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Blogity-blah-blah-blog: September 2009

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

WWWE: Six Years of Hope - Part V

So once again I was transferred to a different house. This house had four residents crammed into one little tiny house which was probably only big enough for two people to live in. This was also the first house in which only one staff member was there during a shift so it was different being the only one looking after four people rather than two or three staff. Of course there would be additional staff to do outings, but for the most part it was just one staff per shift. I guess they never heard of the buddy system. Seriously, what would happen if that one staff that's working gets hurt and is rendered unconscious? They probably would have more staff on, but they are only given so much money by the state so I guess they have to do what they have to do.

The residents at this house were pretty calm. None of them really had any behavioral issues. I think the worst thing was one of them liked to try to raid the fridge or cupboards to try and sneak some food. I talk a little bit about each of the residents.

The one that liked to sneak food, we'll call him Rob. Rob is a pretty friendly guy. He enjoys watching the news and he would occasionally go to the mall where the local news station had a news room. His favorite news anchor reported from that room. He also likes listening to his Johnny Cash CDs. He would usually visit his mother on the weekends.

The next guy who we'll call Mark was the oldest living resident at Hope at the time. He was a good guy, but he could be a little grumpy sometimes. I had never seen him do this, but one of my co-workers there told me he was known to flip the bird at traffic lights when they turned red. He spent most of his time watching TV and looking at books and magazines.

The third guy we'll call Rick. He didn't actually have mental retardation or mental health issues so I'm not quite sure how he ended up at Hope. He was the nicest person though. He liked to tell jokes and have conversations with staff. It was kind of hard to understand him, he talked very low most of the time and he stuttered a lot. He had just had a stroke before I worked there and before that I was told that he spoke very clearly. He also enjoyed watching TV, reading the paper, and doing puzzles.

The last one we'll call Don. He was very short and wore big glasses. He kind of reminded me of that turtle from the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. He likes to tell stories and joke around. Don actually wasn't at the house much. His dad took him home on the weekends and on Wednesday nights. He needed insulin shots every day. I had never given shots before so I was nervous about giving them. I took a training and practiced on a ball with the syringe and needle. The day came for me to give my first shot to Don. He gave me a little pep talk and said "C'mon Dan, you can do it!" I was nervous, but he wasn't, he had gotten these shots twice a day for a long, long time so he was used to it.

All the residents in this house were great. I was in my busiest semester at college, so things were pretty rough and stressful, and on top of that, the manager of the house I was working in was the absolute worst boss I have ever had in my life. Believe me, putting the words "absolute worst" in italics doesn't do it any justice. Now, I don't like to say bad things about people, so I won't. But if you happen to be a manager, or a boss of any kind, here are some tips to follow:

1) When one of your employees messes up and you're giving them a lecture about it don't ever use the phrase "That's a no-no." It's very condescending and will most likely piss off the employee.

2) If you need to call off and need one of your staff to fill in for you, don't whine and complain when they can't make it in especially if you have denied them time off when they were sick and treated them like crap.

3) If one of your staff calls because they just got backed into by a semi-truck while they were sitting in their car, one of the first things you should say are "Are you okay?" or "I'm sorry to hear that, do you need someone to take your shift?" You're first question should never be "Well, when can you come in?" in a very stern and uncaring voice.

4) The most important thing you need to remember is that if one of your employees has to be taken to the hospital because he/she passed out and a relative calls in to tell you they won't be in that day do not, I repeat DO NOT CALL THE HOSPITAL LATER AFTER YOUR EMPLOYEE HAS REGAINED CONSCIOUSNESS AND YELL AT THEM FOR MISSING WORK WHILE THEY ARE LYING IN A HOSPITAL BED!!!

Follow these simple tips and you can avoid becoming the worst boss in the universe.

