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.

Monday, October 24, 2005

My initial plan for the day was to do two walking tours from our guide book. We only managed one. Somehow--I am not quite sure how--our "two-hour" tour ended up being just over seven hours. We did see the Panthenon and Trevi Fountain, along with over a dozen (I think) piazzas.

And we both got henna tatoos!

What was striking about today was how you can be walking along a street and suddenly find yourself looking at a fresco on the side of a building, exquisite architecture, or some ruins, carefully preserved as the city grew up around them. The past and the present literally side by side.

At Piazza Colonna, we walked up 224 steps of just one building to see a view of the city. I was surprised that I made it, that I even managed to walk all day. But how can I not? How could I miss one moment of the opportunity this trip has been?

Tomorrow our plan is to take two guided tours: The Catacombs and The Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica. Of course, this means managing to get out of the hotel at least two hours earlier than we have since arriving. We do have a two-hour break between the tours, so perhaps it is not as an ambitious plan as it seems.

NOTE: There is graffiti everywhere. Literally. On the metro, on escalators, on trash dumpsters, on buildings, on railings, on any surface that will hold paint. This surprised me. How can people deface such beautiful and, in some cases, ancient architecture? Of course, graffiti has been around for centuries in Rome. The visitors to the games at the Colosseum also left graffiti. We saw some of the drawings carved into stone when we visited there.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Today we walked the streets of Pompeii.

I think, perhaps, this could be the highlight of the trip for me. Though saying so might be a bit premature.

The city is simply amazing. To walk the streets captured in time so very long ago was overwhelming. To witness their achievements that spoke of artistry and engineering hundreds and hundreds of years before the dark ages was humbling. I even admired (and photographed) the built in drainage pipes that you can still see within some of the walls.

There were a surprising number of eateries, sort of like modern day Rome with at least one pizzeria on every block. Standing before the counters and built-in containters for food, I could almost imagine someone ordering lunch while out and about in the market.

The larger homes were quite beautiful, with atriums, courtyards, and porticos. Remains of colums were strewn everywhere, but a few still stand proudly memorializing the thriving city buried beneath the volcanic ash on August 24th in 74 AD.

I climbed on stones and stared at the view. I walked along the outer walk on a hill and stared. I entered many of the buildings and stared. What a marvel of achievement! It was not just one spectacular building, such as the Colosseum, or a collection of places, such as found in Rome. Pompeii stands as a testimony of the powerful combination of artistry and commerce, of living and worship.

Of course, I find myself compelled to mention that in order to get to Pompeii, we took the metro, Rail Italia, and a local commuter train. Three successful transfers each way!

Our only truly tourist mistake this day was when we picked out this rather engaging book on Pompeii that has colored overlays on photographs of several buildings so that you can see what life was like then and then what remains now. We were so taken with the book that neither one of us noticed that our books were not in English. The rather kind vendor pointed out our mistake and found two copies for us.

We did have this local lemonade-type drink that puckered my mouth for half an hour after drinking it...even after cutting it with water. I assumed it is an acquired taste.

NOTE: I have decided I need no longer to worry about dying from MS. I suspect that I shall perish from lung cancer caused by the COPIOUS amounts of secondhand smoke I am consuming EVERYWHERE I go. I haven't drawn an easy breath since arriving. Hopefully, those in Florence and Venice have a healthier respect for their lungs...but I suspect they will be smoking comrades with the Romans. Tobacco stores must be the wealthiest trade in town!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Well, I can honestly say that today was a better day! For that, I am thankful.

We are still hot, at least I am most of the time, and my friend was while trying to sleep. But we have a hotel room that is small, but nice. The shower is beautifully tiled...and clean! And our complimentary breakfast is served on a rooftop space.

Today, we visited the Colosseum and the Palatine and the Forum. Quite a bit of walking and quite a bit of history. The latter absolutely made up for the former. I took copious amounts of photos, and my best friend shot video tape of where we were. I even took photos of her filming.

For the Colosseum, we took a guided tour. For the bargain price of 8 euros each, we got to skip the rather long line and enter with our escort. He was full of Roman history and pointed out interesting bits along the way. I found the vellorium the most fascinating bit. It was a cover that dozens of Roman sailors could errect over the Colosseum when needed, supported by 240 poles placed around the top of the arena, in about two hours time. Talk about achievements.

