Watching Time Fly

Sand seeps in a stream
Grains finding their own level
Hourglass time flies

The packing is nearly complete. It is a matter of checking and double checking the list in case something has been forgotten. Flying is still more complicated in the US than in Europe according to several Graduate Students. They say that the ruled enforced by Homeland security are silly. In Europe no one takes off their shoes and there is no prohibition of fingernail clippers, pocket knives with blades under 3 inches, batteries, or baby formula over 2 ounces! We will be checking a bag since we have lots of “contraband” that can’t be carried into the passenger cabin. Basically we have what are called “TOTT”s that is Tools Of The Trade. For geocachers it will include a big magnet on a telescoping handle, a mirror on a telescoping handle, a multi-tool (pliers/saw/knives/screwdriver/awl), flashlights, batteries, and a multitude of miscellaneous little things like a scroller and a tick puller and some swag. Oh and my walking stick. I can’t function without the stick! Anyway the check bag will also have some of our “just in case” clothing. We will be renting a car and theoretically our first stop after getting the car will be at a grocery/Walmart to get a disposable cooler and some food. Traveling for a week means that we will try to eat out only once a day. The hotels all have complimentary continental breakfasts and lunches will be out of the cooler to cut down on expenses.
The only other things that have to be done involve paying bills and making arrangements to have the mail collected. It is times like this that I’m glad we don’t have any pets. When Ranger was still alive it was always a chore to find accommodations. Most of the time we had to have one of the boys come over and stay at the house to take care of him. The few times we boarded him, he would come home hoarse from barking and have such intestinal upset that it was just too hard on him and us. One time early in his life we took him back to the breeder’s place for boarding. He came home with bite marks on his nose and a matted mess. Seems she turned him out into a field with her own “pack” and they didn’t take too kindly to him. He spent the rest of the time locked in a stall in the barn. He must have eaten his weight in horse manure and what he didn’t eat he rolled in… Yeah, no dogs now and I’m pretty content with that.
Time is flying and this marks week 6 in the countdown to retirement. When we get back from our vacation it will be week 4 and I’ll be in crunch time.


Looking Shellshocked

The last 14 days have been hectic. It started May 3rd. You see my devoted and demented husband decided we should divest ourselves of the detritus and debris of several decades. No we didn’t rent one of those trash bins that you chuck everything into and then it gets hauled away. No. We participated in the annual neighborhood garage sale. We also invited saintvi to add her stuff to our stuff because the more stuff you have the more people will buy. (I don’t understand it but it is how it works.) So Friday night found me organizing the garage and making a sign with general prices. I worked until the wee hours of the morning. We opened the garage for the early birds at 7:30 AM. Sparky manned the sale while I showered and dressed and waited for saintvi to arrive. My mother’s flight was scheduled to arrive at 1:19 PM and Sparky had to leave for work at 12:30 PM. (note that the individual who wanted to have the garage sale left half way through the day). I was able to leave the sale in Joyouswind and saintvi’s capable hands while I drove to the airport and collected my mother. The sale continued until about 4:30. We made some money (yay)! The thought was to have the sale continue a couple more days but Sparky was dead set against that. In the meantime my mother’s plan was for me to drive her to Muncie to connect with her peeps. If we left at 6:30 AM Sunday we could get to Muncie and to church by 10:30 service and she could really enjoy a “homecoming”.

We had lunch with several of her long time friends and then spend the night. Monday’s agenda was to visit her favorite second hand stores, lunch with friends, a visit to her 104 year old friend, dinner with more friends, and then the drive home. We were able to do it all and survive. We arrived home late Monday night. Tuesday was son#2’s college graduation.

