Froshty Mugs

An occasional forum I use to earn "She was funny" on my gravestone.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Update on Me

Author's note: For those of you who haven't followed my blog, both of my daughters were critically injured in a car accident on September 22, 2007 and both spent a week in ICU. Mary, my older daughter, was home a few days after that, but Anna, my younger, spent almost a month in the hospital, had to have her jaw rebuilt and had to have back surgery, before she was sent to skilled nursing facility for 8 weeks. She finally returned home, in a back brace, on December 17. Her story is one of miracles, unbelievable strength of will, and a remarkable attitude. She took her final back brace off on Sunday, but now faces the possibility of serious dental work related to the destruction of her jaw. I've decided to ease myself back into blogging with excerpts from an email I sent to a close group of online friends called "The Amazing Women's Room," or "AWR," for short. So, here they are.

My lawyer recommended that I keep a journal of everything I've felt since the accident because it can be very helpful in court. I've been doing that as much as I can, but today I have a need to share some of it with y'all. The good news is that I haven't changed all that much (I still hate dook, Coach K., and George W. Bush and his administration with a passion so strong that I can feel my blood boil when I see any of them on television, for example, and I love my Tar Heels as much as I ever have, although I briefly considered suicide after Carolina lost to dook last Wednesday) and most of the changes are not negative.

I know I'm stronger now because I've lived through something that I wish no one had to go through. I know that the results of the accident could have been far worse and either or both girls could have died, but even though they lived, the days at times have been difficult. I have even more confidence than I used to because I have been able to bear up under extremely difficult times and have fought insurance companies and hospitals and won. I've let myself meltdown when I needed to, the latest meltdown coming after Anna came home and I could discharge a lot of fears and negativity with impunity (on the phone with my mom) because the hardest part of our war was over.

I've never been that patient, but my patience is a little thinner now, especially when it comes to waiting. I've never liked waiting, but I hate it now. I think that's because of the agonizing amount of waiting I've had to do since September 22: waiting to hear what had happened to Mary and Anna in the Emergency Room, waiting for Anna to go off life support, waiting for information, and waiting at slow stoplights when I was driving to see both girls in the hospital. I especially hate the long waits in doctors' offices now and resent that doctors schedule more than one patient for the same appointment time.

I've also become a little less extroverted. I've had to talk about so many important things related to life and death that I no longer want to engage in social chit chat. I've gathered my really good friends closer and I've shed myself of some acquaintances. For now, I really seem to care only about deep, lasting relationships and don't feel like developing or participating in superficial ones.

My eating habits have changed. For example, the idea of eating a huge bowl of Grapenuts with soy milk like I did before the accident makes me want to choke. Only recently have I begun to eat Grapenuts again, but it's a small amount with a small amount of soy milk. My lunches are very small--usually yogurt or a cheese sandwich. I eat better at dinner, but not as much as I used to. I get fuller faster or I start to feel sick when I'm presented with a lot of food. I'm eating healthier though because Lorenzo and I use a lot of fresh vegetables and seasoning when we cook. Speaking of which, there's the most shocking change of all: I'm cooking and I actually enjoy it! I've even made up dishes in my head or doctored some I've found in cookbooks.

Despite my shocking transformation from a person who used to fear and loathe the stove to someone who is leaving cooking hints in a comment on her brother's blog, I've lost weight. I actually lost a huge amount of weight right after the accident because I couldn't eat at all for about 4 days and after that only a little, but I've gained some of that back now that I try to eat regularly.

I'm drinking more soda (in particular, Coke Zero) and less water. I have no idea what that's about. I still drink 16 ounces of water a day, but I used to drink 32 ounces and I never (or rarely drank) soda. For some reason, plain water feels weird on my throat and I feel funny when I drink it. I force myself to, though, because water's good for me and I've been drinking it for years. I tell myself that I can have a Coke Zero after I drink water.

I'm not smoking (I smoked briefly after the accident), but I crave cigarettes all the time. I went 8 years without smoking and without thinking about cigarettes, but now I think about cigarettes all the time. I really hate that craving.

The weirdest thing is that I can't use body washes anymore when I shower; I have to have a bar of soap. I've given the girls all my body washes and am happily using Lever 2000.

