Looking Clean

It is Spring cleaning time. I’ve been working to clear out the closets. I have had a jacket “problem” for a long time. I had a double closet that was packed with jackets. I kept many of them because I loved them, had worn them in years past and they reminded me of good times and held good memories. I purged the jacket closet several years ago and removed about 25 jackets that flat out didn’t fit. This time was much more radical. I took out 87 jackets. It was painful but there were some that I hadn’t worn in 5 years. They are boxed and will go in the neighborhood rummage sale the first weekend in May. The temptation is that if they don’t sell to bring them back into the closet. But I’ve promised myself that I won’t do that.

Instead I had an empty closet.  I had many of my summer things stuffed away in multiple places. My goal was to move all of them into the empty closet and free up space in other places. Ingenious no? Mission accomplished and 2 more boxes of clothes for the rummage sale!

I cleaned out 2 closets including my coat closet and my “fancy” clothes closet. When I finished I had 1 more box and a huge pile of hanging clothes stashed in the basement. Plus I gained a wardrobe that is much easier to rotate with the seasons. I mean, in the jacket clean out I discovered 3 tops that had been in the back that were brand new. I remembered them when I saw them. They are now with the rest in my bedroom closet. I’ll have to wear them soon before winter is over. Of course now that I’ve discovered them spring will truly arrive and they will be too warm to wear! (at least I’m hoping that’s how it works – kind of the same way washing the car in the summer guarantees a good rain!)

Looking to Get Bit

It was a rotten weekend. She had to talk to the police. Several officers commented on the severity of the man’s wounds. “Damn! He looks like he tangled with a tiger!” said one. Another didn’t believe that a house cat could have done that much damage. The police walked all over her house. In the back room the screen was cut and the window forced open. The sour thought that she would have to have it repaired passed through her mind. They poked into every corner, examined all the windows, checked all the locks and finally declared her home free of any other intruders. She would have to make sure to lock her windows from now on. The officer had helped her find a box big enough to fit Mister’s large frame and had helped her lift him onto a towel and into the box. Mister was curled up and when she went to move the box he made a harsh chattering sound. It was all she could do remain calm. If it had been any other day, she would have had to dial the vet’s office at least three times to overcome her reticence to talk to them. She had called her vet and the answering machine informed her they were closed and directed her to contact the Emergency Clinic. Her primary focus had been to get medical help for Mister. She swallowed her fear and ended up at the Emergency Clinic. They made her leave Mister and go home. They said no one was allowed to stay. They assured her that as soon as he was stable they would contact her. There was an empty feeling in her house and in her heart. Monday came after a sleepless night. For the first time in 6 years she called in sick. The emergency clinic called a few minutes later. She picked Mister up and transported him to her vet’s clinic. Now she had to make decisions about Mister. Did she want to take him to the university hospital to have them attempt surgery or did she trust her veterinarian? She was horrified when she looked at him. His neck was bandaged where they put the IV fluid line. There was a red tube sewn to the top of his head that snaked into his nose and down to his stomach so he could be fed. His face was swollen and he had lost his entire regal demeanor as he drooled due to the broken jaw. The x-rays had shown some cracked ribs and a dislocated shoulder in addition to the fractured mandible.  She lingered because the emptiness of her home was disquieting. She had decided that dealing with the onslaught of moronic specimens of her species was better than being in her house. It just didn’t feel safe, especially without Mister.

Here’s episode 7. The story is going on hiatus until after April due to National Poetry Month. The challenge is to write a poem a day but because I only post 3 times a week that will be my posting schedule.

Looking Twice

This ceramics session has been terrible in getting work back from the bisque firing and double that to get anything back from the glaze kiln. I’ve made several items but they are very slow in being fired. I did get 2 orbs back. The first is glazed in Phil’s Celadon with Oribe accents. The clay body was a white stoneware and porcelain mixture (2:1). It is my interpretation of Alisphaera unicornis, a coccolith found in the W. Mediterranean in the Alboran Sea. The Alboran Sea has a huge variety of coccoliths and is home to many of my favorites. This particular orb didn’t come out of the firing as I would have liked. It is glazed in Oribe which generally fires a pretty translucent emerald green. This time the orb was severely underfired resulting in the Oribe turning a matte mauve color. All I can do is shrug and repeat the mantra “It is what it is.” When I first started blogging (way back in the dark ages) one of the first people to comment on a post was a young lady. She was funny because she took me to task for not being happy with my end result due to a kiln error. She commented “if you are dissatisfied, then it is not finished. If there is something you can do to make it better…. it will never be complete until it’s been done.” I was a little confused because once a piece is fired there is very little you can do to correct the glaze. Then I visited her blog and discovered that she was a photographer. Of course photography can and does alter their end product with all kinds of manipulations.

