Looking for the Almighty

Before sacrifice
A love inaccessible
Blind to the holy
Holy eye searches man
More afraid of our nature
Nothing in the box
Peer inside using
Applications outside time
What is this but prayer?
Prelude to the Almighty
Sample miracles
Complete communion
With the empty tomb

The above is a Haiku Sonnet, well almost a haiku sonnet. These aren’t really haiku in the purest sense. They fall into the category of senyrus more accurately. However for the purpose of the Haiku sonnet there was no strict interpretation in some of the examples. So I’m sticking with my designation of sonnet and haiku. (stamps foot for emphasis) This form is a series of 4 haiku with an ending couplet of 5 or 7 syllables per line.

Next Wednesday is the beginning of Lent and Ash Wednesday. For Roman Catholics it is a 7 week long examination of conscience, a time of prayer and fasting and almsgiving. Tomorrow is Mardi Gras where we feast and consume all the things that we will deny ourselves for the duration of Lent. When I was working I’d take all the candy especially the chocolate, and have a little afternoon party. As a chocaholic this was certainly right up there at the top of the list of penances. Because my stress levels have dropped to barely discernable levels, my chocolate consumption (and hoarding) has also dropped. This year I will continue my practice of Doing Things instead of Not Doing Things. The standard is to give up something – candy, listening to the radio, smoking/drinking, caffeine, cursing… the list goes on. However when you lead a squeaky clean life and your only vices are an occasional chocolate and blogging it doesn’t really make sense to give up those things. In solidarity with the Christians in Ukraine, I am going to go all in on fasting and prayer. Instead I’m not giving up but adding things. My list of adding things includes: Not giving the evil eye to people who don’t wear masks, (that is going to be tough but I’m going to give it my best shot), shopping and eating local, tipping double, doing a Bible study (on the book of Psalms), doing a Lenten devotions series, add praying in the morning in addition to the evening Rosary with intentions for safety, peace, and strength for all those in Ukraine. My parish Priest gave a very rousing homily on why we needed to get “battle ready” as the Church Militant which includes “basic training” of prayer, fasting, and more prayer, especially the Prayer of St. Michael the Archangel:

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil; May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; And do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

Looking Tangled

Sparky has a history of unfortunate events involving the hair under his arms. I might have written about the disaster with the roll-on deodorant. In case you missed that post (back when I was on Xanga) the synopsis is that he ran out of his solid stick deodorant and decided to use my roll-on. All was fine until he attempted to remove the applicator from his arm pit. That’s when he discovered that he had twirled the hair under his arm around the applicator ball. I was able to gently cut the hair and free him from that entanglement. I did have some difficulty – mostly because I was laughing so hard I couldn’t see clearly through the tears.

Fast forward to this most recent episode. (He learned and will never ever use a roll-on product ever again! There is a reason that the roll-on is marketed to women exclusively.) He was getting ready for work and was preparing to shower. As he took his shirt off he felt a mighty pull and pain – from his under arm. Concerned that he might have severely pulled a muscle or possibly was experiencing a heart attack, he yelled for me. After expressing his concern, I managed to get him to raise his arm just a little. I spied the problem immediately. Seems that the new exercise shirt had a little bit of lint and some loose threads that with his vigorous arm motion while exercising had tangled in his luxurious underarm hair. In other words he had a mat that was pulling his skin and hair. The tangle was so tight that there was no space between the mat and his skin. The only solution was to get out the razor and shave the mat off. He was terrified! I assured him that I had over half a century experience shaving underarms and that it wouldn’t take but a second. I was true to my word and freed him from his pain. It was very hard to keep my hands from shaking as I was suppressing laughter. Of course my mirth was audible even over the sound of the water running in the shower!

There is never ending amusement at my house. You can cry or you can laugh – we choose to laugh!

Looking Like a Thousand Bucks

My mother was an only child. When my maternal grandmother died, she left my mother an inheritance that was substantial. Between my father’s savvy investing and saving, my mother’s frugality, and the inheritance, my mother didn’t have to worry financially. She was generous and always sent money on birthdays and at Christmas (and sometimes just for the heck of it). Her estate is now finally (almost) settled. She named me and my sisters as beneficiaries on all her savings and investments. If I could, I’d trade every penny to have her back.

