Friday, November 30, 2007

One Thing Leads to Another

I started out having an ok day. I spent my morning correcting mistakes made by coworkers and bugging the heck out of Adolf. And I let my tea get cold.

I will have a busy weekend from when I get home today. I have to verify some information, then pack up some boxes and envelopes, and watch my one TV show. Then tomorrow, Callie goes to the vet again (I've rethought being upset at him, we really couldn't have prevented this flare up unless we started some years ago), then mom and I are off to the post office and the store and a few stops in between. Tomorrow night, I have things to make, then Sunday is brunch, and a trip to Trader Joe's and Homestead Gardens. Phew!

One day, the running around all the time will stop.

Monty and I were supposed to make plans for something, but we never actually made any. I promised Turtle I'd visit her some time this month. Ack! Maybe I'll suggest that weekend before Yule. That might work.

And I still dream of a place to call my own in a land where such places are affordable to one income, where there also is income to be had. I don't have much longer before I will force myself out of my house. I have a feeling that means I'll be scraping to make ends meet in a dead-end job for the rest of my life. They housing prices are falling, but they're just not falling enough. Take $100,000 off a $400,000 house, and I still can't afford it. I need to change something, because I'm definitely not doing something right.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Waking Dreams

I saw something today. Something that was both completely new and strangely familiar. It changed the tone of my internal voice and filled my head with words that did not go together. There was a rhythm and a music to them, like the song where I should know the words but don't. I couldn't stay long, and my mind's voice reverted to normal eventually.

Maybe a poem or a song or something I knew long ago and learned to forget. There are rainbows in my eyes and yellow leaves clinging helplessly to a dry branch.

I put my finger on it just now, and I know what to add and where to put it.


For two people, who's lives together meant my own. Who do more for me than any two people ever have, ever will, and ever could.

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

That Looks Like Incompetence

When I was in Idaho this past summer, I got an e-mail from a merchant about something that needed changing. And another. And another. I was gone for a long time, after all. Then, he got frustrated because he wasn't getting a reply from me and sent his e-mail to the box that I answer anyway, on the day before I returned.

I answered his e-mail (replying to everyone on the group list so they would know I had completed it), and included a note that I didn't get to it sooner because I was out of town. Boss² sent me an e-mail stating that I shouldn't have told him that I was out of town and no one else was around to answer his e-mail "because that looks like incompetence [on the part of the company]." What I wanted to say was "if the shoe fits..." but I told Boss² that I told him I couldn't answer sooner because of the three e-mails he had sent directly to me over the course of the two weeks I was out.

Two weeks ago, we got a brand new phone system. We converted from a standard PBX to VOIP, gradually company-wide. This meant that some incoming phone numbers changed, and all automated greetings had to be re-recorded (I'm the back-up voice for when the main voice is unavailable. Neat, huh?). There is one number that rings to a long message of information and goes directly to a voice mail box after the message (a voice mail box that has since been added to the one I already check. I was quite unhappy about this). Included in that message is a fax number that we encourage merchants to use. The problem is Voice #1 misspoke the fax number, saying "3" when it should have been "2." So, everyone who calls this number gets the wrong fax number to use, a number that does not exist. I told the department management team about it as soon as I discovered it; the day the new phones went live exactly two weeks ago.

A little less than a week later, I told them again because it was still not correct. Boss² replied that the people who could do something about it had been informed, the new message was recorded, and it just needed to be uploaded. I have seen an influx of messages left by increasingly more angry merchants because the fax number they have doesn't work. I confirmed yesterday that it is still not correct.

This is not rocket science. It should not take two weeks to fix a message. I even verified it with the phone guru (aka dad) who said it might take a day tops. There is no excuse for this delay, and I am very angry about it because it increases my workload. I have no problem telling these people when I call them back that I told management about the problem two weeks ago and they are sitting on it with their thumbs up their collective ass.

That looks like incompetence.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For Anyone Who Wishes to Know

My cat did get to see a doctor yesterday, though it was not our regular doctor. After some prodding and a few x-rays, it has been determined that she is suffering a flair-up of osteoarthritis. In addition to the medication given by the doctor, her Reiki sessions will continue.

Remember, no matter how much healing work you do or how much faith you have in its success, never use your work as a substitution for seeking and following the advice of a professional.

There is a Short of It

And it's that "she has a bum leg."

I found a vet really nearby who had a 1230 opening to check out Callie and her poor leg.

Getting Callie in the cage to take her to the vet is an ordeal in itself. Sometimes, it takes all three people in the house to do it. Mom couldn't take off as well, so dad and I had to manage. First, we got the cage out. Callie was sleeping on a couch in another room. We went to get the cat and -- no cat. She must have heard it coming and hid under a chair in the dining room. Maybe it's fortunate that she's limping, because she couldn't get far before I caught her and manhandled her into the cage. She yowled the whole five minutes it took us to get there.

This place was very nice and the people were kind. The assistant checked Callie out first (my baby weighs in at 17 lbs 10 oz!) and then the doctor came in. She did some prodding and some bending and some general things, found she has a really bad teeth problem that will require sedatives to clean up, and gave me an opinion about her leg. She said it looked like arthritis, they could take a few x-rays and find out exactly where, or we could have my regular doctor do that later. Well, I won't be able to follow up with him until Saturday at the earliest, so I just had her do it. They took my cat to the back and said it would be about twenty minutes. Dad and I grabbed some lunch.

The doctor had to see another patient when they finished with Callie, so she napped in her cage (not so afraid of it now) while we waited. Then, the doctor came in with some pretty pictures of Callie's bones. She said she wanted to tell me Callie was an angel while we were gone, but I wouldn't have believed her anyway. They had to tape some of her legs down to get a clear x-ray. Poor thing. She's going to be pissed off at me for a while.

She has a bit of hip dysplasia (which most cats suffer from but it's largely not diagnosed because it's so common and doesn't seem to affect them as much as it affects a large dog), mostly on the left, which caused some arthritis there. She has a majorly bad knee, with an unidentified calcified something between the two leg bones where nothing should be, causing more arthritis. There's also a bit in her ankle. Her toes "click" when bent back, so there could be some arthritis there, but it's hard to tell in an x-ray of the toes.

Callie gets to take an aspirin every three days, and she's got a narcotic-like non-narcotic pain killer if the aspirin isn't helping much. She gets some fish oil added to her food to help reduce inflammation, and is supposed to start on a glucosamine supplement next week for her joints, which I haven't bought yet.

Two hours and $200 later, Callie got sent home with her meds and her x-rays so we can follow up with our regular doctor later.

I'm actually a little upset with him. Wasn't it some year and a half ago when I told him that she was having trouble jumping onto my bed? I had to get her a little stool to help her up. Didn't I mention that she was very sensitive around the hips and really hated being touched there? That was dismissed as her just not liking it. It looks like signs were there, but nothing was done about them before they became a problem. The thing is, I know our regular vet is a good doctor, and I know he does the best he can for the animals in his care. I used to work for him, after all, and I've seen him with a variety of animals and their many cases. Of course, nothing prevents aging. She's halfway to ten years old after all. I've never had a pet as long as I've had her.

