Looking Scared

Boo! The current angst in my corner of the world concerns that most joyous of childhood holidays – Halloween. There is a huge debate on whether or not to allow Halloween trick-or-treat. The kids are all for it. The parents are divided. My neighbor has 3 girls. The older 2 are of an age where trick-or-treat is THE MOST IMPORTANT event EVER! I was talking with them and was asked if I was going to be handing out candy this year. The answer is still no; not last year, nor the year before and definitely not this year. They are trying to come up with an alternative that they feel comfortable with. I suggested that they purchase 2 big bags of candy of a type they know the girls will like and do it like an Easter Basket. Have the girls put their pumpkin pails by the front door and go to bed. In the morning the candy is overflowing the pumpkins. Everyone is happy. They weren’t exposed to anyone and no one was exposed to them. The parents can control the type and quantity of candy and more important the origin of the treats. The girls can wear their costumes all day on Halloween and not get cold or wet (as it usually rains and is around 45 degrees on average). My SIL was considering getting a “candy slide” to deliver candy into distanced plastic pumpkins or bags. A novel idea but I think it a little impractical but it does keep the kids off the porch and at least 6 feet away.

I remember going out on Halloween night. I was in 2nd grade. And I went with my friend Anita. Just the 2 of us. We walked around the entire subdivision. Rang every door bell. Ate a goodly amount of candy as we went. We scored popcorn balls at Mrs. Smeltzer’s house and Ms. Inez gave us hot chocolate. Mrs. Farmer was handing out cookies and the Smiths had really big apples. No one was scared of kids being out after dark, poison in candy or razor blades in apples, the sanitary conditions of homemade treats or being abducted.

All that changed by the time I had kids. We walked with them around the neighborhood to make sure they stayed safe from any unsavory characters. We put reflective strips on the back of the costumes to make sure they were visible to cars. We inspected all the candy and removed any that appeared compromised (wrappers not on securely, any that were possible choking hazards, anything not store bought). At one point we made the trip to the vet clinic and took a radiograph of all the candy (the Vet I was working for was doing it for his kids and offered the same for any of the employees). We put a time limit and set boundaries for where they could go.

And today’s parents have the added issue of whether or not it is safe due to the pandemic. To say they are scared is an understatement. Of course there are some parents who are completely unconcerned but these are the same ones who refuse to wear a mask and insist that the whole thing is a hoax… Tomorrow is the day. I’m curious because there are no trunk or treats scheduled that I’m aware of, the school Fall Festival has been cancelled, and the Mall stores are NOT passing out candy to any in costume. What will Halloween look like this year???

I’m so very scared
Of ghosts, goblins, and COVID
Ring the bell and run!

Looking at the Value

A post that Martha Kennedy wrote wherein she ponders the value of her posts now that she has purchased Premium WordPress has prompted this post. I was pondering the value of my posts, her posts, and numerous other bloggers’ posts. I commented on her post, “That is the problem when you start thinking about putting a monetary value on your words – you get worried that the words aren’t “worth the money”. Perhaps it isn’t the cost of the blog. Maybe the value is not yours to assess. A word that you think less than a penny’s worth is the word that starts another on a grand adventure or turns them from self-harm. Perhaps they see a photo and their soul catches fire for nature or photography or even the feel of the wind on their face. What is the price of that? I suggest that you fling your words into the universe via WP and let them rain on us in abundance. Let us soak them in and feel the benefit…”

A very long winded way to say that all words and posts have value. It reminded me of a conversation I had many years ago. I belonged to a Bible Study group. We were just getting to know each other and the leader asked us to share an aspect of our jobs that caused us sadness or distress. I spoke about the necessity of euthanizing animals. I don’t recall the exact words I used but it was on the order of: I love and protect all the animals in my care but when the study ends they are sacrificed. I am sad when that day comes. I sometimes cry. But I know that by giving up something of great value I have in return something of equal or greater value.

There was silence when I stopped speaking. I felt that maybe I had said too much and they would all think me a monster. Instead one of the women burst into tears and came over and hugged me. She kept saying thank you over and over. After she composed herself she explained that her daughter had died. She didn’t understand how God could let that happen or believe that God would purposely take her daughter away. My words were what she needed to hear so that she could find peace. To me they had no value. It was just a description of what I did and how I felt. To her they were as if an angel had whispered the truth into her ear. That was the day that I stopped putting a value on my words. I let others decide the value to them. It could be that a post is panned by all but that one person who laughs, or is motivated, or decides to try something new. How to you rate the value of your posts? Number of views? How many “like” the post? The number of comments generated? There are lots of different parameters…

Looking for Karen

I feel sorry for all my friends named Karen. I’ve always liked the name and even considered (briefly) naming child#2 Karen except he ended up being son#2 so that name was out. But back to Karen. When I first heard Karen used as a descriptor it was, according to the Urban Dictionary, specifically: a pejorative term used in the United States and other English-speaking countries for a woman perceived as entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others. Karen was generally portrayed as having a blonde bob haircut, asking to speak to retail and restaurant managers to voice complaints or make demands, and being an anti-vaxx , Generation X soccer mom.

