Saturday, September 30, 2006

I have spent much of this week delving into Idaho history for my novel. I had originally settled on Iowa, but with my cheese-hole brain, I forgot and started looking into Idaho. For once, struggling with congnitive function proved beneficial.

It is almost eerie how some of the key factors of my story already fit with exactly what was happening in that state in 1891. It was a tumultuous time for people whose state had just entered the union the year before. Traders who had been the heroes and much sought after travel guides of a new area fell by the wayside as the gold rush drove the production of railway routes across the state. Towns popped up right and left and the population double in size in just a decade, to nearly 90,000. Approximately 4,000 of those residents of Idaho were Chinese immigrants, chased out of California, who found welcome and success in the mines, though silver grew to be a greater product than gold. Ranchers discovered the prime grazing land and moved north. Settlers could make a good living selling the produce of their gardens to miners. Farmers found success in the dry ground when it came to growing wheat, oats, and barley, but more importantly the appeal for the Idaho potato spread across the nation.

There was great change, great success, great growth. But none of them knew that in just a couple of years, the tide would turn and a great depression would fall across the state before the government sponsored irrigation efforts saved the struggling farmers. Further chaos was ensued by the clash between the mine owners and the miners. Strikebreakers fomented the growing tensions and violence marred the state. Governor Frank Steunenberg called in federal troops to quell the violence in 1899. Six years later, after he left office, he was assassinated in his home.

Sadly, the westward expansion once again was at the cost of the lives of Native Americans. The Nez Perce occupied northern Idaho, while the south was populated by Shoshone, Bannock, and Paiute Native Americans. While the settlement of this northwest territory was thought to have been in the distant future, the 1860 discovery of gold in the mountains held by the Nez Perce, already decimated by small pox brought by traders, spelled the end of their freedom. In 1855, the Nez Perce had a treaty that would allow them to keep their homes in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington. However, in 1863 the treaty was "renegotiated" to reduce their land to only 10% of the original agreement. The territorial governor systematically moved to restrict the Nez Perce to reservations, and many were forcibly resettled from fertile land in Oregon to Idaho. In 1877, Chief Joseph made a valiant yet failed bid to lead his people in a run to freedom in Canada. By 1909, nearly all the Native American population had been moved to reservations so that the "American" people could enjoy the wealth and prosperity of the region. What selfish and cruel arrogance those people harbored in their belief that they had the right to do so!

Idaho is a land of mountains and plains and river valleys, a state of geographical contradictions. In 1891, it was a land of miners, ranchers, farmers, and traders. It was a land of new beginnings and great opportunity. But it was also a land of doom for those original inhabitants caught in the path of western expansion.

Friday, September 29, 2006

I started and ended the day helping my sister study for her tax exam. I have never had the opportunity to share this kind of experience with her and found the time quite fulfilling. She has learned so much about tax in her career, and she is quite good at cramming! I also learned that she has already completed 120 hours of continuing education in the past three years. It is as if I was meeting a person I've never known. I half wish she had more exams to take...but that would be downright mean. After all, who would wish the pressure to succeed on anyone.

Of course, I had to admonish her that studying by the poolside sipping cactus juice margaritas might not be the most effective method, but she proved me wrong. Tomorrow is her oral exam, but she already has her information organized and ready to go.

Perhaps being in the lap of luxury is actually good for productivity!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I am absolutely in the wrong business! My sister has a test that she has to pass as a part of a certification process. So, her company sent her to here: Yes, this is the best environment in which to study state sales tax!

With the caveat of my MS-riddled, cheese hole brain, to the best of my recollection, in nearly two decades of professional work, I have only been sent somewhere for work once. I was asked to present a paper at a conference, quite successfully I might add!

What, do you ask, were my luxurious accomodations after a six-hour, cross-country flight? Well, let me tell you: one of two beds in a rather smelly dorm room connected to three other rooms by an even more odiferous bathroom that was clearly supporting the scientific advancement at the university by providing prime breeding ground for local fungus and mold.

Yep! I am clearly in the wrong business!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I spent last night on into this morning working on the job search. Trying not to be discouraged on the whole matter is a gargantuan task. I chose six new job listings, all of them a bit of a reach, but all of them within my skill set. Since they are not the most perfect fit (as several of the no-response resume submissions were), I am most discouraged about the possible response rate on these hopes of mine I sent on out to the cold, cold world of business.

~~~~ I had a melt-down with Cox Cable twice today. I have had service interruptions several times an hour dating back to May. I procrastinated on making a service request, because, in my experience, calling for assistance is NEVER easy. Two months, three appointments, five calls, two supervisors later, I am still having the service interruptions. Really, why do I bother?

