Monday, February 28, 2011

Remains


My latest column has been posted at CHR. It's about what I did with my father's ashes, so it's perfect for Ash Wednesday next week.

Anyone who's been following the blog for a while has already seen this material. I hope anyone who's new to it will find it worthwhile.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Conversations


Grim and determined, you race through the ER hallways, your hospital gown flapping open behind you, until at last you have to stop. You're ringed in by three nurses, two techs, a chaplain and an ER doc, with security on the way.

"Please go back to your room," the nurse says.

Panting, you stare around, eyes wild. "I have to use the phone! She wouldn't let me use the phone! She said --"

"We'll bring you a phone," says the charge nurse, "but you have to go back to your room, okay?"

A tech's trying to tie your gown. You swat her away. "We can't have you naked out here!" the ER doc says, keeping her voice cheerful and friendly. "That won't do!" You've stopped near the ambulance bay; as people walk by, the doors whoosh open, flooding the corridor with freezing air.

"How about a warm blanket?" asks the chaplain. "I'll get you a blanket. It's cold out here."

"Let's go back to your room." That's your nurse again. "You can get warm there."

You allow yourself to be cajoled back into your bed. By the time you've lain down, security's shown up, two brawny men and a young woman in blue uniforms, all donning blue latex gloves. "I need a phone!" You're hollering now, fists clenched and body rigid. "I need a phone! You said you'd --"

"Here it is." The charge nurse appears with a cordless phone and punches in a complicated series of numbers to get a dial tone. She hands it to you. You hit random keys, scowl at the phone, and shake it. The charge nurse has left; so have the two male security guards.

Your nurse, who's been standing guard outside, comes in now; she and the chaplain manage to coax a dial tone from the phone. You dial again, but your face fills with despair. "Nobody there."

The chaplain hears a tinny recorded message blasting from the phone. "I think it's an answering machine. You can leave a message."

"Leave a message," the nurse echoes. "At the beep."

You take the phone back, wait a few seconds, and start talking. "This is your friend. You need to take care of my things! I'm going to be gone for a while. You have to help me. Good-bye."

The chaplain wonders if anyone will hear this message, or be able to make anything of it, but leaving it seems to have calmed you a little. You're still cold, though, so the chaplain fetches a warm blanket, and then three more, and piles them on top of you. You huddle underneath. Your fingers, when they touch hers, are icy.

"Mommy!" You're staring at an empty spot beside the bed. "Mommy, don't leave me! Take me with you! Take me to heaven! Please don't leave me! Mommy!" The chaplain, who lost her own mother recently, swallows past a lump in her throat. Is this a deathbed visitation? But you look much too young to die.

As the nurse and guard watch from the doorway, you stretch out beseeching hands, and then fall suddenly into a doze. Just as suddenly, you startle awake. Fixing your eyes on that same stretch of air, you keep talking. "Mommy, why are you just standing there? I want to come with you. Mommy!" That last is a drawn-out wail; tears streak your face.

This sleep-wake cycle happens several more times. The chaplain holds your cold hand as you babble to your mother, and then brings yet another blanket. You thank her for it, poiitely, your eyes for once focusing on her rather than on your invisible visitor. Then you fall asleep again.

But this time, when you wake up, something's different. You squint up at the chaplain. "Where am I? How did I get here?"

The chaplain and the nurse explain that you're in a hospital, and why. You don't remember coming here, even though it was your own idea and you got here under your own power. Head cocked, you listen to the explanations, and then sigh. "This is scary. Not remembering."

You roll over in bed. You're facing the place you were talking to before, and sure enough, your eyes focus on that same spot. "Mommy, what are you doing here?" You shake your head. "You know I miss you." You reach up with one arm, hand curving as if cradling someone's head, and then bring your hand down again. When your hand's a few inches from your face, you stop and gently kiss an invisible cheek or forehead. "Mommy, you know I love you. But you have to leave me alone now."

