Wednesday, December 29, 2004

While waiting

      I don't wait well. Never have. Don't expect I will ever learn how. When I know something is coming, I want it to be here now. I'm one of those annoying people who are on time and are quite willing to start the party without the late arrivals.
      Most of this impatience springs from my low boredom threshold. I have the attention span of a gnat on speed. Well, really a mosquito on speed. I want to land, get to the marrow, drink my fill and then go. When I'm interested in something, I'm interested. Those around me during an obsession have learned that it's safest to just indulge me and get out of the way. I'll be back soon.
      These obsessions have led me to all sorts of various crafts, arts and hobbies, including stage magic, comic books, candle making, role-playing games, drawing, art, lasers, hovercrafts, chemistry, computer programming, book binding, origami, coin collecting, physics, sword fighting, yoga, tai chi, guns, knives, archery, model rockets, aquariums, fountains, cooking, baking, etc. People find my house "surprising" simply because so many of these hobbies still hang around.
      Example: I have three fountains in my house, one in my bedroom, one in my kitchen, one in my living room. Admittedly they are just tabletop fountains and the one in the living room is a tiny one, but they are fountains. Just to make things more aquatic, I also have an aquarium in my living room. My house bubbles and gurgles throughout the year.
      If you dig around my house -- and I'd rather you didn't -- you'll find a saber, a short sword, a sword cane, various knives, reams of decorative paper, a broken laser, some hovercraft plans, several model rockets that show a few scrapes from their rough landings, more strange tools than you can shake a stick at should you be a stick shaking person, thousands of books and a lot of -- hate to use the word but it fits -- odd junk.
      Throw in several dozen photos, knick-knacks, artwork and gadgets, and you begin to be surprised that it can all fit in my tiny house.
      Now it sounds like I'm one of those men that will eventually die when piles of magazines fall on him, but it's neater than it sounds. I make it a rule to only indulge in one hobby at a time so the others mostly stay in their various boxes, cabinets, drawers, closets, storage buildings, etc., until I feel the urge for them. And my magazines are mostly stored in the garage ... No, really, I have a cabinet for them out there.
      I enjoy all these hobbies, but I confess it's daunting to consider how much money I've spent on them over the years and how little I have that's of value to anyone but me. I mean, I collect things that interest me, but that doesn't mean they're particularly worth anything in monetary value. In fact, I prefer hobbies -- origami for instance -- that don't require much outlay of cash. (The laser was a strange aberration to this, and it doesn't even work anymore. Something else I need to fix when I get time.)
      All of this led to me to feng shui. Let me give you a moment to catch up. Still can't? Let me help. For a brief period of time, I investigated feng shui. I thought a lot of it was plain silly. However, I found a book from which I was able to extract three bits of wisdom, at least in how to declutter your house. To wit: Keep only items that are 1) useful and/or 2) loved and/or 3) beautiful. (I told this to a friend of mine once, and she said that if she followed it, she would have to divorce her husband as he wasn't any of those!)
      Thus what you find in my house is 1) useful (maybe just to me) or 2) loved (once again maybe just by me) or 3) beautiful (ditto). They also help me not be bored and thus wait, if not patiently, at least busily.
      Now if you're still with me, you're probably wondering how we got on the subject of waiting anyway. Well, tomorrow my sibs and their families arrive for an exceedingly rare visit to my town. I've been cleaning house and generally bemoaning all that stuff in my house as I eagerly await their arrival. And I do mean CLEANING. We're talking dusting, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, discarding and finally hiding. I'm tired of doing it. I want my nieces and nephew to be here now so that we can play, play and play some more.
      So I'm waiting for them.
      I need a larger house.
      Good night.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

No more, sir, please, no more ...

