Sunday, December 31, 2006

WARNING: Discussion of New Year's Resolutions

Last night (this morning) when I finished all the cleaning, I was almost ready to stop working when I thought about the clothes in the basement bedroom. The closet is full of blazers, slacks, and suits of smaller sizes...clothes I dream of fitting back into...clothes that I wore quite comfortably before I first started taking prednizone for the severe asthma attacks. Within a month of taking that drug, I had ballooned sixty pounds...and have struggled with my weight ever since. The final tally was finding myself nearly 100 pounds heavier than before I got asthma...then arthritis.

Well, I have stopped taking steroids and would be hard pressed to put them into my body again. I am down 46 pounds. And I am making a concerted effort to continue that trend, despite having what could possibly be labeled the world's slowest metabolism. However, given my earlier battle with anorexia (decades ago but that disease is such a stealthy thing), I do not believe that I should really try to get back down to a size six on a 5 foot 7 inch frame. So, I decided to donate all that professional ware (with the exception of my absolute all time favorite black, pin-striped suit) to Dress for Success, a non-profit that helps women dress professionally for job interviews. After much choosing, I came up with 32 pieces of clothing. I bagged them up, drafted a item description, and took them to the drop-off site today. A long goodbye for me...a good thing for those women.

So, where does that fit with New Year's Resolutions?

Well, for starters, I was so exhausted when I finally rolled into be at 6:00 AM (I had gotten up on Saturday at 2:45 PM) that I was in such pain I struggled to fall asleep. Lying there, pain shooting throughout my back and legs, I started thinking about how I should have just written myself a sticky note and popped into bed instead of staying up another 3 and 1/2 hours. I would have had time today to pack up the clothing and still get it to the drop-off place before it closed.

I also thought about the things that I have accomplished and that which I wish I had done in the six months I have been unemployed. goes:

My First New Year's Resolution List As An Adult

1. Read through the bible two times.
2. Continue to memorize a passage of scripture each week.
3. Read an academic book at least once a month to keep my hand in my former profession and feed the scholarly portion of my brain that has been starved of late. [After all, I have a whole closet full of them from my professor days.]
4. Create a spreadsheet of all of my books, with sections for author, title, publication date, genre, reading level, a short annotation, and where they are located in my house (over 2,000 of them among several book shelves).
5. Put all the annotated index cards of children's and young adult books I read working on my Ph.D. into a spreadsheet (over 1,000 of them).
6. Finish my Christian Historical Fiction novel.
7. Write at least another 100 pages on my Young Adult Fantasy novel.
8. Do something as a volunteer (even if it means working on a friend's home improvement project) each month.
9. Stop overworking myself when attacking projects.

10. Reduce, Re-use, and recycle more (especially by changing out some of my regular light bulbs).
11. Visit Skyline Drive.
12. Lose at least 15 more pounds. you think I can do it all by December 31, 2007?

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What have I done today? Funny you should ask!

I took down the lights, which I might say was quite a bit harder than putting them up. I did carefully fold them back the way that they came and stored them in a plastic container I had purchased along with the lights for just such purpose. Climbing up and down the ladder was harder because the aluminum was much colder. However, I still worked up a good sweat doing the work.

When I had finished, I was on the phone with a friend talking about my financial plight and she asked if there was anything I could sell on e-Bay. I decided that I would not mind selling the two antique butternut chairs that I have had in my attic ever since I moved here. While I inherited them, they are not near and dear to my heart. Butternut is a blonde wood and everything I have is dark. She said that if I would take photos of them, she would ask a friend who had an antique store to price them and would post them for me.

Well, that meant getting out the ladder, which I had already put away in the basement, and carrying it up to the second floor so that I could climb up in the attic. Once I was up there, I discovered that since a piece of wood fell off the bottom of the attic gable vent there was a direct opening to the outside. Not good, eh?

I found a bit of left over framing wood from a window casing in the basement, cut it to size using my free circular saw (I needed two pieces because of the width), and effected a repair to the problem. What was remarkable was that I was able to cut 45 degree angles on the top piece and straight edges on the bottom piece so that the two fit well against the wood frame the handyman had built when installing a gable vent attic fan two summers ago. [We will not focus on the fact that he should have built a longer frame to cover the bottom portion I had to repair.]

Of course, once in the attic, I felt the need to sweep and dust up there so that it was not quite so dirty. Well, then I ended up dusting all three floors of my house which took just over two hours. I do happen to have 40 antique demi-tasse cups on three different shelves. That coupled with all the antique goodies like opera glasses, cameras, tin type photos was the real time killer.

When I finished, I went to put lemon oil on the chairs to clean them up for the photos. Of course, then I was compelled to lemon oil all the antique wooden furniture I have. Once that was done, I noticed how much of my silver needed polishing, so that was my next task. I have many silver spoons for the teacups and more odds and ends such as frames and bookmarks that I realized. My hands were shaking and my legs aching before I finished.

When I was putting all the silver things away, I realized I needed to clean the wood floors that I had skipped after finishing vacuuming yesterday. That took another hour.

All that cleaning resulted in dirty laundry that needed doing between my pants that took care of much of the dirt on the attic floor before I swept, the dust rags, the polish rags, and the hand towels from washing my hands constantly during all that work.

All this, I thought, just to fetch those chairs from the attic!

NOTE: My friend D would be proud of my efforts...but I know that she would have found many, many, many more things that needed cleaning here in order to bring my home up to her pristine standards and make my home as beautiful as hers!

Friday, December 29, 2006

I had a wonderful chat with my cousin D tonight. He is one of the most talented and interesting people I have ever met. Sometime I should cajole him into letting me post a few of his photos. What he sees through a camera can still your soul just at the sight of his vision caught by frame. He is also quite intelligent. What I admire most, though, is that he pursues life quite vigorously. It is that reason, therefore, why he is brave to call me. My blues these days are the anti-thesis of his philosophy and wear deeply on his heart. Still, he braves the call to cheer me up by the vitality of his life. Such an act of kindness!

The Lakers lost a triple-overtime game in which Kobe Bryant scored 58 points. You know what? I am not surprised. I know that I am not a basketball expert or a coach. But, really folks, someone out to point out to the Lakers that basketball is a TEAM sport. That means, at least at the same time on the court, five individuals are working together to accomplish the win. Whenever one person takes over any type of team...well, that process is never one conducive for success.

Saddam Hussein was executed this evening. The New York Times ran an op-ed piece saying the trial was basically a sham and the execution wrong. This man is personally responsible, under his 35-year regime, for nearly 2 million documented deaths. Many believe the actual number will never be known and is thousands and thousands more between the countless people who simply went "missing" and were never heard from again. Over 270 mass graves have been found since he was ousted from office. This man devastated the population of a country that is still torn by the violence he inculcated into his people. Perhaps the end of this man's life might mark a beginning to the healing of a nation bathed in blood.

One Iraqi leader remarked that before there was no hope for a positive future under Saddam and now there was. He noted the uphill battle that remains to shed the culture of violence that has been woven across his country...but there is hope. His only sorrow on the day was that the media was re-playing the footage of Saddam instead of focusing on the millions who lost their lives and the millions more who suffered under his rule. This is their day. And it is they who should be lifted up in prayer.

Seriously...I cannot understand how anyone can come in defense of such a brutal dictator.

NOTE: I take exception to the graphic of Saddam on The photo looks as if it is some polished piece of dignified remembrance. It makes him look more like a martyr than the tyrant he was.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

This day I have studied the bible, prayed for family, friends, and our nation, played with Kashi, vacuumed, cleaned the kitchen, ran and emptied the dishwasher, updated and organized my warranty information notebooks (4 of them), cleared all the stuff off my stairs (i.e., put it away), filed two months of paperwork; reconciled two months of bank statements, cleaned my office, conducted a job search, applied for five more jobs, and written on my novel.

Is that productive enough for an unemployed bum like myself?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

All my thank you notes are in the mail, and I have managed to write a few more pages of my novel...escaping the growing maelstrom of emotions stemming from approaching six months of unemployment and all that means financially and professionally to me. I fear I am growing a bit churlish of late.

Also in the mail is my next health insurance check with the just-announced increase added to the payment. That was a difficult check to write.

I am wondering if I should take down my lights, but they are really one of the few bright spots (pardon the pun) in my life, so I am a bit reluctant to do so. [When is the proper time to take down holiday lights?]

DHL picked up my original laptop this evening. Oh how hard it was to package it up, especially knowing that I will probably never have another wood toned cover since they didn't quite catch on at Dell. It was hard, really hard to let it go, thinking about all the work I accomplished on that machine, all the words I wrote, the dreams I had while using it.

Really, I cannot imagine how writers composed their works before the invention of computers. Pick up a pen, or pencil, to work on a story or article or even a letter and I become a bumbling, fumbling oaf. My thoughts become stilted, and I am wrought with blank-page syndrome. I just cannot compose with said instruments. But place my fingers on a keyboard and magic happens. Characters arise to fill spots I did not yet know I needed oh so perfectly. Personal histories flow forth, action rises and falls, life takes place. Simply put, computers allow access to my heart and mind and soul in a way that pen and paper cannot.

Being able to write whenever or wherever I wanted and to take my photos and design work to share with others on a moment's notice was such a blessing to me when I first got the laptop. And yes, again, it was just so darned beautiful with that cover!

