Watching the Mercury Drop

The news is full of dire warnings. The whole world has been cancelled preemptively. So I had Tuesday off as a scheduled vacation day. Today and half of tomorrow is cancelled at work. Only essential personnel are to attempt to come into work (provided there isn’t a emergency in the county where they say that no one except First Responders are to be on the roads. They will ticket you if you get caught)!! I had planned to get together with Saintvi. We were going to pick out new glasses frames for me. Have lunch. Visit. Maybe see if there was anything at the bookstore. Possibly even find a geocache… Instead I went to the eye doctor. Looked at frames but didn’t buy anything. Came home. Huddled under covers shivering until the space heater warmed up the bedroom a little. Eventually I managed to finish the laundry and vacuum. My big birthday celebration consisted of using the oven to make a frozen pizza.

On another note concerning the weather, my skin is so dry I’m flaking and cracking. The humidity has dropped and I am drying out. Soon I’ll be so desiccated I’ll look like one of those Egyptian mummies once they unwrap them! We have a variety of moisturizers. I’ve used the natural botanical lotion – not much improvement but I did smell nice. I have slathered on the unscented, added collagen enhanced, oatmeal boosted lotion for extremely dry skin. Not much use. I tried the Working Hands treatment. Let’s just say I’m not so sure the guarantee is able to be enforced. We need to go to Lowe’s and purchase another space heater and a new humidifier. I’m hopeful that adding effective units the bedroom will be warmer and that my nose bleeds will disappear! Of course everywhere is closed so we can’t buy anything. I’m guessing that there won’t be a single space heater on the shelves when we finally do get to the store!

Monday night I went out to dinner. It took me forever (well, maybe not forever) to scrape some ice off the windshield. On my drive to the restaurant there were at least 4 cars in assorted ditches. I nearly wiped out on some black ice walking into the restaurant… But I’ve survived it all. So far. Wednesday night I was supposed to stay overnight at work in case of emergency. I am on call this week after all. Fortunately it wasn’t necessary and I was able to sleep in my own bed!!

Looking at Bars

During our Christmas vacation in Pensacola Beach, a discussion took place concerning New Year’s Resolutions. Sparky advocated that we should go to a different bar every month. Others thought that was a wonderful idea not understanding that he spoke in jest. We did go to a bar on vacation to have a Bushwacker. My brother in law bought a round for us (all together 10 people and a to go cup for my mother)! I wasn’t interested in it as it tasted too much like coffee and not enough like chocolate. It was a deceptive beverage. After about 4 sips (slowly so you don’t end up with brain freeze), I started feeling very tired and the room got very large or maybe I was shrinking. Anyway I don’t think I’ll sample it again. When I asked about the ingredients I was given the following recipe:
Pensacola Beach Bushwacker
4 ounces coconut cream
2 ounces Kahlua or Tia Maria
1 ounce Bacardi Black rum
1 ounce 151 rum
1 ounce white creme de cacao
1 ounce dark creme de cacao
4 ounces half-and-half
2 cups of ice
1 scoop vanilla ice-cream
Put all the ingredients into a blender. Turn it on medium and blend thoroughly. Pour it into a tall glass. Garnish with whipped cream and a drizzle of chocolate syrup.

No wonder I was feeling tired! So back to the resolution – it has become a running joke at our house. When asked where he wants to go for a dinner out, Sparky starts naming bars – O’Rourke’s or The Inferno, maybe the Little Black Dog Tavern, what about the Chevron, Murphy’s, Ski’s Place or the Linebacker? Some of the places he names are decent establishments that actually serve real food. Others are sketchy with a reputation of spontaneous violence, bloodshed, and mayhem! But I know he is joking. I guess I’ve never understood the allure of going to a bar. You pay a premium price for the drinks, it is generally crowded and noisy, and most bars allow smoking so there is a blue haze that you can’t avoid. You go home poorer, reeking of cigarette smoke, and with your ears ringing (especially if there was a live band). I just don’t get it… I asked Son#1 about the reason people would go to a bar. His response is that he doesn’t like to go and usually persuades his friends to head to a restaurant that will serve drinks. I’m still baffled.