      I love Christmas. Always have, hope I always do. But I'm beginning to think I don't love the food that goes along with it. I blame this on IBD partly, but mostly on Weight Watchers. I, of course, have cheated over this holiday season. I've had enough turkey, potatoes and gravy, rolls, yams, pudding and pie to last several bears through the winter. I've went to parties, lunches and gatherings until I've started flinching whenever someone says, "We should get together."
      I should be strong enough to resist the food. I'm not. Won't pretend to be. If you put it in front of me, I will eventually eat it. I'm sure if I had been with the Donner party, I would have survived and perhaps gained a pound or two. My best choice is to not put it in front of me.
      Not to mention my IBD doesn't like rich food. I'm a great believer in a fairly bland diet, something that I'm used to and even like most times. I don't mind a change of pace occasionally, but lately my diet has been doing the cha-cha-cha.
      It's amazing how much food factors into our special occasions. I've yet to go to a get-together without there being some munchie offered. Even business meetings offer doughnuts. We live in a land of plenty, and we eat plenty, too. We eat too much, too often and too fattening.
      So I'm ready for the food part to be over. The laughing, talking, hugging, singing, exchanging gifts, making phone calls and playing board games can go on for a while longer. But as for the food, no more, sir, please, no more.

Monday, December 27, 2004

A Christmas report of sorts

      The tree sits in the corner, lights blinking on and off in the room that is dark other than my computer monitor. Hot tea sits in a mug to the side of my keyboard.
      I'm sitting here trying to write my way through the world, trying to find my way to a coherent existence instead of my usual muddle. I'm thinking about the world and how strange we humans are. We make war easily, do our level best to wipe each other off the face of the earth, but when a calamity happens, such as a tidal wave, people from all over the world send money, send food, go themselves to help. We are capable of terrible acts and incredible charity. The ape reaching toward the angels, as Terry Pratchett puts it. What an odd lot we are.
      It was a good, quiet Christmas. I was alone, which seems to fill my friends with dismay. It was a bit lonely, I won't say that it wasn't, but I've mastered being alone a long time ago. I've learned how to be with only me. In learning how to forgive other people for their failures, I learned how to forgive me for mine, and thus I don't mind spending time with me. There are remembered regrets, but there are present and past joys, too.
      And I called my sibs and their families. I watched movies and posted Christmas stuff and generally ate sweet, fattening, delicious food I shouldn't have. I listened to soft Christmas carols and let the quiet music fill my soul until there wasn't any me left, just the sounds of angels appearing and holy holy night.
      And later that evening I watched Godzilla battle MechaGodzilla and Mothra in a movie battle that brought Tokyo to its knees ...
      It was a good Christmas. How was yours?

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Merry Christmas in 37 languages

Afrikaner: Een Plesierige Kerfees
Argentinian: Felces Pasquas y felices Ano Nuevo
Armenian: Schernorhavor Dzenount.
Bohemain: Vesele Vanoce
Bulgarian: Chestita Koleda
Chinese: Kung Hsi Hsin Niene bing Chu Shen Tan
Croatian: Sretan Bozic
Danish: Glaedelig Jul
Esperanto: Gajan Kristnaskon
Estonian: Roomsaid Joulu Puhi
Finnish: Houska Joulua
Flemish: Vrolike Kerstmis
French: Joyeux Noel
German: Froehliche Weihnachten
Greek: Kala Christougena
Dutch: Vrolyk Kerfeest en Gelukkig Nieuw Jaar
Hungarian: Kellemes Karacsonyi unnepeket
Iraqian: Idah Saidan Wa Sanah Jadidah
Irish: Nodlaig mhaith chugnat
Italian: Buon Natale
Japanese: Meri Kurisumasu
Jugoslavian: Cestitamo Bozic
Lettish: Priecigus Ziemassvetkus
Lithuanian: Linksmu Kaledu
Norwegian: God Jul og Godt Nytt Aar
Oklahoman: Merry Christmas, y'all
Polish: Boze Narodzenie
Portuguese: Boas Festas y Feliz Ano Novo
Rumanian: Sarbatori vesele
Russian: S Rozhdestvom Kristovym
Serbian: Hristos se rodi
Slovakian: Vesele vianoce
Spanish: Feliz Navidad
Swedish: God Jul
Turkish: Noeliniz Ve Yeni Yiliniz Kutlu Olsun
Ukrainian: Chrystos Rozdzajetsia Slawyte Jeho
Welsh: Nadolig Llawen

A Christmas prayer

We thank you for this place in which we dwell,
for the love that unites us,
for the peace accorded us this day,
for the hope with which we expect the morrow,
for the work, the health, the food,
and the bright skies which make our lives delightful
for our friends in all parts of the earth.

By Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894).

Merry Christmas!

      I hope you all have a safe, happy and peaceful Christmas. Thank you for reading my blog and thank you for all your comments and support. May God bless and richly keep you.