So yea, it was not a happy time there. After working there for a few months I was asked to substitute at another group home. They were trying to gather up all the male staff they could to work at this group home because they had just gotten a new resident that was very physically aggressive especially toward female staff. I had worked with him before when I subbed at another house a few times. So I jumped at the chance to work at that other house for awhile. Because I would rather work at a house with a resident who might try to rip my face off than work with the manager at the house I was currently at. Says a lot about a person doesn't it?

Yes, I know I'm supposed to show grace and forgiveness to everyone, but there are just some people that get under my skin and she happened to be one of them. Sorry, I'm not Jesus, I'm not perfect.

But anyway, that's the worst of my time there at Hope. I'll have one more for you next time, and then I have two more jobs to tell you about after that and we'll be done with the Work, Work, Work Edition (WWWE) here at Blogity-blah-blah-blog.

Monday, September 21, 2009

WWWE: Six Years of Hope - Part IV

Let's see...last time I talked about the house I was transferred to and I talked about all but one of the residents that live there. Today I'd like to talk about the sixth resident at that house, his name is Chris. Chris is one of the most unique people I've ever met. He's autistic and one of his hobbies is to collect DVDs and VHS tapes. Let's just say he has a lot of them. He remembers just about everything you tell him about yourself or about others. Don't ever tell secrets around him though, it won't stay a secret for too long :)

Chris is able to go out into the community on his own, he just let's his staff know where he's going and when he'll be back. He's very independent. I still keep in touch with Chris to this day. He enjoys coming to Valley Mosaic with me once in awhile. I usually go to his birthday party every year as well. And there's always one thing he wants for Christmas and his birthday, a DVD. He has so many he could open his own video rental store. Almost every time I talk to him on the phone, one of the first statements out of his mouth is "I'm watching a movie".

I'm going to do something new here at Blogity-blah-blah-blog. I have recorded a bunch of messages left by Chris on my answering machine and I have compiled them together in groups of five messages. I thought I would share these with everyone. I've edited them though so all revealing information has been left out such as his last name, phone number, address, etc. so it doesn't interfere with any confidentiality. There will be more where this came from, but I now present to you, Calls from Chris: Part One.

Friday, September 18, 2009

WWWE: Six Years of Hope - Part III

So my time came to an end at the first group home I worked at. I was transferred to another home which housed six residents, three men and three women. The residents at this house are able to do many things on their own unlike the first house I worked in. Most of them could talk and carry on a conversation pretty well. Two of the men are deaf but could communicate through sign language and they even had a deaf staff member who could communicate well with them. They could all feed themselves and they all had their own hobbies and activities they liked to do.

One of the women liked to hang around the staff most of the time and talk to them. She had a good sense of humor and would sarcastically call some of the female staff "Miss America". Actually all the staff were female except for me.

One of the deaf guys that lived there liked to try and sneak food out of the refrigerator when no one was looking. He was also on a community outing plan that allowed him to go to the local bar for one drink of beer every payday. So every time he got his check he would yell "BEER!" Of course he got outside more than just once every two weeks. It's just that the state requires we do "plans" for the residents.

Another one of the women is very high functioning and probably had more mental health issues rather than mental retardation. She kind of reminded me of Lisa Simpson, she had the same laugh as her. She is one of the more independent residents and has a job outside of Hope Enterprises. Many of the residents at Hope work at Hope's warehouse doing multiple jobs for different companies which keep their skills in practice. The residents that are unable to work or even perform simple tasks attend a day program which is a lot like day care. I mentioned it a couple posts ago I think.

The other deaf resident liked to spend his free time playing Donkey Kong Country on his Super Nintendo. He liked to watch video tapes too. One time he brought me one that wasn't working right. Part of the tape had been damaged. So I took it apart and fixed it for him. That was a big mistake because after that he handed me a bunch of other tapes. Another thing he enjoyed doing was mimicking gestures and facial expressions he would see in movies. He kind of reminded me of a silent movie actor like Charlie Chaplin or something like that.

