Looking Blood Thirsty

Tomorrow is Halloween. There’s a frenzy of candy buying going on that is sure to send some to the poor house! I had to laugh as I was wheeling my shopping cart past the giant display in the center aisle. The sheer volume of candy in some people’s carts was astonishing. We would get a lot of trick-or-treaters and could easily go through 2 of the jumbo bags of candy. Yet I saw carts holding four times that. It makes me wonder where they live that they get that many kids. (In my heart of hearts I’m pretty sure it is a situation of “one for you and two for me”.) So I passed the candy without purchasing any. Maybe if there had been licorice jelly beans I’d have been tempted but there weren’t. Instead I maneuvered to the produce section. I was not looking for a pumpkin even though there were several still available. The day after Halloween they will be on super-duper discount. I might get one to put out in the backyard for the squirrels or deer. Maybe. Instead I was looking for the items on my grocery list for the coming week. We are still trying to clear out the freezer so most of my list is fresh produce. Imagine my surprise when I found this:

Since it was on sale and I am making pasta, I purchased 3. I think we’ll be safe from any of the blood thirsty on Halloween. If the bulb of garlic doesn’t work maybe our breath will!!

Looking Into Hearts

Speak of peace to a savage heart
Sing lullabies to calm the soul
A soothing voice is fever’s balm
A cooling touch to bring healing

When anger consumes the whole mind
Speak of peace to a savage heart
Take time to reach out in friendship
Hold your enemy to your breast

Together face adversity
When strife pulls at friendship’s fabric
Speak of peace to a savage heart
Embrace the power of true love

If all the world could harness love
And every heart and mind knew God
We could embrace all our brothers
Speak of peace to a savage heart

This is a quatern which is a 4 stanza poem with 8 syllables per line. There is no requirement for rhyming but the first line of the first stanza repeats as the 2nd line of the 2nd stanza, 3rd line of the 3rd stanza and of course as the last line of the 4th stanza. And now a little backstory.

The level of anger on the airwaves and on the internet is staggering. I was minding my own business when my FB feed became filled with all kinds of nasty. I was nearly ready to delete my account. However as most of you know, deleting your Facebook account is nearly impossible. I chose to “hide” the content coming from certain websites. There are some who would jump into the fray and either start swinging or attempt to get everyone to simmer down. I chose not to engage. I still love my FB peeps even when I disagree with their positions. When they start making hurtful remarks I find it a little more difficult to like them. So instead of fighting fire with fire I’m resolved to turn the other cheek and to extend a little extra love. It doesn’t cost me a thing, there is an endless supply, and maybe by modeling kindness they will get the hint.

In other interactions, I was at my favorite Goodwill where the people are good hearted and friendly. One particular woman always greets customers when they walk in with a happy, “Welcome to Goodwill!” and followed by a smile. She has a southern Indiana accent which is not as slow or drawn out as the deep south. As I was shopping, an older woman and her grown daughter were in the next aisle mocking the employee for her accent. I couldn’t help but make a comparison between them and the worker. Although they spoke without a southern accent every other word was a profanity. I concluded I’d rather have an accent and speak kindness than have a potty mouth and spew hatred. Just saying. It is said that the eyes are the windows of the soul. I’d posit that the mouth is the portal to the heart…

Looking Over the Horizon

Hold on to your seats – I’m going to do a little navel gazing.
I have been retired for several months and I’m enjoying it. I have more flexibility in my day. I don’t have the pressure to roll out of bed at the crack of dawn. I can take a leisurely lunch or scrap my plans all together for a spontaneous jaunt. All that being said, I do miss certain aspects of my old job. This was brought home to me by an email from a former student. He was applying to a biomedical group doing cancer research. He asked me for a reference and if I’d be willing to speak with the investigator doing the hiring. The former student was smart, personable, and conscientious when it came to the course work. I had no qualms giving a reference. His email stated that he was hoping I’d be able to do this for him but that if not he’d ask my former boss “even though you spent way more time with the class”.

Teaching was a huge part of my job. I really wanted to implement a larger program but that was not my stated mission at least it wasn’t according to my boss. There were others that absolutely demanded I do training and were pushing for an increase in the scope of my duties. Being pulled in multiple directions was stressful. That said I do miss the training/teaching aspect. I met lots of interesting people. I made many friends. I suppose that in the long run I was very respected by everyone who had not been tainted by the attitudes for former management. And I can live with that.

