Monday, September 29, 2008

I picked up the scissors today. Such a bad, bad idea.

I have been working for so long to grow out my hair from that rather unfortunate period in which I dealt with my overwhelming frustration by hacking away at my hair under the guise of pursing the right hairdo for me. The end result was most unattractive. Two years later, I still long for a mere fraction of what I cut off.

Much of my frivolous life has been pursuing the question of: Bangs or no bangs.

With an impossibly high forehead, bangs is preferable in my opinion. However, it is my decided opinion that bangs also happen to make me look even younger than I do. Scroll down a bit. Does the person in the burnt orange Sugarland t-shirt look even remotely near 41? Seriously, now, I checked my birth certificate. According to that piece of paper, the earth has revolved around the sun more than 41 times since the day of my arrival. While most women might be jumping for joy at the thought of looking a couple of decades younger than they actually are, but I find this particular state makes being taken seriously rather difficult. So, having bangs is not something I believe to be a good course of action.

But, then again, it really is a high forehead. [Could it have grown even higher over the years?]

Bangs or no bangs.

I cut them. I grow them out. I cut them. I grow them out.

Today, I cut them. I did manage to tuck away the scissors before any more changes were made to my hair. I wonder, though, if I cut far more than I intended with just one snip.

However, I will say that all worries about that one action were set aside when God showed me that He did indeed care for my heart.

First, B emailed me that we might be able to squeeze a game of Scrabble in tonight. We did. I won. I shouldn't have though...

I had called her several times today to try and discuss this whole contract mess in which I find myself. How in the world can asking for a contract be a bad thing? When I could not reach her, I called several other folks...all to no avail. I finally reached my Cousin D, but for all his wonderfulness, I sometimes feel as if he sees me as this young thing or as a female rather than as a business person. He cajoles me to not take it personally, when it is not personal that concerns me. My concerns are professional.

I had tried calling, trying to conduct an informal survey about working with contractors or consultants. I wanted validation that what I asked for was reasonable, nothing near matching the response I got from someone I admire very much.

That response, coupled with my frustrations from last week and the fatigue that even three days of resting could not dispel, was enough to send me in a whirlwind to change something...anything. Then my old professor called me.

He is an amazingly intelligent and godly man. Every once in a while, we have these marathon phone calls talking about all things life and all things spiritual. It has been more than a year since we last talked (I think). Several times these last few months I had wanted to call him, to glean wisdom and gain encouragement from him, but I did not want to share only burdens, I wanted something good to share. It didn't matter.

I entertained him with stories of Pastor D's humor and encouraged him with tales of how very many ways Pastor D, his family, and his church have cared for me. We talked about work and craziness and perspective. We talked about writing and great American novels and authors and books and the possibility of Robert Jordan's work actually being finished posthumously. We talked about scripture and Lutheran and Calvin and the history of the church.

Professor C, in his most wonderful way, taught me the whys and wherefores of the Christian calendar, opening my eyes to something I had not understood. Below is my clumsy retelling:

Christ was crucified somewhere between 30 and 33 A.D. The first bible was not printed for mass production until the mid fifteenth century (the Gutenberg press). During that 1,400-year period--and for centuries later--much of the church was comprised of illiterate followers of Christ. Even many of the priests teaching those followers were not able to read very well though they might have had access to a hand copied version of the bible. Good oral instruction was paramount.

Acting out the story of faith (carrying the cross, having communion, observing holidays, etc.) was an effective means of teaching an illiterate people about their heritage of faith. First biblical characters and then characters from the history of the church were used to reflect, to illuminate, to uplift. The church calendar, thus, became an effective mechanism by which followers of Christ could learn scripture. Simply put, by following it they had an occasion to revisit those stories, to learn of the cross, to gain wisdom, and to worship the One who created us.

Just the way the Fourth of July offers an opportunity to rethink, revisit, and retell the stories of the birth of freedom in this country, stories played out in the lives of Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, so does the Church Calendar afford reflection on the freedom we have in Christ.

Professor C also observed that while Protestantism worship does have value in being rooted in the bible, in the scripture-centered sermon, rather than revolving around rote traditions that oft become hollow in the lives and minds of worshipers, in moving away from the Church Calendar, we have lost a bit of the drama and the art and the mystery and the aesthetic experience of God revealing Himself in all His beauty and power.

Ultimately, we're involved in a miracle. We have the Holy Spirit within us! For all our pursuit of biblical and theological scholarship, the Holy Spirit cannot be caged or catechized or classified or cataloged. Revel in the Mystery of our Creator. Wonder in the Work of His Son. Honor the History of His Hand.

Thanks, Professor C, for helping me to understand why dismissing the Church Calendar out-of-hand as something for other folks was a foolish decision. Instead, I should have tried to learn something of that which I did not understand.

I have marveled greatly at how Pastor D worships through liturgy in a way I have never witnessed, even though trying the follow the service usually leaves me confused and distracted. Now, I understand those previously pesky church holidays that I viewed as an interference with our evening bible study are actually an opportunity for me to learn, to reflect, to worship.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

My 'Boys blew a perfectly good opportunity to open 4-0.

I am still most tired despite spending much of the past two days supine.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I slept until 2:00 PM, let Kashi see to his needs, and dozed on the couch until 7:30 PM. Still, I feel tired.

Fancy kept me company during my nap. Kashi was curled up next to his couch instead of on his bed. He is still clingy and still limping. When he is standing, he barely touches his injured leg to the floor, and even then his leg trembles from hip to paw. It is most difficult not to worry about him.

B texted me to call her shortly after I awoke from her nap. Since she told me to do so after 9:00 and she was at the cabin, I was hoping for a game, since I was still feeling rather sorry for myself after a long week of fatigue, thankless work, the weight of not really being able to do my job, and worry about how to do this contract job with a whole week lost in an already near-impossible deadline. But that was not the case. B had sad news. Were I able, I would have jumped in the car and raced to her side to hug her, sing silly songs, and let her beat me at any game she wanted (well, she would have most likely not needed my assistance with the latter). All I could do was listen when she really only wanted to share her news, not discuss it. My own concerns paled before her sorrow.