An inheritance received
Bound with tears and grief
Hands open
Let fall the loss of time

Cannot replace
All that is missing
A mother’s value or
Love or touch or voice or smile

Fold crisp bills
Clinking coins heavy in my hands
What value placed on
Now I cry ugly
Looking like a thousand bucks

This poem is not free verse. It is a French form called Descort. It is a form that is intentional in the variability of the lines and stanzas. There is no end rhyme, no refrains. It avoids meter, line lengths and syllable counts that are the same within stanzas and between stanzas. This form is actually harder than you’d think…

Looking for Sparkles

I like sparkles but especially diamonds. I have expensive tastes but do not indulge myself. When I lost my wedding set (and I don’t want to rehash ancient history but it had one big diamond and 15 smaller ones), I replaced it with a gold band (no stones) that I got at a pawn shop for $65 and then later Sparky bought me an engagement ring (one small diamond) at another pawn shop for a whopping $170. I’ve been wearing them for the last 10 years.

When my mother heard that I’d lost my rings she gifted me with a couple of rings. They were very sparkly, so much so that it was obvious that they were not real (I checked). She loved wearing fancy rings. Although she had lots of costume jewelry, she also had lots of diamonds, emeralds, aquamarines, and even at one time sapphires and opals. It was kind of a thing for my father to take one of us girls with him to help pick out her Christmas gift at the jewelry store. After he died she had to buy her own rings. She liked to go to the pawn shops and check to see what they had for cheap.

After her funeral, my sisters and I went through her jewelry and divided it up among us. There were lots of high quality pieces. We each ended up with 11 rings. Of all the items I got, my favorite was her wedding band from her original set (a long story of cash strapped lovers). It was a very simple band with 3 teeny tiny diamond chips, well it was supposed to have 3 diamonds. One diamond was missing. Even though it is not the most expensive ring (pretty much worth a couple dollars if it were melted down), I decided to get it fixed. The jeweler suggested just junking it. Of course when he registered my look of horror at the suggestion, his tune shifted to “unless it has great sentimental value” then we can replace the diamond and put on new prongs. So I’m wearing that wedding band and it actually matches my engagement ring. I guess in the end I’m not as much into the diamonds as into having a touchstone…

Looking Past Sadness

Mourning is a strange process. It seems that I am doing it differently this time around, completely different from when my father died. My grief is more diffuse. I’m happy one minute and then brought to tears the next with no discernable trigger. I was driving and suddenly I found myself crying. I didn’t feel sad nor had I been thinking about my mother but the tears seeped from me. Then as suddenly as they started, they stopped. This has been unnerving because I’m not one to spontaneously cry. I have written some poetry but haven’t really had my heart into writing. Here it is the middle of February without any real effort to produce serious poetry. I’ve puttered and made a couple half hearted efforts, just enough to manage the every other post schedule. Because I wasn’t feeling terribly poetic, I made the rest of the Art Cards. After putting them together I decided to write some senyrus to add to the back. I apologize if these seem somber but it felt right to put them here. In the end, I feel lighter and can see brighter days coming…

The changes prompted
Desire and involvement
Would we evoke death

Important sorrow
Validation of love
Giving others strength

A union of blood
Leading to eternity
From this I profit

Now’s the correct time
Hear the velvety heart call
Reply to the crows

Keep to your chambers
Gratitude comes with the day
I reside with grace

Scan the Twilight hour
Pray death will sanctify me
Moon defends the sun

Looking in the Dryer

For the last 7 years I’ve used an alternative to the fabric softener sheet in my dryer. It was prompted by a desire to eliminate as many chemicals and toxins from everyday living. To that end I purchased a set of “dryer balls”. These looked like puffer fish in white and blue plastic. They supposedly work by “fluffing” fabrics as they tumble in the dryer and also eliminate static electricity. My little fish are no longer white or blue. I now have a mostly charcoal grey one and the other is an odd navy color. My first thought was that they were dirty. So I took them to the sink and gave them a good scrubbing. The color didn’t change. Hmmm, perhaps I needed to run them through a dishwasher cycle. That failed to make them any cleaner. Scratching my noggin, I figured that maybe they required a different approach. I had some alcohol wipes and used one to scrub a small area (just to see if it made a dent in the discoloration). Well, it did take off some of the color but not enough to really make a difference.