(the graduate with his grandparents and then with his parents)
This was a big deal as he is the first of my sons to get that college degree.  We (his parents, brother, and grandparents on both sides) sat through a horrendously long ceremony. Everyone vowed that no matter who was graduating we would pay them not to walk! Since it was happening in the evening, a party was impossible. We had hoped for Friday but that didn’t happen due to schedules. Wednesday was shopping at the Goodwill stores in town and lunch with sons #1 and #2.  Thursday was a dinner at Sparky’s sister’s house because his sister from Montana was in town for 48 hours, there were 2 birthdays, and it was a kind of a Mother’s day celebration. I was supposed to make pies for the party and I did – but Sparky put them in my car instead of in his car and I rode with son#1 in his car since he didn’t know the way. Needless to say the pies were not in attendance!

(Sunny Apple made with Pink Lady and Jonagold apples and Spring Cherry made with tart and sweet cherries)
Of course it was also the last ceramics class which I had to miss. Friday found us saying many goodbyes since Saturday was putting my mother back on the plane to Philadelphia very early in the morning (up at 4 AM, at the airport by 5:15 AM, boarding by 6:00 AM and take off at 6:30 AM). Followed by a complete collapse for 1 hour. I took the car in for service (which ate 3 hours of my day). Sunday was Mother’s Day and we took Sparky’s parents out to lunch. Then it was back to the grind. I slaved all week at work trying to catch up on all the disasters that were just waiting for me. In my free moments at home I started on the vacation preparation. I started THE List. The list is the most important part. It details what needs to be done and when, what goes in the suitcases, and where we are traveling and what we are doing. Working off The list, I am still in the process of loading geocache coordinates into the GPS, packing the clothes and the check bag, and printing the agenda and maps. No matter how dazed you feel having read this to the end, I assure you it is only a ghostly version of how I feel… I really hope this is not how retirement feels! Vacation is looming and I have so much to do. On the bright side I am 6 weeks away from retirement!!

Looking at Chocolate

She loved chocolate. She considered it one of the major food groups. When she had returned after visiting Mister there hadn’t been time to make a proper dinner. The fries were a poor substitute for a meal. With the clock ticking, she had hurried to the appointment. The bowl of chocolates on the conference table was enticing. She could see Lindt truffles amid the individually wrapped Godiva and Dove chocolates. There were even some gold wrapped Ferrero Rocher in bottom of the bowl. It was tempting to take a couple but all she could think of was Persephone eating the pomegranate seeds and being condemned to remain in the underworld for a time equal to the number of seeds she ate. That would be a nightmare. She stared at the chocolate but kept her hands in her coat pockets as a check against reaching for the bowl. Perky had disappeared, thankfully. Her thoughts had returned to anxious anticipation of what the meeting would reveal. Obviously the lawyer felt his time was more important than hers since his “arriving shortly” was a lie. Wasn’t this a tactic that the police interrogators used? Make someone wait for a long time in a room all alone to play games with their psyche? She was struggling with her inner voice which was telling her to just walk out and go home. The wrenching reality was that home was gone. She had a house but without Mister it was just four walls. That thought burst into her consciousness with such fury that she gasped and then fought mightily to hold back the tears. Mumbling under her breath, she decided to leave. Just as she stood the door opened. A younger man entered looking stern. He was reading something in a folder and didn’t make eye contact. Standing at the table she was more than eager to leave, especially when the he didn’t acknowledge her presence.
Here is another episode of An Introvert’s Story. Several people have felt that they resemble this character. I am a shameless people watcher and an observer of human interactions. I have taken a variety of traits I’ve observed and created an amalgam that has become Lu. Some of this is me (I do believe in chocolate as a health food and it can be medicinal in many instances)…

Looking in the Kitchen

I thought I had posted some food porn but seems I put it on the back burner until National Poetry Month was over. I was cleaning up my photos and realized that I hadn’t posted about my latest culinary experiments.

First up was a panic meal. I was pressed to make a dinner and there wasn’t much in the house. I threw together an interesting pasta meal consisting of spaghetti made of brown rice and quinoa. Supposedly gluten free and vegan and oh so good for you. I like my gluten. The taste wasn’t horrible but the texture is “toothsome” – you cook it and there is a very fine line between chewy and completely spongy/slimy. The pantry contained a jar of Vodka Sauce from the discount store (an off-brand that looked a bit too red orange). I happened to have some broccoli, green olives and a few frozen shrimp. I thawed, heated, sliced and combined the whole works into a delightful meal topped with shredded Parmesan cheese.

