Looking at When Push Comes to Shove

I had tried (but the pandemic interfered) to make Advent and then Christmas Day a less rushed season. Usually I have the majority of my shopping done by Halloween. I then concentrate on decorating, baking, and gift wrapping. This year was not going to cooperate. I had already tossed the expectations aside by Halloween. Still I was clinging to the notion that all would be done in an efficient and calm manner. I suppose it is silly of me to have thought that clinging to an anvil on a sinking ship would save me. So in no particular order I give you the “in the crosshairs” list of disaster:

⊕ The Christmas lights that worked last year wouldn’t light. I even went through them bulb by bulb making sure they were seated properly and all accounted for. No luck. I had to resort to the old lights that are short strands and tangled and blink uncontrollably which annoys the bejesus out of me. Sparky finally found the blinky light bulbs and replaced them, which pushed them over the edge. They died. We had to use the outdoor lights that are a big woven net designed to toss over shrubs. It is ugly. It worked but hanging the ornaments was a new kind of difficult.

⊕ I bought gifts online despite last years fiasco (the shoes that never arrived until after Valentine’s Day). I went so far as to have envelopes ready to stuff with some cash in case the gifts didn’t arrive. They did make it before Christmas but I had to wrap in a hurry. That meant stuffing them into gift bags – never mind that they were the leftover bags from a kid’s birthday party…

⊕ Speaking of gifts, I bought the wrong cable for a phone. What I got was a charging cable. What I needed was a data transfer cable. Who knew there was a difference. I had to take it back. It was a nightmare even with a receipt and an unopened package. Of course there were none of the right cables available. This resulted in a flurry of phone calls to locate the proper one which resulted in part of the above.

⊕ I decided to bake some cookies I’d never tried before that were featured in the Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Yeah. No. I suppose I could have sent them to neighbors with infants/toddlers as teething biscuits. Even dunking them is milk wasn’t enough. It was suggested that I could line a large compote bowl and add some pudding and refrigerate for a couple of days in hopes they would soften. I opted instead to toss some out for the crows and squirrels. They sat there for a week and finally after a rain and a little snow they disintegrated.

⊕ The above cookies were for the church cookie sale. I made different cookies. I burned the first sheet, then the second sheet, then I got the 3rd sheet to come out. By then I had run out of time to participate in the cookie sale. My sons came over for dinner and polished off the remaining cookies. I seriously thought my cookie mojo had fled 2020. Then saintvi came over for our annual cookie baking frenzy. She made pfefferkuchen and snowball cookies aka OMG cookies. Her cookies were delightful. I made gingerbread cookies (not as good as hers) and tried a Red Velvet cookie coated with Oreo crumbles. After the first batch I got the hang of it and they actually taste good!

⊕ I finally got a flier for my retirement gift (date of retirement 6-30-2019). I poured over the items and looked blankly at Sparky. Asked his opinion. Still couldn’t decide. I narrowed it down to the 2 pc. Samsonite luggage set, the Kenneth Cole leather messenger bag, or the Mammoth cruiser 20-qt cooler. I decided to go with the messenger bag. I had to order online (of course) and the messenger bag was no longer available. This caused some additional gnashing of teeth. I finally selected the Samsonite luggage – which was not available. Ended up getting the 3 pc Elite luggage. Amazingly it was ordered and arrived in 6 days. I am pleased!

⊕ I received 3 masks from the university. I really liked them. I had to repair the ear loop on one. Then I lost another. The last mask was my least favorite and don’t you know I misplaced it too. So I was down to just the one. As I was moaning about it I discovered a missing one in the pocket of a sweater. Still didn’t have the one I liked best. Then as I was walking in the parking lot at Goodwill I found one just like the one I lost. Well, not exactly, the one I found was muddy and one ear elastic was broken. Since I know how to replace the elastic I now have a full set again (after washing on hot and drying on hot too)!

⊕ I let Sparky use my sewing machine. He wanted to make his own design of mask. It is ridiculous. It has big padded triangles on each side of the nose, in a cross between a regular mask and a neck gaiter. That aside, he completely discombobulated my machine. He released the pressure for the feed dogs and tightened the thread tension to the point that the needle was bowed. I’m shocked that the needle didn’t snap off. He is now banned from touching my machine. I had to unwind thread from the bobbin assembly after cutting it out of the machine and extracting the loose bits with tweezers. I know this is a first world issue but it was still annoying as all get out!

