Friday, March 31, 2006

"All of a sudden, all the work you've been thinking about actually needs to be done. Be careful, though. It'll be easy to break things." So says the horoscope. Aaaaaaagh! I hate housework, but my house is long overdue. With Mike gone to the gym, it will be easier to get most of it done. I really miss those days when we cleaned together. It wasn't nearly as difficult. And it was a big turn-on, isn't that strange? He has taken on most of the grocery shopping chores since he passes by Kroger everyday on his way to the gym, so he does still help. Rather than getting turned on, though, I just feel very grateful and usually fix him a favorite meal. We have a very comfortable arrangement most of the time.

I realized last night when we were watching Dreamer that we had a tremendous amount of love and peace, in that room, at that time. Gus was asleep in the crook of Mike's left arm, Jay-Jay was asleep on my lap, Mick rested on the back of the sofa where we sat, and Patches was at our feet, sleeping. A blessed moment, for sure. Who could ask for anything more? The movie made Mike cry, he's still very sentimental, especially when he sees a story about father and daughter. He misses Bonnie and that was the only element missing from this idyllic scene.

I stayed up late reading Kendall Harmon's defense of the indefensible. Rather than get my blood pressure up again, I'm going to go clean house.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Changing flight plans will cost too much, so I'm leaving them the way they are. As much as I'd like to see all the sights in Ireland, we need to plan in the more conservative direction. After all, I was promised free lodging, wasn't I? Is it possible to see plenty of sights on a budget? Of course, the main attraction for me is free, Pip. I'll bet he's walking by the time Gramma comes. Benji was 14 months old before he started walking. Some people say that's a sign of a deep thinker. In his case, they were right. Pip will be too, I'm sure.

Mike and I just watched Memoirs of a Geisha. It had some gorgeous cinematography, but the story was disturbing. What a dreadful childhood the main character Chiyo endured! The book is on my reading list now. He also got Dreamer, but I can't spend another 3 hours glued to the tv. Maybe tomorrow or Saturday.

My neighbor Art came over with his key and telephone number for while he's in Gulf Shores on vacation. He's always asking if he can help me somehow. Wonder how he would feel about helping Mike while I'm away. He gets up early enough. If he would just come over every morning and help him get dressed, Mike would be fine for the rest of the day. I can board the dogs at the vet so he doesn't have to fool with them. Not sure how he will get out the door without Mick going out, maybe I should board him, too. He likes to eat out, so meals are not a problem. The sooner I let Mike in on my plans, the sooner he can start making plans of his own. My fear is that he will start having chest pains the day before I leave, whether real or imagined, he knows that will keep me at home.

The more I read about our church's general council coming up in June, the more it reminds me of the SouBaptConv which also occurs in June. The Episcopal meeting will have much more pomp and circumstance, but the atmosphere of hostility and polarization will be the same, too palpable to ignore.

When I adopted my new church home in 1990, it championed tolerance and diversity, represented balance and reason, was not afraid to study intensely, debate openly and break new ground. Tradition, Scripture, and Reason were the three legs required to hold up the stool; all were the same length or the stool was unlevel. (Ed Bacon added a fourth leg - experience, to make it even sturdier.) Sure, there had been some who left when women were ordained or when all races were welcomed, but rather than destroy the church as they predicted, it strengthened it.

From having a homosexual boy grow to manhood in my home, I learned that he was and is a gift from God, no different in his intrinsic value from his siblings. I believe God designed him to be exactly the way he is, all the way from his beautiful brown eyes, his dark curly hair, his compassionate heart, his very high IQ to his sexual orientation; it was all a part of the same wonderful package. I enjoyed his company in the kitchen and in the mall, and was furious when his father called him a sissy. There was nothing sissy about him. The only sissiness I saw was in his father's reluctance to accept someone different from himself. And that's what I see in these macho men who are wary of those who go home to a partner of the same sex.

We Christians claim to follow a man whose sexual orientation we do not know. (Maybe DaVinci knows, maybe he doesn't.) And our Savior's most prominant apostle seemed to be nonsexual. According to the Bible, their closest companions were of the same gender. Would they be accepted today or viewed with suspicion? I just don't understand how the "husband/wife, 2 kids, 2 cars, and a dog" came to be a spiritually superior model for ministry. It's a bunch of bunk.

For a different view of this issue, check out the Salty Vicar John Wilkins. Makes me proud I had Wilkins ancestors.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Titusonenine is one of my favorite blogs, the comments, at least, that, and The Questioning Christian. I’m trying hard to understand the controversy going on in the Episcopal church. I really thought they had a majority of progressive thinkers, but it seems the orthodox traditionalists are not giving up without a fight.

It all boils down to whether our Bible should be read literally and accepted as inerrant, or whether we read it as the historical document it is. We cannot justify some of its teachings in the 21st century. We’ve come too far to go back to condoning slavery, second-class citizenship for women, treating disease as demon possession, etc. Would God have enabled us to make the progress we’ve made in science and medicine and expect us to hold on to ancient theology? I don’t think so. The days of stoning homosexuals are over. Thank God for that!

We need to dump these homo-phobic attitudes with the old biases that condemned Galileo and Darwin. We heterosexuals have no right to criticize our homosexual friends or deny them the same rights we enjoy, legally, socially, or any other way. That, to me, is just as wrong as the old denial of rights to women and black people. We’re all God’s children, deserving of life, love, and the pursuit of happiness. Why can’t we all just get along and love one another like Jesus told us to?

Mississippi’s Bishop Gray said in the just-concluded House of Bishops meeting: ‘We have discovered something of brokenness, when all your walls are broken down, grace abounds.’ He was talking about the aftermath of Katrina, but it could also apply to this issue. I hope he realizes that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Yesterday’s horoscope said simply, “There will be complications.” Today’s, “Clear a path around the mess.” Well, complications have come up with the income trust we set up for Mother. The Medicaid case worker neglected to tell us on the front end that it needed to have an effective date of Nov. 1, 2005. So now I get to do it all again. It’s been like this from the beginning. One step forward, two steps back, clear a path around the mess, my ass.

