New Gadetry

So Lorna got a Samsung Galaxy S7 yesterday. She wants to be the one to do all the work on it. Like, remove the bloatware, figure out how everything works, all that. I’ve walked her through a lot of stuff and let her do it all herself. She was really hands-off with her S3. And I do mean really really hands-off. I’ve had to do a few things, though, because I had to look them up and fiddle with it for a while. Like get rid of that blanketyblank visual voicemail thing (fancy name for voicemail to text on the screen because we are too damn lazy to dial 1 and listen). I wouldn’t want it if it were free so why the heck would I want to pay for it? The app is annoying because the notification won’t go away and keeps insisting you pay attention to it. So I did. And I told it…well, you can imagine the colorful terminology I used as I used my Google Foo (to no avail) then figured it out myself how to turn the notifications from the app off. You can’t turn it all the way off or you aren’t notified AT ALL that you have voice mail. Pain. In. The Ass.

Anyway…

When I started looking for her a new phone, I was hesitant to get the S6, even with as few apps as she has. The S6 was teh stoopid because it did not have the expandable memory. I wince at the non-changeable battery concept (if I wanted an iPhone, I would have gotten one!) but I draw the line at the lack of memory (again, didn’t want an iPhone). I also knew I didn’t want the S5 (poorly designed), and knew I didn’t want to go all the way back to the S4. When I read the S7 brought back the expandable memory (but not the interchangeable battery, dammit), I was hoping I could talk her into it. Lorna’s not a technophobe but she’s not all that friendly with them either. So a brand new, made this year phone? Good luck, I thought. It actually wasn’t that hard. She was so tired of her S3 and it’s crankiness.

The S7 is brand spankin’ new (just came out in early March) but that newness comes with both good and bad. Good ’cause freebies! We got a free wireless charging dock thingybob whatsit. And a big discount from Sprint. And because we had to upgrade her half of the plan (Sprint was so weird a few years ago: we have two lines on the same plan but we each had different “plans” within that plan), we actually are now going to be paying LESS each month! That doesn’t happen often.

The bad is there’s some weird quirks with the S7. Heat issues have been reported. It did get hot as it was charging and updating but that’s expected. It is something she will have to watch for this summer when she is on the mail route. Her S3 overheated a few times and turned itself off just sitting there in the car, out of the sun. The other weird thing about it makes me glad this is not my phone. For example, let’s say you have 5 pages/screens. With our other Samsung phones, you swipe from 1 through 5, you then swipe again, and you are back at 1. It was like a loop. As someone who has the max pages/screens allowed, I loooove that. You could do it in the Apps and in the Widgets, too. Lorna’s new S7 wouldn’t do it and I thought it was a setting. I couldn’t find it so I went to the wonderful peeps at Android Central and asked about it. It’s a Samsung thing and they done took it away. I’ll be keeping my Note 4 for a while!

The other gadget I talked her into (and have been for probably two years now) is another tablet. She’s been using her Nook that I got her for her birthday 4 years ago. Then Barnes and Noble stuck their heads up their ass, said it was dark, and began messing up a good thing. I have downloaded all her books from their website (they took away the download buttons and links so I cheated) and removed the DRM via Calibre (which I heart muchly). Now we can put her “Nook books” on any device and read them there. So when her Nook finally died (and no, I didn’t help it along although I was tempted) she finally agreed to getting a tablet.

We got a Galaxy Tab 2 (8″) and I think she likes it more than her phone! Setting it up was a little trickier so she let me do a lot of it. I got it updated, installed a bunch of apps I use on my tablet, and then gave it back so she can arrange it the way she wants. And what is she doing? Not reading ebooks, nope. Watching Netflix. Sigh.

I like her little Tab but it is too small for me I think. And I like the pen function of my Note 10.1 (2013 edition). But she’s loving the small size and the light weight. She is also loving her new phone. They didn’t have the screen protectors in stock so I got a “folio” case for now. She didn’t like the idea but, HA, she actually likes it! She likes that it is also “grippier” than her Otterbox case she had on the S3. And as we all know, as long as she’s happy, that’s all that matters!

