Friday, December 30, 2005

My writing student came in to work today as a volunteer. Between the two of us, we managed to accomplish all but one task I wanted completed before the end of the year.

She is such an absolute pleasure with whom to work. She picked up the work on the press archive that she had done last August without missing a beat. She remembered where everything was located on the server, how to scan, format, PDF, enter, and hyperlink items on the archive and finished the last 14 historical items.

I pratically sighed with contentment all day, moving from one task to another and having someone to help. I even finished my status report on the past two weeks and sent it off (I usually do this Sunday evenings). My only lingering thought is that one last task. I am tempted to log on to the server some time this long weekend and try to tackle it.

But this is not even the best part of my day. The best part was that she came home with me and we wrote for several hours. I finally tackled the sermon I had been avoiding in my novel. I wanted it to be important to the story, not just popped in for a Christian effect. I think, perhaps, I outdid myself. Even if no one else gets what I was working toward, it is exactly what I wanted to say.

Over the past five years, my writing student has greatly matured her rather significant talent. I have enjoyed being a part of that, watching her, guiding her. The humbling part is that she will eventually eclipse what I can achieve as a writer.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

I only had three cookies at work today, which was reasonable in my mind considering how few that was compared to the past two days.

I worked rather frenetically all day, so I treated myself to another three cookies to eat with my dinner. After all, the press release went out, the hard copies of the release and the press list went to one of the partners, I created a spreadsheet tracking all board correspondence over the past year, I uploaded a set of photos to the website, uploaded the press release, and added a new event, updated the press list and the press archive, worked on a spreadsheet of hyperlinks to all our boilerplate materials and collateral for staff, and drafted my status report for the past two weeks.

I deserved those cookies.

Once I arrived home, I let Kashi out and headed upstairs to change my clothes. I actually left the office at a decent time and was ready to settle down with my book...and those cookies.

When I came back downstairs, I noticed a napkin on the floor. My wretched puppy dog had come back inside, made a beeline for my bag, and helped himself to those cookies!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Oh, how I wish I could be two years old again for just a short while.

If I were, I would lay down on the floor and throw a fit to rival anyone in the terrible two's! I would scream and beat my hands and feet against the floor. I would cry and shake and wail my frustration for the whole world to see and hear.

Alas, I am far from two years old.

Today, I continued working on the press release. I had drafted one of our own and had all parties in agreement that we would coordinate press releases. Then...the VP of Real Estate came in and decided that separate press releases would undermine the budding partnership. I had carefully crafted a message that clearly complimented the other one. Having a mulitple notice approach to the press is also advantageous. This is my job. I had a plan and successfully navigated the course with all parties involved...until someone came along and said that "we" were doing only one release. That one decision undid all my work and I had to work with the other communications person to create the combined press release, which also prolonged the time she had to work on this project.


I do think that I made another "communications buddy" through all of this. She, too, was equally frustrated at the last minute notice and non-communications approach to the press release. We commiserated together and then complimented each other on making the best of the situation. When I asked how she had succeeded in communications for 10 years, she answered rather bluntly that "Some times you have to just suck it up."

While I recognize the value of her answer, I cannot help but rail against the fact that letting go of my work often means watching mediocrity reign. I am lousy when it comes to doing something less than my best.

In the midst of all of this, I finished the donor analysis and drafted, reviewed with the president, printed, copied, and mailed the outstanding contribution acknowledgement letters. It was a tremendous amount of work. At the end, when the president was reviewing the three spreadsheets I created for him, he smiled, nodded his head, and muttered that it was just what he needed to take to the chairman of the board. I am small enough that I would have preferred a real acknowledgement of the work than the abrupt change to another matter. That I got to see that it was a job well done should have been enough for me, eh?

Well, not if you are two!

I am juggling work and have not even managed to start even one of my outstanding tasks that I had so hoped I would get to do this week. I want to be strategic and systematic about my work. I truly dislike being reactionary. Will I ever get to the communications and knowledge foundation that this organization genuinely needs?

Oh, how I wish I were two. And if I were...then all the cookies I have been consuming would not matter at all!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I thought I would have four days all to myself to catch up on those parts of my job I haven't yet truly had the opportunity to address. Aside from the accounting staff, I am rather alone in the office this week. A perfect opportunity to organize, strategize, and put a few more things into top loading sheet protectors, eh?

Oh, my, was I ever mistaken about a day to myself. And if today was any indication, that list of mine will nary be even a mite shorter by Friday.

First, I measured and measured and measured again to make sure I had the nails in the right place for this photo collage I created for the main conference room. It is seventeen 8x10 photos arranged in three groupings that are all exactly 3 1/2 inches apart from each other. The three groupings are 18 1/2 inches apart. The entire collage is exactly centered on the wall opposite the conference table with one foot on either end. While the idea was a good one on my part, I would say, the execution was a nightmare...way too much math for me!

Then, this one small request to review a press release that we should have been releasing ourselves turned into researching the background of a project I knew nothing about to draft our own press release, reworking the parts of the other press release that pertained to us, and working out the coordinated release with the other communications person...oh...and...trying to get our staff on the phone to ask questions while they are on vacation.

I ate cookies all day, wrote, researched, and wrote some more. And ate more cookies.

My goal was to also take lunch this week since I very rarely get the chance to do so. I brought the book I am reading in anticipation of a bit of relaxing time. Not only did I never have even a moment to myself, but I also left the book there! My stomach is still roiling from all those cookies and my book is all the way across town. How am I supposed to fall asleep tonight?

Tomorrow just has to be the quiet day I envisioned...and I must stay away from the eight containers of homemade cookies still sitting on the counter.

Will power anyone?

Monday, December 26, 2005

I remembered to take the trash out to the curb this evening. While doing so, I could not help but think about the last time I did so, struggling through the snow and ending up in the emergency room.

It is a strange sensation not being able to breathe. The air tonight was cold and my chest began to tighten even before I made the five trips from the backyard to the curb to fetch the recycling, the trash bin, and the three large bags of leaves I gathered on Saturday.

By the second trip, I began wheezing. By the fourth, I wondered if the nebulizer would be sufficient to my needs once I finished, sufficient to dispel the feeling that an elephant was sitting on my chest intent on keeping me from drawing a decent breath.

Thankfully, it was.

While breathing the chemical mist, I kept thinking about my grandfather. Here is a man who would always be willing to take out the trash for his wife. Oh, were it so that I should find someone with whom to share this life...and to love me as he does her.

Now, it appears that his wife is dying. She moved beyond this world a few years ago due to the ravages of Alzheimer's, but her body remained when her mind did not. I suppose her body is simply tired of carrying on alone.

Week after week, year after year, my grandfather has cared for her. First in his home and then finally, reluctantly, during his visits to her at the nursing home. He combs her hair, cleans her face and hands, and feeds her, all the while talking to her and touching her with such gentleness.

Such grief and loss my grandfather bears with grace. He has faced the loss of the love of his life over and over again for so long now. But even knowing her suffering will finally come to an end does not lessen that grief, that loss. How does he let go of a woman he has loved for over sixty years?

I marvel at his love. I ache for his loss. I grieve with him.

I am weary of death.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

I struggled to listen to the pastor in church this morning. It was not because of the rain that was pouring down outside, effectively drowning out his voice at times. It was not because I was thinking about the water that rain might bring to my basement or the long drive to my father's house through that torrential storm that lay ahead. It was not because the pastor is not skilled at holding a crowd and evoking a response. It was because of what he was not saying.

Once the scripture had been read, John 3:14-17, the pastor failed to take even one opportunity to teach us of God's Word. This day, one set aside to celebrate and reflect upon the magnitude of the greatest gift ever given to mankind, was lost in one humorous tale after another. Contemporary tales...tales from the past...tales from man.

Christ used parables to teach. There is nothing wrong with illustrating a point with that which might spark understanding. But He also used those tales because He was speaking to those who did not have eyes to see or ears to hear. Today the room was not filled with scoffers and scholars ready to pounce. The room was filled with those ready to worship.

Why not take the time to weave the tale of the near sacrifice of Isaac? The parallel of a father being willing to sacrifice his son, of obedience, of a substitute? Why not tell the tale again of a man willing to stay with a woman he had not touched as she bore a child that was not his, of a woman who bore the burden of carrying a child from a source she did not quite understand, of those who came from afar to worship, of the obedience that wrapped around them all to the glory of God?

