Friday, December 28, 2001

Kashi to the rescue... And an unidentified neighbor…

Some man broke into my apartment last night. It was awful.

I woke up around midnight because Kashi was barking. I told him to be quiet since usually he’s barking at someone hanging out my window who had stopped to talk to him as they walked by (an irritating, but common, occurrence that my neighbors seem to enjoy). When he got more and more agitated, I finally sat up and fumbled around for my glasses. Without them, I can only see about 10 inches away from my face, and I stopped sleeping with my contacts a few years ago. Anyway, I couldn’t find them.

At this point, I could now hear someone at the front door. I was terrified and didn’t want to leave my bedroom without being able to see. So I closed the door and huddled on the floor behind it. But before I could even think to call 911, I heard some man pounding on my bedroom door demanding that I open it.

I promptly threw up from fear.

It was many long, confusing minutes later before I let the policeman and his partner into the bedroom. At first I didn’t believe they were not robbers, and then I simply couldn’t stand up because I was trembling so violently. Finally, I managed to open the door.

Some neighbor had seen a man at my door and heard Kashi, so she called the police. When they arrived, quite speedily I might add, the door was left ajar, so the police went ahead and entered my apartment. After searching it for thugs, they came to the bedroom door to let me know that everything was all right. Amazingly enough, nothing appears to have been taken.

I spent the rest of the night alternately crying and trying to go to sleep. I guess I’m just a wimp.

Thursday, December 27, 2001

Copied from “ALAMOGORDO, N.M., Dec. 26 — A New Mexico church plans to torch the Harry Potter children’s books Sunday...”

I cannot believe that book burning is back, with a vengeance. And the pastor admitted that he hasn't even read the books!

The mothers in my mother/daughter book club have each asked my opinion of the Harry Potter books. My dissertation was a study examining adolescent girls response to strong female protagonists in modern high fantasy, so I have a bit of a knowledge base where fantasy is concerned. Personally, I believe that there are many other fantasy books that are better written than the Harry Potter books, but there is nothing inherently wrong with them.

In fact, I find it rather ironic that the one reason the evil wizard couldn’t destroy Harry when he first tried was because Harry’s mother had given her life to save him. Thus, Harry was marked by a sacrifice of love. This is a dangerous message? That love is more powerful than evil?

There are good wizards and bad wizards. They have a community and laws that forbid them from abusing non-wizards (muggles). The spells and incantations are harmless. The author doesn’t even attempt to teach wizardry.

Does witchcraft abound today? Yes. Can it be dangerous? I believe so. Because much of present day witchcraft is immersed in satanic worship--black magic, if you will.

But even in Harry Potter’s world black magic is wrong and those who are against it have often given their lives in the battle to stop it. Again, another dangerous message? Evil is wrong?

In any case, the Harry Potter books have captured the imaginations of millions of readers, most of them children. Children are reading. They are engaged with the books and are finding ways to express their response to the stories. They are encouraging their friends to read. These are good things.

Rev. Jack Brock declares the books “an abomination to God.” I pity the man who has so lost sight of the call of Christ that he finds evil in children’s books filled with messages of love, responsibility, education, studying, friendship, loyalty, and the battle against evil. I pity the man who chooses to turn away from the true evils of this world to wage a senseless battle against a nonexistent enemy. If he is so concerned about children, why doesn’t he fight the evil of child abuse, child pornography, child poverty, child homelessness, and children without medical care?

Ah….but I already know the answer to that one…it is far easier to stand around and pontificate on fighting evil than to actually engage it in battle.

Monday, December 24, 2001

Did you know that if you peel open the wrapper on a BreathRight strip in the dark you will see a flash of fluorescent purple light?

When I was teaching at a college in Minnesota, I asked a science professor what would make that happen. He didn't know. Furthermore, he wasn't really interested in finding out why.

Imagine that!

Thursday, December 20, 2001

Monday I was in the locker room at the gym. I was staring at the bag I had just set down on the bench and mentally groaning about the workout that was to come. As I slowly changed my clothes, the woman next to me commented that she wasn’t sure she wanted to be there that day. I quickly agreed and we commiserated in our reluctance to punish our muscles for the next couple of hours.

She asked how long I had been coming and whether I had seen any improvement. I blurted out my frustration that in over two and a half months of working out six days a week, I had only managed to GAIN three pounds. And for some reason I added that everything was all the more difficult with having MS and that I wondered at times if such an uphill battle was worth it.

To my surprise, this older woman told me that her mother had fought MS for forty years before she died. Lynn went on to talk a bit about her mother’s struggle. I told her a bit about mine. At one point she thanked me because even now, she wonders if she push her mother too much…she wonders where the MS left off and her mother began. Some of what I shared had shed light on her own lingering questions.

For me, the bright part of our conversation was near the end, where Lynn suddenly gripped my shoulders and proclaimed, “Good for you, Patricia! Good for you for being here and doing this and not letting MS overwhelm your life.”

Good for me.

Those words were such a balm that tears slipped down my cheek. I don’t really hear that much…people acknowledging how difficult life with asthma and MS is and celebrating, really, the effort I make to battle both of those diseases and get on with my life. There are days I think that hardly anyone notices what work simply living is at times for me. So, it was a wonderful gift to hear such encouragement.

Good for me.

An unexpected fillip to my day…

Monday, December 17, 2001

This is how my day went: I opened up a Reese’s miniature cup only to find the top covered in green mold.

Help me!

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

I caused an accident on Monday night.

I’ve been trying to decide if I should write about it. What I did was so very uncharacteristic for me and yet was done without a second thought.

Over two months ago, I joined the world of working-out-at-the-gym. Surrounded by muscle-bound, protein-drinking fitness gurus, I have been lifting my dinky weights and battling the treadmill. I used my raise at work to fund this endeavor complete with a trainer.

If you remember, some Wednesdays back, I fell ten times in one day. While that particular day bothered me, my increasing weakness frightens me. So, I thought I would try once again to work on combating the muscular weakness I struggle with due to MS. [I’ve tried to do so in the past, but even physical therapists seem to fail to understand the delicate balance between exercising my muscles and over taxing them.]

This time, I actually got together with someone who both has asthma herself and has been trained to be a trainer, focusing her studies on human anatomy and physiology. So, I have been doing the “gym thing” for over two months. I wish I could say I’ve lost weight, but I haven’t. I have been able to add more weight to what I am doing, though. I keep telling myself strength alone is worth all the incredibly difficult work.

I’ve essentially extended my workday by 2 hours, so I am more tired than I can say. I’ve forgotten more. My latest “forgettings” involve the refrigerator. I’ve left the door open four times, ruining most of the food inside. I’ve also left the milk out seven times. Spoiled milk is quite odiferous. Doing anything after work, after the gym, is difficult at best.

What does this have to do with a car wreck?

Well, I left the gym in a rush to try to get to Walmart for my Breathright strips (no…I was not speeding). I usually save such trips for the weekend, but I needed to go. I had not put on long pants and a sweatshirt because I thought I didn’t need them. [It’s been so unseasonably warm this whole fall.] But there I was freezing in my car even though sweat still trickled down my face. So, without thinking, I pulled off my wet t-shirt and reached for the sweat jacket next to me on the seat.

I pulled off my shirt.

I was wearing a sports bra, it was quite dark, and what can you see of a person seated in a car? All that flitted through my mind. Me, the one who’s shy enough to prefer changing clothes in the bathroom stall rather than the open benches. Me, who’s been twitted for my modesty for as long as I can remember.

I suppose it was because I’d been spending so much time around women who wear nothing but a sports bra on their torsos during their workouts. While I would never do the same, changing in the car just didn’t seem to be an issue.

I pulled off my shirt.

A guy noticed what I was doing and ended up running through the red light and hitting a car that was turning right onto the street we were on.

In one of those seemingly eternally long moments, I caught his eyes as he looked over at me while I was pulling off my shirt. I knew immediately what was the cause of his accident. I wanted to drive off. I wanted to hide. But I pulled over and waited for the police.

I was neither charged with anything, nor was I found to be at fault for the accident. The damage was fairly minor since the car turning right was moving slowly and the guy who was distracted had been slowing down for a stop.

Still, what am I to think?

Yeah, right, neither do I…

Monday, December 10, 2001

Saturday after the book club meeting, I hung out with the kids in the house where we were meeting. We played Skipbo until it was time for dinner. [Yes, I won the first game, but I LOST the second one…to a seven-year-old!] Of course I was asked to stay for the rather delicious meal.

After the meal, Paula, and I were talking in kitchen while her husband put the kids to bed. [I worry that he had no choice in doing so since I was monopolizing his wife.] In any case, at one point I glanced over at the open pantry. When Paula saw me looking at it, she apologized for its state. She said she kept meaning to cleaning it up, but hadn’t had time to get around to it. [Since she has five children and is home schooling, not being able to find the time is her reality rather than an excuse.]

I immediately volunteered to organize it for her since I have done so for others in the past. I’ve actually received remuneration for cleaning and organizing offices and homes, particularly children’s bedrooms. I haven’t done so since I moved here, but I enjoy the task.

So, without much thought to the hour or whether or not Paula really wanted help, I proceeded to pull things out of the pantry and pluck them down on the kitchen table. Once I had some space available in the pantry, I began to organize the contents into an arrangement that would serve her family best. Doing so, with anyone’s pantry, provides the opportunity to discover just how much of any one item you actually have. How many times have you gone to the grocery store for an item that you later found at the back of a shelf or behind a larger item? Needless to say, we found several items that will remain off her grocery list for some time to come.

