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8/1/02-Thurs.-The house caulking and painting project is proceeding apace! Frances seems to regard it as another of her creative ventures, wanting to do it just right, as if it were a sculpture or some fine craft on which she were concentrating her efforts, rather than a fairly humble dwelling. I keep starting to help, or repeating my offers to when she tells me she really wants to just do it herself. I'm beginning to think she may be pulling some kind of Tom Sawyer whitewashing the fence routine. But so far she shows no signs of subterfuge.

Her energetic and exclusive dedication to this chore has me feeling all the more intent on getting new work. The paint job alone is adding to our coffers hundreds of dollars, what we'd need to pay a contractor to do the same thing if neither of us did it.

It is true that my previous employment results in our having a monthly retirement annuity, and our savings had built into a nest egg from which to draw a modest amount. However, given the drop in the equities markets and our extra expenses so far this year, I feel we need, on average, about an extra $7500 a year, which must therefore come from additional earnings.

I have completed a couple resumes and applied for several jobs so far, but with not a whiff of interest. (Fran even assisted, putting one of the resumes online where an employer could access it.) The situation is somewhat discouraging. Austin is right now in an economic slump that mirrors, but is not as great as, that in Silicon Valley, CA, as we also are dependent to a large extent on the growth and profitability of the technology sector, which, of course, is in the pits lately. On the local news they have been doing specials on how it is a very bad time to be looking for a job here. Unable to get work in their preferred areas, thousands of folks are out there competing for the not so hot types of employment.

Besides that, the word is that we older folks really do have a major problem with age discrimination from younger supervisors. A lot of them pay lip service to hiring regardless of how old job seekers are. However, surveys show that, in this country, a worker aged sixty is taken seriously as an employment applicant by less than 20% of the folks doing the hiring.

So, I'll just keep trying and hope I'm not beating my head against a wall. I'm willing to take very low pay and entry levels positions, so long as I can get a paycheck and put in enough hours to make that essential extra $7500.

On our walks over the past couple days we've seen a number of rabbits, lots of deer, and even a wandering chicken!

8/4/02-Sun.-Friday (8/2) was the anniversary of the day in 1492 Christopher Columbus set forth on his first Atlantic crossing voyage, in which he would set foot on land in the then new world, though he did not recognize it as such until later. Not as significant as the development of the neo-chordates, that eventually would lead to creatures with internal skeletons, but not inconsequential either.

For better or worse, the western hemisphere was discovered by the self-styled civilized folks of that era, and as an unintended consequence, a few centuries later, the USA, particularly in the person of the younger George Bush, now "rules the waves," the air, and a good bit of the land around this amazingly shrunken pearly world.

By coincidence, this weekend we've been watching an eminently viewable video film, "The Madness of King George."

As it is, some might say the Italian should have stayed home.

Yet things just occur as they do. We simply adapt to circumstances as they present themselves. Objectively, there is no right or wrong, good or bad. People merely project their attitudes onto phenomena which, in some views, have always been that way. (The river's beginning, middle, and end, as Hesse pointed out through Siddhartha's vision, all occur at once. So time either does not exist or prevails all in the same ever-present moment. Our circumscribed consciousness of it is what moves.)

My better half has now consented to, and even requested, some of my elbow-greased participation in our house cleaning, caulking, and painting project. It has a way to go but is definitely coming along nicely.

We had an unexpected but cheery thunderstorm yesterday evening, bringing about 3/8 inch of additional moisture to our 1/3 patch of "God's little acre."

Frances and I were then enjoying a visit at Claudia and Ron's place, attending a birthday party for our niece, Esther. Her sister, also our niece of course, Jane, was there too, along with Sharon, Claudia's daughter, and about eight of Esther's friends from her school and band. On our way back, we saw several deer on Claudia and Ron's place, in fact, only about fifty feet from us. Neat!

