Saturday, May 31, 2008

I cannot decide if the party was more special to me or if my "girls day out" meant more...

Today, B's mother came over to join us for some escapism. A while ago, she sent me a card to let me know that I was welcome to call her "Mom" if I would like since my own mother is not much on mothering. I bawled over the card, yet have struggled to accept her gift in total. Thus far, I've managed Mom Boyles. Last night, I tagged her with a new nickname "Arnie 2," based on her maiden name and birth order. Her sister, now "Arnie 1," was playing Dominoes with us when I hit upon the names.

Anyhow, today we took ourselves out to lunch at Applebee's, where we ordered nearly half the menu. The whole table was just filled with food, and we managed to clear away most of it. We then did a bit of window shopping and judicious purchasing, before finishing up our outing by having pedicures.

My own mother never would have pigged out or tried on silly hats. She would not have picked over keychains or dug through discount movies. She never just hangs out. Each moment has to be scheduled and purposed and filled with "acceptable" behavior and a good bit of criticism.

I savored every minute of today for it was filled with peace and love and restful moments.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A most happy day!

B had a birthday party for me, filled with family and friends and good food...and me winning at Chicken Foot Dominos!

Being rather skillful in the kitchen, B made me a cake from scratch. She even decorated with a ladybug and a green, of course! Besides dessert, we had kabobs and salad and twice-baked potatoes and baked beans.

B is so thoughtful when it comes to gift-giving. My favorite one is this small, green, antique, glass pitcher. I imagine that it is meant to be filled with cream while serving coffee, but I can already picture it atop my television filled with roses from my garden.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Having been so ill from that blasted clip, I had come to the decision that all I wanted to do was hide in my cave for days on end. However, B popped down on the train to fetch me back up to her abode. Her sacrifice made all the greater by the fact that Amtrak was not running quite efficiently yesterday.

Since her daughter E has a few issues, B wanted to try and minimize her less-than-pleasant behavior by having me sleep in the attic. While the bedding needed to be supplemented a bit more for my aged bones, I actually liked having a place of my own in her home. Fancy is pretty much unhappy any place save for my home even though we are sharing a room, but Kashi took to frolicking on the bed made up on the floor like a duck takes to water.

E also rather enjoys helping me apply my make-up each day, so I hope that will be an encouragement to guard her behavior...making my visit a good thing rather than a stress on her domain.

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more satisfying than hanging out with B on the couch, playing games and watching videos. I still hold the J magic, and absolutely savor our "conversations" that we have each time I change his diapers. No one, and I mean no one has a better smile that little guy.
Now, if I could manage to have just one fall while here (I already slipped down her steps and whacked my left wrist on the banister), it will be a good visit.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I have been throwing up and trembling violently for over three hours. In between bouts of vomiting, I started wracking my brains trying to figure out why I would get so violently ill so quickly. Then, it hit me. I have a clip in my hair.

I immediately plucked it out and threw it across the bathroom, calling myself all kinds of stupid. Shortly thereafter the symptoms began to subside. While I am still feeling a bit wretched and rather weak, I know now that this will pass.

I would like for just one person to tell me why I should not shave my head when I am oh so very stupid that I cannot remember when I get ill in this manner to see if a clip or a barrette is in the wrong place!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Three days of hanging out on the couch, and I am still tired. Three days of sitting in my Sugarland T-shirt, reading books and watching brain-cell-losing Television, and I feel as if I could rest at least another week or two. I am thinking that heavy yard work followed by long hours leading up to a late night benefit concert should not happen in the future.

I confess that some of the television I watch while sitting in my house alone is NASCAR. Sunday's race was not just one I came across by channel surfing. It was a deliberate viewing.

I must say, that I was rather taken aback when the race started with a prayer, the pledge of allegiance, bagpipes playing of "Amazing Grace," singing "God Bless America," and the singing of the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Oh, my goodness! I mean, really, these racing folk obviously have no fear of the ACLU. They actually invoked God's name on national television! They played a hymn, an audacious move even if the lyrics were not sung. I actually sat back in absolute disbelief.

I guess I become accustomed to how much Christianity is vilified in our country. It is okay, socially, to be spiritual, but not religious...not if that religion happens to be Christianity. I have not yet figured out how someone is spiritual but does not believe in God, but that seems to be the most accepted stance.

