Looking Askance

Tomorrow marks the first day I am eligible to work at the university in an on-call position. I’m a little nervous about going back. There have been some changes – and not all of them for the better. Even though I used to give all the tours, I will be required to take a tour. I will also need to get access and get some room keys issued. So much to do and so little time… I’m also a little suspicious that some things will be unpleasant especially my former boss’ expectation that I’ll come back and work for him.

I’ve been in contact with the lab and there is a tentative schedule for some experiments that will require my expertise. Hopefully they won’t interfere with my leisure time, ceramics class, travel plans, exercise schedule or nap time. Such is the life of a retired woman. If I put in an hour for prep, an hour for animal and cage prep and 8 hours for the study, I should rake in enough money to pay for my Goodwill trips and my animal cracker addiction.

In other news I am planning a trip to Florida to visit with my sister. Sparky has a big chunk of time in November when he will be able to get off work due to the library shutting down for the big move and renovation. That would make it ideal – no work, colder weather, not the holidays… However the coordination of said trip is tricky. We are planning to go to Disney World as an add on to the trip (only for 3 days) and the coordination of hotels and flights and (gasp!) a rental car (*shudder*) is daunting! I haven’t recovered fully from the nightmare that was the National Rental Car ordeal in May!

I’ve gotten together with a couple co-workers for lunch. It is good to catch up with them but also a little strange since we are moving away from each other at right angles… It takes a lot of effort to remain close. I hope I can continue to connect. *sigh*

Looking for Intelligent Life

I am spending way too much time standing in lines. I have to line up at the check-out (even the self-checkout has a long line), at the doctor’s office, at the dentist, even to get in the workout center! While waiting I watch people. I strike up conversations. And sometimes I have to wonder if there really is intelligent life on this planet! Case in point: I was standing in the checkout line with my groceries on the conveyor belt. I had placed one of those separator bars in front of my stuff and I put another behind. The cashier finished with the woman ahead of me and began ringing up my purchases. So far all was normal. As I stood there a young woman (maybe in her early 20s) began putting her items on the belt AND SHE REMOVED THE SEPARATOR BAR! I was puzzled. Then she shoved her stuff up and was mashing my peaches!! I picked up my fragile produce and replaced the bar. By this time the cashier was nearly through my stuff and I handed her my peaches. She took them rang them up and grabbed the other woman’s things to scan. I stopped her. (The woman had again removed the separator bar.) This delayed the process a tad since there were a couple things that had to be voided. Anyway the short conversation revealed that the young woman had NO CLUE that the bar was used to keep our groceries apart. Instead she thought that the bar deactivated the conveyor belt – a sort of brake to keep it from moving forward. It does stop the belt when it gets to the scanner but she thought that having it ON the belt would prevent it from moving. I put on my cloak of patience and explained that the bar was to prevent the cashier from combining our purchases. I don’t think she believed me. Below is a quatern where each stanza is 4 line long and each line is 8 syllables long. The first line of the 1st stanza repeats as the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza, 3rd line of the 3rd stanza, and finally the 4th line of the last stanza. There’s no required meter or rhyme scheme but I wrote it as rhyming couplets just for fun…

She looks at me with bovine eyes
She can’t discern the truth from lies
She can’t tell what’s wrong from right
There’s no thought or intellect’s light

I speak to her but she just sighs
She looks at me with bovine eyes
I search her face for just one sign
A clue, a thought, a spark divine

I can’t find intelligent life
Instead stupidity is rife
She looks at me with bovine eyes
Her head filled up with butterflies

Deeply into her eyes I gaze
All I see is a mental haze
I whisper truth and all words wise
She looks at me with bovine eyes

Looking for a Stupid Name

Once in the car she berated herself, pounding the steering wheel to punctuate her words, “Stupid, stupid, stupid!” She rubbed her eyes only to realize an instant too late that she had smeared her eye makeup. She quickly grabbed a tissue and flipped the mirror down to try to fix the damage. The mirror reflected not only her image but that of Angelo advancing on her parked vehicle. She froze with the iron fingers of panic clutching her heart and squeezing her throat. She did her best with the streaks of mascara. The tapping on the window sounded louder than gun shots. She rolled the window down and gave Angelo a feeble smile. All she could think of was how silly she must look.