Each day, for about a week now, I've done at least one positive thing toward getting a new job, today, for instance, picking up an application, after I'd determined that a vacancy was upcoming, from a shop at the Barton Creek Mall. It turns out there is still at least a small book store there, Ink News Stand.

This evening, I gave Fran a sensual massage.

8/8/02-Thurs.-The thyroid symptoms have been acting up rather noticeably lately. They are either worse or, at least, the current, conservative treatment is not helping much if at all.

I'd been greatly hoping that procedures for the prostate as well as the thyroid would render me, if not fit as a fiddle, at least much improved. I had expected, once that was out of the way, I would make major new efforts at getting work, figuring that, until then, the sum of the symptoms plus still pending treatments would be a burden on my job effectiveness.

The verdict of the doctors and HMO (health maintenance organization), though, is that nothing more needs to be done. Accordingly, I figured I might as well get work as soon as possible, and so began renewed efforts to that end about ten days ago.

In spite of applying to numerous folks around here who have openings for which I'm qualified, and having great applications and resumes (I'd make an appointment with me for an interview if I were the manager of these establishments - and I'm sure I'm not biased! Ha.), there has been not a nibble of interest except from the discount retail department store, Target. I had my interview with them today, though, and got the job. Please see my entry in Investor's Journal. The folks there seem quite nice. If I have to start at an entry level to work part-time and with unresolved health concerns, this is at least as good a situation as any.

The repairs on the house are coming along rather well. I've been helping sometimes with the pre-paint cleaning. The contractors' rotten siding replacement project, last month, was a major hurdle to get over. Now Fran has made a good start on fixing some damaged boards at our front entrance. The house caulking and first coat of the painting are now about half finished, even though neither Frances nor I will work in the hottest, sunniest times.

We had a break in our hot, dry weather today, thanks to meandering tropical storm Bertha. There was not much precipitation, but enough to get everything wet and to cool things off pleasantly. We heard we may have another good chance of rain tomorrow.

There's more news (through my Mom, whom I called tonight) about my brother, Allen, and his South American fiancé, Nina, the woman he'd only met last month, for about three or four days. It seems Allen visited Mom this past weekend, taking pictures, videotapes, and more info. about his special lady.

Though the lass' background might not matter to some, racism is alive and well in my mom's white "southern" veins. She was bothered that, although Nina's deceased father was mostly Spanish, her mother is "completely Black." Also that Nina hardly speaks a word of English, just as Allen does not speak Spanish. Hmm.

Their relationship is very modern and high-tech! They met via the internet, using some program that translates for each of them. Even in person, they carry hand-held translators (palm pilots?) in order to communicate at all, each one typing in an "instant messenger" response to what the program has just translated for them of what the other had typed in a moment before.

Mom said that Nina has lots of siblings, by more than one marriage, and that apparently at least some of them, as well as Nina's mother, and Nina herself, are quite eager to come to the United States of America. What a coincidence!

Allen's fiancé is resourceful, "strong," courageous, and not unintelligent. She has been trained as a dental technician and is routinely flown into landing areas in remote jungle regions, walking on in from there alone until she reaches the various villages of cut-off tribes of folks still living under even poorer conditions than exist for most citizens of Ecuador. There she ministers to their dental needs in all ways, cleaning, treating infections, removing bad teeth, and so on, without the assistance of a doctor of dentistry.

She is quite pretty, my mom admitted, "in a dark kind of way." It seems Nina has "instant messaged" to George that she wants him, she loves him, and she will go anywhere and do anything to make him happy and be compatible to him if he will marry her. She wants him badly and wants him to marry her right away. She believes in God and does not feel it is right to have sex outside of marriage. Otherwise presumably she would sleep with him immediately, as she really finds him handsome. He turns her on.

She has some half-siblings already living in Florida, but their sponsorship evidently was not sufficient for Nina and her family's love needs. Only Allen can fulfill her. Hmm.