What I do know is that it is not okay to believe in Truth. It is not okay to believe in absolutes. It is not okay to believe in anything "black and white." Grey is all that is acceptable. Tolerance is king. Religion must be inclusionary to the exclusion of any teaching of right and wrong. Holding people accountable to godly living is now seen as discriminatory.

I believe in just one God. I believe that salvation comes through Jesus Christ. I believe in sin, in right and wrong. I believe in absolutes. I believe in Truth.

I do not expect you to believe as I do. You have every right to believe what you choose. I would just wish that right for myself. For example, I believe that God does not desire us to engage in sexual relations outside of marriage. One of my dear friends does. She has found a most wonderful man who has brought unconditional love and acceptance in her life. After an abusive marriage, she is now learning what it is like to be truly cherished. She enjoys an intimacy that she has never known. I am happy for that love in her life, even though I would make different choices in a dating relationship. I do not judge her. She does judge me. That is how it should be. Operative word there...should.

For a country that was founded on freedom of religion--even though it established on stolen land and built in part on the backs of slaves--I no longer feel that I have true freedom to believe without judgment and persecution...though the latter is primarily the form of public condemnation, oppression for holding or expressing a belief, when that belief happens to be in the teachings of Jesus Christ certainly exists in this country.

Christmas is a perfect example. You can publicly celebrate Kwanza or Hanukkah, but not Christmas. You can celebrate Ramadan or Rosh Shanah, but not Christmas. Not publicly.

As a result of this prevailing attitude and of the growing materialism of our culture, Christmas has become merely presents and food. Easter is chocolate and bunnies.

For that matter, jokes about Christians, especially "fundamentalists" or the "religious right," are fodder for late night television while a joke about a Jew or a Muslim is enough to get a person fired.

This saddens me.

I am not a joke. My faith is not funny. Christmas, while not the exact date of my Savior's birth, is a sacred and holy day of reflection and celebration of both the incredible gift of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and our own need of salvation.

I admit that while I would rather a cross hung on my office wall, a bible sat on the corner of my desk, and scripture serve as my screen saver, I am hesitant to have any of the former for the fact that I could easily see being told that my outward expressions of faith were oppressive to another co-worker. I have worn a cross nearly every day since I became a Christian. I also talk about my faith and what Christ has done in my life to Christians and non-Christians alike. But I am fairly sure I could not be sued for either of those. I can, however, easily see an ACLU lawyer taking a bible on my desk to be an egregious act against my co-workers or supervisees with a zeal I find frightening for what it really means.

So, in a country were people are fighting to take God out of our pledge and off our money and prayer out of our schools--even prayer so innocuous as a moment of silence--it was a pleasant and most welcome surprise to watch on public television a passel of folk who had absolutely no problem citing the name of God, not once but four times, with no protesters and no lawyers hovering in wait.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I fell on the stairs this evening. Not on the way down. On the way up.

I am now sporting a rather large knot on my right shin and bruises on my right leg, right arm, and of all places the middle finger on my left hand. Trying to catch myself before I fell just didn't work out very well.

I can hear my friend T's cry of frustration all the way from Pennsylvania: "You shouldn't be living in a house with stairs!" Perhaps there is some validity in her concern. However, this is my house. I cannot really do anything about that right now. I have tried to be more careful about going down my stairs. I just didn't think I needed to worry about walking up them.

Despite my throbbing leg, I did hasten outdoors to get a quick mow in what has become a rare sunny day of late. The rain keeps coming down. As a consequence, the grass keeps growing rather quickly.

I did refrain from edging, even though a mown and edged yard is far more visually satisfying than a merely mown one is.

One who falls up the stairs ought not to fret over the shaggy appearance of the edge of her yard. She should rest upon her couch and be thankful nothing was broken and thankful that with the lawn mown she can sleep away the holiday weekend in pursuit of much rest.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A brother accidentally kills his sister. The stuff of tragedy.

The son of Steven Curtis Chapman backed over his sister today in a most heart-breaking accident. The outpouring of love and prayers and support for the Christian singer and his family has been overwhelming. In part, reading through the thousands of comments on a memorial set up to honor the memory of his daughter, one can see the impact of his ministry over the past few decades.

His music has always been provocative to me. His hauntingly simple, yet so profound song "Heart's Cry" is such a powerful reminder of what is important in this world.