~~~~ I finally managed to remember to wash the curtain where Madison left a "deposit a wee bit ago. Four times, I have done laundry and then spotted the curtain when I was through. Now, if I can only manage to remember to get some steel wool for my most favorite pan. My friend B suggested that I try a combination of baking soda and vinegar on the burnt corn pan bottom. While the chemical interaction was so interesting that I repeated the experience three times, I still ended up with a still ruined pan. Besides being my grandmother's pan (she never would have burned the corn), it is the most perfect pan for cooking Malt O'Meal. I have high hopes for that steel wool...

~~~~ On my list of Monday accomplishments, I neglected to add 11 thank you notes and letters that were long, long, long overdue.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

If you want to entertain yourself with how ridiculous our world can be, read through the pages of

The idea is that we no longer have fine print, but we have mouse print. Microscopic print that explains why we are being short changed. Did you know that toilet paper squares have diminished in size from 4.5 inches to 3.7 inches per length? Did you notice that the 32 oz. Helman's Mayo is now 30 oz? Or that the same size box of Tide is now 17 oz. less on content?

Read it and sigh deeply with me...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Today, ashamed of how much of a couch lush I have been, I vowed to be productive.

I reconciled by bank statements that have been piled on my table since January. I scheduled my on-line bill payments. I did two loads of laundry. I cleaned the kitchen and ran the dishwasher. I attempted to repair the laundry room door (I was not very successful). I cleared off my work area. I took a shower (that might not sound like work...but it was). I walked Kashi. And I did some research for my novel.

Was that productive enough?

Friday, September 22, 2006

I helped my writing student's mother put down a new floor in the basement computer room project. We used four different colors of industrial style Armstrong floor tiles. I had worked out a few patterns, and the kids modified one to make a truly spectacular pattern. It changes from every angle. There are two main four-tile patterns. However, they create diagonal linear patterns in cross directions. And from yet another direction, you can see alternate four-tile patterns. I suppose it is just another sign of the genius that breeds in that family!

apparently, after a first run, I turned out to be quite skilled in applying adhesive in the sweeping, grooved manner needed for the installation. I you think I could get a job installing vinyl tiles?

Once the floor was in, it brightened up the room even more. With between the wall colors and the floor, it is quite cheerful in there. Gee, I would like to do my homework in that space!

When installing this type of floor, you have to put down the adhesive and then allow it to set-up for a while. So, we installed the floor in sections. Since, as aforementioned, my first stab at swapping the deck was not quite ideal, we ended up letting it set-up for three times as long as it should have taken. The second two sections only took the requisite time to cure. So...what do you think we did while waiting in between sections?

Yes, you guessed it! We played Texas Hold 'Em poker.

And...drum roll please...I WON!

WS's mom took over for the 12 year-old, but she was knocked out of the game a short while later. Now...don't snicker at that point I was playing with the six-year-old and the nine-year-old. As the six-year-old who was dealer, big blind, small blind, or first to act and she would promptly answer your question. Ask her what beat what, and she will consult her list and tell you (although she does call two-of-a-kind "matches). It was a while before I over took the nine-year-old who held the chip lead. It was a long time later that I finally was up enough to start playing the "chip bully" and dwindle down their piles via the blinds.

I am constantly amazed at how quickly those kids pick up strategy and employ critical thinking and deductive reasoning in EVERY new game we play. It is an honor, actually, to see their fine minds at work. I do revel in playing with them...if only because I revel in seeing kids employing those valuable skills while they are playing games and enjoying themselves.

And...I like winning...too bad I cannot seem to find a way to combine playing with them and winning on a regular basis.

I guess we cannot have our cake and eat it, too...

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Two of my friends really like the show Without a Trace. I have never been compelled to watch the show and the three times I have sat through an entire episode, I never became engaged in either the storyline or the characters. However, both of my friends really like the show, and so I tried to watch a four-hour marathon session of the show to see if I could figure out its appeal.

Would you believe that of the four episodes, three of them were the only ones that I have ever seen. That's weird, eh?

I didn't enjoy the fourth episode either.

Of course, neither of them much like Sci-Fi, so I guess that we can agree to disagree on what makes a good show. I mean, after all Babylon 5 was simply great!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Kashi and I have been taking walks together. He doesn't seem to understand that I do not prefer to run beside him. He also doesn't seem to understand that after "watering" attractive location during the first block, he will not be able to "water" for the rest of our trip. But he keeps trying and then stands in confusion when he is unable to do so. Eleven plus years of this companion and he still makes me laugh.

Can anyone say incorrigible?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

I have been avoiding an admission: My illusions of decent potential at poker were dashed by a bunch of kids...and their mother!

