Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sitting in the weekly staff meeting today, I was struck anew at how much collaboration takes place in my new job. It is both reassuring and a marvel to watch.

However, I also heard something that greatly disturbs me.

I do not know how to speak up, how to voice my concern. In some ways, I feel as if I have been welcomed with open arms. In others, I feel as if I am some great interloper. I suspect, however, that in reality my place there is quite tenuous.

So, I am waiting...and wondering...and trying not to worry about what I heard...

Monday, July 30, 2007

I mowed today.

I fainted.

How is it that I can help move a tree, digging for hours on end, and be bushwhacked by a shoving a lawnmower across my yard? This couple stopped their car long enough to help me inside. I wanted most fervently to blanch myself in a steaming hot shower, but chose the tepid water instead.

Why, with all that I battle, does a hot bath have to be one of my greatest enemies? I truly think a good soak, should I survive it, would be just what the doctor ordered...

Sunday, July 29, 2007

I am going to bed. Soon. It has been a long day, a long week. However, today did have a bright spot: a new disaster movie.

It was nearly 3 hours long and starred Randy Quaid, Diane Weist, Nancy McKeon, Thomas Gibson, Brian Dennehy, and a slew of other actors you would recognize at once but could not recall their names. It was nearly 3 hours of really, really cheesy drama leading up a category 6 storm created by a collision between a category 5 hurricane and a category 5 tornado storm. After about two hours, Dad and I were betting each other on the next person to die or the next vehicle that would crash. At one point in the movie, the good-guy-turned-bad-guy-turned-remorseful-trying-to-help-guy was electrocuted by four lightening arcs at once. Of course, in the midst of the greatest danger the pregnant lady started labor.

We have one more to watch. It is about an ice storm in Miami. I would guess that it is a take-off on the rather splendid The Day After Tomorrow. I'm figuring the cheese factor on this one will be off the charts.

Anyone want to join me?

Friday, July 27, 2007

It has been a WILD, WILD week since I last posted.

W....Work...For one, on Monday I began my new job. Everyone there has been ever so kind, but that couldn't off set the fact that the health insurance plan is no where near what I thought, with co-pays that will more than double my monthly out-of-pocket medical expenses. I will no longer be able to see any of my doctors or even be able to keep my wonderful pharmacist at Target. I felt as if someone had kicked me in the stomach. I am not sure, yet, if I have managed to catch my breath. The bottom line is that barring some miracle, I just cannot afford to stay at this job. I will not be able to make even the minimum payment on my colossal credit card debt.

I....Identity...I have been struggling with these questions of who I really am chasing themselves around my mind. I am in a new job where for the first time I am responsible for growing a program. I am surrounded by people in the know, kind people, but people nonetheless who look at me sideways, with their thoughts painted clearly for all to say. She is naive. It won't work. It will be too tough. You'll understand when you are older. Older? I am 40. When will others stop seeing me as a young girl? I am a bit disheartened, knowing first that I cannot afford to stay here and second that I really believe in the need for foster care and would like to help them. I keep thinking about all the plans I had. All the dreams I dared have. My life, right now, resembles none of them. I am smart, work hard, and add value to my employers, yet I have never been paid near what I am worth. I have pictured myself with children my entire life, yet that door has almost surely closed. I write, yet I am not the writer I long to be. I am weak much of the time, tired all of the time, and feel as if I am such a poor witness for the One who has given me so much. Strange thoughts to be having when I have finally found peace with who I am, eh? I guess I am just wondering who that is.

L...Love...I have written about the ways T and B say "I Love You" to me. I had another with W. She bakes me strawberry bread; she collects the "d" quarters for my collection; she sends me MS information; and she overwhelms me with her generosity. Being loved is not something I take for granted, a marvelous reality I oft struggle to accept as true. God has blessed me profoundly by the Christian women in my life. T casts her unflinching glaze at me and speaks the blunt truth. B chastises me in her walk with Christ and the passion with which she lives every aspect of her life for Him. W shares wisdom and insight with unceasing patience for the questions I have.

