from depression, I get it.  I know what it feels like to stare at your computer knowing you need to be working, but you can’t even get your fingers to move on the keyboard.  When a simple shopping trip turns into you trying as hard as you can to not run over someone with your shopping cart and chunk food at them, especially when the lady behind you has hit you three times with her cart because she can’t see we have a traffic jam in the aisle that isn’t clearing anytime soon.  I think you get the point.  I am to the point in my life that I have to figure out my exit plan from my current career while I still have the ability to make the change.  I must say my plan is to start writing posts on my current quest to lose weight and finally learning how to write fiction.  Till next time….

This past weekend a major event happened in Waco, some call it a massacre, at this point I am still not sure what you should call it.  It was sad for those who lost loved ones, it probably should have never happened, but what has really started to come out is the “race card.”  For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is where a person of a certain ethnic group goes on and on about how if the people in Waco were of their color the whole situation would have been different.  It basically goes back to the years where there was segregation of the different races.  As you can tell, I’m trying to be politically correct here, but at times you just cannot do that and still get the point across.  So, to put this in perspective, a group of people I am acquainted with have pulled the race card when it comes to Waco.  The first things out of their mouths was how if it had been “black” people the situation would have gone down completely different.  There would have been the Military, National Guard, etc., etc. and that the police would have gone in shooting before the fight even broke out.

My question is, what news have you been watching?  You had every level of law enforcement out in plain sight.  You had SWAT, Texas Troopers, Waco police, surrounding police, helicopters, etc.  They arrested over 175 people and several are still in jail on a million dollar bond, even though the police department at this time still cannot account for who really shot who.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it came out that the bikers were all shot by law enforcement, so how is that different from if they were all black??  I personally feel the Waco Police felt overwhelmed, went in guns blazing, and started shooting.  If the bikers had really been shooting at them wouldn’t one of the police officers or innocent bystanders been hit by stray bullets?  I think if the truth ever comes out there will be as much of an injustice in Waco as the different incidents in the USA where black men have been killed.

The next thing this group of acquaintances is saying is that if they were black they would have been called a gang, but since they were white they were called a club.  Let’s look below at the definition of the two words:

Gang

1.  A group of criminals
2.  A group of young people who do illegal things together and who often fight against other gangs
3.  A group of people who are friends and who do things together

Club

  1. A group or association of people with common aims or interests   ⇒a wine club
  2. The room, building, or facilities used by such a group (in combination)   ⇒clubhouse
  3. A building in which elected, fee-paying members go to meet, dine, read, etc

To be a true club you have to follow Parliamentary Procedure for Club Meetings.  i.e., parliamentary procedure is the etiquette of organization. It is a uniform, businesslike procedure organizations use to ensure that all members have a chance to participate and yet reach conclusions. Parliamentary procedure is merely the application of good manners.  Most of your motorcycle clubs have this system in place.  They have a Sargeant at Arms, President, VP, etc.  Yes, your gangs have their own structure, but normally there is a head and everyone better fall in line or else.  The majority of true motorcycle clubs follow Parliamentary procedure, so they are a club.

I would like to know when the last time you heard of the Crips or Bloods or whoever that had a Toy Run or some other charity event…  I can’t think of one.  The other problem is have you ever heard of an innocent person dying from a drive by from a true motorcycle club?  But, you hear of young children, women, non-gang members getting shot often by a drive by shooting.  I have even heard of people getting shot in their own home from a stray drive by bullet…  Yes, there are motorcycle gangs, not clubs, that are a criminal group.  The problem is you cannot throw all the motorcycles clubs in to one big group like you also cannot throw all black young men into one group either.

Let’s look at the difference between a motorcycle gang and a motorcycle club:

MC Clubs raise money for their area and donate to good causes.
MC Gangs sell drugs to people, steal fight carry guns and use drugs themselves.
MC Clubs are made up of mostly good people with families and are good members of the area that they live in.
MC Gangs are mostly drug dealing trash that never worked a day in their life except on their bike.
MC Clubs have rides and events that are family friendly occasions
MC Gangs go on rides to fight, party, and deal dope.
MC Clubs may have members such as Police officers, Lawyers, Doctors, Blue collar guys, whatever.
MC Gangs usually have ex convicts for members.

