Thursday, March 30, 2006

I yawned the whole way home today. I was tired beyond tired. But much of the way a friend pretended to be a cooking show host and entertained me almost home. Then, another good friend called, and we chatted about the brochure I am creating for her new business. That kept me up the rest of the drive.

Is that friendship or what?

My best friend is quite ill and stilled played Scrabble with me, even past the point where she should have been sleeping peacefully (well that may not be possible with her cough) because we were locked in a titanic word struggle.

Is that friendship or what?

I like to win. She likes to win. She is a better loser than I, a better winner than I. I struggle to emulate her in her Scrabble behavior (not just those stellar words she sees among her seven letters...for example, tonight she played "sagathy"...a Scrabble Bingo to boot!) and accept with greater grace the outcome of the game. Still she plays with me.

Definitely...that is friendship!

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

While waiting for the world's greatest handyman on Monday, I finally weeded the last portion of the flower bed by my stoop.

You see, this past summer I decided to test the commonly shared gardening factoid that if you put at least four inches of mulch down you will not have a problem with weeds. I, however, have spent my whole gardening career spreading the mulch as thinly as possible to save labor and money. Quite skeptical over the whole thing, I nevertheless put down nearly three dozen bags of mulch, except for the portion closest to the stoop.

This contractor was supposed to be replacing the stoop and repairing the section of sidewalk that has been missing since July 2004 when the VERY EXPENSIVE sewage pipe in my front yard had to be replaced. Those plumbers swore they would not be breaking up the sidewalk, but when I arrived home, there were two and a half squares missing.

Well, the contractor kept changing the start date and ultimately never came. I kept telling myself he would eventually want the job, so I didn't want to waste the mulch. I have had four bags of mulch sitting against the fence in the back yard since last May.

The test proved true. Everywhere I put the four inches of mulch, I had virtually no weeds. However, that portion by the stoop was FILLED with them. So, while waiting for the handyman, I started pulling weeds. Since he arrived a bit late, I was able to finish the bed and put down one of those bags of mulch. The result was beautiful and clean and gave me such viewing pleasure that I chastised myself for not doing so in the first place. I spent all that time ignoring the growing weeds when I could have enjoyed the bed. What would be the cost of redoing the mulch? A few dollars? Penny wise and pound foolish I was...

Tonight, after coming home, I decided to tackle the flower bed on the other side of the stoop and the two on the side of the house. I also ripped out all the ivy that had snuck its way in again the side of the house. It was dark by the time I finished, and I was trembling so hard that I struggled to put the locks back on the sheds and the gate. However, the result was again quite beautiful in my eyes. I had spread two more bags of mulch and trimmed back some unruly bushes in addition to the weeding. I have really missed that "oneness" with the soil.

However, as I leaned my head against the shower wall for a moment a bit ago, I found myself dozing off. My boss told me once that she was so uncomfortable during her pregnancy that she slept standing against a wall. I didn't really believe her because I didn't think it was possible. But I am here to tell you that it is possible to do so even while scalding hot water is pouring down your body.

While I am off to bed quite tired and am quite confident that I will be a bit sore in the morning, I cannot wait to see the fruit of my labors by sunlight.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

God walked before me today in such a loving way. He prepared the way for a truly easy purchase of my first door. The saleswoman was quite patient. She looked up twelve different doors (because kept picking ones that were not available for weeks on end) with no complaint. After seeing the door types I was leaning toward, she found one that will arrive in just two weeks.

Since the door/window section was empty except for the two of us, she then walked me to the door lock section and talked me through the selection process. She put the whole order together and arranged for the key person to key all four locks (I'm replacing the locks on the back door and studiously avoiding all thoughts of that door itself) keyed the same. She even reminded me to get how ever many spare keys I thought I might need.

Lowe's had also extended its twelve-month no interest promotion so I will be able to pay for the door and locks a little bit as a time over the next year with no penalty.

If you had told me that the process would be so easy and that I would be able to put off the payment until such a time I could handled it better, I would laughed at you in disbelief. However, I actually left the store in thankful prayer that this, at least, would not be the arduous repair that I usually find myself facing.