He presented her a manila file folder through the window, “You dropped this in the elevator. I put all the papers back in and I promise I didn’t look at any of it.” He looked at her kindly. He wasn’t mocking her and there wasn’t a trace of meanness in his voice. Lu realized that her own insecurities were working overtime. She sighed audibly and thanked him. He waved her off as she drove away.

The offices of Polder and Swale were her next stop. Once inside she set to organizing the papers. It wasn’t difficult as most of them had been stapled together. She looked over her performance reviews. All of them labeled her a ‘top performer’. She had achieved all the set goals and went above and beyond in every category except one, social engagement. She hadn’t joined the golf outing, participated in the tug of war, or volunteered to play on the dodgeball team, but neither had most of the other women in the department. She handed the file to Lily. It was satisfying to get things started.

She made it home before she got the shakes. She sat in the cold garage trembling and asking what she had been thinking when she gave her phone number to Angelo. He was nearly a stranger. She struck the seat with her fist and it bounced up just missing her face. She managed to get into the house before her phone rang. It took just a second for the words to sink in. The call was to remind her that “Stinkerbell” was ready to be picked up at the shelter. Lu assured them that she would be arriving shortly. She then proceeded to do a happy dance through the kitchen before dashing to the car only to have to go back inside to get the carrier. In no time she was home again. She left him in the carrier for an hour while she let him settle down from the trip. After she opened the carrier he began to explore.

He was bold. She remembered Mister examining the house when they first moved in. Mister had walked like the floor might fall out from under him. Eventually he owned every inch. This cat strutted, peering under and behind the furniture. There was no trace of fear or uncertainty in his demeanor. Once he had made a grand tour, he approached Lu as a sovereign would his favored servant. He sat squarely in front of her and stared into her eyes. She sat on the ottoman and waited for a name to come to her but there wasn’t anything popping into her head. She felt as if she were missing something. In a fit of impatience she blurted out, “Just tell me your name already!” She instantly felt foolish but this regal cat didn’t flinch. He stood, turned, and leaped onto the bookcase knocking off a single tome. He sat on the book casually. The book was an old college text from her philosophy class, Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. She softly spoke the name Marcus but he only turned his ears slightly back. With a whisper she said Aurelius and he leapt light as a feather onto her lap. Lu was stunned. He looked at her smugly with an air of satisfaction. Lu felt a wave of peace. She was starting to feel better.

We are often our own worst critics. We criticize our work, appearance and even our actions. We are harsh judges of others but doubly hard on ourselves. At least she got the name right!

Looking Elated

The new ceramics classes started last week. When I checked my empty shelf I discovered 2 more pieces that survived the kiln and the clean out. I was elated that they were on my shelf. Several people had pieces disappear. We suspect that during the annual clean out that some items were either accidentally broken or purposefully tossed. To say that those persons missing pieces were disturbed would be a gross understatement! Both of my pieces are repeats of previous orbs. The last time I attempted Solisphaera emidasia (a coccolith from the Gulf of Mexico) I wiped the glaze off all the plates that make up the outer surface. I was trying to get a more rustic look along with making sure it didn’t stick to the kiln shelf during the glaze firing. Now that they have new stilts I went with an all over glaze. I used Super T glaze on the plates with Blue glaze in between. The effect is stunning! It looks much better than the last one! But you be the judge. The old one is left with the new one on the right:

The other orb is Russula sororia fungi. This is my representation of the spores… I am going back to some fungi due to inspiration found walking in the woods. This was made with a white stoneware clay body. I used Shaner’s Clear glaze that was contaminated with red iron oxide. Instead of throwing it away it is one of those “here now and gone forever” glazes. It is translucent blue grey with brown speckles.