Yet...all things come to an end, do they not? I have been learning that over and over of late. All things. Just because I was not ready for that particular bit of my life to end does not mean that the time was not right for it to happen. I did receive an updated laptop with more memory, a faster duel processor, a widescreen (still not sure about the benefits of feature), a larger hard drive, better built-in speakers, media buttons right on the front of the unit, double the USB ports, and a DVD burner. I ought to be dancing in the streets for such fortune.

Am I being too maudlin about the whole exchange or have I merely become a captious woman?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

President Gerald R. Ford died today. My heart grieves for the loss his family has now and that every Christmas going forward will be a reminder of that loss. I hope, though, that perhaps each holiday will be a time to remember a man who was best known for his integrity and his honesty. Really...a politician who was heralded for his honesty!

In reading about him, I was struck by the fact that, while it most likely cost him being elected to office for a second term, his decision to pardon Nixon was in the best interest of a nation whose office of president had taken a brutal hit. In the best interest of a nation...what other politician do you know who has managed to keep the largesse of his role focused properly on serving a nation, not him/herself?

His wife, also, has been heralded for her honesty in coming forward with her addiction and then seeking to help others after she found help herself. The Betty Ford Clinic has been the harbinger of a new future for those struggling with addiction. Instead of hiding such illness, fighting it head on, despite the public cost, is always the healthiest course of action. She gave that gift to a nation.

Together, the two of them have stood as role models for others, always honest, always quick to lend a helping hand. What an incredible testimony!

Gerald Ford did not win a subsequent election, but he continued serving the nation, even becoming a successful team with the man who kept him from office, Jimmy Carter. He gave of his time and wisdom each and every time another president called on him for help.

After playing for the Michigan State Wolverines in college, he received offers from the NFL via the Packers and the Lions. He turned them down to attend Yale law school. That decision led him down a path to one of the most difficult presidencies of our nation's history, between Watergate and Vietnam. However, that decision also garnered the nation a man of grace and probity at just the time it needed one most.

I can only hope that somehow, in some way, men and women of his stature might find their way into office in a time when a nation is suffering from a dearth of politicians who have the courage to put the interests of a nation above their own in the manner of Gerald R. Ford.

Monday, December 25, 2006

I am going to bed now, even though the day for me is not yet half gone. I have been trying to figure out all day why I am so tired, but have come to realize that understanding why really matters very little. The mattress is calling me. I should stop fighting its call.

I think, perhaps, that there is too much trying to understand the "why" in my life just now...

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I have spent the day thinking on the truly ineffable concept that God actually came to earth to live in the frail form of man, suffering the limitations and trials that life offers, in order to die for us.

It is strange, I think, that an arbitrary day was chosen to celebrate His birth. It is even stranger that in celebrating His birth, the focus in on a manger, visitors, and gifts. I believe the focus should be on why He came: to die. In order for us to have eternal life, Jesus Christ had to die. In order for Him to die, He had to be born.

Knowing the horror of that death, the agony and heartache He would endure, how then could we--those of us who are Christians--turn Christmas into a time of commercial exchange? Does an iPod represent the magnitude of the gift God gave us in Jesus Christ? Does a bicycle stand as a reminder of His sacrifice?

The wisemen brought gifts in honor of His birth. They saw the signs. They suspected something was special about Him, whether or not they understood He was the Son of God. Later on, a woman gave another gift to honor Christ: she washed His feet with her hair and oil that may very well have cost her everything she had. She sacrificed of herself to the One who was soon to give the ultimate sacrifice. How does a Play Station 3 compare with that?

Oh, how I like presents. Anyone who knows me, knows that I most enjoy giving presents and receiving them. Frankly, I think the best gifts are given "just because"--not for an "occasion." For a while now, however, I have wanted to eschew all gifts at Christmas. I have wanted this time to be a time of reflection on the magnitude of the presence of Jesus Christ in this world rather than who gave whom what. do you go against the mighty commercial machine that this holiday has become?

NOTE: Am I a hypocrite because I plan to watch the Cowboy game tomorrow? If this really is not the actual day of Christ's birth, does it matter? After all, this time of Winter Solstice has long be a time of pagan celebrations marked by drunkeness, revelry, and debauchery. Consider the Romans holiday of Saturnalia. Should Christians really have chosen this time to mark the birth of Christ? Perhaps February 25th might have been a better date? You know, understanding the tendency of man toward idolatry, it is no surprise that God has not made it evident exactly what day of the year His son was born. Still, worship in the wee hours of the morning for me, then gobbling sumptious food, then football revelry. What sort of day is that???????

Saturday, December 23, 2006

I have been sitting on the couch with tears streaming down my cheeks for a while now. I am tired. I still feel absolutely awful about running over D's mailbox. I am drowning in debt. I see no hope for a job. I am lonely. I am grieving the loss of the relationship with my mother, but I see no hope for change their either because she believes me to be an abuser. I want to be loved. I want to be accepted. I want to belong. I want to contribute. I want to give back. Yet...all I can do is help a few people with home improvement projects. I am a lousy beacon for Christ.

I have been awash in sorrow and pain since I awoke. I have been praying for the lesson in this, thinking that I just must be oh so dense. If God is sovereign--which I believe Him to be--then He is sovereign in unemployment. It is hard, however, to remember that when thinking on the debt that is piling up and the mortgage payments looming and the increase in health insurance premiums just announced and...and...and everything.

I have been sitting here trying to find some balance when someone knocked at the door. It was a mailman with a package from my dear friend T. I signed for it, but he wasn't done with me.

He asked me where her city was and I replied that I think it is near Altoona because she talks about that exit on the highway. He then said his brother's son when to college at Penn State and talked all about that area. I told him that I didn't really know where she lived, but that she was an ex-student of mine. He wanted to know what I taught. I told him I was no longer a teacher, but I that I used to teach literacy. He was immediately awed that I could write, could master the English language because knowing how to communicate was so important in our society. I replied that while some say it is, in reality, it is not. Books and newspapers are published with mistakes. My company hired me to be their voice and then fired me just when they needed a spokesperson most. Emails and press releases and letters are sent with horrible misuse of the English language...and NOBODY CARES. I care, but that does not matter. I care about what does not matter and have no job and no prospects of finding a place where what I am skilled at is desired. He asked me where I went to school. I told him first Baylor, then I was a missionary in Africa, then UNC at Chapel Hill, then The Ohio State University. He was awed again that I had lived in Africa, what I had most assuredly seen. How brave I was for going and caring. I replied that no one cared when I got back. I left a war zone. The people I had been working with and cared about were dying and no one cared once I came back. I told him that while I know Katrina was awful, Turkey has an earthquake where 100,000 people die and no one cares. He replied that the same was true in India. But, he said, God was going to bless me. I replied that while I knew God was sovereign, it was a battle for me to understand why unemployment would be the right course for me after six month, why when working so hard to be a good steward and become debt free, that I would find myself mired in debt, why when I did care about literacy, there was no place for me, why I couldn't even find a church or a place to be around other Christians who actually enjoyed studying the bible and praying and memorizing scripture rather than reading and teaching and praising the latest Christian "how-to" band wagon...promise keepers, prayer of Jabez, purpose-driven life. He agreed that the hunger for Christ seemed to be subsumed by the hunger for a "good" or "successful" life in the church around here. But...But...

But...he finished by absolute conviction that even I could see through my tears...that God was going to bless me. He was going to bless me the way that he had been blessed this day by getting out of the post office and delivering a package that had been discovered fallen behind a bench and had not made it out on the truck. He was blessed by me and knew I would soon be too.

I walked back inside, sobored by the reminder that God knows my tears...

Friday, December 22, 2006

I wanted to write more of my visit with my friend D, but each time I try, the words pale in comparison to the thoughts I have.

Never have I met a woman who savors the lives of her children as does D. Even in the midst of the chaos that can come with one who is 5, one who is 3 and one who is but a few months old, she walks with a calm certitude that stems from the fact that even the stressful is beautiful. It is beautiful because of the absolute blessing her children are to her.

D is amazing. There is no other way to put it. What she can do with an infant in her arms is amazing. For example, our first night together D made a garlic and brown-sugar glazed chicken for us and another meal for her children all the while holding baby M. I just watched in awe and then promptly scarfed down the delicious meal.

She certainly does not fret the small stuff, which is clearly evident in how she is raising her children. She is their authority and obedience is their choice, with straightforward consequences for disobedience. Yet, if they want to lie on the table reading a book while she is cooking, that is absolutely fine (her table is this marvelous square version of a farmhouse table). After all, what harm is done by them lying atop the table? They do not do it elsewhere, but at home, the table just one of the many "hearths" around which this young family gathers.

Her house is oh so clean. Her children are hale and hearty. Good food is plentiful. And their home is filled with love and laughter and acceptance for all.

Most certainly, it was an honor and a privilege to be with her this week. I am humbled by what I experienced and do not believe I will ever lose sight of the "rightness" of family I observed while there. This is how it can be and should be...for sure.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Would you believe that while backing out of the driveway from D's house after a most lovely visit that I actually knocked over her mailbox?

Sounds crazy, right?

Nope...I did that. ARGH!!!!

I thought I was backing up straight. Evidently I was not.