A couple of Saturdays ago, I was treated to another sumptuous meal by my WS's father, one of my requests to boot. While he was slaving at the stove, I taught his three youngest children how to play Texas Hold 'Em poker. Their game playing brilliance apparently extends to poker. WS's middle sister had an embarrassing pile of chips in front of her by the time the meal was read to eat.

With the two youngest bundled off to bed, the rest of us sat down to play after a few more tutorials. I thought I would have the upper hand. After all, I have had hundreds of hours of watching those experts play on TV. I did well for a while, then I foolishly tried to be a chip bully with my WS's mother. She broke me. I had few chips left and folded three hands in a row. All three hands, I would have had trips had I stayed in the hand. It was a misery to lose. The twelve-year-old who had given everyone else a run for their money before dinner, led her father on a merry chase when it got down to heads up. Of course, the brilliant scientist won, but it was exciting to see her grasp the concept and strategies of the game in just a few hours.

I, of course, hated losing. Yet another game in which those children demonstrate their mental prowess.

Perhaps if I just played with the six-year-old and the nine-year-old I would have a chance at winning?

NOTE: My WS's father often comes under fire during his masterful culinary exercises because we often sit down to enjoy his hard labors after 9:00. Last Sunday, the twelve-year-old and I launched into a culinary effort of our own (with a wee bit of assistance from the master chef). We prepared guacamole and chips, muli-layered (by hand) nachos, quesadillas, and chicken and steak fajitas. We used all fresh ingredients (my is she skilled with a knife) and the dinner was quite sumptuous. However, we sat down for the last course at 10:00, when the parents had work and the kids had school the next day. My co-chef and I spent hours and hours laboring under the kitchen lights. I will forever more hold my tongue with regard to ETA queries of WS's dad when he is doing his magic.

NOTE 2: It has come to my attention that all of the poetic waxings of WS's father's skill in the kitchen has not reflected well on her mother. Trust me, she can wend her way around spices as well. I am just there, primarily, when her father is showing off. And...when he is at his finest, his wife often serves as sous-chef. We all know that without a skilled team in the kitchen, no great meal is ever a success. Thus, here is my tribute to her...even if she did shame me in poker!

Monday, September 18, 2006

You know what is wonderful about Jesus Christ?

It doesn't matter who you are. It doesn't matter what you have done. Nothing matters but that you give your life to Him. The blood of Christ covers all, renews all, saves all.

Stephen Baldwin became a born again Christian some time after 9/11. His wife had found the Lord in 2000, but he talks about how his "road to Damascus" experience was not a blinding light, but a gradual awareness of the emptiness of his life. Still a bit skeptical, he began reading the bible, praying to God, and then turned his life over to Christ.

He frolicked on the grounds of the Playboy mansion, even as a married man, and Christ saved him. He drank and took drugs and was the Hollywood symbol of how to live your life in the party lane, and Christ saved him. Christ saved him.

He has written about the path he is walking with Christ now in words he knows and understands. He shares his faith, the message of Christ, and the charge to make disciples in this world. He is being obedient to that charge in a way that makes sense to him.

This article has a brief excerpt from his book and a video clip of his interview with Matt Lauer.

He is candid about the fact that his off-beat sense of humor has not changed, but that's how he can equate an Abbott and Castillo routine with a foundation of the Christian life. The "who" of "Who's on First?" is actually a "what": the bible. If you have questions, go to the bible. If you are confused, read the bible. If you need advise, study the bible. What a great outlook.

He also admits that even fellow Christians treat his conversion with skepticism.

What a shame.

Look past the prankster, and you see someone who not only gave his life to Christ, but is willing to walk the narrow way despite what obstacles might cross his path. He is free to be who he is. He is free in Christ.

He is praying. He is studying Scripture. He is sharing the Gospel. He is seeking the Truth and proclaiming it in his own brand of metaphorical and allegorical language that will bear fruit in the soil where his seeds are tossed. The bible promises the Word does not return void. He may not look or act like what mainline Christians would like him to be, but he is walking in obedience.

The Spirit is moving in the life of Stephen Baldwin. I am encouraged that, in his words, he took "the red pill," that he left the matrix of pop culture and found the reality of Jesus Christ. He has fixed his eyes on Jesus, on the Author and Perfector of his faith, and he is not looking back.

What a testimony to the power of Christ!


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today was a day of unexpected gifts and a bit of sadness.

After a tasty meal at Ruby Tuesday's, we headed over to Wal-Mart to do the $5.50 DVD bin search. However, much to our dismay, we discovered that the Wal-Mart near me is remodeling and part of the remodel was the removal of that bin. Alas, be still my beating heart. My poor father was absolutely bereft and wandered about a bit in disbelief. What are we going to do with our visits now?