I feel very lucky to have all my orbs make it. I’m still waiting on the 2 plaques and the whistle to turn up. If they never surface I will chalk it up to an over zealous cleaning crew and make them again…

Looking Battered and Bruised

This is NOT a post about domestic violence so you can all exhale and relax. I had a rather rough couple of days. You see I went to the doctor and he was insistent that I have a shingles vaccination. Sparky and I dutifully trooped into the office and got the first of 2 injections. I won’t lie – it was a little painful. A band-aid was applied and we went on our way. My arm started to ache. By dinner time it was sore to the touch and hurt to move my arm in certain directions. I took ibuprofen. Sparky wanted to go for a little walk around the block after dinner. I agreed. As I was pulling a sweater from my wardrobe I knocked a stack of clothes off the shelf. Instinctively I bent over and scooped them up. However the upper door swung to close just as I straightened up and I struck my back on the lower edge and corner. I yelped in pain. I dropped the clothes gasping for breath. My back felt broken. I did manage to make it downstairs and made Sparky look at my back. Surprise! I had a 4 inch long gash from my spine to my shoulder blade that was oozing blood. After a little first aid we went for a walk.

The next morning I was sore! My arm and back had stiffened up. It felt like I’d been beat up. To add insult to injury, we had a date to get flu vaccinations in the other arm! Yep. We stood in line for the free vaccines and are now immunized against the latest strains of influenza. The shot didn’t hurt at all. (Perhaps because I hurt so much in other places it didn’t register.) Well, that’s not entirely true. It didn’t hurt when it was administered but the next day it was plenty sore. I didn’t sleep well. I had bad dreams and woke up every hour and then struggled to fall back to sleep. This is not my usual routine but the ache in my arms and back made finding a comfortable position almost impossible!

Speaking of the next day, after going to the fitness center, we went hiking to place caches for the geocaching event. Sleep deprived and with my sore back and both arms aching I put on a brave face. By the end my arms were less sore but my feet were screaming. I managed to get snagged on a brier and sustained 2 punctures and scratches on my lower legs. I stepped into a mole hole and twisted my ankle. It hurt a bit but not enough to make me stop. We were tromping around from 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM. We had a small snack lunch but were pretty hungry by the time we left. I was feeling a little light headed and Sparky was a little cranky. We did what we needed to do and as soon as we got home Sparky had to take a nap.

That night I slept better but that was mostly because I was exhausted. The hot shower and ibuprofen have helped. I told Sparky to remind me that next year I need to plan for the flu shot so it isn’t given when we have a hike planned!!

I think I’ve reached my quota on injuries for the month. Have you reached your quota?

Looking Hot and Playing it Cool

A quick call and she was headed back to work. She had to correct herself, it was her former workplace. She had taken the time to hand write the list of things she needed from HR prior to exiting her car. At least her gate key still worked even if her door key wouldn’t. She parked and instead of walking to the employee entrance, headed into the main lobby. It was impressive with all the marble flooring and massive marble reception desk. After a brief call, Lu was directed to wait for an escort to the HR department. Secretly she hoped it would be Angelo. It wasn’t. Once at HR, she had to sign in and then wait. It was a long wait, much longer than the first time at the lawyers’ office. The consultant was cold and moved in slow motion. Lu surmised that it was a strategy to make her leave and come back later, possibly again and again. Lu was used to waiting for what she wanted. She had waited patiently her whole life. Today she was clear on what she wanted and there was no turning back. She waited. The time passed and she approached the girl at the desk every 15 minutes to remind her that she was still waiting. Lunchtime arrived and the office emptied. Lu pulled out her cell phone and called the number again. The phone on the desk began to ring. Eventually someone answered it. Lu was polite and asked a couple easy questions about time frames for documents to be copied. She thanked the woman and asked her name, Deanna was the reply.

As soon as the receptionist returned from her lunch, Lu asked her to go check on the status of the files she was waiting for. After another 30 minutes Lu lost patience. She was a little hangry. She called Deanna again. This time she asked for the supervisor. Deanna was the supervisor. Lu demanded the copies be made. It was amazing how quickly the papers appeared, perfectly collated, stapled and in a file folder. In fact Deanna made an appearance with the paper work for the insurance. It was a quick process. Disgusted, Lu turned to leave but the supervisor stopped her and insisted she wait for a security escort. Lu didn’t respond except to glare at the woman with her best angry cat stare. As she stood facing the elevator her agitation turned to impatience. When the doors opened Angelo was standing a mere foot in front of her.