Sometimes I think that the changes in eating habits, drinking soda, using bar soap, and craving cigarettes is a return to the lifestyle I had before the girls were born. In those days, I rarely ate breakfast, and when if I did, it was a small amount. I used Dove bar soap. I drank a lot of Diet Coke and Tab in those days and I smoked regularly. Maybe my mind regressed to that point in case the girls were no longer in my life--I don't know--as a form of mental protection. Maybe over time, once my mind has accepted that the danger of losing the girls from the accident is over, I can return to water drinking, body wash using, and eating bigger breakfasts. Maybe the craving for cigarettes will go away.

I also no longer feel compelled to answer every e-mail I read. I read them all, but I only respond to the ones that make me want to say something either funny, profound, or loving.

And, finally, I've always been absent-minded, thanks to the ADD, but I'm a little more so now. Thank goodness I have Lorenzo, who is really good at watching what I do and where I put things so that he can help me when I forget stuff.

So that's me after the accident. For those of you who are wondering if I've lost my sense of humor, I can happily attest to the fact that it's still here. I don't think it ever went away. I laugh every day and I'm already planning a less serious blog entry called "More Random Things That Bother Me," so stay tuned.

Friday, October 05, 2007

For Nick

My last post was dedicated to all teens because of the wonderful teens who have sat by my daughters' bed side while they recovered from their terrible ordeal. I've always known that my daughters are special, but it's great to know that there are kids their age who think the same thing about them.

This brief post is dedicated to one of their most faithful friends. His name is Nick, he's 17, and he has been a real constant during these two weeks of fear and hope. He was one of the teens who sat with my friend Madeline, whose daughter was also injured in the accident, while we waited for so many hours for doctors to tell us how our children were doing. He held our hands, hugged us, and cried for both girls when he first saw them.

He is such a good kid. Before we met him, he'd already been through things that no teen should have to endure. When we met him, he was basically homeless because his parents have to deal with a lot because he has siblings that require a lot of care and attention. He bounded up to us one day, got all happy when he saw our dog Lucky, and he has basically become my foster son since that time.

He's passionate and strong, and he and I have had words before the accident, because I, too, am passionate and strong. But, last night, instead of chasing down his friends and hanging out with them, he stayed at the house so that he could help Madeline rearrange furniture in our house so that Anna could sleep downstairs in what we're now calling "Anna's suite." He talked to Madeline and me for hours and put up with all our rants about men. He tried to do back flips and front flips for us and was climbing around in trees with the energy that teenaged boys are famous for.

His will is strong and he's tough, but he also has one of the best hearts I've seen in someone his age. He's sworn to protect all three of us (Mary, Anna, and me) from harm and pain and I believe him. When I saw him cry over Anna and Mary, my heart melted completely. I hope that one day, life will bring him everything he wants. He truly deserves this.

For those of you who read this and are praying for my daughters, please offer up a special thanks for bringing him into our lives. He's a terrific man and he gives me hope that when kids his age are old enough to run this world, it will be a much better place than the one we have now.

Thanks, Nick, for being our friend. All three of us are so glad you're in our lives.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Every Teen is a Miracle

(I apologize for all typos and misspelled or misplaced words in advance, but I don't feel like proofreading this emotional post.)

On September 22, 2007, an alleged drunk driver going more than 100 miles an hour in the middle of two interstate lanes rear-ended my daughter Mary's Honda Accord, pushing them 411 feet into the guard rail, where it bounced off and hit the guard rail again before landing in the median. My younger daughter Anna was critically injured and had to be airlifted by helicopter to the hospital. Mary broke a rib and suffered a bad cut on her head, which resulted in blood on her brain.

It's now been more than 10 days since the accident and Mary's already home. She's doing really well, although she tires easily and her head tends to bleed mysteriously but not in any way that's dangerous, according to the doctors. She's chatting with all her friends on line, getting text messages from boys, and doing just about everything she used to do before the accident. It's terrific to see.

Anna has amazed all the doctors and nurses in the hospital with how strong she is. Many people who were injured like like she was (broken ribs, smashed mouth and mandible, lacerated liver and spleen, broken back, and a hole in her lung) don't live. Well, she has not only lived, but she's completely herself. 100% Anna. If you know her, you'll know what I mean. She got to keep her spleen, her liver's fine, her lung is staying inflated, and today she walked up and down the hospital hall with her back brace on. The doctor told her today that if her physical therapist gives her the okay, it's possible that she could come home as early as tomorrow.