⊕ My last disaster was my failed attempt to recover all my files from the crashed flash drive. Sparky and I with the help of several professionals spent days tried to recover data from the flash drive. Instead I worked like a dog to find any copy of my poetry. I managed to copy them to the cloud. All 13 years worth. I recovered a couple stories I’d written. But the poetry compilation that was supposed to be done for my Mother for a Christmas gift was gone, gone, gone.

⊕ I have red hair. I’m Irish. I lost my temper. It usually takes a lot to get me to my flash point. But when I get there, it is like tossing a lit match into a barrel of gasoline. I suppose it is okay in a way. There were no casualties and more importantly, no witnesses (other than God). I got it out of my system and like a good belch, I felt better immediately. Yet I have residual shame for my lack of self control for losing my cool over (ready for it?) defective toenail clippers. I attribute this to the train wreck of 2020.

Yet. When push comes to shove I am thankful. My litany of disappointments, tribulations, perturbations and little catastrophes is just that a list of trivial events. The big stuff is still wonderful. I have my Sparky who is devoted and loving (even if he is a danger to all sewing machines in this hemisphere). I have my sons and extended family who are safe and well and being prudent. The work I’m still doing is enough to keep me occupied but not so much as to interfere with my nap time. I have food, shelter and toilet paper. I’m hopeful for 2021. There is opportunity and possibility around the corner. All in all life is good. And when push comes to shove, I’m grabbing my rose colored glasses and enjoying what is, what I hope will be and giving thanks for what was.

Looking at the Brief and Glorious Life

Tiny feet
Dance to the beat
Jumping high
Gossamer wings
Wave as she sings
Ephemeral butterfly

There is something about aging that changes once you reach a certain point. As a child, time crawled. Summers lasted forever. I couldn’t wait to reach what I considered to be grown-up, that is the age of 16 years. In my mind once I had achieved the age of 16, life would really begin. Of course 16 came and went. By the time I’d reached high school the target has moved and I was certain that I would, when I gained the age of 21, really be an adult. The years continued to mount. The 20s and 30s were a clawing climb while I met milestone after milestone – marriage, children, home ownership, career. Things began to speed up when I reached 40. I started to notice the cyclical rhythm of my life. There was a deep current that pulled at my life and emotions. The seasons came and went faster. My body was aging relentlessly. The realization that my time on this plane of existence was finite slowly dawned as my 50s slipped away. My 60s find the world trying to push me to go even faster. I have stepped out of the stream. So there it is. While time is spinning and swirling like water in rapids, I’m aware of the limited opportunities. I’m grasping at the things I want – sort of fishing in this time stream – in hopes of slowing down and enjoying each moment. We are just butterflies. Some are brightly colored and others a dull monotone yet we are all “short-timers”. The key is to take time to dance and sing today, NOW, since tomorrow will come before you know it.

Looking Merry

It is Christmas Day and we are attending virtual Christmas Mass. Another first for 2020. You would think that at this late date in the year that we would have exhausted all the “firsts” that the pandemic had to offer. Today is a day of joy and feasting. We are gathered but apart. I will talk to my mother and sisters. We will call family. My niece is setting up a zoom meeting where we will laugh and play games and generally be able to visit together across the miles. Later today I’ll jump onto the computer and visit with all of you. And just maybe this coming year will have more joy and less stress (and have received at least my first does of an effective vaccine).

We wish you a Merry Christmas! And as always, Peace and Joy and Love to all of you from both of us!

Looking for Asbestos

Take it to the grave
A secret, lie or crime
Reach heavens nave
Wash away the grime

Drop the burden carried
Release the truth be told
Too late the hatchet buried
Bankrupt truth’s fool’s gold

Truth and good is tender
To pass the pearly gate
Unto Caesar render
To Hell’s portal you are late

The wage of sin is death
But from the fire will save
When drawing our last breath
We promise to behave

Really?! I ran into a former pain in my backside. She wanted to be chummy. She wanted to know “what are you up to these days” as if I would be willing to give her any tidbit of info. I was polite and I deflected her question by asking about her family and turning the question back on her. She mentioned at the end of our encounter that she is still waiting for an apology from me. I just smiled sweetly and told her that I’ve forgiven her. Then I turned and quickly walked away.