Mike found out yesterday that his latest commission check may get reversed, half of it anyway, due to his client changing her mind before the 30 day free-look is up. His horoscope for Monday said, “Verify what you hear, even if it's from a reliable source. Misinformation is abundant. Also, watch what you say.” Today it’s “Don't take anything for granted. Don't even buy or sell. What you see is not necessarily what you're going to get.” That’s the way it is when you live on commission. It used to bug me when he was so cautious with our money. Now I’m glad he was. An hour later. Yeah, we get to keep the whole amount. It’s like riding a damn roller coaster.

I talked to Mary Ann yesterday to see if Clay and Cooper wanted to go to Ireland with me. Unfortunately, Clay’s grades aren’t good enough for him to take a week off. He’s struggling with math, one of his favorite subjects, but he’s been forgetting to turn in his homework. Poor kid, and poor parents, I don’t know who to feel sorrier for. It’s so frustrating for all. He is really enjoying his saxophone, though. Cooper is playing the Entertainer for piano recital. It’s one of my favorite tunes; in fact, it’s the ring tone on my cell phone.

My joints are aching today, probably because of the damp weather. My ankles are especially sore. I need to take long walks every day so I won’t get too tired in Ireland. Benji and Karen have lots of sight-seeing for us to do. He’s found a source of info on our ancestors and the approximate location of their community. Naturally, he and I are the only ones who care anything about seeing it, but I’m sure we can work something out. He warned me that Pat snores, in case we share a room. According to Mike, I’m the loudest snorer he’s ever heard. Maybe we won’t keep the whole family awake. We’ll be taking the train between several destinations. Benji has never ridden a train. I thought he had.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ben has made reservations for Pat and changed my seat assignments so we can sit together. This will be a fun trip. I've got to let Mike in on the big secret. I've been trying to postpone the fight for as long as I can. Usually I preface news I know he will consider bad with "Before you fly off the handle and say irrational mean things, take a deep breath and let what I'm telling you sink in, then do your best to react like a mature man instead of a spoiled brat." He keeps a cool head with that warning and we avoid a major blow-up.

If, however, he refuses to accept my plans as finalized and not open to negotiation, I'll suggest we have a session with Dr. Irby. I finally gave up on trying to discuss it or make plans with him because everything he said was so negative. And he acted like I needed his permission to do this. It's exactly what pushed me in years past to making several trips to Tampa with Jeanette instead of him. At the last minute, usually the day before we left, he would say, "I've changed my mind, I want to go with you." Who can make plans with a partner like that?

So I've learned over the years to just leave him out of the equation, do what I want to do, and he usually makes it fine while I'm gone. I haven't done this since his stroke, so he will need to make plans for help while I'm away. From the trips we've made together I've learned that he really doesn't enjoy traveling, complains the whole time we're away, and diminishes my enjoyment, too. What should be a vacation turns into even more trouble and stress for me than I already have.

It's so nice out today, I'm going for a long walk with the dogs. The rest of the week is supposed to be rainy. An hour later. I walked, they ran, unleashed, we all came in hungry and thirsty. We've had lunch, and like angels, they're now down for their afternoon naps. Mike's still out. He left around 10 headed for the gym, the grocery, and the pharmacy.

The birth certificate came today. I need to get the passport ap filled out and turned in. Mike found the UPS envelope on the back porch when he came in, saw that it was addressed to me and it was from Texas, then said, “must be some of your family tree stuff.” Totally clueless. If he weren’t so easy to deceive, my conscience wouldn’t hurt like it does, but it’s too much like taking candy from a baby. I feel really rotten and ashamed.

On the other hand, why isn’t he more in tune to my wants and needs? Why didn’t it occur to him that something from “Vital Statistics” in Austin, Texas, might just be my birth certificate? Especially since I told him just last week that a birth certificate is required to get a passport. He’s probably forgotten that I am a native Texan. And he probably thinks I’ve not thought any more about going to Ireland, since I haven’t mentioned it to him for the past week. I sent him a link to this blog two weeks ago, and he hasn't looked at it once, that's how little he cares about what I think. Now that I have rationalized and justified my plans, I feel a little better.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

I may have a traveling companion; Pat Abney wants to go the week I go. I hope we can get reservations made for her at the same time. It will be fun to have a buddy.

We ate lunch at Sun Koon today. It was good, but I like our No. 1 China Buffet better. Our choir was missing only 4 of its members this morning, fullest we've been since Christmas. James was back from his NY tour and has lost a lot of weight, all the walking. he said. A couple of boo-boos in the anthems, I'd give our performance an A-, but Mike said he didn't hear any mistakes. We did Amazing Grace for the offertory with Alicia playing the flute. It was beautiful. The other one was Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem, which I didn't like as much, but it was pretty. The whole emphasis in today's Bible readings and music was Jerusalem, but Mollie preached and didn't mention it. I'm weary of so much attention being given to Jerusalem. Too many Christians today take all that prophecy about the city literally. At least we were praying for peace, and not for Armegeddon and the second coming like some seem to be doing.

It's been a fairly easy week, even had a couple of pajama days. Tomorrow is Tara's 32nd birthday and Laurie's 38th is on the 31st. I remember how we all prayed that she would not be born on April Fool's Day. I think that was the closest we ever came to influencing anything she did.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

This story from Benji is good, a speech given by Bill Moyers at Wake Forest. A Time for Heresy

I know now why Truman Capote always gave me the creeps - because he was a creep, famous, wealthy, genius, but still, a creep. Only he could make me feel sorry for a cold-blooded murderer like Perry Smith. The cold blood had as much to do with the ice water in his veins as the murder he depicted In Cold Blood. The remark he made to Harper Lee "the man is a gold mine," says it all. His exploitation of that situation should have haunted him to his dying day, and I guess it did, which makes him a little more human, but not much. "They're torturing me," he whined, when the convicted killers won a third stay of execution. What a self-absorbed little man.