After I hung up, I spent a long while praying for her and G and their children. I wanted to call her back and pray with her on the phone, wondering why I had not done so while we were talking. But I thought to do so might have been a bit intrusive on her moment.

Sometimes, it is not easy knowing how to be the best friend possible to someone who is such a blessing in my life. My attempts seem so feeble, often marred by my own decidedly strong opinions of what should and should not my the the world...opinions that oft leave me feeling alone and alien.

I love you, B.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The event went well, even though I was the only staff person who showed up to finish the prep beforehand. Does that sound like the "teamwork" that is lauded about the department? It sure does not to me. This was a second 10-hour day.

One more day until I can sleep.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Well, no response yet on the proposal, with each day passing making the job all the more difficult.

Tonight, I worked on preparation for an event at an elementary school in The District. This was a 10-hour day made longer because the person responsible for this particular portion of the preparation did not do her job.

I have noticed, in the past decade of working in the business world (yes, I miss education), that no one seems to care much when people do not do their jobs because there is always someone who ends up stepping in and bailing the person out for the sake of the task, the project, the company. The person who fails faces little or no consequences. The person who comes to the rescue receives little if any recognition. A part of me wishes I could be the former...because I am tired of serving as the latter.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The conference call went well. The proposal was received well. But I was asked to lower my price even though it was already a discounted rate. I am convinced this was because of combination of a lack of professional respect (proposals are not usually a mechanism for negotiation, especially since mine had no line items) and understanding of the work needed to complete the project (less than 5 weeks to create all the content for a new website with 17 main navigation sections). Needless to say, I am disappointed. I countered with a lessened scope of work to match the lowered price.

When I went to drive home, I had three service lights come on, including the "check engine" one. With much frustration, I pushed the "Trac Off" button multiple times (since it was one of the warning lights) and opened the gas cap and closed it again (since B had gotten me gas). 20 LONG minutes later, I got all of them to turn off and left for home.

My commute home was doubled from construction traffic in three different spots along the way.

As much as I savor the time with my friend and her family, I just don't think I should be traveling. I know the rest of the week will be all the more difficult for my long drive and late night. I cannot wait until I can rest on Saturday!

Oh, how I wish my wonderful visit could have ended on a better note...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I slept until nearly 3 this afternoon, missing precious time with B and her family, but garnering some much needed rest after working so many late nights this week and going on a trip within a trip. Friday night alone I was up until after 3:00 working on a proposal for a possible contract job. Needless to say, I was bone tired after getting back from the concert.

[G took this photo of B and I in our Sugarland t-shirts. We are laughing because he just clicks away instead of announcing the photo is being taken. So, many of the other shots of us are mid-movement, with eyes closed and mouths open. Still, don't we look cool?]

In addition to much resting, B and I watched some Dr. Who, and I took photos of G playing with his children. We had a tasty dinner and are now switching back and forth between the new Stargate Movies and the Cowboys game (compromise on everyone's part since I am the only FAN in the house). The children are asleep. The house is cool. And the evening peaceful. I love being here...

NOTE: Alas, I must forgo my resolve to NOT take any work calls tomorrow. I have a conference call at 1:00 for my contract work. The proposal was well received by the one who asked me to submit it. Now, she has to float it by the man who holds the purse strings. This job would help not only I, but also D, since I would need to hire her to help me make the shortened deadline.

I am trying hard to let the matter rest in God's hands, to not dream about a miniature windfall that would allow me to pay off the debt of Kashi's surgery, make a retirement contribution for the year, and help out a friend who is struggling financially after walking away from an abusive marriage in exchange for a mere gargantuan amount of writing... He knows my needs. This I believe. This I know to be true.

I can only hope to be a better witness to the Truth of Christ, to learn to rest in His care rather then fret over my limited understanding of His plans for my life...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ah, Sugarland...what a great concert!

B and I made our way to Atlantic City to see Sugarland in concert today. When I came downstairs and saw her in a t-shirt and jeans, I blurted out, "Is that what you are going to wear?" Boy, I sounded just like my mother!

B and G are looking into purchasing a spice store on Main Street. We were planning to go visit the store before the concert, so B offered that we could stop in the thrift store nearby and try and find the jacket I insisted she should be wearing.

Here is what we purchased. Personally, I think she looks hip, but G's first comment upon seeing his wife was that we were dressed like twins. Pshaw! We both just happen to look like we are on our way to a concert, right?

B graciously offered to serve as my chauffeur. Here she is gassing up the car. She dutifully smiled at me and did not mind the fact that I was already whipping my camera out every five seconds.

It took several tries to get a photo of the road signs to Atlantic City because I kept turning off my camera to save the battery. While I finally managed to take one (you have to ignore the dirt on my windshield), I missed the best sign of all: the one that says Welcome to Atlantic City!

We were able to park at a garage attached to the Trump Taj Mahal, although we had to pay, go out, and come in again in order to take advantage of the handicapped parking that was available.

Our plan was to arrive in Atlantic City early enough to go out along the Boardwalk, since I have never been there. On the Steel Pier (did you ever see Wild Horses Can't Be Broken?), we rode the Ferris Wheel and got temporary tattoos. B chose "Truth," which you can see here. I got one on the inside of my left wrist.

Aside from our ride in the sky, we ate copious amounts of unhealthy boardwalk food, including a funnel cake, and then spent some time walking along the boardwalk and the beach before the concert started.

Here we stood on the beach while I tried to hold out the camera in such a way to capture a photo of us with the Trump Taj Mahal in the background.