The girls' dear friend Taylor also had a visit to the ICU where a problem with his lung and pneumonia caused him to flatline at least once. Well, he too has surpassed all expectations. He's home now and doing just fine.

My sister Emily wrote about how wonderful teenagers and young people are. She couldn't be more right. For anyone who has a teenager and been irritated by the seeming self-centeredness or the arguments, stop and think, "Suppose this teen almost died today." It makes a big difference how you view them. I don't know if this 47-year-old body could have lived through what Anna, Mary, and Taylor lived through. I credit the zest for life, the passion, and the feeling of invincibility that is part of the nature of teenagers as the reason these three young people have made such excellent progress and continue to do so.

So, I dedicate this brief post to all the teenagers out there. Y'all are an inspiration and bless you all for being yourselves--lost or found, good or bad, straight or high, sober or drunk, smoking or organizing anti-smoking campaigns, praying to or cursing God, singing hip hop or neopunk or country. You are truly miracles.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Sheep with Parrot Heads

"We're a nation of sheep." I don't know who said this originally, and I'm not sure that the nation referred to is the U.S., but for the purposes of this post, I'm assuming that the nation is the U.S. That's because, in my opinion, the U.S. has been a nation of sheep pretty much throughout the second half of the 20th century. We have blindly followed shepherds like the multi-media, politicians, oil companies, sports figures, advertisers, and big business eager to do their bidding and not get lost. However, lately I've come to the realization that we are more than just sheep. We don't follow silently or with just a few bleats. Instead, we follow our shepherds and repeat their words ad nauseum without any regard to their meaning or veracity. I attribute this phenomenon, which I call being sheep with parrot heads, to the Information Age, but it's become truly awful in the 21st century. It's like a flu epidemic.

For example, today, I downloaded a research paper about a huge corporation (excuse me, I mean "global enterprise") and its policies for being environmentally friendly and trying to reduce greenhouse emissions and the first line was “'Can we leverage our experience as a responsible company to make money?'" Now, if you've been following this blog (and kudos to you for putting up with my sporadic posts if you have), you know by now that I absolutely hate this misuse of the word "leverage." Unfortunately, and to my growing horror, every single website I visit, every single brochure I read, every single technical manual I edit, every single proposal I review now "leverages" the term "leverage" at least twice. In other words, "leverage" is now misused "across" every form of published entity. That's right: "across" and not "in" or "by" every form of published entity.

I first saw this jargon in 1998 when I was working for a highly evil that I'm happy to inform you became a dot.bomb before it was trendy. I figure that some bigwig in the IT industry gave a speech and said something like "Our middleware helps you leverage your investment in mission-critical legacy systems, creating an end-to-end solution that you can use across your enterprise." I'm assuming that it had to be some unbelievably filthy rich speaker--maybe Bill Gates or Lou Gerstner--because the slathering devotion and pandering to that kind of language could only mean that it had to have been used by someone with gobs and gobs of money. It reminds me of when the "cool" people in high school (who also happened to be the rich people) started saying "luego" instead of "later" and "booking" instead of "hurrying" and we couldn't wait to repeat them. Shoot, that stupid slang ended up on the inside front and back covers of my yearbook my senior year. Well, the business world might as well be high school. Every marketing piece I read has become a form of torture, one that's far worse than watching all four parts of R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet video. Even though the style council at my company has banned the use of all of these terms, they're so much a part of our thinking now that it seems no one can write a sentence without using one of them. I don't think the writers even notice what they're saying. They've got this great formula, so why not use it every time they write it?

Sheep with parrot heads are everywhere and not just in the business environment. Those of you that follow college basketball might remember the last 14 seconds of the final Duke-Carolina basketball game when Gerald Henderson broke Tyler Hansbrough's nose. As a diehard Carolina fan who thinks that Coach Kracktheirheadsopen and his players are slimier than a goldfish pond in a moderate drought, I'll never forget my feeling of horror when I saw Tyler go down. It was appalling to me that such a blatant attempt to injure an opponent was allowed to happen. As soon as it was over, I watched the postgame reports (when Carolina beats Duke, I try to watch and read everything I possibly can about the game, revelling in the sheer joy of besting the Evil Empire) and they showed Coach K's post-game interview. His comment on the incident was "Hey, when you have your star players in the game in the last 14 seconds, you have to expect this." I just about vomited up all the Guinness I'd been drinking when I heard that.

