Wednesday, December 18, 2013

I Have a JOB!!!!!!

Just in time for the holiday season, I got a call for an interview for a job as a Help Desk Analyst at Astadia, one of those call centers that has multiple clients and has gone through many name changes over the last few years.

I really didn't expect to hear from them, but I was overjoyed first by getting an interview, then having a really good interview, then after a two day wait, hearing that I got the job!

It is part-time, around 30 hours a week, but the hourly rate is sufficient that I can consider it full-time. I'm going through training now!

And this time, I suspect I can stick it out. Management seems to be easier to work with than Xerox and the clientele is not the general public. So I'm really hopeful that this one will last.

I will post more as I get time!!!

Thanks to all who have shown empathy for my situation. It has been almost 3 years since I left my last job. For me this is nothing short of a Christmas Miracle.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

The Hearth Act: An Open letter to the ACLU, Wake County, Congress and President Obama

In a previous blog, I went over my reasons for believing that the Hearth Act is not working as intended.

Since that time I have been told that I had spent my last night at South Wilmington Street Center (SWSC) in Raleigh, NC, later rescinded by the Case Manager after I complained that my First Amendment Rights had been violated.

At the same meeting he warned me that my time was coming, but that he would give me proper notice when that was decided. Since then, however, I have seen subtle warnings, one might say harassment, that impending doom is falling: My facilitator warning the whole jobs group I must attend once a week that if we didn't do EXACTLY as she says - including applying for a job at a Pawn Shop that hasn't publicly run job ads, and applying at Toys R Us (sorry, can't make a backwards 'R' here), both of which would require me to lift no matter what the position. I can't lift heavy objects. I have no strength or stamina in my right arm. But if we don't do exactly as we're told we could be asked to leave the shelter with no notice.

I have noticed an increased number of residents who have been asked to leave for minor infractions of the rules, such as a friend who was asked to leave after he was given a breathalyzer and blew .01, to which he attributed to mouth wash.

Now in the shelter's defense, because I want this to be a fair article, Frank Lawrence, the center director has warned us about using mouthwash with alcohol in it, but really, .01?

I'm not immune to the harassment. In addition to the premature ejection with no notice, which I'm certain as initiated by someone who read my last blog, and the harassment of a facilitator who likes to remind me that my time is short, and there are no excuses, I came back from class last night to find that someone hadn't entered my alert, which gives me permission to stay out of the shelter past 7pm. I rolled in at 11:30, which has been usual for me on Mondays and Wednesdays the last 4 weeks, and was told no alert existed, though one seemed to exist on Monday night when I rolled in at the same time. If there was no alert for Wednesday, then why was there one for Monday, when both were submitted on the same sheet last week?

The long and short of that is that I was breathalyzed and passed. The minor infraction of coming into the shelter late was not due to my neglect. If it was not put in, I have no control over that, but my concern is that it will be used against me to force me out of the shelter.

Once you are forced out of the shelter, you cannot come back for 90 days. This is a fairly recent addition to the mix of penalties SWSC has added in the last 18 months. They are there to drive men out of the shelter and keep them out, halting, ever so briefly, the revolving door I described in my last shelter blog. All the changes are due to pressure put on SWSC by Wake County officials. They claim it is due to the Hearth Act.

The thing is, I've read the Hearth Act and nowhere in it does it suggest that limiting shelter stays and keeping homeless men out of the shelter is the proper course of action. In fact, the Hearth Act is designed to eliminate homelessness by 2015. That is in its stated goals. You can't end homelessness by driving the homeless out of shelters, onto the streets or woods, and keeping them out of the shelter.

Therefore I submit that SWSC is in violation of the Hearth Act.

What do I want from this?

I want it explained to me how an act that is meant to help can be so perverted that it can be used to drive men out of shelters and keep them out.

I want to know what local, county, state and Federal authorities are going to do about this.

I want the spirit of the Hearth Act followed and homelessness truly eradicated, not shoved under a rug. 'Homeless? We've got no homeless. Just check the shelters.' Meanwhile men continue to live under overpasses, in the woods around SWSC, on benches and other less than happy places.

I want a permanent place to call home, not just for me, but for all homeless. Because shelter life sucks, is marginally above being in prison, though not as bad as living in the streets. It is not the life I choose. It is the life I am forced into because I am having such a hard time finding a job.

Frank Lawrence, the center director at SWSC, keeps saying that he never refuses a request for help. Frank, consider this my official request for help. Can you give me what I need to get out of the shelter and off the streets?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

MikeFox WoW's Pop-up Hearthstone: Take that you pesky kids!

The Hammer Has Fallen... or Has It?

After I posted my blog that was critical of SWSC and the Hearth Act, I was acutely aware that some people might not take it well. I went through Monday night and Tuesday half expecting the hammer to fall and that I would be asked to leave the shelter.

I breathed a bit easier Wednesday, despite my blog being circulated on Twitter and other sources, and went to my A+ Certification class confident that no actions would be taken.

I came back in Wednesday night at 11:30pm, and was told that it was my last night in the shelter.

I was stunned. The hammer had fallen. Hard.

Was it because someone had read my blog and decided this troublemaker had to go? Was it because my time at the shelter had been extended one day too many?

The really sad part was I got a call about an interview and I was looking forward to going to it.

I lay awake half of the rest of the night worrying about it and thinking about what I would do. I doubt I got 3 hours of sleep last night.

In the morning, I contacted the Guest Advisory Council president, the person who lives in the shelter that acts as a liaison between guests and staff, and I told him my fears. We went around trying to find out why I was barred. I filed a grievance, asking for a hearing, based on the appearance that my First Amendment Rights had been violated and that I felt misled about the Shelter Plus Care Voucher, which I felt I could qualify for.

Finally I talked to the Case Manager, Bill Hoetzlein, who assured me that a) he'd never read my blog, b) he wasn't the one who put the order in (which surprised me) c) that he would make it a policy that no one was kicked out without a rules violation unless they had adequate warning, and d) my time at the shelter was drawing to a close, but probably not immediately.

He wanted to discuss it with his staff, and told me to call him later in the day.

A few other bits of information: Apparently the Shelter Plus Care Voucher is only accepting Mentally Ill clients now. This might be a violation of the Hearth Act. I'll have to check on that.

The 30/60 days to find a job and find housing has apparently been increased to 90 days. I was at class and missed that meeting.

I'm not sure what I'll do at the moment. I'm tempted to contact the ACLU, because that appearance of violating my First Amendment Rights bothers me. I am of the firm belief that the Hearth Act is being misused here, as an excuse to kick people out of the shelter simply because they haven't found jobs or housing. I will try to keep everyone posted.

Thanks for your support.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Story Idea: 'Threads'

I have so many story ideas bursting through my head right now, I'm going to make a point of sharing them all with you!

*Gasp* I hear some of you writers say! 'Michael, don't you know that people *STEAL* ideas over the Internet?'

Yes, I do. In fact, there are elements of my first novel, 'Theater Boy' in the plot of 'The Matrix.' Now I'm not accusing the writer of The Matrix of stealing my material, but I have to say that I didn't even see The Matrix, which came out in 1999, until 2001, and I was dumbstruck. How could another writer steal my ideas?

For the record, I posted snippets of 'Theater Boy' online in 1997. It IS possible that the ideas were stolen, but since the whole story wasn't stolen, I really can't complain. But on the other hand I can't really use those ideas any more because I'd be accused of copying The Matrix.

