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, and...poof...it 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.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

I was saddened to read of how some cities are addressing the homeless problem: make it illegal to feed them for free! If there is no food available, then the homeless will leave, goes the prevailing governmental belief. How very short sighted those officials are...

Yes, many homeless are ill, from drugs, alcohol, or mental disease. These individuals need far more than food in their stomachs and often do raise crime rates in the areas in which they live. However, many are singles, couples, and even families who have found themselves behind financially and just cannot seem to get ahead. So many Americans are just a paycheck or two away from joining them. How much savings do you have in your account?

"When I was hungry, you gave me food," claimed Christ, confusing some in His audience. When a man protested that he had never done such a thing, Christ replied that what was done unto the least of them was done to Him. Those who are out there feeding and clothing the homeless should be lauded, not fined or jailed!

Such ludicrousness there is in this world!

NOTE: I discovered something weird, but tasty today. Whole Foods Markets carry something called Skyr.is in the dairy section. It is from Iceland and is actually a form of cheese, although it looks, tastes, and is consumed like yogurt. Skyr is oh so rich and creamy, yet there is not a speck of fat in it. Puzzling, if you ask me, how that could be. The 6 oz. containers have 16 grams of protein to boot. I had the blueberry and am still savoring the experience...wondering how close the nearest Whole Foods Market is to me since the one I ate was a gift from someone.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I woke up abruptly this morning at 6:00 from a dream in which I was having a terrible asthma attack. I knew something was wrong and checked my oxygen sats. I was at 85! Staring at the number flashing on the pulseoximeter, I was confused with what to do. I was not having an asthma attack; I was neither coughing, nor wheezing. I respond quite strongly to albuterol, so I was not sure what I should do since I didn't have symptoms for the medicine to address. And I wondered what it would sound like if I called for an ambulance since I knew I was not competent to drive at that point.

As the number continued to flash, dipping down to 81, but hovering at 85, I decided to go head and use the emergency inhaler.

I also called my dear friend W to see if I could wake her up (she is on central time) so that I could tell her my dream.

You see, I had already awoken once during the dream. I left my bed, relieved myself, and drank some water. However, once I fell back asleep, I picked up where I left off in the dream. I thought that if I told her about the dream, if I stayed awake long enough to talk and to listen, then I might avoid dropping back in the dream a second time.

W did not pick up the phone, but she did call me back shortly. By that time, my heart was racing at 145 and my sats had risen to 88-89. I told her what was happening and asked if she would listen to my dream. She agreed.

Somehow, I had been an observer to the fact that there were six people who were being subpoenaed. One was a lawyer and tipped the others off to not be at home. So, those delivering the subpoenas switched to ambush tactics, following them until they could put the documents in their hands in front of witnesses. One of the men jumped in his car when he realized that he was being tailed and raced away. A short while later, I was driving down a street and saw that he had run over a police officer who I somehow knew, Ben. I called 911 to report the accident and the injured police officer.

[In my dreams, most of the time when I call 911 I never get help. There are many reasons for this: I cannot dial the numbers; I am put on hold; I keep getting transferred to a strange business; no one is available for help; or no one believes me.]

I began pleading with the operator to send an ambulance for Ben. I knew he was bleeding and in danger of dying, yet I could not make him believe me. I told him Ben's name. I told him that he had been hit by the man fleeing the subpoena. I could not say the name of the street where the accident took place, but I told him that it was the street between two others I named, which made it clear where the accident had occurred. I explained that I have MS and sometimes couldn't access information that I knew and could only describe it in the hopes someone would understand what I was trying to say.

The operator finally said that he would investigate my claims, and I hung up the phone. I crawled into bed, but soon realized that I was having an asthma attack. I called 911 again and asked for an ambulance, but I realized that the operator, though different from the other one, knew who I was and for some reason I did not understand at the time was refusing to help me. She kept saying that the only ambulance allowed in my city was already busy...busy helping Ben.

I tried to get out of bed and then realized that I was being restrained by a female police officer who was lying next to me in the bed. She snaked her hands beneath my pajamas and was touching my bare skin in such a way that terrified me. I finally got away from her and ran downstairs.

Hearing her footsteps on the stairs, I went outside to get in my car to go to the hospital and suddenly found myself staring at only the hood of my car. I discovered that the police thought that I had run down Ben and had taken apart my car to examine it. I was crying and could barely breathe as I begged the people combing through the pieces of my car for help. They all glared at me and then turned their backs.

I was barefoot and in my pajamas. As I made my way uphill down a long street to get to the ambulance, it began pouring down rain. With my breathing growing more labored by the minute, I pushed my way through the crowd and stopped in front of the paramedic standing by the ambulance. Tears streaming down my face, I begged her to help me. She said that she would not help me unless I could correctly diagnose was what wrong.

I told her that my oxygen saturation in my blood was low and I needed oxygen and a breathing treatment. She pointed to Ben's bloody body still lying on the road beside his crumpled car and told me the only thing she was going to get from me was a shot of epinephrine to the heart. I knew that would kill me because it wasn't what I needed. She motioned for two police officers to hold me between them and pulled out this five inch needle. Somehow I twisted out of their grasp and ran away.

After a while, I could barely get any breath at all and fell down in the middle of the road. When I looked up, I saw a Denny's and thought I could call for help from there. With my clothing soaked, it was as if I walked into the restaurant naked. Shame and fear warring within me, I stumbled inside and asked for the phone. A man behind the counter motioned to a corner where an ancient, black phone sat on a table, with an old man and an old woman on either side.