Then you roll over again and go to sleep: a more natural sleep, this time, one that lasts a while. The security guard has left, and the chaplain leaves now too, smiling at the nurse still sitting next to the door. As the chaplain walks down the hallway, she hopes that she has just watched a transition from seeking death to welcoming life, and she hopes that you will not see your mother again -- except in tranquil memory -- for a very long time.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Chairs, Continued


See, mbj, this time he has soft material to knead!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Another Friday, Another Snowstorm


So, once again, it's crazy snowy here. I-80 is closed from Colfax to Truckee due to "zero visibility." 395 and Mount Rose Highway are closed, too. Down here, it's been snowing steadily all day. I cancelled both my chiropractor's appointment and my fiddle lesson.

We'll see if I get to the hospital tomorrow.

Sigh.

A Guy and His Cat


A Chair of His Own


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Good Day


This morning I met with my rector; we had a very pleasant chat, and he invited me to preach on Maundy Thursday and on May 29 (Memorial Day Weekend). I'm really looking forward to writing homilies again, and I'm honored to be preaching during Holy Week.

I ate my brown-bag lunch at church, raced to the gym and swam for thirty minutes, and then drove to the family shelter to teach my poetry class. I absolutely loved it. You can read about it on the UNR Poetry Project blog. The eight weeks of classes will culminate with a gallery show, probably at the university, and one of today's students has already given permission for her poem to be displayed (which makes me very happy, because it's a gorgeous piece of work).

It was incredibly moving to hear people in such tough circumstances express so much love for their families. As a side note, I was also very impressed with the physical plant; I'd been to the medical clinic downstairs to donate my father's meds after he died, but I'd never been inside the family shelter. It's clean and spacious, and seems very comfortable. Each family has its own room, and I loved looking at the kids' artwork posted on the doors.

When I got home, Gary and I decided to dash out to a store in Sparks that sells sports optics; we were hoping to get prescription snorkel masks. The store sells them, but they cost about $200 each, which is way too much money for an activity we indulge in once a year if we're lucky. So we're going to look for less expensive options. The cruise line supplies equipment, but we don't know if they'll have optical masks.

The store was fairly close to the fancy mall with the big sports store where I bought my wetsuit, so while we were in the neighborhood, we decided to go look at ellipticals. And, mirabile dictu, we found one! We hope to very soon be the proud owners of a Horizon Ex-59, which -- at its sale price of $599 -- was the second-least-expensive machine in the store. It seems really solid and smooth, though, and the online reviews we've seen have been good. We could have ordered a slightly older model, the Ex-57, from Amazon: less money, no tax. But after reading about people spending two or three hours assembling their machines, and winding up covered in grease, we've decided to spring for the tax, since if we buy from the store we'll get free delivery and installation, and they'll handle any necessary repairs. Right now the store only has the floor model in stock, but the sales guy is going to call me tomorrow about when they expect more in.

Of course, this is an even larger investment than the masks (and yes, I was conscious of the irony of embarking on this project right after a visit with homeless families), but we'll use it a lot more often. I hope to use it for at least a little while most mornings; I'll be able to work out in my PJs, which means I can give myself a serotonin boost on those mornings when crawling into clothing to crawl into the car to crawl to the gym is just too much effort. Gary dislikes most gym equipment but was very impressed with this, and he can use it when weather keeps him from hiking. So, yeah: big outlay, but I think the price is reasonable for what we'll be getting, and I think it will help with my health goals. My ultimate goal is to work up to using the elliptical half an hour in the morning and then swimming half an hour in the afternoon. That way, I'll get both weight-bearing exercise and the swimming I love, and I'll be able to rest between them. This may be too ambitious, of course, but if I could manage that even a few times a week, I'd be happy.

It was dark when we left the mall. I don't know Sparks very well, and I got lost. We wound up on a long highway without traffic lights. I couldn't see familiar city lights. I couldn't even tell which way we were driving. Finally I pulled up to a supermarket and told a lady there that we were lost. She laughed -- she's gotten lost there too, it turns out -- and offered to lead us back to town.

Talk about angels in disguise. I never would have found my way on my own; we weren't even close to my best foggy guess of our location. Thank you, lady in the silver Cadillac!