Startled, she stepped backwards and unaware that Deanna had been standing guard behind her, crushed the supervisor’s foot under her heel. The result was a sharp wail and Lu was shoved from behind. She barely had time to put her hands up before she bounced against Angelo’s chest. Instinctively he closed his arms around her preventing her from falling. Lu was so disoriented that she could only sputter a soft apology to Angelo and Deanna one after the other until she had regained her balance and some semblance of composure. In the awkward silence of the elevator, she ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes. Angelo was the first to break the silence, “How you doing, Ms. Dupin?” Lu was amazed at how pleasant his voice sounded. Her reply was slow, “I’m O.K., I guess.” She turned her head to look at him and realized he was staring intensely at her. “You look really dressed up today.” he muttered. “You going somewhere special?” She shook her head no.

She tensed. This interlude was heading toward being asked for a date, she was fairly certain. She began to feel the familiar panic. But Angelo didn’t follow up and seemed to accept that she was just dressed fancy for no reason. The ride to the lobby felt rushed as more people entered the elevator. Lu impulsively scribbled her phone number on the back of a gum wrapper. Then thought better of it and crumpled it in her fist. Angelo escorted her out of the elevator and she handed him the wadded up gum wrapper. She was having an out of body experience. She had never done anything like that before. Looking over her shoulder as she walked to the exit, she could see Angelo staring at the paper grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Lu is trying to play it cool. Of course things don’t always go as planned especially when you don’t follow the game plan.

Looking Prepared

I was at the grocery waiting in the checkout line. Because I don’t care about Angelina Jolie or any of the Kardashians I resorted watching the woman in front of me unload her cart. She was perhaps a little older than I am. I was surprised at the foods she was purchasing:
Peanut butter and jelly (one jar of each)
Michelina’s frozen entrees (they were on sale 10 for $10)
Raman Noodle bowls (the really big ones not the Brillo pad stuff)
Frozen burritos
Several frozen pizzas and pizza rolls
Campbell’s Chunky soups
Cereals (Cap’n Crunch and Golden Grahams)
A single quart of milk
Two loaves white bread
A bag of apples
Bubly flavored water
Kraft Singles

She didn’t buy anything that would require cooking or even pseudo-cooking. Everything was heat and eat. Heat and eat for one. I looked at her groceries and felt sad. It was apparent to me that she lived alone and felt no pressing need to cook. I could guess that she was going to have cereal for breakfast, soup and cheese sandwiches (maybe she would grill the sandwich, I hoped) for lunches, probably pizza or burritos for dinners. She would likely mix it up with PB&J some days and on others splurge with the noodle bowls. The apples would be snacks or maybe as a lunch side… Anyway you looked at it she was not cooking. There was a dearth of produce. It made me wonder what conclusions could be drawn from my shopping cart as I carefully arranged my stuff on the conveyor belt.
Four mangoes
Two broccoli crowns (the biggest I could find)
One celery heart
Two low sugar low fat vanilla yogurts
Two bottles of Propel water (kiwi strawberry flavor)
Two loaves of whole grain multi-seed bread
Two packages of shredded mozzarella cheese

The ugly truth is that we are trying to eat down the contents of the freezer and the pantry. There are a few perishables that we have to purchase weekly – milk, yogurt, cheese, fresh produce and the occasional “treat” like ice cream or chocolate. The last couple week’s menus included the following in an attempt to clear out the freezer/pantry:
Meatloaf (I make a batch and then split it freezing half – this is the frozen half)
Beef tongue (this will make 2 meals – one as beef tongue with roasted veggies and the other as tacos al pastor) I mentioned this to saintvi and she quoted Archie Bunker, “I ain’t eating nothing that came out of a cow’s mouth! Just fix me a couple of eggs.” Of course this made me laugh but it also made me think. I feel another blog topic coming on…
Grilled pork tenderloin (the leftover will go into a Japanese curry)
Baked fish and fried fish (we have lots of fish in the freezer)
Then on the weekends we will eat leftovers and more leftovers until there are none left over!! What’s in your shopping cart?