That made me think that perhaps the “dirt” was actually some kind of dye. That led to an examination of the dryer interior. Sure enough my efforts to clean blue jeans indigo residue from the dryer (completed sometime before the pandemic) has been undone. In the larger scheme of things this isn’t really a problem. The color is baked on and doesn’t cause any discoloration to the clothes. The same holds true for the little puffer fish. Though they are not pristine, the color doesn’t change performance. Which made me start thinking about appearances and performance.

For a long time the local news had a male anchor. Then they added a female anchor. He was older, a little distinguished looking and presented all the headline news (national and local). The female anchor was young, pretty, and blonde. She was allowed to read all the fluffy stuff. Every couple of years the female anchor would be replaced. It had nothing to do with her ability but everything to do with her appearance. One got married and became pregnant. She gained weight. She was replaced. Another was in a car accident and had to have reconstructive surgery on her face. She was let go. Then in the early 1990s, they hired a beautiful, young ambitious woman. She was determined to be a real journalist. She managed to last beyond the 2 years. She developed a following. She worked hard – she dieted, she exercised, she took pills, she became a functional alcoholic. She had been at the TV station for 10 years. Then she was arrested for a DUI. The station wanted to fire her. But she fought. She apologized to the public. She then did an investigative piece on the pressure to remain young and beautiful in the TV industry. It won awards. And her superiors realized that if they fired her she would sue them. She paved the way for several other local anchors – all women who are now “of a certain age” and truly co-anchors. Although they dress well, they are neither young or thin. They are mature and effective.

I’m not going to replace my puffer fish – they are still effective!

Looking for My Valentine

I am invincible with you
With you I am invincible

I decided to attempt this form – The Skinny. It is a form that was created by Truth Thomas and consists of 11 lines. The first and last lines contain the same words (but can be rearranged). Lines 2 – 10 are single words and lines 2, 6, and 10 must be the same word. There is no restriction on topic or rhyme.

As is our custom, Sparky and I will have a quiet dinner out at that singular establishment that tests the bounds of love – Taco Bell. He has indicated that he will spring for ANYTHING on the menu! We will people watch. Taco Bell is usually knee deep in young love, the kind that can’t afford a steak dinner. I sit and observe the earnest youth looking for their true Valentines. I am lucky to have looked and found my Valentine! (Though several years ago he hid a bunch of Valentines, the kinds that kids exchange in school, around the house. I’m still looking for the last one! Of course he can’t remember where he hid it!!!). Even doing a thorough cleaning has not turned up the missing Valentine. I suspect I won’t find it until we move!

Looking to Cook Up Some Flavor

I’m a big fan of Spinach Saag Paneer, an Indian dish that features a creamy cooked spinach and homemade cheese called paneer. I decided that making paneer was beyond my ability (and level of patience in the kitchen) therefore I determined that Spinach Saag Aloo (Aloo referring to potatoes) was more my speed. After an extensive search and watching way too many YouTube cooking videos, I selected a recipe.

Spinach Saag Aloo
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 potato peeled and diced into bite-sized pieces
1 small onion, diced finely
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh serrano pepper, minced (which I omitted from the recipe)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon ground dried Kashmiri red chilis or paprika for a milder flavor
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoons ground coriander
1 clove garlic minced
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated ginger root
2 – 3 tablespoons water for potatoes
1 – 1 1/2 cups water for onions/spinach
1 package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

I was very nervous but took a deep breath and plunged ahead:
1. Heat butter and oil in a deep pot over medium-high heat and add cumin seeds.
2. When cumin seeds begin to sizzle, add onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
3. Add garlic and ginger to onions stirring until garlic is fragrant, then add turmeric, garam masala, paprika, and coriander stirring well. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water and then simmer for ~ 5 minutes while the potatoes cook.
4. Place diced potatoes in a microwave dish with 2 – 3 tablespoons of water and cook until fork tender ~ 5 minutes.
5. Add the spinach to the pot and cook until it starts to fall apart, stirring frequently.
6. Remove from heat and blend using an immersion blender until spinach is creamy.
7. Add potatoes, stir and serve hot with rice or naan.

