Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Using Speech-to-Text

The subject for this posting was to be a continued sharing of the books on the American Revolution to which I've listened in the past four months. Specifically, I was going to tell you about two novels that humanize those men who fought the war, won the independence, and secured the republic. So often these leaders are presented as demigods. Jeff Shaara’s historical fiction portrays their flaws as well as their virtues. Thus, they become approachable human beings. 

That sharing, however, is going to have to wait because I want to tell you what’s happening with my writing.

Since December, I’ve struggled with a second memoir. Two questions kept giving me pause: What part of my life shall I write about? And, what thematic thread will weave all the stories together? That thread is important for it determines which life stories I’ll tell.

During the weeks I could work at the computer, I began the memoir a number of times, arriving each time at a cul-de-sac that led to yet another beginning. Ultimately, I decided to write a memoir that would serve as both prequel and sequel to Prayer Wasn’t Enough, the convent memoir I published in 2018. That experience will be only a chapter, or possibly two in this second memoir. 

Eye issues have been part of my struggle. I have the energy to write 2 ½ hours a day, but with my vision/focus regimen that means 5 hours. It’s ½ hour writing, followed by ½ hour resting my eyes. I would need to do that 5 times to get in the writing. With that schedule I might have a first draft completed sometime next year. Then I’d need to do a second and possibly a third draft. Given the time it always takes me to get to a final manuscript, the memoir would probably be published in mid-to-late 2022.

Giving 5 hours a day to writing seems formidable to me because I also want to blog, exercise, meditate—and of course, listen to books, prepare and eat meals, visit friends on the phone, sit on the screened-in porch and chill out, and . . . sleep. 

Last week, one of my nieces suggested that I use the speech-to-text function of my Mac/Microsoft Word. That is, I would sit with my eyes closed so I wouldn't be focusing and having to do that 5-hour regimen.  I could simply talk. My words would become text. After trying that function, we both realized it would require a great deal of editing because of all the misunderstood words. 

A friend then described his experience with “speech-to-text.” He thought the difference between his experience and mine was the Mac system I was using. With his help, I downloaded and then installed Catalina 10.15—an upgrade from El Capitan 10.6.  

However, my Microsoft Word program wouldn’t work with the new system. Thus, I’ve had to purchase the most recent Word for Macs and am learning how to use it. For someone as technologically inept as myself, this has been challenging. It’s why I didn’t post Sunday. 
Today, I’m using “speech-to-text” and liking it. This will mean that I can keep my eyes closed/unfocused and thus not need 5 hours to do 2 ½ hours of writing. 

O joy in the morning!

PS: The five books pictured here are among the memoirs I've read and enjoyed in the past years. Of course, Educated by Tara Westover is a favorite now. 

Covers from Amazon.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Two Books That Give Me Hope

I’m now in my fourth month of listening to unabridged nonfiction books by American historians. With so much from which to choose, where did I start back in April? 

With Jon Meacham’s The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels.I had read a number of reviews of his book. The Newsday reviewer expressed what nearly every other reviewer said. That is, 

Meacham, by chronicling the nation’s struggles from revolutionary times to current day, makes the resonant argument that America has faced division before—and not only survived it but thrived. . . . Meacham believes the nation will move beyond Trump because, in the end, as they have shown on vital issues before, Americans embrace their better angels. This book stands as a testament to that choice—a reminder that the country has a history of returning to its core values of freedom and equality after enduring periods of distraction and turmoil.

In reading the book, I met a number of presidents who’d faced situations that called for mature thinking, a well-developed moral compass, and tested integrity. These presidents had brought a majority of Americans to an acceptance of our founding ideals so that our country could truly become “more perfect.” 

Note that the Constitutiondoes not say that we are going “to form a perfect Union.” Those who drafted the document knew that was impossible. So they said, “to form a more perfect Union” that will bring the “blessings of liberty” not only to the first generation of patriots but also to their posterity. To us. And to those beyond us.

It is up to all of us to keep working on the “more.” 

Meacham’s book is the first to which I listened. He doesn’t overtly compare those past presidents with President Trump. But for this reader, the comparison was painfully obvious. As the years have passed since my protest days of Vietnam, I’ve become more and more disillusioned about the possibility of our country surviving its deepening partisanship. However, Meacham’s book helped me believe that even as fractured as we have become, we the people will ultimately call on the “better angels” within us to embrace the Oneness that unites us in a common good. 

The next book I listened to was 1776 by David McCullough. Every person who proclaims his or her “right” not to wear a mask needs to read this book. In fact, all of us can profit from the history lesson that 1776 provides. 

Right now, life is scary here in the United States. (At least I’ve found it so.) But both McCullough’s and Meacham’s book illustrate the cycle of history. That is, the ups and downs, the flattening of the curve of those peaks and valleys, and the will of a people to return to the ideals that are foundational to what it means to be an American. 

