Sunday, August 31, 2008

The great work of this day was much yard work...on top of that which was done hastily ahead of my step-father's arrival.

After much clipping and pruning, another mow and edge, some weeding, and copious amount of bagging, the yard had a good once-over--that once every few years of cutting EVERYTHING back and setting things to right.

I ought to have taken a photograph of the EIGHT bags of cuttings, but then I would have a permanent reminder of my exhaustion.

Another less-than-pleasant conversation ensued this day, but I did manage to walk away and plunge into the labors awaiting me. After a long while of what could be called sulking, Mother joined me to pursue her plans for the yard. I would be remiss were I not to admit that while I had dreaded more exhausting activity during her visit, I welcomed the opportunity for escape after our exchange.

In the morning, my parents had gone to visit the new air and space museum in Chantilly. I very much wanted to accompany them because I have yet to venture out there and the original air and space museum is second in my esteem only to the natural history museum (the former is tied in second place with the American History Museum...because whilst I love all things air and space, the portion of ENIAC is housed there is a marvel I enjoy meditating on...the first computer could not even fit in one room and could only do simple computations, whereas I carry around in my purse two pieces of sophisticated technology that have microchips that blow that beloved machine out of scientific waters). The latter has a most satisfying collection of rocks and minerals and an assortment of meteorites that you can touch with your own fingertips--a chance to reach out to the stars!

However, after the stress and work of her visit thus far, I needed some serious sleep. I did not arise until nearly 1:30. My parents were long gone at that point.

They arrived about an hour later, too late--in my mother's opinion--to visit the national arboretum. Mother was quite upset about this, even though I pointed out that we could just go in the morning.

Two days to go...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

I am currently watching NASCAR while my mother and step-father sleep, having just enjoyed a text conversation with my dear friend D. Boy, does she know how to say just the most outrageous comment to bring a smile when tears are at the ready!

Six hours today were spent working on Mother's website, adding three profiles to her recent project gallery. Part of the time I was able to listen to Sugarland, but mostly it was a tense push-and-pull session of getting her to make decisions and draft text and approve photos (some of which needed judicious editing). I am glad the task is completed and do not resent doing so because the skill is a talent of mine that I like to be able to share with others...even family.

Our second ugly moment came when she abruptly asked, while pointing to the antique mirror in my living area, "Do you want me to take that home and send you my bulletin board?"

Many moments passed before my MS-burdened brain caught her meaning, and I firmly declined her offer. I explained that they were notes B hid around the house to let me know that I was loved and I left them on the mirror because it has been a tough time lately and the visual reminder bolsters me in the low moments.

She responded that it was tacky and she was only offering professional advice.

I rejoined that there is a difference between professional advice and judgmental criticism. Her question had nothing to do with offering interior design advice on my home and everything to do with being cruel.

In spite of my worries, dinner with Pastor D and his family was fairly pleasant. For all they did not want to go, my parents treated them to dinner, which was a great gift to Pastor D. His eldest two children are smart young things, whom I enjoyed talking with while crossing my fingers that the conversation at the other end of the table was acceptable. Part of this avoidance process involved shoving copious amounts of french fry wedges into my mouth--something my innards are regretting quite vigorously right now.

We stopped by Lowe's to purchase items for further yard work: sand to reset those blasted steps again, new gloves since mine were not in good enough condition for her hands, new pruning shears for the same reason (she paid for these), bug spray for humans, bug spray for the plants, rose food (Mother pruned mine down to 12 inches for me on Friday), and plant food for everything else. I also purchased a night light for the guest bathroom since the one in there was insufficient to her needs, new light bulbs for the one in the guest bathroom she broke, and and a second board to put behind the couch to keep it from hitting the wall and blocking the air-conditioning vent since the first one she advised I purchase (six inches wide) was too small. I treated myself to one plant that was on sale ($1.27) for my empty pot to assuage the tension of the clash between what I would like done in my yard verses Mother's plans regardless of my wishes.

Aiming for something positive in my life each day while on my vacation days, I backed up my computer and then installed the Service Pack 3 for XP. I also washed, dried, and folded 2 loads of laundry, sorted and filed a month's worth of paperwork, and hung the new shower curtain liner I purchased for my own bathroom.

Early tomorrow morning, they are going to the new Air and Space Museum in Chantilly. While I would like to go with them, I need to sleep and I know--especially after Thursday--I just cannot walk around for hours on end.

Today's negative exchange was better than yesterday's, but I pray that it is the last for this visit.

NOTE: I slept with a Thermacare heat wrap around my neck and one on my back last night to help mitigate the pain from the excessive physical activity I have done over the past three days. My gratitude goes out to whoever discovered how to package warmth in such a handy fashion!

NOTE 2: I would be remiss should I not point out that my mother is an extremely gifted interior designer, who holds several post-degree certifications as well as a minor in architecture. I often say in all seriousness that she can move something one inch and change a whole room. She is also trained and skilled in universal design, working in accessible living space long before it was popular to do so. Finally, while mechanics are not her forte, Mother is a rather talented writer. Were we to ever truly work together, we would have been a formidable team, especially in a creative task such as marketing.

NOTE 3: Not 5 minutes after my step-father admonished me that I should not let Mother have her way in my yard, he ended up taking a quick shower ten minutes before we were to leave, although he had previously announced that he was not going to do so. What happened in those 5 minutes? My mother had come upstairs after getting ready and discovered that he was still in the clothes he wore while walking about the Smithsonian museums all day while we worked on her website.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The insurance company has decided that my doctor has been wrong for three years and I do not need my arthritis pain medication. She is filing an appeal. I am worried.

Today was not the day my mother wanted, nor perhaps I.

The lawn has been mowed and edged and some basic pruning...all in the rain...all because my mother was convinced that my step-father would be upset to see the lawn overgrown. Between babysitting and work and rain, it had gotten quite out of hand.

I slept in, then had a slow start. We stopped by Lowe's to pick up the lumber I need to repair the handrails of the steps that lead down from my upper deck to the grass. Someone had put them in for me when I moved into the home, but the pressure treated boards that were used somehow failed and started curling up off the railing.

Then, given that an hour long call of tears and frustration to the doctor's office resulted in little information, I next stopped by to see what the truth of the matter was. The truth was not what I wanted to hear. Stupid insurance company! My doctor was rather angry at their denial of the course of treatment she believes is best for me. Again, I am worried.

There are days that I cannot handle the pain on the dosage I am on; the insurance company is currently only willing to approve half.

I left her office with a fistful of samples and little hope.

Next stop: Safeway.

Mother fretted the entire time we were there, trying to get met to stick to a list that I had tossed together as a reminder of what I could not leave without, but not all that I needed. When we were checking out, a woman came up behind us who was disabled. I asked if she wanted me to put her items on the belt for, and she gratefully accepted my offer. Mother was impatient and telling me to just leave. Our departure was delayed perhaps two minutes.