The year I returned from Africa after serving as a missionary, I met up with two fellow missionaries and their children at Ocean City, Maine for a week long respite. I remember that I was amazed that you could spend time at the beach and not swelter. Having grown up in Texas, this was certainly never the case. In fact, it was so cool, even in August, that we could only stay in the water for a few minutes at a time. The peace of that visit has remained with me over the last two decades, so strongly did I revel in that time.

Standing on the beach, I couldn't help but remember both my time as a missionary and the gift that couple gave me after we had returned to the State. B sensed my introspection and asked me what I was thinking about, but while I share everything with her, I did not want to bring a pall upon our trip with the reminder I had at how very different my life has become...certainly not a life I would have ever imagined.

While I rather enjoyed the crisp almost-autumn air, B started to get cold and practically froze by the time we returned to the casino. Shivering from head to toe, B still waited while I tried to capture the Steel Pier attractions all lit up. Five photos later, this one seemed to do the job. B hastened inside.

We spent some time walking about the casino floor because we had planned to do one small bet each. I had hoped to at least play Black Jack. But at Trump Taj Mahal, there are no "small" bets. While we were searching the tables to see what our options were, I realized that I needed to sit and to sit soon.

As the day turned to evening, walking had become more difficult. I had brought my cane and could not have managed the trip without it. But sometimes when I push it, the moment of critical mass sneaks up on me in such a way that I have little time to address the need to find a place of rest. I think B would have carried me to our seats if she could, and she never once made me feel as if our snail's pace. Once she even made me smile because she raced away, walked back and repeated her actions twice more before asking "Who am I?" I chuckled at her way of telling me that she loved me and my limitations didn't matter to her. Some times I swear B can read my mind!

The concert was everything I could have wanted and more (with the exception that it was patently clear B was there for me, not for Sugarland--apparently she enjoyed their music but cares not for concerts). The first Sugarland concert, if you recall, ended with me in the local hospital. The second one had no medical emergencies, but the sound was off and Jennifer Nettles sounded more like a chipmunk than the talented singer she is. This one was perfect. Sugarland started with my favorite song off their latest album and sang many of my favorites of their repertoire over the course of the evening.

As D texted me to do, while we were still traveling down the highway, I sang "loud and proud," not caring what anyone thought. I did need to use both inhalers and my cough pill twice. B also went and fetch me some very expensive water to help me stave off an attack. I was worried I would have another one since some of my coughing during the attack I had last night was rather violent, which usually means I will have a string of attacks before breathing freely once more. Perhaps it was the joy of the evening that truly was the reason why I was able to sing without dire consequences. In any case, I most thoroughly enjoyed myself.

Is it the face of a child
Is it the thrill of danger
Is it the kidness we see in the eyes of a stranger
Is is more than faith
Is is more than hope
Is is waiting for us at the end of our rope

I say, it's love
I say, it's love

Is it the one you call home
Is it the Holy Land
Is is standing right here holding your hand
Is it just like the movies
Is it rice and white lace
Is it the feeling I get when I wake to your face

I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love

Is it the first summer storm
Is it the colors of fall
Is it having so little
And yet having it all
Is it one in a million
Is it a chance to belong
Is it standing right here singing this song

I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love
I say, it's love

Is it a veil or a cross
Is it the poet's gift
Is it the face that has launched over thousands of ships

Is it making you laugh
Is it letting you cry
Is it where we believe that we go when we die
Is it how you were made
Is it your mother's ghost
Is it the wish that I'm wishing for you life, for your life, for your life the most

Our trip home was made all the more shorter because B completely ignored my pleas to stick with Maggie's (my Magellan GPS) instructions to stay on Atlantic Avenue until we got to the express way. She has more confidence in her driving abilities than do I mine and has many suspicions where Maggie is concerned. Of course, I am reluctantly admitting that B was absolutely, completely right in this matter. The first 4 tenths of a mile to the express way took over half an hour. The last 3 tenths took a matter of seconds...practically speaking. Okay...we had to wait for one light before we zoomed on our way.

On the way home, B and I stopped for more food, since our stomachs had already forgotten all the junk food that had been stuffed into them just a few hours before and I was fevently hoping the TCBY located there was still open. I find it slightly vexing and slightly humorous that the food at the visitors' station was even more expensive than the costly food we had on the Boardwalk. But when your stomach is grumbling, substantially lightening your wallet for mere junk food bothers you less than when you are sated and more sensible.

At the start of our return trip, B tolerated me listening to (and singing along with) Sugarland's latest album as I waxed poetically about how much I enjoyed the concert. Since B had not (yet) memorized their music, we then switched to Chris Rice so she could sing as well.

B also listened to me talk about the physical changes that concern me so, since my hobbling about the evening weighed heavily on my mind. Not yet three years has passed since our trip to Italy where we traisped through Rome, Pompeii, Pisa, Florence, and Venice from morning til night for fourteen days. I would not make it even half a day now. We also talked about my vision and how much it bothers me not to be able to see clearly either close or far and to know the reason is not because I have not the proper lenses but because my brain is no longer able to work properly when it comes to vision, amongst other things. B is a good listener, even if she sometimes hurts because she wants to help me and feels helpless to do so. However, I do not expect her to have any answers. Her kind ear and supportive love does more for me than she could ever know.

We stumbled into bed at 2:00 in the morning, B glad to be home and me with a smile on my face as the music of the evening still lingered in my ears.

Let go laughing

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blogging from the attic again...listening to Sugarland!

This time tomorrow evening, we shall be on the road back from our jaunt to see them in concert in Atlantic City. Having no idea of what the city is like, I am hoping that we can see the boardwalk before we leave. However, the concert will be most wonderful, I'm sure, that should we not get there I will still be satisfied with the trip.

Tonight, as soon a B's dad arrived after his late shift at work, I went upstairs to change into my lounge pants and t-shirt. You see, I have been practically living in said clothing and had determined that part of my doing something social once a month should include clothing that does not double as pajamas.

