Looking to Spend Money

We got our stimulus checks. We had some Christmas money (my mother’s version of a stimulus check). And then we got a Federal tax refund. Sparky determined that we need to spend some money. Then fate intervened to determine how we were going to dole that cash into the economy. The garage door decided to die. It had had problems off and on for the last 10 years. Seems that the spring would break every 18 months and we’d have it replaced. When we were getting the house painted last August I suggested that it was time for a replacement/upgrade. Sparky pooh-poohed the idea. To save some money, he bolted the lose stability strips to the door – twice as the bolts pulled out the first time. Well, when the garage door repairman came out to repair the spring he told us that he couldn’t do the work in good conscience. Seems the little wheels that roll on the track were shot – of the 16 wheels, 4 were not even on the track and half of the remaining ones were so worn they were more square than round. The track itself was off kilter and probably part of the reason it kept breaking the spring. So a new garage door was ordered and we were anxiously awaiting the arrival. The company said it would arrive in 10 weeks. We were pleasantly surprised when the door arrived in 7 weeks and was installed just a few days later.


Then there was the issue of the driveway. It had slowly been crumbling. There were so many cracks and areas where the cement has tilted or sunken that it was impossible to shovel during the winter. It was a trip hazard. It was so uneven that to play basketball resulted in the ball taking bad bounces and ankles being at risk of being broken. This has been an ongoing issue that we had resolved to fix during the COVID shutdown. Sadly the company we had contacted was so crazy busy that they said they couldn’t give us an estimate last year. We called again this year and they can’t come out for an estimate until August! As luck would have it, neighbors just down the street had their driveway repoured. Sparky went and talked to the guys. A few hours later we had an estimate. Ten minutes after the estimate we asked when they could start. It took them 1 day to get the driveway torn out, leveled, and compacted. The next day it was poured. They came out 2 days later to cut the  stress joints. We had to park on the street for a week as it cured. It was completed way before the garage door ever arrived.

Of course the last photo shows the new drive and the new garage door! It really is a big improvement! 

Looking Back at Spring

The poem below is a Renga, specifically a Nijuin Renga which means it is 20 stanzas long. The Renga is a Japanese form consisting of alternating stanzas composed of a haiku (syllable count of 5-7-5) followed by a waki (syllable count of 7-7). If these were put together they would compose a Tanka. The point of the Renga is a collaborative effort between 2 and up to 20 poets. It is not meant to be a narrative poem and it shouldn’t tell a sequential story. It is supposed to jump around so that the stanzas are connected in some way but there is a shifting either in perspective or tone or topic. The most popular form, Kasen Renga has 36 verses and was made popular in the Edo period (13th century). The Nijuin Renga is shorter and was developed in the 20th century. It almost goes against the whole purpose to write a Renga as a solo effort. It took me about 4 weeks to just get 10 verses done. It left me feeling rather schizophrenic since I’d write and then put it aside and completely forget what I’d written. In the end that accomplished the shifting that would naturally occur with multiple authors. I started this for NPM but it just wasn’t happening. I then tried to enlist the assistance of a friend but she bailed on me to move to North Carolina (she managed one verse)! So I was forced to finish it alone. It has taken me a total of 8 weeks and I’m done. Not that this poem is polished or completed but I’m completely over this. Onward to summer!!

The naked bough shakes
Blushes with unopened buds
The crow laughs out loud

Young girls knock cherry blossoms
Confetti sifts from the sky

New leaves cannot hide
Bare branches and creaking bones
Old whores wear red lips

Old branches still bear sweet fruit
Saplings must respect elders

Cold slows sap’s flow
Take your time to prepare well
Enter with music

A dead stump can sprout green shoots
Ancient ones place lips to lips

Even the earth sings
Spring demands laughter and dance
Dance nude in moonlight

Be awake and be alive
Winter slumber is over

Old is new again
Dead leaves nourish and protect
Arugula blooms

Pear tree strips last year’s dry leaves
Waves arms in ecstatic dance

Crow watches amused
Weathered oak leers at her trunk
Is impotent now

Strong wind plucks flower petals
The crows laugh at the outrage

Crow-comes-back moon shines
Children gather first flowers
Time for a haircut

Shed heavy coats and mittens
Bodies writhe in the wet grass

Birth pangs pierce the night
Drowns lovers’ climatic cries
Yet the crow still laughs