This is my heart's cry
I want to know the one who saved me and gave me life
This is my heart's cry to be so close to Him that all my life becomes
A testimony of my Savior's grace and love
This is my heart's cry

This is my heart's cry
Much more than just a great desire - it's like a fire in me
I hear my heart cry each time I think about the cross where Jesus died
The cross should have been mine but His love broke through time
And heard my heart's cry - he heard my heart's cry

Now every other hope and dream is lost inside of this one thing
To know the one who died for me and live my life for Jesus Christ
Is my heart's cry

So let my life become a testimony of my Savior's grace and love
Oh - this is my heart's cry - to stand before the Father one day
And hear Him say well done - this is my heart's cry

His song "Dive" is an infectious melody that reminds us to embrace this life that we have.

The long-awaited rains have fallen hard upon the thirsty ground
Have carved their way to where the wild and rushing river can be found
And like the rains I have been carried here to where the river flows, yeah
My heart is racin' and my knees are weak as I walk to the edge
I know there is no turning back once my feet have left the ledge
And in the rush I hear a voice, it's telling me it's time to
Take the leap of faith
So here I go

I'm diving in
I'm going deep
In over my head I wanna be
Caught in the rush
Lost in the flow
In over my head I wanna go
The river's deep
The river's wide
The river's water is alive
So sink or swim
I'm diving in
I'm diving in

There is a supernatural power in this mighty river's flow
It can bring the dead to life, and it can fill an empty soul
And give a heart the only thing worth livin' and worth dyin' for, yeah
But we will never know the awesome power of the grace of God
Until we let ourselves get swept away into this holy flood
So if you'll take my hand, we'll close our eyes and count to three
And take the leap of faith
Come on let's go

His declaration of love for his wife has echoed through countless weddings, but is even a greater picture of the love Christ has for His Bride, the church. "I Will Be Here"

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the sun does not appear,
I will be here.

If in the dark we lose sight of love,
Hold my hand and have no fear,
‘Cause I will be here.

I will be here when you feel like being quiet;
When you need to speak your mind, I will listen.
And I will be here when the laughter turns to crying;
Through the winning, losing, and trying, we’ll be together,
‘Cause I will be here.

Tomorrow morning if you wake up
And the future is unclear,
I will be here.

As sure as seasons are made for change,
Our lifetimes are made for years,
So I will be here.

I will be here, so you can cry on my shoulder;
When the mirror tells us we’re older, I will hold you.
And I will be here to watch you grow in beauty,
And tell you all the things you are to me;
I will be here.

I will be true to the promise I have made,
To you and to the One who gave you to me.

As sure as seasons are made for change,
Our lifetimes are made for years,
So I, I will be here.
We'll be together and I will be here.

I could post literally dozens of other songs that speak to the truths God has for us, songs that represent his unflagging faith and deep love for the sharing the Grace and Mercy of Christ.

I wept when I read of the death of his daughter. Along with thousands of those who have had the salt and light of Christ poured out in their lives through his music, my heart ached.

But...I also could see that God, in His perfect timing, could use this as a mighty lesson of faith and glory and blessing.

Many of the comments included the following verse from John 14:27:

Peace I leave with you;
My peace I give to you;
not as the world gives
do I give to you .
Do not let your heart be troubled,
nor let it be fearful.

The world cannot understand how Steven, his wife Mary Beth, their son, or their whole family could find peace in this moment, but I know that they will. I know because that is the gift of the One who reigns in their hearts. His daughter Maria is with Jesus. She is at peace. God will bring that to her family.

May we be reminded of the transitory nature of this life that we live and savor each and every moment.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Let it be known on this day forth and forever more that D was right. I was wrong.

Have you ever had someone give you a song? I know that couples often have "their song," the one that marks some special moment or thought between them. But I am speaking of a gift. I received one from D and am still moved by the gift, by the lyrics she chose to place in my heart and in my life.

I enjoy music. For as long as I can remember, I have harbored dreams of being a singer. Not the American Idol type, or any great artist for that matter. Rather, I dreamed that I was singing in a dark and dusty club with friends who find the same joy I do in song, in savoring lyrics as much as melody and harmony.

One of the best times in my life was when I sang with a touring group for nearly a year. We practiced for hours and hours on end, and I cannot honestly say whether or not I cared more for the practicing than the performance. Working out each note, bathing in song all the while. Of course, the best part about practice is that we always covered our work in prayer, often lasting a half hour or more even though it felt as if but a few minutes had passed.