Riding the Waves

Because my muscles are always tense, when I hurt myself, it is always a bucket of fun. The spasms and pain wash over me like waves. Sometimes they go fast like small ripples. Other times they hit like white capped breakers, eroding me away as they slowly pound their way over me.

Today my guardian angel earned its wings.

Today I had picked up Whisper from the vet and we were on our way home. We were coming down Monticello, a curvy road connecting Weaverville to the river. Another road, New Stock, intersects it not too far down. It was a busy time of day and there were several cars lined up to make a right from New Stock onto Monticello (which would put them coming toward me). And there was one car that wanted to make a left. I saw him. He should have waited until he could see around the other cars but I knew he would not. I knew, I knew! I knew he was going to pull out so I slowed down. I thought he was going to prove me wrong but, alas, he did pull out in front of me but he waited until the last second to do so.

I slammed on my brakes, my tires screaming, and stopped with the hood of my truck right at his passenger door. Did he stop? Nope. Did he wave an “oops, sorry” wave? Nope. Did I shit my pants? Nope, but I think Whisper did! I was furious. Absolutely furious. Had I not been able to stop, I would have hit him hard. I was doing the speed limit, but that doesn’t matter, not at that angle. I checked on Whisper (she had flown forward to hit me in the shoulder) and we continued on. Just a short bit down the road (as in almost within sight of the intersection) he makes a left and I laid into the horn again, just for spite. Yeah, I’m a meanie.

That’s when I realized I had trouble raising my arm to hit the horn. The arm that Whisper had hit. When I saw him coming out, I had both hands on the wheel and was turning to the right to avoid him if I could. But when I heard Whisper skidding forward, I had put my arm out to catch her. Her body had impacted my shoulder and upper arm fairly hard. And now that arm was not happy. Neither was my neck.

I felt the waves start now that the initial anger and shock were over.

Luckily my phone was within sight on the floor. I couldn’t reach it but I could see it was face up. I was able to get Dragon (a voice activation app) to text Lorna and tell her I was in trouble. She was already on her way home. I heart Dragon!

By the time I was home, my right arm was useless. My right foot, the one that had slammed on the brake, was feeling sprained. My back was burning, my hip was in spasm. And Whisper was happy to be home! Lorna let her run around a bit, watching to make sure she was fine (she is, other than a cold belly from being shaved).

It’s been almost 6hrs now and the spasms have stopped. Just my neck and the right side of my upper back are still pissy. Vicodin and Baclofen are my friends.

Don’t Ever Break Your Neck

This turned out to be longer than I thought it would be so I just made it another blog post.

“Don’t ever break your neck.” That line was said many, many times by Russell Reno, my maternal grandfather. When he was in the military (Army-Air Force), another Private pulled a practical joke. He jerked down and back on Papaw’s helmet, breaking his neck. He wasn’t paralyzed or anything, just broken bones. It limited his career in the military, though. He was stuck in the states and grounded. When he got older, he would rub his neck and say “Don’t every break your neck”. He said it so often, it became a family slogan.

And no, I’ve not broken my neck. I’ve had “issues” with it for eons and it has finally degraded to the point that surgery is the next step. I am partly relieved because FINALLY something is getting done. And I am partly freaked out because ew, gross, surgery!

But let’s back up a bit. A bunch of fine, beautiful, wonderful, giving folks donated toward my goal of getting another dog to train as a Service Dog. But nothing has come from it yet. Getting that puppy has been a rocky ass road and I thought I had reached the destination at last. But, nope. Rebekah James (Redyre Rottweilers) has a beautiful female Rottie named Giggles. Giggles was to do the deed and produce her first litter. Except she came into season sooner than expected (before all her exams were done) so it was put off. Meanwhile, a litter Redyre had by another female (KK) was born and was thriving. Then they got parvo from a neighborhood dog. Rebekah lost one of the pups and went deeply into debt. She swore she was not going to produce any more litters. She’d had her heart broken enough. So I went looking elsewhere while waiting to see if she was serious. I found Cathy Ruben at Silverhill. Another excellent breeder who has quite a few of her pet quality dogs out there being therapy dogs and service dogs.