The third woman who lived there moved in just a few days after I started working at the house. She has a lot of energy. We'd play soccer in the backyard and she would wear me out. One time she wanted to go rollerskating at the YMCA. She was a big girl and I thought it was a bad idea, but she really wanted to go. I was a little nervous about it because I though she was going to end up in the ER or perhaps I would end up in the ER. But she did pretty good. She fell once but she was okay. She's actually lost a lot of weight since then and last time I heard, she was engaged to marry another resident at Hope.

I have one more resident to talk about but I'll save that for next time. I wish I had more stories about the other residents but I was only at the house for about a month and then they decided they wanted to transfer me again. The other staff were apparently uncomfortable with having me, a male staff there. It's unfortunate that there is a lot of sexism in the work place. There are a lot of women who have to put up with it in a workplace that has mostly male employees. I had to put up with it in a place that had mostly female employees. I was at the other end of the spectrum in a sense. But all this transferring to different houses started making me feel unwanted. So I'll talk about the sixth resident in my next post and then the post after that will include the absolute worst boss ever. See you next time!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

WWWE: Six Years of Hope - Part II

I'll just pick up where I left off last time. I had been talking about one of the group homes I worked in. I worked in four homes altogether throughout my six years at Hope Enterprises, but I spent the first three years working at the house I've been talking about.

Each of the guys I took care of all attended a day program where they did different activities throughout the day to keep them busy so they weren't just sitting at home all the time. We would regularly have outings in the evenings as well. We'd take them to things like softball games, restaurants, Dairy Queen, the park, and other places like that.

Sometimes we would get nasty looks from people when we took the guys out. Unfortunately, older generations were told when they were young that if they had a child with mental retardation that they should just lock them up in the attic or basement because they have no feelings and feel no pain. This is so far from the truth and it's unfortunate that people actually believed these things. I know from experience that individuals with mental retardation do feel pain, and they do have feelings. In fact I think that they understand more about love than any of us so-called "normal" people could ever know.

On the other hand, many times when we took the guys out for dinner people would come up to us who were working and tell us how much they appreciate what we do. I always heard people tell me that it takes a special kind of person to do that job and that they could never do anything like that. I just tell them, give it a try, there's really nothing special about me that allows me to do this job, you just kind of do it.

Near the end of my first three years at Hope some bad things happened. One Sunday morning I got a call. It was my manager, he told me that John* passed away in his sleep. I was scheduled to work that day, I knew it was going to be hard. When I went in to work my other co-workers were sitting at the kitchen table talking about John and remembering him. Some of the girls I worked with taught him how do dance and sing "Shake Your Booty". His favorite song that he liked to sing was "You Are My Sunshine". I still think of him every time I hear that song.

Not even two weeks later a new resident moved in. I wished they would have let more time pass, we weren't ready for someone to move into John's old room. Then not too long after that our manager was fired. When the new manager came she decided that she needed new staff so those of us who had been working there together for the past three years and had formed a solid team and were like family were scattered and transferred to work in different group homes. We were all happy where we were and that was all over.

Sorry to end this one on such a downer, but it was one of the hardest times of my life. It really was like a family separating. I held a grudge and felt very bitter and angry at the new manager for a long time. Then as if things weren't bad enough she started coming to my church a few years later. It was awkward. We would say hi to each other and talk a little bit, but never brought up what happened years earlier. Then one day after church she pulled me aside and said she had to talk to me in private. She poured her heart out apologizing to me for what happened a few years ago. She said she was a different person then and a day hasn't gone by where she hasn't regretted what she did. I forgave her, but I also had to ask for her forgiveness. I didn't like it when she came and changed everything at work. I thought of her as a tyrant and a dictator. So I asked for her forgiveness and she forgave me as well.

There will be more to this story later. I will talk about the other group homes I've worked in.

*Just a reminder, I didn't use the real names of the people I've been talking about.

