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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Grant

I've always been one to sort of sit back and observe others in action. I don't just mean people-watching, but also in everyday life, family gatherings, and so forth. If that makes it seem as though I don't engage in what is going on around me, let me assure you that this is not the case. 

I believe I developed this habit (or talent?) from my upbringing. When I was younger, of course the adults in my family group didn't really care for my opinion or whatever childish things I might have to say. I also had no desire to step into the dangerous realm of possibly making said adults angry with me, especially the dreaded child-beating terror known as Alice. And heaven forbid that I made Gram weary of having me around - if so, I would be back in the dreaded lion's den.

As I got older and more free to say what was on my mind, I still kept a lot of what I was thinking to myself. This was partly from Gram's training (a future blog post, I'm fairly certain) and from my innate knowledge that sometimes things are best left unsaid. Undoubtedly the first person to say least said, soonest mended spoke from experience. Watch what you say, and you can prevent pain to others and damage to your relationships with them.

Someone whom I have quietly observed for quite some time now is a young man named Grant, who is a member of my church. Now, before you get all in a dither and quit reading because I used the word church, please reconsider. I am not here to discuss faith or non-faith or anything of that ilk. I'm just giving context for the situation.

Trent and I don't go to church every week. Our health, to put it mildly, is unusual. With Trent being immunosuppressed because of kidney transplants and me having systemic lupus, it seems as if we can catch germs from across the street, to say nothing of being in a closed area with lots of people. Just last month we picked up a bug at church that made itself at home chez Lunatic for a little more than two weeks. For this reason, we sit in the very back row because we hope that most of the cooties will travel toward the front of the church, the way everyone's facing.

Back to Grant. Over the years I have noticed that Grant processes the stimuli around him in a different way than most of the rest of us do. When I see him during the singing of hymns, for example, I can almost feel that the volume of the music (noise?) is painful to him. He has developed coping mechanisms to deal with this, and what they are do not matter to this story. 

Grant also sits in the back row as we do. His family sits a row or two in front of him. I know that he loves his family, but he needs to have his space, literally. When I sat down in the back row one Sunday just a few chairs over from his spot by the door, I knew I was too close. The look on his face said it all. I told him that we'd move down the row a bit, and helped him move the chairs between his seat and ours. His mother's face was full of relief at our being easygoing and understanding, and the day progressed beautifully.

We have developed a routine, on the Sundays when we are up to attending church, that keeps Grant in mind. If the chairs in the back row are folding rather than stacking chairs, I will remove about five of them between where I sit and Grant's spot. Sometimes he's there before me and has already done it, but sometimes we work together. And sometimes, like today, we get there first and I create a space for Grant before he arrives.

So today started off really well. A dear sweet lady came into the building with us and I told her that I needed to clear the chairs for Grant and she understood completely. I sat and waited, hoping that I had moved enough chairs for him to feel at ease. As I said, things started off well. Grant's mother, Susan, is always so grateful for us being understanding. This gratitude breaks my heart. It tells me that there are some people who only see him with their eyes and not their hearts. I saw one of them in action today.

A man came into the chapel after the service was well underway. Although there were several empty seats in front of us, he grabbed one of the folded chairs and set it right next to Grant. And I mean close. I saw that Grant was asking him not to sit there, but the man ignored him. I quietly got up, stepped over to him, and whispered, "He has a hard time with people sitting next to him." I felt that was all that I needed to say. Was it necessary for me to go into a long discussion that Grant is probably somewhere on the Autism Spectrum and having someone sit that close to him is more than he can bear? I respect Grant and his family far too much for that.

The man moved his chair about a foot away from Grant, waited a few moments, said something to him, and clasped his hand in a handshake. (Grant knows I am safe and I never grab his hand. Usually he will give me a handshake, but sometimes he will not. I feel great joy on the handshake days!) He then got up and moved to another seat. I smiled inside myself when Grant waited a few moments and pulled the chair over to himself, folded it shut, and leaned it against the wall where it had been before. But I could see that he was overwhelmed. Within a minute or so, he had to leave the room. The man sat in his new chair for about a minute and decided to leave the chapel. He made an exaggerated point of looking down at Grant's empty chair, looking at me, and shaking his head in disdain. 

In the twenty or so minutes that remained of the meeting, Grant had to get up and leave another couple of times. I knew that the whole day might be a struggle for him, and decided to speak with his parents after the service. After I gave them a brief rundown of what had happened, I made them an impassioned promise. "Whenever I am here, I will always do whatever I can to help Grant feel safe and comfortable." I understand how his mind works. He is different from everyone else. But aren't we all?

What happened today was not a major event. There was no bad guy, and there was no hero. There was misunderstanding, which happens everywhere and every day. It becomes all too easy to see others' actions with our eyes and forget to use our hearts. Our differences are part of what makes us who we are. We are all frail beings who love and fear and dream and hunger and so many other things. And when it comes to those differences, I hope to remember the wonderful mother of Temple Grandin, who taught her autistic daughter this beautiful philosophy, "Different, not less than." 





