Looking for the Shovel

Her usual habit was to ignore the phone and then check the messages later. For some inexplicable reason Lu answered, “Hello?” The anonymous voice inquired, “May I speak to Aurora Dupin, please?” It was less a question and more a request that the caller assumed would be granted. “No!” screamed Lu. The fury of her reaction startled her. She realized that she was standing and shaking and her hands were balled into tight fists. Her phone was on the other side of the room and she could see the screen was cracked. She had never done anything like that before. Sitting down hard, she pondered her next move. Staring at the phone she dared it to ring again. Standing up she marched to the kitchen. She reasoned that she would need a good meal to fuel her while accomplishing the next tasks. She made an omelet and took out her rage on the eggs whipping them until they frothed. Even the toast was not safe as she savagely buttered each slice. With a ferocity normally seen only on the savanna in Africa, Lu tore into her food. Uncharacteristically she left the dirty dishes on the table as she headed to the garage. It took her awhile to locate the shovel. She hadn’t used it since moving in when she planted the privacy fence made of climbing roses and raspberry bushes. Next to the house, just under the trellis, she started digging. Even with the outside light on it was hard to see. The ground was frozen but she persisted, working up a sweat. She labored until she had managed a hole nearly 3 feet deep but not very large. Leaning the shovel against the house she stomped back to retrieve Mister from the garage.

I have to apologize to everyone for Mister’s demise. I promised my mother several stories ago that I wouldn’t “kill off” any of the main characters as I was planning mayhem. No one died that time. This time was different…

Looking Askance

There is much to be said for having a suspicious nature. I am (despite being from Indiana where the population tends toward blindly following the loudest voice) skeptical about many things. I doubt the supposed fun in bungee jumping and sky diving. I am a tad suspicious when government makes sweeping declarations. I manifest some feelings of doubt when a statement is made without supporting documentation. I want to find the truth and not rely on someone else’s interpretation. Perhaps I have a nature that tends to consider most statements as dubious unless facts (from reputable sources) are available. Or it could be that I have spent the majority of my career on the cutting edge of biomedical research. Either way I like to have facts. Which leads me to the current state of affairs. It is hot. It is so hot that the records are being smashed across the US and the world. There are places where it has always (since they started keeping records) been hot. But the records for hottest day are being broken. Places where it hasn’t been considered hot are heating up. I liked to think that people are willing to admit when they are wrong, when evidence point out that their point of view was off the mark. I have to admit I was wrong about folks. Seems that once someone commits to a particular opinion they will not abandon it even when faced with facts that completely refute their stance. Thus the debate on the existence of global warming continues. I could understand if the debate was ongoing on how to best address the issue but it isn’t. The politicos are arguing on whether or not global warming really is happening. We are in a “the emperor has no clothes” situation people!!

When the polar vortex froze our hands
And in my chest an icy lump
The anti-global warming group were smug
Nestled in the pocket of Pres. Trump

Now is a heatwave fiery hot
Once rare but now every year
Icy water is the drink of choice
But ice is in short supply and dear

And as the temperature rises higher
People faint and parched throats cry
Watching the ice caps melt away
This is global warming you can’t deny

Looking at Recipes

Deciphering the ingredient list
Is as tough as it can be
But the measurement conversion
Is more than beastly!

I swear that Bon Appétit dishes must come
From a grimoire or book on alchemy
Why else place in the pot orach and maca
Mixed with saffron, spirulina and jaggery?

Although the end result is splendid
A tasty dish to serve
The expenditure of energy and funds
Depletes patience and mental reserve.

For this alone I have decided to disavow
And cancel my subscription
The effort expended does not translate
To satisfy a gastronomic addiction.

OK. So I made a delightful dish from the Bon Appétit that was supposed to be easy and delicious. It wasn’t that easy and although I thought is was delicious, Sparky was lukewarm. He has some issues with any white sauces (bechamel, alfredo, etc.) so he was not sold on it based simply on the appearance. He also wasn’t a fan of the pasta I used (as recommended by the recipe), bucatini. So already 2 strikes against this dish. The final blow was that I didn’t add any meat to it. It was however a nice change and had lots of flavor, Bucatini in White Pesto.