During that time, I also taught myself to play the guitar, practicing for hours on end...literally making my fingertips bleed. After a few months, I could strum quite a few chords, save for F, and learned the praise songs I enjoy most.

However, I do have a fatal flaw when it comes to my musical dreamings: I have absolutely, positively no rhythm. None. Nada. I cannot clap and sing at the same time. I can clap. I can sing. I cannot do both. I cannot keep time. I cannot follow the beat. I am rhythmless.

During the performances, I would hide in the background where folks wouldn't notice my failing as much and delighted in solos and duets for the fact that I got to hold something (the microphone). Of course, both solos and duets were problematic if it meant that I had to start singing, rather than merely step into the middle. Starting is hard since I have no ability to keep the beat and count measures to know when to begin.

This is also a problem with the guitar. I can accompany myself just fine...but when it comes to playing with others, that whole rhythm thing crops up again. I feel as if I do a dandy job of playing to a steady beat. I must admit, however, that no one has ever seconded that opinion and that leading worship at bible studies was not so successful.

One time. One time I had the joy of playing with another musician. She was in my mother-daughter book club and could play just about any instrument you put before her. One evening, I had the girls over to my house. When she found the bamboo flute from Cameroon that I own, she picked it up and started playing. I got out my guitar and played a hymn with her. The reason I could is that she played around me, not with me. Her notes enriched my own, and the entire experience was oh, so very heady for me. In that moment, I totally and absolutely understood why it is that people hang out in garages, work dead-end, low-wage job, and play in seedy dives just to be in a band.

Because music means so much to me, I have given it to others over the years. Back in the dark ages, and the way you passed on music, I made cassette tapes for my friends. I would labor for days to record mixes of my favorite songs. The invention of the CD burner was a great boon to me. The time for my creations dropped to hours.

However, I have found a bit of disappointment in the offerings I have made. For example, I most recently gave three people a mix of Chris Rice songs that were quite important to me. This time, the crafting time did extend to days, between the song selections and the order. I was quite excited, primarily because I thought the mix reflected some of the changes that God has wrought within me over the past year.

While one friend has let me know she enjoys the CD and another mentioned that she liked the artist and looked forward to listening to it, neither one got my message. I admit, I am disappointed about that.

Anyhow, even though I have given music to others, I have never received the gift of a song in quite the manner I did this week.

All of my messages were about me...essentially. They were lyrics that touched me, melodies that captivated me, harmonies that moved me. They were songs I thought the other person would enjoy and wanted to share. They were collections that spoke not in one song but through the whole.

D gave me a song. A single song. A single song that voices so perfectly an expression of love and friendship in words written by another but made real by D. I could hardly respond to her call when she checked to see if I received it. Two days have passed as I struggled to write of the measure of her gift, a gift that is most decidedly an act of Grace from God.

I am mightily blessed by the women God has brought into my life (even if I would prefer that at least one of them live in the same state as I) and by the perfection of His timing.

Would that I could remember this more often.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The benefit ran late Friday, and then my father came over for an unexpected movie fest, so I am rather tired and facing another four days of work. I need my prince charming to come riding up on that white steed any moment now!

I have a dilemma: to either use comp time in a system that is inherently wrong or to refuse to use it on principle.

Federal Wage Law mandates that exempt, salaried employees cannot be made to account for their time on a hourly basis in such a manner that they have to swap like for like, time off work for vacation or other leave. If you work any part of a day, you have to be paid for that day. Comp time can be used by an employer as an added benefit, but it cannot be used as an overtime compensation tool.

So, do I point this out and work the two days I have to use or do I stay at home and get some of the much needed rest to counter the fatigue that is dragging at my very bones?

I just love B's sense of humor. She wrote the following about her first trip in her pop-up camper:

Pop-up is a misnomer. Only after cranking, pulling, tugging, zipping, lifting, wedging, and rearranging does one get to rest in a "pop-up" camper.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Late Tuesday night started a rather unwelcome-and-still-lingering visit of food poisoning.

It took all of yesterday to get control of my stomach, but that was only if I refrained from eating. I went to work today, primarily because I just blew through the one sick day I have earned. My pale face and trembling limbs caused a bit of comment from everyone save my boss, whom I think holds my absence against me given our event tomorrow. Still, I soldiered on.

I ventured with a bit of left over perogi tonight that stayed down, though it was mostly a case of mind over matter. Potatoes stick to your ribs, right? I thought that since they were essentially boiled pasta and potatoes, that they could not do much harm.

