Tuesday, June 29, 2010

F.O.M.'s allowed

For the second time in 12 days I have gotten a note from a friend I work with that they are leaving to take another job in the media industry.

My pay has been frozen since late 2008. My industry is widely derided as dying. One of the worst recessions in years is keeping the unemployment rate high.

And my friends are quitting to take other jobs, good jobs, although they both are with radio companies -- talk about your dying industries.

I am starting to think it is me.

At first I wondered if I smell bad or something. I do shower daily and participate regularly in hygienic practices. Plus, I realized, these friends work on different floors. The chance that eau de Matt is wafting down and driving folks to quit seem unlikely.

Then I realized: They are taking advantage of the coveted F.O.M. status. I am sure that sometime during their interview they let it slip in casually: blah, blah, blah "as I was saying the other day to Matt Trott ..." This, obviously sets off alarm bells (the good kind) for the interviewer who starts to throw money at the interviewee, my friend.

OK, maybe not. But I am struggling to find positives these days.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

A coughing return to the pool

My first hint I was swimming alone was when my head went under water. WTF, I wondered as I sputtered back into the oxygen.

The second clue was that I kept running into the lane markers. Who is the crazy person steering me? Oh, me? Whoops. My head as rudder needs work.

All the volunteers in swimming have different ideas about what to do with me, or to me. This one let me swim on my own once I got the vest on, which was awesome, just unexpected. To be fair, I am sure he said something and I didn't hear but was like OK.

Once I figured out I was holding my head up, I still got a fair amount of water in my mouth. It was just open as I breathed, so water splashed in a bit.

The only time it caused me trouble was when I was working on this "recovery move." You bring your legs to your chest and lean forward. Then you just stand up. So yeah, it would be a modest recovery for me if no one was around. I'd go to stand up, my legs would flail around goofily, then I'd sink down to Michael Phelps' Locker (not Davy Jones' because I am in a pool).

As it was, the volunteer helped me once I was standing, so it worked. But have you ever tried leaning forward while wearing a flotation vest, albeit a modest one? That thing fought me, it fought me hard. And when it realized it was losing and I was going to keep leaning forward, it made me roll. I didn't sink because I was wearing the vest, I just took a face full of water and coughed.

It reminds me of the time at Lake Anna that Gram made me try her swimming belt. It is so great, she assured me. You just lie there and it keeps you afloat, my loving grandmother said. She then turned away, cackled a sinister laugh and rubbed her hands together as her fiendish plot came to fruition. OK, maybe not the last part, but I put that thing on and tried to float.

It did keep me from sinking. It just rolled me and sat on top of me, and me about six inches under the surface.

Swimming was not that bad.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Matt Trott and the Good Kind of Happy?

It has been a weird week.

I learned last Friday that a friend was leaving work and spent much of this week gearing up for various parties and lunches for him and another friend who is having a baby. But now the week is over. Kind of a letdown.

I used up a lot of adrenaline this week. I went to things where I couldn't really hear. I used a manual chair on one of the hottest days so far this year. I tried to get in a bathroom without an automatic door (I made it in finally, but on my departure I had to go out then reopen the door for Claren). I ate far too much bacon.

I am tired, but I am glad I did all of those things. Well, I could have lived without all the bacon.

I imagine people who read this blog will maybe sense a touch or two of bitterness and anger at being dependent. That hasn't changed.

But perhaps what I will take away from this week is that the kindness and assistance of friends and family overwhelm the dependence and the bitterness it causes.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I want to do what I want when I want

I am debating using my manual chair tomorrow. There is a farewell party for a friend and I would like the option to go out with people after. Not saying I will want to -- I may be tired. Not saying anyone will be doing anything. It is just nice to have the option and the power chair takes it away.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

I like comfy

Whenever a vacation is over, I always think of the check-out woman at the Greensboro airport garage in North Carolina.

I was still driving then and she got to recognize me from my trips out of the long-term parking lot. She would always ask if I had a nice vacation and I would say yes and ask her when she was taking a vacation. She always said never, because she hated going back to work so much after a vacation.