We are not apart from spring
With abandon dance in rain

Snow melt swells rivers
Mingles with Spring’s happy tears
Trilling tree frogs court

Turn my face to the sun’s warmth
Turn my mind to beginnings

Hiding, lovers kiss
Branches moan embraced by winds
Spring procreation

Do not despair finding love
Even toads find a mate

Looking to Get Organized

One of my strengths is that I’m organized. Some would posit that I’m overly organized and that it verges on a severe form of OCD. To that end I usually keep it confined to my home. Sparky is well aware of my need for order. He approached me a month ago and suggested that I need to “pitch in” and volunteer more at church. Sparky asked if I could come with him to the church food pantry – just to take a look and possible make a few suggestions for organizing it. It was the thing of nightmares for an OCD sufferer. It was a mess. The shelves had been labeled but things were haphazardly stacked here and there. I went home and thought about it.

Since then I’ve been back three times to organize the pantry. They have a “shopping list” that tells them what they should get based on the number of people in the family. So I organized the shelves to match the order of the items on the shopping list. That seemed like the logical thing to do. Then I organized the foods in each category by expiration date having the shortest dates in front and the longer dates in the back. It boggled the mind. Then I had to make some additional labels. You see people donate items and sometimes they are not the standard fare – such as the people who donated 10 bags of candy, 4 cans of chocolate pudding, and chocolate covered caramel corn. Families with children in financial straights don’t have money to splurge on non-essentials. I ended up with one shelf labeled “Sweets/Treats” where I put all the cookies and candy, pudding and popcorn and a variety of other treats (can you say Pop Tarts?) that could be doled out in moderation.

That left 2 shelf units for the remainder of items. These were personal hygiene items, cleaning supplies, laundry detergents, and paper (toilet paper) and plastics. It was a mess. But it is now all organized. I was even able to have a shelf dedicated to baby items. I think the non-food items were the hardest to organize.

The final step was to actually clean. The pantry has been “maintained” by men. To that end the floor had not been swept in, well, forever! So I had to sweep and knock down *Shudder* spider webs. I found 4 containers of mouse poison bait that were so old that there was a thick layer of dust over the top of the contents. I suppose that is good? I take it to mean there are no rodents. Or it could mean that the rodents are avoiding the poison and snacking on the pantry supplies!

Then I tackled the little storage bin with its 3 drawers. Ack! I’m lucky I didn’t get injured. In the top drawer were 2 box cutters, one which didn’t have the blade retracted. Then I found a razor blade that had been wrapped with plastic and taped so that one edge was exposed – just thrown into the bottom. It is obvious that the “guys” are making up their own safety rules as they go… The things in the storage bin were mostly junk. It is now clean and tidy.

The last things that needed attention were the freezer and the refrigerator. Not only did the exterior need a good disinfecting but the interior too. It was too big a job for me to defrost it alone. So Sparky was pressed into service. The end result is that I will be volunteering once a week to go in and put the newly donated items on the shelves, rotate stock, and make sure everything is clean and tidy. I’m hoping the pantry will be “whipped into shape” soon. Sparky suggested I need to “document” procedures so that no one messes with my system….