Then it started to change and was soon applied to all white women engaging in what was considered racist acts. And now? Now anytime a woman asserts herself, whether appropriately or not, she is labeled a Karen. In fact it is now applied to any woman for any reason as an insult! Why am I even bringing this up? Because I was called a “Karen”. I was paying for my purchase at Goodwill. I was using “Goody Bucks” which are in store credit. A manager is required to enter a code. The cashier paged the manager and the transaction was completed. It took all of a few more seconds. However the young man behind me was very impatient. When the girl called the manager on the intercom he muttered “Karen” just loud enough to be heard by me and several others in line. I pretended not to hear him. I had a pleasant exchange with the young lady at the cash register and left smiling. Surely this was an anomaly. Nope. I went to the grocery and the cashier rang up my pears as grapes (pears were $0.88 a pound and grapes were $1.19). I pointed out the error and she corrected it… The couple behind me were giving me the stink eye and when I looked their direction they glared at me. As I was moving away, they commented to the cashier that “It must be so hard dealing with all the Karens”! Really? I’m a Karen?! I suspect that it is much easier to label all women who pose an inconvenience to you personally as Karen than to take responsibility for holding yourself in check.

Keep your attitude and tongue in check
Airing grievances or slights perceived
Remember we are all human
Equal in the eyes of God if not man
Never forget “There but for the grace of God go I”

A little Acrostic poem to remind us to be nice and have a little compassion for our fellow humans – both man and woman!

Looking at the Sea Wrack

My youngest sister lives in Florida on the beach. Not that she’s a beach bum but she and her husband live at Tiki House in Pensacola Beach. It is a beautiful and spacious place. We’ve visited and want to visit again soon – COVID permitting. After the big double whammy of Marco and Laura and followed by Sally (who was no one’s “sweet babboo”), there was what she termed a beach wrack. The items washed up included seaweed, some dead things, plastic and glass and a ton of shells. These were not the pretty shells but the broken and crushed ones. She got an idea and after some trial and error she made some shell orbs. They are spectacular. During a phone conversation she challenged me to make one in clay… Challenge accepted!
Her orbs: (she has completed 6 of them) and to top it off she even lighted one of them!
My orb: (I just made one but took photos from several sides)
It was a fun exercise but I think I need to add a little pearlescent highlights to the interior of a couple of the twists.

Looking at the Deceiver

I think we’ve all experienced rejection at one point or another. The pain is real when love dies. Sometimes it is a gradual disengagement. Other times it is a sudden and unexpected murder. No matter how love ends, it is still a brutal loss. We will survive the pain of abandonment, overcome the sense of betrayal, rise from the crushing realization that love has been killed. And we will be stronger and less likely to be duped again.

Who is this devil with the practiced lies?
A deceiver parading their truth
Shouting “It’s not you, it’s me.” as love dies

My life a shambles with a misspent youth
And damages and chaos piled high
Prancing in costume the demon uncouth

I’m armed and dangerous when he draws nigh
I reclaim my voice and shout be gone
Send him back to hell, his power deny

My heart is no longer his chess piece pawn
Pretty lies are but lies all the same
My psyche and life from him I’ve withdrawn

Preening he’s changed both his clothing and name
I can see his happiness is fake
Go away I shout, “I won’t play your game”

Satan’s sly but I won’t make that mistake
He has tricked and burned me once or twice
Shedding skin, wearing lace, he’s still a snake

All I believed was a lie wrapped up nice
I shake my fist raised up to the skies
Curse the deceiver as I pay the price

I know this devil with the practiced lies
Asks the devil, “Will time heal all wounds?”
Hope is real as is deceit, still love dies

This is a little poem with an interlocking rhyme and a syllable count of 10/9/10 for each stanza. There can be any number of stanzas with a minimum number of 4. The middle line is the rhyme for the 1st and 3rd lines of the following stanza… Enjoy!