I couldn't dial the number. I tried again and again, hoping that if I could reach my writing student's mother, she would come and pick me up and take me to the hospital. The old man kept staring at my heaving chest, and the old woman kept spitting tobacco onto a plate resting on the table. After many failed attempts and watching my finger nails turn blue as I tried to place them in the proper holes of the circular dial that would connect my call, the two old people said they would dial for some money.

Hope rising even as I was growing weaker, I gave them each a five dollar bill. The old man dialed the phone and I heard my writing student's mother pick up the phone. Quickly, I told her what was happening. But before I could finish my tale, she asked me to stop speaking. She said it was all just to sad to think about and hung up the phone.

I dropped the handset and sank to the floor, gasping for breath and tears streaming down my face again. I begged the people sitting at the tables around me for help, but they merely kept eating. Just as everything began to grow dark, I awoke.

By the time we hung up with each other so both of us could go back to sleep, my sats had risen to 93. While that is actually still quite low, I was out of the 80's and my fear over my breathing was beginning to subside.

I really do not know what had happened while I slept. I have woken up with asthma attacks before, but this time I was not having symptoms. The only attack I had was in my dream. I am puzzled why a dream could affect me so.

My sats are still hovering in the low 90's. My chest feels as if it does after a major attack and breathing is still a bit difficult, a bit painful.

I am puzzled, and I am worried. The drugs I take for asthma attack are too dangerous to take if I am not having one because the way they affect my heart and nervous system.

I wish I knew what happened, but I will say that talking with W helped. After hanging up with her, I prayed until I fell back asleep. Although I did dream again, I was not trapped again in that dreadful one.

What did I dream? Well, perhaps I will tell that tale another time...

Friday, October 27, 2006

As I have mentioned before, I have tried to do some virtual volunteering communications work to keep my hand in the pot, so to speak. Thus far, I have logged over forty hours of work. However, I haven't really found this to be much rewarding.

Three of the folks I found off of www.volunteermatch.org were organizations that sound great, but have no business plan, no communications plan, and no strategic objectives. They are going through the motions, accomplishing work each day, but without thought for tomorrow. That sort of situation does not really allow for great growth and makes trying to do communications work for them difficult.

Couple this with the fact that I have not had much appreciation or acknowledgement of the quite fine work I have been doing for free, and you might begin to understand why the whole experience has not left the best taste in my mouth.

Realizing this, I contacted a foundation here where I live. I still preferred the virtual aspect, but I figure that I might be able to accomplish something a bit more significant. It is an organization to which I applied for a job, and while I was not hired, neither has anyone else be. Therefore, they truly are in need of my services.

In contacting them, I took the opportunity to mention some of the observations I had made about their messaging while researching the organization to prepare for an interview. A free gift, really. Finally, the vp of operations got back to me and asked me to review their new website. I was a bit disappointed in the task, but went at it with careful thought. The resulting three page analysis pointed out that they still have yet to hit the mark with the potential messaging that could come from a solid website.

Since they have no visible collateral besides three newsletters, an annual report, and a 32-page research study, I suggested that they create some smaller brochures for folks. For example, the research study was a two-year examination of women and girls in the region, with critical observations and recommendations. But few would plow through the report, even though it was beautifully done.

So, I spent some time creating a four-fold brochure covering the recommendations. They could use it to easily share with potential stakeholders the focus of their organization. They could use it with potential funders to let folks determine what areas which they would like to support. They could also use it in meetings with officials to show where they could demonstrate the needs of their constituents and where they should focus their work. I used the organization's color scheme, but brightened up the piece a bit to show how to make such things attractive (their new website has a white background and is quite boring aesthetic wise).

I sent a PDF of the brochure off to the vp. Her response? Nothing.

The same response a president of another foundation gave me after researching and drafting a code of ethics for volunteers per her request.


Thursday, October 26, 2006

I have started the monumental task of going through the floppy disks that I have been keeping to see what pieces of writing are there that I might want to save.

I found this piece that I submitted to Reader's Digest in 1992 for Life in These United States. I never had a response from them. I wonder what you think...

As a teacher, one often wonders if the students are able to transfer what they are learning in the class to the outside world. Recently a fellow teacher related a funny incident which reminded her of the special view students may hold of their teachers and answered this question of transference with the current social studies unit.
My friend tries to have lunch with her second grade students when she can, to take the opportunity to get to know them better as students and as individuals. During these lunches, the conversation most often turns to what they had been studying in class and the students' families.
At one of these lunches just before the end of the year, she sat with a little girl who had recently moved from Greece. The girl was quite proud of her father and spent the lunch time telling her teacher all about the restaurant he runs and how hard he worked for his living, as the class had been discussing careers as a part of their study of communities.
At the end of the lunch as the two rose to return their trays, the girl turned to her teacher and eagerly asked, "So, what do you do for a living?"

If you have not already guessed, I was the teacher.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In working on trying to put together a portfolio, I realized that several examples of the collateral that for which I both designed and wrote the content were missing from the meager collection I was able to gather together after sorting through all those boxes.

Today, I braved the lion's den and retrieved three of four postcards and the pocket folder I re-worked.

Well, I did not really brave the den per say...I nervously waited in the parking lot whilst one of the employees from my old job fetched the items from me and the blender that I had forgotten to bring home with me. I am a spineless wimp.