Why not tell the tale of a birth that took place so that same child could die? How the death was the only way that we could live? A tale that was foreshadowed and foretold throughout scripture. The mystery, the joy, the pain, the sorrow?

We do not know scripture well enough to set aside an opportunity to study the intricate weaving of a message told over many years and through many voices that still ring so very clearly today.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

This day has been a good day.

I have felt rather lonely this holiday season and worked to fill Christmas eve with something other than longing for company.

I awoke early and met with Kashi's vet. She and I went over his test results and discussed his treatment options. He is going to start taking some Chinese herbs next week. I truly hope they help him.

I then went to my favorite clothing store, Chico's, to return the two pair of pants that I bought for the Italy trip. I never wore the second pair because the fabric of the first pair became pilled after just a couple weeks of wear. The sales associate that I work with each time credited my card...and then showed me this rather comfortable suit. I had received a Visa gift card, so I used the credit and the card to purchase the suit. [I happen to think that I look rather good in it.]

I came home and turned my energies to the house and yard. I raked the leaves that had fallen since the last time I tended the yard and bagged them up to leave at the curb next Tuesday. I trimmed back the ivy and Wisteria that had become a bit overgrown. I relocated Bird Central (in yet another attempt to stop feeding the squirrels) and filled all three feeders. I also repotted three plants and gave everything a good watering.

Inside, I filled, ran, and emptied the dishwasher, did three loads of laundry, and replaced the batteries in the carbonmonoxide detector. I also emptied the trash and cleaned out the refrigerator. [I am avoiding the vacuum cleaner.]

Finally, I reconciled my bank statement, paid my bills for the month, installed three new software programs, updated Windows, Office, and ran a security scan on my computer.

All this was accomplished while keeping my attention on the football games today. [Football was the reason for the early rise this morning.]

So, now, I am curled up on the couch watching the second of two rather atrocious avalanche disaster movies and reading a book.

Today was a good day.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Our offices closed at noon today...I managed to leave just before 2:00. I was working on correspondence and a report that really were the purview of another person, but what I cannot get my mind around the fact that the organization suffers when crucial work is left undone. I cannot bring myself to walk away and leave it undone. At least it gave me the chance to interact with the president and to do a bit of data gathering and analysis...a wee bit.

I came home and rested...and then I got to play (and win) two Scrabble games.

Being able to have the extra time to rest spoke to my heart for I have been rather stretched of late.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

I have not decorated my house this year. I cannot bring myself to do so. I am too tired. The decorations seem too frivolous.

I keep thinking about my grandmother, my great uncle, Kashi, work, my health, the problems our country is facing, the stress around the world...

I sat down and read through the Gospel of John. Such words to savor.

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." ~14:27

There is so much more to this life. I wish that I were not so very tired. I wish that I were back on the mission field. I wish that I were a better witness at work. I wish that I had more to give. I wish.

As much as I like receiving presents, I wish that this time of year really was about the meaning of Christmas, of the life Christ, of the sacrifice of love, of the purpose of God's plan.

I wish you joy and peace this holiday season.

The joy of the holiday, however, is not found in shopping, in presents. The joy of the holiday is in the incredible reality that God gave us the gift of eternal life. The peace of the holiday, though, is not about spending time with family or friends or time off work or eating good food. The peace of Christmas is actually found in the life of one born to die. What a conundrum!

Even though I enjoyed the gifts I chose and gave, even though I am grateful for what I have received to help clean the ducts of my home, even though I chowed through much of the delicious food sent to our office...I wish that we could all just stop the madness this commercial holiday has become and think about the true reason for this season, the reality of Christ, and the power and responsibility of the gift of eternal life.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My lunch today was cheese and crackers. The crackers were from a gift basket that arrived at work today. The cheese I found in the back of the refrigerator leftover from a gift basket last week. I cut off the dried and crusted layer and ate the perfectly good cheese beneath.

A free meal!

For dinner I had a 36 cent can of chicken dumpling soup. I picked it out at the store because it was cheap (the expense of the Italy is still not quite done) and because one of the very few good memories I have of my childhood is the taste of my mother's chicken and dumpling soup that she made from scratch. She no longer makes it, but the memory lingers. I dream of the day I get to eat another dish of someone's homemade chicken and dumpling soup. Of course, the canned version left something to be desired. For one, it had green beans and peas in it! I didn't eat them, of course. However, Kashi found them quite tasty.

How fortunate that I had something left over to share with my beloved puppy dog, eh?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

How old is too old?

Sounds like a question for a college guy troving the refrigerator, eh? Well, it also sounds like me.

I know...gross.

This weekend, I polished off the crackers that my best friend brought with us to Italy but we never consumed. I regularly eat eggs, yogurt, and sour cream long past the expiration date someone pasted on the side of the container. The latter two merely require a bit of stirring to look like new again. If its been cooked, all bets are off. As long as there is no visible evidence of things growing, eat away. Leftovers can last a good two weeks at least, right?

Well, last week...uhm...I think I finally discovered the answer to the question just how old too old actually is: Eight years is definitely too long.

I was looking in the refrigerator a few days ago for something to put on my steak. I usually just throw a slab of meat on the grill, cook it four and a half minutes per side, and eat it plain. That is about all the cooking I am up to after working all day. But, this time, I was hankering for a bit of flavoring. Bernaise sauce was on my mind, and I even went so far as to look up the recipe on the Internet, but it would have been too much work. Then I spotted a bottle of A-1 Sauce. Perfect, eh?

I reached for it and then paused. The bottle has been with me through the last three moves, making it at least eight years old. Should I really eat it? I opened it and gave it my first test: a strong sniff. It certainly smells like A-1 Sauce. After passing the second test, visual inspection, I decided that surely something with so many chemicals in it would still be okay. I admit that I was a bit cautious with the first bite, but it passed the third test: a tentative taste.

So, I slathered it on the A-1 and crammed it into my mouth...and chewed. But I started thinking...even though it passed all three tests, should I really be consuming something that is eight years old? After taking a few more bites, I decided that, perhaps, eight years really is too old and dumped the bottle in the trash.

Tonight I had the final portion of the pot of lentils I cooked when my father was over for a visit.

That was only nine days ago.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I am huddled on the couch beneath two blankets. I have on bike shorts, leggings, jersey pants, a tank top, a turtleneck, a hooded sweatshirt, two pairs of socks, and gloves. And yet I am cold.

I was so tired that I left work early to sleep, knowing that tomorrow I have to get up quite early for the third day this week. I am so sleepy that the lines on the road were difficult to follow on the drive home. And yet I am awake...because I am cold.

No fever. Just chills.

Me who believes that the 20's are nicely brisk. Me who regularly ventures out in the dead of winter with just a scarf and gloves, eschewing the necessity for a coat. Me who has kept the air-conditioner on in my office virtually every day since I moved in there (though not yesterday).

I am cold.

~~I finally dared to google Cushing's Disease... I am NOT prepared for this. Kashi has to go back to the vet for the day tomorrow. My heart hurts...

Wednesday, December 14, 2005 life...

Yesterday I attended a seminar on developing relationships with grantmakers. It was engaging, informative, encouraging, and inspiring to me. Some much of what was said validated my gut feelings and ideas for direction in this area. [Sigh]

So, when I arrived home, I spent the evening working. I read through my fourteen pages of notes, coded them for themes, and collated the data into two sections: observations about the common threads among all eleven speakers and action items for our organization. I sent a meeting invitation to my boss and then proceeded to create a two-page bulleted handout for our discussion. [Sigh]

I also set down to capture one of my thousand and one ideas for organization that I never seem to have time to implement. I created a spreadsheet of hyperlinks to the marketing collateral and boilerplate text that I either created, updated, or worked out a new presentation. A great idea, eh? My boss actually thought it was "excellent." [Sigh]

The discussion went well, and I will be dropping my ideas at the senior management meeting. While the thought of that scares me a bit since many of them are strategic and systematic (the antithesis of what has been happening), I am excited because what I presented was solid, worthy of pursuit. [Sigh]

However, at the end of the discussion, I checked my wrist for the time and discovered...that when I put on my watch this morning, I failed to notice that I was already wearing one! [Sigh]

Did I mention that I am tired?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Two Degrees.


What is it about two degrees that can flummox me so?