Mike and I have been reading C.S. Lewis's The Great Divorce. His Sunday School class has been discussing it one chapter per week. Tomorrow's chapter is about the woman behind every successful man we used to hear so much about. There probably are still a few women who think like that, but their numbers are dwindling. She refused entre to heaven because she couldn't continue to nag and control and "make something of him." A motivator of Betty Friedan, no doubt, God rest her soul.

Benji suggested that I contact Karen's Aunt Pat to see if she wants to go to Ireland when I do. I'd love to have her company. When I met her at their wedding, I thought, if she and I lived nearer to each other, we'd probably be good friends. He's trying to plan our week while I'm there. Plan A includes:

Dublin on the 17th, shop there all day, spend most of the 18th there, then hop a train and get into Belfast around 4-5, rent a car, drive to Ballintoy (or the N. Coast), spend a day traipsing around, go to Scotland on the 19th (through maybe the 20th), come back to Belfast, train to Dublin, then train to Galway by the 22nd, since you're leaving on the red-eye on the 23rd....

Plan B:

...take the kids to the Cliffs, and to the Aran Islands (in Galway Bay), and hang out in the city some, so we can totally do that if you want to stay closer to home....

Truth is, I'd like to do it all. I should have scheduled 2 weeks instead of one. If we do Plan A, which is the way I'm leaning today, I need to change my flight plan to arrive at Dublin instead of Shannon. Traveling usually zaps my energy, changing time zones between here and Tampa is enough to disorient me a little. Building in a day of rest before embarking on all this gallivanting would be wise.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Happiness is finding another 6-pk of Diet Dr. Pepper in the trunk of my car and not having to go to the store. My needs are simple, Boys and Girls. I would like for March Madness to be over so the internet is not so slow. Maybe it's a marketing ploy, Bellsouth dial-up is going the way of the rotary phone, sign up for DSL or else. I would not put it past 'em.

I just read an article about research that showed "whiny, insecure kids grew up to be conservatives; the confident, resilient, self-reliant kids mostly grew up to be liberals. " I'm not so sure about that. Benji was definitely more whiny than Ricky (2nd-borns usually are), and he's very liberal. They were both confident, resilient, and self-reliant, but Ricky went in the conservative direction. Just goes to show, my kids turned out to be as exceptional as I always claimed they were.

Mike wants me to come watch Capote with him. I'm not sure I can sit through the whole thing. Truman Capote always gave me the creeps. I heard a story on MPB the other day about the myth being laid to rest that he wrote To Kill a Mockingbird instead of Harper Lee.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Wednesday’s high was 49*, low 39*, and there is a freeze warning for tonight and Friday night. My plants had no trouble surviving the warmest winter on record for our area, I’d hate to lose them in a spring freeze. The 70’s aren’t due to return for a week. Grumble, grumble, grumble…

Ben delivered my e-tickets and receipt to me at choir practice last night, which brought on a good amount of questioning and discussion with other choir members. The wallflower got all the attention she wanted. I even got some offers to help with Mike. I don’t think they understood on Sunday that Ben and I are both making trips to Ireland. Maybe they thought I was talking to him about his trip. This is what he told me about his trip:

I’m flying to Dublin on the 16th (arriving on the 17th) and am driving a rent-a-car around the island with an older couple from here in Clinton. They are both church musicians (Southern Baptists) and they go on annual prayer walks around the world. This year they’re going to Ireland and Scotland. They go to cities, towns and areas where hymn-writers are from and they stop and pray that the hymns that were written in these areas will still be used and sung for the purpose they were written. I’m going to drive them through Waterford, Cork, the Dingle peninsula, Sligo, Armagh, Londonderry and Belfast. Then the three of us are going to take the ferry to Scotland where I’ll drive them up through Irvine and on to Glasgow. I’m going to fly home from Glasgow while they stay and go on an escorted tour through the Highlands.

I had no idea there was anybody who did what this couple does. Wonder who the Irish hymn writers are.

Bonnie finally got tired of baby-sitting and pet-sitting and got a job at Fresh Market. She may realize she needs a college education eventually. The sad thing is she's still babysitting during the day and working this job at night. Mike was excited to learn his daughter will have some time away from her psycho-mom. They must have been threatened with eviction again for Barbara to allow Bonnie out of her sight. I predict a change in Mike's meal schedule to coincide with Bonnie's work schedule. That's ok with me, he needs to see her more even if it's only while eating supper where she works. I also predict this job will not last long because they will not let her sit down. Couch potatoes don't do well on their feet for any length of time. The excuse will be about the guys she's working with, mark my word.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rather than lose today's post like yesterday's, I'm copying this one to the word processor first. There was nothing significant to tell about on Tuesday. Some of the mundane events I record are merely to free up the limited space in my brain. Mike got a lipid profile done and found that his LDL is still too high, so Dr. Fletcher is adding one more drug to his regimen. We ate breakfast at Primo's after leaving the hospital, and a fine breakfast it was, too. We weren't hungry again until suppertime. I accompanied him to the lab because the last time he had blood drawn, he almost passed out. It was at the doctor's office and the nurse stuck him several times before hitting a vein. That would make anybody swoon.

Benji and I exchanged several emails regarding the Irish ancestors and getting into my genealogy database from his computer. Today he's found out that our Ulster Presbyterian relatives were the instigators and progenitors of much of the conflict still going on in Ireland, not a heritage for a peacenik to brag about. It may explain why our protestant families were so prejudiced against Roman Catholics, though. A lot of Southern Baptists still don't acknowledge Catholics as Christian. One of the articles Benji found had this:

It may be worth somebody's thesis to explore whether the subsequent tendencies of the dominant Baptists to theological disputation and local schism owe something to the inclinations of the eighteenth-century Scots and Irish Presbyterians from whom many of them are descended.

To which I can only add Amen. Nobody does disputation and schism like we Baptists. (As Skip tells me, I'll never escape my SouBapt roots.)