Essentially overdosing while I was supposed to be helping. Breaking the handprints of her children while crafting. Then knocking over the mailbox. Sometimes...those holes to crawl into are just never around.

NOTE: Navigation units work better when you actually follow the directions. In case you were wondering, the re-routing feature on the Magellan Roadmate 6000T works just fine. And...with two wrong turns between my house and D's, the travel time increases from 90 minutes to 120.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

I think that I tried to committ death by pain killer today.

This morning, I took a much needed dose of Midol at the same time as I took my arthritis medicine Celebrex. In short order, I started feeling rather badly. I grew worse and worse and began to wonder if I should ask D to drag me to the hospital.

I was dizzy and sick to my stomach and my head was pounding and so cold I could barely stand it. With little choice, I huddled beneath three blankets on the couch and tried to keep my moaning to once or twice every twenty or so minutes. After all, I didn't want D to think she had yet another child to deal with on her hands.

After a few hours, Kashi needed to go outside, so I let him drag me around by the leash. When we returned, I realized I felt a wee bit better. I figured the fresh air did me some good and wondered if there was something in her house that was bothering me. Of course, I have grown up with Christmas trees even if I have not had one myself in recent years. And D is the cleanest person I know. So...what could it be?

In the late afternoon, she enlisted me to help her with crafts, despite my still frequent moans and trembling limbs. I squinted against my throbbing head, clamped my lips shut against my still protesting stomach, and tried not to move too quickly as to guard against the waves of dizziness.

By late evening, when we started painting (yes, I have now painted in three states), I realized that the need for emergency care was passing. I was going to live.

In retrospect, perhaps taking two strong pain killers at once was not quite the best matter how good it sounded to me at the time.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

I am in Maryland today. And boy do I love that navigation unit!

I plugged in my friend's address and away I went. The trip I thought would take two and a half hours took only 90 minutes. There was only one confusing turn: the voice directions seemed a bit different from the map screen. I arrived safely and in an expeditious manner!

My friend D has a new baby and operates a day care business out of her home. So there are plenty of children here for me to photograph and to keep Kashi busy. Right now, he has retreated to the back corner by the garage out of exhaustion. I had D's amazing brown sugar, garlic glazed chicken for dinner. And I have already had plenty of holding-the-baby-time. Her husband is out of town for a few day, so my menagerie and I arrived to help hold down the fort. The fact that I am being stuffed with food, have offers of all left overs, and other groceries to boot has nothing to with why I am here (wink, wink)!

D's daughter is a cherub of a child, rosebud lips, round cheeks, and brilliant blue eyes (perhaps she will give Paul Newman a run for his money). I haven't yet seen my friend B's new baby boy, but at least I will have plenty of baby time this week!

I did receive an email from the American Diabetes Association to request a phone interview this week and samples of my writing. I promptly emailed back when I read the message this evening. [She has a wireless environment, which I always highly appreciate.] I truly do not like phone interviews because I feel so incredibly awkward and strange trying to get to know someone over the phone. However, it appears that the interview will be with the VP of internal communications. The position is: Community and Volunteer Communications Manager. I answered six essay questions the first week of August as a part of this interview process. I was actually surprised to just now be receiving a response from them.

On the computer front, I have just the software, batteries, and two cables to go. I received part of the power cord, the floppy drive, and a new case yesterday. The case is larger since the computer is larger and, consequently, heavier. However, I need to keep reminding myself to be thankful that I had the maintenance plan that makes an exchange possible when my other laptop decided that it was an oven.

I am most proud of myself for finally figuring out how to reformat the hard drive and then re-install Windows. For security purposes, I wanted to wipe my information before I returned the computer, even though it will not be sent out again since Dell considered it a physical risk. However, for the sake of honesty, I will admit that it took me approximately one and a half hours to get to the point to where I could start the reformatting process. To do so, I had to get the computer to boot from the CD-rom drive. To do that, I had to push the F12 button at just the right time as the computer restarted. After successfully getting the timing down, I had to wait for Windows to scan the system, and then put in the administrator password. Well, I had changed the password so that my password wouldn't be going back to Dell. I put in the new password, and it did not work. I kept trying, so after the third invalid attempt, it kicked me back out to a normal start. I had to wait for it to finish starting up, restart the computer, push F12 at just the right time, and then try again on the password. It was three rounds, with interminably long waits for the system parameters scan, before I figured out it wanted the old password. Finally, I could reformat the drive.

So, you see, can't you? You see why I am proud of being able to wipe my personal information?

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Six more resumes went out the "door" this evening. One was an interesting position in that it was 25% office management and 75% communications for an organization that funds solar energy projects in third world countries. I could get behind that rather easily. However, all were in the heart of the city, which means wicked commutes.

The Cowboys won yesterday! Woo Hoo! They have also clinched a playoff berth! Double Yahoo!

Of course, the Giants and Eagles won last week when the Cowboys lost, so they are only one game ahead now of the Eagles, who beat the Giants this afternoon. Next week, the Cowboys have to get on down to it and beat the Eagles. Then they can enjoy an easy final game win against Detroit.

Tiger Woods won today. Beautiful shots and creative saves. His winnings, over a million dollars, went to his learning center in LA. The proceeds for the event went to his foundation. What a path he walks...brilliance the world has never seen on the golf course and a burden for his fellow man that marks his journey day to day. He plans and purposes to leverage his fame and his income to help provide a better tomorrow by reaching out to those who can best effect true change: the youth of today.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

I spent the afternoon and evening with my writing student's family, marshalling the troops to clean while her mother was at work...and playing games.

Those brilliant kids learned a new game and promptly started beating me at it. Set has four variables players have to consider as they try to find sets in the common cards on the table. It is actually quite a cognitive challenge.

Where else, though, can I go where I can pit my brain against truly brilliant ones playing games that I enjoy?

We played Quiddler and Quorridor as well. We played and encouraged each other and applauded the winner.

Oh...and we also ate the best steak her father has ever cooked in my presence!

It was a good day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I learned that the FBI position has been canceled. Six and a half hours of writing essays...all for naught.

Kashi's vet called and she wants to do some more tests on Kashi. He is eating some now, so perhaps whatever was bothering him is passing. He is, however, still quite clingy, which for him is completely out of the norm.

I am still trying to get the computer together, the software that is. I did figure out how to save my email messages, so I was able to transfer those. The browser bookmarks have been exported. The files have been transferred as well. I am just missing the software that I was given when I left my job. I asked the IT manager to please send me the media, but he has not done so.

I did have a successful navigation event today. Well...mostly successful.

I was at my father's house and wanted to drop something off at my writing student's house on the way home. Our three houses make something of a triangle on the map and I wanted to find a way to her house that did not include just driving to my house, then hers, then back to mine.

The navigation unit took me on this convoluted path through many unknown roads...but it worked. It did have me do a U-turn that was just silly since I could have turned in the right direction in the first place. I also seemed to make the wrong turn twice even though I was following directions. However, since I had a map on the screen that I could look at, I figured out what I needed to do to get back on the route. So, it really was a success.

Before going inside my writing student's house, I stopped to pray for a while. I just cannot express how thankful I am for a means to get this system. I hated getting lost, the panic, the shame, the frustration. I know that navigation units have glitches and funny directions and are not perfect. But having one is an absolute solace to me.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Miracles of Miracles, I actually made my way to a customer service executive at the Dell headquarters who was appalled at the trouble I am having just trying to finish the system exchange.

I received another "tech support" email today claiming that there was no exchange on my account, that I had a refurbished system, and that it was not a customer service problem.

I promptly burst into tears.

I called the number they give if you know someone's extension and just started pressing "O" until I got through to someone. Gasping over my tears, I choked out that while I knew she was not the person I needed (she was in small business sales), I was desperate for help. She listened for a while, put me on hold, and then came back with her boss's personal email. She said to send all the messages to him and he would pass them on to someone who would do something.

Just over two hours later, the executive called, apologized all over the place, and asked if it would be convenient for me to work with her to resolve everything. Three phone calls later, I believe the floppy drive is being sent, two new batteries are on their way, tech support is burning a disk with the reinstallation information, and as a small token of her regret over my discomfiture, she is adding a new laptop case since the exchange system will not fit in my old case.

Oh, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

I did try to share the wealth a bit. My best friend B has been trying to get a rebate for over a year and a half. I asked the executive if she could help her, and she promised to reimburse the payment method (i.e., credit card used) on her order if she would supply the order number and the customer number. Hopefully, B will finally see her money!

Brinks came back and repaired the repaired system, so all is well there.

The UPS driver actually told me that he did not find the package until 9:00 the previous night because it was stuck behind the seat (and drenched with water). How curious...he keyed into the system that he was at my house at 7:35 PM.

Still no sign of tape or marinade.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

After waiting all day for a package, calling UPS several times before I was told that I just had to wait until after 8:30 PM, I hit refresh on the tracking screen to see that the driver had said that there was no one home to accept the package. It did not require a signature. I was home. He never came. There was no notice on my door. I called UPS and was told that they go by what is "in the system." Much tears were shed in my utter frustration. That the driver lied in the system precludes me from at least recovering the shipping charges. The package was software that I need to try and finish restoring my profile on the "exchange" laptop.

I have multiple case numbers, even more supervisor numbers, and no one from Dell who will help me with the missing components of this "even exchange" of my laptop. I have only two days left before I have to return my original system, and all my emails only result in automatic responses. More tears of frustration.