She could not find the fourth postcard, which I know is there, but I was unwilling to go inside myself and search for it. A superlative wimp, eh?

I did spend the journey there and back with my very dear friend B on the phone. I had asked my writing student to go with me for moral support. Although she initially agreed, she backed out on the grounds that she just had too much homework to do. I was hurt, therefore, when I arrived at her house afterwards to pick up her mother who was going to walk at Huntley Meadows with Kashi and I. She said that my writing student's friends had brought her home from school and they had been hanging out together ever since.

I wonder, though, if I have no right to be hurt. I had made the assumption that now that she was older and ever so much mature as a writer, that we had moved from a teacher/student relationship to one that was more of a friendship. However, I realized, in thinking about how things have been, that I am still only someone to help her when she needs it. The times I have tried to ask for help myself, knowing how skilled she has grown to be as a writer, have not worked out very well.

It is funny...my niece has returned to college after choosing a GED instead of graduating from high school (and spending a few years working only to learn that college really is the true path to better paying jobs) and I told her that if she ever needed help with her writing assignments, I would very much welcome the opportunity to work with her. Tonight, she sent me three essays. One was an assignment that she already had submitted and had been subsequently graded. She received a 104 on it (I am not sure about this more than a 100 business). The other two essays were for an assignment that is due tomorrow. She had actually written two for the one that was due, but she was not happy with either one of them. I could see why, because the writing was forced, resulting in language what was at times stilted and at other times gushingly naive. Her first essay was a wittingly written breath of fresh air that, while containing some basic grammar errors, was sophisticated in content...at least until she tried to wax poetically about the whys of her father's behavior.

Still, reading her work and seeing the less-than-sophisticated sentence structure and poor grammar, I realized anew how incredibly talented my writing student is. I suppose it should be enough that I had a hand in shaping her talent and still get to work with her from time to time.

Her mother pushed me as we walked, so I had my best time ever walking through the trails through the woods.

NOTE: Can you find the double entendre in this entry?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Today, I waded through four months of filing that had been piled on the stairs (so that I could take it up to my office) and in my office (in the closet, on the floor, and on my desk). In this mess was a bunch of warranty information for various and sundry items that needed to be put in my warranty binders (I now have four of them, two for the house and two for things I have purchased). While the labor was quite tedious, I did enjoy watching two television shows from my computer as I was sprawled on the floor sorting papers.

Now, my office is clean, my stairs are clean, my file cabinet is clean, my utility closet is clean, and the yard is "clean."

What will I do to occupy my time now?

Monday, October 23, 2006

I am trying to accomplish something each day, to not waste my time away from work as is so easily possible to do...to languish on the couch. So, yesterday I trimmed the bushes and weeded all the beds in my yard. Today, I mowed and edged (hopefully for the last time this season) and pulled off all those pernicious vines that stubbornly grow on my chain link fence despite my attempts to eradicate them. I've said it countless times here, but I never grow tired of the beauty found in a freshly manicured yard. I also reveled in that oneness-with-the-soil time.

Afterwards, Kashi and I went for a walk in the neighborhood since it was too late to run over to Huntley Meadows with him. I was admiring the fall foliage rustling in the wind when I noticed that several of the people in my neighborhood were also working in their yards. I was a bit dismayed to see this house down the street still for sale. The price has been reduce and yet it remains empty. I worry about that.

When Kashi and I returned home, I set out the garbage and the recycling and then took the time to fetch a few roses from my bushes. I really ought to have cut them back whilst I was trimming all the other bushes yesterday, but I so enjoy seeing them bloom in my yard. Admiring them as I walked toward my house, I realized that I have never thought to bring some inside. So, I popped inside to retrieve the shears. I placed the different colored roses in a champagne class and set it on top of the television. Just a few hours later, the whole first floor is redolent with such fragrance that I find myself smiling in pleasure.

Now...if the Cowboys would just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and find a way to beat the Giants...it will be a good day.

There's always hope, eh?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

After gulping three Dr. Pepper's and chowing down on some free pizza, I felt I had bolstered my courage enough to plow through the eight boxes that I brought home from my old office. Going through them, I struggled to hold back the tears because I just plain feel horrible about leaving that job. I worked my tail off to no avail, while others profited by slacking off and engaging in unethical behavior. But the worst is that my boss's actions rarely followed her words and I was fool enough to believe her. I have learned ever so much, but the lessons hurt still. I wish they did not.

At the end of my labors, I still had eight boxes, but I did have two full trash bags of things I should have let go of long before. I had two boxes of things that I kept in and on my desk. I also had a box of things that I used since I ate lunch at my desk while I worked nearly every day. For someone who does not drink coffee, I have three of those metallic thermal mugs. I really do not use them, but they are nice ones. I do have all I need for my nasty-tasting-but-healthy protein shakes. A fourth box was supplies that I had brought from home to augment my work since ordering supplies meant going through something like an inquisition. The rest of the boxes were resources that I have amassed over the years, things that help me think and plan and strategize.

What was not in there were the samples of collateral that I had developed that I thought I brought home. I do have two binders of copies of just about all my work and three folders with brochures in them. I did not have the extra copies of all the of the design work that I could have sworn were in there. I cannot begin to express my disappointment that I will not be able to create a portfolio (other than an electronic one) without asking my old organization for samples. ARGH!

I did take the opportunity to clean out my utility closet in the basement a bit, including the file cabinet in there, and the closet where I am storing half of the boxes. I ended up with a third trash bag and a much cleaner space.