After that adventure, we'd have gotten home later than Gary likes to start cooking, so we went out for pizza, to the place that has gluten-free crust and soy cheese. It was very yummy. I'm very grateful to be able to eat pizza again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Bootstraps


So I've decided that the new funk probably is a resurgence of depression; the question is what to do about it. The immediate answer is to exercise more, since I'd gotten somewhat lax about that. Since Saturday, I've gone to the gym every day, and I'm indeed feeling a bit better.

One of my goals here is to stay off meds, at least until after my sabbatical. There are three reasons for this:

1) Meds suppress creativity, at least for me, and while the funk has too -- although, again since Saturday, I've been managing to write a bit every day -- I can't afford a solution I know will mess with my writing. I need to get a lot of writing done during sabbatical.

2) I suspect the mild chronic pain I've been in since October, from my back, is one factor in the funk (although the pain's slooooowly getting better with exercise and chiropractic treatment). I'm positive that the extra ten or twenty pounds I'm carrying around haven't been helping my back, and I gain weight on meds.

3) Meds are expensive, and will undoubtedly become more so when our medical benefits crash and burn on July 1, which is also when I'll be on reduced sabbatical salary.

(Note: In "meds" here, I'm including herbal treatments like St. John's Wort, which I've been told by clinicians are just naturally occuring, under-regulated versions of the same chemicals Big Pharma puts in antidepressants.)

One obvious and time-honored alternative would be therapy. However, I've done a lot of therapy in my life, and I know pretty much all the cognitive strategies out there, and I can talk circles around anybody or anything. My most recent therapist acknowledged this in our final session; both of us felt that the sessions had been more like very pleasant conversations than like therapy sessions, but he said that was basically because I already had all the insights other people come to therapy to get. (This isn't because I have any special qualities; it's because I've spent decades in therapists' offices.)

So today I began, yet again, a search for a therapist around here who does something other than cognitive talk-centered stuff. My sister helped out with a websearch and found a local Jungian whose name she sent me; I found another local Jungian who's particularly interested in spiritual issues; a psychologist friend suggested yet another local Jungian.

Not a one of them is on my insurance. Aaargh! Not that insurance will be a heckuva lot of help once the sabbatical starts, anyway (see point three above), especially since therapy is more expensive than meds, which is one reason why meds are so popular.

I'll keep doing research, and in the meantime, I'll do my best to stick to my exercise schedule. I'm even considering buying an elliptical for the house, so I can work out on days when I don't feel up to dragging myself to the gym. To my disappointment, the good machines are both very pricey and too large to fit easily in the house. Gary said we could clear out room in the garage, but exercising in a windowless space, among boxes and dust bunnies and spiders, just doesn't appeal to me. I'd want the thing near a window, to combine light therapy with the workout.

Picky, picky! Yes, I know. Aren't chronic invisible illnesses fun? But with a bit of luck, continued exercise will get me over this hump. I know it will help the back and the weight, and my gym membership's already built into our budget (that's one thing I'm definitely not giving up during my sabbatical). Keep your fingers crossed for me, please.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

They Can't All Be Winners


As I've noted here before, February 20 is the anniversary of the day I was offered the job at UNR (in 1997), the day of my very unexpected and grace-filled first communion (some months before I was baptized, in 2000), and the day when we learned that my mother's lung-cancer surgery had been so successful that she needed neither chemo nor radiation (in 2004). I believe it was also the day (in 2006?), when Rita Charon spoke at UNR, sparking my interest in narrative medicine. In any case, it's a day when many nice things have happened to me, a day I tend to expect to go well.

Today, alas, was a little disappointing. I finally booked the ninety-minute massage my sister gave me for my birthday, and was looking forward to it tremendously. I'm glad I got it -- I certainly needed it -- but I think my massage therapist was having a bad day, because she seemed very terse and untalkative, and also worked on me so fiercely that I'm still sore. (To be fair, she told me I should let her know if she was applying too much pressure; it felt okay at the time, and I'm sure I'll be fine tomorrow.) I used to have long, warm conversations with my old massage therapist, who left to go to nursing school, and although I was fine not talking today, it felt odd that this therapist didn't even respond to my tentative openings. She wasn't exactly rude, but the interaction felt brisk and impersonal.