My second experiment was a few weeks later. I had had Lebanese Rice a long time ago (before children) and had gotten the recipe but never made it. There were some items languishing in the pantry and I figured I’d give this dish a try Lebanese Rice aka Hashweh.
1 lb. ground beef (the leaner the better)
1/2 an onion diced (or 3 T. dehydrated chopped onion)
1 t. Allspice
2 cloves crushed garlic (or 1/2 t. garlic powder)
1 t. ground cloves
1 t. cinnamon or cardamom (I have both so used a 1/2 t. of each)
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
Brown the meat and drain the grease. Add all the above ingredients plus 1/3 c. water. Stir to allow the spices to coat the meat and cook until the water is gone. Stir in 1/3 c. golden raisins and 1/3 c. pistachios or pine nuts to the meat.

Make 2 cups of rice (according to the usual directions) adding 3 T. dried parsley or 1/2 c. fresh chopped parsley as it cooks. Once the rice is done combine the meat and rice. Turn it out onto a large serving tray or bowl. Top with 1/3 c. slivered almonds and additional chopped parsley (which I ran out of).

Because Sparky is not a fan of the raisin, I added the raisins to the top of mine and used dried cranberries for his. The above is the picture of my serving since he tucked into his before I could take a photo!!
This was so good that just the other day Sparky wanted to know if I was going to make it again anytime soon. He rarely asks for a particular meal so he must have really liked it!!

Looking at the Offices of Polder and Swale

She had dressed up for the appointment. She was wearing work clothes, although for work she would have made an effort to remove the cat hair. She glanced around the room noting the posh furnishings. The chairs were all designed to swallow you. They would be the kind of chairs that would require assistance to extricate oneself. She opted to stand. There was a large coat rack with fancy wooden hangers that could hold even the heaviest coat with ease. She decided that she would rather wear her coat just in case she wanted to leave quickly. She had turned her back to the reception desk but spun around quickly when a perky voice piped, “Oh! It is so good to finally meet you!” There stood the body that went to the annoying voice on the phone. She was shorter and rounder than she had imagined. Perky voice was speaking and it was difficult for her to focus on the words. All she heard was static. She felt hot and damp. Her forehead was sweating. Concentrating, she locked her eyes on the shorter woman’s scarf tied around her neck with a jaunty bow on the side. She thought that it looked like she was trying to hide a scar. Perhaps someone had tried to slit her throat. Soon she regained composure and had the strength to ask the woman to repeat her name. “I’m Ms. Przybyszewski but you can call me Lily.” Her head started to pound. She asked herself why she even bothered to come. She could have cancelled or even just not shown up. Her mood was darkening in anticipation of the inevitable hand shaking. She jammed her hands into her coat pockets. The perky woman led her into a conference room dominated by a huge table. It would have easily fit a dozen people comfortably around its perimeter. She took a seat and waited. The perky one came back. “I took the liberty of fixing you a cup of coffee. Do you want any cream or sugar?” Lu slowly turned and fixed Lily with a steady gaze. “I don’t drink coffee.” She paused and added, “Thank-you.” The perky woman was unflustered and merely moved the tray to a side table announcing that the lawyer would be in shortly. As she left the room she placed a large bowl of wrapped chocolates on the table.

Poor Lu. She just can’t accept that there are nice people in this world. In case you are wondering about the pronunciation of Lily Przybyszewski’s last name it is p SHIB ih SHEF skee.

Looking Passive Aggressive

I must admit to being a master at passive aggressive behaviors. It has been a skill honed through years of workplace politics and evil management machinations. As I was sitting at my kitchen table paying bills I realized it had gone too far. There I was, a scant 3 days post Easter, having evil thoughts about the gas company (NIPSCO – Northern Indiana Public Service Company) and plotting my passive aggressive revenge. What kind of revenge? I’m glad you asked. It was so diabolical and at the same time so very subtle that they would never realize they were being poked. That was my “ah ha!” moment. It was ridiculous. I’m sure there is no one looking at the postage on the bills being sent in. You see I was spending several minutes debating which stamp should go on the envelop.
Yes, I was debating which Disney villain was most appropriate for the electric/gas bill. Luckily no one was home to hear me laughing maniacally.