It should be interesting to see how this plays out. Allen, despite his moderately advancing years (mid-forties, while Nina is twenty-nine), is rather innocent and gullible. He resents any words of caution in this matter. He shows off his engagement ring and is convinced theirs is true love and says they'll be getting married, probably in Ecuador, soon after he meets her mother, in another month or two.

What if she and her family are all sincere? Perhaps, in spite of all appearances, this truly is a perfect match. Who am I to say otherwise, regardless of my concerns that Allen not be badly hurt? I hope for the best. Still, I have grave misgivings.

8/13/02-Tues.-Efforts on the house exterior have continued, though Fran, at her discretion, has borne the brunt of them. I was chopping away vegetation from next to some of the structure, and then scrubbing and washing a large section of the siding, yesterday morning. In terms of paint use, the project is more than half finished.

Saturday evening we went to a housewarming party at my former colleague, Maria's, recently purchased place, and I was delighted to see a number of my old acquaintances from work. It was pleasant, though my difficulty with memory was embarrassingly in evidence. I could recall everyone quite well, but many of their names just would not come to mind. I could have "faked it" better if Frances had not been there and needing to be introduced. My INFJ personality, per one reader of this journal, is behind my trouble remembering things. Some books say it is due to bouts of insomnia, others to depression. To me, though, the "blue-baby" anoxia episodes in infancy, and consequent mild organic brain damage, are still the most likely cause. Whatever the reason, just as folks who have dyslexia, and cannot read, try to keep this a secret, so I have been "faking it" my whole life, trying to avoid revealing I often cannot recall even good friends' names. But Saturday my disability definitely put a damper on the festivities for me.

Fran is naturally introverted in such settings but did make a valiant effort to strike up and maintain conversations when she had openings. Nonetheless, she confessed, upon our return, to being especially relieved to be back at our house.

I learned a bit of heartening news, though, at that soirée. The pair of top managers in my old disability division, responsible for much of the hell we were put through in the final few years before my retirement, piling on ever increasing workloads and making expensive, disruptive changes that just added to the burden on operations, were recently threatened with being fired if they did not resign. They both resigned.

Late Sunday afternoon, social butterflies that we are, Fran and I met with my brother, Ron, and his fiancé, Claudia, at Romano's Macaroni Grill in west Austin. Fran and I were helping Ron, a bit early, celebrate his birthday. Along with dinner, we got him a small, delicious chocolate cake, compliments of the establishment, once they'd learned of the occasion for our visit. Ron gave out little samples for us to taste, but, being already full, kept most of it to enjoy later and share with Claudia at home.

And today is Pepper's thirteenth birthday. We have not planned on taking her out to eat, but will do a lot of nice things for her and get some chewable gifts wrapped and ready for the mutt. She really does enjoy these occasions and knows very well the excitement of receiving and opening presents!

I am luxuriating, while I can, in the joy of being fully retired, a state of bliss that comes to an end this Friday.

8/14/02-Wed.-Laundry time. Our first chore of the new morn.

As all too usual, I was awake during much of the period of the day set aside for sleeping. Overly active thyroid? The body is a fine mechanism. But if this machine be out of adjustment, who has the wizardry to properly tune it?

My sister-in-law, Mary, finally sent me the packet of Xeroxed materials she'd promised, about homeopathic remedies and such, in connection with my neck difficulties.

I'd mentioned before that it seems the natural healing interpretations based on physical ailments may be more projective than objective. As with most alternative medicines, though, there may be enough of truth there to keep the patient interested. In this case, the problems in the throat region are said to be from a blockage of expression, such as a suppression of rage.

Well, certainly I had not screamed when I felt like it in the last few years of my best of all possible jobs. If this hypothetical higher realm exists from which thoughts and feelings take form in the flesh of the physical reality, I suppose it is possible that so much held back vehemence could engender the symptoms I now experience and their dysfunctional thyroid etiology.

Yet a more reasonable and parsimonious explanation would seem to be that the massive doses of radiation doctors had focused on the area when I was a toddler damaged the thyroid, which eventually then led to this breakdown, just as too much solar radiation in childhood, before anyone knew of its hazards, has similarly led to my now having to deal with skin lesions.