Also, halfway through the massage, I developed a stomachache that lasted a good four or five hours. It's gone now, thank heavens. I don't think the massage had anything to do with it. Still, this definitely wasn't one of my better February 20ths.

Better luck next year.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Ice and Clouds

All three of these photos are taken from inside our house, looking out at icicles hanging from the eaves. At least we saw some sunshine today!

Thicket of Light

Sunsicles

Friday, February 18, 2011

Snowier


It's been snowing off and on all day (with chain controls on all mountain roads). We're expecting another two to four inches overnight. One of the ski areas got four feet in twenty-four hours. This is good news for skiers, of course, and also for the snowpack, which had been running a bit low, and which supplies our water during the summer.

This morning I took Gary to the eye doctor for a routine exam, but other than than, I've stayed in: I canceled my fiddle lesson because of weather and didn't even go to the gym, which I probably should have done for my back. Instead, I finished these socks, which I've been working on forever: they aren't things of beauty, but they were my first attempt at calf-shaping (although it turned out I didn't have quite enough yarn for true kneesocks). I'm wearing them now and they're comfy, which is all I ask of socks.

I started another pair with some lovely cashmere-blend sock yarn I bought in Alaska. I've already made socks for my sister with this yarn, and she loves them, so I look forward to wearing mine.

I read a little, wrote a little, graded a little. Gary ordered a wetsuit online. Gary and I used some of our we're-not-in-San-Francisco savings to splurge on two more shore excursions: a snorkel trip in Cabo and a boat-ride-to-Stone-Island in Mazatlan. These are probably overpriced, but we feel safer booking through the ship, especially in Mazatlan; I'm hoping that Stone Island is well away from drug-related violence, although Holland America and several other cruises simply stopped visiting the port for a few weeks when there were problems. Since HAL's put it back on the itinerary, I hope things are safer now.

In very sad news here, the body recovered yesterday has indeed been identified as that of the missing hiker. No cause of death has been made public, although the police say they don't suspect foul play. The woman who died was only fifty-seven.

I don't plan to go to the hospital tomorrow, especially with all the snow. We're not in SF, but I'm taking this as a stay-cation anyway. Of course, if I wake up and feel some prodigious burst of energy, I might change my mind, but how likely is that? And it's not like I don't have enough to do here.

Tree Seen Through Icicles

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Good Call


As friends have been commenting all day, we clearly made the right decision: it's been chains-only in the mountains since this morning, and even down here, the snow's so heavy that UNR canceled evening classes.

Note to Claire: Yes, you read that right. The accumulated snowfall in the mountains from today through Saturday is projected at twenty-nine to fifty-one inches. This ain't Central Park. Gary and I live at 5,000 feet, a bit higher than downtown Reno (elevation 4,500); Donner Pass, thirty-five miles away, lies at 7,085. (You'll recall from your history lessons that the Donner Party got stuck in lots and lots of snow, right?) This is ski country; also avalanche country; also if you get caught outdoors you could die country, which is why it's major search and rescue country. Even our little local mountain, Peavine, right across the street, can be deadly, which is why I insist that Gary bring his cellphone when he hikes there (which he does for two or three hours every other day, weather permitting), even though he loathes the thing. Neither of us has ever been caught in a storm on Peavine -- although other people have, and have died -- but I almost honest-to-god got bitten by a rattlesnake once. It was coiled and very well hidden in the middle of a trail, and I almost stepped on it, and it struck but missed. I've seen rattlesnakes lower down, too, a few blocks from here on walking trails, albeit not for several years. Granted, they're a warm-weather hazard; one needn't worry about snow and snakes at the same time!

So I'm glad we gave the mountains a miss, but I did drive around in the snow down here today. The new winter tires worked very nicely. In the late afternoon, Gary and I decided to be adventurous and check out a large mall in neighboring Sparks; at a sporting-goods store there, I found this funky wetsuit -- which fit me! -- on sale for $40. Sweet! The water in Mexico will probably be colder than Hawai'i (and Gary finds even those tropical waters too chilly), so I'd wanted to get a wetsuit for our snorkeling excursion, but I didn't expect to find one so quickly. I could do without the dorky logo on the front, and I'm pretty sure it's a guy's suit rather than a woman's, but it fits and the price was right, so I can't complain. Gary had less luck; they didn't have anything in his size that was reasonably priced, but it turns out there are a couple of dive shops in Reno, so we'll check those out. We both love snorkeling and plan to do as much of it as we can, so the investment makes sense.

