April 30, 2008

The Heartless Stone - Fianna's Report, Part 1

A few weeks back at church, Dikembe Mutombo was mentioned. He is from the Congo, a country on a continent that continues to experience war, a militia ruled way of life. Mutombo originally came to the U.S. to become a doctor. Being 7+ feet tall, he was recruited into basketball, where he has spent the last 17 years. He now plays with the Houston Rockets.

A person I work with on a regular basis, adopted a girl from the Congo a couple years back. At the time of the adoption, there were discussions about the treatment of women in the Congo at the time and the need for intervention, and absent that intervention, a need for the adoption of the orphans of the war that has drug on through the country. It has been wonderful to follow this lucky girl’s story since she came to the States, where she is quickly becoming a typical U.S. teenager.

When I sat down to write this initially, I pulled up a few things on the Congo. I include the following quote, not to frighten or shock or disgust anyone (although it will). I include it because I don’t think I can do justice with words of my own on how this is going to haunt me. By including it, I hope it haunts you and makes you understand why I have turned a book into a multi-part blog series.

On July 30, 2007, a report by Yakin Erturk, special rapporteur for the United Nations Human Rights Council on violence against women, found extreme sexual violence against women is pervasive in the DRC and local authorities do little to stop it or prosecute those responsible. Her report also found 'women are gang raped, often in front of their families and communities. In numerous cases, male relatives are forced at gun point to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters.' Survivors told Ertuck that after rape, many women are held as slaves by the gangs and forced to eat excrement or the flesh of their murdered relatives. (Link)

My interest in the region of the world where this is occurring started because of the adoption of that girl. Some time after that, I saw Blood Diamond. Currently, I am reading a book right at the heart of this, which is why this is so large on my radar. The Heartless Stone by Tom Zoellner. I have done some web research in order to supplement what is going to end up being quite a long book report. Otherwise, all facts, all quotes, come from this book. I have referenced page numbers on many portions I have quoted or otherwise plagiarized. This book is phenomenal. I devoured it, I cried, I was moved enough that it has 30+ dog-eared pages and the library has refused to allow me to renew it for a 3rd time. Therefore, I am going to be paying a hefty fine for the privilege of holding onto this book for much longer than I should have. I recommend that you read it on your own. I have highlighted things about the diamond trade that struck me. I have left out many, many things.

Over the next few days, I will be posting about diamonds. I hesitate to call them blood diamonds, because people will say, there is a certification process to ensure that blood diamonds cease to exist. The issue is much larger than blood diamonds. It is a culture. A culture created by some clever marketing over the past 60-70 years.

Sit down, buckle up.

April 26, 2008

I Rhyme With Kermit

Over the last couple of years, my age seems to have shot straight into elderly. I would rather stay at home watching HGTV than go out to the bars. I spend more time than ever before alone. I have become a crazy penny-pinching hermit.

My dear Not Craig has insisted that I become more sociable. That I get off my butt and go out. That I work at maintaining the limited friendships I have.

Which leads to today.

I am a bit nervous about my stupid back. It is Houston, hot and humid with a threatening sky.

I am about to go sit outside, with my pasty porcelain skin, for 8+ hours, on a wet hill, listening to bands that I remotely know. And if I get wild, pay $10 for a beer. And $15 for an Aramark hot dog.

Oh Lord, what am I getting myself into?

How old is too old for this scene? And who the hell are these bands?

When can I apply for the AARP?

I really want the discount at IHOP.

April 23, 2008

(My) Back Is Whack.

I went to the chiro today. I had been sore since the wreck, but upon return to work Monday, I felt ok. Sore, sure, but I wasn’t too bad off. It had been 4 days since I was an assclown and rearended a big ass truck. After working for 2 days, I was hurting. It was getting worse, not better. Not Craig politely asked me to see someone, and to not fight him on it. That last little phrase being very important. Not Craig has apparently been paying attention to my little quirks for the past 3 years. If you want me to do something, even something beneficial to my wellbeing, don’t ask me to do it. I won’t. I am an assclown like that. This time, however, I acquiesced immediately. I knew something was wrong. I was getting worse, not better.

Interesting how polarizing a visit to the chiropractor can be. I work in a law office. An office that deals with chiropractors regularly as part of our practice. There are strong opinions on those guys. One side thinks chiros are the bee’s knees. The other likens them to Satan who likes to rip off insurance companies in between days spent eating small children. I was told I needed to see a chiro right away, but to be ready to spend 6-8 weeks under his care. I was then told that they are a bunch of quacks and to go see a doctor that could actually pass med school. I was then told that chiropractic care is one of the most important methods of maintaining proper health. I was then told how my insurance company would probably sue me for visiting a chiro and not cover any of the treatments. Back and forth…. WWIII in my office, even after we stuffed everyone full of croissants and strawberries for Secretary’s Day.