I guess what I am so tired of is the fact that one of the main people who I know that is throwing around the race card is a minister of color, one I have known for years.  One who used to preach how there is no color, how the races need to learn to love each other, and that God sees no color, so we shouldn’t either.  How does teaching this line up with him now talking about how the black man is always being singled out by the police, stereotyped by the media, and will never get a break?  My problem with this is if you keep acting a certain way how do you expect anything to change?  I mean if anything the white people should be rioting over the whole Waco thing.  Why you ask?  Well the police came out and said they had been basically profiling these clubs for two months now.  They knew bad things would happen, so they had to take care of the situation.

We now have dead bikers, most likely by the police, so how is that different from the young black men who have died in the last couple of years by the police?  I know, I know, it’s not the same thing.  But, yes it is.  The only thing different is normally white people do not go trashing their own neighborhoods, shoot at police, and act the fool when we know there has been a wrong.  We peacefully protest, write our blogs, send letters to the officials, politicians, and everyone else who is involved.  We go to the press.  We take matters into our own hands and try to make a change.  If you don’t want to keep the stereotypes then quit acting the fool when you feel you have been treated unjust.  I mean the family of the black men who were killed by police have asked the people not to riot, not to act stupid, not to destroy their own neighborhoods, but the crowd goes ahead and riots.  Of course, then wonder why the main gas station in town will not rebuild.  Why should they?

I am not saying all whites are great, as I know there are many people out there who still believe we should be segregated, but there are more of us who believe otherwise and want to know why you are still blaming us for something that happened to the black race several generations ago.  Don’t you think it is time to quit throwing up the race card, and start stepping back and looking at the true facts of the situation?  Isn’t it time to quit saying it is a black problem or a white problem, but a problem that needs to be fixed by working together?  I try so hard not to see color, but it is so hard not to when every time you turn around it is thrown in your face.  I know I can’t be the only person who feels this way…  Till next time…

psycho-520x215Okay, I couldn’t talk about being afraid of the shower without referencing the famous shower scene in Psycho. I know that there are people who are still afraid to take showers because of that movie, but it isn’t the reason I am terrified of showers. On April 8, it will be my fourth anniversary of my left knee replacement. I admit I have had problems with my replacement. I am still stuck between 5 and 10 degrees of my leg being straight, but I can live with that. I can now tell you when weather fronts are coming through, as my knee gets stiff. But, when someone asks if I would do it again I would have to say yes. I went from having to wear thigh-high compression stocking on my left leg, then a big brace, and use a cane to get around. I never knew when it would go out and I would be on the floor. I don’t have those problems anymore. So, things aren’t perfect, but they are much better.

So, back to the reason for the blog… Showers terrify me because I am afraid of falling. I used to love to take showers. That was my “me” time. I could get in and out with no problems. Sometimes it was fun to take a shower if you know what I mean, but now I am afraid from the moment I put my first foot in until I take the last step out. I have the no skid rubber mat on the shower floor. I have the handicap bars, but we have one of those combination shower/tubs that you have to step up and over the side to get in. It is also an older tub, so it is funny shaped and even with the mat there are still areas that slip. I mean a part of me knows that it is okay, I am not going to fall, but now I am not sure what my replaced knee will do if I fall. I know what it did before. I fell, it popped out, I popped it back in, and then I limped for a few days. Now, I have metal, screws, etc., so if I fall will it rip out? I mean I don’t want to find out, but that sits in the back of your mind. I have really thought about taking the second bathroom that has an old metal tub we can’t use and ripping it out and making a true step in shower. One of those where you only have the slight lip where the water doesn’t pour out into the rest of the bathroom and down the hall, but it is very easy to get in and out. The thing is that takes money and of course with getting laid off on New Year’s Eve 2014 and just getting a new job last month, it will be a bit before that is an option.