He did, much to my surprise, begin our lunch with the announcement that he wanted to spend "much money" on me today. He caught me so off guard, that I did not quite get what he was saying. I supposed my dumbfounded state was revealed in my visage, for he went on to explain that he wanted to ensure my larder was full and whatnot. He ended up refilling my bathroom cabinet of many necessities and added two gallons of milk and two boxes of protein bars.

We made our way home and managed to get in a viewing of Ocean's Eleven and Ocean's Twelve before he had to go. But he did have one more gift: he paid my car insurance (a ridiculous amount because of that blasted accident) bill for the month.

Thanks to the generosity of my father and step-mother, I believe that I will be able to finish out the month without adding more debt to my credit card. That makes this a good day that will be reflected in next month's bill.

The day is ending well because I am watching the Dallas-Cowboy game with my dear friend W thanks to the technology of SprintPCS. Dallas has kept the lead since the opening drive and is mere minutes away from squashing the Redskins again for like the 14th time in the last 17 games or something like that. My 'Boys have a bit of a problem with penalties that they need to address by the NEXT game, but I am quite proud of them. At 1-1, they will be tied with the Eagles and the Giants in their division...Woo Hoo! Washington will be hoo!

A good day all around.


Saturday, September 16, 2006

While camped out on the couch today watching wretched TV, I actually remembered a game from when I was young that I have not thought of in years. After a few failed Google searches, I found it: Kings in the Corner Solitaire.

After studying the rules, I spent the evening watching stupid TV movies and trying to remember the strategy behind the game. After losing 26 games and growing quite frustrated with my brain cells, I finally won a game. Soon, I was winning at least half the time with a few multi-win runs.

I would like to think that the confusing instructions were the reason it took me so long to win, but perhaps I should not blame my poor acumen on the author. After all, at least I had the instructions and the tips on strategy. I just didn't get that section.

I also remembered, I am ashamed to admit, that I had forgotten the most wonderful gift my dear friend B gave me as a welcome-to-our-abode gift the last time I visited: clear plastic playing cards. I got them out of my games basket (at least I remembered to put them in the proper place when I came home last March) and used them in my journey down memory lane. Surprisingly, they are quite easy to shuffle.

Time to get back to exercising my brain cells...

Friday, September 15, 2006

I was playing with Kashi outside and noticed how pleasant it was with a gentle breeze blowing. Seated on the deck (when tossing the ball, I make my puppy dog climb up and down the steps on each throw to wear him out sooner), I looked at two of my bonsai plants and realized that I have woefully neglected them. I popped inside, grabbed some scissors, and started pruning. For a while, doing so was another "oneness" moment. However, soon the breeze began to slow and some very determined mosquitoes descended upon my hands. I was equally determined to finish. I will admit that, although the job was completed, it was done at the sacrifice of the surface of my hands. You know, I could definitely live in an ecosystem devoid of mosquitoes!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

215 minutes and 21 seconds later, I finally hung up the phone with my dear friend W. She is quite intelligent, which makes our conversations meaty and satisfying. She is challenging and encouraging and admonishing and inspiring all at once. Of course, talking the entire night away helps.

I enjoyed being able to talk all the news stories that have piqued my interest while camping out on the couch. One I did not get around to rehashing was this satirical piece about literacy. It reminds me of Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal, and yet at the same time it strikes a bit of fear in my heart as to the future of literacy.

My friend was talking about her graduate students in social work. She teaches one class a semester in addition to serving as a counselor to distressed families in the system down south. We were discussing standards of construction and presentation. For example, if a student cannot be bothered to spell check a paper, I believe that it should be docked a grade before the cover page is even turned. Were it possible, I would hand it right back and say, "If you care not enough to spell check your paper, I care not enough to grade it."

Anyhow, she was saying how her class was not one filled with English majors and therefore well-written compositions were not her goal. Yet, given that, as she came to put it, the writing of these students would have higher stakes than an English essay, perhaps that thought process did not hold true. The reports, the documentation, her students would be writing would directly affect the lives of their subject matter, with abused children, that could actually be a life-or-death situation. So, perhaps how they write might actually be important. I coached her on my favorite three C's. Coherent (makes sense), Cohesive (the content sticks together from beginning to end), and Clean (spelling, grammar, and construction mistakes free). You need not be a Faulkner or a Angelou or a Shakepeare in my book to earn that A. You just need the three C's.

I am an absolute fanatic in my belief that it is vital that people be able to clearly convey their messages. Students need to be able to demonstrate that they have garnered knowledge, have internalized it, and can manipulate it to their purposes. If they can do this, then they have learned. This translates to the business place because employees also need to be able to clearly convey their messages...emails, letters, reports, presentations, etc.

