Social Media Application

        The internet is the fastest moving train since the Industrial Revolution changed the world forever. Ten years ago, before I had my own computer, not unusual at that time, that I found a use for email {before this I did not understand the concept} Only a few possessed personal computers, which evolved into laptops which is now outdated since the smart phone is now in the hands of everyone you meet on the street. Recently, while visiting my mother, she asked if I wanted to use her laptop to check my Face Book. I replied “No thanks. I have been checking it on my smart phone during the day as I receive updates.”  We are all connected to the big cloud in the sky, owned by Google. Well, let me just suggest that this is my PO (Personal Opinion) The day I sent my first email ten years ago,  it was extremely beneficial. I figured out a way to use it as an application. My son was in an extreme medical situation and rather than phone all the relatives, I wrote one email and sent to everyone on my mother’s address list. I felt a huge weight lifted from my shoulders as I found a way to apply it. 
         Today, I have found many ways Face Book has been beneficial to network, to share knowledge, to share photos and stories and information. It is a way to keep close to friends who live afar. It has been a way for me to offer emotional support to friends who need that and it has been my answer in the middle of the night when I worried I may need to go to hospital but instead was given useful information by others who had a shared knowledge. It has been a way to share the craft fairs where I would be working. The possibilities are limitless. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of FB, has learned more from users than he could have possibly imagined. We have made him a multi-millionaire because we found many applications without limits. 
         They say folks who have blogs are actually writing less, because they share so much through social media, and write shorter pieces, not necessarily on their blogs. Unfortunately, I have found no useful applications for Twitter or Linked In. I am unsure they would be beneficial to me, however, I once thought the same way about email and Face Book.  At the risk of sounding like an old lady, some may have felt the same way about using a telephone back at the turn of the century. Perhaps they felt the same about using an automobile. I suppose the affordability of these luxuries was half of the excitement of purchasing these gadgets.
         Tonight, I was excited to think I learned how to add widgets to my blog and for the first time in four years, I added a new feature. On each story, it is now possible to click on SHARE and a group of social media sites pops up onto the screen. This allows the reader to share the link with any of those sites. Yes, this old dog is still trying to learn a few tricks.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Remembering the Day the Twin Towers Collapsed- A Telephone Operator’s Account

 