But my point is,  writers not only steal all the time, but they also come up with similar ideas all the time. My imagination was sparked by 'Star Trek,' and other science fictions shows and novels. But they can't copyright the idea of space travel, or time travel. They might get you if you use the word 'Tricorder' in your writing (unless you write for Star Trek), but other than that, taking a little something from someone else's idea and coming up with something new, is nothing new.

So with that in mind, comes the idea behind 'Threads.' Threads could be a movie, or it could be a TV show. I'm not sure and that's one reason why I'm posting. I'd like your ideas on where to take it. Now there has been some prior influence from other shows that made this come to mind. "Early Edition' comes to mind. This is not, however, the plot to 'Early Edition.'

Meet Oliver Hardy Henry. His mother had a wicked sense of humor. But he has a sense of the future. Whenever he meets someone, he gets a vision of the next ten days in their life. When he gets these vision, he can literally ask himself, 'What if I do this?' and the vision will change accordingly.

Now when Oliver was young, he used to try to help his friends all the time. He'd tell them if they were going to flunk a test, get dumped by a girl, dump a girl, miss the winning basket in the state championship, etc. His friends didn't believe him at first, then got pissed off at him when he was right.

Soon he had no friends, but he did get married.

Now his marriage is on the rocks, and no matter how hard he tries to imagine it working out, he can't see it happening. So he does nothing for his relationship.

He does have a relationship with his children, one of whom is starting show signs that she has the 'gift'. He really has to talk to her, to make sure she doesn't make the same mistakes he did. Like telling bosses what was going to happen, and getting fired. Like playing the lottery, winning, then having the IRS come down on him, like playing the stock market big, and not paying attention to the ten days between his vision and the reality.

So he has learned. As we start the pilot, he's talking to a psychiatrist, explaining all this to him. Explaining that the only way he can live a normal life is to do nothing at all with his gift, or just use it in small doses, like the stock exchange. He sees a stock broker every morning on the subway, and looks at his paper to see where the stocks are headed in ten days. He replays the last 9 days in his head and figures out where to put a small amount of money so he can help pay the bills.

Oliver can't see his own future, only how he affects others. The psychiatrist asks him to tell his future, but Oliver see him dying from a heart attack. He asks himself what if he tells the guy, and he sees the doctor dying on an operating table. He asks the doc: 'You got insurance?' The doc says yes. 'You'll be fine.'

So this is how Oliver leads his life, seeing other people's future lives, but not his own. Until he accidentally bumps into a woman running down the street, and sees her being hit by a car - in less than a minute. He chases after her, leaps in front of her to save her, and only then realizes that he has put his own life in jeopardy by saving her, because she is part of a crime syndicate.

How will Oliver get out of this mess? Why don't you tell me? Okay, he survives, and at the end he lets himself win just enough money to open a detective business. For whatever reason, the secretary he hires is immune to his visions, he can't see her future, and the person who does all the footwork in the business is on the incompetent side.

Can he save his marriage, his daughter, his business and everything else from what will happen in the next ten days?

I'm not opposed to working with someone on this. So if you have Hollywood connections and would like to work with me on this, let's get together.

MikeFoxWoW's Pop-up Hearthstone: Pesky AI Priests

Monday, November 18, 2013

How the Hearth Act Isn't Helping Homeless

Last week, during the regular Wednesday meeting at South Wilmington Street Center (SWSC), in Raleigh, NC, the center director, Frank Lawrence, told the collected faces of those homeless men living in the shelter that they had 30 days to find a job and then 30 days to find housing, or (assumably) they would be required to leave the program.

I was at a class when this happened, but the way everyone is talking about it, it's a done deal. Frankly, this stunned me, though, really it shouldn't have. Let me go into a little bit of the background of how SWSC has worked in the past.

As I stated in my book: 'Project Five-Star: The Five Points of Hope,' I've been coming to SWSC off and on since 2005. I'm currently in my 4th iteration of coming to the shelter. I come there because I have no job and no other place to live. That's what a shelter is for.

To put it simply, the only way you could be put out of SWSC was to break the rules. For whatever the reason, many of the men in the shelter seem eager to test the rules. For instance, the guy in the bed next to mine not only has food in the dorm, an infraction, but eats it late at night. So at 2:30 in the morning when I should be sleeping, the noise of his crunching penetrates my earplugs and wakes me up. Normally I turn a blind eye to such behavior, but this morning, I reported him. SWSC is short of staff, though, because of budget cuts and these things often slip by the wayside.

Cell phone use is also prevalent in the dorms, when that's also verboten. Why do they do it then? I think it's systematic of why they're in the shelter in the first place: They challenge authority, and sometimes authority bites back.

So the bottom line for SWSC was a kind of revolving door. Even now I see the same faces I saw back in 2005 when I first entered the shelter. They come in, use the emergency list to maybe get a bed for the night, get back on the waiting list for the program, get into the program, then after a few weeks break a rule and are asked to leave, starting the process all over again.

But those that follow the rules and make an effort to keep out of trouble and the sight of staff, didn't used to have to worry about leaving the shelter. But during Wednesday night meetings when the center director, Frank Lawrence, gets us all together, he began to warn us that things were changing. Something called the 'Hearth Act' loomed and the shelter was going to change.

In 2012 I was unemployed, living at the shelter and trying to find work when I was hit by a car. My shoulder was dislocated and ligaments in my knee were torn. My job search was temporarily put on hold while I healed. After two months of healing, I received a small settlement that barely dented my medical bills, but gave me a little bit to live off. I left the shelter to do some traveling and see if I couldn't start my own business. When the money ran out, I came back to the shelter, technically still healing, but a little bit more mobile than I was before. I found that times had indeed changed in the 4 months I had been away.

Now we have to report to groups based on what we were doing. Despite the fact that I was still injured and can not do physical labor, I was put in a group that was supposed to be searching for a job. We were told that our beds were only guaranteed for one week at a time (if we followed the rules) and at any point, we could be asked to leave the shelter if we did not follow the rules, which included weekly status meetings.

But the changes weren't all bad. The shelter now offered classes on a variety of topics, mostly given by Wake Technical Community College. They included truck driving classes, hospitality, agriculture, and such skills that some employers were looking for. I took advantage of the Hospitality class.

Yet despite all that I still could not find a job in a field that I could perform. Manual labor is right out, as I can't do any heavy lifting. I can't stand for long periods of time, as my knee gets very stiff. So three-fourths of the jobs that were presented by our 'facilitator', or group leader, were not an option for me. The ones I can do, however, have a large number of applicants, and would you rather hire a 20-something with energy or a fifty-something who looks like a truck ran over him? (It was a car.)

So after almost a year of being in the shelter, I was presented with a notice that said I had 30 days to find work or find housing or I would have to leave the shelter. I was very despondent.

But a ray of hope appeared in the form of a Section 8 voucher from the Raleigh Housing Authority (RHA). I thought my wishes had come true and that soon I would be out of the shelter.

The voucher from RHA had two limits to it: The amount of rent it would pay was limited to $526/month, and it had to be used within 60 days or it would expire. I thought for sure that I'd find a place quickly. I didn't want to stay in SWSC any longer than I had to. Then I started looking for housing. In Raleigh, I found, the average rent is considerably higher than $526/month, and not many complexes take Section 8 Vouchers. After a week of looking but not finding, I asked for help from the shelter. My 'facilitator', Shantavia Alexander, was unfortunately injured herself because of a pinched nerve in her back. She was in and out of the building to the point where I did not see her.

I continued my pursuit of a place to live, but in the meantime, 30+ men from the shelter were booted at the end of August 2013 because they had lived there too long. No other reason, other than they had not found jobs. I can't speak for all of them, but I tried like a maniac to find a job in my time.