Mike has left to run errands - pick up cat food, his new medicine, a check at the g.o., eat lunch with Ron, and work out. That should give me 2 or 3 hours of peace. He pitched one of his hissyfits when, after his bath, I refused to get more clean clothes for him to wear. I had dressed him in clean clothes just two hours prior, so I gave him the choice of wearing them or getting his own, then I left him sitting naked on the tub bench to remember he can't dress himself, and to reconsider his demands. By the time I went back, he had calmed down, and he appreciated my help. I hate it when he is so unreasonable. Maybe I should let him do his own laundry. No, even the meanest part of me would not do that.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Well, the entry for the 21st got lost I guess. What is going on with blogger today?

Monday, March 20, 2006

Mother Nature, you are no friend of mine! It's spring, dammit, and I don't like being cold. The dogs won't go outside in the rain unless I take them, and thunder makes poor Jay-Jay too nervous to pee anywhere but in the house, he's shaking like a leaf. Mama said there'd be days like this, rainy days and Mondays ...

Benji's been digging into our Irish ancestry and found that our Vance line was part of the Scottish resettlement of Northern Ireland. He sounded disappointed, maybe because they descended from barbaric Goths? Ah, but that explains a lot, m' lad.

Travel agent friend Ben sent my flight itinerary. Now if I can just get the birth certificate and passport in time, I'll be off. I was relieved to learn that the penalty for canceling is just $200, unless it's due to death or illness, I've heard people tell of forfeiting the whole amount. I'm actually feeling some excitement about this adventure.

The Beatles tribute band that Mike heard at the casino was unbelievably good, he said. I ordered their CD for him this morning. They're called Rain and they even had the British accent and the Beatle antics down pat. He enjoyed his trip with Ron, but said he would not want to extend it to a longer one. Seems his buddy obsesses about trivial things that get on Mike's nerves. Wasn't it the pot that called the kettle black?

This paragraph from today's devotional reminded me of yesterday's wallflower moment:

The Graduate won an Oscar for Anne Bancroft. Film critics said the actress gave a voice to the fear we all have: that we’ll reach a certain point in our lives, look around, and recognize that all the things we said we’d do and become will never come to be—and that we’re ordinary.

I've never felt more ordinary than I did at that moment. The shy, retiring side of me has always been satisfied to be ordinary, to sit on the sidelines, to be the wallflower. I'm usually very comfortable and content with that. What stung yesterday was that I wanted attention and didn't get any. The devotional goes on to say:

The Kingdom of God cannot be bought or won, but is hidden in the ordinary where, vulnerable at last, we finally are available to God as well as one another.

Maybe God was trying to get my attention, to remind me "it's not all about ME!" Usually reading back over my journal is all it takes to remind me how very ordinary I am.

I learned a new word this morning playing Scrabble - shrive (to hear the confession of and grant absolution to), and I made 32 points on it. Maven beat me badly, though, and took my average down a point. I hate when that happens. Shoulda stayed on the Pro level and not tried Master level.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Brrrrr!!! What happened to our warm weather? It's winter again. Cold, wet, miserable winter, 48* when I came in at 1:30. I came real close to skipping church today, but my conscience wouldn't let me. Mike and I went to Garfield's afterward for lunch. He and Jon Morefield stayed longer to visit and I came home, changed into a turtleneck and sweats, turned on the heat and finally got warm. I do not like being cold. Think I'll make me a pot of coffee, too. Ahhhh! Nothing like a steamy cup of Joe to chase the chill away.

I told Ben to make the flight reservations for me. When I mentioned it at lunch, Mike said, "If you go to Ireland, I'm going with you," knowing full well he would not do it and thinking that that would permanently stall my plans. His very next sentence was, “before you make plans for any trip, you need to wait until we’ve filed our taxes. We may owe more than you think we’re going to.”

So I asked him, “do you know how long it takes to get a passport? Do you have a copy of your birth certificate? You can‘t wait until the week before you want to go to start making plans. Benji is coming home in June.”

“Well, do you have to go while Benji’s there?” he asked. That‘s how I knew he was not serious about wanting to go, I mean, the main purpose of this trip is to visit Benji‘s family.

We're going to have a major blow-up about this before it's done, but that's nothing new. Rather than making arrangements for his care while I'm gone, I'm going to let him do that for himself, give him something to worry about other than trying to control me. Why does everything have to be so difficult?

I felt like a wallflower this morning when the rest of the choir, after overhearing Ben and me discuss our trips, totally ignored me and wanted to know all about Ben's trip. Not one person said anything to me or showed any interest in my plans. My feelings were hurt. I think Ben may have noticed that I got very quiet, and when he finished chatting with the others, he came over beside me to ask a couple of questions. He's a kind-hearted person, I guess that's why I like him, that, and he's a Baptist PK.

This reminds me of the trip I made in '84 to Salt Lake City to visit Paul's family. Deanne was still a baby, and I wanted to spend some time with her and Vance, who was about 8 at the time. Don was opposed to my going, but he couldn't/wouldn't take off work to go with me. Once I put that distance between us, it was all downhill after that. There was something about taking a stand for myself and what I wanted that ruptured our relationship. Things were never the same between us. I hope that doesn't happen in this one, and it shouldn't. Mike and I have a stronger bond than I had with Don.

Don's daughter Carla is 38 today. What a sweet, beautiful child she was. Now she has two sons of her own who never knew her daddy. He would have been a good grandfather, but died at 52 of lung cancer. She used to sit in his lap and beg him to quit smoking. I hope she's healthy and happy. I sure do miss her and her 2 brothers.

Skip has a new granddaughter born to Jonathan and Amy. That's 3 girls, Grace, Rachel, Amanda, and 1 grandson Zack. Helen's daughter is expecting a girl, too.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

It's so quiet here without Mike. I got to sleep later this morning, nobody punching me in the ribs and shaking me with, "honeeeeey, I'm huuuungry." How nice. I hope he's enjoying his get-away with Ron as much as I am.