But, we'll manage the pain of her osteoarthritis and get her teeth taken care of, and she'll have another ten years to go at least.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Have Got to Start Listening

Yesterday, I mentioned to my mother that I should call the vet and leave a message, that way he'd get it in the morning and be able to call me back right away.

If I had done that, I would have learned that his office was closed today.

I can't take off tomorrow too, so now I'm searching for some other doctor.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mom Had This Great Idea

There's this awesome Irish restaurant somewhat nearby called the Kilarney House. I like to go there for dinner around my birthday, and a big group from RenFest takes the whole place over on the last night of the run. My parents have gone to Sunday brunch there before, but they always seem to go when I'm in Idaho, or on a snowboarding trip or something. This morning, mom suggested we go. Ok!

So far, this place has not disappointed me. Even the pan-o-scrambled eggs, which is generally my most detested of brunch buffet food, was good. And the corned beef hash, and the cream chipped beef (even though it was a little more runny than we tend to like it), and the Shepard's pie, and the pumpkin pie. You can tell I completely ignored my diet this morning!

Afterwards, we stopped by one of the best garden centers around, Homestead Gardens, to see their holiday decorations, which include themed trees (accompanied by racks of those ornaments that you can buy) and a wonderful model railroad. People gather around it and spend hours looking at it. I could spend hours looking at it. What is it about model railroads? As you can see, the set-up is rather cute. I only caught one train going by with my cell phone camera, but there were several.

Fox and I got to play Guild Wars a little bit together when we got back. We found ourselves overwhelmed for a bit there, but managed to complete the mission anyway. Then he went off to play with his friend who gave him the game, and I'm taking a break.

Tomorrow, dad and I are skipping work. Ok, it's not exactly skipping, but we're not going in. And no, it's not so he can spend all day playing WoW and I can spend all day playing GW. Callie started limping yesterday, and today was even worse. We're going to have to make a trip to the vet to find out what's wrong with her poor foot. Taking Callie to the vet, injured or not, requires no less than two people, and sometimes it takes three. Hopefully dad and I can do it without a third person around to help if we need it. And hopefully the doctor is in and can fit her in.

Beaver Moon

My original plan for this Esbat was to do a cleaning ritual to help me clean up some of the clutter in the physical space I live in. Circumstances beyond my control forced a different kind of ritual upon me.

One of my cats woke up yesterday morning limping. I'm sure she did not injure herself through the night while she was sleeping with me (I'm not the kind of person who flails about in sleep). Her favoring of her left back leg did not improve during the course of the day. So, my Esbat plan changed.

I gathered my supplies, and made sure the cat was on her pillow where she often sleeps, not laying on that side that was hurting her. I gathered my last brown candle, brown being the color of animal healing, my special healing wand, a fluorite pendulum, and some ritual incense. I prepared my ritual bath, which is just a literal cleansing before your ritual. I have special soaps that have been made and given to me for pre-ritual use.

I set the candle and had the wand nearby and cast my circle around us. I lit the candle, and directed the healing energy with the wand to the cat. When I had visualized that to my satisfaction, I took out the pendulum. I was trying to identify the specific areas that were causing her pain. According to the swing of my pendulum, it was mostly in her hip and her toes. I performed an auric scanning, a skill learned in Reiki training, and came to the same conclusion, though her knee also seemed to be a source of pain. I then put my hands over that area for the Reiki to flow where it seemed to be needed. After I was satisfied with that, I closed my circle and dismissed the energies. The candle had already burnt out.

I did not time this ritual; I believe it lasted somewhere in the vicinity of an hour and a half. I am quite surprised and pleased that my cat stayed still for all of it.

Healing rituals such as this should always, always, always accompany the care of a professional. It seems that she has not improved any this morning, so I will be sure to get her an appointment tomorrow.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Worlds

Big bad shopping day was a little short today because, for some strange reason, neither mom nor I had to go to Target. Apparently, Target is the big time waster of our shopping. But, I'm quite happy with that.

On the way home yesterday, dad and I picked a really bad day to stop at the dreaded Walmart (everyone in my family really doesn't like Walmart, probably because all the stores around here are trashy). Both of us had a gift card to use, and I did have something in mind to get. Did you know that you have to register at their website just to fine out the balance of a gift card? Talk about crap! I had to do that yesterday (I did a fake register) and it really pissed me off. Yet another reason to hate Walmart.

Anyway, we went to a store that was on the way home, fought through the crowds, picked up my game, fought to the register, spent my gift card, and that was that.

My game, I'm not sure I've talked about it here, is Guild Wars. Fox was given a copy and telling me about it. I really like that there are no monthly fees, so I don't lose any money after I've bought the game. It is highly Player vs. Player-oriented, which is not the kind of gaming I like, but you can still play with only a few forced instances of PvP combat. It has similarities to EverQuest, but I can already tell you what it seems to be lacking that I wish it had.

There's no /consider command. In EverQuest, you could "con" your enemies to gage how strong they were compared to you and how much they hated you (i.e. how likely a mob is to attack you if you were to get close). I really miss that function. There isn't a /who command. In EQ, this command let you search your zone, or the world for people, and you could enter parameters. For example, /who all ai would bring up the names of every character that began with "ai" across all zones; tell you what level and class they were and what zone they were in. This command would bring up level 3 Ranger Aidan in Greater Faydark and level 50 Paladin Airiana in the Temple of Veeshan. While useful for finding if people were online, it was also fun to see if your friends adventuring elsewhere were gaining any levels and where they were hunting. It'd be cool to have something like that. As I play more, I'll come up with more, but that lack of a /con system is what I miss the most.

There are many things that this game does right. When you're out in the world, where all the mobs are, you get your own little copy of it (you, and your party if you have one). This eliminates spawn camping and kill stealing, both were big complaints in EQ. The downside is that it also eliminates people being around to help you if you get overwhelmed. But, dying isn't so bad in this game. You don't have to go running for your corpse or anything, and if it's just you, or if you and your entire party get wiped, you (all) get resurrected at a special place in the zone. This is nice because you no longer have a need to run, completely unequipped through tons of dangerous mobs who want nothing more than to have you for breakfast, to get your things back. I've also learned that I seem to naturally outrun most of the baddies in the world. This is great! That means I can most likely get away if I need to! Zoning still works like it did in EQ; there are distinct borders to the area that you're in, and if you get into trouble, you can run for one of those borders and load into the next area. Whatever was chasing you can't follow. I don't think they call it zoning here, but that's exactly what it is.

All in all, I like it. I've only played a few hours, but I'm going to start over. There is a point at the beginning that changes the world and you can't go back, and I realize I missed a ton of things by getting to that point too quickly. That's ok. Do over!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Writing Continues

This is a hard time of year to deal with almost any project. The United States alone is looking at two holidays celebrated by everyone and four more celebrated by groups of people based on faith or ethnicity, all in a span of little more than a month.

