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Computers are evil!  When they work, they are the greatest machines ever created.  However, they have this tendency to “corrupt” over time.  I think it might be a conspiracy by the computer manufacturers to keep you coming back for more.

                                             

I’m on my computer a lot – I work from it, obviously, as a freelance writer.  I research information and I spend a fair amount of time just surfing the ‘net.  So, like anything that gets continued use, it’s bound to slowly deplete of energy.  But what a pain in my arse when it does.

Luckily, I have backup.  The lovely mini-computer that I’m typing on now (AKA my laptop).  As convenient as it is, I want a working PC.  I’ve run dozen of tests and applied even more “fixes.”  So why, can I ask, isn’t my computer fixed? 

As much as it pains me to say, I think it might be time for a new computer.  It’s not the money aspect that bothers me (although it probably should), it’s the transfer of everything to a new computer so that it’s just like the one I currently have, minus all the problems.  So, I will continue for a short while in my denial, trying to fix a machine that is probably inevitably broken, and use my backup supply when the preferred method does not work to the best of its ability.  Then, I will probably purchase another blessed, yet evil, machine.

Although I’d written in some format for at least 18 years, I never thought about making it a full time venture until recently.  I knew I was always very well-rounded in many aspects of writing – whether it was academic-based, poetry, creative writing – you name it, I could draft a writing piece quite quickly and quite proficiently.  I was also very good at working with people.  I remember getting the “Dear Abby” award at camp one year for my advice-giving skills and the fact that I had an approachable personality.  You can have all the great advice in the world, but if you can’t get the person to talk, it’s really quite useless.

So, I guess you could say I had two talents, writing and helping people, and I chose to expend my time and energy (and let’s not forget money) getting a degree in the latter.  It was still money well spent, as I really enjoyed, and still do, helping others figure out how to solve problems.

The last several years of my life have been working at a residential facility with female adolescents.  Not the easiest job, I must say, for several reasons.  First, adolescents aren’t always the most insightful individuals, as life usually revolves around them in their minds and connecting actions to consequences is often a foreign concept.  In addition, you take a teenager who did not make a conscious choice to be sitting in my office (some were escorted to the facility via strangers in the middle of the night) and you definitely have your work cut out for you.

I will take a moment to pat myself on the back, however, at the success that I had with these kids.  First and foremost, a relationship had to be built.  I could not come at them telling them what their problems were.  There would be no way to break through the anger and hurt they felt from being ripped away from family and friends.  So, I honed my skills even more in the relationship-building department. 

But in the last six months or so when “life” got in the way and working as a therapist no longer fit into my plans, I put full-time effort into my other talent – writing.  I say full-time because I had never put it on the back burner necessarily.  It was more on that smaller burner right next to the big one up front.

Although, as a writer, my office is at home and I don’t sit trying to help solve life problems for teenage girls all day (just my 11 year old daughter), one connection I have made between the two occupations is the #1 need to build relationships.  Albeit, it’s sometimes more difficult over a computer, and I have to hone these skills in different ways, I wouldn’t have the client base that I do had I not had this foundation in place.

I feel I have made a successful transition from one career choice to another, and I look back with no regrets.  I’ve been asked if I regret going to school to become a therapist, as to the onlooker the large student loans I accumulated would probably make many question the same thing.  The answer is no.  Each skill I learned, each paper I wrote, all added to my repertoire of aspects I put into my everyday writing.  I have not lost the therapist in me as a writer no more than I lost the writer in me as a therapist.  They are both what makes me, well, me.

Change

When I was reading earlier today, I read a line that stuck with me regarding change.  The general meaning was this:

The more you change, the less of you there is.

Being the ponderer that I am, I thought about this line for quite awhile.  Is it true?  I’ve heard quotes like “The more things change, the more they stay the same” which, in all honesty, never made much sense to me.  If they change, they’re not the same, right?  But this line in a book, one that probably was not meant to provoke as much thought as it did, left me thinking.

If you read my “What I’ve Learned From 2007” post, you will see I have undergone a great deal of change in the last year.  Even before 2007, I was in constant fluxuation.  I finished grad school, moved halfway across the country, got a new job.  That was all in the 2nd half of 2006.  Then 2007 brings a marriage, a diagnosis of a chronic disease (that sounds so menacing every time I say it!), and other various life-altering changes.  Already in 2008, I’ve transitioned from being a full-time therapist to a full-time freelance writer, a huge change in and of itself.