Which brings me to about four or 5 weeks ago. Silverhill was about to have a litter born. I was about to send her a money order. And then my arm got heavy. And my hand went numb. And my forearm. I couldn’t type very well with my left hand. I had yet another MRI done. Now there were bone spurs along with the everything else wrong with my cervical spine. I went to see the orthopedist again. He recommended I have an epidural injection done. That’s when we realized that this time was serious. This was not a “go to the PT again” fix like all the other times. There was no way I could handle an 8 week old pup. I called Cathy Ruben and cancelled my request for one of her pups. That’s when she told me they had been born just a few hours before.

Dammit to heck.

I was this close to getting a puppy finally. This close!

Back to the neck. I had the injection and it didn’t work. It actually made things worse and brought back older symptoms that I’d not experienced in years. Like, my face went numb. Now that’s a lot of fun! Try it some time! And today (12/17), I saw the orthopedist again. I don’t like him very much but he’s supposed to be a good surgeon. His people skills stink. Anyway, it is time for surgery. Some time in January I will have an anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF). I could wait, let more symptoms appear or these get worse then do the surgery. The worsening or increase would definitely show the source. Or I could see if they go away on their own. I’ll hold my breath if you hold yours. Didn’t think so. As for the surgery, there is a high success rate that the symptoms will be alleviated. Not so high a success rate the neck pain and headaches will. By going through the front, there is little cutting and a lot of moving stuff out of the way. Gross but there it is.

As for the puppy, Silverhill hopes to have another litter in the spring and…Rebekah and Redyre has decided to breed Giggles after all. As soon as I heard it, I sent her an email immediately, demanding (yes, demanding) to be put on the list. I even said I would take a nasty male dog if there were no females. I was disappointed (such a mild word for what I felt) I had to put off getting a pup again. Finding a good breeder is extremely difficult. I was even looking at one in Canada and one in Berkeley California. But there is no way I could have a puppy right now, not with the surgery coming up. I should be recovered about the time Giggles’ litter is born (that is if she even gets pregnant).

So we will start getting the house ready for my recuperation. Maybe even get a 2nd opinion on a few questions I have about the surgery itself. It feels good to be FINALLY moving toward getting this neck fixed. We’ve been going to Carolina Spine for over 15yrs now, just for that.

Please God, Don’t Let the Baler Break

I have been thinking of duality lately. Duality of personality to be specific. When we go about our lives, we act differently in our various roles. How we act at work is often not how we act at home. Yes, we must behave differently due to societal norms and constructs, but I am discussing more on a primal level. An actual personality difference. We see that often in the media when someone goes nuts and kills someone. Many people who knew him say things like “I never would have thought him to do that” but others, perhaps those closest to him or those who saw him in a different role, would say “oh hell yeah, I can see him doing that”.

My biological paternal parent died last week. My father. My dad. My daddy. The man I once looked up to and wanted to be like. The one I would do anything for and often did. The man that had a duality of personality. Kenny Johnson would do anything for anyone that asked. He really and truly would. And he would ask for nothing in return. When we would be working on our farm and had our equipment out, we would go to another farm to help them do the same. It’s what folks did back then. He was well respected. He was prayed for (he did not attend church) but we was respected. He was a hero. A neighbor’s child had an accident and it was the quick thinking of my father that saved her. He worked all day at the glass plant then came home to work the farm. He was not one to be idle. He truly was a good, honest man.

