Looking to Win

Here is episode 5. And no, I haven’t figured out a title yet. Someone suggested “Drowning in Fire” and another was “My Past Lives”. They are intriguing but I’m just not sure…

The summer after my junior year I landed a job at a boutique in the downtown. It was expensive and generally catered to older women with discerning tastes and expendable incomes. None of my classmates ever came through the door. The other clerks were college students who were, according to my mother, eccentric. That was her way of stating that they were odd. Odd as in they dressed in a Bohemian shabby –chic style and sported unconventional hair colors. Most importantly to me, they didn’t give a shit about what anyone thought. They accepted me. They taught me about Kool-Aid hair coloring technique. I secretly got my navel pierced. I finally fit in. I opted for total immersion. I adopted their fashion and changed my hair color and style. My vocabulary was altered to include the phrases and adjectives they were fond of using. And I mimicked their attitude toward life in general and their critics specifically. Flipping people off didn’t come naturally at first. It took a lot of practice. I’d spent most of my time with my hands jammed in my pockets or clutching my stomach to quell the pain so it was a shock and a surprise when my classmates and chief tormenters discovered I had hands. A real shock when they discovered I had middle fingers and knew how to use them. Obviously trying to ignore them hadn’t worked for the past 11 years. The decision to confront them was premeditated. I’d had a long time to dream up scenarios where they would say something and I’d have a snappy comeback. My arsenal of retorts was extensive. I had a catalog of “if and then” responses. Truth be told, I was nearly paralyzed by fear once I entertained the idea to say what I’d only thought before. Then it happened. It was the first day of school and I was wearing a multicolored patchwork dress with a paisley silk scarf. I had just dyed my hair blue and green and I’d decided that I wanted to wear my green high top sneakers because they were comfortable. It was the cheerleader table that broke out in laughter and started singing that old Cher song about gypsies, tramps and thieves. A switch was flipped in my heart. I turned and purposely twirled my full skirt and flipped them a double bird while mouthing “F – you”. It was a beautiful thing because I smiled and continued walking. The whole thing took only a second and I barely paused. But the effect on the cafeteria was immediate. There was a momentary hush, a lull in conversation and I felt the internal shift. I knew right then and there I was going to win.

Looking Sick of Turkey

I know is is almost a sacrilege to give voice to the idea that one could get sick of turkey. I personally love turkey. Sparky counts turkey as his favorite meat. Still… The week before Thanksgiving I made turkey corn chowder (which made a huge pot that we ate on for a week). We were able to finish it off just in time to make room in the refrigerator for the Thanksgiving Day food preparations. We had turkey on Thanksgiving. I roasted a magnificent 17.65 pound young tom. I filled the body cavity with a bottle of Moscato wine. The gravy was heavenly and the meat tender, moist, and flavorful. We ate turkey leftovers at every meal on Friday the 24th. I had Turkey for lunch on Saturday. Then on Sunday we went to Sparky’s sister’s house for another Thanksgiving – with another turkey. I used 2 cups of diced turkey to make a turkey pot pie, which we will eat for 3 meals.

Me: “I’m tired of turkey”
Sparky: “I’m never tired of turkey but I don’t want to eat it again today.”
Me: “Do you want to go out to eat?”
Sparky: “Sure!”
Me: “Where do you want to go?”
Sparky: “I’ll leave it up to you.”
Me: “What about sushi?”
Sparky: “Wellll, I guess that would be fine. Do you want to eat at Hibachi Grill or East of Tokyo?”
Me: “East of Tokyo!!!”

In rebellion against eating any more turkey, we went out to eat. Now, before I wax poetic about sushi, you should know that Sparky is lukewarm about sushi. He overdosed on sushi when we were travelling once and has never embraced it as warmly since. But he really likes East of Tokyo.

We started our meal with shumai and harumaki. We followed the appetizers with an order of a bagel roll (smoked salmon and cream cheese), a volcano roll (deep fried sweet potato, spicy crab stick inside, with spicy mayo, eel sauce and panko on top), Golden Dream Roll (shrimp tempura and avocado inside, topped with sliced mango and mango sauce), Spicy Salmon Roll (fresh chopped salmon and roe with spicy sauce), and a Crunchy California Roll (a tempura fried roll made with crab stick, avocado and cucumber). It was very good. Although I’m the “spice wimp” I loved the volcano roll and the spicy salmon roll. Sparky said they were too spicy for his tastes! When the second order came, It was so beautiful I had to take a photo!