Then, to our pleasant surprise, we were treated to a FREE guided tour of the Palatine and the Forum. More walking and much climbing resulted in a rather spectacular view of the city, the Forum, and the Colosseum. More photos were taken, of course. Did you know that at least two of the original aquaducts that the first Romans built all those years ago still serve the city?

[Do you think that this is why the air conditioning is turned off even though we still clearly need it? They are into ancient technology?]

We ate more pizza, of course, bought fresh fruit, and my best friend finally figured out how to use the international phone card we bought at the Metro station.

Yep, I said Metro! Yes, living in DC for seven years has paid off for me. All that traffic aside, I have become a pro at using the DC metro. We managed to do so in Rome today without a single hitch...okay...we did have to wait and watch someone put the farecard in the machine since we couldn't figure that out ourselves, but we did get to our destination without any problems!

Today, as I said, was a MUCH better day than yesterday.

Here's hoping we continue that trend!

NOTE: My oberservation is that there are few traffic rules actually obeyed here in Rome. Cars go wherever the driver thinks might get him or her further down the road, even if that means the driver has to "make another lane" to do so. Pedestrians walk anywhere they want, regardless of the signal lights or oncoming vehicles. Blatant fearless you need to drive, ride in a vehicle, or walk the streets here. I actually stood in traffic today for one of my photos...does that make me Italian?

Friday, October 21, 2005

I am not sure that a day could be any worse than least not a first day of vacation.

On the plane, we were in what my best friend described as "steerage." We could not sleep because we could hardly move. Our knees were almost touching the seats in front of us. The food was good, though.

And then we landed in Paris for our layover and to change planes...

We taxied for over 15 minutes, only to be let off on the tarmac in the rain. We were shuttled by one bus over to a building where we had to go down a U-shaped corridor to que up for a second bus. After another long ride of being treated again like a sardine, we had another long line for "Passport Control." I suppose this was France's way of being cautious, but we were just changing planes. That line was hot and cramped and lasted nearly an hour. We had to interpret the grunts the man at the window gave for instructions. Then, with our plane leaving in less than ten minutes, we had to run through the airport to stand in yet another line to go through security again. We actually made the flight...only to discover that it was a plane with no air conditioning.

By the time we landed, we were punch drunk, got talked into a "shuttle service" to our hotel, and risked our lives in the process. All for the bargain price of 35 euros. The "service" turned out to be a guy with a car who believed that 150 kilometers was a sedate pace. He dropped us approximately 8 blocks from our hotel with a specious excuse about the road being closed. We were so sweaty, hot, and tired by the time we actually found the hotel, that it was nearly unbelievable to learn that all of Italy shuts down air-conditioning after mid-October! It didn't matter that heat makes me ill. There were no window units, no fans. Everything was centrally controlled. And then...while trying to contact the travel agent, the hotel gave away our room.

We sat in the lobby of that blasted hotel for over six hours, alternately crying in frustration, falling asleep from exhaustion, and trying to figure out what to do. The travel agent, appalled at what happened, found us another hotel. We couldn't get through to a taxi service because of the rain, so the travel agent sent someone from work to ferry us over to the new hotel. We were quite thankful for that kindness, but we had to wait another hour for him to arrive.

So, after landing in Rome at 10:00 in the morning, we arrived at our hotel at around 7:00 in the evening!

Why did we come to Italy?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

I was talking on the phone with my mother. Sometimes...that in itself is the mistake.

I am helping her with her new business, particularly with art and web design questions, serving as the go-between for her vendors. It is one way that I can do something that is not a disappointment to her. I know, that is probably the second mistake...even trying.

She casually mentioned that her trainer's partner has MS. She commented on the sacrifice her trainer was making to live and support his partner. She told the trainer that she had a daughter with MS, who didn't seem to have trouble with the disease and didn't seem to have any typical symptoms.

My greatest wish is that my family would support me with the struggles I face...multiple sclerosis, asthma, arthritis. To my mother, it is as nothing. MS isn't a problem for me. That is her message to others.

I wanted to cut her off and scream how could she say that. But what is the point? She doesn't get it. She isn't interested.

11 years, 1 month, 5 days.