When I checked the basketball message boards and online media reports the next day, it was obvious that the sheep with parrot heads had been busy. Anyone who purported to love Duke or was "neutral" about the rivalry was out in cyberspace debating whether it was a show of poor sportsmanship on Roy Williams's part to have his first string players still in the game with 14 seconds to go and the lead. Never mind that this was Duke-Carolina, a game where the winner can't be declared until the final buzzer. The debate over whether it was poor sportsmanship on the part of Gerald Henderson to slap Tyler Hansborough to the ground and break his nose took second stage to a wild debate over when first string players should be taken off the court. And why was this? Because, apparently and for no reason that I can possibly imagine, the vast majority of college basketball fans and college basketball writers do not find Coach K. reptilian and or think he's the anti-Christ like I do. Instead, they view him as a shining example of all that is respectable in sports and so anything he says must be repeated in every medium imaginable. Any protest that his lame excuse for a player had basically coldcocked an opponent resulted in the accusation that the protestor was "Tarhole lover" and therefore unable to be objective.

This is just one incident of sports fan sheep with parrot heads; there are many others. The fans saying that the Patriots were completely innocent of any wrongdoing when they filmed the defensive signals of opposing teams, the sports writers kowtowing to Barry Bonds when everyone knows that it's easy to break a home run record when you've got 200 times the natural amount of testosterone pumping through your blood, and the cyclists that say that Floyd Landis was accused of doping because the French are sick of Americans winning the Tour de France are all examples. It's insane. And it goes on and on, until it eventually ends up on Wikipedia and children are using it in reports they write for school.

Of course, the worst cases of sheep with parrot heads are that weird 22-25% of people polled who approve of the job that George W. Bush is doing as president. They're easily found on AM talk radio chiming in their programmed "props" to the likes of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter or leaving comments on AOL message boards on stories that make the Bush administration look bad (which is simply a matter of reporting on the daily activities of Bush and his cronies). They'll babble at you that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq even though the comments you are reading are associated with an article about ice caps melting in the Arctic. Another good example is the e-mail that someone made up and is sending around that says that Barak Obama went to a radical Islam school in the Middle East and changed his name to Obama so that he could be more like Osama Bin Laden. Wayne, bless his sheeplike heart, came back from his barber's one day with a copy of that e-mail, which has been proven to be a complete fabrication--just like the Swift Boat propaganda.

I think what makes me worry most about this sheep with parrot heads phenomenon is when the originators of out and out lies, like the Swift Boaters, Ann Coulter, or Coach K, are praised for their power and ingenuity. "Swift Boat" is now even used as verb and it's something to be admired. Are we so twisted now that we can't think or speak for ourselves? Or is it now so important for us to worship something that we'll idolize some of the vilest examples of human beings and echo their every statement?"

Oh, well, what sheep (even when they have parrot heads) don't realize is that many times, they're being led to the slaughter house. In the cases of the truly twisted people who adore Duke or George W. Bush, maybe I'll volunteer to be the shepherd. Hmm.......

Friday, September 14, 2007

My New Love Affair

On Monday of this week, I fell desperately in love. I haven't felt quite this way in a long time; it might actually have been more than 9 or 10 years. I'm having a hard time sleeping and I'm not eating as much as I'd like--two signs that I've lost my emotional equilibrium and also a testament to the height of my excitement. Granted, I've been attracted since June, and I actually had an inkling that this was going to happen on Saturday, but I remained optimistic that I'd keep my cool. After all, I'm not exactly a teenager. I'm a relatively mature adult who prides herself on her self-awareness. I assured myself that I could remain aloof when presented with a slim, attractive package. Well, that was not to be. By the end of Monday, I was an absolute goner. I've spent most of today contemplating the depth of my feelings and trying to get the perfect photograph of my new love. Unfortunately, I'm a horrible photographer who is unable to capture the essence of my subjects, but I'm sharing the photo anyway:

Shocking, isn't it? I don't know exactly how I came to be in this emotional state. Granted, it's true that I absolutely love almost anything to do with computers, along with other super technological advances like MP3 recordings, touch screens at the ATM machine, HDTV, XM and HD radio, and supermarket self checkout; however, the mostly recessive Luddite gene that I inherited from my father has basically reared its ugly head when it comes to the matter of mobile phones.