Since that didn’t turn out so well I was a bit gun shy to try another one. However I decided to go for it. After reading the ingredient list for Linguine with Green Olive Sauce I was disheartened. I mean I had green olives on hand but they weren’t the kind that the recipe called for. Neither did I have the anchovy filets, the fresh dill, basil, and parsley, the fresh lemon zest and juice, capers, or even the panko crumbs. I checked another one, Falafel Fritters with Cucumber and Yogurt Sauce. It sounded like something Sparky would really enjoy. Sadly I lacked the Persian cucumbers, the fresh parsley and the fresh lemon zest and juice that would make this so tasty. I spent nearly 3 hours searching for a new and acceptable recipe flipping through magazine after magazine. I went through Bon Appétit from 2018 and 2019, then Martha Stewart Living from Nov 2018 to this month, followed by every edition of Taste of Home I had in my magazine rack. I didn’t find a new recipe but I pitched into the recycle bin a bunch of magazines that were taking up space. Last night I made a favorite – Chicken Lentil Burgers.

Looking Numb

She couldn’t remember clearly everything that happened. There were papers to sign. Someone carried her cat carrier to her car. She heard things as if she were underwater, garbled and distant. The box was surprisingly light as she put it on the front seat. There was no purpose but she buckled the seatbelt around the box anyway. The trip home was a blur. She recalled turning on the windshield wipers but she couldn’t see any clearer. It wasn’t raining she was just crying that hard. She sat for a long time in the garage. She finally determined that keeping Mister in the car would be better than taking him inside. It was a practical decision. She had always thought of herself as logical. She was the level headed one, the rule follower, the honest and dependable twin. The bitter one was what she had become. She was alone in the world now. With Mister gone she was an orphan. Perhaps there was a God, she thought. If so he’s more like Loki than the images painted on church ceilings. Entering the house she hadn’t realized that she was so angry until the force of the door slamming made her jump. Waffling between anger and helplessness, she sank into a chair. It was starting to get dark and she didn’t see any use in turning on the lights. She sat there unmoving while her thoughts swirled. On one hand she could give up. Or she could fight. She had never fought or even fought back. When her sister bullied her she just took it. When things got hard, she retreated. Her whole life she gave in and gave up. When Mister fought she had hidden. He fought and it cost him. Her phone started vibrating in her pocket and brought her back to the present.

I know this is a sad story now but not all stories are rainbows and butterflies. Sometimes there are storms and in Lu’s case tornadoes and tsunamis. Don’t sink and drown in sadness, swim little fishes!

Looking Dirty

Sparky works at the main library. He enjoys his job (says it is the best job he’s ever been paid to do). He is in charge of the 3-D printing, the sound studios, computer terminals, virtual reality equipment, and the reference desk. This makes his days exciting and entertaining. The only down side is that he has to deal with a few people who don’t follow the rules. You see the library is a very short walk from several homeless shelters. In the winter the homeless come to get warm, in the summer to get cool. The library welcomes one and all as long as they follow some simple rules.
1. Keep your voice down. No yelling, screaming, or playing electronic devices such that other patrons can hear them.
2. No panhandling or soliciting for donations of money, food, or services.
3. No fighting or bullying.
4. No profanity.
5. Shoes and shirts are required.
6. Limit computer use to 45 consecutive minutes per person (you can signup for multiple times on different machines). No pornography.
The last couple of rules are not posted but are more or less enforced. Mainly, children are not to be stalked, followed, or harassed. The other is that personal hygiene must not be an issue in that body odor cannot be so obnoxious as to make other patrons move away or complain.

Sparky had a tough time last week. The library sponsored a community Rap contest where people could perform their original songs. One of the security personnel was hyper concerned that all the bad influences in the area would be coming to the event. He was worried that there would be gang violence. He was wrong. However the event did bring in a larger than usual audience. In that group was an individual who was having some serious hygiene issues. Perhaps it was due to the hot weather, or maybe they decided that the rules at the shelter were too strict, ultimately it didn’t really matter (the why). The result was that there was a large zone surrounding the person where no one could stand to enter. He was asked to leave. He wasn’t happy. After a few unpleasant words, he was persuaded to exit the building.