Then there’s the other side. Kenny Johnson had a temper. And he directed it at his kids. No matter what he was really angry at, his kids were easier targets. Which brings me to the hay baler. Anyone who has ever baled hay with a square baler knows what I mean when I say they are the devil’s own nightmare. They need constant care. Constant watching. When they work, they work well. When they don’t, they are a pain in the ass. Spitting out 7 foot bales weighing five pounds or 2 foot bales weighing a hundred. And working in hay is hot, itchy, hard work. Back then, it was done by hand. The tractor pulled the baler which pooped out the bales. Then the tractor was driven with a trailer attached and folks picked up bales and handed to them to whoever was up there who stacked them carefully. It was driven to the barn where it was all unloaded and stacked again. Hot, itchy, hard work. I’ve seen my older brother hit so hard he was knocked off the driver’s seat of the tractor. I’ve been knocked so hard I saw more stars than I already was from the heat. All because the baler broke and dad was mad at it but took it out on us. Instead of teaching my older brother how to better drive the tractor through the field, he was hit. Instead of teaching me how to do whatever it was I did (or did not) wrong that time, I was hit. Same when we were planting tobacco. Or working any field or crop or task or whatever. We weren’t taught. We were beaten until we stumbled onto the right answer. Many nights I worked by the light of the truck, straightening up tobacco plants, my butt getting kicked every other plant, because I was taking too long. They were crooked because of how they were planted. I was being punished because the ground was too wet, too dry, or the planters were not paying attention. When we were out there, we prayed the baler worked. We prayed the tractor kept running. That the truck did. That the spreader did. That the weather holds. That everything goes right and Daddy doesn’t get mad. Please don’t let the baler break. Please don’t let daddy get mad. Please don’t let him take off his belt.

It wasn’t just in the fields that we feared him. It was at home. Dad drank beer. Lots of it. And he wasn’t a mellow drunk. We never knew then what would get him mad. I once spent over an hour looking for his carton of cigarettes that he demanded I look for. I looked everywhere. Couldn’t find them. I was getting the “If you’d looked everywhere, you would have found them so keep looking!” comment from him. Finally, I was standing at the front door, knowing I was about to get berated again, when I turned to tell him I really and truly could not find his damn cigarettes. That’s when I finally found them. He was right, I had not looked everywhere. I had not looked right by his fucking seat, right by his beer cans on the floor. And out of my mouth comes the sarcastic comment I really should have kept in my head. I was knocked out of the living room and into the kitchen where I slid across the floor until I collided with the cabinets. Mom stepped between the two of us and told him to stop. That I was actually right. The cigarettes were right by his hand and that he had driven me to smart off. Dad never hit me again. I think it frightened him a little that he had hit me that hard. And that I had finally stood up to him. Bullies are like that.

[I truly believe I am such a sarcastic person because of all the comments I had to hold in all those years. The “stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about” crap. There was no way I would have said what I wanted to say so I kept it in.]

I am a lot like my paternal parent. I can’t help but be.
– I have one helluva temper. I have worked hard to keep it under control. I know I have it. I know that demon lurks under my skin. I avoid situations where I know I can lose control of it.
– I like to think I will do anything for anyone. I believe in the pass it forward philosophy. I have been helped out along the way. And in return I have helped out others. I don’t think about what I will get out of it. I know that makes me sound like such a freakin’ good person. I’m not.
– And I can sweat in a snowstorm. When we hung tobacco, we could always tell where Dad was or had been because of the puddles on the ground. Of all his physical attributes, I just had to get that one, didn’t I?

So as folks talked about how great a man he was, I winced. Sure, he was. But that greatness is dwarfed by the damage he caused. Some can say he was only doing what he was taught. That he was raising his kids the way he was raised. To which I say bullshit. If something makes you uncomfortable, you find another way. If it doesn’t, then you continue it. So it didn’t bother him to continue it. And when my younger brother (who left the farm too young to really experience all this, thank you God!) said he hopes he grew up to be just like him, I really winced. No, Kevin, you didn’t grow up to be like him. You grew up to be better. When you had your first child, we prayed you would not be like him. You weren’t. You were better. You talked to Ryan as he had his many, many (many, many) tantrums. You didn’t beat him. Or scare him just by entering the room. You are a real father to both your kids. You did not perpetuate the cycle. Your kids will do anything for you. Not out of fear, but out of love.

