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10/1/02-Tues.-The temperature is fairly pleasant in Austin today, neither very hot nor cold. We have sunny skies but with many cottony cumulus clouds. The last hurricane did nothing for us. We're hopeful now for help from one of its successors.

I've been working steadily to get things finished for Mom's 80th celebration. Even with several others pitching in, it seems too much remains to be done for us to be ready in time. Yet, there's a sense of anticipatory excitement. It should be fun!

Trudy and her kids left early Sunday. Though it was good to resume a more leisurely schedule, we miss them already, especially so for Pepper, who was thrilled during their stay by all the extra attention and activity. Since then, we've been too busy - and my left foot too symptomatic - to give her any exercise.

I finally had my appointment, yesterday, with a podiatrist. He lectured me on the nature and treatment of plantar fasciitis, then wrapped my foot tightly with little arch support pads, gauze, and tape. This did, indeed, help reduce both movement and pain. Unfortunately, despite precautions he'd suggested and I had followed for a shower or bath, wrapping the foot in plastic bags and a towel, and sealing the edges, the arrangement leaked and everything had to be removed to prevent athlete's foot. Fran and I took note of exactly how the taping was done. I hope to duplicate it after getting supplies today at Wal-Mart.

Took my car in yesterday for clutch system repairs and will leave it there till we're back from Waco Friday.

Meanwhile, I noted a bizarre development while showering this morning, following a hay romp: there is significant edema, itchiness, and some redness of the penis and scrotum. Looked the symptoms up on the web. It seems it is due to a medication side-effect (unlikely per the web specialist, but possible), a hernia, or a blockage among the dozens of feet of natural tubing stuffed into the scrotal package. Hmm.

If I could choose, I'd prefer the medication etiology. The podiatrist prescribed some powerful stuff which, by itself or in combination with other drugs I need to take, may be responsible. It would be quite a coincidence if this just happens to start at the same time as I begin the new pills, but is unrelated. Yet, less than meaningful coincidences happen all the time.

The alternatives are more problematic and may require surgery. I hope this situation does not become critical while my car's in the shop. Besides, there's the Waco trip. We leave tomorrow morning.

A normal size and color of these tissues does not seem too much to ask. But, as a famous, funny lady said, "It's always something."

10/2/02-Wed.-"He tried to kill my daddy." So said Pres. George W. Bush recently of Saddam Hussein, stating his case against the Iraqi dictator. As a student of psychology and politics, I hate to see such a blatant personal motive involved in a decision about invading a sovereign nation. When there are large diplomatic issues and potentially the lives of thousands involved, one would hope our chief executive were making his choices on, as close to possible, a completely objective basis.

This afternoon I had an appointment with my urologist who said I must have just had a bad allergic reaction to the Naproxen I'd been prescribed in heavy doses for plantar fasciitis. He advised taking Tylenol, or a generic equivalent, instead. Whew! Glad nothing down there needs immediately to come under the knife.

10/4/02-Fri.-My allergic reaction is still with me but definitely on the wane. What a relief! For the last two or three nights, as this condition has caused a lot of discomfort and restlessness, I've been sleeping in the front room rather than sharing our master bedroom with Fran and Pepper.

The foot problems are now also more manageable. (I go back to the podiatrist Monday.)

The thyroid has not been acting up at all lately!

Today I finally completed the narration I'll use on 10/12 to help with my mom's (supposedly) surprise 80th birthday roast. About 130-140 folks were invited. We learned this afternoon that one of the invitees, her half-sister, had already spilled the beans to her about the surprises we have cooked up for her. Oh well.

The Baltic Buzzards rehearsed at our place tonight and, afterward, we enjoyed another ice cream social. Everyone ate too much!

I'm pleased with most of the pictures, from Trudy and her kids' visit, that I got back from developing this morning. We'll be sending on several prints to her and to her (and Frances') folks.

Fran has given me an advance birthday gift of helping assure the links on this site are properly checked and, where necessary, updated. It is a super present. Lately I've been too busy to stay on top of that, and yet feel it is very important that the old entry connections are still functioning.

We were disappointed to see another promising Gulf storm pass us by, drenching neighboring Louisiana but leaving our region bone dry. At least we have a chance of rain over this weekend, and the weather forecast includes a cool wave by early next week. A different aunt and uncle, than mentioned above, took refuge from Hurricane Lili for a couple days at my mom's place in Waco, got back home today, and reported their property in good shape.