I keep the thermostat set at 68 degrees because my little home has rather large gas bills in the summer. However, lately I have found 68 to be rather frigid. I find myself shivering and my toes and fingers are ice cold. So, turn it up a bit, right? One nudge. Two degrees.

Well, apparently 70 degrees is sweltering where my physiology is concerned. I grow warm and weak. I start pealing off my clothes and stalk over to the thermostat to spin the dial back to 68. The heat seemingly vanishes in an instant. So I grow more comfortable and rest back on the couch. For an instant.

The chills start. I watch my fingers turn blue before my eyes. [Okay, blue may be exaggerating, but they feel blue!] I snuggle beneath my chenille throw and think warm no avail. It is not long before I make my way to the thermostat to nudge it a bit. About two degrees sounds right, eh?

I grow too warm.

I grow too cold.

Two degrees.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I was a mouse murderess again tonight. My only consolation is that his time of dying would be shortened by the outside temperature.

Still...I am quite bothered at how easily I fell back into this skill.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

I have been pondering a moment of choice given to me a while ago.

I came face to face with a man who wreaked havoc in my younger life with his vile acts. As a child, I could not speak for myself and had no adult in my life who would. Here he was before me at a time when I have finally found my voice...but I could not speak.

It were not for a lack of words or desire but for the moment. It was not my moment and to make it mine would have been selfish.

I have been pondering that moment, wondering what lesson God would have me learn. I was able to shrug off his touch without shame. I was able to turn away and live not in the moment. I was able to speak but understand that silence was best.

Is knowing that I could enough for me?

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I am tired.

Are you tired of reading that I am tired?

Friday, December 09, 2005

My great uncle died yesterday. My best friend's husband's grandfather died today.

days of sorrow, days of joy

days of sorrow wrapped with smiles

days of joy laced with tears

a life celebrated, a life mourned

the past, the present, the future

what was, was is, what will never be

days of sorrow, days of joy

moments touching memories

living and reliving long walks

quiet talks and rainy afternoons

laughter and love and life

days of sorrow, days of joy

releasing the hopes and dreams

of what will never be to treasure

the moments and memories of what was

healing heartache, honing grief

celebrating, mourning, releasing

days of sorrow, days of joy

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I am not one for office holiday parties. I am especially not one where the food runs out far too quickly. I am not one for mingling and small talk...especially when the music is blaring so loud that my ears hurt.

My hermit nature came to the fore tonight.

At least I had a legitimate excuse for leaving early: Kashi had been at the vet all day for testing and needed picking up before the office closed.

I am worried for my puppy dog.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A mother always knows, eh?

Well, I think that also includes doggy mammas. I noticed Kashi starting to drink excess water more than a year ago. He's had several kidney function tests since then, but they kept turning out normal. When he started averaging more than three bowls of water a day and waking me up at night to go out, I drug him back to the vet. This last test indicates that he probably has a tumor either on his adrenal gland or his pituitary glad. Tomorrow's VERY EXPENSIVE test will tell us which location and determine his treatment options.

I think that I should get some sort of award for not crying when I talked with the vet about his test results from last week. I was in the car with the president of the company going to lunch. I swallowed hard, asked if the situation was immediately fatal, and then agreed to hold my worries until after tomorrow's test.

He's only 10. We should have 5 more years together...

This is me...not worrying...

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I ended up in the emergency room last night because of my trash.

The snow made rolling the garbage can across my yard to the curb for collection quite difficult. I pulled and fell. I pulled and fell again. I went inside to call someone for help, let the phone ring twice, and hung up. I went outside again and started pulling again. My breathing grew labored and I was shivering from being soaking wet from my repeated falls to the snow. I started wheezing, but continued.

Three times already I have forgotten to put my trash at the curb. There were, in fact, 13 dead mice at the bottom of the overflowing container. I couldn't let another week go by. I also didn't want to hear rejection again when I asked for help.

I made it to the curb and then I made it to the emergency room.

I went to work today on just three hours sleep.

I am still tired.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I couldn't get anyone to stay with my pets on Friday night, so I had to leave early Saturday and turn around and leave again just 24 hours later because my options were so limited. I asked three people for a ride to the airport and still ended up having to walk to the metro station when it was quite cold. Coming and going was quite draining.

Some of my grandmother's students came to the funeral and another wrote a note about what she meant to her. All said that she changed their lives in profound ways. I was a bit jealous that they knew her that way when I did not. I stumbled over the end of the scripture passages that I read because my throat was thick with tears. The classical music was fitting. The service honored her and was honest in who she was. We have received a few donations to the scholarship fund.

I do not understand why my family believes ridiculing me is caring or even acceptable.

The plane flight was horrible; I was ill both ways.

The Cowboys lost.

My laundry is undone.

I am going to bed.

~ ~ ~

The bright moment of my day: my best friend and her husband worked together to welcome me home with a cherry pie with crumbs on top (the topping is my favorite part).

Pies...another way to say "I love you."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

I have to get up in just a few hours for the flight. It is crazy that I am up this late.

I spent my evenings this week finishing up the program for my grandmother's funeral. Tonight (yesterday) I had to pack and to clean the house since my best friend and husband are coming to stay with Kashi and Fancy and Madison. While she would not begrudge me a dirty home, I would not want to dishonor her gift of caring for my pets while I am gone by offering poor hospitality.

I was supposed to hear the test results for Kashi today, but didn't. I am worried about him and how much water he is drinking, but I am also worried for me because getting up in the middle of the night with him is taking its toll.

When will I get to catch up on my sleep?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I designed/drafted the program for the memorial service. While I like what I accomplished (especially since I used one of my favorite photos from Italy), doing so was another reminder that I wished I had genuine design skills. There is so much that I cannot do and so little that I understand when it comes to using PhotoShop and PageMaker.

We did receive the company overview brochure and the individual tri-folds and the remittance envelopes that I oversaw (and designed in part) at work today. Talk about closure! I was glad to receive them, but I was overcome with worry that people wouldn't really care about them. So much of my work, my heart, my life is tied up within those pages...

Sometimes...sometimes I wish that someone would sit down and explain all the things that confuse me...or at least try...

Perhaps a third shower tonight will do the trick!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Scrabble with my best friend.


Such contentment wrapped in the agony of defeat and the joy of victory.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Great Football
My last bit of delicious Thanksgiving leftovers
Two refreshing showers

What more could a girl want?

Sunday, November 27, 2005

I have had three showers today. Ridiculous isn't it? Such pleasure to be found in water...

The Dallas Morning News is picking up the obituary I wrote about my grandmother and doing a feature on her. More facts have been shared and, sadly, more distorted truths.

I dared to ask my mother about some of what was claimed. I was invited to seek the facts myself. For example, the year her father was born cannot be disputed when the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics holds the record of his birth. He was not 20 years older than my grandmother...only 11. Some of our family are so steeped in their "truths" that they cannot accept what might actually be true. Others are crippled by the anger and hurt buried deep within them. I, myself, am weary of trying to unravel the tangled web of perception, lies, and truth about my grandmother's life, while staving off the emotions of others. And I am saddened that I did not know the parts of her that were remarkable for perseverence and achievement, rather than the aftermath of her jealousy, fantasies, and manipulation.

Regardless of how she was with her family, my grandmother did spend twenty-seven years of her life teaching biology--rather successfully I have learned--to inner city high school students in Dallas, TX. She also repeatedly won awards to further her studies from the National Science Foundation. Perhaps the exposure in the newspaper will draw more money to the scholarship fund that we are setting up in her name. That way, at least, the good parts of her life can still live on in the futures of students who find the mysteries of science a marvel as did she.

The Irene Carneal Penry Science Scholarship Fund
4001 Walnut Hill Lane
Dallas, Texas 75229
(972) 502-7300 phone

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Well, I picked myself up off the bathroom floor a while ago.

When my brother installed the showerhead that my mother sent and turned the water on, I was not much impressed. But that was because I had not fully investigated all the wonders of this new device. Kohler definitely put a little something into this design.

It is simple, really. There are three settings that you can adjust with a simple twist of the showerhead. One is a wide spray, one is like a strong shower, and the other is like a wet massage. With all three settings, water is sent gushing down your body. I found the whole experience rather heavenly and was quite joyous at the thought that I would get to repeat it each time I step into my own shower.

As you might have guessed, I spent far too much time enjoying each of the settings, especially the massage mode. I overheated and failed to make it to the bedroom.