Once home, a mad rush to do the yard before it was time to pick up my step-father from the airport ensued, only I did not understand I was racing along. I puttered slowly because I am still sore and weak from the gargantuan outing of yesterday, while Mother pushed and pushed and pushed me to finish. When she despaired about the time, I told her to go ahead and shower and I would soon follow. I wanted to spread the fertilizer since the grass was wet and ready. She yelled at me that it was cruel to just leave my step-father at the airport and she would go ahead and call him to tell him to just take the Metro since I was being so selfish. I snapped at her to just get ready and I would also be ready to go.

We arrived at the airport nearly 10 minutes before he came outside with his luggage. The lawn was fertilized and the chicken marinated before we left. Both by my hands. Both acts colored by my mother's anger.

I prepared dinner and then cleaned up afterward.

Tomorrow, much to Mother's displeasure, my parents are having dinner with Pastor D and his family. He said he would like to meet them; I want them too as well. He said he didn't mind if Mother were less than enthusiastic about having a meal with them; I hope that her distaste of eating with his whole family does not hurt their feelings. I wonder if meeting them for dinner, knowing my parents do not want to go. Of course, they could have just said no; but I know their false sense of social pressure will keep them from doing so.

Having just backed up my computer and updated to Service Pack 3, I am calling it a day. I hope tomorrow brings more patience and an opportunity to be a better witness of my faith. I pray Tuesday brings a positive answer to my doctor's appeal.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

I am most tired, from trudging about all day and from the shock of losing my wallet and then the greater shock of having it returned. What a day!

I drove my mother to Baltimore where we went to the aquarium. At the last moment, I grabbed my cane from the car. Boy, was I thankful for that impulse. Had I not done so, I would have had to be rescued before the exit path was finished, trapped inside like I once was at a zoo.

We walked about admiring the wildlife for three hours, then walked eight blocks to go to this "great" seafood restaurant so that she could have some fish to eat. After about an hour and a half, I started leaning heavily on my cane. At two hours, I was shuffling my feet. By hour three, I kept dragging the tops of my feet on the floor because I had not the strength to walk properly. The whole experience was sobering and exhausting. My back and legs ached. My eyes blurred constantly from the strain of shifting depth perceptions all off the place. And my hands trembled so much that many of my photos look like a 90-year-old woman took them. I did have the bright idea of taking a few video clips, with a result that was more than you can see here.

Mother kept walking ahead of me, doubling back, and then walking off again. Her frustration with my slow pace was rather evident. Still, I held my ground in that not once did I try to keep up with her. Had I done so even for a short while, I am not sure that I would have made it through the day.

When I offered to go to the aquarium with her, I did not realize that there was a special frog exhibit, in addition to the one they already have in place. Needless to say, that circumstance was most felicitous as she is rather crazy about of the few things we share in common.

We saw poison frogs and rare frogs and tiny frogs and fat frogs. Frankly, I am not sure if we might be on frog overload, but it is okay in my book to be suffering from such a condition.

One exhibit had a sign that challenged visitors to find the fifteen frogs that were in the enclosures. Try as we might, Mother and I could only find fourteen of them. They were appropriately named moss frogs.
Now, those of you who know me well and who have nodded politely as I drag you out to my deck to see my moss gardens can probably guess which frogs were my favorite ones!

The one photo I thought was fairly accurate were these two frogs. The one in the foreground is clear enough to see how they basically looked like they were made out of silicone, not froggy flesh and blood.

As to the I reached into my purse after we had finished eating (I had grilled chicken salad, broccoli hollandaise, and fettucini alfredo), I discovered that my wallet was missing. Inside were: $53 in cash that I had just taken out of the bank for mother's visit, a blank check, my health insurance card, my car insurance card, Kashi's baby photo, this ladybug friendship token from my dear friend B, the first guitar pick I was ever given, a $100 gift card for a spa that I have been saving for too long, a Chico's gift card with $169 still remaining on it, and the parking ticket for my car. I was stunned that it was missing, but I could see that it might have fallen out one of the 10,000 times I took my camera in and out of my purse because I was too tired to just hang onto it.

Mother thought it was a complete waste of time, but I gulped back my tears, bit back my ready retort, ignored the near agony of my body, and insisted that we walk all the way back to the aquarium just to see if perhaps there was a security guard or something.

Part way across this courtyard expanse, I found a harbor policewoman and asked if she thought there might be someone still in the aquarium. After a brief moment on the radio, she walked Mother and I to a secure staff entrance and left us with an aquarium guard.

Now, this man has much to learn in the way of manners. He listened to me carefully recite my tale of woe, that we had been there from 1:45 to 5:15 and then had gone out to dinner, where I discovered that I had lost my wallet. I explained that I had it out at the information window right when we arrived so that I could have our parking ticket validated (we saved $3 that way), which was the last time I remember having it. I did go to pay for a porcelain frog that I bought for one of my plant pots, but my mother ended up paying for it. So, I might have reached into my purse to get my wallet and then forgotten it one the counter since Mother used hers instead. During my tale, my mother kept observing that I was most likely the victim of a pick pocket, but I disagreed because I had my purse in front of me resting on my right hip. Her alternate theory was that I left it in the locker I used for my bag of asthma paraphernalia, so she suggested that the guard check that too.

The man was quite frustrated to be handed my problem from the harbor police. He looked at his watch and asked why I was just reporting this at 7:00 PM. I replied that we just finished dinner and I had only discovered my loss as the check came.

He then asked me to describe the contents, which I listed for him, but was put out that I could not give the exact amount of money, even though I detailed a dozen other items.

He also observed that I seemed unsure where I lost it, even though I gave him three possibilities (the information desk, the gift shop, and the locker area) out of the huge floor plan of the aquarium. It is as if he did not understand the meaning of lost, as in I did not have it nor knew where to find it.

After more disapproving sighing and glares, he contacted his supervisor. To my utter surprise and mother's absolute disbelief, his supervisor soon rounded the corner and asked me if I had some ID to show him so that he could document the return of my wallet. I admit the tears started flowing freely at his remark.

My...was I glad to have that ladybug friendship token back! The rest was a bonus, along with the knowledge that I did not have to cancel my checking account or track down new insurance cards or having to pay the maximum parking fee for a lost ticket.

Mother immediately declared that I need to throw away my purse since it clearly is too small for my needs. Now, it is a VERY expensive purse that she gave me nearly 10 years ago, having changed her mind about it. I happened to like it very much, since it is a lovely small black leather purse, a vertical rectangle, that has brown leather trim. In my opinion, it matches everything, and holds what I would like without being bulky.

Granted, it is a bit full now that I have to carry an Epipen with me at all times and I choose to do the same with my tiny camera, but I still am very, very happy with my purse. Certainly there is no need to discard it.

Anyhow, the day is done, I have done the "tourist" thing for her, and my moss garden that I have been trying to grow on a piece of stone now has a replica of a very attractive poison dart frog.