So here comes the really hard thing. My former boss contacted me to discuss coming back to work for him. This was not unexpected but I hadn’t heard from him. When I had stopped in to pick friends up for lunch I inquired how things were going and was assured that all was well. So well that my help was not going to be needed. I was honestly relieved since I had no desire to work on the accreditation document. He wanted to “discuss things” with me. I was anxious. His modus operandi is to physically intimidate people into bowing to his will. Of course he no longer has any power over me so that tactic didn’t work. He is among other things predictable. I had hoped that he wanted me to teach his class again but he wants me to work on that document that is going to crash and burn. I want no part in it. He was not happy. Although he had previously threatened to bar me from facility access if I didn’t work for him, there really isn’t much he can do. I had to schedule a “tour” to get facility access several weeks ago. I used to give the tours. I wrote the script for the tour. And they are still using my script! Talk about weird. But I have access. I am working for a lab. In fact I just finished my first two studies. It is important work and it utilizes my technical skills. I get paid. I like the people. BUT I’m feeling a little like a fish out of water. I didn’t anticipate the oddness of the sensation of being an “outsider” working in a place I spent the last 27.5 years of my career especially after turning down the offer to work there again. During the tour it was strange to see that my name was still on the office door. I now have my name plate at home since they finally got a work order to pry it off. I stopped in the break room to chat with a friend and she pointed out that they still have my name on a bin in the cabinet (everyone has a bin to keep their food so that there is no confusion over whose snacks are whose). So I’m uncomfortable when I work. I’m struggling with the feeling and I’m having doubts that I did the right thing when I walked away early and turned down the offer to work there again.

My husband thinks it will all dissipate as I get back in the groove. I’m not sure. Maybe I shouldn’t have returned. Maybe I should embrace “full” retirement. Maybe. I have tried to live without regrets so this is a new thing for me. I suppose time will take care of it all. I need to apply the technique I have counseled others with – Will it matter in a week? a month? a year? Concentrate energy on those things that will have long term consequences and let the others take care of themselves….

Looking to Silence the Inner Critic

As soon as Angelo had accepted her invitation Lu felt a rising panic. A scribbled address and an indication that the party would start in an hour was all she could manage. Once in her car she allowed herself a moment of terror. With self-control strengthened by years of denying herself any feelings of joy or contentment, Lu drove home. Once in the house she realized that she needed to prepare. She was a whirlwind. She swept through her house straightening and cleaning like a madwoman. A glance at the clock and she felt nauseous. Angelo was probably only a few minutes away and she was dressed in her shabby clothes! She dashed upstairs and quickly changed into one of her new outfits. She even took time to put on a little make up and to run a comb through her hair. As an after thought she wiped one of the perfume samples over her wrists and behind her ears. All this time Aurelius was perched on the bed watching in amazement. As Lu came downstairs she peeked out the small window next to the door. She realized that the sun was setting and it was dark so she flipped on the porch light. With relief there wasn’t a car in the drive. Taking a deep breath she pulled out some plates and a couple bowls to set on the counter. She rummaged through the bottom drawer and extracted two place mats. Her hands were starting to sweat as she put crackers in one bowl. The other she filled with grapes and the last two mandarin oranges. As she stared into the refrigerator she realized all she had to drink was milk and diet Dr. Pepper. With a sigh she extracted two cans of soda and set them on the counter with the plates.

Angelo still hadn’t arrived so she sat down. As soon as she did Aurelius was on her lap. He shoved his nose under her chin. Lu looked into his eyes and stroking him head to tail said, “I hope I haven’t made a big mistake.” Aurelius seemed to reassure her as he curled around and kneaded her leg gently without using his claws. Then the sound of a knock on the door exploded into the quiet. Aurelius flew into the air as Lu lurched from her chair. The two of them, Lu and Aurelius, stood frozen. Then Lu with her heart racing, walked to the front door. She took a deep breath and opened the door. It was an action that was not just physical but symbolic. She was letting someone into her life and it terrified her. As Angelo crossed the threshold, Aurelius appeared. While Lu was closing the door, Angelo and Aurelius were both sizing up the other. Angelo let Lu take his coat and then offered her the box he was holding. “Here’s something for the party.” he said as he put the box in her hands. Lu looked surprised. “It’s not much but I bake for my mother, she likes her sweets. I thought maybe I’d share.” he mumbled and his voice trailed off as he stared at his shoes. Lu opened the box to see several cookies and they smelled very good. By this time Aurelius was standing between them looking up at Angelo. “What’s his name?” he asked Lu. Lu had to swallow hard to answer. Her throat was dry and she could feel herself getting lightheaded. She managed to croak out, “Aurelius.” Angelo looked down admiringly and commented, “Sounds like a good Italian name.” as he reached to pet Aurelius. Lu held her breath. She knew what he was capable doing but she shouldn’t have worried. Aurelius took a couple steps forward and not only allowed Angelo to pet him as he wound around his ankles but even let him lift him into his arms.

