Monday, June 13, 2016


                                                        Me In The Mirror

Dubious Friends ask: So, Norma, how are you really?

Okay, well, these past months have been an odd mix of installing upgraded computer programs by way of both caregiver and tech (tech costs $115 an hour now) and then having to fix all the things that go wrong as a result of installing the new programs and then getting used to the new programs; getting a hospital bed and electric wheelchair installed and then getting them adjusted repeatedly so I can figure out how to adjust myself to them; moving everything from the New Jersey office in the garage into the house. (Yes, my storage areas are named after places I’ve lived, including VT and TX, so going there sounds like going there). 

Anyway, those treasures were placed into small plastic boxes and onto shelving units so I can not only see them but also use them as needed. Then my old desk system was moved into the south room facing the south window outside of which is a bird feeder and sunshine on good days and a view of the weather; which meant raising up the tabletop 6 inches so the wheelchair armrest can fit underneath; which also meant moving the big recliner which had been there into the north room at a nice angle to the other big recliner (which I may sell if I can get the price I paid for a brand-new heated and vibration equipped sleep chair which is still brand-new because the vibration disturbs my neurology). 

This now means that the prayer room is a dedicated room of prayer outfitted with devotional photos such as these taken from EWTN during daily rosaries and stations of the cross, printed out as a series of meditative portraits for my Carmelite life of prayer. 

The boxes of tape recordings made during the five years when I couldn’t type and before I got a dictation program and a computer which could use it have been moved to the south porch with all of the other radio, tape-recording and DVD playing equipment which is set up alongside the photo printers where I spend my time on sunny days no matter how cold (or warm) it is outside so I can open a door to air out the photo printer fumes.

That is also where the chiropractor comes to make adjustments to neck, shoulders and back and where I use the new transcutaneous electrical stimulation unit for pain relief, where the orthotics expert came to measure for new and better braces which fit into shoes this time, where the Priest comes to hear my confession and bring first Friday Communion (he has also brought Home Mass to the prayer room), where the deacon in training comes to discuss taking adoration to the assisted living center and some day to the nursing home, and organizing the prayer chain on email for those who have trouble answering their phones during the daytime, and this is also where my prayer partner and I say our Salvation Rosary if I happen to be up in my wheelchair when she arrives, or we say it from the living room where I am still sometimes in the hospital bed.

Dubious Friends: Whew. Those are long sentences. The point being?

Okay, this is all designed to help me finish The (six volume) Book on my own, without the help which is unavailable. My computer adviser says there is no program to do editing and organizing nor is there a way to make scanned pages fit with current word processing programs. He says nobody goes back 20 or 30 years to retrieve hard copy. He says the only way to do this is to edit the hard copy by hand with pencil like we used to do in the old days and then dictate it back into the computer by way of these new and updated programs. When I get that finished then I can call him to help figure out what the printer wants in terms of formatting. I am thus turned back toward myself for this second look at my life work and to take my time -- finally including what had been left out as well as more recent ruminations, dreams and discoveries. I am not to be hasty. My days these days in a wheelchair, needing the lift to get to the bathtub, needing help for the food, water and medications I no longer get done with reasonable perfection on my own, is teaching me that lesson.

Dubious Friends: Okay, but is dictation really the only way?

Um, yes. Having lost the ability to type, I use dictation as my only way to write and be proficient even if learning how has been as hard as any foreign language and as with any other language it works only by way of immersion. But for me help came from the state Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. In the beginning (as they say) I was not only unable to type but also to look at a computer screen or television without severe eye pain, which qualified me, even to the government, as impaired. This agency accepted my experience as diagnosis (equally unusual for bureaucracy) and not only provided a computer but also the right programs for dictation and for an audio screen reader. 

Moreover, they sent a trainer, a serious computer geek who took on my case as a challenge worthy of his talents, and he has remained my primary backup even as his kids grew up and he went into private business (hence the $115 fee), and even as I regained my vision by taking low-dose naltrexone, originally developed for heroin addicts but ironically useful for Lyme/MS as well. 

He has since helped download many upgrades for this same dictation program onto subsequent computers and laptops, working long distance by way of the messenger program, and it is still just as excellent. Another lucky side effect of that long-term connection has been that he was the one who helped organize and retrieve years of material from multi-generational computer discs, from 8-inch to floppies to thumb drives, from Ambassador to Mac Plus to Gateway to Dell. 

So when I asked if he had a program to help with editing such an archive and he said there was nothing better than the Naturally Speaking programs I already had, I knew he knew. And when he recommended that I print out my manuscripts in hard copy, do the editing on paper and then re-dictate them back into a file formatted for the printer, I knew that would also be true. A lot of the material I had scanned into the computer from previous older programs or even typewritten hard copy was impossible to format anyway. This will be a way to solve all of that, even if it is probably 6000 pages! I do have the time.

Dubious Friends: (silence)

I guess they'd rather not comment on that.

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