The rain started about 9:00, it's 49* outside, perfect conditions for spending the morning in the kitchen cooking. I'm hungry for a Southwestern cornbread casserole, found the recipe a couple of months ago on a bag of Martha White cornmeal. We love it, so I'll make one of those. My slightly altered version of this is a mixture of chunky salsa, black beans, corn, low-fat turkey sausage, and 2% Mexican cheese mix, poured over a thin layer of cornbread batter, then topped with the rest of the batter. I've found it's just as good to bake the cornbread separately, then split individual pieces, top it with this mixture, sprinkle the cheese over it, stick it in the microwave and voila! instant supper. I like doing it this way because the mixture is also good on baked potatoes. Lots of good recipes on their website, check it out.

Also their theme song by Flatt and Scruggs is there. Wonder if I could download that for a ringtone on my cellphone?

An hour later. The rain stopped, and I found new pee spots on the carpet, my dogs hate going outside when it rains, so I've been steam cleaning the carpet. I've got some of the SW mixture in the freezer and some cornbread, so cooking a new batch was not necessary. I put the dogs outside unleashed, which irritates a couple of the neighbors, but I'm not the only one who does it, and my dogs don't bite. They love to bark, though. Hopefully, the sheriff's animal control deputy is not cruising the neighborhood. Mike keeps telling me I'm going to have to pick them up at the pound one day and pay a hefty fine, but so far, we've been lucky. After 5 or 10 minutes, they've come to the back porch waiting for me to open the door. I hear them now.

After all the worrying I did yesterday about not having enough time to plan a trip to Ireland, I realized that May 16 is 2 months away instead of one. What was I thinking? Just one more indication of how frazzled my mind is.

Friday, March 17, 2006

How do the Irish celebrate St. Paddy's day? We had Irish soda bread for breakfast and watched Imus do a special live audience SPD show in Boston. Cherish the Ladies performed several Irish tunes, and I'm sure their CD sales have increased as a result. I'd never heard of them, but I was instantly enchanted by their Celtic sound. Wonder what Benji and Karen are doing on the Emerald Isle to celebrate.

I've always thought of March 17th as a lucky day for me. It was on that date in 1969 that I started working for Southern Bell in Nashville as a long distance operator, and it was on that date in 1999, I retired from Bellsouth. 30 years to the day I worked to qualify for my pension, then I left. I got a letter from them yesterday announcing and explaining the AT&T - Bellsouth merger, and reassuring retirees their pensions are safe. That's good news, but I credit our union with that as much as the company.

That I lasted 30 years with them is a minor miracle. I went through an ungodly amount of garbage and heartache. Many times I came close to take this job and shove it, but self-preservation always made me stop short. I knew that would hurt me a lot more than it would hurt them, so I stuck it out. Providing for my kids was always my strongest motivation, then I had to provide for me.

I could not have retired when I did if I had not married Mike in '92. Together we've built a comfortable safe-haven for the two of us. I complain about his salty behavior a lot, but I love him. His temper tantrums, which are more frequent than they used to be, seem to get the adrenaline pumping and that helps him with his disabilities. I noticed the same thing in my father after he had strokes. His speech got so slurred we couldn't understand him, but if he got mad, it was suddenly clearer.

Mike has a keen sense of humor, loves to laugh, and can be a lovable old curmudgeon. He was cursed with unhealthy genes and they have caused heart attacks and now a stroke. He works hard to keep himself healthy and alive and to recover. He could use some help with the emotional problems that have developed since his stroke, but whenever he sees his neuropsychologist, they spend most of the time telling jokes and making light of his situation. Or at least, that's the impression I get from what he's told me. It's not a perfect life, but then, who has that? I haven't known anybody I would like to trade places with. And if he goes before I do, I will miss him terribly.

In the bulletin at yesterday's funeral was a note of thanks from the grieving parents to the rest of the parish. In it, they asked that we all hug our children, love our family, and be grateful for what we have. Life is too short to look for all the things that are wrong, there are so many blessings that we take for granted.

2:00 pm. `... you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!' Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking glass

And that’s the way I feel about planning a trip abroad. I’m running as fast as I can, running twice as fast is not an option. Yes, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m delighted that my son wants to share the beauty of Ireland with me. God knows I’d like to spend some time with them and Pip. We’ll just have to plan another vacation to Asheville this summer. I’d much rather spend vacation money on that, and we can’t afford to do both.

Nevertheless, I emailed Ben Preston to see if he could get me a good deal. I need somebody to walk me through the whole process of getting a passport and all that. When I mentioned to Mike this morning that I wanted to go see Benji while he’s there, all he said was, “Bye.” Seems he’s been thinking I should have a vacation, maybe trying to convince himself he can manage without me. We’ll see how this goes, and if it was meant to be, it will all happen without a lot of “double, double toil and trouble…”

Skip’s interpretation of the VBS dream was that I’m fenced in with a lot of responsibility and that I need a break. He’s probably right. Wonder what the May weather is like in Ireland. It’s been so horribly cold the whole time they’ve been there, I can’t get excited about leaving this gorgeous spring here and going to a wintry place.

Mike left about 1:30 with Ron for the casino, and told him I’d be glad to let him have my “ball and chain” for a couple of days. At least he was laughing about it. Ron is such a mother hen, I have no doubt he’ll be ok.

The New Age channel on has been playing a lot of Irish music this afternoon, so pretty. I went out with the dogs and cats to enjoy perfect 68* degree sunny weather, flowers blooming everywhere, freshly mown grass, who in their right mind would rather be in a cold, damp place? Today’s high in Galway is supposed to be 40* with snow flurries, low 32*. I’ll be ambivalent about this trip until I do it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Something happened to my computer’s power source overnight, so I had trouble getting it turned on just now. After unplugging and re-plugging everything, it finally connected. Ooh, that unsettled me. It’s probably not healthy to be as dependent on this contraption as I am, but it has definitely helped me to unwind, to detach, to recharge, and those are good things, especially in my house.