Lu ushered Angelo into her living room and they all sat down. She then remembered her party food and jumped up again. Aurelius was belly up and sprawled across Angelo’s lap when she returned. Placing a can of diet Dr. Pepper on the coffee table for Angelo, she started to apologize for the lack of selection when he stopped her. “How’d ya know this is my favorite?” He was incredulous. Lu just shrugged and told him she hadn’t known but it was her favorite too. When she opened the sardines Aurelius was so relaxed he didn’t even turn his head. Angelo was drawing circles on her cat’s stomach and only stopped to eat. It was then that Aurelius revived and joined the feast. Lu was feeling much more relaxed too. The conversation started slowly but by the time they had finished the little fishes they were laughing like old friends. “Ms. Dupin” Angelo started but was interrupted when Lu corrected him, “Call me Lu.” A grin spread across his face. “Lu, thanks for inviting me over. I’ve had a great time but I need to get back home.” Lu felt crushed. Her face must have given away her feelings. Angelo continued in a more conspiratorial tone, “Let’s eat the cookies first!” Over cookies Angelo asked if she’d like to come over for dinner on the following Wednesday. Lu suppressed the urge to shout and restrained her enthusiasm to a demure, “Yes, I’d love to!” This time Angelo handed her his phone number and address. As he was leaving he hesitated at the door. He took Lu’s hand. She was sure he was going to shake it, so sure that her inner critic had already started the mantra of you’re not attractive or smart or even interesting, when Angelo turned her hand and placed a soft kiss on the back. Before she could even react he had released the hand and was getting into his car. She closed and locked the door after he had left. Looking at Aurelius, Lu smiled. For the first time in forever her inner voice was stunned into silence. “Aurelius, I think he’s really nice.” she purred. Aurelius blinked a slow satisfied agreement.

This is it, the conclusion of the story. Lu has finally silenced her inner critic. Aurelius approves of Angelo. Lu has turned the corner and is ready to trust herself and others. She is feeling happiness for the first time in a long time and has pushed her panic and insecurities to the curb. Well, maybe not the curb but she has locked them in the trunk of the car… I’m glad you all enjoyed this little diversion. Perhaps I’ll start another one after the new year.

Looking at the Elk

I’ve seen lots of statues that have been decorated to celebrate a specific city or area. I’ve even documented some of them on posts back when I was on Xanga. As Sparky and I traveled around the USA we saw the bison in a town in Oklahoma, guitars in Nashville, TN, carousel horses in St. Joseph, MI, ponies in Santa Fe, apes in Wabash, IN, and now elk in Elkhart, IN.

When the project was first proposed they solicited local artists to paint elk statues. It was a fund raiser where you could purchase a statue and paint it yourself (a pretty hefty price tag) or you could purchase one and get someone to paint it for you. Then they were going to auction them off. Quite a few of the purchasers then gifted the statues back to the city to display around the downtown. This was not a new or first idea as many cities around the world have done it way before Elkhart tried.

We went to Wellfield Botanical Gardens to listen to an outdoor performance of the Elkhart County Symphony. It has been an annual thing since son#2 now plays in the symphony. As we were leaving the grounds I noticed that they had relocated 3 of the elk to the garden. There was a lot of construction in the downtown and they didn’t want the statues to get destroyed.

Anyway I decided to share them with you. The last one has ivy painted on the sides but it is starting to fade. Have you seen any of these type of “parades” in your travels or hometowns??

Looking for a Warm Meal

I am going to be honest, I am not loving the cooler temperatures. Sparky thankfully removed the AC unit from the bedroom window early last week. This weekend he was rummaging through the closet mumbling. When I queried he responded that he wanted to find the space heater! He was feeling chilled!! So the bedroom is slightly warmer but I’ve taken steps to get and stay warm. First I pulled out the winter pajamas. I noticed a slight problem – several pair have dead or dying elastic. Now I know what Sparky is getting me for Christmas. Secondly I have switched the menu into soup mode. I made Vietnamese Beef Stew that was delicious. When that was nearly gone I used up the leftover rotisserie chicken to make Yellow Curry Chicken Soup. If that doesn’t warm you up then nothing will. And lastly I’ve decided that hot cocoa before bed is just the ticket!