Yet, while I fervently hope that this article is satirical in nature, a part of me fears that it is not. Why do students need to read after all? They can get what is necessary to their lives in multi-media format. Oh, how shortsighted and empty a message. Perish the thought!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I edited a letter of intent (LOI) for one of my virtual volunteering organizations. It is full of professors, yet the writing is so confusing that I have to plow through it as a reader before I can even begin to edit it. I feel like I ran a marathon while working on this four page document. I hate to run.

As with the other work, I enjoyed the challenge and reveled in actually being able to accomplish something, yet I am wondering how to point out that I have already done a year's worth of volunteering according to the original job description on I liked the idea of helping several organizations rather than just one. Yet, here, the executive director is a full-time volunteer position, and I suspect they would prefer me to be full-time as well.

I also specifically have not responded to any grantwriting volunteer requests because I wanted to just edit rather than have to generate text from scratch with an organization that was virtually a stranger to me. And yet, here, I am working on grantseeking materials.


Am I just a wimp?


How can I be assertive yet kind to someone whom I have never met?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I have been spending a bit of time at my writing student's (WS) home helping with their basement room. The walls are painted and the floor has been removed. So, next will be putting in the new floor and the workspace area. I absolutely cannot wait to see the finished "product." My WS's mother let me pick some beautiful colors for the walls, a pumpkin on the bottom third and a cantaloupe on the top two thirds with a wide band of white between the two. She actually had the idea of putting multicolored tiles on the floor (the wall color matched one of the four colors we picked for the floor), so the kids should find it a bright, cheerful place in which to do their homework.

I have cherished the opportunity to labor hard on their behalf. I need the distraction. While my virtual volunteering is taking up quite a bit of time for something that was just supposed to be a couple of hours a week, I still have too much time to think.

Both organizations with which I interviewed declined to hire me. I had another interview today, but I could tell that she was not really interested in hiring me. She thought I was more of her level, not a manager. The job duties also failed to mention that I would need to travel 30-35 times a year for a day or two at a time. The commute would be about an hour and parking would be $25 a week. The job would be good experience, but even if I am completely wrong and she offered me the position, I cannot see how I could in good conscience accept. The job would be an incredible drain on me. Still, I am 98% sure that I will not be needing to give further thought on the matter.

I have been crying since I came home, because I feel so lost and have so little hope that I can find a place where I can least here. I know that God is sovereign. He understands where I am and has a plan, but I also know that I cannot just sit back and wait for some job to plop in my lap. I have to keep searching. But what if I am doing everything wrong? I am intelligent. I am skilled. I have significant work experience.

What is wrong with me?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I finished re-writing the website from my first virtual volunteering experience. I am curious if they will use my much reduced, quite tightened prose. This was definitely a case of less is more being the best course of action in the editing work. The original author believed quite strongly in cramming large numbers of polysyllabic words into each sentence. I did very much enjoy the academic labor this opportunity afforded me.

Another PMD mystery: How do I have four loads of laundry when I have been living in my pajamas on my couch?

What drives you crazy? Me? A cricket in my house. Too bad Kashi doesn't view them as a tasty treat...

Friday, September 08, 2006

Today was a bad day. Really, this week was a bad week. This week, being unemployed has weighed heavily on my heart.

After getting a rejection letter from the organization with which I interviewed twice, I looked for jobs virtually the entire day yesterday (even searching during a couple of games of Scrabble), finishing with a list of twelve at about 2:00 AM. I then put off writing all the cover letters and turned to my novel.

Five pages later the clock struck (figuratively) 6:00 AM, and I turned into bed where I read for an hour before finally falling asleep. Today, I awoke earlier so that perhaps I could shift back a bit in my waking/sleeping hours, but I did not wish to be awake. I would rather have slept the entire day away.

Today was the first grand opening since I left my old job. It was hard to take knowing that world has gone on without me, but really knowing that all the work I did do has been virtually abandoned. The new website is horribly out of date, having not been updated in nearly three months. The new program direction is not updated. The staff and board changes are not current. The event calendar is not current. The new module I created before I left showing the current development work has lain fallow as well. Having a current and dynamic website was the foundation of positioning the organization for a greater public presence...and it is has been abandoned.

There are several ex-employees who are quite vocal about the intellectual dishonesty that regularly takes place at the organization, from the community development programs to the real estate development. One of whom has made a bit of career about doing so. I can understand that desire. I can understand the utter frustration at how people who regularly disregard ethics are seemingly rewarded while those who asked the hard questions were booted out. It seems harsh, but no matter how my ex-boss tries to rationalize the behavior, the behavior still exists. She would say that all companies were this way. Once a review of the programs area showed a lack of data to support the claims, she said it would be better for the future participants for that not to come to public light. Forget the past and move forward. Yet, what is the company teaching the youth in the programs if taking money from funders based on lies is at the heart of the work? I mean, would the funders who are backing the youth programs really want to see teenagers being encouraged to make a movie about boyfriend jealousy during a much hyped leadership all day workshop? Ask the majority of the kids there what they learned about leadership or who was their favorite leader from the months long study of the subject and they couldn't answer. They could answer the questions to the trivia quiz because they had been rehearsing them, the answers, not the subject matter.