I waited all day for Brinks to come and repair the alarm system. Two hours of service later, the technician left around 6:00. Less than 10:00 minutes after he left, the system alarm started sounding a trouble alarm...I can turn it off, but it comes back on shortly. I couldn't get ahold of the technician who left. The "emergency" technician never returned my call. My plans for a night out were blown. Many, many more tears of frustration.

To top it all off, I have somehow managed to lose the Mexican dry rub marinade that I bought for the chicken. I have a tiny gallery style kitchen and it is not to be found anywhere. The tape has not shown up either.

This has been a multiple Dr. Pepper day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

I swear I would lose my head if it were not attached. I know that sounds crazy, or at least a bit extreme, but really...I would.

I bought some scotch tape yesterday to use while wrapping Dad's gifts for him. Today, I got most of the way through when I no longer could find the tape. I looked on the floor, in the boxes, beneath the table, in the kitchen, in the study, in the bathroom, and even outside where the recycling bin is (I had brought it in from the curb earlier. I am NOT going back to Target for tape. I WILL find it!

NOTE: Wal-Mart has this great, lighted deer for $20 that would look oh, so perfect in my yard!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Dad and I are on our fourth movie. Thus far, we have watched Under Suspicion, You've Got Mail, and Quicksand. We are now beginning Primal Fear.

Dad came over so that I could take him shopping for my two nephews. I must say, I rather enjoyed spending his money. We go beginner books, Thomas the Train movie and music DVD's, Spiderman pajamas, matching sports outfits, matching rugby shirts, socks, Matchbox cars, and a Leapad book. They boys usually do not get many toys, so this was a good mix of enjoyable educational stuff, clothing, and a wee bit of entertainment.

Unfortunately, my father got lost on the way over (something that happens more and more frequently). He called and told me where he was, but I didn't recognize the descriptors he was giving me. I called my writing student's mother, and low and behold she came to the rescue for both of us and pointed me in the perfect direction.

I showed my father my new navigation system, which he thought was great...that is...until it froze on me. I had to wait until we got home to learn how to reset the device. The tech support guy was from India and there was a severe language barrier. He heard the birds in the background and kept telling me the system would work outside. I kept telling him it froze while I was on the highway. Dad raised his eyebrows further and further as I raised my voice louder and louder. Hopefully, tomorrow's demonstration will be more facile for him. I am trying not worry about the unit freezing, because I have heard that many of them do that. We shall keep our fingers crossed...I am so thankful each time I lay eyes upon the thing that I might never know the fear and confusion of being lost and unable to figure out what to do next again.

After shopping, we came home and I started loading software on the replacement system Dell sent. It is an Inspiron 1505, when I had a 600m. It has a widescreen, is larger and heavier, and does not have the features of my other system. I get in a dispute with Dell or admit defeat now? My laptop case will not even fit with this one. ARGH!

Hours and hours later, I have only part of the software installed and have done countless updates for what has been installed. DOUBLE ARGH!

However, I can say that this laptop is not overheating like mine. Oughtn't that count for something?

I did cook my Chicken Enchiladas for my father, along with homemade refried beans and corn. I used some of the Archer Farms Mexican dry rub marinade in the beans and the corn. In the latter, I put some of the herbs into a pan and roasted them (I saw Emeril do that once) before adding salt and butter. Only then did I add the corn, mixing it all and heating it thoroughly. Dad was so stuffed (he finished the corn first) that he actually turned down the cookies I had made for him: butterscotch oatmeal.

So, here we are, two lumps on a couch (he is in the green chair) fully engaged in our current movie-thon. I wonder how many movies we can get in tomorrow before my step-mother calls to demand he return home...

NOTE: Also, for the sake of honesty, I will admit that I had told my writing student's mother that I would come over and slave labor for her today. Yet...I COMPLETELY forgot that I had made plans for her until the moment she rather gently reminded me after letting me know where she thought my father might be. I felt horrible. Dad called and asked for help, and I responded with a quick assent, believing that I had nothing more to do than to continue my frustrating job search. Oh, how wrong I was. I will have to find a way to make it up to her...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Such sorrow, eh? The Cowboys (along with the Colts and Patriots) learned the hard lesson that victory does not come easy. Still, dealing well with adversity is proof of a good team. The thing to do is see how the Cowboys bounce back against Atlanta this week.

Alas, I will not be able to see the game since some cruel person decided to move late season Thursday and Saturday games to the NFL network. It would cost me an additional $13 a month to get it from my cable company (if I did the math right). Although, to be fair I must admit that in doing so I would also get the Golf Channel, something I have been yearning to view.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Well, my life, as I knew it, has changed.

Tonight, I experienced a fluffernutter sandwich for the very first time. Wow! Who knew that they put marshmallows in a jar? I wonder what genius gave spark to such a wonderful idea!

I was mostly full from eating more chicken enchiladas this afternoon, so I thought I would just have a sandwich. When I went to Target, I saw a jar of fluff and bought it because my friend W had once waxed poetically about the savory delights of fluffernutter sandwiches. At the time, I didn't understand what she was talking about because I did not know what fluff was. When she mentioned it again this week, I asked her about fluff and she told me what it was. I still didn't really understand what she meant. Now I do.

Of course, I am even more stuffed than this afternoon. Yet...can I really complain? Health nuts the world over are shuddering at the thought of a peanut butter sandwich with softened marshmallow cream, but...hey...sometimes the fat and calories and carbohydrates are really, really, really worth it!

Friday, December 08, 2006

I made chicken enchiladas using the recipe my writing student's sister followed earlier this week. In doing so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I could replicate her success. I did make a couple of changes, though.

I found some Mexican dry rub marinade spices at Target, made by Archer Farms. It comes in a type for chicken and a type for beef. So, I rub some of the spices on the chicken and then drizzled olive oil over it before sauteing it in a pan. The spices were an added cook to the overall taste, if you ask me.

I also put a handful of cheese inside before wrapping them like burritos (they fit in the pan better that way).

All in all...a rather tasty meal, if you ask me:


Chicken Enchiladas

3 chicken breasts
Salt and pepper
1 small can chopped green chilies
1 10 oz can evaporated milk
1 10 oz can enchilada sauce
10 or so flour tortillas
Cheese (preferably Monterey jack)

First salt and pepper the chicken and then cook it in a frying pan with a bit of olive oil. Then put it in the quisenart or blender and grind it up (or you can pull it with a fork). Then mix in the chilies. Mix together the Evap. Milk and Enchilada sauce. Roll up about 3-4 spoonfuls of chicken into each tortilla and pour over enchilada sauce mixture. And top with cheese. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I got an email from a VP at the Red Cross today. He had just received my resume and wanted to know if I still wanted to be considered for the position. The funny thing is that I had sent in my resume for the position in August!

I wonder if I will be called in for an interview...

I am quite tired of being unemployed. I know...I know I should savor the time to write and be with Kashi. I know I should not worry. I believe God is sovereign and sovereign even in this time. I know this to be true. I just wish my feelings would more closely align with my knowledge!

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

I spent the day helping out my writing student's mother. I helped marshall the troops to clean up her house, well 4 of the 5 kids. The youngest son was the star trooper of the day, not only pitching in, but not complaining about any of the work.

The kitchen cabinets, drawer, and refrigerator were cleaned out, as was the linen closet and chest by the front door. Personally, I would mind borrowing all the helpers to plow through my own closets and drawers.

I enjoyed helping out, but I am totally and completely shagged. Cleanliness is hard work!

If you didn't notice, pigs were flying last Friday night!

I actually received the gift certificates from Capital One. I opened the package and then promptly placed the order for the navigation system. Today, after programming in my friend's addresses into the unit, I used it to drive over my writing student's house to see how it works. I cannot begin to tell you how good I felt following the directions.

I am hoping that the frightening times of being lost on the road are a thing of the past for me now.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The interview went fairly well, and I felt a wee bit better about the company than I had anticipated. The two women with whom I met were kind and welcoming. The latter was quite honest in some of the pitfalls of the job. I would not be doing any design work for them as they outsource all of that. Text only in provided templates.

I supposed I could find some measure of satisfaction being basically a hired pen for the Environmental Protection Agency (their biggest client), but this job really would be a step off a communications career path.

I would be very surprised if this were a door the Lord opens for me. Surprised and flummoxed. Could you imagine working with science researchers day in and day out???????

But, alas, actually getting a job would be rather good just now. [SIGH]

Today, I returned some pants that were a year old (but never worn since I discovered a stripe down the side of them when I got home...I sort of kept forgetting to visit the store), cashed in all my coupons that I had been hoarding (Chico's sends you $10 on your b-day, the magazine had a $50 coupon, and my regular shopgal sends me $10 periodically to lure me back into the store), and ended up with three jackets (two blazers one Mandarins style) that can be worn with several of my existing slacks and skirts) for the grand old total of a nickel.

Since I am now better set in professional attire...that job should be just around the corner, eh?

Kashi surprised me by eating twice more late this evening. He kept barking at me, so I fed him two more meals, three tablespoons each. Of course, he then spent about an hour and a half whimpering.

I wonder if he ate too much...even if all three meals were less than he usually eats in a day.

