Thursday, January 20, 2011

Wake up, wake up, wake up and start the day!

This morning, I woke up and turned off the house alarm as usual but noticed an error code. I checked all the zones in the house to make sure things were as they should be. They were, so I called the alarm company to find out what's going on. The lady I spoke with had me enter a couple of various codes and bypass the "malfunctioning" area, because our communication system was down. (This happens periodically with our system, but usually only for a moment or two, not long enough for us to see a code on the system panel.) This means that if an intruder were to come in, we would hear the siren in the house but the police would not be notified. I think this is acceptable, as I can keep the phone with me and call if necessary. She says the communication system could be because of bad weather in the area. She tells me if the panel is still giving the communication-error code later, I should call a technician. I say thanks, and we hang up.
A few minutes later, once Mike's out of the shower and I have explained to him the error code and the phone call with the alarm company, I go back to bed because I got very little sleep last night. Twenty minutes after I've laid down, Mike comes back to the bedroom to tell me the cops are here. The system sent out a silent alarm. The cops ask me to call the alarm company. I pick up my cell phone to see that the alarm company has called (silly me, I fell into the habit of NOT sleeping with my phone by my bed when I was sleeping days and getting awakened unnecessarily). I call them, and we discover that one of the codes I was told to enter earlier was the silent duress alarm, the "panic" code. The lady on the other end of the line seems to keep using terminology I don't understand, telling me to enter the code the other woman had told me to enter, and then, when I explain that lady had me enter a couple of codes in addition to my own normal code, so I don't know what she means by "the code the other woman gave me," she tries to explain and seems to make things worse. Admittedly, I'm sure my lack of mental acuity is not helping, as I've gotten very few hours of sleep and have now been "awakened" from almost-sleep by the arrival of the cops.
Finally, the woman tells me we can set the alarm normally but that will mean that the alarm bells will sound in our house. I say, basically, "Okay, bear with me, because I just woke up, and I'm trying to understand. I shut my alarm off this morning when I got up and then noticed an error code. I called your company to figure out what was causing the error code, and we bypassed it so WE would hear the alarm in the house if someone broke in but the cops wouldn't be notified because the communication with the system was down. The cops are here now because, apparently, even though the system wasn't communicating, we entered the panic code. What alarms are you talking about now, and if my system is no longer giving me an error code, why do I want to bypass anything?" I heard about two words come out of her mouth, then we get cut off. I don't know if she hung up on me or if the phone cut out.
When I said, "Hello?" and looked at my phone to see if I still had signal (I did, 4 bars strong), the sheriff's deputy said, "Okay, I'll get out of your hair. It looks like you're going to have your hands full with them today."
I am now up for the duration, all thoughts of stealing a couple more hours' sleep gone.
Yup, it's going to be a great day, I can tell.
* Stringham high: The alarm system is communicating effectively again.
* Stringham low: Who needs sleep?
* Stringham super-high: Bite me. (Seriously, it's too early to be super-high about anything.)

Monday, January 17, 2011

A Cloud to Every Silver Lining

Since about November, I've been trying to get a letter from a doctor confirming my legal blindness so I can get the benefits of the tax deduction. Last week, when I called to check on this, I had the assistant of my newest doctor tell me that there was always a possibility of my sight returning "if the diamox works." (I've been on this medication, diamox, for more than a year now, and my vision has not improved at all, though the condition that caused my sudden vision damage has seemingly been under control, possibly because of the diamox, for several months.) This was somewhat upsetting, because I had begun to make peace with the irreversibility of my vision loss, and because it went against everything I have been told by my other doctors. It's not that I don't hold out hope, or that I think that one defiant doctor can't get results, but I wasn't speaking to the doctor, but her assistant, as the doctor is out of the office for a couple of months (yeah, nice, that).

So I called the office of a different doctor--the one who performed my optic nerve sheath fenestration and who referred me to this new doctor. I asked if he could write the letter or if he thought there was a possibility of the vision returning so that such a letter would be unnecessary. He called me a few minutes ago to make sure that I understood "all the implications" of him writing this letter for me. (God bless these doctors who take the time to call and speak and explain!) He's preparing to write the letter declaring my legal blindness, but before he starts writing it, he wanted to me to understand that it will make it illegal for me to get behind the wheel of a car ever again, even with a driver's license. If my visual field were to ever somewhat be restroed and I wanted to no longer be declared legally blind, he said, it's very difficult to get this "stamp" removed from my record, because officials would say, "How can someone be blind, then not be blind anymore?" (Well, stranger things have happened...but we ARE talking about government workers offense to my government-employed friends, but you know who I'm talking about.) If I wanted such a thing removed from my record so I could drive again, I'd ahve to undergo all sorts of tests and such.

So I asked again the likelihood of my sight returning. He said he's had some patients who've been able to regain some of their visual field after being able to maintain a good intracranial pressure, but that's the exception. It's more usual to simply work on preserving what's left. (He has said before I'm one of the more extreme cases, because my vision deteriorated so rapidly, in just a couple of weeks, so we have to watch for things escalating quickly to total blindness within just a few days, whereas most people with IIH have months, even years.) So I explained that I've not driven since September or October 2009 because I don't dare to, so I think this is the best course of action for now. If, by some miracle, my vision improves so much that I can drive again, that's when I'll worry about the hassle of trying to get the "ruling" of legal blindness removed or reversed. (Besides, I figure if the vision is restored that much by medical breakthrough, there will be plenty of before-and-after tests and such in my medical record to present as evidence. And if it returns through nonmedical miracle, I'll have the Divine support I need to make it through all those tests and challenges--if restoring my vision is possible, a few tests should be nothing, especially with my hard-headedness.)