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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Monday, May 8, 2017

Equipped

A couple of years ago, Trent and I got new smartphones. It was a first for me, because I had the idea for years that a smartphone was completely unnecessary in my life. I had a laptop and a tablet; what more did I need? But my six-year-old phone was literally falling apart. It was still making and receiving calls and texts, and the camera was working, but when I opened it, the cover kind of slipped from the hinges, which were crumbling. Yes, it was time. It seemed, when I looked online, that non-smartphones (or phones of average intelligence, as I like to call them) are a truly endangered species.

So we picked out phones, choosing the same model in different colors. I remember what fun I had scaring the employee who was setting up my phone. His face fell when I casually mentioned that this was my first smartphone. He envisioned the rest of his day lost to teaching me how to use the most basic smartphone functions. His entire face lit up when I followed by telling him that I had been an Android tablet user for several years. His relief was palpable when he realized that I knew my way around Android, social media, Chrome, Roku, and other wonderful things. Day saved!

We decided then that we would not trade these phones in when our two year requirement ended. The phones were good ones with fabulous cameras, so we were happy to have them. I was a little less happy a few months later when my phone decided to malfunction hours before we got on a flight to visit Disney World. The battery was lasting about an hour, so it wasn't going to be taking any pictures for me. I had the problem one or two more times, but that was about it. And it only took a reboot to fix it. No worries.

Then a few months ago, Trent's phone started to fall apart. I'm serious! The back started to come off. And then the front. When he called the insurance provider, they said that dropping the phone could have caused it. Had he dropped it? Yes, a distance of less than two feet onto the bed. Well, there you go, not their problem. The store said it was probably due to the battery heating up (those suckers did get super hot during charging) and causing the phone to fall apart, but there were no guarantees. They could send it away and the repair center could use their own discretion on whether to repair or replace the phone, but would probably want to replace it at full price. Um, not so much.

So Trent kept his phone in a case to hold it together and to keep light from shining out of the front, back, and sides during use. He began counting the weeks until his phone could be replaced. In spite of my former issues, I wasn't convinced that I needed a new phone. Until mine started to fall apart as well. Trent went to the store to speak with someone about when we could replace them, and he was eager to work with her when May 8th, the magic date, rolled around.

Trent decided to call the store last Thursday (only the 4th) and the recording he had to listen through told him that he was eligible for an upgrade. I went to the app on my phone and found that we both were, so within minutes we were headed to the store. And surprise, surprise - without having discussed it, we had picked the same phones!

We got to the store about an hour and a half before closing, and Christine was with another customer but we decided to wait. She remembered meeting Trent a few weeks ago, and even remembered some other cool things. As she led us over to the display of Samsung Galaxy S8 phones, she mentioned that one of them was purple, which I told her excitedly was my favorite color. She recalled Trent telling her this, which I found endearing and impressive. So we ended up with monstrous huge Galaxy S8+ phones, his in silver and mine a dark purplish gray. Christine actually helped us find protective front and back covers at the best prices and helped set up our phones even though the store was closed. She cheerfully stayed more than an hour past closing, which she didn't have to do. What a wonderful person she is!

Of course, when we got home I took a picture of the gorgeous black box that the phone came in to post on G+. I was enjoying getting to know Purple Rain, as she is called by The Lunatic. The screen curves on the sides and the visual quality is superb. It has 64gb of internal memory. It's fast and performs well and it's easy on the eye. All around, I am pleased with my new tool/toy. I received a comment on my post from Ed, who said that he'd like to see some pictures taken with the new phone, perhaps of Brutus. I agreed that that could be done and set out to keep my promise.

And then the cat's quirks kicked in. Brutus, AKA Brutus D FatCat, AKA Fatso the Catso, AKA Fat...okay, never mind that name, decided to play hard to get. Or hard to photograph. And I asked very politely, too. I told him that I'd really appreciate it if he would get up on the bed and keep still because I wanted to shoot him. He went into hiding under said bed for two days, only coming out for food, like the big old Fraidy Cat he is. I don't know what his problem is. I respected his privacy and asked and everything, but he got camera shy. The big baby.

Any way, here's a picture of a lilac getting ready to fade as Spring turns into a more Summery mode. Maybe I'll get a good shot at Brutus later...





And here's one of Brutus after all, that big old Fraidy Cat.







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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Monday, May 1, 2017

Agony, Defeat

I think that it should come as no surprise that someone who writes (even though it's been sporadic lately, sorry) loves words. Words have the ability to evoke emotion, to paint scenes in one's mind, to explain, and to confuse, and all sorts of other things. I will be forever grateful to the junior high school (middle school nowadays, but different grade levels) teacher whose name I can no longer remember, but who taught my class lots of latin roots of words. It adds a rich layer of understanding and possibilities to words one might encounter any day. But that, perhaps, is a story for another day.