Monday, December 04, 2006

I have been prepping for my interview tomorrow. After reading through every page of the website (should I get this position there would be a HUGE learning curve), I made the following notes to share my "thoughts" about the company:

“Children’s Health Protection”
Does this work also entail targeting the “next generation” itself? Children are increasingly becoming accustomed to “necessities” that are a key factor in environmental stress and conservation obstacles (disposable technology, plastic ‘everything,’ etc.). Many schools have successful recycling programs, and often youth have picked up on this campaign and enlarged the practice or brought light to the need in their larger community. However, given the lack of science and math progress in American schools, providing pedagogical tools, training, and methodologies directly to educators, targeting the public, private, and home school market, could help alleviate these issues in the future since water, energy, and environment issues are heavy on math and science. Think of the impact of just one school district that adopted the change a light campaign from the classroom to the boardroom to the home.

In short, we would grow a generation of “tree huggers” who learn to ask the tough questions from the moment they begin their studies. What is the real cost of bottled water? What happens to those computers and cell phones we toss aside for the new models? Who is responsible for responsible waste measures?

“Plain Language documents”
Are these for small business owners only or do you provide materials for employees, those on the front lines implementing conservation measures? Do these documents take into account “ESL” factors given the diversity in American small business?

Methodological Rapprochement
I am curious as to the qualitative research measures undertaken by Cadmus. I would have expected quantitative methodologies, especially statistical analysis, but what sources of “rich” data are gathered and utilized?

Cadmus Website
Have you considered having real world examples (sample surveys, reports, etc.) on your website? Have you considered having an informative section with links to ESH research, agencies, and news?

Hmm...will they be impressed by my abilility to think critically on short notice?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Is this not a great day?

Oh, my 'Boys stepped up to the plate and put away the Giants in a nail-biter of a game. I was worried. It was a slugfest where neither team could really pull ahead. At the end there, however, Romo fired a ground devouring bullet to put them in field goal position. Gramatica then stepped up to the plate and booted the ball straight through the uprights to deliver a win for the Cowboys.

Woohoo! Yippee!

I am quite thrilled that they won. I reveled in gazing upon the standings to see the Cowboys right atop their division with a two game lead over our nearest competitor--the competitor whose hopes we had just squashed. And I savored the Cowboy highlights during the day's recap.

Having been a faithful Cowboy fan through our recent challenges, I am glad that we now have a few bright spots to celebrate...and celebrate with hope for the future.

Loyalty and patience do have their reward!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

I received a call asking me if I was interested in an interview.

An interview? Yes. But why this company?

The job is a writer/editor position for a consulting company with clients in the energy, water, and conservation industries.

You might think I've lost my marbles, but I am extremely intimidated at the thought of being a "writer" for a living. I mean, I write nearly every day. I write here on this blog and a few others. I write email. I write poetry. I write stories. I write novels.

In my past job, I wrote letters, reports, press releases, article, strategic plans, policies, ads, invitations, website text, marketing collateral, etc. As a professor, I wrote articles, book chapters, lesson plans, lectures, etc.

In short, I have been crafting the written word with care since the seventh grade (the first time I ever submitted a piece of writing for publication).

But this would be different. I would be "The Writer." Someone presented to client after client to meeting their messaging needs. I have never been a journalist. I have never wanted to be...mostly because I have little confidence that I could succeed at doing so.

I am grateful for the opportunity at a job...I am just nervous about a possible positive outcome!

Friday, December 01, 2006

I have lights!

It is strange, but the first three holiday seasons that I was a homeowner, I somehow did not managed to put up lights. I really like lights and find them rather cheering on an otherwise dreary winter day.

So, I decided that I get out the old charge card and treat myself to a small set of lights. I strung white lights along the fence, on the bushes in the front yard, and around the trunk of my crape myrtle tree. I put colored lights in the top of the tree, but if you look carefully, the top fourth of the tree is barren. Even standing on a step-ladder, I could not quite reach high enough. Being somewhat of a perfectionist, I would have preferred to have the lights go up to the top of the tree. I also wanted them up on the roofline, but I am quite nervous about standing on the extension ladder. However, despite these minor imperfections, I am quite pleased that I have lights!

They look mighty good with the small Christmas tree in the yard, eh?

Kashi is not sure what he thinks of them. When I opened the door, he was rather reluctant to go outside so that we could take our walk. When we arrived back at the house, I had to practically drag him up to the front door. Perhaps he will get used to them...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Congrats to my writing student! She has been accepted to college! Woo Hoo! Yippee! Of course, I partly claim the credit for the most marvelous of recommendation letters I penned on her behalf...and helping her with the even more marvelous essay she crafted to accompany her application.

The whole process with writing the letter was rather difficult for me. My first draft was three full pages. I cut it down to two and a half. Then I whittled it down to two. Finally, reminding myself of the cold reality that most people will not read the second page of any business correspondence, I set about getting it down to just one page. She is an extraordinary young woman, so doing so was a great challenge.

Hah! She's going to college! I am already half jealous of those who will now have the teaching of her!

NOTE: Today, this last day of November, the temperature climbed to 70 degrees. Really, folks, doesn't that seem a little excessive? Are we even going to have a Fall before Winter arrives? Will we have a Winter? Of course, it was practically 80 degrees yesterday in Dallas and now they are covered with snow and ice!

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Did you hear that Congress has determined that further study of the Trail of Tears is needed? They are worried that youngsters "don't have a clue" about this area of our past. I would say it is about time. I would also say that they have not even begun to understand what is missing from our history textbooks.

I watched a show on the History Channel with my father last week. It was a documentary on the True Story of the Bridge on the River Kwai. Renowned movie that it was, it was also quite historically inaccurate. The inaccuracy themselves were atrocious in the light of the fact that this popular media softened, diminished, and otherwise glossed over the horror inflicted on thousands and thousands of men and the agony-filled deaths of thousands and thousands more. Would the movie had been so popular had it been an accurate presentation of what was essentially a death railway across Thailand and Burma?

Forget the fact that the location and the very structure of the bridge were inaccurate, what was missing was the truth about the Japanese who drove prisoners of war to achieve engineering feats near impossible with current materials...this they did with their bare hands and the simplest of tools. Scholars liken the work to the building of the pyramids. Why do we not know of this?

The Japanese refused to ratify the 1929 Geneva convention treatise on the treatment of prisoners they had signed, so the starvation and slave labor was perfectly acceptable to them. The overwhelming loss of human life and unbelievable human suffering was just a part of war to them. How utterly wrong were they in this stance.

The true story can be seen in the movie created by the BBC, but the images alone are hard to stomach. The fact and figures land like blows again and again. You think the story cannot get worse, but it does. Thousands of men, clad only in rags, really little more than walking skeletons, fought to survive against violence, starvation, hard labor, dehydration, and then disease.

The first prisoners where told that they were being moved to a place that was more like a resort than a camp. The Japanese were concerned about their accommodations and wished for them to be better. It was with hopeful hearts that the first few thousand willingly began a march through the jungle that ended in a nightmare none could have imagined. They were crowed into cattle cars and shipped like animals with insufficient food and water for survival. Many died along the way. Those who survived were ill and suffering. Others were dumped in the lower holds of ships, again with little food and water, only to be killed by friendly-fire bombs from allied pilots who had no idea of their presence in the ships below. Those lucky enough to survive the journey to the new camps were horrified to realize the lies they had swallowed and soon understood that living would become the greatest battle they had ever faced.

They carved a pathway through the jungle and through mountains of rock by sheer labor. The slightest lack of progress on their part resulted in punishment. Punishments included savage beatings, being made to kneel on sharp sticks while holding a boulder for one to three hours at a time, and being tied to a tree with barbed wire and left there for two to three days without any food or water. Men were also strung up by their hands with a rope looped over a section of the railway and left to hang without food or water for hours and days on end in the scorching heat. They stumbled in fatigue and were punished. Tools broke and they were punished. Labor shortages arose from death and illness and they were punished. Approximately 1 in 5 prisoners died building the railway.

Yet, despite the savagery they faced, these valiant men beat all odds to build a 200 mile pathway through a nearly impenetrable jungle. They labored mightily to save their lives. The Japanese heralded and celebrated the fabulous engineering feat of the railway. I would hope we honor the perseverance of the brave men, living and dead, who poured out their lives in extraordinary circumstances and yet continuously looked for even the smallest ways to support each other and uplift each other so that just one more might survive.

The Internet holds many documentary and memorial sites if you know where to look. One covers the railway itself. Another remembers Hellfire Pass. Some are about the community of Far East Prisoners of War. Some are interactive like this PBS one where you can view clips of tales by survivors. Some are a tribute to those who died there. Some are eye-witness accounts.

I wonder, I truly wonder just how many other tales of gross human suffering laced with ineffable valor are absent from the "history" deemed necessary for students to learn.

While the Trail of Tears is but a small moment in the centuries of absolute travesty committed against Native Americans, I supposed I should support this small effort to bring to light the truth of exactly how America became the harbinger of freedom to the rest of the world.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I learned today that I did not get the job with MENTOR. Up until the point when I received the letter, I thought three interviews at least gave me a fighting chance. I cannot begin to express my disappointment.