D....Doctor....I saw my doctor of many years for the last time this morning (unless I want to pay out of pocket to see her). We had a most uncomfortable discussion about my arthritis. It is getting worse. Frankly, I am not sure if moving a tree, which involved digging holes for hours on end, was the straw that broke the camels back, but I am now having trouble rising from a sitting position. The stiffness in my hips is oh so familiar, and it takes quite a few steps before the pain resides to a manageable level. This is rather inconvenient as I sit and rise many times a day. She has, for more than two years now, asking me to consider getting a handicapped placard for my card. Between the asthma and arthritis, I either find myself getting short of breath or walking like an old lady sometimes. At those times, schlepping from the far end of a parking lot is hard. But I have eshewed most talk of blue plastic markers hanging from my window. Acquiescing to her advise would take me one step further from independence in my mind. Of course, fanning the eighteen prescriptions that she wrote me so that I could transfer them to the new "approved" pharmacy, I wondered if she might be right. When I climbed down from the examining table, I would have fallen had she not caught me. I accepted the form.

Friday, July 20, 2007

There is nothing more comforting than holding a baby, nothing greater at putting at least that moment in perspective for you.

I am, I confess, quite unsettled about starting this new job. It is really not enough money. It is not really a place where you can climb up the career ladder. It is really not something I have even done before (the communications yes, the recruitment no). My new boss has gone around telling everyone how wonderful I am. I am hesitant to show up in 3 days, hesitant because I might fail again, hesitant because I might not be able to rise to her expectations, hesitant because I wonder just who she saw during our three meetings. I am sure it wasn't me.

There is nothing more comforting than holding a baby, nothing greater at putting at least that moment in perspective for you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I painted for T today. It was a bit of a pain for her to find all the stuff for me to use with her children clamoring for her attention and an ill husband home from work. Still, she managed to gather the materials before hustling the boys off to a player center to give her husband a quiet household in which to rest.

In short order, I popped the door off the hinges and taped off all the trim. There were two fixtures and a light I could not remove, so I used a child's paint brush I found to cut around the curved surfaces. Surprisingly, this worked rather well. Then it was a couple of hours of plying the roller to the walls and the brush to the corners. I think the room turned out fairly well, one of my better paint jobs.

I was glad I was able to help her. T is not one who accepts assistance very easily, although she is a loving and generous helper herself. In addition to painting, I organized her kitchen cabinets. Hopefully, they will work better for her now.

Have a list of home improvement projects? Give me a call, and I'll come for a visit. Have hammer will travel.

Monday, July 16, 2007

I am a Poker Queen! Well, perhaps not queen, but at least lesser nobility!

I went with T to a Texas Hole 'Em Poker tournament. Believe it or not...I made the final table. I had wanted to do well because T is a regular player and quite good at what she does. T is thoughtful and strategic in her play, not given to emotional or rash plays. Tonight, I thought about all those hours of Celebrity Poker I watched and all the advice Phil gave and played as he would have advised. I went out in 10th place, on a play that really was my best option given that I was short stacked. In the whole tournament, I only made two stupid plays: the first against T's sister S who always has my number and the second where I tried to take out a short stack person with okay-but-not-great cards. Still, I was quite pleased with how I played.

At the first table (we were shuffled around as players dropped out to keep the tables even), fours were coming up right and left. So, when I got a pocket pair of fours, I decided to go for broke. Another woman called me, and I sweated through the flop, turn, and river cards. Another four came up and my trips held! I took out a relatively strong player with a hand I probably should not have played, Queen/Five. He had pocket kings, but as the common cards were revealed, I ended up with trip queens. All in all, I rather enjoyed myself during that tournament.

Because S and I had made the final table and were still there close to the time the second tournament would begin, we decided to stay for it. I started well again, especially smart play with pocket aces, but I really felt weird. It is hard to describe exactly how I was feeling except to say that I was a bit shaky and dizzy and distant. I foolishly played every round thereafter and quickly lost all my chips. However, I was a bit relieved to be done.

T was all for giving up and leaving once S and I were out of the tournament, because she was more concerned about me being up late and around smoke than her own chance to earn points in the tournament by making it to at least the 20th player still left. I encouraged her to remain and sure enough she made the final table.

So, there I was...playing poker in a seedy, underbelly bar...having the time of my life!

