Sunday, July 20, 2014

Creating A Meaningful Life After Disability

How I (accidentally) created a meaningful life after years of being bed-bound, wheelchair-bound, alone, isolated, bored, and stagnant.

FACEBOOK: My introduction to the outside world was Facebook. About a year after my son signed me up, cousins I had never met or knew existed began to send me friend requests. When I saw their friends posting things that interested me, I sent THEM friend requests. Like the web of a spider, my friendships grew to people who lived in other countries. My ‘friends’ were always ‘sharing’ interesting ‘pages’, which I then ‘liked’ so their posts would show up on my page. My favorites were art, music, and positive psychology. This process, of course, would take up to several hours every day. Then my organizing bug hit me, and I decided to organize all these pages into specific ‘interest’ groups. Meanwhile, there were lots of beautiful photos I wanted to save in the albums I had created on my computer hard drive. Note I said ALBUMS. I organized hundreds of photos into separate folders. Each time I saw one on facebook I wanted, I right-clicked on it to ‘save image as’ (a jpg). Sometimes this would work from the main feed, but many times I had to click on the photo first before it showed as a jpg. I figured that if I ever got bored (haha), I could go back through all the photo albums. Many of the photos included inspirational words on them. As I wrote in a previous post about the Book Marketing Challenge, I learned about Friday Facebook Fan Parties hosted by other (authors). After you are notified (by another author) that they are hosting one (you had subscribed to their email list), you visit their Facebook page on the specified day and post a comment with a link to your page (or website). Everyone participating in this ‘party’ visits everyone else. I did it once and it was a lot of fun! Maybe someday I will have time to do this, too.

BLOGGING: Next came the introduction of other people’s blogs. I had started my own back in 2011 after googling a few phrases looking for information on specific topics. I found out that most of the articles were written in BLOGS. Then you could subscribe to new posts. After I subscribed to quite a few, my Gmail inbox got flooded with notifications of these new posts. I began to ORGANIZE them all into individual ‘folders’ in my Gmail, intending to go back through them (someday) to read. You guessed it. I subscribed to way too many! But this post is all about finding interesting things to do to stay busy. Someday, I may also browse through all these folders and start deleting things, too. As I wrote in a previous post about the Book Marketing Challenge, I learned that you can network by writing comments on other people’s blogs and/or Facebook pages and then leaving a signature so people who want to visit your blog or page have a link to click on. Meanwhile, you can start a Facebook Fan Page or blog on just about any subject. I also learned how to MONETIZE your blog … by finding ‘affiliate’ links of subjects that relate to your topic and inserting them onto your blog. I have a few. Then comes the challenge of learning about ‘keyword searches’ and adding them to the end of your blogposts so hopefully people will find you. It has only been this last year that you could create Fan Pages and Blogs for free. A Fan Page isn’t just for musicians/bands or authors. You can be a public figure or an artist or … check out the list. WordPress and Blogger are both free now to set up. What are you good at doing? Blog about it!!!! At the time I started my blog, there was a monthly charge for WordPress so I used Blogger. I am hoping it has most of the advantages WordPress has but I have to investigate. I also learned that you can have multiple blogs, each on a different topic.

RECORD YOUR OWN SONGS (and do it for your friends). The Zoom R8 Recorder I got three years ago came with CuBase, a music software program. I never did have time to figure out how to use the software even though I ordered the ‘Idiot’s Guide for Recording with CuBase’. The Zoom R8 has a lot of features, but so far I’ve only learned a few basics. A little at a time, I recorded all the songs I’ve written so far with it. I would really like to learn more about it all so I will be able to record for other musicians as well. I am waiting for the miracle of other musicians showing up to develop the potential of my own songs. Meanwhile, I found a blog called “The Recording Revolution” by a man who writes about recording in simple ways so an amateur like me can understand. I have to file most of these posts away for future reading.

TIME OUT FOR SOME LISTS: I had pieces of paper everywhere with notes on them. I also had my address book, calendars, a book with birthdays and anniversaries, and a notebook with all the web pages and blogs I had signed up for and subscribed to … along with all the user names and passwords. But as these lists got longer and longer, I felt the need to ALPHABETIZE and SORT. Have you seen the children’s book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie”? (he’ll want a glass of milk, etc.) I discovered Gmail’s calendar. I decided to type my lists up in separate emails but rather than send them (to myself), I kept them as ‘drafts’ so I could continue to add more information to them. I was then obsessed with finding all my lists and doing the same for them. After I began entering important dates on the Google calendar, I discovered that birthdays I had entered into the email ‘contacts’ were interlinked with it and the dates were showing up on the calendar. Yay!!! Then I got out my book with birthdays and anniversaries and entered the rest of them into the Gmail contacts which meant if I didn’t already have one for people, I added them (even though I did not have email addresses for them. Then I decided I might as well transfer the rest of my address book into Gmail. And while I was at it, I created ‘groups’ for people. And got out all my event lists and added them into the google calendar, too. I think it took me about two weeks to do all of this.