Have you ever realized you have gone a little overboard?? If so please share your “ah ha!” moment and what you did about it…

As a note I reconsidered my options and instead of a Disney villain I used a solar eclipse stamp! Bwhahahaha!

Looking at Kugel

I have expressed my love for the potato. Perhaps I’ve even mentioned that Potato Kugel is my all time favorite version of this particular comfort food. I make it using my Grandma Tena’s recipe as follows:

4-6 potatoes (depends on the size but I try to use medium sized ones and use 6)
1 large sweet Vidalia onion
1/4 c. chicken schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) or if you don’t want to take the time you can use vegetable oil
3 large eggs or 4 medium/small eggs
1/4 c. matzo meal
~ 1 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper

Peel the potatoes and cut into ~ 1-2″ cubes. Peel the onion and cut into chunks. Break the eggs into a blender and blend adding potato and onion chunks by turns. Add the schmaltz, matzo meal, and salt and pepper. Blend completely. Pour into a well greased casserole dish and bake ~ 1 hour until the top is golden brown. Serve hot. Some like to just add a little butter with salt and pepper and others will spice it up with salsa or make it sweet with a little syrup. There is really no wrong way to eat potato kugel!

Above is the uncooked kugel waiting to go into the oven. I try to time it so everything is ready simultaneously. Below is the cooked kugel waiting to be served. This one was a little crusty on top and creamy and moist inside. It was really tasty. I only had one small portion leftover!

Looking at Lawyers

To recap so far: Lu Dupin the loner has been distressed by a call from a lawyer and then had a home invasion that resulted in severe injuries to her beloved cat, Mister (and the intruder who no one gives a flea about). She called off work and has retrieved Mister from the emergency clinic and taken him to her veterinarian. And now the story continues (every Wednesday until we conclude).

During the angst of the day, she had completely forgotten her appointment with the lawyer. A reminder came as she was sitting in her car eating some free fries from McDonald’s. It was the perky and pesky woman giving her a “courtesy call” that her appointment was at 5:30 PM. She scowled at the last two fries before eating them. “What the hell.” she intoned into the empty paper bag. She wasn’t sure if she had been addressing the fries, the bag, or the specter of the appointment. Ultimately it didn’t matter. Nothing mattered in the long run she mused. But as soon as she thought it she reconsidered. There were some things that mattered. Real mashed potatoes and homemade gravy always mattered. The daily crossword puzzle mattered. Mister mattered more than anything. She felt tears begin to form but she blinked them back. She still had to check on Mister at the clinic and then go home and get cleaned up for the stupid meeting. She really wanted to have a do over for the weekend. She had played it over in her imagination. She would have immediately gone to the door. She would have grabbed the razor sharp filet knife from the kitchen. She would have made sure that it was two against one instead of letting Mister go it alone. It was nearly dark when she pulled her car into the small lot next to the law offices of Polder and Swale. This was not where she wanted to be. The alternative was to be home and she didn’t want to be there either. She turned off the ignition and the dome light went on. Slowly, more slowly than usual, she carefully placed her keys in her purse. She rubbed her temples and took a deep breath. This whole debacle, and she knew deep in her bones it would be just that, would be over more quickly if she just went inside. Unconsciously she clinched her teeth harder with each step to the door. It took all her resolve to pull the door open. Silently she prayed that the perky woman was gone for the day. The receptionist was young and had perfect teeth. She smiled a plastic smile, tossed her silky hair, and offered a perfectly manicured hand in greeting. When the girl spoke, it was with great restraint that she didn’t turn and flee. “Hi! Welcome to the offices of Polder and Swale! Do you have an appointment?!” she exclaimed. Each syllable dripped with enthusiasm. Everything about this woman was superficial. Lu just stared at the hand and backed up. She blinked slowly. If she had been a cat, she would have turned and licked an imaginary lock of wayward fur. Instead she closed her eyes hoping that when she opened them this person would have disappeared. It didn’t work. It never worked. But one day it might. Swallowing she answered in a flat monotone, “Yes. I have an appointment. The name is George Dupin.” The girl’s eyes, already wide, opened wider in desperation to figure out the gender identity of the figure standing at the desk. She was doing it again, deliberately making others uncomfortable. Inwardly she lightened and unclenched her jaw. The receptionist scurried away giving her the side-eye.

