Friday, June 16, 2006

Another man's shoes

Just when you think you've reached your lowest point and nothing in your life could be worse, you find out you were wrong.

I received a phone call this afternoon from one of the hams who reads the PPRAA newsletter. George has been a ham for more than fifty years. I've been looking for his phone number to do an article on a ham who died last December, what hams call a Silent Key (SK). From everything I have found out, Jake was a really wonderful man who gave generously of his time and resources to everyone around him, even to strangers encountering him for the first time. The Evil One told me about the first time he went to a campfest (weekend of camping and tailgate sales of ham equipment) and arrived too late to get a spot. Jake generously offered to share his camping space. There are literally tens of thousands of stories like that. George was one of Jake's best friends and had called me because I wrote about wanting to know more about Jake.

Today when George called it was with sad news. He wanted to place an ad in the next PPRAA newsletter to sell his ham equipment and some of his other items, too. George has terminal cancer.

After I finished typing up all the information, knowing from recent experience that he is selling his equipment so his wife won't have to deal with it when he's gone, and to generate some funds for her, I asked him how long he'd known he had only three months to live. "Two months," he said. I suddenly understood his need to talk about Jake, especially since there was no information in the newspapers or a single write-up about Jake and how much he had given to the city and the area.

George's cancer has metastasized to his bones, liver, and blood. The primary -- the original cancer -- was the prostate. He told me they got all the cancer in the prostate with radioactive seed implantation (a doctor inserts needle into the prostate and fills the needles with seeds of a radioactive isotope) and it didn't recur but, his doctor told him, the chemotherapy he's been taking speeded up the cancer that has traveled through his blood and into his vital organs and bones. They gave him the wrong kind.

What this brave man is going through is so much worse than my disappointment over last night and he's handling everything in the way I hope I would handle news that I have three months to live.

My father told me a couple weeks ago that he has bone cancer. His primary was prostate cancer as well. His prostate cancer is gone but his battle isn't over yet. The doctors told him his bone cancer is slow growing and I pray he doesn't opt for chemotherapy either.

So many men of my father's generation, men like George and Jake, gave so much to this country and to the people around them. These men are the shining beacons in America's history, men who are still around to remind us of simpler times when truth and honor and justice still meant something and when the Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem brought tears to our eyes and stirred our heart with pride and excitement. As these men, and women, pass into the undiscovered country they take with them a part of history and a national sensibility that will be lost to us.

I'm going to call George again this weekend and go to see him. I need to talk to him about Jake and about his life. I want George to know that someone somewhere will be able to read about his life and his generosity and the part he played in history.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Surprise, surprise, sur-klunk

For months I have been planning a private concert for the Evil One as a birthday gift. Tonight was the concert. The Evil One knew about the concert; he didn't know it was for him. It was a surprise. I am the one who was surprised. The Evil One didn't show up -- at all.

He had some kind of emergency but he couldn't call and tell me because I don't have a cell phone. One of our friends called him. He was at home. We got the number from information. He was at home. He thought it was just a concert. The surprise was on me tonight.

I feel bad because when I talked to him all he said was he couldn't make it and would explain later. Dead silence on the phone. Then I called him an idiot. After that I let him have the surprise with both barrels, that it was a private concert, that it was for him, that I had planned this for months, that I... That's why I feel bad. It wasn't supposed to be about me; it was supposed to be about him.

He missed a very good time. The audience was small and intimate and MJ was wonderful. I made cheesecake, the Evil One's favorite and another key lime cheesecake, and everyone had a very good time. The other part of the surprise was MJ singing a duet -- with me. That was a surprise for me because I didn't lose it, miss any notes, sing off key or forget the lines. MJ and I practiced the song twice before I did it on the mike during the sound check. I was pleased with the result and the audience clapped for a long time after I finished.

Yes, he missed a really good time. Next time I plan a surprise, I think I'll keep it to something that doesn't take so much planning because inevitably the Evil One picks up on what I'm giving him and tells me he's about to get it for himself so that I have to forbid him to buy anything until after Xmas or his birthday or whenever.