NOTE: An excellent way to remember where your car is parked in a multi-level garage is to simply take a photograph of the sign. That way, if perhaps, you were mightily stressed by much walking, dozens of frog species, and losing-then-finding-your-wallet, forgetting where you parked would not matter.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

I had a conference call with my boss and a potential partner for this school I have been tasked with getting adopted sitting outside on a park bench. It is at times like these that I find it easy to set aside the things that frustrate me at work for the joy of my "office."

Walking back to the car, I spotted this pine cone and whipped out my small camera to capture the memory of this day.

I tried very hard to have the sap in better focus, but I had just a few moments to snap the photograph. Still, I think it not that bad for a reminder to be thankful...

Thankful for a job. Thankful for a short commute. Thankful for the opportunity to work outdoors. Thankful for the majesty of God's magnificent creation. Thankful for a bible study where I can hear the Truth.

Sometimes, Pastor D will say something so simple, so familiar in a manner that takes my breath away...literally and spiritually.

What is the ultimate message of the cross? I am worth the life of the Son of God. I, me, am worth the life of the Son of God.

Pastor D talks about his initial role in confirmation class: to crush the self-esteem of his students. If they do not understand that apart from Christ they are wretched, sinful people, then the rest of the classes are completely useless.

Post-modern thinking teaches that at the core of humanity is essentially a good person. Christians believe otherwise. Peal away the hidden layers of our hearts and you will find a very dark place indeed, one filled with sin and ultimate death.

So, there I was, only-half listening to the bible study thinking about how angry mother was that I came after working all day (she frolicked about the Smithsonian museums while I toiled away). I thought about all the times I visited over the holidays while in college and graduate school, begging her to take just one day off and she refused. Here, I did not truly want her to visit because I feel so fragile and am fearful of being able to deflect her abusive posturing and yet I am taking two precious days off just to be with her.

And then those words permeated my frustration: I am worth the life of the Son of God. What else can matter beside that fact? How can I feel bad about myself or my circumstances or my life? That is my worth.

I have heard that Christ died for me. I have told others the same. Pastor D's comment is essentially the same Truth, but the words spoke so very loudly to me in that moment, as if I were hearing the message the first time. If you were to put a price tag on my life, it would not be $50,000 (the cost of my "free" life insurance policy at work) or a few hundred thousand (the value of my organs were they sold on the black market) or a million dollars (perhaps my ransom were I important to society). No, in Truth, my life is worth the life of the Son of God, of Jesus Christ.

Then there was a line he read a few moments later, when I was still reeling from the weight of the value of my life, that completely wiped away all thoughts of how much longer my mother would surely try to make me pay for attending bible study.

"While the church and her ministers face persecution in this world and labor with much weakness, Christ will see to the victory of the Gospel."

What a wonderful, freeing Truth!

My witness is so very weak, and yet it is a witness. I need not be strong. I need only to walk in faith, even if that walk be more often on my knees than on my feet. He will see to the victory. I need not give it another thought.

We are happily beginning a study on the pastoral epistles--my suggestion when he asked what we would like to study next after finishing a multi-year study of Isaiah because I revel in the meaty, scholarly teaching Pastor D shares with us all. It is God's perfect timing that we are beginning now, this day, when my mother is here and I had to make a choice to either placate her selfish whims or take the time to worship, to savor His Word, and fellowship with those who walk with Christ.

After work, I listened to her rattle on about her time at the museums whilst gulping down some yogurt. She finally noted that I was going to be late. I gathered my things and then headed toward the door. Just two steps from departure, she mutters that she thought I was going to have chili for dinner and she had been waiting for me. But, oh, no, don't worry about her. She will manage something.

In three minutes flat, I had the chili dumped in a bowl, topped with grated white cheddar cheese, heated up, and served on the table with a serving of vegetable tortilla strips and some Gatorade.

Then, I walked out the door, wondering if I should really be taking the time to go. However, having gone, I know that time was certainly well spent.

I spoke with B's husband G on the way home and learned that he found an historic photo of an antique train signal that I gave him for his birthday (a most wonderful gift that about near gave me an apocalyptic fit in keeping secret until he opened the package) in the paper today. I was bubbling with the joy of Christ and the excitement of his felicitous find when I walked into my home to discover a simmering mother.

She was angry because Kashi appeared upset while I was gone. [I did miss him. I find that I think of him often, knowing that my time with this canine bundle of joy is shortening. While much of my couch sitting is because I am so very tired working full time in this compromised body, a wee percent of my desire to stay home is to revel in the companionship he offers me.] Of course, she keeps playing with him when I am not in sight, even though he is under strict orders of no playing, jumping, running, or stairs for another 3 weeks to keep from damaging his newly reconstructed, $2,600 bionic knee. I have kept from yelling at her to stop, but even my most firm tone is silent in her ears. Poor Kashi is most likely feeling much pain in his knee from all the activity.

I tried to tell her about the gift and the photo and the great beginning to the bible study, but she was not interested.

Her anger pales in comparison to the Truth that my life is worth the life of the Son of God who is mighty and creative and intelligent enough to create a complex world full of beauty and wonder and pine cones and loving enough to die a most agonizingly painful, humiliating death for me so that I might spend eternity with Him.

Though, I must admit, I did exhale a rather gusty sigh at the thought of just how long it might be before she moves on from the choice I made tonight.

NOTE: Kashi did greet me with most enthusiastic kisses. I guess he was missing me, too

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Will someone rescue me?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Another evening has passed without cleaning the house. Do you suppose that cleaning the guest bathroom will be enough?

B, after much begging and pleading, played Scrabble with me, our first game in decades! Well, it didn't take that much persuasion and it has only been three weeks.

I won!

It was a close game, forcing me to pay quite close attention because I had the potential for a win, but it was not one of those happy blow-outs. If I were honest, I would admit that I mostly won because I got some high-point letters and have the slightest tendency to go for the cheap points rather than the creative word play.

Boy, have I missed my dear B. Next time she goes on vacation for three weeks, I need to be there!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

As great a day as yesterday was, today was not.

Mostly, this was because my 48 minute drive to Annapolis turned into a 3.5 hour drive home.

I spent over an hour getting back to 50, moving forward, come to find out, only because cars were bailing off the on-ramp. At the very last second, I did the same...thankfully so since the highway was shut down in both directions.

Then I drove around for 45 minutes telling Magellan to route me any way BUT on 50.

Finally, I told it to NOT use highways. That meant nearly 2 hours of driving to go 37 miles.

I was in agony. I was exhausted. I was NOT loving living in this region.

This afternoon was supposed to be set aside to clean the house for my mother's arrival and then get some contract done in the evening. I only managed to get a small piece of the latter completed.

The couch was calling me something fierce...

Saturday, August 23, 2008

It is 9:30 and all is quiet on the western front. I am so tired that I long for bed even though it is too early for my night-owl-nature, but it is too many steps from the couch where I collapsed after putting D's three children to be.