I do find I feel better if I have a place to sit in the shower. I can then do all I need to do in the shower and not worry about my feet going out from under me, but you still have to get in and out. It makes you wonder how little old men and ladies even attempt to take a shower when they have a setup like I have. I guess that is why they have home health come in, have to go to assisted living, or have to live with a younger loved one. I guess at some point in your life you know you are going to get to the age where certain things are not going to be easy to do, but you really don’t think about that when you are in your early 50s or younger. I guess when you realize you really are getting older it sucks… I mean when we were in our 20s and 30s we could get by with 2 hours of sleep, take a fall and get right back up, pickup stuff and not worry about your back and now just the thought of falling you wonder if you will break a hip… oh well… Till next time.

It has been a while since I have posted on this blog. I know I am rather hit and miss when it comes to keeping up with this blog, but here lately I have had a lot more off days than on, which makes it very hard to get focused to get anything done. That is the problem when you fight depression, you have certain days that no matter what you do you just can’t get into doing anything. You spend the whole day trying to get past your mood or the way you feel and by the time you get past them you are worn out. I guess one of my issues here since the first of the year has been trying to find a job. I was laid off by the company I worked for on New Years Eve and I have been through a couple of jobs since. I finally think I have found the job I was looking for, but now they are acting kind of strange, so just hoping everything is okay.typing lady

So what is my profession? I’m a medical transcriptionist. Many years ago this was the job that not only had prestige, it made really good money. People were charging good money per line and getting it no problem. A person could make a nice living, usually from home, and enjoyed what they were doing. I got into this profession 15 years ago. I needed a way to stay home and work as my husband was disabled and trying to take care of him and work outside of the house was getting too difficult. I got luck and after I finished my correspondence course I found a mentor who molded me into a oncology/hematology transcriptionist. I worked with her for two years and then went to work with a large company doing the big four, which is history and physicals, consults, operative notes, and discharge notes. I was making almost 9 cents a line and that was decent, especially for a fairly new MT. I worked a normal 40 hour week, had benefits, and could pay my bills. The problem is within another year we had the influx of medical records being sent to India. India was cheap and to compete with them everyone started dropping their price per line. If you were luck you could find a job that paid 8 cents a line, plus with the ups and downs of if you have work or not I found myself working at least two jobs, which meant no days off. For the last 15 years I have worked just about every major holiday, as hospitals do not close so they need someone to work.

The next thing that hit was the stay at home mom who saw all these television commercials and such that they could make good money working at home, so they took the classes, would take any rate of pay to get experience, and the already working MTs now get hit by even lower rates. Since India would do transcription for like a penny a line and these newbies would take 5 cents a line, several of your transcription companies saw where they could cash in on the low pay and you started seeing pay going down to 7.5 cents a line. The normal used to be 65 character line with spaces and now you were seeing longer character lines, or no spaces, or whatever else they could figure out to screw the transcriptionist out of a penny here or there. If you think pennies don’t mean much believe me they do. If you are making 8 cents a line and doing 1000 lines a day that would be $80, but if you are only making 7 cents a line then you are looking at $70. You have just lost $10 a day and if you work five days per week you are now losing $50 a week.

The next thing that we have started seeing over the last five years is almost all your MT companies are going to only taking independent contractors because then they don’t have to deal with taxes, health insurance, etc., but they still pay the contractor the same or less than what they would pay an employee. The real kicker here is they expect you to work a schedule, but the legal terms that make a person a contractor specifically states you cannot hold a contractor to an exact schedule. You can work out an estimated time that you would like them to do the work, but you cannot make them set an exact schedule and work it. I have been released from a company for not working an exact schedule even though I was a contractor.