Tomorrow is going to be the longest of days. First, I have to weather another inch or so of rain overnight. The flooding from Sunday evening was sparked by 5 inches of rain...but the ground has not had sufficient time dry out and may not bear well beneath the pressure of more water falling down upon it. This evening, I walked around the yard with a few words of encouragement: "Buck up, dear soil!" But that probably will not help.

Then comes our benefit piano concert, which is a fair piece down the road. We are leaving at 2:30 ish and most likely will not be back before midnight, between the concert, the mingling, the clean-up, and the commute back.

My plan for Saturday: SLEEP!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Sun today. Mowed.

Only your best friend in the whole wide world would say "I love you" by sending you a copy of the worst picture ever taken of you set in a beautiful frame. I laughed so hard when I opened B's box that I had to go fetch my inhaler...then the Epipen.

Thanks for the jab in my thigh, B! I love you, too!!

Monday, May 12, 2008

As tired as I am, I did manage to win one of two games of Scrabble with my dear friend B. She has been whittling away at my previous high score and has me close to joining her in the 500's. I love her smarts...except when she is beating me!

D and I had a good talk tonight while we were both half asleep (she's had a whirlwind life of late). While we were mumbling at each other, I was reminded of a comment the communications coordinator at work made on Friday.

"Are there really, like, set rules for commas that I could learn?"

She is a recent college graduate with a degree in English.

Rain, rain go away
Please come back another day!

My basement flooded last night. I ran the shop vac every hour on the hour every hour from 9:00 PM until 6:00 AM. I did then sleep for 6 hours, but I had to get up or I will have trouble sleeping tonight and getting up tomorrow. I am, however, fairly miserable between my aching muscles and my screaming arthritis.

The two streets behind me were evacuated because the neighborhood flooded again. Fairfax County has been dragging its feet ever since the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the flood of June 2006 that ruined so many houses and cars was due to the construction at Wilson Bridge (they ruined Cameron Run). The accepted "fix" was to build a levy, but no one wants to pay for it. I imagine the homeowners who were evacuated last night are pretty frustrated.

I keep a 24 oz mason jar out on my deck as a rain gauge. It was completely full this morning. Boy did we have a terrific storm last night with seemingly unending torrential rains and winds.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hot and bothered again...but for good reason.

With some help from DB, I managed to get the majority of the mulch down and put in new bushes behind the bench where the old ones died. I wanted to get all the work done, but I was growing too weak, so I left the final two beds for later. The reason for this was that one of the beds has hostas that need to be split and the other is where the hostas pieces will go (I lost some in last year's drought). I knew I would not be splitting or digging or anything else with a shovel.

I was right about the basement. Yesterday morning, I took a look-see and ignored what I saw. When my writing student came over, she went down there to fetch a TV-tray for her to use (we eat and compute on them). She rather gently told me about the water, and I admitted that I was in denial. However, most of it had evaporated, so the only real chore left was putting to two rugs out to dry on the deck railing and putting the laundry rug into the dryer.

The good thing about all the rain is that the moss I transplanted has taken firm hold! Those tiny spots of green in my flower pots are so cheering. All the plantings are also soaking up the rain quite happily. Thursday night, my homemade-rain-gauge-mason-jar filled up to the 16 ounce mark or 3.5 inches.

The best part of this day is that the azaleas I purchased were both on sale and still blooming. It is as if I get to have an extra year of enjoyment from them. The added bonus is that I have been told a check covering their purchase on their way. My annual birthday check from my father will cover the mulch, so all is wonderfully accounted for and beautifully in place.

Below are photos from the back yard. I added one from the corner bed that is on the side of the house so that you can see what a sliver of rosemary can become if it is clipped from the amazing rosemary bush that is growing in my writing student's back yard. I also added photos of the upper and lower decks. In posting them, I realized that I did not capture the baker's rack I have on the upper deck that sports all the moss gardens and the two bonsais I own. I shall add that one some other time.

Can you see my puppy dog?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

I just don't get people. Or Capital One.

The latter has the worst customer service on the planet. Seriously. Frankly, the things claiming to be people there don't really qualify in my book.

My mother is better. She turned a corner so to speak Tuesday. Her first real orders? She doesn't want my sister to visit her. My brother is welcome to wait on her hand and foot, but my sister is not even welcome in the Hospital. Now do you get why Thanksgiving with B and her family was heaven to me? In my family, it is all criticism, judgment, and sickness and in health.