For those of you in the United States, I hope you had a wondrous Thanksgiving, filled with the company of family and the bounty of this pre-winter harvest. Thanksgiving is, after all, a harvest festival. It is unique in that it has no religious roots whatsoever, and most cultures around the world celebrate the harvest in some way. Canada, for example, holds their harvest Thanksgiving the second Monday in October. It has become a day not only to give thanks for the bounty of the harvest, or the Natives who taught the Pilgrims how to have a bountiful harvest, but also for all of your blessings. Gratitude is a blessed thing.

I want to share a blessing with you. I usually bring this up around Lughnasadh but, as you can see, I did not have my journal up for that holiday. It is appropriate here because Lughnasadh is a Thanksgiving holiday, it is the first harvest.

Since many Wiccans and pagans come from other religious backgrounds, and most of those are Christian, many ask me about a pre-meal blessing appropriate to their faith, similar to a rhyme they were taught as children (for example, the "God is great, God is good" blessing of the Methodist Church, or the "Bless us, oh Lord, and these, Thy gifts" blessing of the Catholic Church).

There is such a grace that can be said with pagan flair. You can recite it aloud at a faith gathering, or to yourself when you are surrounded by grace-sayers of other faiths and wish to be discrete. I quite regret that I do not know who wrote this. It was repeated to me by a High Priestess of a local coven, and I heard it again in an online coven. It is usually credited as an historic part of the Lughnasadh festival, but even in other online sources, its actual origins seem to be unknown.

The grace:

Thanks to the Lord for the food we eat.
Thanks to the Lady for her gifts so sweet.
Thanks to the farmers who labored long.
Thanks to the animals for their bodies strong. 
Thanks to the hands that prepared our meal.
Thanks to all who turn the Wheel.

Lughnasadh or Thanksgiving or just dinner, it's always a good time to give thanks for the food that keeps you alive.

I Bless the Rains Down in Africa

Today has got to be the most boring day possible at work. I've been ready to take phone calls all morning, but no one has called. Work trickles in, and it trickles back out again. My morning coffee didn't do much for me. And, unfortunately, I forgot to bring my mp3 player to help pass the time.

But, I do have access to the Africam even though the security guys monitor our Internet usage. I don't care, it's preventing me from falling asleep. It was quite a busy day at the ole watering hole in Nkorho Pan.

My work computer doesn't have sound, so I couldn't hear the zebras or the impala, or chacma baboons. I missed a screenshot of a giraffe and some wildebeest.

The baboons were having a grand time today. They found the place that houses the camera and climbed all over the power box attached to a nearby tree. Here's one saying hello.

Now, the Africam is black and white as the wonderful folks at the lodge prepare for their evening. The sky is growing rather dark.

That glow to the left of the tree is lightening. Even without sound, there is something calming and soothing about watching this distant storm. I do wish I was at home to hear it approach, but it's nice to see it anyway. Here, where at least I'm not falling asleep because I'm so bored. And amidst work, I can daydream about carefree creatures in far-off lands

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Radioactive Crab

Most people in this country eat a big dinner that consists of turkey as the main dish. There are some people who eat less traditional things, and I'm not just talking about those crazy folks who serve turducken.

At dinner, we were talking about people who have other things for Thanksgiving dinner. Things like lasagna for the Italians, crab cakes for the local folks, beef and colcannon for the Irish.

My family eats turkey (Christmas dinner will be lasagna, we save the colcannon for St. Patrick's Day). We also had a grand mix of things as side dishes. A nice salad, broccoli cole slaw, green bean casserole, pineapple, and potato salad to go with the stuffing and the giblet gravy and the cranberries. We wash it all down with a White Zinfandel or sparkling apple cider. We're mostly traditional. Except we eat on paper plates because no one wants to get stuck doing the dishes. My grandmother does have a dishwasher, so I'm not quite sure how that happens anyway. But it happened every holiday before we started with the wasteful paper.

So, I'm sorry to report that our holiday get-togethers are not green affairs when they happen at my grandmother's house (and almost all of them do).

Somehow, we managed to have five pies for dessert. We didn't eat them all, of course, we only broke into three of them; pecan, pumpkin, and apple with a supplement of raspberry torte. Yes, I'm stuffed fuller than a piñata on Cinco de Mayo. I didn't have any of the apple pie. See, apple pie is only good with some extra-sharp cheddar to go on top of it.

I'm told that's a northern thing: cheese on apple pie. I have a coworker from Ohio who thinks it's a southern thing like grits. I think that means Ohio is neither here nor there. The thing about Maryland is that it's both north and south. We have the southern grits, the northern apple pie with cheese, and even our own thing: no one does crabs like Marylanders. Blue or not, the crabs from the Chesapeake are the best out there (we were talking about this on our drive home, you see). Maybe it's the sludge that was dumped into the Susquehanna River at Three Mile Island and washes into the Bay that makes the crabs so yummy. Here's to radioactive crabs!

And you thought I wasn't going anywhere with that crazy title, didn't you?

Mom and I had a nice thirty minute ride in the second day of 70º weather this morning. Then I spend the better part of the day playing The Sims so as to stay out of my mother's way while she claimed the kitchen as her own. Then it was off to grandma's for dinner with our family friend aunt, and mom's brother and sister in law. We were entertained with the last hour of Guys and Dolls between dinner and dessert. Oh, how I wish I didn't have to work tomorrow.

But I'm thankful for my job, as much as I complain about it. I need to have one, and I perform it well. I'm thankful for my home, messy as it is. It's still the safest place in the world. I'm thankful for two soft cats and two cute anoles. Their company cannot be duplicated. I'm thankful for my friends. If I forget to tell you, I'm sorry. And I'm thankful for my family. I've heard that relatives are simply an accident of DNA (thanks for that wisdom, Margo Howard). If that's true, then I've had the best accident there is.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Days Before Holidays

My short day of work turned out to be a rather long day (though it was still shorter than everyday). I was told that, as long as I got certain jobs done, I could leave at 1230. I got all those jobs done at 1100, and barely anything new was coming in.

Right around 1230, someone discovered a problem with the phones. I called dad, assuming he would have to deal with it, and he said he hadn't heard of an issue and would check it out and call me back. A few very short minutes later, he called and said he tested a few things and everything looked fine so "see you downstairs in a few." Ok, that sounds like all clear. I shut down, timed out at 1245, and waited.

And waited.

And waited.

After about forty minutes, I called dad to find out what was going on. See, the point of me calling him before I time out is to be sure he's ready to leave so I don't have to wait around the office not getting paid while he has to stay. Sure enough, whatever that problem was had to be dealt with, and dad didn't have the courtesy to let me know that he was going to be a while. I could have worked another hour, which translates to actual money in my pocket, rather than stand around wondering why he was taking so long.