I found the comments of conservative Republican House Representative, from Texas, Ron Paul, on tonight's PBS "NOW with Bill Moyers" program interesting.

To paraphrase him: there is no evidence to indicate a need for imminent war with Iraq. We can use a containment policy against that nation as successfully as we did against the Soviet Union, which had at times demonstrated at least as sinister intent and capability against us. The Administration mainly wants to use this stirred up issue as a rationale for its new, unconstitutional policy of striking other sovereign nations first at the whim of the president, when he alone deems it appropriate. Once that precedent has been established, it, like the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, can be used as the basis for the president taking future actions, unilaterally or otherwise, that vastly expand our use of military force in the world. Rather than Iraq, the long-term ramifications of this approach, which will come back to haunt us, are the main threat and what we should fear the most. War should not be undertaken simply if you can manage to psyche the nation up for it, in order to improve one's leverage politically or vis a vis other nations. Instead, it should be used only as a last resort, when such action is defensive, is formally declared by Congress, is very well founded, and is truly winnable. The wars of the last century, since World War II, that were not properly sanctioned with a formal congressional declaration of war and did not meet these other criteria, generally tended to be ones that were without any clear and positive resolution for our country. On balance, they should serve as lessons for us not to take too lightly the consequences of rushing into conflicts.

10/7/02-Mon.-Finished the proofing today of my long saga about Mom's first eighty years. Fran will use the computer to decorate it with borders and dividers and to format it. We'll also add some scanned pictures. Then we'll print it and put it into a binder, with plastic page protectors. Before the graphics and pictures, it's about forty pages long, typed and single-spaced.

I took the mutt in to our vet. this morning, intending just to refill an antibiotic prescription and set up an x-ray and ultrasound appointment for later, to get a better handle on what further to do about her bladder stone problem.

But the ultrasound technician was there and available right then. So we went ahead with it at once.

She confirmed one bladder stone, relatively small but with a jagged crystalline shape, so that it must be scouring the bladder wall as it moves about. Neither the ultrasound nor a subsequent new urinalysis was able to help us determine what type stone it is, so an appropriate change might be made in her diet and/or we could tell if we'd need to correct the problem with surgery. We also could not yet discover what is the underlying cause of the stone.

Since Pepper is still relatively asymptomatic, the doctor, even after a new clinical exam, said for now he would recommend we just go ahead with her normal regimen, except that she needs antibiotics and another urinalysis in a couple weeks.

The dog also has elevated liver enzymes and other somewhat above normal blood test findings. So the technician continued the ultrasound to look at all the internal organs. There had been a suspicion she might have a gallbladder difficulty. It looked fine, though, as did almost all the other organs.

However, the liver had a large (over nine cm. long) growth and at least two deep smaller (likely metastatic) ones. This has apparently been progressing for over a year. It is inoperable. Without a biopsy, which has its own risks, it's hard to know how much longer she'll seem in good health or remain alive, maybe five years (outside chance), maybe five weeks.

She could at any time start having severe symptoms of major system failure, such as seizures, loss of appetite, excessive urination or drinking, weight loss, etc.

This liver tumor business is a rather sad shock. She is thirteen but has been so outwardly healthy that she seemed more like a dog hardly half her age. We had hoped she'd live at least another several years. Now it appears this is quite unlikely. Of course, change and the potential for death are inevitable for each of us, but it's hard sometimes to have them thrown suddenly in our faces like this. Pepper is a true member of our little family. Her remaining time with us will be precious.

I had an appointment of my own today. The foot doctor found things are improving nicely and said I can probably stop being a couch potato in another week or so.

10/10/02-Thurs.-We're all enjoying cooler weather, which arrived this week along with about two inches of badly needed rain. Temperatures are still not cold, but comfortable, with highs in the 70°s and lows in the 50°s F.

I was talking with my brother, Ernie, then up in New York State, two or three evenings ago. He said the fall is quite gorgeous there now, with leaves having turned but not all yet having fallen. It snowed lightly there about a week ago but has now melted. Highs are in the 50s and lows in the 30s.

