Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Seeing Things in a New Way

I am writing this today because a friend of mine and her serious eye problems have been much on my mind of late. Also, most of my current editing clients are blind, so I think a lot more about eyes and eye health and blindness these days than I used to in years past.

My friend has to have surgery soon on her left eye for very extreme glaucoma; if she does not, she will lose her sight in that eye. The glaucoma came many years after an injury to that eye; some kid threw a rock and hit her in the eye.  She has suffered from that injury ever since, and she’s now middle-aged.

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, a kid named Kevin threw a rock that hit me in my left eye, too. But it did not affect my vision. I do remember, though, that it hurt, frightened, and angered me. The eye bothered me for some time after that, but it eventually got well.

Kevin was quite troubled, I think – although I don’t know if that was the standard term for children with emotional problems back in the 1950s. He was an only child. His mother was poor and single, and she died not long after the rock-throwing incident. Our class had to go to her funeral. I remember the boy crying bitterly, all broken down with grief and probably fear.  He was left an impoverished orphan.

Kevin left our school after his mother's death.  I hope he had relatives to go to, that they treated him well, and that he became happier and better adjusted. I remember him as a skinny, poorly dressed kid who did badly in school and had no friends.

Why he threw the rock at me, I don't know. I was not his friend, but neither was I his enemy. In general, I tried hard to be nice to others if they were nice to me, and I tried to stay out of the way of the others. No one seemed to want to even try to befriend Kevin.

I have often thought of him in the decades since then, and I have often wondered what became of him. I was and am sorry for him. Nonetheless, I am glad, of course, that he did not injure my eye badly. I have glaucoma, but it’s a mild case, well controlled with medication (Combigan drops), and I assume it is unrelated to any past injury. I’m now 68, so some eye problems are to be expected.   

In addition to her physical problems, my friend with the very serious glaucoma is also out of work right now. She lost her last two jobs -- or rather, she lost one and had to quit the other -- due to eye pain and stress. Her eye is in really, really bad shape; that’s plain to any observer. It must hurt a lot. So, after her surgery, she will have the urgent need to try to find another job. What a dual burden to have to try to bear by herself! She is unmarried and has no children.

My husband and I have certainly had our share of problems, some of them physical. I have had nine major operations in my lifetime, and I’m a 16-year breast cancer survivor. David has had a few physical problems of his own, but at 70, he’s in great shape, and he has none of the chronic health problems that so often plague men of his age: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart trouble, diabetes, etc.

So very often, I have to consider how fortunate we are compared to so very many others -- and I don't mean just miserable, poverty-stricken people in third-world countries. I mean people whom we know personally, middle-class people with good educations who have fallen on hard times of various sorts. It often makes me very sad, because I can usually do nothing to alleviate their problems except be their friend.

I hope that my friendship is of some help to the woman who needs the eye operation, which she will have soon. Then I hope she recovers well and rapidly, and that she can find a new job very soon, as well.

I cared about her and her fate before all this, as I have known her for some time, and I care even more now. Looking back across the decades, I know that my long-distance caring about Kevin cannot help him (if he’s even still alive), and I doubt that I or my family could have done much for him back then, either. But the odd, coincidental connection between him, my eyes, my friend, her eye, and the stories behind the blindness of some of my editing clients has made me think a lot these past several days and weeks. It has made me see several different things in new and different ways.

If you have been so kind as to read this far, please go here to see the website of our latest blind client, Patty L. Fletcher:  www.dvorkin.com/pattyfletcher/

Her book Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life, will be published by Aug. 1, 2014 or before. Her blindness was partially caused by glaucoma, as well.

Go here to see some recent pictures of my husband and his astonishing physique, the result of almost 50 years of weight training. Click on the photos to see them larger. My favorite is the photo of him in the red shirt.


Monday, May 19, 2014

In Celebration of the 5th David’s Liberation Day

Five years ago today, on May 19, 2009, David lost his last full-time job, at the age of 65. At the time, he was a Senior Tech Writer at Quark, Inc. It was the highest-paid job he had ever had.

On 5/19/09, he and several of his colleagues all lost their jobs with no warning and very small severance packages. It was literally “Out the door you go!” right away.

At the time, of course, it was very scary to us. There followed numerous steps and phases, both work-related and psychological. That is, over a period of at least three years, David went from seeking (but failing to find) more full-time work, to looking for (and getting) a few short contract jobs, to deciding that he would do contract work but only if he could fulfill the contract working from home, to deciding that he would do no more tech writing at all. He will still accept short programming (development) contracts, but again, only if he can fulfill them remotely. He hated office work and will never, ever, ever go back to that. Nor would I ever want him to.

Now, five years later, we see that 2009 job loss as one of the best things that ever happened to him and to us as a couple. That’s because it was the first step, albeit a forced one, on his long road to a far better life and much greater happiness than he had ever known before.