We also had to drive to the old building because he had forgotten something over the weekend. We were going to do a tiny bit of shopping, namely Trader Joe's for some of their wine which they can't sell in Maryland. After spending so long standing around the office, I just wanted to get home, so we didn't stop there.

I had a headache, took a long nap, missed out on this beautiful day when mom and I could have done a little riding, and still have a headache. At least there's a tomorrow that doesn't involve work.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Silence is Golden

That's what they say, but I wouldn't know. I don't know what it means to fall asleep to the sound of nothing, or to meditate in silence and stillness. I used to know these things, but not anymore.

I guess it was about a year ago, I'm not sure exactly when it started, but I started hearing a ring. It's constant and it's in both ears. I am hearing a sound that just isn't there, and I never have any quiet moments. Never.

The buzz of my regular day is usually enough to overpower the ring, but there is nothing to drown it out at night when I'm trying to sleep. If I focus, I can hear it even among office background noise.

The condition is called tinnitus. That's the fancy medical word for constant sounds that just aren't there. It's hard to treat, because any number of things could have caused it: prior exposure to loud sounds (aka damage), stress, nutrition (or lack of), irregular sleep. It's hard to pinpoint the cause and therefore hard to devise a solution. It's also subjective. That means I can't go to a doctor and tell them about my ring and have them hear it too and give me advice from there. Only I can hear this sound. And no, there are no voices!

My mother has had tinnitus for years. I didn't know that until I started complaining of it. I don't own an iPod, and while I do have an mp3 player, I rarely listen to it. In fact, my hearing is as good as ever. I can hear people whispering in the next row of cubicles. As long as I can sort out that ring. This leads me to believe its not damage to my hearing, though it is quite frustrating because my dad turns the car radio up quite loud. I bought ear plugs a few weeks ago, but I keep forgetting to bring them with me on those days when dad drives (just as a precaution).

Mom recently saw a commercial for a dietary supplement that was supposed to help with tinnitus. We found it, and it's some crazy $30 for a glorified B-complex. I already take a B-supplement every morning. The ring has not improved any. And, while so many other of my complaints went away when I started the Blood Type Diet in May, this did not. The store also had a homeopathic remedy that was a good $10 cheaper, and drops. My mom was leery about putting drops in her ears, though I think it will work better than swallowing a pill, so we both decided to try the homeopathic pills.

It's only been a few days, so I can't report if it was worth the trouble or not yet. The irony of tinnitus is that, since stress is one of the causes, stress also makes the noise louder and more annoying. And when you're lying in bed trying to fall asleep but for the ringing in your ears, you get more stressed out over it, then it rings louder, and your chances of sleeping at all are pretty much shot for the night unless you can calm down and let it happen.

I can't even express how much I would love to be able to hear the sound of silence again.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Not What I Wanted to Say

I had something else in mind to write today, but instead I'm going to have to rant about work a little.

I've talked about how I have to answer the incoming phone calls and the voice mail box and, while there are two other people who also have to answer incoming calls, I'm the one who gets yelled at if calls are not returned. There is another voice mail box on a line that is supposed to be for information only (i.e. not answered by anyone). People do leave messages on this line and the recording still promises a call back in twenty four hours.

The thing is, this other voice mail box is not the one I answer, and never has been. Apparently, no one answers it. And it seems that no one has ever answered it; despite the numerous times that I have let the bosses know that I do not and never have.

Boss² got wind of this yesterday (even though it has come up before) and decided that the best solution would be to deposit all those voice mails into the box that I answer.

Why, oh, why do they insist on giving the job to the person who loathes doing it? Doesn't it seem logical to find someone else, because the person who hates the job is certainly not the best person for it? And know, it will be impossible to tell if the messages I receive are from this unmonitored line or from our regular line, which means it will be impossible for me to report to the supervisor when people are not answering the phones when they should be.

I so hate this aspect of my job. I don't know why it all has to be dumped on me and the other people on my team never have to worry about checking voice mail. But, I'm just a peon, and I can't afford to be unemployed. So, this shit hole is where I must remain.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Last Hike

Mom and Fox and I set out early for the last two trails of the Fall Hiking Spree. Well, the last two trails that we had to complete to get our cool hiking staff rewards, that is.

Both trails were at a nature center that I had been to before, but I don't remember it. It took us some time to find the trail, so we spent a little time with the raptors in the back first. We did find the first trail, but took it the wrong way, and longer than it should have been. That's the problem with going late in the season: many signs are no longer there.

The second trail was the longer of the two, and we ended up hiking that one backwards too. The paper said they weren't difficult trails, but we sure could have used a walking stick here (we all forgot to bring them).

I'm sorry I didn't get any pictures up, but I did take some. The forest was covered in mostly beautiful Yellow Poplar. It was dense, but the leaves were so bright that just a little bit of sunshine lit them up.

After our somewhat strenuous hike, we turned in our forms at the nature center and got our staves. Fox has a picture of us, you'll have to wait until I can copy one of his to see them. This was a fun little adventure. It would have been nice if we could have spread it out a little more, but the Renaissance Festival got in the way. I hope they run it again next year, I'm sure we'll do it again.

Mom and I didn't get to ride today; we're beat! But we're also trying to avoid taking a nap. I hope I'll sleep well tonight.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shop Till We Drop

I try to tell my mother not to hate Saturdays. It's really not the Saturday that we hate anyway, it's the running around we do all morning and afternoon. There was so much running around today that we didn't get home until 1530 (and mom usually leaves for my grandmother's at 1630).

She got a folding bike of her own, and we had to add picking it up to our Saturday shopping ritual. We got home so late, we weren't sure we would get a chance to ride even a little. But, we did! We left the groceries on the kitchen floor (they're all in bags, it's ok!) and took a quick twenty minute ride. Then we got home and put everything away.

I'm spending the evening making soap. I've learned that little batches are best because it solidifies so quickly. And that I can't just use a bowl to heat the base, it has to be something with a pour spout otherwise it makes a big mess. I was hoping I could use that little trick that I learned in chemistry; put a stick across the top and the liquid will run down the stick. Not so with soap! I guess it's too heavy. But, now I know.

I made some facial soap for my mother and I. My mother has a bar for sensitive skin; olive oil glycerin soap with oatmeal. I have an olive oil glycerin with dried sea kelp and an essential oil blend. I will say, not even strong essential oils improve the scent of sea kelp! It's not a bad scent, and it's really not that bad in the soap, but nothing I can add to it can overpower it. That's ok, at least I know!

Sometimes I feel like I should be cackling over a cauldron or something!

Friday, November 16, 2007

When It Happens

People come and go during our lives. Some people come and you wonder how you ever survived before them. Some people go and you're left standing there wondering what the hell happened. And then there's the group that started out as those people who made you wonder what you would do without them and end up leaving you without a clue to explain their absence. It's this kind that seems to stick with you the most. If it hasn't happened to you yet, I'm sorry to report that it will someday.