Now we are in the present and we have a new problem. Almost all the small mom and pop transcription services were bought up by one of the big three MT companies. The biggest has transcriptionists in the US and India, of which most of the easier work that you can get good lines on goes over to India and then comes back to America for the English-speaking MTs to fix the grammar and get paid only 3 cents per line for editing. Oh, I forgot to mention that not only do we have India, stay at home moms, being turned into contractors, we now have voice recognition and scribes. Scribes are those people who follow the doctor around and type on the computer as he talks. I used to love doing emergency room reports, but the majority of ERs now have scribes in the ER who do all the typing, which took work away from us MTs. Now remember back as a newbie I was making 8 to 9 cents a line and now as a 15 year experienced MT I am being offered 6.5 cents for typed and 3 cents per edited line. Editing is where the report comes in already typed, but you have to listen and proof it word for word and fix any problems, which most of the time takes more time than if you just typed it yourself. I mean what other profession do you make less for the more experience you have? Crazy isn’t it? This profession is going down the tubes fast and I have no idea how to fix it. We are one profession that really needs a union, but since the majority of us work from home, never physically meet each other or our bosses, it would be a difficult thing to organize.

You might be asking why I don’t just change professions, go to school, whatever, well I have been working at home for the last 15 years. I am in my early 50s and don’t think I could handle going back into the world working in an office with all the politics and such. I really don’t want to go to school as I really have no desire to nor do I have anything I really want to do. I do have other things I am working on like my writing, art, etc. to give myself an exit plan, but it is going to be a while. I just hate the thought of a profession that is so important is going downhill. We are the people who make sure your medical records are correct. When you go to the hospital and they look up your records they can see what your allergies are, what pills you have taken, etc. and if they are incomplete or have mistakes, it could cost you your life, but it seems like the people in power don’t care because if they did they wouldn’t allow your sensitive records go to India, as the medical privacy laws do not cover anything that leaves the US. They can’t tell your spouse how you are, but they sure can send their records to who knows where and it is okay.

So I am done with my rant. I have people constantly thinking they want to become MTs and I give them all the same answer – find something else and don’t look back. Yes, 20 years ago this would have been the profession of choice, but not anymore, unless you like working for pennies, beating your hands on a keyboard as you work on production not hourly, and like being treated like a second-class citizen…. till next time.

Have you ever wondered what it was like to be an introvert? What goes on in the mind of one? Well, today I am going to answer your questions, because I am one.

Of all the types of personalities I think the introvert is one of the most misunderstood. People try to talk to us and when we don’t come off bubbly, or interesting, or whatever, we are considered to be mad, peeved, or standoffish, when all we really wanted to do was try to be friendly. I know, that sounds crazy, but believe me it is true. I have been fighting these feelings for years. I realized the other day that making conversation and trying to be friendly really is hard work. For some people they love to be in the middle of a big social event, smoozing the crowd, making conversation with everyone they can, but for an introvert this brings on panic attacks. Why you might ask? It is because an introvert has to expend so much energy trying to think of something to say, how to make sure their emotions come off as genuine, and trying to figure out what is expected of them that by the time they meet a handful of people they are so tired they just want to go sit down and people watch. The other people in the room then see this person sitting on the couch like a bump on a log and wonder what their problem is. Their problem is they are tired and are trying to recover their brain cells and composure so they can get through the evening without coming off pissed or hurting someone.

I don’t know how many people have told my loved ones in the past how I seemed like I wasn’t enjoying myself or asking if I ever talked or something along those lines. The problem is I really was trying to be friendly, make conversation, and I have gotten better over the years, but it is still a struggle. I remember when I first met my husband’s family one of them asked if I knew how to talk. Of course I knew how to talk, there was just so many of them, I was really young, and was overwhelmed with the whole situation. The older I have gotten though I have learned how to work with my condition, if you want to call it that. I really am not sure what I would call being an introvert. It isn’t a disease that you can take a pill for or a mental health issue, but just a personality trait that should be embraced for what it is instead of being misunderstood.

I have found that true extroverts have no idea what an introvert goes through. They are like why don’t you get up and talk to people? You need to work the room and meet people. Maybe I don’t want to meet people. Maybe I am getting a migraine from working so hard to act like what they think a normal person should act like. I mean really, what is wrong with enjoying myself by watching people, listening to their conversations, taking in all that is around me? Maybe while you are off smoozing I am finding out good gossip from the ladies standing behind me, or finding out that the lady in the tight fitting dress is really trying to seduce the hostess’ husband, or any other number of interesting things. If all I did was walk around the room and talk think of all the fun stuff I would have missed out on.