I first got a mobile phone in 2002 and was kind of excited about it, until I had to close the account because my older daughter ran up more than $300 in charges when I left it and her in a hotel room in New Orleans. At that time, I only had one job and the paychecks only came sporadically, so there was no way I could afford that bill. Also, at that time, "roaming charges" of $4.00 a minute were applied to any call I made that wasn't to my next door neighbor and I rarely saw a cell phone bill that looked anything like the plan they said I bought.

Not long after that, my boss sent me a Siemens phone to use to take Help Desk calls, and for weeks it confounded me. There was absolutely no rhyme or reason to the settings on the phone. My boss berated me for not recording a voice mail greeting 5 seconds after I unpacked it, and I was too ashamed to tell him that I couldn't figure out how to turn the wretched thing on, let alone record a voice mail on it. So, I made up some now-forgotten lame excuse as to why I hadn't recorded the voice mail and then had to spend about two weeks pressing every button possible before I figured out how to use it.

After about a year, the Siemens phone and I had settled into a slightly uneasy truce. So, what did my boss do? He shut that phone off and sent me a Blackberry for a birthday present. I actually mastered that Blackberry fairly quickly, mostly because he had already set it up for me. Unfortunately, a cat (yes, that would be one of my lovely office assistants) knocked a glass of water on top of it and completely fried it. So, I ordered another one that I thought would be as much like that one as possible, but alas, it wasn't. I hated that Blackberry. It refused to do anything it was supposed to do like receive my business e-mails despite all my calls to the AT&T un-help desks. And, without the mail box set up, it wouldn't show me any information about my received or dialed calls. The keyboard was ornery and after the warranty expired, the charger only worked when the stars and planets were aligned perfectly. After several months of frustration, I finally just forwarded all its calls to my little personal Motorola mobile phone and quit using it.

My Motorola isn't a bad little phone, but you still either have to have a master's degree in engineering or a birthdate sometime after 1987 to figure out how to forward your phone calls or change your ringtone on it, and I majored in radio, television, and motion pictures and was definitely born well before 1987. My daughter Anna used it for a little while when hers was lost and she did some thoughtful things with it, such as assign photographs to some of the numbers in my address book so that I see that person's face when the phone rings. I don't know how she did that--it's all I can do to send a text message or add a phone number to the address book. Most of the time, I fight with the phone because the former Cingular and the new AT&T ("less bars in more places") seem to have mandated to cellphone manufacturers that your phone default menu setting is one that will send you to the World Wide Web, especially if you don't have a Web plan, which means that you pay something like $5.00 per byte downloaded.

Well, on Monday, as I said, all that changed. My boss called me on Saturday to tell me that my new iPhone was on its way. I was beyond excited; I've been hearing about the iPhone for a year, because part of my love of technology includes reading everything I can get my hands on about the latest gadgets. For some reason, I just had a feeling that the iPhone would be the right phone for me. Maybe it was because I had heard that Apple was marketing the iPhone to a female demographic--one that wanted something friendlier and less arcane than your standard Envy or Palm Treo. I personally liked the idea of something that didn't need a stylus because an attachment like that is a recipe for disaster if it comes my way. In my world, styluses get stuck in the side of the phone or fall into the toilet. If neither of those things occurs, they disappear into a pocket book, along with the 4,776,233 pens that have been sucked up by the black holes that are every purse that I own.

Even when the iPhone arrived, I was worried that it would take me two days of solid studying of a tiny but extremely dense manual, which is what usually accompanies my cell phones, to determine how to answer a phone call or record my voicemail. My experiences with such manuals is that they usually begin with a message congratulating me on being such a brilliant consumer because I now own their phone, launch into dire warnings about what might happen if I drop the device and its plug in the bathwater while I'm talking, and then spend about 8 pages telling me that the device won't work if I leave it in the box and showing diagrams of how to get it out of the box.