She and J are off at a wedding; I am holding down the fort.

M1 is nothing short of brilliant, six-going-on-seven and already reading. I taught him the game of Sorry, and he won the first one through getting the right cards and SLAUGHTERED me in the next three games through a wickedly clever use of strategy. He studied each card, weighing the options to move he had, and then chose the ones that put me further behind or placed one of his men in home. Sometimes he would mutter to himself as he considered the moves, which fascinated me, even while I HATED losing to him. He, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed beating me.

Each of us, Z included, won a round of Uno, and I won Go Fish. M1 was quick to point out that it was only by one match.

A funny thing happened on the walk back from the beach. I wasn't thinking that they would go on the beach and get all sandy (silly me) since they were just showing me where it was. Yet once we arrived, nothing would do but for them to fling off their shoes, roll of their pants, and stand in the surf, happily digging their toes into the sand.

I was a bit surprised to see that M2 had absolutely no interest in even being on the beach. At first, I thought it was just because of her new shoes. After I tied Kashi to a post since he was not allowed on the beach, I followed the children down the board walk, in a state of near glee thinking of the photos that I would soon be able to take.

After snapping a way for a few minutes, I realized M2 was not with us. I turned around to see her standing on the last step of the board walk, shouting something that was lost in the pleasant breeze thankfully cooling us all.

Picking my own way carefully through the sand, I returned to her side and learned the word she kept repeating was "Shoes!" She was right. Z had put on M2's sparkling new turquoise tennis shoes. I quickly pulled them off and set them aside, expecting M2 to immediately toddle over to her siblings. I was mistaken. One step into the sand was enough for her. M2 vehemently left off a stream of what sounded like a irate scolding that I would actually place her in a situation where her toes would get dirty. Thankfully, a row of chairs lined the back side of the private beach. Once I plopped her in one, she immediately became all smiles, happily watching from afar.

One of my favorite photos is this one here of the two M's. M1 and Z have always been quite caring of their youngest sibling. From time to time, M1 would leave the surf and check on M2. A pat on the head, a kiss on the cheek, or just a touch on the shoulder, and then he would return to his own enjoyment.

This is one of the reasons I believe D is a most amazing mother. Yes, her children argue. M1 does not always believe that he should share as much as the adults around him believe he should. And each of her children have very decided opinions about their own lives. But, when push comes to shove, they are all loving and caring and supportive of each other. Case in point: M2 wailed her anguish over her Mother's departure for a good 20 minutes. M1 and Z stayed at her side the whole time in an attempt to console her. Each offered their own advice. Z thought I should pick her up. M1 thought I should take her to see Fancy. Neither suggestion made a bit of difference, yet neither sibling was discouraged over his/her failure. They recognized their sister was in need and took care of her. That is what siblings ought to do for each other. I admit, it was difficult for me to witness such love between them because I found myself thinking sadly about how, even now when my own siblings are grown and mature, I do not have one thousandth of love and support and encouragement that was displayed before me.

Anyhow, back to the beach.

Afterward, no one wanted to wear their shoes. I was carrying M2's shoes (she's not yet 2) and M (6) and Z (5) each had the burden of their own shoes. After a few announcements--each one louder than the last--that he needed someone to carry his shoes, M1 walked over to his youngest sister and gave them to M2. Much to my amusement, she just started carrying them.

M1 then observed, rather loudly, how smart he was since he wasn't carrying any shoes. Z thought about the situation a bit and then walked over to M2. Z plucked M1's shoes out of her sister's hands and then gave M2 her shoes. Since Z's were her new tennis shoes and his were an old pair of flip flops, she promptly put his on her feet, announcing equally loudly that she was rather smart since she now didn't have to carry any shoes either.

Poor M2 just trotted along beside us, carrying shoes that were nearly as big as she was...or so it seemed.

Since I was carrying two cameras and Kashi, who had gotten tuckered out from the three-legged walk to the beach, I just left the toddler bearing the load. Of course, I did manage to snap a few photos of her doing so. We all had a good laugh at the ingenuity of M1 and Z.

About a half of a block from D's house, M2 stopped in the middle of the road and sat down. It was patently clear that she believed she had walked far enough during our outing. Recognizing that I needed a bit of help, M2 offered to take the shoes I was holding, and Z offered to take Kashi's leash for me. Once all of our burdens were shifted, we started back home once more.

After a few steps, Z announced that she couldn't figure out why she was so perfect at walking a dog when this was the very first time she had done so. Seeing that she was neither tugging on Kashi's leash or dragging him behind her (something B's daughter E does rather too often), I agreed with her that she did appear to have the talent of dog-walking. I added that since her mother was so brilliant that the skill most undoubtedly came from her genes. M1 grew quiet at our exchange.

Just as we stepped upon the grass of D's side yard, M1 announced it was his opinion that none of his brilliance could have come from his mother since he was the one doing all the learning on his part. My rather loud guffaw most certainly startled the neighbors. I couldn't help myself. Bent over in laughter, I continued to gasp and chuckle and fervently hope I would not trigger an asthma attack. M1 walked over to me and patted me on my shoulder. "It's okay," M1 said comfortingly, "We all get things wrong from time to time."

Oh, how I love D's children!

Being the responsible babysitter, I insisted that everyone hose off their feet before we went back inside the house. Well, one thing let to another, and soon all three children were squealing with laughter as they soaked each other. It started innocently enough with M1 offering to hold the hose. He did a respectable job on M2's chubby little toes, so I told him he could go ahead and take care of Z while I took Kashi on inside. When I came back, M2 mysteriously was wet from head to toe and Z's feet were still rather sandy.

I stripped off M2's dress and left her in a diaper while Z cleaned off her own feet, since M1 had rather graciously handed over the sprayer. When she spotted her sister free from the restriction of clothing, Z somehow managed to soak her own shirt and pants. M1 didn't bother getting himself wet before stripping off his shirt and shorts once he saw both his sisters in their underwear, enjoying the water under the waning summer sun.

I am not sure what the neighbors thought since I was howling with laughter at their antics far louder than they and all of the children were a bit bare. Of course, I had to race back inside to fetch one of the cameras and happily snapped away as the three children "watered" the grass, the car, and each other.

I should point out that while M2 had as much or even more fun than her siblings, she was the one who ended up dripping from head to toe, with nary a dry spot on her person.

While I did capture some priceless photos during the impromptu water sport, I opted not to share them here since there are far too many predators out there who would most certainly use them in the wrong way.

Well, the children are all asleep, mine included, and I am off to see if I can get a bit of work done before I join them in rest. Before I do, I must admit that I had earnestly wanted to tell D that I just couldn't help her out this weekend because I am so very, very tired and have been working long hours of late. I am in pain and am worried about my prescription. Let me do it another time, I wanted to tell her.

