Monday, August 31, 2009

Happily Unemployed!

Gulag sentence commuted. And we're off!...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Moving out of McKinney Falls!

We're moving to Oak Forest RV Park in East Austin for 3 days, then to Dallas for Sept 2nd. After that we'll go to Angelina National Forest for a few days, then to Beaumont to visit Chris's family. A plan is taking shape here. :)

Friday, August 28, 2009

Getting ready...

Sucks. Too many little details. Got to get those loose ends tied up! We have an appointment in Arlington on the 2nd to get the dish!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Getting a dish!

What a relief; our final huge barrier to leaving has been resolved! We've been trying to sell the truck to come up with the money for a satellite dish. This dish will let Chris connect to the internet and do his work from wherever we are (which will sometimes be real backwoods!) We've had the truck for sale for 3 weeks now with not a bite and we were starting to get worried! So here's the good news: I called the dish seller and he will do an even trade of the truck for the dish and installation! Isn't that wonderful?! I am ecstatic! :D

Monday, August 24, 2009

Now THAT is a big TV!

We replaced the puny 12" TV that came in the RV with the flat screen high def from the old house. Looks great, huh?!

Cabin fever

This is our last week of being tied to Austin. Monday the 31st will be my last day of work. As the deadline draws near, Chris and I find ourselves edgy and tense.
Like baby birds about to taste flight we crowd to the edge of the nest to look down. What will it be like? Will we soar or fall?

Friday, August 21, 2009

I didn't mean to be a celebrity!

When I turned in my resignation letter I must admit that I did make extra copies to give to a few friends. But I never expected it to catch like wildfire! Now all of a sudden everyone wants to shake my hand! It's still so sad how many people come to me and *whisper* "shhh...good job!" Like they are afraid to be overheard agreeing with me.
The director called me into her office to ask me about my letter. We mostly debated the politics of management. Maybe some things will change for the better because of that meeting but I won't hold my breath.
I hope that DDS employees have been reminded that every person still has certain "unalienable rights that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" regardless of socioeconomic or career ladder status.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Melissa Resigns


I, Melissa Peterman, release this document to the public domain.

Social Security Disability decisions are based on shaky, subjective foundations at best. In Texas, the government agency that makes these medical decisions is riddled with daily atrocities.

After eleven years of Texas Health and Human Services employment I am ecstatic to announce my resignation from the commission’s most morally bankrupt branch, DARS-DDS (Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services, Disability Determination Services.) I have 5 years of service under other HHSC agencies which had clear-cut objective rules and compassion for the applicants. DDS abuses employees and
applicants. In my time at DDS I have seen coworkers reprimanded and fired for trivialities. Employees who are ill are given no quarter of mercy. Applicants are denied with only cursory review. Some employees are permitted to be rude to the claimants.

This is a hostile work environment with routine activities which are ethically questionable.

The following events have occurred during my employment:

- Employees are "encouraged" to make suggestions to a suggestion box. Employees who wrote that they were being treated unfairly were called into the director’s office and verbally reprimanded. Later employees tried to submit suggestions anonymously but a new policy was issued that to use the suggestion box you must put your name on the suggestion; unsigned ones would be immediately discarded.

- Recently DDS "cracked down" on internet use. Many employees have been put on Administrative Levels, demoted, or fired for excessive internet use. DDS has issued incredibly vague policies about allowable internet use and continue to insist that employees can be punished for anything that may be connected to a website even if one
does not access the website and the hyperlink is simply present in an email message. For example, one employee visited a website that had a feature to allow Chat and was reprimanded for chatting despite never actually using that feature. At this point most employees are so scared of using the internet that they will not use it at all. Due to the vagueness of this policy Disability Examiners who should be encouraged to use every resource to research unfamiliar medical terminology, medications, and effects of illnesses are unable to properly assess and summarize the evidence. Instead of writing internet policies to guide Examiners in proper internet use, the policies become vaguer with each “clarification” memo and seem tailored to entrap the user.

- The facilities are in disrepair. The bathroom hardware is constantly broken and there is inadequate ventilation. The roof leaks in multiple places, employees actually set trash cans out to catch the water during rainstorms. The sink in one break room has been constantly leaking for two years now. Funds were reportedly given for building improvements in 2009 however the only evident ‘improvement’ was new furniture.