At the top left is a selection of sashimi including salmon, tuna, yellowtail, swordfish, and mackerel. The bottom left has two nigri of flying fish roe. The entire right side contains two Playboy Rolls (crab and sweet potato inside with salmon and mango on top with a mango puree sauce over it all). This was so delicious that I was seriously considering ordering another one – but I was really full. Hands down this is the best sushi in town! Although the Golden Dragon Roll is good if you like avocado, the Playboy Roll is absolutely my favorite. After this little interlude, I will be making some more turkey leftovers. As soon as the pot pie is gone I will attempt turkey enchiladas…

Looking Thankful

This last month has seen a rash of Facebook posts on a “7 days of Thanksgiving/Being Grateful” theme. They were interspersed with the “7 Days of Black & White Photographs”. And a few enterprising individuals combined them for a unique look into their lives. I am not a photographer. Sure I can snap a photo with my cell phone but I lack a vision and that “eye” that separates the casual shutterbug from the serious photographer/ photographic artist. That said I will post a couple photos here that I think are interesting. I’m also going to let you in on a few things I’m extremely thankful for.

1. I am thankful for my husband. He is steadfast. He demonstrates those qualities that define true love: he is patient, kind, forgiving, and generous. He isn’t boastful or arrogant, he isn’t resentful or irritable. He is never rude. He is honest. (I think I got very lucky in love – might explain my inability to win at Euchre)

2. I am thankful for my children. I have 2 sons. Both are intelligent and talented. They have never been in trouble with the law. They are both employed. They are independent and making their way in life. They have made me proud (and neither has shown a lapse in judgement and gotten a tattoo or piercings).

3. I am thankful for full-time employment at a good wage with a pension and good health insurance. For all the stresses that my job deposits in my lap, I’m still enjoying the challenges and experiences that each day brings.

4. I’m thankful for family. This includes my mother and sisters, the in laws and outlaws, nieces and nephews, and the assortment of great nieces and great nephews. Family should not be disregarded. They are integral to who you are and where you fit into the world. I am fortunate to have married into a wonderful family – warm and accepting, and fun to be around. We gather every Sunday evening to visit, eat ice cream, and put together jigsaw puzzles. It isn’t about the ice cream or the puzzles – it is about connecting with each other and showing them we care about what is happening in their lives.

5. I’m thankful for my close friends – both of them. They are the people who remind me when I’m having a bad day that there are things to laugh about. They are my co-conspirators and confidants. I can count on them and they can count on me – it is a wonderful thing to have that kind of connection. They are the sisters I chose for myself!

6. I’m thankful for my faith. It has been a foundation in my life ensuring that no matter the troubles, I am beloved of God. There are many who do not have the sense of a spiritual safety net. They do not have hope or expectation of reward for living up to a moral code. I am not going to lie and say I’ve never questioned or doubted. I will say that even in moments of disbelief, I was still open to the possibility. That small still voice penetrated the fog and guided me to safety.

7. I am thankful for my talents. I can do marvelous things in the context of my job. I assist research and teach the next generation of investigators to work with compassion, care and expertise. My mother thinks I am a brilliant writer and poet. She is usually right about things so I’m going to accept her judgement on that score. I dabble in ceramic sculpture and seem to be fairly good at it having sold several pieces and won a few awards. It is true that talent is only realized if used. I’m trying my best to use them.

Looking for a Disguise

Here is episode 4 – I’m still entertaining title suggestions. I’ve decided against “The Halls of Valhalla”.