Though fainting is rather dangerous and I have a bump on the back of my head, I am still excited about my next shower. I will have to be ever more careful about the water temperature...but...oh, what bliss is in my future.

Friday, November 25, 2005

The arrangements for the scholarship fund begun and the service date and time set, I had my brother send notice to everyone. I finished the obituary and paid for it to run in the paper. I confirmed that all the paperwork for my grandmother's cremation has been completed. Now, the work left is her memorial service.

Phone call after phone call, word upon word, I find myself drawn into something that is even more tangled than my own emotions: the many realities of my grandmother. I have had emails of remembered passion and humor. I have read stories of sacrifice and perseverance. I have learned of many things that she was and wondered which is the truth. Or is the answer that there are as many truths as there were people in her life?

I learned that she was a switchboard operator and sales clerk and runway model and sculpture model. I have learned her likeness still stands in statues in Dallas' Fairpark. I want to go there and look for her face, if only to discover if I can see what others did in her.

I have been awash in anger and bitterness that permeates so much of the lives of her children. I heard harsh criticism of her brother when I only know him as the most gracious example of devoted love I have ever seen. People supplied their facts for her obituary and I have waded through them in wonder and disbelief. Which was her truth? Which was my mother's? Which is mine?

Still, despite this, today was a day of great accomplishment with the help of my brother. My kitchen faucet has been rebuilt, my computer updated, my HVAC filter changed, my bathroom light switch turned the correct direction, my luggage returned to the attic, and my Christmas presents purchased in Italy wrapped.

And then, much to my surprise, I had a truly wonderful meal to end the day. Is it possible to have such culinary satisfaction two days in a row? I had cheesy, tangy spinach dip with fresh tortilla chips. I had a most perfect filet mignon with bernaise sauce and a baked potato that truly defines what a baked potato should be. I had the singularly greatest bread experience of my life. I had banana pudding with fresh bananas drizzled with chocolate and caramel, served on a bed of crushed caramelized vanilla wafers. What more could a stomach want?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

I am thankful that no mice have appeared of late. I am thankful that Kashi and Madison and Fancy are such comforting company for me. I am thankful for the challenges of my job. I am thankful for the incredible love and support from my best friend. I am thankful for finally enjoying cold weather., I experienced such a beautifully loving and peaceful Thanksgiving meal. That the food was arguably the best I have ever eaten during this holiday was merely icing on the cake. A cake filled with jokes and family chatter, with comfort and a rather relaxed approach to the whole production of a holiday meal. I carved a succulent turkey so moist it literally fell apart while being moved from the pan and while attempting to slice it into servings. I tasted the most sublime sweet potato creation. I rather delightedly scarffed up a large number of spectacular deviled eggs (a definite added fillip to the day). I struggled to find room for soft, sugary monkey bread. I reveled in the opportunity to down ham next to turkey that was smothered in black pepper gravy. It was all so wonderful that I ate at least two plates too many. I shall be full until Monday.

But it could have been the meanest meal and I would not have noticed. There were no harsh words, no veiled criticisms. There were no judgments, no arguments. There was, in great quantities, laughter and love and peace. No greater gift could someone give me than this day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Still no mice. I am hopeful.

I am glad today is over, but yet I wish that I were better at learning the lessons of today. The cat was away at work. Mice played. I was resentful and bound and determined to be highly productive. That makes me petty and small. Nothing should matter but how I respond to the responsibilities of my job.

Still...I wanted to leave early as others did so freely. I wanted to take a long afternoon nap.

I did spend four hours making dessert for tomorrow...raspberry crumb bars, lemon bars, and pecan praline bars. Sure that should be a sufficient contribution to dinner at my boss's house?

I shall be driving to my dad's, then to her house, and then back to my dad's to pick up my brother for a visit at my house. A long day on the road, but I'm fairly certain that good food shall be my reward.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

I was so tired last night that I feel asleep on the couch, never made it to my bed, and thus never set the alarm. I awoke at 9:40 and managed to get to work at 10:50, with a 40 minute commute!

I am tired. I am still tired from being ill, often finding myself just trying to get through the day and working at night to make up for my lack of productivity while in the office.

I have also found myself in the middle of all the arrangements for my grandmother...the funeral home, the service, and the obituary have been added to my plate in addition to the scholarship.

I learned that she was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico during the revolution because her mother was caught there by the fighting and couldn't return to the States. In a way, she has been in a battle ever since.

I want to write an obituary that is honest and yet pleases her brother and my mother. I want to convey what a complex woman she was, but that is not the place. I suppose I can talk about how, after being widowed, she worked full time and put herself through school to build a career to support her family. And never was there a more dedicated both science and her students.

My best friend gave me a couple of games of Scrabble tonight that proved to be a relief for me, a relief from all of this. Of course, it would have been a greater relief had I not lost both games...and in the process let me rating drop below hers!

Monday, November 21, 2005

No mice.

Dare I hope that this whole ordeal is over...that I might be ending my spree as a murderess?

I found myself working on setting up a scholarship fund in the name of my grandmother today. Doing so, during Thanksgiving week, is proving difficult since no one is in school. I spoke with the superintendent, the ward superintendent, and the principal of her old school. I believe we have arrived at a solution that does not require setting up a trust (more legal and bank fees), but I will not be able to breathe easy until next week when the financial advisor to the school returns to work and can set up the account for us.

The principal said that he wanted to support us in our grief and would look into my grandmother's file. He said he thought that he could name a science lab after her. 27 years she taught biology in a rather rough inner city school. A part of her I never knew.

This is all a bit overwhelming...

Sunday, November 20, 2005

25, two quite pregnant.

Dad and I did our breakfast/Wal-Mart thing today. Would you believe that not only did we not purchase any DVDs, we didn't even look at them? We got distracted by the Norfolk Island Pine trees and these rather cool Snicker's sports tins with zippered lids. He got a football one; I got a golf one.

Of course, I bought more mice traps.

We watched the Redskins lose (and saw the score updates of the Cowboys winning!) and ate some Snickers. We also talked about my grandmother and looked at the photographs I have been scanning as a part of a larger archival project. The graphics designer we use at work rather graciously cleaned up the photo in yesterday's post, the one that my mother would like to use in the paper and with the scholarship she plans on setting up at the high school where my grandmother taught.

We also looked at some of the photos from Italy. Dad thinks I should specifically name each photo. 1296 names! I am at least working on turning all the vertical photos so that viewers will not need to strain their necks. Needless to say, it is a long process.

Once my dad left, I went out to the yard to mow. It really should have been mowed before I left, and I have been too ill to do so since I returned. I coughed quite a bit, but I did get the job done. I elected not to rake the leaves and worked hard to mulch them into pieces as small as possible. When the mowing was completed, I spread out the crushed leaves. So much of the yard died this summer, despite the rather outrageous water bills I racked up trying to save it. I hope to put some more topsoil out this winter and build up the ground for another stab at setting out grass seed in the spring.

Strange thoughts I am having just now. Thoughts of sleeping when it is not even 6:00 in the evening! I am rather sore from the work of cleaning out the closets and exhausted from the yard I wonder what Kashi would do if I tried to go to bed now. It is times such as these that a doggie door seems like such a great idea.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Current count: 22

A friend and some of her children came over today in a great show of support. They helped me clean out my mouse closets! Certainly it was a case of laying her life down for another...

In the process, two more mice were captured and sent to their demise...but only after much screaming by the female parties in the group. Two mice escaped to freedom. More screaming ensued. At least one hole by which they had gained entry is now blocked. Mountains of mouse dirt (whoever came up with that euphamism?) were removed and absolutely no source of food remains.

As any good closet owner, I did use the opportunity of pulling everything out to evaluate if it should return. Some things were ruined. Some just had simply passed their prime with regard to importance to me. At least there is more space in both closets...ought I to be thankful to the mice for that?

During this rather unpleasant process, my brother called to tell me that my grandmother had died. Fighting back tears, we finished the work and they went home.

I have been sitting here, thinking of her. She was someone who lived more in her world than in the real one. She certainly walked her own path. She inspired her students, but she alienated her family. She was bold, but she knew no shame. She was curious, but often violated the most common boundaries. She had admirers and friends, yet none of them knew she never mothered her own children. She would make you howl with laughter and cringe with embarassment. She loved and hated with great passion. She was her own person.