When I finished, I stood and admired my work for a few moments, despite the glance at the clock that told me the mid-night hour had arrived. While I gazed at my achievement, mentally searching to see if I had missed anything or could improve on my work any more than I had, Paula praised my efforts and expressed her appreciation for the work. I wonder if my looking somehow signaled to her that I was waiting for the praise.

I really wasn’t. I’ve written before about my penchant for cleaning and organizing. I’m a bit weird in that regard. Yes, I was glad to do the service for her, and I am equally glad that she will find pleasure in the work not just once, but as long as she uses the pantry. But it really is not about the praise, but about the task I did: the bringing of order to chaos. To move and change and arrange until the space speaks to me that it is done. While I am working at the task, I truly think only of what I am doing. I don’t worry about how I feel or what’s going on at work or having a dog and a bird as my closest friends in the area. I don’t think about me. I just focus on the task. While Paula might reap the benefits of my labor for some time to come, it was I who benefited the most from the work. I had the opportunity to conquer chaos once more.

I suspect that since so much of my life, my health, is no longer in my control, I leap at whatever opportunity to bring order to chaos there might be, rarely stopping to think about the other person or how my efforts might be perceived. [I shall not list the occasions that my organizing has ended up offending someone. I think I’m doing a good service; the other person thinks I’m judging them.]

Did Paula need to have her pantry cleaned out? Absolutely. Did it need to happen so late at night, knowing she had to get up early the next morning to get everyone ready for church? Probably not. Did I once again leap at the opportunity to conquer chaos without thought to anything else? Yes.

I suspect that Paula would disagree with my self-recrimination over staying so late and not really giving her the chance to tactfully decline my offer. I spoke with her today and she mentioned again how much she appreciated what I did with her pantry and how the kids were impressed when they came to breakfast.

Still, I wonder if it would have been better to curb my enthusiasm and merely offer to come another day and help her with the pantry.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Well, Cox Cable has finally moved into the 21st century. As of today, December 5, 2001, I no longer have to use a cable box and remote on my cable-ready television. I got to turn in the box and remote.

I came home early to turn in the box and the remote and have my television hooked directly into the cable. This means that after three and a half LONG years, I can watch a show on one channel and record a second show on another (theoretically that is…I’ve yet to try doing so). For example, no more choosing between Gilmore Girls and JAG. Additionally, as a result of the change, I now have only one remote instead of THREE.

Is it too much to ask that the reception be clear? I supposed I should just focus on the positive. At least I now have only one audio on each channel. Previously, the Disney channel had three different ones. Plus, for many of the channels, when you changed to them, the audio would pop and crackle, scaring Kashi so much he would run to my room and hide under the bed (he didn’t even mind all the stuff I have stored under there).

So, let’s recap.

Pros: No more crackling audio. No more remote. No more cable box. Ability to tape a show and watch another.

Cons: They managed to raise the rate yet again. Fuzzy reception on many channels still.

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

When is an inch NOT an inch? At the beauty parlor!

I went to get my hair trimmed. I asked for the woman to cut only an inch. I flicked a lock of hair over my shoulder, held it up, marked an inch with my thumb, and asked her only to cut “this much…one inch.”

She nodded her head, said, “Yes, yes, I get it. You just want one inch cut. Just a trim.”

I replied that she was right and sat back in my chair.

Twenty minutes later, I was minus FOUR inches of hair.

I used to have hair down to my waist. While I was a college professor, I cut it to just above my shoulders because everyone around me insisted that I would look older if I would just cut my hair. [I look about a decade younger than my true age. While I’ll most certainly be glad for my youthful appearance in about three more decades, currently it oft times makes it difficult for people to take me seriously or see me as much more than a girl.] So…I cut it. I did not look older. I missed my long hair.

Three years ago, when I left teaching and moved here, I went for a trim and ended up with hair over my ears. First it was crooked on one side. Then on the other. Then she actually burned a few inches trying to curl it. I was too shell-shocked to leap up from her chair in time to save much of my hair. After recovering from the shock, I gritted my teeth, did not linger long in front of any mirror, and waited for it to grow out.

My hair had finally reached past the middle of my back. My long hair was back. Yahoo! Then I blow it by trying to get a trim. ARGH!

I would pay big bucks if for just once I could walk into a beauty parlor and have someone do as I ask.

Monday, December 03, 2001

Saturday was our office Christmas party. Naturally, much of this morning has already been spent comparing notes. Who came with whom. What food was best. Who drank too much. The dancing….

And now sex. Who had it just before the party…. Who had it after…. During….

Again, I’ll say that the office is just not the place to discuss such matters. This time, I heard it all sitting at my desk because the voices were particularly loud in their sex-laced jocularity.

Besides…isn’t a Christmas party supposed to be about something other than sex?

Friday, November 30, 2001

I was talking with my friend [she’s the one who created this site for me and so kindly added the link in yesterday’s post] last night, and she, rather bluntly, referred to the Scrabble game I had rigged. Rigged!

I was appalled. I didn’t rig it. After all, I started playing with three, rather intelligent men in the first place. Was making sure the other word guru in the family was still watching television at the time rigging the game? I would adamantly say absolutely not! Emphatically not!

But I believe my friend would differ with me on that point, and I am beginning to think that just about everybody else would, except Fancy and Kashi and that’s only because I feed them. So…I supposed I didn’t really have my first Scrabble win?

That’s depressing because I had to promise backrubs and desserts just to get the guys to play Scrabble in the first place. Unfortunately, I’m the only game playing fool in the family. Try as I might, the best Fancy manages to do with Scrabble is walk across the board and peck at the tiles. Kashi does move them around with his nose, but while he has an extensive English language vocabulary (dog, food, walk, toy, baby, bone, scratch, your, stomach, outside, inside, stay, kisses, you, know, what, bath, where, is), spelling those words is a bit beyond his canine abilities.

Do you want to play Scrabble?

Thursday, November 29, 2001

One other event of my Thanksgiving visit with my brother and family was that I won my first Scrabble game.

I like to play games. I really enjoy winning…. And since I like words, Scrabble is a favorite game of mine. One I’ve somehow never managed to win.

Apart from the time spent actually playing, I have a fairly diverse vocabulary. One word I fancy using would be zaftig. A great word for scoring and duping others into a challenge. But somehow…when I play…my vocabulary is reduced to words like cat, dog, house, ax, ox, yes… I become a mono-syllabic dunce.

However, this time…I was sure I could win, I was prepared to rattle my brain for all those poly-syllabic words I’ve been storing up. After all, I practically ace the Reader’s Digest Word Power each month.

Well, I did win. And it was a resounding victory considering all the losses I have endured over the years, especially those amid the heckling of those pointing out that I have two graduate degrees in literacy studies. But I won shrouded in my own pettiness.

You see, my twelve-year-old half-brother decided to join the game after we started, a game not designed for more than four players, I might add. But he’s never played before. So my stepmother partnered with him. My stepmother who finishes cross-word puzzled without batting an eyelash. My stepmother who is quite brilliant. My stepmother whom I had engineered leaving out of the game by playing my brother, father, and my stepmother’s nephew--all of whom, incidentally, while rather intelligent, do not happen to collect words, study language, or otherwise actively work to improve their vocabulary and…most important of all…rarely, if ever, play Scrabble.

I did manage to eek out a win, but only after unsuccessfully challenging my half-brother on the word axils. I thought he had misspelled the word axel, but my stepmother had given him the botanical word to use. I sulked after loosing the challenge on the grounds that my half-brother had no idea that that was even a word and he was the one supposed to be playing. Admittedly, my sulking was childish and put a damper on the game.

In any case, I did manage to recover from the missed turn (no points) to win the overall game. But the victory, while savored immediately, was hollow.

I am a poor loser, but I am a worse winner. This time, I was poor on all fronts.

In keeping with the earlier post mentioning the definition…perhaps I was just being nice about how the game should be played?

Tuesday, November 27, 2001

Have you missed the posts????

I haven’t been feeling well for nine days now. It is as if I am getting the flu, but nothing more happens. I have a bit of a sore throat, a touch of a cough, aches, a light fever, and am terribly fatigued. I wish I would either get worse, have the flu, and be done with it…or get better.

My brother was in town last week. We actually had a good visit. I took off of work Tuesday and Wednesday and we just bummed around (good for how I was feeling) and he did a bit of work.

One highlight was his taking me to the restaurant Baja Fresh. GOOD FOOD!!!

Much of my time has been spent huddled in the green chair. Fancy is okay with that because she just perches on a foot or a shoulder or my head. Kashi has struggled a bit with the lack of walks and play. Occasionally, he will bark at a toy on the ground and continue barking until I come pick it up and toss it for him to retrieve.

So last night, when he started barking and I was feeling particularly poorly, I tried to ignore him. A foolish course of action on my part. After a few dozen barks, I finally got up to see what he wanted. I was surprised not to find a toy in front of him but a rather large bug that looked like a stinkbug on steroids.

We’ve already discussed how much I hate bugs, so I’m sure you’re wondering if I were going to just use my shoe method of dealing with it. Normally I would have, but what if it truly was a stinkbug? I sank to the floor and tried to get my brain to work. Kashi came and joined me, pressing up against me and continuing to let the bug know how ferocious he can be. Finally, I stuck upon a novel idea. I would just use my Black & Decker Dust Buster to suck up the bug and then empty it…yes, you guessed it…in the toilet.

The whole process worked like a charm. No more bug and no fetid fumes in the removal process.

I was energized enough to play fetch with Kashi for a bit and then retired back to the green chair. It was a bit discouraging watching the Rams fall to the Bucs’ defensive foil. Perhaps I’ll be encouraged by a Laker win tonight!