NOTE: My best friend is so very great at finding just what I need. I have made up one and only one joke: Why did the chicken cross the road? It saw some barbecue sauce and wanted to take a dip! Great joke, eh? Well, I tell it to my boss all the time to make her smile, to distract her from the stress and strain she is facing just now. However, I recognize the fact that the joke wears a bit thin after the hundredth or so telling. So, I mentioned to my friend that I needed to learn some new chicken jokes. In no time flat she found this great website: [She has such depth to that which she will do to help a friend out!] I modified a joke I found on that website:

Why did the Texan Chicken cross the road?
To show the armadillo it could be done!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Well, this house isn't done with me yet. I...well...I am losing ground in being the "alpha" owner.

The front door has been harder and harder to open. Summer time is just plain awful, with last summer my having to lift the door and push it back against the hinges to open and close it. I was, however, quite relieved when it got better over the winter. But believe me...that was a case of false hope that replacement could be avoided.

A few weeks ago, the door jam cracked from top to bottom on the inside. I knew when I first saw the crack that there would be no turning back for me. The crack has only widened.

Last summer, I tried screwing in the hinges and the piece of wood to which the hinges were attached as a stop gap measure. But the screws just turned and turned without catching anything. My friend's husband feared rotten wood...or worse...termites! I preferred not to think about it.

Well, I called the most wonderful, godly handyman who installed my gable vent fan last summer (changing my life in the process since I am so much cooler in my bedroom in the summer now) and asked if he could replace a door. The quotes I had gotten were averaging $1,500, not including the repair work I suspected was necessary because of those screws.

He came over to look at the job and determined that we really needed to pop off the trim to get a look at how the door was attached. [Engineers beware; reading further may be hazardous to your mental health!]

The reason the screws were just spinning was neither rotten wood or termite damage. The simply spun because there was nothing to which they could attached. There is just open space! To top that, the reason the door has shifted so significantly is that the hinge side is held up only by a piece of 1 x 3 wood! The handyman has MUCH work before him.

Tomorrow I shall go to Lowe's and order a door.

The house has won again.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Oh, me, oh my. I am so very tired.

I have yet to advise on the photo selection...but at least the text is done, eh?

I have spent the whole evening working on work for tomorrow, working and wondering if there is even an end or if I am just chasing an illusion.

I am struggling to finish my presentation for tomorrow because I keep hearing the words of that developer and seeing the look on her face. Why bother? It's pure waste. That is such a strong image to set aside and find the impetus to complete my work.

Of course, I'm practically sabotaging my own presentation by not going to bed. I have worked every night this week and all weekend long and should sleep.

But, I keep futzing with the PowerPoint tomorrow, trying to come up with a visual representation for a summary of the whole thing. I am verbal. I am not...visual.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

I'm done. I'm done. I'm done!

Well...honestly, will I ever really be done?

Okay, that aside, I did finish the text for my mother's new website, and I finished my mother's brochure as well. I sent the text to the website designer and I burned the brochure to a CD for the printer.

I am done. I am tired of fighting with her to get what I needed for these two projects. I am tired of hearing how she was too tired at night to work on it. I couldn't work during the day because I have a full time job. I am more tired than she could ever understand, and yet I am doing this for her. She's tired?

I also fought with her to get the words I needed to craft her message. This is her company, her profession. She done this for 35 years. If she cannot give me the words I need to craft her message, then who can?



I am done! least I hope I am.......................................

Friday, March 24, 2006

The definition of irony: An insurance company sending you a check for $31 dollars due to a miscalculation in your premium the same day they send a notice that your premium was being raised.

This developer at work was walking by while I was assembling binders of our new communications policies and procedures for staff. She looked at the piles of binders, paper, and tabs and commented that it was all a colossal waste of time and paper.

I was stunned and felt awash with defeat.

It was not just the binders she dismissed.

Why would you even just say something like that to a co-worker?

I also have a communications person determined to flat out bully us into making an event for residents into a political statement. We changed the date to accommodate them. We even stepped aside as the "host" to accommodate them (even though this whole thing is on our non-profit dime). I have been standing our ground on the event format, speaking the "broken record" to her and the other two folks in the county government who also keep pushing and pushing and ignoring us. This woman actually called the president of our company to complain! She complained about me and claimed that there was an error on the postcards and letters we sent out. She just didn't read them. There are two times because their are two parts to the event. All she was trying to do was to make trouble. I would love to meet her on a school ground!

Throughout this project, we have worked to include the partners in our press and have pitched it as evidence of what a strong partnership and dedicated residents can accomplish in affordable housing. The county has maintained a website on the project without ever consulting us other than to request photos. They even announced the completion of the project without asking us!


I really don't understand people.