It started out as an ordinary work day with my daily half hour commute from Standish to Portland, Maine en-route to fulfill my duties as a 411 operator. I knew that even though I may only speak to a caller for fifteen seconds, that I had to be very alert when handling the call volume.  On the way, I always listened to a radio station to receive the news of the day. This particular day, I listened as the news unfolded and hurried along faster to see if there might be something on the television at work. I arrived to find our break room full of people, I had never seen, mostly managers whom worked upstairs. The room was silent as we all watched the story unfold. Looking back, it may have been Katie Couric who narrated exactly what was happening in Lower Manhattan. What I did notice was a lack of display of emotion from those giving us the news. No dramatic display of hysteria, like Hebert Morrison’s radio broadcast witnessing the explosion of the Hindenburg in 1937.  It was all ‘matter of fact’ and as I recollect, which seemed sterile and detached from the event. Regardless, nothing could have prepared any of us for what we witnessed happening via live satellite from NYC. As we viewed the television screen in horror, we saw ordinary people like us plunging from windows towards their deaths. Then the first tower slammed from the top floor into the next, subsequently, like a giant domino line, until the giant skyscraper was leveled into what surmounted into an “atomic” dust cloud chasing thousands of New Yorkers through the streets and across bridges running for their lives. We were in complete shock and denial, and acutely horrified. And then, the second tower collapsed. I abruptly shouted an expletive… and then I looked around the room and saw other operators scrambling to enter the directory assistance office to handle our day to day information calls. Having been a 411 operator for three years, this was a day I was unsure that I could perform my job with full concentration. I had the entire morning’s events weighing heavily of my mind, and so did my co-workers. In fact, one of my co-workers ended up unplugging and telling a manager he needed to leave. His daughter was in Lower Manhattan. He managed to reach her and instructed her to go quickly to his friend’s office at Newsweek magazine and stay there until he arrived. Managers rushed around the office with papers outlining information the callers would be looking for such as emergency info for the airlines, listings for government agencies and any other information which would be pertinent to the callers’ requests. It was complete chaos in the office for an hour or so when one of some of the managers ran around the office with clipboards asking for volunteers to go to Dover, NH to field phones calls from only NYC and surrounding boroughs. I did not hesitate and raised my hand along with six or seven others. My mind was on this disaster and doing whatever I could do to help. We grabbed our things and car pooled to Dover which was over an hour south of Portland. I called home before I left and told my family I would be home very late. I was unaware my sons had witnessed it on televisions at their school. They were twelve and fourteen and old enough to see this. Later, reflecting how I felt that my sons’ witnessed the WTC collapse on television, my reasoning was that it was historically significant.
Once in Dover, we saw many whom we used to work with in Directory Assistance. This was the Zero Operator office. The break room was full of pizzas for us and they welcomed us to help them field calls from NYC. We all sat in a room and did emergency training for about 3 hours. A Zero operator’s responsibilities were far different from a 411 operator. The keyboards had different functions which we needed to learn. None of us could have been prepared for what we were to hear when we plugged into our switchboards. In Directory, we could hand off a call to a service assistant if the customer needed more help. As a Zero Operator, the call belonged to you from beginning to end. Handing off a call was not an option.
We all went to our stations with our manuals and notes in hand. It was a day I will never forget.The phone company waived all coin phone fees that day as the urgency prevailed all day in Lower Manhattan. Hysteria met our ears all day and we had to remain calm and professional throughout our tour of duty. I recall becoming emotional a few times, when people were yelling that they just escaped from the 84th floor, the 79th floor, and after a while, I felt relieved that some people had escaped. They were in a panic, trying to reach family members. I tried to connect a few however with the steady stream of the flow of communication; often times calls were met with ALL CIRCUITS ARE BUSY. It was not like cell phones were carried by everyone as they are today, ten years later.
I remember we were taught how to break into a line to connect a person to a person. One man calling from Brooklyn to Staten Island, asked me to intercept the call. I broke into the line and informed the woman I had so & so who needed to speak with her. She agreed and I heard a short piece of the conversation. He was yelling, “The towers are gone!! Can you believe those people are all dancing in the streets in Pakistan?? ” I continued with my next call. It was a suicidal man from Queens. He was saying the world was ending and he wanted to hurt himself. I quickly tried to reassure him to hold a moment because I was going to get him some help (Samaritans). With this call, I needed assistance from a trainer. It was very stressful and this person believed this was the end of the world… he was exasperated. We connected him to an operator for Samaritans and then onto my next call. I received many calls from people who were looking for their friends and family and wanted me to dial the name of the business at the World Trade Center. They were in complete disbelief. I told them the towers were gone and I wished them well and said a prayer for them. I did not know how I was going to get through the day talking to New Yorkers all day. I felt like I had been through battle after only one day on the job. That night, I went home and cried. The following day, we did the same thing again. The second night, I went home again and I cried. The third day, we resumed our regular jobs as 411 operators, as Dover did not need us anymore.
Life changed drastically after that day. For the next year or so, I would get up in the middle of the night to check Headline News for any little bit of details related to the terrorist attack. I was consumed with news 24/7, a dramatic change from the early days of my youth when we had a B&W TV and saw the news once a day. I recalled my father waking us to watch the moon landing. It seemed such and innocent time and a time when news didn’t rule our lives. We are addicted to news and information in the moment and we are all on a fast train heading for somewhere.
For at least a year after the attack, every call into Directory Assistance was noticably different. The callers were all on high alert. They listened when the operators asked them for more information. They were kinder and polite for a long time, perhaps prioritizing the important things in life. I think it forced all of us to reevaluate our lives. Maybe we all needed a wake- up call.  I remember thinking that the effort to look for survivors and to clear the area of debris needed to be photographed. I hoped someone was brave enough to take on the task. Joel Meyerowitz, photographer was from the New York area. He started carrying his camera everyday and was questioned and sent away. He was persistent and finally received clearance to document the area. He then heard many stories as he spoke with rescue personnel nearly every day. Then the calls began coming into 411 for young men and some women looking for recruiter’s listings. This went on for a long time, as young men and women joined the armed forces to fight against those who dared attack us.
I recall seeing the haze in NYC after the collapse of the twin Towers, a haze which lasted days upon days. I saw a silhouette of a large twisted steel form similar to cathedral windows cast against a backdrop of soot and ashe whiteout. That piece of twisted steel, I later wrote to the editor of the New York Times was something which needed to be salvaged for a Memorial. Apparently, I was not the only one to think so, because I was in good company with the head of Metropolitan Museum of Art also mentioning this piece of twisted steel needed to be considered for a Memorial. I have a copy of my email sent and also the letter from the New York Times. In fact I saved many different newspapers from that day. In 1983, before my visit to the Twin Towers, I would visit the Empire State Building and photograph looking down towards Wall Street earlier that day. I also saved some artifacts from the World Trade Center and went to the Observation Deck to photograph. I took photos from all the four sides looking out over the New York skyline including a spectacular view of the Brooklyn Bridge lit up at night. I took photos looking down towards the street, which I now realize was the view people witnessed just before their plunge from the building that day. My artifacts include a green ticket to the Observation Deck which has an outline of the WTC and also a brochure which unfolds to show the NYC skyline. On the front of the color brochure is written in bold letters, “The Closest Some Will Ever Get to Heaven”