Friday, September 11, 2009

WWWE: Six Years of Hope - Part I

Things have been pretty busy lately. I'm still looking for new job but I have been doing a sales job on the side for a little extra money while collecting unemployment. This week has been busy because we are at a county fair all day everyday this week. I'm not feeling to well today so I decided to take the day off. So now that I have some time, I think it's time I got back into something I've been putting off for a few weeks now. I'm getting back into the WWWE or Work, Work, Work, Edition of this blog. I had started it awhile back when I still had themes for each day of the week. The WWWE was part of Story Time Tuesday on my blog. So I last left off when I was working at Blockbuster Video. So now I will talk about a place I worked at called Hope Enterprises.

Hope Enterprises is an organization that employs people to take care of individuals who are mentally and/or physically challenged. I worked in four different group homes over the course of six years. I'll talk about the first house I worked in. I worked at that house for three years. I took care of four different individuals at that house. I have to be careful about what I say due to confidentiality so I won't give out any names or locations. This particular job is going to take awhile to talk about, so I'll have to span it out over multiple days. So today I thought I would tell a story or two about each of the four individuals I took care of.

The first guy, we'll call him Bill, even though that's not his real name, has profound mental retardation, autism, he couldn't talk, and he was prone to have seizures. He also has pica which is a disorder in which the individual likes to eat things other than what's normally edible. There was an episode of Ripley's Believe it or Not in which there was a story about a woman who had pica and she liked to eat dirt. Bill seemed to like cloth. He would chew on his shirt all the time. He also had bibs he would wear around his neck and he'd chew on those too. We had to keep a close eye on him obviously. He liked to wander into the kitchen a lot and try to grab things to put in his mouth. I wasn't at work on the day this particular incident happened but it's pretty funny. Two of my co-workers were occupied with two of the other residents so they couldn't keep an eye on Bill. When my co-workers were finished with what they were doing they came back into the living room and saw Bill with what looked like chocolate all over his hands and mouth. There was a trail of this chocolate leading from Bill sitting on the couch, all the way into the kitchen to the tray of uncooked brownie batter. Bill had walked into the kitchen and grabbed two handfuls of brownie batter and trailed it back to the kitchen. I thought it was hilarious when they told me about it even though they didn't find it too funny, they had to clean up the mess.

We'll call the second guy Kevin. I know you're not supposed to pick favorites, but Kevin was my favorite. He always had a smile on his face and he would always laugh. He also had profound mental retardation and he was non-verbal. For the most part he remained stationary in his recliner and didn't move around too much. Of course we did physical therapy with him and had him walk out to the dinner table and take him out to Dairy Queen and other places, but for the most part he didn't walk around on his own free will. But every once in awhile he would get out of his chair and he would either walk around the house or roll around on the floor. It wasn't always a good thing because he would do this for days and even throughout the night non-stop. You could see that he was tired, but something in his mind made him keep on going. They said he was being manic when he did this. When he was manic like this it was the only time he wouldn't smile or laugh. Kevin had the ability to brighten anyone's day though. Everyone he came in contact with was always happy to see him. On days when he wasn't smiling or laughing and just sitting in his recliner I would always try to find ways to make him laugh and I didn't stop until he did.

The third guy who we'll call Steve also had profound mental retardation, multiple sclerosis, and obsessive compulsive disorder. He was also non-verbal but he was smart enough to understand what people told him and he could do simple tasks when asked. Actually he was much smarter than he allowed people to think he was. He may not have been able to take care of himself, but Steve was very intelligent in other things, like playing jokes on people. Due to his OCD he would constantly rearrange things in the living room to the way he liked it. No pillows could be on the floor, in fact, nothing could be on the floor except for furniture. He also liked to unplug things, lamps, the TV, etc. This became a real problem sometimes, but he didn't do it too often. I took him to the grocery store one time and he ended up wetting his pants while we were there. Fortunately one of the employees of the store was very cooperative and he said he had a lot of respect for what I did for a living. So Steve did #1 in aisle two which is much better than #2 in aisle one. I mentioned earlier that he like to play jokes on people. One time I made myself a sandwich on a bun and set it on the end table in the living room and then I went back into the kitchen to get something. When I came back the top part of my bun was gone. Steve was sitting on the other side of the room laughing and I could see that his tongue was yellow from the mustard that was on my sandwich. The funniest thing he did I can laugh at now, but at the time I wasn't laughing. I was getting ready to go home one night, but I couldn't find my car keys. I looked all over the house for them. When I was searching Steve's room he started laughing. I had a feeling he knew what was going on, but since he couldn't talk he couldn't tell me, not that he would if he could. I was convinced that I had lost them so I called for a ride home. The next day at work one of my co-workers came up to me and said "Are these your keys?" She had my keys and I asked her where she found them. "They were in my purse, and I have a good idea how they got there." Yes, it was Steve. He put them in her purse the day before and her shift was over before mine was, so she ended up going home with my keys in her purse, not knowing it at the time. Good old Steve.

