Looking At Fathers

We just, sort of, celebrated Father’s Day. It was only a “sort of celebration” based on several factors. First and foremost Sparky had to work Saturday (6 AM – 3 PM) and then on Sunday he worked all day (8 AM – 5 PM). This gave us precious little time to do any of his “favorite things” like going to Goodwill half price day, making a trip to E & S in Shipshewana, or even going to dinner at any of his favorite places. Adding to the mix was the problem of sons #1 & 2 having to work 2 PM – 11 PM on the weekend. Well you can see that the scheduling nightmare was one we couldn’t wake from! The second issue was that my father has been gone for nearly 10 years making this a holiday a little sad if I dwell on it. I try not to. However we were able to take Sparky’s Dad (and Mom) out to dinner Saturday night. We gave him his gift (which made his eyes light up). He can’t play golf anymore due to a degenerative spine issue but he still loves golf so a book was a perfect gift (The Match: The Day the Game of Golf Changed Forever). He chose the restaurant and was waffling between Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and the new place Portillos (specializing in hotdogs – Chicago-style). We ended up at Cheddars. It was crowded but the food was excellent!

Father’s Day holds a lot of baggage for many people, as much or more than Mother’s Day. At my age, it is more common than not to have experienced the loss of parents and men seem to go first. Currently most of my close friends have lost at least one parent. That makes these days designed to mark family ties a little more difficult. Some have to contend with the chasm of death separating them from fathers, others there is a separation of distance or estrangement. And sadly there is occasionally a complete lack of relationship due to divorce, abandonment, or uncertainty of identifying the actual biological father. There is however a bright spot in all this. There are so many good men out there who have stepped up and become father figures to children. They have invested time and built relationships with children – children that were born of other relationships but are children of their hearts. All we hear about in the media is the horrific – children abused or killed at the hands of men in father roles. The truth is there are wonderful men who never get credit for being exemplary fathers. This is their day. So if there is a father that was there for you, who supported your dreams, protected you, gave you confidence, and made you feel valued, then thank them. If they have passed from your life then say a prayer for them and give God thanks for them. If you didn’t have that father in your life then thank whoever stepped into that role.


Looking High and Low

I have misplaced an item. I visualize it in my minds-eye. I remember where I last saw it. For the life of me I can’t find it! You are probably thinking that this item is small, an earring? Or maybe it is a shoe or perhaps a kitchen gadget like the strawberry topper but you’d be wrong. I have lost a digital bathroom scale! How in blue blazes does someone lose a scale?! I got the scale as part of a weight loss study. I was supposed to weigh and record daily the fluctuations in my numbers. At the same time I had to take body measurements and record them. All that was done while adding a dietary supplement (fiber in pill form) that I had to take for 6 weeks. It was the most miserable 6 weeks of my life. Being very pregnant in the steamy heat of July was more enjoyable than that little pill. The pill that caused me to poop like an elephant and produce enough gas that if harnessed would have heated a modest home for the winter! I digress. That scale was used for about a year after the study ended. Then the batteries died and I never replaced them. The scale was placed under the sink in the hall bathroom. BUT IT ISN’T THERE! I have torn the house apart in my search. I just know (confirmed by a deep ache in my bones) that the scale will surface immediately after I shell out big bucks for a new one!

To further complicate this tale, I don’t want a new scale. We have a perfectly good one that was a wedding gift from Sparky’s oldest sister (that is a whole other story). But it works just fine. It is of German manufacture and is very accurate. The issue is that it is not digital so as you stand on it the little needle wiggles. The needle wiggles and Sparky can’t read the number because he can’t see the tiny lines that are the graduations between the big and bigger numbers. When he bends down to get a better look the needle goes all over and he mutters and grumbles. I don’t seem to have any problem reading the scale….
Can you guess what Sparky is getting for Father’s Day?

Looking for Mother’s Wisdom

Voice in my head
Forms the words in my mouth
Repeating wisdom to my child
Look before crossing streets
Don’t eat raw meat
Say please

This is an Eintou, an African-American poem of syllabic form. It is a septet (7 lines) with a syllable count of 2-4-6-8-6-4-2. The name Eintou is West African for pearl. This form of poetry tries to impart pearls of wisdom in heightened language in a cyclic form.