As I’ve witnessed the peaceful protesting of George Floyd’s murder and seen that protest impaired, in some minds, by both white and black looters, I have often thought that the Black Lives Matter movement and the struggle to end systematic racism are another example of an American Revolution. I see many parallels today between the divergent views expressed by those on Facebook in 2020 and the strongly held and differing views of the patriots and Tories of 1776.

Change is risky—and scary. It calls us to new thoughts and realizations. It asks us to let go of some of our most treasured shibboleths. Those that, perhaps, have given us a sense of security all our lives. Many feel, I believe, that their lives are being threatened and becoming unmoored. Who are they to believe? What are they to believe?

These two books are helping me live my belief that all shall be well. That the arc of our history leads to Oneness. 


Sunday, June 28, 2020

All Is Well—Exceedingly Well

Hello again after a nearly seven-week hiatus to rest my eyes from focusing on the computer, television, and iPad e-book reading. In my April 30 and May 13 postings, I described my vision issues and the regimen I’d been given to follow by the glaucoma clinic. 

Now, I’ve seen Dr. Ann, the specialist, for an eye examine, field-of-vision test, and the entire glaucoma testing she always does: looking at the optic nerves, measuring the pressure, and determining if the retina inflammation has returned or if the drops are keeping it in check. 

She was pleased, as was I (inordinately—both of us!) that the past three months of following a rather restrictive focusing regimen had resulted in my vision possibly becoming “stable” after nearly five years of stent procedures; several medications; frequent appointments; and my being diligent, perhaps obdurate, about the regularity of drops. 

Here’s the reason for my inflexibility: As I’ve shared with you before, I put glaucoma drops into my left eye 3x a day and into my right eye 1x a day. Also, I use a lubricant 6x a day in both eyes. Finally, I use an anti-inflammatory drop 2x a day in my left eye to keep the retina from tearing.

With my new regimen, I now use the lubricants more—whenever I’ve focused for 20-30 minutes at the computer, iPad, or television. (I described this regimen in my April 30 posting.)

I have a mini-Goggle device on which, each day, depending on when I get up, I set alarms for my regimen. Friends have become used to hearing the alarm as we speak on the phone. They know what my next words will be: “So sorry, but I’ve got to go and do drops!” It takes about 5 minutes each time, that includes keeping my eyes closed for 3 minutes after the drops are in my eyes. (I use the mini-Goggle again!).

That’s what I mean about being somewhat rigid. I feel as if I have a covenant with both Doctor Ann and my eyes. They have served me so well all these years. Now, I care for them. So, after Doctor Ann does her part, I do mine. That is, I am absolutely conscientious about those drops.

So that’s the scoop. Now I can return to blogging on a regular basis and to writing. I can watch television for ½ hour at a time. If the program continues, I simply close my eyes and listen. Mostly, I listen/watch only the news on the local channels and PBS. The rest of the time, I watch something on BritBox. With that, I can pause the drama or mystery and do the drops + 20 minutes of closed eyes and then return to the television and see another thirty minutes of the BritBox program. So all is well.

In my next posting, I hope to share with you the non-fiction audio books I’ve so enjoyed listening to for the past three months. I’ve rediscovered my great delight in learning.

I hope you are well and that COVID-19 has not endangered your lives or the lives of your loved ones. All across the globe, families are grieving. Here, on this part of the globe, we must do our part: wear masks, keep some distance when we’re with others, wash our hands. AND, we must remember that we are One; that what one person does touches the lives of so many others. This is the essence of my belief in the Holy Oneness of All Creation. 


Photo of ophthalmologist and patient from Wikipedia. 

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

So Long for a While

In April, as we here in the United States settled into the COVID 19 shutdown, friends from Minnesota called to ask how the crisis was affecting me. I told them truthfully that, except for not being able to buy whole wheat flour for bread-making, I’d noticed little change. As a result of a field-of-vision Glaucoma test in October 2016, I no longer drove and had become somewhat of a recluse, ordering groceries delivered from Hy-Vee and other sundry items from Amazon. 

However, during April, as I explained in my April 30thposting, I had my own form of shutting down. Because of vision concerns, I had to stop watching television, reading, and using the computer. On April 30thI returned to the computer, wrote the posting, and began that week to visit your blogs and catch up—a little—on what had been happening in your lives. That was so enjoyable for me—reaching out to read your lives and to comment on your fortitude and your stories of living within the shut-down. 

However, things have changed again. I had a bad fall this past Monday evening, wrenching my back and right ankle and hitting my right elbow so that my upper arm bone was shoved into the arm/shoulder socket. Painful. The fall shocked me. For over an hour, I could feel myself trembling inside. Then, to distract myself from listening to the “what if” questions that came with the trembling, I sat down at the computer and began to play spider solitaire—to which I’d become addicted last year. 