I was not one of those booted, because I had that voucher and it still had 30 days left on it. Again I asked for help, but received nothing more than a list of places that at one time or another took Section 8. The problem with the list: most of the properties on there either had age restrictions, 55+, 62+ etc., or they wanted more money than the voucher paid for.

I was stuck between a rock and a hard place and time was running out. I went to RHA and, per their written instructions, asked for an extension in writing. They said they made it very clear that no extensions would be granted. I asked if they knew of any place that would take the voucher. They said no, but there must be a lot of them because they had plenty of applications. (Personally I couldn't see the sense of that statement. You had the applications, but you couldn't tell me where they came from?) I left my written request with them but could not track down a place before the voucher expired.

I moved around the shelter carefully, expecting at any time to be removed, but that day hadn't come yet. I did get a verbal aside from my facilitator that the day was coming, but she didn't give me a particular day. What she told me, though, was that there are no excuses for not having a job. I felt for her, really, because she missed so much time in August and was in a wheel chair or walker and moves slowly through the hallways, but she's not using her injuries as an excuse. Except for the time when I needed her the most, to help me find housing when I had a voucher.

Still, I looked for work, and tried to establish my own business, called 'I Choose Not To Talk,' an organization that promotes a better understanding between introverts and extroverts. I established an Indiegogo campaign to raise money, and started designing buttons and T-shirts, hoping that enough money would be generated to get me out of the shelter before the hammer fell. So far, I've been wrong. The campaign is in its last 7 days. Please donate!

But then Wednesday came along and now everyone in the program has been given an ultimatum: Get out on your own or we'll put you out.

When I found this out, I was livid. Is this what a shelter is for? I know that Frank Lawrence, the center director is embarrassed by the fact that there are people living in his shelter who have been there more than a year. He made it sound like he was doing a bad thing by giving homeless men a chance to recover. Apparently other shelters don't give that much time, why should he?

Well, after having the 'Hearth Act' stuffed down my throat for the last 2 years, I sat down and read it today. Here are some highlights that have a bearing on me:

c) CERTIFICATIONS ON USE OF ASSISTANCE.—Each recipient shall certify to the

Secretary that—

(3) it will assist homeless individuals in obtaining—

(A) appropriate supportive services, including permanent housing, medical and

mental health treatment, counseling, supervision, and other services essential for

achieving independent living; and

(B) other Federal, State, local, and private assistance available for such


Actually, SWSC has provided quite a bit of that assistance, but not the one I needed most: permanent housing. I tried to apply for a Shelter+ Care voucher, and was told that only disabled people qualified for that. Part of the problem with the Section 8 voucher was the limits put on it by RHA. Limits of $526/month. Shelter Care + doesn't have that limit, and I'm told neither did RHA until recently. The fact is I may not qualify for SSDI, but I AM disabled. I do have difficulty performing physical labor.

I am in the process of getting help from Vocational Rehabilitation. They recognize that I have a disability and have helped me in two regards so far: They arranged for all my teeth to be pulled and dentures made; and they are arranging for me to take computer certification classes at NCSU. Mind you, it took them almost a full year to begin those services after I applied, but the process has begun. I can't easily attend classes when I'm not sure where I'm going to sleep from night to night.

I don't believe that those who wrote the Hearth Act had it in mind that  people would be kicked out of shelters just because they've used it for longer than a year or even 60 days. As Frank has said, it is meant to hold shelters accountable for what goes on in them. Yes, I agree with that, but accountable should be to the occupants of the shelter, not to some government agency that seems to think that there should be a time limit to such stays.

Or better yet, SWSC should be accountable to actually providing the services that the act states it should provide. The problem is there isn't enough staff, and both staff and 'guests' are becoming frustrated with their end of the stick. Staff has too much work, and guests don't get enough of the services they need.

This is not what the Hearth Act is all about. Because if this is what they meant, to kick homeless people out of the shelter after a certain amount of time, then they lack empathy.

So let's look at ways the Act could help, if written properly:

  • Let's get homeless men and women priority in hiring for government jobs. Not that working for the government is stable, but every little bit helps.
  • Let's better define what makes a person disabled. I was denied SSDI because I can be retrained. Fine, I working on that. Give me time to finish that.
  • Separate those seeking help from those not. Give better service to those that are seeking help, and basic services to those not.
Those are just a few suggestions to make the Hearth Act a little better. I'm by no means an expert in any field, but I know what works and what doesn't and right now, the Hearth Act isn't doing what it's supposed to be doing.

So 30 days to find a job, then 30 days to find housing. What happens after that? I fear that revolving door will return. Or worse: that the shelter will close, because everyone will be kicked out. But don't tell that to Frank, because he insists the shelter will remain open.

Will I get the help I need to accomplish one or both of those goals? Because I sure didn't the last time through.

I have worked my butt off for the last 4 years to prevent being homeless or to get out of being homeless without much to show for it. I take that back. I've become old and tired before my time. But even that works against me, making it that much harder to find a job or get income rolling in.

But neither my facilitator, nor the case manager, nor the center director, nor Wake County government, nor the State Assembly, nor the Governor of North Carolina, nor Congress, nor the President of the United States knows what I've gone through to find a job and live at this shelter.

As I stated in my book, the only thing keeping me alive at the moment is Hope. Wasn't that the theme of a recent presidential election? I'm not seeing much of it right now.

The staff sees a sheet of paper once a week showing how many jobs I applied to, but they don't see me walking 45 minutes each way to use Wake Tech's computers to not only apply for jobs, but to do what I can with no money and limited time and energy to build my own business. I may lack the business skills to make it work, but I have the drive and initiative to make it work. But I can't do it alone and my energy is running out.

And so, apparently, is time. I'll have to live in the woods, go to classes two nights a week, then drag myself back to the library to put more effort into raising money.  It might pay off someday, but I don't have time to wait forever.

All because someone thought giving homeless a time limit in shelters was a good idea. And I'll bet that person never spent one night in a shelter.

If you can't give me a job, a business loan or housing just give me the one thing I need the most right now: Hope.

There are no excuses for a lack of empathy.

The Indiegogo campaign for 'I Choose Not To Talk' is in its final days. If you'd like to donate, please start here:

Alternatively, if you'd like more information on Project Five-Star, you may purchase the book at

Monday, October 28, 2013

So how's the rest of me doing?

Last week I posted on getting a new set of teeth, but it occurred to me as I saw the new picture with my dazzling smile, that the rest of me looked, well, awkward. I noticed the same thing on a video I posted for my Indigogo Project. Essentially the right side of my body is malformed.

It's because of the shoulder being dislocated and never having fully healed. There is nerve damage, and frankly, it's a bit grotesque. I look like Quasimodo in those pictures, though I don't feel a whole lot of pain.

Here's what I mean:

The left side is the normal side (right side of this picture), while the right side makes me look unbalanced.

The video highlights the differences even more. I talked about this in a previous video, but the right side looks squashed in. Would you hire someone that looked that deformed? Apparently people don't feel very comfortable around me for that reason.

I'm afraid there's little that can be done for it. I could get surgery, if I could afford it, but that won't repair the nerve damage. Only time will do that, and it's been almost 2 years now. So I have to live with it.

As far as the knee goes, it's the same it has been for about a year. Most of the time I feel no pain, but I do feel a mild discomfort. When I step down, I feel the discomfort even more, plus the knee feels unstable as I set my right foot down, say from the step off a bus.

