#WEPFF #WEP The Harvest (#Poem #Poetry)

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*This is my entry for the Challenge above

 

The Harvest

 

Last week we took the ATV
Down the dirt road to survey the fields
Brimming with corn, wheat, and beans

Daddy said it was going to be the best harvest yet
We’ll finally be able to pay the past dues
And save the fledgling farm

Mother Nature
Oh how we tend to forget about her
At times

She has no mercy, she does not care
Man is nothing but a nuisance
An unnatural specimen in a natural world

Since that day of his joyous declaration
She ravaged the fields with a fury my Daddy never saw before
Ruthless, savage like a shark in a frenzy

This morning, I stayed inside but
I watched as Daddy soberly walked those same fields
His shoulders slumped, his head low

The best harvest turned out to be our worst,
And his final
God rest his soul

 

(Word Count: 142; NCCO)

*This was inspired in part by the recent destructive weather we’ve endured up here in North Dakota with September being the wettest on record, and the freak but historic snowstorm/blizzard on October 10-12 where two feet of (or more) snow blanketed the fields that have only been partially harvested. This may turn out to be one of the worst year for farmers in decades.
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What Is Life Like As An #Usher? #UshDay #Disability #Awareness

I have talked some in past posts about my disabilities; but I don’t recall ever going into detail about them. This post will do just that.

September 21st will be the 5th Annual Usher Syndrome Awareness Day. (Click here for more information) To celebrate, if you will, I wanted to share with you some of what it is like being an Usher.

In a nutshell, an Usher is both deaf and blind.

What gets most people confused is that they assume that being deaf/blind is that you see/hear absolutely nothing.

For most of us with Usher Syndrome, this is not the case.

Usher Syndrome has basically three types:

I: born with profound deafness; vision loss begins before age 10

II: born with moderate to severe hearing loss;  vision loss noticeable by late teens

III: born seemingly normal but progressive hearing loss by early childhood; vision loss begins in early teens or earlier

For a small percentage, Ushers will lose all sight (complete loss of light perception) and hearing. For the remainder, we will maintain some usable vision (all peripheral would be lost but many will retain some degree of central vision) with varying degrees of hearing.

I have Type II.

I was born with moderate to severe hearing loss though this was not diagnosed until I was in Kindergarten.  At that time it was determined that I only had about 35 percent hearing in each ear. Because of this, I was quite behind in speech development which speech therapy for two years helped remedy.

When I was a freshman in college, I began to notice increasing problems getting around campus at night. Two years later, I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (which explained the progressive vision loss).  Shortly after I visited the Ear and Eye Infirmary in Boston where I underwent two days of various intense testing which determined that I had Type II Usher Syndrome (RP with hearing loss).

These all occurred between 1977 and 1992.  Medical experts in these two fields (hearing/vision) were great for trying to pin point exactly what was wrong with me; but, they did little to nothing in helping me find ways to cope with these progressive losses which for many of us tend to lead to severe anxiety and depression.  This, I’ve noticed, still continue today for many however I am seeing a gradual change in the right direction.

So, along with roughly (now) 30 to 32 percent of hearing, I have very little peripheral vision left. I have no night vision whatsoever. Sun light and various indoor lighting hurt my eyes so I need to wear sunglasses nearly all the time. Colors are challenging to tell apart (if you put navy, brown and black beside one another, I cannot tell the difference.  The same for green-blue, orange-yellow, etc.). My depth perception is gradually declining (instead of seeing layers and edges, everything is meshed together. Simply put is that I no longer see things in 3-D instead everything is  in 1-D).  I can still read, but that is growing more difficult. I have tried to use audio books but with hearing loss, that at times has been frustrating.

I am now using a walking cane to help keep me mobile and out and about but at times this is also quite challenging as I really cannot rely on my hearing to pick up hidden dangers.

Over time, I have become more of a recluse and this does not help my depression; however, whenever I do have plans to head out of the house, I am besieged with anxiety that have oftentimes kept me house bound more times than not.

I “retired” from the workforce over four years ago.  At first, it was nice. Now, I’m so tired of staring at the walls and of being so isolated and uninvolved.  The internet has helped but I need to actually get out more. The challenge is finding things and ways to go about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Never Forget: Looking Back (a 9/11 story)

September 11, 2001. 

The day that changed America.

I know it changed me, and my perspective on the duality of mankind (evil vs. good).

I’m finding it difficult to believe that it’s been eighteen years when it feels like it just happened.  Even now, certain images or sounds still evoke all those terrifying feelings and thoughts I had on that fateful day.

An airplane flying over my house.  A fireman on a street corner.  Any high rise structure.

It took me sixteen years to step back on a plane.  I have flown a few more times since; however I am still unable to shake the uneasiness that disaster can strike at any given moment.