Kashi has spent much of the day on the couch with me, at one point with his head in my lap. Clearly something is wrong, but I do not know what. He did eat this evening. I was able to get all three pills and his Chinese herb mixed into his food and added some strawberry frosted mini-wheat cereal for a bit of flavor. He ate about 3 tablespoons. Right now, he's slurping up his fourth bowl of water for the day. [This whole lack of eating thing makes it hard to get him to take the medicine for that.]

Normally, I would like that he is following me about and wanting to curl up at my side. It is just that doing so is not his normal behavior.

In case you were interested, a garden in Idaho of the late 1890's might have watermelon, cantaloupe, cucumbers, squash, and green beans, in addition to the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, and greens. Kids would carve their names into the young melons and squash and watch their names grow larger and larger as the vegetables ripened on the vine.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Packers let me down. I wanted very much for them to beat Seattle so that they remained behind the Cowboys record-wise. Of course, being an avid anti-Packers fan, it was kind of hypocritical to expect support from them in this crucial juncture in the season.

Boy, oh, boy, oh boy is Sunday's game between the Giants and the Cowboys going to be a big one! The Giants are all riled up on losing so many games in a row that they will be taking to the field in a querulous mood. I am thinking positive thoughts on the Cowboys newfound prowess.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Alas, the Giants collapsed and the Cowboys are alone at the top of the AFC East. What a wonderful moment it was to see that division listing! [However, have you ever wondered why a team in Texas, a southwestern state, is listed in a division labeled "east"?]

I spent much of the forth quarter on the mini-stepper. In 30 minutes, I actually covered 2,425 steps. Saturday it was 2,200. A 10% increase each day. I wonder if that is good or if I was just being lazy on Friday. At least pummeling away on that thing helps me forget my worries about Kashi for a little while.

He has eaten some, but it is sporadic. He has not had more than a single, small meal per day. He also is not really interested in his bones, treats, or any of my food. Usually, I practically have to kick him off my lap when I eat. I never thought I would actually want him to beg!

At least he still enjoys his walks. When we are out and about, he practically has me running, he is pulling so very hard on the leash. However, when we return home, he flops down and goes to sleep.

It is strange...he is spending a lot of time lying at the foot of the couch, on the kitchen floor, and on the bathroom floor. Everywhere I go, he follows, curls up in a ball, and sleeps. I guess you could say I am extremely worried because I kept picking up the video camera to take a few more frames of him sleeping. For example, he spent much of this day guarding a paper napkin he had stolen from me at breakfast. He was so assiduous in his guard that he slept with the napkin tucked beneath his chin and two of his stuffed animals on either side keeping guard while he took his rest.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

I was so worried about Kashi last night that I got out my mini-stepper (something that has been sorely neglected even though I half stumble over it each time I go upstairs) and started pounding away my concern.

30 minutes and 2,000 steps later, I decided that killing myself via exercise was perhaps not in Kashi's best interest.

Today, I have thrown myself back into Megan's life. Of course, this means more research as she is currently trying to make changes in her wardrobe to accommodate her growing size. Did you know that in the 1890's, the prevailing pregnancy dress was known as the "Mother Hubbard" dress. It was a rather plain affair, made of calico, with long sleeves, a loose waist, and a small train in the back.

Given the work it entails, I very much am thankful that I do not live in a time when I would have to make all my clothing, when I would have to work at everything, cooking, cleaning, canning, gardening...even having to make the soap used in the laundry and cleaning. Imagine not having access to 409!

Friday, November 24, 2006

I have spent the day by Kashi's side. He is not eating. My dog LOVES food. Really, he does. He needs to remember those "loving feelings" and soon!

NOTE: I am losing the battle on getting three pills down him twice a day. I need to come up with a new strategy.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

I have another bit of advice when it comes to leftovers...In case anyone is keeping track: Indian food should not be consumed after four days.

I thought it might be a bit suspicious, but really the fifth day is not very long when it comes to eating many leftovers. The result of said consumption was much roiling of innards for many, many hours through last evening and late on into the night.

At 3:00 this morning, after munching on my fifth Tums tablet, I kept thinking about the Thanksgiving meal that was mere hours away. Clutching my gut and vowing to be much more responsible regarding leftovers, I wondered just what might have been growing in the Murg Mahkini that I had consumed. I finally was able to sleep around 4:00 after two more tablets and a glass of water.

I will say that I was able to consume far too many helping of this potato casserole that my step-mother created. It had eggs, butter, sour cream, and sundry other ingredients that resulted in the best tasting potatoes I can ever remember consuming. Hence, the extra helpings.

My innards, however, were not ready for large amounts of food. Sadly, I couldn't even manage to treat myself to a slice of chocolate mousse cake for dessert. In fact, the thought of dessert make me groan.

I did ask my step-mother if I could bring a slice home. However, I forget it at their home when I left. 45 minutes later, when I was getting my camera out of the car back at my house, I realized that I would not be eating any of the cake, even if my innards recover.

I did throw out the remainder of the Indian food. For the record, I could have gotten two more meals out of it.

Kashi didn't eat any more yesterday evening or this morning. When I came home, I managed to get his three pills down without breaking any skin on my fingers. After our battle of wills, he did eat a few tablespoons of food. I wish I knew what was wrong with him.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I have been trying to deny it for over a week, but something is wrong with Kashi. He no longer treats food as his long lost buddy.

I broke down and took him to the vet today, knowing that if I did not, I would not have another chance to do so until Monday. He did not eat yesterday and had not eaten anything today until we were at the vet.

Dr. M is so very kind, she just sat down on the floor to address my beloved puppydog's concerns. She determined that his tremors have worsened and he appears to be in pain. Since he is already on pain killers, she prescribed a different supplemental pain killer, medicine for the tremors, and medicine to help with his appetite. She also gave him a shot to jump start his appetite and gave him some rather tasty, intestinal safe food. He ate about five tablespoons.

He has not eaten since.

I do not like the tremors. I do not like that most of the day his curly tail is drooping. And I definitely do not like the fact that my goat-disguised-as-a-dog puppydog is not eating.

I am most worried about my staunch companion!

NOTE: Forcing Kashi to consume four pills is a battle I do not relish repeating twice a day.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I am cold. I don't know why, but I am cold.

I turned the heat up to 74 degrees and put on three shirts, two pants, and two pairs of socks.

I am still cold.

Monday, November 20, 2006

What a day!

I applied for six jobs, made milk-chocolate-caramel chip cookies from scratch, briefly worked with my writing student, cooked dinner for my father and brother, played around with editing photos of my dear friend B's beautiful, bouncing baby boy that she gave birth to on the 17th, took out the trash, worked on my novel, updated my computers, vacuumed the house, scrubbed the gunk off of the stove, walked Kashi, cleaned the bird cage, burned some CD's, and finished putting away my laundry.

For dinner, I made refried beans and guacamole from scratch, chicken fajitas, and tacos. I was in the middle of practically throwing food around the kitchen in my attempt to create a great meal for my brother and father when my writing student called to ask if she could come over to pick up something, drop off a few things, and have me look at an essay for a scholarship application.

I told her to come on over without letting her know I was awash in culinary madness. Trooper that she is, she joined the fray immediately, helping me cook so that I could read her work.

Oh, if I had the moment to do so, I would have cried. Her writing prompt was to write something about walls. She chose the Vietnam Memorial, but never once gave name to her choice in the essay. Instead, she took her readers through the experience of approaching the wall and realizing the enormity of the moment and the lessons that memorial holds for those who dare to look.

A few edits, some quick discussion, and key bits of timely culinary assistance later, she was gone. A while later, both male relatives were sated in a most satisfactory way. A few hours after that my brother and I were cheering the Jaguars as they led over the Giants (I have high hopes that the Cowboys will soon be tied for the lead in their division, although the Giants will still hold the tie-breaker over them).

This day was filled from beginning to end. I must say, I am looking forward to tumbling into my bed. Still, this day was filled from beginning to end. For that, I am most thankful.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Dreams can come true!

This day was marked by a great win for the Cowboys and losses for two of their three rivals! Now, if Jacksonville will manage to beat the Giants, that will be icing on my NFL cake.

Even in unemployment, I can enjoy Sundays. I can enjoy the day set aside for worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. I can fall on my knees beneath the admonishment that He is sovereign. I lose sight of this in being frustrated that I still cannot find a job, but each Sabbath that rolls around finds me still before the Lord, if only for a moment, in the realization of who I am in Him.

"Be still and know that I am God" He commands in Psalm 46:10. Much, much easier said than done.

Having football games all day long are both a blessing and a curse. I really, really enjoy football, but watching the games is another reminder of time gone by.

Yet, as I cheer my team on, holler at the refs for bad calls, hide my eyes from the wicked tackles, and jump up and down for those impossible catches...I can lose myself in the moment, forgetting all my worries and rest in the game that is football.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

I used to look forward to Saturdays as a day of rest, a day that I could spend in any fashion I could wish. It was a day with no demands on my time, a day I could legitimately set down the burden of my job without feelings as I should try an accomplish just one more task before I slept.

Now, Saturdays are days I dread. They are long and empty, without even the promise of bad serial television to fill the hours. They are just one more day of unemployment, one more day that serves as a reminder that I have to place to go, I belong nowhere.


Friday, November 17, 2006

Two days until the Cowboys meet the Colts. Two days of hope for a Cinderella tale played out on an NFL field.

On paper, the Cowboys could win. On paper, a 5-4 team beating a 9-0 team is not that unrealistic. On paper, all dreams are possible.