My agenda for the day is full - bills to pay this morning, grocery shopping, and this afternoon our choir sings for a funeral. This one is for a still-born infant, full term, life snuffed by her own umbilical cord. How does a mother get through this kind of heartbreak? To have a joyfully anticipated baby’s birth turn suddenly into a tragic event like this seems more than a woman should have to bear. My heart cries when I think of it. I pray for the peace that passes all understanding to surround and penetrate this family. Bear them up and make your presence real to them, Lord, as they walk through this dark valley.

Mike left early to run errands and go to the gym. He got paid on a case yesterday that took very little effort on his part. And then complains about how he hates the life insurance business. What an ingrate.

Benji emailed asking again that I plan a visit to Ireland while they’re there. There would be no better opportunity for a trip like that, but the very idea of all I’d have to do and go through with Mike before I left stops me in my tracks. I simply can’t cope with any more hassle than I’ve already got. I know my limits and those limits have been reached.

Sorry, Son, but you’ll have to enjoy Ireland without me. And please don’t let the fact that none of your family has been to see you diminish your own enjoyment. In the (slightly altered) words of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young - “If you can’t be with the ones you love, love the ones you’re with.” Wanting more of your family close by, and not having them, is just one of the crosses you were born to bear as a member of my family. I don’t like it any more than you do, but it opens up interesting possibilities. Refer to the devotional I mentioned on the 14th for a new angle on this misfortune.

Time keeps on slippin’ into the future… (What song/artist was that?) Later…

7:16 pm What a sad, sad funeral. I kept my composure until the young father lifted the tiny coffin and carried it out of the church to the waiting hearse. We were singing a hymn that was supposed to have a descant on the last verse, but I couldn't do it and neither could the others. Singing the tune through tears is a challenge, but a descant? The other song that got to me was James Martin's solo "Jesus Loves Me." David should be glad his back is to the congregation. I've sung at funerals all my life, but this one and Amy Monaghan's were the hardest.

I'm trying my best to figure out a way to make a trip to Ireland while Benji and Karen are there. Mike has planned a trip to Philadelphia with Ron for tomorrow night. A Beatle's cover band is performing, that's why Mike agreed to go with his gambling buddy to the casino. He's carrying an extra $50 to play the slot machines, he said. If this excursion goes ok, I'm hoping he is persuaded that he can manage without me. Ron would be glad to stay here with him if I decided to take a week's vacation, so I'll cross my fingers.

Opening my blog for comments was probably a mistake. I invited family members who are mentioned to read it, but not all conversations should be held in public. In my family they too easily turn fractious. So if any of you want to give me feedback, please email it instead. TMI is TMI.

I'm awfully tired, so I'm turning in early.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck was an intriguing look at network news in pre-computer, pre-cable, pre-color-tv days. I didn’t realize Edward R. Murrow was so influential. McCarthy’s witch hunt for communists reminds me of the extreme measures now being used in tracking terrorists. Rather than getting rid of their target, they create the ideal atmosphere for their adversary to thrive. I liked what Murrow said in one of his speeches:

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always, that accusation is not proof, and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another, we will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason.

I could listen to Dianne Reeves’ music all day, and George Clooney, although 20 pounds heavier than normal, is still very easy on the eyes.

This was the first movie I’ve watched with Mike in several weeks. I get claustrophobic being stuck for that long in the same room with him. GN&GL was shorter than most, so that helped.

Actually, watching movies, at all, is not easy for me. My attention wanders, I get restless, I think of other things I’d rather be doing, I’m usually flipping through a magazine, or a catalog, or paying bills, or reading recipes while the movie is on. I haven’t always been this antsy, or have I? Writing this out made me realize it’s the way I was in school, too. I probably had ADHD, but that hadn’t been discovered yet.

It also explains why I have a thousand unfinished projects around here, and why I can sit for hours at my computer reading, writing, playing games, painting pictures, listening to music, balancing the budget, never on one thing very long, flit, flit, flit. I can be in the middle of a Scrabble game, get bored, surf the net, come back to the game and pick up where I left it, no longer bored, my interest renewed.

And thanks to my dogs, my hubby, and my tiny bladder, I have to get up at least once an hour, take a walk, do something helpful or productive, then come back to my office and have FUN.

It’s also why nobody can ever get me on the telephone. I get so agitated talking on the phone. There’s no polite way to say, “Excuse me, but I’m tired of this, good-bye.” So I avoid it as much as possible, and everybody gets annoyed with me. My hearing loss and tinnitus are to blame for much of it, I get real tired of asking people to repeat whatever they say.

And no, I haven’t always been this way about the telephone, it used to be my livlihood and one of my favorite pastimes, but I was usually doing something else while on the phone - doodling, filing, cooking supper, polishing my nails, etc. I think they call that multi-tasking now.

Today’s Sagittarius horoscope says “Your basic ideas about yourself are undergoing changes.” Not that I put much stock in horoscopes, but some days they are eerily relevant. My ideas about myself are changing, they were never unchanging. The older I get the more I find to like about me, and the more aware I am of my flaws. Heck, I’m one of the most imperfect people I know, and most of the time, that‘s ok with me.

I’m debating whether to make this blog public. I sent a link to Benji yesterday, but, so far, no one else. He’s got several blogs posted. If I make mine public, I plan to add links to his, too. He’s a great writer and poet, and I would love for anyone who reads mine to read his, too.

I wish Ricky had a blog, but as far as I know, he’s not into this, yet. A stranger will get a slanted view of Benji’s mom after reading his blogs, he tends to lean to the far left in his politics, and expresses his opinions freely. Ricky leans to the right and I’m in the moderate middle, leaning more to the left than some Republicans like, and more to the right than some Democrats like.

I really liked Clinton as a president, he disappointed me with his poor judgment in some of his personal behavior, but Bush’s presidency has been a huge disappointment to me from beginning to end. President Gore or President Kerry would have been much better for our nation in the long run. Thank goodness, a lot of Republicans are waking up to Bush's incompetence. Now if the Democrats can win back a majority of the House and Senate seats in November, maybe we can restore some balance to this sinking ship.