Looking at Bad Mothers

Disapproving gaze
Angry clouds and lashing wind
Whips me with cold rain
Leaves me in the freezing dark
Shuts out Spring as punishment

Mother Nature is not a very kind or gentle parent. She doesn’t have much if any sympathy. If she were a person, she’d be that mother that would lock her kids out of the house and not let them back in until it got dark. She would be that parent who when you had a skinned knee would jerk you to your feet and scream at you for being clumsy. This week she has been flat out abusive! We had temperatures in the single digits with wind chills in the negative double digits – and I’m not saying a balmy -10ºF. No, no, no. I’m talking about a brutal -25ºF where it hurts to take a deep breath. This week so far has been the kind of punishing weather when a brisk trot from the parking lot takes only 7 minutes but by the time you can see the door your hands are numb, your nose is so cold it hurts, and you can’t feel your toes.  Tuesday we had freezing rain that coated the world in a thick layer of ice. Sparky was sent home from his library job and the university cancelled the evening classes. It took me double the time to drive home but on the bright side I didn’t end up in a ditch or in any fender benders (like so many others along the way)! I’m wondering if it is possible to be emancipated from Mother Nature’s parental control. I can’t take much more of her punishments and abuse. Is there a CPS case worker following up on her antics? Has anyone else reported her as a bad mother?!

The above poem is a Tanka – a Japanese form that incorporates a haiku (5-7-5 syllable count per the English system) with a waka (2 lines of 7 syllables each) creating a stanza of 5-7-5-7-7. This is akin to the Renga, a collaborative Japanese poem where different people take turns writing 5-7-5 and 7-7 repeating until the desired length is achieved. Generally 3 people is the minimum number of collaborators and 20 is the maximum but it can be done as a solo project…

Looking at the Freeze

Cold weather school buses
Slowly cruise the subdivision
Basking shark radiators
Swallowing snowflakes
When the cardboard cover
Finally freezes and falls off

The picture above is of the radiator cover (or winter front) on a school bus. Growing up in a rural school district we rode the bus for nearly an hour each way to and from school. Our bus driver, Sonny O’Dell, would tie a large piece of cardboard to the front of the bus in the winter. I always wondered why. I finally found out after graduating from college – the diesel engine would run more efficiently if it was warmer thus by blocking some of the air rushing in, the engine would run hotter. Sonny was always losing his cardboard. If it was the least bit wet (and we all know that snow is wet) the cardboard would become soggy and eventually the holes he had made to tie it to the front grill would enlarge and rip through. Most of the time the cardboard would just disappear – there when we got on and missing when we got off. Then there were the times when the wind would catch it and it would fly off and whiz past the windows the length of the bus. The grill on the bus was much wider spaced than the photo. It really did look like a basking shark!

Currently it is cold out. Freezing cold. And I noticed when the bus came through that there was a cover over the grill. I was a little disappointed that it was a fancy plastic affair instead of the makeshift cardboard cover of my childhood…

Looking for my Sanity

I stand with the door open
Scan the interior
Sigh and close the refrigerator
In defeat I slump at the table
Review all the places I’ve looked
Under the beds
In the coat closet
The boot rack
The laundry basket
Checked the canister set
Inside the decorative teapot
Even dug through the junk drawer
For the life of me I can’t find
My sanity

I do not do well with disorder. I am anti-chaos. I like a schedule and an agenda. Perhaps some would look at me and deride me for may lack of spontaneity. That’s OK. I really don’t crave surprises. I’ve been having chaos dreams where I am required to make sense out of complete and total messes. The latest one involved bacon and a coat hanger. I was trying to drape raw bacon over the coat hanger in order to cook it and also store it. I have no idea how or why except I had a huge imperative to keep the bacon neatly draped on the hanger… Between the disaster at the boys’ house, the issues at work, and a very full calendar, I think I’ve lost my mind. If you see it wandering around please be gentle and shoo it home. I miss it.