I did realize that I left my blender at the office. I wonder if I can gather the nerves to go retrieve it.

I was cheered this afternoon by reveling in the slug-fest between the Falcons and the Steelers. Rightfully so, Michael Vick drove the Falcons to an overtime victory to cap off a rather thrilling game. Now, if the Colts will just beat the Redskins, it will be a good day. The Cowboys don't play until tomorrow night.

NOTE: "No Hassle Miles" are a fallacy. No hassle means six to eight weeks to redeem even a gift certificate. I had planned to use them to get one that I could use to purchase an auto navigation system. My friend W suggested I think about getting one the last time I was lost. After calming down after being lost on Friday , I called to see why the gift certificate had not arrived since it was supposed to be shipped via UPS. I learned that the order of two weeks ago to redeem the miles had not yet been processed...and most likely would not be processed for at least four more weeks. My only option offered by the representative: to put the miles back into my account.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Yesterday, I got lost on the beltway again. I had tried to avoid the problem by going to my father's house so that I could follow them to the restaurant (more driving, less thinking), but my step-mother did not want me to come over there. Setting out from my house, I told myself to remain positive, but I missed the correct exit for the third time in visiting this same restaurant. Still trying to control my fear, I encouraged myself that I could just take the next exit as I did the last time. Only, I missed that one, too. I was hurtling down the highway in the midst of rush hour and slowly losing my mind.

With tears streaming down my face and sheer panic setting in, I called my dear friend W. Normally, she is a great person to talk with, but her first response crushed me. She suggested I pull over and ask for directions. On the beltway, that just wasn't going to happen and any exit I took could lead me further into confusion...not to mention the fact that folks up here would likely ignore any request for help from a strange sobbing woman. I just wanted some encouragement and someone to help talk me through what I knew and what I might do.

I quickly hung up with her and cried and prayed.

Then, my phone rang. It was my vet. Really, the woman should get some sort of reward. She listens to all my Kashi, Fancy, and Madison concerns with patience and kindness. She is always positive and encouraging. She regularly calls me to check in on how we are all doing. And she never once has in any way, shape, or form made me feel as if I were not welcome in her presence, in-person or on the phone.

I had called her earlier to see if there were any of Kashi's medicines that I could safely skip for a month or two to save money. She had been in surgery at the time and was returning my call.

I tried. I really tried to keep the fact that I was crying from her. I tried to focus on the original purpose for my call. But I didn't count on her generosity.

She talked with me. She listened to me. She calmed me down. And she agreed that MS is a crappy disease.

So, it was with great irony today that a county police officer asked me for directions.

Kashi and I were walking in Huntley Meadows. The first time I brought the video camera, it was too dark to really record the visit. Today, the second time I brought the video camera, the visit was interrupted by a police training exercise. At a wetland preserve! Who made that decision?

Anyhow, a helicopter flew overhead just as I was filming a great blue heron. I waited for it to pass, but it began circling. I was a bit irritated because the engine noise drowned out the insects humming in the background and my own cheesy commentary. Then, this police officer drove out onto the boardwalk on a motorcycle! I was a bit amazed to see him, but a woman who had joined me in watching the heron told me that when she had arrived, there were a half dozen police cars in the parking lot and she was assured that nothing was wrong.

I tried to enjoy my visit, but both the helicopter and the motorcycle broke through my reverie, and I walked back into the woods to finish my hike. Imagine my surprise when the police officer on the motorcycle returned shortly after entering the woods and asked me if I knew another way out of the park other than the boardwalk. He was lost on the winding, circuitous trails that wend their way through the woods and did not want to navigate the steps of the viewing platform to exit the park via the main portion of the boardwalk. I was able to show him the way back through the woods by drawing in the dirt with a stick.

While walking out of the park myself, I kept thinking about being lost. The truth is that I struggle with navigating the unknown. If I am familiar with where I am or where I am going, then I can drive with confidence. But when I have to make decisions, the hypotheses I posit regarding north or south, right or left, almost always are wrong. And when I go to try another path or make adjustments, I cannot seem to straighten out what it is that I did in the first place and lose my way even further in my attempts to rectify the situation. Confusion reigns, panic ensues, and tears flow. I feel stupid and incompetent and utterly worthless.

I have walked the paths of Huntley Meadows so much that even if I did not carry a visualization of the trail guide around in my head, I still would have been able to help the police officer. I could not, however, tell him how to get to that blasted restaurant.

While weeping on the phone with the vet, I told her that I felt as if I had no business asking for a job when I couldn't even drive to the restaurant. Her very soft reply was to lightly tease me that of course I knew how illogical that was. Communications had nothing to do with being able to successfully navigate to a restaurant!

I wonder though...I wonder.

What hurts the most (to borrow the phrase from Rascal Flatts) is the fact that neither my friends nor my family seem to take my cognitive problems seriously. Most of the time, I get some remark about how he/she forgot something or has been lost before. I know, though. I know how very often I am confused, how I struggle to understand what used to be easy for me. I know. I know, and I am terrified. I am terrified, and I am alone.

Last night, I wept for a long while, struggling with my fears and worries and sorrow. I wept and prayed and fell asleep clutching the bible.

Yesterday, I was lost and needed help. Today, a police officer was lost and asked for help. For that one moment, I was anchored in certainty. I am still savoring that moment.