The Christmas Story

Luke 2:1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.
2:2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
2:3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
2:4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
2:5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with Child.
2:6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
2:7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
2:9 And, lo, the angel of the LORD came upon them, and the glory of the LORD shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
2:10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
2:11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the LORD.
2:12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
2:13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
2:14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
2:15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into Heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the LORD hath made known unto us.
2:16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger.
2:17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
2:18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
2:19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
2:20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the Child, His Name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before He was conceived in the womb.

Matthew 2:1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2:2 saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
2:3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
2:4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
2:5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
2:6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, art not the least among the princes of Judah:
for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
2:7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
2:8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
2:9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
2:10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
2:11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Friday, December 24, 2004

One Christmas Star

not seem
much against
the darkness of this world:
one light in a midnight sky, a pinpoint
of illumination seen by Magi and lonely shepherds.
Yet, strange as it seems, nothing has
let us see as clearly as He
along heralded
by that one

© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Mikey and Mikay, the little angels.
© Copyright 2004. All rights reserved. (Click photo to expand.)

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Andre Norton fan

      One of my favorite authors is Andre Norton. Ms. Norton has published an incredible number of fantasy and science fiction novels in a career that spans over 50 years. I remember quite well coming across her novels in the library and eagerly devouring them when I was a pre-teen (back before the Flood).
      The Science Fiction Book Club has released several of her novels in hardback. I've started buying them to add to my collection of Norton softcovers. I have about 50 of her books total, and I've barely started.
      Her imagination and work ethic were equally amazing. I don't know how she did it. Admittedly some of her books aren't great, but none of them are bad, and many of them are wonderful. Her Witch World Novels are fan favorites. For starters, I recommend Forerunner Foray and Star Rangers.
      She's still active in collaborations with other authors and occasionally a novel of her own. She will be 92 this February. How's that for amazing?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Do you have any cheese to go with my whine?

      And now -- while enduring an IBD flare and my fractured foot -- I have caught a cold. Sigh. Well, let's talk of good things.
      My Christmas shopping is still done. No new unexpected gift needs have risen. Whew!
      I paid down another credit card with the last of the loan money. I didn't have enough to pay it off, but I paid enough that I should have it cleared by December 2006. Another card should pay off in August 2005 and another one in January 2006. That will leave just one card that will take until July 2008. And then I'm done except for the loan itself. It's supposed to pay off in December 2011, but with the money that used to go to the cards, I should be able to pay it off much sooner, but I haven't figured out the payoff exactly yet. This plan will also let me build up some savings in there as well as have a bit of cushion for emergencies. Several people -- thank you very much -- have pointed out that plans rarely execute as we planned them. I know that, but planning is the only way I can extract myself from this financial hole. I think it is flexible enough to cope with most of the emergencies that I can think of. We'll see. It would really help if I sold a book or two or seven.
      I got some good pictures of Mikey when he visited last weekend. I'll be posting a couple after I sort through them. He is such a joy. Of course, his idea of Christmas is a bit shaky -- we hunted Easter Eggs and wore Halloween masks and played monster -- but it's what his three-year-old mind came up with it, and we had great fun. Wish he could have stayed longer.
      And now good night!

Monday, December 20, 2004

The Incredibles save the day!

      Turns out my nephew is a fan of The Incredibles as well as the Justice League. And there's lot of merchandise out there for both. I purchased his presents this evening, and now once again, and I say this with just a bit of nervousness, I'm finished shopping. I hope. Please let it be so.
      I also wrapped a lot of presents today so I'm still making progress despite everything going on in my life. My foot continues to take more attention than I think it should, but I've been reading about these types of injuries on the net, and apparently that's just the way it is. So I will plan accordingly.
      Hats off to Joel! He left 11 (!) comments on my blog today. He really needs to get a life ... :) but until then, thanks for the comments, dude!
      And now I'm going to call it a night. Take care all.

Sunday, December 19, 2004


      My sister just called and said that the gift that she told me to get for my nephew and that I have already purchased ... he already has! ACK! More shopping! ACK!

A Bit More Later

      We will now give a short plug for Photoshop Elements 2. It's an excellent image editing program based on the premiere image editing program Photoshop. Since I don't want to sell a kidney to afford Photoshop, I'm content with Elements, and it's more than adequate for my purposes. The latest version is Elements 3, which only works on Windows XP. Check it out.