Well...the HVAC at work is still shut off. I managed to make it through the day today through sheer will power. UGH. I have a small cooling unit in my office, but it really cannot compensate for no air elsewhere. And when I had a meeting in the conference room, it was all I could do not to chew off a few heads before the trembling and fumbling words started. Hot and bothered is my new middle name. I have to go in tomorrow, but at least I get to work with my writing student in the evening.

The bulk of yesterday was spent at a seminar on green choices companies can make with regard to paper and printing. The primary speaker was Derek Smith, an international guru in the paper industry. He gave a fascinating speech that began with the whole world and ended in my hands. I definitely plan to use EcoSmart ink from now on and will push using FSC certified printing jobs.

I spend some free time drafting a benefits manual and a step-by-step, illustrated guide for signing up for an online account with our health insurance carrier and printing a verification of coverage letter as a place-holder until ID cards are mailed. I also have started collecting PDF versions of all the forms that need to be filled out and submitted, including the ones for FSA claims. Next, I want to tackle a new employee checklist for both the company and for the employee. Then, I shall sit on this stuff until someone asks for help...but at least it will be ready to go. The organization tasks helped me work through my frustration with the lack of a system for human resources at this very laudable organization.

There is a torrential storm brewing outside. Kashi is frenetic. I do wish there was some way for me to comfort him. Even I am a bit concerned with the tornado warnings all over the television stations. And, of course, there is always the worry that raindrops falling upon raindrops will accumulate to the point of seeping across the basement floor. I would rather not be sopping up water any time soon. At least the plantings I did on Tuesday are getting a good soaking, and the harsh rain is a great way to clean out the fountain!

Given that my thoughts are all over the page, I would like to return to two evenings ago...all that blissful puttering about with soil and flowers and moss gardens. That whole day and the next, I was having great pain in my left ankle. It was sharp and sweet and swift and piercing, fleeting but repetitive. The pain was distracting. My ankle sometimes gave way as if there were nothing connecting my foot to my leg (the reason for the three times I fell mowing).

I basically worked to ignore the pain, even though it was new. I have tried aspirin, motrin, napracin, acetaminophen, my arthritis medicine, and the two narcotic pain killers left over from the surgery last year that had been gathering dust in the bathroom closet (a closet that is technically just outside the bathroom). Nothing worked...except ignoring it. This evening, the pain is gone. The pain in my wrists and arms is also much, much better.

However, the spasticity in my legs is particularly bad. For example, tonight I am doing the laundry inspired by B's total laundry victory of yesterday (or was it the day before?). Walking up the stairs, my quadriceps were so tight and painful it felt as if I had climbed a dozen flights of stairs, as if I were at the point of failure you work towards in your reps at the gym. If you poke a finger at them, it will feel like you are hitting rock (except for the...uhm...fat in them). The same is true for my hamstrings. In case you were wondering, trying to massage your own legs is rather difficult.

Patience through the first is laudable, but neglectful in the second. I really need someone to whack me upside the head each day I don't admit to stretching. Funny, isn't it? I have to do something that is painful to help alleviate another pain?

Why go here for the 1,000th time lately? Well, just yesterday I was reading an article about a pain boot camp. It is a four-week program for those with chronic pain to help deal their their lives. It is not really about alleviating the pain. For the most part, there is little to actually change pain for the folks who attend this intervention. It is about accepting the pain, about finding ways to better your life despite the pain. The cost was $20,000, I believe, but for many the cost is irrelevant. If you are not prone to suicide and there is nothing medicine can do to change, then your only choice is to live with it.

The article made me think about the episode from Eli Stone that had the mantra of "Live Brave." That's pretty good life direction, don't you think?

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

B played Scrabble with me this afternoon, since I am working from home due to the absolute lack of air-conditioning in the entire office building through Wednesday. I won. She won. B would say, "That's the way it should always be!"

D has been working on a piece of writing with me. She is truly a talented writer. In many ways, she eclipses me (just not in knowing comma rules). She calls me her writing coach, a title that is an honor in my opinion. Today we finished it.

Writing with another--editing and evaluating word choice, construction, and message--is probably my favorite activity...or at least it is tied with drinking Dr. Pepper and playing games! Seeing D grow as a writer is such a privilege.