Fran and I completed the saga of Mom's life story, with an elegant binder, title and dedication pages, attractive graphics, photos, etc. It all came to 45 pages, total. The finished project is quite satisfactory. It did turn out to be more work and to take longer than either of us anticipated.

We leave tomorrow for the long awaited family reunion/celebration of Mom's 80th birthday weekend in Waco, expecting to return to Austin early on Monday.

Pepper is even more excited than Fran and I with the lowered temperatures and is much more active than just a few (warmer) days ago. To see her racing around the backyard and bounding about the house, it is hard to believe she has a large, metastasized liver tumor. Yet, she has lost about ten percent of her normal weight.

My allergic reaction of a little over a week ago is still painfully problematic, though much less so than at first. Two rather hard places under the skin are stubbornly staying, cysts I hope. When I'd seen the urologist he was not concerned ("no skin off his nose," so to speak) and said to just keep my appointments already scheduled for next month, at which time he'll do a cancer blood test as well as an ultrasound.

10/11/02-Fri.-Fran and I packed and drove, with Pepper, to Waco, checked into a Motel 6, had a Chinese buffet lunch nearby, settled in for a three night stay, and took a short nap.

Later, Fran and Pepper went for a walk while I drove over to Leila and Horace's, to take care of some celebration business for this weekend, and stayed around for a little socializing. I stopped at an HEB supermarket on the way back, to do some shopping for snacks.

We watched the beautiful, sad, dramatic movie,"Legends of the Fall" on television back at the motel. It proved depressingly predictable, though. Being both freshly scrubbed, we opted, instead, for much more intimate and cuddly entertainment, switching off the show before the frustrating film finale.

10/12/02-Sat.-Up about 7 AM. Got a half-cup of coffee from the motel office, did my morning ablutions, and - finding the large tub with a strategically placed rung allowed entrance and egress for a good soak, while leaving my taped foot out and dry - enjoyed this rented room version of a hot tub.

Fran fixed the fruit salad we're taking to the pot-luck picnic (in a local park) for lunch with Mom and a host of other relatives.

I took the mutt for her morning walk, but a short one, catering to my "invalid" status.

Later.-The day's activities in honor of Mom's completing four score years, though rather long, went very well. She was greatly touched, feeling both quite moved and appreciative. Everyone had a great time. In short, it was a highly successful and satisfactory time.

10/13/02-Sun.-We awoke today about 7 AM and went over to Mom's a half-hour later. She usually is awake by 4-5 AM, but this time was still not up.

After several minutes, I turned on a light and checked on her. As I watched for what seemed several minutes, there was no movement whatever, even her chest completely still. At last, still asleep, she inhaled deeply. I turned out the light and went quietly back to the kitchen. Fran was cleaning up the dishes. Mom soon got up, and we went on with our visit.

This afternoon, we had an Open House for her in a nice setting. It was well attended and conducted. Once again, she was quite impressed. Her friends were wonderful. All said most laudatory things about her and enjoyed doing so while looking through appropriate pictures and scrapbooks, eating, talking with Mom or members of my family, and visiting among themselves.

We wrapped up the weekend with dinner at the Olive Garden along with Mom, Leila and Horace, most of their kids (not Tess), Diane and William, Pete with his girlfriend, Ruth, and Mary.

Late last night our norther finally arrived, along with rain. By today, the high temperatures were about twenty degrees cooler than yesterday.

10/14/02-Mon.-Our motel experience was not enhanced by the fact there were both bedbugs and fleas.

More distressing, though, was that Pepper had a second "accident." That is, for only the second time since she was a puppy, nearly thirteen years ago, but just a few weeks after the first such slip, she has taken a pee inside. This time, in fact, she did "no. 1" on the bed, right where she had been sleeping, a disturbing first for her!

The dog also peed where she was staying, in the back seat of our car, before our trip was over. It seems that, along with bladder stones and liver cancer, she now may have early organic brain syndrome. But it's quite possible this is just the next stage of her bladder stone problems and that she is simply reacting to great urinary urgency (as the vet had said could be one of the symptoms), so impelling that it overcomes her normal scruples about such behavior.

At this point, is it best to have surgery done for the stone (realizing that she could take some time to recuperate to the point we might retrain her in proper urinary etiquette) or to merely adapt to having a no longer housebroken, but otherwise very much an inside, dog? No easy answer.