NOTE: My video of our visit has much footage of moss. Huntley Meadows is rife with it. I have discovered that viewing moss on tape is almost as good as gazing upon it in person. Kashi, however, cares not for the stuff.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Well, should I say my life is complete now?

I just watched this video of a shrimp on a treadmill. Frankly, I did not understand the importance of a crustacean's endurance.

Perhaps, I should say my life is rather incomplete?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

If you are what you eat...am I contentment because my preferred food is pizza and Dr. Pepper.

Playing on my $2.00 electronic Texas Hold 'Em Poker game I have learned something about myself. I can get through to the second and even third set of players, taking out several of them myself along the way, but get to that 200K level and I choke. There is no other way to put it. I start thinking about how much money is stacked among my chips and I start making foolish decisions, chasing straights and flushes when I know I should fold.

I climb the poker ladder with great success and then choke.

I am a choker...not something I want to be...

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

I had a phone interview this morning that went surprisingly well. Two hours of chatting with a fellow ex-Texan about my skills and accomplishments. I had all but mentally talked myself out of even the remotest possibility of progressing pass the call. I did so because of the number of years of experience. Yet...the job is editorial director; I would be writing and editing for a living, managing the messaging of a non-profit. It is in my targeted salary range, targeted vacation range, targeted location, and something for which I could be proud advocating. Four out of four on my wish list.


I should hear some time next week if I am going to be called in for an in-person interview. If I am, I have to produce a portfolio. More money that I have to spend when money has not been a companion for months on end.


Monday, October 16, 2006

I learned late Thursday night that my grandfather was back in the hospital with pneumonia again. We were quite worried for his health, but he has battled the disease and may get to come home in a few days. Being bed-ridden with such a disease is so very dangerous to the elderly, so I am doubly glad he has turned the corner.

I found it difficult to write, thinking about his battle and praying for restored health. It is not that long ago that his life-long love died and my step-mother would be heart broken to lose her father as well.

In addition, my step-mother's birthday is in just a couple of days, and I would hate for the celebration of her life with the death of her father.

I feel as if I have been walking in sorrow for days...but today there is hope...and for that I am thankful.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Happy birthday to my nephew and my dear friend T!

I left singing voicemails for both of them. In my opinion, birthdays are the time when you get to say how glad you are that the person was born. You are celebrating the gift of their life.

I have tried watching more episodes of Without A Trace and have a better understanding why I do not like the show: the pace is slow, the lighting dark and dreary, the soundtrack would be more fitting at a funeral, and the speech most often mono-tonal. Thus, I find the show downright depressing!

I found myself strangely disturbed by the plane crash in New York City today. I ended up watching several hours of the coverage on three different cable news shows. Tears swam in my eyes and I found it difficult to speak around my thickened throat. I had flashes of memory from another time of watching hours of television depicting another burning highrise building. This day must have been hard for the families of 9/11 victims and the rescue workers from that day.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

SOS did the job. After three trips the store without returning home with the scrubbing pads, tonight I arrived home victorious. Of course, the last of those failures I did remember to look for the scrubbing pads, but could not find them. Tonight, I had two bright twelve-year-olds racing around the store to find the items on my list. They even found lemon scented ones!

Whereas the vinegar and baking soda concoction failed to remove the remnants of the burnt corn, the SOS pads, with MUCH elbow grease, did the job. My grandmother's pot is now usable again. If I did not stuff myself overly much at dinner, I would have promptly made some Malt O'Meal in the pan, enjoying its perfect size for the job.

I had thought to start another mother/daughter book club with my writing student's sister since she is now twelve, the same as my student when she began, but it just didn't turn out that way. She had two friends who wanted to read books with us, but not with their mothers. Then one of her friends dropped out after the initial meeting. I had to set aside my disappointment and do some creative thinking because the remaining friend is not a strong reader and her mother has been quite ill.

I decided that instead of meeting at either of their houses, we would meet in a restaurant, that we would have a literacy dinner of sorts. They both liked the idea, and tonight's meeting was a good beginning...even if there was still far more giggling than I would have preferred!

We went to a new Italian restaurant, where the girls investigated the savory delights of calzones. I had a chicken and bacon pizza (or a third of one...yes, I brought home enough leftovers for at least two more meals). All three of us also munched on spinach and artichoke dip with fresh baked bread sticks. They guzzled lemonade while I savored Mr. Pibb, since I have been without Dr. Pepper for four days. The meal was rather fulfilling.

We had read Karen Cushman's Catherine Called Birdy. The book discussion, while not as erudite as I would have liked, was still a good beginning. I introduced them to a way to identify themes in a story. You make a four-squared chart that has "likes" and "dislikes" in the top two squares and "patterns" and "questions" in the bottom two squares. Then, you have the readers fill in each square by listing things they liked, things they didn't like, the patterns they saw, and the questions they have about the story. After doing so individually, you combine the lists. If done in a large classroom, you can break the class into small groups for the first round and then have everyone call out their ideas for the combined chart. Once the chart is filled, you look for patterns/groupings across the four areas, which will highlight different themes of the book. It might be themes of plot or character development or setting. Those patterns/groupings can then be the catalyst for further discussion, especially with searching for other instances of what was noted.