Looking Monday Square in the Eye

I used to dread Mondays. They signaled the end of the weekend and the start of another grueling work week. Now that I’m retired, Monday is just another day. Usually. Sparky has decided that we must vacation. And by vacation he means a road trip to see places that are on his bucket list and to get some geocaches. His one big destination is Mount Rushmore. I’m thinking that Gilby, ND would be more fun since it is considered the “Disney” of geocaching. But I’m not as enthusiastic as I once was for a vacation. Partly because I’m not thrilled with the idea of the road trip itself – that is traveling for days in the car. You see Sparky and I are both frugal which is okay. I have no problem eating out of a cooler, bringing our own beverages and staying in cheap motels. But Sparky has gotten this bug about camping in the car… Ideally he’d like to have a van or small truck to modify into a camper. I am not on board. So I’m staring down Monday and giving Sparky the stink eye when he even starts to mention car camping…

Hot asphalt in the sun makes tires hum
Wanderlust sends us to the west or bust
Gasoline cost is rising and we’re lost
Highway stretches far, we sleep in the car
Rest stop night camp if we find the off ramp
Semi trucks whiz past, keep up we drive fast
Morning search for fuel and rain comes most cruel
Construction zones jolt and bounce all my bones
I want a bedroom with my own bathroom
I’ll make a deal for a home cooked meal
I’m losing my mind as the road unwinds
I have a sunburn red and a pounding head
I can’t take much more ‘cause my butt is sore
In anger my teeth set, are we there yet?

This is a Lannet. The Lannet was developed by Laura Lamarca as a sonnet form. Like all sonnets it consists of 14 lines with 10 syllables per line. Unlike the traditional sonnet, there is no stipulation for meter. But most importantly there are NO end rhymes allowed! Only internal rhymes are permitted. As I have mentioned, internal rhyme is not my favorite poetic device. In fact internal rhyming makes my teeth itch. However I also recognize that growth is only achieved if I push myself out of my comfort zone. Thus I did the internal rhymes. That said, I refuse to budge from my stance on van life – I’ll very happily travel if at the end of the day I have a soft bed with lots of fluffy pillows and a nice hot shower to loosen my stiff joints…

Looking Impatient

It isn’t often that you see an accident unfold before you. I got to have that experience this last week. With the weather warming up there have been more and more people out walking and biking. Granted it is still a little nippy in the morning but after this winter and reluctant spring everyone was anxious to get outside. Since it wasn’t raining and the sun was shining, a group of walkers (about 8 adults and several children) were on the Riverwalk where the path goes up and across a rather busy road. The crosswalk is well marked and has 2 signs with big flashing lights along with the street light.
As I was coming across the bridge I could see a red pickup truck (one of those really big ones) slowing down. Behind the truck was a little silver car with vanity plate that said “MONET GP” that was closing fast on the truck. I thought to myself, “Well that car had better slow down or they are going to crawl up into the bed of the truck.” And in an instant I saw the walkers start to cross the street, the truck had come to a stop, and the little silver car swerved to go around the truck. I was at least 5 car lengths back and had slowed to a near stop. I gasped as it all unfolded in slow motion.

The silver car slammed into the right back corner of the truck as it cut a little too close going around. The impact was hard enough to rock the truck hard and it lurched and rocked but the wheels didn’t move. The sound of the impact caused the walkers to either shoot forward or fall back splitting the group. The silver car’s left headlight shattered and the hood, left fender, and the driver’s door were peeled back like a lid on a sardine can. Everything froze. The driver of the car had to fight through the air bag that had deployed. The walkers gathered their crying children and most of them left (probably for home) while two men from the group and a pedestrian coming the other way stopped and waited. There was glass everywhere. The car then pulled around the corner onto the much less busy side street followed by the truck. By this time the light was red and all involved were on their cell phones. The walkers were taking photos. The truck driver was assessing the damage to his truck (his rear bumper was dragging the ground on the right side and his tail light was broken). The driver of the car was standing on the sidewalk looking stricken.

I think there were some Guardian Angels working hard. I hope the driver gets her impatience under control. It could have been vehicular homicide. Both drivers appeared unhurt. The pedestrians were all shaken but not injured. Although the car was pretty torn up it can be fixed. Ditto for the truck. I considered pulling over to give a statement to the police but there were plenty of others that were ready to do that. By the time I came back that way, the glass had been swept up, the vehicles were all gone and you would have never know that death had been cheated.