My great uncle will grieve the loss of a sister he deliberately chose to love his entire life. My mother will grieve the words she never spoke, the relationship she never had. My sister will grieve the loss of another piece of our very small family. My brother will stand beside my mother in her loss. And I...I stand in a tangled web of emotions. I ache for Uncle Charlie and my mother. I cry over the grandmother who was fun when I was a child. But...I am strangely numb over the death of the woman who clashed with her granddaughter again and again, who inflicted her animus on more than on occaision, leaving a child puzzled and hurt. And... I am relieved that she will never again inflict pain on her daughter, that her daughter's burden of care for a woman who never truly loved her as a mother should is over.

I have reaped what she sowed in my mother. It was a loveless, critical crop. Still, it is only right to lay aside the hurt and bitterness for what was and was not and remember that which did bring smiles, that which did not hurt, humiliate, or weary.

She was a beautiful woman who found herself widowed at a young age. Only she knows the why of the choices she made.

Friday, November 18, 2005

I have been huddling in the green chair. Something must be moving through. The pain is near overwhelming. Ironic that the topic of Larry King Live tonight was on MS. "Be positive during those bad days" was the recurring message.

I near drove my boss crazy this afternoon, hanging out in a chair in her office for way too long...asking her questions and fretting over the blackberry I was handed today. Fretting because I claimed to be fearful of learning something totally new. But that was not why I was fretting.

I am still coughing up green stuff in the mornings. So, for the past two days, I have taken rather strong cough medicine at work, despite the side effects. To counter being drowsy, I have taken keep awake OTC stuff. So, it is understandable that I am a bit crazy. I do think it is strange that the only comments I have received at work have been queries as to whether I am contagious...not as to how I am feeling. I was in a meeting this afternoon and they all commented that my coughing was not so loud. I nearly laughed at the risk I think I am taking by using my drug combination. But what choice do I really have?

Anyway...while driving home, I was struck by the realization that I have not been thankful for having an automatic car. My commute is far easier now that I do not have to hold the clutch in while in traffic, now that I do not have to work the whole time I am driving shifting gears.

This evening, when the pain was near overwhelming while driving, I literally pulled over in tears, not from pain, but that God would provide, in His timing, not mine, a vehicle that is more comfortable to drive.

But back to the blackberry. It is the weight. My hands hurt holding it. It is not something that I could carry around very easily. I still cannot figure out the holster, though I don't really have a belt to clip the holster on to in any case. The whole thing is awkward.

It is also that such a device requires such manual dexterity. I have relied on voice dial for so long now. Dialing a phone is just plain hard. If I am not confused by the digits, then my fingers just don't seem to cooperate much of the time. I am, I must admit, ever so thankful that I can still type fairly easily. But pushing buttons...rather than tapping inexplicably more arduous for me. The blackberry serves as a straw for me.

Oh, how I need to be more positive about this new tool, eh? A great tool. A communications tool, even.

I think I did too much in Italy. Walking and climbing and walking more. Other than the rather ridiculous time I spent trying to upload yesterday's photos, I have been napping when I come home from work, falling asleep in front of the tv, going to bed far earlier than is my custom (and is comfortable for Kashi and his bladder), and hardly moving on the weekends. I have yet to make it to the grocery store. I think, perhaps, my illness has lingered because of my fatigue.

Is tonight--one of those days that just shifting my position in the green chair is near overwhelming--because I did too much in Italy? Is it the front that is moving through? Is it simply a "bad day"?

I will end this post, and this day, with a reminder of one of the most satisfying moments of our trip...the delightful discovery of this equisite collection of flora on one of the walls of an ancient Roman amphitheatre outside Florence.

Never has there been a greater craftsman that the Author of Creation. I marvel at His handiwork and cherish the moment I had standing before that wall. Even now, seeing this photo give me pause to reflect and rejoice in God, in the gifts He gives us in this life...the most precious of them being eternal life through His Son, Jesus Christ.

Oh, that I were a botonist who could identify all of this glorious collection...ferns, moss, lichen, on the photo, study the larger view, and savor the beauty with me.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

This morning I found three baby mice all lined up in a row on a trap...14, 15, and 16. I came home to another baby mouse...17.

I thought, perhaps, I would try uploading my first photo to my website...I think it is going to work.

So...while out of order, I thought I would start with a photo of the two of us in Florence. See that tall church in the distance? Well, that is the duomo, those hundreds and hundreds of steps that we climbed up for the view...

The steps were so narrow and seemingly endless. Every once and a while, a small opening would appear in the wall. While the view was spectacular, I welcomed the breeze that came through them as we walked up and up and up those stairs. To be honest, the dome stairs were the ones that gave me pause. But having trudged up four hundred or so stairs, how could I let those at the end stop me? The only truely disappointing part of the climb was to see that even here people could not resist maring this piece of history with grafitti.

On the way up and then back down, there were two places that you could rest without jamming up the climbing queque. The first is a collection of statues of early men of the church. The second was a collection of the tools the workman used to build the church. Seeing the arcane tools makes their accomplishment ever more impressive.

Of course, within the church was such beauty. Can you imagine how the dome was painted? I cannot. The view of the floor from the catwalk was impressive, but I could only take pictures through a thick wall of plexiglass. Now, tell me, if you know...after climbing up all those stairs (with more still to go), who could possibly have the energy to even lean too far over the edge of the catwalk railing? I would recommend them drilling holes every few feet for visitors could use to poke their cameras through for a better view. Still...I imagine that you will be able to admire the craftsmanship of the people who created this building.

The outside of the building was not too shabby either... if you ask me.

Hmmm...1273 photos to go!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Number 13 just took the path of no return by Kashi's food bowl...a rather successful place for mouse capture if you ask me.

Ask me...that's so depressing to write, to know that I have become adept at sending mice to rather horrible end.

Kashi does not like the mice either. He is nervous and bothered by their shrieking. The baby mice are worse than the adults. Neither of us are comfortable just now.

Last night, I dreamt that the first floor closet was filled with mice. I opened the door and scooped a dozen or so of them into the plastic grocery bags that have been my disposal method of choice. Quickly I twisted the top closed and then spun it around my head to disorient them. Finally, I slammed it against the wall to kill them. I was so spooked by seeing the teaming mice in the closet and my cold response in my dream that when Kashi's nose touched my leg I awoke, screamed, and kicked him completely off the bed. My poor puppy dog!

I came home to empty traps in the closets and beneath the kitchen sink and felt hopeful that an even dozen was going to be my number. However, ever the cynical woman, I put a sticky pad by his food (I won't leave one there while I am gone because I don't want Kashi getting caught in it due to curiosity). A while later, the shrieking began. Kashi whimpered. I sighed.

I hate this.

Would you believe that the quite costly, Kohler faucet in the kitchen that has already had parts fail on it once before started leaking? It only leaks when I use it. I suppose I ought to be thankful I was not welcomed by a flood when I came home, eh?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

6 is definitely NOT the magic number. The mouse siege continues.

The basement traps were empty again this evening, as is the one under the kitchen sink. However, I just knew that they had returned to the closet on the first floor, even though I cannot figure out what they would hope to eat there.

I put a trap on the floor of that closet and one by Kashi's food. I very quickly caught a baby mouse and another adult.

Could 8 be my number?

I doubt it! I just heard number 9 start shrieking...SIGH...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Dare I hope that 6 is the magic number?

Last night, I murdered another young mouse. I thought I heard it by Kashi's food bowl (his downstairs bowl is Cheerios), so I put down a sticky pad beneath his bowl in the exit path from beneath the antique cabinet. Suddenly, there was quite a clamor as the mouse found itself stuck half on and half off. It sure could shriek.

Today, when I arrived home from work (I am quite tired of being treated as if I am a pariah of germs there after two weeks of being ill), I rather brave ly checked all the current sticky pad locations. Nary a mouse in sight.

My relief knew no bounds.

I know it is too optimistic to think that 6 could be the number...but I desperately hope it is.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

539 most satisfactory pages later, saddened that the storytelling only lasted one day due to my literary greed, I thought perhaps I had centered enough to look downstairs.

I was wrong.

Three more mice have met their demise; two more babies and another adult. One of the babies struggled and shrieked as I moved the sticky pad trap to the trash. I wept and trembled and raged at my own weakness, as sweat trickled down my face and back.

In my own folly, I called my mother just to ask how many babies there could possibly be. BIG MISTAKE. She ridiculed my weakness and started lecturing me about why I waited five days to get mice traps. No matter that I have been sicker than I have in a long, long time. No matter that I haven't even had the energy to go the grocery store. After to listening to how I am a failure once more, I hung up and went back downstairs.