She keeps licking her nether regions, obviously uncomfortable down there. I'm inclined toward the surgery, yet, after discovering she has an advanced cancer, the vet was suggesting for now just antibiotic treatment for the bladder infection. I'd guess that, in his mind, the option of choice was a bare minimum form of palliative care.

She is in many ways still so vital, though! And it is at least to be hoped that removal of the stone will make her feel much better for awhile.

If the surgery could add a few months to her time with few problems, it would be worth it. And if the cancer means the risk of her dying (from either the operation or anesthesia) is higher, it might also be true that, if she goes quickly that way, it could be a (terrible) blessing, though one that would likely leave us both deeply anguished.

Later. Fran and I have discussed these considerations and are agreed that, unless the vet vetoes it, we'll go ahead with having the surgery done right away.

We met Pete's friend, Ruth, for the first time this past weekend. She is possessed of a dry wit, great beauty, a pleasant personality, and high intelligence. (Less clear is what she sees in Pete. Ha.)

I asked our brother, Allen, if he thought Pete ready to settle down. "No," he immediately replied, adding "Part of him is, and he thinks he is, but another big part is not, and probably won't ever be, unless maybe he has a near-death experience."

Allen, late Saturday, after other festivities, showed us several pictures of his new bride, Nina, and the videotape of their Ecuadorian wedding and reception. Some things are universal, across cultures and languages, so that, looking at the large Black and Latin American family gathering, the nervous couple going through the marriage ritual, and the cute lass making amusing poses for the camera, it was even possible to believe she has little or no interest in a "green card" to (enter and) stay in the U.S. but is simply (naively?) in love with my brother.

I was not encouraged, though, to hear Allen say, obviously besotted, that his favorite among the prints is a fetching one of Nina with her hand out, since, as he said with touching forbearance and no hint of alarm, "she's always asking for money." He apparently has cleared her debts (something he promised to do if she married him) and many times has "greased her palm with cash." It's a pity that Allen is one of the worst of my siblings at managing money and already had few if any savings, tending instead to quickly pile up debts of his own.

We got safely home this morning.

At last, for a change, the high temperatures are cool enough to suggest a jacket.

Our niece, Diane, over the weekend reported some good news. She has about two years of college and no degree. Diane is about twenty-three years old and has been working for a mortgage company for a couple years.

She's just been promoted from a mortgage company account assistant position to a salary-plus-commission account executive job there, and expects now to be earning about $125,000-150,000 a year, a boost in pay of about $100,000 a year. Wow!

Fran and I, both talented and conscientious people, but with little ability to market ourselves, have been amazed at the income advantages folks possess who can put themselves forward and make commissions. While Diane may be very well qualified, often it seems to us that a certain kind of pushy person gets far more than he or she deserves. Yet, as with taxes and CEO compensation, the reimbursement to those with far less self-doubt (or shame) than Fran or I just keeps going up.

Another unpleasant development this evening: following the podiatrist's advice, I waited till today to take off the tape he'd put on my sorest foot a week ago. While cleaning the tape debris off I discovered three small pressure sores, or decubitus ulcers, underneath where it had been. Bother!

10/15/02-Tues.-Yesterday evening we received a call from my brother, Pete, apparently from a cell phone. His voice was garbled and then the connection was broken. A moment later, the same thing happened, except that this time, with repetitions, I heard him say he would call back in fifteen or twenty minutes.

Earlier he had told us, in person while in Waco, that he and Ruth would be in Austin today and maybe we could get together for supper.

Accordingly, we waited for his call back, when, presumably he'd be at a better phone or his phone battery would have had a chance to recharge. We waited and waited, staying off the internet, not taking showers, etc., so we would not interfere with his ability to get in touch. He never called back.

Pete is the Jekyll and Hyde of our extended family. He can be exceptionally charming, which has often attracted women to him. Yet, he is unstable, self-absorbed, and immature. He has a more than minor problem with anger management, but would go berserk if I mentioned this to him. In the winter of 2001, after an unfortunate exchange with him in which I'd objected to his sending an e-mail, including curse words and other objectionable material, to minor children and some of Fran's relations, using the group e-mail addresses from a message (about our family newsletter) we had sent him and others, he began a harassment campaign of enraged calls to me at work and at home, some in the middle of the night. To deal with it, I stopped accepting his calls or responding to his e-mails for several months and let him know we both considered his communication behavior totally unacceptable.