When it rains ...

      Because I had been ignoring it to take care of my injured foot and to battle with IBD, my computer decided to quit working. At least that's the only reason I can think of. While trying to make a music CD for a friend, it coughed, gave a mighty hiccup, then threw up data from one end of the hard disk to another. We had errors and blue screens and general all-around disaster.
      Fortunately my data was secure. I back-up my writing and photos fanatically. But of course, that data requires a computer to be useful in any way. And I need this computer to work. (Which it is, of course, or you wouldn't be reading this.) I can't afford a new one. This one is showing its age -- it was four this Thanksgiving, which is about 60 in computer years -- but I need it to continue to function well into its 100's. So I uninstalled, installed, downloaded updates, deleted updates and generally applied CPR and intensive care to its ailing motherboard. Viola! It's alive. And maybe in better shape before the Crash of Christmas 2004. We'll see how it goes.
      In other news, there isn't much. I finished my Christmas shopping this afternoon. My foot is currently complaining; it's quite loud for something with no mouth, but it should be happy to know that we won't have to brave the wilds of Wal-Mart again for a while. At least until next week when the frenzy will have died down.
      More later.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Darkness and light

      I'm having a bad week. First, the IBD has flared, and I'm having to work to keep it under control. Second, the whole bustle and busyness of the holiday season is always a drag. Too much to do and not enough time despite how I planned. Third, I apparently fractured my foot yesterday. I stepped wrong, went down a couple of steps, caught myself with this foot on a concrete step. Ouch. Truthfully it didn't actually hurt that much at the time. I was more embarrassed about falling. However, it has since risen in my attention. It's swollen and unhappy and turns out, according to my M.D., to be a stress fracture. Not that they can do much, other than give me pain pills and tell me to keep off of it.
      Fortunately, I have most of my Christmas shopping done. I just lack two people. I intended to finish today, but I will have to wait, it looks like. But it's okay.
      The IBD flare will subside. They always do. I'm watching what I eat and trying to spend at least 30 minutes in "quiet time" daily. I'm not getting enough rest yet, but I'll keep working on that.
      As for the busyness of Christmas, that's part of its fun. The whole harried thing has to be embraced. It's like riding a roller coaster. There might be places that make you uncomfortable, but if you throw yourself into it, you'll be okay.
      At its rock core, Christmas has tremendous power. It's near the longest night and shortest day, the time when darkness holds sway longer and light gives way, then the year continues and light waxes daily. The changing of the year follows. It carries both regret and joy.
      For many, Christmas is a hard time. One of my friend's mothers died on Christmas Day. She's never got over that, despite efforts to do so. I myself find melancholy pressing on me, more now that both my father and mother have passed on. I 'm at a loose end, not really belonging anywhere. Oh, my sibs make me welcome; don't take this as a reflection on them or my many friends who would willingly open their homes to me. But it's not the same. Somehow I never feel like I get to go home.
      There's an old song that goes: "They say that heaven's pretty, and living here is, too. But if I had to choose between the two, I'm going home. I'm going home. Where I belong." It's that belonging that's missing. It's the longing for the place that I had when I was young. But we grow up. We find other joys. And perhaps this regret and wisdom help us to be better people.
      Occasionally my religious friends will get into a discussion about Heaven and the afterlife. They have many theories, few of which involve streets of gold. But for me, it will be going to a place when we all finally belong.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Shop, drop and roll into bed

      I shopped, shopped and shopped some more. I only need gifts for two more people, then I'll be done. (Except for the endless wrapping. Gift bags anyone?) And now I am going to bed. I'm beginning to get the definite feeling that I'm not as young as I used to be. Oh, I mailed the Gazette this evening, also. Woohoo! (See December 4th's entry for more info about the Gazette.) Catch y'all tomorrow when I will try to have more to say.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Almost there

      The December Gazette is nearly finished. It's printed and stapled. It needs to be put in the envelopes, the subscription thank you's added, the subscription bills added for those who haven't paid, stamped and then mailed. I should finish it tomorrow night and then mail it Wednesday. Woohoo! I'm so close to being done, I can taste it.
      Tomorrow night I will engage in hardcore Christmas shopping. I'm going to whittle my list down a lot. I got four people's gifts tonight. Only 15 more to go. Yikes. And staying on a budget really makes you have to hunt. But still, it's going okay.
      I'm all worn out so good night!

