Sunday, December 31, 2006

WARNING: Discussion of New Year's Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

My First New Year's Resolution List As An Adult

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

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

Saturday, December 30, 2006

What have I done today? Funny you should ask!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

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

Is that productive enough for an unemployed bum like myself?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

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

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

Sunday, December 24, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 23, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 22, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 21, 2006

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

Sounds crazy, right?

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 17, 2006

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 16, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

It was a good day.

Friday, December 15, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 14, 2006

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

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

I promptly burst into tears.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still no sign of tape or marinade.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

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

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

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

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

This has been a multiple Dr. Pepper day.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

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

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

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

Monday, December 11, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 10, 2006

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

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

Saturday, December 09, 2006

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 08, 2006

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

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

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

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


Chicken Enchiladas

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

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

Thursday, December 07, 2006

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 04, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Is this not a great day?

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

Woohoo! Yippee!

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

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

Loyalty and patience do have their reward!

Saturday, December 02, 2006

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

An interview? Yes. But why this company?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 01, 2006

I have lights!

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

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

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

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