P.S. My Dad found 128 RAM at MicroCenter for just $20, so he surprised me with two of them on Saturday. I now have 384 RAM in my computer. Yahooo!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, November 19, 2001

Charlotte Coleman, co-star of “Four Weddings and a Funeral” died last Wednesday from a massive asthma attack. She was only 33.

In recent months, I’ve almost joked about the times I’ve wound up in the ER after another asthma attack, but her death is another stark reminder that while asthma is a very controllable disease, it is still deadly and there is still no known cure.

I hate the medicine. And I don’t use that word lightly. My weight has shot up from all the prednisone. The emergency inhaler usually makes me vomit. The nebulizer leaves me tremulous and shaking for more than an hour. Two of the three regular inhalers I use make my heart race and my hands tremble. So, personally, I struggle with willingly subjecting myself to the side effects when days that I truly feel good are rare due to MS.

For example, prior to Saturday, I had spent three of the past nine nights huddled in the green chair because I ached so much, mostly likely from the weather changes. In any case, Saturday I set my alarm because Fancy is over due for her annual visit to the vet, but when I woke up, I was so dizzy from fatigue that I stumbled outside to let Kashi take care of his business, called the vet to cancel the appointment, and went back to bed. I didn’t wake up again until nearly 7 pm. I didn’t feel better until Sunday mid-day [of course by then I was watching football]. And fatigue is only one of the myriad problems I have because of the MS.

So with days like that, why would I want to take daily medication that bothers me so much?

Sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I either forget or deliberately skip the medicine. I foolishly think that I can just watch my breathing. But it doesn’t work that way. Most of the medicine is maintenance type. Skipping it reduces it overall effectiveness. And I have used the emergency inhaler so often that my body responds to it more like the regular medicine, thus reducing its effectiveness. That is one of the reasons I now have the home nebulizer; I can have such bad attacks and the albuterol doesn’t stem them enough to keep me out of the ER. But not being careful with the medicine certainly doesn’t help when I come in contact with one of my triggers, and the biggest two, being smoke and exhaust, are nearly impossible to avoid all the time.

Knowing all this, why am I not vigilant about taking the medicine? Why do I complain about the side effects?

Half the time I think I’m just a complaining wimp [I’m sure you agree if you’ve read many posts here]. Most of the time I don’t understand myself. Yet what I do know is that I don’t want to end up like Charlotte Coleman.

Yes, I took ALL my medicine this morning…

Thursday, November 15, 2001

I like puzzles.

When we were little, my brother, sister, and I would spend much of the weekends when we went to our father's place doing puzzles. Always start with the corners, put together the edges, then fill in the middle. Good memories.

I really like tangram puzzles, although I am not very good at them. I found a website today on tangrams with a nifty applet that runs a tangram puzzle. Right click on the pieces and they rotate. There are many puzzle images in the program for you to figure out.

Perhaps working through the ones there will help my MS addled, cheese-hole brain, eh?

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

I love words. I enjoy learning new ones and using them in my speech and writing. I enjoy looking up words, but always find myself distracted along the way to the one I want by others that jump off the page at me. A favorite word that would be a killer scrabble score: zaftig.

I keep a word book, a blank journal filled with words I have collected from my readings. I define the words and add them to an alphabetized index I have tucked into the back of the journal. I am currently approaching the 700 word mark.

So when I heard a discussion of the word nice on the radio, I had to look it up for myself. I am not foreign to the notion that we use words in ways other than their meaning or that the popular meaning of words can change. However, this one surprised me.

From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary On-Line:

Main Entry: nice
Pronunciation: 'nIs
Function: adjective
Inflected Form(s): nic·er; nic·est
Etymology: Middle English, foolish, wanton, from Old French, from Latin nescius ignorant, from nescire not to know -- more at NESCIENCE
Date: 14th century
2 a : showing fastidious or finicky tastes : PARTICULAR (too nice a palate to enjoy junk food) b : exacting in requirements or standards : PUNCTILIOUS (a nice code of honor)
3 : possessing, marked by, or demanding great or excessive precision and delicacy (nice measurements)
4 obsolete : TRIVIAL
5 a : PLEASING, AGREEABLE (a nice time) (a nice person) b : well-executed (nice shot)c : APPROPRIATE, FITTING (not a nice word for a formal occasion)
6 a : socially acceptable : WELL-BRED (from a nice family) b : VIRTUOUS, RESPECTABLE (was taught that nice girls don't do that)
7 : POLITE, KIND (that's nice of you to say)
synonym see CORRECT
- nice adverb
- nice·ly adverb
- nice·ness noun

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

Lincoln’s Gettysburg address is one of my all time favorite speeches. I’ve memorized it and enjoy reciting it. [It’s great filler to yammer into someone’s answering machine to get them to pick of the phone when they are screen calls…you know who you are….] I totally understand the awe Jimmy Stewart’s character feels in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington as he stands before Lincoln’s statue and reads the speech.

When my college students begged me for extra credit, I sometimes gave them the opportunity to memorize this speech or a few others. They had to recite it for the class. Few chose to do so and those who did gave these wooden, speedy recitations. I couldn’t understand why the words failed to move them.

A simple speech, written on a scrap of paper, given humbly, but with noble intent. Would it were that I could say as much in such a short passage.

"Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

"Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

"But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."

Monday, November 12, 2001

Saturday was a good day.

I had my mother/daughter book club meeting that I run once a month. A few mothers and their 12 & 13 –year-old daughters read books that I assign to them and then meet with me to discuss them. This time we read Jane Yolen’s book The Devil’s Arithmetic, a young adult novel about the holocaust. Of course, the fact that we had breakfast burritos (eggs, sausage, cheese, sour cream & salsa wrapped in flour tortillas) at our meeting certainly added to the “good” of my day.

I truly enjoy our discussions as well as reading what the participants write in their response journals (they keep a running log of their thoughts and responses to what they are reading). We used this book for the opportunity to discuss perspective and how it colors and informs every aspect of our lives, including what we read. The same goes for the perspective the storyteller takes. For example, imagine Gone With the Wind from Rhett Butler’s point of view. We spent some time brainstorming that which forms our individual perspectives. The answers given were illuminating. One of the girls piped up “home schooling” as the first answer for herself. She answered before anyone else, including the mothers. She answered because she was the first to understand the question and it was her response that then led the others to reflecting on what makes up the facets of their own perspective.

I also took the opportunity to teach them about found poetry. The concept is simple: to find prose that lends itself to being turned into poetry or at least provides fodder for a poem. Below are the three examples that I wrote to share with the moms and daughters taken from The Devil’s Arithmetic.

Pg. 52 Sunlight filtered through the canopy of large trees, spotlighting the forest. It was even more magical than the forest in Oz, Hannah thought.

the canopy
of large trees,
the forest
more magical
than Oz

Pg. 78 Rabbi Boruch cleared his voice before speaking, “All children are from the future. I am from the past. And the past tells us what we must do in the future. That is why adults do the teaching and children the learning. So you must listen to me when I tell you that what we must do now is pray. Pray, for we are all in God’s hands.”

All children are
from the future.
All adults are
from the past.
The past that tells us
what we must do
in the future.
Two halves of a coin,
Children and adults,
the future and the past.
Listen to me children.
Listen to me
so that someday
your future will be
another’s past.

Pgs. 79-83

Boxcar Conversation

“I heard…”
“That’s just a story.”
“Who’s your witness if no one survived?”
“Well, I heard…”
“Another story.”
“Rumors and gossip.”
“And I heard…”
“A story of no sense.”
“Why would they do that?”
“I heard, too, that…”
“It will not happen to us.”
“It will not.”
Shifting, shuffling,
then hearing,
“This child is dead.”
Will others hear of us?

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Last night I tried to shave my legs with the wide-tooth comb I keep in the shower.

You might laugh at that. And I might have joined in with you except for the fact that I couldn’t figure out why I was unable to shave with the comb. I knew once I tried that the comb was the wrong thing to use, but looking around the shower, I could not figure out what I was supposed to use.

I went on and rinsed the conditioner out of my hair, automatically using the comb to combat the tangles I get in my hair. So I then knew that was why I had the comb in the shower.

Still, I had no clue as to what to use for shaving my legs. After many long minutes of frustration and humiliation at my stupidity and utter loathing of MS, I gave up and got out of the shower.

About four hours later…I finally remembered that the item I had needed was a razor.

That I finally remembered is no consolation for forgetting.

Tuesday, November 06, 2001

A friend wrote on her web log the other day about receiving this touching, but basically politically based e-mail. It was a tale (perhaps specious) of an ex-vet who happened to be a prisoner in Vietnam. He was recently eating in a restaurant when he overheard people ranting about the current war on terrorism merely being another opportunity for American propaganda. The vet gave an impassioned speech from his ire on what he heard; other restaurant patrons rallied around him; the nay-sayers were trounced and booted out, and Americans came together once more.

What bothered my friend is that she received this patently patriotic and political e-mail at work. She thinks that whether or not she shared the feelings and viewpoint of the e-mail, that such a message should not be a part of her work correspondence/environment.

[Sounds a bit similar to my belief that the sex talk ought not to be a part of my work environment, eh?]

In consideration of her response to that event, I would offer one of my own I believe is similar to one degree or another:

Last year I went to a women’s retreat through my church. During the course of the weekend, one woman vehemently spoke out against Gore, calling him nothing short of vile and evil. She talked about him at length, including during one bible study session. I was uncomfortable listening to her and wished for a way to leave without making a scene.

You see, I had come to worship Christ and to spend time in reflection in God’s word and how it applies to my life. I did not come to hear a political diatribe that was not edifying in any way I could see. And I do not believe that when people come together in worship and/or study of the scripture that personal political viewpoints ought to be the center of discussion, especially by the teacher/leader. We certainly have not yet learned or internalized the teachings of the bible enough yet to be abandoning the study of scriptures for other topics. I have not at least.