I walked up stairs, with the slightest tickle in my throat. I came back down coughing. Try as I might, I could not stop the asthma attack with my cough pills and inhalers. So, I whipped out my travel nebulizer and did a treatment. For a while, I thought that perhaps I would need to use an Epipen injection as well, but the liquid albuterol worked. However, as I stated in an earlier blog, the VMT nebulizer certainly packs a wallop when it comes to medication delivery.

I tremble rather violently on the inside, like a guitar string that has been plucked but does not stop vibrating. My heart races, I shake, and it is difficult for me to concentrate on much else. On top of that, I was having those shooting electrical pains in my legs and my arthritis in my lower back was making itself known.

B has so many good ideas, practical solutions to my life. I wish she lived with me or I her so it was always so easy, even in the difficult times. When I showed her the case for the nebulizer, she wondered aloud if an Epipen could fit inside. I had not even thought of that. Outside its own plastic case, the Epipen did just fit, along with a spare set of batteries, and four (now three) ampules of albuterol. After tonight's attack, I also tucked in six Tesselon pearls (the cough pills). Now only if that amazing case could hold my two inhalers and pulse oximeter!

Tonight she came up to lie in bed with me for a while during G's shower. We smiled over his baby photos, talked about our trip tomorrow, and just nattered a bit. The bed is against the roof wall, so there is no way to lean back. In just a short while, the pain in my lower back was building to the intolerable. Even though I travel with six pillows, I couldn't lean back against them all without hitting the ceiling. After witnessing my difficulty, B popped off the bed, walked over to the other side of the attic, and came back with a rolled up sleeping bag. Add one pillow to that and you have the support I need for my back in order to lounge on the bed.

Right now, B is gestating a newly implanted embryo. That child, along with E and J, have such and incredible mother...a loving, intelligent, compassionate, gracious, woman of God.

This whole day, practically, I have been juggling work and a contract job and have little time to be with B besides a few minutes of Dr. Who and three poopy diaper changes for her son. I sort of cooked the bacon for dinner. I did prepare the asparagus for grilling. And I spent time with E letting her put my make-up on. B didn't complain...but I wondered if she wanted to yank my laptop out of my hands and throw it out the window. I probably would have only mildly protested had she done so after the 1,001 calls/emails I fielded today.

Since I had already worked 38 hours this week and found myself still working today, I am NOT counting this as a day off, even knowing I was planning to use comp time for the day.

Monday, I am NOT answering my phone unless it is a loved one. Not one call...hopefully...

G may be an engineer, but he sure can write. We talked about a business plan, and he started plugging away at it. While there are sections he did not understand and thus had more filler than substance, he blazed through a creditable off-the-cuff market analysis that had a beginning, middle, and end with logical, cogent points. Beautiful stuff!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Blogging from B's attic...could there be anything better?

This has been such an up and down day, a microcosm of the past few weeks...months. I started by struggling to get up after the trauma of last night's overheating. After an hour of fighting that battle, I began to get ready and try and pack for this trip at the same time. However, I was stopped mid-stream by clothing that seemingly appeared out of nowhere.

There I was, standing in the closet trying to find something to wear since much of my work outfits were hanging on a drying rack in the basement. I suppose I could have walked down two flights of stairs, walked up one flight, ironed something, and then walked up a second flight, but the thought of such exertion exhausted me. Then my eye lit upon a brown jacket I do not remember ever seeing before. When I separated it from the clothes on either side, I discovered first that it still had a price tag hanging on it and second that a pair of matching slacks was hanging right beside it.

A suite! When did I get a suit? Why have I not worn it yet? After all, yesterday was the most important meeting I have yet to navigate and I was in my tried and true black traveler's outfit from Chico's. I sat down on the bed and struggled to remember how this suit came to be in my closet. A half an hour passed before I remembered the suit was part of the killer purchase I made at the Chico's outlet last May, or there abouts. I had not worn it yet because it was one size down from where I was, but close to where I could be. Plus, it was something like $40.

Tears trickled down my cheeks and splashed on the jacket in my hands. I hate what this disease is doing to me. I am frightened by what I cannot remember, what passes out of my life as if it never happened.

I wore the suit to work, trying (and failing) to take comfort in the fact that the pants fit.

For two and a half days, I have been printing these postcards for an event a work. I learned late this afternoon, I have to redo them all. The person who told me to print them is the one who accused me of doing so without her permission. I have the go ahead in writing, but that doesn't matter. Somehow, I am still in the wrong.

I had hoped to leave early so that I could finish packing and get on the road before my resolve to get to B's house faded beneath the weight of my fatigue and pain. I was hot and bothered before I even began loading the car. Kashi howled the whole time and then darted out the door whilst I was struggling to take two bags outside.

The only reason I caught him is that he is still crippled from his leg injury. [I am very worried about his lack of progress.] Of course, chasing after him resulting in an asthma attack--albeit it a more manageable one--and I had to do a nebulizer treatment. By the time I was set to pull away from the curb, all I could think is that I just cannot do this anymore. I cannot keep asking B to come fetch me, but I cannot half kill myself loading my stuff up and driving such a long distance.

I did take the opportunity to talk with Pastor D about last night. I needed to let him know how ill I was and that part of why I did not make a smarter decision was because I am fearful that my needs make it too much for me to be there. Too much distraction. Too much work. To much focus on such a weak person.

He chided me that I know him better than that. I retorted that the bulk of my life is conditional acceptance. Apart from just a few folks, I have been measured and found wanted in the best of times, an abject anathema at others. He repeated that I know him better.

Never, never outside of Jan Karon's Mitford, have I met a pastor who is more of a Shepperd than this man. He cares for people. He changes/adds to his ministry outreach. He loves. He teaches. He gives what little coin he has. His is a life of daily sacrifice to pour out the grace and mercy and love of Christ into the lives of those around him.