Now David is a very healthy 70, with the security of Social Security and Medicare (thank you, Democrats of yore!), the ability to sleep almost every morning until he wakes up naturally, the freedom to write and exercise as often as he likes, and the freedom to publish his own books as soon as he gets them written, thanks to self-publishing.

In addition, he and I have a thriving new career editing the books of other authors and getting them published via Amazon, CreateSpace, and Smashwords. Details: http://www.dvorkin.com/ebookpubhelp.html

Life is good, our 46-year marriage is happier than ever, and retirement from office bondage is WONDERFUL!

I just noticed, looking at David: He looks at LEAST five years younger than he did five years ago. That's what the lack of stress and enough sleep will do for you.

Happy retirement to any readers of this for whom that blissful stage of life is coming soon.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

“Lean Style”

My Japanese ESL student (yes, she's in Tokyo) is fond of talking about doing everything "lean style." I assume she is referring mainly to doing things efficiently, with no frills or waste. I like that.

I also liked the very yummy and healthy lunch I just had.  To explain: I am working hard to lose weight and to lower my blood sugar, but also to make sure I have plenty of energy for my almost daily workouts. I always do some combination of weight training, walking, using the exercise bike and/or the treadmill, and stretching. 

Last night at the very good Rosemary Cafe (in SW Denver, at Sheridan and Evans), we had their great buffalo burgers. They are very good about serving them to us as requested, on rye toast with the onions grilled, vs. on a regular soft hamburger bun with raw onions. You get lettuce, tomato, and pickle with that, too, also soup, salad, or potato. Last night, I had a cup of very good clam chowder. 

We always take half of any restaurant meal home and order no dessert.

SO, for lunch, I just had half the burger and a delicious salad of mixed greens, fresh pineapple from Costco, about a Tbs. of crumbled bleu cheese, and a bit of ranch dressing. I topped it off with a small glass of milk with stevia-sweetened whey protein powder, which I buy at Sprouts.

I am feeling very good these days if I make just about every meal follow the older-style food pyramid: with some protein, some carbs (a starch, such as bread), at least one vegetable, some fruit, and some dairy, but with no sweets. I feel strong and healthy, and my weight is decreasing. I feel that I'm doing great for 68!

A Video about Christine McDonald’s Political Success

Yesterday, I posted about my editing client Christine McDonald (author of CRY PURPLE) and her efforts to get a harsh Missouri law repealed. Here is a link to a news video about her,  the law, and its repeal. In the video, she is wearing her prosthetic eyeballs. She lost her vision and her eyes to a disease. 

Congratulations to her!


Friday, May 16, 2014

Some Political Success for Our Most Successful Editing Client


This is great news!

Our most successful blind editing client is Christine McDonald, author of the powerful autobiography CRY PURPLE, about her 17 years as a street-corner prostitute and drug addict and her recovery from all that. She now lives in St. Charles, MO, but was in Kansas City all during that low period of her life.

However, this post is about something other than her personal life.   

For years, Christine has been working to get a harsh Missouri ban lifted: the lifetime ban on food stamps for drug felons.

At long last, her determined efforts have been crowned with success. Here is an article about her and the ban from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:


I am very happy for her and for all the people that the lifting of this ban will help. Her success proves the value of perseverance.

Her book, CRY PURPLE, is available in e-book and paperback formats on Amazon and other online buying sites. I edited the book, and my husband, David Dvorkin, designed the striking cover.  For details, see: www.dvorkin.com/cmcdonald/

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Good Result from an Accident / Musings on the Loss of Objects

The other night, an accident had a good end result. Here's what happened.

While we were watching TV, sitting as usual on the smaller of our two couches, I accidentally spilled almost an entire large cup of black tea plus milk on the hardwood floor and rug. Furious at myself for my clumsiness, I started madly mopping up the mess with paper towels. It had made quite a large puddle, part of which was under the couch.

Thinking that some tea might still be under the couch after all my mopping, I asked David to help me pull the couch away from the wall. To my huge surprise, there under the couch was the portable cell phone charger I thought I had lost on campus months before. (It's the kind that looks like a thin cell phone.) How it got under the couch, I have no idea. It was not wet, and it seems to work fine.

Do any of the rest of you have stories of long-lost things you found? If so, I'd like to read them.

Finding the charger made me feel a lot better about spilling the tea, and the floor and rug seem to be okay. The floor has polyurethane on it.

However, I still can't find the camera I lost over a year ago, one with many irreplaceable photos on it that I had not yet downloaded to the computer. Some photos were of my sister Laura's dear little cat, Amelia, who died of old age not long after I took those photos.

Over the years, I have lost many other cherished items, and thinking of them still makes me sad. A few of them were stolen, some of them were lost through my own carelessness, and all of them were irreplaceable.

I once had an acquaintance more or less laugh at me and the idea of being sad about losing cherished items, stating that they were "just things." His opinion is that one should never become attached to inanimate objects.