Looking at the Foundation

So We have had a little (understatement) excitement. Or should I call it catastrophe? Maybe disaster is a better descriptor. Any way you look at it, it was traumatic.

Sparky got a phone call at about 6:40 AM Wednesday. It was son#1 calling in a bit of panic. Well, maybe not exactly panic, it was more a state of shock and confusion. He had been awakened by a tremendous boom. The whole house seemed to shake and he thought (for an instant having been awakened from a sound sleep) that it was raining glass. Fortunately there was no glass. Unfortunately he had plaster chips raining on to his bed. At this point I have to make it clear we do NOT live in an area prone to earthquakes. By the time he had gathered his wits and his clothes, there was a pounding on the door and shouting that a car had just run into the house.

Yep. Some 30 year old had swerved first onto the lawn of the high school across the street from the boy’s house, and then veered across the road, up the curb, past the sidewalk, up the embankment, smacked the fence and rammed the house. He was unconsciousness and unresponsive. The first responders administered Narcan and he was transported to the hospital in serious condition. The house suffered serious damage as well. The car had to have been travelling at an excessive speed.

I had to go to work but Sparky went to the boy’s house lickity split. It was bad. Very bad. But it could have been worse.

Son#1 was sleeping on the other side of the room from where the car hit. He was shook up but uninjured. The fence, which is still half standing for now, slowed the car a touch so that it didn’t take out the whole wall. The driver is still alive. He missed the pedestrian walk signal, the light pole, the telephone pole, the fire hydrant, and ALL THE TREES. If he had hit the tree he probably would have been killed by the accident. As it is, if he dies it will be due to drug overdose…
If you want to read the news story and watch the hour long video of mostly police lights it is available on line at:
So here are some of the photos:
The pictures above are of the outside of the house.
The red is the bottom of the bumper of the car as seen from the basement.

The photos above show the damage to the foundation. The entire front of the house was shifted. The pictures in the basement are the 2 opposite corners showing the displacement of the cement blocks. It is too early to tell but I think there are some major cracks in the basement walls which will result in some significant water leaking once we get a thaw!
These are the ceiling and wall cracks in son#1’s bedroom and the living room… not a fun thing to contemplate.

Looking to Shake Things Up

I am not a rebel. I have a reputation for being a rule follower. And I do “color in the lines” because that is part of what makes me effective in what I do. This black/white view seems to seep into many aspects of my daily life. It even is seen in my poetry. I love poetry and my favorite types of poems are ones which have all sorts of strict parameters. I adore writing things like a Kyrielle (4 stanzas of 4 lines – 8 syllables per line with a rhyme scheme of aabB, ccbB, ddbB, eebB) or a Lira (5 lines with a syllable count of 7/11/7/7/11 and a rhyme scheme of ababb) and even a Pantoum (interlocking 4 line stanzas – lines 2 & 4 become lines 1 & 3 in the following stanza. Paired lines rhyme, closed using lines 1 & 3 of the 1st stanza and lines 2 & 4 of the last). There are lots of complicated forms. You can see I’m a little traditional in my writing. I was doing some reading and there is a controversy brewing over a new (or not so new) poetical form (or not a form depending on whose opinion you favor). And I’m going to shake things up.

I’m referring to instapoetry. It is a modern poetry form that is a type of free verse, lacking capitalization and punctuation except at the very end. There can be as few as 2 lines or as many as 12. They are not haiku, there are no syllable requirements, or meter, or rhymes. They often employ poetical devises such as simile, metaphor, and catachresis. The criticisms seem to be splitting hairs – is it art or artful personal promotion? Is it poetry or proverb? Is it modern and new or is it simply plagiarism of an older form (Shakespeare)? I’m not sure. But I’m going to give it a go and you can draw your own opinions!

splinters pierce palms
shatter to stab souls
In the end require
extraction for healing.

