Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving

This post is a day late, but that's a good thing.  It means I am actually living life as opposed to simply blogging it.

I have much to be thankful for, even in the midst of a difficult year.


First, the minor things:

I am thankful that I'm done with chemo and was able to skip radiation.

I am thankful that my hair is growing back.

I am thankful for this time of year in Florida....bye bye heat and humidity.

Now the most important things:

I am thankful for my family.

  • thankful for my mother-in-law and sister-in-law who helped us through this difficult time.
  • thankful for my children who weathered things well and showed compassion for me when I wasn't feeling well.
  • thankful, most of all, for my husband who lived up to his marriage vows in an incredible way. As life has continued to unfold for us, I am thankful that we found each other and have stuck together for 11 years.  I grow to appreciate and love him more every day....except for when he forces me to watch inane Jackie Chan movies--there are some things which go beyond the bounds of love.  

There are endless things for which I should be grateful. I don't always recognize them at the time. May God help me to remember the unexpected graces which come my way.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

I'm Too Sexy For My Church

The imonk has a devastatingly scathing piece on Ed Young's 7 day sex challenge, Leaving Lust Vegas.
He's right on target.  

Monday, November 24, 2008

They Start Off So Young Nowadays

This past weekend was spent with my in-laws.  I had arranged for us to have a family portrait done to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary, so our immediate family and my sister-in-law's family went up to visit and prepare for the photo shoot.

My mother-in-law, being the wonderful grandma she is, decided to get a few games for the boys to play while we were up there. She picked up a checkers game from a local garage sale in her retirement community.

After unpacking the game, The Rationalist came up to me with a couple of checkers in his hand.

"Why do these have pictures of clothes on them?" he asked.

"Huh?"

"Look...they have shirts, pants, underwear, bras.....why are there pictures of clothes on the checkers?"

"Uhhh....I'm not sure.  Bring me the instructions."

He picked up an old, withered paper and brought it over to me.

Strip Checkers--it read.

My mother-in-law is corrupting my young children.  

Those retirees.....you never know what they're up to in their Active Adult Communities.


Monday Blahs

I've been feeling a little like Charlie Brown lately...disappointed, dejected, exasperated with people and the world. Around every corner lurks some new problem or obstacle for me to deal with, and I have had enough of it already.  I want to take my toys and go home, because I am so done in dealing with reality.

I was out at my dad's place this past week, scheduling home inspectors, pest control, electricians, and contractors.  It was a two-day marathon session full of bad news and decisions I don't want to have to make.  My fact-finding mission brought me facts I was none too pleased to hear.

My home inspector, a very nice, thorough man, was the first person with whom I had made an appointment.  My dad's house needs some repair. One wall had an obvious moisture problem that was going to need to be fixed.  My dad also had some termite bait stations scattered around the home.  I needed to know exactly what the condition of the house was before proceeding.

That first appointment set my mood for the next week. 

My dad's house had become a nice snack for subterranean termites. The inspector had found evidence of them in almost every exterior wall, two of which were in very bad condition. He also found evidence in the attic.

The only way to find out how much damage they have done to the house is to rip off all the drywall and look at what's behind it.  If they have destroyed much of the wood framing and studs--the actual structural portion of the house--it will have to be replaced.  If it's really bad, the two bathrooms in the home will have to be gutted and then completely redone after the repairs have been made.  They are back to back on one of the heavily infested walls.

This could cost, in a worst case scenario, up to $30,000.

That news, having settled firmly into my mind, has put me in a foul mood.  It isn't about the money, but about what I know lays ahead--choosing a contractor, prolonged construction, and numerous trips across the state to deal with this.

With this in the foreground of my mind, multiple occurrences are conspiring against me in the background.  Our car has been having trouble for almost two months now.  We have dragged it to the mechanic numerous times with no luck in getting it ironed out. Most recently, we think  the problem might be solved, but now there is a new "clunking" sound that has spontaneously appeared in a completely unrelated part of the car...just 2 days after getting the car back.

While visiting with my in-laws, I had to field questions about why I "think Obama is the right man for the job."   This was funny only because I had never confided that I had voted for Obama in the first place.  My silence on all the Republican gong-sounding must have given me away. It's very ironic, considering my vote for Obama wasn't an enthusiastic one, and I almost forget that I voted for him when I am in political discussions. 

Then I had to listen to how this current economic crisis has nothing to do with Republicans, but with the policies created by Democrats many years ago...yada, yada, yada. Before exiting from the political discussion I merely added that our current crisis is not a Democratic or Republican crisis, but an American problem.  We buy things we can't afford.  We send out stimulus packages and bailouts because we think we're entitled to live this way without repercussions. Democrats and Republicans alike shared in this downfall.  After stating this, my father-in-law spoke out,"It's not my problem.  It's not because of me," which is true, but missing the point of the collective problem we're facing.

I was annoyed at being dragged into pointed conversations by people I otherwise love and respect.

I'm worn down from this past year and my tolerance for life's annoyances is at an all-time low. That, added to the fact that Saturday was the anniversary of when things started to go downhill for me, has made me emotional and easily offended.  

I'd like to crawl into bed and sleep for a couple of weeks.


Peanuts

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

It grows back....slowly.

My hair has finally started to grow in.  It's grayer, thinner and still patchy in areas, but it's there.  

Today I decided to be brave and venture out in public without a hat and do my best impression of Sinead O'Conner.







I'm trying to force myself to get used to it.  We are having family photos done this weekend and I'm going au naturel.....no hats, scarves, wigs.

Maybe I'll keep it this way. 

I'll save thousands on hair care products.


Oreo Cookie Blues

Goofing around with pandora.com, I came across this song on the Stevie Ray Vaughan station I created.


Too funny.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Music Genome

A new site that assembles a playlist of music based on an artist or song of your choosing.


HT: my hubby

update...fixed the link

What Now?


Obama Win Causes Obsessive Supporters To Realize How Empty Their Lives Are

The money quote is at 2:06...had me laughing out loud.

Watch 'til the end to get the funniest parts.

HT: http://bobhyatt.typepad.com/bobblog/

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Lawyer Jokes Lived Out

Because my father didn't have a will, we had to hire a lawyer to help administer his estate and file papers in Probate Court.

He seems nice enough.  I didn't have any negative feelings about him when we met with him.

One of the things about which he spoke to us concerned my dad's bills.  He instructed us that we were not to pay them.  He would put a legal notice in the paper and creditors would have 3 months to file a claim for payment if anything was owed to them.  After the 3 months were up, they were out of luck and not entitled to payment.

It seemed clear enough.

I wasn't too worried about any of this because my dad had no real debt. He had a few credit cards, each with less than $500 dollars on them. He used them for gas, buying auto parts online, and purchases at department stores. He would pay the balance off each month.  I had been through all his papers and knew there weren't any unknown creditors out there.  Plus, my dad had already disclosed as much to me in conversations about his upcoming retirement and financial plans.

This issue has created a slight disagreement between my brother and I.  His view was that if the credit card companies didn't contact us in those three months, too bad for them.  My view was that dad had purchased, received, and used goods that were now in our possession.  It would be wrong to knowingly not pay them.

The point is moot if the credit card companies respond to the public notice.

Where all of this gets interesting is in further conversations I have had with the lawyer.  In clarifying various things, this subject came up again and I listened as the lawyer described, unprompted, multiple ways we could get out of paying these bills.  He would wait until the third month of notice before sending specific notice to the creditors we knew about.  Specific notice is legally required.  When he sent that notice, he would send it to the address listed for payment, which is not the same as the address that companies use to handle all other information regarding an account.  By the time the notice got to the right person, they might have lost a couple of weeks time to process a claim, and might not even make one in time.  

Presto Change-o...not required to pay.