Looking at Quarantine

For many years I dealt with animals in quarantine. The quarantine required strict personal protective equipment, special caging that provided a barrier between the animal and the environment and of course administrative controls. What are administrative controls? They are rules you follow to prevent the spread of disease. The rules included when you could enter the quarantine, where you could go after you left, what you wore, how you decontaminated yourself and any items that you removed from the quarantine. I’ve done quarantine. It makes the mask mandate look easy. So after a relatively uneventful 6 months, we are revisiting our administrative controls. Why the change in procedures? Well, simply put – we have been exposed. Sparky was exposed at church choir practice. One of our friends and a member of the choir tested positive and was dead 5 days later. This all happened while I was traveling. I arrived home to a husband who had been tested but didn’t have his results yet. I had to spend the time until the results came back sleeping in the guest room, living out of my suitcase. In the interim I went on a cleaning frenzy to decontaminate all the “common areas” and also to keep my distance from the love of my life. I was a tad freaked out. The virus is still out there so we are doubling down on some of our “administrative controls”.

1. Grocery shopping – early morning during the week instead of on the weekend. The number of uncaring or obstinate people who refuse to wear masks on the weekends is astronomical. We have decided not to take that risk.

2. Sanitation – we are going back to wiping down the boxes and washing the produce from the grocery. We had done that initially but had slacked off. After a horrifying episode in the produce section (think coughing and spewing all over the place), we decided it would be prudent to resume washing the groceries.

3. Dining out – not for the foreseeable future. We ventured out for a special meal and it turned into a harrowing experience complete with waitstaff coming into our personal space, lack of sufficient distance between patrons, and not a face mask to be seen! So carry out it will be! In our travels, we also saw this and even walked out of a place rather than put ourselves at risk.

4. Personal Hygiene – I worked daily from July to Oct 2nd. and have been back on campus starting on the 12th. Currently I’m scheduled daily through Nov. 30th! I wear a lab coat and an observation gown over everything (including a bouffant cap, double gloves, mask, and working in a biosafety cabinet) and I have to wear long pants and special shoes. I decided that to preserve the “germ-free zone” in our home, I will be changing into scrubs once at work and changing out of them before getting in my car and returning home. These scrubs and shoes will be bagged. Once home the scrubs will be washed on the hot water cycle. The shoes will remain bagged until removed to wear at work.

5. Indoor/Outdoor Sports and Exercise – Specifically Pickle Ball, will be done wearing a mask. Seems that Sparky has been playing Pickle Ball 3-5 times a week (2 – 4 hours at a stretch) without wearing a mask. They play doubles and supposedly keep the appropriate physical distance of 6 feet, however I caught a game. There was NOT adequate distancing. So as not to put ourselves at further risk, he has decided we either do an all or nothing approach thus he will wear a mask. (Not that he has been playing since his known exposure)

6. Thrift stores – This is and has been one of my favorite diversions. The stores started out enforcing the masks (at least for their employees) but have now relaxed the rules. Sparky has gotten pretty militant about pointing out “chin breathers” in a tone loud enough to make people look. Of course he is referring to those persons who wear their masks on their chins and expose the nose and mouth. His monologue goes something like, “Look! There is another of those chin breathers! I wonder how they do that?! I’ve tried to not breathe through my nose or mouth but I just can’t get a breath through my chin. I bet they have nostrils on their chins. Probably aliens!” It is embarrassing. We’ve decided that going to the thrift store is best done at ~ 1:30 to 4:00 PM as that eliminates much of the contact with the aliens. It is after the early morning rush and the lunch crowd and before the after work groups. We have also decided that if we become uncomfortable we’ll just leave.

7. Maintenance of masks – We now have enough reusable masks to allow a new one after every outing. We have a mask washing station in the guest bath complete with a drying rack in the shower. We are able to soak them in hot soapy water, give them a good scrub, rinse and hang to dry. It makes it convenient. Especially since Sparky has decided that it is his chore responsibility to sanitize the masks (and clean the sink).

So there you have the new (old) rules so that we do not have to do a another real quarantine. Lots of people have had to do quarantines. I’ve read about them online and heard about them from friends and family. Some are relatively short lasting 5 days and others are the full 14 days. I just don’t want to deal with it again so I’m taking precautions. How is it going for you?

p.s. Our numbers are steady but not significantly decreasing. Of course the schools are open and you can imagine the compliance for wearing face masks is not 100%, heck I bet it is just above 50%. That is a problem but it won’t really make an impression on the policy makers until COVID comes to rest in their laps…

Looking for Safety

Nothing is safe anymore
Lead in my wheat noodles
Uranium leaching into my water
Antibiotics in the chicken
And plastics in my chocolate
These are an inconvenience
But white privilege in my school
Racism in the workplace
Body shaming in the gym
Homophobia in my church
These are lethal to my soul

I was reading some online research journals and all the head lines were dire. Basically we are being poisoned or more accurately, we are poisoning the environment. Which in turn is incorporating the poisons into everything from food and water, to air and animals. It has gotten so bad that if one were to read an analysis of spaghetti noodles it would scare the pants off you! It is not something that is going to make me stop eating pasta. This environmental crisis won’t end over night. I’m guessing it won’t be resolved until after I’m dead and gone.