No matter what the naysayers or the lovers might have said, the primary reason I went to a chiro as opposed to an M.D., was because I hurt. I didn’t want drugs and ice. I wanted relief. A chiro will give that. Even though he might be greasing up the insurance company at the same time. That being said, my ass better not be asked to hang around for 6-8 weeks.

The chiropractor took x-rays. From the x-ray looking straight on, when your spine should be a straight line, mine swayed left and then swayed right.

Even worse was the neck x-ray. It didn’t look completely out of alignment, thank goodness. It showed something even more odd.

Apparently, a couple of my neck vertebrae, which should be occupying separate space with a disc serving as a fence between them, are fused. Nothing bad, nothing dangerous, just defective.

I am over 30 years old. And I am just learning today that I have a congenital birth defect.

My head spun around. How could I have not known this earlier? Is he wrong? Do x-rays lie? Is this a way for him to get more $$?

Am I really congenitally defective? I thought my only defect was my pinkie thumb and my stunning good looks. Who knew I qualified as a factory return?

April 21, 2008

Fun Monday - What Is It Worth?

Southern Doll has created a Fun Monday to make us all appreciate the beauty of life. Those moments that stick out, that make us smile, that we will never forget.

The times in my life that were worth doing, or that I will remember as I age, aren’t necessarily specific moments just yet. To me, it is a way of living, without regret, not holding back.

I give everything to those I love. It has caused me pain, caused me to have been taken advantage of, caused tears. However, those things don’t matter. There will always be something bad that comes out of good. The point is to just ignore that, and focus on the good side.

How about a few specifics...

1. I want to be remembered as the girl that shared her allowance, spending all of it on playing video games with her best friends. And later, as the friend that shared her paycheck to help out with a friend's rent.

2. I want my nieces to remember receiving gifts out of the blue from their Tia Fianna, just because.

3. I want Kaytabug’s boys to know that although they haven’t met me, that I love them.

4. I want my parents to be proud of the things I have accomplished and to know how much their never-ending support helped in those accomplishments.

5. I want to be remembered as the girl that may have broken hearts, but did so compassionately and never with malice.

6. I want to be remembered as the hardest working woman in legal. And the goofiest.

7. And the hardest working woman in everything else. And the goofiest.

8. I want the friends that have slipped through, that aren’t as close anymore, to always remember me fondly.

9. I want to find those old friends and make them close again.

How about you?

April 19, 2008

Moving On

As can be seen in yesterday’s post, my beloved Corolla is no more. It has met a tragic end of a beautiful life. As I write this, my neck aches because it is the night of the wreck.

I have had just a short time to reflect on the events of today and of the loss of my beloved Corolla. It is so silly how much that car meant to me. It was a transitional car. A car bought when I was just 22. A very young and stupid 22. The number of events that have happened in those years is crazy. The amount of my life that was spent in that car. The trips made in it. The tears shed. The laughs laughed. That car has a ton of memories for me. It embodied who I was for so long.

My feelings, yes I know. Silly. Just Silly.

To me, I buy cars to last me their entire lifetime. I wait until their wheels fall off….or in this instance, their hoods. I plan to spend years as the owner of my new car. Years that are sure to hold so many splendid memories. Years that have been contemplated in detail throughout the decision to buy this certain car.

I cannot wait to see how far the new car goes. To the future 8 years. What those will incorporate. The things I will experience in that vehicle. My smile right now is so big it hurts.

How excited I am. Excited for the years ahead. The future I am building with Not Craig.

Closing the door (but not the hood…which is impossible to close) on my past. Opening the door (and the sunroof) to my future.

Oh, what a bright future this is turning out to be.

April 18, 2008

This Is The End

Beautiful Friend.

April 7, 2008

How You Doing?

The hard drive replacement mentioned last week hasn’t happened yet. But don’t worry, it will happen. Just on Fianna time. It took 73 days to get my lock fixed after some asshat screwed it up. 73 days, people! 73 days of unlocking my car from the passenger side. 73 days of walking up to my driver’s side door, trying to stick a key in the mangled lock, kicking the door, walking around to the passenger side door, and wiggling the key trying to get the faulty power locks to work.

My car …. A valet nightmare. First off, it is a Corolla. An old Corolla that is parked under a tree. A very shedding (shed-filled, shed-y??) tree, I might add. Now, if possible, I avoid the valet-ing. Because come on, who am I impressing or acting all important like with a 10 year old leaf-covered Corolla? It ain’t impressive.