All the food I found opened and the sunflower kernel bird seed is now in the trash. I couldn't bring myself to empty out each shelf to check all the food. I just poked at it some. I also couldn't bring myself to empty off the closet shelf since it is full of pillows and scarves. I am sure there is a nest in there somewhere.

Perhaps I should launch myself into the eleven books by Robert Jordan that I need to read before delving into his latest. I have only two Mercedes Lackey books to read, but perhaps the larger task could take my mind from what I am doing to live creatures.

I cannot risk poison with Kashi. All of the containers I found had the instructions, "When dead mouse begin appearing, dispose of them properly." Dead mice appearing? I don't want to suddenly find dead mice in unexpected places, but I absolutely cannot risk Kashi eating a dead mouse. Because of his liver problem, protein is toxic to him. Protein laced with poison would most likely be deadly.

How much longer must I do this? Why couldn't the mice be intelligent enough to know that since five members of their family have met horrible ends they should cut their losses and leave whatever way they entered this place?

Why can't I be a mage with the power to spread my magic out and force them to leave without killing them so cruelly?

Sometimes, for me, fiction is far better than reality. This is definitely one of those times.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

I am weak.

Yes, I am ill and I am tired. But is it not only my health that is weak.

I absolutely cannot bring myself to look in the basement closet where the other two sticky pads are located. The mice have made a field day of my "stores" of food there. If I had any sort of strength, I would go down there and check the pads, remove the mice that are most likely there, and remove all sources of food that have been eaten through by the mice. If I were strong.

But I am weak.

I have rested on the couch all day long. I have read three more novels and am now ready to read the new book by Tamora Pierce. I have napped. I have played with the birds (Madison is up to 93 grams! That is 7 grams he has gained. Of course, Fancy has lost exactly 7 grams, but I think it is because she is setting on her eggs.). I have played with Kashi. I have done a bit of the work that I brought home from the office. I have not set one foot on the stairs to the basement.

I feel like the poorest excuse for a female. I feel like a hostage in my own home. I feel as if the trip to Italy was a mistake because I am still so tired and so sick.

I am weak.

Regardless of the time, I am going to bed because I can hardly keep my eyes open and whilst I sleep, there will be no pressure to be strong and go check those sticky pad mouse traps.

Friday, November 11, 2005

I am quite sure that I have met the limits of my resolve.

Today, I felt a smidgen better, though my chest and back and throat and head hurt more whenever I cough.

I stopped by the vet on the way into work and got Kashi's new rabies shot certificate so that I could mail in my application for his 2006 license. I also mailed my sister's birthday gift that I found in Italy, sent another gift to her husband (a wee bit late), and mailed a warranty return on a cellular headset. So, before my workday even began, I was quite productive.

Once at work, I spent the day finalizing the update to the company phone lists. I also designed a second PowerPoint template option (a small variation on the first one I did). Finally, I drafted a training PowerPoint presentation for the controller. She was pleased that I had found the time to help her and even genuinely liked the new template design because it fits well with something like her training presentation because the design is a bit understated.

Coughing so badly that three different people told me to leave, I ducked out a bit early and drove home...but not before I packed up some work to take home for the weekend!

When I got home, I chatted with a friend and then changed back into my pajamas and my robe to concentrate on getting better. Once in comfortable clothes, I gathered my nerves and checked the sticky pads I stuck in the basement pantry where the mice seem to be having a field day. They were blessedly empty. With a sigh of relief for not having to deal with mice stuck on those pads, I went to the kitchen to empty the trash.

Eek! Under the sink where I keep the trash bags was a mouse stuck on the pad. I freaked out and nearly threw up! My friend called back and I told her that there was a mouse I had to throw away. Bolstering my courage with her support, I tried to move the pad, but when I got close, the mouse moved its head! I nearly lost it!

Frantic to find someone else to remove the mouse, I tried to call my writing student's father and then my boss (her son was a strong possibility for rescue in my frenetic fantasy). The former was having a dinner party and the latter was not available.

Then...oh, egregiously friend mentioned that someone from her old job was against using sticky pads because sometimes, if just a particular body part was caught, such as a leg or a tail, the mouse would chew it off to escape.

WHY! Tell me, if you know...WHY whould she offer such an image to me? It is a testimony of how much I like her and enjoy her friendship that I managed to surpress my urge to jump in the car and drive the two hours or so to her home so that I could THROTTLE HER. You know, don't you, that I will be dreaming of finding a bloody trail from a sticky pad with a paw left behind to the dead mouse elsewhere?

Well, then I thought I heard another mouse right by the couch. My friend recommended that I put a sticky pad down on the pathway it would take to run away from me if I disturbed it. I did so without thinking and then talked with her some more, trying to make up my mind on whether or not I could deliberately provoke a mouse into getting stuck. When I hung up, I walked to the kitchen for something to drink. Some preverse part of me compelled me to look down...and there already was a mouse on the pad! Still, trying to free itself! A young adult mouse I would venture.

I screamed, cried, called her back and begged her to pick up the phone (she obviously did NOT hear my voice on the machine) and cried some more. I am weak. I am flighty. I am a helpless female. Because...I DO NOT WANT TO DEAL WITH DEAD OR DYING MICE!

After praying for help to calm down, I finally decided that I would use my cleaning towels to remove the mice and pads. I dropped a towel over the sticky pad (smothering the screams of the second mouse) and then used my back scratcher to poke the towel agaist the sticky surface not already covered by the mouse. Finally, I used some tongs to pick up the towel/mouse/pad and dump them in a waiting trash bag. Repeating the process allowed me to also successfully remove the mouse from under the sink.

It was only then that my writing student's father called. I asked him if he would have come to my rescue and he hesitated over the answer! At that point, I told him that there was only one answer: "Of course I would!" He chuckled, suggested that I try newspaper next time as a means of saving towels, and bravely noted that he would be home for the rest of the weekend.

I am exhausted...still coughing...and SICK OF MICE!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

I drove to work and coughed.

I read through my emails and coughed.

I emptied out my mailbox and coughed.

I worked on updating the company phone list and coughed.

I drove home and coughed.

I should be thankful, ought I not, that at least I can finally breathe through my nose for the most part? I might even make it through this illness without having to buy stock in Puffs (I prefer the lotion kind) to offset all the money I've spent on them. My fever is broken. I am actually sleeping better.

But I still tremble and grow sweaty when I expend even the smallest amount of energy. After getting ready for work, I rested once I was in the car to gear up for the commute. After a day of being without my cough medicine (never drive while on codeine), my chest hurts, my throat is raw, and my head aches from all the coughing I did today.

I need to go to the grocery store since, in addition to being out of the country for two weeks, I have now lost most of my "spare supplies" to those dratted mice, who, by the way, practically laughed at the live traps I put out. On the way home from the airport, my father stopped for milk. When I picked up my prescriptions, I bought a few California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas (I know...what am I doing eating pizza?). Other than that, I have an extremely empty refrigerator and cupboards. But I am too tired. Crackers and cheese will suffice as dinner again.

So I will sit here and cough some more, dread tomorrow, and plow through another novel as I keep my eye on that stack of new books beside the couch.

NOTE: Kashi likes candy corn as much as I do.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I rolled out of bed today and tried to get ready for work, but I was trembling and coughing before I was half-way through my morning routine. I called my boss and told her I needed another day.

So, it was back to the couch.

I did start reading one of my favorite fantasy series. You see, I have this rule that whenever I get a new book in a series, be it historical fiction, fantasy, Christian fiction, etc, I have to re-read all the books in the series before I start the new one. This time, it is only eight books. I also have the new Robert Jordan book, which means I have eleven books to read before I delve into that one. The new Mercedes Lackey book I have only has two books before it, so that will be an easy task.

The Robert Jordan book...oh, is it ever so difficult not to pick it up right now and start plowing through it. Eleven books into the series and I still have unanswered questions. He writes lengthy tomes too, at least 600 pages of rich and complex story weaving.

Since my current author writes for young adults, I managed to wade through four of the eight books. I coughed and read and read and coughed. I keep dozing because my cough medicine has codeine in it.

I am off to bed, devoutly hoping that tomorrow will bring a spate of better health since I have to return to work.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

It was all I could do to drag Kashi and Madison and Fancy to the vet today.

