30 December 2008

Early into November I hit "SUBMIT" on my personal web page of our company's HR site-it's how we request time off. Not even a full second later the whole building shut down and my co-workers joked as we stood outside during the subsequent evacuation drill that by actually hitting "SUBMIT" for the first holiday time I'd requested since April 2006 I'd crashed the system.

My holiday began just after 6pm on Tuesday the 23rd of December; follows my account of it so far...

I rejoined the human race a few hours ago; whew, it's been a long road home! Actually I've been working on the return for a bit but it became quite a serious effort two weeks into the month of November.

Regular readers will recall the post wherein I confessed I'd been, been, been-damn, what does one call it when one's fiance wakes up with frostbite and calls from an ocean away to say "Er, um, ah, well, you see..."

(Was it my recently enlarged crooked smile Sam, the one you said warmed your heart, that turned your booked tickets into someone else's? Sorry for that, you can be a bit of a snob, but not that much. 'Sides, you and I agreed you would spring for my dental work in lieu of a wedding present, didn't you? Or was that meant as a joke, too?)

I've not been outside the house since Christmas Eve, which was to have been my wedding day oddly enough. I'd not bathed, or tidied, or done much of anything besides drift from couch to computer to freezer for something edible and nukeable until yesterday afternoon when I finally could smell myself and forced myself into the shower.

A few hours ago it occurred to me the reason my mouth felt nasty was because I'd not brushed since Christmas Eve so I did that.

A well intentioned friend, knowing that I work more than anything else, sent a Honeymoon Basket to my office, scheduled to arrive Tuesday afternoon to ensure its inclusion on the honeymoon.

I took it home with me Tuesday night telling my co-workers and my little supervisor that I was going to eat my self into a stupor and thereby miss the actual having to live through what should have been my wedding day (and night, let's not forget that, hmmm?)

I finally opened it Wednesday afternoon upon my return from an insane little outing to the grocery during which I put the most completely stupid items into my cart and therefore ended up back at The Tin Shack with a bottle of Merlot of all things. The Kroger house brand, fer crying out loud-try as I might I could not find a French wine on the shelf, and I wasted a hell of a lotta minutes searching the wine section of my LOCAL supermarket for one like the bottle I found at Bruno's of Dothan Christmas 2003, dammit, which actually managed to be the bottle drained to the bottom at the home of my son's then fiancee (who just happened to have been born and raised in France, so they woulda known a crummy bottle, ya think?)

I also ended up with a bag of Kroger Cheesy Rolls, second on my 'comfort food' list, which I discovered to be chock full of little pepperoni slices, so I had to throw the bag out. I don't eat pork even when it is mixed with beef. Yes, it's partly religious (God said "Don't eat this meat" and I'm gonna argue with God?) and partly that stupid little (and I do mean little) heart thingy I have going on that requires me to keep my total sodium intake at or below 1500 mg a day.

So I've been watching TV, eating a bit, not drinking-bottle's still corked, sleeping A LOT, and generally keeping my heartbroken little self away from the rest of the human race in an effort to not spread my un-cheer.

I've seen just about every Christmas movie available to someone who hangs onto cable access by the barest fingernails, and the infomercials one can see at 0300 are truly dangerous if one has a functioning credit card left these days.

Luckily I don't so I am fairly safe, although a coupla products were interesting enough to tempt me very briefly to throw on some deodorant/clothes I am willing to be seen in public wearing and run down to Walgreen's for a prepaid credit card.

Luckily the temptation passed very quickly. Something about bathing, brushing, dressing that had no appeal for me, or was at least too much to be worth whatever gimcrackery it was that momentarily caught my interest.

That November day that I hit "SUBMIT" I'd realized how unlovable I've become, how pathetic, how stereotypically 'crazy cat lady', how completely unfun, how (to quote someone Crusty sicked on me back in '94) boring.

I decided I am in need of an intense period of self-evaluation, introspection, and maybe even a little self delivered head smacking.