The recipe is as follows:
1 small onion diced finely
2 T flour
1 t yellow curry powder
3 T olive oil
32 oz Chicken broth -low sodium
8 oz water
1 – 2 cups cooked and diced chicken
8 oz fresh mushrooms sliced thinly
2 cups broccoli florets
1 can Coconut milk

In a large pot add the onion and 2 T olive oil. Cook until tender. Add 1 t curry and 1 T olive oil stirring. Add flour and stir making a roue. Slowly add the broth and water stirring constantly and bring to a boil to thicken. Once thickened add the chicken, broccoli and mushrooms. Simmer until broccoli is soft. Stir in coconut milk and bring to a boil. Serve hot with crusty bread. To increase the “heat” add additional curry to taste.

How do you get warm?

Looking Bumpy

It has been a long time since I’ve suffered this unpleasantness. I’m not sure exactly when it happened but I suspect strongly that it was during my last geocaching adventure. It appears I have poison ivy. I noticed it on Monday morning after I got back from my morning exercising. I had felt a few bumps but didn’t really think anything about it. Sure they itched and I scratched them and then forgot about it as I concentrated on keeping up my pace on the treadmill. As I looked in the mirror after showering it was obvious that I had a problem! On my left jaw and cheek is a perfusion of red itchy blisters. On my neck on the right side are a few more. I ran to the medicine kit to find the calamine lotion. It wasn’t there! Then it dawned on me – I’d pitched it during a cleaning frenzy. You see it was about 10 years old and way past the expiration date. Even if it hadn’t been opened, I still decided to get rid of it and of course hadn’t replaced it. Woe was me! I resorted to hydrocortisone cream to ease the itch. It sort of worked. I’ve noticed that if I sweat or touch my face or if my hair touches the rash I start to itch in a want to tear my skin off way. So far it hasn’t spread much. And I’m comforted by the knowledge that it will resolve in 2 to 3 weeks. At least I’m hoping it will be long gone by the time I leave for my vacation!

Red three leaf evil
Silent touch spells disaster
I claw at the rash

Looking at the Trees

Yesterday was the annual Geocaching Event at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve. This year there were 8 geocaches that our group set out. The theme was Lego® of My Cache. As you could probably guess the caches were all Lego themed. We had the Lego Batman cache (complete with a little diorama with Lego Batman in a bat house!). There was the multi-cache where you have to find a cache with the coordinates to another cache containing the coordinates to the final cache (a 3-D printed Lego cache container). It was aptly named Follow the Instructions. The Everything is Awesome cache was likewise a 3-D printed Lego complete with a loop for hanging it! There was a large ammo can with Legos attached to the sides spelling out GEOCACHE that was named Ole Kirk Christiansen after the inventor of Legos! Sparky 3-D printed a giant Lego to use as a cache that was named More Painful Than…. it was bright blue so it was harder to hide but we managed! And then we made a cache called Duplo® Duplicity which consisted of a large tub of Duplos which are the larger version of Legos designed for small children. Mixed into the container was a single 3-D printed Duplo that is the real cache. Also included were several pill bottles (commonly used as cache containers) that had little notes that said things like “oops! not this one” and “keep looking”. Another cache was named “Lucy on the Dock” that was hidden – you guessed it – on the dock! And the last one is Lego City – another large ammo can. There was one more that was called Lego Signal that we had trouble finding a hiding place. Everywhere was a little too close to the other caches… It is a birdhouse with Signal the Frog (the geocaching.com mascot) rendered in Legos on the side of the birdhouse. It looked so cute but it will probably go up in a week or so after the event since we couldn’t get it approved in time.

The weather was cold and partly sunny but we didn’t have any rain. Even so the turnout was a bit sparse. The regulars showed up and a few newbies that we took out into the woods. The caching was fun and the company excellent. The woods was so nice. I think Autumn is the best time of the year – especially when you can walk in the woods. The trees are just now showing some color and there are still plenty of leaves hanging on.

With every step I can hear them whispering
Muted laughter and sibilant simpering
Looking up I see them waving
Impish and misbehaving
Until one comes down
Curled and brown
A hush falls
Leaf sprawls

Looking for the Farm

After several discussions with family and friends and coupled with some stupid things observed, it has become painfully obvious that there is a HUGE disconnect between the dinner table and the origins of food. After my amusing conversation with saintvi concerning eating beef tongue, I began to wonder if people realized where food actually comes from. I did a little investigation. Granted my sample size was not large enough to definitively support my hypothesis, however it was sufficient to confirm a growing trend.
My questions consisted of the following:
1) Where do eggs come from?
2) What animal does bacon come from?
3) Do peanuts grow on trees?
4) Where does eggplant come from?
5) Does corn from a can come from the same place as corn on the cob?
6) What animal does hamburger come from?