I have written often of late how very frightened I am at how much cognitive dysfunction I am facing. I get confused. I have to puzzle out that which I never gave a second thought. Cognitively, I have changed so fundamentally that I find myself grieving for the loss of who I was...and I struggle to accept who I am now.

The inexorable pull on my entire life MS wields has marked each day of those 11 years, 1 month, and 5 days.

That man has chronic progressive MS. I have relapsing remitting. Nearly all people with relapsing remitting MS transition to chronic progressive. But a fraction will escape that horrible decline, a loss of every part of your life until nothing is left. I work to imagine a future where I still live with good days and bad days, where hope resides. I work. That in itself is an accomplishment that no one seems to appreciate. I am not wheelchair bound. I can dress myself and prepare my own meals. I can drive my own errands and go on this vacation. I am not trapped in a shell betrayed by devastating neurological breakdown...yet.

You know, though, the phrase "good days and bad days" is a misnomer. I have not had a truly good day since I started chasing those first symptoms. I have been tired over a decade. I have hurt over a decade. I have watched my mind decline over a decade. I have had to set aside my fear for over a decade.

But...according to my family...MS doesn't affect me. I am just fine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Bleary eyed and behind.

I still haven't packed. I did gather my medicines and extra contacts. And the games are in my back pack.

The suitcase, however, has only my pajamas and robe.

I didn't get home until after 8:00 and began working on typing up instructions for the person keeping Fancy and Madison. I finished those and am taking a break before launching into the instructions for the person who is house sitting and watching Kashi. He needs to know about Kashi and the alarm and watering the plants and other house stuff.

AAWK!!!!!!! I am beginning to panic.

I was told not to be dramatic about it. That it was just packing for a trip. But, my goodness, how many people leave packing for a two-week trip out of the country until the last minute? I still need some euros and a phone card and probably several other items that I do not yet know that I have forgotten.


I am already missing Kashi...

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Are you sitting down?

I actually got up at 3:00 a.m. to go on a road trip! Well, not a true road trip, but with someone who had an errand in another state. We got lost and waylaid. I did not get home until 9:00 p.m.. And yet it was a great day.

We arrived at the location in PA with just one MapQuest hiccup, but coming home was another matter. We somehow missed the exit and ended up far out of our way.

We pulled off the highway and into a parking lot, thinking to ask directions. When suddenly I realized that we were in Amish country. It was quiet and peaceful and beautiful. I savored the bit of rest I felt while there.

We were driving on the highway when we spotted a couple lying in the road. We stopped and called 911. It appears that they had been clipped by a car while riding their motorcycle. Neither one had been wearing a helmet. They were critical. The woman's eyes were already swollen shut and blood appeared to be coming from her ear. Others soon stopped, including a medic. I started to walk over to help the woman when a man came running up. When I cautioned him not to move her, he said he was and EMT. I then walked toward the on-come traffic to start guiding the traffic past, asked drivers if they had a medical kit. None did. Soon I was joined by others while still more people pulled the motorcycle off the man and tried to comfort them both. I prayed for the two injured people, even as I thought how horrified my mother would be that I was standing in the middle of a highway. I thought of their parents and other loved ones who would soon learn of this tragic accident. We were there for a long while without an ambulance arriving. Fire and rescue trucks arrived, and we left to free up space on the side of the road. I looked in the rearview mirror until they were out of sight, hoping to see the flashing lights that might have given those two people some ray of hope. Yet with closed head injuries...their stupidity of not wearing helmets probably spelled their doom. Such a waste of life.

Since the way home appeared to take me by where my best friend and her husband were attending a college homecoming, we stopped by to see her and her baby. I felt bad for extending what was already turning into an extremely long journey, but I wanted to see my friend. It was so very good to hold her daughter, to look into her beautiful eyes and see a future after having just witnessing two surely draining away. Fifteen minutes of joy...enough to make it through the next three days of work before we leave for Italy!

We did have a bit of a problem finding the highway again once we left the meeting place. Our journey took another circuitous route.

When we FINALLY made it back to her house, we stopped by a nearby sporting good store for a 3-in-1 jacket and a backpack with a waist belt for my trip (I also picked up some golf shoes that were a fabulous price). The backpack is truly ugly, but even with stuff in it, it feels as if it is empty. I know I will be glad of that phenomenon while lugging it around Italy, but couldn't it have been a soft green instead of steel gray?