I moved from passionately arguing for an organization to repeatedly trying to understand the mildew hidden beneath the paint. I believed at least my ex-boss was not a part of the cover up, but I think that really the best way to describe her is a walking Hallmark card. She can say just what you want to hear, but no real actions follow her words. In that regard, given how I've waxed poetically about her here in my blog, I feel the fool.

Yes, I am sad and hurt at being let go. Yet, it is more than an inability to walk away. I keep finding myself being confronted by the ugly reality of an organization that I thought was a step above others. The last call from my ex-boss only served to trouble the waters that I still find lapping about my ankles. I was frankly appalled that the real purpose of her call was to tell me that the ex-vp was dating one of the worst program staff persons, which is now evident as to the reason she was never fired despite the rather egregious behavior reported by several of her colleagues. I was appalled that she would just call and tell me something that gave credence to my heartache at the seedy underbelly to that which I had poured myself into building up and promoting. Even so, what bothered me more is her telling me that during her visits to funders she was discovering that the grant reports were long overdue.

Yes, the person who is not skilled at writing, who did not really bring in additional funds to the organization in the nearly two years she was there, who never performed an analysis of past resource development, who never created a strategy for addressing the financial needs of the organization, and who never collated the contact information of the funding program officers also did not effectively manage the report process. I wanted to scream in frustration when she mentioned that. I mean, why did the manager still have her job? The answer: incompetence doesn't matter. If you are willing to perpetuate the veneer of the organization, you will succeed.

So, tell me this: is it really that way everywhere? Is even the non-profit world just a game? Is there a place for a person who really does pursue intellectual honesty over career advancement? Will I ever find a place where I can belong and use my skills and contribute something to this world? And when will I learn not to be taken in by those who claim to be what they are not?

Thursday, September 07, 2006

I have this new asthma prescription. The medicine that helps me most is an inhaler that I need to use four times a day. As I have firmly established here, my MS riddled brain simply does not handle remembering very well. This means I get maybe two doses a day...if it is a good day and I remember again before going to sleep. This new medicine is a once-a-day hit. Sounds perfect for me, right?


I was a bit surprised to see the new prescription came in a box too large to be an inhaler. The size alone sent a shiver of worry along my nerves, but tried to remain positive as I opened the box.

Now, I am QUITE skilled at using an inhaler. I can get the perfect dose even without using a spacer. Quite skilled. Not so much with this thing. The instructions fill a ledger size piece of paper even using print that cannot be larger than 8 pica. Oh, already you see the problem?

Yes, instructions and I do not get along. Foolish me, I never thought to ask the doctor about demonstrating the use of this new contraption. I assumed it was another inhaler. Three days past and it still fills me with fear and trepidation to spread out the sheet of directions and try to use it once more.

First, you have to open the dust cover. Next comes the mouth piece. This must be raised to access the capsule chamber below. Once the chamber is exposed, you have to open the blister pack of capsules with the medicine. There are three capsules to a pack, and they go bad quite soon after opening. So, you have to peel back the foil wrapping carefully as to not open the next capsule down in the sheet. When the capsule is removed from the blister pack, you place the capsule into the chamber and close the mouth piece. Next, you have to push a lever on the side that will puncture the medicine capsule. After exhaling away from the contraption so as to not get any moisture into the inner chamber, you have to cover your mouth on the mouth piece and breathe in slowly and steadily enough to rattle the capsule, being careful that you do not block the air intake valves as you do so. Once you have drawn a deep breath, you have to hold the medicine in your lungs as long as possible before exhaling again, remembering to not do so back into the contraption. Then, you have to repeat the repeat the last two steps once more. When you are finished with the process, you have to remove the capsule, wipe down the mouth piece, close the dust cover, and put the box in a place where your dog won't try to investigate it.

Now, you might think that the whole process sounds easy, but believe me it is not. There are at least a dozen ways to mess up on many of those steps. And let me tell you that "rattling" that blasted capsule might actually be a skill outside of my reach.

Still, if I can master this process, breathing might just get a bit easier. That ought to be impetus enough, eh?

I hope so.

NOTE: There is an entire column for cleaning the contraption. I think it might just last the whole month before needing a cleaning, right? A new month...a new need to clean.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The past for September 5th did have a less-than-violent mark I discovered today...