Two days until those dreams can become reality.

NOTE: Mark this day as a joyous one for B brought J into the world to join his sister E in the family K. Mother and baby are doing well. Praise Him for this gift!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I am battling with my heart and my mind this day. This month is practically over in my mind, since I have only recently discovered that Thanksgiving is next week...not in two weeks as I previously thought. No one will be thinking about hiring me next week or the one thereafter. November is shot. No one will think about hiring me in December, so my next real opportunity will be in January. That is far too long a time to remain unemployed.

I have been practically paralyzed in my despair over how long it has been. When not immobile in reality, I have been shedding tears.

This day, this week, have not been good for me.

And yet…and yet I had an idea for one of my two novels that carried the main characters off a street where they have languished for months and taken them 30 pages further in the journey of their tale in just three days this week. Puzzles and intrigue and a new character were introduced. Things hinted at, things revealed.

Could that not be considered time well spent?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Would that I could have just one moment when I knew that there was at least one person in my life to whom my path mattered enough to remember the quotidian reality of multiple sclerosis or asthma or arthritis...or crazy enough...the battle of life with all three.

Not a day goes by where I don't long for just one day of feeling well. Not a day goes by where I do not hurt in one part of me or another. Not a day goes by where I am not starkly reminded how the holes in my cognitive function are growing, inexorably leading me down a path of no return. Repeatedly, I find myself defending that which I wish were a consideration of me rather than an inconvenience to others.

12 years of MS came and went did six with asthma...and three with arthritis.

Even the remembrance of a plastic fork would do wonders for my wearied heart.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

I was reading something a while ago about a folk who identified with the Southerners in the Civil War, identified with just wanting the opportunity to govern themselves and choose what was right.

My writing student’s younger siblings are studying the civil war. A short while ago, when taking with them, I asked them what they had learned that day. They replied that they learned the civil war was about slavery.

Something clicked within me and I launched into a mini-lecture about how the civil war was really about state’s rights. I talked about how some states felt the federal government had no right to tell them what they could and could not do. I talked about the role of a common government and some current day examples of where the Federal government makes the rules and where things are left up to states.

Now, I explained that the main issue being debated under States rights was the right to own slaves. But to say the Civil War was fought over slavery is to diminish the deep divide that existed at the time. [Some would probably say that divide is wider than ever.]

Any how, in reading the comparison, I immediately was offended by how such a statement belittled the enormity and seriousness of slavery. It was no simple rights issue that was unfairly decided by a central government that cared only for the advancement of its highest citizens. The southerners were not oppressed individuals living in a corrupt society who wished only to live their lives out apart from all the standards, and yes hardships, inflicted by those who wished to have just one standard of life. The southerners were denying life itself to human beings. This was not a matter of who could marry or not, who would pay taxes or not. This was a matter of life and death and unspeakable cruelty.

The irony of my reaction was not lost on me in that moment. I practically shoved the fact that the Civil War was not just about slavery down the throats of a 6-, 9-, and 12-year-old. Yet, here I was, horrified, that slavery was not front and center as the reason for the Civil War in the piece I read.

P.S. Happy B-day to my sister!

Monday, November 13, 2006

I had another dream asthma attack last night.

I cannot remember but bits and pieces of the beginning of the dream, although the context is quite familiar to me. I was trying to escape something, traveling with just a bag, going from place to place looking for help. At one point, I was trying to get a bottle of water from a relief organization, but was not having much success. No one would help me.

Somehow, my dream transitioned to me arriving home (not the one I own now) and trying to sleep. My dear friend W came in and started talking to me. I told her that I needed to sleep, but she would not stop talking. She was smiling and poking me and dancing around a bit as if I were just being grumpy and should join in her play...despite it being after 2:00 in the morning. I kept telling her to stop, that if I didn't get sleep, the MS symptoms would get worse. She just smiled and talked away. I started begging her to let me sleep, but she ignored me.

As with the other dream, I began struggling with my breathing and realized that I needed help. I gave up trying to sleep and went to seek out a doctor. When I arrived at a clinic of sorts, W told someone that I wouldn't leave her alone. I couldn't believe it! I tried to explain that she had been keeping me up when I was trying to sleep and now I was having trouble breathing.

The whole time I was talking, W just kept smiling at me, dancing around, and telling the doctor that I was a bit off my rocker and to ignore me. She always does.

My breathing grew more labored and I began to panic. Once again I asked for oxygen or Albuteral, anything to help. But W kept insisting to the doctor that I actually didn't need anything, all the while smiling at me when the doctor turned away from her to look at me.

He listened to her and not me and left us alone in the room. W just smiled at me as I continued to struggle to breathe, the room grew hazy and stars flashed in front of my eyes. Instead of fainting, I woke up.

This time, my sats were at 88 when I awoke.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

I got to thinking that there was really no one in my life who would really make me chicken and dumplings, so on a whim I started Googling recipes. I found one I sort of liked, but the dumpling part was just flour, salt, and water. So, I kept looking until I found one that was flour, salt, soda, and buttermilk. However, that recipe was weak on spices for the broth. I found a third that was strong on spices and combined all three.

And I made myself chicken and dumplings.

I would offer that my first try was about a B+. The broth was tasty, but needed more of the spices I used. I have always struggled with how to spice things in great quantities, such as with an entire Dutch oven of broth. I also would like to find out how to make the dumplings a little lighter and perhaps a bit flavored.

Still, I have five more helping of chicken and dumplings to savor this coming week...five more opportunities to savor both the taste and the accomplishment...

Saturday, November 11, 2006

I thought that yesterday was a bit too soon for testing my abdominal muscles, so I delayed painting a second coat on the window trim until today. I tried to think of other things that needed doing, but in the end reminded myself quite firmly that this day of 70+ temperatures was not likely to come again until Spring.

I am on stand-by for when B goes into labor, so I also gave Kashi a bath and cleaned the bird cage in preparation of us all making the trip to PA for the arrival of her second child. I packed a bit, but concentrated on making a list for when the phone call comes.

After reviewing my packing list, I have determined that she will have delivered her child and returned home from the hospital by the time I am ready to set out on my journey of support and welcome.

I also cleaned the dishes, vacuumed the house, and did a few loads of laundry. Being productive all day feels quite satisfying to me just now.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Are you bored with your workout routine? Do you feel as if you are not getting the results you expect? Well, let me offer a solution: hang out second story windows and paint the trim.

Yes, I did just that today.

My father is opposed to me standing on an extension ladder, and I have come to agree with him. His idea was for me to sit on the window sills and paint the trim that way. I was dubious that I could reach the top of the windows, but some hard thinking, two paint sticks, and some duct tape took care of that problem.

However, after the second window, my heart was pounding and I was sweating profusely. After the third window, my arms and legs were shaking. After the forth, I needed to use my nebulizer. All of that just to paint the trim around four upstairs windows.

The wood really needs to be replaced, but in lieu of that, I thought a fresh coat of paint would help slow the breakdown of the trim that has been battered by the weather since 1947. I just didn't understand how difficult it would be to do so.

The worst part is...I need to do a second coat tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The sign of a great friendship? Silence.

W and I spent a few hours on the phone tonight, thanks to Sprint PCS. We watched one show together, but the rest of the time she was watching one show, while I watched another. I also spent some time winning at poker again on my $2 hand-held game. [Alas, after getting to $96,470 I melted again and lost it all.]

Much of our time was spent in silence, yet it was companionable silence. It was as if she were right beside me on the couch, a reading-a-book-while-I-listened-to-music sort of thing.

23 years is a long time knowing someone. Definitely there have been ups and downs along the way. Things that I didn't understand. Times that I frustrated her. Periods of strain and confusion. However, neither of us has ever really let go. After all, we are sisters in Christ.

Of all of that time, we really only lived near each other for two years and a few summers between college semesters. Instead, ours has been a friendship of letters, then e-mails, then cell phones...with a few visits here and there.

W knows me backwards and forwards, inside and out, and only sees the woman Christ has created. That is a marvelous thing. She wants nothing, expects nothing, other than for me to be me. What a wondrous thing. We agree. We disagree. We like very different things at times, but the differences do not really matter in the long run.

For a long while, she traveled a darkened path on which I struggled to remain beside her. During the latter part of her journey, I was the most distant from her than I have ever been. In part, that distance came from counsel from my family that she had just become too "toxic," a judgment made when I shared with them my own frustrations that W seemed to take one step forward and two steps backwards no matter how I tried to help her. Seeing her that way was breaking my heart and wearying my soul. I bowed under the weight of their criticism of me for still befriending her. My calls and correspondence slowed down to a trickle. Now that she is on the other side, I feel as if I could have done more. I feel as if I let her down in my own weakness, instead of being ever strong for her. The woman that she is came in her response to my confession: You were there, always there...even when I made it difficult for you to do so.

There is a difference between someone who is toxic and someone who is merely deeply wounded. W is the latter, my mother is the former. W does not care if I weight 108 or 180. W does not care of my hair is past my waist or my shoulders. W does not care if I wear sweats or a suit. None of that really matters to her. All of it matters to my mother. As she is wont to remind me, I am a constant disappointment to my mother, whereas I am a source of joy to W...someone who forgives my weaknesses and is thankful that I am her friend.