Still, what harm can Mary's old and new age remedies do? She advocates positive healing self-messages, good nutrition, plenty of healthy liquids, images of blue vortexes in- and outside the throat (to stimulate the release of blocked energies), massage of areas of the body that are the loci of potential energy blockage vs. flow for the neck and thyroid (such as the base of the thumbs and big toes), low stress, and plenty of rest.

By coincidence, before getting her mail yesterday, I dreamed night before last of a huge storm advancing on our homes in a small village and especially of a trio of tornadoes (vortexes), advancing toward us all abreast, thus covering such an area and so imminent that there seemed no escape from the destructive force of their energies, though, of course, as it turned out one retreat existed, into wakefulness.

It has been awhile since I've written anything particularly favorable about my brother, Pete, since we had some major difficulties winter before last. But we've actually had decent relations for about a year now, though privately I still have severe reservations over how he treats women. Anyway, he had been kidding around on the subject of my new job, and I sent him an appreciative e-mail but expressing my concern regarding the prostate difficulties, that they might interfere with the work, and how my doctors were not cooperative. I had already checked out everything I could find about the problems when they first surfaced, nearly a decade ago, and so it had not occurred to me there might now be other alternatives, once the medical opinion was less than what I had expected.

But Pete wrote back that there was some interesting info. on the web and suggested one of the sites he'd found when he had looked up the subject after my e-mail. Sure enough, I also discovered promising information there. This morning, while I was out doing some vital shopping, I checked in the pharmacy area of our supermarket. As it happens they had a product that includes two of the extracts that were recommended on the internet as having proven helpful in a majority of cases like mine, during scientific studies. So, I bought it and began using this today. We'll see. I am optimistic that, in combination with saw palmetto, this Prostatonin, may provide some real improvement for the first time in years.

8/17/02-Sat.-The throat problems painfully persist, more distracting than ever. I am to go in next week for a blood test, to see if there has been any change, as intended, in my thyroid function. If not, I'll probably ask the doctor to consider altering the medication. So far I can't tell that it is doing any good.

Wildlife has been interestingly apparent for us lately. Fran and I went the other day for lunch to a Chinese buffet place we like in south Austin, Tien Jin, and noticed a large and cheerfully noisy nest of monk parakeets on a tall pole nearby.

Then I was helping move a potted plant for the house painting and discovered the hard way there was an inhabited wasp nest attached below some of the overhanging vegetation. My finger and hand swelled up some. While the burning from that injury continued, though, I noticed little if any back, neck, or nether regions pain!

Our only really good neighbor, next to us on the left as we face the street, moved out today. She is a realtor and so probably will be selling the place herself to someone else. We've had so much bad luck in this neighborhood that we await the appearance of her replacement in that property with "fear and trembling."

Since Target so far seems not the greatest solution to my semi-retirement job needs (see "Investor's Journal"), I resumed the search for new employment today, picking up applications from three places and submitting one to a Starbucks not too far away. Conditions were miserable, though, at the famous coffee shop when I dropped off my personal vitae, the lady behind the counter swamped, hot, and harassed, and no air conditioning working at all. The inside temperature felt in the 90s°F. She was dealing with the situation stoically. Her predicament did give me pause. Maybe I should see if I can find a more traditional desk job of some kind, even if I must work full-time.

Meanwhile, my first operational part-time shift at Target is next Tuesday.

This weekend, Frances and I are having fun putting together another issue of our family and investment newsletter.

I've picked up an intriguing video for background during Fran's massage tomorrow, "Amelie." It sounds great, but for some reason I did not notice till I'd gotten home that it is a subtitled French film. (Duh!) There's no way to concentrate enough on both the massage and the movie to be able to follow what is going on. Guess I'll just watch it separate from pressing Frances' flesh, though preferably with her, and rent and watch another one for the sensual ministrations on the morrow.