This causes me internal turmoil. On the one hand I realize that the library must maintain an environment that is pleasant and safe for the patrons. On the other hand I feel that people who have fallen on hard times should be helped instead of just hustled out of the building. I suppose my feelings that something should have been done to assist the person is an outgrowth of my Christianity. Sparky tells me that there are resources available – showers, laundry facilities, etc. at the homeless shelters. The problem is that those wishing to take advantage of their presence must forego alcohol and drugs. Addictions are a horrible problem which has a cascade effect on everyone from the person to the people they meet….

Looking at Genetic Abnormalities

A flexible ladder coiled
A two strand twist
Knotted in ropes
Packed into bundles
Compacted chromosomes
Determining DNA
A single kink
Results in a shattering
Misplaced protein
Mangled process
A mind in slivers
Psyche out of phase
An all too short life

I still think about some of the projects I’ve worked on. I have a great deal of optimism that some of the research happening today will result in effective prevention or interventions for many disease conditions that plague the human population. There is progress being made in the area of genetic diseases that are inherited. Some of these are very rare and are referred to as “orphan diseases”. That’s because there are so few people affected that the big pharmaceutical companies don’t feel there is enough profit to be made so they don’t do the research. Luckily for the world, there are researchers that are looking specifically at those conditions. At my former employer there is a whole group dedicated to these orphan diseases. One of the conditions they are looking at is Neimann-Pick Type C. There has been progress made and I’ve got my fingers crossed that there may be a method to rescue children who manifest this horrible disease!

Looking at Omens

A sunbeam slicing across her face cut the dark room in half. It was enough to penetrate the fog of sleep and she rolled over. There was stiffness in her back and across her shoulders. Fumbling, her fingers found the switch for the lamp in the gloom. With the light on, her eyes sought out the clock. She bolted out of bed. It was already 9:15 am and breakfast would soon be over. More importantly the clinic hadn’t called. She had to do some deep breathing and self-talk to keep the panic at bay. “No news is good news” became her mantra. Grabbing her card key she headed to the lobby to see if there was any breakfast left. It was with relief that she discovered that she could still get a muffin, an apple, and a glass of juice. Still chewing, she headed back to get cleaned up. In record time she arrived at the Vet School. All the people behind the counter were new faces to her. She had to swallow hard in order to ask about Mister. The fresh faced woman searched the database and asked Lu to have a seat while locating an update on his condition. Looking out the window, the snow was exceptionally bright as the sunlight was reflected by the millions of ice crystals. The sky was an extraordinary blue, uncommon in winter. She relaxed and thought all these were good omens. “Ms. Dupin” a low masculine voice intoned. Startled, she looked toward the source to see the surgeon, grim faced a few feet away. It was an instant recognition between the timbre in which he spoke her name and her heart. She knew that Mister was near death. He knew that she knew and simply asked her to follow. This time Mister wasn’t in the sealed oxygen cage. He was curled in a fluffy white towel on an exam table. He wasn’t moving. She placed a hand on his head and his eyes fluttered. She leaned in and whispered into his ear. He replied with a feeble vibration that started then faded faster than a struck match. He took a deep breath and opened his large shining eyes. He looked at Lu and with a wheeze died. No one had spoken during the visit and the silence was unbroken until a soft wail emanated from Lu. Her face was buried in Mister’s fur muffling her cry of anguish.

I know. You are all mad at me for letting Mister die. However this is not the end of the story…. stay tuned.