So why don't I use a cane? Well beyond the matter of cost, I would have to use the cane in my right hand for it to be effective. My right arm is weak, to the point that if I had to rely on the cane to prop me up, my right arm would never hold me up.

So a lot of people may overlook the shoulder, but when they see me walking, seemingly normal, they think I'm faking the whole 'disabled' thing, and I'm some kind of scammer.

So this is one reason why I'm trying to go into business for myself. I am not disabled, but there are a hell of a lot of jobs I can't do. And with the ones I can do, I'm facing incredible competition from younger, healthier, better-looking people. So if no one else will hire me, I will.

And if the business takes time to develop, and a tremendous amount of work (GASP!) to accomplish, well I don't mind putting it in. Only, if you see me asking for donations to get this thing off the ground, don't laugh at me and call me silly because of the nature of the business, then have the nerve to tell me to find a real job. If you can't help, then don't say anything at all, which, unfortunately, too many people are doing.

Well enough for this rant. I have work to do, even if I don't get paid.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Say That With a Smile on Your Face! First Impressions of Dentures.

Today I received my dentures and had a decent-looking smile for the first time in my life.

All through the process of getting my teeth removed, letting my gums heal and going through the impression and fitting process, this is what I was ultimately shooting for.

So with all that done, was it a good thing in the end?

Billy Crystal used to do a character on SNL called 'Fernando', whose motto was 'it is always better to look good than to feel good.' That is what I'm living at the moment in my first few hours with dentures.

During the fitting stage, I was struck by how thick and bulky the model was. But I consoled myself by thinking that the finished product would be lighter and thinner. I was wrong. Don't get me wrong, overall I think it looks great, but it doesn't feel great. The denture set is made of hard plastic that really makes it feel uncomfortable in my mouth if I do anything other than keep my mouth shut, which was kind of the whole point to getting dentures in the first place, amiright?

The biggest problem from my perspective is the hard plastic palate on the top plate. I know that it takes time to adjust but I have no love for that hard plastic feel. I've tried to talk, and I'm reminded of the bug wearing the 'Edgar suit' in MIB. The way he talks, the difficulties he has are similar to what I've experienced so far.

In other words, I'm going to have to learn how to talk all over again if I'm to be understood. While waiting for the bus to take me away from the dentist, I tried practicing the old lines 'She sells seashells by the seashore,' something I probably repeated often as a kid to get away from my stuttering. I had to experiment with where my tongue went to get a consistent 's' sound. The problem is that the teeth are not static and the spot changes from moment to moment.

So therapy time again.

Then I tried to eat for the first time. I was told by my dentist to cut up my food and chew from the back. That seemed somewhat pointless to me, but I found out why. Take your tongue or your finger and rub it against your teeth. You can not only feel your teeth on your tongue or finger, you can feel your tongue and finger on your teeth. There are nerves on it. When you eat, you can feel the food against your teeth.

With dentures, you have no such nerves, and the first time I bit down on some food, it was like I had no control. Add that hard palate there and moving the food around while chewing it becomes difficult. It sticks to the dentures.

Well, I knew getting used to it would be difficult, but I was really hoping it would be easier than it will be. The problem is everything feels so solid. If it gave a little, I'd be happier, but then the dentures probably wouldn't last long. The strange part is, it's only an issue on the top set. If I take the top out and leave the bottom, I'm fine.

Smiling it actually a bit harder than I expected. My bottom lip doesn't want to show the bottom teeth as well as I'd like.

It really makes me think that the whole I Choose Not To Talk campaign will become 'I don't have a choice, I can't talk with these damn teeth in my mouth!' So I'd better hope that campaign succeeds!

But I am nothing if not adaptive. I will make this work, because at the very least, I don't have the constant pain in my mouth because I no longer have rotting teeth there. So forgive me if you call and you can't understand a word I say!

Friday, October 11, 2013

A New Venture...or Adventure?

A few days back I posted a blog where I basically said I'd had it with customer service. Out of that blog, comes a new venture. 'I Choose Not To Talk,' which is an organization where I want to highlight the differences between extroverts vs introverts.
There is a website, which needs work, a youtube site (see above), and an Indiegogo page, asking for donations.

There's even a blog just for that, at

That's all. You may go about your business. I've done my job here, the rest will be done elsewhere!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Top Five: Why I Should or Should Not Work Customer Service

I have been trying to find work since I left my last employer, Xerox, in March 2011. I've already told my story about Xerox, and it seems to be my most popular blog. Since then I've put in application after application, and only received one interview, and I didn't get that job.

So I've been reviewing every aspect of my life lately to see why I'm not getting interviews for customer service positions, when I obviously have the experience.

Also I've been soul searching as to whether or not I really want to do customer service any more. I was reading the other day about SSDI and what would qualify me for benefits. They look beyond the injury to see if I can still do the kind of work I've been doing. The article also mentioned that the final result would not take into consideration how difficult it has been for me to find a job.

That got me thinking: Can I still do Customer Service? Could I ever do Customer Service? So without further ado, here are the

Top Five Reasons Why I Should Not Work Customer Service

5. It Makes Me Sick.

I've worked at call centers since 2001, longer if you count a brief strike at US West where I filled in for striking reps. At every stop along the road, I've had severe migraines. They don't start right away, these migraines are nefarious. I can make it through training, and a few weeks of steady call flow before they start to appear. When I started getting them, I thought they were sinus headaches and took all kinds of medicines to cure them. That didn't help.  So I went to a doctor, who told me they were indeed migraines and gave me medicine for them, that really didn't help much. The problem is not with my brain, it is with the stress that the job creates. If you doubt Customer Service is a stressful vocation, read this

Now, it is not the customer service aspect of the job that is stressful to me and causes the headaches. It is the phone contact. I had a wonderful job for my first 3 months working for Sento in Raleigh (now Total Outsourced Systems) where I participated in online chats with customers of I literally had a dream job, where I could listen to music, 'chat' with customers over the internet in a text interface, and literally not have to talk. Then Christmas came around and everyone was put on the phones. The chat was outsourced to India. Funny, that. outsourced the customer service to Sento, then outsourced it again to India. Well how's that for irony?

But that wasn't the only position at Sento I had that I enjoyed. I worked for a time after Overstock for a rebate processor, first over the phones, then as a Mentor where I answered emails all day and took supervisor calls, which lessened my customer contact. But in that case, I had stress from a supervisor that didn't see eye to eye with me, increasing the stress and affecting my health, and I stopped being the mentor and went back on the phones.

Strangely enough, every job I've had since has been a phone job. Either I'm a glutton for punishment (which I am not) or the only work I could find was customer service, because that's where my experience came from. So despite the fact that it made me sick, I continued to work customer service.

4. I'm Not Enthusiastic. 

I ain't no freakin' cheerleader! ;-) I speak with a quiet, reasoned voice. Some people think I sound younger than I am. Good for them. I went to an interview back in May where the interviewer told me they were looking for enthusiasmI tried to play along, I couldn't force myself.

3. I Don't Like to Talk.

If you know me at all, you know I'm a very quiet person. I've been like that my whole life. I don't apologize for being that way. At several points in my life, I've considered shutting up altogether and going through life with a stack of cards that would read like this:

I do not talk.
I can speak, read and write.
I can hear and understand you just fine.
When I speak, it is with a soft voice. 
I am frequently drowned out by everyone else.
So I choose not to talk.
Please understand.