I still hear my mother’s voice echoing at times. She had several mantras. Some were repeated on a daily basis and others were only brought out on special occasions. In particular were the admonitions to wash your hands before eating, brush your teeth before AND after eating (you don’t eat off dirty plates), drink all your milk (there are starving children in China). You get the idea. Among the words spoken were those that were delivered during the moments of childhood crises. “You may be small physically but intellectually you are a giant.” These words have stuck with me. Spoken as I was sobbing because some neighborhood kids told me I was too short play basketball with them. “If everyone jumped off a cliff would you want to jump too? Think!” Despite my desire to be one of the group my mother insisted I use the common sense so many were lacking. Yes, she forbade me to participate in some activities that I desperately desired to be part of. In retrospect it probably kept me out of some serious trouble. “If God had wanted you to have holes in your ears He’d have put them there.” Was her standard response to pleas for pierced ears. When pressed beyond her limit she’d say, “Go get me a nail, the hammer and the bread board and I’ll pierce your ears.” I never took her up on her offer. Eventually I got pierced ears (and so did she many years later), but I was of an age that I was responsible for the after care! When we (my 2 sisters and I) were being difficult her standard response was not to belittle us but to lay that maternal curse on us, “I hope you have children just like you!” Anyway what I wanted to say is that her words somehow managed to sneak through my lips and into the heads of my children. I was very fortunate that my mother’s words were supportive, unlike some people who have hurtful and negative words rattling around their heads. I think that is how it works from generation to generation. Both the good and the bad.

Looking to Sit Large

I was having a conversation and the topic of saving seats came up. The person I was talking with stated that she was going to get there early and “sit large”. I must have looked like those puzzled dogs on FaceBook – you know the ones that cock their heads to one side with a quizzical expression.

She had to explain the expression meant that she was going to hold several seats on each side of her chosen location by spreading out her arms aka “sitting large”.

This made me think about saving seats and the etiquette involved. I have saved a seat before but I’m talking about one seat. You can put your coat on the seat next to you. Or maybe you set your purse on the chair to claim it or simply put your hand on the seat. No big deal. What starts to get into a grey area as far as etiquette goes is when you start saving more than 2 seats. I’ve been to dinners, gatherings, open seating concerts, etc. where people are saving whole rows of seats and sometimes multiple rows! They have different methods.
There is the coat method where a coat is laid across several chairs. This is mostly done with an interval of at least 2 seats between the person and the start of the coat. It can be augmented with a variety of other clothing items such as hats, gloves, scarves, and even kleenex!

Then there is the tilted chair method. This involves tilting the chair against the table to thwart anyone from just sliding into the seat. That allows the vigilant saver of the seats to clear their throat and intone “I’m sorry but those seats are taken.”

A lot of people save lots of seats and I usually don’t have an issue. However when you save lots of seats and no one is filling them up and others are scrounging for any spot to sit, well then it is a problem. When the event is starting and you have 15 spots saved and your party hasn’t arrived, well then it is a problem. When all your people have taken a seat and you still have 4 empty seats and they are in the middle of your group then that is a problem.

So the take away is that saving one or two seats is acceptable but saving whole rows of seats is rude. OK, I’m done ranting (Graduation is over and I’m so relieved).

Looking at an Award

I was just nominated for the Liebster Award for new bloggers! I have to thank The Runaway Writer for the nomination. She is working on her novel – having left her career to focus on her writing full-time. I have enjoyed her blog where she has chronicled her adventures with her 3 canine companions.

The rules are simple:
1. Acknowledge the blog that nominated you. (check)
2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator asked. (check – see below)
3. Nominate 11 other bloggers. (check)
4. Ask them 11 questions. (check – this was the hardest part)
5. Let them know you have nominated them. (check!)