I assume that his attitude is extremely unusual. Whether or not it's admirable and worthy of emulation, I can't really say. For my own part, I'd rather have my feelings of attachment, even if the result is sometimes sadness and a seemingly permanent sense of loss.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Working Together is Success

"Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success." - Henry Ford

On 5/5/11, I turned 65. My husband, David, is 67. We've been married for 43 years, since April 9, 1968. On May 1, I became eligible for Medicare + Medicare Advantage (via Secure Horizons). We have both already started taking Social Security, because two years ago, in May of 2009, David lost the best job he had ever had. Back then, he was working full time as a tech writer for Quark, Inc. Once that job ended, he never succeeded in finding another full time job. After a while, he stopped looking for one.

If all this makes us sound like a couple of late middle-aged folks who have more or less given up on working and who have decided to resign ourselves to stagnation, let me assure you that nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, we realized a while back that we have now entered what feels like the happiest time of our lives together. It's surely one of the most productive.

Over his working lifetime, David was employed as a math teacher, an aerospace engineer, a tech writer, and a computer programmer -- or developer, as they say these days. He is also the author of 20 books, mainly in the genres of science fiction and horror, including three Star Trek novels, as well as numerous essays and articles, most of which you can read on his website, www.dvorkin.com. Nowadays, he is mainly writing here at home, as well as accepting short tech writing or programming jobs that he can do via telecommuting.

I'm still working at all the things I have ever done for pay and have no plans to retire anytime soon, if ever. I tutor four languages (Spanish, German, English, and a little French), teach three weight training classes a week, translate (mainly from German to English), write books and articles, and do proofreading and editing for other authors. To my happy surprise, every aspect of my business has seen an upturn over the last year or two. Lately, I have been getting some very gratifying phone calls and e-mails from former students who want to get back in touch with me, either for lessons or just to say hello. I am as busy as I could ever want to be, and love every bit of my work.

And just what is making David and me so happy these days? Mainly, it's being here at home together almost all the time. We are almost uncannily alike in our living habits, our opinions, our likes, and our dislikes, so we very seldom have a conflict of any sort. And even though we are physically apart during much of the day, either while I teach or while we are seated at our separate computers in our separate studies on different floors of the house, we always have a wonderful sense of being here at home together, able to talk to each other at any time. Sometimes we e-mail each other. And for the first time in our lives, we have a joint writing project that we are working on.

I love David, support him wholeheartedly in his writing endeavors, do my just share of the housework, and help to earn our shared money. Other than that, I'm not sure how much of a help I am to him, but I know that I could not do a great deal of my own work without his amazingly patient help. I am a very un-technical person, and I could never have learned what little I know about the use of a computer without David's instruction. The fact that we both have websites is entirely due to his technical skill, and ditto for the publication of so many of our books in e-book format via Smashwords and Amazon.

In addition to all that, David has always done at least 50% of the housework. (He was also always a wonderfully loving and attentive father to our only son, Daniel, now 42.) On a regular basis, David does all the grocery shopping, runs most errands, takes out the trash, waters the lawn in summer, shovels snow in the winter, prepares our breakfasts and lunches, pays all the bills, helps with the preparation and clean-up for the monthly Spanish group meetings that I host, irons any clothes that require that, and frequently washes the dishes. (We do not have a dishwasher.) He also packs suitcases better than I do and does all the driving when we take road trips.

David is also in amazing shape for a man of 67, and in fact is in much better shape than the average American man of any age. That's due mainly to his over four decades of regular weight training plus walking. We have a new Schwinn exercise bike that we love. I also lift weights, walk, and use the exercise bike, and I like our home treadmill, too. Weight training remains the favorite form of exercise for both of us. David was the one who got me started on all that, way back before we were married, about 45 years ago, long before weight training was common in America for either men or women. His robust good health at this relatively late stage of his life is tremendously reassuring to me. Given that his father is still alive at 102, we have every hope that David will live to a very old age indeed.

After some serious health problems in years past, including breast cancer (see my book Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor's Journey), I am now feeling healthier and more vigorous than I have in a very long time.
I teach three weight training classes a week in our basement and exercise about eight or nine hours per week in all. I could still stand to lose some weight, but I have plenty of energy for my work. My most recent round of medical exams revealed improvements in many areas, which is tremendously encouraging.

Are our lives perfect? No. Whose life is? But to our pleased amazement, we both find that now, in our mid- to late 60s, we are happier and more optimistic than we ever were before. Two years ago, when David lost his job at Quark and we were plunged into an initial period of deep worry, we could never have imagined that we would one day look back at that lay-off and deem it one of the best things that had ever happened to David -- and to us as a couple.

We know that we are much more fortunate than many others in our age group. Our health is more than good. Our house and cars were all paid off several years ago. We have no children or elderly parents whom we need to support. We have Social Security and Medicare as well as continuing incomes.

At the same time, we are working very hard, together and separately, to keep on improving ourselves and our circumstances and to help others as much as we can. I find that I love editing, as well as teaching, and David and I are now helping other authors get published in both e-book and print formats.

Thus we are doing far more than just "keeping on." We are keeping on moving outward and upward -- together, always together.