Nifty Christmas Idea 9

More easy Christmas gifts:
      1. A couple of packages of specialty coffee make a perfect gift for your caffeine junkie. Include a few bottles of various flavorings for a special treat.
      2. Gift cards and gift certificates. Easy to send through the mail as the enclosure of a Christmas card. Add that saved postage to the gift card amount for a really jolly Christmas.
      3. Bake some cookies and put them in a glass jar with a lid. Many stores have sugar cookies with a design already in the dough. Add a bow. Nifty.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Nifty Christmas Idea 8

Here's a Christmas tree decorating tip from Frenzied Feline:
      When hanging bead garlands on the tree or other places, use wire ornament hangers to hang it from the branches. This prevents it from slipping on the branches and keeps a nice, crisp "peak" in the swags. Nifty.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Nifty Christmas Idea 7

Three inexpensive and lovely gifts:
       1. Purchase a pretty clear glass jar with a lid. Buy M&Ms or different types of chewing gum or other candies and fill jar. Decorate jar with nice stickers. (Scrapbooking stores have stickers that look great.) Put bow on top. Excellent gift for co-worker or teacher.
       2. Purchase plain pillar candles in various colors. Cut Post-it notes into star shapes or purchase stickers. Stick on candle. Or use masking tape to create stripes. Using paint brush or sponge, dab gold and/or silver paint on pillars. Or use any color desired. Paint should be water based and not flammable. Do not use oil or alcohol paints of any kind. When finished painting, carefully remove tape and/or Post-its to allow the pillar's color to show. Let dry overnight. Bind two or three together with a pretty ribbon.
       3. Purchase small wooden picture frame. Remove glass. Cover frame with stickers or hot-glue foreign coins on it or paste used postage stamps of various designs on it. Place photo inside of you with the person you've giving it to. Or a travel photo. Or cut a Christmas card front to fit frame.
       I've used all three of these ideas, and they turned out nifty.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


      Sometimes you're not enough. That's the one of lessons of growing up. You get to learn that some people can't be saved, that you're going to have to watch as someone you love makes wrong decisions and chooses darkness, that you can't do anything except hope the damage won't break them.
      You can only do so much. Ultimately it's their decision about their lives. All the good advice in the world means nothing if the recipient won't listen. All the kindness in the world can't reach someone who won't let themselves be reached. You hope and pray, but they take that next drink or that next hit or one more time around with the wrong guy. They say they want to be rescued, but they've chosen their hell, and you can't save them. They don't want to be saved.
      Sometimes miracles happen. People do step back from the abyss. It happens every day many times. It's the hope you hold on to. Even when you lose.
      So you learn to take the victories you can, and you mourn the ones that fall, but there's always someone else walking along the edge so you don't have time to waste.
      You keep trying because we all court disaster sometimes. But for the grace of God, you might be that one who's failing, who's falling, who needs someone to catch them, who needs someone to say, "Hold on. I won't let you go. Hold on."
      Over the past few weeks, I've watched a friend choose something bad. He's lost his job and now his family, but he wants something he can't have and he's going to ruin himself in his attempt to get it. He's had books of good advice and libraries of warnings, but somehow he thought he'd be different, that he could walk along the hungry abyss and be unharmed. That he was different from all those others that fell before him.
      Sunday night he called me and asked what he should do. So I gave the usual good advice (counseling, marriage therapist, N.A. meetings) and as I did, I realized that he was going to ignore me, that everything I said was not what he wanted to hear. He wanted to hear that it was going to be okay, that it was going to work out. That he could keep what he had already lost.
      Because I really am his friend, I didn't tell him that because it wasn't true. The call ended shortly thereafter. I doubt he will call me again. I'll continue to hope and pray for him and his family, and that's all I can do for now. But miracles happen. I want one to happen in his life before he suffers too much, before he gathers too much regret.
      Miracles do happen.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

And so it goes

      I've been busy on a project all night and only looked up a couple of minutes ago to realize that I should already be in bed. Thus only this tonight. But tomorrow I promise plenty of blogging goodness!