I can still hear them. “Hey de-Merit!” and “Yo Biddy!” The nicknames followed me to high school. Demerit and Biddy were tolerable. It was when the in crowd started with the “I bet your middle name is Va-jay-jay” and the more cerebral group’s insult of “I guess it isn’t over until she sings” complete with finger pointing that got to me. I was never a physically violent person but I can totally understand why some kids went postal in high school. As for me, I internalized my anger. My freshman year I was able to eat again and put on about 40 pounds. That only made the taunts worse. By my junior year I was verging on anorexia. Funny thing was that the teasing didn’t stop it just changed from fat shaming to thin shaming. My mother in collusion with the psychologist managed to get me to give up the poncho and the baggy clothes, which had changed from camo to Goth black. My first day wearing skinny jeans and a trendy top resulted in silence until the harpies figured out who I was. Then it redoubled. I felt naked without my disguise. The first thing I did when I got home was dig through the laundry in an attempt to find my old clothes. They weren’t there. I eventually checked the garbage but all I could find was the poncho. The only reason it was still there was that it got stuck to the bottom in some nasty residual goo. I opted to leave it.

Looking at Nature’s Banquet

My friend Julie called me and left a cryptic message. She was very excited and was bursting with news about “those white things” that I like. I had no idea what she was talking about. I called her back and still wasn’t sure what had her so excited. Eventually I figured it out. So I made a trip to her backyard. Last year she had found a puffball and her husband plucked it from the ground and put it in a bag in the garage and then called me 2 days later. No good. The puffball mushroom is considered a delicacy but must be eaten fresh (within 24 hours of harvest). They also have to be pure white and not discolored. They start to get yellowish or brownish when they are mature and that make them bitter and not good to eat. I ran over to her house.

As we rounded the corner of the house you could see them practically glowing as they were nestled in the ground cover.

Upon closer inspection the smaller of the two had already been nibbled on by the local wildlife – probably the squirrels. When I say smaller I’m talking cantaloupe sized. The larger one was the size of a honeydew melon. It too had several chunks missing where the critters that wander our neighborhood had stopped for an early Thanksgiving banquet. I’m not sure if deer eat them but I wouldn’t put it past them. The larger one was bound up in the vines of the ground cover making it nearly impossible to extract without ripping away her plants.

Although it was tempting to grab the smaller one, I decided to leave them both so that the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks, birds and assorted other beasts would have something to eat once winter really arrives. I made my friend’s husband promise not to remove them and to instead let them add to the banquet that is present in their backyard. (They have oak trees that produce a ridiculous amount of acorns, pine trees, and current bushes that line the perimeter.)

As I feast this Thanksgiving, I’m happy to know that the wildlife will be feasting as well!

Looking Sluggish

We’ve had some very cold weather lately. In fact it has been so cold that I broke out the velour thermal blanket for the bed and my flannel pajamas. Then it got warm and by warm I mean in the mid 60s. It was only for a couple of days. One of those days was last Sunday. We gathered at Sparky’s parents house for our regular Sunday night ice cream social. As we were leaving we discovered a beautiful creature on the sidewalk just one step from the porch.
It was about 9:00 PM and the temperature had dropped. So our visitor was a little sluggish. He was just trying to make it into the grass and probably a nice warm place under some mulch or leaf litter…


To give a little perspective to the size of this guy, he was about as long as my hand and thicker around than my thumb… Such a pretty pattern!

Looking Back at Middle School

Episode 3 of the Merit V. Bidwell saga. Sparky suggested the title “The Trials and Tribulations of Merit V. Bidwell” but I have rejected that one. I’m open to other suggestions.

I don’t much like to remember middle school. The high point was in 8th grade English class when I submitted a poem to the scholastic poetry competition and it was accepted for publication. It felt pretty good to have something recognized. Of course I hadn’t let my parents read it, nor the English teacher. I had submitted it on my own by forging a couple signatures and asking the library aide to give me a hand. I was riding pretty high until my parents read it in the copy of the journal that was sent to the house. It was a very angst-ridden adolescent poem about death and dying and exploring the possibility that there was no God. It makes me chuckle now but the fire storm that it precipitated was horrific. I think I spent every Thursday for a year in one or another psychologist’s office. By that time I’d decided that the only way to escape my life was to embrace the crazy. I cultivated an “up is down and down is up” approach. If my parents made any statement of opinion or fact I immediately took the opposite stance. It didn’t matter the topic, venue, or company, I was going to be contrary. At one point I was evaluated for Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Sadly I wasn’t able to convince the psychologist. Instead I had so many “time-outs” that I developed a rich fantasy life. That of course alienated me further from my peers. I just didn’t want to care but that is easier said than done. I did care and it ate at me. The end result of 8th grade should have been a moment of rejoicing instead I was in the hospital having my ulcer cauterized with a laser. Yeah, I was hoping that high school would be better.