- One of our major tools is the DOT Occupational Guide; many of these job descriptions have not been updated since 1977 and the jobs no longer exist in the US yet claimants are denied based on this inaccurate information! Is there really currently a job in the US for a dowel inspector, button sorter, or silverware wrapper?!

This is a trickle-down fascist fear based institution in which the upper management intimidates the middle management who, in turn, scare their workers, who then terrorize the applicants. Although DDS is not directly torturing applicants, they are denied needed income and health treatment. The applicants cannot afford medications, medical conditions remain untreated, and they suffer and die due to the agency’s negligence.

I feel that the institution’s failings are the result of the administration’s failings. Pressure is exerted from the top down to move cases (internally called "flushing cases"). The emphasis is on politics and budgets and not on the outcome to the applicants who are
ultimately affected by these decisions. Humanity has not been a focus for Disability Determination Services.

As you have read this, my hope is that you empathize with the disability applicants and the employees. If you do not, then you are the problem. Apathy has infected DDS and is so rampant that it is overlooked.

Phillip Zimbardo's theory "The Lucifer Effect" describes exactly what is happening at DDS. Please feel free to watch the video online at this reputable educational symposium:

If you are too afraid or too lazy to stand up for basic human rights and every person's right to decent treatment, you need to reexamine your humanity.

This is my resignation letter. I will discontinue my employment effective 9-1-09.

Melissa Peterman

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Brazos Bend State Park, TX

We've made our biggest move to date, over 150 miles to Needville, TX, south of Houston. We had a couple little adventures on the way here, like forgetting the map where we had worked out the best route. We used my blackberry maps and that route took us through rural Houston at rush hour...oops! One day we'll get a trucker GPS which will help us stay on roads designed for big vehicles like our rig. We bought $150 worth of diesel, oh boy. (Our property manager, Luka, makes biodiesel and we drove out to his house and watched him making a batch. Chris is already working on how to make it on the road!) While we were trying to figure out how to get back on the highway (rush hour of course) a picture fell off the wall and the glass smashed everywhere! I know, it was stupid to hang glass in the RV. So while Chris was driving and trying to manuever on these tight roads, Melissa was in the back cleaning up the glass so the cats wouldn't step in it!
The torential rains started coming down right as we arrived at the park. This place is so green and lush it looks like a tropical rain forest!
Our last surprise of the night was just after sunset. We heard a ruckus coming from under the bus. This park is well known for its alligator population...could we actually have a gator under the RV? And WHO is going to stick their nose out and check??? We taped the webcam to the end of the broom and stuck it out the door...too dark to see anything...what could it be?! Finally the curiosity was killing me so I bravely hefted my flashlight and lept off the stairs, ready to dash back inside if it runs at me... Haha! It was just a couple of racoons digging in the trash after they had craftily opened the rubbermaid I had sealed that trash up in!
I'm posting the pics I have now, maybe Chris can post the webcam recording from last night. We never did get a really good picture of the coons but you can hear me saying, "Well, what will scare coons away?" And Chris says, "Nothin'." :)
This morning we awoke to find a new neighbor, a big banana spider right outside the front door! Now we're going to go look for some alligators and then Chris has some work to do.
I'm sure I'll get lots more pictures of the amazing wildlife here!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Want versus need and how to learn the difference.

Move into a 220 square foot space! We are learning to really consider every purchase. Even buying something as simple as a pair of shoes that are on sale is stupid if you don't NEED them!
Last week the weather cooled off and that was so wonderful. Chris and I finally got to do some hiking and Nay (the cat) is getting better at walking on a leash. :)
We have moved to Sunset RV Park which is right around the corner from the old house. Brenda is having a big shin-dig this weekend so we wanted to move to this side of town again. This was my first time to ride in the RV for a move since we finally have the tow bar for the Jeep (which was $850! Thank God Chris installed it.) The RV rocks and sways like a boat a little and I started to feel a little sea-sick. Annoying but I'll get used to it.
We'll move to Emma Long park next week. I'm going to take a break from working the OT.
Now we're waiting on the OT checks and the rent checks to start rolling in. And for the truck to sell. But last month's stress seems to be starting to pay off because at least we are finally getting to move around and we're feeling settled into the new home. :)