Right now, I'm off to bed. I have a busy day tomorrow and a lot of work to do. I've emailed my apology and now all I can do is wash my face, brush my hair, get undressed and get into bed. Tomorrow is another day.

Just what I need today...

...a doctor who thinks he's funny.

This particular doctor started his dictation off with, "Buenos dias." That was odd enough and I wasn't sure if I should be irritated since I am not Mexican or Latin and the outsourcing on this job just goes from New Jersey to Colorado. He's pretty observant, too. He had to ask the name of his assistant and the anesthesiologist. Now that is something to give a person lots of confidence. He also has a stentorian tone but at the end of the dictation he said, "And don't take any wooden nickels."

Yep, a funny doctor. That's just what I need today.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

A day and three quarters...

...and I don't mean money either.

I finished one cheesecake last night about 0100 hours and the other one about noon today, as if the apartment weren't hot enough. Wild wind whipped up the trees and threatened to bring down the twig and leaf heavy branch of the tree outside my window cracked and dangling from the hail storm a couple days ago, wheezing hot air through the open windows and heating up the sun room even more. It's hard to sit still on a day like today and as long as water and electricity make a dangerous combination I will not be working from a bathtub full of cold water. I don't even feel like eating but I know I need to keep my metabolism up, so eventually I will drag my hot, sweaty carcass into the kitchen on my swollen legs and see what I can rustle up that doesn't take too much energy or time and is at least somewhat nutritious. I'd prefer a big spoon and the cheesecake sitting on my naked legs but I have to wait to eat that -- if I'm lucky. There's watermelon but that's ear marked for the picnic on Friday. The frozen fruit and berries are for my soy protein drink in the morning. I see no other options, except frying or baking some chicken or nuking a pot pie and hot food doesn't interest me right now. I should have bought the keg of sherbet yesterday, but I didn't. Maybe I'll boil the rest of the eggs and make egg salad to go with the tortillas or maybe I'll just take a cold shower and crawl into bed beside the fan and let the air and water cool me.

Today was a weird day in many ways, including hearing from my cousin about her ex-husband who was prominently featured in last week's Time magazine article on illegal immigration and the Alabama (and other state) Minutemen and militia. Being the curious pussy cat I am, I decided to search down my ex-cousin-in-law and find out what he's been doing. I found out way more than I bargained for and he ended the email exchange somewhat testily because I told him I'm a pagan witch, but not before offering a "my god is bigger than your god" and "is pagan hypocrisy doing a good deed?" jokes. He obviously doesn't know the difference between pagan, Wiccan and Satanist. If he thought he was browning me off, he was too late. The sun already did that on the drive home on Sunday from Estes Park. He also mentioned that my cousin is an atheist but that wasn't a big surprise. To each his/her own. I'm far too busy walking my own path to worry about someone else's path.

I also submitted my resume (after an IM session with the Evil One and Linux bible reading in order to mount the slaved drive the old resume is on) and some clips (also from the old drive -- thank you Evil One) and articles. I spent about two hours updating my writing resume. I had no idea I had done so much in the past few years or that I had so many articles, essays and stories published over the past three years. I didn't dare go back too far; I'd still be typing. I also submitted a query for another group of anthologies and have to do two more queries for them, along with a sample of my writing and a quick blurb about me. I appreciate that they are raising money for their organization, but I'm not going to sign away my hard earned money for their charity. I'm a writer and I expect to get paid. The one job will net about $300 a week for doing a fairly simple and straight forward job and that will add a nice little cushion to my bare feathered nest. Yes, I'm focusing on making more money. I'm tired of just getting by and I want to go to India and Alaska next year and many more places besides. It also doesn't hurt to rack up a few thousand more articles and credits along the way.

