Looking to Feast

Today is the Feast of St. Joseph. This used to be a big deal in the Catholic Church. In fact, failure to observe this feast could get you excommunicated! You could get into deep trouble if you opened your business, conducted business of any kind (even going grocery shopping), or going to work… I suppose the dawn of the industrial age spelled the beginning of the end for this day of celebration in the U.S. So what does that have to do with anything you are asking. Well, our very energetic, charismatic, and traditionalist priest has decided that “the parish that parties” is going to put on an Italian Feast of St. Joseph tonight. Sparky has to work and I’m not gung-ho to attend alone.

Last week at work, I organized a Pi Day celebration. Staff participated by bringing in pies according to a category (meat, egg, cheese, fruit, or cream). They got to choose their category on a first come first serve basis. I made an Impossible Cheeseburger Pie. In my special Pi Day pie plate!

There were several other pies – a turkey pot pie, and 4 different quiches. Of course there were a preponderance of dessert pies. Most of them were store bought as we have a fair number of cooking adverse staff members. Our newest employee made an apple pie which was tasty. Since she was the only person to signup for a fruit pie, I made a “tropical” pie consisting of pineapple, peach and mango. It was a hit and 2 people asked for the recipe!

Sorry, the only photos were the ones I took first thing in the morning. This is the banana pudding pie one of the technicians made. She made the rookie error of putting banana slices on the top – the night before so they turned brown. It still tasted really good as it was homemade! I was in a meeting just prior to the Pi Day event and couldn’t get pictures of all the other pies…

In other news I took some stupid FB quizzes. According to one quiz my face/skin is that of a 27 year old. One that guesses your age and height based on your wardrobe choices announced that I’m 45 and 5’5″. Another one told me that based on their questions and my answers I am 36 years old and I work as a secretary. Another one said my IQ was 146 and I had my PhD. The last one I took was much more accurate – it said my spirit animal was a mouse…


Looking to Go Viral

This little beauty is my interpretation of the Influenza virus that is going around. It is a mixed clay body of mostly white stoneware clay with a little porcelain and brown stoneware thrown in. It is glazed in Phil’s Celadon with Reitz Green glaze accents. It was a happy surprise that the Reitz Green broke blue/turquoise with a touch of the original green. It made a nice lace pattern with in the glaze dots. I’ll probably never be able to replicate that effect. Then again viruses are all about replication!

There have been quite a few cases of influenza at work. We are after all a college campus densely packed with a large student body in a very small area. Yes there have been a good number of students that have confirmed cases of the flu. Even though everyone at work was urged to take advantage of the free flu vaccinations, some declined. So far I’ve escaped infection but 4 of 16 haven’t. That calculates to 25% of our work force has been out due to the flu. The average time out of work has been one week. I have escaped so far… Then again I’m too busy to be sick (and I’ve been taking my vitamins)!

Looking at Boots

Here is episode number 20 of Looking Back – a milestone! Can you believe I’ve already managed to get 20 of the episodes completed?

I love it when the sunlight slants through the window and it looks substantial. It reminds me that there is so much in my world that is conjecture and innuendo and amorphous attitude. Part of the problem is lack of stimulation. I don’t like to watch TV, mostly because the content is plain stupid. I’ve read most of the books in our pitiful library. I do a fair amount of writing. Working on my “Great American Novel” is both futile and frustrating. I graduated from college with the intention of getting some high paying job where I would have loads of free time to dedicate to writing. I ended up in my first job in San Antonio, Texas. I was the assistant to the editor for the San Antonio Express-News. I must have been there 2 weeks before I figured out the names of the people in the desks next to mine. Since I didn’t know anyone I spent the first month wandering around the city. I decided that with the buses and the warm weather, I didn’t need a car. That was probably one of my poorer decisions. The Riverwalk was really nice except for the tourists and conventioneers and the homeless people. I made it a point to stroll along the Riverwalk on my way to work. I had never really learned to budget money, mostly because I never really had much. My job paid well enough and I started to enjoy spending money. One of my tattoos from college was a small long bow with a quiver of arrows. I had positioned it on my hip where nobody would accidentally see it. I decided to embellish it. The artist was really good and was able to insert a wonderful fairy holding the bow and carrying the quiver. It only set me back $300. Everyone in Texas owns at least one pair of fancy boots. I wasn’t thinking I’d ever buy a pair, at least not until I saw the most beautiful boots in the world. They were made of elk hide with ostrich hide accents. The decoration was a hand tooled tessellation of dragons. On top of it all the leather was delicately dyed in blues, greens, and shades of grey. I wish I still had those boots or the $1000 they cost.