Additionally, it does not matter whether or not I agreed with her negative view of Gore. What mattered is that the topic had no place at a bible study retreat where women had traveled to come together at a refuge to study, reflect, and worship. At least, I believe so.

In both situations, each of us encountered that which was someone else’s opinion in an environment that was not purposed for or given over to the discussion of political opinions.

I must add, though, in my friend’s case, the sender was using company property to send non-work related information, taking up the time and resources of the company’s employees. For that reason alone, the e-mail should not have been sent.

Monday, November 05, 2001

My weekend…let’s see…

I actually went to a movie on Saturday, K-PAX. I would HIGHLY recommend it…most thoroughly satisfying. Although, there was a trailer for Kevin Spacey’s new movie, The Shipping News, that looked even more interesting. It opens in December, I believe.

The only drawback to the outing was that I was in near misery after sitting in the theatre seats for two and a half hours. I was quite stiff and sore by the end of the movie. The woman I was with had chosen seats halfway up the stadium seating, so getting out was a bit of an obstacle…especially without help and people pushing their way around me as I hobbled down the stairs. I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening huddled in the green chair. By midnight, when I was still miserable, I decided I must have been having sympathy pains with the weather since a front was moving through. I seem to usher in fronts these days.

Seeing that glorious rout Arizona gave the Yankees did help take my mind off the pain, though. Even if you are a Yankee fan, that one inning full of hits and runs was still exciting to see. What a game where everyone on a team gets a hit, gets on base, and gets a run!

In any case, I slept in on Sunday and woke up feeling much better. I then got ready for the Redskins game and had a most glorious time with my father and his two buddies. This time, we got to sit in the club seats, football in style. The climate controlled promenade with lounges, armchairs, couches, tables, clean, spacious bathrooms with attendants made the game all the more enjoyable. And the Redskins won. Imagine that!

So I came home and then watched Arizona make history with its win. It fitting that the game was decided in such a thrilling bottom of the ninth inning, the way games 4 and 5 were. I don’t even like watching baseball on television, but something about this World Series got me. However, isn’t it a bit pretentious to call it a WORLD series when the whole world does not compete? As great a country I believe America to be, we are neither the center nor the majority of the entire world. Perhaps someone will enlighten me one day on that matter.

In any case, Fancy, Kashi, and Tally (the visiting bird) were all happy Sunday night because I cooked them some rice to eat. I had to laugh when I saw them all busily inhaling the rice, birds and dogs hunched over their respective food bowls. I didn’t join in with them, though.

You see, we ate rice seemingly ALL the time when I was in my teens and early twenties. One day a few years ago, I woke up and realized that I had eaten my fill of rice. I haven’t had it but a handful of times since. My family thinks I’m weird. [The rice thing is not the only reason for that, but it doesn’t help the matter.]

So, there you have it. A weekend where I was awake more than asleep and had two outings to boot!

Such an exciting life I lead. I don’t know what Becca was talking about…my life needing spice.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Entering Liberia country illegally:

The plane trip there was an adventure in and of itself. I had had emergency abdominal surgery less than two months before and still was quite sore. Given that I was bringing EVERYTHING I could possibly need for a two-year stay, I had both my bags packed to the 70 lb limit and had a 48 lb carry-on. I even had a much loved teddy bear strapped on top of the carry-on with my backpacking straps.

So, there I was on the 757 in New York. We had changed planes, and I was struggling to get my rather heavy carry-on in the overhead compartment. I would attempt to lift it and then clutch my stomach in pain and then attempt to lift it again. This went on for some long, painful minutes until this man--who turned out to be from Liberia--offered to help me put the bag away.

He didn’t forget about me in Amsterdam where we had our layover. He sought me out and then slung that heavy bag over his shoulder. It was almost ludicrous to see this dignified Liberian man carting around a bag with a teddy bear strapped on it, but he didn’t seem to mind and I was too grateful to protest very much.

We spent our eight hours in Amsterdam talking with others we met there having a spirited philosophical and religious debate. It turned out that he was a preacher and was delighted that I was a missionary.

Well, as we got back on the plane, fate would have it that we were seated next to each other. We chatted away as we stopped in one African country after another making our way down the coast to Liberia. As much as I was enjoying his company, I grew more and more nervous thinking about customs because I had heard story after story about things that were confiscated and held until proper persuasion payments were made to the custom officials. I had debated long and hard about bringing in my Minolta X-700 manual camera and lenses and flash because of the value of the equipment, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for great pictures where I was going. Several women had advised to pack my feminine products around things I wished to pass through customs as a way to embarrass the officials and make them skip over the inspection process. I had done that. Two years of tampons made quite a protection barrier around the equipment, but I was still nervous.

Sensing my mental state, but not prying, the preacher offered to take me through customs VIP with him. Grateful to not be left alone, I accepted his offer. When we landed, I followed him to an air-conditioned lounge where I was offered a drink and sat chatting with some Japanese businessmen who were there for the same purpose. The preacher assured me he would see to my luggage. After about an hour of interesting conversation, I noticed the mission van out the window. I politely excused myself and told the preacher I needed to meet up with my colleagues. He walked me to the van and had my luggage brought there. Sitting in the back of the van, I chided myself for being nervous about the whole experience.

It was not until we were on the road back to the compound that I asked what I needed to do with my landing card. The driver slammed on the brakes and asked in somewhat shock what I meant.

You see, going VIP basically meant skipping customs. Since I had skipped customs, I had not handed over my landing card or had my passport stamped or my visa checked. I had inadvertently entered the country illegally.

It took four tense weeks for the mission to convince the government that it had all been an innocent mistake on my part and that I truly was supposed to be there as a teacher for the mission school.

My illegal entry was the first of its kind that the mission had had to deal with in the over 100 years it had been operating. Imagine that!

Monday, October 29, 2001

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

"The Road Not Taken"
~Robert Frost

Friday, October 26, 2001

I supposed Becca’s life is more exciting than mine. I’m not sure, though, her exploitation of that poor guy is more worth a post than anything I’ve written.

In any case, I do know she’d not have a problem with what happened at work on Wednesday. Someone was holding a conversation with two other people about pleasing partners and aids for bedroom pleasures. Frankly, it was much more information than I wanted to know about either the conversation participants or the topic.

I fished out our sexual harassment policy just to see what it said, gathered my nerve, and asked managment if we might prevent further conversations from the general environment.

In a nutshell, I was told that you could not regulate general speech, only physical actions against a person or words directed at a person. I sort of felt what happened (and this is NOT the first time I’ve been in the presence of such discussion here) constituted a hostile environment. But apparently, I’m the only one at work who doesn’t mind frank discussions of sexual intimacy.

I’m truly frustrated. I mean, we get a lot of bawdy jokes and ribald comments around here. I walk away once they start. But I was working in earshot of the lengthy conversation and was not really able to walk away without leaving my work unfinished.

Am I wrong because I don’t want to have to listen to such lascivious talk while I am working? Or is it that they are not being lewd, but I am merely a prude? When I offered that such talk was not really appropriate for the office as it were, managment responded by asking me if I talked about Kashi at work. I nodded since managment knew I had. Well, management said, that was personal talk. So was the conversation I did not want to be hearing. Both were personal talk and how can one prohibit some personal talk but not all personal talk. Who am I to say that it is acceptable to discuss pets but not sexual intimacy anyway?

Apparently I am no one since no action will be taken to curtail such conversations in the future.

Am I wrong about this?

Thursday, October 25, 2001

Hey, there, I’m Becca. I thought I would abscond this site for a bit to spice it up. Certainly my life is a bit more exciting than Patricia’s, eh? Well, you be the judge of that!

I went to this Sushi bar last night downtown. Wow! What food and company. Well, the food at least was good. Succulent. Savory. Salacious…at least to the palate.

The company was an experience as well…just of another kind. This man came and sat next to me at the bar. Figuratively drooling, he fumbled through the usual compliments of looks and dress and then reached to take a bite off my own plate, slowly licking his fingers after he popped it into his mouth. As if that would turn me on?

Charles had that alternative “comb-over” with a dash of too casual clothing thrown in. What little hair he had left was brushed straight back (anchored by some plastering spray) in an attempted to hide the balding spot on his crown. He had on khaki colored pants, but they definitely weren’t Dockers and definitely had been washed and dried at home instead of at a cleaners. His striped button-up shirt was rumpled as well. He had rolled up the sleeves, but doing so only revealed arms a bit too hairy for my tastes. He had plain brown shoes, worn but okay, but when he raised his leg to rest it on the barstool, his athletic socks were exposed. Despite his mediocre appearance, he positively swaggered even as he sat on his stool.

I patently turned to talk with the guy on my other side…a brooding sort of man with slightly longer sideburns and a sprinkle of salt and pepper at the temples. He was staring into his drink as if he bore the ills of the world, but before I could attempt any light-hearted banter, Charles put his damp palm on my thigh.

That certainly got my attention. Where does it say that women are the property of men? Stare as you like. Touch when you want. Take whenever. Damn the consequences?

I decided to teach Charles a lesson then and there. To strike back one for the sisterhood.

I put my hand on his, cast my eyes down a bit, and murmured about going someplace more comfortable. Eagerly, he plunked some crumbled bills on the counter and stood to leave. Once outside, I look him by the collar and leaned in close to whisper in his ear a suggestion of my own, knowing my warm breath would be too much for him to ignore.