 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Henry Ford

Perhaps one of the most interesting self- made American men was Mr. Henry Ford. It started with an article I read in an old magazine, The American Magazine, dated July 1928.  The title was “Wages Will Go Up and Prices Come Down says Henry Ford”, an interview by William S. Dutton. [ pg 15-17,111-113]
         Ford was sixty-five when he was interviewed by Dutton. Ford believed that a man is in training until age forty. If he quits then or retires, he is a failure. Ford did not believe he was successful, as his only success was an assembler of tools. His philosophy of money was interesting.
         Money is but only a tool and Ford believed when it becomes other than a tool in its use, then it becomes a menace. Ford’s statement, “Non productive private fortunes do not exist anymore. Once they cease to produce, they disappear.” Raw tools of the industry would include a pile of coal. A pile of money is also a raw tool of the industry.
         He was asked about charity workers. What were Ford’s thoughts about giving away large amounts of money to charity? He went on to explain how his factory, which he referred to as his “machine”, worked. Ford owned everything to make his machine work. To produce cars, he converted ore to steel, then sand to glass, then hemp to burlap, then cloth into artificial leather, then waste paper and rags into binder board and slag into cement, and he even owned the rubber plants to produce his automobile tires. Ford Motor Company was a vertical industry. Henry Ford explained that nobody could possibly know how high men’s wages eventually would climb and likewise nobody could predict just how cheaply goods could be produced. He spoke of equations and that it may be possible to double wages and to half costs or to quadruple wages and to quarter costs. We can not predict what the possibilities will be. Ford went on to say that costs are no nearer to the bottom than wages are to the top. Ford knew that the two movements, wages upward and costs downward will do more to abolish poverty than all the professional charity agencies combined. 
         On the subject of charity once again, Ford believed that Prosperity is not the product of charity, but of industry, not of receiving but of producing. Money has little to do with prosperity because it in itself does not produce. “Money represents an earned right to participate in the general production. If everyone partook and nobody produced, what good is money?”(pg 17) Ford said many people confuse money with wealth. You can use real wealth but you cannot use money because you can only accept it in exchange of uses. Real wealth gives values to money: money gives no value to wealth. Let every man produce one useful thing, or reclaim one idle acre more and wealth increases.
         Ford asked if it was efficient for business to pay high land taxes in a congested city and have people that cannot afford their rent. It was better for business to move into the country where land costs were lower with better living conditions. Ford said that money to buy his vehicles came from people, not Wall St, not the Banks and not Capitalists. 
         Until interest is earned, no profit can be made. Ford’s belief that once a person invested in one of his autos, they should be paying less for their second car they buy from Ford and it should be a better car also. He felt that the money customers invested with Ford Motor Co. also paid men’s wages and to keep his “machine” running. He did not want the customer to carry the extra expense of added interest on their own hard earned money. He felt the customer paid once so they should not be charged again. 
         Henry Ford lived rather simply. His payroll to keep his machine working was one million dollars per day. If anyone ate up his money, it would be the machine, Ford explained. Upon a recent visit to his winter home in Fort Myers , FL, I was surprised he only went there two weeks each year, a testament to hard work ethics. 
         Ford was the master of efficiency, as you will read later in this piece. I recall a story in Studs Terkel’s book, Hard Times, about an assembly worker in the Ford plant. The worker arrived to work a very long first day. He was not told to bring a lunch or a pair of gloves. Once inside the factory, the gates locked behind him, and if one arrived 5 minutes late, they were docked one hour’s pay. The worker thought there might be a lunch wagon, but instead went hungry on his first day at work which was longer than today’s eight hour day. His job was to sand fenders all day, which he did bare- handed with no gloves. 
         Ford refused to think of himself as a success. His statement, “Any man who thinks he has done something, hasn’t many more things to do. More men are failures on account of success than on account of failures” [Ford]
        Having researched the design and cost breakdown which Ford had spent much time considering, I read with great interest the manual Ford Model A/AA Truck Owner by A.G.McMillan. The manual was originally written during the years of the Great Depression, late 1920’s. Ford was intrigued with making sure his truck was versatile and he marketed it well. He designed Baker’s delivery trucks, garbage trucks ,ice trucks, taxi’s ,ambulances , police patrol vehicles ,heavy duty express road service trucks (tow trucks), Coal trucks, Hydraulic trucks, stock trucks for moving livestock, stake trucks (with wooden stakes on the sides), Long bed trucks, Panel body trucks , and Funeral coaches. He had two basic types of AA trucks which were All American (all metal) and Line Construction Bodies (telephone & telegraph trucks, light & power trucks)
        Ford claimed there were four reasons why a Ford Truck meant Efficiency and Economy. #1 Complete Line of Equipment (With a large number of Fords in operation meant a greater number of manufacturers) #2 Lower prices on Equipment (Greater production meant lower cost of Ford equipment) #3 Better repair service ( With a large amount of Fords on the road meant for more repair centers everywhere) #4 More rapid delivery ( National distributing eliminated delays)
                    The manual was full of diagrams showing weight distribution of freight as well as comparison charts showing cost efficiency of his trucks versus the use of horse teams. Comparisons included time breakdowns and cost breakdowns. It took 4 teams (8 horses) and 4 men to keep pace with a Ford truck with a total cost of $1200.00 for equipment per year however the Ford truck cost $675.00 per year. A Ford truck would work 24 hours per day with only 15 minutes of care whereas horses will not stand more than eight hours per day. It takes forty acres to feed eight horses but a Ford truck only uses gas and oil. Stormy weather does not impact a Ford however in stormy weather, men and horses stand idle. 
        There was also a diagram which showed the costs per mile. The price of eight horses and four wagons was $1200.00 per year less $675.00 for the Ford Truck. The initial savings there was $525.00 In addition to those savings, cost of operating eight horses and four wagons per year $1292.64 and the cost of operating a Ford Truck was $270.21. Those savings were $1022.43 with a total savings comparison of $1547.43 for the first year.
        The next comparison was between a Ford six-wheel 2 ½ ton unit and an existing 2½ ton truck ( name of truck was not mentioned). The Ford truck appeared more solid, less bulky and streamlined in comparison to the competitor’s truck. Maybe one of the differences in appearance was Ford’s use of load distribution. 60/40 load distribution meant that 60 % of the weight was over the front axle while 40% was over the rear axle.
        The cost of Ford’s six wheel 2 ½ ton truck was $982.00 and the truck in comparison cost $3478.00.  The running cost of gas, oil and lubrication was broken down for each vehicle. The Ford truck got 10 miles to the gallon where the comparison truck got 7 miles to the gallon. So the average truck cost per mile was calculated for the comparison truck to 0.165 and the Ford truck was 0.086 per mile. Depreciation, Maintenance and Fixed costs were all figured into calculations. Comparing costs of those two trucks, a savings of $3720.00 was what the consumer could expect the first year if they purchased a Ford Truck.