He never did genuinely apologize, but at least, by May of 2001, he had promised never to treat us in that fashion again. And, for the most part, he has till now been as good as his word.

Late in the evening yesterday I sent him an e-mail, acknowledging his garbled calls but that, after waiting, we'd never heard back from him again, and hoping it was not because he had been on a hijacked plane that went down soon after his previous contacts with us.

This morning at 4:30 AM, we were awakened by a call. We let the phone machine answer it, but were ready to quickly pick it up if it were a relative calling about some emergency. However, the caller did not identify himself/herself, and we do not subscribe to caller ID. We heard the sound of silence from the caller's phone, alternating with a couple beeps, as are made when a conversation is being recorded.

I hope it is merely coincidence, but note that we almost never get after-hours phone contacts. Most of those we've received in the last couple years have turned out to have been from Pete. I'm not too enthused about a possible new round of abusive (lack of anger management) communications from my favorite brother. It will be interesting to see how long his latest romantic relationship lasts. His current paramour, Ruth, seems too smart a lady to put up with the kind of crap he usually dishes out.

Since I am at least temporarily without the foot taping, I got up before 7 AM today and went over to the Y where I did lap swimming again for the first time in over two weeks. I saw Tsarina, my aerobics instructor there for awhile, whose class I had to drop on doctor's orders, too stressful on the bottom of the feet. She's still having medical difficulties that more than rival mine and still seeking legal remedies for what has happened to her.

Fran has had second thoughts and now wishes us to wait on surgery for the mutt, fearing that the trauma of an operation may be worse for her than the current difficulties from the bladder stone. If it were just my decision to make, we'd go ahead with it. As it is, though, I'm willing to have us watch and wait. But, if her symptoms become worse, I think we should not delay further, unless by then her liver condition has also become more severe to the point she cannot as safely have the procedure, or, if we are very lucky, it is later determined from a new urinalysis (three done so far were not able to tell the stone type) what kind of stone it is, and we find it can be corrected by an appropriate change in her diet.

My online diary friend, Ana, who lives in Australia, commenting on my nephew, Jay's, love for toast, remarked that she had liked it plain when she was a child and asked when we had first had regular pop-up toasters in the US. I looked up toasters in Google and found an interesting "history of toasters" site, with neat pictures.

My mom made toast in the oven, just on one side, when I was little, after World War II. My favorite then was cinnamon toast, with cinnamon powder, sugar, and margarine.

I don't think we got a pop-up toaster that grilled sliced bread on both sides at once till the early 1950s, when we also got our first (12 inch used black and white) television. I was then about nine years old.

Toast is still a favorite food, but I now generally just use our toaster oven to grill and/or toast, on one side at a time, everything from open-face cheese sandwiches to English muffins to bagels, regular toast, and so on.

10/17/02-Thurs.-I was glad to see in the news that the ACLU is challenging Bush on his use of the terrorism threat to curtail civil rights and subvert the constitutionally mandated checks and balances, thus increasing the power of the executive branch.

I'm at the central Trudy's location again, following yet another doctor's appointment. The podiatrist gave me some medication samples for the sores on the bottom of my left foot.

He said I can start a modest walking program, at about 2/3 of what would be my normal aerobic pace and only on an even, level surface, for not more than twenty minutes a day, i.e. ten minutes out and ten back. Exercise should be preceded by stretching procedures.

He said when this amount of stress on the feet could be done without any increase in symptoms from the plantar fasciitis by the next morning, then I could up the exercise duration in successive 10% increments.

He emphasized, though, that, even when there are no noticeable symptoms, the condition normally takes about a year to fully heal, longer if there are new injuries in that period. So, I should avoid fast-paced walking, uneven surfaces, hills, or inclines for that long.

Lap swimming is OK. So is weight work that does not involve standing, or pressing with the feet. Leg-lifts and crunches are alright. Exercise bicycling is out for now, because it puts extra stress on the balls of the feet, but might be tried for short periods at a time in a few months, and be continued and even increased if there are no additional symptoms by the next morning. Mowing the yard is approved, but should be limited at first to fifteen minutes a day, as pushing the mower puts extra strain on the plantar fascia. Work that involves much standing, walking, pushing, or pedal control should be avoided.