It wasn’t too difficult to make and by omitting the peppers (fresh serrano and red chili powder) and substituting the paprika instead it wasn’t so hot that I couldn’t handle it. I served it over rice and it was delicious. Though next time I make it I’m going to add more potatoes and reduce the water and drain the spinach better!

Looking Colder

We are mid-winter and the temperature has dropped into the freezing realm. Sparky broke out the space heaters in November. I washed the winter blankets and deployed them on the beds – ours and the guest bed way back in November as well. I had delayed switching out the summer pajamas for the winter variety but it was necessary after Thanksgiving. I packed away all the sleeveless nighties and hauled out the flannel and fleece. I had earlier switched the regular wardrobe for the long sleeved shirts. The spring and summer wear have been put away replacing them with corduroy and heavy denim trousers. I was resigned to the inevitable cold of winter but the deepest freeze is upon us.

Sadly this colder weather has resulted in an influx of unwelcome visitors. The spiders decided to take refuge from the cold in my house. It is making me a bit jumpy. I never know when one will suddenly appear. There was one that started to create his web by attaching one end on my knife block! He was dispatched very quickly. Another thought the shower was a suitable home. Likewise he met a steaming hot and watery death. My Roomba flushed one out from under the bed and unlucky for him I was wearing shoes.

We were prepared for the winter. And are making the best we can of the cold. There was a little difficulty finding some ice melt pellets but managed to find some at Lowe’s. The cars were winterized just before Christmas. Sparky put the grill away and removed the window air conditioner unit way back in October. Now are the days of having the snow shovels and the boot rack near the door.

Winter winds freeze bones
Fire dies slow
Hope like steam rises

This poem is a Lune. The Lune is an American Haiku created by Robert Kelly consisting of 3 lines with a strict syllable count of 5/3/5 but no requirement for a season word and no prohibition of rhyme or topic.

Looking Vacationed

We left the frozen tundra of Northern Indiana in heavy, near whiteout conditions. The roads were not plowed and the going was very slow (about a top speed of 40 MPH). What would have taken us about 3 hours to get to Indianapolis took us nearly 5 hours. We were exhausted by the time we reached clear pavement. It really takes it out of you when you have tensed all your muscles and gritted your teeth for that long. I think I strained an eye muscle and maybe the little muscles that cause the nostrils to flare. But we made it. And then we geocached the rest of the way to Florida. We brought saintvi along since she hadn’t found any caches in a couple of the states we were passing through as well as the destination.

From that point things seemed wonderful. The weather was not exactly warm (high of only 50F) but sunny and much warmer than home where the highs were in negative numbers. The second day we were there saintvi got violently ill with some sort of 24 hour stomach bug. She felt bad – bad that she was so sick, bad that she was putting a damper on the fun. Then she felt better but my BIL got it. He felt awful (vomiting is no fun and then the diarrhea hit) and she felt even worse! Then my sister got it! It was hitting every 2 days. Sparky and I looked at each other. We were scheduled to drive back and it was likely that one or both of us would be very very ill on day one or two of the drive (my sister provided a cute sand bucket and plastic bags just in case). We crossed our fingers and left Florida for the drive home. It was fairly warm until we neared Indiana but I missed my sister’s hot tub (which was so delightful). Anyway, we managed to geocache and no one got sick.

As we were nearing home my sister sent a text with a news link – seems the omicron variant of the coronavirus is causing symptoms that can’t be differentiated from a stomach virus! When we looked at our vaccination status, we are in the sweet spot of still high immunity but saintvi was past that point. We discussed it and if it was COVID at least she (and my sister and BIL) are now swimming in antibodies! I’m planning on returning soon for another go round. We’ll have to hope the next visit isn’t plagued with any illnesses!