A Few Things About My Life

II have dim memories of being a talkative, happy child until I contracted Scarlet Fever at age 3 and -- probably as a result of a reaction to streptomycin -- lost about a third of my hearing. At age eighteen, I married the only boy who ever expressed any interest in me while I was in high school. It would not be fair to list his name or mention details about him because my life quickly degenerated into one of those sad tales of domestic violence that I prefer not to discuss. It's ancient history and I prefer to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than keep looking back and kicking myself for the things I should have done and would have done if I knew then what I know now.I took a job as a seamstress at Indiana Knitwear and later I worked in clerical positions in the state Welfare Departments in the Accounts & Audits Division. It was back to the factory when other clerical jobs didn't work out. I simply couldn't handle answer the telephones well and that's a problem that still haunts me.

After a few unhappy years, I discovered that I could fulfill my dream of a college education by attending college Saturdays. As my husband worked every Saturday and we had no children, I seized the opportunity.

A few years and two children, and one job change later, my husband left. I prefer not to say any more upon that subject.

I fell in love with computers at work. These marvelous calculators of zeros and ones seduced me with their magic and I decided this was the career I wanted. By entering an "Upward Mobility" program which offered on-the-job training, I became a Computer Specialist even before I completed my four-year degree. After a few years of managing the manufacturing VAXCluster, the government facility reorganized and I became part of a team which managed several computers plant-wide. It was during this time that I began seriously pursuing my dream of a writing career with the encouragement of friends and on-line writing workshops.

I think no one was more surprised than me when I married Greg Dunn, an Electronics Engineer who was employed at the same facility.

Life is a series of ups and downs and 1995 brought the greatest height and depth. I was nominated for the 1995 John W. Campbell Award and the government decided to close the place where both Greg and I worked.

Life was a little scary for me back then and I started attending night classes towards the goal of obtaining a Computer Science degree. My bachelor degree was in General Studies and I feared this wouldn't be good enough for our new corporate employers. This was very time consuming such that I probably didn't complete more than a dozen stories during the time I was taking these courses so I abandoned this plan when I received an opportunity to return to the federal government and work for DCMA.

I loved my job but like all things, it eventually changed. Offices downsized. Duties and responsibilities changed. I went from managing an office in one building to managing computer equipment in multiple offices. Network duties were outsourced. Responsibilities were redefined and reassigned. Operating systems changed. "Do more with less" reached such an extreme that it became the equipment of spinning gold from straw. We faced A76 which put us in the position of bidding for our own jobs and facing the very real prospect of being replaced with contractors about 2004.

Deciding to do some things I'd always wanted to do while I still could, I decided to take a fencing class. I'd had a lifelong interest in it but hadn't realized there was a fencing club less than an hours drive away. I initially looked forward to fencing like Zorro or, more likely, like Burt in Burt's Law, but I quickly discovered that the sport of fencing is nothing like what one seems in a movie and because I'm too stubborn to give up when I'm in over my head and incapable of learning something, I found myself with a timesink that I dearly loved.

It also helped me maintain my sanity during the horrible eight years that mother drifted into and out of occasional spells of near lucidity and then back to delusional thinking. Fencing helped me cope with this as I had to focus upon what I was doing and thus I had a self-imposed mental break from dealing with the stress and concern of mother's treatment.

Mother went into the hospice just before my third of three competitions to qualify for the 2012 Veteran 60 Womens Saber team. I felt guilty flying out to compete, but my qualification was not insured without that third event and I had a roommate, non-refundable tickets, and a sister on the ground that could be stuck with making last minute decisions. I did change my return flight to return earlier than planned and arrived home just before she died but not with enough time to see her before she died.

There is still some guilt over that, but it's mostly about leaving my sister to deal with issues during the last three days. The mother I knew had slipped away months earlier and that is one of the great tragedies of elder care in America.

I finished 2nd in the world that year -- losing by only one touch. In the next three times I qualified, I never made it above 3rd and failed badly in the last one.

Between Mother's death and now, I also lost my middle sister. I was scheduled to retire in a month when she went into hospice so I changed medical appointments, etc. and went to Florida with my oldest sister and her husband. Once again, it was really too late. My sister drifted in and out but I don't think she was ever really aware that I was there. She did come around once long enough to ask my brother-in-law what he was doing there, but she didn't recognize me. We returned home. I kept my postponed medical appointment and learned I did not have cataract problems, but tears that required treatment and was warned not to hit my head. I already had all my fencing gear packed in the car and ready to drive to Ohio to meet a friend who would drive the rest of the way to the fencing qualifier isn Baltimore. If ever there was a time not to compete, it would have been then.

Fortunately, I didn't make the injury worse but I quickly had some laser zapping for those two tears (one in each eye) and then was told not to use the computer, read, etc. until after my next visit in two weeks. This was about two weeks before Christmas and right after my retirement.

Stir crazy does not begin to describe my condition for the next two weeks.

Life in retirement thus far has not gone as planned. The vision problem was a bit of a wake-up call plus I'd signed up to volunteer as a Court Appointed Special Advocate and started training that spring. A simple plan to replace a broken sink somehow turned into a kitchen update, house painting, drainage problem correcting, and several other projects that always seemed to come before writing.

A year later, I've written very little, fenced a lot, and somehow have fallen into the role of political activist.

I knit a half dozen pink pussy hats, an American flag with a feminist power symbol rather than a field of stars, and an Indiana state flag with the feminist symbols replacing stars. I also marched in Indianapolis as I was concerned about schedule conflicts if I failed to return in time from DC.

Life is what happens when you are making other plans. I don't know what the future will bring and especially so as I fear we are at a tipping point in our nation and I fear the loss of all those rights that we've taken for granted most of my life. I firmly believe that If any are unequal, none are equal and I've begun quoting, Religion is fueled by fear and punishment. Jesus is fueled by love and mercy

I do not know what the future will bring. I recognize that I am unlikely to outlive the bad times that I suspect are coming but I'm determined to push back against the darkness and to do all I can to insure we do not lose the rights we fought so hard to achieve back in the 60s (for women and blacks) and in the last decade (mostly gender-related issues).

So this is me. I am not at all what I had expected to become.