I've discovered a group here that I'd undoubtedly find of interest, the Austin Film Society. They arrange showings of classic movies. If and when things ever get settled again in my life financially, vocationally, and medically, I think I might like to join this organization and help them with their activities.

8/19/02-Mon.-The most drama in our lives lately continues to come from my efforts for (and emoting about) part-time work. It's clearly time to chill out! (Please see my "Investor's Journal.")

Today is the anniversary (from fifty-five years ago) of the debut of the fantastic Broadway production, "West Side Story," one of the finest musicals and remakes of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" ever created. After the movie version came out, in 1961, I was one of many millions of young men around the world for whom romance was defined in one word, "Maria." For the rest of her too short life I was then hopelessly infatuated with Natalie Wood.

8/21/02-Wed.-The reader might be wondering about my first day of actual on-the-job work at Target yesterday. Except that it was not funny at the time, it reminded me of nothing so much as one of Basil's worst days in "Fawlty Towers." It was, to put it mildly, a humbling experience. From the nearly $1000 in errors I made on the (200 menu item) computer game they call a "cash register," to my left leg and ankle trying to kill me slowly with arthritic pain, from standing too long on old bones, to the constant circus of new things being thrown at me, while my methodical (compulsively so?) brain struggled slowly to engage, to my bladder giving me fits as the lunch rush ever so slowly progressed, from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM, and I was informed "We do not take breaks during the lunch rush," to the overpowering, nauseating fumes of overdone popcorn grease in the machine right behind me at the counter, to my fellow employees reassuring me with comments like, "Oh you've not seen anything yet!" or "This is a slow day," or "We like to start folks out on the counter because that's easiest, but tomorrow you'll start learning food preparation," or "From here on toward Christmas it just gets busier and busier, but by December the crowds are back to the door, and it's solid people almost all day long," and so on, I gained a much greater respect for the folks working there and all entry level food service workers the world over. Like me, they start work at only about $7-8 an hour, and many a lot less, yet nearly all are extremely conscientious, hardworking folks. My hat is off to them! I hope never, ever to be rude or indifferent to such as these again.

As for me, I managed to keep smiling and even chuckled nervously a couple times, but inside was feeling rather overwhelmed by the combination of what I needed to learn quickly (even though they told me I was doing fine, or even "excellent"), how fast I had to respond to the throngs of eager eaters, and the negative feedback I was getting from various parts of the physical form. By the time I left I knew I had made a mistake. Not a big mistake. I had not robbed a bank or shot someone or driven drunk into a crowd of people. I hadn't stolen billions from my shareholders or gone into presidential politics. But clearly I was no longer cut out for retail food service work, a big surprise as in my youth it had seemed much easier.

Sure, I could have kept at it and learned the ropes and eventually become an adequate, though rather harassed, Target employee, but I could tell it would absolutely never be enjoyable for me. And life is too short. I felt sick with embarrassment by the time I got home. I wrestled with what to do. The only thing I could think of was that if I let another day go by before giving my two weeks' notice, it would mean an additional shift pretty much like today, besides those next two weeks, I'd have to work before I could, hopefully, move on to a better job.

So, I called to talk with the pleasant lady who had hired me and was told she was in conference, but would call me back if I left a message, which I did. Then I waited near the phone for nearly an hour. No call. So I called again: still in conference. Another hour went by. Same result when I phoned one more time. It was by now after 6 PM. I explained I wanted to talk with someone about resigning. They said there was a form for that at the clerical desk in the office. So, I drove over, wrote out all my deficiencies, apologized for having inflicted myself upon them, and talked briefly with a nice woman in charge of the evening shift who said that, since the main thing my food service crew were doing with me now was training me and it would be awkward to have them taking up their time training when everyone would know I'd be gone in two weeks, they would simply adjust the schedules to fill the vacancy and I need not stick around the extra fourteen days I'd offered to work.

She said when her father had retired she'd warned him that retail was pretty rough, so he went to work for H & R Block and loves it. He works fairly intensively several months a year and then is off during the best months for vacationing.