You see, I came home to mice in the house, fleas on my dog (he's never had them in 10 years of living), and skinny pets.

While I knew that Kashi would most likely not eat much while I was gone, I did not realize the same would be with the birds. Madison has lost a fifth of his body weight, nearly enough to kill him. At 86 grams, he is a such a wee light thing. Of course, stuffing him with food would be dangerous at this point. Fancy has lost weight, but not as much. I feel quite guilty that I was so mired in my own cold misery that I did not notice his weight loss earlier. I mean, when I lifted him to put him in the carrier the night I picked him up, it registered to me that he felt light, but I was so very tired having been up for over a day that I did not think about it until this morning when I realized that I needed to take Kashi to see the vet. I brought Fancy and Madison for a weight check. I am quite glad I did!

So, Kashi got drugged up, I dragged all of us to Target for a food scale so that I can track Madison's weight on my own, trooped over to Lowe's for mice traps, and then came back and washed all of the bedding.

By the time I was finished, I was trembling and sweating, even though my fever has finally broken.

I need to get back to work, but I cannot imagine doing so yet. Being up and about for a few hours shagged me and set me to huffing, puffing, and coughing.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Chills, fever, coughing, sneezing, stuffy head. I could easily be on a NyQuil commercial.

My bags are calling to me, begging to be unpacked. They do not know that my ears have been stopped up since Thursday.

1296 photos are asking to be sorted and renamed so that I can burn them to a CD for my friend. They do not know that I am so tired that moving from the couch to the bathroom is quite arduous.

Missing work after two weeks of vacation is not the best choice, but I fear that stronger drugs are needed to cease this illness.

At 8:01 tomorrow, I am calling the doctor!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fever and chills. Coughing, sneezing, stuffy, and aching head.

I still need to unpack...but I do not see that happening any time soon.

I did have a rather interesting conversation with my brother today.

You see, he loved Venice and would go back and visit in a heartbeat. I found Venice to be my least favorite city. I was tired of the stairs and having the walk everywhere. I was so incredibly cold while standing in the rain on that boat, frustrated that there was no real way to catch up with my friend. And frankly elevators are NOT a bad invention.

But my brother pointed out that his fascination came with how life in the city was rather unique. From construction to deliveries, everything was different. Trash barges, milk deliveries by boat, cranes and pulleys everywhere. Life was certainly carved out in Venice and you would have to want to live there to enjoy it. Nothing is easy. Water is a constant threat to pedestrian transportation and to the structural stability of the buildings. Speedy access from one place to another is simply not possible. Patience is the greatest virtue in this city.

Listening to my brother certainly caused me to reflect further upon my own feelings about Venice.

I suppose, in part, I should admit that I was thrown for a loop when I saw all the masks everywhere...and the necklaces of beads. It was so reminiscent of the last time I was in New Orleans. I bought a mask in that city that I kept for years. Since we arrived on Halloween, people were dressed in costumes and confetti littered the streets by the evenings end. All were reminders that the New Orleans I visited may never exist again. So, perhaps, I was prejudiced against the city before I even realized elevators were a luxury not a necessity.

Food for thought...

Friday, November 04, 2005

My friend's train was delayed several hours, extending her fatigue and her painful longing to be back with her husband and daughter. She didn't roll into the Pennsylvania station until after 9:00 and home was still another drive away.

My cousin came for a quick visit before leaving on an early flight tomorrow and I relished the time with him, but I am still tired, stuffy, coughing, sneezing, and aching.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A two-hour delay in the Venice airport resulted in a missed flight and a six-hour delay in the Paris airport.

We are tired. We had too much baggage. We are tired. If I never have another serving of yogurt it will be too soon. We are tired.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The secret itineraries tour was what I had hoped, intriguing and interesting.

I learned where the word mezzanine came from as we saw the secret floor between the second and third floor of the ducal palace. I learned that Casanova was imprisoned there. I learned of the near destruction of the exquisite painting on the ceiling below his first cell with his first attempt at "escape" and his eventual success. I walked in the attic about the grand council chamber, over 25 meters wide and 55 meters long and marveled that the immense weight of the ceiling was not supported by columns or any other conventional means, but by an architectural design that mirrored the bottom of a boat. I walked between gilded ceilings and amongst small, dank cells. I saw torture chambers and justice benches. I saw family crests that had been around for centuries and those that were made up on the spot for the purpose of display. I could easily imagine the paranoid existence of ancient Venice whilst on this tour and reveled in that glimpse of history.

In the public square outside the palace, I fed the pigeons. I have pictures of birds on my head and arms and chest, all eager to eat before I even opened the packet of food. My friend likens pigeons to rats, but I am a friend of all avian life having had Madison and Fancy join my household.

We walked back from the palace for last minute shopping, weaving our way among narrow streets with far greater ease than that of two days ago.

Of course, we walked sniffling and sneezing and coughing. We are both sick. I did not sleep much last night because of a cold that came over me (perhaps because all that time standing in the rain?) and, as with all things, shared my cold with my friend. We have so little time to sleep tonight before leaving at the wee hours of the morning to trek to the airport, I fear that we will be even more fatigued by the end of the day tomorrow than we were arriving in Rome.

Kleenex anyone?

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Well, I should be on a boat tour right now. I am not.

Like a foolish tourist, I left my camera in a small bistro where I had dashed to get some food before the boat tour. We were settled in our seats at the back of the boat when I suddenly realized that I had taken my camera off to pay for the rather expensive ham sandwhich that we had to split and had not picked it up before I ran off to return to the queue for the boat.

Torn between the tour and the investment and photos of the camera, I told my friend to take the tour and I would meet her back at the hotel.

After having an asthma attack trying to quickly get back to the bistro, where I did, most thankfully, find my camera, I sat on the steps of a bridge puffing on my inhaler and trying to think rational thoughts.

Once my breathing eased, I thought I had a brilliant idea. I knew that the tour was going to Murano first, so I would just take a water bus to there and try and catch up with the tour. I felt a twinge of guilt boarding the water bus since my friend had our 3-day passes (and ALL the maps), but I reasoned that I had paid for the pass and still should have passage on the vehicle.

Well, there are direct water busses and...for lack of a better term...indirect ones. One hour later, dripping from the rain and the spray, I arrived to Murano with no hope of catching up with my friend. I had to wait nearly an hour for a water bus back, although I must admit that perhaps I could have taken one of the six that came to the platform if I could have understood Italian better.

So, I am back near our hotel, catching up on e-mail.

The tour should be over by 6:00, and, hopefully, my friend back at the hotel not more than an hour after that by the time she takes the water bus and navigates the micro streets (filled with people) of Venice.

Life in Venice is a much slower pace than Rome.

Tomorrow is a "Secret" tour of the Doge Palace. That I am not going to miss! Roaming through the armory and seeing where prisoners were tortured and then jailed would just match my current mood!

NOTE: We learned yesterday that we have to take the 5:00 bus to the airport, meaning that we will need at least an hour to check out and navigate our way to the bus station with all our luggage, which also means that we will need to be up by 3:00 to make sure we are packed and ready to go. At least that means only one and a half more nights on the slabs of stone the hotel uses for mattresses!

Monday, October 31, 2005

In many of Venice's streets, you can reach out with both arms and touch the walls on either side. They are dark and cramped and wend around this way and that. This is not the city to visit if you are navigationally challenged!

We asked after a Gondale ride and was offered the "student discount" of 80 euros. At about $1.25 US to the euro, that seems a staggering amount to me and I am a bit reluctant to plop down the fair even though my best friend wants to experience a ride.

After spending the day exploring two sections of the city, we really have no sense of where we have been or where we are going. We did find a public toilet that cost a euro each to use. Could you imagine placing charging in the US? Our inalienable right to public bathroom use taken away! Though, perhaps that would help cut down our national debt.

I digress.

We did a wee bit of shopping, a rather large amount of walking, and, of course, ate more pizza and pasta.

Tomorrow we take a tour of the nearby islands.

NOTE: Climbing up three flights and then some of stairs to our room has NOT gotten any easier after all the other stair climbing that we have done in Florence and Rome. Also, all the bridges across the canals here have...yes, you guessed it...stairs! I long to visit Kansas.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

In case you are wondering, the tower at Pisa is still leaning!