Sometimes, nothing happens that causes these special people to leave your life for good. Sometimes it just happens. Sometimes things add up, and sometimes things blow up. Maybe you both stopped talking and sharing things, and then you both have the responsibility. Maybe just one of you stopped communicating. Maybe someone moved. Maybe someone else came into their life who was more important than you. Sometimes, these things can't be helped, but most of the time, I think they can.

I'm thinking of a friend who I'm going to call Sally. I met Sally in the spring of 1989. Her family had just moved into the newest house on my street. Brenda and I and one other of our friends had taken it upon our young selves to knock on the doors of the people who were knew to the neighborhood and welcome them. This was a clever way of finding out if there were any children new to the neighborhood who could be our friends. I certainly don't recommend doing this in this day and age! But back then, us kids felt safe in our own small neighborhood. Whether it's true or not, it should feel safe.

Anyway, we had watched them move in and knew there was someone there who appeared to be our age. A couple days after the moving trucks had come and gone, we gathered after school, when we knew they would be home, and boldly knocked on the door. "Welcome to the neighborhood" we sang as Sally's mom answered. Sally's mom looked overjoyed to see the three of us standing there. She invited us into her box-infested home and introduced us to Sally. I was quite happy to meet her. You know, sometimes when kids gather in threes (also in uneven numbers in general) how two will essentially gang up on the third? That happened quite a bit with me and my friends. I somehow felt that a fourth person would stop the other two from singling me out. That did work, to a point.

Sally and I became great friends. We played badminton and tennis in the back yard and were on the same Boys and Girls Club soccer team for several seasons. People used to ask us if we were twins because we looked so much alike. We loved those moments, and how astonished those people were to discover we weren't even related. She was the sister I never had.

I was never in the same school as Sally. She had gone to private schools and I went to public schools until high school. Of course, we went to different private high schools. I guess it was here when our relationship really started to change, but I wouldn't admit it for another twelve years.

When I learned that Sally was going to the same university as I, I was overjoyed. We couldn't room together in her first year, but we did for the rest of my three. Several things happened during those four years that should have been clues to me that Sally and I didn't have the great friendship we did when we were younger, but it wasn't until her bridal shower in 2006 that it really hit me that I didn't know her anymore. And it also hit me that it started in high school. That's a long time to be believing I had this great friendship that I really didn't have, and I'm still not sure exactly what went wrong. I don't think it was something I could have prevented.

I don't talk to Sally anymore. Once I realized she was like a stranger to me, it didn't seem worth it to pursue. Sure, I miss her. Some days I miss her a whole lot. But then I realize that the friend that I am missing so much isn't really the friend that I had. I lied to myself about it for years. Too long, because it really is a silly thing to hold on to something that isn't there anymore. I wonder how many things I would have done differently if I had noticed that sooner.

I will always love Sally. I will love the image I had of her and I will love woman she became too. But circumstances beyond my control put us on different paths.

Sometimes, that's just the way it has to be.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Just Like Getting a New Toy

OBC is almost done giving everyone a brand new phone to go with our brand new VOIP-compliant phone system. Cheer with me now: Ra.

My department was converted last night, and today was spent choosing ring tones (there are some twenty-five options) and filled with people laughing because we can't remember to answer calls with the computer application instead of the phone.

Since they're not really our toys, I'm sure the newness will wear off soon. I hope this pain in my neck because I don't yet have a headset will wear off soon, anyway.

You know it's bad when all I have to talk about are new telephones at work. Other than that; I'm feeling old. It's going to take my life savings just to move out, and it's kind of pointless because I'm never going to raise a child and I'm going to die alone. As long as someone will take care of the cats and anoles, it's all good.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Strange Things in the City

This morning, I was driving in to work listening to WTOP to get those ever vital traffic reports, just like every morning. I heard this strange bell-like sound, very faint and rather annoying. Then one of the news anchors says "if you're hearing bells right now, don't be alarmed it's coming from your radio. There's a fire alarm going off in the building." WHAT?!

For a good twenty-five to thirty minutes, the anchors told the thousands of eager WTOP news listeners that the fire department had been called and that we shouldn't worry because they were ok. They told us there was a funny, smoke-like smell, but they were safe where they were. Inside the building, with the alarm blaring just outside the closed newsroom. "Don't worry," they said, "we're fine."

Of course, many many people listening to that alarm ringing away did not think they were fine, and called whatever number they had to make sure. Lisa, traffic guru who works in another building, even started off her report saying that lots of people are calling in and wanted to be doubly sure they were ok and would get out before it was too late. Eventually, the alarm stopped and one of the station managers came on and said fire officials had found the problem (and it was an actual fire) and were dealing with it.

Maybe it's only in the news room, but any other sane person should have heard the alarm and gotten the heck out! It sounds like they need a disaster recovery site or something. We, meaning me and a million of my closest friends (as in WTOP listeners) may not know them personally, but Mike and Bruce are still like friends. They join us every morning for what tends to be a rather stressful period of time while we're all going to work, and we rely on the information they give us and the company that they provide. It sounds kind of silly when I say it that way, but that's really how it is. Despite those two anchors constantly telling us listeners not to worry, we did worry. I may not have been one of those people who called in anyway, but I worried! With almost every update, I was shouting to the emptiness of my car, "but, guys, if there really is a fire, you need to get OUT!" They're a part of my morning, a very important part of my morning. I think people will just worry anyway until we know everything is ok.

In other news, this morning WTOP's TV affiliate was reporting that an illegal immigrant managed to pass background checks and land a job at the FBI and later the CIA. This pisses me off so much, and it's not even about the classified information that she stole. How is it that someone who isn't even supposed to be here can get a top secret job with the government where I, a naturally born citizen and damn good worker, cannot?

I live in a seriously messed up country.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why Do People Not Listen to Me

I know I'm not right all the time. But, I tend to be more observant than the average Jane Public, and I know my job.

So, I just don't understand why no one is listening when I say that a reject code of "individual ID number" means name, not account number (because there is an actual reject code of "account number").

OBC sends payments to some merchants electronically, no checks are printed. If there is a problem with the information transmitted, the merchant will reject the payment, basically sending it back to us with some kind of notification about what was wrong with it. The electronic returns team gets the rejects, tries to get the correct information so we can resend the payment, and sends it to me for updating. There have been a lot of things recently rejecting with the "invalid individual ID number" code. The reps in electronic returns look at that, think account number, and tell me to create a check merchant because the customer says the account number is right.

The thing is, I've seen this reject code before, on the official notifications of change (WAM's regular work that I have to back up in her absence) that we get from banks. When the banks (also electronic merchants) indicate "individual ID number," they mean the name on the account.