I also spent hours and hours and hours out in the yard this evening. Such peace I have when it comes to puttering about with my hands deep within soil.

I mowed and edged, but left the weeding for another time since I was starting to shake. Then I turned to the flowers I bought while out with my father on Saturday. I treated myself to just $25 of flowers and a bag of potting soil that I will need should I ever get to replacing the bushes that died during last summer's drought.

Less is more, right? I have been trying to live by that in small ways and big. Certainly less can be more when it comes to writing. So the four pots that were in pieces that I had been hanging on to with strategic placement, rubber bands, and regular application of glue are now in the rubbish bin. Making that choice meant I had to move some things around, but I ended up with a larger moss garden with a "river," bridge, pagoda, and two Chinese figurines. My remaining pots, and my fountain are all now sporting new flowers!

Having spots of color scattered about my decks really does cheer me up. A bubbling fountain, a neat yard, and new flowers. What more could you want?

I feel like an utter, colossal failure.

For reference, the five eggs on the right are from the first two dozen that I boiled the regular way (put them in a pan, bring to a boil, boil 10 minutes, cool, peel).

The seven eggs on the left are the result of the multiple-step, expert process.

Monday, May 05, 2008

My mother has pneumonia now. She has an abdomen so swollen she looks nine months pregnant. She has the worst case of C.diff that the hospital has encountered. Now she has pneumonia.

She has started to eat, after a week of being unable to keep anything down. She has taken a few walks. Her leaky plumbing has started to dry up a wee bit. She is more alert.

However, she now has pneumonia, which means more antibiotics, which may compromise her ability to fight the C.diff.

I cannot boil an egg. For over a year now, I have struggled in boiling eggs, often ending up with pieces on my ceiling. This is ridiculous. I have been boiling eggs for decades, and now I suddenly cannot end up with anything other than heavily pitted and broken pieces of cooked eggs when I am finished. Three times I have tried to make deviled eggs for work potlucks. Three times I ended up with nary an egg to devil.

Some time ago, I learned B's husband G likes Pennsylvania Dutch pickled eggs, so I announced that I would make him some. That was back in February.

I went shopping, got out my pan, and was all ready to make them when B came and send her home with the jar full of those beautiful purple eggs--a tasty thank you to a man who has unconditionally welcomed me into his family for many years. But I discovered that my two-gallon jar was broken. [The ingredients (other than the eggs) have been sitting in a bag since then...mocking me.]

After much searching, I finally found a jar large enough to make the pickled eggs while on an errand with my boss. So tonight, partly because I am so frustrated with the office heat, the chronic pain, my father's diminishing faculties, my mother's illness, and my sibling's criticism, I set out to make those eggs.

Of the first two dozen eggs, only four survived. The pieces of two are on the ceiling. One is on the underside of the microwave. Kashi is trembling upstairs in the closet.

Determined to boil eggs, I Googled the process until I found a step-by-step method that seemed complicated enough to match my utter lack of egg boiling ability.

  • 30 minutes of resting on the counter
  • 6 minutes of bringing to a gentle boil
  • 30 minutes of cooking in the heated water off the stove
  • 30 minutes in an ice bath
  • 10 minutes of resting back in the cold water after the shells have been cracked
  • 30 minutes of careful peeling.

Right now, I am at the ice bath stage. Two of my last nine eggs burst while in the bringing-to-a-gentle-boil stage. I am fervently hoping the final eight survive.

Two expert chef notes of interest: It is best to lay eggs on their side for at least 8 hours to center the yolk. It is best to use eggs that are at least 10 days old (but not expired).

D wrote me that it was important to feel loved, not just believe it. While the jury is out on that, I wonder if her bit of wisdom transfers to being alone...because while I know I am not, I sure feel that way.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

My mother is in the hospital with one of the worst cases of C. diff bacterial infection that the infectious disease specialist has ever seen. [You can read more about the bacteria here.] Her intestines are so infected that her entire abdomen is swollen. She has been dehydrated for many days and has been unable to keep down food. While she has started to consume solid foods again, her intestines are still not processing it and the addition of food in her abdomen makes her short of breath. One of her lungs collapsed today. Since the bacteria is anti-biotic resistant, her doctors are worried she will now get pneumonia, which they would be forced to treat with antibiotics, which would compromise the chances of the targeted antibiotic for the C. diff being effective.