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Signing my life away

      I closed the loan today. For a brief moment, I had a lot of money. Well, more money at one time that I remember ever having. Then the bank sent it off to the various tools of Satan. And that was that.
      Closing the loan was an interesting experience, particularly if you define "interesting" as "exhausting, confusing, long and tension-filled." There was form after form after form after form to be signed. And the loan gang had to explain each form using some language that no one has understood since the tower of Babel. Eventually I was like some wild crazed thing blindly signing every piece of paper they placed in front of me -- disclosures, agreements, privacy statements, body cavity search consent forms, organ farm contracts, etc. Finally I staggered out of the loan manager's office like the walking wounded. I swear he lit a cigarette after I left.
      But it's done. The DDP continues, God willing and if the creek don't rise. And now I'm going to bed.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Swimming in the shallows

      I used to be deep. No, really. In high school, I read -- on my own, not being forced to read them by a teacher -- the novels of Ayn Rand, Ernest Hemingway, Balzac and others. I devoured these huge books by the dozen, and my razor-sharp mind understood them. (And they were huge books; none of those authors had ever heard of editing for length and would be offended by the idea. A lot of words are in English, and they intended to use them all, sometimes in a single sentence.) Now I am lucky if I can make it through an episode of Scooby-Doo without getting confused.
      I don't know how it happened. I was still deep in college. People would comment about it. When I started talking, they would invariably say, "It's getting deep in here." I found other deep people there, and it was nothing unusual for us to spend hours discussing socioeconomic issues of modern life and whether or not our Student Assistant was dating the head of the cheerleaders.
      But after leaving college, I began swimming in the shallows, and my mind began to go. I don't know where it went. I suspect it's on a beach in Aruba.
      For the most part, I haven't missed my mind. It was inconvenient, always bringing up things that it shouldn't, particularly during Presidential elections. Of course, I can't do math, but I couldn't do that when it was here so it didn't seem like I had lost much.
      In fact, I was content until a few months ago when I chanced on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" I knew what the show was, but I had never watched it. I was immediately hooked. In case you aren't familiar, the host asks a contestant various questions, and with each correct answer, the contestant wins more money, up to a million dollars. Ah, $1,000,000. That's such a pretty number. I could just stare at it all day. Wait, where was I? Yes, I recall. The evil codfish had attacked the fortress of the fruit bats ... No, wait, that's not it. The evil fruit bats had attacked the fortress of the codfish. It's easy to get those two confused because they are so much alike, one being a flying mammal and the other being a fish. See?
      Anyway, the first questions on the Millionaire show are easy: Which of these is a fruit? A. Tomato B. Lettuce C. Spinach D. Rush Limbaugh. (The answer is tomato, but the overwhelming impulse is to pick Limbaugh.) Who invented the telegraph? A. Isaac Newton B. Galileo C. Copernicus D. Samuel Morse. (The answer is Morse. Newton invented fig newtons; Galileo and Copernicus were rock singers.) Easy, easy.
      But as the questions progress, they get harder until the million dollar question which is something like this: What is the atomic weight of lead? A. 2 B. 207 C. 512 D. 141. What excited me about this is that it happened to be something I knew. The atomic weight of lead is 207. So there I was, yelling the correct answer at the TV. And when he said, "D," I groaned and did a frustration dance. While it was the most exercise I had done all week, something is wrong when you get that involved in a game show. I realized I had lost my depth.
      Some people don't mind being shallow. They revel in it and end up in a political office or watching reruns of Baywatch. I, however, vowed to fight my mental decline. I immediately went to the library and checked out three of the heaviest books I could find. I had to have a strapping library aide carry them to the car for me, and even she had a bead of sweat on her forehead when she finished. I also decided to watch more Public Television, at least the week they show good shows to entice you to give them money.
      But other than Public Television, I will cut back on my TV time. That should save me at least 30 minutes a day, and I never liked the news, anyway. Except for that blonde newswoman who has a nice smile and lovely eyes but also has a wedding ring so I don't like her after all.
      And I will use the most potent wisdom I know for regaining your intelligence, a secret passed down by the ancients, a secret I will now share with you, something that will make you a genius and allow you to balance your checkbook forever!
      Oops, gotta go. Baywatch is on.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