When I unpacked the iPhone, I had a moment of panic. There was only a small booklet and then a nice note telling me to hook it up to iTunes and where to get iTunes if I didn't already have it. Since I already have iTunes on this laptop, hooking it up was easy (okay, there was a slight issue with the activation of my SIM card, but my boss handled that for me). After the iPhone charged, I turned it on and figured out how to do everything on it in about 15 minutes. I'm not kidding. It was that easy. By the end of Monday, I had picked a bluesy ringtone, set it up to receive work e-mails and e-mails from my personal AOL account, took pictures and used one for my wallpaper, sent a text message to Peru, and made a bunch of calls, mainly to people informing them that I have an iPhone. This is because the designers of the iPhone actually understand the language that most of us speak and have used icons that look like the functions behind them and settings that are helpfully called "ringtones" and "photos" rather than "sound" and "multimedia." I can tap the Safari button and be on the Web instantly and if I can't read what's on the screen, I can turn it sideways and the picture adjusts.

I have even done something completely uncharacteristic--I ordered a bluetooth headset for it and that arrived today. It's charging and I'm hoping to try it out before the day is out. The only thing I'm not doing is taking it out of the house--not until I receive the case I ordered for it. As prone as I am to dropping things or getting them wet (even in a drought), I'm not risking the life of this baby until I know it's safe.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Why I Love Peru

Today is my last day in Lima, Peru, and it's likely to be some time before I return because of the new law regarding passports. You see, the geniuses in Washington, D.C., passed a law requiring travelers to and from Canada and Mexico to have passports to enter/reenter the U.S. recently. The law went into effect earlier this year, and apparently it didn't make any provisions for handling the massive amounts of passport applications that came pouring in because of all the traveling that Americans do to Mexico and Canada and back. My passport expires a week from Saturday and I understand that even if I ask them to expedite my renewal, it'll take about 12 weeks for me to get it. That means I might get it at the end of December. Woo-hoo. So, when I return here again, it won't be until next year.

Anyway, I've been here since last Thursday and have completed the business I needed to get done and have had time to socialize with my friends here. In 2003, a number of Peruvian programmers and I worked on a gate automation/web development project together and in the course of stressful times and long weeks in New Orleans, I became friends with them. When I'm in Lima, I usually try to get together with them at least once or twice.

On this trip, two of my Peruvian friends asked me at different times why I love Peru (and Lima) so much. I have found that it's really hard to explain why because my love for Peru is emotional and emotions are hard to explain. When I first traveled here in May 2003, it was for business. The development team for the project and the development manager for the project had said that they liked the work I was doing for the online help for the web application and they wanted me to visit and get to know the whole team. I was excited about this development because I come from a family that has wanderlust flowing through our veins; we are all great travelers and have been since my mother first took my sister Lindsay and me to England when I was almost three and she was almost one. I had some trepidation, too, because my Spanish is rudimentary at best and I get frustrated when I can't understand other people and vice-versa. Well, by the time I had had my first breakfast in the lovely little hotel that's now my home away from home when I come here, I had lost all nervousness. As I looked around and saw the beautiful, lush plants and flowers that grow even in this desert-like climate, there was a tug on my heart strings. By the time I had tried cebiche, pisco cours, and Inca Cola and traveled to Cusco and Macchu Piccu, I realized I had fallen in love with this country--the views, the food, and above all the people.

Two years later, in 2005, I was the project manager for the second phase of our project. That meant I got to travel here 4 times that year. The first trip was at the end of March and the beginning of April, which is a beautiful time of the year here. By that time, I had worked with the developers closely on numerous things and had gotten know many of them either in New Orleans or by MSN Messenger and that made the trip more special. (I also decided that Lima was a good luck charm for me, because while I was here that year, UNC won the NCAA Championship in Men's Basketball). I think that having so many friends here also deepened my love for the place, especially since I returned three more times that year and another three times in 2006--that truly cemented the friendships. I also brought my mother, Mary, and Anna on separate trips. Here's a picture of the 2005 development team at lunch with me (from left to right: Marco, Juan Carlos T, Nestor, me, Luis, Rale, Victor, Juan Carlos C., Felton Yaddif, and Edwin).

Some of my good friends are not in that photo because they started their own company in 2004, so here's a picture of them in 2006 with my mother (from left to right, Mom, Juan Carlos V., Julio and me):

(It's possible that you are now seeing a pattern here--I'm surrounded by lots of nice-looking men and am often the only female in the group. So, sue me, I'm human--this is part of the reason I like it here so much. I mean, c'mon, what self-respecting woman could possibly resist having attention lavished on her by so many attractive men?)