I had asked them both to maintain response journals while they were reading, but the friend did not do so. I believe that she was a bit intimidated by the process. What tickled me is that she had a three page response to the book when she arrived tonight. When she had told my writing student's sister that she did not have a journal, she advised the friend that she had better not show up without any writing. Apparently, my reputation proceeds me with my writing student's siblings. The friend promised to try keeping a journal next time. Since they live down the street from each other, I might have them swap journals so they can see what each other thought before I get them to write responses to their notes before we meet. Both of their writing was a good first effort, reflective of their interests and abilities. They have the best time making home movies together, so I have to figure out a way to incorporate that interest into what we are doing with books.

Over all, I was not disappointed in my altered approach to the book club, and I very, very much enjoyed the opportunity to teach literacy again.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Yesterday's game was heart rending. I had hope. I had multiple moments of joy. I had anguish. I moaned and groaned and grieved with the Cowboys. They should have won that game!

Last Friday, I decided to bring order to my dining table. I have been using it as a desk in my unemployment. I even went so far to add the leaf although it made the table a bit too large for the space. Anyhow, somehow a few piles of stuff bred into edge-to-edge coverage of paper. I finally bowed beneath the weight of my guilt and refused to continuing averting my eyes as I passed by the table on the way to the kitchen. After much effort, the majority of the surface is clean. I was rewarded today for my labors because my writing student needed help and she popped by with her mother to work. All three of us were able to sit around the table and talk about the form she needed to complete about herself.

I am stuck trying to write the next sermon in my novel. I am so darned intimidated that I have just doodled the last week away. I did manage to fit in those historical details I waxed poetically about here...but to be honest...I have been resting on my laurels and not plugging away at the keys because I am a wimp. I want so much for this story to be what I envision that I am fearful of ruining it when it comes to my sermons. I am, after all, not a preacher.

God, in His infinite lovingkindness, has moved the heart of my old prof who preaches when his pastor is out of town to offer any of his sermons for my text (I have them all on tape). However, even with such help available, I am trembling in my literary knees. Yep...I am a wimp.

I fell down the steps to the upper section of my deck tonight. I was trying to encourage Kashi to see to his business despite his fears of the dark and was so busy crooning sweet nothings to him that I missed the second step. I tell you, I think he was more surprised than I to find me sprawled at the bottom of the steps with the dew soaking quickly into my clothes and my right ankle screaming in protest to being twisted backward in the fall. I thought about just staying there. Some days, it just doesn't pay to get out of bed.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Yesterday, I was so tired I could barely keep my eyes open. With my friend W, using that wonderful Sprint PSC technology, I battled my way through the Texas-OU game, helping her pull for her team. Texas didn't need me, but it is always good to support a friend.

After the game, I gave up my battle and fell asleep at around 7:30 PM. [I know, what a shocker, eh!] I woke at 8:30 PM, 10:50 PM, 11:50 PM, and 2:00 AM. I was so tired that I couldn't really sleep. Of course, the backwards schedule that I have been keeping is probably most to blame. Anyway, I got up at 2:00 and watched some TV until 3:30, when I crawled back in bed.

So...I did not awake again until 2:10 PM today. I was about to roll over and sleep some more when I felt the call of football. I was already missing the first game! I was rewarded in getting out of bed when I looked at the TV guide because I discovered that the Cowboys-Eagles game is actually going to be on TV up here. Woo Hoo! I get to see my 'Boys!

I still feel as if I could go back to sleep, and I do not know why I am so tired, but...perhaps...if I manage to stay awake until 11:00 PM or so, I could transition myself back into being awake days and asleep nights in one fell swoop.

Right now, the Giants are beating the Redskins, so I have to stay awake to support Eli Manning. While the Giants are in the Cowboys division, I would much rather they win than the Redskins. I want the Redskins whipped by the time they meet the Cowboys again!

Ah...the joy of Football Season...is there anything better?

Perhaps...perhaps seeing Tiger Woods hit the ball so creatively... powerfully... beautifully... skillfully! The Golf Master is taking a well earned rest just now after six PGA victories in a row.

Ah, whilst writing this, the Giants just scored a touchdown after three mere field goals. I should get back to supporting them as they move up 16-3 over the Redskins! What a way to begin the third quarter. Eli just marched them down the field for the score. Good on you, Eli!

Friday, October 06, 2006

While it is not totally free, Dale and Thomas Popcorn Company are having a free popcorn month in October. They are offering one or two bags of gourmet popcorn if you pay the shipping ($2.95 per bag). The offer is here: http://www.daleandthomaspopcorn.com/freepopcorn.aspx.

The flavors are quite toothsome: Dreamy Chocolate Drizzle, Peanut Butter and White Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk and Caramel, and Cinnamon Creme. [BIG SIGH]

Each month I PDF the newsletter of her Mom's Club for my friend D. I found the notice for the free popcorn while reading through what she had written. So...no good deed goes unrewarded!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kashi and I went back to Huntley Meadows today. He was practically beside himself in the car during the drive over. I really should take him there more often.

I enjoy the walk, but at 2 1/2 miles, it is a bit lonely. Today, through the miracle of Sprint PCS technology, I was able to spend the walk chatting with D, hearing about her new baby and all things happening in her life. It was just as if she were there, walking beside me on the hiking trail. Kashi and I and D didn't meet up with another person, so my use of technology did not disturb the outdoor pleasure of another visitor. We saw a great blue heron and three deer whilst out among nature.

When we arrived home, I took the time to sew up the holes in Kashi's stuffed banana. Even though I had sewn up eight others last night now surrounding his bed and still more scattered around the room, Kashi sat at attention the whole time I was working with the needle. He whimpered and shivered in worry over his baby. Once I was finished, he took it from me and placed it with the others around his bed. All of them there are the ones that were repaired.