         The design of Ford’s trucks was also broken down into diagrams and lists. Each truck had 66 drop forgings for maximum strength and minimum weight. Each truck came equipped with shatterproof glass on the front windshield. The only vehicle Ford manufactured that also included a shatterproof rear windshield was the ambulance. Also to reduce rivets, there were over 611 electric welds for safety and strength. Ford trucks were designed for easy adjustment. Ford owned the world’s largest Industrial unit. His plant in Dearborn, Michigan had a casting foundry, a glass plant, pressed steel and spring buildings, rolling mill, open hearth cement plant, and also had investments in the rubber industry to produce his tires. A diagram depicted 500 Ford coal cars bringing coal to the rouge plant. The rouge glass plant had an annual capacity of 10,000,000 square feet. 500 gallons of old paint were reclaimed daily. Power plant consumed 2200 tons of coal daily. Rouge plant covered 1,096 acres.
        Coke ovens produced an average of 3,300 tons of coke, 50, 000,000 cubic feet of gas, and 40,000 gallons of refined light oil every 24 hours. 2,500 barrels of Portland cement produced daily. Approximately 95 miles of railroad sidetracks were in the Rouge plant. James Newton, author of Uncommon Friends  relayed a story told by Edison’s son about The Rouge plant losing power once. Hoping to restore power quickly, Ford was reluctant to wait for the electric company to set poles, and instructed his own men to run power lines along the telephone poles. He told his men that he would deal with the telephone company later. Newton was a close friend of Edison, Ford and Firestone. In 1932, Newton and a newspaper reporter met Ford for an interview concerning his business philosophy. Newton mentioned there were two Ford model A’s in the driveway. Ford told Newton he had driven one from Detroit while his assistant drove the other. After the reporter left, Ford mentioned to his assistant, “Should we show Newton what we have here?” They proceeded to open the hood so Jimmie Newton took a look at the first V-8 engine. It was two months later when the world would see the V-8. Ford wanted to test drive the V-8 himself and if one of the vehicles broke down, they could just tow it using the other Ford Model A, rather than have it towed to a garage and spill the beans about the V-8.
         Ford Motor Company’s assets were one billion dollars during the late 1920’s.Ford employed 269 thousand men including factory workers and dealers. Plants and equipment worth 293 million dollars with a production of 18 million cars and trucks (3 million model A’s) Ford also made sure that he had schools for mechanics to become certified to work on his vehicles. There were 22,800 trained mechanics that graduated from these schools and became employed in Ford service stations. In addition, Ford employed 17, 734 salesmen, 5,877 dealers and 1,334 fleet –owner mechanics. There were 35 branches which were Ford headquarters for that territory
         In the early 20’s, there was a recession and Ford was producing many cars. He was smart with finance and managed to keep his company from being taken over by big bank creditors. Demand was low at this time. One way he managed to save his company was to ship his cars to the dealerships with a bill of lading and sight draft attached. The dealership had to pay for the vehicles when they were delivered. Either they paid for the vehicles or they lost their dealerships. The author, Newton, explained that in those days, having a Ford dealership afforded one considerable status in a small town.   
         Model AA panel delivery trucks could be special ordered with the name of the business information lettered onto the vehicle. Ford calculated costs of carrying freight and broke the figures down into pounds weight per 100 gallons. He used milk, oil, gasoline, eggs, and calculated what the weight would be with empty racks versus full racks. Ford calculated what it would cost to carry weights per bushel of apples, potatoes, rhubarb, tomatoes, barley and also showed how to distribute loads when carrying the freight. Weights per bushel of apples (50 lbs), tomatoes (55 lbs), clover (25 lbs), limes (80 lbs) charcoal (20 lbs), as this information would be important to a delivery man. 
         Ford also considered the most efficient method of frequent delivery vehicles. He called it a Step-n-Drive Drop Frame Truck.  A driver would sit when driving using pedals. Near the 1st stop, the driver would fold his seat up instantly and stand while using a single combination clutch and brake pedal. When checking his work load, he only needed to turn around to enter from behind the seat, rather than go to the back of the vehicle, to retrieve the goods/parcel. This provides the convenience of wagons with the motorized speed, covering greater territory.
         Ford also had a three way dump body vehicle. These would work from side to side & out the back (cost 250 dollars) Coal bodies included a high lift -1 ton for 750 dollars) and a 2 ton (1000 dollars) The coal body truck’s side and bottom were made from 10 gauge steel with no seams, rivets or bolts.
         Ford had a vertical hoist on some trucks that was mounted to frame on back of cab, He also had two hydraulic hoists, on the Model A (hand operated) and Model AP (Operated by truck motor) Of interest was the Hackney CO2 refrigerated bodies. One was used strictly for non frozen, such as fish, dairy and meat deliveries. The other Hackney CO2  delivery vehicle was strictly for frozen goods such as ice cream. Having read about Ford’s reasoning behind dry ice versus ice for deliveries, it all made perfect sense. The argument was about cost. Dry ice weighed half the weight of ice. Therefore an important characteristic of dry ice would be, no moisture to soak, no repainting or replacing metal parts due to corrosion. Dry ice turns from a solid to a gas with no drip. The cost of using Dry Ice would save a delivery truck for one year approximated between 900 and 2500 dollars. 
         Ford trucks had two important efficiency accessories. One was a Governor, which once installed, was used on a vehicle to prevent strain from excessive speed. A governor cost 17.50 to install and it took 20 minutes to do so. It prevented racing in lower gears. It limited speed & expense but not power. It worked because power from gas velocity transmitted to rod and spring through gear sector and rack. The 2nd forces manifold vacuum on same rod & spring from pressure from a piston. It stops speeding and leads to longer engine life. The other was a recorder, which kept accurate records of a trucks activity per hour. Perhaps this was the beginning of the idea behind the GPS.
         Ford’s trucks had a variety of uses, including elevated towers for public utility vehicles which included ladders( primitive early crane), post hole diggers, hoist and winches(for telephone companies and contractors), engines with greater power (to pull boats , heavy cruisers or flatbed), adapted with advertising(giant milk bottle mounted on back, or giant camera-specifically for advertising purposes), demonstrating type vehicles (may show an oil burner inside, so a salesman could demonstrate door to door), folding seats( for delivery of passengers),  window bars (armored vehicles), clothes racks ( for laundry and dry cleaners), centrifugal pumps ( could be easily mounted for painters, contractors- and they also came with ladder carriers)
         Taxicabs came equipped with silk curtains. Ambulances came equipped a medicine chest, heater, fan, thermos bottles, wash basin, and a stretcher. Funeral hearses came equipped with green mohair casket stops.
         Each vehicle was listed with Operating Cost Analysis charts, which included based on an average of 85 miles per day, Cost Per Mile, Cost Per day, Cost Per Year. Ford even figured in depreciation. He listed Ford Fleet Owners of many national companies owning 200 or more of his Ford trucks. American Telegraph and Telephone Company & subs owned by far most at 8207 units. Swift company & subsidiaries came in second owning 2957 units.  
         I visited Ford’s summer home in Fort Myers and was told a great story about the man. One day a delivery driver came on the Edison/Ford property, and was stopped at the gate by none other than Henry Ford, although the delivery driver was unaware it was Mr Ford. Ford then proceeded to ask the driver all about his truck, what he liked and what he did not like. The driver shared his experiences about the vehicle with Ford and finally drove off to make the delivery. Asked what held the delivery man up, he explained a man had interrogated him at the gate. It was then he learned it was none other than Henry Ford himself.
 