One thing I can say about Target is that, without exception, they have been great folks for whom to (at least briefly) work.

Today, Fran and I went again for a morning walk and then to one of our favorite restaurants, Bombay Grill. Most of the house painting has been done. Tonight we lay down, side by side, on pallets in the living room and finally watched the delightful foreign film, "Amelie," afterward deciding we should watch more non-English language movies. The ones we have gotten have almost always been quite good.

Meanwhile, I submitted a couple county caseworker job applications and checked again with close Barnes and Noble and Borders bookstores for openings. The former has nothing now, but Borders has a new position available and suggested I check back on Friday, when the personnel manager will return.

Then, this evening, after we'd watched the movie, it suddenly dawned on me - Where are my wits these days not to have thought of it earlier!? - that maybe I had been making incorrect assumptions about our finances. Before we had retired I had calculated that, in both down and up years we would have enough to live on if we kept all our expenses, including taxes, deductions, insurance, and so on, at $50,000 or less. It had seemed we should be able to do this easily. But then a series of unexpected developments and costs pushed us about $10,000 over budget just as the stock market was having its worst bear market in at least twenty-eight years, and I figured I'd better go back to work part-time to begin to make up the difference.

The revelation tonight, confirmed with careful calculations, was that my initial, pre-retirement figuring had been too cautious. In fact, we can get by on $60,000 a year without danger of depleting our assets, given that, after my retirement annuity and our other income, this would require using less than 5% of our (even bear market depleted) current assets, a level for which average growth in the portfolio should easily compensate. It is true that we would see the portfolio grow faster if we do not need to use that additional ten grand, but it is there, our own budgetary margin of safety.

All things considered, I shall go ahead with plans to get some type of work, perhaps with a tax preparation outfit, if they can take folks in off the street and show them the ropes, perhaps with a bank or other financial institution, like T. D. Waterhouse, Vanguard, or American Express, perhaps with a book store, where it's an interesting place to work and I'm sure things will not get as hectic as the average day in Target's food alley, or perhaps again in casework or counseling. But I need not go into it as if my life and our solvency depend on it. I can do it in a way that is relaxing and enjoyable overall. And I certainly don't have to take on a job I know I'll hate just to be earning a paycheck!

Throughout the late-mid-life crises of the last several weeks, concerning my health, the ins and outs of employment, our apparently, but not really, rickety finances, and so forth - and except for the usual misunderstandings, tiffs, and bickering sessions that seem to periodically come up in all but the most perfect relationships - Frances has been wonderful, usually supportive of the household-money-manager-and-hubby with concern, humor, and affection, even when it looked like he might be dying or as if a few more months like this would wipe us out. (In fact, we are down 11.4% since March, 2000 - when the bear market officially began - while the Dow Jones Industrial Average is down 23.1% in that period and the Standard and Poors 500 Index and, particularly, the Nasdaq are down considerably more.)

8/23/02-Fri.-Went for my thyroid blood test this morning, then over to Trudy's near 32nd and Guadalupe, periodically eating there a favorite tradition of mine since 1980, the last time I'd been looking for work for awhile, then for a counseling position, having completed my masters degree in the field the previous spring.

In that phase of unemployment too I had tried something else, unrelated to a preferred vocation, really just for extra funds, as my savings were dwindling. I went to work for a Safeway supermarket as a nightshift stock clerk. But I bit off more than I could chew, and the job lasted about as long as it did at Target. I wrenched my back badly handling one of the heavy loads. A doctor advised bed rest and avoidance of any stress on the spine for awhile. Safeway was glad to see me go, I think, relieved at no expensive workers comp. claim. But my resources had been reduced to only a few hundred dollars by the time a new position, as a vocational rehab. counselor (in Orange, TX) began, in January, 1981.

I decided then to save and invest all I could, preferably, as soon as practicable, at least half my earnings, so such a financial close call would hopefully never happen again.