In 2017, the events of 9/11 continued to haunt me so I decided to write a micro-story and eventually turned it into a video, The Bench. In a way, I did this to try and purge some of the feelings of intense sadness and of the anger over what we all had lost that day. I wrote this from a fireman’s perspective drawing upon a specific story I saw on one of the many 9/11 documentaries.

 

 

The actual photo that inspired my story:

(Someone took the iconic picture of a fireman sitting on the bench when he couldn’t find his wife anywhere)

Article detailing his story — Husband and Wife Survive World Trade Center on 9/11

Although his story had a happier ending, I wrote my story with the thought of so many others who’d lost their loved ones. And even worst, never to have their remains found.

 

My Story

 

9/11 had a profound effect on me. For several months afterward, I struggled with depression.

Perhaps in part it had to do with the fact I am from New York state. Born and raised upstate, my hometown was about five hours north of the Big Apple.  I’d spent time among those enormous high rises (yes, including the Twin Towers), roamed many of its streets, and walked along the boardwalks admiring great ships of war.

My husband and I had just relocated from New York to Raleigh, North Carolina in May of 2001.  I’d flew on an American Airline plane back to New York in July for my sister’s wedding.

On that day, a Tuesday, I was a teller working for RBC Centura in one of their branches near REX hospital (only a few short miles from the RDU airport).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annette, another teller, was there initially as we got ready to open the bank. But just before opening, she received a phone call that her grandmother was taken to the ER so she had to leave.

It was a few minutes before opening, Waller, the branch manager, got a call on his cell from his mother to turn on the news.  A plane had crashed into one of the Towers.  We quickly went back to the break room and turned on the small television and sure enough, we could see plumes of smoke rolling out of the North Tower.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first thought was that a commercial plane had accidentally hit the Tower.

An accident. That’s all it was.

With that, we opened the bank for the day.

As there were no customers yet, I rushed back to the break room to continue following the breaking news when I witnessed the second plane hitting South Tower.

I’d felt like something had knocked the wind out of me as I found myself holding my breath unable to take another.

Oh my god…that was no accident.

When the third plane hit Pentagon less than 20 minutes later, I was thinking, my god, we’re under attack.

My heart was racing. I couldn’t help but wonder – where will they hit next?

Unbeknowst to me at the time, my brother, Rick, was working that very morning at the American Airlines Southeastern Reservation Center in Cary, NC.  He personally knew the coworker who took that agonizing call by one of the flight attendants (Betty Ong) from Flight 11 (the plane that hit the North Tower). But when the call initially came in (between 8 and 8:30am), no one (including him) except for the supervisors knew of the tragic events unfolding.  The coworker was told to keep the call discreet as not to spread panic through the center.  Unfortunately, no one was able to get help in time for her and the passengers of Flight 11.  Rick said that this coworker was so distraught, they had to resigned.

It was sometime before 10am when I began hearing that the FAA were grounding all flights. I also remember hearing that all planes were accounted for…all except for one. That one, Flight 93, crashed in Pennsylvania.

Throughout this whole first hour of being opened, not one single customer came to the branch.  The main phone did not ring. At. All.

I was still the only teller.  Annette was gone.  Remi, the part timer, wasn’t due in for another hour. Throughout this entire building there were only myself and the branch manager.

It felt so eerily strange.

Up to this point, I was feeling a little frantic and unnerved, but managed to keep myself together.

A little before 10am,  I decided to go back and check on the news for any new information and watched disbelievingly as the South Tower collapsed.

 

Oh. My. God. Did I just see an entire high rise crumble to the ground?  How was that even possible?

Less than 30 minutes later, North Tower fell.

There was a loud buzzing in my head as my mind tried to decipher all that had happened. This was such craziness! Who would do such horrific acts?

I was stunned.  I was afraid. Then I became angry.

Whoever was responsible, needed to pay for all those lives lost.

I was so livid, I really wanted to smash something.

Anything.

The phone rang.

It was my husband, Jay, who’s a teller at another bank across town. A former soldier who fought in Desert Storm in 1991, it was his calm voice that snapped me back from the edge I was about to fall from.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I had to take several deep breaths before I could answer, “Yes.”

After all that had happened up to this point, the bank decided to keep their branches opened; but the rest of the day was a blur for me.  I don’t remember if Remi ever did come in.  I’m sure he did. I do remember the only two customers who came.  One of them took the drive-through, the former owner and CEO of the Carolina Hurricanes.

Everything felt so surreal.  I couldn’t tell if I was awake or asleep. I suppose I was in shock, but I can remember the utter relief I felt when we finally locked the doors, and seeing my husband waiting in the parking lot.

Thank god, I can finally get away from here!

For the next week or so, the skies over us were empty. Silent. The RDU airport nearby was practically barren of all life.  Rick was given nearly a week off before returning to the Reservation Center.