WRITE A BOOK: about anything! Poems, recipes, funny things your cats and/or dogs did, gardening, how-to (anything). You can either create an ebook and upload it to or create a paper book and upload it to Both of these companies partner with Amazon, so your books will be on Amazon. Be sure to create an Author page on Amazon Author Central. You will still need to figure out who your target audience is and reach out to them via other people’s blogs and Facebook. In the Book Marketing Challenge, they said very few people make very much money selling books. You have to figure out how to re-purpose them into some time of course or coaching program that people WILL buy … on the Internet, of course. Many authors become public speakers and earn income for their presentations. They even start traveling all over the world doing this. I've added this goal to my ‘to-do’ list. Don’t let a handicap stop you from writing a book … you can use a recorder to tell your stories in and also to record conversations and interviews. Then you can have them transcribed by someone else if you are unable to do this. There is also a software called “Dragon Naturally Speaking” that you can use. If you have a webcam on your computer, you can use the video camera on it to record anything you want and then upload the video(s) into YouTube. You can upload these into your blog if you are limited in your site or with one or both arms.

VOLUNTEER FOR LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS: I ended up at the Chamber of Commerce, and two local political organizations. At the Chamber of Commerce, I began to meet lots of interesting people from other parts of the country (and sometimes the world) who were passing through. Some of them were considering relocating here. Some of them were tourists who came in to find out where all the best sites were to explore. Then there were all the businesses who were members and new businesses who considered joining. There were all the events that were put together to benefit business development and local tourism. Once I climbed out of my initial depression and the bubble I lived in, I opened up and discovered that I am a PEOPLE PERSON! (I also came up with various projects -- updating their lists which kept me busy for weeks at a time.) I even began performing (my music) on a stage at their semi-annual festivals – a first for me. Then I became the secretary to two local political organizations … and took the notes of the meetings … and because I am a perfectionist when it comes to writing, it would take me many more hours to type up the minutes than the average secretary. Then I got busier processing the incoming emails as I learned more about what these organizations did and became a central point for information. All three of these organizations had EVENTS I went to … so I was socializing more … and they all included food … so I was eating more … and I started to gain weight … so I outgrew some of the clothes I had … and I could wear nicer clothes to these events … so I had to buy some new clothes … and some new pieces of jewelry to go with the new clothes … and then I had to reorganize my closet and jewelry collection. (I ended up shipping a box of my now too small clothes to my younger sister who lives in Washington. She has two girls ages 12 and 14 who could wear the smaller clothes, too.)

COMMUNITY: Two years ago, I moved into an apartment complex which has two different sides managed by the same management company. One side is for regular people, the other side is for Seniors and people with disabilities. Both sides are invited to morning coffee gatherings, monthly potlucks and monthly birthday parties. This was another place where I got a LOT of food to eat! Gradually one person at a time, I got to know people in my complex and foster new friendships. I don’t recall ever developing the level of caring that I have now as I keep track of everyone’s life. I have met a few truly amazing women in their 70’s and 80’s who inspire me to live a long and enriching life! One lady just turned 90 and we were all invited to celebrate her milestone birthday. Since I was severed from all my aunts, uncles, and cousins after my parents decided to relocate across the country and I never reconnected to them (although some cousins have via Facebook), now when I participate in the monthly gatherings all these people feel like my family. Sometimes, the older women have their grandchildren or great-grandchildren with them so in addition to experiencing the joy of being around these adorable little clones of their grandmothers, I try to imagine having my grandchildren with me (although I just have one right now). Several people in my apartment complex have even asked me to take care of their cats while they go away on family visits or vacations. I LOVE CATS! However, I've decided not to have any more of my own, especially since I think I am allergic to them and I have way too many nicknacks and projects (like my knitting) that a cat would have way too much fun tearing apart. (Note: you can also get all this if you are active in a church, but the ones I tried going to in my new neighborhood did not provide what I was yearning for. Besides, I AM Jewish. My favorite denomination so far has been “Center for Spiritual Living” and the closest one is in Austin – about 80 minutes away.)