His three bible studies, one book club, and one nursing home service are all a testament of someone who is shepherding his flock. And I do not even "belong" to his church.

He always says he does not have the answers, although he always manages to bring the circumstances in my life, in my heart back around to the bible, to the lives and hearts of those who walked with God before me.

He always says he does not have the answer, but then he adds in some practical bit of advice or brings up a suggestion for something I mentioned eons ago or moments past. Tonight, it was that his daughter likes watching ABC's Extreme Home Makeover and he remembered there was a girl on the show who had trouble regulating her temperature and wore a cooling vest when she had to go some place where she was unsure would have air-conditioning--sound familiar?

He thought that I might benefit from something like that, and I told him I would try to remember to Google it tomorrow. Well, when I logged on to write here, I discovered an email waiting for me with a link to the vest. I am well-loved by my Lord and Savior, am I not?

Despite the pain in my back from driving, I am glad that I am here. This time, I carried nary a bag inside and only lugged my computer backpack up to the attic. [Can someone tell me why it is so heavy???] G started up to bed more than an hour than he actually arrived there because we got to talking about a business venture he would like to make. We sat at the kitchen table for a long while talking over the due diligence steps he needs to take. Sitting there, I marveled anew, deep inside, that God would gift me the refuge I have in B and G's home.

Before I headed up here, I peeked into E's bedroom to greet her. One step inside and she popped awake, a huge smile spreading across her face. She wrapped her arms around my neck and gave me an E hug--I am sorry for those of you who have never received one--then told me some story about Mom Mom and a necklace that I only half understand. We chatted a bit about the things we might do together while I am here, then she gave me another hug before falling back to sleep.

So, here I am, lying in bed with Fancy nearby and Kashi curled up at my side. The fan is blowing directly on me, my medication is beginning to take hold, and the pillow is calling me. Suits and postcards and pain can wait until the morrow.

For this moment I shall savor the blessings I have and eschew all fears and concerns and longings.

What is it that Pastor D said a while life is worth the life of the Son of God. My life. The blurred vision. The fatigue. The pain. The inability to tolerate heat. The fainting. The asthma. The congnitive dysfunction. All of it. Every bit is worth the life of the Son of God, that I might have life eternal...that He might be glorified. I may stumble and stutter my way through all of this, but I do revel the fact that I belong to a sovereign God, who understands my needs and designs the path before me according to His perfect plan. Just because I wish for that path to be easier, does not make it any less perfect.

Patience is the constant lesson.

May I learn to be a better student...


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When I walked into bible study tonight with G, I knew the instant I stepped inside that the homeowner did not have his air-conditioning running. I knew that I should leave. Remember what happened at that church near B's house? I should have left. I did not.

I was jealous for Pastor D's teaching. I was worried about G's response should I tell her I needed to go. I was afraid to ask the homeowner to turn on his air-conditioning. Once again--even after I swore I would not put myself in that situation again--I sat in the heat growing weaker and weaker, becoming ill when I could have avoided the situation.

We are studying I Timothy, II Timothy, and Titus. The topic is my suggestion. I am reveling in the opportunity to study the overall picture and delve into specifics. We have already discussed history and politics and faith and the relationships among the men and Paul. I did not want to leave, even as I knew the heat was affecting me rather adversely.

In a vain attempt to slow my , I started fanning myself. At that point, I was not aware another woman was doing the same and it was difficult to follow Pastor D. Shortly thereafter, the homeowner asked if we were hot. I nodded my head, the other woman agreed, and he got up to turn on the air-conditioning. While the room began to cool rather quickly, it was too late for me.

When I become overwhelmed by heat, it as if I am a vehicle running out of gas. I stop working. My vision was so blurry, it was difficult to read that which we were studying. I grew so weak, I want to lay down on the floor before I fell down. It was difficult to think clearly. I battle dizziness. Inside, I feel as if I am struggling to grip a bundle of slick fibers, knowing if I fail I will faint.

I made it through bible study, but I could not just get up from the chair. Pastor D and G talked for a while, so I remained in the chair, frankly dreading the moment I would need to ask for help because there was no way I was simply walking out of there. When the time came, I felt all the more stupid because I should have left. I should have either left or asked for air-conditioning immediately. I should have...but I did not. I did not because I was afraid of G's reaction, of drawing too much attention to myself when we were there to study and to worship, of being too much of a problem, of reaching the limit to Pastor D's incredible patience and care of this not-even-a-member-of-his-congregation-who-takes-up-too-much-of-his-time-and-attention. Most of the time, I feel so incredibly alone with this disease. I was terrified I would loose the few connections I have locally, especially given that I rarely see G ever since I was so ill last year.

Pastor D got me to the car, asking questions all along. I answered them. I even started chatting a mile a minute to distract myself from the moment, but I am not sure what I said. I do not remember getting from the table in the basement to G's car. I know G stayed with me a while once we got home, but again I am not sure what was said. I fell asleep, still sitting up on the couch, immediately after she left.

So, I made an incredibly poor decision and ended up endangering myself. My plan to pack for tomorrow's trip was shot. I am no longer sure that I will be able to leave tomorrow evening, even though I do not want to miss any time with B and need the extra time to rest after traveling since Saturday we will be traveling to another state for the concert. I have to somehow get myself upstairs. I have to somehow work tomorrow. I have to...I have to...

Why could I not have been brave and just done what I needed to do to remain safe?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

I was able to work from home yesterday, which made for a relaxing work day. However, that meant today was like something out of Twister.

I printed for literally 7 hours, juggling 3 projects and fighting a losing battle with the color printer, and worked on another grant. It was a crazy day that passed by all too quickly for what I need to accomplish by Thursday afternoon.