At that time too I was at a disadvantage in the job market. Other than the abortive Safeway venture, I was interested exclusively in some type of counseling job. The feds., whom I'd worked for previously and hoped to again, were not hiring domestically, as mandated by a politically expedient and fiscally responsible Civil Service hiring freeze. In Texas too there were budgetary constraints. Few were hiring counselors, whether in government or private industry. Months had gone by with no offers, though I sent out applications and résumé packets, for almost any counseling position anywhere, at a rate of three or four a week. Finally, after a dramatic week of multiple interviews, in both far north and in southeast Texas, I was offered, in the same month, an Army counseling job in Germany, a mental health position in tiny Pampa, TX, and the job I accepted in Orange.

Now the constraints are related to my age, physical factors, lack of a skill outside counseling and case management, and a likely unfavorable rating from "Mr. Turnover," my last state supervisor.

Yet in my favor I have greater flexibility and the ability to wait for the right opportunity. So, we'll see. It should be interesting to watch how the issue resolves.

Today, encouraged by an e-mail pen pal reader of these entries, himself an employee of another Austin bank, I applied online to a financial institution here for an entry level opening, attaching a new résumé word document. The creation of this form, with all its tables, shadings, colored lines, and so on, to look quite professional, was beyond my computer expertise, but Fran assisted with it greatly. I gave her the headings and text information. She did the rest. If submission of a work of art will make the difference, the job is mine!

8/26/02-Mon.-We had a pleasant weekend visit with Mom. None of my other relatives in the area joined us for any activities, though they knew we were around, an indication of how close the extended family really is. I'm sorry not to have the opportunity at least to interact with nieces and nephews. But my brother there and his wife, Horace and Leila, not unlike many in Waco, are very much on the other end of the religious and political spectrum from Frances and me. They are polite, as we are with them, but I'm sure they think we're going to hell, that they are not, and that this assumed disparity is reason for them to feel smug. Some of their home-schooled kids, not having learned yet the expedient virtues of diplomacy, have told us as much.

Well, we all have ways to feel better about existence, Fran and I included. The more realistic, Buddhist maxim that "life is suffering" gives cold comfort.

Through Mom's cable connection (which we don't have at home) and videotapes, we saw several movies in the past couple days. A nutty little low-budget film, "Water Boy," though rather strange, was the funniest of these, while "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" was the best.

We also took a couple walks and had a refreshing stop at the swimming pool in the 'Y' where Mom works.

As is often the case during our stays at her place, the appearance of wildlife in back of Mom's house was quite entertaining. This time we saw a half-dozen deer, relatively close, including four males with antlers. One of these bucks had a rack that would make most hunters feel proud to have shot him.

There were also playful squirrels and rabbits, many butterflies, a family of cardinals, a woodpecker, hummingbirds, and even a roadrunner on the roof!

Having won a gift certificate to the restaurant as a door prize recently, Mom treated us to delicious dinners Saturday at the Outback Steakhouse. Hint: you don't have to eat beef there, though there's plenty, if you wish to do so.

Mother and I did have a couple more productive sessions of resurrecting some of her interesting old memories and my jotting them down with rapid scribbling. These notes will be vital in the write-up, of which I hope she is still unaware, for her 80th birthday celebration, in a little less than two months.

8/28/02-Wed.-Fran and I were awake rather late again last night, to Pepper's disgust. She chooses to get us up about 6:15 AM, whether we're ready or not, but then conks out by about 10 PM at the latest, two or three hours before her Alpha male and Alpha female are both ready for "lights out."

I finally let Pepper exit the house to do her business, and then fed the mutt, about 7:00 this morning, and went back to bed. Fran, though, got up and did some essential shopping at HEB.