Tomorrow is a big day and the day after even bigger, so I will sign off for now (especially since my hands are sweating and sticking to the laptop keyboard from the generated heat and the 90-degree wind blowing across my naked back). So, I'll shut up now.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Just a little quickie

I'm hot and sweaty and just slightly miserable but I will make it through this. At least I didn't have to cook dinner tonight. The landlady invited Nel and me down for hamburgers made on her new grill. A little glass of wine, a couple of Black Angus burgers and fresh cooling breezes were just what I needed after that cool shower. But then I had to go to the store to buy all the ingredients for my picnic on Friday and spend the rest of my money on food for the week. Needless to say, there's nothing left in the kitty. At least the landlady was nice enough to offer me a pound of real butter, 18 fresh laid eggs and two 8-oz packages of cream cheese for the cheesecake (could that have been a hint?).

I really don't want to face the hot oven on a night like this, but at least I can retreat to the bedroom where it's cool and even to the shower to stand in the lukewarm water that during the winter time is glacial. Why can't it be the other way around? At least we have water. We didn't his afternoon.

Have you ever noticed how thirsty you get when someone tells you the water is turned off? I didn't until the landlady called me up and told me our water was pffft and the city was working on a break in the main up the road on another street. Suddenly the Sahara desert with a sirocco wind sucked all the moisture out of my mouth and there was no relief. I was beginning to eye the water in the toilet tank and was thinking of reasons why that would be safe but the water came back on just as I discovered the cream in the refrigerator door was no longer viable. Maybe I should shake a few dollars loose from the next paycheck and buy a case or two of bottled water but I just hate thinking of all those plastic bottles that have to be disposed least until the water goes off again when it's hot and the Sahara is blowing a hot dry wind across my tongue and down my throat.


MJ called me a little while ago to let me know he was leaving Nashville and on his way to Denver International Airport. He'll be here tonight and we have a telephone date. We haven't spoken in about two weeks, what with his little spiritual vacation and my physical vacation. It was nice to hear from him again even though it was a short call. He also told me he was looking forward to our picnic in the park on Friday, so I'd better get that cold shower (feeling hot and sweaty), put on some clothes (so I don't get arrested for indecent exposure, although I would be cooler) and toddle on down to the store.

The Evil One made a request for the taco salad I did the last time (he really liked that, although he said he was flexible -- I'll be the judge of that) and I think an ice cold watermelon would go down quite nicely. I'll have to do the dishes, but I would have to do them anyway. And I might just have a piece or two of the key lime cheesecake stashed away somewhere after tonight's little spell of baking.

Lynn, tell your Dad I'm perfecting the recipe and I promise to bring it with me this fall when I come to visit.

Since I lost the bottom to my spingform pan I am going to have to be creative. I have lots of boxes around here, so I'm going to cut out a circle of cardboard, cover it with aluminum foil (recycled of course) and that way I can reuse the sides of the pan right away and not have to worry about buying another pan. Clever, no?

The landlady is grilling Black Angus hamburgers on the new grill and has offered to share, so I need to get moving so I can get back and enjoy my share.

That is all. Disperse.

Cutting off your nose

People just do not get the simple concept of choice. In a world where we have far too much government and are quickly heading the way George Orwell envisioned there are more idiots who cannot figure out how to avoid watching something that offends them.

For two years I chose not to have a television. When I did decide to turn the television on again I used it to watch movies, movies I chose. Now I have cable and I still use my new television to watch movies and I choose what I want to watch on cable. I choose not to watch commercial television. I choose.

Evangelicals and many fundamentalist Christians now want cable companies to tailor a package to fit their choices, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't suit them. They have yet to figure out what that little box with the buttons on it does -- it helps them choose the programs they want to watch and avoid the ones they don't want or find offensive. It's not a difficult skill to master and cable companies also include a feature on that little box with the buttons that allows them to lock out whatever channels they do not want to watch. Cable companies also provide a guide of the channels they offer and a guide to tell the consumer how to use the lock out button on the little box and still they want a special package. Give me a break. Better yet how about licensing in order for people to be able to buy a television with a remote or channel changer?