Looking at Crows and Sparrows in the Snow

As a forward to this massive poem, if you are faint of heart stop reading now. This poem is dark and cold and grim. It is sort of how it sometimes is in life. You go about your life while death and destruction occurs right under your nose. You are not only oblivious but you take the debris from the tragedy and appropriate it for your own benefit. It is not malice. There is no intent to disrespect the survivors or dishonor the dead. The situations just don’t touch your life. You have no knowledge of the events. If someone is unaware don’t berate them or become angry with them. How about instead educate, inform and solicit sympathy. Most folks just need to know what’s going on to be able to care. (well at least in Indiana)

Moonlight silhouette of the crow
While sleeps morning’s sparrow
Blanketed in new fallen snow
Piled on her head an icy chapeau
Moon casts exaggerated shadows below
Huddled cold in the bare ginkgo
While the night breathes shallow
And the dark one flies solo

The wolf howls a long note solo
The cry harsh answers from the crow
Surveying a new grave dug shallow
Unaware sleeps the sparrow
The only marker the old ginkgo
And fading footprints in deepening snow
Temperatures keep dropping zero and below
For the frozen heart there is no warm chapeau

At first light morning doffs her chapeau
Sends pink light to rouse the singer solo
Who drops sweet notes on the ground below
Until the warmth awakens the crow
Who stomps around in the snow
That with the warmth of sun is shallow
And exposes the roots and base of the ginkgo
Chasing away the hungry sparrow

The unconcerned sparrow
Sees only a soiled discarded chapeau
Tossed a pace from the base of the ginkgo
And a black glove on the ground solo
The finger pointing to a new grave shallow
Unmoved by the unknown buried below
But plucks a ribbon from the snow
Flies off pursued by the crow

A nest the sparrow builds shallow
Lined with chapeau remnants scavenged below
From the ginkgo grave covered in snow
Sentry watching solo the only witness the crow

OK. So this is the last poem for National Poetry Month and the last challenge to be completed. This challenge was to write a poem using the words crow, sparrow, snow, chapeau, below, ginkgo, shallow and solo. As a penance during Lent (yes I know Lent is over but this one took me a long time) I decided to wrestle with one of my least favorite forms – the sestina. Now before you go all sideways on me let me explain what has happened in the poem above. First off the sestina is a seemingly easy form where you have 6 words that form the terminus of the lines in each stanza (6 stanzas of 6 lines) followed by an envoi (3 lines) using 2 words of the previous terminal words per line. So far it doesn’t sound too complicated but you are sadly mistaken! The order of the words in each stanza is a special kind of crazy. I’d try to explain but I’m not going to be responsible for anyone’s head exploding. Suffice to say the order is as follows (if you are a math whiz and want to figure it out go right ahead):

Anyway I wanted to torture myself a little. I decided to use the 8 words in the prompt (which happen to all rhyme) to write an eight line sestina (which is unofficially called an octina). Applying the matrix you end up with 4 stanzas of 8 lines which look like this:
There are only 4 stanzas because the next series in the sequence would be 12345678 which has already been done. The envoi is 4 lines instead of 3 and the words are: 2,7/4,5/6,3/8,1. When I was first introduced to the sestina it gave me such aggravation that I developed a literary stutter – that is I couldn’t write the word “sestina” without adding extra letters as in ssssessstina. I’ve gotten over that a little but as you can see I prefer to avoid the traditional form in favor of the octina!