I told this to Adolf, because the electronic returns team is having me create checks when the payments are fine electronic (this hurts our bottom line, you see). They are just looking at the wrong information and therefore are not researching the right correction. Adolf, being a good little super, sent my findings off to the supervisor and senior rep of that group. The senior rep gave some prattle about the invalid account number code and an issue with how the checks are made payable. But, the checks are not being made payable, because there are no checks!

I am right about this, and I know it. And I think Adolf has learned enough about how I work by now to also know that I am right. Now, I just have to convince them of that!

Listen to me, people! I know what I'm talking about!

Monday, November 12, 2007

I Feel Like There are Words to This Tune That I Should Know

The tune didn't have a recognizable name, simply "Traditional Gaelic," so we couldn't read the title and know the song.

But my father was right exactly as he said it: "I feel like there are words to this tune that I should know." A literal sentence, spoken on the long drive home from work, that embedded itself in my brain.

There's something that I should know. It feels familiar, it feels regular. And yet, it is unknown. Something just out of reach, not coming to thought, but you know that you know it. What am I missing?

All from this wise metaphorical statement made by my father, talking about a song playing through the car CD player amidst federal holiday non-traffic.

I'm missing something. There are words that I should know. But I don't know.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

More Hiking

Fox and mom and I have decided that we need to do two hikes in one day in order to finish by the end of the month. We picked two that were somewhat nearby, that happened to be one of the shortest and the longest of all the trails. We also picked trails in a park that we never have launched from and the other in a park where we kayak a lot. It was a good opportunity to scout out the landing in the first park.

The weather was perfect for hiking. It was only slightly chilly, but not at all windy or raining. The first trail took us around a catch and release fishing hole, and we supplemented that with a walk to the canoe/kayak landing. We need to remember to get the combination to the gate next year. We've never kayaked that part of the river.

Then it was a nice lunch and off to the other trail in the park at Queen Anne. The form said this trail was four miles, it was really closer to three. But, it was a rather hard walk, and we were quite tired by the end of it.

When mom and I got home, we both took a nice long nap!

Next Sunday, we're going to try to hit the last two hikes that we need to finish. Fortunately, there are two trails in the same park, and we can also turn in our form and get our cool walking stick right there when we're done. Hopefully, the weather will hold out. If not, we've got one more week to try again.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

I'm Not Going to Lie

I just had nothing at all to talk about yesterday. Sure, I could have bored you about work (it was really really busy). Or, how the time that Flash Gordon came on had changed and we didn't know about it. Or, even that I'm halfway through my 1,000 cranes. But really, totally nothing noteworthy happened yesterday.

And today started out much the same. My mother and I went shopping, as Saturday seems to be shopping day. First, it was off to the DMV to turn in my old license tags (bye bye, first tags on my first car!). Then it was over to Panera for yummy food, and off to Michael's to get supplies for a new hobby before the usual stuff; Petsmart for more crickets and things, Target, the supermarket.

You're right, if you're thinking I hardly need something else to occupy my already thoroughly occupied time. But, I've been wanting to take this up for a few years now as it is. I know you, gentle blog readers, are just beside yourselves wondering what this thing is.

Look! Soap! How exciting!

Well, as exciting as being clean can be. Actually, these first bars are pretty cool, as I've been able to add my knowledge of essential oils to the mix. That one on the top of the picture is eucalyptus, complete with crushed leaves within. This would be a good bar of soap in the Winter, as eucalyptus is uplifting and will help keeps colds at bay. That one on the left is chamomile, with the dried herb mixed in as well. This one is a good before-bed soap, as chamomile is relaxing and will help reduce stress. That last one on the right is an exfoliate, made with dried sea kelp. There is no essential oil in that one, though. The kelp has its own wonderful scent that didn't need to be enhanced. And, yes, I was being all crafty with a glass of yummy sangría nearby.

I've got quite a lot of plans for what I can do with this, as money permits. Neat molds, embossing with rubber stamps, all that jazz. I'll get into candle making too. No wonder I never have any time!

But, hey! At least my time is spent doing things I find enjoyable!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

We've Got More Trouble Than River City

I spent the (very long) drive home listening to my dad on the cell phone trying to work out a rather huge problem at OBC. While he was driving (with a headset, but still). Somewhere in there, he was running through a scenario, and then said "and if that's not it then we've got more trouble than River City." That song has been in my head all friggin evening!

I've never been in The Music Man, but "Goodnight, My Someone," one of my favorites, was the song I sang when I auditioned for the Maryland Camerata in college. That was a small, exclusive chamber choir with two performances a year. I sang with them for two years. We did some wonderful pieces. In the first concert, I remember a truly gorgeous piece of music titled "O Magnum Mysterium," sang in Latin (as the title implies). I wish I still had that music, actually. The piece has been done and done over by many composers and artists, but this version that we sang was just beautiful. I don't know who arranged it.

My first year in college, before I joined the Camerata, I was in the Concert Choir. That Spring, we sang Mozart's Requiem, that became and remains my favorite piece of choral music. Even when I hear it now, it just amazes me that my voice was once a part of that.

Joining the Concert Choir was a last minute thing for me. One of my new friends was in it, and had mentioned that the Alto section that she sang in was lacking strong singers. She spoke with the director on my behalf because she had heard me sing before. The director told me to come down and join in a rehearsal, and that was it. Without an audition, I found myself for the first time ever singing in the Alto section. Luckily, I have a good range. There's a joke that an Alto is simply a Soprano who can read music. Laugh, you know you want to!

I've found that Sopranos tend to be a whiny, snobbish bunch anyway. (No offence to any Sopranos reading this, that's where my voice is more comfortable as it is.) But really, Mozart loved Altos. In almost any of his choral pieces, you can tell that section has all the best parts.

When I was in sixth grade, I performed at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with the Southern Maryland Honors Chorus. I remember that audition too. They had all of us sing "Happy Birthday." It must have counted for something, because me and one other sixth grader were accepted. I sang Soprano in the group. My favorite song that we sang was called "Contante Domino," again with the Latin. I remember talking with someone in the Alto section about a cool part they had in that piece, and how envious she was of a cool part in my section.

Isn't it funny how music can stay with you? I don't remember all of that song, but I remember that part that my fellow chorus member had liked. It's been almost seventeen years.

I don't sing as much now as I used to. I suppose that's because I never have any time alone and I don't want to annoy whoever is around. I'd sing in the house, except I live with mom and dad. I'd sing in the car, except I drive with dad. I'm terribly out of practice. Yet another reason to move out sooner rather than later.

I didn't think this would end up being a post about past vocal pieces, nor transition to a "time to move out" thing! It's funny the way thoughts progress sometimes, isn't it?

Sweet dreams be yours, dear, if dreams there be.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Can't Even Ask "Why Me"

I was going to tell you, faithful blog readers, about something completely different (and that I find fun) today. But, alas, something happened that has pushed that completely out of my mind. This means you get to hear about work.