I've thought about making an app (there's an app for that) for those that choose not to speak. It would contain basic answers to frequently asked questions, menu choices from frequented restaurants, and perhaps vocalizations with a pleasant gender-appropriate voice. Or I could print out a stack of cards that will do the same thing. I'm tempted to make a video of me doing that, if I still had my camera and the resources to print the cards.

But in the world of Customer Service, you must talk. You must be enthusiastic (see 4). You must be friendly. I wouldn't say I'm the human equivalent to Grumpy Cat, but it's hard for me to be friendly when someone is calling me an idiot because I can't get his computer to work.

I stutter. It doesn't happen as often as it used to, but if I get rattled, it happens. I've been ridiculed over the phone because of it. That does not make me a happy camper. That increases my stress, which gives me migraines. (See 5)

Of course, at the moment I have no teeth. I will be getting dentures, but even then I may not be able to speak as clearly as I used to. All the more reason not to talk.

2. I am Not a Team Player

Actually, that's not exactly true. I can get along with people. But I prefer to work alone. I am not, however, the type to make small talk. I'm not overly friendly, I am not going to ask how your children are or ooh and ahh at their pictures. Let me do my work and I'll be as happy as a clam.
And the Number One Reason Why I Should Not Work Customer Service:

1. I'm Too Good!

Seriously, if it were not for the migraines I'd be content with the job. That's one of the weak points of my personality type, and why I've been content to look for jobs in this market for this long. Despite the fact that most employers are looking for young, enthusiastic reps, I still perform well overall, because I am consistent, I am calm over the phone and I can take a beating and still say 'Thank you for calling!'

As such, since I'm really getting nowhere in customer service and in fact, I get sicker with every new job, if SSDI decides I do not qualify for benefits because I can still do the same work I could before, I shall present them with this article, along with proof of my migraines.

I will no longer apply for customer service positions.

But that doesn't mean that I am incapable of working. so let's explore:

The Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Hire Me
 as long as it's not for customer service. ;-)

5. I Work Hard.

Give me a task, and watch me do it. Or better yet, leave me to the task and it will be done even faster. I am capable of great feats of concentration, even multi-tasking. I regularly sit at a computer for hours without taking a break, as long as the task is interesting and I have the skills. And oh boy...
4. I Have Skills.

If we limit the scope of my skills or potential skills to just computers, I could literally do anything at all computer-related. But my skills go far beyond that. I have writing skills. Wanna see a few samples? Well read the rest of this blog. Read my books at Read my screenplays. Don't know where to find them? Ask! 
A lot of companies make a big deal out of personality tests these days. I took one a few days ago and promptly was rejected. Something in the way I answered the questions didn't mesh with their expectations. So let's talk about personality. I am quiet. I don't talk much. I am creative. I see things a lot of people don't. I listen, observe and react in an appropriate fashion. I am honest, which is one reason why I didn't get that job, I suppose. I could lie, and choose the aspects you want me to have, but then I'd feel bad. I am intelligent, I'd like to think. I like to think! I like to imagine. I can put myself in other people's shoes.

I went to the website. They allow you to post a resume, and you can add a description of your work, that the site uses to see if you are a match for other jobs. My first time through, it said I didn't have the skills necessary to be a customer service agent. So I went through their list of skills and added everything that I could do. Now it says I match for skills, but not in personality. Not a big thing, I don't want to work customer service any more. But the fact is, adding those skills made me somewhat more marketable. 

Here's a list of what I put on it: Edited Wrote Authored Communicated Composed Revised Conceptualized Created Produced 
Reviewed Researched  Write,
Interviewed Articulated Referred Listened Reported Clarified Resolved Collaborated Responded 
Communicated Solicited 
Explained Spoke Observed Consulted Contacted Persuaded Influenced Convinced Promoted 
Corresponded Proposed Acted 
Customized Adapted Addressed Performed Solved Adjusted Administered Analyzed Corrected 
Reduced Assessed Researched 
Adapted Answered Counseled Guided Represented Arranged Demonstrated Helped Resolved 
Assessed Diagnosed Assisted 
Educated Cared.

I like that last one, Cared. I do care.

3. I Have Talent.

A lot of people confuse skills and talent. Let me define them as I see them. Skills are the ability to do a specific task. A skill is learned through experience. Talent is the ability to move past skills to a 'higher plane' of work. In my case, my talents include creative writing. Being creative is something you are born with. Skills can be learned, and honed, but  being creative is something you have or haven't. No amount of training will make you creative.

2. I Live Outside the Box.

A lot of people say 'think outside the box.' I live there. It goes along with talent. My thought process puts me on different planets, within the bodies of aliens, male and female, in different situations, finding solutions to made up problems. I've lived lives over and over again, born, lived, died, moved on to another life and start the process over and over again, just in the last week. Think how I could positively affect a company that is tired of the same old, same old.

1. I'm the Protagonist. I Want to Make a Difference.

The simple fact is, I'm tired, mentally and physically, of spinning my wheels doing jobs that are under-appreciated. I want to make a difference in the lives of everyone I touch, and that is one reason why I write, that and my brain won't let me stop. It took me 36 years to start to tap my creativity, though my mind had been bugging me practically since birth, and write my first book. I haven't stopped ever since coming up with different plots and outcomes, and you know what? In every case the protagonist wants to make a difference in the world. That's me. I'm the protagonist. I want my ideas to have an impact on the world. That's why I share them here. That's what makes me valuable to any employer. I don't keep my ideas to myself. I'm not looking for wealth or power. Grant me the ability to use my creative mind in a comfortable surrounding, and I'll be happy with that, and my performance will prove it.

I didn't write this blog to blow up bridges or to keep employers from hiring me. I want to be honest about what you're getting if you do hire me.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Novel Excerpt: Sins of the Father

The following is a brief except from a work-in-progress based on a screenplay I wrote. The book has gone far more in depth than the screenplay, though I'm likely to do a rewrite of the screenplay to better match the book. But a little background into the story is necessary to comprehend it:

John Smith had an out of body experience a few years before this excerpt. In the experience he had visions of the future and of something called a nanosoul, an artificial soul. He had the ability to implant that soul into unborn children, and move his soul into those bodies, and also had the ability to draw a corrupted soul from a body and implant a nanosoul. By corrupted, he finds that a soul has become black, and is being slowly eaten away by 'the darkness', which plays heavily into my song 'Free'.

So the gist of the story to this point is he has installed nanosouls into 18 or so bodies, which his soul can inhabit at any time, and he is 'soul searching' (pun intended) on whether he is doing the right thing, who is guiding him and what he needs to do next. He is currently using the very deep mind of a 5 year old boy to ponder is dilemma.

Who am I? Am I some 66 year old man trapped in a young boy's body? And would that really qualify as trapped? Am I a 6 year old cutie/doctor? A 5 year old psychic lesbian? I've been in all those bodies and more, but who am I? What was I before this all happened, before John even? I know I had to exist prior to this, it just fits too well. Has this been possible before or has technology finally caught up with the soul? I manufactured hundreds, going on thousands of nanosouls, but who or what made mine? Is this a divine purpose? Am I fighting the devil in the form of the darkness? Maybe that's what the devil was all along. And God? Is God the light? The voice spoke to me as if there were others. That would disappoint the Christians and the Jews, let alone the Muslims. I've never been very religious, but I can't simply ignore religions. The families take their children to church or synagogue. Why don't Karen or I? Karen's soul looks like an angel. Is that significant or some manifestation of my imagination? Or hers, for that matter? I just don't know enough.