I just don't.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

I spent the entire evening drafting, revising, and reworking the text for my mother's website. Be careful, very careful, in agreeing to help someone (especially a family member) for free in your area of expertise. The task may swallow you whole!

Kashi started a new medicine this evening since that which he had been taking for the past eight weeks did not effect much change in his well-being. Apparently, these pills taste worse than the Chinese herb ones because he protested the pill going down his throat.

I did assuage his indignation by giving him the grilled peppers, onions, and tomatoes left over from the Greek lunch I had. He found them rather tasty. I was quite willing to sacrifice my shot at those vegetables so that he might enjoy them. We are a good pair, Kashi and I.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I have been working on a brochure for my mother's new business and helping her work with her website designer. Of course...that means I am putting together the text for the website. I worked about five hours this evening after work. I wish to bill her...but I cannot. The website is too wordy...I am struggling to get it down.

To make sure I had a good night sleep, my best friend gave me the opportunity to lose to her in Scrabble yet again. Her prowess was evident again in that I had most of the triple word squares and yet she led from beginning to end. I am proud that my friend is so good at this game, but I really, really, really do not like losing!

Wednesday nights are hard because they lead to Thursdays when I would rather they lead to Fridays because Wednesdays I am the most fatigued and looking forward to Friday nights because they lead to Saturday mornings when I can sleep as long as needed.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

I had the most amazing package come to me. Its journey was a bit extended by life's interruptions and a wrong address, but it was so filled with love and thoughtful care that I was...and still am...rather overwhelmed.

Words are so important. Powerful. My friend has this wonderful ability to capture the minutiae of her life by jotting down her experiences and thoughts on just about any paper at hand, be it a menu or a candy wrapper. The paper you might discard such as a church bulletin, a program from a child's school event, or notice of a workshop at a local library is just the tool she uses to craft the message of her life, to include you in her life.

I wept when I opened the package that also had another box inside. I peeked in that and then promptly decided to see how much will power I could exert in drawing out this wonderful experience. and set it aside for another day. I did take the time to savor a belated birthday card, enjoy a few iced animal crackers, and ponder over the uses for this free tin she got from Borders. It is the shape of a small book with an inspiring quote on the possibilities of literacy on the plain silver cover. Something she could have kept for herself quite readily yet passed on to me because she knows what books mean to me and how I might enjoy the small tin.

The bundle of papers, of letters and notes to me, I gathered together and wrapped with a ribbon and held the rest of the night...even while talking with my cousin. We were having a difficult conversation and I should have given him the opportunity to share in this very good and sweet thing, but I knew if I tried to speak of it to him I would weep again. Men really don't like tears, do they?

She is miles and years away in my life, but she walks with Christ and showers blessings upon me from time to His perfect timing.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I just can't do it. I can't. I have to go to sleep. ARGH! I am so tired of being tired, but I should be used to it because I am nearly always tired. Yet, I haven't been this tired in years. I can't even keep my eyes open long enough to read before I sleep.

The HVAC guys found a leak in the valve on the outside unit when they were leaving. The Trane compressor that I purchased is actually a bottom-of-the-line Payne unit. The repair will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $600 and will need to be done before I can use the AC. To replace it so that I actually had a warranty would be about $1,400. I am nauseated by all this.

However...Marty's duct work is quite beautiful.

Pulling everything out of the utility room was an opportunity to clean and reduce a bit. I "found" two trashbags of stuff that no longer seemed important to keep.

Is that my silver lining?

I'm off to bed...

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I have ripped open the seams on both of my pillow shams stuffing the pillows back in them after all the bedding went through the wash. I asked a friend to sew them for me because she has a machine and all my "by hand" stitching leaves a bit to be desired. She was, however, too busy, so I was left to my own devices.

All I am going to say that is that when sewing the seams of pillow shams it is quite important that the flap is in the proper position. If I were talking about my repair job, I might mention that I got the flap wrong three times (outside on one side and inside on another) and had to keep ripping out my painstaking stitches. But I am not getting into all that.

I did end my rather frustrating day quite wonderfully. A friend was not feeling well, so I visited her with three plans for relaxation before she went to sleep. She chose listening to a CD of Fernando Ortega (20 of my favorites) and having her hands massaged with lotion. Sprinkle in a bit of laughter and my job was done. She was smiling and feeling a wee bit better. Fernando is great therapy when one's mind and heart is overtaxed.

Of course, I went over there in my lounge pants and oversized, bird-chewed purple shirt so that she would not feel to need to get gussied up...but she still popped in the shower and put on a rather fetching lounge outfit. My rags paled in comparison. She really is classy.