This morning, whilst packing--and trembling and sweating already--I kept rehearsing how I could beg off at the last moment, even knowing that rice crispy treats and deviled eggs were waiting for me at D's house (I didn't know about the Dr. Pepper that was chilling for me, too), but leaving her in the lurch was unacceptable.

D is not even here, but the power of her spirit reigns in her home. She has built a family at its truest definition, despite the abuse she endured at the hand and mouth of her ex-husband. Spending time in her home is like have your soul wrapped securely in a down comforter and rocked slowly back and forth. In her absence, I am tended to by her children. I am safe. I am loved. I am wanted.

She believes that I am doing her the favor...yet I am the one reaping the reward.

NOTE: While I did manage to pack for the overnight trip in just 93 minutes and brought only 2 duffles, 1 backpack, 2 pillows, 1 doggy bed, and 1 bird cage (approximately 1/4 of what I take to B's these days), I did discover that I forgot three very important items:

  1. The cover to Fancy's cage. [She is scared of the dark and is quite distressed at night without it.]
  2. Kashi's prescription food. [I did bring an opened can of chilli instead of the open can of his food. I fed him pizza.]
  3. My shoes. [Somehow, I got into the car wearing my house slippers.]

Friday, August 22, 2008

I am desperate....feeling like a junkie.

BlueCross denied my Celebrex prescription even though I have been on it for 3 years! I have to go through a rigorous process to prove it is still medically necessary.

I hurt even though I take it. I want to increase the dose, but both my doctor and I are reluctant to make the move due to the concerns with this drug. Now, I cannot have it?

In a few minutes, I am going to go beg for samples in a few minutes, because it will be a while before I am approved if I am approved. I have the form and a draft letter and records of my usage over the past three years. I have to trust that her office staff can now take the ball from here and get the information to the proper division of the health insurance company.

I just cannot believe I have to fight for pain medicine...I certainly cannot afford to fill the prescription each month...ARGH!!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Writing Student K gave me a most magnificent gift today: access to archived files of the Idaho Statesmen that cover the period of my historical Christian fiction novel!

I had hired her to conduct a close edit/review of the text, something I have wanted before sending it off to the rejection-laden world of publishing.

In my lap now, I have 396 pages of heavily marked pages and another two pages of notations. I need to steel my ego for the "cut the sap" comments she warned were sprinkled throughout the story, but I am most excited about setting about a solid revision of a story I believe needs telling.

K worked through an overview of her impressions, and we discussed places where I can fill in the story. While Googling information, she logged onto her college library website and discovered the historical newspaper section. We immediately began envisioning a few scenes where Megan and Graham discuss the current news. I had found a list of famous horses and thought that Graham ought to trot them out in conversation from time to time, perhaps in awkward moments when he did not know how to respond to Megan.

"Nelson would have never behaved this way."


"Surely, you've heard of Nelson?"

"I do not know a Nelson. Did you work with him on the ranch?"

"No! He George Washington's faithful companion who carried him into battle at Valley Forge and Yorktown, and most importantly, when the British surrendered!"

"Oh, another one of your horse heroes!"

Can you not just see it? Add registers of sighing and rolling eyes and confusion and you will have a silly moment that can be woven again and again into the story.

On August 29, 1891, there was a notice about a horse that was a trapeze artist. Megan could tell Graham he should add it to his "list" of famous horses, only to find Graham incensed that a horse would be treated that way.

Oh, my, I cannot wait to start researching the newspaper archives!

Alas, though, I have to work tomorrow, babysit Saturday and Sunday, and mow, edge, weed whack, vacuum, dust, Windex, wipe, etc. on Monday for my mother's visit on Tuesday. When will I have a chance to throw myself back into their world???

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I worked 14.5 hours today. The last five hours were driven by four glasses of fresh brewed iced tea.

Many a time whilst drinking my earl gray tea, it has grown cold in the "savoring." To my surprise, I found the cold tea fairly tasty. Each time it grew cold, I thought I should just brew some for the refrigerator on purpose. However, I would forget the plan shortly thereafter. Last night, I finally remembered.

All day at work, I thought about the pitcher I brewed and then laced with honey, wondering if it would taste as good as I was anticipating. The answer: ABSOLUTELY YES!

Whether I can reasonably ascribe my hyper-productivity to the tea or not, I caught up on all that was outstanding in my inbox and on my lists at work save for the communications items that have been set aside in lieu of copious amounts of grants management tasks.

It is a most wondrous feeling to go to sleep with an empty inbox and the lingering taste of sweet iced tea on your tongue!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My grandfather fell down the stairs and broke several bones, including ribs and the incredibly painful collarbone. It appears that his heart is no longer beating normally, so he had a pacemaker placed within his chest and will be heading off to a rehabilitation center as soon as he is stabilized.

In the past two years, he lost his beloved bride of nearly 60 years, nearly died of pneumonia, battled excruciating shingles for many months, lost the eye site in his only eye left, and now this.

When he was ill in the hospital, the beginning of this season of trials, he spoke of not really having anything to live for, worrying me deeply because he has so much to offer to his family, even if his body does not work quite so well that it did.

I worry that this new battle will be too much for him, though his spirits seem to be better than the last time he was in the hospital.

Of course, I had a wretched experience last year, so I cannot blame him for being dispirited whilst recuperating.

Never, though, have a met a person more gracious in suffering. I wish I could face my own pain with the same grace as does he. For months on end, with shingles covering a majority of his torso, my grandfather was wracked with so much pain that he could barely sleep. Day by excruciating day, his body slowly fought the disease.

I have heard that collarbone breaks are quite painful. Given that it is hard for him to get around as it is, I cannot imagine how he will deal with three broken ribs, his collarbone, and stiff muscles from the fall.

He needs B & G's stair rules posted in his house!

Monday, August 18, 2008

My beloved puppydog does NOT have cancer! I am ever so happy that his test results came back negative.

He has lost two pounds, which is a substantial sum for a dog his size, but he did finally eat tonight.

His vet, after pumping him full of fluids again, suggested I make him scrambled eggs and soft food for a meal. I barely turned around after setting it down before I looked back and found it rather empty. I would be hungry, too, if I had only had one-half can of food over a seven-day period. I cannot keep feeding him eggs because of the danger of protein with his hepatic shunt. However, a judicious use of culinary bribery just might do the trick.

The strong antibiotics and painkillers may be the culprit to the dearth of appetite in a puppydog who heretofore believed most emphatically that if you were eating then he should eat, too! He has only three days left of both. We shall see if clearing them from his system turns the tide.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Uncle D passed away today. Cousin D and Second Cousin D were at his side. His was a peaceful passing.

My Second Cousin D created this website in memory of his father--a testament to a loving and engaging man.

You can see his beautiful smile here with his family. A life of laughter. A life of love. A wonderful legacy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Slept until noon. Spent time with Kashi. Slept again from 2:00 PM until 8:30 PM. Thinking of another nap.

Kashi wagged his tail this afternoon. Still not eating much beside a bite or two here or there.