Looking for Kindness

What is a lack of kindness?
A wrong that cries for redress
The tears that fall in distress
Guilty won’t ever confess

How can we find true kindness?
If everyone love profess
Inequality address
Ensure everyone’s success

There is not enough kindness in my world. The cutthroat race to the top (whether in a profession, sport, love, or any other competitive pursuit) doesn’t lend itself to kindness. The idea that if anyone else succeeds means that you have failed is flat out wrong. Success is like love – there is always enough to go around! I have run into several people who are convinced that their failure is caused by the success of another. It boggles the mind. They have bought into the idea that they are an “army of one” and that they do not need or want anyone on their team. They are not responsible for their own actions as they are only reacting to the actions of others. Thus all of their failures are the result of someone “making them do it”. And of course the it that they’ve done ranges from relationship sabotage to industrial espionage. If what they do lands them in trouble, it is always someone else’s fault.

The poetry above is a Tanaga. The Tanaga is a Filipino form that consists of stanzas of 4 lines with 7 syllables per line written in a monorhyme.

Looking Viral

Last week was the deadline to enter a piece into the Student/Faculty Art Show. I entered a grouping of 4 orbs under the title “Corona Coven” which wasn’t terribly original. I’m pretty sure there are going to be several coronavirus themed entries. One woman has been working on a weaving that incorporates nitrile gloves cut into strips (powder blue, purple, and Pepto-Bismol pink). She was still frantically working on it last week (the weaving instructor is in my ceramics class). I’m anxious to see the finished product and I do hope she completed it in time.


The 4 orbs above are the grouping I put together. The first is a white stoneware clay body glazed in Royal Blue with Super T on the projections. The second is the Coronavirus that was delayed by the coronavirus. It is glazed in Alfred’s White with red enamel (Precious Moments) “room temperature glaze”. The third is a white stoneware body glazed in Gold Shino with Megan’s Blue applied on the spikes. Megan’s Blue is a new formulation that mimics the old and discontinued Chun Blue (one of my favorites that contained Barium making it unsafe for food). The old was very high gloss. The new formulation is slightly less shiny, but still pools nicely in any depressions making it a good choice to highlight any texture or pattern. The last one is a white stoneware clay glazed in Phil’s Celadon with spots of Reitz Green glaze. The individual titles are (in order): Norovirus, Coronavirus, Small Pox virus, Influenza virus.  I’m happy with the way they turned out, especially since the potential for breakage was very high! Now I just have to cross my fingers and hope the judge is impressed!

Looking for an Exit

Shows some leg
The car stops
She gets in

Pimp demands
More money
Turn more tricks

Hails a cab
Night shift starts
No escape

I was reading a story about a girl who decided to take a job as a stripper to finance her college education. She supposedly worked for several years and made really good money – enough to pay for her tuition and room and board. She was a student by day and a dancer by night. The happy ending was she left that life behind as she received her diploma and got a job in her field. Too many impressionable girls see this as a glamorous life. They believe that they will work and make their fortune. This is not the norm. There was a documentary about runaway girls who ended up dancing and then were introduced to drugs which led them to prostitution. They joined the many hopelessly trapped by addiction and dependence. The stories were heartbreaking. Escape was not a realistic goal. They had nowhere to go, no friends, no family, and an abundance of shame and self-loathing. For many of these girls their exit from prostitution is either jail/prison or death. I know this is not a happy post. It is a sad state of affairs when among all the other parental worries, mothers have to agonize about the possibility that their daughters will be lured into the sex trade!

This is a TriCube poem. This form has 3 stanzas of 3 lines with 3 syllables per line. There is no rule for rhyme or meter.

Looking Odd, Odder, Oddest

I am a little odd. I’ve known this for a long time and I’m good with it. Recently I’ve gotten odder. So here’s my story with some back story first.