I used to put all my groceries into reusable bags. But the grocery stores have banned the bags – they don’t want you to bring your germy bags into their store. We used to get the newspaper but decided not to kill any more trees. Now we get all our news online or on TV. I used to look for products that had a minimum of packaging. Since COVID has come to visit, all the grocery stores are wrapping everything! All my broccoli is now hermetically sealed in plastic. Ditto for green beans, tomatoes, even corn on the cob – it is all wrapped in plastic for a “hygienic shopping experience”. We have easily tripled the amount of plastic we have to discard or recycle.

But to put this in perspective, it will not damage my chances for eternal life. That is, I will do my best to reduce, reuse and recycle. I don’t think my choice of dark versus milk chocolate will result in an additional delay for me to pass through the pearly gates… What would alter my trajectory to heaven is failure to protect the weak and vulnerable. Being unable to see Christ in others, to deny my assistance and my voice to those in danger, failing to do what I was commanded (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, aid the sick) all that will set me on the path to hell instead of heaven.

I am weary hearing my fellow Christians fixate on stopping abortion to the exclusion of realizing the harm other policies have on the lives and well-being of fellow citizens and those seeking refuge in this great country. The current policies that deny asylum seekers a safe haven, prevent access to health care, put corporations before people, sanction racism and foment violence are completely at odds with Christian principles. I think abortion is wrong but I’m not about to force my belief on someone else, especially when preventing access to safe and medically performed procedures will result in death or even worse – permanent physical damage. I would never have an abortion. But unless we are prepared as a nation to house, feed, educate and provide a loving and safe home for every child, we cannot and should not force women to bear children they do not want, cannot feed and clothe, and do not have the support to care for them. Pro-life starts at conception and DOES NOT end at birth. Sadly the actions of many Pro-life supporters stop short of caring for the born instead focusing only on the unborn.

Looking at Big Things in a Little Town

I have returned semi-safely from my trip to the south. First I’d like to talk about the trip back home. We stopped in a town that boasted a lot of BIG things. When I say big I mean BIG as in the biggest bigly big things. They were yuge I mean huge! We saw the world’s largest:
Rocking chair, windchimes and the largest crochet hook and knitting needles!
There was the largest #2 pencil and the largest yardstick which was larger than a yard!
There was the worlds largest golf club and pitchfork and the largest working barber pole!
We stood in the worlds largest birdcage, saw the largest antlers and went into the biggest mailbox!

I saw these huge wooden shoes (they really were very big) and the biggest pizza cutter.

My favorite was the largest mouse trap! I got trapped and so did saintvi!

And just to be clear we didn’t intend to dress alike but great minds do think alike! We are so goth!

Looking at the Reason I Will Never Live in the South

As you all might have gathered having read my past posts, I have a real and abiding fear and loathing of the 8-leggers. The trip to Arkansas with saintvi was a real test of my mental strength. The first instance involved driving through Kokomo, IN. We were transporting saintvi’s daughter’s plants – about 5 rather healthy looking specimens. These were located on the floor behind the front seats. What I only discovered after my first encounter, was that these plants had been outside. Having brought them inside, saintvi had assumed that all the bugs et al had had time to vacate the plants. She was mistaken. A lovely spider about the size of a dime decided to drop on a silken thread next to my face. As my husband knows all too well, this is an instant freak-out situation. Saintvi managed to knock it down and squish it on the floor. We exited the car to get a geocache and to trade driving duties. Upon resuming our travels but before leaving the parking lot, a second spider made itself known by crawling across the GPS. Saintvi was quick to capture it in a paper napkin and make it a dead spider. Shortly thereafter the third spider was killed. I mentioned that they seemed to be out to get me. She poo-pooed the idea.

We made it to a small town in Missouri just before entering Arkansas to get a geocache. It was an ammo can. The wind was blowing and there was a little chill in the air so I carried the ammo can to the car. Sitting in the front seat with the can on the floor, I opened it. To my horror a large black spider with a distinctive red hourglass shape on its abdomen leaped from the latch and scurried to the door.

