Archive for February, 2009


Finding the Funny Side of a Bad Situation

February 28, 2009

Finding the Funny Side of a Bad Situation

I have been reflecting on the following sentence much of this week:

“….the Medical Advisory Committee has advised the Retirement Board that you are now capable of resuming your previous duties.”broke-no-money

Although they believe I am perfectly capable of doing my previous job as Program Coordinator/Parent Educator, I know that I probably would not last one whole day. So, one of my strategies is to plan for the worst case scenario: my disability pension check and health care benefits stop immediately and I have no money coming in at all.

(By the way, those of you who think I am a Pessimist engaged in negative thinking, you are soooooo wrong! I am actually tapping into the power of “Defensive Pessimism” which is a very positive way of tapping into the good side of negative thinking. How do I know? Because that’s what it says on Oprah’s website!)

Okay, now back to the question of what do I do if I have no money coming in at all? One coping strategy I am quite good at is to take inventory of all the things a person, including myself, is able to do well and to see the positive side of what others see as a weakness. With this in mind, I am starting a list of jobs/occupations to explore using my strengths.

1. Actress portraying a person with disabilities.

I have fooled my friends, neighbors, psychiatrist, social worker, advocate, some highly specialized doctors and even a person who lives with me, into thinking that I have a disability. And I’ve been able to do this for 4 ½ years!

I’m particularly good at pretending to have tremors in my head and neck. One of my disabled friends has nicknamed me “Bobble Head.” Another talent I am quite good at is making my legs and back shake so hard that I collapse on the floor and weeblepretend not to be able to get up. Now this one may be a bit of a problem in the acting world, since I need to pretend the “not being able to get up” thing for at least 30 minutes, so I wouldn’t be able to jump up quickly to do a re-take if necessary. I do, however, always get up eventually. I have another friend with a disability who does something similar. I’m sure we would both make a convincing pair. We call ourselves “The Weeble Sisters,” as in “weebles wobble but they don’t fall down.” Okay, not totally accurate in our cases. We do fall down, but we always find a way to get back up.

Maybe Dr. Phil, Oprah or Ellen DeGeneres might help me break into the acting world…

2. Writer/Author/Comedian

I am a very convincing liar and even good at lying and pretending for very long periods of time. I think they call that “malingering.” This could be talent or mental health disorder, depending on whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. Of course, I choose to be an optimist on this one. I am so good at lying and using my imagination, I have a lot of material to write about.

I am even good at pretending to have logorrhea. (*Note: If you are pretending to have a brain injury, never use big words like this. Even if you went to college and have a masters or doctorate degree. It’s a BIG RED FLAG!!! You have to drool, use really little words and NEVER learn anything new.)

Okay, back to logorrhea. Maybe you don’t know this word. It means constantly talking. If you need a way to remember this, try the following: “logorrhea” sounds like “diarrhea” and I’m sure you’ve heard of “diarrhea of the mouth,” which is what logorrhea means. I have a variant of this called logorrhea of the computer: I type and type and type and type. Therefore, lots of writing material.

My creative imagination, many “characterological disorders” (here’s another one of those BIG words that doctors like to throw around and I like to collect) and a convincing ability to pretend something and make it look real have put me in many very interesting situations. I think my favorite one is where a doctor gave me a wedgie during an examination. I still need to write up that story!!!! It took me a while to figure out a new name to give him, but I finally decided on “Dr. Pullam High.”

That reminds me…. Have you heard of the new medical epidemic that’s been attacking many doctors and mental health professionals? The strangest and most interesting aspect of this chronic condition is that they typically don’t know they have it. In fact, their patients are usually the first ones to detect their symptoms and their patients don’t even have medical degrees! I guess this is like the old adage about a lawyer who acts as his own counsel has a fool for a client. A doctor or mental health professional is the least likely person to be able to recognize this condition. Oh, I almost forgot to tell you its name; it’s called Cranial Rectal Inversion. I don’t think it has been recognized yet by the medical community, but many laypeople are able to quickly recognize it. (Sorry, Drs. Sears, Stork, Masterson & Ordon…… I didn’t mean to make your profession the butt of my humor. I have not noticed any signs of this with any of the doctors on your TV show, The Doctors.)