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Bittersweet, it’s ok

It has been a couple of months since I posted but really I have not been idle. In fact, I don’t know too many moms and dads who have much idle time. My husband and I went away together… alone. I am not sure if this would be considered a phenomenon of parents who are caregivers to their disabled chilren or disabled young adults like one of our sons, however, it was not easy to just leave. Although, I perfectly trust my other capable adult son to care for his older brother, I still had a sense of urgency to get things in order, in the event something should happen to us. I prepared extensive medical notes with my son’s meds and medical history, physician contacts and vital information. This will be something attached to his wheelchair. Also in this time frame before we left, I facilitated a new pulmonologist for my son. It was not easy because I wanted to present myself as intelligent and articulate and educated in what my son needs to be healthy. I wanted this doctor because he follows a different protocol than the other doctors in the practice and he has educated himself in the care of patients with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. He sees another young man I know with MD. Up until recently, I have experienced that many of the doctors disregard the knowledge that parents possess, possibly because they may not have the experience, and perhaps they do not have the time to do the research. I mean no disrespect to doctors at all. In fact, recently I told the new pulmonary doctor that I know many women across the country whom have emailed a certain specialist from the ER rooms where their children lie, usually critical, and this specialist will email the families back almost immediately with instructions for the local doctors. I know this because I am in touch with many families around the world via Facebook, whose sons share the same illness that my son has. The expertise and knowledge shared between parents is extremely valuable. There is no need to keep reinventing the wheel and to expect doctors to know everything. I did quite a bit of homework for our first appt. with this new doctor. I read a book and highlighted information on a packet of papers, in order to be proactive in our son’s care. I told the doctor that I wanted to know that when an emergency  arises with my son, that I do not have to spend valuable time arguing with them regarding his care. We want a solid team of professionals who will listen to us and most importantly will listen to our other son, in case my husband and I are absent and our affected son may not be able to speak for himself. My son agreed to fill out a medical Power of Attorney . I also filled out medical directives for myself. This week, we will also be receiving some new equipment, two ventilators, one for day and one for night. We will all be trained on it. My son has mixed feelings about needing more equipment, and I suppose that is valid. I recall when he received his first wheelchair, then the hospital bed, then a hoyer lift, then a cough assist machine, then a bipap, and now new vents. It may be bittersweet, but everything will be ok once we all get used to the new hardware.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