The past six days have been interesting-I actually thought I would be in a fever of home improvement and other projects but I've, as previously noted, been indulging in nothing more than aimless Webbing and TV watching.

To my credit I did start a new blog called "YOUR ARMS REACH" (found at http://yourarmsreach.blogspot.com/ to encourage my fellow Man to save the world one neighbour at a time, and frankly I am hoping it is a movement that will take off in the New Year.

So, I guess I'm not all that messed up after all, and the six days of aimless Internet and TV have been more productive than I want to admit. More interesting, I've only need my sinus meds twice a day as opposed to the four I need during the work week.

Even more interesting, I've decided I'm not so much boring as I am bored with a meaningless life-not that I ever chose a meaningless life in the first place, but when you lose everyone you care about, and you lose your home, and you lose your faith in just about most of your fellow man, and you lose interest in just about everything no matter how damn hard you try to make your self get interested, well, you become bored.

Funny that. As I type that I am undeniably bored I can hear Sam I Am telling me only stupid people get bored. He was right, you know, but in a way, he was wrong, it is possible for an intelligent, funny, interesting person to become bored-it happens when everything that makes life interesting and therefore not boring is drained out of your life.

God, help me, I am going to try to become interested in living again. It's just that home and family including a husband with couth were all that I wanted out of life, and I lost them, didn't I?

BTW, I tossed the Honeymoon Basket. Most of the stuff in it was made by companies that use Chinese food products, and I have a personal rule about eating melamine. It's DON'T.

27 December 2008


I participate in several forums online; last night on one of my favourites a fellow poster took exception to my suggestion that we start working on next Christmas by filling a shoebox or two a month for a child in our own town first instead of one in another country. Her response included the "I've travelled in other countries and seen the poverty there is far worse than here" line that truly angered and dismayed me. Follows my reply.

"Yes, I've lived outside the US also.

Among other countries I've lived in, I lived in Guatemala during the last years of the civil war and was horrified at the poverty there-it existed openly amidst great wealth in the hands of an increasingly small and ever more powerful upper class. I also witnessed the beginning of the end of the middle class there and was equally horrified to see the same begin in the US when I returned in late '96.

I have seen neighbours here in the American South quietly die of untreated dental, heart, and other disease due to lack of health care-people who had 50K+ salaries and good insurance until they were downsized at an age that made them almost unhirable; I've seen neighbours make their life savings last and last until finally the money ran out and their utilities were cut off and they died of hypothermia-right here in America.

I've seen mothers prostituting themselves to feed their children and to keep a roof over their heads-yes, right here in America-after a bad divorce left them with nothing.

I've seen parents abandon their children because they could not feed clothe or house them after losing jobs that paid barely enough to bare minimum care for their families but not enough to put so much as a dollar aside because that dollar went for day old bakery bread so the stomach would be fooled into thinking it was momentarily filled.

I've seen neighbours kill themselves after their retirement fund was 'devalued' and they found out their supposed home equity was gone now that their property value dropped to a quarter of what they paid while their taxes stayed the same or were even raised.

Having lived on the Gulf Coast, I've seen people who worked hard every day of their life lose everything including family members in savage storms that came back again and again-some of those people are still in tents or FEMA trailers.

I've seen, with my own eyes, Third-World conditions right here in the USA since my return from Central America, and those little pockets of despair are growing-right here in the US.

As a contributor to OXFAM and Doctors Without Borders, I thank-you for your contributions to global need; as a fellow world traveller and an American I ask you to look around your country and your town and see if you can do more within arms reach to prevent the horrors we've seen elsewhere from happening here.

I don't know how many people read this blog, until now it hasn't been important to me except that the hope has always floated that one day my son would post a comment and I would know that perhaps he doesn't hate me anymore.

But now I care, very much, and I am asking that if you have for some reason chanced upon this blog, or you are a regular reader (comment poster or not:), that you would join me in this challenge for 2009.

ARMS REACH can change the world one person at a time-your world, my world, everyone's world.