I used to love to do the crossword puzzle in the morning newspaper, even going so far as to buy a crossword puzzle dictionary with my babysitting wages. I have never been much of a fan of online crossword puzzles, though, and games like Words With Friends don't thrill me to bits. I keep searching for the perfect word game, one in which I can completely immerse myself. I want to roll around in it, so to speak. 

I've enjoyed some computer word games in the past but they haven't made the transition to a smaller screen. I recently searched the Play Store for a game that I used to play on the computer that I really wanted to play again. The game gave you several letters which you tried to form into as many three to six (or seven) letter words as possible before time ran out. As long as you found at least one word that used all of the letters, you would advance to another round. But if you didn't find the big one, the game was over. Naturally, the game I was looking for wasn't available, just as I expected, but I was happy to discover that a very similar game was ready for me to play. Yippee!

I began the game full of anticipation. As sometimes happens, I had a few games that only lasted a handful of rounds. I was rusty, and that was okay. Sometimes a word that you see every day is almost impossible to spot when its letters are all jumbled. I kept working at it. I had a high score one day of a meager 1300 points or so. I just knew that I could do much better. With my vocabulary, I took it as a personal failure if I couldn't do much, much better.

A couple of days later Trent was at a movie (a guys' afternoon out) and I hit the game. I played almost the entire time that Trent was gone. By the time that he got home, I couldn't focus my eyes any more. I could see the tablet screen but not much else, but I had increased my best sore to nearly 5000. Progress!

The next afternoon, Trent decided to take a nap but I opted to play my new-ish word game. I found words long enough to still be playing an hour later. One after another, the six-letter words came flowing through my fingertips onto the screen. I glanced at my score and it was over 6000! I kept playing as the minutes ticked by. 7000, 8000, 9000...I was getting that nervous excitement where you wonder if what seems to be happening really is happening. And the word magic kept flowing.

When my tablet told me that I had to plug into my charger, my score was 9,995. I reached for the charger, plugged it in, and my screen went blank. Agh! I was freaking out. I got the screen turned back on and my game wasn't there. And when I opened it, all of my magic had evaporated. The heavenly game session was gone, and the home screen told me that my personal best score was under 5000. Agonizing defeat! I wasn't crushed or anything...but I was disappointed. I had been doing so well!

I knew then that I would have to do my best to reach the nirvana I had glimpsed before, the mystical, magical 10,000 mark. I'm fairly sure that a score of 10,000 means that I can barely hold a decent conversation, but I didn't care. I wanted to reach the heights that I had been denied before. I set out to more than double my highest score of record.

When I started a game, I made sure that my tablet was plugged in even if it was fully charged. No power loss screwing up my game again, thank you. As my Gram always said, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I began games and tallied up points, eager to prove to myself that I had the ability to make the magical score. And then I had numerous chances to taste defeat.

I have to wonder what kind of dictionary some of these games use. For example, it's okay with the game if someone pees, but pee is verboten.  And sometimes I type in words that I know were in the Rocky Mountain News crossword puzzle but aren't in this game's dictionary. And then there are the moments one loses a game because the six letter word is padres, which is clearly a Spanish word meaning fathers. When I began another game, I remembered this and tried to use madres, meaning mothers. Not in the dictionary. Hmph.

And who the heck is making up the words, anyway? Here are a few of the unusual or questionable words I have encountered in this game.

clevis, a U-shaped coupler
uracil, a base containing nitrogen that is found in RNA but not DNA
sachem, an Algonquin chief
Saki, a British short story writer whom I love, but this is a proper name, darn it!
anteed, supposedly the past tense of ante, as in a card game. I find no sources that spell it any other way than anted. Hmph again.

Saturday, Trent decided to take another afternoon nap. I grabbed my tablet and hooked it up to the charger. I made sure that I had a cold drink and began to play. The words again flowed from my fingertips. I had a moment of worry when I thought, "What if I have to use the bathroom and my game times out?" I decided to take it easy on the Diet Pepsi. Then Brutus D Fatcat showed up and wanted to climb up on my chest. First off, it's terribly uncomfortable to have a cat put about 500 psi of pressure on one's breasts. Second, even if it wasn't uncomfortable, how was I supposed to see past him, or even use my keyboard? Third, if he rubbed or stepped on anything and screwed up my game, I'd be very upset. I tried to get him to lay still while I scratched him with one hand, but he still kept wanting to smother me. He would leave for a few minutes and come back and the dance, and my worries, would start all over again.

Finally, it happened. My score went to 10,025. The following round had some bizarre six letter word and I didn't even care. I had regained my dignity and could happily go on now that my ghost of a score had been met and beaten. Relief and victory were sweet. I'm still playing the game and enjoying it, but the obsession with my score has disappeared. I'm able to just enjoy myself while I play. Until a crazy word like mazers comes up. Or they turn a noun that means a shrub into a past tense verb. Seriously, it's like saying that the missing word is rosed, the past tense of rose, a flowering shrub. Okay, well maybe I'm not as relaxed about the game as I thought I was. But at least I'm stretching my mind and having some fun. Yeah, that's it, fun!



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic