Tuesday, August 31, 2004

The story of August 31st - Part I

All you need to hear is "September 11th" and your mind is filled with the horrible images of that day and the days that followed. It's a little different for me - my life had already been changed forever by my own tragedy eleven days earlier.

As I prepared to leave for work that morning, I was tired and hot - too tired and hot and grouchy to kiss my husband Daniel goodbye as he laid on the sofa bed. He was smirking at me because he got to stay home that day while I had to work. But underneath his smirk and my grumbling we were both exhausted. And afraid.

So far 2001 had been one life-changing event after another. It started with Daniel losing his job in the auto design industry. He quickly found another job we expected would be temporary - stocking shelves at a grocery store - while he continued to look for a job in his field.

Spring brought us the next shocker. My father died suddenly of a heart attack. We traveled to the funeral in Chicago from our home in Michigan. It was that weekend we found out that the job of caretaker at the parish cemetery was open. We looked at each other and knew this was something we had to consider.

Of course working in a cemetery was sort of a strange idea. Daniel never set foot in one unless he was forced to. But he also loved the outdoors and had a knack for digging holes. I thought the caretaker job would be perfect for him, especially since we knew the prospects of him getting back into auto design were slim. The caretaker job paid better than the grocery store and it even came with a small house to rent. But there was another bonus...Daniel taking this job meant I would be back home in Chicago with my family. After much consideration we decided to make the move and put our house up for sale.

Then Daniel's father, who had enjoyed extremely good health most of his life, suddenly got sick. Daniel adored his father and agonized about the move we were making. But the wheels were in motion, and his father was in good hands (Daniel's brother and his wife took him in, God bless them). We continued with our plans.

By the beginning of June I had applied for a job transfer. As it turned out it was a bad time for the transfer because of other changes going on in my company. So Daniel moved before me. He worked at the cemetery during the week and drove home every weekend. After two months of this I decided to take my chances and make the move as well. I ended up working for another department part time, while still hoping for a full time position. I joined my husband in Chicago at the beginning of August.

The summer had been extremely hot. Working outside all day was a huge adjustment for Daniel after so many years in air-conditioned comfort. But he seemed to be doing well. The months stocking shelves at the grocery store had built him up after all those years behind a desk. He loved walking to work and tinkering with the machinery. There were only a few funerals that summer, so he spent most of his time cutting grass and doing other maintenance work.

About two weeks after I arrived he started complaining of being short of breath. We thought it might be a new allergy, or that maybe he was developing asthma. He had had pneumonia several years before so he was very sensitive to anything going on in his lungs. After a week of complaining he finally went to the doctor, who could not find a cause. This was Tuesday the 28th. The doctor scheduled a follow up visit for the next week to do some more tests if the condition did not improve. Daniel went back to work.

On Thursday he asked me to take him to the hospital. He knew something was seriously wrong. We spent the afternoon in the emergency room. They asked a million questions, took x-rays and did lots of other tests, but no cause revealed itself. They released him with instructions not to work and to visit his doctor the next week as scheduled.

That night we ate leftovers for dinner and relaxed on the couch. There was a huge storm brewing, and being away from the city lights we enjoyed a spectacular show of lightning through the bay window in the living room. We speculated about what might be wrong with him, and talked about alternatives if it ended up he could not continue working outdoors. After everything we had been through that year, the thought of another major disruption in our lives was overwhelming.

So I left for work the next morning in a bad mood after a night of fitful sleep. I told Daniel to keep the cell phone nearby and I would call him at 10 so he could go back to sleep for a few hours. I called at 10 and got no answer. I didn't worry yet, thinking he was either in the bathroom or had felt better and took a walk without his phone. But I continued to get no answer when I called every 20 minutes. At Noon I decided to go home.

When I walked in the door I called for him, and was greeted by silence.



At rest in the loving arms of Jesus
August 31, 2001
 Posted by Hello

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Happy Birthday to...

...Senator John McCain, Michael Jackson, Carla Gugino, Rebecca DeMornay, Robin Leech, Sir Richard Attenborough and...


Saturday, August 28, 2004

The Moon and Venus

My first attempt at posting a picture. I took this with my digital camera last year. The dot located down and left of the moon is Venus. Click on the photo for a slightly sharper image. Posted by Hello

Friday, August 27, 2004

When it's time to change...

...all you have to do is hit a button!

Do you like this new look? Since blue is my favorite color (except when my favorite is purple) and I have a special place in my heart for lighthouses, this was an easy choice.

My links have to be re-entered, so those will be back soon.

Next I'll try posting pictures!

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Everyone needs to vote

I guess it's pretty clear from my writings what area of the political spectrum I inhabit, but please put that aside for the moment.

Everyone who is eligible to vote should do so. Don't believe people who say that your one vote does not count for anything. In this country of hundreds of millions of people, the last presidential election illustrated just how a small margin can make the difference.

There are many in this country who feel that only certain types of people should even be allowed to vote. One popular web columnist with whom I agree on many political positions completely floored me by his seemingly well-reasoned but disgustingly un-American position that only "intelligent" people should be allowed to vote. And who decides who is intelligent enough to vote, Mr. Columnist? You? Sorry, NO!

Politics can be really unpleasant. But your participation is as crucial to the preservation of our freedom as going to the dentist regularly is to the preservation of your teeth. Sure, you might get lucky. You could avoid the dentist your entire life and still end up with all your teeth. But how likely is that? And like our teeth, once our freedom is gone it is gone forever.

If you don't want to vote because you don't know who to vote for, you need to get informed. Read as much as you can, from as many sources as you can find. When I first voted, my sources of information were two newspapers and three TV networks (all of which pretty much said the same thing). We now have virtually unlimited sources, which makes it both better and worse. We have more information, no doubt. But how much of that information is truthful is hard to figure out.

Speaking of which, do you know how many political parties there are in the United States? If you said two, you are correct in a certain way. You mostly hear about Democrats and Republicans because our current system heavily favors just two parties. Here is a list of political parties in the United States. I do not care if you would vote Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green Party or whatever. Well, that is not entirely true...it would greatly disturb me if somebody I love registered to vote as a Communist or a Nazi. However, I would forever defend their right to do so.

Time is running out to register. Here is a list of State Voter Registration Deadlines.

Get registered and become a regular voter. The health of your country depends on it.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Charity begins with you and me

The older nieces and nephews on my Christmas list already know this. Last Christmas was the last Christmas for gifts from Aunt Judie.

Except for the two youngest, I will be giving to charity in the names of my nieces and nephews. It is up to them to decide what charity they want their gift to benefit. Last year some of us gave to The Smile Train...a wonderful organization that literally brings smiles to thousands of children a year.

Here's another good cause, brought to us through Michelle Malkin's blog. It's called Strengthen the Good.

If you know of a worthy charity, send the info to me in an email and I'll add it to my new "Good Causes" section (after checking it out, of course).

PS: I have added Michelle's blog to the "Blogs I Like" area. But be warned...she is a pit bull for her beliefs. She is smart as heck and knows her stuff. It can be inspiring or intimidating depending on your perspective.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Is it stealing or not?

When the first Spiderman movie had just opened in theaters, a young man dear to me mentioned that he and his girlfriend were going to watch it...at home on a DVD. Knowing it wasn't out on DVD yet, I asked where he got it. He said he got it from a friend, but he didn't know if that friend was the original source. It was a copy created by somebody taking a digital movie camera into the theater and filming what was on the screen.

"Um, that's stealing" I said. He was shocked that I felt this way. To me it was simple, but the concept of this act being a theft seemed completely foreign to him. This is a man who would never contemplate for one fraction of a second stealing a packaged DVD from a store shelf or sneaking into a movie theater. Yet here he was watching something for free that he should have paid about $8 for at the time ($16 if you count the girlfriend).

This event led to several conversations with people about the subject of downloading music and movies from the Internet. The most interesting response was one girl who felt that the music companies were actually the ones stealing when they asked $16 for a CD, when it only costs about $1 to make. Granted, she had not yet had any education in economics, free markets or business. But no matter how I tried to explain the cost and risks of doing business, the concept of intellectual property and the workings of a free market economy, she just did not get it.

Another of this same girl's points was that if the music was not meant to be shared in this way, why was it so easy to do? Um, if you take a bag of ice from the outside freezer at a gas station without paying for it, is that not stealing just because it was easy?

I hadn't thought about this for a while until I read Dr. Kelly Hollowell's column about how the movie companies are worried about theft of their product. Dr. Kelly's point is that the movie companies have profited immensely by contributing to the decline of society's values, and that pirating is just one of the results. It's hard to argue with that.

You know my feelings about this. If you feel differently - that it is OK to download or copy music and movies that are not intended for distribution in this way - then tell me I'm wrong in an email. But don't just tell me I'm wrong; make your case and let's talk about it. I won't publish any email contents without your consent.

Friday, August 20, 2004

How long is ten years?

If you're looking back, doesn't seem too long. If you're looking forward, it is too unreal to comprehend.

I know exactly where I was ten years ago at this very minute (6:55 am Eastern time, Saturday, August 20, 1994) - at the beauty shop. What gets somebody to a beauty shop that early on a Saturday morning? A wedding, of course!

My wedding.

On the day of your wedding you're not thinking about where you will be in ten years. You're thinking about the clock on the wall (ticking away towards your appointment at the altar at high Noon), how to deal with the weather (it rained all day), how the heck you will get all the hair spray and bobbie pins out of your head later (lather/rinse/repeat, lather/rinse/repeat, lather/rinse/blow dry and find a few more pins), and all the little details of the day which you have been planning for a year and a half. You're reminding yourself that something will go wrong today, and that you just have to take it easy and go with the flow.

Every once in a while I meet somebody, usually a very young person, who has his or her entire life planned - from school to work to marriage to number of kids to retirement. None of those people picture their spouse losing several jobs, finding out they are unable to have children, discovering their spouse's dark secrets which will threaten their marriage, or being widowed suddenly at age 40. I sure didn't.

If on my wedding day I had given any thought to where I would be in ten years, my wildest imagination could not have pictured where I am today. If I had seen what was in store for me I might have run away screaming instead of walking down the aisle. But if I had run away, I would have missed all the good stuff that for the most part overshadowed the unemployment, secrets and infertility. I would have missed the love, the laughter, the second family, and the experience of marriage.

I thank God every day for the last ten years, that I had Daniel as long as I did, for my families, my job, my life. And whether He decides to give me another ten years or just another ten minutes, I will be grateful.

All I ask, God, is for just enough light to see the next step.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Love to travel but glad to be home

I'm baaaaaaaaack. The travel was good, the training was good, the evenings were not so good. Too much food, too much TV, not enough sleep. (No, I did not go out like I said I would in my last post, and didn't read a thing the whole trip except the training manual in class, the room service menu and my Tom Clancy novel on the plane).

A few observations:

The check-in process at O'Hare on Sunday took me approximately 35 minutes from getting in line to getting through security. This was very good, considering it was incredibly crowded and there seem to be several machine breakdowns. They efficiently move thousands of people through that place every hour, yet many people in line with me did nothing but complain about how long it was taking. These are probably the same people who will wait an hour to be seated for dinner in a popular restaurant on a Saturday night. Go figure.

There was an older guy in line with a little kitten in a carrier. I did not have the nerve to ask him where he was going and why he was taking the cat, but I was really curious to know.

The hotel I stayed at - a Doubletree property - gives you a fresh, hot chocolate chip cookie when you check in (their own recipe with nuts and cinnamon...mmmm).

They do not sell alcohol in stores in Georgia on Sundays (saw a sign in the grocery store where I was buying bottled water, crackers and fruit).

The office building where the class was held was stunningly beautiful...soaring blue glass towers, marble lobbies, fountains, a lake, flowers and trees. The building I work in is OK, but this was gorgeous!

The food court at the Atlanta airport has a Houlihan's restaurant with live piano music. The guy was pretty good.

No matter how many times I see it, the view of downtown Chicago from an airplane still fills me with awe and pride. I always find myself thinking "that's my town". I hope to move back to the city someday when the time is right.

Finally, a helpful travel hint. If you do not want the people around you to know how crazy in lust you and your wife are, don't open your laptop PC and read the explicit emails you send back and forth if the font is an inch high!

Monday, August 16, 2004

Wasting time

Without a TV in my apartment, I tend to watch way too much when I'm out of town on business. I arrived in Atlanta yesterday (I'm here for a training class). I was going to drive around town a little, but there was a storm. So here's a sample of what I flipped through about a hundred times in a few hours last night:

What I Like About You, World Series of Poker, Austin Powers International Man of Mystery, The Olympics, America's Funniest Home Videos, Evil Knievel, Steve Harvey's Big Time, Rambo III, Monk, Simpsons, Charmed, Six Feet Under, A Night at the Roxbury, Who's the Boss, Rambo III, and the first two minutes of Seabiscuit. That's when I finally nodded off.

To write the above list, I had to look up most of these shows in the TV Guide, because today I only remembered World Series of Poker and Seabiscuit.

Of course the TV is on as I'm writing this (Seinfeld). But I'm turning it off now. I'm going to dinner, then will read some of my book by the pool.

If it doesn't rain.

Monday, August 09, 2004

We can be restored

When I logged into my computer at the office this morning, things appeared normal for a few seconds, then I got some kind of blue screen and the computer went into a reboot loop. After some investigation, it was found that one of the program updates that run automatically on the weekends was corrupted.

The solution was to "restore" my computer...the techs were able to bring my computer back to the state it was in before the weekend. This restoration isolates whatever changes were made in the programming in the last few days and "un-does" them.

God kinda works like that. Not in the sense that He turns back time. (Although if He did, would we know? Hmmm.) He doesn't erase the bad things that happen to us, and He doesn't give us a giant "undo" button for our lives. But with His unconditional love He can restore us - spiritually, emotionally, physically, even financially.

I was lucky with the computer today. If the corruption had been a malicious virus that destroys hard drives, there would have been absolutely nothing they could do to give me my dead computer back. There would be no way to undo the damage.

But as long as we are alive, God can restore us.

Unfortunately, too many people think that their lives are beyond repair, and they don't give God a chance to restore them. Here is the story of one of those people.

Friday, August 06, 2004

A sight nobody wants to see

While driving at lunch today, I was behind a car that had FIVE dashboard dogs with the bobbling heads staring out the back window. They were so cute! As the car made a left turn, some of the dogs looked like they were shaking their heads "no".

Perhaps they had caught a glance of the next sight I saw...a young woman on the back of a motorcycle wearing low ride jeans and a short shirt. Girls, it's bad enough when you subject those around you to the sight of your rear cleavage. It's even worse when everyone who sees it has a pretty good idea what time of the month it is for you.

I don't care what kind of shape you are in...these low riders are awful! I absolutely guarantee you will look back in a few years and shake your head "no" (as in "what was I thinking???") like those dashboard dogs.

I know it is difficult to find modest clothes, but it's not impossible. Check this out.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Some thoughts on Convo 2004

So it took me longer to catch up on my sleep than I thought it would! Actually, I ended up with a little bug of some sort and I even missed a day of work this week. But I'm feeling better now.

As I write this, I'm listening to my new Broken Yoke CD that I bought after their concert on the first night of Convo. Hard rock will never be my favorite kind of music, but at least on the CD I can understand the words. It helps to not have the bass pounding in my chest.

The theme for the week was "SOS - Seek/Obey/Serve". When you think about it, we are all seekers. We look for different things at different times in our lives. But the message I got from the Convo can be summed up in that song: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His rightousness. And all these will be added unto you." When you seek the Lord, every other thing you are seeking comes to you - IF it is God's will. Seeking something that is NOT God's will for your life is a waste of time. So all you need to seek is the Lord. He takes care of the rest.

And when you seek the Lord, you will find that you want to obey Him. "Obedience" is one of those concepts that used to puzzle me. God gave us the commandments, but He also gave us free will. We can do anything we want, right? Yes, but the way I see it, following God's commandments is a choice I want to make, because those laws were designed to give us the best life possible.

Serving is a tough one. Sometimes we don't serve enough, sometimes we are serving so much that we don't leave enough time for our families. God designed each of us for a certain way of serving Him. Go back to "seek"...seek His will for your life and the answer to "how do I serve" will be clear.

SOS - Seek, Obey and Serve. An excellent theme and an excellent Convo. That Convo committee will be a tough act to follow (it's my group's turn to host the next one in 2006).

Oh, if you haven't had a chance to listen to the Convo 2004 CD, take some time this weekend to do so. It's a very nice collection of testimony and music.