Work has been a pain lately. My regular back-up person has been out all week and I have to do work that they would normally do. I also can't get away with not returning voice mails anymore. And my regular stuff has been coming in rather heavy lately. And it's that time of year where we all are required to go to annual security policy meetings. AND they're putting in a new phone system and we have to sit through a two hour training session for that. Due to the nature of my position, I can't schedule either of these meetings myself, Adolf has to do it.

So, without a back-up person, Adolf scheduled me for the phone training session that occurred right over my daily crunch time. You know, the time before 1500 when all urgent requests (that is, requests that have payments attached to them that need to be back out the same day) must be completed to make it in the hands of the letter carrier. 1330 to 1530, I was supposed to be training.

But, wait! My back-up person is off this week! Wait again! The person who had the job before me is in the same training session. Wait once more! The only other person in the office who knows my job is not a part of my group anymore! So, yesterday, I e-mailed Adolf and said someone would need to cover the urgent requests; reminding my fearless supervisor about my 1500 deadline that is always forgotten. We went back and forth about what times it needs to be covered and all that, and then Adolf said "Ok, it will be covered." And that was that. I wasn't told by whom, and I didn't ask because that's not my concern. Adolf has the power to delegate, and Adolf said it would be covered.

Who wants to guess who was given the task of completing these important, time-sensitive jobs?

Come on, give it a guess.

You know that you know who it was.

Of course I'm going to tell you anyway, dear blog readers. You'd be right if you guessed WAM. Poor WAM, who has never seen the forms my work comes in on other than looking over my shoulder when talking about something irrelevant. Sweet WAM, who thinks no ones work is as important as what she already does. Darling WAM, who wouldn't know logic if it walked up to her, shook her hand, and introduced itself.

So, I came back from my long training session, ready to give the queue a once-over to find out how many came in and who had completed them, then turn off the computer and go home. I saw WAM on those replies and had an instant stomach ache.

See, my work is not complicated if you know what you are looking at. I personally designed them to be as easy and straight forward as possible, and I insist that everyone who sends me work conforms to my way. This creates uniformity. This makes me work faster. And it means that a tiny bit of training will make anyone able to do it. Hello, simplicity!

Seeing that WAM was the caretaker of my work-baby was, as I said, sickening. I opened the first reply to see what she had done and wished I had just ignored it. Without looking at the original form request, I just read what WAM had replied, "The account number is NA, this merchant requires 7-13 digits. The link was deleted because we need the account number." If you've been following along, you should recognize that this means WAM had just deleted from the system a payment that needed to be sent back out today!

Frankly, it didn't matter what information was or was not included on the form. We can't delete those no matter how wrong they are: there is a payment attached to it! This could be someones mortgage, or health insurance, or utility payment, or anything! And it had to be back on its way to the merchant! To make matters worse (yes, there is a worse), that seven to thirteen digit account number that the customer did not originally supply had been obtained by the rep working the inquiry and was included on the form! WAM only had to look at it, make the update, and call it done.

By now, the rep who had worked the inquiry sent a reply, stating that the account number was included and that we needed to restore the link because that payment needed to go out. It barely mattered now, because we were certainly past the deadline. I flew to WAM's desk in time to stop her from e-mailing the rep asking for the identification number of the link so we can restore it (we did not need that sent to us, it's all on the form!). I told WAM not to worry about it, that I would take care of it, thank you for helping out, I know it was last minute, I'm sorry Adolf didn't tell me and give me a chance to train you a little, and I'll take care of the rest of them too.

Yes, I solved the problem because I'm just good like that. I didn't get a chance to yell at Adolf for the total botching of my important work. It amazes me how much management doesn't know about what we have to do. This is, of course, why Adolf gives me so many projects, and so many projects during my crunch time at that. WAM tried. She really did. She did what she normally would have done with such a request, except that she disregarded the special nature of the requests that I work every day. If I had known it was going to happen like this, I would have e-mailed the other department supervisors directly and let them know they would have to take care of things because there was no one else. (They can do that, but auditors don't like it.)

Tomorrow won't be much better. I'm done with all my meetings, but it's WAM's turn and she gets to do them both in one day. This means I'll have to answer the phone all day. Nothing slows me down like having to drop everything to take a call. That's why we do it in shifts. I think I need to sit Adolf down and discuss the importance of time management. Taking someone off the floor for almost half a day really hurts us when we're already down one.

Well, thank you, gentle readers, for letting me rant about my last thirty minutes of work! I hope your evening treats you well!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Don't Vote, You'll Just Encourage Them

I'm not really trying to tell you not to vote. That quote was said on a news radio station back in August. I think he was talking about the crazy race for the White House, but he had a point.

I dislike a lot about election time. The not-quite-right way our voting system works being at the top of the list. I also don't like exit pollers, and mudslinging, and how people can get so crazed with their campaign that they forgot why they're running in the first place. But this time, there is one thing that bugged me more than anything else: the signs.

Yes, everywhere you look, there are signs with someones name on them. There are fifty signs clustered together per candidate (and Virginia was electing their entire general assembly today) in each strip of median on the parkway. And even though the voting ends in about an hour, those signs are going to be highway litter by tomorrow, and they'll remain where they are for months.

The only purpose they serve, as related to the election, is name recognition. Many areas have already proven that sometimes name recognition is all you need to win. But after Election Day, those signs should be gone.

Some cities in Maryland had elections today, but the signage was not nearly as bad as it was in Northern Virginia. I'm quite tired of seeing hundreds of pink names on purple backgrounds, and white names on green and blue backgrounds, and yellow names on black backgrounds line my way home from work every day. It's like the candidates where competing about who could put up the most little signs on one street corner, and they had a new game at every street corner. Will those people be out there tomorrow picking them up? Of course not.

Usually, after every Election Day, there is some store of some kind that will give people coupons for every candidate sign they bring in off the road. One year, I think a store gave something like ten cents per sign. That can add up fast when there are so many out there. I'm not sure why they do that, other than caring about removing the trash from the roadways. When I think about it, that's reason enough.

Just remember, don't encourage them. And to all you professional politicians, PICK UP YOUR DAMN SIGNS!!

Monday, November 05, 2007

And the Point Is...?

Today, the e-mail server went down just as I got back from lunch. All my work comes from e-mail, so there was quite little I could do. After about thirty minutes, Adolf gave me a non-e-mail task until the system came back up. Maybe forty minutes from that, there was a message on my computer that I had been re-connected to the e-mail server. And that was that, I got back to work and announced to my coworkers that it seemed to be working again.

WAM was adamant that it was not working and that it must be a fluke that I could send and receive e-mail again. WAM told Adolf that mine was working, Adolf's was not, and WAM maintained that I had special permissions and that's why mine was working. Special permissions that the supervisor does not have? Give me a break! WAM continued to argue and insisted that I close out the program and re-open it and see if it still worked. Why would I do that? It was working fine! And it could not have been just me, because I was getting work e-mailed to me from other groups, which is how I work every day.

