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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Making a Statement 

It won't surprise anyone who knows me that I am embarrassed by my country's president, but the fact that it took him 4 days to simply issue a public statement of condolence over the catastrophe in Southeast Asia is beyond embarrassing.

While I often sign MoveOn's online petitions, I rarely complete the optional message field. But today, when MoveOn asked me to include my name on a message to Congress and the President that Americans are supporting strong leadership in the relief effort, I added a personal note:
Please scale back 2nd term inaugural festivities as a sign of humanitarian solidarity. With 4 days of silence, President Bush has already represented Americans poorly – inappropriate celebrations will only compound the perceptions.

Tangentially, if you want to know that your personal donations are going to effective charities, take a look at the American Institute of Philanthropy's list of top-rated charities.


Sunday, December 26, 2004

It only hurts when I laugh... 

Well, that's not the only time it hurts, but that's when it hurts the most. And with Brad and Jolie around, that's often enough.

Yesterday, after the two had begun preparing the traditional feast, Brad started telling Jol how he's been training Sophie to lick Jackson's head. He explained that this is necessary because Jackson misses the way his buddy Joe carressed his head. (I insisted Joe find a new home when he hadn't stopped lashing out at the natives months after he and Brad and Jackson had moved in.) Jolie was dubious, so Brad demonstrated his methodology. I happened to shuffle into the kitchen just in time to see the sanguine Sophie enthusiastically licking a glob of peanut butter off the phlegmatic cat's fat black head.

Normally I would have rolled my eyes at Brad, said something like "stop tormenting small animals", and moved on. But, when I looked up from the scene on the floor, I saw Jolie laughing so hard tears were rolling down her cheeks while she shook breathlessly. That's when I started laughing, which hurts worse than coughing or blowing my nose, so I had to bend over even more than I'm already hunched while shuffling from room to room. Jolie noticed my state and implored her dad, while gasping for air and still laughing, "Stop! You're hurting Mommy!", which only made me laugh harder. Ouch.

Sophie finally got as much peanut butter out of the short black coat as a dog's soft tongue will allow, and looked from one biped to the next, happy to be the center of attention. Jackson, who rarely tolerates Sophie's buoyancy, continued to loll unperturbed at her feet. Anyone would have thought they were dear friends. That is, until later that afternoon when Jackson stepped between Sophie and a perfectly roasted bit of turkey – rather than a sweet massage between his ears, Jackson nearly lost his head.


Thursday, December 16, 2004

Up and Atom 

Finally. With Travis's prodding, as well as his help, I've added a syndication link at last. You can now read this blog, stripped of my design skin (and, by the way, I'm not sure how I feel about that!), in your favorite news aggregator. My feed link, http://renice.com/blog/atom.xml, even works in the beta-version newsreader available on My Yahoo! pages.


My anxiety over the discomfort I'm expecting beginning next week is decidedly mitigated by the anticipation of Jolie's arrival in 2 days. Without any maternal solicitation, she booked a flight to come help out and, she says, to "pamper" me. (That makes me smile for so many reasons.)

I postponed this leave in order to schedule it around the annual glut of University-sanctioned holidays, reducing the number of sick days I'll need to claim. An unexpected bonus is that I'm also relieved of holiday ado. Over the years, I've been practically systematic in distancing myself from the demands of this time of year, often wishing I could just take a year off from it all. This was the year.

Thanksgiving – and its requisite decisions of what to cook and for how many, its awkward calls to family or the guilt for avoiding them, and its next-day clamor to "profit" from yearly merchandise promotions – completely disappeared this year while we strolled the Promenade des Anglais, played slots in Monte Carlo, and taste-tested (gluten-free) meringue cookies at different patisseries every day.

Unfortunately, my obliteration of the winter holidays won't be as pleasant or effective as it was for Thanksgiving, since I'm supplanting one set of stresses for another. Fortunately however, I'll be able to blot out the latter set with all the pharmaceuticals I'll have on hand. So, with Jol and Brad here, I expect this will be my most happily blurry winter holiday to date.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

It only takes a cog. 