I go back to work Monday after a week of relaxing, and I know all too well what she meant.

It's not even going to be a normal week. One of my very good friends told me on Friday that he was leaving for another job. Then he posted it on Facebook and his blog so I knew he wasn't fooling. Friday is his last day.

He has been someone I trust to advance the storytelling ideas beyond what we do now, beyond what people are comfortable doing, and he is good at doing that. Plus, he likes Springsteen.

He is leaving for the right reasons -- to continue challenging himself and to keep pushing himself -- so I can't get mad at him.

I did tell him, though, that one reason I am not looking for a new job is that I am quite comfy in my current one. That doesn't mean it is easy or that I phone it in or that I mind trying something new. it just means that I have so many things pushing and challenging me.

For instance, I want a new manual wheelchair so I looked for an in-network provider. None, at least within 100 miles. I got the plan descriptions from our HR department, and it turns out that hardly matters. I am going to be out a lot of money if I get a new chair. Insurance covers 80% after meeting the deductible, $1250 for in-network, $2500 for out. I hate insurers.

And being comfy means that I can just be me -- the slightly odd assistant money editor who knows far too much about superheroes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Go-kart Mozart, I am not

When I was younger, I wore a lot of visors. My two favorites were an Orioles one and a Snoopy one from my Great Uncle Frank.

One year we were vacationing at a lake in New Hampshire, Winnipesaukee or Winnisquam, and we went to ride go-karts. I was too little to drive, so I was riding around with my Uncle M, who is not my Great Uncle but is still great.

A brief aside: I only remember actually driving a go-kart once. I don't remember actually fearing that I'd kill someone, maybe myself, but subconsciously that thought was probably there. I never rode the bumper boats, either.

Anyway, tragedy struck on the ride with my uncle (not really, but I am trying to make things more dramatic).

As we were cruising around, my Snoopy visor flew off and landed in the track. My uncle didn't rattle easily. We went around again, and as we approached the wayward visor he slowed. Then he started doing the tomahawk chop with his left hand out the side of the go-kart to let other drivers know we were up to something. And at the bottom of one of the chops he scooped up the visor. Problem solved.

I was thinking about my go-kart days this morning in the shower. I dropped the bottle of body wash and when I bent down to my right to pick it up, my body slid forward bringing my arm up. I did this several times, and I started hoping that my arm would hook the body wash like my uncle hooked the visor.

It didn't hook it really, but I was able to snag it on one of the passes. And yes, I understand it is usually not the wisest move to let your body slide forward in the shower, but it seemed relatively safe at the time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My very own Greek chorus

In the comedy/tragedy that is my life it is good to know that people are watching and commenting on the action, even if they are unable to help.

Mom and I went for a quick walk last night despite the foreboding clouds. I wanted to see the likely color schemes that my sister had painted on the side of the new house. We didn't get any farther. The rain started coming and it intensified fast.

As the rain got harder I gave Mom Claren to run in the side yard while I kicked it up to fifth gear and motored up the driveway. I had some trouble getting lined up for the ramp in fifth. One set of wheels, then the other went off the side at the beginning. Mom came out with an umbrella and we got in. I was soaked totally and took a shower to clean off, which is where the story ended, I thought until today.

I mentioned to my sister what happened and she said, Oh, that is why K was going crazy. Then she mimicked her 7-year-old daughter K:


The only question I have is why on earth didn't my sister come over to check on me after that performance from my niece.

Monday, June 14, 2010

On ticks and ticket brokers

Mom and I spent the day at the national fish and wildlife refuge run by my uncle/godfather.

He has been there 10 years and one of the many things he did was put in wheelchair accessible pathways. I have always meant to go, but he is leaving for a new job at the end of the month. So I had to make it now or never.

Better late than never. It was great. I could go anywhere the paths went, and they went almost everywhere.