Oh to be so...

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I am not sure what is going on with me. I fell asleep around 8:30 last night and slept until 11:00 this morning. I had to go to work this afternoon to take photos at a youth jam and struggled to stay awake after walking around for a few hours. I came home and took a nap...and I am heading off to be soon.

I am tired.

I usually savor the opportunity to take photos, but I felt as if they were all the same photos as last year. I did capture one kid flying in the air while doing jump rope. That was cool. Many of the "award" recipient photos stunk because the kids didn't stay still and I was really in the wrong place.

I did, however, get to try out the new flash on my camera. I heard that the FL-36 was getting rather difficult to find, so whereas I would not have even thought about purchasing it until next year (and this was before the HVAC disaster), I went ahead and got it. I did figure out how to avoid the shadow on several flash photos by bouncing it off the ceiling. A few of them still had the shadows that plagued last year's photos in the music center, but they were better.

My victory of the day was finding a place that sells wood bunkbeds for my sister that is less than an hour from where she lives and has prices that are two thirds less than what she had been finding. Score one for me.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

I am on my way to bed again. It is 10:00, so later than yesterday, but still quite early for me. I would have given in to my fatigue earlier, but I needed to work this evening to finish up a "task" that needed doing.

I worked all evening because I had to leave work early to meet the HVAC contractor at the house this afternoon. My three and a half year old AC (translate that to something that SHOULD NOT be broken and yet is and SHOULD BE under warranty and yet is not) stopped working. I needed it on Monday when it was so warm (85 in my house by the night's end). Practically the worst thing you can hear is that your coil is leaking.

But, wait, I also asked him about the four and a half year old furnace. Thus far this winter, I have spent $800 in gas bills (not including this month which has not arrived) while keeping a 1200 square foot home at only 68 degrees. I have been frigid all winter and paying through the nose for the privilege.

Four other times I have had contractors look at the furnace trying to figure out what was wrong. All of them told me it was oversized, but not much more. There were no gas leaks. It was working perfectly.

Actually, it is not.

Because it is for a house four times larger than mine, with four times longer and larger ducts, it overheats constantly. A safety mechanism kicks in and shuts off the gas until it cools down enough to come back on. So the unit runs constantly but most of the heat remains in the basement and is a fire hazard. Bottom line, I need to yank this perfectly usable, relatively new furnace for one a quarter of its that my home is safe, I no longer freeze, and my gas bills drop.

So, for the bargain basement price of $2,100, I can have my HVAC system back to working order.

At least I can be thankful that Marty took the time to study the furnace, poke around, watch it function, and determine the reason for the lack of heat despite gargantuan bills. Inside the unit, there is evidence of high heat on the wiring and the walls. What slightly appeased my horror at the expense was his obvious anger that anyone in his profession would have installed the furnace in the first place. The previous owner must not have had a clue to have been hoodwinked on the furnace. The oversized unit cost him far more than the right sized one would have. Of course, it is costing me as well.

The other comfort is that Marty and his partner will be properly "ducting" the two units together. The fraud who put in the A/C for me cobbled something together and made quite a mess. Marty made me smile because he said he does the prettiest duct work in all of Northern Virginia. He knew I was upset.

So...I had bad news...worked late finishing a project...and am off to bed.

At least tomorrow is Friday.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I am on my way to bed at half past Eight. Shocking, eh?

I just can't stay awake. I am tired beyond belief, probably from painting my life away this past weekend at my best friend's house. It was absolutely, unbelievably wonderful to see her and her family. My hands were so sore on Sunday that I could barely clothe myself and risked the lives of my pets and myself driving home with my wrists through the steering wheel. I got lost twice and turned a three hour drive into a five hour drive. I have blisters on both thumbs and two fingers...but I would do it all a heartbeat!

I am, however, tired. How tired am I? Funny you should ask. As I bent over to wrap the towel around my hair after my shower tonight, I closed my eyes for a moment and began to fall asleep. I bonked my head on the side of the tub rather thoroughly. I decided that even if Kashi wakes me up in the middle of the night to do his business, I have got to crawl between the sheets.

As close as we are thanks to Sprint PCS, nothing compares to actually being in her presence. After all, who else will sing hymns with me whilst playing Phase Ten?

She won Scrabble, rather handily.