This Saturday is the Sugarland concert in Atlantic City, so I am driving up to B's abode on Thursday evening. I am almost literally beside myself in anticipation! I've a few hours of work still to do, after another long night last night...and sure to be a long day and evening tomorrow... Yet, for weeks and weeks I have waited on baited breath, tingling with excitement at the thought of hanging out at a Sugarland Concert with my dear friend B in the wilds of Atlantic City.

My health insurance changed in August, reducing the co-payments for some of my drugs. That meant I would have extra money in my medical flexible savings account. Now, I usually have left overs in December, but I just buy extra contacts. However, the amount would be significant now that the battle over Celebrex has ceased.

I have been wanting to get one of the new nebulizers that are based on vibrating mesh technology rather than the compressor that I currently own. Mine has had heavy use over the years and now makes even more noise than it usally does. While a portable model, it is not really something that you can take just about anywhere. It needs a plug. It is heavy. It is bulky. And it is LOUD.

It has been two years since I started researching the new VMT nebulizers and have learned that they are small, battery operated, and offer a more effective medication delivery system. It frankly didn't occur to me that I could use the flex money until I started wondering to do about the high balance I will have in December.

I also have been using Epipens rather frequently and have needed to try and balance them with a nebulizer treatment rather in an attempt to avoid two shots at a time.

So, the lightbulb went off and I started comparison shopping, thinking that to acquire one before I went off to another state and sang my lungs out at a concert would be a most advantageous move. Wow...the one I find fits in the palm of my hand, is silent, and packs a whollop when it comes to getting the medication into my lungs. Why I could even take a treatment while Sugarland is performing and I doubt many people would notice. Cool, eh?

The icing on the cake is the case is green. Fashion and medical safety...who knew the two would get together!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, my goodness! What a game!

My 'Boys started their Monday Night Showing for the season in wild, wacky fashion! A gazillion lead changes, long bombs, poor referee calls, and foolish moves on both sides, but the Cowboys prevailed in the end. The last 4th down stand of the Eagles with just over a minute to go had me needing a dose of nitroglycerin. Once. Twice. Three times the Cowboys dashed the Eagles hopes for a come-from-behind-last-minute-victory (thanks in large part to the relentless efforts of Demarcus Ware). Could they do it one more time? Yes! The Cowboys won the game!

Hope you caught the game!

NOTE: Even though he is the football enemy, my heart goes out to the Eagles player who was so busy celebrating his touchdown that he dropped the ball BEFORE he crossed into the endzone. While the Eagles scored on the next play, he will not be living this down anytime soon. That poor man!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

J, bless her heart, sent me a NASCAR version of Monopoly. I burst into laughter when the package was delivered to my house yesterday because it was wrapped in plastic not paper. I knew right away what she had sent and could just see her chuckling all the way to the post office!

The first race of the chase (whatever that is) takes place today, starting in a few minutes. To prepare for the race, I played a game of my new Monopoly with Kashi and Fancy. The bird won.

That's a perfect example of my luck, eh?

NOTE: The game was from her thrift store, so there were pieces missing and the money was actually Pokemon, not NASCAR. I blame my loss on the Pokeman money.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The one benefit of doing the organization task on Friday, despite the end result, was that I discovered the prescription to go see an neurological ophthalmologist. At the time when I was given it, the specialist was not on my plan and I was not working, so I could not feasibly have gone to the consult. I had lost the prescription. And, of course, I could not remember the name of the specialist.

Well, as you may have guessed by now, inside one of the warranties that I was organizing was the prescription.

Monday, I need to call and confirm that I can see him on my insurance plan and then make an appointment.

The specialist I saw last summer, stated that she believed that I have evidence of optic neuritis given that it hurts for me to move my eyes, light bothers them, and I have lost some color discernment. She also explained that the reason my vision is blurry is not my prescription, but that the signal between my optic nerve and my brain was not functioning properly.

I still remember the devastation I felt when after all that testing and measuring she wrote out a prescription for contact lens that was exactly what I currently was using. I burst into to tears, filled with confusion why it did not seem to matter that when the technician asked me "better one or better two" I responded neither or when I was asked to read letters on a line, I was able to guess them by shape, not by actually reading them clearly. I kept telling the technician I could not read them, that they were blurry and I could see three lines of text not one. Her only response was just guess, just guess, just guess.

My eyesight stinks. I need old-age-reading glasses to see close. It takes a moment or two from my eyes to adjust distance when I look at some thing near or farther than what I had been looking at previously. I need glasses/contacts to see far. And the latter just do not work all that well. I have started increasing the view size on the computer screen in programs that have that option and I have become used to having blurry eyesight all the. Or...rather...I have adjusted to the disability but I have not accepted the situation.

I constantly worry if there will be come a time when my eyesight will be too blurry to drive. If I am wearing my glasses, I have to take them off to eat because I become nauseous when I look down at my food and my eyes try to adjust to seeing it beneath the bottom of my glasses and then through my glasses and then beneath the bottom again. I have a headache much of the times because I constantly squint, whether I am wearing my glasses or contacts because I just cannot see clearly. I try to relax and embrace the blurriness, but my brain does not seem to want to be content with poor eyesight.

When I asked the specialist why I should see a neurological ophthalmologist if there was nothing that could be done to help me because my brain was behind the problem, she replied that first I should cross the bridge of getting an accurate diagnosis. Of course she is right about that. Of course. However, the only drugs associated with the condition, as near as I can tell, are steroids. And I will not take those. So, where does that leave me?

Still, I want to go, even if I have to do so using my out-of-network option where I would have to pay part of his fee. I would like an answer even if it is not the one I wish to hear.

Friday, September 12, 2008

I believe that it is fairly well documented that when I am frustrated or upset I organize. However, I also do so as a reward of sorts. After two weeks of writing, editing, and/or submitting 6 grant applications, I decided to take care of one of those niggling items that never seem to get done because I am so tired from working.