Speaking of snorkeling, the sporting-goods store sports several huge fishtanks in the form of arched gates, so when you walk under them, you look up to see fish swimming over your head. Surreal photo, eh? I think those guys are catfish. They have whiskers, anyway.

Driving home from the mall was slightly scary; visibility was very poor, and even with the winter tires (going thirty-five miles an hour), I fishtailed a couple of times. But we're here, safe and sound and warm. Time for some nice hot tea!

Addenda:Turns out that I-80 was actually closed for part of today; westbound reopened at 7 p.m., but eastbound's still closed.

Also, tragically, when I looked at that SAR site, I realized that they did a search today -- and recovered a body -- only about six miles from here, in a residential area with lots of hiking trails. (My friend Sharon lives nearby.) A hiker had been missing since Wednesday. The paper notes that police haven't yet confirmed the identity of the body, but it sounds like everyone thinks it's the missing hiker. The body was only recovered a few hours ago, so the authorities haven't determined cause of death yet, either.

Scary, scary stuff. My heart goes out to her family and friends.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's Definite


We're not going. Gary's been obsessively tracking forecasts and says the mountains are expecting up to another fifty inches of snow by Saturday.

I'm disappointed, but maybe I'll get some hideously overdue work done here. Or maybe I'll just veg out. Each has its advantages. With luck, I can do a bit of both.

Still. Feh.

Snowy


This morning's view. I'd say that our trip tomorrow -- through the High Sierra, where's there's always a lot more snow than we have down here -- is indeed looking doubtful.

Sigh.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Got it, guys! Thanks!


Before anyone else feels the need to e-mail me, yes, I already know about the Mordor's POV midrash of LotR.

I've now been sent this by a former Tolkien student, a current colleague, and Gary, so I thought I'd save the rest of you some time!

I won't have time to read the actual book until this summer, but yes, I'm curious. And I'm glad someone's done this; Tolkien's villains, aside from Saruman, are very two-dimensional, and it's a weakness in the book. My students have started complaining about it; one woman wrote a paper about how much richer the book would have been if the bad guys had been fleshed out more. I'm constantly telling my writing students how important it is to characterize villains fully, and as much as I love Tolkien, he doesn't even come close on that score.

Foiled Again


So, for the first time since I got my winter tires, we're actually expecting snow, just in time to interfere with our travel plans this weekend.

Grumble.

Down here, the snow's supposed to start tonight and continue through tomorrow. In the mountains, snow's predicted to continue through Saturday. We're going to get up Thursday, check road conditions, and see if we want to risk the drive, but I'd say our chances of getting to San Francisco are very iffy. (And airfare's prohibitive: I checked.)

Grumble.

On the plus side, I didn't have to give my chiropractor any money today, because my insurance suddenly started paying fifty percent -- even though we all thought I had hundreds of dollars in deductible left -- which means that I now have a balance there. Hurrah for small blessings!

The money I've saved at the chiropractor's office will come in handy when we hire a contractor to fix the small cracks in our sidewalk and driveway, which our insurance company says we have to do before they'll approve our new (and less expensive than the old, thank goodness) homeowners' policy.

Grumble.

Is this the world's most boring post, or what? Sorry about that! I was in a major black hole on Saturday and Sunday -- that ER shift really did a job on me, and it took me a few days to work my way through to the other side -- and yesterday I was busy, so I haven't been posting, so I thought I should post, even though I clearly have nothing very interesting to report.

Grumble.

Oh! Yes I do! Next week, I'm meeting with my new rector to discuss if and when I'll be preaching there.

Yay!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Surreal


We had a bad code at the hospital today, one that shook staff as well as family. "This is so surreal," a sobbing relative said later. "You know this day has to come sometime, but you never expect it now."