So to get right to it, here are the 11 questions posed with my answers in italics:
1. Why did you decide to start a blog? I had been blogging on Xanga since 2006 and when that site decided to make it near impossible to continue I jumped ship and came to WordPress in May of 2017. I suppose the real answer to the question is that my blogging was started as a creative outlet and as a means of stress relief.
2. Are you a cat person or a dog person? I’m both. I have owned many pets, most recently a dog, Ranger, who we lost in October 2016. I grew up with cats (lots of cats). My mother bred Persians and we always had at least one cat in the house. I am a Veterinary Technician so I get to be around all kinds of animals on a daily basis.
3. How many books do you read in a year? Usually 6 give or take. I tend to have to have closure so when I start a book I don’t put it down until I’m done. This results in me reading all night in many cases. That is really not conducive to holding a full-time job and having to bring my A game every day! When I retire that will change everything!
4. Who is your favorite author? Hmm. There are many authors I enjoy. I have a soft spot for C.S. Lewis, J.R.R.Tolkien, J. K. Rowling (Could there be a pattern with authors that use initials?) I also like Zenna Henderson, Edgar Rice Burroughs, James D. Forman, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein. But I’m old fashioned and William Shakespeare is my all time favorite!
5. Who is the one person who inspires you the most? I have been influenced most strongly by my parents and my grandparents. I have been inspired by several people over the course of my life – my 8th grade English teacher Mrs. Watson, my college roommate (for 3 years) Deb Schirg, and my husband, Sparky. I suppose the biggest influence has been Jesus, The Christ. Yep. That’s the list.
6. Pineapple on pizza – yay or nay? This one is easy. Yay!
7. What is your biggest fear? My biggest fear is spiders. I just don’t want to have to see them or have to deal with them. They will cause me to shriek like a fire alarm.
8. What is your favorite season? This is difficult – I’ve always liked Spring. Spring is the revival of life and the end of winter’s grip on the earth (and my ice cold feet). However the wonderful long sunny days of Autumn with the crisp air and the burst of colorful foliage is nearly irresistible. Sadly we have had an abbreviated Spring and last Fall was also extremely short since we had significant snow fall in October!
9. If you had a million dollars to give away, who would you give it to? I would be inclined to give it to the church and to my alma mater to fund some scholarships.
10. Ocean or lake? Which is your favorite? I am not a water person despite being an Aquarius. Oceans and lakes scare me. The ocean is more interesting…
11. What is your favorite memory? I have many favorite memories. Most focus on family. There was the time I purchased the most perfect gift for my father – it doesn’t happen very often that you manage to find that one thing that makes their eyes light up! Or the time I made lentil soup and was swept off my feet in an embrace of gratitude for that meal. Maybe it was when son#1 told me that I was the best mom in the world. Or perhaps it was when son#2 finished his recital piece and our eyes met and I knew he had found his passion…

Now for the nominations of eleven others for this award. It may be a little difficult to do so since there aren’t that many blogs that I regularly follow (or who follow me). I will give it my best shot.

1. My Blog (just another WordPress site)
2. Promisesunshine
3. Anacrazyfuturewriter
4. Zakiah
5. Denisegainey
6. fauquetmichel
7. iampeacenow
8. Anncoleman
9. A Sagittarian Seeker
10. Foxy Writer Chick
11. Tom’s Treasure

OK. Here are my not so nosy questions that you will hopefully be able to answer without having brain strain:
1. What does your blogging name mean?
2. How many people subscribe to your blog?
3. What is your favorite dessert?
4. What is your favorite word? Explain why.
5. Poetry – do you write or read or just skip it altogether?
6. If your life was made into a movie, what actor/actress would portray you?
7. If you could change your name what would you change it to?
8. Your house is on fire. You can save only one material possession. What will you save?
9. If you could have any career (success is guaranteed), what would you want to do?
10. You can have any super power. What super power do you choose?
11. Which would you choose – a trip to the moon, a tour of the ocean’s floor, an expedition into the center of the earth? Explain your choice.

O.K. – go!

Looking for Merit V. Bidwell

There will not be any more Merit V. Bidwell episodes… This is the end.

The phone was ringing. There was nothing quite as annoying as having just fallen asleep and having a phone go off in your ear. I snaked an arm from under the blanket groping for the phone. With one eye open I answered it. This was supposed to be my day off and I had planned to lie in bed until my bladder alarm went off. I reached over to let Dumbo know that I was being called in but his side of the bed was empty. As I sat there on the edge searching with a toe for my other slipper, he came into the room carrying two large mugs of coffee. I have to say, he was the best partner I ever had.

Before I could mutter thanks, he informed me that he’d been called in too. My mother was on her way over to hang out with Blue and make sure she got on the bus. Dumbo’s like that, efficient. A quick shower later and we were both on our way to the precinct. I got there first and scored a sweet parking spot. Before I’d made it to my desk, Dumbo was at my side. It looked like the entire force was present. I wondered who had died. The room was humming with speculation when the Captain came in trailed by two suits. I recognized them as the same FBI agents I’d worked with a few years back. They were still complete douches. After introductions the agents took over. We were all assigned to groups and the case was presented on a slick white board. Seems a psychopath had walked away from a medium security facility for the criminally insane. The FBI agents gave us excerpts from a novel she wrote and from her personal diary. Not much to go on but I got the impression it was a very clever misdirection.