National Geographic image

In my panic and with my adrenaline level at maximum, I ripped the lid completely off the ammo can. This released a giant beetle that ran across my foot toward the door. At this point I was hyperventilating and trying to exit the car via the ceiling. Saintvi is screaming to get the can out of the car. The spider and the beetle when faced with a flailing redhead decided to leave the vehicle. Once they were gone I was able to regain a modicum of composure. I signed the log and managed to get the lid reattached. It took about 10 minutes for my heart rate to decrease to a normal level.

But my spider encounters were not over. I drove to give saintvi’s bum shoulder a rest and we finally managed to arrive at her daughter’s house. We unloaded the plants and the tour of the house began. As I was removing some items from the center console of the car, there was a commotion and I was instructed to stay where I was and to not look. Of course this made me very nervous. I figured if I was going to die I wanted to die with my eyes open. I looked. I’m told that I shrieked, “That’s a TARANTULA!” multiple times as saintvi’s daughter was coaxing the spider to leave the trash can with a broom. She managed to get it onto the broom and proceeded to carry it down the driveway. I was yelling that she needed to “go long” and “keep going” before I totally lost it as she dumped it in the shallow drainage ditch at the end of the driveway! I managed to get a photo before it turned and started running toward me (wherein I turned and high tailed it into the house).

A couple days later we went geocaching in a cemetery. There was a cache on a fence post. To get to the cache required ducking under a tree that was festooned with spider webs. The ground around the tree was covered in what looked to be spider webs of the kind that at least in Indiana contain either funnel weavers or wolf spiders neither of which I’m inclined to meet.

So saintvi retrieved the cache. Not my proudest moment but I was feeling a little spider phobic. Not long after we were searching in a large hedge for a cache that was described as attached to a dead branch by some fishing line. As saintvi had her upper body submerged into the hedge announcing that she had spotted the branch, I spotted a very large spider making a bee-line toward her back. This particular spider was taupe color with an abdomen that came to a very wasp-like point. In a moment of self preservation, I leapt backward and and using my “alpha voice” which is very akin to the Bene Gesserit voice commanded, “Get back now!” The way saintvi tells it she immediately found herself 12 feet back from where she had been with no recollection of having moved, a sort of teleportation event. After hearing about the spider, she decided to re-enter the hedge. It was only a moment until she burst from the hedge (without the geocache) and explained that the same large and lethal looking spider had scampered down her arm. We noped out of there.

That was not the end of it. As was the plan, we went geocaching. We were doing a bunch of cemetery caches (the cachers in Arkansas really like to put geocaches in cemeteries). We walked through spider webs suspended from trees, between head stones, and even on the decorations. These were particularly “fluffy” looking ( there were a multitude of them scattered about, enough to make me nervous) and from the number of insects dotting them, very effective….

The next day as we were leaving her daughter’s house to go to dinner, I nearly had a heart attack when a very large spider moved in my peripheral vision. Its web was like a steel cable. I took a photo because I still can’t believe how big the spiders are in Arkansas. The number and sheer size of the 8-leggers in that state has convinced me that I really, really couldn’t live there!

Looking at a Steal

I love to go to thrift stores. I love a bargain. I also like to stop at the occasional rummage sale. From the title you’ve already guessed that I found something great. This summer Sparky and I had stepped out to get a geocache and on our way back happened to see a yard sale. Since it was not out of the way we couldn’t help but stop. Wearing our masks, we ambled through the backyard. Most of the items related to small children – toys, clothes, baby equipment like diaper pails and changing tables. There was a Dyson vacuum cleaner that has seen better days. I was tempted but the canister was clear and obviously hasn’t been emptied in eons, and was filled with kitty litter. I finally came to a table with some jewelry and hair accessories. I saw a small brown leather strap peeking out from beneath a pile of winter gloves. I lifted the gloves away to see 2 Coach wristlets. The brown one was marked $5 and the mint green was $4. I picked up the green as that is “my” color but it had seen much better days. The wrist strap was missing and it was grey/black on the corners and the edges next to the zippers. But the caramel brown one was in really good shape. I checked the zippers and they worked. I felt the leather and it was in good shape too. The rule at garage sales is that you never pay the asking price. So I asked if she’d take less and she jumped on the offered $3. When I got to the car I discovered not only 6 pennies hiding inside but the original price tag, care instructions and a little card telling me how to use the wristlet! So go ahead and ask what the original price was.

Go ahead guess!

Give up?

Okay, I’ll tell you.

$95.00 !!!

My fashionista friend carries coach purses all the time. I know how much they cost but have never wanted to spend that much money for something to hold my paltry sums of money. Anyway I was quite pleased to have gotten such a good deal!