Medically I’ve always been a little out of the ordinary. The first indication was when I was born. I was very small and remained so until HS which resulted in a multitude of dietary interventions (can you say Tiger’s Milk?). Seemed I was also so sensitive to sun that I’d burn badly just being in my crib inside with a little sun coming in the window – in January. I’ve had cysts, orthognathic surgery, and a molar pregnancy. I ended up as patient #6 in a medical journal for xanthogranulomatous oophoritis because it is kind of sort of really rare. My surgeon was so excited that he practically begged me to allow him to publish.

Which brings me to the most recent oddity. I thought I had ringworm. First, I work with animals and sometimes animals have ringworm. I’ve had ringworm before (granted it has been a very long time ago), but mostly because Sparky is a fungal magnet and keeps getting fungus at the gym (yet another reason not to join). I immediately started treatment with the prescription antifungal cream that Sparky hadn’t used up. I treated from September to January. I started to worry when the areas began to increase in size. So I finally went to the doctor. He looked at it and scratched his head. “It doesn’t appear like ringworm to me.” he intoned. Then after poking and squeezing it and then making some odd noises associated with indecision, he sent me to the expert.

I was able to get in to see the dermatologist in February. He was nearly gleeful as he examined my arm lesions. I suspect he gets really bored with acne, seborrhea and psoriasis. He was absolutely giddy as he measured and took photos of my lesions. He kneaded the skin and got very excited as he explained that he wanted to take a biopsy to confirm his suspicions, just a little outpatient surgery. The results indicated a rare condition which has no cure. The treatments don’t often work, no one really knows what triggers it. It sounds like Morticia Addams’ sister – Morphea (aka localized scleroderma). It is a rare, 3 in 100,000 disease in the autoimmune family. On the bright side it isn’t contagious and will probably, (maybe) resolve itself in 6 months with treatment or a couple of years without. On the downside it will likely leave a nasty ugly scar. I couldn’t just have something curable. Treatment has begun with some pretty high powered steroid cream. My dermatologist is very excited with the whole thing. I’m less enthusiastic.

So I’m starting early to come up with some sort of heroic or exciting story to explain my scars (sorry no photos). I’m toying with “they are scars from when I ran into the neighbor’s burning house to rescue their cat.” Or perhaps, “Oh that? I got that when I was kidnapped and the maniac who abducted me burned me because he thought that would make my alien force field go down and reveal my real identity. I don’t want to talk about it.” Do any of you have a better story I can use?

Looking Mothered

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Sparky and I are currently among the few in our age group who haven’t lost our mothers. That makes Mother’s Day hard for many of our friends. While many were being inundated with cards and flowers, I was not. I specifically requested no flowers or candy. Its not a big deal if I get a card or if I don’t. What is a big deal is the feeling of being appreciated. To that end it was a day of appreciation with my sons in the morning. I was able to go geocaching with my BFF, saintvi and Sparky too in the afternoon. *edit* Sparky planned to grill out but served us a yummy meal from the local Chinese take-out instead. We wanted to end the day with ice cream with the whole clan but he was not feeling up to it after a full day. We will celebrate with my MIL for Mother’s Day but also her birthday when we take her out later this week!

In celebration of my mother I wrote this little acrostic sonnet – yeah, I am a little bit of an overachiever… I blame it on my mother! hehe!

Many times in darkness I cried for you
Overcome by sickness, terror and fright
That your one loving gentle touch would do
Heal my hurt and my heart and set things right
Every risk or barrier I broke through
Reflected on the strength you gifted me
Learned to stand up tall and straight as I grew
Opened my mind to all that I could be
Versed in manners, science, cooking, and art
Every trick of frugality you taught
Then good judgement you planted in my heart
Respect, assist, treat others as you ought
Until the end of time I will confess
Each moment with you Mother I’ve been blessed

My mother is going to have a fairly serious procedure performed. One that she had almost 10 years ago. It is a necessity to repair again. At the age of 89 there are risks that she didn’t face before. Although I am confident in the skills of the surgeon and the hospital team, and I know my mother is pretty darned tough, I’d still appreciate any prayers and positive thoughts sent her way.