I have these binders of house renovation and warranty information. Were I to sell, I can hand over, in one binder, documentation of everything that was done to clean up and repair this fixer-upper after I took ownership. I also had 3 binders of warranty information: computing, electronics, and household. A nice system, eh? Well, shoved next to these binders were a few dozen top-loading sheet protectors of warranty documents that had yet to be put into the binders.

So, I carried them all downstairs and began a review process of what was included. Many of the warranties had expired, resulting in quite a pile of papers for recycling. Others were located in the wrong binder or were scattered from like entries. For example, after a great amount of shuffling, all my warranty information is sorted by type, e.g., plumbing, lighting, cameras, yard, etc. When the review was completed, I also took the opportunity to upgrade 3 of the 4 binders, 2" to 3" and 1" to 2". The whole process was most satisfactory in that I had wanted to do this for months on end and the job was essentially to create order from chaos.

However, the only way to navigate my way through dozens and dozens of documents was to spread them out on the floor and have at them. I would say that the job took about 45 minutes to complete, surely less than an hour because the episode of House I had started watching once everything was spread out had not yet finished. For a while now, I have known that I cannot sit upon the floor/ground without consequence. Tonight, I underestimated the toll that organization reward would take.

My lower back had started hurting after about 15 minutes, but I was determined to ignore it and push through. In some ways, that choice stemmed from the fact that I simply do not believe that my doctor--or friends for that matter--truly understand how much I hurt. I mean, they see me grunt and groan and move slowly, but I do have a rather high tolerance for pain. I want to scream and shout much of the time, however doing so would not make a difference. I feel like I complain all too often, but I know that I mask most of the time--shoving how I am feeling as far away as possible.

Anyway...back to my tale. I went to try and get up from the floor and promptly vomited when the wave of agony wracked my body as I shifted from my position. Shortly thereafter, my pain management breathing technique failed and I fainted, landing unfortunately in my own mess.

I awoke to Fancy screaming and Kashi whimpering as he tried to bury my vomit (he does not get that we were not outside). Of course, being sprawled on the floor did not help my arthritis much.

A few days ago, I wrote in frustration to Pastor D that I hated being an old lady at 41. Then, I shared with B how much the sight of my beautiful new cane (it is chocolate brown with flowers on it, and it has a curving derby handle) mitigated that thought. The pendulum certainly swung back earlier this evening.

Right now, at this very moment, I am struggling to find purpose in this suffering (and wonder for the 1,000th time just how it was that some person at the insurance company came to the conclusion that I do not need my arthritis pain pills) and in the future of a life marked by pain.

In response to my comment, Pastor D wrote:

"...And know that St. Paul wrestled with his own thorns too, and found out that our Saviour's grace is not only sufficient, but greater than whatever afflicts us in this life."

I guess I simply do not equate myself with Paul. He was, is, a brother in Christ and we are all equal in God's eye, but...oh...the life he led. A life he led despite his thorns. Given how I am feeling, I believe that to be magnificent in obedience.

His comment certainly gave me pause. Perhaps I can explain more later...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pastor's D's response to the news of my health insurance victory was Te Deum Laudamus!

I had to look that one up for yourself this hymn of praise:

Te Deum Laudamus

We praise thee, O God
we acknowledge thee to be the Lord
All the earth doth worship thee
the Father everlasting.
To thee all the angels cry aloud
the heavens and all the powers therein.
To thee cherubim and seraphim continually do cry
Holy, Holy, Holy,
Lord God of Sabaoth; heaven and earth
are full of the majesty of thy glory.
The glorious company of apostles praise thee.
The goodly fellowship of the prophets praise thee.
The noble army of martyrs praise thee.
The Holy Church
throughout all the world doth acknowledge thee;
the father of an infinite majesty;
thine honourable true and only Son;
also the Holy Ghost the comforter.
Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ.
Thou art the everlasting Son of the Father.
When thou tookest upon thee to deliver man,
thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
When thou hadst overcome the sharpness of death,
thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
Thou sittest at the hand of God in glory of the Father.
We believe that Thou shalt come to be our Judge.
We therefore pray thee, help thy servants,
whom thou hast redeemed with thy precious blood.
Make them to be numbered with thy saints in glory everlasting
O Lord save thy people
and bless thine heritage.
Govern them and lift them up forever.
Day by day we magnify thee;
and worship thy name, ever world without end.
Vouchsafe, O Lord to keep us this day without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let thy mercy lighten upon us, as our trust is in thee.
O Lord in thee have I trusted let me not be confounded.

I concur.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Are you sitting down? Really, are you?

Trying to be proactive about the whole pain drug situation, I worked my way through the hierarchy of the insurance company to ferret out just who was denying my pills. The culprits were a trio who comprise the pharmacy management team. Yes, they have a phone number. No, a live person does not answer the phone. Still, I left a rather detailed, somewhat frantic voice mail message. I admit, I had little hope that someone would respond.

Then, I got this call yesterday. It went something like this:

"Miss Ducee?" [Note: This is NOT my last name.]
"Ducee, Miss Ducee""
"You have called _____________"
"How may I help you?"
"This is CareFirst. I am returning your call. How may I help you?"
"Oh, well. I have been...[rushed explanation]"
"Yes, I see you had this last filled in July 2007. I am approving you for authorization from the date you tried to fill the prescription. That will be August 2008 to August 2009."
"You can pick up the prescription now."
"Really? I mean... Well... "
"Just like that? It's been 3 weeks."
"Yes. Okay?"
" mean I can pick up the Celebrex, 200 mg, twice a day, not once a day?"
"I cannot see the particulars of the dosage, just the drug. I have approved that prescription that was denied for lack of prior authorization."
"So, I can just go pick it up?"
"Yes, that is what I said."
"Yes. Okay. I need to go now."
"I guess. Okay."
"Goodbye, Ma'am."
[More sputtering and bumbling on my part]
"This is true. This is happening."
"Yes. I am hanging up now."
Click. Dial tone...