He said that, with my medical history and very high arches, he's surprised I had not been prescribed foot orthotics since childhood, and he proceeded to make molds of my feet, for the preparation of form-fitting shoe inserts.

He advised continuing to use athletic, or at least well cushioned, footwear, and the shoe inserts as well, except during some of the permitted exercises, bathing, or sleeping.

The orthotics should be ready in two to three weeks and can be adjusted or redone if problems develop in the first six months. They should last many years. Unfortunately, my insurance does not cover them (of course not!). So, I forked over $300 today, plus my usual $15 co-payment.

Later. We are enjoying gorgeous fall weather today, cool early this morning, but sunny and getting about twenty degrees warmer by this afternoon.

On the way back from the doctor's office and the restaurant, I saw a red-tailed hawk. Neat.

Yesterday evening, Fran helped a lady curious about the place next door (vacant for several weeks since our best neighbor had moved out for a house in a nicer area) to look around that property, check out the backyard storage shed, etc. We hope she buys the abode, as she seems definitely a cut above the rest of the folks who own or rent close to us.

10/21/02-Mon.-Over the weekend, Fran and I completed an ambitious new issue of our family newsletter. We actually did not finalize it till about 1 AM this morning.

Then, we both had trouble getting to sleep. This problem was easily solved after 2 AM, though, with more romantic restlessness, after which we slumbered soundly.

Went for a short, relatively slow walk last night, in accordance with the doctor's instructions, but my left foot was sore today. So, for awhile yet, I'll need to still take only a minimal constitutional, every now and then.

Nonetheless, the weather was pleasant for my little hike, and I was impressed by a gorgeous full moon. I also saw toads out in large numbers. Back at the house, I observed two small tan geckos.

I was up a little before Fran, got ready, went over to the Y, and swam laps for about a half hour.

Later this morning we took Pepper in for the latest of a series of visits with the vet, trying to get a better handle on what's best to do for her ailments. For now, just a change in her medicine.

During Fran's massage, yesterday, we started watching a videotape of the charming, quixotic, tragic, yet strangely uplifting movie, "Oscar and Lucinda," based on the book by Peter Carey, a good period drama, set in picturesque Australia. I like both lead actors a great deal, particularly Cate Blanchett, who played Elizabeth so well in the film of the same name. The "Oscar and Lucinda" film score is also a plus.

10/23/02-Wed.-A dreary day, overcast, with mist, but so much better than the hot summer weather.

Took Fran's car in for oil and lube servicing at Wal-Mart this morning.

Am canceling next month's appointments with my urologist. The allergic reaction of recent weeks has completely resolved (yes!). Since the doctor has already said he does not consider the prostate condition serious enough to warrant either a microwave procedure or traditional surgery, there seems no point in further expensive exams so soon after the others. My referral period is through April. I can always go to see him later if things get worse.

The foot ulcer situation is resolving well, but now there is a major fungus infection, despite prescription and over-the-counter medications. Fran suggested a strong anti-fungal medicine we'd been given for Pepper years ago, when she had fungus in her nails (painfully weakening them, even resulting in their sometimes splitting down into the quick, so we'd have to arrange emergency surgery to get her fixed up). We have quite a bit still on hand, since Fran's sister, Trudy, had sent us a gift of a large amount of it. Her husband is a vet working out of their house, the drugs kept in storage in their garage. So, I've diluted and begun using it. Overnight, it seems to be making a dramatic difference.

This infection is partly a result of my now needing to wear athletic footwear all the time I'm not in bed or water (swimming or bathing). Previously, there was plenty of chance each day for my feet to air out.

So, to give things a better opportunity for drying, I'm also reducing to three the number of times a week I'm going to the Y, and will otherwise not have my feet in the water at all until the infection has cleared up.

Meanwhile, for the past few days we have had abundant cloudy conditions, humidity, and rainfall. Hardly anything is getting dry. The yard has its usual rice-paddy look and consistency after minor flooding. Due to all the precipitation, I've not been able to mow more than the first one-third of the "back forty."