Looking Up

Glassy sidewalks reflect streetlight stars
Rain drops tickle mirrored surface
Lamp light twinkles a distant reality
Walking alone in a winter rain too cold for dancing

Ineffective wind can’t lift sodden leftover leaves
Instead plucks at my coat and plays with my hat
Buildings glow with internal illumination
Hinting at hidden lives and loves

I wrap my scarf tighter to hold in my own secrets
Snug against night and escape of my silent thoughts
As the cement turns to glitter and sparkles
My feet splash through ageless reflected universes

Try to tiptoe across streams of nebulae runoff
And Milky Way stars swirling down drains
And the tiptoe turns to a tap dance in the darkness
Because no one is watching except the sky

And so it goes. Even though there is enough negativity to choke a white shark, I’m hearing the dance beat. Some would say I’m an irrepressible optimist. Others label me naive or shallow. Or worse. I’ve been told I am cold and emotionless. But they only see the outside. I feel deeply. I think deeply. I do not show my emotions. Perhaps it is a self-defense mechanism similar to the stoicism of the animals. An injured animal carries on concealing the injury, hurt, and pain for fear of becoming a target. Even those animals at the top of the food chain exhibit the same behavior. Probably to retain their position in the group. Humans are not so far removed from this dynamic. With all the pain in this life which we cannot escape, I still savor the moments of beauty. Indeed I seek out whatever wonder and awe is available. It doesn’t cost a dime to look up and search for a twinkling star or marvel at the brightness of the moon. There is music in the air and a rhythm in nature that is just begging us to dance.

Looking Lame

This last weekend was half price day at Goodwill. That is my cue to mosey into the local stores and try to find some deals. I was only half successful. You see, it is a tradition in our family to give what has been termed “lame” t-shirts for Christmas. The criteria for a lame t-shirt is as follows:
1. It must allude to some concept/event or claim societal commentary.
2. It must be somewhat obscure or evoke the feeling of an “inside” joke.
3. The more cryptic the message the better.
4. There should be a connection between the shirt and the wearer.
5. Bonus points if the color is odd.
6. Additional bonus points if there is a link to a favorite Sci-Fi movie or TV show (past or present).
7. Double bonus points if it makes you laugh.

I was only partially successful. I found 6 lame t-shirts but only 3 were sizes that would work as gifts.

Shirt #1 – a little lame and yet it connects well with the musicians in the family.

Shirt #2 – Is definitely part of an inside joke. There is a connection to the wearer, it links to a favorite show in this household comprised of a variety of geeks and nerd. And it made me laugh.

Shirt #3 – I think it hits all the criteria and then some. The fabric bonus comes into play as the shirt is an odd “retro” textured polyester not seen in these parts since 1970.

There was a shirt that I considered getting for myself. I might have done it if it hadn’t been a men’s size 2X and if it hadn’t been a scarlet red. It had a picture of Beneficence (the iconic statue at Ball State University) on the front and the words “Don’t turn your back, don’t look away, and don’t blink”. Then on the back was a picture of Dr. Who’s weeping angel. It was so good since both boys went to Ball State and I grew up in Muncie. We are Dr. Who fans and it was funny… Maybe if I keep looking I’ll eventually find it in my size or maybe one that will fit son#1 or #2.

Looking Abandoned

Behold! Episode 19 of Looking Back for your reading pleasure!

When winter is almost over and the days do a particular stretch, the way a cat does after a long nap, I start to get restless. I don’t sleep well anyway but the change in season makes it worse. My mind wanders back through unpleasant memories. Lately I’ve been stuck in an experience from college. The archery team had gone to a competition in a suburb of Chicago. As part of the trip back it was decided we needed to stop at the Museum of Science and Industry. I was mildly interested but soon was mesmerized by the cross-sectioned people in the stairwell. There was a man and a woman sliced like bread and embedded in Lucite slabs. I must have stood there examining them for over an hour. When I realized that the rest of the team was nowhere in sight, I headed to the entrance. Knowing that they’d have to leave by the main entrance I camped out waiting for them. When it was closing time I found myself standing in a deserted parking lot near downtown at dusk with nothing more than my ID and a couple dollars cash. I’d left all my stuff on the bus including my coat. I have always been fairly self-sufficient so I wasn’t panicked but I was getting cold and I was hungry and it was getting dark. That’s when I got angry. I headed toward the trains. I could at least get directions and maybe notify the school that they’d abandoned a student in Chicago. Long story short, I slept in the subway, got arrested for vagrancy, spent a day in a precinct holding cell and was finally returned to my campus amid many apologies. I lay awake and go through the different ‘what if’ scenarios until it is time to get up. When I’m fully awake I realize I probably wouldn’t have done anything differently.

Looking Green

Its not easy being green. I’m working on my Green Belt in a Lean Six Sigma management course. I have to finish some grueling online classes. There are six of them and I’ve done 3 with quizzes (I passed with 2 perfect scores and the 3rd one with an 80%). That leaves 3 more to complete before the end of the month. I have to meet with my sponsor and the Director of Continuous Improvement (his official Lean Six Sigma title) who is my mentor/spirit guide/task master. He gave me homework and it is really hard. I have to come up with the business case statement that basically justifies the project from the business point of view (financial benefits, organizational efficiency, reduction in waste, time savings…). Gah.