We headed to one my favorite swash hotels, and I waited seemingly impatient while he reserved a room for us. Once inside the room, I divested himself of his outer clothing rather quickly and then glanced around for the ubiquitous ice bucket. Spotting it near the mini-bar, I suggested we might have a bit more fun with some ice. If he would just pop out and get it, I would get more comfortable for him. He protested that he couldn’t go in his boxers, but two buttons of my blouse overcame those objections. He could see the lace beneath.

Nervously he peered out the door. Seeing no one near, he darted down the hall to the ice machine. I quickly turned on the shower and sat down by the door to wait. Shortly I heard his knock. Mere moments passed before the knocking became more frantic. Then he raised his voice. I heard a door open. I heard someone ask if he needed anything. I heard Charles reply in the negative.

Somehow I knew his arrogance would keep him from seeking help. Shamed by a woman? Never. He was too smooth an operator.

A few more moments of knocking, and then I heard him walk away.

Happily I ordered room service and a movie and spent the evening in luxury. Who cares how Charlie spent his.

In the morning I left his keys and wallet at the front desk, simply stating that he had stepped out and I needed to leave for work.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

I have this ironing board sitting in my living area. It is the safest place to iron, so I usually just set it up, iron, and then put it back into the closet. But for the past two weeks, I’ve had it out. Tacky, I know…but I knew I’d have to iron this long sleeved shirt--which I keep putting off with this wacky warm weather--so I’ve left it out. No one has come over and Fancy likes perching on it at times…so there it has sat.

Well, I had to move the board a bit last night (thinking I’ll be ironing soon, I left it in place) and to my horror, I realized that the iron was still on…and on HIGH. I had to sit down I was trembling so much with the enormity of the danger I had just skirted. I could have burned us all up! Poor Kashi and Fancy and just now Tally (an African ring neck parakeet I’m watching for the C.O.O. at work--who’s kind enough to talk to me in the evenings...the bird, that is!).

ARGH! That’s two weeks of danger!

I leave the front door unlocked. I leave the oven on. Or better said, I forget to lock the door, and I forget to turn off the oven as well. Knowing I forget these things, sometimes I get back out of bed three and four times as I am trying to go to sleep to check the door and the oven. I will crawl back in bed, start reading and then start wondering if I locked the door or if I remembered to turn the oven off. I cannot even remember that I’ve just checked or if while checking I actually turned the lock or the switch. DOUBLE ARGH!

Crappy brain cells I’ve got left. I forget to take my asthma medicine. I forget to lock the door. I forget to turn off hot objects. I forget my name. I forget my age. I forget my address. I forget where I am. I forget what I am supposed to be doing. I forget to pay my boss’s mortgage (big mistake). I forget how to count. I forget the alphabet. I forget how to spell. I forget to sign my checks when paying the bills. I forget. I forget. I forget! TRIPLE ARGH!

BIG SIGH………………………

Monday, October 22, 2001

The market in Liberia was simple, but filled with wonderful items. Stalls upon stalls filled with artwork, food, clothes, shoes, baskets, blankets, lappa cloths, jewelry, purses, carvings, chess sets, household items, cleaning supplies, and a plethora of junk items you’d find in a Dollar Store today…a cardboard offering of one-dose packets of medicine, for example. This list is really are only a small smattering of what was available, but perhaps it would give you a feel for the place.

Being a born shopper, I loved going into “town” to visit the market. I went just about every chance I got. Sometimes I took a taxi, for the bargain price of a quarter. However, it was not quite a bargain since four adults were squeezed into the back seat, without seatbelts, and road safety was not really a factor in the driver’s mind. All along the route you could see the crumpled shells of yellow cars that had been in wrecks and were left abandoned since few taxi drivers could afford the cost of body work or general repair. Those hunks of twisted metal were sharp reminders to taxi passengers how fragile life could be.

It was generally accepted practice that the driver would continue to pick up passengers until he had a full load of five, one in front with him and four crammed in the back. Then, each of the passengers would be dropped off before more were collected. However, sometimes the driver would buck accepted practice and start picking up passengers as he dropped others off. Given the lack of traffic safety and the unpredictable amount of time it would take to get to one’s destination, other means of transportation was generally preferred.

We had a couple of vans on the compound that anyone could use as long as they were available. So if anyone were headed into Monrovia, the driver would usually make a general announcement for orders from the market or grocery store or for anyone wanting to come along.

So there I was one day, walking along the market stalls with others from the missionary compound. Being American, I was often offered drinks, a place to sit, or some token such as a string of beads by the vendor--all an effort to gain my custom or at least whatever US dollars I had on my person that day. Or so I thought.

This one man who had a stall of the most beautiful jewelry called out to me to visit with him. Since no one has ever accused me of being reluctant to talk, I would often as not stop to talk with him about his business, his family, and, of course, food. Being Middle Eastern, he would regale me of the most delicious meals, conversation I craved since some of the culinary choices in Liberia left me with little enthusiasm for eating. [Granted, I am somewhat of a picky eater…something about chicken’s feet just does not appeal to me.]

After a few visits, he graciously presented me with a necklace of forest green [my favorite color] carved beads. I gave my genuine thanks and slipped the necklace on right then and there. A few visits later, he offered me the matching bracelet. I was surprised, but had made several purchases from the man, so I accepted it. Little did I know what I was accepting.

A few weeks later, I was back shopping. I had come into Monrovia with a group of women from the compound, but had become separated from them by the time I reached the row of stalls where the Middle Eastern Man had his business. When I passed by, he gestured for me to stop. I was pressed for time, so I declined, but said I’d come by another time. He became a bit upset, going on about the lovely necklace and matching bracelet he had given me. Did I not still like them he queried of me. Of course I did and I replied as such. But I was still in a hurry and could not possibly stop for a visit at that time.

Then, before I really understood what was happening, two burly men stepped up on either side of me and because hustling me toward the alley behind his stall. Waiting for me was a truck. I didn’t really have a chance to panic, though, because out of nowhere came this big beautiful Liberian woman. She was glorious in her sweeping skirts and lashing tongue. She pushed her way past us and began a tirade I’m still not sure was aimed at the men or myself.

In any case, she jerked me out of their grasp and led me back out onto the main street. After stumbling to keep up with her pace, I found myself rather breathless at the end of the block and with my ears ringing from my head being cuffed with a bag she hand in her hand repeatedly throughout her lecture. In short, by accepting the gifts, I had accepted his courtship. Those two men, no doubt, were there to help with my passage to his (my new) home. She thought a grown woman like myself should have had better sense than to have dealings with that man.

One final slap and another bewildering moment later and she was gone. I never got to thank her. I went searching for my companions and tried to explain what had happened. I didn’t make much sense for even I was a bit incredulous about the whole encounter. The bruises on my upper arms from the rough handling of those burly men and my reddened check where the woman had slapped me for my foolishness did bear witness to my escapade and helped to sway their disbelief.

However, given that I had inadvertently entered the country illegally when I first arrived, nothing truly would have surprised my fellow missionaries.

Friday, October 19, 2001

Back to the fire…

As I was writing, the bugs scared me, often setting off that shrill scream bug-hating women will tend to emit upon encountering that which entomologists love. So, after waking my neighbors on multiple occasions (most often inspired by encounters with those flying cockroaches), they ceased to come running at my cry. [Sound familiar?]

Well, Liberia is quite humid. Humidity tends to mold clothes and rust stuff. In an effort to help make clothing last longer, many of our homes had a second light bulb in the closet near the floor to help dry the air.

Have you got it yet?

Having to cover my ankles meant that I needed long skirts or pants. One of my long skirts fell against the lower light bulb and caught fire. It took quite a while for me to wake up, but the smoke finally drove me from my dream into something of a nightmare.

I hopped up and started screaming.

No one came.

I screamed more.

No one came.

I was running from the kitchen and the bathroom sinks to fill stuff with water to douse the flames.

No one came.

When the flames were all put out, I realized I had lost all my clothing, but not much else. I tried to look on the bright side: I had the perfect excuse to go on a shopping spree.

My second fire occurred in the kitchen. I was cooking one day when one of the coils on the stovetop exploded. The explosion blew a hole in the pan, the contents of which scattered all over me and the rest of the kitchen. After I doused flames (less screaming was involved), I discovered the fragment of the pot buried in the ceiling. Shaking my head, I was sure that two fires was certainly enough for my time in Africa. I was wrong.

The third [yes, I had THREE fires while I was there] took place in the closet again. I didn’t even scream. I doused the flames, bought more clothes, and bought a dehumidifier.

Thankfully, fires--for me at least--only came in three!

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

I was thinking more about Africa…

Something I liked the least there were the bugs. BUGS! They were everywhere. And since my home was merely cinderblock with slatted windows, they were everywhere in my home.

I must admit that I a bit squeamish about bugs. I fundamentally believe that it is the duty of the male gender to take care of bug removal. But as a single female, that burden usually falls upon me (unless Kashi eats the things first).

My favorite method for killing bugs is smashing them with a shoe. The part that makes me squeamish is actually the removal, not the killing. For, you see, I cannot stand to feel them squish between my fingers beneath the paper towel/tissue/toilet paper used for disposal. So, my MO in Africa was to smoosh the bug with a shoe and then leave it until either my walking path was too greatly disrupted or I ran out of shoes. Then I would grit my teeth and pick them all up to flush down the toilet.

The cockroaches, I believe, were the worst. They came in two main varieties: HUMONGOUS and FLYING. The former were often 3 to 4 inches in length. The crunch from smushing them was nauseating. [When I unpacked my bags after arriving back home, one of those large ones darted out from my clothing. Mother screamed for me to kill it before it got away, but, alas, I was barefoot and had no weapons. I’m sure it happily mated with the standard, ubiquitous Texan variety and is the bane of Dallas area residents.] The latter were simply unnerving. Out of nowhere, one would land on you. And if you were me, you’d let out a blood-curdling scream. The worst time was at night. There I’d be, sleeping at last, and boom! A cockroach would land on my shoulder or chest and I’d scream out loud.