The uniforms were dispersed to canvas the downtown areas. The detectives were tasked with doing interviews of all the people she might contact. I managed to get paired with Dumbo and he was grinning from ear to ear. His comment was that it would be like old times. We had a list of 5 names. The first was an over the hill cheerleader. She was easy to track down thanks to the magic of Facebook. I took one look at her and knew that she was safe from any retribution. Leaving her to live her miserable life was surely punishment enough. Not only were her looks in decline, but her high school sweetheart turned husband was cheating. I asked her if she had had any contact with Merit Bidwell and her face went pale beneath her spray tan. She got teary-eyed and confessed that she had treated her badly when they were both in high school. That was basically the template for every interview. At the end of the day we’d talked to everyone on the list and they were all pitiful. Long story short, Dumbo and I were tasked with turning over rocks and managed to find zero leads. I’m guessing Ms. Bidwell is half way around the planet and making her way across Europe. I hope she stays out of trouble…

This concludes the Merit V. Bidwell story “Looking Back”. I hope you enjoyed this little romp topped off with a taste of everyone’s favorite law enforcement officer, Detective Evans and her faithful partner/lover “Dumbo” Dombkowski.

Looking at a Labor of Love

The choir at church takes the summer off. Sort of. With Sparky’s work schedule he has missed a few Sundays and a couple Wednesday practices too. He feels a little bad about that but with the summer choir schedule he’s trying to make it to as many of the “small groups” as possible. During the summer months when the choir is on hiatus, the director asks members to volunteer to sing as small groups – any where from a duo to a double quartet. They have fun because they get to do some favorite songs that allow for special harmony and to do some chants and other pieces that don’t especially work with such a big choir.

In fact the Bishop knows our church as “the parish with the great choir”. It is a point of pride. Our priest is especially supportive and appreciative of the choir. So much so that he hosted an end of the year party/potluck. He made a small speech in which he thanked the director and all the singers and all the instrumentalists. He said, “The choir enriches the worship experience and brings people closer to Jesus.” He then went on to say that the choir brings them to church and the parties keep them here. Which made a lot of people laugh.

The parish went through a little revision and re-branding and touted on different media that we were “The Parish on the Park”. This is because we are across the street from Batell Park and Beutter Park. But the way it is now, we are know as “The Parish that Parties”. We have more potlucks and celebrations than any other church in town. So far this year there have been:
2 Trivia nights
6 Single Mingles
6 Sunday Doughnut and Coffee gatherings
2 Young Couples parties
4 Scripture and Suds (Bible & Beer) Parties for the men of the parish
2 Antioch Youth parties (intel suggests there was pizza involved)
1 Tailgate party
1 5th grade Lock-in
A Notre Dame Women’s Basketball National Champs Party
2 Bake sales with entertainment
The 1st Communion Party
4 Euchre Parties
The Party and Reception for New Members (Catechumens coming into the church at Easter)
A Daddy-Daughter Dance
The Confirmation Party
The Parish Picnic
The Parish Craft Festival
The School Fun Fair
A Mother’s Day Pancake Breakfast
The Choir Party
I could go on but you get the idea. Anyway part of that Choir party was the potluck aspect. Since I had time off work, I agreed to make a dessert that Sparky had enjoyed at work. He described them to me. It is called Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries. Since strawberries were on super sale and were really beautiful I figured that it would be an easy dessert to make. I was wrong.

The recipe (cheater’s version)
1 package no-bake cheesecake mix (I used Kroger’s brand)
1 1/2 cups cold milk (2%)
4 packages strawberries

Sharp paring knife
cup measure
Electric mixer
cookie sheet
large bowl
shot glass
zip-loc baggie (freezer bag is best)

I made a couple big mistakes. First wash all the berries (I made the cheesecake first which was a mistake) and remove the tops. Set them on a paper towel to absorb the excess moisture. Next remove the center of the berries. Foe small berries you may need to use the knife to enlarge the center cavity. Place the berries back on the paper towel cut top down to allow the juice to drain (especially if they are very ripe berries). Now that the messy (or so I thought) part is over, make the cheesecake filling according to package directions (milk + powder mixed on low using the electric mixer until well stirred. then on medium for 3 minutes). As soon as you have the cheesecake filling done, spoon it into the zip-loc bag and zip seal the top. Cut the corner off the baggie. You are now ready to assemble the strawberries.

Set a berry in the shot glass to hold it steady while you squeeze the cheesecake into the center cavity. Fill to rounded and gently place the filled berry on the cookie sheet. Fill all the strawberries. Refrigerate for 1 hour.
Pour the graham cracker crumbs from the cheesecake mix into a bowl. Gently dip the exposed cheesecake filling into the crumbs. The graham cracker should stick to the cheesecake and make the berries less likely to stick to each other. Arrange them in your choice of serving dish and set them out to be devoured!

So my issue was that I didn’t think of using the shot glass until I was nearly half done filling the strawberries (slaps forehead). I also used a sandwich bag and it was so thin that I accidentally poked a finger through the bag. I had to “fix” it with some cellophane tape… I had also made the cheesecake first and it really solidified as I prepped the berries (contributing to squeezing so hard I punctured the bag). Anyway the total prep time was nearly 2 hours. Oy! On the bright side there were zero left. Everyone loved them and several people wanted the recipe!