MEMORIAL DAY 2011

 

 Thinking back through the years, I recall living at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1991 for two months.  We had flown there from Bad Kissingen , Germany. I was there because we were trying to find out what was wrong with our four year old son. Our lives were forever changed, however we have come a long way since then. In later years, I recall how our media vilified Walter Reed after veterans started coming home and we did not have enough facilities to care for them. I thought that the medical staff at Walter Reed Army Medical Center was excellent. At the time we were there, we were not at war and there was not a lot of strain on US military medical resources. It happened during every war…. not enough supplies… not enough life boats… not enough of anything and certainly not enough medical care to treat those coming home. Imagine what it was like during WW2 when those lucky enough to come home, thousands upon thousands needing care when they reached our shores again? Imagine those same young men who joined the military to fight a war on two fronts, the European Theatre and the Pacific Theatre ? Many joined because they were hungry and so were their families. They were children of the Great Depression and they never turned back once they left. I have read diaries of Westbrook soldiers who went to Okinawa and know of several Westbrook families who sustained great loss, one family had six sons who served during WW2. Another family had four sons, and two died in Europe. One ordinary man flew 33 missions and came back to work at SD Warren. They just did what was expected of them and they returned men. So when we get upset because our soldiers do not have the best of everything, remember the soldiers before them, in every war. The ultimate sacrifice was paid by many a young man and woman. I know a woman who was a nurse in Vietnam and was part of a surgical team on the aircraft as they brought home young men from Vietnam, and she saw many who did not make the flight. She flew back and forth picking up the wounded and caring for them.  This woman served a very long time and lost 2 husbands who were both pilots. Imagine such a loss… and I will always remember what my friend Phil, who passed away a year ago, once told me. He was a veteran of WW2 and his diary told of his worry and uncertainty of his journey across the Pacific, not knowing his destiny would be Okinawa. He was a born historian and not surprisingly his father also kept a journal of his experiences during WW1 in France. Phil told me that there could not be an Independence Day without a Memorial Day. We cannot celebrate our freedom without the day of rememberance.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Convenience or Inconvenience

        Today, thinking of both definitions of convenience and inconvenience, I paused to really think what each meant to me. Sometimes they can both be viewed to be a bad thing. Convenience took us away from the hum drum of everyday toil raising our own crops to the modern day grocery store where after 50 years or so, people have no idea how to grow their own food and be self sufficient. Convenience brought us the remote control so now we must no longer get off the couch to turn off the television. Convenience took us away from the dinner table with conversation amongst family to fast food on the way home so we can spend more time with our family. Convenience has made us overweight and unprepared. Our love affair with gadgets from cell phones to Ipods, to computers all with Wifi and 24/7 access to global events is more than we need. This leads me to my next thought about who controls the flow of information? 
         I would have said a few years ago that governments control the flow of information however today I think it is Google who is now in charge. I believe Google is fighting for control of what information we will receive and they are fighting for that title globally. Their name is on my Verizon Droidx phone. In order to make comments on my Youtube account now, I must link to Google and use a password. My thoughts are that Google will be in control of the distribution of information and will share our information with anyone of their choice. Of course these ate my own beliefs.
         Lastly, the word inconvenience is one I have been pondering for the past couple of days. Is a new baby, or a pet an inconvenience, an interruption to our old lives? Taking care of an elderly parent, could possibly be regarded as an inconvenience. Perhaps one day, we will take a moment to pause and think, perhaps these inconveniences or interruptions are somehow meant to humble us for a bit. Caregiving is about putting someone’s needs before your own sometimes, however still trying to take care of yourself in the meantime. I was going to be in a road race this past weekend and was not sure I would make it because my young adult son was sick. Rather than get myself all stressed about it, I focused on what he needed. We got him well enough to take to my parents for a few hours so I could participate in the race. Afterwards, I drove immediately back there and avoided all the free food and accolades. These are the type of concessions we must sometimes make. I have no complaints as I just try to make the most of all we have. It all depends on how we perceive things whether or not something is viewed as an inconvenience or not. Our attitudes have a lot to do with how we view it. 
        Some may think it is an inconvenience to care for an adult son who is completely dependent on me for his daily activities, such as getting dressed, toileting, feeding, grooming. However, I am devoted to care for him because that is my duty and a big part of who I have become. Divine Intervention?  I think that Divine Intervention has occurred quite often in my life. It has saved me from being killed in accidents, avoiding accidents, given me closure when my feelings of a relative at death’s door called me one last time, just in time to say goodbye. These things have happened often. Lastly, I used to feel we were victims of this illness my son has, however now I feel that it was no mistake that life hands us these challenges. I am grateful for both of my sons and they are whom they were meant to be ,even if it may not conveniently fit the norm. For this, I am grateful.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Christmas 2010