I guess what I am saying is try to look at your introverted friend in a different light. Just because you have no problems being the center of attention or in social gatherings, figure out why your friend is not enjoying it as much as you. You might be surprised of the wealth of information you will obtain when you start to try to understand them instead of putting labels on them and wondering why you even take them out in public. Till next time…

emoticon-question-marksAs I wrote yesterday’s blog post I had no idea how prophetic my writing would be. About an hour after I wrote and posted it I received a call from the CEO and HR Director for the company I have worked for since early 2013. They informed me that I was being laid off. The company was needing to downsize and was letting several of us go and I was one of them. I, of course, am an independent contractor, so I cannot apply for unemployment. Within an hour they had deactivated all my usernames and passwords and that was it. No warning, nothing. I had my little cry, but then realized I needed to take the next four days and take my time and figure out exactly what my plans are, what am I going to do, where are we going in 2015, as now things have completely changed. I don’t have the money base that I just had a day ago. I am now going to have to figure out how to replace that income. I mean it wasn’t that much, but it definitely was better than nothing. For some reason when we are finally getting to the point of the finances going well, getting caught up, things looking really good, something has to go wrong. Loss of job, unexpected bills, something breaking, health issues, etc., why is that? Why can’t life just go along and be okay. I guess I understand we have to go through trials, but at some point in our life you would think we would have gone through enough issues that we get a pass from such an age to the end of our lives. I know we have been through more than a lot of families, but less than others.

The other day I was reading a book though that really seemed to foreshadow what ended up happening. The basic premise was based on the book “The Secret,” but also brought in a component of NLP – neurolinguistic programming. This is where you basically learn how to speak things into existence, not just claim and wait. One of those things where you can picture being in a certain place, but if you words are negative and you constantly state you will never achieve anything – then you won’t. One of those things to where if you constantly tell the universe you are broke, you’ll be broke sort of thing. I am still not sure how I feel about either ways of thinking, but the book did talk about something that really stuck with me. People who step out and say they are going to do something with no backup plan and nothing to fall back on normally are able to become successful in their endeavors. A person who has nothing to fall back on has to make things work or end up homeless. I mean we aren’t at that point, but I now have to choose. The thing is that is a hard thing to do when you have to have an income and a job is normally an easy choice. It is there. As long as you are working a paycheck will come your way every two weeks or so and you can plan on being able to pay bills. You aren’t sitting in your office hoping someone will call or email so you can make money. It takes away the guesswork of when you are going to get paid, but it also keeps you stuck in a job that you probably do not enjoy or even like. Your time is committed to that employer which normally means you either are too tired, don’t have enough hours, or such to work on your own business. Your own business is normally doing something you enjoy on your own terms. Of course with this freedom comes the feast or famine situation where you are normally sitting for days or weeks with no jobs or you have so many jobs you are having to make waiting lists or turn down customers. Of course, you normally have no control over this type of situation, you just hope you saved enough money or paid enough bills during the feast to get you through the famine. Problem is, a lot of people go crazy with the money during the feast and then have no way to pay the bills when the famine comes. This type of life is just too much stress on a lot of people and that is why so many people never go into business for themselves.

I guess once you get to my age you start having to really take into account everything so that you make the right decision. When you are 20 or 30 starting all over again isn’t that big of a thing, as you still have 40 to 50 years to make up for any missteps or start again if you have to, but once you are 50 you don’t have as much time to fix the situation. I think that is what makes this decision so hard, as I need to take into account if I can continue to make money this way when I am late 60s or 70s or if there is only five to ten year window of opportunity before I am unable to continue. I guess it is like being at a fork in the road and instead of two options there is four and making the right decision gets more difficult the longer you sit there. I guess it is time I figure out what I am going to do, as I’m not getting any younger as they say. Until next time…

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