The only potential hazards: fox poop and turtle nests. More than once, there were baseball-size holes in the packed-gravel path. Real smooth holes. My uncle said turtles dug them, laid eggs and the little guys are left to fend for themselves. I frankly don't know how we still have turtles.

I didn't see any other wheelchair users -- we hardly saw anyone really -- but that's not really the point. You can have a gathering or go hiking in the refuge and not have to worry that your friend or brother or sister might not be able to come because it isn't accessible.

It's like Clemyjontri Park, a wheelchair-accessible playground for kids in McLean. I have been a handful of times and it has always bugged me that I am the only wheelchair user there. I am being stupid, I know. That isn't the point. The point of the park, I suspect, is that kids in chairs can do everything there that their more able-bodied friends can. It's not like there has to be someone in a chair to make Clemyjontri work. It's just there if some kid in a chair wants to go to a park.

I have been thinking about accessibility because this story from the Minnesota Star-Tribune has been sitting open on my browser for a week: Sweet seats, except they're for fans with disabilities.

I found it via WHEELIE cATHOLIC. Apparently, the Twins new stadium has almost 800 seats for people with disabilities. Great! The problem is that those seats are finding their way into the hands of ticket brokers. Bad!

What I was surprised at when I first read the story was how many commenters seemed to think that people who are disabled should not have reserved seats. Unless every seat is accessible, you really have to do that. Jerks.

The trip to the refuge was almost perfect; just one problem: ticks. I didn't get any.

Mom picked off some. Claren had a few, not a great testimonial to Frontline, which I gave her less than two weeks ago. But me not a one, at least that I felt.

Even blood-sucking parasites shun me. Is it any wonder my self-esteem stinks? Ticks are now on the list.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

A really awesome CCI workshop

Despite the somewhat scatological start, the CCI graduate workshop today was quite good.

The workshop was at a Lutheran church in Maryland -- the first outside New York -- which I have been asking for for years, so it was cool.

Mom and Dad just dropped me off, and I wanted to make sure the bathrooms met my definition of accessible. If they didn't, I could call Mom and Dad back to get me.

Mom and I agreed inaccessible bathrooms were unlikely, "egregious," Mom said. But as I pointed out, we have seen egregious before.

So when I got there I asked the woman who greeted me where the bathrooms were.

"Wherever you want," she responded.

"Damn," I thought. "I always figured Lutherans were stodgy Lake Wobegoners, but now they're advocating dropping trou at will. What would Martin Luther think?"

Then I realized she was just talking about toileting the dogs, and she pointed me toward the person bathrooms, which were perfectly accessible. Oh well.

The workshop was just refreshing stuff we had learned in team training years ago -- how dogs learn and how to teach them stuff. I could hear the trainers fine -- they are all good speakers. Being New Yorkers does not hurt, I imagine.

But when the other grads started asking questions, I was pretty lost. That stunk. I would have liked to share my experiences with folks but was not always sure what we were talking about.

Claren got to show off how crazy hairy she is. One of the trainers was demonstrating the Furminator. She asked to borrow Claren and brushed off a pile of hair from one small spot, even though we had brushed her with the Furminator last night.

When she borrowed another dog, that dog was so excited to see the trainer and hung around her regardless of whether she held the leash. Not my Claren, though. Once the trainer dropped the leash, Claren started wandering around and sniffing. She makes me so proud.

Just being there was fun, though. I saw people I had not seen in years and got to catch up with folks. And well, CCI is so freaking awesome, I'd go to support them almost anywhere.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Wheelchairs suck, but they work

I hate using my wheelchair, but I saw this video today at work and wanted to cry. And not tears of joy for the plucky heroine. Tears of sadness.

The heroine dreamed of not using her chair. After becoming a paraplegic in a car accident, she told her mother she would walk across the stage to get her diploma like the other kids. So she did. They set up parallel bars and she walked across the stage using her upper body.

Everyone cheered and probably felt great.

Not me, though.

What's wrong with using a wheelchair? I may hate my wheelchair, but it does a damn hard job very well. I wouldn't dream of not using it. Does that make me a loser?