It was a lie. Sort of. I have put that chapter behind me. And I am pleasant and civil when I am forced to interact. But I have not forgotten nor have I fully forgiven her. This is something I have been working on. I need to be able to completely forgive her without reservation. I’m just not there yet. Her asking for an apology is akin to Himmler asking his victims for an apology (at least the ones that survived). I have work to do in letting go of some residual anger and resentment. I’m hoping to get there before I take my last dying breath because I don’t have any asbestos garments!

Looking Under the Sofa

I like to think I keep a tidy house. Perhaps it is an obsession or a ploy for control over life – I don’t know. It is however one of those things that gives me a sense of calm. If all my dishes are clean and in the cupboard, all the laundry folded and put away, and everything in its place I can relax. That said, there are a couple things that I hate to do. One is dust. If I could create a living space devoid of all dust (that is no dusting would be required), I’d be a very happy camper. The other cleaning activity that is not one I regularly undertake is moving furniture to clean underneath or behind. (cue foreboding music)

With the holiday upon us, I felt the pressure to clean. Sparky hates when I go into what he calls a “cleaning frenzy”. This year he asked why I was cleaning when it was just going to be the boys and maybe saintvi. It was a good question and I did pause for a moment before responding. My response is one that parents across the eons have used, “Because.” Sparky was not inclined to assist. So I took it upon myself to start the process. My first area to clean was the family room. The ceiling fan was obviously dusty. I could see the fuzzy edges of the blades. I am short so I was in the process of putting the step stool on top of the coffee table when Sparky walked in. “What are you doing?!” burst from his mouth. Though he didn’t verbalize it I clearly heard “the HELL” in that question. I looked at him and stated the obvious, “I’m going to dust the ceiling fan.” He took one look and told me that I was NOT. An arched eyebrow later the fan blades were clean. I finished dusting the lower areas.

I have a Roomba named MO (microorganism obliterator) that I send on a cleaning mission weekly. The Roomba is great but it cannot vacuum underneath the sofa or chairs. I dragged the monster vacuum from the closet and plugged it in to get the crevice tool working and to get all the crumbs out of the sofa. When I say crumbs I’m being kind. Sparky likes to snack on the sofa while watching TV. Anyway, after removing cushions and removing a handful of debris it was time to move the sofa. This particular sofa is a sleeper sofa that my mother gifted to us. To say it is heavy is an understatement. I was grunting in an attempt to move it. Perhaps I was grunting louder than I realized. Anyway, Sparky again came into the room to inquire why I was making that noise. I’m sure he had ulterior motives but he consented to move the sofa for me. Oh my! I am very lucky that we don’t have vermin or cockroaches! I found whole chips, peanuts, Cheetos, and a variety of cereal in addition to the usual dust bunnies. There was a fair amount of Ranger hair, some pine needles (we removed the carpet 5 years ago and hadn’t had a real tree in that room for at least 20 years), a button, a grocery flier, and a dime!

I feel vindicated and richer. My house is cleaner (I’m going to have to wash the glass globes on the dining room hanging lights next) and I can now concentrate on making the food for Christmas dinner. Please tell me I’m not insane and that other women feel compelled to clean before guests come into the house…

Looking Born Again

My entire existence had been a yearning
For independence and freedom
To stretch my arms to the heavens
To propel myself through the world
And with great effort I fledged
And fell
Tumbling from comfort
Shocked by the coldness
I threw my arms out grasping
A gasping borning cry erupts
As my wish was made reality and regret

As the cold seeps into my bones I find I’m more and more inclined to curl up in a blanket and snuggle down in front of the space heater. In an effort to stay warm I layer my clothes: leggings under a long skirt, a long-sleeved top under a long sweater, throw a fleece poncho over it all, with wool socks and high-top fake fur slipper boots. And if there were no reason to move I wouldn’t. But life moves forward and I am compelled to move as well.