Cousin D called. My dear Uncle D is slipping away. D, too, is tired and heart sore, yet he listened to me cry for a long while last night. For a guy, he can really rise to the occasion.

He has been magnificent through his father's Long Goodbye. No father could ask for a better son. It is marvelous--truly so--that he has been able to nurture Uncle D through this difficult time. Through this journey, Cousin D has grown into an even more lovely, loving man--a privilege to watch.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just got home after working 56 hours this week. Exhausted.

Kashi is not eating. He has perked up some, but is not eating...

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I am so tired I am bleary-eyed...literally and figuratively. I am so tired that my soul aches. My heart is so full that I am burdened by its weight, a weight only made heavier by the fact that I long to have earthly support when that of my Heavenly Father should be enough...should be...but I just want someone here...helping me...

I have had little sleep--none on Monday night--since Kashi's surgery. He is still fairly miserable and has yet to consume any food nor take care of his serious business in the back yard. My fingers have multiple bite marks from shoving pills down his throat twice a day. And he whimpers under his breath and trembles constantly. He does respond to doggy massage, but the soothing effect does not linger much. Icing his leg three times a day is a near impossible task. I have never made the 10 minute mark, but, then again, I would not want an ice pack on a swollen, raw wound.

The vet believes I made the right choice--finances aside--and I can understand her position. We did not know about the tumor, which may still be benign, and his was an injury that could be repaired, restoring his quality of life.

I just did not understand it would be this difficult...on either of us.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Kashi had surgery this morning. He is home with me now because I thought, and the vet agreed, that he would rest easier at home, given the fact that my beloved puppydog is such a Nervous Nelly.

Of the nearly six hours he has been home with me, Kashi has cried for five and a half of them. This is oh so much harder than I thought it would be.

During the surgery, the vet came upon a tumor in his leg. Upon closer examination after it had been excised, it apparently did not look very good. The biopsy results will not be back for at least a week.

My heart is rather heavy...

Friday, August 08, 2008

I just cannot write about my puppydog, so I shall focus on my distraction efforts: I mowed, edged, trimmed, played musical pots, fertilized, tended the fountain, and watered. I then came inside and worked for another 4 hours on the near impossible agenda my boss has set out for me.

A strange convergence of events took place in the skies above me that resulted in relatively cool evening air. Once I got Kashi settled back inside, I decided to take out my anguish out on the yard. I did not faint. While my limbs were trembling violently when I was finished with my labors, I neither fainted, threw-up, or fell down.

Much of the back yard grass has given up the ghost, so I had less mowing to do. Why is it that the junk grass I suspect might be crabgrass is lush and green and growing virulently while the expensive Kentucky 31 grass from seed dies off at the least bit of heat? I finished all but one section of edging and weed whacking. That new weed whacker I bought, the Black and Decker cordless one, is a TOTAL waste of money. I should have purchased another electric one and saved $50. It came with not one but TWO batteries, but they are not enough to make it through edging and weed whacking around the sides and sidewalks of my small yard. I'd prefer to kick the thing around the yard a bit, but I need it to continue working.

As much as I LOVE my wisteria, I have to admit that it does have a frustrating tendency to throw out runner vines along the ground that are a pain in the backside to cut back. I attacked all I could find with my shears, along with the overgrowth of my beloved euonymus and the persnickety vines that invade my yard from those of my neighbors. I did not trim the crepe myrtle by the front door because I think my bi-weekly-flower-arrangement-pruning had done the job with that overgrown tree. Of course, the true test will be when B sees it next.

The musical pots task was something that I had wanted to accomplish for a while now. I don't know why I thought I should be adventurous in my potted flowers. I enjoy the impatiens I have been planting each year and cannot understand why I thought I needed some variety. The alternative flowers I chose all promptly died. The empty pots have bothered me, and ever since B's mother gave me a potted caladium for my birthday, I wanted to move some things around to try and fill the lonely pots.

When I was mowing, I found one of the 100 caladiums my mother had sent (boy were they a pain to plant) that had come up in the yard (I must have dropped it out of the box). Rather that just destroy it, I dug it up and set it aside for one of the empty pots. I then moved around 3 plants, splitting them among 5 pots, potted both caladiums, and filled two pots with some of the seedum that edges one of my flowerbeds that I had set aside in a junk pot beneath the deck 2 months ago after I had evened up the seedum border. The last pot got one of the 1,001 maple trees that come up in my yard from a giant one two houses over. It looks rather stupid, but my rule is that after my flower purchase for the pots on the deck, I do not purchase any more.

After watering all the plants and fertilizing the roses and azaelas, I set out the sprinkler in the back yard. Of course, I spent about 20 minutes trying to make it work until I realized I had just not turned it up enough to triggor the movement.

After cleaning out the fountain, I stood still on the upper deck just gazing about the yard.

A woman who had come to my house for the first time last week had asked me if it were a haven for me. She was rather impressed by how it looked (it looks MUCH better now that it has been tended and the empty pots have been filled) and surmised that I must take refuge outside quite often. Her comment gave me pause for the very fact that I actually do not spend time outside enjoying the fruits of my labor. I mostly just gaze from afar because it is too hot for me to remain outside for any length of time (other than those times when I try to committ suicide-by-yardwork). And if I try to do so I get practically eaten alive. Why, then, to I labor so when I only enjoy it whilst chasing my puppydog back inside and filling the bird feeders?

I do take enjoyment in pulling up to my house and casting my eyes about my neat yard, but vista only comprises about a quarter of my labor. And I enjoy the sound of the fountain and mind not the fact that it needs to be cleaned quite frequently. Thinking upon our exchange tonight I thought perhaps my response should have been that my refuge is in the puttering and tending rather than in the end result.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Kashi tore his ACL this evening. The emergency vet offered the choice of surgery (approximately $2,000) or putting him down. I cannot believe this is happening.

In the exam room, he was trembling so hard that they couldn't examine him until they drugged him up. I brought him home, even though he was barely awake. He did sleep for a while on his bed. But now, despite two different pain killers and an anti-inflammatory, Kashi is whimpering non-stop, restless, and keeps trying to get up.

I don't know what to do. He's old, but not old enough to throw in the towel. Yet that is so much money to spend and he would have a long recovery period and it would not be a guaranteed repair. I am supposed to keep him drugged up and immobile until Monday and then take him to see his regular vet.

My heart hurts so much...

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I wanted to post an entry from my pastor's blog because it is a PERFECT example of how often it seems as if he is writing just for me:

Because God is Merciful

You all know the old Sunday School joke: “If you don’t know the answer, say Jesus and you will probably be right.” I have been thinking of a new spin on that . . .

Because there are an awful lot of times when I, as a pastor, do not know the answer to a question posed to me. This is when I get asked “Why?” Why did this happen? Why is this happening to me? Why did God do that? I have no answer to those questions. God has not revealed it to us. So I think from now on I’m going to have a stock answer. Why? Because God is merciful.