Looking Watched

On the periphery it hovers
A digital conscience
Red eye blinking
Walk straight
Hold thoughts
Breathe gently
Do not betray you know
That they know you know they know

I gifted my husband a drone for Father’s Day. He had wanted one for years. He has been attempting to learn to fly it ever since. His skill is still “developing” which is a kind way to say he is inept. He has mastered the hover and the crash landing. You would think that with all his experience playing video games he’d be better at it. The lucky part of this is that he still hasn’t been able to fly it at a height to record any images. I suppose the video of the garage door should count. Maybe. It seems that everyone is watching everything and everybody. My SIL taped her children as she announced to them that she had scored tickets to Twenty One Pilots. They were shocked, surprised, and after she posted it on FB slightly sullen. Mostly because she taped it while they were in their PJs (and they are 6th and 8th grade). I am so thankful that I was doing my awkward teens in a time without cell phone cameras and Instagram/FB/Twitter.

Looking to Party

I am partied out! And yet there are more parties to go. It started back in June. There was the retirement party for the EM director (6-19). Three days later was a going away party for a wonderful young woman from church – moving back to her home town (6-22). Then there was my retirement party (6-26) and 2 days later the going away luncheon with my coworkers (6-28). That was followed by a July 3rd get together and fireworks with saintvi (always a great time!). The next day was a big 4th of July party at the home of my past & future employer. The day after that was the “Meet Me On The Island” party and fireworks (7-5). Soon it will be son#1’s birthday with a celebration (not a full fledged party since we only do that on odd numbered birthdays and only until the age of 13).  *pant*  Not to be skipped is the “Burgers, Bibles, and Beer” event at “the Parish that parties” held every Wednesday in June and July (except last week due to the 4th). I made a delicious and delightful item to carry in (carrot halwa) that generated many requests for the recipe. Then in five days will be the WLJ – AWLB4A (7-17). This is a party sponsored by the research department. It is always held in July because WLJ (We Love July) and it is when the VP for Research has his birthday. Every year they add an acronym and we all have to try to guess what is stands for. I’m pretty sure the 4A is for all, but I’m still noodling the rest. I put in one guess but I may send in a second guess (Another Wonderful Lovely Barbecue For All)?? And I got an invitation for the Staff Appreciation Lunch in the Stadium for 7-26. I didn’t get to attend last time because they scheduled it in the midst of a big project that didn’t have more than 30 minutes allotted for lunch! So I intend to go to this one. Besides it will give me the chance to see some of my coworkers. At that point I’m going to need to rest before making plans for our trip to PA for the wedding of a nephew. Oh and my private retirement shindig? Well, I’m trying to schedule that in the midst of all the other parties! All these parties are going to destroy my reputation as a stick in the mud and they’re going to change my theme song to “Wild Thing”!

Looking at a Turning Point

The drive to the hotel seemed like an eternity. The plastic swipe key for her door wouldn’t work. She was becoming more than agitated. Just before she kicked the door, she realized she had exited on the wrong floor. Embarrassed that someone might have been in the room she crept back to the elevator. It was hard to see the room numbers through tears. That was her excuse. The key worked perfectly on her room lock. Falling onto the bed, she hugged a pillow and cried again. She didn’t believe in prayer anymore. There had been a time, before the apocalypse, when she had believed in lots of things. She was sure that prayer was fakery and religion was just a feeble attempt to explain the universe, at least until today. Her existential crisis had occurred many years ago. Now she was having another, opposite crisis where everything mattered. She didn’t want to care, she had been happy isolating herself from all people. But as she gulped air and the sobs subsided, the realization that she had to do something, had to believe in something, and even trust someone, crashed tsunami-like over her. Growing up prayer was part of family life. She had memorized prayers for meals and bedtime; there were prayers for every occasion. Rolling onto her back, she stared at the ceiling and watched the blinking smoke detector as she tried to remember the prayer for lost causes. It wouldn’t come to her. She resorted to checking her smart phone. She read the words on the small screen but they didn’t mean anything. A deep sigh escaped. It was a sigh not from her lungs but from her very soul. With a wrenching gasp she uttered a simple prayer direct from her heart to God’s ear, “Please let him live.” Turning onto her side, she cried a little more before falling into an exhausted sleep.

Many people are skeptics until that very instant when death looms. Then everyone is a believer. Lucky for all of us, God doesn’t distinguish between the “cradle to the grave” believer and the person with the conversion experience in the last 2 seconds of their life. God loves us all – even when we don’t love Him back.