I felt a twinge of tears when I hung up the phone--a twinge at the finality, the official declaration of my disability. (I don't like that word. It really seems ugly to me. But I do have a disability. I'm not disabled, but I do have a disability that impairs my ability to live a life that our society deems normal.) I've had to move into acceptance slowly, and somewhat painfully. In November 2009, I still believed more vision would be restored as my eyes recovered from my optic nerve sheath fenestrations. In March 2010, I still hoped to drive and take the visual test to see if I could. In early summer 2010, I printed the form to complete for a disability hang-tag for special parking. In August 2010, I sent that form to my doctor for signature. In December 2010, I got the placard after holding on to the completed application for 3 1/2 months. Now, in January 2011, I'm accepting the official statement that I am legally blind.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to say or think "I am legally blind, and I will likely never drive again" without wanting to cry.

At least the good news is that I can get a nice deduction on my taxes.

* Stringham high: Being able to function almost "normally" in nearly every way with the vision I still have
* Stringham low: Missing the freedom of driving
* Stringham super-high: Kind, giving, helpful friends, family, and neighbors

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Stephanie's Most Chord-Striking Books

I finally did it. I have been kicking around the idea for some time of creating my own list of "favorite" books. After much discussion today with some friends on Facebook, I finally created my "overall" list. These are definitely not all the books I would ever recommend, nor are they books I would recommend to everyone. (If you want a list tailored to you, you just let me know.)

I started by thinking of all the books that have stuck with me for weeks, months, or years, for whatever reason, listing all the books I could think of off the top of my head. Then, with that same requirement in mind, I reviewed the list of the 350+ books I have read and tracked (including recreational reading and required college reading) since 1993. I threw in a couple I remember from before 1993 and a couple I have edited or proofread.

I do not include works that are influential or important to literature or society unless they struck a particular personal note with me, so there’s no Shakespeare, no Chaucer, none of the other DeadWhite Guys. I also do not list any of the religions texts I am always reading, such as widely held religious texts (Bible, Quran, Book of Mormon, Baghavad Gita, miscellaneous "newly discovered lost texts," etc.). (Though that is not to say I don’t recommend the DWG or the religious texts.) All genres included, in alphabetical order by title:

1421: The Year China Discovered America, Gavin Menzies

1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, Charles C. Mann

1984, George Orwell

American Gods, Neil Gaiman

Angels along the Way, Della Reese

An Open Heart: Practicing Compassion in Everyday Life, His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Anthem, Ayn Rand

At Peace in the Light, Dannion Brinkley with Paul Perry

Brother Wind, Sue Harrison

The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou (Why list them all individually, as I read them, when they exist collected now?)

The Color of Dust, Benjamin Lawless

The Complete Collected Poems of Maya Angelou, Maya Angelou

The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, Emily Dickinson

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, Gregory Maguire

Congo, Michael Crichton

The Darkangel Trilogy, Meredith Ann Pierce

The DaVinci Code, Dan Brown

Destiny of Souls: New Case Studies of Life Between Lives, Michael Newton

The Dragonriders of Pern series, Anne McCaffrey

Eats, Shoots & Leaves, Lynne Truss

The Elements of Style, Strunk & White

Emma, Jane Austen

Eragon, books 1-3 (4 coming soon?), Christopher Paolini

Esau, Philip Kerr

Evelina, Frances Burney

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf, Leo F. Buscaglia

Fingerprints of the Gods, Graham Hancock

Freedom series, books 1-4, Anne McCaffrey

The Green Mile, Stephen King

Harry Potter, Books 1-7, J.K. Rowling

Have a Little Faith, Mitch Albom

Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme, Chris Roberts

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte

Jennifer Government, Max Barry

Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives, Michael Newton

The Langoliers, Stephen King

Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Choderlos De Laclos

Lisa, Bright and Dark, John Neufeild

The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien

Mama Might Be Better off Dead, Laurie Kaye Abraham

Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl

Mary Called Magdalene, Margaret George

Mary, Queen of Scotland & The Isles, Margaret George

Memnoch the Devil, Anne Rice

The Memoirs of Cleopatra, Margaret George

Misquoting Jesus, Bart D. Ehrman

Mother Earth Father Sky, Sue Harrison

Mountains Beyond Mountains, Tracy Kidder

The Mummy, Anne Rice

My Sister the Moon, Sue Harrison

Next, Michael Crichton

Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich

The Notebook, Nicholas Sparks

One Last Time, John Edward

People of the Lakes, Kathleen O’Neal Gear and W. Michael Gear

Pope Joan, Donna Woolfolk Cross

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Real Boys, William Pollack

Saved by the Light, Dannion Brinkley with Paul Perry

The Seven Daughters of Eve, Bryan Sykes

Somewhere over the Sun, Adi Alsaid

The Sound of Waves, Yukio Mishima

The Vampire Lestat, Anne Rice

What Dreams May Come, Richard Matheson

Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung? Ajahn Brahm

The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Elizabeth George Speare