I won Phase Ten.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I looked and looked and looked again for a CD that was missing from its case. I fretted over the cost of replacing such gloriously worshipful music since tomorrow or the next day I will be plunking down $1,000 for my car. I bemoaned my loss to my friend. I searched the house from basement to second floor. I found my portable CD player. It was empty. I checked the jambox. It was empty. Finally, I found the CD in with another CD that was properly in its own case. Now, let me ask you: Would you think to look for a Fernando Ortega CD in the case for a Carpenter's CD?

Now that I found it, I can burn a mix of my favorite Fernando songs that my friend wants to share with her mother. Some years ago, I actually got to see him live. It was the most worshipful experience that I have in a concert. He sings with such abandon in his faith, with such simplicity of truth.

One of my favorite songs is below.

Creation Song

He wraps Himself in light
As with a garment,
He spreads out the heavens
And walks on the wings of the wind.

He sends forth the springs
from the valleys
The flow between moutains.
The birds of the air dwell
by the waters,
Lifting their voices in song-

Singing glory, glory!
Glory to the Lamb!
All praises and honor forever.

He made the moon for its season,
The sun knows it setting.
He looks at the Earth and it trembles,
He touches the mountains
and they smoke,

I will sing to the Lord all my life,
I will sing praises to my God -
As long as I live,
Praises to the Lord, oh my soul.

Singing glory, hallelujah!
Glory to our God!
All praises and honor forever.

Monday, March 06, 2006

I have visions of grandeur.

In a softball game, I would envision myself whacking the ball high over the pitcher's head into the outfield. Reality is, however, I could barely hit the thing a few feet and always wound up getting thrown out at first base.

In art class, I would envision myself painting the landscape of Colorado I carry around in my mind across a canvas so that someone else might feel the power of such beauty. Reality is, however, that the average second grader paints with far greater talent and perspective than I.

In the kitchen, I dream of making those mouth-watering desserts that people greet with gleeful anticipation. Reality is, however, burned cookies, brownies, cake, and candy. I can cook...but I cannot bake.

I would give good money for someone to make the following and send me a batch. One of the good memories of my childhood is this candy. I would like to taste it again.

Mexican Brown Sugar Candy


1 c buttermilk
2 c sugar
1 c brown sugar, packed
1 ts baking soda
1/2 ts salt
2/3 c light corn syrup
2 ts vanilla extract
2 tb melted butter
1 1/2 c pecan
1 ts hot water


In a 4-quart saucepan cook the buttermilk, sugar, brown sugar, baking soda, salt and corn syrup over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to 230 F or the soft ball stage. Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and butter. Blend until thick. Add pecans and beat until creamy and thick. Stir in hot water and drop by tablespoons onto waxed paper. Cool for 2 hours before wrapping individually in clear plastic wrap.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Kashi's least favorite activity is taking a bath. All I have to do to strike fear in his heart and send him to trembling and whimpering is to ask him if he wants a bath. It is a question that I find myself blurting out when I am particularly frustrated with his behavior. Today, however, I had put off the inevitable long enough. He needed a bath.

I think what frightened me about the whole thing is that he seem to wilt under the weight of the water on his coat. He usually howls and sets up a wail that would earn him an Oscar. This time, he simply trembled and ended up just sitting in the water. By the time the whole ordeal was over, my face was wet with more than the water he shook off his coat as I dried him off with a couple of towels.

Afterward, he took a nap on the rug in front of the green chair. He slept in a patch of sunlight that poured through the window on the front door. When we visited my mother years ago, he spent much of his days moving from one patch of sunlight to another as he napped throughout the day. Today, I was reminded of the smile that filled my face each time he moved as I watched him rest from his ordeal. He has brought me such joy over the years. 'Tis a pity I must traumatize him every now and then by dowsing him with soap and water.

I need to replace my front door and was going to not get one with a window for security...but how could I deny my puppydog his sunlight?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Despite all my claims on not working at night or on the weekends any more...I worked until 3:30 this morning...I did, however, sleep in a bit and straggled out of bed at 10:00...only to discover that an important letter needed drafting by I logged on and whipped it out before heading to work...only to be caught behind a wreck...I felt a bit wrecked myself...I continued working on the mailing list that should have been done beforehand...yet another dropped ball by my assistant...I corrected and formatted for the rest of the day...I did get the mailing off to the printer to put together with our annual overview and so the blasted collateral piece could finally go in the mail...I got in the car to drive home...only to be caught behind an even larger wreck...I sat in traffic, unmoving, for more than an hour...I collapsed on the couch once I got home...I am tired...still...