Maybe Ellen would be interested in my birds, Vodka and McGyver. I have a couple of funny stories about them here: How Vodka Got His Name and McGyver and the Insurance Man. I’ll have to see about sending in some videos of them.

I even do a little inspirational writing in the form of short stories. Oprah’s into inspirational/spiritual development so this is a good field to get into as well. Here’s a couple of my short stories: The Feather and Goose Necks and Short Cuts.hearts2

3. ”Lady of the Night”/Home Companion

This brings me to the last alternate occupation to explore. Though I don’t have actual work experience I could list on a resume, I do have a lot of life experiences of being screwed by many different people from all walks of life. And apparently I’m very good at getting screwed over and over and over again. (I apologize if I’m being too crude. I’ve never listed life experiences of this kind on a resume, so I’m not sure the appropriate word to use.)

My problem has been that everyone else is making money over screwing me, and as Oprah or Dr. Phil might tell me, “It’s time to re-claim my own personal power!” I’m trying to think this through and perhaps working as a “Lady of the Night” would not be a good idea since that’s an illegal profession.

People have told me that I’m the one who needs to hire a home companion to help me with things around my home that are difficult. Perhaps I’ve been falling into the trap of negative thinking again. Maybe I’m the one who should be a “home companion” since I’m obviously very good at being screwed. Only this time, I want to be the one who gets paid for my services!!!!

canoe(Hmmmm….I wonder what Oprah, Dr. Phil, Ellen and “The Doctors” would say about any of this???)

My temporary new address will be:

#1 Uppah Cr., Withatapaddle, OH!!!!! (just until I can line up some “contract” work)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

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© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009


Surviving Denial of Disability – Some Ideas

Surviving Denial of Disability – Some Ideasbrain-light-bulb

Just because you have lots of ideas on your list, does not mean that you personally have to be the one to do everything on it. The first step is to brainstorm for ideas and ask other people you know if they will help you generate a list of ideas. After a few days, send out the list with everyone’s ideas and ask if there are people who can help you with the things you are not able to do.

1. Write or contact people who can get your story out.

John Stossel:

The Bob Woodruff Foundation:


Dr. Phil:

The Doctors:

Your local TV stations and newspapers

2. When submitting information, have someone video some of the challenges that exist in your life.

3. Upload a video to YouTube so you can send a link to newspapers, TV stations, and State Legislators.

4. Ask your doctors, therapists and professionals who are treating you, if they have ideas regarding help.

5. Get a copy of your disability file. You have the right to see the reports their doctor(s) wrote.

6. If these “hired” doctors are not acknowledging what your treating physicians are saying or they are purposely placing a ‘spin’ on their notes or reports, ask your doctor(s) to write a letter correcting these misperceptions.

7. If you have a website, set up Paypal Donation button. You can do this with a Personal account; you don’t need a business account. Ask everyone who visits your site to contribute $1.00.

8. Ask your family or friends if they can commit to buying you a gift card to the grocery or other store.

9. Contact BVR (Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation) to ask for their help. Tell them you need their help figuring out what kind of work you can do.

10. See what kinds of unnecessary items you may have which can be sold for cash. List these on Craigslist.

11. See if you there is someone you know who can help you write up something concerning the unfair practices of state retirement systems or any other state organizations who are abusing their power. Write up a statement which can be emailed and a script for what people can say when they call their state officials. Google your state and the various state officials (i.e., Governor, Senators, Congressman, Attorney General); obtain their contact information, specifically phone number and email address. Ask everyone you know to send an email or call every day for 30 days or more.

12. Start a non-profit organization to pay yourself a salary so you don’t have to depend on Social Security or a state retirement system. See who is in your support network who might be able to help you with your ideas. Google your state and its laws on setting up a non-profit organization.