As a side note we are going to get our shingles vaccinations today. I’m pretty sure it will be uncomfortable. I’m planning on taking an extra dose of ibuprofen before I get to the doctor’s office… Then if all is well we get our flu shots tomorrow. If we are still alive. If they will let us. I’ll have to check with the doctor…

Looking Loved

Sparky and I celebrated our anniversary this week. We dined out at East of Tokyo gorging ourselves on sushi. It was a quiet and romantic meal. Then we had fun running around doing Goodwill half price day where we both got some great bargains. We had lunch at India Gardens (we had a buy one get one free deal), And we decided to check out some places we’ve driven past but never stopped. The first was Mishawaka Antiques, along the main drag in downtown. They had 3 store fronts (nearly the whole block) filled with interesting stuff. They has statues of horses, giant metal sculptures of chickens/roosters, creepy dolls, vintage clothing, globes, books, an animatronic woman that when activated would mix your drink by holding the glass and gyrating like a hula dancer… We spent nearly an hour wandering around. I pointed out a couple of items that we had or have – the Samsonite luggage ($100 for 3 pieces) that we had a 5 piece set before selling it at a garage sale for pennies! There was a floor globe for $97 that we have its twin in our living room. The jug that was my parents (my father dumped his change into) and is proudly standing sentinel on my hearth was there to the tune of $99. Our minds were boggled and we finally left. We traveled to a place called Elite Resale only to discover that it was closed (on the only day we decided to investigate). Luckily the World Wide Pawn shop was just down the street. Sparky decided we should stop to see if they had any women’s bicycles. They didn’t. BUT they had jewelry and I looked long and hard. The clerk wanted to make a sale badly but it wasn’t to be. As we were turning to leave Sparky points and says, “Isn’t that the kind of jewelry box thing you were looking for?” Sure enough there was a large jewelry armoire sitting in the middle of the area behind the counter. He suggested I inquire if they ever get any like that in for sale (that was because it was being used as a desk). I asked and the clerk really wanted to move it! The original price was $109 but she offered to sell it for $80. It looked a little beat up. But I said yes and that was my anniversary gift! I worked hard vacuuming the drawers, scrubbing the dirt off with a little Murphy’s oil soap, doing a polishing and wood moisturizing and even had to get out the Old English scratch remover. I went so far as to remove the hardware to get it really clean. Check it out – so pretty!!

Sparky hauled upstairs and I proceeded to transfer all my stuff from my 2 little jewelry boxes (one I got as a Christmas gift when I was about 11 and the other was a garage sale score). I managed to get it all moved over with the exception of my earrings that I never wear since I’m allergic to most of the metals and one ear piercing has grown closed. I was going to check that there was enough room to open the lid (where there is a nice mirror) when I got this surprise!!

He really is a romantic!

Looking to Lawyer-Up

Her foremost and pressing problem was of income and insurance. She figured that she would approach the HR people after the meeting with the lawyer. And all that would have to wait until Monday anyway. A little more organizing and a satisfying dinner took all the energy she had left. She made the bed and hung her new clothes still warm from the dryer in the closet before going to sleep. Again she woke before the alarm. Monday was just the beginning. Showered and dressed in what she called her “power outfit” she was ready to take on the world. She had a short moment of hesitation when she spotted her reflection in the car window. A deep breath and she conquered her trepidation.

She slid into the car; the red pants punctuation for her new style. The heavy black coat had new life with a bright scarf and large brooch turning it from pseudo military to trendy fashion statement. She gave herself a pep talk on the drive to the law office. She tried to remember that perky woman’s name but it wouldn’t come. She was going to have to try harder to keep track of those kinds of details. Once at Polder and Swale, the perky woman didn’t offer her coffee but instead offered cookies and the big bowl of chocolates. She screwed up her courage and admitted she couldn’t remember the perky woman’s name. A pleasant conversation resulted and Lu admitted that her name was not George but Lucile and she committed Lily’s name to memory.