My power window broke some time back. It needs a new motor that, when added in with the labor cost, is more expensive than my car. So… it ain’t happening. I can’t roll down my driver’s side window. Every drive-up ATM, every fast food window, every homeless person donation, has to occur through an opening of the door. This, of course, is a hassle, but no biggie. You get accustomed and adapt. However, this causes mass confusion and embarrassment when a stranger is driving said vehicle. So I must explain to any valet, oil change dude or dear friends and family – Do NOT roll down the window! Do Not! It will go down about 2 inches and stop. It won’t go down any further and it won’t go back up. Of course, with my penchant for expedient car repairs, when my inside door handle broke, I got it fixed, oh, probably 73 days after it broke. When I had to go to a valet during that time period, it was an adventure, don’t roll down the window, when you open the door – clasp this wire, pull out and then down and click your tongue four times, say “blueberry” and the door will open. The valet didn’t understand a word I said, got into my car, rolled the window down and although he was able to get in the car, due to the functioning outside handle, he couldn’t get out.

Wait. What was I discussing? Oh, computer hard drives. It will happen one day. Maybe.

As for what I did that prevented the hard drive work, I spent all day Saturday in my pj’s. I cleaned and organized and watched Lord of the Rings while asking Not Craig every 6 minutes, “What did he say?” While I understand the genius behind the LOTR stories and movie, mmm, not my cup o’ tea.

I slept until noon thirty on Sunday. It was wonderful. I then drove around town, locking and unlocking my door just for the thrill of it. I then went home, and cooked this for the second time. Try it. Even strident haters of the loaf will adore it.

How was your weekend?

April 3, 2008

Dell-y Smelly

Over the next few days, major surgery is occurring on my little laptop. I have a Dell laptop, purchased just over 2 years ago. If you were blind and sitting where I am currently sitting, you would assume it was a steam engine locomotive in front of you, not a computer. The thing is noisy. And slow.

A couple weeks ago, Not Craig wiped the whole thing out. Blanked out my computer, reloaded everything, cleaned and polished up my computer.

It has not helped at all.

In order to be Frugal McFrugalitis, instead of buying a new computer, I searched out a new hard drive.

Could someone explain to me, how, just over 2 years ago, I bought this laptop for $1,400, enough to feed a South American village for 18 months, and now, I want to replace the very mostest importantest piece of equipment in it and it costs $75. How the hell does that compute? Guess what, Michael Dell! It doesn’t.

(The above paragraph contains 7 commas. That is excessive comma use, but I am too impatient to try and delete pieces of text. That is extremely burdensome for my poor piece of crap computer. Now this paragraph has 8 commas. And a run-on parenthetical. And sentence fragments. My 8th grade English teacher who attempted to teach me how to diagram sentences is rolling in her grave, if she is dead. Kaytabug?) The parenthetical is now longer than the paragraph itself. I may be extremely bad at the English.

So if I disappear from the face of the innernets, it is because I became impatient and tried to replace the hard drive myself instead of waiting on the much more capable, technical guru in my household. One day, I should tell you how I bought a new Ipod battery and tried to replace it myself. In the middle of it, I decided that was a bad idea and hired Not Craig to be the supervisor. Unfortunately, this project failed miserably in the end. My Ipod is instead just defective. It works for approximately 15 minutes and dies a horrible death. I will tell you that story one day. Or not.

Wish me, Not Craig and the Dell luck. If this doesn’t work, a $1,400 piece of crap will be flung from a 3rd story window. Although perhaps it is powerful enough in its chuggin, chuggin, chuggin to fly on its own accord.

April 2, 2008

Walk This Way

After reading a post from Trent at The Simple Dollar, I took my Ebay earnings and bought myself a pedometer.

This resulted in the following statement from my beloved:

You are well on your way to fitness. You bought some useless crap to make you want to work out.

The thing is, it is not useless! I love it, am obsessed with it, feel guilty about it, and work very hard to get my allotted steps in. This pedometer entertains myself and those around me.

It is 134 steps from my office to the nearest eatery. A fact that has called my boss to rally for a restaurant in our building lobby. Because 134 steps. Too many.

My coworkers check my status throughout the day. Pushing me to either walk more or for me to just lie to them…

You download the data into your computer which then shows you a nifty chart. You set your goals, mine are 10,000 steps daily, which translates into 5.68 miles. This is not easy. On slow days, I have been as low as 1,500 steps. My busiest day so far – 13,475. Without any aerobic steps, which translates into - I have been worked too damn hard recently. (Aerobic steps start counting after 10 minutes of continuous walking with more than 60 steps a minute.)

Of course, like all good things, too much of a good thing can be a problem…my beloved may have also commented…

You realize you have that damn pedometer strapped to your panties?

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