You know, I've written many times how I just don't feel as if I belong to the human race because most of the time I cannot seem to fit in...I always seem to be just a step behind. Unless I have a role to play, such as a teacher or song leader, I just plain stink at being in public. However, I realized tonight that if I would like to have more social encounters (when I am not feeling so fatigued and ill--whenever that might be), I should find more game outings. I enjoyed having a common activity that was the focus of the evening and yet allowed for light banter. None of the awkwardness that usually haunts my every step, my ever word, while with others was present.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I am not sure how I am going pack my car to go home.

Once of the kindest things my friend T does for me when I visit her is to haul her children around in the car with me going from store to store. Definitely there is a price difference on goods between the big city in which I live and the rural area where she resides. I was able to get a stellar price on paper products and a few other sundry items. Given the already full car in which I arrived, I am not sure how I will transport them all home.

Going from place to place with two small boys is always a challenge. However, T is always willing to make that sacrifice for me.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Sleeping late. Resting more. Playing games. Good food. Great fellowship. Movies to come.

Friday, July 13, 2007

My legs were so very today that I struggled to walk up and down stairs. I kept wondering why in the world this was so. After all, it is not like I have run a marathon or anything like that lately. It hit me, suddenly, that it was because of my fall. I must have really contracted my thigh muscles as I tried to catch myself!

Leaving the temp job was a bit easy for me because I have been so frustrated of late at the work I have been doing. I think the source of this is that I have been doing significant tasks for the foundation, but the staff person who had to sign off on what I was doing kept putting me off. The work needed to be done; in fact, several of the tasks were late because of him. Here I was doing far, far more than I was being paid for and he didn't even honor what I was doing for him.

I got a few more comments about two weeks notice, but I ignored them.

At five o'clock, when my time was up, I packed up and started hustling out the door. The chief of staff actually had the gall to ask me to stay a bit and take care of a couple more things! He didn't even seem to care that my time sheet was turned in, and I would even be paid for it. I just shook my head and said I had to go.

Go I did. All the way to Pennsylvania. I wanted to see my friends since I will not have vacation for a long time after starting this new job. The drive was hard, but I made it in one piece.

Kashi is thrilled we are here because they have carpet! No falling for him and plenty of places to frolic about and run back and forth. Someone is caring for the birds. I actually miss them...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Today, I fell down an escalator while coming home from work. I managed to take down three other people before this rather burly man, most likely an ex-football player, heard the tumbling comotion and braced both arms against the side rails and stopped us all.

I felt rather badly about the harm I could have caused, but it seemed that I was the only one who came up limping.

My left leg just gave way while I was walking down the steps. That happens with MS, but it has happened rather frequently of late. In fact, I stumbled and fell this morning for the exact same reason.

I cannot begin to express how thankful I am that I have only two more times of commuting in this sweltering heat. I think the cumulative toll it is taking on me is a bit too much to bear.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Things did not go well today when I told the people at the place where I am temping that Friday will be my last day. For the most part, they were dismayed that I would no longer be there to do all that has been put upon my plate. One senior guy even made a snide comment about needing two weeks notice! Really? This from the people who have been saying that I would have a raise for six weeks now! I am doing the work of managers and directors for a mere pittance, accomplishing more in the four months I have been there than has been done in two years for the most part. I am doing this and they have the gall to complain? Go jump in a lake, thank you very much.

However, much uncomfortableness aside, I have only two more days of schlepping to this job in the STINKING HOT AND NOW SWELTERING HEAT.

This afternoon, on the way home, the metro car had neither lights nor air-conditioning. Crowded with a multitude of passengers who were clearly as hot as I made the voyage a bit smelly. Going through the tunnels in the dark was a bit spooky as well.

Have I mentioned lately how much I enjoy the bubbling fountain?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

My beloved B took photographs of moss while on her vacation last week! What a show of love! I think they are pretty good, the tree one being rather spectacular! While she might not understand why I enjoy moss so (I have ten moss gardens on my deck), she knew I would most appreciate the viewing!

I have accepted a position at a non-profit family service organization. I will be doing communications, marketing, recruitment, and resource development for their foster care program. While the salary is not near enough to whittle down my colossal debt (I dread how many years this will take), the benefits are rather good, the folks are quite welcoming, and I will have some permanency in my life after 13 months of uncertainty.