Of course, that means I had to get a prescription from my doctor to give to my beloved Target pharmacist. Now, I had been asking to have the prescription faxed for two weeks in anticipation of this very happening, but it took another day and a half to get it.

Tonight, in my hot little hands, I hold a bottle of one month's worth of my prescription. Oh, my, I cannot begin to express my gratitude that this experience is over. However, I will say that the denouement of the saga was strangely disappointing.

There I was, embattled and exhausted from buckets of tears and fears galore, and it was over. I barely got my explanation out before the woman cut me off and made her determination. I should point out, that the same day I got the call, I received a disturbing letter documenting the denial of my medication. I felt pummeled by this experience. But I also feel as if the rug was pulled out beneath my feet in one simple phone call.


This whole process should have been simple. But it was not. It was horribly complicated and drawn out. After the last three weeks, I was not prepared, frankly, for the sudden--and rather shocking I might add--about face resulting in a decision in my favor.

In discussing the matter with Pastor D, I confessed how afraid I have been the past three weeks. However, I am not quite sure if I fear the sheer agony of life without Celebrex or that pain is the path God has for me long-term...

Wow...I actually have my pills...

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

I think, perhaps, I have finally lost it.

For hours now, I have been smelling warm bread, buttered heavily. While the aroma wafting across my abode is most sumptuous, it is also most fearsome.

I have baked no bread. The smell is not present out of doors. And, given that my next door neighbor (at least 45) has his mother and his father do his housework and yard work, I am fairly certain that he is not the source of the culinary masterpiece driving me crazy.

So, what do you think? A brain tumor? Dangerous exhaustion levels? Overload of work? I just plain nuts?

Oh, my, does it smell wonderful!

Monday, September 08, 2008

I have been crying for weeks on end over the enormity of not having my arthritis pain pills covered. The prior authorization was denied last week. My doctor is now filing an appeal.

Working from home because I had to wait for the arrival of the Maytag repairman (Donald, in this case), I found myself distracted, once more, by this problem. To pay for the prescription out of pocket would be $325, or so my local pharmacist told me. Try as I might, I could not get my mind around what coming up with that money each month would do to me financially and how in the world some person at the insurance company could decide that after over five years I no longer needed Celebrex. The entire situation is a bit surreal to me. After all, for all my medical challenges, I have never come across those ROTTEN HMO PEOPLE.

I did, however, manage to have one hopeful idea: buy my drugs over the Internet. After all, I've heard countless times how inexpensive Canadian drugs are. Sure enough, there are a plethora of online pharmacies.

After much searching, I discovered one that sells Celebrex for only $23 more dollars a month than it would cost were my insurance company to cover it if I were to purchase it in a 3-month supply. I promptly printed out the information, raced over to my doctor's office, and darted in the door just as it was being locked. I had to fill out a written request for a paper prescription, but I am hoping that I can retrieve it tomorrow on my way to work so that I can fax in my order. I am afraid to believe that I could have actually found a reasonable solution until my appeal can be considered. I think, perhaps, I will not breath easy until the package is in my hot little hands.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

NOTE: If you are planning to put bags of ice into your refrigerator and freezer to try and save your food, I would suggest you reconsider. I would also suggest that if you proceed with this foolish endeavor, that you at least put the ice in containers. Melted ice=water. Un-contained water in a refrigerator/freezer=a colossal mess.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

This day! This day was supposed to be a day of rest after an exhausting visit by my parents and an equally exhausting work week. While I did manage to sleep until 2:00 PM, I awoke to water in my basement and water on my kitchen floor. Unfortunately, the water on the kitchen floor was from my broken refrigerator. My refrigerator that is a Maytag (are they not supposed to break), is only five years old, and has a warranty that expired on August 18th.

The neighborhood is currently flooded and closed to traffic. I had no choice but to walk to 7-11 and lug home 2 bags of ice. Given that the earliest repair appointment I could garner is Monday morning, I believe I shall be losing all of the new groceries I just purchased and most of that which I have been keeping in my refrigerator and freezer.

After mopping and sopping and schlepping, I find that this day is nothing like I had planned it to be.

Friday, September 05, 2008

So, this shortened work week was marked by long hours of putting together three grants. Just a couple of hours ago, the news broke that the government is planning to take over Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The latter's foundation is one for whom several staff members have been working to complete a rather labor intensive grant application. I suspect, as of now, all that labor is now in vain. How can a company losing billions continue in philanthropic work? What takeover custodian would, in good conscience, fund philanthropic work when taxpayers are already paying a heavy price for the practices of the organization in question? Yes, it shall be something of a miracle should our labors prove fruitful.


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

It has been a week since Mother insisted on playing with Kashi. He is still holding his leg up completely off the ground and is now falling more frequently. While he is not whimpering or shaking, he acts as if his leg were as bad as when the injury first occurred.

I am much worried...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

As I was putting the trash can and recycling bin back in their places this evening, my eye strayed to a spot just beneath the bottom deck step. Tucked in the corner is a single-stemmed impatiens, blooming in the shadows. My first thought was to relocated this brave flower to one of my empty pots. Upon further reflection, I chose to leave it as a reminder to take joy in the small and the unexpected, savoring those discoveries that can help brighten any day, any circumstance--a moment in time that can comfort and sustain again and again.

Monday, September 01, 2008

While I couldn't believe that my parents insisted on walking about when the heat was clearly distressing me physically, I was surprised and touched that my step-father fetched a cold bottle of water for me and then came in search to gift it to a grateful receiver. He found me on a bench. I basically went from sitting place in the shade to another..with a few photos here and there.

While there were many beautiful vistas upon which to gaze at the arboretum, I found myself playing around with the macro settings on all three cameras once more.

While I worry that I will be able to work tomorrow after sweltering in the heat, I just cannot help but marvel at the handiwork of our Lord and Creator.