Our lives, everything, had changed forever.

Feeling secured in our country had only been an illusion.

Even today, I can’t help looking over my shoulder every once in a while for the next disaster to strike.

 

What about you? Where were you on September 11, 2001? How did that day change your life?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Un)Expectations #Writing #IWSG

This month’s question: Has your writing ever taken you by surprise?

 

When I penned my very first story at the age of eleven, I had no expectations on where writing would take me. What started out as a challenge ended up being a lifeline that I’ve used time and time again.

Writing took me on a journey to places I never dreamed I visit. Experiences I never thought I’d ever partake in. It enabled me to meet like-minded individuals from all over the world, from all walks of life.

Writing changed me.

In fact, I think it might have saved my life more times than I care to admit. Whether or not it kept me from insanity…well, that depends on who you ask!

Writing has been the one constant in my life while the rest has been full of chaos and changes.

I guess what I never expected when I wrote that fateful story all those years ago was how writing would change my life.

Something it’s still doing.

As I sit here at my desk, I see a future that holds more changes and yes, even heartaches. But knowing that I have my writing to hold on to as I travel through the possible dark path ahead, I believe I will be just fine.

 

Isolation #microfiction

The cold, sinking, sickening feeling sweep through my body.

Again.

My palms, sweaty. The pounding in my chest is making me dizzy, breathless.

It’s that knowing that there are things you can’t control, or things you just don’t want to face or deal with yet…

Why can’t it all just go away? Why can’t I hide in that recess of my mind where everything’s sunny and happy? Where the responsibilities and burdens are not pressing down on me so that I’m unable to breathe or function?

Oh, how I long for the days of innocence! When the evils of this world haven’t touched me yet. When life was blissful, and I was so naïve.

Where has she gone? Will I ever find her again?

Do I want to?

Time keeps marching forward.  The world passing by as I sit here at the window, watching out.

The desire to interact long gone.

Here, where I sit, familiarity’s my friend, my comfort.

Out there?

Chaos.  Fear.

The unknown. The pain of the past.

My heart’s splintering as my mind. Torn between wanting to remain here, and stepping out there.

Freedom. Oh to be free.

The better question is–to be freed of what? 

 

 

 

 

Does Free Time Increase/Decrease Your #Writing Productivity? #IWSG

*This post for the monthly IWSG is a bit late but hey, better late than never!  

 

From where I’m sitting, it’s the 4th of July.  The house is quiet.  My guys are off in New York for another week so I have the place all to myself.

Now, it’s just a matter of getting myself focused enough to work on a few projects that I know I should be working on.

Alas, distractions abound!

The silence is too loud. The house too empty.

So, I’ve been binging on rom-com movies as well as all of the Jaws films. Oh, and don’t forget the Bourne’s saga.

Sheesh.

And the few times I did manage to sit my butt down, the cats acted up.

Meaning, they’ve been staging break-outs by busting through the window screens in the sunroom. And I mean, they destroyed all three screens! I was so livid.

How do I explain this to hubby?

Anyhoo, I’ve spent at least two to three hours of my time in the past three days hunting down and rounding up the cats that did get outside.  Now, I’m faced with having to keep my house closed up (and the weather’s gorgeous outdoors!) for fear of them busting through other window screens.

Distractions. And more distractions.

I’d thought that with the guys gone and my having all this abundant free time to spend on writing would enable me to be very productive.

In fact, it’s been totally the opposite!

Grr…

I’m finding that having certain constraints with the guys around actually kept me more focused and in line.  Being busier with life actually yielded more fruits where with too much free time and no constraints whatsoever have caused me to be so — lazy.

Now, I’m down to the last five plus days to get done what I should have been working on all along. Question is, will I be able to stay focused long enough to do it?

What about you? Does having free time inhibits your productivity rather than enhances it?

Life’s Just A Dream #Poetry

Life
Its dark path’s a mystery
Full of hidden dangers & wonders

Eyes
Concealed within the shadowy woods
They know I’ve gone astray

Lost
In my mind home’s just beyond that bend
Alas, it’s only a mirage

Heavy
The mist encases each bared limb
Drowning me in despair

 

*Author’s Note: this poem was written for a prompt given by #BardBits on Twitter —

Marvelous Monday!

prompt 294: Midnight/Moon/Sea/Dock/Stroll/Reflect/Light/Clarity
Our Guest Hosts:
&

Write a short story or poem inspired by or using the word(s) and/or image.

Learning To Cope

It’s been nearly two weeks since I arrived at the School for the Blind for my week of training and support.  I’d meant to write up a post earlier than this, but I’ve been a busy body all this past week.

A good thing really!

I have people asking me what kinds of things visually impaired adults do at the School for the Blind. This post, I hope, will answer some of their questions.