We made our way to Venice via Pisa to see the tower. That meant many extra hours on the train. Now, at first, train travel can be an exciting new adventure. But, if you make the mistake, as we have, of having WAY too much luggage, well, then, train travel can be something short of a nightmare.

We are tired of the train. We are even tired of pizza (the most economical item to eat here). We even dared eating at a McDonald's for FAR more euros than I can to admit. The french fries did not taste quite like french fries. The hamburger did not taste quite like a hamburger. But it was not pizza.

Once on the train from Pisa to Venice, we were a bit dismayed to learn that we would have to change trains in Mestre, just outside Venice. We were even told to change platforms, which meant dragging four (yes, you read that correctly) suitcases down a set of stairs and back up the other side. Once we arrived, huffing and puffing, on the platform, we discovered a sign that indicated we could have caught a train just 10 minutes later back where we were. We were thankful, however, to soon be finishing our last train ride.

So, in the dark, we walked through the streets of Venice, lugging our baggage, to look for our hotel. When we finally arrived at the hotel, it was almost comical to learn that our room was on the 3rd floor and that there was no elevator (or as they call it, no lift). I was quite upset. How were we going to get our bags up and then down three flights of stairs? How was I going to go up and down three flights of stairs every time I left the room? Tears were at the ready, but just as there was nothing I could do about the entire country shutting of airconditioners, there is nothing I can do about the fact that very, very few hotels in Venice have an elevator.

When we were brought to the room, an afterthought squeezed in between two buildings with an outside entrance that you reach by another short set of stairs after climbing up to the third floor, we did laugh to see that the miniscule shower was even smaller because it had been stuck beneath a set of stairs or something. There is no curtain. It floods when we use it. People walking the canal are quite noisy, even three flights up. And while we have actual beds, after sleeping on cots for the five nights in Florence, these beds are rock hard. Another opportunity to just be thankful for our time in Italy, eh?

I could say, that while I knew that no trip would be perfect, I am quite disheartened at how many obstacles I have faced here.

I am looking forward to being back home.

I wonder what Venice will be like?

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Today was our last day in Florence...which meant more steps and more walking. I do believe that the sight of Michelangelo's David was equal to walking the streets of Pompeii...for me at least. The statue is a marvel in craftsmanship. That a man could look at a block of stone and see this work is nearly incomprehensible for me. What vision!

That he is so very anatomically correct gives testimony that the artist practiced autopsies. I never knew that, but it surely explains a lot. Just think of the bones and the muscles, the veins and the arteries, the ligaments and the tendons you can see beneath the marble skin. Marble skin! A day of artistry and architecture!

NOTE: From our tour guide on crossing the roads... The green sign gives you the right of way, in theory, but never expect drivers to recognize this as a matter of course. Seize your opportunity and walk out slowly and confidently, glaring at the traffic and maintaining a determined pace. The traffic should stop...or at least swerve.

Friday, October 28, 2005


That is no longer ever going to be a favorite number of mine. Nope. It lost the opportunity to achieve such status today.

We started the morning by visiting the Duomo, where for the bargain price of 6.5 euros a person, you can take yourself up 463 steps to see the dome. My best friend was quite excited to do so, so off we went.

Up and up and up some more. The resulting view was sobering in it beauty. We even got to watch the sun burn off the fog and light up the city while we were there. you know...what goes up, must come down.

463 steps.

We then caught the number 7 bus to Fiesole, a nearby hamlet to see the ruins of a Roman ampitheatre and a church/ convent dating back to 1397. The church was on the steepest street I have ever seen, one that would rival placement in San Francisco. The views were even more impressive that that from the Duomo dome, which we could even see it in the distance. Such beauty. Such was construction with at least hundreds of jackhammers going the WHOLE time we were there. Our only relief from the cocophany of hammers was up by the church.

So, in short, this was our day:

We hiked up steep steps. We saw beautiful views. We hiked down steep steps. We hiked up and down and around the ruins, touching a bit of history. We hiked up steep hills. We saw beautiful views. We hiked down steep hills. We are exhausted.

NOTE: It is possible to have bad pizza in Italy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Today we shopped. One of our purchases was another suitcase...need I say more?

We were walking to the train station to purchase 3-day bus passes and take our first walking tour when we turned a corner and stumbled upon a street bazaar that went on for several blocks. Leather goods, scarves, Pashmina shawls, Morano glass, knitted caps, toys, art, clothing, name it, it was there. We ended up spending several hours wandering through the stalls...and making a...few...purchases!

While the experience was not the one we had planned for, I suddenly understood why so many people mentioned the shopping here. I had not budgeted for most of what I happily purchased, but who could resist such beautiful bargains?

Obviously, it would have to be someone with far greater will power than I.

After such strenuous exercise, we treated ourselves to a sit-down meal at the same trattoria where we found the delicious pizza last night. The service was outstanding, the meal sumptuous, and the sit-down fee a mere pittance compared to the same and the forced tip in Rome. All in all, it was a relaxing day.

We did, however, successfully read a bus map and navigate our way back to our hotel via yet another form of public transportation. Such world travelers we are becoming, eh?

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Did you know that it is VERY important how you choose your train? We didn't and spent two extra hours traveling between Rome and Florence. A chance to see the countryside we had not expected, eh?

At first, we were going to travel from Rome to Pisa to Florence, but the left luggage center only allowed bags 20 kilos or lighter. Two of our bags did not meet muster, so we went on to Florence via the SLOW train.

On the map, our hotel seemed just a bit down the road, so we chose to lug our bags to the hotel and save the taxi fare. However, it was MUCH farther, and we were quite stressed by the time we arrived. But, alas, Florence is already significantly cooler than Rome. For that alone, I am thankful. We spent a leisurely evening exploring the area around our hotel and finding a trattoria to get, of course, some pizza for dinner.

Our hotel, however, does leave a bit to be desired. The beds are actually cots. There is no refrigerator, so our economical plan for eating by getting light meals from the grocery stores and saving our left overs will not work here. And I can say that the rather monotonous fare we had for breakfast in Rome was actually better than here. No orange juice. There is, however, more yogurt than I could ever consume. Yogurt on the planes. Yogurt in the stores. Yogurt in hotels. Yogurt. I could live my life rather fully without ever eating another spoonful.

Yet tomorrow morning...I will.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Again our plan went awry, but this time it was not due to us. The tour that was supposed to be 3 and a half hours was over two hours longer. Two hours longer of walking and standing and walking some more. However, what we saw while we were walking was simply beautiful.

We toured the Vatican museum and Saint Peter's Basilica. SIGH. Such labors of artisic vision. The thought of all those masters working in one place is truly astounding...teaching each other...inspiring each other. Raphel had finished working on this one room when he saw the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time. He had completed a fresco of the greatest thinkers of all times. After viewing Michaelangelo's talent, he went back and chipped away the plaster in a portion of his finished work...and added the painter/sculpter/architect to his fresco. To think, the ceiling of the chapel is the first time Michaelangelo ever painted!

We also visited a street bazaar for a bit of culture and shopping. So many things to buy, so few euros. I lingered quite a while over the pashmina shawls, but resisted. I did buy some binoculars because they were a good price and mine were stolen when my car was broken into a few years back. And...I got a not-so-economical tiny porcelain ladybug that made me smile to see it. My friend bought matching knitted caps for herself and her sister.

I find street bazaars rather interesting to see what the vendors believe might attract the tourist eye. Some of it is a marvel to me. I mean, really, who would want to wear a rhinestone studded pink belt? And yet I find them ALL over the place!

NOTE: I have long heard about how Europeans view Americans as rude. The behavior of my fellow patriots aside, I find the opposite to be true with regard to many Italians. The metros are nothing but cattle cars at rush hour. You have to get used to being shoved on, shoved back, and shoved out. At information booths people will just walk right up in front of you without any sort of apology. Inside those booths, the people generally do not like answering questions and treat us with impatience. Last night, I was clipped by a car--the driver hit me with his mirror--and nearly run over by another in a short span of time. Now, vehicles and pedistrians do not seem to be on the best terms here. Driving around town involves much honking and waiting as people cross streets without regard to signals or crosswalks. Though, I have observed many a driver not pay attention to signals either...or pull over for emergency vehicles. Still, we have found only a few helpful people and far more rude ones. Sometimes I find myself thinking, Okay, get ready to be Italian and start shoving. But is not that thought alone rude on my part? I think the whole world could do with a bit more kindness and patience...myself included.