We live in a very special country where our constitution, the model for many other countries, grants us the rights of free speech, the freedom to practice the religion of our choice and the simple right to choose what we do and do not want in our cities, communities and homes. Those rights are double-edged swords though. While they grant us the right to choose the Constitution also grants others the same rights of choice. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights were designed for minimum government with maximum benefit and we have spent the past 200 years changing that most elastic of all governing documents to change with the times. I don't think the Founding Fathers had any idea we would change or want to change our government in such a way as to limit freedom and democracy in the ways we have over the past 50 years.

The problem is that we have become separatists who are determined to be allowed our freedoms and rights without allowing those who differ from us ideologically, religiously and fundamentally their freedoms and rights. It's all about tolerance.

Government officials who espouse a specific religion or set of religious ideas are determined to make everyone believe the same way or be denied their rights and freedoms. Religious leaders who have determined their beliefs are the only true beliefs deny other religious leaders and participants their rights under the Constitution by enacting laws that redefine and limit what is and is not permissible. More laws, more litigation, more narrowing of the broad and tolerant bedrock of our country's Constitution and Bill of Rights lead us directly to the world where Big Brother is indeed watching and weeding out the nonbelievers. Is that what we really want? Do we really want a country where one person's beliefs can be used against those who do not believe the same way?

The argument of the separation of Church and State is one that has been used often over the past fifty years and it is not part of the Constitution or the Bill of Rights or the Declaration of Independence. It is a line of thought that Thomas Jefferson wrote about outside of those documents. Having a religious motto on a building or as part of the curriculum in a school does not force anyone to believe in it nor does it harm anyone who reads it. Having such a motto or credo in full public view and paid for by the public also does not constitute a State Religion which is what Jefferson was writing about, but we are very close to having a State Religion when any governing official publicly uses his religious beliefs to deny the rights of any other group, religious or secular.

Freedom to practice any religion means you are FREE to practice ANY religion. That is not a difficult concept to grasp. Freedom also means if you are an elective representative of the people then your religious beliefs are your own but you are obligated to uphold the religious beliefs of every single person in your governed area from the President to a council member in a small town. You do not have to agree with your constituents but you must uphold their freedoms as you uphold your own without reservation or prejudice. That goes for pagans as well as Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc.

In simple terms it means that you are free to turn down the offer of a bible or Koran or Torah or book of spells. It also means that the words of one religion or another on any building is not a declaration of a State Religion but the freedom of expression granted by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That means that it is all right to pray in school and it is all right to not pray in school; it's a matter of choice. That means we are free to read the words of another religion on a building or to ignore them. That means we are free to practice whatever religion speaks to us and to ignore the religion that does not speak to us. That means we are free to choose whatever path we wish to walk and to allow others to walk their own path without interference or intolerance.

Freedom can be a heavy or a light burden depending on whether or not you GET the concept of freedom. We do not need more laws. We do not need special cable packages. We do not need more government. We need more tolerance. If we do not practice tolerance now we will find ourselves in a world where freedom is a word that is punished by law and Big Brother will determine our paths for us.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Bad dream

I should have known the news looked too good to be true. It was. The letter about the money didn't tell the whole story. Good thing I called to clarify or I would have been celebrating for nothing. Oh, the money's coming but not until next month. I could use it now. Oh, well, back to the budget dinner aisle in the grocery store. Not such a bad thing but...

I ripped a nail in the middle of the night forcing open a stuck window. Good thing I clipped my nails earlier or that would have really hurt. I guess the heat sealed the window when I locked it down and it didn't want to open. I have another window to pry open but I think I'll use the screwdriver next time instead of my fingers. Granted, it was the middle of the night and I was tired and needed more air flowing through my hot bedroom, but I'm awake now, rudely so, and I don't want to lose a finger. I have lots of work to do.

