Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) is still struggling to formulate complete sentences five months after a bullet struck her in the head, an aide told the Arizona Republic yesterday.

Chief of staff Pia Carusone said that Giffords combines words, facial expressions and gesturing to express herself, and that Giffords can communicate, although she cannot articulate complex thoughts.

When she is trying to come up with a word or a sentence and she's clearly struggling, putting everything she's got into it ... sometimes she's not successful, Carusone said. When she is, there's a relief that comes across her face that she has found the word. But when she can't come up with that, it is absolute frustration.

Giffords' steady and in some ways astonishing recovery -- in the chaotic minutes after a gunmen opened fire on a corner in Tucson where Giffords was speaking, multiple news outlets reported she had died -- has been a source of optimistic news reports about her progress. It has also bred speculation about her political future, as in a March New York Times article that detailed chatter about her possible seeking a Senate seat. Carusone said unambiguously that Giffords is not yet ready to return to Congress.

The only firm timetable is the legal timetable, and that is May of 2012, when petitions are due for re-election, Carusone said. That's a firm timetable. Short of that, we'd love to know today what her life will be, what her quality of life will be, which will determine whether she'll be able to run for office and all sorts of other things involving her life.