The first few nights the neighbors would all come running, but soon they learned I was just being ridiculous about the flying cockroaches.

That they learned to ignore my screams proved to be quite a problem when the first fire happened…but I’ll talk about that tomorrow.

I guess if I were searching for things to be thankful right about now…I would consider that I currently live in a cockroach free home. :)

Monday, October 15, 2001

Once upon a time, there was a dog named Kashi. Now he looked liked a dog. And his owner acquired him based on his apparent canine nature. However, he just might not be a dog. He may very well be a goat instead.

How could this be so? His papers claim he is a pure bred Shiba Inu. Alas, this would certainly not be the first case of documentation error. The two main factors that point to him being a goat rather than a dog are his behavior and his appetite.

He is, at the very least, the most stubborn dog on the North American continent. Case in point: while he weighs only 17 pounds, he has the ability to move objects ten times his weight. How can this be? After all, he is only a little dog (or a goat). Well, when in bed, he will lie down next to me on the ten or so inches left of the right side of the bed. [I prefer sleeping on the right side of the bed. Unfortunately, so does Kashi.] I will be determined to claim my rightful place on my own bed, but after steady pressure by this dog (goat), I will find myself moved toward the middle of the bed with Kashi stretched out leisurely on the right side of the bed.

Similarly, when I am walking him outside, he will often sit down and refuse to budge if I am not attending to his suggestions for direction and duration of the walk. I have literally fallen on many occasions from the force behind his sudden stops. I will pull and jerk on his leash, but he will remain stationary, seemingly glued to the ground. Again, he weighs only 17 pounds.

For over six years we have faced off over baths, medicines, and wiping his paws (hooves) as we come inside from our walks. Not once has he resigned himself to taking a bath, taking his medicine, and cleaning his feet. He hides when he realizes I am running the water for a bath. He clamps his jaws shut when I am attempting to give him his medicine. And he will jerk his legs out of my hand repeatedly when I am wiping his paws (hooves).

He knows he cannot beg for food, so he remains silent at meal times. But he will rest his head on my lap and look up longingly at me (or guests) for food. His silence is quite deafening.

And speaking of food, to date he has eaten: saran wrap, foil, waxed paper, pebbles, hosiery, breathe right nasal strips (including those thin plastic strips), paper, paper towels, kleenex, the stuffing from his squeaky toys, socks, marbles, Christmas tree ornaments, kaleidoscopes, African violets, eye drops, my inhaler, q-tips, make-up remover pads, string, pencils, pens, erasers, and rubber bands. He also has a penchant for pizza crusts, flour tortillas, and oatmeal raison cookies.

The latter is somewhat normal, but the former list belongs more to a goat than a dog. And despite having a bad liver (protein can kill him because his liver cannot process it very well), he has yet to have a serious problem from all the indigestible items he has consumed. His innards do gurgle a bit, though.

I could go on further, especially about how stubborn he is, but I believe the case I’ve made is sufficient. So…is Kashi a dog…or merely a goat disguised in the body of a dog? Should I call Guinness World Book of Records? Ripley’s Believe It or Not?

Friday, October 12, 2001

When I was in Africa, I spent the Christmas Holidays upcountry with a missionary family from Denmark (I had students from 21 nationalities where I taught school). My student’s parents had had to petition the village elders for my visit since outsiders were generally discouraged.

I was both excited and anxious when I learned that my visit had been approved. And sure enough the visit turned out to be one of those surreal moments in life you cannot really expect and half believe never happened.

The Danish family had made quite a home for themselves there in the bush country. The water for showers came from great barrels resting on the roof. The oven, with which my student’s mother cooked the most amazing assortment of breads, was heated from coals resting in the top portion where the equipment for the burners would have been located and coals in the broiling pan at the bottom of the oven. A washboard and ringer assembly aided the laundry work. And their home was neatly organized with baskets and containers and room dividers woven from local fauna.

Part of my nervousness came from wondering what I would be eating and worried I might offend with my admittedly picky appetite. But I was pleasantly surprised the first morning to find a sumptuous spread of cheeses, breads, preserves, and this chocolate spread that delighted my sweet tooth. The only real difficulty came with the meal the villagers offered me at the waterfall. But, that is getting ahead of myself a bit.

In the bush country of Liberia (and other jungle/tropical areas I would guess), there is something known as a monkey bridge. It looks more like part of a ropes course. Vines are woven together to form a bridge from one side of a river or ravine to another. The shape of the bridge resembles a V with a very narrow braid to walk upon, one foot after another, and braids of vines on either side waist high. Between the three main braided vines were vertical ties. The whole contraption look ancient and walking across it was a feat of sheer bravery.

The Liberians found my fear and trepidation on the monkey bridge quite humorous. Because of that, I can only imagine the invitation to the waterfall was based on the opportunity for more amusement.

The whole village went on the day trip. We hacked our way to the clearing around this rather glorious stepped waterfall. One of the girls my student’s age asked me if I would like to climb it with her. Wanting to impress my student, at the very least, I agreed.

I’m sure you’d smile--if not outright laugh--had you seen me scrambling up the rocks and logs, wading across rushing water, falling, screaming, and getting back up again to continue on toward the top. [I hadn’t even thought how I was supposed to get back down when I started that perilous climb.] The climb was made all the more difficult in my ankle length skirts wore for modesty’s sake. [Twice older women had to admonish me because I had inadvertently allowed an ankle to show.] Nearly three hours later, I was drenched, sore, scraped, and exhausted, but I rather triumphantly stood atop this waterfall wondering at the great height I had just climbed and watching the specks of people below playing in the pools at the base of the waterfall far below.

My pride at my accomplishment was pricked like a balloon a moment later. I turned to my climbing companions and queried whether we ought to begin the descent since the sun was already full in the sky. I was sure it would take twice as long to descend given the arduous terrain we had just covered and need for even more care taken to avoid further mishap.

They grinned and chuckled and pointed to the forest. Confused, I took only a few steps in the direction they indicated before spotting a trail. My companions then pulled on my arms and dragged me further down the trail before I realized what was happening. We were down from that great height of the waterfall in about 20 minutes. My stupidity was made all the more evident to them when I asked why we had risked life and limb climbing the waterfall if we could have just walked up the trail. They shrugged and casually observed that watching me climb had been worth the trip.

Once we returned, some women approached me with my meal (and a reminder to keep my ankles covered when I sat down on the ground to eat). The dish? Country rice with monkey meat--county rice means that it is unwashed…dirt, bugs, and all included--thick with palm butter. I gulped my way through it, while they watched, grins ever present.

Later, back at the village, I was herded away from the waterhole for reasons I still am not sure about. Again, the woman admonished me about modesty as they steered me in another direction.

Christmas Eve found me dancing around a Christmas tree singing hymns in English as the family was singing in Danish. I didn’t understand a word of the service or the prayers around the table, but I knew that we were celebrating the birth of Christ together.

When I left, several of the villagers presented me with presents. They had so little, but gave generously and with a full heart. While I had provided them an endless source of amusement, they provided me a greater perspective on the preciousness of life and how to take joy in the simplest moments and laughing at one's only folly…such as climbing a waterfall for no reason.

I supposed I am writing of this because I want the reminder for myself. The reminder to not get so caught up in the stuff of my life.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

Well, I stayed up late coughing and inhaling drugs. So, of course, I watched much late night TV. Do you want to know what vital information I learned?

Probably not, but I will tell you anyway.

It’s about amputations. There are three vital factors that can raise the odds of successful reattachment of amputated body parts:

1. Staunch the flow of blood from the amputation sight with compression instead of a tourniquet. This is important because a tourniquet can further damage the tissue and structures surrounding the amputation.

2. While it is important for the amputated body part to be kept on ice to slow the cellular decay from lack of blood, the part should be put in a plastic bag first to keep the tissues from being damaged by becoming frozen.

3. It is vital to get the victim on the operating table within six hours.

Just a few tidbits that I learned last night.

I was also surprised to learn that while farming and factory work are leading causes of amputation, many seemingly safe things can turn deadly. One such thing was a washing machine, but perhaps I’m bordering on the nauseating?

Now, certainly that information would not come up on “Jeopardy,” “The Weakest Link,” or “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Could you imagine the questions?

Considering I used my emergency inhaler about every two hours today at work, tonight might afford an opportunity for more late night education. I wonder what I will learn?

Query: Have you been thinking on inertia?

Wednesday, October 10, 2001

Dr. Pepper and Reese’s miniature cups are my drugs of choice.

I wish they were helping just now.

I’ve inhaled and nebulized all day--including during a rather important conference call--and nothing much is helping. I’m trying to avoid a trip to the ER.

The drugs leave me feeling like a strung out junkie on the verge of withdrawal with the shakes, weakness, and slight disorientation. But if I don’t inhale and nebulize then…ARGH! I hate asthma!

[Big SIGH] Thanks for listening to my gripe.

[Sip of Dr. Pepper] Here’s to better breathing…

Tuesday, October 09, 2001

I was sitting on the couch Sunday evening and found myself thinking on inertia. I was so incredibly tired from the whole wedding trip, yet I needed to go pick up Fancy from the bird-sitter’s house. I thought about putting it off until after work on Monday, but I knew that I would be even more fatigued from working when I began the week exhausted. So it was best for me to move from the couch, to the car, to his house, and back home again.

But I didn’t move for two hours. I sat and could not think of moving. The thought of moving was too overwhelming so I sat. I sat and did not move. I was experiencing inertia.

Being a user, I checked out inertia on that search engine. I quickly found two definitions.


Inertia, the property of matter that causes it to resist any change of its motion in either direction or speed. This property is accurately described by the first law of motion of the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton: An object at rest tends to remain at rest, and an object in motion tends to continue in motion in a straight line unless acted upon by an outside force.


Pronounced As: inûrsh , in physics, the resistance of a body to any alteration in its state of motion, i.e., the resistance of a body at rest to being set in motion or of a body in motion to any change of speed or change in direction of motion. Inertia is a property common to all matter. This property was first observed by Galileo and restated by Newton as his first law of motion, sometimes called the law of inertia.

While the editors certainly described Newton’s first law of motion, they neglected to mention the human factor, or mental inertia.

Just what kind of inertia do you have in your life? I found quite a bit in mine:

First, I literally don’t move from the green chair Friday nights when it is time for sleep. I will stay up watching stupid late night movies rather than move to my bed because the thought of moving is simply overwhelming.

Second, I tend to continue on verbal paths, often even when the other person has asked me to stop. I keep on making my point regardless of whether the listener is listening or cares because I frankly think my points are quite relevant.

Third, I find it easier to just work around someone at work rather than to make an issue of his rather cruel remarks (disguised in the form of humor) about my speech, memory, and walking (i.e., tripping & falling) problems. I’ve tried to act upon the motion of how he treats me, but my attempts have been ineffectual and I’ve let inertia take over.

Consider the inertia in the lives of those who stay in a job or marriage they hate simply because it is easier to continue on with their path of work or marriage rather than acting upon the inertia that has taken over the employment or the relationship.

Consider the inertia in the lives of battered women and abused youth. Tragically, so often the abused woman, child, or teenager will stay with the abuser, will remain silent about the abuse, because inertia keeps them there. Change is frightening. Change is work. And while the abuse is wrong and painful to endure, it is familiar and--in a way--safe.

Or those with alcoholism, drug addiction, or eating disorders in their lives. They have diseases, but part of beating the disease lies with overcoming the inertia of the disease, deciding to make a change in their behavior patterns and to ask for help with that change. Again, change is frightening. Change is work. And the disease appears to be familiar and safe.

I wonder if looking behind the problems in our lives, employment, or relationships to see if inertia is at root might illuminate them in a new way. Have others already examined the issue of inertia in human lives? I’m curious to know…

Monday, October 08, 2001

The wedding? How was it?

The bride was beautiful and the wedding took place. That is the best that I can say.

I traveled for nearly eight hours to get to the hotel where I was staying. One and a half of those hours was spent sitting on a bridge since a missile spill on 70 shut down the highway. When I could finally turn around and call the groom for directions, I found myself driving east to go west in PA. [I was a foolish woman driver without a map…just written directions.]

I was exhausted once I got to the hotel and frantic to get to the rehearsal dinner. I should have expected that I would get a room with a broken card reader on the lock. Once maintenance repaired the door, I hastily changed my clothes and raced over to the rehearsal dinner. While I was not the only one to miss the wedding rehearsal, I was the one with the music to which the bridesmaids were walking down the aisle. The bride made an attempt to hum the music for those who managed to get to the rehearsal, but since I had chosen the song, her efforts were somewhat ineffective. [It was “Give Me Jesus” by Fernando Orteg--an amazing song.]

I arrived just before desert and was starving. The left over potatoes were good, however, and I even asked the help for seconds! Definitely they were the highlight of my weekend…red potatoes roasted in garlic and butter.

On Saturday, there was a horrible accident on the street leading to the house where the bride was getting dressed blocking the main street. However, an alternate route to the church was available. I played the walking-down-the-aisle song while everyone was dressing, but I could have saved myself the effort. At the wedding, the sound guy messed up the music and did not play the right song for the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle. Then during the vows, a groomsman fainted dead away. Fortunately medical personnel were among the wedding party and the groom’s grandmother was willing to share her oxygen and wheelchair. The reception at least went off without a hitch.

I did spend the weekend puffing on my inhalers and using the nebulizer so much that I looked like a recovering addict with the shakes. Kashi enjoyed jumping from bed to bed in the hotel room even if my companion did not quite appreciate his antics. [He was the only occupant of the hotel room that appreciated the bouncy nature of the mattresses.] And I was quite grumpy with the woman who so graciously agreed to come with me so that she could drive if I needed it (I needed it.). Something about being stuck in a car for hours with stiff and aching joints makes me lose my otherwise Pollyanna attitude. [Okay…it might be more accurate to say, “…makes my Bah Humbug attitude all the more apparent.]

At least we found a Taco Bell both going and coming so our drive had good food! And, of course, we kept nearby a supply of chocolate for our nerves. It was much needed. The drive home merely took a shade over three hours.

I am glad to be home.

Friday, October 05, 2001

Why is it that I continually sabotage my trips?

I’m going to a wedding this weekend. Traveling is difficult and tiring for me. So I should go to bed early and rest up in preparation for the trip, right?

Well, I worked to between 6:30 and 7:00 each night this week. I was up Monday night until 2:30 AM talking with a dear friend. Last night I didn’t get to bed until 2:00 AM for all the packing I was doing. And this morning it was sheer will power that drove me out of bed. To think I have a 3 and a half to four hour drive ahead of me in just a few hours! Then a rehearsal and a rehearsal dinner…

This will be a LONG day!

So, tell me, since I do have this Ph.D. and am fairly knowledgeable about a few things and at 34 I should know myself rather well………………….WHY do I end up getting precious little sleep before trips, making the endeavor all the more difficult for me?

Of course, I will just have to drink even more Dr. Pepper to make up for my poor choices on sleep. Not such a bad consequence, eh?

The packing? Well, all I will say is that between my medicines, nebulizer, sleepmate (white noise machine to block out noise while I sleep), hair curlers, dresses, shoes, pajamas, Kashi’s medicines, toys, & food, snacks for the drive, pillows (of course), books (its an afternoon wedding), cd’s, makeup, and a toothbrush, I have the world’s record for luggage considering it is just a 48 hour trip.

One thing I should mention: I have no rhythm. None. Zip. Zilch. I cannot clap or snap my fingers and sing at the same time. I have two left feet. Musical coordination is a mystery to me.

Why do I mention it? Guess what the reception will be? A Swing Dance event--complete with lessons between the wedding and the dinner. ARGH! I believe after this event I will have delved the depths of what it means to be a wallflower.

But the bride is one of the sweetest, kindest, self-sacrificing people I know. She has had nothing in this world for nearly all of her 24 (or so) years, yet even the little she has she would share and has never complained about the days, weeks, and years she spent hungry, living in what most would deem untenable surroundings. She deserves my support and celebration of the marriage God has brought to her.

Who knows, perhaps I’ll end up providing added entertainment at the reception. Sort of like Elaine on Seinfeld when she danced at that office party. Her coworkers were never the same afterwards.

Wednesday, October 03, 2001

Long day at work. Long day at work. Long day at work. Need I say more?

After such a day, I was looking forward to a peaceful evening, NOT a hair-raising adventure--literally speaking--last evening as I dragged myself outside to see to the urgent needs of my dog (staying late is understandably hard on him).

While I’ve recently discovered that Fancy does not like going out with Kashi and I after dark (I didn’t realize cockatiels are afraid of the dark…or at least she is), I took her with me anyway. Since I had been at work so long, she was shrieking something fierce once I walked in the front door, clamoring to be with her flock. I figured her discomfort at being out in the dark would be offset by being with me.

So there we were, Kashi conducting his business, Fancy cuddled against my neck, and myself working to stay on my feet because I was so tired…when all of a sudden this rather wild cat flung itself out of an overhead tree narrowly missing Fancy, scratching my arm, and raising every attack instinct within Kashi’s genetic code.

My already wrenched shoulder took another beating as I struggled to hold on while Kashi tried to reach the cat. Fancy was violently trembling, shrieking in my ear, and desperately trying to hang on with her claws as I equally desperately tried to keep Kashi and the cat apart. Heart pounding in my chest, all I could think of was how to get the three of us safely back inside my apartment.

How I did so is rather hazy with my own fear-clouded memory, but we managed to reach refuge from the feline storm that followed us all the way to my door. I soothed Fancy for a while and then played with Kashi before going to bed.

My dreams last night were this horrific mixture of feathers flying, canines and felines being ripped limb from limb, and error messages flashing across a screen.

Perhaps Fancy is justified in her fear of the dark!

NOTE: Taking off contacts in the shower because you plan to discard them anyway is NOT a good idea. The absence of a mirror might bring difficulty in immediately knowing the lens is out. And continual attempts to remove a lens that is already gone is hard on the eye.

Monday, October 01, 2001

Someone asked about the poem I posted—specifically if the man in it really hurt me. So I thought I would explain a bit.

A few years ago, I had some short stories, poems, and reader’s theater scripts published. The publisher asked me to work on a project that entailed writing poetry in different women’s voices giving glimpses of their “lives.” I started the project and then had a minor falling out with the publisher. In short, I wanted to start keeping the copyright on my work and the publisher wanted it to remain with the publishing house.

So I walked away from the women’s voices project. However, I still have worked on the poems from time to time. “My Man” is one from that collection.

But to change the topic, I’d like to comment on something someone said today. It was a remark that I’ve heard before. And a remark that is wrong.

[Yes, I can be a bit opinionated…but this is not one of those times.]

I had mentioned that I had watched the Cowboy game with a friend over the phone last night. My friend is several states away, and while we visit each other in person at least once a year, most of our “visits” are over the phone. We watch TV together, have gone shopping together, and have even walked my dog together. (I‘m one of those thankful for great cell phone plans from Sprint PCS).

The remark was that watching television together, where the only conversation between the two of us is crammed in during the commercial or limited to short commentary on what we are watching is a complete waste of time and long distance.

I disagree on both points. Sprint has solved the dilemma of the latter with free long distance and ridiculous amounts of nights and weekend minutes. But even if cost were not a factor, the expense would be worth it.

Any relationship takes work. You have to make an investment in a relationship for it to grow. And one of the most precious commodities these days is time. By watching shows, movies, or sports events together, we are making shared memories. We are taking time out of our busy lives (okay…hers is MUCH busier than mine) and sharing an enjoyable experience. We laugh together, sniff together, and yell at the refs together.

So, I’m particularly grateful to Alexander Graham Bell and whoever is the “father” of cellular technology. The time I spend on the phone is not wasteful; it is a wonderful investment.

The next time you miss your friends, try spending time together via the phone. Not just talking, but sharing an experience--be it watching a favorite show, shopping, or taking a walk.

[Ah, hem, umm…just don’t do it while you’re driving!]

Friday, September 28, 2001

My Man

My man.
The possessive spoken with pride,
while admiring eyes slide over his body.
“She snagged him?”
They whisper in surprise, in envy.
I choose not to hear their words
return their looks hiding behind smoky glasses.

My man.
The possessive borne under pressure,
weights me, wounds me, in suspicion.
“What are you looking at?”
“Where have you been?”
stills me, stifles me, in demands.
“Don’t you ever . . .”
“You will not!”

My man.
My man.
My man.

Their eyes caress his chest
the way my fingers tips
still do
of their own volition, is it not?
How can I still love one who
has broken the very core of me?
“Oh, baby, I’m sorry”
“You know I didn’t mean it.”
“If you only wouldn’t . . . ”

Defense buried in amends
another burden, bitterness
I swallow with the sweet.

What am I still doing here?

My man.

Thursday, September 27, 2001

I have been thinking about something for a while now, but have been reluctant to put my thoughts into words, fearful that I will not be able to say what I mean. Yet, the specious intimacy of this medium affords me the opportunity to try.

So I will.

My thought is this: While I hope I never end up in a wheelchair (a common reality for people with multiple sclerosis), I almost wish I already were.

That sound so horrible, ungrateful for the strength and mobility I have remaining. And I fear offending those already in a wheelchair. But the half-wish remains.

The desire is not for the relief of my fatigue, the idea of not having to work so hard at getting around. The idea of having support when I grow too tired to go on when I’m out and about. These are wonderful ideas to me. But…it is not about fatigue or strength or weakness.

It is about perception.

If I were already in a wheelchair, I wouldn’t get the oft asked questions when I’m slowly traversing a staircase. “Did you hurt your leg?” In the winter: “Did you hurt your knee skiing?” Or just the looks. On the outside, I don’t really look ill; so when I’m slowing traffic down on a staircase or on an escalator, I raise the irritation, if not ire, of those behind me or trying to get around me.

But even more so a wheelchair would afford me the perception of expectations. People in a wheelchair are at least somewhat limited in what they can do physically. You don’t expect them to go out all-day and then again in the evening. You don’t expect them to spend the day walking around a mall or an amusement park. And you are fairly unquestioning when they say that they are tired or need a rest.

I rarely have that luxury. “Why can’t you?” is the question I hear most when I turn down an outing or cut short an activity. “You did _____the other day. This isn’t as hard as that.” I’m put on the defensive when I am struggling to make better choices for myself, for my health. I’ve pushed my health so often trying to do more than I am truly able or to hide my own physical struggles. The price I pay for doing so is rather high. I cannot just sleep late one day to make up for exhaustion. And when I push it too much, the fatigue makes my muscle weakness worse. My joints don’t stay in place. I ache. Just getting around is a chore. And recovery is not a mere day; it can be a week or more.

Another perception of expectation a wheelchair would afford me is that of friendship. If you have a friend who is in a wheelchair, you will need to be sensitive to his/her needs and make allowances for your times together. You know the relationship will take work as you have to enter that person’s world a bit. And if you prefer an active lifestyle when out with friends, well then, you spend time with those you can join you instead of pushing someone who really cannot.

A year ago, I went on a woman’s retreat. I didn’t get a bed or even a spot in one of the three bedrooms (with doors for some semblance of quiet), so I wound up on an air cushion on the floor in a large open area. Some women stayed up until nearly 2:00 am talking and, yes, giggling. Then other women got up just before 7:00 am. I had little sleep in an uncomfortable “bed.” We sat for several hours at a time on Saturday. By the time to two day event was over, I was stiff and exhausted. And working full time the next week was harder than it usually is.

This year, I’m not going to the retreat. And I’ve already been told that I should be more social, that I should be more spiritual, that I should make an effort to join in instead of being self-centered. I’d rather I heard that someone understood that another retreat like the last would be difficult or that I’d get a bed so I could get some rest.

I feel as if I haven’t really said what I mean, but it is a start. I do not wish for the confinement of a wheelchair, however much I could use one from time to time as I get around.

I do wish for the perceptions and assumptions a wheelchair might afford me from those around me.

Do I sound as if I am complaining? I truly do not mean to…I just wish I didn’t keep finding myself defending or explaining. I just wish more of those around me stopped to think for a minute about how having MS and asthma might affect my life…and not give me grief about resting, staying home, or not doing what others think I’m able to do, but rather what I know is best for me.

I haven’t given up. I don’t spend my time wallowing in all this. I don’t really have the time. As a single person, I have to work and keep my home and car and care for my pets and myself all by myself. That’s often hard enough without battling two chronic incurable diseases that have greatly altered my lifestyle.

Perceptions. Assumptions. Understanding.

Does any of this make sense?

Wednesday, September 26, 2001

The following was my first attempt at writing what a friend calls "smut." I wrote it on a dare. Does Danielle Steele need to worry? Probably not. But the experience was fun.

The Beginning of a Lie

It was a dark and stormy night when I stole a few moments to be with my lover--moments that will haunt me for the rest of my life.

When does a lie begin? When does it end? Did my lie begin the first moment I lay eyes on Geoffrey’s beautifully sculpted form? A new model for my art class, he defied description in our clumsy language. Some Master had chiseled his form as a mockery to artists everywhere. The living can never truly be captured to the inanimate form, no matter the medium one might choose.

For fifteen years, I’ve watched scores of models parade before my students. Observing the reactions of those who’d come to learn was one of my greatest amusements. The stares, the blushes, the whispers, the giggles. Something about the naked body on display reduces most adults to the response of a teenager, often a teenager in heat.

Growing up with parents as artists, I believed I was immune to any base attraction to those who bared their form for my classes. I believed this, that is, until the robe slipped from Geoffrey’s strong shoulders to lie in a silken pool at his feet. Even I flushed at the sight of his manhood. But in truth it was the whole of him that captured my body and his mind my heart.

It began innocently enough. Geoffrey stayed after class to ask some questions about modeling, this being his first time. His questions were sincere, and I suggested we stop by the coffee house on the corner to continue our conversation. The hours passed as we moved from discussing the needs of my students, their hopes for my class, to his reasons for modeling. At the mention of his work, Geoffrey blushed, which surprised me. I would have thought that someone who posed with such grace would not be embarrassed about the work. But that was not the only surprise I was to receive from him.

Geoffrey is a poet, or at least he would have been one in another life. Here, in this life, he works at a nursery on Elm Street. The reason he’d chosen to model was that he needed money quickly. His mother was ill and needed medicine her managed health care did not cover. In the past few weeks, he had given blood, given plasma, and participated in two different studies at the medical school. He’d also gone from door to door to search for odd jobs such as mowing lawns or doing light repairs, and it was in this canvassing that he met the woman responsible with supplying the art department with models for the various painting, drawing, and sculpting classes.

The night wore on as I listened to his tale and to his poetry, the passion of his soul, and I gave no thought to my family, my husband Lawrence and my three young daughters. Glancing at my watch after my third cup of coffee, I was startled to discover that it was after midnight. My class had ended at nine. I rushed off without even asking how long he was scheduled for my class. Already, my heart did not want to know the date of his departure.

Returning home to a darkened house, I used the time-honored excuse of car trouble when my husband questioned me the next morning. After that, I was never really late again. Geoffrey would stop to talk, to walk me to my car, and to bid me good-bye. The evening he finally touched me--he brushed my lips with his fingertips to stop me from asking him to stay longer--my body tingled with desire, with regret, and with shame.

I love Lawrence and the girls. I’ve never so much as looked at another man in the way that Geoffrey has overwhelmed my senses, my body, my desires. It was the last class, that dark and stormy night that we gave in to the temptation before us. Passions swelled and filled the night with ardor. He took me, there in my classroom, and fulfilled my longings as no other has before or since. The heights he brought me to had heretofore been unknown to me. Afterwards, with tears in his eyes, he stroked my cheek and apologized for breaking the sanctity of my marriage saying that he should have left long ago. And he did, leave that is, while I remained clutching the robe he had left behind.

Lawrence never commented on the melancholy that overtook me or the robe that suddenly appeared in our bathroom. I loved Lawrence that same night in a failed attempt to make amends for my betrayal.

Now, as I sit here, one hand resting on my swollen abdomen, I am faced with how that one lie of car problems grew to the gravid condition that resulted from my passion with Geoffrey. Car problems, the students needing extra attention, then empty specious errands. The lies compounded. Lawrence believes this child the result of a failed diaphragm. But I know better.

How do I forget those stolen moments with Geoffrey? How do I set aside my deep longing to reach those heights once more? How do I destroy my family with the truth of this child? For I am not foolish enough to believe the truth will not come out.

It is only a question of time.