It's disconcerting coming back from a pleasant vacation and jumping back into work when all I want to do is curl up with a book and vegetate for the rest of the day. Add to that getting up, getting dressed and going to the grocery store because I didn't do it yesterday, and all before jumping back into work, and you can see what I mean. I want to enjoy being back before I have to face chores and work and laundry and everything else. I don't mind the cooking part that I will have to do this week because I love to cook and I got a good dose of it this past week cooking for my friends. They're still alive and kicking, albeit tired after their long drive back to Independence, but they are still alive. My cooking didn't kill them, and I was a tad worried on Saturday when I grilled steaks on the gas grill. I haven't used one before and wasn't quite comfortable with it, but I managed with a little help from Chuck when he turned on the gas. I did the rest...or did the best I could with coals that were not in the best configuration for grilling. Oh, well, no one got sick or died, so I did all right. But the steaks...

Nothing like Colorado grown beef. The steaks were warm and pink on the inside, done on the outside and the taste was heavenly. The meat was buttery and tender and the flavor is like nothing I've had in a very long time. We added fresh corn on the cob and green beans and the meal was darn near perfect. Now that was pleasure in a mega dose.

The other nights I cooked comfort food: cabbage, onions, potatoes, carrots and smoked sausage that lasted quite a while even with Chuck's ravening locust appetite. One night I boiled chicken quarters about 20 minutes and placed that atop sliced potatoes, parsley and onions, covered the whole thing with cream of broccoli soup and scattered shreds of a four cheese blend over the top and popped it all into the oven. I also added a bit of heavy cream to bring it all together. The bubbly, fragrant casserole was delicious. A couple mornings I fixed scrambled eggs with cream and sliced avocado and strawberries for breakfast. No one complained about those meals either. In fact, most meals the only thing I heard was the clink of silverware against plates or my friends wrangling over the last little bit of key lime cheesecake. I am, however, shocked and surprised the cheesecake lasted as long as it did. Chuck said it was so good he'd pick it up off the dirty, dusty ground and eat it. I'm not sure if that's because he likes dirt and dust or the cheesecake, but I didn't ask. It is a pleasure cooking for people who like to eat and enjoy a simple meal. That's something else I miss living alone -- cooking for someone. I have recipes and ideas I haven't tried yet, but I'll get to trot them out at least twice this week when I bake two more cheesecakes and cook dinner for MJ this week, and of course there is lunch in the park with the Evil One and MJ on Friday, so I'll get to cook then, too. I'm looking forward to it all and I hope I can coax MJ into dinner some other night while he's here. I guess I'd better fix something pretty special so he wants to sample more.

Okay, I need to quit being such a slug and just get my derrière off the bed, get cleaned up, dressed and head for the grocery store to buy bananas for my soy protein shakes that arrived AFTER I left for Estes Park. I am a week behind in my soy protein consumption.

Have a great day even if you don't need it and enjoy the sunshine and the heat while it's here. Winter will be back all too soon.

I'll shut up now.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


I got home almost an hour ago and I'm sitting here with my laptop connected to wireless. That makes me happy. I had a load of mail waiting for me, two of which are books, one I'll have to review, and some good news for a change -- money coming in the mail. I can hardly wait because I can certainly use the money. I have bills and people to pay.

The week has been a bit of a blur but one thing I know more certainly than ever before, good friends are hard to find. Spending nearly a week with my friends gave me a glimpse of married life I haven't seen in a very long time and how three so very different people can actually get along without murder or harsh words. My friends are the most generous and wonderful people I know and without their hospitality and tolerance I wouldn't have been able to go anywhere for vacation nearly as nice or as much fun. I did get a bit tired last night from all the activity yesterday and conked out early, and then was up and down all night long going to the bathroom (good sign - voiding fluid from my tissues). They left early this morning and I left not much later. This is the second time we three have spent time together and the first time we lived in the same space and I'm looking forward to visiting them later this year to meet their family and friends and get to know their furred children.

Now, if I can only talk them into going to Alaska or India with me we would have a jolly old time.

I hate dial-up, but it will have to do

Yesterday, while I waited in the car outside Safeway, having finished my quick errand, a guy stopped and asked me where I was from in Ohio. "Columbus," I said. He smiled and nodded and I asked him where in Ohio he was from. "Portsmouth." We talked for a couple of minutes and he told me he came to Colorado from California, had been here a year and a half and wasn't ever leaving. I understand how he feels. I've been here for over three years and I feel the same way. I'm not leaving Colorado, except on trips and vacation, and I still have a lot of Colorado left to see, including finding the spot where I want to build my cabin.