Looking at Designer Dogs

OK. I’m stepping up onto my soap box. I know with the national news I should be talking about the political scene or the latest natural disaster – but I’m not. I’m stepping up to the podium to have a rant on a topic that irritates and perturbs me beyond all reason. Designer Dogs. Yep the current trend to create mutt dogs and then give them goofy names and charge exorbitant amounts of money to unsuspecting consumers (and if you didn’t take the time to vote then you can’t complain about the state of our government).

The purebred dog is one that has been bred selectively over hundreds of years to produce a specific size, color, and most importantly temperament – Every. Time. Yep. That’s the key and the litmus test of a purebred animal. You have 2 black Labrador Retrievers and you breed them. YOU WILL GET BLACK LABRADOR RETRIEVERS!!!!! You can estimate with a very tight margin of error the maximum and minimum height and weight for males and females. You will have a very good idea of the energy level and the inherited predisposition for intelligence, trainability, and social temperament for the breed. Not to mention you will know what they will look like and the type of hair coat and color. There is no guessing and no surprises.

I opened the newspaper and discovered nothing but advertisements for mixed breed designer dogs. The list included: Pomshih (Pomeranian x Shih tzu), Daniff (Great Dane x Mastiff), Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle), Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever x Standard Poodle), Poochi (Poodle x Chihuahua), Pomchi (Pomeranian x Chihuahua), Shepsky (German Shepherd x Siberian Husky), Dorkie (Dachshund x Yorkshire Terrier), Cavachon (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Bichon Frise) and Puggle (Pug x Beagle). Edit: just saw a new one a Roxer (Rottweiler x Boxer) which if that isn’t a bonanza for the veterinary profession I don’t know what is! The boxer is a cancer factory with lots of problems and the rottweiler has hip dysplasia and joint problems including arthritis which does NOT improve this breed’s disposition as it ages… The price tags attached to these mutt dogs ranged from $400 to $650! This is more than many of the purebred puppies listed ($250 for Miniature Poodles and $275 for Boxers). The people selling these mixed dogs are laughing all the way to the bank! I can’t believe people are so foolish to spend lots of money on a mutt. I’m thinking the Humane Societies and the City Pounds should start labeling the dogs with designer breeds and charging a little more. They would be hot tickets and be adopted instantly.

I am well versed in genetics and I recognize the phenomenon of “hybrid vigor” by which you introduce new genes into a closed line in hopes of minimizing the expression of recessive traits. Those persons advocating designer breeds tout so many benefits – healthier animals, getting the best of 2 different breeds, creating “hypoallergenic” animals, to name a few. I am a Registered Veterinary Technician and having worked in veterinary clinics, I can tell you that this is rarely the case. Invariably the pups from this kind of cross end up with the worst of the 2 breeds. It is a rare instance when they dodge the medical issues AND the other behavioral issues. Poodles have been over bred to the point that they are real cash cows for the veterinary profession – heart problems, knee problems, collapsing trachea, bad ears and a predisposition to dental issues. The Dachshund is known for spinal disc issues, auto immune issues, and a bad temper. Yorkies, Pomeranians, and Chihuahuas all have very small bladders resulting in house breaking problems. The Chihuahua is known for hydrocephaly (water on the brain), tremors, and “little dog syndrome” which is an over-sized attitude and an underdeveloped ability to know when to back down. This results in many Chihuahuas being chomped in half by big dogs. The small breeds like the Yorkie require grooming and mixing it with a breed that has shorter hair does NOT eliminate the need for grooming. They will still mat and the hair may even become more problematic! As for the claims of hypoallergenic dogs – it isn’t the hair. It is the proteins in the saliva and the dander. Breeds that are professionally groomed and bathed every 2 to 4 weeks will be easier for the allergic individual but there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog (unless it has been taxidermied and shellacked)!!

Anyway that is my rant. Instead of paying mega bucks to purchase a Designer Breed, use that excess cash you have laying around and adopt a mutt from the pound or shelter. Use the leftover $500 to donate to human and animal charities. Really, people.