My second orb was glazed in Royal Blue. I had thinned it to get the effect of a glaze wash where the color is only evident where it settles into textured spaces or where it is applied heavily. It was an experiment using this technique. I’m happy with the outcome as it is a good mimic of the discontinued glaze Chun Blue. Anyway the orb is my interpretation of Codonella cratera, a coccolith found in Lake Schierensee near Kiel in Germany. I don’t often find coccoliths in fresh water but they do occur!

Looking to Warm Up

According to the calendar Spring has arrived. I’m not convinced. The temperatures did warm up to above freezing. However a heat wave bringing a high of 37 degrees is hardly my idea of Spring. The higher temperatures resulted in rain instead of snow. It was a slushy cold rain that chilled me to my core. It didn’t help that Sparky had the thermostat in the car set to cool instead of heat! The result was that I needed to warm up and fast. I made soup.

Chicken Coconut Curry Soup
2 large carrots – shredded
4 large potatoes – peeled & diced in 1/2″ cubes
2 cups cooked chicken – shredded or diced
1/2 can pineapple tidbits – drained dry
3/4 t. garlic powder
1 1/2 t. yellow curry powder
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 T. soy sauce
3 cans coconut milk
1 carton vegetable stock
1 carton chicken broth
1/2 c. instant potatoes flakes

To a large pot add vegetable stock, water, chicken bouillon cube, brown sugar, and garlic. Bring pot to a simmer and then add carrots, potatoes and chicken. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes and carrots are tender. Reduce heat and add pineapple, yellow curry, soy sauce and coconut milk. Stir well. Adjust thickness by adding instant potatoes to give soup more “body”. Serve with rice.

The flavor is savory with just enough “heat” to warm you up. The aroma is wonderful and the sweetness balances the salty and the spicy hotness to make it perfect for a cold day. We each had one bowl and still had enough for 15 more bowls. It worked out that yesterday was a Lenten Soup Supper at church and Sparky had volunteered me to make some soup. The last couple years I’ve brought my Thai Pho by popular demand but this was a winner too.

Looking Dead

She was not a fan of chaos. She had to deal with disorder and disaster at work. The last thing she wanted was to have a stranger in her home; not only a stranger but one that was bleeding and cursing and attempting to strangle her cat. She did the only sensible thing. She hid, moving to the end of the sofa and crawling into the little space behind the recliner in the corner. She was shaking and suddenly cold. Abruptly, mid growl, Mister went silent. A large tear slid down her cheek and hung on her chin before it dropped onto her knee. She watched it splash in slow motion. She felt that Mister was surely dead. He wouldn’t give up. There was a humming in her ears like a thousand bees. It was so loud that she couldn’t tell if the man was still there. She didn’t hear the police siren. She remained motionless behind the chair barely breathing. She was a child again lying in bed pretending to be dead. It was something she had practiced. When there was fighting in her parent’s room, she would hold completely still and breath so shallow that her chest didn’t move. If her father would drunkenly rage into the bedroom, he would pass over her because she was already dead. She felt a presence looming over her and she became instantly alive. In a jolt of electricity to her nervous system she jumped up and in a panic bolted into the room. Her flight was arrested by the strong arm of a police officer who reeled her in and put her in a firm bear hug. Her arms were pinned to her sides. At that moment, eyes wide in fright, she saw it all. The strange man was in handcuffs prone on the floor. Next to him was an unmoving black form. Her knees buckled. An involuntary cry escaped her throat and tears poured from her eyes. The police officer gently let her slide to the floor as she stretched her arms toward the motionless cat.