Reach out only as far as your arms can reach to touch one person and you will have touched the entire world. In a time of once unimaginable evil ("Santa Massacre Leaves 10 Dead" Fox News; "Sex Slavery and Child Exploitation Thriving In America" MSNBC; "2nd Playground Beating Child Dies" CNN) we still have the choice if our arms reach will be for positive or negative.

Anonymously adopt a school child-supply the rest of this years school supplies and decent clothing; pay for a high schooler to participate in a sport or arts activity-schools have to charge for that now and many teens have been priced out of the very thing that could have a profound impact on their life direction.

Figure out a way to have a profoundly positive impact on your community and post it here so that your idea can be shared, can be spread to other communities. Crochet or sew for babies, sick kids, healthy kids with no grannies; teach a child to make things; find someone in the grocery whose cart is filled with the bargain foods and whose face is pinched with worry-drop an envelope with twenty (or ten, or five) dollars inside and with the instruction to "Pay it forward someday" printed on the front into the cart when they aren't looking.

I believe in this country. I believe our citizens can save the world. I believe that salvation begins within arms reach.

"Save only one life and you will have saved the world."

Join me. Let's do this thing!

24 December 2008

Christmas Eve 2008.

I left work last night around six-for the first time in a very long time I didn't pay attention to the time. I didn't because I was bone weary, ready to start my first holiday in nearly three years, and honestly a little pissed off at the kid who thinks he is my supervisor.

As I will be out until the 5th of January, I had to do my end of year evaluation before I left.

The first time I did one of these I was excited and looking forward to a real one on one with my supervisor, and I was not disappointed.

Since then the process has been an ego-driven exercize in futility. Pencil whipped by some, and used as revenge by others, the evaluation process is one of the worst aspects of my job.

Up for another promotion, I needed a fair and honest evaluation. What I got was an obvious attempt on the part of Pinhead Boy to derail my promotion.

Too bad he blew it. Sigh. I wonder which one of us will have a functioning badge on the 2nd. I am only slightly tempted to pop over and check on the 2nd as I am hoping to be finishing off some much needed home improvement projects on that morning. It will be interesting, though, to see if I get called in over my much needed and anticipated holiday.

I don't suffer from the vanity that I am indispensable but I am an adult who has had some experience and I know that the potential for disaster looms large for Pinhead Boy. He is blissfully ignorant of his danger.

I highly doubt he will call for help-he is rather thick and thinks he is going to be able to justify firing me while The Boss and I are both gone at the same time. He is like a teen-ager who is rubbing his hands in glee that Mom and Dad are going off and leaving him alone with all the grown-up goodies.

I intend to spend a bit of quality time with my evaluation-line by miserable line and then I am going to find out how to lodge a protest that will not be dismissed as sour-grapes. I wish I had enough money to leave my job and open my own business. I know just what I would do, and I am damn good at it. I am tired of working (like most others) for idiots.

I could love my work if not for idiots.

Well, we'll see how it goes while The Boss and I are off. I'm pretty sure the collapse is going to be monumental, and I am most sincerely hoping it doesn't affect our clients because I really do love my job.

I'm not completely stupid and intend to find a job offer I can't refuse over the next ten days. Gods, wouldn't it be novel to have A Real Job? One where I could actually do my work without having to go around total idiots who refuse to recognize their own faults and then make the needed changes so that he/she could guide me to complete work success?

Happy Christmas, I'm off to see if I won the lottery:)

21 December 2008

At 2145 hours on the 21st of December 1985, my father died.

Well-intentioned comfort is offered: "Time Heals" "It's a blessing, he is no longer suffering"

Bah, humbug!

My Pop wanted to live no matter the difficulty; in the 23 years since he died I've missed him more with each passing day.

Mind, he was no plaster saint-he had some serious faults and failures in his life. He did, though, unflinchingly face my brother and me before he died and took complete responsibility for those of his failures that profoundly impacted Harry and me.