Now to be fair my sample group was mostly small children so you would expect there to be some variation and probably a few incorrect answers. So here’s what I learned:
1) Only one didn’t know that eggs came from chickens. None knew the exact process. When it was explained one person was a little more than skeptical of the fact that chickens basically poop out the eggs.
2) Over half said that bacon came from pigs. The rest had no clue.
3) Zero correct on this one. I attribute this to the fact that we do not live in the south where I’m pretty sure they know that peanuts are from a bush/plant and the pod is found underground…
4) Not quite half of them had any idea what eggplant even was! I attribute this to a lack of variety in the diet. Those who had had eggplant were aware that it was a vegetable and all of them said that it was “icky”.
5) Most confirmed that corn in the can is actually corn not on the cob. There was one who was pretty sure it wasn’t the same vegetable. (And I can attest that canned corn seems to be a very different substance from fresh.)
6) I had one confirm that hamburger comes from hams. All the rest but one were certain it came from cows. The remaining genius wanted to think about it for a minute and finally concluded that it wasn’t from an animal but came from a plant of some type but they didn’t know which plant… (in all fairness they do come from a vegetarian family and have limited exposure to real meat.)

This confirms that there is a disconnect between what we are eating today and the origin of that food. It worries me that if we don’t understand where food comes from we are not going to be able to be intelligent when selecting food. In addition we will probably not be able to make informed decisions to support the farmers growing and raising the food that miraculously appears in prepackaged portions in the grocery cold case! I think we are in big trouble!
Rant over.

Looking for a Party

After ending the call with Lily, she felt that a celebration was in order. She looked at Aurelius and he squinted at her with the look of a self-satisfied cat. “Sardines for everyone!” she announced. It was after rummaging through the pantry that she discovered that there were no sardines, canned salmon, or even a lowly can of tuna on the shelves. An air of dejection seeped into the room. “I suppose I can go to the store.” she intoned. That elicited a chirp from Aurelius and he leapt from the chair with a thump and with the thunder of paws raced to the hall closet where he took up position staring intently at her hanging coat.

Lu was never spontaneous. She liked to plan everything. When she thought about it too hard she’d get a headache and see Aurora. Aurora was mercurial; she’d make plans and change them with her next breath. Lu was determined to be, she paused trying to find the right word, steadfast. Yes, she was steadfast. So she made a grocery list while Aurelius waited. It had started to snow when she pulled out of the garage. Her car left tire tracks down the driveway. As the garage door slowly closed, she could see Aurelius on the window sill watching her departure. The trip to the store was intended to be efficient. This time she wasn’t going to spend 30 minutes in the car psyching herself into a courageous mode. She forced a smile. She wasn’t going to be constrained by the past. She was going to celebrate even while the small voice of caution told her not to count her chickens before they hatched.

In the grocery she stood contemplating the canned fish. Mackerel was cheap and she liked it but salmon was better. She stood there with a can in each hand before putting them both in her basket. They had sardines on sale for a mere 99 cents. She scooped four cans up before putting them back. Packed in hot sauce was probably not the right choice if she intended to share with Aurelius. She decided to get the water packed variety instead. As she headed to the self-checkout a voice called her name. Although she was in a hurry to get back to her party, she paused to look for the origin. As she scanned the area behind her, she heard her name again. This time she spotted the source. Lu for a moment longed for the days when she could have simply ignored people. As Angelo approached, she heard another voice. This one was in her head telling her she was ugly and stupid and no one would ever want to be her friend. To silence her inner critic, she greeted Angelo with a smile.

He looked as awkward as she felt. She stared into his shopping cart. He had a large container of cat litter and a big bag of the expensive cat food. She commented that she didn’t know he had a cat. He hesitated and then began telling her about his mother’s cat. Lu surmised that he still lived at home. It was true but only because he needed to take care of his mother. Most women usually bolted as soon as he revealed that tidbit of personal information. Lu just stood there nodding. Suddenly she looked up. She had made a decision and it felt reckless. “Would you like to come over for a celebration?” She asked. “What are you celebrating?” Angelo questioned. Lu became cautious, “I have a new cat and a prospect for a new job.” She decided that he didn’t need to know about the lawsuit and it would probably be better not to discuss it. She held up her sardines and indicated that that was the party food. Angelo’s eyes brightened and twinkled, “I love little fishes! When’s the party?”

As the prospect of a party looms for Lu, Aurelius, and Angelo I am going to pause the story leaving you to form your own conclusions. Will Aurelius accept Angelo or try to kill him? Will Lu overcome her inner critic and be able to forge a real relationship with Angelo and Lily? Will she find a new job? Will she get the big bucks from the lawsuit before she has to take in a lodger? You can sight the trajectory for the ending you want! Let me know how you’d like the story to end…