I’m not sure what started me down that road, but this is growing on me. In all the “why times” in my life and the life of my parishioners, the beauty of this answer is that it focuses us not on ourselves (which will only drive us to despair) but on God and what good He is working. Thus the Law is merciful because it drives me to the Gospel. Suffering is merciful as it causes me to despair of myself and take refuge in Christ alone. Whatever is going on in my life, how is my God and Saviour being merciful to me, a poor, miserable sinner, through it? We still may not know the answer, but at least we’d be looking in the right place.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Some of the most loving words I have heard lately: Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

Ah, D is such an eloquent person! Actually, she was trying to tell me that I should accept her compliments on my writing and teaching and coaching skills.

Speaking of love, B is off vacationing with her family for three weeks. I am going through a bit of withdrawal. However, it is not as bad as it could be. For my dear friend filled my voice mail with songs and has found a way to text me from the road. Tonight, at an expense that I shudder to consider, she called from the road, Kansas or Nebraska or something. Despite the fact that she is on just a prepaid cell phone or maybe it is a pay as you go or something else not the most economical, the call was leisurely lovely--apart from the traffic noise and calls from the children and other distractions.

I heard about the disasters that have been chasing them ever since they have set out on the road, delighting in the humor with which she spoke her chagrin at their inability to pack up all that is with them each time they stop. Seriously, they shall have possessions spread across a thousand rest stations and restaurants and stores between Pennsylvania and Colorado by the time their trip is over at the rate they are going. I could just see her smile.

I spoke to Cousin D just as he was walking in the door from a two-day business trip, nattering for well over an hour. The kind man that he is patiently listened to my tales of the latest episodes of Farscape I have viewed of late and the Dr Who season finale when science fiction has no place in his technology world. I can barely understand some of his tales from his work, even though IT interests me. A mighty brilliant mind. One certainly not to be tainted by my talk of television. Yet he listened.

Pipes+ Songs+Ears=Love.

Monday, August 04, 2008

I have been working on being a duck at work. I have resolved to give my boss the benefit of the doubt. I have decided to take a longer view, assessing after 3 months, not day-by-day or week-by-week.

However, being a duck, it turns out, actually means becoming a doormat.

Where is that line between being gracious and ignoring disrespecting behavior and presenting yourself as the best place to wipe muck from your shoes?

I didn't see it. I was working so darned hard to be accommodating, to be helpful, to let her harsh words roll off my back. I juggled my objectives with her deliverables. I focused on her talents and kindnesses and ignored the distrust and belittling. I set my eyes on the future and hoped for change through perseverance and patience.

And yet...

Yet I am now wondering if that future has already been lost.

I know that so much of my words here of late have been of my struggles and my illnesses and my discouragement. I know that it sounds as if I could never be happy anywhere doing anything. I know that.

Yet I also know, from the feedback that I have recieved, that I am a creative, talented, multi-skilled, value-added employee. I know that I work hard and I work smart. I am crazy organized and incredibly efficient. I know that I can see the forest and the trees. I am as deft at strategic planning and development as I am at executing action plans or merely documenting, formatting, analyzing, recording. This is who I am and what I have to offer.

I put this out there quite bluntly. I shared my work. I asked my references to answer any and all questions as honestly as they could. I stated my goals and dreams and desires. I asked my own questions, carefully reviewed the job description, and checked out the organization. I believed to be where I should be.

While the latter is God's purview and one I trust even if I do not understand, I am teetering on a dangerous precipice because once more I find myself in an unhealthy situation with questionable practices around me. Not the organization. Not the staff as a whole. What the organization has done, what the founder accomplished is almost unbelieveable given that it is small and quiet in its work.

My boss eshews any attempts at strategic planning on my part. She calls my work, communications, bells and whistles, not anything that would contribute to the bottom line, nor bring revenue in the door. I know that is not true.

I know it.

Knowing, however, does not make enduring it much easier. By all rights I should go. However, financially I cannot. Professionally t'would be most difficult to explain such a short stay on a job even if I could find another one in such perilous economic times. And then there is THE question.

Would fleeing make me miss some lesson that God would have me to learn in this place He set in my path?

Someone accused me recently of never being happy, that it would not matter where I was, I would not be happy. The accusation still feels like a raw wound months later. Yet, as much as it may sound like denial, I reject that observation.

I don't believe that I need constant praise and adjulation--except for when I present an awfully perfectly wonderful gift that I just KNOW you will love--or copious amounts of recognition. I do know that it is my heart's desire to simply be allowed to use my skills to the best of my ability at a place where they might make a difference in this world. I know that I have stumbled from one negative situation to another, with a few moments along the way where I could work.

I have had wiser heads than mine bluntly state that I am intimidating and therein lies the crux of my inability to succeed. However, I also know in my heart of hearts that I have NEVER set out to be intimidating and would be rather hard pressed to apply that to myself. I frankly do not believe it. How could I?

If I were talented enough or skilled enough to be intimidating, would I not have bumbled and fumbled and stumbled through the past four years in particular?

I would like a thank you. I would like a job well done. I would like to be trusted. I would like to be free to actually work. I would like the freedom to speak. I would like to work on a team. I would like to serve. I would like to share. I would like to mentor. I would like to produce. I would like to earn my way. I would like to be me.

I am afraid, however, that it me that is not so welcome or wonderful or wanted.

Is all I am good for a doormat?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Much of the past day has been spent reflecting upon the funeral yesterday. It was nearly 3 hours, with over an hour of preaching by a most enthusiastic preacher. The time marked most by scripture and yelling.

Part of the message was on friendship. How friends should be. I am sure you would not be surprised to say that my ears and my heart perked up to hear what he might say. Of course, I agreed with his message that true friends accepted you for who you were, for where you were in your life. They sit beside you in sorrow and illness. They allow your anger to pass them buy. They comfort you in pain. They walk beside you on your path no matter your pace. That was a bit hard to hear to know how some people I thought were good friends fell away over the past year.

Much of the yelling was about making a joyful noise. Lots of Amens. Lots of Preach Ons. Lots of Hallelujahs.

The most troubling shout was "I was not saved to walk in darkness." Now, he was talking about walking in sin, in drugs, in alcohol, in fornication, in theft...having basically lived all that before coming to know Jesus as his Savior. Yet, I couldn't help but reflect upon how frustrated I have been with the situation at work and my deteriorating health and my overwhelming desire to do that which I am capable of doing before I am no longer capable. I translated his shout in my heart: I was not saved to walk in overwhelming frustration.

Fairly frequently, he said that we had walked into a trap, expecting a memorial service and receiving the Word of God, that we were captives. He chasened us for not being loud enough in our exclamations of what God has done for us, how magnificent is our Lord and Creator and Savior and Comfortor.