13. Hold off on bankruptcy. If you may incur more debt or medical bills, wait until you obtain health insurance.

14. Contact your local churches to see if they have programs which might help you.

15. Contact the American Association of People With Disabilities

800-840-8844 (Toll Free/TTY)

16. Apply for food stamps. Go here to see if you qualify –

17. Check out The Access Project at or call (617) 654-9911 to see if they can help.

18. See if you qualify for SSDI (Social Security Disability Income) or SSI (Supplemental Security Income). Go here to find out more:

19. If you may need a lawyer, ask friends or people who have issues similar to you, if they personally know an attorney who might be able to help.

Do you have more ideas you can think of? If they don’t help me, they might help someone else.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009


I’m Cured! I’m No Longer Disabled!

February 27, 2009woman-reading-letter

I’m Cured! I’m No Longer Disabled!

On Monday morning, I went out to the mailbox to get my mail from Saturday. I noticed one of the letters was from the School Employees Retirement System (SERS). I read the first paragraph of the letter.

“All of the evidence submitted by your attending physician(s) and the SERS medical examiner(s) regarding your current medical status has been received. Upon review of this information, the Medical Advisory Committee has advised the Retirement Board that you are now capable of resuming your previous duties.”

So why hasn’t my body been informed, as well?

The first sentence very interesting. My psychiatrist, who SERS has determined to be my attending physician, does believe that I have been coping better with my situation. It is true that it’s been a while since I last cut myself hoping that maybe this time it will be deep enough that the bleeding won’t stop or have taken an overdose of pills. There are still times that it takes a lot of fighting within myself to pick up the phone, instead of the razor blade or some pills.

He, however, has never agreed with SERS’ opinion that the medical basis for my disability is only depression. He has said to me, “Yes, you are depressed, but that is secondary to the life changes brought on by your medical condition.”

I continued reading…..

“On February 19, 2009, the Retirement Board concurred with the recommendations of the Medical Advisory Committee and took formal action to terminate your disability retirement benefit. Your monthly pension, including any provided health care coverage, will be terminated no later than May 31, 2009.”

I’m not sure what this means. Will I receive a disability check and health care coverage through May or could it end sooner than this? I don’t trust anything they do. I have learned to always expect the worst with them. It would not surprise me if they are able to terminate everything by the end of February, thereby leaving me without money or health care coverage beginning as early as March 1st.

I strangely felt calm about everything initially. Although the lawyer had told me he could only help me if my disability pension was terminated, he had also told me that SERS could pretty much do whatever they wanted since they had written in so much power to themselves in their by-laws.

Of course, I will go through the motions of appealing, but I’m already feeling like this battle is soon to come to an end and it was strangely freeing. At least for a while. Who in their right mind wants to deal with this kind of stress every year?

I am blessed to have such wonderful friends and people who care about me. My friend Jayne began generating a list of ideas regarding what I could do to survive this current crisis. As I told more of my friends, this list grew. I will post these ideas just in case someone else might find some of these stimulating or useful or in case you might have other ideas.

(Click on Appealing Disability Denial – 2009 to read more)

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009


Follow-up on Meditation Made Easy

February 8, 2009thinking3

Follow-up on Meditation Made Easy

After reading my last blog, one of my friends commented, “(I) … do believe meditation is good, if I could make the time.” And I began thinking about her comment. Whether we are dealing with the challenges of a disability or the challenges of juggling work, family and self-time, it seems that many of us struggle with bringing balance into our lives even when we know it is good for us.

As I set about this week to do my easy 2 Smile Meditations per day, I discovered, much to my surprise, that it wasn’t as easy as it was the first time I did it. My mind was preoccupied with all my fears and worries. The more I tried to keep the muscles of my mouth in an upturned horseshoe, the more my negative thoughts intruded, pulling at the fear in my heart, as well as the corners of my mouth. Here I go again on my merry-go-round of Fear vs. Love and Faith.

My “smile muscles” are sadly out of shape. These happy muscles are just like any other muscles that suffer trauma – sometimes they need a little extra support to get them to start moving and flexing again. so I began figuring out what kind of accommodations I needed to make so that I could be successful at my 2 daily doses of smiles.