Another busy day

      My tree is decorated, and the rest of the house decorations are up. I wrapped most of the presents I purchased yesterday, and they make a small pile under the tree. I cleaned my kitchen, including mopping the floor. Nothing will ever make me like mopping, by the way.
      I spent the rest of the day working on the newsletter. I still have much to do. This week will be devoted to finishing it and getting my Christmas shopping done.
      Before I get accused of being efficient, I think I need to explain that I'm trying to get as much done as I can while I'm healthy. Odd? Well, I have IBD. Inflammatory Bowel Disease, if you don't know what it means. It's not one of those romantic diseases that they make a Lifetime Movie about.
      The simplest way to explain it is that I have an overactive immune system. It's always on. And sometimes it attacks me. Particularly the lining of my intestine. It makes me throw up and do other things that I will leave to your imaginations. If it's a really bad flair, it makes me bleed inside, and then I end up in the hospital. Not much fun, but I medicate early in a flair, and I haven't had to stay in a hospital in a long time.
      No one knows what causes IBD, IBS or Crohn's Disease. There are lot of theories and a lot of research being done, but no real answers and no cures. My niece suffers from Crohn's and has it much worse than me. She's been doing okay for a while, thank God.
      Certain foods can sometimes trigger a flare for me. Or stress. Or simply being alive. And here's the rub on the stress. It doesn't have to be bad stress. It could be something good, but it can still trigger a flare.
      Holidays are stressful, and I've lost weeks to a flare before. So when I'm healthy, I try to do as much as I can in case I'm not able to later. That's why I've been working steadily on Christmas. Just in case. I know it's an odd approach to life, but trust me, it's the approach of all IBD sufferers and anyone else with a chronic disease. And it's something you adapt to. No one's life is free from pain. That's just the price we pay for being alive.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

A busy day

      The outside Christmas lights are up. My tree is up and lit, but still needs to be decorated. I went Christmas shopping and got a bit of it done. My house is dusted and vacuumed. Whew. I'm tired.
      Christmas shopping was a somewhat dismaying experience. As part of my DDP, I made a budget for all my Christmas gifts. Confession time: I have spent money like a French king at Christmases past. I enjoy giving gifts, and if I found the "perfect" one, I bought it, no matter if it would take me the next six months to pay off. But you can't keep doing that without the over spending eventually catching up with you. The last two Christmases have been terribly tight. Not enough money to go around. Well, I can't do it anymore. I have to control my spending, and that is that. I know I can find good gifts for everyone within my budget, but it feels ... weird. I called a relative and asked for gift suggestions for family member this morning. I had to tell her that a couple of her suggestions were out of my budget. She acted a bit odd about it, or maybe I perceived her response as that way. I'm sure it was a surprise to her. I have to cut back, but it made me feel diminished in some way. I can't really explain it, and I can't help it.
      And speaking of confession time, I haven't been writing as I should. I didn't expect the agent's rejection to take the wind out of my sails, but it has. It's a great surprise to me as I'm the original bump'n'go boy, but this one hurt in unexpectedly ways. I type on my story almost daily, but something is missing. It's just typing, not writing. I will recover from this. I always do. But it's not much fun during the recovery.
      I also made headway on the December Gazette today. I hope to finish it this coming week. Have I mentioned the Gazette yet? No? Well, the Gazette is a monthly family newsletter that I publish. I started it after my mother passed away and I realized that her life was largely unknown. All her earlier history was gone. I stayed angry at myself for months that I, a writer with a degree in journalism, had never taken the time to sit down and interview my mother. There were so many things about her that I hadn't learned and never will in this life.
      I'm slow, but not totally stupid. I started taping my father as he told stories about his childhood. Then, to share them with my sibs, I printed them up and mailed them out. The Gazette was born as a one-color, no illustrations flyer. I interviewed my dad monthly, which was about all he would do. When he passed away, I had nearly five years of stories and hours of tape. I find those a comfort now. During that time, the Gazette grew and changed.
      The cost of the Gazette became too much for me so I began to request subscription money, not really expecting much but hoping for some help. Amazingly, my family and friends subscribed cheerfully. While I still lose money on the Gazette, their subscriptions go a long way toward helping it not be such a burden and I appreciate their help and willingness to document and share our lives together.
      After my father's death, I thought I would stop the Gazette since I figured the family wouldn't be interested in continuing without him and I wasn't sure I wanted to. To my surprise, they strongly urged me to keep on. After a three month lapse, the Gazette did.
      Today, the Gazette is still published monthly and has full-color photos and illustrations. In September, we started our 10th year of publication. It features columns, travel articles, memories, devotions, recipes, stories, jokes and more by me, my sibs, my aunts and uncles and friends of the family. I gain a new subscriber ever so often, and while it still loses money, it's to the point that I can easily handle it and feel like it's just part of my contribution to our family history.
      The Gazette has helped my writing grow and keeps me in front of a computer, wrestling with words. Some articles that I've written for it have been published in other magazines as well as serving as inspiration for plays and short stories. It's a source of monthly feedback and encouragement.
      While you might not be interested in producing something like that for your family, do take the time to interview your parents and grandparents. You will end up with something that you and your children and their children will treasure. Not to mention it might spark your creativity in ways you can't imagine.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Good news