What I find interesting is that I just made a new friend where I am temping. She is engaging and funny and likes to read the same sorts of books as do I. She lives near me, too. Truly, she is the benefit of working at a place that has continued to take advantage of my abilities while not paying me anywhere near in a manner respectful of the work I am doing. My goodness, today I was asked to write a report for the national board of directors meeting! At least I know that not a day has passed where I did not honor God in my commitment to the work at hand and the level of excellence I strove to achieve in thankfulness for the small income.

I also know that I am leaving the place much better off than when I arrived. I have plowed through some exhaustive knowledge management tasks on their server, organizing all the foundation files in the process. The new executive director will have a much easier time of it whenever he/she arrives in building an organization that had heretofore been run by board members and volunteer time from the parent organization staff. I also created an orientation booklet (43 pages) for new foundation board members so that they can get up to speed rather quickly and the progress of its growth will not be hampered by changeovers in membership. During this process, I took the EPS version of its logo and created JPEG and GIFF files that can be used in starting to brand documents. For the parent organization, I also began the task of organizing some key contract information, standardizing the text and format so that the yearly agreements will be easier to craft in the future. I also created an operational guideline for the next administrative person so that he/she will have an easier learning curve than did I (much less re-inventing the wheel). The paper files are organized as well, and many operations have been streamlined, standardized, and documented. I also did a bit of technology teaching along the way. So...I acquitted myself well and honored the abilities God has given me in the temporary job He provided during this difficult time.

The best part of this decision? Only three more days of schlepping to the metro in this STINKING HOT weather. Only six more times of drowning in sweat and battling fatigue. I will be ever so glad to have this particular commute over!

Monday, July 09, 2007

While I would like to complain about HOW STINKING HOT it is here, I know that those out West have had temperatures even higher that here. I could offer that the high humidity factor here makes us even with those folks in the STINKING HOT WEATHER FACTOR, but I will keep my opinions to myself. Although, should you desire, you can read about how heat affects folks with MS here.

While I will not go into the details of exactly how I punctured my eye with a needle, I will report that apparently the cornea closes rapidly and antibiotics and drops should put me to rights soon. Two ER visits over three days is too much. At least they were not both for Asthma.

On a more positive note, I Googled long and hard to self diagnose that weird noise/pressure/vibration in my right ear. Having decided it could be one of three problems (two of which required a doctor's visit), I choose the easiest remedy. I plugged my nose, closed my mouth, and breathed out hard, as if I were trying to clear my ears on an airplane flight. The first three times did nothing to ease the symptoms, but the fourth was the charm. I am reluctant to admit that my ear is back to normal lest I be tempting medical fate. However, working today was much, much easier without that constant distraction.

Have you seen the new Onstar commercial with Lucy Lu where she is talking on the phone and declines an invitation to spend the evening with Jack? Well, Jack is her dog! I can relate...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

A visit to Target found me the owner of a green can opener. I inaugurated it by opening a can of black-eyed peas. I thought the combination of my favorite color on the opener and the luck of the peas might find me a job soon...

I also found the concrete top of a broken bird bath on sale for $3. While it looks a bit strange, I was able to use it to replace the dish that broke on my fountain (the original dish being just over $100.00). This winter, the water inside froze, splitting the dish in two. I resigned myself to not being able to replace it for a long while after I got a job, my mounting debt being a greater priority. However, when I saw that top on a discard pile, I grew hopeful that my fountain could be restored. I was right. While the rock and the basin do not actually match, I was able to fill the latter up enough to work the pump.

I cannot really explain why that fountain means so much to me. I do like the moss that grows over it. I enjoy watching the birds bathing in and drinking the water. I find the sound soothing. And just looking at it out the kitchen window is a true pleasure.

Frankly, despite my current situation, I believe that it was $3 well spent.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

On this supposed day of luck (07-07-07), my can opener of 22 years has finally given up the ghost, kicked the bucket, passed on to the great beyond. It tried valiantly to open just one last can of dog food for Kashi, but had not the energy to cut another lid.

I admit, the faithfulness of my opener's service has dropped off in recent months. I would have to hold it at an angle and cajole it to finish the job. The amount of encouragement it needed per can grew exponentially over the past month, until this day. It punctured the lid and creaked about a third of the way around before it petered out. No words came to mind that were sufficient enough to finish the job. Its time had come.