Of course, I got lost on the way back to my house. I would have laughed but for my fatigue. I think...I think...I shall go to bed right now!

It was a great day. Laughter. Conversation. Hugs. Taco Bell. Keeping someone company on a tedious drive.

Friday, October 14, 2005

It was a crazy, filled day today. I learned of a crucial mistake on my part that wasted a $2,600 print job. I was devastated. Tears were streaming down my face, when the president of the company stopped by my office. I couldn't speak, so I just pointed out the error on the new print job.

Once I was composed, I asked him what he needed. I had to go on with my day.

But, you see, I have never cost a company money in 20 years of working. I felt horrible. I felt as if I need to pay for it. I was overwhelmed how long it would take me to pay off the reprint job. I was crushed that just when people were excited over a new piece of marketing collateral, I had to tell them that we couldn't use them until they were reprinted.

I did go on with my day. I worked and worked and worked on the projects that is more than what I should be doing. I had some help from some folks and absolutely no assistance from others. I tried to do the best job I could, but will it be enough?

The best part of the boss, who was off for the afternoon, called me. Somehow, some way, she knew that something was wrong. I had resisted calling her in tears. Why should her day be ruined by a mistake that could wait until Monday?

Her response: It was her mistake, too. Her words were kind, but really this is my job. It was my mistake.

Still, hearing her encouragement helped me through the rest of the day without dwelling upon something that I could not change.

Surely the afternoon was a moment of grace to be able to set aside my disappointment and tears to finish a draft of the project.

Can I be thankful for even this day?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kashi likes tomatoes!

All this time I never knew it. I bought a salad tonight. As usual, whenever I eat, Kashi believes that I should share. On a whim, I shared the tomatoes. He ate them.

What a pair we make!

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

I had several people tell me that I spoke too fast today. I do not understand what they were talking about? I was just talking...and thinking...and trying to finish all the things that are currently on my plate before my friend and I leave for Italy. But more keeps getting piled on my plate. Each time I glance away, I return my gaze to discover new heights. Five business days is all I have left. Even though my habit would be to work nights and weekends (okay I have been), I cannot work this weekend because there are still several items that I need to find. For example, I do not have a water resistant windbreaker. I have a leather jacket I treated myself to five years ago. Most of the time I wear only layers because I get hot so easily. But we will be in a place where rain and cool temperatures reign. And while I bought some casual clothes a few weeks ago specifically for this trip my focus was continental chic. Now, how does continental chic clothing fit with the outdoorsy activities I hope we find somewhere between Rome or Florence or Venice? What do I do? I have work clothes, sweats, and now continental chic. I have not really have a need for casual clothes because all I do is work and collapse on the weekends. Sweats work fine for me. Well, actually, lately I have worn these great men's pajama pants that I found at Target. My friend has clearly stated that she would not like to see those in my suitcase. So what do I do? I want to be able to do other stuff besides look chic while eating some great Italian food. But how can I think about what I am going to pack, especially worrying about the weight since I cannot bear much weight without having difficulty breathing and I don't want my best friend weighted down with all our luggage and my huffing and puffing behind her...or wincing as I struggle to walk, which is another possibility with being cramped on a plane for half a day, when I have this pile before me and half a dozen tasks that have been put aside over and over and over again and I refuse to have them hanging about once I leave only to face them upon returning. And one of the projects dumped at the last minute is absolutely overwhelming to me even though I am trying to appear as if I have a confident plan for finishing the project. With the basement having flooded, I am also trying to get it dried out before I leave so the person staying with Kashi can stay down there. Although the laminate floor is completely ruined, buckling more and more as each hour passes. Perhaps he would rather stay in my room, but then I wouldn't really feel as comfortable as if he were in the guest space. Kashi would probably prefer he use my bed (his bed) so he will not be torn between his bed and the guest in the basement. I called the credit card company to alert it that I would be making overseas charges, but I keep meaning to call back to confirm that the alert was placed on my account. Because I do not plan to bring a lot of cash. How much cash do I need to bring, though. I have asked several people, but have not gotten a specific amount. And I am a bit worried about Fancy because she is appearing to retaining food in her crop and that would eventually be bad for her. How much more can she do so before it harms her? Will begin gone two weeks be too long to go before seeing the vet again? Kashi had tests on Saturday that I keep forgetting to call about to make sure he is well and will be while I am gone since he is drinking nearly double the water per day that he was a year ago. And speaking of money...between the vet bill and having to replace the shop vac after mine burst into flames, I spent over $400 on Saturday right before I am leaving for the trip of my lifetime and am stretched a bit thin even before I leave but I don't want to forego some great experience there with my friend because of water in my basement and water disappearing from Kashi's bowl. Will Kashi eat while I am gone? I have only left him for a few days before and he didn't eat the whole time. I am worried about leaving him. I will miss him. When I changed out of my work clothes tonight, I discovered that I had been wearing the shell beneath my jacket inside out. What kind of person does that?