There were other surreal elements of the shift: a bewildered adult clutching a brightly colored pamphlet entitled "A Parent's Guide to Child Protective Services!"; the two nurses who begged me not to visit a difficult patient who'd finally dropped off to sleep; the patient who, when I said I was the chaplain, said rather crossly, "I just want to know where I'll go after I die."

"Are you afraid of dying?"

"No."

"Are you afraid of where you'll go when you do?"

"No! I just want information!" This was said in a tone suggesting that I ought to be able to hand over a brightly colored pamphlet ("A Patient's Guide to the Afterlife!") with precise directions, if not schedules and fares.

I launched into a rather lame disquisition about how nobody really knows anything about the afterlife, but people who've had near-death experiences often report feelings of profound love and peace. The patient responded with eye-rolling and loud sighs. "Forget it! I'm sorry I asked!"

The patient may have been looking for comforting Bible verses about heaven, but cozy piety isn't my style (and I truly believe that's usually a strength in this work). I have no illusions about having all the answers, and I don't pretend I do. That patient needed another kind of chaplain.

All in all, not one of my better shifts. Luckily, a staff chaplain and at least two other volunteers were in the building to do some of the heavy lifting. And next week, weather permitting -- although we're now expecting more storms, oy! -- I'll be on vacation.

Some friends are coming over later for movie night; we're watching "You Only Live Twice" as part of our Bond series. That kind of silliness is exactly what I need right now.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Monday, February 07, 2011

Craziness


I've always been one of the reasons the stereotype of "absent-minded professor" exists. Even at the best of times, I tend to be klutzy and forgetful (one of last semester's students noted on a teaching evaluation that I'm "accident prone," and that's true, if somewhat off-topic). But today I really outdid myself. I got to a job talk late because I went to two wrong rooms -- in two wrong buildings, interrupting two classes in the process -- spilled tea all over myself in my first class, and then told the students to have a good weekend.

Sigh.

Well, I do want them to have a good weekend, but saying that on Monday's just rubbing in the fact that the week's barely started, right?

Before I left my office for my first class, I downloaded Google Chrome and set it up with the same apps and extensions I have at home. When I returned to my office, the apps included two games that I swear, swear, I didn't download. (I promptly deleted them, since I hardly need more ways to fritter away time.) So either my computer's possessed or someone's sneaking into my office. Neither idea is reassuring.

Gah. Time to set up the computer so it won't come out of sleep without a password. Pain in the patootie, if you ask me. Not, of course, that it makes any sense that someone would break into my office to download games. There must be some other explanation. It's still mighty strange.

On happier notes:

I'm listening to an audio version of Kate Braestrup's Here If You Need Me and loving it. She's a chaplain for the Maine State Game Warden Service -- coolest! job! ever! -- and I highly recommend the book.

Weather permitting, which it looks like it actually might, we're going to San Francisco for the long President's Day weekend. I have a professional gig on Friday, visiting a class on "Philosophy and Science Fiction" at UCSF -- they'll have read two of my stories, which we'll be discussing -- and the rest of the weekend we'll see our friend Ellen and her family, and walk on the beach, and hike the Land's End trails, and eat good food. We have a hotel reservation and a cat-sitter. Now we just need good weather! This is a real extravagance, especially so soon before the Spring Break cruise, but it's the trip we didn't get to do over Christmas, and I think I need it. Maybe when I come back, I'll be less spacey.

Oh, and check out this cool photo. Behind the English building on campus there's a small manmade pond called Manzanita Lake. It's frequented by ducks and swans and geese that are fun to watch, especially when they have their babies in the spring (although the babies often get picked off by owls, which isn't fun, although necessary for the owls), and it contains concrete rings, mini-pools, whose function I don't quite understand. On my way home tonight, I looked at the lake and at the trees reflected in it, and I realized that the calmer water inside the concrete ring was reflecting the tree much more clearly. So I took a snapshot. Interesting image, isn't it?

Finally, have you all seen the happy news that dark chocolate is healthier than fruit? Of course, since the study was conducted by the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition, there may have been some bias involved. But I had some dark chocolate after dinner anyway, just in case it's true.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Another Church Closure


I got to church today to find the doors locked; a sign said that today's 5 PM service is canceled, but didn't give a reason. Either somebody's sick -- I hope not! -- or everybody's staying home to watch the Superbowl. Football renders me comatose with boredom, but whomever dubbed it a secular religion was completely correct.