The School for the Blind in Grand Forks (North Dakota) is mostly geared for school-aged kids but the ND Vision Services offers quarterly week-long training sessions for adults at the school each year.

Awesome’s my humble opinion.

What types of training do they offer for adults?

Well, when you first express interest in attending, you have the option of selecting any of (or all) the following six types of training/support:

Adjustment (coping skills, therapy, etc.)

Daily Living Skills (cooking, housekeeping, organization, etc.)

Technology (learn about all types of accessibility options with computers, phones/cells, etc.)

Orientation/Mobility (cane training, learning skills of getting around at home or in the community, etc.)

Braille

Vocation/Career (what’s out there for a visually impaired person, job training, career preparation, etc.)

 

The week began at 8:30am Monday; but first, I arrived there Sunday evening where I was greeted by the House Parent, Amy.  My “room” for the week was actually an “apartment.”

My “room” at the School

The School has two “apartments” reserved for teens where they can learn Independent Living Skills. They are equipped with a full kitchen, one bedroom, full bath, living/dining room which has an extra bed and TV w/ cable. I lucked out and was assigned to one of these rooms.

Awesome.

During the week, there’s a House Parent on duty between 3 and 11pm, and then another one for the overnight hours until the instructors arrive usually around 7am.

Each week day began with breakfast at 8am held in the large kitchen/dining area where in order to get there from your room is by maneuvering through a series of thinly carpeted hallways (in my mind have always been a sort of maze with strange series of tiled, checkered-style blocks at certain sections throughout each hallway).  But this time I learned their purpose! For an individual who’s completely/mostly blind, as he/she walks with the White Cane, each block signifies there is an office or room located at that area. And in order to know which room was which is by counting the blocks. Block #3 is the Technology room, or Block #4 is where the kitchen’s at.  When you cross an extremely large block, that means you’re at an intersection where two hallways meet.

You get the idea (I hope).

At the first/initial breakfast, you’d receive your scheduled classes for the week. For this day (Monday), you’d have an instructor aiding you to each class so you’d know where it’s located.  For the rest of the week, the help to each class gradually decreased until you are independently getting around to each class, meal, and your room.

This is the ultimate goal for all the training at the School…to enable a visually impaired person to become as independent and self-reliant as possible.

There are generally three classes in the morning, and three classes in the afternoon (each session is one hour long where you meet one-on-one with the instructor) running from 8:30am until 4pm with a lunch-break at 11:45.

My schedule was as followed:

8:30 Daily Living Skills

9:30 Technology

10:45 Mobility

11:45 Lunch

1pm Adjustment

2pm Daily Living Skills

3pm Technology

I opted out of the rest while the other attendees participated in all areas.

Dinner (set up by the House Parent) usually began around 5:45pm. The rest of the evening was your own time.

The classes were great, but for me, I absolutely enjoyed the interaction with the people (both the instructors and peers).

The first time I attended here was in June 2016 where there were seven of us total. This time there were just 3 of us.

Harley was the youngest at age 26. She completely lost her vision two years prior due to diabetes. This was her first time here.

Jewel was the oldest at 53, and as local, she’s a frequent visitor. She’s in the process of losing her sight also due to diabetes.

And of course, there was me, right smacked in the middle.

The camaraderie between the three of us was awesome and inspiring.

Just what I sorely needed.

The days were intense but fast. When Friday came, I found I wasn’t really ready to head home.

I felt safe here. I felt like I mattered. And the people I hung with truly get me whereas my family struggled to do just that.

But, I’ve learned new skills, and have been introduced to new possibilities that I’m truly excited about and hope to bring to fruition soon.

 

 

 

 

 

#IWSG The Horror and Suspense of Life

This post is for IWSG (Insecure Writer’s Support Group), and this month’s question: Of all the genres you read and write, which is your favorite to write in and why?

 

Right from the get-go, I’ve always been drawn to the darker sides of things. My first story I ever wrote (around eleven years old) was about a creepy house where a girl entered on a dare and discovered a decapitated head in a fridge.

Pretty morbid, eh?

So, I started with horror, then it became horror-paranormal to horror-apocalyptic, and now it’s mainly suspense.  Through these genres, the common theme always centered around death.

When my cousin (and best friend at the time) Darren passed away just before our fourteenth birthdays, I was hit with the stark reality that we were not invincible or immortal.  That even kids die.

Since then, I have experienced several other deaths of family members and friends.  Many of them died well before they were at the peak of their lives, or even able to realized their dreams.

This have always weighed heavily on me.

And showed up in pretty much whatever I wrote be it a short story or a poem.

A loss of some form. The darkness that’s constantly there.   .

I enjoy writing both horror and suspense mainly because it’s cathartic for my broken heart, and it’s my way of dealing with the pain.

What about you? What’s your favorite genre to write/read? Why? I love to know!