This can opener has been with me through three college degrees, a mission trip to Africa, and moving around six states. I cannot even imagine how many cans it has opened in that time. I suppose I should accept the inevitability of it all and make a trip to Target. I just cannot help but wish it had managed to hang on long enough until I got a job...

Friday, July 06, 2007

The stars aligned and not only did I manage to make the second train that arrives the same time as the first and thus I always miss, but I also ended up in a car that actually had a working air conditioner. I was thankful for not having to wait another six minutes for the next train and most grateful for the cold air blowing down upon my rather hot body. It was bliss...so much so that I fell asleep rather quickly.

Unfortunately, I stayed asleep even when the train arrived at my stop. I did not awake until the train was four stops back in the wrong direction. The doors closed on my backpack, but I managed to get off the train. I did not get on the train going back home that was also at the station, because it was already leaving. That meant I had another 11 minutes for the next one, since "rush" hour had ended on my way home.

So, between the eight extra stops I had to ride and the wait for another train, I arrived home a half-hour later than I would have had I missed the second train and had to wait for another one when I made the switch back in the city.

So, as for much of my life has been lately, it was a day of one step forward and two backwards.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Something weird is going on with my right ear. I thought about leaving early and begging to see the doctor, but what would I tell her?

"It feels as if things are moving around in there."

"It feels as if it is stuffed with cotton. No, it feels like when you have water in your ear and you have to shake it out."

"Well, actually, if you press your palm flat against your ear and then pull it away, you feel this sucking sensation, and it feels like that."

"Or, you could say it feels like something is vibrating inside, like a string on a guitar."

Does it hurt? No...well, it is a bit uncomfortable. Really, it is more bothersome than actually painful, rather distracting you might say."

After all that, she'd put me in a straight jacket. I do not know if something is wrong or just weird. I do know it has been driving me batty all day. And...of course...I think about those horror stories you hear about someone complaining about their ear and the doctor finding a roach inside.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

My poor puppy-dog has been terrified two nights in a row.

Some families in my neighborhood took the fireworks out for a test run late last night. I guess they were rehearsing for the much longer display held in a few backyards tonight. I thought fireworks in the city were illegal.

I know Kashi wishes they were. He was so terrified, trembling violently at each crack, pop, and flash. Much to my dismay, he finds no comfort in my companionship when he is frightened. Instead, he becomes trapped in his fear.

I hate seeing him this way.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

I got a job offer today. It is $13K less than I earned on my last job; not enough to pay my mortgage and bills. I was heartily disappointed. It was not that I felt I was being insulted at the low pay, but rather realizing that the organization is much poorer than I thought. Well, I guess that is the wrong way to put it, but how do you describe an organization where all salaries are much lower in scale?

I had to decline, stating that I wasn't in a position to work at that pay scale. They came back to me $7k more, but that was still $3K less than what I really need to get by with only a modest monthly payment toward the colossal debt I have accumulated. I am waiting to hear their response. Without that $3K, I would be stretching each and every month...at least until my first raise.

The plus is that I would be advocating for a children and family service organization, a worth job, eh? The job itself would be a tremendous challenge in that I would add recruiting to my communications and marketing work. Will I be able to do so? Sometimes I believe so, sometimes doubt fills my mind as I envision being fired in just a few months with no new foster parents on board.

The people are great. At least, I have heartily enjoyed each conversation I have had with the woman who would be my direct supervisor. The other two players on the team were warm and welcoming as well. I suspect the entire place has a quite convivial environment. I will also admit I like the fact that they have 15 sick days a year. That is so much more reasonable than the 5 I have had since I moved here. One bad cold and you could nearly wipe out your annual allotment.

So...I wait...

Monday, July 02, 2007

I have been eating snowpeas from a deli in the same building where I work for awhile now, sometimes still marveling that I actually like them. Well, much to my dismay, the snowpeas have been replaced by sugar snap peas. They are a poor substitution.

I have been eating those less-than-tasty peas because I figured in my fatigued state green vegetables are a good thing to consume. I try not to look at the price increase ($0.75 to about $1.25) because of the weight difference. I steel my mind to think about those vitamins.

Still, I miss the snowpeas.