When the lawyer came in Lu laid out the events on Friday. She produced the audio recording. The lawyer at first was uninterested but after hearing the recording and again asking the name of the company, he was practically salivating. He called in a couple of other attorneys and they listened to the recording. Lu didn’t understand exactly what they were discussing among themselves but she could feel the excitement. She finally interrupted their conversation with the simple question, “Is there anything you can do to help me?” Mr. Swale didn’t look blasé anymore. His eyes were shining as he responded, “Ms. Dupin, what do you want us to accomplish? Do you want your job back, a large settlement for wrongful termination or a judgement against them for discrimination?” Lu wasn’t sure what she really wanted but it all sounded good so she replied, “Yes.” Mr. Swale nodded as he looked around at his colleagues. “Very well, we’ll take this on. I’ll have Ms. Przybyszewski come in and explain the fee schedule and get some additional information.” With that he gave her a toothy smile that had a touch of sinister at the corners and left the room.

It had all happened so quickly that she felt dizzy. She leaned back in her chair and contemplated the chocolates. Throwing caution to the wind, she dug down to the dark chocolate truffle and was soon biting it in half. She had to laugh a little because as soon as she popped the other half into her mouth, Lily appeared. That was her usual luck. It was reassuring to know that some things were the same. She was given a huge stack of papers to sign which she took her time reading before putting her signature on the bottom. Then Lily explained all the documentation that the law office would need from the company. She cautioned Lu not to mention having consulted with a lawyer to the HR department. She also gave Lu a print out of those things she was legally entitled to have including copies of all her job performance reviews. The perkiness in Lily was replaced with efficiency and Lu could now appreciate her help. Finally she finished and was ready to leave when Lily advised her to take the initial COBRA insurance HR would offer. When Lu pressed her for a reason Lily replied that at least for the next 18 months she would be covered. Lily made it clear that some of these cases dragged on for years. It was disheartening to think that she would need to try to find a new position while the specter of this last job hovered in the background. As she left, she grabbed a couple more chocolates for the road.

Lu is getting serious about getting even. Although it is satisfying to fantasize about strangling her boss or maybe just slashing the tires, Lu is a law abiding citizen. She may rant about how stupid her species is on the whole and how stupid certain individuals may be, but she is no criminal. She is civilized. She is going to sue the pants off them!!

I would be remiss if I didn’t ask that as you finish reading this blog you take a moment to pause and reflect on the events that occurred on this date in 2001. I continue to pray for peace and justice…

Looking for the Light

Growing up in rural Indiana with a corn field in my backyard, summers were filled with a special delight. As dusk started to settle the lightening bugs would appear and disappear. They would flash on and off mimicking the twinkling stars far above. We would race around the yard trying to capture them. Once enclosed in cupped hands they would blink and illuminate the spaces between your fingers. This created lanterns of little hands which would fascinate us. Eventually we would open our hands to better see the lightening bugs and they would fly away. As I’ve gotten older the number of lightening bugs has diminished. There was an article blaming their decrease on light pollution. Seems the flashing light is their way of attracting a mate. If there is too much extra light they can’t find each other! That of course leads to fewer bugs in the next generation. All of this talk is because we have had a huge number of lightening bugs this year.

There are so many that three times in one week I stumbled out of bed in the early hours of the morning (2 or 3 AM) only to be surprised, startled, and terrorized by errant lightening bugs in my bathroom! Imagine being half awake and groping your way to the toilet (no lights out of consideration for your slumbering spouse). As you are sitting on the throne a small light comes on in your peripheral visual field. You swivel your head and strain to see where it is. There is no light. You think it must have been your imagination. Then right in front of you there is another blink of light! You freeze. Your heart pounds. Was a recording device activated in your bathroom?? Suddenly it appears again, this time on your bare knee. You realize what it is but not before your heart rate has peaked at 160 bpm. You are on high alert and with the toilet paper in your hand, you pounce on the light and promptly flush the blinking intruder down the toilet. The next time is not so scary and by the third time it happens you barely acknowledge the bug. I feel a little guilty for flushing them but I have a strict “no bug” policy in my bathroom!