Looking at a Birthday Gift

Today would be my father’s 85th birthday. For the last 9 years my father’s ashes have resided in the faux wood cardboard box that the mortuary placed them in. On several occasions I have considered purchasing or making an appropriate urn as an upgrade to his current residence. After several urns were made for special rabbits from work, I decided it was time to make one for my father. My original idea was an urn with ginkgo leaves. I envisioned the leaves gently falling in a random (and sparse) pattern at the top becoming a dense jumble at the base. When it came down to it the ginkgo didn’t speak to me. It wasn’t a symbol that reminded me of my father. Instead I left the jar plain. I topped the lid with a single acorn. It is understated. It is a symbol of possibility and the intention to greatness. It reminds me that my father was strong. He was not a showy person. He wore white socks and white shirts and a white hat. Not that he was milquetoast. He was quiet in his convictions, stern and stoic. Like acorns dropping from trees and “bonking” unsuspecting pedestrians, he had a sense of humor. The acorns fall producing sustenance but most of all the anticipation of another generation of mighty oaks. My father’s legacy lives on in me and my sisters and in our sons and daughters. I’m hopeful that there will be more trees and more acorns.


Looking to Hang On

The last leaf pick-up was announced. They will begin to convert the trucks from leaf removal to snow removal the week of Thanksgiving. The last pick-up for our neighborhood is next Tuesday. I’m pretty sure we will be bagging leaves to be hauled to the landfill. My drive to work takes me along a scenic route lined with trees. These trees have just started to get a tinge of color to the leaves. They are all firmly attached and show no real signs of letting go of the branches. At work the trees are starting to show more color but they are interspersed with trees that remain a verdant green. Again there are no signs that the landscape crews will be doing any raking or leaf blowing in the near future. Although I worry that the late falling leaves will coincide with a heavy snow fall and result in killing the lawn, I can’t help but admire the tenacity of the leaves. I suppose we are all like the leaves. We live and eventually die. I also think that many people are like those leaves that refuse to let go. We remain green and continue to flutter like flags in the wind. Whether you consider it stubbornness and defiance (holding a negative connotation) or a zest and zeal for life (in a more positive light) we as a species are motivated to hang on – to life!

Looking to Fly Under the Radar

Here is episode 2 in my new story. I’m not sure what title I’m going to go with. For now I’m calling it the Merit V. Bidwell saga. Enjoy!

Nothing was as it seemed. That’s what I kept telling myself. Every day I struggled to make it through classes where nothing came easily. However I was learning; learning to keep my head down to avoid confrontation and that all effort was eventually rewarded. They were valuable life lessons. I also learned stealth, deception, strategic thinking, and evasive maneuvers. Then I moved from the elementary school to junior high. Each day was a battle and I tried to avoid being a casualty. Anyone that was remotely trustworthy metamorphosed to an enemy seemingly overnight. Everyone had a personal vendetta against me. I couldn’t figure it out. At one point in 7th grade I told my parents that I wanted to move in with my Aunt Eve. I figured she lived far enough away that I could have a fresh start in a completely different school. She was also very hip and dressed in the latest fashion so I could probably borrow some of her clothes and be just as cool. My parents were not willing to even entertain the possibility. I think I spent the better part of 7th grade bouncing from in school suspension to doctor’s visits. I managed to make it to 8th grade with a gastric ulcer; stress induced seborrheic dermatitis, cystic acne, and a Pepto-Bismol habit. Fun times, let me tell you. As for things not being what they seemed, I wore oversized U.S. Army issue fatigues and a homemade poncho. At home I pulled my hair back into a neat ponytail but at school it hung over my face so that I looked like Cousin It. I don’t think anyone knew what color my eyes were or that I had acne. I suppose that was part of the reason I did it.