Up at 8:00, I got ready and went for my latest physician appointment. The prostate and thyroid problems just seem to go on, with little or no resolution. Sure enough, the doctor took my $15 (and the insurance company's $150) and said to keep doing what I'm doing for another two or three months. If no improvement by then, he'll consider further diagnostics and a possible change in medication. Beyond a certain age, there are few quick and easy solutions, especially with our best of all possible physicians-and-HMOs partnerships. I now have two more appointments, in November, besides one in October and two in January, with each of three other specialists. If I get a new job, I wonder how I'll work in all these exams. Yet perhaps there has been incremental improvement with both major difficulties. Patience is a virtue I would do well to acquire.

This also applies to my efforts toward a job I like. My sister, Alice, with whom I was chatting by phone last night in connection with Mom's 80th birthday celebration, points out that it really is true, as in the popular book title: Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow. However, the trouble is, we both agreed, the money usually follows along so far behind it does no good with one's current expenses. I believe, though, that if you're lucky enough to ever get a lucrative job that you really enjoy, you ought to just keep doing it as long as you're able.

After paying my tab at the sawbones' clinic I drove over to Trudy's for one of their delicious and cheap mini-breakfasts, then to Barton Creek Square Mall, to walk off some of the extra calories and cholesterol.

Preferring to be proactive, not reactive, and recognizing that at my age about 80% of employers will not take my applications for work seriously, I expect, beginning this afternoon, and continuing over at least the next several weeks, to be making five times the efforts I might have needed to at age eighteen to find an adequate job. I'll likely try employment agencies next.

This campaign (and/or a new position, if I'm successful) is likely to take up a lot more of my time. So, I'm curtailing some things. Currently I spend two to three hours a day on the computer. I'll be cutting this hobby way back. E-mails, for instance, will have to be answered less frequently and more concisely. Entries here and in the associated sites will also appear less often and probably in a reduced format, until I'm working and pretty well adapted to the new routine.

I must deal with the "brutal facts" and "hard truths" (from Edison in the Boardroom) about my own employability, health, and so on, without further excuses or rationalizations.

If, after such endeavors and quality time with Fran, my schedule is not already full, I'll devote the extra hours to meditation.

Later. Checked with the county, about caseworker applications submitted a week or two ago. Was told, essentially, the wheels of the government grind slowly and that they'd be in touch in another month or two.

Checked with one of our larger employment agencies. Was told they have no idea what they'd do with a person of my background, that I might try going back to school and getting more high tech skills. Right! So it goes.

Spent the rest of the afternoon checking online for openings for which I might apply in Syracuse, NY, and in major cities of Oregon and Washington State. This quest was a little more productive.

Consistent with my intention to reduce computer time, plus a wish to spare the reader repetitiousness, I'll hereafter refrain from discussing the job search details, unless they eventually take a more interesting turn.

8/30/02-Fri.-Wildlife in our news: The other morning, at Zilker park, Pepper and I encountered on our walk, directly ahead of us in the pathway, and coming in our direction, a small, young opossum, likely only a little while separate from its mother. The dog and varmint were quickly head to head, Pepper excitedly wagging her tail as if she'd found a new mate, and the marsupial hissing and opening its sharp-toothed jaws ready to bite. The mutt stayed close, though, and the intimidated creature grabbed some nearby vegetation for leverage, turned over, and played 'possum, looking quite realistically deceased, except that the ruse was foiled, on close inspection, by its continuing to twitch or jerk in response to noises and sniffs from the doggy. We left it alone while searching for Fran, who finally came running in answer to my call and took several pictures of the cute beast, still cooperatively pretending to be dead.

This morning I submitted an application for an admin. assistant position at a city branch library location. There will be no selection made for about a month.

The problems with my left leg, that were causing me agony while I was constantly on my feet at the Target job, have persisted and in fact gotten worse since then. At first I thought it just an arthritis flare-up, then possibly a strained ligament or tendon. Now the pain seems to be localized to an area about two inches across and an inch or so inside my left heel. My mother had difficulties at around my age with heel spurs, and I'm afraid now I have one as well. I'll be calling early next week for the latest of my doctor appointments, and hope the matter can be pretty well resolved before I try again to get started on a new job.

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