 

                    Christmas then, Christmas now. From our earliest memories of Christmases past spent with siblings, to where we are all today, Christmas is surely to bring with it the many emotions that are within all of us. “He knows when you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sakes!” [1934, Haven Gillespie, J. Fred Coots], must be in the back of everyone’s mind because kindness & patience are in the air at Christmastime.
                     My earliest memory was playing in my room alongside of my brother as we had awoken to find big stuffed stockings on our beds. It seemed we played for hours. I recall my brother had a tin y metal carrier truck with tiny metal cars that fit onto it. Even then, I do not remember what I had except maybe one of those little vinyl purses with a clear front, printed back and a mirror and comb under a snapped opening. I can still smell that new fresh vinyl smell of Christmas morning. Some of my earliest memories were coming down the stairs and seeing sleds for us, which were standing up against the wall, unwrapped… and another year, seeing 3 rocking chairs with our names hand-lettered onto the backs. Our littlest sister didn’t have a rocking chair because that was probably the year she was born just before Christmas in November. How Santa knew all our names and how to spell them was amazing to me. One year we listened to the radio with updates of Santa flying over Maine. We were all sitting around the table with our father. He then told us to look out the window because there was a bright red light in the sky. It was Rudolph’s nose!! Actually, only later did I find out it was the light on one of those radio towers. Then there was the year we got up very early, all four of us. It was about 430AM when the phone rang. It our cousin across the street who told me to get ourselves back to bed because our parents had just gone to bed. I told my siblings that all we had to do was close the shades so our cousin couldn’t see us. The memories are still there 45 years later. I had a wonderful childhood, full of warm memories with my siblings and the life our parents gave to us. Those memories form our Christmas from year to year as we keep adding new memories and traditions.
                     Over the years we have all had losses, and we must carry forward to make the best of what we have. When we lost grandparents, two cousins, and other people who were important to us, finding meaning during the Christmas season sometimes was not easy. Over the years, I have tried to stay in touch with many parents who have kids with Muscular Dystrophy. We can help each other with our knowledge and be supportive and will do whatever we can to help each other. Some have lost their sons and we must keep them close to our hearts. They have a lot to share with the rest of us. Today the community is closer and quicker to get responses because of social network sites like Face book. I was recently looking for information on how to reach a famed muscular dystrophy doctor in New Jersey. Within 5 minutes I had his contact info, including email addresses as parents from all over the world responded to my request. I see this as a valuable tool to give the best care to our children and our adult children. My need to be a part of this social network site is more important than my need to opt out of it, as I did previously. If adding pictures which show why we need a new piece of equipment for a wheelchair helps others in their quest to also get equipment aiding in their child’s independence, then the site is extremely worthwhile. Lastly, parents who have lost their children also need to be able to share their information with the rest of us. It is a win- win situation, but sometimes also bittersweet. Thank goodness for my DMD family. You are always there for me. The social network sites generally bring about a kind of support for each other because we are generally interested in how others are doing.
                     Each Christmas, I think of those who are no longer here and I know in my heart, they would want us to find love and peace each holiday season. They are never forgotten because they have been a large part of our lives and our Christmases past. There are always others we need to focus on throughout the year who may need us, whether it is a neighbor, someone in a nursing home, a parent, a friend, or a Christmas Family for whom the office may be purchasing presents. Christmas is a wonderful time to remind us to think of others throughout the year because we need to think beyond ourselves and our own problems. With this written, I must agree that there really is a Santa Claus. May God bless you all in the New Year. We are all thankful you are part of our lives.
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

The Death of In Your Facebook

                    Well last night after checking my status on Facebook, I was mortified what I had found. I had previously posted an article which I thought was interesting and somewhat political. It was a story about the think tank Maine Heritage Policy Center. The Center said that Maine was the state with the highest amount of people on welfare, one in three being dependent. My comment was ‘Good article’. One of my friends is very liberal and has quite a following of progressive thinkers who read her blog. Between my relatives who are conservative and her postings, I felt hurt by what I saw posted. By no means do I think I am thin skinned, but I have many people with whom I discuss ideas and in no way have I ever felt I was absolutely right all the time. Also in no way have I ever resorted to name calling. We are supposed to be respectful of others and try to listen to their ideas as well. There was a great deal of attacking going on in the post, so I decided with much regret to post one last comment.
                     “It is with much regret that I am deactivating my Facebook Account. I have enjoyed it as a tool to keep in touch with family across the globe, and friends, some who grew up in Redbank and others who are DMD moms. It was a great way to share. In the meantime, this will free up my time to pursue other things like my blog http://blog.likes2write.com and to reach me by email fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com .  I also have to work on my ornaments for the upcoming fairs. I love you all and I will miss our daily contact.”
                     So today, Sept 11, 2010 is a day with great importance to the world, especially the American people who felt the pain of that day upon our own soil. Today is my first day without Facebook and I miss it already. However my life will go on, like it did before Facebook. I am hoping the year will be filled with more tolerance between family and friends.
 