Childhood memories are tainted when we look at them as adults. Those memories were formed by that child and still contained by the view of that child. The child in me both loves and hates Kenny Johnson. But both those emotions are overwhelmed by the fear of him. The memories I have of him are almost all coated in that fear of him. Even those that are of love, there is that fear. As an adult, I could have looked him in the eye and confronted him and those fears. I chose not to. I chose instead to protect my Self and never contacted him. I wish I could say “this even is what broke the camel” but there isn’t. It was several events that ended when he said “I won’t let you kids ruin this marriage like you did the first one.” It was his multiple affairs that ruined the first marriage, by the way. But it was his inability to admit fault and his attempt to pass the blame onto me that made me step back and realize he had not changed. That he was not going to hear what I was saying. At any point in all those years since, he could have approached me. He knew how to get in touch with me. Instead, he chose to purge me. I was never brought up in conversation. Family stories were told without me in them. It was as if I had never existed.

I chose to not go to his funeral. It was a big decision for me and I did not make up my mind (for the last time) until the night before. I am Southern. Not going to my own father’s funeral? I am damned to hell for that. But the benefits of going (which were numbered less than three) were not enough. I will head over to The Valley later and pay my respects my own way and without an audience.

Thoughts of Time

You know those motivational quotes with oceans or bridges in the background? The quote says something like “if someone is toxic, get rid of them” or something along those lines.

I did that. Got rid of someone “toxic” to me. I made the choice to take care of myself, to protect my Self because, when it comes down to it, no one can do that but me. It was not an easy decision and it was not done on a whim and it certainly was not made because some motivational quote told me to. I did it because this camel’s back was getting tired. The weight of time was heavy. So, I removed myself from a situation. From two people actually, although one was much easier than the other. Removing them removed an entire part of my life. A huge chunk of it was suddenly outside my reach.

Over the years, things changed and I often considered re-inserting myself into this person’s life. But I couldn’t do it. Telephones ring both directions. So do mail deliveries. This person could contact and call others but never me. Hell, I was never mentioned. And now it is too late. He died this morning. It is not regret that I feel. It is more like I am holding the scales, putting my care of Self on one side and this morning on the other. It is a cold, heavy scale to hold.

And then I am reminded of my invisibility. In removing myself from them, they removed me from them as well. It is as if I never existed. And that is a weird weird feeling. It was happening prior to me walking away. I just made it kinda official I guess. I’d been slowly phased out for years.

He was a strong man but with screwed up priorities. Wouldn’t take one fucking step in this direction. That’s all it would have taken. One wee bit of effort on his part to show me..something. I know he was given my contact info at least once. And I know he knew how to ask for it. But he couldn’t. And he didn’t. So he pretended I didn’t exist and now he is dead.

Dad, I never stopped loving you. How could I? I believe now you understand at least. I wish you had understood a little sooner though.

Southern Service Dawgs

Because I haven’t enough to do, I started up an older project a few months ago.

A long time ago, back when I first started training Joella, I got involved in a Yahoo group for folks who were training their own Service Dogs. It was an interesting group of folks that’s for sure! Anyway, we realized there were a bunch of us who lived kinda sorta close together and we decided to have a gathering. I can’t remember the date but Jo was young so it was probably ’01 or ’02. We had a get together at Elena’s house in Charlotte. It was rather fun! I guess there were about seven dogs of various sizes (Akita, Keeshound, Aussie, Rottweiler, Beagle, several Mutts) but you know, not much barking at all! And they had a blast. We let them off leash in Elena’s fenced-in yard once we figured they were getting along and off they went.

And it was good for us humans to get together, too, to meet in person and get to discuss our dogs in person. I’m visual to a fault so getting to see what people meant when they were discussing something really helped me. I am still really good friends with Elena and am online friends with at least one other person from that gathering.

My project that I restarted is the Southern Service Dog website, ServiceDawgs.org. It’s been in existence since shortly after that gathering. I tried to keep up with all the SD laws in the Southern states but states change their websites a lot (which breaks links). But now there are two organizations that are doing a good job of keeping track of the laws and keeping it all organized. I also had several listings of commands several of our dogs had, what we were working on, photos of the dogs at work and play, etc. I really wanted to emphasize that Service Dogs were DOGS, not robots. They had down time and yet all of them would “work” with the cape off. The cape was just for the public’s benefit, really. Anyway, since I am getting back into the Service Dog thang again and doing more research, I dusted off the website and revamped it. It’s still got a long way to go, however.