I have discovered that I need physical reminders to help me smile. Some of these occur spontaneously in my everyday life. Some of these include: the feeling of my dogs snuggled up on each side of me as I type, listening to McGyver make up his own opera to sing, enjoying the scent of my favorite hand lotion and the way it feels as I rub it on my hands and arms, reading an email that makes me laugh or feel incredibly special to someone, watching Kirby and Chia play. I tell myself that whenever something happens during the day that makes me smile, I’m going to notice it and hang onto it a little bit longer. I’ll imagine shooting the smile and happy feeling into my heart or my sore elbow.

I have also discovered that I don’t have to wait for these things to occur. I have moved my Comfort Bag from my bedroom where I tend to notice it when I’m too tired to enjoy exploring it, to the family room where I spend the majority of my waking hours. This way, I can quickly elicit a smile response by exploring items in my Comfort figitBag.

I pull out a Figit for My Digit, place it on one finger at a time, close my eyes lammieand enjoy the sensation as I move it up and down each finger.

Perched at the top of my bag is Lammie, a little stuffed animal a friend had given me. It has a particularly soft texture as I stroke it that I find soothing. As I hold it close to me, I remind myself of the love and care I felt sea-shellwhen it was given to me.

I open a box and find sea shell which has a bumpy, rough exterior and a beautiful shiny, shade of pink on the inside. I hold it to my ear and can hear the ocean. flying-rocket-balloons

Next, I find an item I bought for a dollar, but have not opened yet. It’s called a Flyin’ Screamin’ Rocket Balloon and now is the time to give it a try. I feel like a kid again and find it very easy to smile as I blow up the balloon, set it loose and watch it fly around the room, screaming as it loops in circles, bumps into various objects in the room and changes its course. Each time I explore an item which produces a smile, I practice keeping the smile on my face longer than I normally might and imagine “happy hormones” circulating throughout my body, mind and spirit.

It occurs to me that this is helping me exercise some control over my thoughts and feelings, as well as noticing, creating and showing gratitude for the happiness I do have in my life. I want to thank my friend for pointing out that sometimes things are not as easy as they seem. Occasionally it takes some effort and problem-solving to make it happen. And it’s okay to change things if you need to. If it’s too hard to sit and smile, then stand and smile or play and smile. The important thing is to feel and appreciate happiness, however and whenever it comes to you.

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009

Photos are the property of Angela Cramer, 2008-2009


Meditation Made Easy/Smile Therapy

February 2, 2009sun1

Meditation Made Easy/Smile Therapy

The past week has been difficult as I tackle gathering the massive amounts of medical bills for my bankruptcy lawyer. So my stress level is running on HIGH. Meditation has been one of my tools used for de-stressing. I was reminded of this last night, as I listened to an audiobook called Eat, Pray, Love. What intrigued me most was how to do a very simple form of meditation which involved doing 2 things:

1. Sit still, and

2. Smile.

It is hard to feel any negative emotion – bad, worried, overwhelmed, etc. – while you sit there smiling. You can increase this positive sensation by practicing smiling into other parts of you – your liver, your head, your stomach, your toes, your spirit.

It is a very enthralling experience that almost tickles. As I lay in bed last night, practicing this strangely simple form of meditation, I felt the sun shining into my head and all throughout my body. Although my eyes were closed and my room was shrouded by the night, this light shone brightly inside my body as long as I was smiling.

The other thing I observed was that it was difficult for me to maintain my smile. I found this interesting. Hadn’t I heard somewhere that it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile? I did, in fact, check this out on to find out if there was any truth to this. According to them, the jury is still out on this one.

Whatever the truth, I apparently have not exercised my “smile muscles” enough lately. I’m going to make a point of stopping a couple times each day to do this Smile Meditation. I’ve had too much sadness over the past 4 ½ years. I deserve happiness and I’ll start by giving myself a dose of smiles “b.i.d.” (twice a day).


Gilbert, Melissa. Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia. (2006)

Happiness Is Only Grin Deep. 2 Feb 2009. 1995-2009. <>

© Angela Cramer, 2008-2009

Clipart is the property of Jupiterimages made available through subscription:
© Jupiterimages Corporation, 2008-2009

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