Really, what was the point of WAM arguing? I wasn't seeing work that really wasn't there. And WAM deciding to believe that I'm special wasn't going to bring it back up for everyone. I can't explain why it was working for me and others and not for the people immediately around me. But what's the point of making a big deal out of it? That person is crazy! Adolf sent me an e-mail (from a personal account) teasing me about WAM's arguing. That's one of the things that makes Adolf not a very good supervisor, but I do appreciate that my supervisor knows how crazy WAM is. At least I know Adolf would back me up if WAM decided to complain about me about nothing, as have happened before.

I think the anoles need a bigger tank. I have those two little plants in there, and they really like them. But there is not much room beyond that. The pet store does have a bigger tank. I might have to expand. I'll wait for a month or so on that, I think. The poor little guys had such a traumatic experience the last time I moved them to another tank temporarily, just to clean out this one.

I had to order a special light for them. They don't need a basking light, those will generate too much heat, but they do need a UVA/UVB light to help them produce Vitamin D. They're pretty close to my window and getting some indirect light, but I worry that it's not enough. As soon as I get it cleaned up, I'll move them into another room where they won't be right next to the cold window. They do seem to be doing just fine. I'm so happy that they're happy!

One of my coworkers said I was spoiling my baby dragons. Humph! I'm not spoiling them! I want to give them things that will help them live long happy lives. Isn't that my obligation when I decided to bring them into my home and under my care? And care for them I will!

I had two cups of coffee today. I'm so tired that I'm hyper! I think that means I should try to get some sleep. Let's hope WAM doesn't argue about stupid stuff again.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

I Had a Title Earlier

but I forgot it.

Did you remember to set your clocks back?

Today was the first of our monthly brunches for this off-season. There was a good group of us, but we didn't linger in Annapolis for very long.

The thing about this time of year is that the leaves change color and die and fall off. They fall harmlessly to the forest floor, and into gutters and drains, and on lawns, and on cars. All around, the leaves fall. And the leaves need to be raked into nice big piles on the street so people from the county can come by on or about tomorrow and suck them up. "On or about tomorrow," by the way, means "in a month." But, we had to get raking in anticipation. This is when I thought of the great title that should have gone on today's entry, but I have forgotten it.

After our fabulous yard work-out, we had some tea and my mother and I watched Pan's Labyrinth. I bought it because I had heard so many good things about it. I knew it would be intense, and probably a little hard to watch, and so it was. It was bloody, and it was stressful. But it certainly earned its three Academy Awards. I hope soon I will get a chance to check out the special features on disk two. The story was beautiful and hopeful and sad, and it made you have to choose which parts were fantasy and which were reality. I like how that detail was not spelled out for me.

I wonder if I shall have strange dreams tonight.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Through the Woods

The local hiking event that I talked about in August has been on hold through the RenFaire season. Now that we're all done with that, it was time to get back on the trails!

There was much to be done this morning, so we picked a short hike that wasn't too far from home. Mom and Fox and I headed off to the Cheltenham Natural Area for the 1.4 mile trail, and took quite a few detours on our way.

It was a spectacular day to be out. A little cold, but otherwise just right. And this place is so off the beaten path that we did not encounter any other people. There were plenty of birds and small mammals about, and evidence of an active beaver population.

We have four more tails to go, and until the end of November to hike them. I think we will definitely get done in time!

After our nice hike, I had to clean out the dragons' tank and give them some nice new bedding. This proved to be an ordeal that needed the aid of dad and Fox: the dragons are still not comfortable being handled. Particularly Lady Vox, who almost got away from us. I am sorry to say that I completely forgot to take some nice daylight pictures of them. I'm still not done with their little home, I want to pick up some plants tomorrow. But they should be much more comfortable now.

Hectic with everything as today was, it was quite a fine way to spend a day.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Have you ever had an idea that hit you so surely, and was so perfect for whatever it was you were doing, that it just had to be brilliance? One of those ideas that is so simple it should have been obvious, and even though you feel brilliant, you think you're rather silly for not seeing it before?

Run with it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Samhain Ritual

My evening started a little later than I would have preferred. My current living situation demands it. Also, sometimes a travel altar must be used, and circumstances called for that last night.

As you can see, I used a purple altar cloth. The pentacle was in the middle, and the symbols of the four elements were around it: a geode for North, a small wand for East, a candle for South, and a shell for West. My most-used tarot deck is close at hand, along with a very special stone that is a combination of prehnite and epidote that was gifted to me by an incredibly special lady. (The properties of this stone aid in divination and healing.) The tool that didn’t make it into the picture is the working wand that I used in this ritual; a small shaft of rosewood that was carved and given to me by a very dear friend (I think it was rosewood. My friend will kick me if I don’t get this right!).
This ritual, when broken down into its components, will seem rather simple. The first task after the quarters were called and the Lord and Lady invited was to meditate and commune with the souls of those who have passed during the previous year. During this part, I was also joined by my guides. They all had messages for me, and I was also open to receive them through the night. (Sorry, these messages are for me!) The second task was giving to the Crone all the things I do not want to carry with me into the new year. These were issues that were causing me much stress and it did not help me to hold on to them. The Crone will then take them with her and turn them into good, positive energy for me and the world.
The last part of my ritual involved a special "Wheel of the Year" tarot spread. Eight cards are placed in a wheel around the prehnite/epidote stone (this stone is a new addition to the exercise, though I do an annual reading every year). The first card covers the period between now and Yule: a hasty retreat, there will be arguments and some uncertain advice, but I am not running as fast as I think I am. The second card is for the time between Yule and Imbolc: it has been a long, slow, and hard struggle, but the destination is in sight if I press on a little further. The next card is for the period between Imbolc and Ostara: there is sorrow and delay, everything will look bleak, but that does not mean it truly is. For the time between Ostara and Beltaine: I will be hard at work at something, this something is seen and appreciated by others, my effort will not go unnoticed. After Beltaine and before Midsummer, I will find someone in my life who can lend me courage and guidance. The period between Midsummer and Lughnasadh will be a preparation, and will be filled with thoughts of the things I will be leaving behind. Leading up to Mabon, I will find myself with new ideas, deep in concentration about some news. The last period between Mabon and Samhain will be reflective and meditative about the things that have transpired.
By the cards, that is the year I am facing. It looks like the first part will be difficult if I let it, but the last half will improve and see things coming my way.
Not a bad way to end the year! And I hope this year will bring all of you the brightest of blessings throughout.

Here's Something for You

That's Lady Vox sleeping soundly on a soundly sleeping Lord Nagafen. This was Tuesday evening. Don't they look all cute and cozy?

I so love these guys.


We got a mere nineteen trick-or-treaters at our door last night. The anoles didn't eat two crickets this morning. I'm sure they'll be gone by the time I get home.

Today started out with a pretty awful morning. I spent it feeling rather sick, had to sit through a required security policy meeting feeling rather sick, then I took a couple Advil and finally around lunch started to feel better.

Other than that, and the work work work I've been doing, today has been a rather uneventful day.