The last guy we will call John. John was higher functioning than his three other housemates. He had severe mental retardation, autism, and OCD. He was also a very big guy weighing in at 32o pounds. He pretty much had his own space in the basement with his own bathroom and a living room with a TV, but he liked to be upstairs with everyone else most of the time. He was very pleasant but he had a habit of bopping his housemates over the head with a closed fist. He didn't do it to be mean, it was part of his OCD. We would try to stop him or lighten the blow by placing our hands on top of the head of the person he was hitting. He didn't usually hit hard, but sometimes it was enough to give you a headache. Yes, he used to get me when I first started working there. I would try to distract him when he wanted to hit me. One time he tried so I told him to sing the theme song for the Flintstones (John could sing almost and theme song for any TV show). He sang the last line of the song and then yelled out a big "HO!" and bopped me over the head. After a little while I finally put my foot down and let him know he wasn't going to bop me over the head anymore. He backed away from people who stood up to him. But his housemates didn't really have the ability to stand up to him so that's why John would always go after them. His other housemates usually laughed at him when they got bopped over the head, for some reason it was funny to them.

There are so many more stories I could tell you about these four individuals and I think I will talk more about them later. I've said enough for today.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Jared Didn't Want a Snickers Coupon

If there's one big thing that happens around here every year, it's the Little League World Series. People come from all over the world to witness this spectacle. I got to be a part of it this year. I was supposed to volunteer at the concession stand for two days, but instead I only did one day. The first day I was wearing sandals and they wouldn't let me work. I had never worked in the food industry before, but I made sure not to wear sandals on the second day.

So on the second day I worked the cash register. So if you were at the LLWS and got some food, there's a possibility that I spit in your hamburger. Just kidding! If you were at the LLWS there's a possibility that I waited on you. It was great to get a chance to volunteer at this event. A few days later I checked in with a temp agency I am registered with to see if they had any jobs available. I was hoping for a full-time job, but they didn't have any. But they did have a job available over the weekend at the Little League World Series, so I took the job. The job was on Saturday and Sunday, the last two days of the LLWS. My job was to work for the Mars candy company handing out Snickers coupons at the exit of the Little League Stadium. We worked near a security station where they had metal detectors for people coming into the stadium. On Saturday the weather was being unpredictable, it had been raining on and off all day. In fact, we had to wait awhile for the rain to stop before we could start our shift handing out coupons. The sky finally cleared up and the sun came out. We weren't down there long before dark clouds came rolling in again and it started to rain a little.

It was just a small sprinkle at first and then it started coming down harder so we went into the security station to wait it out. All of a sudden the rain just started hammering us. It was coming in sideways into the security station. Stuff was flying everywhere. After it calmed down, the person in charge of the Snickers booth told us we could go home for the day. We were still paid for the four hours even though we only worked two.

The field I parked in was fairly dry when I got there, but when I walked back to my car this is what I found:

There was a girl there in the field that I knew from church. She was there with her boyfriend and she was unable to get out of her parking spot because of all the rain that had fallen. So her boyfriend and I had to move the wooden beams that were behind her car so she could back out instead of have to drive through a pond. I had to take my shoes off to get into my car. You can actually see my shoes behind my car in the two pictures above. The field was a muddy mess.