Arthritic hip joints affect the way you approach everything: how long you sit at work, in a theater, and while traveling; how you step off a curb; how you position yourself on a toilet seat; how you lay your body down in bed; what you tell your surgeon and anesthetist before they put you under.

Yesterday, during pre-op visits with various hospital staff members who will be involved in the invasive follow-up to the "intrusive" exploratory surgery I wrote about in May, I gave both surgeon and anesthetist special requests regarding positioning my pelvis on the table. The surgeon and all the nurses who talked with me were very sensitive to my fears and careful to reassure me. The anesthetist was a different matter.

The last anesthetist I'd had was so helpful, I expected this visit to be easy too. But this guy seemed in a pretty nasty mood from the start. After taking one of my questions – and the anxiety driving it – personally, he was downright huffy. At one point, he suddenly jammed the forms he'd worked on into my chart and marched out of the office. No goodbye, no "see you on Monday", no directions to my next stop.

I remained in my seat wondering if he were coming back when his nurse walked in leading the next patient. She stopped short when she saw me and my bewildered expression. She quickly shut the door and asked what had happened. While recounting how the visit had gone, I envisioned this man intubating my unconscious body as roughly as he'd handled my records folder. I resolutely announced, "If he's doing the anesthesia, I'm canceling the surgery right now!" She promised me he wouldn't, and pledged to make sure of it by informing his supervisor of my experience and resulting apprehensions.

As I drove home rather shaken, I was reminded of how a single experience with one disgruntled employee having a bad day can profoundly affect interactions and even evaluations of an entire organization. Admittedly it bothers me that this guy "knows where I live" (literally), but the organization that he is now a member of simply can't tolerate his bad attitude and still sustain itself.


Monday, December 13, 2004

Midwestern Blues 

It's been a little over 10 days since our return from Nice. We traveled for 2 days and were there for 9 – the longest vacation I can remember having. Even though I was just getting the hang of things when it was time to go, I was missing Sophie and the conveniences of home. But now that I'm here, there's so much there that I'm missing.

For one thing, I noticed snowflakes swirling around the back door this morning as I was tossing out Tonka and Jackson (the expressive little darlings have been demonstrating the phrase "pissed off" in the house). The weather in Nice was always around 60° F – cool but comfortable (our roadtrip through the Italian Alps to Wittelsheim France is another story for another post). Shortly after our return, I realized just how beneficial the Mediterranean climate was for my arthritic joints... a realization that makes it that much harder to live in Central Illinois.


Saturday, December 11, 2004

Sad Commentary 

I've been rather distressed by the way comments had disappeared from my entries – there have been some really good comments, often pithy, funny, and/or informative. Also some of my entries have been responses to comments and make less sense without the precipitating reference.

The disappearance seemed to have occurred when Blogger added a comment engine after the purchase by Google – I thought the two events were somehow related. However, it turns out that Haloscan has been holding my readers' comments hostage. I'm now looking forward to their safe return in 24 hours, having just paid the $12 ransom.

Of course, they'd told me up front that, with the free service, there were no guarantees. And since I was being fairly nonchalant about the whole blogging thing, I didn't bother to make my own back-ups – in the unlikely event that I suddenly felt compelled to play with programming my own engine. Still, to kidnap a product and offer it back for a heretofore unannounced fee seems a new twist on bait and switch specific to our "Information Age" – which I feel certain will be referred to mockingly in the future as the "Disinformation Age".


Friday, December 10, 2004

Love and Pragmatism 

Yeah, it's been a while. Suffice it to say that combining households takes a lot of energy, both physical and, more importantly, emotional. I've done this a few times now, and it wasn't quite so difficult when I was younger. In fact, this, as well as other experiences related to the recent merger, leads me to compose a new piece of advice: Stick with the love of your youth. Hmmm, well, I'll need to work on that a little more before I can add it to Renice Wernette's Free Advice, but that's the seed of it.

Besides combining households, another aspect of the advice has to do with the perception of age. By way of illustration, compare a photo I took of Brad over 25 years ago with one I took last week with my new cell phone:


Without such comparisons, I don't notice that Brad is more lined and cragged (or how much bigger his ears have gotten) – he's still the kid I was infatuated with over 36 years ago. Of course, I suppose it helps the perception that he still acts like it ;-)