Here in episode 6 I was moved to reveal a little of our main character’s background. You can now understand (at least a bit) why she hates turmoil. Stay tuned for the $100,000 question – Is Mister dead or alive? Because I suspect not a single one of you is worried about the intruder…

Looking at Sears

I remember leaving to go to college. Amid all the angst my father gave me a Sears credit card. He made it clear that it was for emergencies only. Maybe in this day and age a Sears card might not be the best choice. But back then Sears was the be all and end all. They had nearly anything and everything you could ever need or want. I think that in 4 years I used the card once. We had to wear one-piece green coveralls during our large animal rotation. I had been drenching sheep and dripped some of the stuff on my coveralls. It ate a huge hole in the leg that continued to enlarge after every washing. I bought another pair. Of course the original pair was from Sears so it was an easy purchase. Once I graduated from college the only credit card I had was, you guessed it, a Sears card! My father had put me on his card for 4 years and I ended up with great credit. That card got me curtains, new tires, and some uniforms. It was wonderful. I think I bought most of my Christmas gifts that first holiday after graduation on sale at Sears. When I got married, it was Sears that provided some of the appliances, drapes and rugs. My oldest son’s first professional photos were done at Sears. In my current home Sears is responsible for the refrigerator, vacuum cleaner, washer and dryer, and the chest freezer. Our cars have Sears tires and Die Hard batteries (well all except the Prius).

Sears has been the one store that I can count on for my shoes. They carry the I Love Comfort brand that has allowed me to wear heels! They have my favorite summer shoes – Everlast. These shoes are so light weight and durable that I can wear them for urban caching and not worry about ruining them. I’ve found awesome deals on coats and purses and all sorts of men’s slacks and kids clothes over the years.

And now Sears is a ghost store. I stopped in to see if they had any shoes on sale. Well, everything was on sale. It looked like a liquidation sale. They had no selection. Nothing in my size. All that remained were mismatched sandals (leftover from last summer) and some awful hooker shoes adorned with glitter and bling with heels so high they were a danger. I wandered over to the clothing sections. The racks were widely spaced in a futile attempt to look fuller. It was pathetic. I suppose the rumors of the demise of Sears are true. I had asked back before Christmas when I visited and the sales clerk assured me that the store was going to remain open. She said something on the order that the building was being sold but that the store had arranged to lease it back and there were no plans to close. I suppose plans change. Although there are no announcements in the news paper (we are still reeling from the closure of Payless Shoes) it looks like Sears will be the next in a series of closures.

It is the end of an era….

Looking at an Empty Glass

The definition of an optimist is one who sees a glass half full. A pessimist sees the same glass as half empty. What then do you call a person who sees the glass empty? Give up?
You call them no longer thirsty. Maybe they are just practical. The one who instead of pondering the philosophical implications of a glass of water grasps the reality and acts on it.

I tend to be a thinker. Sometimes I over think things. There is a time and place for that kind of mental analysis of action – the chess game, politics, corporate machinations. Often though it is not a matter of thinking but of feeling and then acting. I am hungry therefore I will eat. I am thirsty so I drink. I see a need and I step into the breech. There is no need for extreme thought and a cost/benefit analysis. Sometimes you just have to go with your emotional intelligence and give someone a hug or a kind word or a helping hand.

Why this little rant? Because I see too many people standing at ground zero thinking. They are absorbed in deep thought trying to parse the path that will lead to the best outcome for themselves instead of reaching down and helping the fallen to stand. We are in the season of Lent. This is a time of penance, alms giving, and prayer. That sounds pretty introspective and it is. At the same time it is demanded that we “give up” something that brings us into solidarity with the poor and suffering. We are tasked to “be Christ” in the world – Clothe the naked, feed the hungry, comfort the infirm, visit the prisoner. These are all actions. That means we need to DO SOMETHING! What are you doing?

Looking at Feline Intuition

She had disconnected the doorbell within hours of moving into her house. Most people would push the button and wait and eventually after repeated attempts to ring the bell they would give up and go away. It was only the most determined that would knock or pound on her door if she didn’t respond to their ringing the defunct doorbell. She held her breath and sat motionless watching the camera feed as the scrawny disheveled man pounded on the door. He looked dangerous. He was a stranger to her. She reluctantly dialed the police. She knew that doing so would set into motion unpleasant interactions but Mister had never been wrong.