Let's stick to one topic: Who am I? In John I've always been shy, hard-working, a leader from behind. Do this, don't do that. Never 'Will you do this?' I've been polite, but I know what I want - or I used to. That's the problem: I don't know what I want anymore. I just feel a sense of duty. That's who I am: duty. But to whom? To Karen and the children; all the children. What happens when they grow older? Will I still tell them what to do? Is it fair to them to sacrifice a  normal life? For what? For whom? They have no will. If I give them free will, will they still want to do it? If they did, it would be because of a sense of duty. I hate circular logic.

Let's start again. What do I want? I want... I want to be a writer, to be a doctor, a master of physics, math and music; an inventor of things that will help humanity, bring peace to the world, free us from the daily drugery of life and let us explore the boundaries we've established, conquer the impossible. 

So how do we start that? Silly me, we've already started the process. But the cost worries me. Not the monetary costs. If I had my way... Yeah, I do have my way. The island will be currency free, build by androids. We'll grow our own food, purify our own water, make everything we need. We don't need the outside world, they need us.

The cost still worries me. The cost in taken souls. Can I really be said to have killed anyone? The bodies are still alive. If there's a soul left after the darkness eats it away, I'll rehabilitate it, like Natalie. But if the truth got out... The power hungry will want it, the soulless will want to stop it, and those that don't understand will call me a mass murderer. We need protection. We don't need weapons, just a way to keep them out, keep out their weapons. Jenny can work on that. Think small... think small. 

Where's that damned island?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pushed By the Wayside Again

Homelessness is a serious problem. I've been homeless now since 2010, off and on. I blame no one but myself for being homeless. I just need help getting out of the rut that I'm in.

And therein lies the problem. People who are not homeless might sympathize with me, but somehow that problem keeps getting pushed aside - literally in the case of Columbia South Carolina, where it is now illegal to be homeless and be downtown at all.

So people would rather ignore the problem of homelessness, or think it's someone else's problem rather than one they could act on. Sure, church groups feed the homeless, but do they offer permanent housing to them? And the simple fact is, if you take all the money spent on 'helping' homeless, like in shelters and soup kitchens and clothing drives and everything else being done for homeless people and concentrate it on housing, training and health care, including mental health, you'd solve the problem in no time flat.

But no, the solutions offered are all stop-gap methods of placating the homeless, not curing their real problems.

If you concentrated on making the homeless self-sufficient, there would be no problems that didn't involve mental illness, which is another whole animal.

How about giving homeless hiring advantages/preferences to city, state and county jobs? Assuming they have the basic qualifications, it would be solving two problems at once.

Frankly, I'm tired of playing the game. I'm supposed to go one place to get food stamps, another to get lunch for free. I'm supposed to be mobile enough to look for work, but the number of bus passes available is extremely limited and walking is so severely limiting in how far away I can go, and bad for the health of a diabetic.

And I know that there are a lot of important things going on right now. I read the news. I know there's a lot on people's minds. But please don't push aside this problem, because it will come right back. As long as nothing is done about it, it's like a slinky going down the stairs. It may seem like it's going away, but until a permanent solution that does not involve shooing us out of town is found, we'll come right back. We are a NATIONAL problem, not local. There should be a NATIONAL solution, not local, and limiting stays in shelters is not the solution. Finding permanent homes is the solution. Please get to work on that, and leave the other politics for another time.

Even in my case, with a Section 8 voucher in hand, I am having difficulties finding an affordable apartment that has openings. Think how bad it is for those that do not have a voucher. Please concentrate. This is important. It will only get worse. And then it will cost more money.

Addendum: I'm not sure I got my point across yesterday. So here goes again. Homelessness is an important issue, and I think some people agree with that, but something seems to always be more important than someone else being homeless, unless that someone is you. I understand that things happen in life that take precedence and I'm not saying we're more important that life-threatening emergencies, but as Frank Lawrence, the director at the shelter says, (paraphrasing) we, the homeless, have to treat the shelter as an emergency, and not as a permanent solution. That said, I'm not altogether sure the shelter is abiding by that, because they simply don't help enough. And if the shelter staff don't help enough, how can anyone expect the rest of the country to treat it as the emergency that it is. I'm panicking because I'm running out of time myself. And I have a means of getting out. But no one else sees that. That is the real problem. No one sees it as an emergency and most people really hope it will go away on its own. That kind of thinking really needs to stop.

Friday, August 9, 2013

The Birds and the Bees

As I waited for the bus today, I noticed several bumblebees visiting flowers around the bus stop. I was pleased because they chose to do things the old-fashioned way instead of visiting the garbage cans at Moore Square like I've seen hundreds of bees do. I saw an article in The Independent Magazine about honey and how bees in different counties make different color honey depending on the local flora. I wondered what color trash-borne honey is.

As part of my ritual lately, I've been buying a morning sandwich from a local convenience store with my meager Food Stamp money ($200/month, which doesn't go far when you buy $3.00 sandwiches), which may be in danger of not being filled this month because of glitches in the Food Stamp software North Carolina uses.

Part of the ritual with the sandwiches is I share the crust with the birds that gather at Moore Square. I do this partly because I've had half my teeth removed and the other half will be removed shortly. Vocation Rehab came through on that necessity. Anyway, getting back to the birds: They know who I am, and they've been watching for me. Often one or several will see me and fly down in anticipation. This is fine when I have crust to share, but when they see me in the afternoon, I don't have such gifts. I feel so bad for them.

Yesterday, there was literally a whole flock of them waiting for me. It was a bright morning and their shadows against a wall made it seem like there were twice as many there. They had quite a battle for my crusts.

It occurred to me then, that the homeless men I see all the time aren't so different. They're waiting for a handout, and when they get it, they battle for position and possession. I've seen food brought out into the cafeteria, some extra food donated by one group or another, and a seemingly empty cafeteria will suddenly fill, and the food will be gone in seconds - literally.

Even for the regular scheduled meal times, people will jockey for position as they wait for the food to be served. The usual method of waiting is to sit on the bench leading to the door to the kitchen. People will not just sit on the bench, but around the bench too, rather than stand in line with the other, more patient people. I have to say, that irks me. In all the time I've been coming to SWSC, they've never run out of food during feeding time, even if the food sucks. What difference does it make if you get in the front or not? If they try to stand in front of me, they get an earful.

But in the end, we all get fed, and I do my share to feed the birds and bees too. But I have to say I'm really looking forward to leaving the shelter, hopefully for the last time.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

An End To Homelessness For Me?

Yesterday I went to a meeting where I received my Section 8 Voucher for finding an apartment. I'll be working with the shelter to get help paying the application fee and security deposit for the shelter. But all in all, it looks like my 2 and a half year struggle with homelessness is about to come to an end. I am, needless to say, delighted, but I figure the shelter staff is probably happier. They were going to throw me out on August 31 anyway.