I have to do a project to be able to graduate with my Green Belt. Other institutions allow you to do the online course and then award you the certificate. Not my luck. I have identified the “pain point”, looked at the inefficiencies, and am in the process of doing my SIPOC Map at the 30000 Foot level. I am also tracking the time spent on several activities. I’ve come to the conclusion that this Green Belt will involve more mathematics than I had ever imagined! To quote Barbie, “Math is hard.” Two coworkers have been working on their Green Belt project for over a year now. I was told that they will officially graduate in April after 18 months. I really hope my project doesn’t take 18 months to complete. I would however be really happy to make it my “legacy” and have it live on after I retire…

Looking at Adult Responsibilities

My sons are on their own. They own a home together. They are employed and have their own cars. However they do rely on Sparky and I to provide emergency backup for some life events. We have always told them that they can call and come over anytime. They know we will welcome them with open arms. They often call for advice when making major purchases. Son#1 had his father go with him when he was car shopping and when he bought his car. Son#2 asked me to listen to different violas as he was trying to decide which one to buy. I went with son#1 when he purchased the new refrigerator. So it was no surprise when I got the phone call.
“Hi. Mom? Can I ask you a question?” (that is the standard form they use when they want something.)
“Sure. What’s up?”
“Um. I was leaving the house when I looked down the basement stairs. There’s water in the basement.”
“Did you call a plumber?”
“Um, no.”
“Well you need to call a plumber and also take a look and see if it is just water or if it is sewage.”
“See that’s the problem. I’m at work and I can’t get my brother to answer his phone.”
“Do you want me to call him?”
“Well, I sort of wanted to know if you could go over to the house and see if you can call a plumber.”
“Sorry. It is 10:30 pm and I’m not going to go check it out. I’ll call your brother. In the meantime, don’t flush the toilet or take a bath or wash dishes or run the washer.”
“OK. I guess I can do that.”
“And don’t call a plumber until tomorrow morning or you’ll pay big bucks for an emergency house call.”
He called back when he got home at 11:00 PM. The sewage had receded and left some nasty residue. I counseled him to clean up with bleach water and to wear latex gloves. He stopped over and picked up some gloves and bleach. His brother came over the next day and showered at our house. The plumber has come and gone – roto-rootered the drain from the house to the sewer line and removed all the roots that had grown in from the 2 big maple trees in back. They were told when they moved in that they would have to do that every couple years… It has been 3 years. Guess it was over due.

Looking at the University Experience

Here is episode 18 of Looking Back. This story seems to wander all over the place but there is a method to my madness. I am from Indiana where we have had, in the recent past, the motto “Wander Indiana” emblazoned on the license plates.

They say that eventually you find your tribe and that “birds of a feather flock together”. College proved that to be untrue. I didn’t find my clique but I found diversion. There were a couple of girls that were friendly but only in a pleasant superficial way. We’d bump into each other during lectures. I could eat with them without feeling out of place. One recommended a good tattoo parlor. The other introduced me to sushi and kimchee. On the academic side, I took archery as the fulfillment of the physical education courses. I was good enough to make the archery team. The attraction of being on the team was that we got to travel to other schools to compete. I managed to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing with a minor in poetry. My parents weren’t too thrilled that I spent 4 years earning a college degree that didn’t make me more employable. The German professor was good for a few laughs and she introduced me to people who made connections to others that held the promise of a job overseas. All in all I graduated with mad archery skills, proficiency in German and French, and an excellent command of the English language, the ability to pick a lock, 2 tattoos, and a job in the syphilis capital of the US. You thought I’d finally realize my dream of living and working in Europe. Nope, it didn’t happen.

Looking at the Thaw

Ice cracking a crunch and squeal
Spring will soon deliver
Snow loses its appeal

Lake ice unable to conceal
Fish swimming shiver
Ice cracking a crunch and squeal

A thaw and freeze congeal
Water rough now icy sliver
Snow loses its appeal

Snow boots no longer ideal
Rubber ice quake and quiver
Ice cracking a crunch and squeal

Snow melts the buds reveal
First flowers he’ll give her
Snow loses its appeal

Spring awakens with a shiver
Water cold rushes downriver
Ice cracking a crunch and squeal
Snow loses its appeal

This is a Villanelle. The name sounds French and maybe it originated in France – I don’t know and I’m too lazy to look it up. This form consists of 2 rhyming sounds. There are 19 lines arranged in 5 tercets (3 line stanzas) with a closing quatrain (four lines in rhyming couplets). So far it doesn’t sound too hard but the heart of this poem is that the 1st and 3rd lines of the first tercet take turns repeated 3rd line of the following tercets.

As you might have guessed this was inspired by the recent thaw where day time temperatures reached 50 degrees. This turn of events was not welcome. Sure I’m all for Spring to arrive, however, this thaw and freeze is no good for the critters and the trees and plants. The robins have returned and are looking mighty pitiful. They are cold and hungry. The earthworms had emerged when the snow was melting and the birds feasted but with the freezing temperatures they’ve disappeared. The road crews are patching the roads as fast as they can but no sooner do they fill in one pothole another forms. Along Lincoln Way there are a half dozen hub caps stuck in the snow along the curb. Each one marks a killer pothole.