As a little bit of levity*:
Q: What’s the best kind of dog for retrieving data?
A: A Labragoogle!
* this was a joke told on the webcomic “Questionable Content” by Jeph Jacques. I love that comic and read it daily…

Looking at Treats

I’m a fan of the yogurt. Of courses some call it yoghurt, skyr, or matzoon. Anyway it used to be a food that was a staple for dieters. It came in 2 flavors – vanilla and plain. It was not sweet. Now it is trendy and popular and it comes in every flavor imaginable. It is also full of calories! I generally have a yogurt for lunch with some fresh fruit. I really like the Greek style yogurt which is thicker. The skyr yogurt is even better since it usually doesn’t have as much sugar. If you have been to the grocery store you have seen the vast selection of brands. And of course the popularity has driven the cost up and the size of a serving down. I used to be able to get 8 oz containers but then they shrank to 6 oz and now the standard size is 5.3 oz! Most of the yogurt ranges from $1.99 for the high end Noosa to $1.09 run of the mill Chobani. My favorites are Siggi’s and Oui but I rarely purchase them since the store brand is only $0.89. Imagine my glee when I found yogurt in the discount spot! Now I know some people would sneer at discount yogurt but the expiration date was Jan. 31, 2019 and I fully intended to eat it well before then. I got Wallaby vanilla ($1.77) for 37 cents, Noosa ($1.99) for 49 cents, Icelandic Provisions ($1.49) for 32 cents and Chobani fruit on the bottom ($1.09) for 25 cents!! I couldn’t believe my luck.
So here’s my review of the brands I sampled:
1. Wallaby was smooth but a little “sticky” and it didn’t have a very distinct vanilla flavor. I still like the generic Greek better.
2. The Noosa was very high in calories and so sweet that it made me crave water to wash it down! Still it was a very tasty treat. The texture was silky. If I ever get it again I won’t use the “mix in” of praline bits, salted pretzels, and chocolate chips. It was too much with the caramel already in the yogurt.
3. Icelandic Provisions was fabulous! It had a firm yet smooth texture. The flavor was bright and a little tart but not sour. I think it might be as good as Siggi’s except the only flavor they had was Peach with Cloudberry.
4. Chobani fruit on the bottom was OK. I like fruit on the bottom but this was syrupy. They could have used half as much and still had good flavor. For the cost it was excellent but I’d never pay full price for it.
5. I didn’t try the Noosa pineapple coconut duo since I got that for Sparky and I detest coconut… He reported that the coconut was tasty with real shredded coconut in abundance. I took that as a thumbs up review.

So there you have it – my rundown of the sale yogurt. I still like Siggi’s best and the Oui for a sweeter treat but the next time I see the Icelandic Provisions on super sale or discount I won’t hesitate to make that purchase! What is your favorite yogurt brand/flavor? Or are you anti-yogurt??

Looking Beachy

The sunrise and sunset over the ocean is completely astonishing. It is both wonderful and terrifying. We visited the beach on several occasions for sunrise/sunset photos.


Even on cloudy mornings the sun colors the clouds in a most spectacular way!



On this morning there was a rainbow. It was worth it to be on the beach while it was raining and I didn’t get that wet…

I went looking for shells on a couple days and even found a sand dollar. We saw a ghost crab that skittered across the sand sideways and finally buried himself. My sister gifted us with clear plastic Christmas ornaments that are designed to be filled with small shells. It was much easier to find really pretty tiny shells than to search for large undamaged shells.

But the highlight was the bio-luminescence on the beach 2 nights in a row. The locals call it sea sparkles. They are microscopic free-living, marine-dwelling species of dinoflagellate that exhibits bioluminescence when disturbed. The scientific name is Noctiluca scintillans. When they wash up onto the beach and are deposited in the sand, they will glow or sparkle when they are disturbed by walking on the sand or by scuffing the sand with your foot or hand. The released light is blue-white and it will flash for only a moment. Depending on the number, the sand and water can look like they are on fire. We went to the beach (with Xangan Crystalinne) and stomped, hopped, and dragged our feet around to see the sparkles. I wish my camera was good enough to capture the glow. The pictures below are from the internet …