Monday, October 10, 2005

Two and a half months have passed since the surgery to remove the growth on my shoulder. In all that time, it really hasn't stopped hurting, though the skin has healed...for the most part. It burns and stings. I have taken to wearing a foam bandaid because it affords some relief, but I fear I am developing an allergy to latex from the reactions I have to the bandaid. When I move my shoulder a certain way, it feels as if something has ripped, again and again. When the strap of my upper undergarment presses upon the incision, it is difficult to control my tongue.

I drove 142 miles for work today. Going was difficult, returning was excruciating. How will I be on a plane for 11 hours for our trip to Italy?

We walked around one of our properties for seemingly hours, though in reality it was under one. Breathing became difficult. I struggled to keep up, though I did managed to snap a few solid pictures for future marketing. I asked for an arm at one point, which a woman gave me, but she dropped it far sooner than was comfortable for me. I whispered to my boss that I was seeing stars. She didn't seem to care.

But, perhaps, if she were standing before me now, she would tell me, in that oh so blunt way, that it was not hers to care. It should have been mine. I should have turned back when I realized we would be walking so much.

In my defense, I could not have retraced my steps had I wished to do so, so confused was I. So I did the only thing I could...put one step in front of another...and kept snapping those pictures.

I wonder, had I keeled over, would anyone have really cared. But then, again, why should I care whether or not they do? I only work with them. We have no ties between us.

I am tired. And the front lingering somewhere around here is making my arthritis well known to me. I am tired. And I cannot find a restful position to give into sleep.

I would give most anything to have one day where I felt physically well...

And yet...and yet...I keep thinking about that man, trapped in the body of a boy for nearly 36 years because his skin repeatedly fell off, oozed with infection, and left him in chronic pain.

The last time I checked, my skin is firmly attached to my body.

Hmm...I am thankful for satiating quench raspberry lemonade Gatorade...for the utter comfort of a fresh pair of contacts...for the love of my best friend...the grace of my savior...the joy of Kashi, Madison, and Fancy...for only seven more business days before we escape to Italy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005 did not rain today.

The basement no longer smells like acrid smoke. The floor is dry, though it is still "floating" on water I cannot see but squishes beneath my feet. I actually took a leap of faith regarding the rainfall this week and packed up the new shop vac and stored it in the utility closet.

I languished today in my fatigue and did not prepare for the meeting I am up late writing my status report.

Still...I am thankful that it is not raining!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Over twenty-six hours later, the water has stopped flowing into the basement. I just finished my last session with the shop vac. I will say that 6.5 horsepower is quite a bit different from 4.0. I am off to finally sleep.

Here's hoping the weather predictions for tomorrow and the day after and the one after that...well, the whole week, are WRONG.

I will go to sleep thinking DRY thoughts...

PS The basement stinks from the fire. Glade anyone?
Over 20 hours of flooding.

I would reckon that I have removed over 400 gallons of water so far.

My first shop vac rather spectacularly burst into flames a few hours ago. So off I went to Lowe's to get another one, this time with 6.5 horsepower. It also holds 18 gallons, but I could barely lift 12 gallons of water, so I think I will not let it fill up all the way.

I had to leave to take Kashi, Fancy, and Madison to the vet. Once I came back, I had to catch up on the water accumulation. My shopping trip also set me back on progress.

Would you believe that the meteorologists on the weather channel claim that there will be rain through next Friday?

I am not sure I can survive the onslaught.

I suppose my break is over and I ought to get back to work...Did I mention that I am tired, tired, and more tired?
I have been using my shop vac on the water in my basement over six hours. I have been thankful for my friend and her repair of this tool. I have been wondering when this will end.