Update: Over the last couple of days I've perused various sites and booklets looking for an apartment that takes Section 8 but is within the $526/month limit I have to work with. Nothing so far, and that is somewhat frustrating, because many of the apartments on the list RHA gave me are for elderly (i.e. 62+) and I don't qualify for them. I know there are apartments that I can use, but I have to dig deeper than I'd hoped. I'll have to get recommendations from others.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Amazon Studios and my Project 'A Matter of Survival'

During the month of May. I started getting an idea for a screenplay. Now most of my writing has usually been in book form or done for my proposed TV series, 'The Timmons Chronicles.' But this idea gelled so fast in my head in May that I decided to turn it into a screenplay. I wrote the first draft over one weekend, hand-written, no less, because well, my computer was stolen, and over the next weekend I wrote a second draft. Then over the next two weeks I used the library computers at Wake Tech to enter my script using (url:
Then I spent some proofing it.
Then a little more time.
Then I liked what I had written so far so much that I went to Amazon Studios and submitted it to see if they would option it.
Then I waited.
And Waited.
Then after two weeks, I checked the status of the script and found that they weren't even considering it. At first I wondered why, then I found that there was a screenplay with the same title in their listings. It was originally titled 'Soul Survivor.' So I changed the title and resubmitted it. This time I followed the status of the script a little closer. It went from 'received' to 'reading' and now it is in the 'Deciding' part of the process.
This is the hardest part for any writer: the waiting to see if someone in charge likes what you've written. Now, I haven't been idle all this time. I've been working on a new draft of the script. But every time I submitted a new draft, it would have given Amazon Studios another 45 days to look at the script to see if they wanted to option it. What I originally submitted has every important aspect of the script. If they like the concept enough to option it, I shouldn't have to submit changes to get their attention.

So now the waiting continues.


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Life Update: Writing, Teething, and Computering, Oh My!

It's been a while since I posted any kind of update on what's going on in my life, so here goes:

I recently finished the START Hospitality course at Wake Tech. That course included getting certificates in ServSafe (passed), National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) Gold in all three specialties. (Still trying to determine who actually pays attention to that), TIPS Certification (Training for Intervention Something something... to help someone in the Food and Beverage industry determine when someone has had enough to drink), certification in the OPERA Property Management System used by Holiday Inn and other facilities. Used at the Front Desk. And finally the actual certificate for completing the program. I'm ideally looking for Front Desk or Night Auditor. I have had no luck so far. They claim 70% of the graduates get jobs, but I think most of those start out in the banquet or Food Service part and work their way up. However with my injuries, I can't handle banquets and other Food Service jobs, so I'll stick with what I can do.

And speaking of injuries, no real change in my shoulder or knee has occurred in months. They are both mildly disabling. I can't life things reliably. I can't run, therefore I can't move quickly enough for Food Service. I can walk easily enough most of the time, but every now and then my knee let's me know something is wrong, and I limp.

I have been in touch with Vocational Rehab and they have moved at a snail's pace, claiming they didn't get the information they needed. They have agreed to do two things: Get my teeth yanked (though I don't know when) and to pay for certification courses that will mean I'm qualified for a Network Administrator position. Entry level, if such a thing exists. But I will get A+ certified, Network+ and hopefully Security+ and Cisco certified. We'll see how well that goes.

I started writing a screenplay based on idea that's been prowling through my head for the last few weeks. The first draft took me 3 days. It's hand-written, and certainly needs work, but it was nice to finish something for a change. I also started on a novel form of the story. It's a techno/sci fi/thriller. It creeps me out and I'm the one who wrote it. It's called 'Soul Survivor.' I'll post more on that as I get it put into a computer. I'm quite happy with the plot, it just needs to be fleshed out a little.

The last bit of news has to do with the computer that was stolen from me in January. I heard rumors that a certain person might have it back in February, but it wasn't enough to take to the police. In March, a friend came to me and told me he knew who had it, and the guy was willing to sell it back to me for $80. It took me a while to raise $80, but when I did, the guy then said he left it at his girlfriend's place and they're not talking any more. I gave him a week to get his stuff together, and haven't heard back from him. So yesterday I filed a new report with the Raleigh PD, telling them what I know and suspect, including the guy's phone number. I'm keeping my $80. If the guy gets arrested for it, and his girl too, well, he brought it on himself. He had ample opportunity to return it to me.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Shelter Life: The Walking Wounded

It seems like every time I walk around the shelter these days I see people who are walking with the aid of walkers, or crutches, or not walking at all because they are in wheelchairs. I see arms in slings and legs in casts. The numbers are increasing, not decreasing.

I hear coughing all the time, and not just from me. The guy who just moved into the bed next to me coughed so hard that he passed out, and he says it's happened before. He refused to be taken to the hospital for whatever the reason.

People think of homeless as bums who just want a hand out. As one who is one of those walking wounded, I object to the stereotype. But my wounds are not obvious. I can walk, though with a limp. I walk in pain, though not a great deal of it, but if I go downstairs or upstairs, you may notice me taking them one at a time. I walk up a step with my left leg then bring my right leg with me. Repeat as necessary. The opposite is true, even more so, because stepping down on my right leg causes more pain and I'm afraid that the leg will give in.

My shoulder is even less obvious, unless I am requested to lift something. I got chewed out by another homeless guy because he didn't see anything wrong with me. Use your eyes, please.

The point is, though, that everyone's perception is different and you can't tell a book from its cover. Even though my body is not at 100%, my mind is. Give me something to do with my mind. I'll prove it.

In other news, I am taking the START Hospitality course at Wake Tech, and as the course draws to a close, the opportunities are starting to open up. For instance i had an interview yesterday at a Hilton Garden Inn in Raleigh, and the manager there apparently knew the guy who runs the Hospitality course. With my teeth the way they are (come on, Voc Rehab, get your a$$ in gear) I don't think I made a very good impression, but at least I am making the effort, and just getting the interview is an experience that will help with other interviews.

Hope is all I have left at this point.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Personal Space

While riding the bus today, I had a guy sit next to me, and he sat very close. I mean very close. I usually just shift my position to allow for a little personal space but then a turn came and the man leaned into me. I asked him politely not to do that, but the man didn't seem to hear me. I forced my arm in between us and he seemed to get the idea, but never said a word for the entire trip, and never moved further away.

I bring this up because in the shelter space is extremely limited. First, you sleep in a bunk bed, with maybe 4 feet between you and the bunk above. The guy in that bunk moves, the whole bunk moves. You feel it, upper or lower. Second, the space between bunks is about 3-4 feet. The guy next to you sneezes or coughs, you get splattered. I've splattered a few myself lately. It's not intentional. I've seen the guy in the next bunk sitting on his bunk, his knees a few inches from my bunk and that makes me nervous, for some reason. The person in the bunk above me, for whatever the reason, likes to stand up and putter around his bunk. Which means his body is too close to mine. It makes me feel uncomfortable.

In the dining hall, when we line up for breakfast or dinner, some people simply get too close. When we sit at the tables, there are not individual chairs, it's a bench, and some people like to get close then too. I had one of my friends tell me that one time the guy behind me was trying to touch my back in a less than friendly manner, or perhaps too friendly is the right phrase.

I'm not homophobic, I have a few gay friends. I am not gay. I don't like being touched by any man, that's just the way I am. Even a pat on the back can seem like an invasion of my space.

There are a number of guys in the shelter that have problems sharing a shower. I'm not one of them. Earlier today there was almost a fight because someone was insisting on taking a shower alone. In my dorm there are 40 guys, and 7 shower heads. There aren't enough hours in the day for everyone to take a private shower. So you can see the problem.

In the shelter personal space is at a premium. As the center manager, Frank Lawrence has said, 'for you to survive the shelter, you have to adapt.' It's not an easy task.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Potpourri - Of Biblical Origins and Other Stuff

I went to a church in Sunday! *Gasp* Yes, I am an avowed Agnostic, but I'm not above going to church in this case because they give away free bus passes sometimes.

Anyway, I was actually reading the Old Testament and it occurred to me, like so many other that in the Bible the first man was Adam, the first Woman Eve, and they had sons, who then married and went on to have children of their own, and so on and so on...

Except where did Cain and Abel's wives come from? An age old question for Non-Believers such as myself.