When I was a child I longed for independence. But as a child I had no idea that independence meant that I would be responsible for my own food, clothing, laundry, transportation, etc. We seem to be hardwired to seek freedom. Even as far back as gestation we strive for independence. There is little the mother can do to prevent the arrival of the baby. And when the baby is ready there will be no stopping the dash for freedom. So we make our arrival into this world – from comfort and safety to cold and chaos. The cycle repeats when we leave home. And again when we make life choices, always with an eye to having more independence. Right up to the point when we finally welcome death and step into another plane. Always hoping that the next step will return us to the comfort that we traded for independence!

Looking Past Intent to Action

There are so many who refuse to acknowledge the power of love. They hold onto the idea that love must pour from each person and unite in the middle to be real. But really, love can be totally one-sided. That is the truth of love. God created the world and man out of love. Before we knew God or even when we did, God loved us. In spite of our lack of reciprocation. That is the essence of love – the ability to exist without a return in kind, to persist despite rejection, to tenaciously give even when backs are turned and feet flee. Love bears all. The magic happens when we turn and embrace the love. Being able to accept love when we know we are imperfect brings us closer to perfection. Letting love flow over us when we are unworthy allows for healing. I know this sounds simplistic. And I’m not saying that if you are loved by someone it will heal any physical or psychological diseases. I’m just saying that love is independent of those barriers. But, I hear you argue, what about the person who abuses you and claims to love you? Well, that isn’t love. Love is not hurtful, cruel, manipulative, or harmful. There are lots of folks who say they love. But love requires looking past intention and moving to action. What am I talking about? Well, you can say you love justice but until you stand up to injustice you haven’t fully committed to love. The same is true when you say you love God but don’t manifest that love in actions – it is only lip service. We have to show by doing that we love. We are asked to love our neighbor. So we need to show that love – help clear storm damage, bring over a meal when we know they are without food, share our bounty, spend time in company, console them when they are grieving. Do you love unconditionally? Do you know if you are loved?? We should take a moment and do a little self assessment. What the world needs now is love…

Looking Sweet

Sparky and I went shopping. Specifically we went to E & S Sales in Amish country. This particular store has a wide variety of foods from canned and dry goods to bulk baking and even a huge selection of fresh produce. They also have a bakery. There is one thing I’ve noticed is that their selection of sweets is far superior to any grocery in the area. They out do even the candy shops! The big draw is that E & S has really good deals on a variety of foods. They purchase short dated and out dated goods. Now, I’m a practical person. I have been described as frugal by my friends and cheap by my enemies. So we breeze through the aisles grabbing up the deals we can use until we get to the candy.

The candy takes one aisle on both sides. These are long, long aisles! They have bulk candy (You want Jolly Ranchers? Hershey kisses in any variety? Giant jelly beans? They’ve got them). But what makes my heart happy is the selection of gummies. They had all the flavors of rings – apple, peach, pineapple, cherry, lemon, blueberry and even the mixed bag! I love peach rings. Then they also have the gummie bears in all flavors, either mixed up or by individual flavor. They sell the sour patch kids in bulk too. And then there are the novelty gummies. Chicken feet, penguins, fried eggs, frogs, butterflies, worms, flowers, Christmas trees and snowmen, turtles, brains and skulls, sharks, fish, pigs and dinosaurs. I could go on but the variety is endless. Often they have closeout or discontinued candy – in the bulk and in your standard candy bar selection. They had Hershey’s Gold 4 big bars for a dollar. Midnight Milky Way bars 3 for $1, Payday, Zero and Chunky were 5 for a dollar. It is a candy paradise! We decided that in honor of the impending end to 2020, we’d splurge and get some candy. Sparky had a really hard time deciding and gave up in frustration before taking a deep breath and buying a huge bag of chocolate covered almonds. I went for the ultra sale candy. I got Gummie Berries, some Hi-Chew tropical fruit, some peach rings (did I mention I love those things?) and some really good eggnog caramels.