Of course there was a need for all of us to find forgiveness towards Pop, and I have come to believe that I am the one of all the children who was most able to find that forgiveness, I who was the most profoundly impacted.

My father perpetuated the lie that his second wife was my birth mother-a hideous lie that caused me to long for death rather than go on as her child. We called her Alice Capone and the day I discovered the truth was the happiest of my life. My father called her Dirty Dort and he had many reasons for giving her that nickname. She was truly the awful wicked stepmother and why he kept up the lie until he died is beyond me. But at least he told the truth with his dying breath-frankly a drama I could have done without, but oh well, at least the truth came out.

Harry and I got to the hospital at the same time that afternoon, each having thought the other had the day shift. Instead the Guatemalan man Pop had hired years before as his valet had faithfully stayed with Pop until one of us arrived. He told us he'd not called us because he knew how tired we were from the constant vigil at Pop's bedside since our adopted cousin had taken Pop to hospital Thanksgiving night.

Typical of the old man, after we'd cleared off Thanksgiving night he'd sent his valet home, and had then promptly gone into respiratory distress bad enough to force the understanding another hated hospital stay loomed. He waited until close to midnight then rang our adopted cousin instead of us because he didn't want us to be the ones who checked him in. The prednisone and theophylan were causing some mental confusion and he'd told us in a moment of lucidity just before his death that he hadn't wanted to take the chance that his confusion would cause him to blame us as the bad guys who'd dumped him in hospital-how John felt about that one I'll never know because we stopped talking after the funeral and never made it up before he was killed on 9/11.

Pop's doctor stopped us in the hallway to give us good news. He would come off the heart & lung support in the morning, and if all went well we would be able to take him home Christmas Eve!

Jubilant, we went into the CICU room Pop was in, and then totally ignored the last actual words our father communicated to us-"Turn back on the air!"

Intubated and tied down to prevent another tube pulling incident, he asked for paper and pen. A burly nurse held his arm down at the elbow, and Pop scratched out his last words.

The burly nurse gently reminded Pop he was confused (which Pop did not take well) and the air was still on. Furious, my feisty little father shooed us off to have dinner, and while we were gone, he died.

The fury and lucidity in his eyes were complete, I'd not seen my Pop that fully 'here' for nearly a month. I knew something was terribly wrong; he knew I knew and tried to support my momentary assertiveness against my idiot brother and his supremely idiotic wife but with the nurse supporting them, they won, and we allowed ourselves to be shooed out.

I've often wondered if Pop checked out mostly because he couldn't stand the thought of spending the warm months at my brother's in company of the total pinhead wife.

We left the hospital and made our way to the church on Olivera Street, the closest one to the hospital. We gave thanks and then went to dinner at one of the nicest Mexican restaurants on the street. Reservations are required, but the maitre'd took one look at us and made a gracious concession.

We were seated at a lovely table, and tried to enjoy the mariachi music, and then the flamenco dancing. Unfortunately during the premier act our father died.

The three of us were in a jubilant mood until 2145 when we all looked up for the air conditioning vent to see if we were under it as we'd all been suddenly struck with a cold chill.

We looked at each other and I looked at my watch "9:45 pm" I said. Nothing more was said, but we all knew our father had died. We grimly tried to force down our meal, just arrived, and the attentions of the staff who for some reason were paying us particular attention.

I sensed their awareness something was wrong, and I knew they thought they had somehow disappointed us. I finally stepped away from the table and went to the maitre'd, telling him our father had just died in hospital. The flamenco dancers immediately stopped their performance, the mariachi began to play mournful music, and the staff put a sort of barrier around our table by positioning serving carts between us and the other diners as we tried to finish our meal and depart without creating a further stir.

We paid the bill, and then stopped at every cantina between the restaurant and hospital. The return journey took us until 0300; at every one of the cantinas the barkeep asked what was wrong, and I quietly informed him/her the horrid news, at which point the raucous crowd
would quiet, making their way one at a time to our table to express condolences.