So, with the last 2 years of my life being as they’ve been, who am I?  Am I that person that sat in class at her university several days a week?  Or the person that shared insights over coffee and cigarettes in cafes with her college friends?  How about that single mom that raised a child through years of schooling and strife?  Am I her?

I would like to think I am a composite of all I ever was – that each day adds a piece of the puzzle called “Angela’s Life” that will only be complete on the day I take my last breath.  All of my current decisions are based on my past successes and failures.  Regret is not in my regular vocabulary, as I made the decision to do everything I’ve ever done, and each choice has made me who I am. 

So in regards to the above words from the book I am reading, and the question I posed about it, in my opinion, no, it is not true.  In my opinion, if it were, we would be composed of random days stuck together with no rhyme or reason.  As for me, I want my life to have both rhyme and reason.

I’m having an “I Hate MS” day (not that I love it any other day, but some days are just in the “I Dislike MS” category!).  So, today’s topic is the top 5 things I particularly hate about it in this moment (I say that because the list could change from day to day).  We’ll look at this David Letterman style, except we’ll start with #5.

5.  Doctor’s waiting rooms – I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time at a doctor’s office in my whole 30  years of existence than I have since August of last year.  Glad I’m an avid reader, in addition to someone who loves to just sit and think, or I would go insane!

4.  Having “good hours” and “bad hours” – What ever happened to having a good week, or even a good day?  With MS, you never know what the next hour holds.  The good thing is, the hour after that just might be back to “good” again.

3.  Future plans – my husband asked me this morning what I would like to do once our daughter turns 18 in 7 years.  Hmmm…this goes back to #4 of the whole “good hour, bad hour” statement.  How the heck should I know what I want to do in 7 years?  I’ll let you know in about 6 years, 364 days and 23 hours because it all may change in that last hour.

2.  3x/week shots – Good thing I’m not a sissy when it comes to shots!  It’s not the shots I mind, it’s the crappy, run down feeling that is the aftermath.  Luckily, my doctor (see #5) is changing me to a treatment that will hopefully “cure” this side effect.

1.  And the #1 reason of today…(drumroll inserted)…shaky hands – I would really love for my hand to quit jumping off of my keyboard! 

So, there’s my MS rant for today.  There may be a different list tomorrow, or hell, maybe in about an hour! 🙂

Although I have written for many years, I’ve only recently made the decision to venture out into full time freelance writing.  I’ve considered myself pretty lucky with the projects I’ve personally landed, but as I’ve looked through various projects on the market, I’m dismayed at the low pay that some people offer.

Freelance ≠ Free Work!  Yet when I see projects being offered at $.02 a word, I wonder if writers really hold themselves to such low standards?  The spectrum I see going from the low price quoted above (and even lower!) up to $2+ a word simply amazes me. 

The reason I have done fairly well for myself in my venture into full time freelance, I believe, is because I know my worth.  I simply will not accept such low pay.  I am an excellent writer, and I, along with other excellent writers, deserve more.  More pay, but more respect.

I’m thankful for those who I have worked with thus far, as they have shown me respect with great communication, feedback and pay.  The old adage is true – “You get what you pay for.”  I hope those who are offering $.02 a word are getting EXACTLY what they pay for.

 

…And that’s my $.02

  

As I perused the headlines via CNN.com, I was visually informed that one of my most favorite “boy bands” of the 1980s is reuniting for a tour.  New Kids on the Block – or NKOTB depending on which part of their singing career you followed them in, has just announced the reunion.

I was brought back to my younger years when I would have given my allowance for a year to attend a New Kids concert.  To see Joey McEntyre in person would have been (or so I thought at the time) the most important thing to happen in my life.  But, given that I was provided with overprotective parents who did not put concert-attendance on the list of “safe” things for their daughter to do, I was left to sing their swooning ballads and upbeat pop lyrics either in the solitary comfort of my bedroom, or with friends. 