I've found the people I've met here in Colorado who are originally from Ohio generally feel the same way about living here and they are open and friendly. Must be something in the water or the air in Ohio that makes some of us yearn for mountains and winter snow and sunshine and bright blue Colorado skies, but it also gives us a friendliness and openness that is hard to beat. I'm not saying people from other states aren't friendly, but the Ohioans I've met here have been more so.

I'm on dial-up this morning but felt the need to post since I haven't been online much this week, yesterday being the exception.

One thing I've noticed after spending nearly a week with my friends in the same condo is that living with others is an art form, so is communicating verbally on a consistent basis.

Since I work at home and don't have much interaction with people on a daily basis I didn't notice until this week, and especially yesterday, that my verbal communication skills have eroded. I stumbled over my words and sometimes had difficulty getting the words out. The thoughts were clear and coherent, but my verbalization of them wasn't quite so clear or coherent. I had to take a couple runs at it before I could get the words out. I didn't realize that could happen, especially since I talk to Beanie and my mother on a fairly regular basis and communicate quite well with them. I talk to the landlady and Nel but have not had a sustained intellectual or functional conversation with anyone for a very long time.

There is a difference, or at least it seems so to me, between chit chatting about movies, books and personal things and articulating more abstract concepts or carrying on a discussion about anything outside the realm of chit chat and personal exchanges. I know I can write them -- and I do, having bored all of you with my philosophical ramblings from time to time -- but I don't get many chances to discuss them with other human beings out loud and in person. My skills have eroded somewhat, as I found out when I was questioning some people after the Katrina session yesterday and again when I was helping out at the PPRAA table at HamCon yesterday. It's a bit disconcerting and a little frightening that I could lose the power to articulate my thoughts and questions.

Lynn did say I should get out more and interact more with people, and I'm good with people generally, but I tend to be a bit shy in putting myself forward in unfamiliar surroundings when I have no backup. Most of the people who know me wouldn't consider me shy, especially when they see me go up to strangers and ask them questions about whatever I want to know, but that is different than striking up a conversation with a stranger or discussing something important with someone I don't know. I can jump into the fray but I seldom start the verbal Donnybrook. I merely delight in adding to it.

Looking back over the past several years, I realize I have become more and more isolated and distant from outside contact. I could list a dozen or more excuses, and all of them would be true, but the basis of all my reticence is because I am a bit shy and not willing to put myself forward too much. Part of that is because of the years I was unable to go out and meet people or interact with them a lot because of physiological problems and the other part of that is because it became a habit to keep myself to myself. I buried myself in books and phone conversations with close friends but seldom cultivated or added friends to my dwindling circle of acquaintances. I didn't realize all of this until this past week, and most especially the first morning I woke up here at the condo and walked silently to the bathroom past my friends.

I don't think it strange that I go for days without speaking or that I don't speak first thing in the morning. I live alone and I have no pets. Sometimes in the evening, or when I take a shower at whatever time of day, I sing but it's not the same as talking. I think that's why I enjoy phone conversations so much, because I get to interact with people, exercise my voice and don't have to go far to do it. I don't spend a lot of time on the phone, but I have been known to carry on a conversation for an hour or so. It's my main source of social interaction, so why not? I'm not antisocial, although sometimes I feel a bit that way, but I am a little asocial and don't seek to make contacts, other than brief touch-and-go encounters here and there. I do need to get out more, widen my circle of friends to include people I actually see and spend time with instead of keeping them on the phone or online, but knowing how I am I doubt that will happen quickly or maybe even at all. I look forward to spending some part of the year with my friends, Lynn and Chuck, but I am going to have to put out more effort. It's unlikely the mountain will come to Mohammed, so I guess Mohammed will have to go to the mountain.

So why do I feel like it could fall on me? ;-)