My brother became more drunk, at one point causing me to wonder if I could get John out to help me control him because eventually we were going to have to go back to the hospital and claim Pop's body. At the last cantina before the hospital the barkeep sensed trouble as we came through the door and met us so close to it that I felt a breeze on my back as the door closed.

"Que es eso?" he demanded to know, trying to make it clear Anglos were not welcome in that particular little sliver of alcoholic amnesia by blocking us access to a booth a bare arm reach from the bar stools with his body and belligerent tone (not to mention the Spanish).

I elbowed my way from the back and quietly replied in my flawless Castellian accent that our father had just died in the hospital across the street. He then refused our money and the wake thrown that night in that little cantina for El Pistolas, my Pop, was everything my father could have wanted from his long and warm years of acceptance amongst the Mexican Americans of Southern California.

Finally we arrived back, and my brother was now less drunk somehow, although I could tell he was near breaking down, and I thought it best we attract less attention by not signalling we somehow knew before the doctor had a chance to inform us.

So, when we walked through the back door of the ICU unit and the nurses all turned to us with horror in their eyes, I shooed my brother and his wife right back out, telling her firmly "Get him outta here, I'll take care of this!"

The head nurse cried as she told me how hard they'd tried to bring him back-45 minutes of trying, but he'd flatlined at 2145 and never came back.

They gave me his things, called down to the morgue to bring out the body for the family to view, and sent one of the nurses to escort us to the viewing room.

It's different when one dies surrounded by loving family in a quality hospital-the family views the body lying on a warming table, covered to the chest with fresh linen and a lovely blanket different than those wretched hospital waffle weave blankets. The staff is quiet as they bring the family into the room, comfortable and well-appointed with soft chairs and couches, piped in classical music suitably constrained.

The staff expertly assess the survivors-will they need to sedate, or can they leave the family for one last bit of privacy with the loved one before the business of transporting the body to the funeral home? Then they leave if they can and the good-byes begin.

They apologized that the body wasn't warm, after an hour of trying to find us they'd gone according to instructions and had already begun the freezing. We waved them off, they left, and we stood there stunned at the sight of Pop, dead.

He looked dead, it was so clear to me at least that Pop was gone. His skin was grey under the tan, and when I laid my hand on his shoulder to steady my self as I bent down to kiss him good-bye, his shoulder was stiff and ice cold.

"We're orphans now" I thought, and we left the hospital without our Pop. I thought of my children snug in their beds down in Orange County, did they know Grandpa was gone? I thought especially of my little boy, who needed my Pop and had just lost him.

14 December 2008

I should be doing any number of things other than blogging. OH well.

So, I'm surfing my fav bar trying to remember why I bookmarked this or that site, and I click on one of the TEOTWAWKI ones, and next thing I know my toes are tingling (you know the feeling, it's the same one you get when you are standing on the roof looking over into the back yard, or on the Grand Canyon South Rim at one of the ridiculously low 'barriers' the Park Service must know are not going to keep any tourists from falling over given half a chance) and my stomach is churning.

The End Of The World As We Know It actually comes around fairly often, usually on a personal scale but occasionally on a state, national, and even global scale-ARE YOU AND YOUR LOVED ONES PREPARED FOR DISASTER??

Jeez. Oh yeah, we're prepared. Whatever.

The cats have 'evac paks' and I have the route to theirs and mine mentally mapped so well that if TEOTWAWKI hits in the middle of the night I actually stand a chance of getting to the cats and our bags so that we can bug out...to where I've no clue. Oh yeah, we're prepped alright!

Every Fall I try to get a kit in the car, too, ya know, 'just in case'. My car kit usually includes a sleeping bag and food of the dehydrated kind, and some camping basics like a kwik lite BBQ, paper towels, stuff like that. Back when I had a family I tried to have more things in the car that would comfort my folks during the disaster, but since I have lost everyone I don't trouble myself overmuch-as long as the cats have kibble and I can cook something when I get tired of the beef jerky I'm good.

I grew up in earthquake country, and learned about disaster prepping early on 'cuz 'ya never know' when The Big One will hit, especially if you live close or right on top of the San Andreas fault.