So I gave that some of the logical thought that I am capable of and I came to the conclusion that Adam and Eve were not the first humans on the planet. They were the first Hebrews. To me that is the only thing that makes sense. Of course those that wrote the Bible thought that their people were the chosen ones and all others were less than chosen. So this whole concept of the world or even civilization beginning in 4000 B.C. is simply when the Hebrews began, and not the real beginning.

Now that we have that mystery solved, let's move on. Let's all move on.

In my personal life, things are moving... slowly. I continue to look for work and continue to get denied. I have been to a doctor about my shoulder, paid for by Project Access of Wake County, and had an MRI done on the shoulder. The results were that I have a slight tear of my rotator cuff and a slight muscle tear that is causing most of the pain I feel.l But the lack of movement of my shoulder and the weakness of the arm itself is due to nerve damage. I am awaiting approval for an EMG, a nerve test to confirm this and to confirm the extent of the damage. But in the end, the only thing that will heal nerve damage is time. The doctor said 18 months, but it has already been a year. So I wait.

And while I'm waiting for that, I'm also waiting on Vocational Rehabilitation. They have now confirmed that I have a problem with my shoulder and knee. I just went for a vocational assessment with their counselor, and he agrees that I am capable of handling computer training courses and will recommend that Voc Rehab pay for getting computer certification. But he has to file his report and my case worker has to schedule a meeting once that is done. So another 2-3 weeks of waiting for that. Seems like all I do is wait. Yet I don't have the resources to dive in myself. So I will wait. Like I have been since September.

In the shelter life goes on. A long-time resident there finally got his own apartment, and I'm told he misses the social structure of the shelter. His friends are worried he may turn to drinking again. That is something I can't relate to. As the counselor confirmed for me, I do indeed have an INTP personality. He gave me a description of it and one of the blurbs there says that I'm at home wandering through my own mind. The best description of me ever written. But he says it's a good thing because INTP's make good computer people.

In other news at the shelter, a crackdown has begun on people who have been in the program more than a year. People are being forced to leave. They may eventually get to me, so I have to keep my nose to the grindstone. A new training class is starting next week, for those interested in a career in hospitality. That includes waiters, which I couldn't do even before my shoulder got injured. But what does interest me are things like Front Desk Clerks and Night Auditors. I could do those things. Right now every bit of training I can get will be much appreciated.

So life does indeed go on, and days are starting to blur together. All I can do, though is hope that something happens that changes that. I can't rely on others to help me, but when they do, I can't turn them down either.

That's all for now. Have a wonderful March!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Santa Claus is Homeless

That's right, we have our very own Santa Claus at South Wilmington Street Center. His real name is Bradlee, but he answers to Santa and Santa Claus, because he looks like Santa.

Sadly though, he does not share Santa's magical nature. He is over 400 lbs, has Diabetes and breathing issues, to the point where he uses a machine to help him breathe. His legs and feet are discolored, and he can barely walk.

He used to be in the Merchant Marines, and has stories to tell from that era. He showed me a picture of Hiroshima after the bomb dropped and also ones he took there recently.

He was most recently a cab driver, but lost that job when the company he worked for made him take a physical, which he failed.

Yet he can be jovial at times. During Christmas he wore a red Santa hat and I'm sure the kids who came in to help serve thought he might be Santa. But this Santa is sick. A sick as the real Santa would be if he were not magical. He just got approved for Medicaid and is fighting for disability benefits.

Yes, Santa is homeless, jobless and sick and relying on the government for help. Let's hope this Santa gets his wish!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Smokers Need Not Apply

I've made it pretty clear in my posts that I'm a non-smoker. I'm allergic to smoke. I cough, I hack, I CAN'T BREATHE when I get near cigarette smoke.

So why is it, when I sit on a bench that is clear of smoke, that someone either decides to light one up, or worse, someone sits down close to me and lights one up? It happens all the time. At the bus transfer station when I'm waiting for a bus and they're NOT ALLOWED to smoke, on a bench while I wait for the library to open, at any bus stop where there's more than just me waiting, etc.

The latest statistics I've seen about smokers tell me that about a third of Americans smoke. So why is it that I get saddled with these inconsiderate jerks ALL THE TIME?

I'll tell you: It's because there are more poor, undereducated people who smoke than who don't smoke. So the people who can't afford a car and have to take the bus are more likely to smoke. The people who go to the library because they don't have a computer at home or worse don't have a home are more likely to smoke.

And the worst part is, they don't care that I cough and hack when they light up. They don't care that they could get a $200 ticket for lighting up in Moore Square. They try to hide it from the 'police' that enforce the ban. And the police don't seem to care much either, so smoking is on the rise there.

All because people don't care about how their smoking affects others.

Of all the living things that God has created in all of eternity, tobacco is the worst.

You can quote me on that.

Michael Harrison Fox

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

An Anniversary Approaches

Ominous tone.... On February 14th, I will 'celebrate' the first anniversary of my accident that dislocated my shoulder and hurt my knee. Here's an update on what's happening with both of them:

Yesterday I went to an orthopedist paid for by Project Access. The PA there told me the same thing another orthopedist had told me back in December: I need an MRI. Now the first one was paid for by Vocational Rehab, but they never got back to me about scheduling the MRI. But I did hear from them the day after the current appointment was set, and I do qualify for services. I'll find out more about that on Thursday.

The knee still hurts, but the PA gave me a cortisone shot (painful in of itself) and free samples of Celebrex. Hopefully that will last until SOMEONE makes up their mind to help me with the MRI. But the original doctor who said I needed an MRI was worried about a rotator cuff tear, which would require surgery. Only an MRI can tell, though.

The knee really isn't going to get any better without surgery, but until the shoulder is diagnosed and treated, I can live with it. Right now it's feeling okay, but that won't last forever. There is arthritis under the kneecap.

That's all for today. I'll have more news after tomorrow, but I wanted to give those that are following this blog some news. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Life Without A Computer: The Shakes

A little over a week ago, my computer was stolen. It was entirely my fault, and the guy who took it. I was doing laundry and left it on a table, thinking someone was watching it, and the problem was, it was the wrong person. I take full responsibility for its loss. I really felt like running through the cafeteria shouting 'Thief! Baggins!'

But if I ever catch the bastard with balls enough to sneak up behind one of my friends to lift my laptop, he won't be very happy with the results.

I have filed a police report. I was lucky to have the serial number, lifted from an email I had sent to HP for support. I have not heard back yet.

The whole first day after losing my computer I could not sit still. A part of my life was gone. My entire life, in some respects. Then I finally took a pad with paper and pen and started writing. It has been my therapy in the computer's absence. I filled that one pad and bought another and it's a third gone. My right arm is sore, because it gets fatigued rather quickly these days. I'm still waiting to get an MRI approved by VR. I get writer's cramp, like I haven't since, well, the last time I didn't have a computer.

My job search has taken on a new urgency, because I want another computer. Because I don't have somethign I can waste time on. But now the job search is harder. Right now I'm at ESC in Raleigh using their computers to file applications online and write this. I hope the don't mind. But the point is, applying for jobs just got harder.

I borrow computers to check my email. Others in the shelter have computers, but for some reason their wifi's don't work nearly as well as mine did in the shelter. Talk about SLOOOWWWW... But somehow I manage. I can't log onto Facebook as often because of the slow connection. The ESC won't let me log into Facebook, the bastards! The worst part is all my ideas were on the computer. I may come up with them again, but that's not likely.

Well, I'm getting bugged to stop typing, so that's it for now. But I will try to post as regularly as I can about this. After all, a writer shouldn't be afraid to write without a computer.