Her eyes were focused on the time displayed on the cell phone sitting on the arm of the sofa. He had been pounding for three minutes when it went quiet. Mister was not a small cat and with his tail in full fright fluff and the hair along his back standing up in a sharp ridge he looked imposing. He crept toward the entry way and disappeared from her sight. Straining to hear any unusual sounds, she remained on the sofa, feet tucked up and wrapped in her fleece throw. There was nothing to fear. No scraping or knocking sounds were coming from the front door. As she began to relax, she considered moving to the front room and peeking through the blinds to see if the man had left. Maybe UPS or FedEx had delivering her Amazon purchase and the man was a package thief and had gone. Just as her foot touched the floor, a primal scream pierced the air. It was the sound of a cat in a red rage launching itself toward an adversary. She froze in terror as a slight and wiry man stumbled backward into the room from the hallway. Mister had sunk his claws into the man’s shoulders and neck and was repeatedly biting his face all the while growling and shrieking. The worn tee shirt was in shreds from Mister’s back claws raking down the intruder’s back.  Blood was streaming from the wounds, soaking the fabric that remained. The sound coming from Mister was so loud that it nearly drowned out the intruder’s grunts and cursing.

Yes, episode 5 shows us the result of tangling with a territorial cat. As you can imagine Mister’s mistress’ relaxing weekend has taken a wrong turn. She is soon to be so far out of her comfort zone that she may never get back to that zip code!

Looking at a Book

One of the things I decided I was going to do this year was to read more books. I have several books that I’ve read multiple times. This time I wanted to read books that were new and out of my comfort zone. That means I was jumping from fantasy/SciFi to a genre that I don’t particularly like or read. I was at Goodwill on half price day and spotted a book. It was emblazoned with “National Bestseller” and “Fiction/Mystery”. There were glowing reviews from The New Yorker, The Washington Post Book World, and the Chicago Tribune. The title is “Bangkok Tattoo” by John Burdett.
Oh boy. I had no idea what I was getting. This is a murder mystery set in Thailand. The main characters are prostitutes, crooked police, a corrupt army General, gangsters from various countries and a CIA operative… The book reminded me of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” in that it was written by a man and the audience was assumed to be male. So there was lots of sex, cursing and expletives, blood and violence (often against women). I’d give this book a thumbs down. I read the whole thing mostly because the writing style was convoluted and I kept waiting to figure out how the title played into things. I think most guys would enjoy this for prurient reasons. I am now trying to decide how to get rid of it. I’m pretty sure that I could drop it back into the donation box and no one would ever know…

Looking at Forty Days

It is now the Lenten season. As a Christian I observe this next 7 weeks (40 days) as a time of reflection and preparation for Easter. The tradition is for fasting, prayer and alms giving. Part of the tradition for Lent is to “give up” something. The idea is that we should give up an item or a practice that distracts or separates us from God. Children often give up some candy or other food. Adults also give up foods. Although that can help us focus on being in solidarity with those less fortunate it should be something that will actually make a difference. For instance, if you are allergic to chocolate and never eat it for fear of having to use the epi-pen, then setting your Lenten fast as giving up chocolate is not really a fast! Like wise if you decide to give up, say, dairy and the result is putting yourself into a state of malnutrition, dangerous weight loss, or fostering unhealthy eating habits then it is counterproductive! Many people have outgrown the “giving up food” for Lent path. Instead they vow to give up a variety of things including:
Smart phones
Breaking the speed limit
Hot showers (obviously not from these parts!)
Car radio
Well, you get the idea. Another option to giving up is to add activities:
Smile and say hello to at least one stranger a day
Read the Bible daily
Perform one random act of kindness every opportunity
Pay for someone’s meal
Visit a nursing home
Shovel the snow for a neighbor

I am doing a daily devotional with my husband. We have sworn off buffet restaurants. We are fasting from meat on Fridays. I’m purging my closets and drawers (this is really a hard thing to do). And I’m giving up a game I play on my phone called Wordscapes which I find highly addictive. We also are providing non-perishable items for the food bank weekly and putting all our loose change into the “rice bowl” to benefit missions in Asia.

How are you preparing for Easter??