I find it quite amusing that, inevitably, each time I gather up his stuffed toys and put them back in the basket by the door, by the end of the day, they will be redistributed all over the house: upstairs by his bed and on my bed, beneath the dining table, on the rug in the kitchen in front of the sink, on the beds in the basement, on his bed in the study, and a few more spread around for good measure. Sometimes, he makes a circle of them on my bed and then curls up asleep among them. They are his mates!

NOTE: If you are in search of a snack, you might want to try having a cup of Cheerios with a mini Baby Bell cheese circle. I find it to be a rather tasty, if unusual, combination. You also might want to try washing it down with some ice cold Orange Gatorade...

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

I am in pursuit of another communications job. As you well know by now, I am having difficulty finding one. I have, for the first time, had interviews where I was not offered the job. I was measured and found wanting, which surprises me not just in the novelty of the experience, but for the skills I can offer to these organizations. So...my resume gets me in the door and my presence shows me out that same door. What am I doing wrong?

I am in pursuit of another communications job because I believe that it is work that I can do and do well. After all, I practically worked miracles for my last employer. I worked miracles because the job duties are a wonderful combination of my literacy skills and organizational bent. After all, I revel in all those details.

For each organization with which I have interviewed, I have researched the company and evaluated their online presence and existing collateral. In each case, I would offer that I was able to generate an astute analysis and identify key message points to consider in strategic planning. In each interview, I tried to make these observations known.

For the third one, even after I knew that I would not be getting a call asking me to come work, I thought about their message issues for a few days and came up with the following pitch that could be used in both print and media:

Build a playground and you build community where children and adults work side by side.
Build a playground and you build organization, communication, and cooperation.
Build a playground and you build health and well-being.
Build a playground and you build hopes and dreams and possibilities.
Build a playground and you build the future.

You see, KaBOOM, Inc. (www.kaboom.org) is an organization whose mission is that every child in America will have a safe place to play within walking distance of their homes. The organization is impressive in that its MO is to teach folks how to fish, not fish for them. Communities, schools, housing communities, etc. who come to KaBOOM for help are required to manage the process themselves, from planning, to volunteers, to partial funding, to press work. KaBOOM supplies 90% of the funding and 100% of advisory help. They supply the tools and resources (and personnel on build day) to ensure success.

KaBOOM's website is impressive in its message about play, including some interesting research. In reading their material, I totally get that play is important. But I think that they are missing and important WHY Factor in their messaging. Why should I support them in building playgrounds? Why should I build a playground? The litany I wrote answers that why while reinforcing the great things about KaBOOM. [They talk about playspaces, which is important, but for general audiences, I think playground is best.]

Build a playground and you build community where children and adults work side by side.
Build a playground and you build organization, communication, and cooperation.
Build a playground and you build health and well-being.
Build a playground and you build hopes and dreams and possibilities.
Build a playground and you build the future.

I have toyed with the idea of sending my pitch to the VP of communications there because I do think the organization is important. They are already rebuilding playgrounds in Katrina devastated areas. They are building playgrounds across America and changing the lives of those who build alongside them. They are doing this...and few really know about it, comparatively speaking. Few know when they could be a household name.

Build a playground and you build community where children and adults work side by side.
Build a playground and you build organization, communication, and cooperation.
Build a playground and you build health and well-being.
Build a playground and you build hopes and dreams and possibilities.
Build a playground and you build the future.

What do you think? Am I a good communications person?

I have an interview a week from next Tuesday for an Editorial Director position. Writing, editing, and managing collateral for an organization that provides materials for youth mentors seems right up my alley, eh? I am trying not to get my hopes up.

I wrote two more thank you notes, three postcards, and two letters today. I also packed up some books for my sister and my friend D and a much overdue gift (that I actually purchased before I lost my job and mistakenly put it in a "safe place" some months ago) and carried the packages out to the car to mail tomorrow. I cleared out the kitchen sink and ran the dishwasher. I collected all of Kashi's babies who had been set aside for medical care and spent several hours stitching up their wounds by hand. [Kashi often falls into atavistic behavior in trying to kill his captured prey. Somehow, he doesn't understand that this is the reason his babies lose their stuffing and stop squeaking. He is quite sorrowful when they are injured. I will admit that just before writing this, I discovered one I missed--his banana--and will have to tackle it tomorrow.] I dusted all of my demi-tasse teacups. I took Kashi for a walk through my neighborhood (I could tell he would have preferred that we visited Huntley Meadows again). I set up on-line bill payments and updated Quicken. I wrote two sentences in my novel. Was that productive enough? I really am becoming a couch lush and am trying to combat the tendency to wallow in my fears and sadness while loafing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Kashi and I went to Huntley Meadows to walk this afternoon. Huntley Meadows is a wetland preserve in the heart of Fairfax County that is more than a thousand acres. Once you step onto the walking path, you can forget about the outside world...unless a plane flies overhead. It is rather remarkable that the government has preserved this area, and bird specialists from all over the US come to walk out on the boardwalk that extends out over the water and allows visitors to hang out among the wildlife there: deer, beavers, otters, ducks, geese, turtles, snakes, frogs (oh so many colorful varieties), birds (include king rails and blue herons), etc.