She was able to walk across like the "normal" kids, but what about the kids for whom walking is not an option? What message is sent? That wheelchairs suck and if you can shed them life would be better and people would cheer.

Maybe I'd like to shed my chair, too, but then I'd fall down or never get out of bed.

P.S. For the record I don't want her to see this blog because it seems I am harshing on a child. It is cool she graduated despite her disability and all. Her classmates ought to have cheered like hell. I just dislike trying so hard to be able-bodied. God, what is wrong with me?

Monday, June 7, 2010

My stupid hearing is making me feel old

A friend of mine sent out an e-mail and wrote a blog post about NPR streaming the new album by Gaslight Anthem. Even though I had heard of the band in reference to Bruce Springsteen, I had not heard their music before, so I listened. And I realized why my musical preferences only run through 1995.

It's not that no good music has been created in the past 15 years -- I am not one of those people -- I know there is still good music being born. But I can't hear it well enough.

Gaslight Anthem sounded cool enough, but the lyrics might as well have been "Yabba dabba do" repeated all the way through. More or less.

The songs of my youth have been hammered into my brain, so I know that Springsteen does not mention the devil when he sings "Tenth Avenue Freeze Out."

I just can't hear the lyrics. Even some of Springsteen's later songs fall into the "Yabba dabba do" category, I am embarrassed to say.

I'm sorry, Gaslight Anthem, Dropkick Murphys and others. I'm not old, I just can't hear.


I am off next Wednesday and a Wednesday in August. I told CCI I could go to Walter Reed then (Wednesday is the day you have to go and my boss is off most of July.)

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Claren is fine, but I am a wreck

I was asleep out on my chaise lounge when the guests arrived for my niece's seventh birthday party. Apparently, though,Claren and I were a hit. Mostly her, I imagine.

The girls were in my niece's class, so they had met Claren when I talked to them a few weeks ago and I'm told they were all like: "it's Uncle Matt and Claren!"

Mom woke me up and asked if they could come pet Claren since she was off-duty. I said sure, and some did.

It's understandable. Claren is pretty hard not to love. And I wonder if I need to share that love more than I am.

I got an e-mail tonight that CCI wants graduate in the area to go to Walter Reed to meet and talk to veterans and answer questions about service dogs as part of CCI's Wounded Veterans Initiative.

Parts of me really want to go. I had never even considered being able to help veterans and this would give me that chance. I love talking about service dogs and CCI. I like helping people.

But ... I am terrified. A friend of mine who raises service dogs told me stories of taking her dog to Walter Reed. The stories were about these young men and women trying to put their live back together without arms or legs or whatever and just the stories made me cry.

I worked with the Navy one summer in college but that was another lifetime, one where I could walk and hear. I have had no interaction with military folk since really.

Kids love Claren, and are impressed by the things she does, but this would be real life with vets, although they are probably just kids, too, which makes it worse.

I know Claren would be fine. But I am not sure I would be. I am also not sure if that is a good reason not to do it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm sorry I am deaf

That is more or less what I have said in e-mails yesterday and today to co-workers who called me to tell me something, but I was no help.

It's not that I am blaming myself, but I want to let them know that I am sorry they have to yell over the phone or just resort to e-mail.

They both said no problem, but it is for me.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Not my fault (yeah it is)

I wish that the damage I routinely inflict on my wheelchair was some kind of conscious or unconscious rebellion against the POS machine.

I know, however, that the many breaks are 95% the result of bad reaction time and just plain clumsiness. (I know that I am dooming myself to never be allowed to use a riding mower.) Maybe 5% is due to the chair's shittiness. Well, maybe 10%, it really is so poorly designed.

But if i could chalk the destruction to something that wasn't really my fault, I'd feel better. Like now: I would not feel so stupid for speeding into the wheelchair stall door and not stopping until a bolt had sheared off in the part where bolts screw in (which might be a female screw but I am not sure).

I think everything will work out OK. A friend at work said he could get the bolt out and I have extras to replace it. Just arghh!

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