Approximately every 30 minutes, I have dragged the 12 gallon container over to the tub and dumped the accumulated water. I work on the pools of water coming in from several directions and then set the hose in one corner for a bit of a break. 5 minutes of rest for every 25 minutes of work. I am not sure how much longer I can stay up. My oxygen sats are dropping. My arms and legs are shaking. My ears are ringing.

Back to the water...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Argh! Another late day at the office.

I was so very tired driving home that I zoned out while leaving my best friend a message. I nearly nodded off a few times and called several folks trying to find someone who could talk me home.

I suspect that what fatigues me is the knowledge that the light I thought I was seeing at the end of the tunnel is, in reality, the lights of an on-coming train.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

God is good. I write that with joy. I write that with anguish. He gave such a blessed reminder that suffering is grace to me at night. I walked away from my desk when I had planned on finishing my target for the day. I walked away after telling a friend that I could not go to bible study because I had not planned for it. I hung up the phone and returned to that which I was doing. Suddenly, it hit me that this time it was not others keeping me there late. I had somehow chosen to do so. I got up, chivvied my boss about being there late herself, and walked out. Driving home, I first thought that I would get a jump start on resting for the evening. And then I thought of my friend and the opportunity to study God's Word. I called her and thought I could make it in time. I did. Just barely. The pastor was finishing up a rather long study on 1 Peter. I had only been to a few of the lessons, but the end and review was so very timely. Perfectly so. Suffering is evidence of the Holy Spirit, evidence of the gift of salvation. Suffering is fellowship with Christ. Suffering is an opportunity to glorify God. Suffering is not solitary. He is waiting.

I was overwhelmed with so very many thoughts going through my mind. I certainly have much to ponder. But I will say that studying His Word with fellow Christians was such great refreshment to me. I cannot understand why for months I have allowed every other Wednesday to pass by without partaking of this beautiful opportunity.

I am thankful for this day.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

I cut on my hair again this evening.

A couple of weeks ago, I cut off a few more inches, bringing the length to just below my chin. I also layered it more. Were I honest, I would admit that I was quite upset when I did so and grabbed the scissors out of pique.

Since then, whenever I look in the mirror it seems a bit crooked. I snip here and there. I hold the mirror this way and that. Still, I cannot seem to even it out.

Perhaps someone should confiscate my scissors.

Monday, October 03, 2005

My yard is dead.

There is no way to avoid that fact.

After the days and weeks and months of back-breaking labor last fall to restore it after the sewage pipe was replaced, there is little to show for my efforts. Only the grading remains.

All of the money on the bags and bags of seed, all of the hours watering by hand...nothing remains. And because the grass is gone, the topsoil I laid is dried out and blowing around the yard.

All of the hours of watering this summer, all of the dollars on my bill...all for naught.

While now would be the ideal time to begin again with seed, the current drought would make that a foolish endeavor.

Is my yard a metaphor for other parts of my life? I am not sure. What I do know is that I find it difficult to walk up the pathway to my door and pass by the dead grass. I find it difficult to stand on my deck and look out upon my yard. I think about the photos I proudly took last spring with Kashi leaping about the green carpet that had grown from barren ground with a bit of sadness for what now remains.

I do not relish the thought of beginning again.

I am too tired for such labor...

Sunday, October 02, 2005

You make time for that which is your priority.

It is as simple as that.

I never get it when people say that they would like to read but just don't have the time. They don't have the time because is not a priority with them. It is the same with writing or exercise or learning new things.

It is also the same for relationships, be it lovers or family or friends.

You make time for that which is your priority.

What makes me crazy is those who cannot be honest about what is their priority. White lies really are just lies. Hollow words wound. Truth is always best. To know where you stand is by far a greater gift to receive that to believe that which is not true.

Yet people seem far more content to say whatever fits the moment, whatever is comfortable, whatever appears appropriate...than to speak the truth.

Agreeing to what you do not want. Lying to avoid that which you would rather not face. Taking the easy route.

But priorities are generally never easy. They take work. They take commitment. They take active choice, not passivity. They take truth.

You make time for that which is your priority.

Be honest about what that is. For those around you, it is one of the most loving acts you can do.