I turn fifty-nine in three days. As part of my birthday present, Fran is putting my (forty-five page!) account of Mom's eight decades on our family newsletter site, under "misc. archives," after deleting all last names (for a semblance of privacy). I hope other extended family folks may have an interest in the saga and will want to access it there.

The latest video movies I'm enjoying are "Wyatt Earp" and "Living Out Loud," the latter with another of my favorite actresses, Holly Hunter.

10/26/02-Sat.-Another dreary day. In fact, it seems the last two or three weeks here have been all about dreariness, mist, fog, drizzle, rain, one hundred percent humidity, and overcast skies,'s my birthday.

Though, reminiscent of when we are together a lot on vacations, Fran and I have been bickering slightly on both sides over how to drive, communication difficulties, humor that the other person did not see as funny, or...whatever, Fran has been genuinely trying to cheer us up too, seeking to have us concentrate on celebrating my being born fifty-nine years ago.

The mild frictions can lead to my feeling so depressed. Yet it is a time when what is expected is that one just be happy and appreciative.

Maybe it is partly that our cute sweet little doggy is dying, trembling now with the least uncertain or unpleasant thing, and seeming so vulnerable, but there's nothing we can do. Or perhaps it is just the weather and how I react to it. Or that Fran had her period this week - and has been a bit more out of sorts as a consequence - when normally she shouldn't have for another week. Or that my nuisance ailments have seemed particularly troublesome for a short while.

Or it could be it is that I send out e-mail after e-mail, to family particularly, as well as to local friends, and, in almost every case, there are no replies, as if I am already a ghost. Nobody needs or wants to respond to a spook.

It may simply be that I am not joyous about getting older.

Both while sleeping (poorly) last night and during a nap today, I had nightmares.

Later. In the interval I have just received an uplifting call from my sister in California. Truth to tell, we have often been at cross purposes over the years. But it's really thoughtful of her to have gotten in touch. She even sang the hokey traditional "Happy Birthday" song. Groan. My brother-in-law got on the line briefly too and sang his version, which ends with "you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too." Even though he sings that to me almost every year, it's good for a chuckle.

This year, indeed, it might be true, since I've for a few days been avoiding baths or showers while battling athlete's foot (finally, if gradually, beating it, I think!), aggravated by all the earlier taping for plantar fasciitis.

Anyway, in my more moody first part to this entry, while I was speculating why I might be in such a disagreeable state instead of just enjoying the fuss Fran has been making over me, I was about to say what we've been doing (since the last submission), when the phone rang (my sister, Alice).

But Fran has really gone all out this time in helping me get over the hurdle of being yet another year older. In just the past two days, for instance, we've gone out to eat at three different quite nice restaurants, gone shopping, at her encouragement, and bought several (four in total) good T-shirts for me, given (Fran) and received (me) a marvelous mini-massage, and gone to see the hilarious movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which we both can heartily recommend. It may not be superb entertainment, but is quite good and a lot of fun.

Besides all the above attentions for this anniversary of my admittance into this pearly world, Fran has also put a forty-five page illustrated document online for me and checked my diary links, updating all that were down! I am thankful and just regret that the emotions have not always been congruent with that gratitude.

As we were noting recently of her, sometimes one merely has a down day.

10/27/02-Sun.-A new hour, day, week, and year in my life begins today.

In the news, I was encouraged to see that around the globe and here in the U. S. (Washington, D.C., Anchorage, Durango, Chicago, San Francisco, etc.) hundreds of thousands of anti-war protesters, against unilateral first strike action by our country on Iraq, had rallied and demonstrated yesterday in honor of my birthday. Ha. But seriously, this was a heartening development.

It was good also to see that in Washington, D.C., over November 1-7, there will be a "Search for Common Ground" film festival, in support of Palestinians, Jews, and others finding peaceful perspectives and solutions to the enormous political issues with which they must deal.

Happily, Fran and I found common ground in the wee hours of morning, after she'd remarked she wasn't warm or relaxed enough to rest.

It's been a low-key kind of day. Frances gave me a lengthy, deep massage. I took a short walk, still abiding by medical advice to avoid stressing the feet. She and Pepper took a longer one this morning. I did a little reading and planning in connection with our investments. Watched some TV. We both ate leftovers. I went grocery shopping. Fran has been practicing with her clarinet, trying to get back in shape after the summer hiatus. The new opera season rehearsals and productions begin in just two or three weeks. Have also been reading the novel, Fools Die, by Mario Puzo.