Looking at an Empty Refrigerator

Today is my first day back to work after the vacation. Being on the road resulted in a complete disruption of the rhythm of our lives, which in turn means we needed to go grocery shopping. My plan (I almost always have a plan) for tonight is to eat out and then stop at the store for a little grocery shopping. I thought it was a brilliant plan on several levels. I had originally planned to go to Caracas Bistro. It is a Venezuelan restaurant that serves the most amazing food! I’ve tried the arepas, the empanadas, and the cachapa. My favorite is the chicken cachapa. Sparky likes the shredded beef with lots of onion and green peppers. The chicken comes with chopped/shredded seasoned grilled chicken breast and lots of a special cheese. It is topped with shredded cheese and has a drizzle of a melted cheese over the top.
(These photos are from a visit several weeks ago)
However, I had my annual physical and my doctor has given me some new and unwelcome dietary restrictions. His command is that I must eliminate white rice, white pasta, white potatoes, almost all cheese, ribs/bacon/sausages/brats/processed meats (and any other fatty meats), and most breads. I am sad. I love cheese. However he has indicated that eggs are now allowed as is lean red meat (as if I can afford sirloin). So instead of eating out I am buying brown rice, low-fat cottage cheese, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta and that weird pasta made of vegetables and whole wheat which makes it a funky greenish brown color – like Army fatigues. Also to make matters worse he informed me that I was to avoid corn. Here we are heading into sweet corn season and he tells me to forego the corn! He is a cruel man. Thus as Sparky works late, I will do my shopping and then head home to have a nice dinner of steamed carrots, baked tilapia, and 0% fat yogurt for dessert. I know I will be dreaming of cheese for the next couple weeks as I go through cheese withdrawal!

Looking for Positive Vibrations

This is nearly (next to last) the end of the “Looking Back” story. Here is episode 30 as we look forward and back.

I’ve decided to travel light. I’m not taking my diplomas or this journal. Mostly I’m taking some basic toiletries, some very carefully selected clothes, and the cash I’ve squirreled away. I opted not to take any books since they take up too much space and would weigh me down. I’ll be sad to leave them behind. I sent copies of my novel to 12 publishers. For good measure I sent a copy to my sister and brother. I imagine they will not enjoy reading it. I sent a copy to the lawyer in charge of my trust fund. He might be more amused.

I’ve been having trouble sleeping again and the dreams are starting to upset me. The funny thing is that the dreams aren’t really dreams as much as rehashing memories. I always end up crouched behind a sofa listening to my mother talk on the phone. She’s complaining about the cost of my activities. She whines that it is so expensive for ballet lessons and then she complains that it takes so much time for the art classes. She gripes about the cost for a psychologist and new clothes and even the orthodontia.

My agenda is simple – I want to revisit places that held happy memories and cement them in my mind. Then I plan on visiting some new places and soaking up additional positive vibrations. As much as the psychologist thinks it would be beneficial to face my past, I disagree. The past is done. I’m moving forward and letting the old memories be just that, memories.

Looking at a Bad Scalp Condition

The warmer weather has loosened all the petals from the blooms on the trees. It is as if the trees all have a really bad case of dandruff. I can imagine them shaking their heads and then brushing the petals off their shoulders. As it is I end up with petals in my hair as I walk beneath the row of flowering plums. After the last rain, the sidewalk was covered in white petals…

The way the dandruff flies
With every shake it falls
White showers from the skies
Springtime’s many flaws

With every shake it falls
Drifting on the wind
Springtime’s many flaws
Dainty petals descend

Drifting on the wind
On my shoulders land
Dainty petals descend
Flakes brushed away by hand

On my shoulders land
Dislodged and scattered ‘round
Flakes brushed away by hand
End up on the ground

Dislodged and scattered around
A passing phase will change
End up on the ground
All the trees have mange

A passing phase will change
The way the dandruff flies
All the trees have mange
White showers from the skies

This is a Pantoum, a Malaysian poetry form, consisting of interlocking stanzas of 4 lines. The 2nd and 4th line of the beginning stanza become the 1st and 3rd lines of the next stanza. There are no limits to the number of stanzas. The poem can be completed with a single rhyming couplet or use the 1st and 3rd lines of the first stanza as the 2nd and 4th lines of the last stanza. The lines should rhyme (1st/3rd and 2nd/4th) but there is no specific meter. Some modern Pantoums do not use rhyme…