My father and I spent yesterday and today engaged in another movie-thon. My step-mother was out of town all week, so I called my father twice a day to check on him. He did not remember our conversations from morning to evening, from day to day. I knew he was getting bag--I've argued with my step-mother about getting him to a doctor for the past two years--but I usually call every week or two. With such a gap in time, I was not surprised at having to orient him a bit. I was stunned that I had to do so in such a short period of time. I am losing my father, who is only 68. I don't know about my mother...

I battled all week about my benefits at work because the organization has some restructuring gaps that have yet to be resolved. However, I was mere minutes away from having a gap in my coverage, a devastating state that would result in a pre-existing conditions clause to kick into my eventual coverage.

My office is still stinking hot, and the HVAC system will be completely off-line next Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

I have been hurting day after day after day, at times wishing I could cut off my legs, other times my arms. The two painkillers left over from the surgery last year just didn't help, so I tossed the bottles back into the basket of old medicine and hoped for something else to come along soon. After watching Eli Stone (a most provocative television show this year), I could almost make myself see an acupuncturist. Almost.

I have been feeling weary and embattled and alone all week, not even knowing that my mother was so ill until very late Thursday night. A bad week, to say the least.

My Cousin D called Thursday night after I forwarded the email I received stating Mother's condition. For a while, My Second Cousin D was on speaker phone until they figured out that I was crying. The my Cousin D took over in a rather valiant, male way. I even laughed. But as good as the moment was, it passed and I was struggling once more.

Friday I tried to reach someone to talk with, but my need just didn't seem to fit in with other's timing. I even ended up working until 9:00 because my boss wanted me on a "quick" errand and I wanted to be helpful. I learned nothing more about my mother. Falling asleep was another battle because all I kept thinking about the lessons in patience I have all around me and how weak I am in my faith at times. God does not give us more than we can handle, and yet I could wish for just one day of ease, one day where I did not have to fight...fight against the heat, fight against work procedures for benefits, fight against forming letters, fight against blurred vision, fight against pain, fight against stiffness, fight against fight against fatigue, fight against seemingly everything. I want to feel well. I want to see well. I want to remember. Just one day.

Even though I have struggled mightily this week, I have heard from my Second Cousin D and my friend D and T that I am not alone. In those words.

D floored me Saturday with a voice mail message that was so bold and so loving that even in my weariness I heard her. I shall cherish her words until the day I die. What a precious gift she gave me.

In an instance of incredible timing, some days ago T had sent me a most beautiful card with such a wonderful message and a DVD of a movie that she liked immensely: Dan in the Real Life. Dad and I watched it on Saturday, and we were both moved. The movie definitely is a good one. I am not sure T could have chosen a better gift nor a more perfect time to send it. Both were most certainly a blessing from God.

I had dinner with my step-mother, grandfather when I drove my father back to his house today. I noticed that she was not quite patient with him and he responded in quick anger. Neither were happy with the other in those moments. It made me think about those lessons in patience.

Dad has to orient himself again and again. I am trying to be patient with his needs, repeating information as often as needed, letting him take the lead. For example, today we went back to Wal-Mart to the $5.00 DVD bin (the movies are now $0.50 cheaper) because yesterday we had only purchased one copy of The Jackal. We both liked the movie, and he wanted me to have a copy. Now, I will never turn down a gift, but having the DVD was not as important to me as it was to him. Nothing would do until we managed to get our hands on one. I liked the movie and might have gone back eventually myself, but Dad would not rest, could not rest, until he had closure in that matter.

My step-mother seems to want to try and keep him on her path, rather than the one he is walking. I hate what is happening to him. I fear that even now, though she is leaning toward getting him to a doctor, that it is too late for any effective intervention. I hate what is happening to him. But I want him to feel safe, even if that means more work or more sacrifice on my part. I want that because I want it for myself when I lose my own cognitive battle.

I am glad this week is done. I know more about myself and more about what help I do and do not have. I know more about my faith. I know more about patience. I know more about where I need to understand more.

NOTE: Since we were out, Dad ran two other errands with me: to the pet store for Fancy's food and Kashi's bones and to the thrift store to donate a few more items I truly do not need. At Wal-Mart, he allowed me to pick up a few other items I needed. Among those items, I purchased plant food and bug killer spray and managed to put both out in small enough time increments that I did so without breaking down in tears. A step forward. I also--after five times in being a store where I could purchase it and failed to remember it was a particular need of mine--finally remembered to purchase Puffs tissues.