 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Random Thoughts

                    Since I just finished vacation, having spent hours of my day conversing about domestic politics and world affairs, playing dominoes, running, biking, swimming, reading all the local rags, embroidering and visiting; some might wonder if it really was a vacation. I can assure you it was because I spent each day exactly as I wanted. Of course this doesn’t count all the random thoughts that race around our heads.
                     I have a few goals for myself and I think of how I will accomplish the physical challenges of those goals. I plan to run a 5k race on Labor Day. My webpage has been idle for three years, and I need to do something with that. This is the site I want to build so I can sell my ornaments. My fear is that one day I shall wake up and have a million orders. That is probably ridiculous to fear that because it would spell success to others. 
                     With some of the things I want to accomplish, the enemy is time. I am at an age that I feel I have to finish some of these projects, if only I did not have a full time job. I am careful how I choose to spend my time. It is sort of like when one buys a house and you build equity. At some point the value of your house outweighs purchasing another house. It makes no sense to double up on payments after you have owned your house for half the life of the mortgage. It is wiser to use your extra money elsewhere.
                     We all have albatrosses around our necks. Our family has a handicap van which typically costs the price of two vans combined (about 42,000). I have thought often about providing a service to those who need transport and are at the mercy of transportation which needs to be reserved 3 days in advance. The rest of the world does not have to reserve three days ahead of time, so why should the disabled community? The cost of the van is paid for with money my son receives in assistance. We would not need a van for transport if he was not part of our family. Having a family member who is wheelchair bound, requires a lot of money. The van had to be financed for ten years, and of course it will probably not last that long. The funniest letter I received was from the bank upon our purchase of the van. “Congratulations on the purchase of your recreational vehicle.” 
                     There are others struggling to maintain what they have. A local young man who just turned twenty-one and previously received 24/7 care in his home has had his services reduced to three hours per day. The young man has multiple disabilities, is non verbal and non ambulatory, and his parents are working full time. I worry about them and what may happen regarding their son’s care. The current financial crisis in the state of Maine leaves many people at risk in the same predicament. In a time when so many people think everyone deserves some sort of handout, I believe the best helping hand is at the end of your arm.  The wallet is empty.
                     It is good to be back from vacation and back into the work mode, but there is always something to do…..and I love it.

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

Conversation, A Lost Art

                    The art of blogging is my way to stay connected and share ideas which I find informative and interesting as well as a way to tell my stories. Sometimes I am not always sure what I will write. I have a folder stuffed with articles I have found interesting and hope to use as part of my blog content.
                     I am particularly interested in communication since time began as well as current affairs, and changes within individual families and how family life has changed over the years before the industrial revolution. These topics are repeated over and over in my blog because I find we need to stay connected to what is important and quite often those are values which have been eroded over time. Of course, this is only my opinion, but my beliefs are deep rooted.
                     Recently I read an article in AARP, dated March/April 2010, written by David Dudley. He is the editor of Urbanite Magazine out of Baltimore. The magazine was in a doctor’s office but I delighted in the very beginning…”We tweet, we text, we e-mail. Everybody’s chatting, but is anybody listening? Why America needs to revive the vanishing art of conversation. We need to talk.”
 He begins his story in the park with his little daughter and as she is talking away, he is answering an e-mail, somewhat out of touch with what she is talking about. He looked up to notice others connected to their iPods, and blackberries. He had a moment of realization.
                     The article mentioned Daniel Menaker (editor of New Yorker and Random House), who writes about  conversation in his book, “A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation” He says he is worried because he feels that people today may feel obligated to be available in a public space, such as the many social networking online sites. It seems to me that email may be no longer enough. Menaker feels that we may become a country of overly connected hermits. I think Menaker makes a valid point.
Thinking about my own email, it usually consists of comments from Facebook. Whenever our extended family does get together, the younger teens are often unavailable for conversation if they are connected to their technology.
                     The article also mentions a psychiatrist from Harvard, Richard Schwartz, who co-authored with his wife a book entitled , “The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century”. Simultaneous Connection and Isolation are what our lives are about these days. He told of a patient asking if they could do a counseling session over the telephone.
                     According to Menaker, the golden age of conversation was in the pre-industrial era. Ideas came about because dialogue was exchanged. It was a civil society. Menaker spoke of his feelings that there will be a loss of humane regard as digital technology is on the rise. People can post anonymously and write what they wish , oftentimes with no regard to another person’s feelings.
                     Jacqueline Leo, former editor in chief of Readers Digest, writes in her book, “Seven: the number for Happiness, Love and Success”, about the distractions of digital media and the loss of the art of listening. She thinks that because we are addicted to the technology because of our conceit, that we cannot put it down. Technology gives us a feeling of importance.
                     All in all, I must say I am going to try to be more conscious of how I spend my time, but not before I post this to my Facebook. Then I am going to see if I can join Facebook anonymous because I know that I am not the only one!
 
 

 
 

Reprint permission with author’s permission @ fiddlinsuz@roadrunner.com

History, Advocacy, Inspiration & Stories of Long Ago

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