I sat silently while I listened to not only this, but to further plotting of ways to get out of paying them if they actually filed a claim.  The lawyer said he could object to the claim, and unless the amount owed to them was significant, the creditors would likely write off the amount, wanting to avoid spending money on legal proceedings in order to obtain a few hundred dollars.  It would a wash to them, financially.

After this long, unasked-for speech, the lawyer added, "Not that we would try to cheat anyone out of what they are owed."

"Really?  Because that's exactly what it seems like you just spent 5 minutes describing," I thought.

It made me extremely uncomfortable and further reminded me that not everything "legal" is morally right.

I didn't remember until I was off the phone, and thinking all this through, that in Florida an attorney's fees are directly tied to the value of the estate they are probating.  It's a specific percentage, after all the debts of the estate have been paid.

The lower the value of the estate, the lower the value of the percentage.

Can we say conflict of interest?

The people in charge of notifying creditors are people who stand to profit if the creditors fail to act in a timely manner. And, apparently, it is a common practice to try and make them fail.

Now, I have to decide if I am going to simply ignore my brother and lawyer and pay the bills I know about.  I want to.  I feel it's the right thing to do.

In broader terms, I think about our country's current economic crisis and how lawyers and bankers finagle rules to get what they want and create huge messes.  I think about people who are irresponsible, take out loans they can't afford, and wind up declaring bankruptcy, or going into foreclosure....creating problems for their banks and neighborhoods. Everyone passes the buck from one place to another and then wonders how we got here.

It makes me upset. It makes me frustrated that our society has a gaping void in the "personal integrity" department and it continues to get larger.

sigh.

enough of my rant against the establishment, society and people in general.

Turns of Phrase

My favorite song lyrics right now:

Hope has a way of turning its face to you
just when you least expect it.

You walk in a room, you look out a window
and something there leaves you breathless.

You say to yourself,
"It's been a while since I felt this 
and it feels like it might be hope."   

Sara Groves--It Might Be Hope

Tell me what you know
'bout God, and the world and the human soul

How so much can go wrong 
and still there are songs

Sara Groves--In the Girl There's a Room


I can't help it. I'm a Sara Groves addict.  I would inject her intravenously if I could.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Death and Taxes

I've been knee-deep in managing my father's estate for the last several weeks.  

Although I have three brothers, only my oldest brother is a "full" brother and the son of my father.  My other brothers are technically "half-brothers", but I don't really think of them that way. 

Because it's just the two of us, and I happen to live here in Florida, I was designated as the personal representative of my father's estate. I'm in charge. I'm The Decider, if you will. 

This doesn't present any major issues. My brother and I are on the same page, and there are no petty clamorings for possessions or money. My father had no will, but he did have a fairly straightforward financial situation; no debt, a paid-for home, a paid-for car, and some money in the bank.  

Oh...and one very large plasma TV....that just so happens to be dominating our small living room right now.  When I brought it home, the kids were initially thrilled to have the chance to play their video games on it. After just a few minutes, The Rationalist hit an undercurrent of my unexpressed feelings:

"This is Grandpa's. How come we get to take it?  Isn't that like stealing? It doesn't seem right to take someone else's things."

I explained things to him and he understood, but I apprehended the sentiment. It is a weird sensation to profit from someone's death; to have a checking account that is fuller than it has ever been; to use a prized possession that is only yours because someone else has ceased to exist.  It seems scandalous, somehow even a little like grave-robbing.

It's even harder when I think that my father's hard work and thrift is so quickly divvied up between us.  I know that's just the way life is.  I know that my father wouldn't begrudge it to us, but it's still strange.

As I've worked through the process of emptying his house, changing things into my name, and making plans to renovate his property, I can sense the primitive urgings that people have always had in relation to their dead.  I wonder aloud if this is what he would have wanted as I move his things around.  I know he can't hear me, but I still do it.

The natural inclination to save personal items important to the person who has passed seems unavoidable.  I have no pyramid to store his things for the after-life, so instead they come home with me, littering my house with unneeded clutter, resembling some dusty inner room full of cat statuettes and libations for the dead.

The urge is there.  It affords me a greater understanding about cultural traditions such as the Day of the Dead, relatives setting up memorial altars and photos of the departed. Perhaps the physicality of the assembled objects fulfills an unconscious need to connect with those who are gone. It's preservation.  

The body disintegrates and fades to nothingness when left to its natural course, leaving little to show for the person who once was there.  All cultures attach great importance to the way a body is treated after death, with many viewing an improper burial as a great dishonor and indignity.  

I felt that primitive urge also.  Like the Greeks in a Homeric epic, I mourned the indignity to my father's body, though I knew he was no longer there. I couldn't escape the compulsion to view the state of his body as something shameful and embarrassing. 

It makes no sense, logically.  The ceremonies and remembrances are for the living, not the dead. Yet...I was surprised at how easily those thoughts and feelings could be summoned.  

Suddenly the Aztecs didn't seem so strange and the Egyptians seemed like kin. 

Thursday, November 06, 2008

President Obama

Now that everything is said and done, I look forward to seeing what will happen in Obama's presidency. I'm just relieved to have the whole election behind us.  

Ultra-conservatives are dressing themselves in sackcloth and ashes, bemoaning the doom of America. 

Ultra-liberals are crying and shouting with joy at their supposed messianic figure.

I'll be happy with something in between the two perspectives.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day

Thank God it's almost over!



After dropping the kids off at school, I went to my polling place and voted. When I arrived, there were about 200 people standing in a line that wrapped around the building and ended about 100 feet from the entrance.  I know it was 100 feet because there were people handing out campaign materials near the end of the line.  I intended to confront them about it, because it is usually illegal to campaign at the polling place, but just as I was about to say something one of the campaigners warned another one to stay behind a certain point. The police had told them they could legally go no further than 100 feet from the building.  

The mood of the voters was quiet and introspective.  Very few conversations were taking place. People seemed generally patient, not complaining about the wait. Very serious.

Up until this morning I wasn't sure who I was going to vote for in the presidential election.  I had gone back and forth numerous times on Obama and McCain, both of whom have positions I love and hate, both of whom somewhat annoy me. Even as I stood in my little red, white and blue voting booth made of plastic dividers, I hesitated before marking my ballot.  I voted for everything else on the ballot and saved the presidential vote for one last consideration.

After taking a deep breath, and hoping I wouldn't eventually regret my decision, I voted for Barak Obama.

It was a difficult choice for me, most importantly, because I am pro-life. I don't like Obama's position on abortion.  I don't agree with it.  I would love to have a more pro-life candidate win.

John McCain is definitely more pro-life than Obama, so I could have voted for him on that issue.

Why didn't I?

McCain lost my vote for a few reasons.  He lost my vote by trying to make Bush's tax cuts permanent.  He lost my vote by resorting to extremely negative attacks on Obama, rather than telling me what exactly he's going to do for America.  He lost my vote because I refuse to choose him out of fear of a terrorist attack.  Fear-mongering is not a tool by which I wish to be motivated.

Ultimately, tossing aside my fears was the only way I could stomach voting for Obama.  I had to censor out the hype about how absolutely disastrous it would be if one candidate won over the other. That tactic is tired and played out.  Could bad things happen to the US because of whom we elect?  Yes, but that cuts both ways.  I can just as easily see McCain getting us into an unneeded war with Iran as I can see Obama being perceived as weak by terrorists.  Which is worse for the US?  

So, in the end, I cast my first vote for a Democratic president.  I have occasionally voted Democrat in local elections, but usually go Republican.

Here's hoping I won't regret the next four years if Obama wins.

On the upside...if Obama is truly awful as a president, maybe we'll get some great Republicans running in 2012.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween!


No wonder they fight sometimes; the conflict between the force and the dark side must be resolved.