I could agree that we should speak loudly our joy, make it evident for all in our lives just exactly what God has done for us. But I also believe that the yelling that literally hurt my hears was not, perhaps, the best way to share that message. My mind kept thinking about the quiet and reflective and reverent liturgical service that Pastor JD leads. Never have I met someone who actually worships through the constraints of set liturtgy as does he. The repetition of words, the combination of many voices declaring the same Truth, is powerful in his church. Yet the preacher before me would have probably walked out in disgust had he worshipped at Pastor JD's church.

Now, perhaps the largest of my soapboxes is the fact that far, far too many too many churches in America today have set aside the Word of God in favor of "seeker-friendly services" and the latest pop-Christian book. The Psalms bible study Pastor JD has been leading this summer alone are enough of a reminder that the Bible is ever so rich and deserving of a lifetime of study, for it will be ever new upon each reading. So, this yelling Pastor who kept saying we would hear only Truth in his church, was a bit refreshing in that regard. But, while I agree that Heaven will be noisy with everyone singing praise, I am not convinced that all worship needs to be quite so loud.

And, frankly, I felt that the woman whose life was being remembered got set aside for something that felt like grandstanding for the Lord.

The last half-hour of the service was a call to Jesus that essentially was a call to join that particular church (a new church). The endless entreating for souls to come forward finally resulted in a line of people up front, some in tears of joy, some looking fearful, and some bewildered. I do admit that time left a sour taste in my life. I believe quiet strongly that Christ does not need someone pleading at the top of his voice, alternating entreaty with bullying, to bring people to Him.

Still, the service as a whole gave me pause. In the midst of all the yelling, I felt as if the Lord was reminding me of Psalm 46:10. Be still and know that I am God.

I am frankly beleagured and laboring beneath constant pain and fatigue, such a poor witness for the Grace beneath which I walk. However, I was glad that I could use my skills to create a program that honored the life of a woman of God who touched so many people and gave great comfort to her remaining family. I was glad that the words I spoke and the song I sang touched others and meant something to her daughter. I was glad that I could do something that was helpful and outside my own sphere (especially since D doesn't start back to graduate school until September). I was glad that the Lord troubled by waters a bit.

After the service, I spoke with the family who has been storing my bike. My social outing for the month was with a woman I met a couple of years ago, made a strong connection with, and then did not see again until last Saturday (JK). She spoke of how God had brought a loving man into her life after finally breaking away from an abusive person. This man is a biking enthusiast. I have been trying so very hard to face the changes in my health and her comment made me realize that I had to admit the fact that I will never go flying through the air on my racing bike again. It has sat unridden for several years, but it was a very expensive bike some years ago that should still be in good shape. It is time to let go. Monday evening, I am picking it up to pass it on to this woman who has a whole new future before her.

Note: I have had enough contract work this week to pay for the Sugarland Concert tickets, 11.25 hours out of my 30 hour goal. So, I should be on track to mitigate the expense of the whole trip by September 20th. I guess, however, given how much I was affected by singing this weekend, that I should check out the nearest ER to the Trump Taj Mahal, eh? ARGH!

With the work completed and my invoice sent, I am basking in the utter joy of the first football game of the season!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

How Sweet It Is!

These words open an article noting that Sugarland's new album Love on the Inside debuted at No. 1 and their single All I Want to Do is at No. 2 on the Country section of the Billboard Charts. With 314,000 copies sold in the first week, the album is also No. 2 on the all-genres list. Their video for the single is also No. 1. I guess I am not the only one who was waiting with much anticipation for their next release.

Just think, a mere 7 weeks from this very moment, I will be sitting beside my best friend watching them play live in Atlantic City!

My favorites thus far are:

  • Love
  • Wishing
  • It Happens
  • All I Want to Do
  • We Run
  • Keep You
  • Very Last Country Song
  • Joey
  • Fall Into Me
  • Life in a Northern Town

Of course, out of 3 albums and 39 songs, I have thus far found only 2 of them not to my I might be a bit biased about favorites...

NOTE: Today's song at the funeral was followed a mere hour later by a rather distressing asthma attack and another jab in my thigh by the dreaded Epipen. My oxygen saturation was at 85 when I finally used it, and though the coughing soon eased, an hour later the number had only risen to 90. My response to the Epipen was quite strong and a bit nerve-wracking. I most fervently wished that I were not alone. Thankfully, the trauma of the attack exhausted me and I soon fell asleep. Nestled against my cheek, Fancy took a nap with me, while Kashi guarded us both. I guess I wasn't quite alone...

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tomorrow, I am speaking and singing at the funeral of the mother of my ex-boss. Funny how life is. She got C-Diff and battled long and hard before dying. My mother go the ferocious bacterial infection and lived. Willie Mae loved by all because she was a warrior, a comforter, and a shining example of living fearlessly. I mean, seriously, the postal folk in her neighborhood all loved walking her route because it meant a stop at her home. She didn't even blame me for my hurt and anger when her own daughter did not fight for me when I lost my job there. I cannot think of anyone who could say the same about my mother.

Below are my words for tomorrow and the program I designed for the service...

I only met Willie Mae a few times, but she certainly left a lasting impression. Mostly because she was a writer and I enjoyed the fellowship that comes so easily from someone who understands your heart in an instant.

I have five letters from Willie Mae, tucked away in an antique metal tin. Each one a response to a visit or a missive of my own. She wrote of her plants, telling me they were her best friends, often better than people. I can understand that. I have a collection of moss gardens that I tend despite the strange looks I get from visitors, and one of my bonsais, over 50 years old, has been with me longer than anyone else in my life outside of my family.

She wrote about my poetry and hers. Most of those I have penned are about the dark side of life, the struggles and turmoil that women can face. Consequently, when I tried to share the work that means so much to me, I am most often rebuffed. “Too depressing” is what I hear. AIDS. Poverty. Illiteracy. Rape. Depression. “We don’t want to have to think about those.” Willie Mae didn’t mind. She appreciated them for what they are.

“You are growing roses,” she wrote. “Don’t forget to stop and smell them sometimes, even knowing you may get pricked by their thorns. Remember, life is a journey with many stations to stop and visit. You really don’t want to miss any of them, no matter where they may be or what they may look like.”

In another letter she wrote, “I have been writing poetry for years. Some day, I am going to have them all published, so you and others can read them again and again.” She understood my poetry because she was a poet herself, writing through the good times and the bad. She kept telling me that we should not be afraid to embrace the life we have.

She also told me to smile.

Peppered through her letters, often several times in the same paragraph, she would write the one word command. Smile. Smile because it is what you can do. Smile because it what you should do. Smile because this is your life and you should savor the ways in which you have been blessed. You might not understand them, but you have, without a single, solitary doubt, been blessed.

I would like to sing a song that means a lot to me. I am neither a good singer or a bad, but songs oft have messages that linger in the heart as do poem. This one has the message Willie Mae tried to drill into to me, encouraging me, admonishing me, accepting me for who I am.

Smile though your heart is aching
Smile even though its breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by
If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining through for you

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying?
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile