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!]