Good thing I have four wheel drive.

The second day was much nicer than the first. Security was tight though because vice president Joe Biden was there to throw out the first ball. I actually saw his limo escorted by secret service and some police cars out on the highway on my way to the stadium. They stopped all traffic on the highway so he could get to the stadium. So I ended up being fifteen minutes late for my shift. I told the person in charge of the Snickers booth that I was late because the vice president held me up. I figured it would be the only chance I would have in this lifetime to use that as an excuse for being late.

So we spent the next few hours handing out Snickers coupons. It was a fun job especially if you enjoy people watching. One time I tried to hand a coupon to this one guy and he said "No." It wasn't until he said "No" that I realized who it was. It was Jared Fogle, you know, the Subway guy.

Of course he wouldn't want a Snickers coupon, that's understandable. He could have been nicer about it and said "No thanks" or "No thanks, and try the new Chicken Teriyaki sub at Subway, Eat Fresh!" But he didn't, he just said "No". Jared was there to represent Subway of course, he's been at the LLWS a few times.

So we finally finished up our shifts after California won the final game. As I was walking towards my car Joe Biden's plane flew overhead so I snapped a picture of it.

How do I know it was Joe Biden's plane? Because I live in the middle of Pennsylvania, we don't have planes that big in these parts, not at our little rinky-dink airport, no sir-ee. So the one thing that makes our little part of the world famous, but also chaotic once a year is once again over and we can all get back to our peaceful existence here in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Moses Said to Pharoah, "Lego my people"

I know it's been around for awhile but I just happened to stumble upon it by reading Jason Boyett's blog. He finds all kinds of cool stuff. What am I talking about? I'm talking about the Brick Testament. It is a retelling of the Bible through the use of Legos®. It was created by Rev. Brendan Powell Smith. What Rev. Brendan has created is a funny, awesome, stupendous, five-star, two thumbs up, way of sharing the Bible. I think it's a great tool, not just for kids but for people of any age to enjoy and learn from.

It even has a content notice section on the bottom of the page:

S=Sexual Content

Who ever thought the Bible would require a rating system? Seriously though, there are some stories in the Bible that aren't for the kiddies. Rev. Brendan has taken a few liberties as well, but purely for comic effect. This wasn't meant to be a legit version of the Bible like some of the other translations.

I think this site proves that you are never too young to play with Legos®. I still play with Legos®, except it's in the form of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Batman on the Playstation®. My girlfriend's little boy has some of those over-sized Legos® and I can't wait until he graduates up to using the smaller Legos® so I can build things with him. In fact, the other day, he and his mom went to McDonalds®. He got a Happy Meal® which was supposed to come with a Lego® racer, but instead they put a girls' toy in his Happy Meal®. How dare they! I took that girly toy back to Micky D's® and demanded that they exchange it for a boys' toy. Actually, I asked nicely and they were very cooperative. Thank you Micky D's® in Williamsport®, Pennsylvania®. Okay, I know, I'm going overboard with the ®'s.

After looking at Rev. Brendan's blog, I noticed a few other projects he's worked on including one called Barfield, which is in the same vain as Garfield Minus Garfield, Garfield Minus Arbuckle, and Garfield: Lost in Translation. He also has a music project called The Human Heads.

Seems like a pretty interesting guy overall. I'll have to check out some of the other things he's done. I'll finish this post with a few pictures from the Brick Testament. Enjoy!

God instructs Noah to build the Ark. I love the reaction of the horses in the background.

Noah, naked and drunk in his tent.

Baby Moses

Jesus teaches about hypocrisy "Take the plank out of your own eye."

Stephen preaches just before being stoned. It says in the Bible that Jesus's diciples performed many signs and wonders, maybe Stephen was able to remove his head at will, who knows?

The Last Supper