One hundred years ago, yesterday, the first legal forward pass took place in the game of football! It was actually called a "projectile pass" and the receiver did not catch it...but the game of football was changed forever as it moved from a completely ground game to one that also sailed through the air! Strategic play calling became a driving factor in the success of a team. New skills had to be developed to address this new dimension and new positions created.

It was a great day for the game of football!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Today In History is a feature on that I like to read because I just frankly like history. Reading historical fiction is really what sparked my interest. You see, both professors of the two history courses I had in college did not believe that women belonged in higher education.

I know, it sounds unbelievable for the mid 1980's, but that is really how it was. I would ace the objective portion of tests and fail the essay portion. Yes, me...the writer...would get very low scores. Having five paragraph essay answers with topic sentences, supporting details, and content from the course did not matter. Each time, I would ask for an appointment with the professor to discover what was wrong with the essay. He would rattle off facts that needed to be included, and in somewhat disbelief, I would point out that they were in my answer. He would tell me not to worry and try harder next time. No matter what I did, I could not excel in the "subjective" portion of those tests. I wasn't alone in being discriminated against. One day in class, the professor actually had the gall to say that the reason that McDonald's existed in society was so that "black" people could have jobs. I literally saw the hair raise on the back of the neck of the guy in front of me. He was African-American.

Of course, I am saddened to say that at 18 I had not the courage to confront that professor or stand against his prejudices other than to offer my friendship to that young man who was filleted in class without regard for his humanity. I had no voice then.

So, I really cared not for history after those two classes and having had coaches as history teachers in high school who were not much interested in what was being taught. That is, I was cared not for it until I read my first historical fiction book in my children's literature course. I became fascinated with learning more about what life was like in years past and read and read and read. Scott O'Dell's Sarah Bishop will absolutely change the way you look at the revolutionary war.

I have a few of my grandmothers' antiques and a few collected along the way. Someone once gave me a bible from 1836 not because he knew I was a Christian, but because it was the year Texas became a republic. I hold the bible and think of the hands it passed through before mine. What were those owners like? Was it merely a book to them or the Word of God, author of their salvation? I have some old coins and wonder how they were spent over the years. Each bit of history I own fascinates me as to the life it lived.

Years later, I see something about history on the Internet and click on it. Thus, we come back to the "Today in History" section.

Here is the one from today:

Today's Highlight in History:

On Sept. 5, 1774, the first Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia.

On this date:

In 1793, the Reign of Terror began during the French Revolution as the National Convention instituted harsh measures to repress counterrevolutionary activities.

In 1836, Sam Houston was elected president of the Republic of Texas.

In 1905, the Treaty of Portsmouth, ending the Russo-Japanese War, was signed in New Hampshire.

In 1914, the First Battle of the Marne began during World War I.

In 1939, the United States proclaimed its neutrality in World War II.

In 1945, Japanese-American Iva Toguri DÂ?Aquino, suspected of being wartime broadcaster Â?Tokyo Rose,Â? was arrested in Yokohama. (DÂ?Aquino was later convicted of treason and served six years in prison; she was pardoned in 1977 by President Ford.)

In 1972, Arab guerrillas attacked the Israeli delegation at the Munich Olympic games; 11 Israelis, five guerrillas and a police officer were killed in the siege.

In 1975, President Ford escaped an attempt on his life by Lynette Â?SqueakyÂ? Fromme, a disciple of Charles Manson, in Sacramento, Calif.

In 1986, 21 people were killed and dozens wounded after four hijackers who had seized a Pan Am jumbo jet in Karachi, Pakistan, opened fire when the lights inside the plane failed.

In 1997, Mother Teresa died in Calcutta, India, at age 87; conductor Sir Georg Solti died in France at age 84.

Ten years ago: Russian President Boris Yeltsin acknowledged he had serious health problems, and would undergo heart surgery. Hurricane Fran slammed into the Carolinas.

Five years ago: Mexican President Vicente Fox arrived at the White House as the first state visitor of the Bush presidency. PeruÂ?s attorney general filed homicide charges against Alberto Fujimori, linking the ex-president to two massacres by paramilitary death squads in the early 1990s. (Fujimori, now in Chile, continues to fight extradition.) Sports commentator Heywood Hale Broun died in Kingston, N.Y., at age 83.

One year ago: President Bush nominated John Roberts for chief justice. President Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, during a Gulf Coast tour, consoled Hurricane Katrina victims and thanked relief workers. An Indonesian jetliner crashed, killing 143 people, including 44 on the ground; 18 passengers survived. Jerry Rice ended an NFL career that included three Super Bowls and records for most career receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

Interesting reading, eh? September 5th has surely been marked well in time. Yet, I keep thinking about the fact that much of this history is negative, is war in fact. What good things happened this day? What scientific breakthroughs happened this day? What charities were established? What lives were saved? What outpouring of help was made this day?