I used to be perplexed by how different my two sons are, but a priest told me I was to be congratulated for creating a home where each could develop in his own way. That requires a great deal of freedom and security, he said.

We just had a freaky thing happen on our front porch. The light fixture appears to have been pulled away from the wall, the globe fell and busted, and there was no logical explanation for it when I went out there. Not a soul around, not even a squirrel, maybe we have a poltergeist. Weird.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Finally! Some peace and quiet. Mike's gone to the gym, after an hour or so of consternation about this and that and everything else. Blue Cross is refusing to pay for more therapy, so he's decided to use the gym at St. Dominic's for exercising. Their machines are easier for him to use than those at the Y, and they're in the same space where his therapists are located.

I got the trust document drawn up yesterday, filed at the court house, and delivered to the nursing home and the Medicaid office. What a relief! Now when they tell me how much to fund the trust account with, I'll go set one up at my bank and leave Mother's out of it. Nobody can complicate matters like they do. So I'll have one more set of bank statements and one more check book to keep track of. I volunteered for this duty, so I shouldn't complain. I just hope I have my affairs in better order for my children to handle, if I live as long as she's lived. That she has been self-supporting for 87 years is admirable. She would be mortified to know she's not able to do that any longer, if she were in her right mind, but that left her several years ago. I also hope and pray my demise is not so long and miserable.

I met one of my favorite former governors while downtown yesterday, and he complimented me for a beautiful smile. Politicians and preachers, they just can't resist a new hand to shake. My daddy could work a room like he was running for office, and in a way, I guess he was.

Today's devotional gave me a new perspective on the "blood is thicker than water" issue I wrote about last week. Here's the link:

(If you pull this up and it's not about Mark 3:19-25, then go to Archives and pull up the reading for March 14.)

Well, my vacuum cleaner has convinced me it can't run itself, so I'll try to make a dent in my messy house.
Vacation Bible School in the early 80's with my 5 teenagers plus the rest of the church's youth group, that was the setting of the only dream I remember from last night. We were on a large vacant lot surrounded by a wooden fence. The kids were painting, some murals, others graffiti, but the whole inside surface of the fence was covered with bright color. My niece Laura wanted to paint over one of my designs and I fussed at her to pick her own spot and leave mine alone. Mary Ann was quoting some Bible verses from the Old Testament while she painted, and I asked her if she would please quote something from the New Testament. "But this is the law," she protested. "I know it is, Dear, but we live in the age of grace," I explained.

If there is an interpretation for this scene, it hasn't come to me yet. Maybe it was for entertainment only.

The dogs are begging to be let out. I'll be back.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Random Hearts was playing for the umpteenth time on AMC when I woke up at 3:00. Mike was watching it, I was listening. I liked the background music better than the depressing dialogue; I may get the soundtrack.

After talking with Katherine at the nursing home this morning, I realized that setting up this income trust for Mother may be the simplest solution after all. With that we get her payments levelized, and the caseworker does not have to worry with the up and down of her income. I called an attorney who offers this service for $75, and they're drawing up the papers today. I feel like a huge burden has been lifted off my back.

Betsy and I enjoyed David's concert at St. Andrew's yesterday. It drew a respectable sized crowd and we gave him a standing ovation. To tell the truth, I don't think that organ sounds a whole lot better than the one we have at St. Philip's, but what I know about pipe organs wouldn't fill a thimble. John Paul, in introducing David, said he was jealous of David's talent, because not only does he play well, he also sings beautifully.

I chatted with Tom Lowe afterwards and expressed my sympathy for his father's recent death. When I told him that his father and mine were friends at Central High School, he said, "Your father was Silas Johnson?" He actually remembered Daddy visiting them when he was a child, and recalled his being stranded in Jackson at their house for 3 days during an ice storm. I was surprised, and somewhat flattered, that he knew him. I had attempted to make this connection with him before, and he was totally tuned out.

Mississippi and Florida are having spring break this week. I was hoping to see Ricky and family, but unless they're coming up here, I won't; need to find out what their plans are. Betsy and Richard are planning a day trip to the coast, she said, but nothing else. Rain is forecast for several days and cooler temps. Yesterday's high was 87, Wednesday's low should be in the 30's. Only in Mississippi.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

What a lovely Sabbath I've had today. Our Bible readings this morning included one of my favorite Psalms - 16. Unfortunately, some of my favorite phrases were left out of the version we did in church. Today's English Version says, "How excellent are the Lord's faithful people! My greatest pleasure is to be with them...I am always aware of the Lord's presence; he is near, and nothing can shake me...You will show me the path that leads to life; your presence fills me with joy, and brings me pleasure forever."

Another rich blessing was this week's Pipedreams program from American Public Radio. Performed at King's College Chapel in Cambridge and featuring the King's College Choir and organ. I listened to most of it before leaving for church, then listened to the entire program again this afternoon. Here's the link:

I sent the link to all the choir members and to Betsy. She and I are going to the organ concert at St. Andrews Cathedral at 4:00. Our favorite organist David O'Steen is performing on the new pipe organ that was installed there just last year. He is a superb musician and gets heavenly sounds out of our choir at St. Philip's. The two anthems we did today went much better than I anticipated, but they usually do. He admonished us to sing with confidence and we did.

Mike chose not to go to church today, driving instead to Terry to visit Ron. I didn't protest. I really enjoy what little disconnect time I have from him. I feel like I truly get a day of rest when he does that. We did have some tense moments before I left for church. Mick got out again and wouldn't come in. He eventually did (he always does), but that doesn't keep Mike from going into worst case scenario mode. I wish he wouldn't let things like that bother him so.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

We've got a peaceful Saturday going on. Mike's only had one tantrum this morning. The dogs are sleeping, the cats aren't fighting, the washer and dryer are humming, I've got smooth jazz from, an email from Skip to reply to, all is well. I only got about 5 hours sleep last night, couldn't give up the racing mind until about 2:30 this morning. It was hot upstairs, especially with Gus and Jay-Jay snuggled as close to me as they could get.