I have been walking with Kashi, trying to be more consistent in his exercise. Usually, I just throw the ball to him in the backyard until he is exhausted. I also try to do the same inside at least once a day, with either his ball or one of his babies (Kashi's word for his plush squeaky toys). But today I thought it might be better to get the both of us out of the house. I am languishing on the couch, and he is sleeping entirely too much.

We spent just over an hour walking the paths there. Kashi wanted to investigate the foliage just off the path every few feet or so to see if he needed to mark it as his territory. I took my cell phone and made eight 30-second movies of our journey, along with a few photos. Filming my puppydog with the small camera on my phone reinforced just how much I want a camcorder. Thanks to my loving friends and family, I have enough funds to purchase one since my birthday, but I held off because I am, as you know, quite unemployed. Back in June, I thought perhaps I would have a job by the end of August. It is now October. So...it is good that I have kept those funds in reserve, right? I am not so sure. I am missing the chance to record the bits of life I struggle to remember. I do not want to waste the time I have before the cheese-hole in my brain become too numerous to work around.

Kashi is now crashed on his bed, too tired to do more than raise an eye-lid now and then.

He is a contented dog this day.

NOTE: I found this website http://garyjean.zenfolio.com/p417884714 that has photos from the flood that occurred in my neighborhood. If you click on the slide show button, you will cycle through the rather long selection of photos that shows the damage and the folks who came in to help.

Monday, October 02, 2006

My dear friend W certainly came through for me today in a mighty big way. Personally, I think that God sped her care package along in the mail since it just left Texas on Friday, and I am still reeling from being lost yesterday and struggling with the weight of another month beginning while I remain unemployed.

My dear friend W is gifted with the ability of making the most sumptuous strawberry bread, and she sent me not one, but two of them! It goes without saying that upon discovery of her culinary sacrifice on my behalf, I promptly poured a glass of milk and consumed...oh...well, let's say more than one slice of deliciousness.

Being the loving person she is, W also includes a few other kind gifts in her package. Now I can dry my tears with kleenex from a Dallas Cowboys box. I can mark my place in the books I am reading with this exquisite silver book mark that has a bone crafted feather hanging off the end. Native American jewelry is often beautiful in its simplicity.

She went to a conference on crimes against children and popped in a few freebies from there, including post it notes, one of my most favorite of all office supplies.

And there was an article that speaks to the veracity of one of my soapboxes. It was from the Washington Post and outlined the declining literacy rate among college graduates. When it comes to the importance of literacy, I sometimes feel like I am a voice crying out in the wilderness. At my old job, many of the management staff truly could not communicate clearly in written form, but that did not stop them from doing so, even to the detriment of the organization. Even though I pointed out the need for reviews before such materials were sent and was quite willing to do so, no one really cared.

Not to be overlooked was the gift of money she tucked within a gift of scripture: Psalm 103:8

The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and
abounding in lovingkindness.

Words to nourish my soul and funds to nourish my body. I am humbled by the lovingkindness that God shows to me through her...

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Last night, I talked with my dear friend W long into the night, as we both channel surfed since the game of her alma mater was inexplicably not on television. Today, we did get to enjoy the second half of the Dallas Cowboys game together, savoring the strong play and eventual win.

I missed the first half because I had gone to have lunch with my step-mother and father at one of their favorite restaurants. I missed the first half not because I was still eating, but because I got lost on the way home. When I set out on my way to the restaurant, it was with some misgivings since I knew I would be traveling the beltway. I did miss the exit since the entrance ramp was a separate entrance that broke off of the highway at least a mile from the actual exit. I was able to take the second exit and, with the help of my step-mother, navigate my way to the restaurant via an alternate route. When I was leaving the resteraunt, I mused aloud that perhaps I should try to retrace my route back up highway 66 instead of going the way I should have come down route 50 back to the beltway. I was fearful of traveling along a road that was different than the path I had just taken because figuring out where I am while driving is so difficult for me now. My step-mother heard me talking to myself and quickly admonished me that route 50 was the correct way to go. I ignored my own concerns and took her advice.

45 minutes later, I was in a near panic because I knew that I was lost along the beltway. While it loops around the city and I would eventually see my exit, there was a very good chance I would miss even that because it would not be from the direction I was expecting and could take another hour just to get to it. I called my two best friends because I knew they would willing look on the Internet to discover where I was, but neither was home. I did reach my writing student mother and she did turn me around and sent me back in the correct direction, but she was busy and did not understand how upset I was at feeling completely lost and completely stupid.

When I was recounting the experience to my dear friend W, she reminded me that I am not stupid, I just have an MS-riddled, cheese-hole brain. I found small comfort in that, until she very logically pointed out that I really should look into one of those auto navigation systems. Of course, I very much need a job, and at this point, I would have to repair the financial damage that has come of now starting my fourth month unemployed, technology has advanced to the point that I could have help in the car though there is no one in my life who can ride around with me to rescue me in those times of confusion.

Now, I will offer that the direction that I went on the beltway to go to the restaurant was West toward Richmond, and when I was faced with choosing a direction on the way home, East, the natural reverse, was not an option. My options were South toward Richmond or North toward Tysons Corner. I thought for sure that since I had been driving toward Richmond on the way to the restaurant, the logical choice would be to drive away from Richmond on the way home. Alas, that was the wrong choice for some convoluted, yet logical reason to the transportation department of this area.

Still, that feeling of panic, confusion, and utter loneliness was oh so difficult to face and lingers a bit even now that I am safely home again.