I've not mentioned meditation here for awhile. It continues, for about an hour a day. Fatigue is often a handicap in this endeavor, but not this afternoon.

Called my sister-in-law, Mary, in answer to an e-mail. My nephew, Jim, with his college partner, Charlotte, have won several national dance contests over the past months, traveling to CA, TX, and CT for competitions so far. They are due here in Austin the next to last weekend of November. Mary would like to come up from Houston and stay at our place during that time. It's fine by us. But Jim's already told Mary he and Charlotte do not expect to have time to join us for anything, not even dinner out.

My youngest brother, Pete, whom Jim thinks is really cool, was in town with his current girlfriend, Ruth, a week or so ago but chose not to have us meet. I know he has a distant cousin friend here in town, a fellow closer to him in age, and figure they got together over at his and his wife's place instead.

Fran, Pepper, and I plan to go up to visit my mom this week, staying Tuesday through early Thursday. Fran has volunteered to help Mom out with a painting job in one room.

The mutt is about the same. Fortunately, her symptoms are not severe as yet.

10/29/02-Tues.-Fran and I drove to Waco this morning, briefly stopping twice on the way, first for me to get a flu shot and then for us to each eat a quick breakfast.

Later we had lunch with Mom, then all lay down for about an hour. Afterward, Fran got started preparing the room Mom wanted painted, assisted some by the other two of us.

10/30/02-Wed.-Last night we all very much enjoyed viewing the videotape movie, "Groundhog Day," a fine dramatic comedy.

Today Fran completed the painting project and we moved the furniture back.

Took the dog for a couple casual walks. Went shopping with Mom. Checked our sites' e-mails from her computer.

Mom also taught her aerobics class this morning and went to a women's organization meeting.

Tonight Pepper, when let out for a pee break, spotted an old opossum and immediately grabbed it behind the head. Fearing it might bite the mutt, Fran told her to leave it, and she let go. Then Fran held it up by the tail while I took several pictures. When she let it loose again, I took a few more snaps. The dimwitted marsupial played dead for a little while, then waddled off. Mom gets a lot of small varmints coming around because she regularly puts table scraps out.

I wrote the first draft of the next investment article, for the November issue of "Wagnerian Express."

10/31/02-Thurs.-Halloween. After a snack breakfast and a few minutes of pleasant chatting with my mom, Fran, Pepper, and I started back to Austin about half past nine this morning.

The freshly painted room looks much improved. Though earlier offered $100 for the job, Fran did it as a gift, one I'm sure Mom greatly appreciated.

Pepper had no further "accidents" on this trip and seemed rather normal, if anything more than usually frisky, as another mild cool front has come through.

When we got home we discovered some city employees had come out while we were away, to exchange their water meter, and had damaged our water pressure release valve. We had not called about any problem, because as far as we knew everything worked great when we left. Apparently the meter reader had reported it was not functioning properly.

We have very little water flow through the taps and showers now. Except for typical bureaucratic buck passing, I'm not sure why they did not also fix the problem they created. We're in the process of making calls and filling out forms to eventually get this new situation resolved. Chances are we'll have to pay to get it fixed ourselves and, as with our medical insurance and costs, only later the powers that be will decide, in their own fashion, whether to eventually refund any of the expenses. But what the hey! As Candide might observe, we live "in the best of all possible worlds." No big deal.

We had fun this evening passing out candy for the urchins arriving at our door in scary costumes and makeup. But Pepper acted frightened much of the time. We tried to console her with hugs, play, and treats. Perhaps because of all the insecurities over terrorists, snipers, and such, the number of trick-or-treaters was down again this year. We wound up having quite a bit of candy left over.

Fortunately, most of it we like a great deal ourselves. Fran, whose stocks of such goodies were down to almost nothing lately, has seen them restored adequately to easily last for the next many months, till they may be replenished again over Valentine's Day or her birthday. My wife is lucky in not having any compulsion to eat more than a piece or two of sweets at a time (and those only infrequently) and in not easily gaining weight. In fact, her normal activity level and physiology are both such that she has the opposite problem, keeping enough weight on. How I envy her these advantages!

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