HOBBY GROUPS: At one of the first events I went to called “The Texas Country Showdown” during Spring Ho, I met the mother of one of the participants. Her son played guitar and she told me that her son had found a group at the Driftwood Cafe about 20 minutes from my apartment to jam with on Tuesday nights (all acoustic guitarists). I've been going most Tuesday nights for the last two years. Because I had this ‘date’ to play, I played consistently, got better at it, and wrote new songs using all the new techniques I was learning from the others. And because they all played ‘cover’ songs (songs by other artists), I had to learn to play them, too (I previously had only played the songs I personally wrote) … which meant finding them on the Internet … and printing them … and punching holes in the paper … and putting them in a binder … and alphabetizing them … and as the collection grew, deciding which ones to carry with me to jam sessions and which ones to leave at home … which meant a 2nd binder to keep them in. Then about six months ago, I decided to start knitting again … grandmothers knit things for their grandchildren. This thought was followed by a thought to turn on my TV (I love it when this kind of thing happens.) TV just happened to be set on Public Television and the show that was on was Knitting Daily! Shortly after I watched a couple of these shows, a new knitting group was started at the Senior Center, facilitated by a very talented woman who is confined to a wheelchair. She rarely mentions any of her medical issues (and I know she has many) so I feel inspired by her ability to put them aside and focus on teaching us new skills. Our knitting group includes lovely ladies in their 70’s and 80’s who live as though they will live forever. There is no evidence that they won’t, so again, I am truly inspired! Our teacher suggested we buy circular needles from KnitPicks vs. Walmart so I ordered some … and I got on their mailing list … along with Knitting Daily’s list … which meant getting emails from them … which meant getting free patterns … which meant downloading them … which meant printing out some of them. I also found a Facebook page for Knitting where everyone posts photos of their projects.

TIME OUT FOR MORE ORGANIZING!!! (I did mention I do this a lot). I had all the paperwork for my projects in separate piles on my kitchen table and on bookshelves. I wanted to keep them all separate. Using filing folders wasn’t really working for me as they’d all be in one container even if they were in groups. Then I felt the stress of information overload. I had all these projects, but I began to lose track of what I wanted to do next on each one. And that really long to-do list I made as a Gmail draft (which I had even categorized by project type) was … well … a really long list. So one day, I decided to transfer it all into loose-leaf binders with tabs … which meant a lot more organizing … and a lot of hole punching. For another two weeks, I made frequent trips to Walmart for one more binder and one more set of tabs. There were lots of different colors so I made some decisions on which color would be for which type of project. Now I have ones for: a binder for each of the political organizations I am secretary for, Knitting, Reiki/EFT, Music Production & Marketing (in addition to the ones with actual songs which I mentioned in Hobby Groups), Book Marketing Challenge/ Transformational Author Experience, Relationships (not all relationships are between a man and a woman), Workshops/ Presentations, Writing/ Promo/ Blogging, Life Purpose & Planning, Articles (that I’ve printed or torn from Magazines), Food, and one with all the miscellaneous pieces of paper I wrote something on that I will go through someday to figure out which book or blog or something else I intended to use them for. Big sigh. I feel better now. BTW, I also have my closets and drawers organized. Some people might think I have OCD. (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Maybe I do. I lose focus. When projects or tasks are out of sight, I forget about them. Senility? I will be 59 in three months.

READ: Did I mention this yet? I have a couple of stacks of books I intend to read someday. I have a nice stack of magazines I intend to read someday. I have that wonderful new Kindle I got last year on my birthday which is now loaded up with lots of Kindle books I got for free or for 99 cents during promotional periods. I discovered I could email it pdf files and MS Word documents. (Most of the websites and blogs offered a free pdf of some sort which I had downloaded into separate file folders on my laptop.) Thank goodness my Kindle has an option for organizing content alphabetically by title or author! But I don’t have time to read any of this because I am too busy reading the steady stream of emails I get in my inbox with links that go to websites and blog posts. Phew! BTW, I don’t have a smartphone yet so all the Internet activity is done from my laptop at home. If you don’t have any books, magazines, or a Kindle, I collected books from the Apartment Complex community room, bought them for 25-50 cents at the library sales, and because I was a good Amazon customer, they sent me a $69 coupon one day toward a Kindle, and the least expensive one was $70. Meanwhile, I met new authors via the Book Marketing Challenge and agreed to exchange services such as reading and reviewing. So now, I will HAVE to find time to read!!!

NETFLIX: Time to watch movies? I do occasionally! I have a LIST of 180 movies I plan to watch someday. Each time I watch a movie, I write down the names of other movies that looked interesting to me while viewing the previews. I like Netflix because I can create a list of movies I want to see and it holds onto it for me. I suppose you could also get movies from a Redbox.

EPILOGUE: Hopefully you now have lots of ideas for things to do to stay busy! While most of the blog posts are included in “Love, Life, & God: Getting Past the Pain,” you may still like to read the book as I included a lot more detail in the process I experienced to get from where I was to where I am now, along with lots of great stories about people I've met and animals I've known.

Now that I've completed the Book Marketing Challenge, I am equipped with a life-time’s worth of projects to do based on what I learned in this course and the new connections I've made. I’ll be able to use the information for the music side, too. And one thing that I've learned about songwriting and music production so far, is that projects are never finished. There will always be something more that can be added for the sake of creativity. Also, our memories will randomly recall past situations/events that we may want to include in projects we thought were already finished. I am not at all worried about the time I have left on earth to accomplish it all. My greatest role model is Louise Hay who is now in her 80’s. She created “Hay House Publishing” where only the best of the best and the most affluent publish their books via her partner company Balboa Books. My 2nd greatest role model is Laverne ... the lady who lives across from me who just celebrated her 90th birthday. I look forward to meeting her and a few others for coffee every Tuesday and Thursday morning in our community room.