Anyway, handsome men aside, I also know that I love the spirit of the people I meet here, from the clerks in the "hypermarket" to the wonderful people who run this hotel to my friends from the project who are now spread far and wide--some to Australia and others to Spain. I know that there are problems here with violence, stealing, and the Shining Path still has a presence, but the individuals here are kind and thoughtful. They haven't lost their manners like Americans have and they are also not as intent on destroying their uniqueness with McMansions, Wal-Marts, and Barnes & Nobles as we are. They don't look at you like you're crazy if you smile at them on the street and they have the kind of courtesy that reminds me of when I was a young girl growing up in North Carolina, when politeness was still the norm instead of an aberration.

I admire Peruvians for their work ethic and their ability to find joy in lives that aren't always perfect and my heart ached for them when the earthquake wreaked havoc on the southern part of the country. But unlike the U.S. during Katrina, the Peruvians here have pulled together to help the unfortunate people in Ica and surrounding places. You don't hear any Peruvinas saying, "Well, if you choose to live in an earthquake-prone error, you have to pay the consequences when there's an earthquake." But most of all, I admire their sense of humor because it is so much like the sense of humor in my family. I might not speak the same language as my Peruvian friends, but we laugh the same laughter.

Peru is also a beautiful country and Lima is an impressive city. Lots of it are poor and crowded, but there are oases of loveliness and prosperity throughout the city. You can find almost anything you need in Lima and you can even get a flu vaccine at the local supermarket on a Sunday. To me, that's amazing. I also know that, despite living in North Carolina in small cities, I am an urban girl at heart and I just love big cities--and Lima is huge. I like the skyscrapers and the sounds of the cars on the streets and the good restaurants and pretty parks and squares that are in the city. There are some people I know that think I'm crazy to love big cities, but I think my daughters, mother, and sisters understand this love. Here are some of my favorite shots of places in Lima. The first one is of a lovely park not far from my hotel that has olive trees in it:

And this picture was taken at the site of a Pre-Incan pyramid that's right in the middle of the city--you can get an idea of the architecture of the city.

And here's a picture of the pre-Incan pyramid, which is truly well within the city limits of Lima. Think how cool it would be if an American city had a ruin like this in the middle of it. On the other hand, if we had such a wonder, some developer might view it as a sandy eyesore, immediately buy the property, and put a Best Buy or Wal-Green's on it, because apparently there just aren't enough of those in the U.S. yet.

Another great thing about Lima is that it's right on the ocean and you can get some spectacular views of the ocean with houses high on the cliffs above it. On the east coast of the U.S., we don't have ocean views like you see in the picture below, which was taken at Larcomar, a shopping and restaurant center in a tony part of Lima.

As I said, I love Lima, but there are other parts of Peru, that are beautiful. In 2006, my friends Julio and Juan Carlos took my mother and me to Lunahuana, which has a nature preserve on it; it's about two hours from Lima and the views that you see as you drive there are superb. This photo is actually the wallpaper for my computer:

So, when you combine beautiful scenery, excellent food, and lovely and kind people, what's not to love about Peru?

It's interesting though--in some ways Peru is entirely different from home, but in other ways, it's not that different, especially in North Carolina. North Carolina is blessed with beautiful mountains and a gorgeous seashore and rolling hills in between. We don't have a huge city, that's true, but Charlotte's pretty big. And, despite my complaints, most native North Carolinians are lovely people. So, it's possible that the main reason I love Peru is because it touches me in the same way my home state (that I love so much) does--there is a chord of similarity between the two that plays to my heart.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Who's Minding the Store?

It's been a while since I posted because I suddenly had a boatload of work I had to accomplish before I left for Lima, Peru, which is where I am now. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of activity and my time management skills were taxed to the limit, but I got it all done and arrived here safely. I'll write more about my trip in my next post.

Anyway, in my absence, my unpaid office assistants (scroll down to the second post if you click this link) have been holding down the fort. Since I wrote the post about them in June 2006, I have acquired another assistant; his name is Sammy. Here's a picture of the good job they're doing (and you can also see that second law of thermodynamics at work with all the cords): Sammy is to the left of the laptop, Michiru (aka Sausage) is in the window, Ping is washing himself with one paw on the printer paper to the right of the laptop, and Finn is under the desk.

And they say good help is hard to find nowadays...yeah, right!