      I got the loan! Woohoo! We will close on it Tuesday. It's going to save me a lot of money and allow the DDP to continue at a faster rate. I feel a great sense of relief. God is good. Have a great night, y'all.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Every day a little victory

      I paid off a loan today. I wanted to dance in the bank as I did it. I was as nervous as a first kiss. It's taken me a couple of years and a lot of saving and discipline, but I did it. Permit me to bask in the feeling of accomplishment for a moment .............................. Okay, enough of that.
      The rest of the news isn't quite so good. The new loan to pay off some high interest credit cards may or may not happen. I'm buried in loan applications, but the loan officer thought it could be worked out. The loan rates won't be as low as I wanted, but it will still help greatly in getting those blood-sucking tools of Satan off my financial back. Of course, I still might get rejected. We'll see how it goes. Even if this doesn't work out now, I've made a lot of progress. (Start inspirational music now.) It's been a hard road, and much of it still lies before me, but the DDP will overcome! I will be free!

Office Christmas tree.
© 2004. All rights reserved. (Click on photo to expand.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Going mad, I tell you mad!

      Blogger is driving me crazy. Now I can't get Hello to upload photos onto my page. Sigh. Yes, it's free, and I shouldn't complain, but hey, I am! I want it to work. And I'd like them to add a few more new features. For free. Pushy, ain't I?
      I took a photo of my office Christmas tree that I thought turned out okay. It's what you're going to see if it ever lets me post it. Who knows?
      I really like my new fridge. I really need to get a life.
      Tomorrow I pay one debt and will attempt to gain another one. What? Yeah, tomorrow I'm going to try to get a loan to pay off a couple high-interest credit cards. I hope I can manage it. If not, my debt disappearance plan (DDP) will continue, but it would allow me to pay things off sooner. Let's hope the bank sees me as a good risk. Have I mentioned that credit cards are a tool of Satan? Credit cards are the tool of Satan. Now you know.
      Gifts, gifts, gifts ... That's what I've been working on tonight. Trying to pick out gifts for my loved ones. I want my gift list in shape for my Saturday shopping trip. I try to buy locally, even if it's at my local WalMart. My sales taxes help support my town. Makes sense.
      Hello still won't let me post the photo. Maybe tomorrow. Y'all have a good night, you hear!


      Finally Blogger let me on to post! I tried many, many, MANY times last night, and it only gave me an error page. I don't have much time now so just few brief things to tide us over until tonight:
      I have a new fridge. My old one, the beloved green Hotpoint of 22 years, finally died a slow death. Now I have a new white side-by-side Frigidaire from Sears with filtered ice and water available on the door. Cool! It provides cubed and crushed ice and has lots of shelves and storage space. It's not green, which is a good thing, and I got a good price for it. Sears seems to have good prices on most appliances, and they have great delivery guys in my town.
      My roomie purchased himself a new Ford F-150 last night. It's red, quad cab with hundreds of cup holders! Well, maybe not hundreds, but dozens ...
      I mailed my Christmas cards last night. Woohoo!
      I'm going to tackle the Christmas shopping this weekend and vow to have the majority of it done before the weekend ends. Thank heavens for 24 hour Walmarts.
      Likewise, my tree goes up this weekend, and I hope to finish putting up the lights outside. Well, one way or another, I will be finished with them. Some things you just have to let go and move on.
      The sun is actually shining today! Sunshine! Ahhhh ...
      Tomorrow afternoon I will pay off one of my debts. The first result of my five year plan. It feels good. I have a long way to go, but to quote an old proverb: "A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step."
      See you tonight, Blogger willing!