Watch the news, and you will get the opinion that we are a murderous, hateful, ignorant nation. I just watched this story of a young musician who started thinking about the musicians in New Orleans. She started a non-profit, collected instruments and funds, and donated them to musicians in New Orleans. A child leading the effort to help others. A young girl, not yet a woman, who thinks first of others and demonstrates the power of one in this world.

What would our nation be like if half the news was of the positive and hopeful events taking place each day, in each state, by children and grandparents and scholars and construction workers and environmentalists? How would we treat each other and how would we feel if our steady diet of news 24/7 had a balance of light and dark, war and peace, hatred and love?

Perhaps more people would feel as if they could contribute to this world. Perhaps more people would understand that they have a voice that counts, a life that is as valuable in a small town as it is in Redmond, Washington. Perhaps the epidemic of hungry and homeless children in America will be wiped out in a wave of people acting on the power of one.

If you are not yet convinced of the power of one, consider the life of Steve Irwin. His passion for conservation vaulted him from his parents wildlife preserve to a world known advocate for nature's most feamisunderstoodderstoon animals, fighting foexistencexistance and educating adult and children along the way. His death is such a moment of sorrow, of loss...but his life still is a model for others as to what can be accomplished by being willing to speak up even when few others understand you or believe your message at the outset, as to the power of one.


The 8:15 doctor's appointment did not start until 8:45. The 9:15 AM fasting blood work was not done until 3:40 PM. Nearly a whole day without food because there was no one in the office who could stick a needle in my one in an office filled with four board certified physicians and six nurses?

Kashi, Madison, and Fancy are all taking naps. I cannot decide which of them is the most adorable while curled up snoozing.

I shall not be watching the news of death, destruction, and despair. I shall be watching my companions and concentrate on the wonderful feeling consuming a meal was this afternoon, savor the win I had at Scrabble, and ponder how I can avoid the impending loss on the game B_ and I had to adjourn since her husband came home.

Don't forget that the new season of House premieres tonight!

Monday, September 04, 2006

While I only had 400 ml of water in the jar I set out for the storm and not a single branch fell to the ground, I lost power. Only a small strip of homes were out of power when there where large outages, so we were pretty far down the list of where to send crews. I lost power for over two days just after I bought groceries for practically the entire month of September. I tried to save them by putting ice in both parts of the refrigerator after the first day, but it was too late for the milk, eggs, and a lot of other food I had purchased.

The day before, I had learned that hundreds of dollars in my medical spending account was being returned the company since the claims for them did not occur before my last day of work. I was stunned to learn that that my claims were being denied.

I specifically asked about those funds once I learned I was losing my job. I specifically asked the HR assistant if I could continue to file claims when I no longer worked for the organization. She said, yes. So, I reconfirmed the answer by saying, "So I don't have to rush out and spend the money?"

She laughed and replied, " Like you did with those contacts [I had extra money at the end of one year.]? No, you don't."

I asked her about it a third time because I wanted to know how I would get the money if I was no longer getting a paycheck. I asked her, "When I file a claim, say in October, will the money come directly from ___ [the medical account company]?"

She replied that it would still go through the payroll/paycheck company.

At the review of the termination paper work--which did not include any information on the medical spending account in the insurance section--I said that the assistant said that I could still file claims after I no longer worked for the company. She said that was right, that I had 90 days after the end of the year to file claims just as I did the years before. The plan documentation given to employees, the deduction agreement, the staff orientation, and the termination packet do not mention the fact that you lose the money in your account after you leave the organization.

Learning that my claims were no longer valid and the money would be returned to the organization, I asked for the organization to send me a check for the balance of my account, but my ex-boss refused, effectively keeping my money despite the fact the company failed to communicate this caveat to the plan, even when someone like me went out of the way to ensure the money in the account was still safe after leaving. I could have gone out and purchased contacts and supplies and dozens of other covered items as a stockpile to still utilize the investment I made, but I was told not to do so. I mean, really, what person would put up to $3,000 in an account that he/she could loose if terminated, something that can happen at any time without any warning? That information should have been made just a clear as the "use-it-or-lose-it" caveat of the plan. Frankly, this is just another way that this particular non-profit fails at intellectual honesty and ethical practices, effectively taking profit off its employees.

This financial blow was followed by the loss of the groceries.

I also discovered that my alarm system is no longer working after the power outage. When I called Brinks, I learned that I would have to pay for a technician's visit and the new equipment...most likely $250.

More bills right and left and no job.

I need a prescription for a stiff upper lip or stronger boot straps or something...