Yet, for some reason, I do not find myself getting excited over this newsflash.  In fact, I’m slightly annoyed by it and here is my reason:  Donnie Wahlberg, although not as prominent as his brother Mark (or Marky Mark, if you knew him in this role), has, to some degree, established himself as a decent actor.  To revert to the pop star, boy band image is disturbing to me.  I guess for the other ones, it may be serving a midlife crisis need they have to return to the limelight.  However, I simply do not see this turning into a successful venture.  Those that listened to them in their prime (like me) have moved on, and anyone else may just become confused at their presentation.

Alas, I shall not judge until I hear it (yes, I said hear it, because I will not be spending my hard-earned freelance income on an NKOTB concert ticket) for myself.  Who knows, the style may have changed into something my grown up ears can enjoy.

Over the weekend (on Saturday morning to be exact), I learned that my 13 year old niece had died.  Backing up a bit, though, I feel in order to pay tribute to her life, I need to expand on her story. 

Randi Jo Carothers was born to Richard and Lori Carothers on December 21, 1994.  She was named for my brother, Randall Joe Baker, who had died in a car accident at age 19 just a year and a half earlier.  Her life, a struggle from the start, began quite a bit earlier than it was supposed to.  My sister had to be put on bed rest and hospitalized early in order to increase Randi’s chances of survival.  Still, Randi came early and endured her first heart surgery at 8 days old.  Nobody expected her to survive this initial surgery.

But survive she did!  As Randi grew older she succumbed to many more surgeries, more hospital visits, more “at-home” treatments, all intended to “give her life.”  The ultimate goal was to have a heart transplant when she got into her late teenage years.  A couple of months ago, however, it became apparent that time was not on Randi’s side, and a heart transplant was needed fairly quickly.  Randi was excited because, to her, new heart = new start. 

Initially, Randi was put on a “non-critical” transplant list, meaning many names came before her.  As a family, we watched Randi get weaker as more health issues arose.  For example, her kidney, was working at probably half capacity.  Obviously anyone who knows much about kidneys would say “Well, she still has the other one.  Humans only need one kidney,” and you would be right.  You would be right if Randi had at least one good kidney, for the one I speak of that was operating below healthy functionality was the only good one she had.  The other had quit the fight long ago. 

In order for Randi to be a “good” candidate for a heart transplant, she needed to get this one semi-functioning kidney in check.  Well, I should say, the doctors needed to do so.  The surgery that was to be performed to do this was called something like a “renal artery” something or other.  It was a risky surgery, even for a fairly healthy individual, or so the doctors said.  Randi was far from a “fairly healthy person” and we all knew the risks, including Randi. 

Randi knew this surgery was a means to the end.  The end being the heart she so desperately wanted.  So, a date was set for March 20 at 7:30am.  The operation was to take 4 1/2 to 5 hours.  Quite a long operation considering we are speaking of a girl who, although she was 13 years old, only weighed less than 50 pounds (soaking wet) and stood 52 inches high.  Randi was wheeled into the operating room at 8am.  The length of the surgery more than doubled, and 11 hours later, Randi was wheeled into Intensive Care. 

According to the doctors, the surgery went well.  Though no one would have wished for this child to be under anesthesia for over 11 hours, all in all it went well.  They were confident. 

I went from hearing at 8pm on Thursday night that all went well to a phone call from my sister at 1:30pm on Friday afternoon telling me my niece was not going to make it.  WHAT?  That’s what I said to my sister, because what else do you say to someone who is aware, with sureity, that her daughter IS going to die.  She informed me they were taking her home so that she could die among family and friends.

That night, as I walked into my sister’s house and saw my niece sprawled on her dad’s lap, connected to tubes, I witnessed the fragility of life.  I saw someone not quite alive, but not quite dead, and the dichotomy of these points on a spectrum was difficult to make sense of.  I felt like I was witnessing a live person’s visitation as people walked up and seemed to pay their respects, and file back out the way they came.  I watched from a chair just a few feet away, taking in the process of dying.  It seemed slow but, in reality, was quite quick, for my niece died just hours later.

We left at 11pm that night, and Randi died at 2:25am.  I’ve thought a lot about being only 3 1/2 hours away from someone’s death.  This is not my first brush with death, but it was my first encounter with dying.  I have received many calls in my life informing me that someone had “passed away,” but I’ve never been so involved in the process of dying.  It left me contemplative to how fragile life is and how, at the end, one is barely hanging on, but not quite ready to let go.