It used to be based purely on html code. Oh, that was fun to do. Then I did it with CSS which was slightly better. But now I have it on WordPress which will really keep it organized and easier to update. I am basically starting over since so much of the information from the old site no longer applies. Which brings me to the point of this missive. If anyone lives in the South and has a Service Dog, or would like a Service Dog, or trains dogs, or breeds dogs that would make good Service Dogs or has anything to do with dogs and Service Dogs, I invite you to join me on this endeavor. I would like to have regular blog posts by individuals (other than me!) on topics related to Service Dogs in some way.

Interested? Comment below or on my Facebook page!

Bread and Butter Books

Some of you may not know, but I tried to be a potter. I was decent at it, too. I loved the tactile sensation of the soft yet rough clay. The instant gratification of it yet knowing it wasn’t done yet. That I could take that wet, smooth, delicate thing and turn it into a hard, functional, object of beauty. And sell it! There’s money in pottery, especially in this area. It’s expensive as heckaroni to start up. It’s a horrible Catch-22 situation. To make good stuff to sell, you need good equipment. From the wheel to the kiln to tools to clay to materials for glazes. You get the idea.

One thing about pottery is most of us had our pots we loved to make but for various reasons, they didn’t sell that well. Often the reason was because we had to sell them at a higher price. Pottery ain’t cheap! And then there were pots we hated to make yet they sold faster than we could produce them. We called those pots “bread and butter pots”. We made what we didn’t like in order to afford to make what we loved the craft for.

Now that I am a writer, I really really want to write science fiction and fantasy. Yet they don’t sell that well. Not in the lesfic niche market. What does sell is romance. Holy cow! Lesbians love their romance! And for good reasons! But dangit, I don’t like writing romance. It’s tough for me to write. Butch Girls Can Fix Anything was a fluke I think. And after eight (yes, eight) years, it is still selling like mad.

Since it first came out in early 2007, it has sold 3226 copies. That number may not mean much, I know. Heck, I don’t know much about it either since I have nothing to really compare it to. Except since Regal Crest started doing ebooks, sales took off. Of that number above, 2007 of those are ebooks. Amazing, isn’t it? No, print books aren’t dead, far from it. But ebooks aren’t going away.

I often wonder if BGCFA sells so well as an ebook because of the title. I mean, do you want to sit on the bus and read the paper version of a book with that name? Or would you rather hold you tablet or reader so the title is hidden? Same with a lot of lesfic titles, I suppose. And no, I’m not removing “Butch Girls” from the title of the other books.

Meanwhile, To Sleep has only sold 132 total copies in its first year (compared to BGCFA’s 605). I love that series and those that have read it, and have told me they did, have liked it too. I’ve read a few Amazon reviews that were negative and I appreciate them. I’d like to hear from more folks who read it and didn’t like it. There’s THREE more in The Soliloquy series and I can’t fix what I don’t know is broke. Ya know?

With these sales numbers, it means 2015 will be the Year of Romance for me. I am going to put out at least one of these, more if I can, but I don’t want to set goals (again) and set myself up to fail (again). I am not a hobby writer. Let me repeat that. I am not a hobby writer. I am in this for the long haul. This is my job, as much of a job as I can do. Writing takes up several spoons and I need the right ones in place. I am lucky to have a partner who has a stable job that allows us to be comfortable but we could use my additional income from book sales to take care of extras and to put into this thing we keep hearing about called “savings”.

So, those of you who like SF and F? BUY THEM! Tell everyone else to buy them, too. Don’t buy used. Don’t borrow or share. Buy them new. It tells the publisher that they are worth offering contracts to writers. It tells writers they are worth writing. It gets them out of our heads and desktop folders and into your hands. I am lucky that my publisher (who I heart muchly) takes risks on that genre. To Sleep has not yet earned back its investment. Our hope is the release of To Dream will increase sales.