And of course, growing up knowing the USSR was pretty close to dropping The Big One on us any day (Duck and cover, duck and cover) meant the obligatory nuke drills, and the also obligatory viewing of "The Day After" movie once it hit the airwaves-ensuring most sane people who were paying any attention at all were going to an uneasy sleep praying to be at Ground Zero...Personally I will never ever forget the pictures 'they' showed us tender youth of the horrors Hiroshima and Nagasaki were dealt back in '45-"That would be us, courtesy of the Reds!" intoned Mr. Box, our eighth grade history teacher. (Wonder how he felt when Detente happened?)

Still, 9/11 was The Day The Earth Stood Still for most of us, even though most of us had gone through the terrible assassinations of Kennedy and King and Kennedy-TEOTWAWKI moments to be sure.

And of course, if you lived in Florida for Hurricane Andrew (which we did), that was truly a TEOTWAWKI experience, because most of us (up till then) thought we would all dodge That Big One at least in our lifetime, although of course we prepped-plywood across the windows, bottled water, etc.

Driving north out of the state for good a few months later I wanted to shout across the median at all those people heading south into the state "Get out while you can!" and I felt pretty guilty about how lucky I was to be getting the hell outta that particular Dodge.

I managed to be in Central America (during a civil war no less) when Opal wiped out the power in our SouthEast Alabama homestead town for two weeks-the neighbours told us via snail mail that the tornado came up our driveway but then turned at the last minute into the pasture instead of taking out our little place of the Redneck American dream (a tin shack we'd remodeled and owned outright).

Whew-forehead wiping time, or so I thought when we returned in August of '96; the boy and I had missed not one but two more silver bullets by postponing our first and then second flights-one of which crashed into the Everglades, and the other in Mexico (never told Fox we'd been scheduled for that Mexican flight, matter of fact, I may not have told him about the one that crashed in the Everglades we'd booked for, either).

Who knew we'd survived Andrew, Opal, the war, and two plane crashes only to have TEOTWAWKI occur courtesy of Crusty? And man, did that one pack a wallop.

Disaster strikes no matter where you are; no matter how well you think you are prepared, you are frankly fer shure gonna have forgot something for the evac pak.

Maybe it's time to invest in one of those fanny evac paks, ya know, just in case...

Um, yeah, I feel much better now, umhum.

04 December 2008

I've joined the 21st century. I have VOIP.

I gave up a home phone the day before 9/11/2001. Who knew the world would be shaken to its core the very next day?

I went out to Cell One and got a prepaid phone 9/10/2001 because I'd finally managed to get the house phone shut off. I had to stop paying the bill, and our credit with them was so good it was four months of non-payment before the phone company got the message.

I'd had to resort to such foolishness because the rat bastard Crusty refused to transfer the line into my name, or even have it shut off-I've finally figured out he had serious control issues.

I've lived happily with simple cell service for over seven years; I had a phone in the apartment when I was a storage facility resident manager but used it only for the business. I used the cell phone for everything.

But Monday afternoon my cable/Internet provider called and made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Tuesday after work found me shopping cheap telephones at the local Wally; Wednesday after work found me puzzling over the instructions for setting up the Caller ID menu; this afternoon found me leaving work early to come meet The Cable Guy.

Icy rain fell after he finished the exterior work and after about a half hour inside I was back on the road to Walgreen's for batteries to power the Caller ID feature on my new phone.

So. I have a house line again, and not just the local Ma Bell for me, oh no, it's VOIP. I wonder how long I will wait to make a call-I haven't anyone to call just now so the new telephone will sit in all its um, modern splendor, until I have need to make a call.

Feels strange to know there is a phone in the house. I have to get used to the idea.

The cats are unconcerned; I'd changed my cell phone ring to one more like a 'real' phone so they are used to the sound of a phone ringing. But I wonder what they will do if it ever rings while I am out.

I wonder if I will know what to do if it rings.