I finally got up and turned on the AC, then Mike woke up and demanded I turn it off, interrupting a potentially erotic dream about me and John Kerry, of all people. We seemed to be intimately acquainted, he was dressed casually in jeans and a plaid, short-sleeved sports shirt, and I was going riding with him on his Harley. He was so much taller than me, I came only to his armpit.

After I went back to sleep, I had a stressful dream about very ill-behaved children, totally out-of-control. I was trying to put them all to bed and they were doing whatever they could to resist. There were 10 or 12 of them, all sassy, loud-mouthed smart alecks. Made me glad to wake up to just one grumpy husband, two dogs, and two cats.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Friday and not nearly all is done that should be. I'm so behind on so many things I'm beginning to feel overwhelmed. We did get Mike's shoes fixed with velcro this morning. Hopefully he can learn to put them on with his right hand. My one-armed grandfather was able to get into and out of his shoes by himself, but he didn't have to deal with a brace on a paralyzed leg. He left his shoes loosely tied so he could just slip his feet in and out of them. If Mike could/would just learn to dress himself, it would help me. I hate to accuse a stroke victim of not wanting to recover, he is so obstinate sometimes, I think he'd just rather I do it for him. And I'm tired of doing it for him. I'm tired of helping him bathe, emptying his urinal, picking up used tissues from the floor. I'm tired of going to therapy with him. I'm tired of his tv on all day. I'm tired of his temper tantrums. I'm tired of his criticism, his negativity, his anxiety, his impatience, his obscene language.

I heard the relief workers on the coast being described as having compassion fatigue since Katrina. Maybe that's what I've got. It's been 18 months since his stroke, and I'm bone tired. I don't feel the compassion for him that I used to feel. I did feel sorry for him today when Journey's "Anyway you want it" came on the radio. "Greenhill sings the crap out of that song," he said, " and I learned that solo note for note." God, how I wish he could play his guitar again. He started crying. The very next song was "The Day the Music Died." He kept crying. My anger and resentment seem to melt when that happens.

It doesn't happen as much as it used to, but today he's feeling a little vulnerable. Our insurance will not fund anymore therapy until Dr. Tipton issues new orders. We've requested them, but so far, he hasn't. His attitude about therapy is not very encouraging. Rather than believing Mike is capable of progress, he thinks he could do as well for himself by working out at the Y. Having to depend on the help of others as much as he does has really been hard on Mike. His motivation and initiative took severe hits when he was disabled, and I'm not sure how much longer I can prop him up.

I've got to get help for myself - hire a handyman, a housecleaner, take a break. Medicaid just informed me that we will have to set up a trust for Mother because her income is over the limit. It's not over the limit except in those months when her renter is late and pays for 2 months in one. To be fair, Medicaid should take an average, but for some reason, that's too difficult for them. I'm too tired to fight with them today.

Mike just walked through my office complaining about Mick being outside. I picked up the squirt bottle I use to break up dog fights, and squirted him with it. Expletive, expletive, expletive. I kept squirting. He finally hushed and left. Mick is our new cat and is plenty capable of defending himself from anything he might encounter outside. Give it a rest!!!

Thursday, March 09, 2006

March 9, 2006. Our weather should be stormy today, or as my husband just said, a Shiite day rather than a Sunni day. Where does he get this humor? So much work around me, it’s depressing. Where to begin?

I faced a fear yesterday and feel some relief today. After seeing the mini-mansion Georgia lives in, I was intimidated about having her visit my humble abode. But when she called wanting to deliver the top I ordered at her party, without hesitation I told her to come on over. No sweeping, dusting, or picking up clutter was done before she got here. Just me in my natural habitat.

I’m sure she was taken aback, at least a little, but why pretend to be something I’m not. I’m blessed and comfortable to have what I have, to live where I live. We’re on the water, and yet we didn’t pay an exorbitant amount for our location, and that in itself has always been gratifying to me. I was able to retire at 52 after being employed for 30 years. We’ve stayed solvent since Mike’s stroke without the income he once had, so we’re in a better place than others who have had similar challenges.

Both of us are country girls, growing up in Pville. Her family had more money than mine, but then everybody had more than mine. I never aspired to be wealthy, else I would not have divorced Richard. Georgia has always been someone I admired, smart, athletic, industrious, still married to her high school sweetheart, and she’s related to a lot of the same people my children are related to, thanks to their dad; the one thing I remember envying in my childhood friends - their huge extended families. Everybody in Pville was related in someway to everybody else, except my family.

My only relatives lived in the same house I did. My mother, an only child, had about 80 first cousins in Newton County, but to hear her tell it, Mary Lou, a double first cousin, was the only one she knew or cared about. My father’s mother and only sister were in New Orleans, so those cousins were not close. His brother was hardly acknowledged, so we never really knew those cousins.

I wanted to feel connected, to be a member of the Pville families. The folks at the Baptist church were like family when I was growing up. They loved the preacher’s kids and accepted us without reservation. But there were stories, and secrets, and a history that they all knew and shared, but we didn't. After we grew up and moved away, there were no kin to keep us connected. People were friendly and polite when we visited, but that’s all we were - visitors. Blood really is thicker than water, and it hurt.

Genealogy appeals to me for that reason. Researching my ancestors, I feel less alienated. My siblings may not like each other, the first cousins are few and far between, but I come from good stock. Just because my parents were ashamed of much of their relations doesn’t mean they were worthless. The more I find out about them, the more I like them. I’m sorry we were not instilled with more respect for family members. The habit of quarrelling and judging and moving-away-from has been passed down to our children, and that saddens me. Hopefully, we can enjoy each other’s company when we get to heaven. I can’t wait to meet my father’s derelict dad and all the rest.

Part of our Episcopal liturgy has the line

For in the multitude of your saints
you have surrounded us with a
great cloud of witnesses...

My ancestors are in that body of saints, that great cloud of witnesses, and I love that image. Their redeemed souls are now equipped to love unconditionally. They support me and bless me; they accept me as I am, as one of the redeemed. I’m part of a very large, loving family and our reunion will be a happy one.