My infatuation with candy began early
Early morning raid of Christmas stocking
Stocking footed skid to the Easter basket
Basket with chocolate or sweet-tart shocking

Hoard the bounty all for myself
Myself to savor every sweet
Sweet caramel, jelly bean or licorice
Licorice being my favorite treat

Mint chocolate and almond bark white
White bunnies or peanut butter eggs
Eggs creme filled, fudge or cherry cordial
Cordial not as sister pleads and begs

She demand a cut since hers is gone
Gone down greedy gullet in less than a day
Day 30 and I still have a large stash
Stash the candy and charge what she will pay

Rationing the candy until the next holiday
Holiday candy lasts Christmas to Valentine’s
Valentine’s treats lasting to Easter
Easter chocolate the others outshines

Suck on candy canes and mints
Mints and anise bears call my name
Name my favorite sweets and make a list
List of candy to buy – I have no shame!

Looking Kissed

When Kim (aka artwolfen) suggested that she would be interested in an art trade, I jumped at the opportunity to have one of her pieces. As I was looking at what I had available in an orb, none of them shouted at me. The selection of a piece of art is serious business. For some reason none of my orbs felt right. During one of the last sessions, one of my fellow ceramists was discussing inspiration and motivation for creating her pieces. She said something in an off hand, almost dismissive way that stuck in my head. To paraphrase, “Art comes from within. There is no muse. There is no creator.” I didn’t contradict her (because I’m nonconfrontational). After returning home I found that I was inordinately bothered. I tried to push her words away. That night, my dreams were troubled. The next morning I decided to investigate the presence of a muse.

I’ve often felt that my creativity wanes at times and I attribute it to my muse going on vacation or having a little snit fit. According to the internet, the word muse comes from the Greek mousai, and refers to the goddesses of creativity and the arts. This is obviously not a new idea. Seems all major religions give a nod to the idea of a muse. Personally I am often inspired by my faith. (disclaimer: I’m a practicing Roman Catholic) So I was surfing around looking at the attributes of muses. And there it was! I was completely and suddenly inspired. I went to the studio and the orb came together in an instant (well maybe a couple of hours). I got it back last week.
The orb is glazed with Phil’s Celadon with the details in Red Iron Oxide stain with Super T in the center on a white stoneware clay. The title for this is Kissed by Ganesha. In the Hindu pantheon of gods, Ganesha is the elephant headed one. He is widely revered as the patron of arts and sciences. Ganesha is also invoked as patron of letters and learning during writing sessions. So even if Ganesha is not my personal muse, I’ve been kissed in the case of this orb!

Looking to Recover

Catastrophe struck 2 months ago. No, it wasn’t COVID (though we had 2 funerals). It was devastating. My flash drive took ill. It decided that it would not allow me to access my files. I used to have all my files on my hard drive but it was really chewing up space. I decided (after consultation with the IT guru, with the Management of Information Technologies Master’s degree) that I should transfer the files to a flash drive. I had a really nice and big (as in 32 gigabytes big) flash drive. Sparky said that all was not necessarily lost. He took it to a couple of his IT friends to see if it could be opened and saved. The answer was no. As in no, there is nothing they can do. I cried.

That flash drive had everything on it. It had all my poetry from 2007 to 2020. I had placed all my stories that I’ve written for Xanga and WP on the flash. There were all my xanga posts from 2007 to 2017. I had all my photos of ceramic pieces, the dog, my sons, geocaching adventures, all the Christmas photo cards – basically everything was on that flash drive. I had considered putting some of it on the laptop but hadn’t had a chance to do it. And now, well, it is going to be tough to recover all that info. I started on the poetry. So far I’ve got 2013 through 2020. It is really slow going. I had sorted and was winnowing poems to compile into a book for my mother for Christmas – I doubt that is going to happen…

On the bright side I rediscovered a couple poems that will be new to most of you. So here is a beauty from 2013:
Alarm clock jumps me up
In the name of the Father
I touch my forehead
Remembering the beginning
Of creation
Of morning
Hot water cleans me up
In the name of the Son
I trace a line from head to heart
Remembering the baptism
Of Jesus
Of myself
Black coffee warms me up
In the name of the Holy Spirit
A line from one shoulder to the other
Remembering the fire
Of grace
Of faith
The sign is made
Remembering I walk a path
To the Praetorium
To Golgotha
Repeating the cross
Remembering the way
To the tomb
To the upper room
To Emmaus
I cross myself again and again
To work and home
From sunrise to sun down