When I got home, Gary said, "It's you. Churches see you coming and close." When I let out a wail, he assured me he was only kidding. This closure's temporary, at least. Ironically, today's Gospel is the passage from Matthew about how a city on a hill can't be hidden. Well, it can if the gates are locked!

So I won't get communion this week, which always leaves me feeling out of sorts. On a happier note, however, today I walked for thirty minutes in the morning and swam for thirty minutes in the afternoon. This is my new strategy to try to get more exercise without wearing myself out completely, since two half-hour sessions are less tiring than a full hour at once. I don't know how often I'll be able to manage this schedule, but at least today demonstrated that it's possible.

Also, Google Docs has indeed kick-started my writing again. Yesterday I finished a draft of one new chapter; today I started another. They're not very good, but at least they're there.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Check Out that Lead Time!


Amazon reports that the e-version of The Necessary Beggar is available for pre-order, and will be delivered to your Kindle on December 31, 2012.

Dang.

Makes a great New Year's gift, and you can get your shopping done really early. (Won't the world have ended by then anyway, according to those funky Mayan prophecies?)

Weepy


Today's good news is that my phone's working fine again, thank goodness. Going to the Verizon store to deal with BlackBerry issues is right up there with standing on line at the DMV.

On the less happy front, I've been incredibly and bizarrely weepy today: sobbing in the pool, breaking down during a meeting with a student (less embarrassing than it sounds, since this is a very kind person and someone I know well), and generally fighting tears while walking, driving, yada yada. I'm not sure what's going on; I mean, sure, I'm still grieving, but I wasn't thinking more than usual about my parents today. I've checked my records, and today doesn't seem to be the anniversary, or near the anniversary, of anything particularly painful. Since it felt a bit like low blood sugar -- although I've eaten my normal amount today -- I grabbed an extra power bar at work, and that seems to have helped a smidgen. I'm panicky about my continuing writer's block, but I'm always panicky about that.

I really, really hope this isn't depression. I don't want to go back on meds. I went off them six months ago (almost exactly) and have been doing fine, except that I can't seem to get my writing mojo back, which is one of the main reasons I went off. I'd expected it to happen by now, so maybe the panic kicked up a notch because it's been six months with so little movement?

Whatever it is, I hope it goes away. (Long-suffering Gary had to listen to me weep and whine when I got home, and that's no fun for him, either.) The very sympathetic custodian at work said maybe I'm getting sick. I hope not, but at least that would explain this.

Gah.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Housecleaning


Well, the e-mail conversion process is still underway. Yesterday, Gmail imported both my AOL address book (an unholy mess) and my old messages: over 2,000 of them (!), most of which I deleted. I've also started unsubscribing from a lot of e-mail lists, primarily from retailers; this is something I should have done a while ago. I cleaned up the address book on my desktop and set up my phone with Google Sync. Unfortunately, the way that worked is that the old, unbelievably outdated and redundant address book wound up everywhere, overwriting the new, neater one.

Gah.

My poor little BlackBerry is now completely confused and won't show me mail from anywhere. In fact, it periodically tells me it can't even find a network. I suspect I'll have to take it into the shop.

I desperately need to apply this same dogged energy to my physical environment: my home and work offices are both almost as chaotic as the AOL address book. But at least I'm doing something, right?

Oh, and I've applied to be a test driver for the new Chrome Notebook, on the theory that you can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket. In fact, I've applied twice: the second time, I told them I'd just switched to gmail and also said that since I'm a gray-haired, middle-aged female professor, I won't be the typical twenty-something technogeek (they say they want a variety of users). Then I begged, shamelessly. Maybe the squeaky wheel will get the grease?

A squeaky-wheel analogy doesn't work at all on the internet. What would the equivalent be? Oh, heavens, please don't tell me I've become a spammer!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

New E-Mail Address


After more than fifteen years on AOL, I'm beginning the slow and no doubt torturous process of switching to a new e-mail address: spalwick (at) gmail (dot) com. Please update your address books!

Thanks!