Little does she know what a gift that response was to me.

So, tonight we sat in silence. And it was good.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

It has been a dreary, drizzling day. Despite that bit of alliteration, rather uninspiring. I've written little, cleaned little, organized little, and been otherwise rather unproductive. I did win a couple of Scrabble games with my dear friend B. Still, I have little to show for this day of my life.

Is it not a marvelous wonder that we get to start our lives over again each and every day?

Here's to a better day tomorrow!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Yesterday, after my father chortled over the end of the Cowboy-Redskins game (when he moved north he switched loyalties), he helped me remove the window unit from my bedroom window and carried it downstairs and outside to the lower deck. My father was all for throwing it away, but replacing it would be quite expensive, if I needed one to cool down my bedroom in the future. With MS, being cool is paramount, especially when trying to sleep.

Now, you know that I had to replace my three-year-old interior AC unit this spring, which practically made me weak with nausea. However, the first contractor did not really put in a good unit, despite his claims, so I was much cooler this summer...most likely a combination of the attic gable vent fan I installed last summer and the new unit from this spring. In any case, I did not use the window unit and wanted to finally remove it. I thought perhaps I could store it under the deck using the tarp I purchased last spring to cover the used, but rather new, oversized heater I had to replace and consequently donated to Habitat for Humanity.

With the window unit out, I can open the window a crack to help with the heat that rises to the second floor in the window. The other plus was that I was a bit surprised to see how much larger the room looks without it, even though it only extended past the window ledge six inches into the room.

Anyhow, my dad when walked into my bedroom to help with the a/c unit, he immediately pointed out that my fan was on reverse. I didn't believe him, but turned off the fan and flipped the switch before turning it back on again. He was right! All summer long, in trying to remain cool while I slept, I have been running the fan on high and wondering why it didn't make a bigger difference in the temperature. Boy, did I feel a bit dense...

After he left, I used my self-ire energy to paint the exterior of the kitchen window and the framework surrounding the door. Today, I worked on scraping this white substance that covered the uppermost layer of red bricks next to the old siding on the second floor. Since the siding is painted brown, the white substance particularly stood out between the brick and the siding. I used a metal brush, thinking that would be a good solution for scraping away the substance.

Well, the bricks are no longer white. However, neither are they red. The metal of the brush appears to have melted onto the bricks and they are now a bronze color. At least they are a better color match...

Good intentions, eh?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Alas, such a sorrowful day, this day.

I am grieving for the robbery of the Cowboys at the hands of their complete inability to stay their penalties and the fortunate happenstance of the Redskins.

As loyal as I am to my 'Boys, 10+ penalties in the past two games is really unexcusable.


Saturday, November 04, 2006

Another day of home improvement labor, a culinary victory, and... losing to a nine-year-old at Up For Grabs.

After working hard in the basement bedroom, I retreated to the main floor to play a few games with the two youngest children. However, not too much time later, they were noting quite vehemently that the hour was late and supper was about to be past due.

I thought about going back downstairs to ask my writing student's parents if they wanted me to cook something, but I decided to just investigate their refrigerator. I spotted some ground beef and flour tortillas and thought of tacos. They ended up having hard taco shells as well, so L and I started cooking.

L surprised me by declaring that we could make refried beans from scratch with the pinto beans we found when looking for the former. The result was rather tasty, if I may say so.

Also tasty was my first attempt to make guacamole. My writing student's mother had to pop over to the home improvement store for some more supplies, so I asked her to pick up some chips, limes, avocados, and more tomatoes. After mashing the avocados, I added minced onions and garlic, cumin, lemon juice, dried cilantro, salt and pepper. The general consensus was that my first attempt was a success.

I have to admit that I had planned on working for no more than five hours and then go home because I have been pushing my body physically far too much of late. But once we started cooking, my notions of cooking a meal for them and then going home left rather quickly. Yes, I took advantage of more free food. However, it was oh so different from the monotonous fare I have been eating of late that I found myself digging into the meal with relish.

Friday, November 03, 2006

I would give myself a B- on my interview today.

Thanks to preparation help from a couple of people and prayer covering from my friends, I walked into the interview the calmest I have ever been in that situation. I felt the ineffable peace of Christ filling me and welcomed the opportunity to talk.

However...I think I talked too much. Our time was shorted by a delay by the interviewer, and I just didn't make it through my portfolio. I didn't even fully answer her one main question, though I did answer her follow-up questions. She did like my design work though...

I should hear next week whether or not I have made it to the next step of their hiring process: yet another interview. I shall focus on the adage that "the third time's the charm" and hope for that chance!

I will say, though, that I learned something this week. Thanks to the support of my friends and the task of putting together the portfolio and on-line resume and portfolio, I found the self that I had lost at my last job.

This week I was also able to finally move forward in my novel once again. I have been stuck on having to write another sermon. While the particular message of the sermon is not what spoke to me this week, the work of creating it touched my soul with such sweetness. I have asked my friends to read it, to see if they make the connections I crafted into the message..perhaps asking a bit too strongly. But immersing myself in the Word of God proved to be the anchor I needed.

I lost myself in hard labor, writing, the portfolio, and the Word of God...I lost myself and found what I had already lost along the way.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Today, I laid a laminate floor in bedroom where I have been honing my home improvement skills. I did have the help of my writing student's siblings, but her mother had one unexpected thing crop up after another.

WS' middle sister is twelve. You would not believe how much of a help L has been during the renovation process...both on this bedroom and on their computer room finished last month. Between the two projects, She helped paint, lay an Armstrong vinyl floor, hang drywall (including measuring, cutting, floating, taping, scraping, and sanding), and lay the laminate floor (including measuring, cutting, and fitting pieces all by herself. At twelve!

I have enjoyed working with L because I have also watched her gain a certain level of confidence that has been a pleasure to witness. I mean, she already knows her way around the kitchen (although she is the epitome of the messy cook), but I think this is something more. What twelve-year-old girl do you know who can join a construction crew and work in a commercial kitchen?

L is also a great athlete, a creative movie maker, and a fierce game-player! She has no problem beating me. [SIGH] Aside from the latter, she is amazing. I find myself thinking about her potential when she is grown and marvel that two such strong young women are growing up in that household. Given the fact that the six-year-old sister is already reading, beating me at games, and better than me at remembering the rule of Texas Hold 'Em poker...I think another one is on the horizon...

I did practically run out of their house once the floor was done. Working from 9:45 until 7:14 was a bit more than I had anticipated. The blasted doorway to the room was my nemesis and slowed down the rate of progress for over an hour. I am hurting again, especially my lower back. If only I didn't need those particular joints.

I am ensconced in the green chair, having taken both Ibuprophen and Tylenol (washed down with a curative dose of Dr. Pepper). I have only to burn the CD, review the on-line resume and portfolio I created this week, and ... get to bed at a decent hour! No more staying up all night writing and watching mediocre movies on television any more, eh? I will have a job soon...I hope...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

I found this day to be rather sad for me. I did not wish for November to come while still being unemployed. Even with the possibility that Friday holds, I struggle with having no place to contribute, no way to support myself.

I had another "bad" piece of mail float my way, a $697.53 shortfall on my escrow account. This is on top of an existing shortfall. I do not have that kind of money to send off to the mortgage company.

I really hate that I think about money as much as I do. I hate more the reason why it is so much on my mind.

I do have to think about what I have been able to accomplish on my novel and on how much rest I have gotten after working 60-80 weeks for months on end. Those two blessings of being unemployed alone should help me to remain thankful each day.

Should being the operative word...

I did managed to print most all that I needed at Staples, which is having a sale on color copies this week. And I think that I have my portfolio as ready as possible. All I have left is to create a CD rom to leave with them since most of what I have is my only copy.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

oh, my goodness, I worked overly much today.

I worked because I wanted to do so. I worked at hanging drywall in my writing student's new basement bedroom. I carried and marked and cut and sawed and screwed drywall all day and into the evening. I wanted to do so.

But...I have been home for just a few minutes and have come to realized that I crossed some sort of line a few hours ago. The areas where my arthritis is worst, my back, wrists, knees, and ankles, are so painful that I am wondering if it just might be worth being "drugged" for two days to take a pain pill. On top of that, I am hobbling on feet that are practically screaming with each step I take, and my left ankle, the one I broke in June, is quite swollen.

It is as if I was operating on some adrenaline high with the excitement of the home improvement labors, on getting to hone my skills, all began draining away the moment I crossed my own threshold.

I let Kashi out and fed the birds. As I was moving around, I started noticing how much my feet were aching. I knew my back was pretty bad when I left, but it seized up shortly after I arrived home. Really, by the time my babies were settled and Kashi flopped down on the floor after a good romp around the back yard chasing his ball, I collapsed in the green chair, wishing I were someone else. Quite strongly.

I suspect that it will not be easy to sleep tonight...even with visions of completed drywall dancing in my head!

Monday, October 30, 2006

I received a hopeful call today!

I spent the weekend feeling quite down because I thought that if I were going to be called back for an in-person interview, it would have already happened. Happily, though, I was wrong. The call came today.

The interview is Friday, so it is good that I already started on the portfolio. I have pulled some documents and collateral examples together, but I still have more to gather and a presentation method to figure out.

Still, I am quite thankful for the opportunity for another chance to demonstrate that I would be a good fit for this organization.