I forgot to set the timer for the 30-minute session my regimen (described in the 4/30 posting) demanded. So I played obsessively until, all of sudden, all the playing cards blurred so that I couldn’t see either numbers or symbols. Looking up, I found everything blurred. This, too, scared me. I had sat here at this computer on Monday evening and played solitaire until, as is said, my eyes glazed over. Had I done any permanent harm?
Does straining our eyes result in damage to our optic nerves? 

(In December 2015, when the pressure in my eyes rose to the danger zone, the nerves were, according to the specialist, severely and irreparably damaged. Since then, Dr. Ann and I have worked together to retard addition damage.) 

The upshot of my feckless foolishness it that the next day, Tuesday/yesterday, I kept experiencing moments of blurriness that obscured the delineating lines of my furniture and home.

So here’s the new regimen: No turning on television except to “listen” to PBS Newshour even weekday evening. No reading. No using the computer. Instead, I will listen to audio books—I’ve enjoyed so many in the past eight weeks—declutter/reorganize all the closets, drawers, and cabinets throughout my home, and bake loaves of yeast bread (now that I have whole wheat flour), and, with white flour, make quick bread. All to go in the freezer. 

Because of the virus, my appointment with Dr. Ann has been rescheduled from May 22ndto June 8th. Please note that I’ve used the “no comment” option for this posting as I plan on turning off the computer until after that June appointment. 
You know, I feel that this is a fallow period for me. A time when seeds of possibility—newness—are germinating in the deep center of myself where Oneness dwells. Perhaps, it is a time of germination for all of us. Given that, I find myself hopeful for the future. And so, I’m ending with one of my favorite songs, sung by one of my favorite singers. 

Please take care of yourselves and stay safe. Please know, too, how much I appreciate your virtual friendship. I am so fortunate to have come to know all of you through blogging. 


Thursday, April 30, 2020

Becoming a "Sleeping Beauty"!

My last posting appeared on Sunday, March 22. Since that time I’ve neither posted nor read any of your blogs because four health concerns have modified my life. Of these, only one kept me from writing: my compromised vision due to Glaucoma. 

In past postings, I’ve explained that on December 9, 2015, the pressure in my eyes went into the danger zone of the high fifties: 56 in the left eye, 59 in the right. The acceptable pressure is usually 15-17. At 20, most ophthalmologists prescribe Glaucoma drops for their patients. 

On that December day, the high pressure so alarmed the ophthalmologist I saw regularly that he immediately sent me to a specialist an hour away. I was told that I had to be seen within five hours or possibly lose the vision in both eyes.

The specialist saw me immediately even though that meant that several really “patient” patients had to wait an hour or more for their scheduled appointments. Working with extremely thin needles on my numbed eyes, she brought the pressure down into the forties, then scheduled procedures for the following week. During that week, my vision dimmed dramatically.

Since then I’ve twice had stents placed in both eyes and been on the following regimen: Glaucoma drops 3x a day; anti-inflammatory drops 2x a day in my right eye; lubricant drops 6x a day in both eyes.

That’s been the routine until a few weeks ago. My vision is always somewhat blurry—as if a sheer curtain or a smear of Vaseline covers my eye. However, when I’ve worn reading glasses there’s been no blurriness with e-books. That changed in the final days of March. The iPad type—no matter the size—was too blurry to read. (I haven’t been able to read the type of paper books since 2015.)

I called the specialist’s office and spoke with the tech I’ve come to trust for her clear explanations and discerning questions. Because of the Corona virus, the specialist was taking only emergencies, however, my vision concerns did not meet the emergency standards. Instead the tech wanted me to rest my eyes. I was to stop watching television, reading e-books, and using a computer. In other words, I had to cease any prolonged focusing.

Thus, no writing of blog postings. No reading of blogs.  No writing of memoir.

For much of April, I closed my eyes and listened to audio books; cooked soups and casseroles and froze individual servings; listened to PBS Newshour with eyes closed; visited with family members and friends by phone; and quickly scanned e-mails and Facebook in the ten minutes I used the computer each day. Also, I napped, dozed, and slept often.

That continued until the blurriness with reading subsided. When I called and reported this to the tech, she asked me to go on another regimen: I could focus again on the computer, television, and iPad, but for no longer than 20-30 minutes at a time. Then I was to put lubricant drops in my eyes and keep them closed for twenty minutes. 

So for doing any prolonged focusing, here’s the routine: 30 minutes of television, computer, or iPad use followed by 5 minutes doing drops, 20 minutes listening to an audio with eyes closed, and 5 minutes for whatever. Half-hour on/ half-hour off for a chosen focus session—morning, afternoon, or evening.

I’ve been doing this now for about ten days, trying to get used to it. I haven’t blogged because I’m also trying to get caught up a little on the memoir writing.  But now I’m ready to re-enter the virtual world that awaits me in your blogs! So “read” you soon.

Peace. And I so hope that all of you are well.
 FYI: This regimen will continue until I see the Glaucoma specialist on May 22. Then we'll go from there.

Thanks to Wikipedia for the illustration for Tennyson’s 1830 Sleeping Beauty poem.