Looking to Party

Last Friday was the first of 6 Christmas Parties I’m obligated to attend. It was our department party. We are went to a nice Italian restaurant. I was hoping there wouldn’t be jockeying for seating and that everyone would mingle instead of sitting in little cliques. Because it was a Friday we worked through our regular lunch time and then after the party we could leave for the day. It was another opportunity to practice our teamwork. I’m forever hopeful that the concept of “one for all and all for one” will finally be embraced by each and every member of the staff. Still waiting on that to happen.

And last night was the second one. This was the Biology Department’s big gala event. They pulled out all the stops and really had a fancy spread! The food was excellent. The cookie contest provided a huge assortment of delicious cookies. And what Christmas party would be complete without a visit from Santa?! Because families are invited there were lots and lots of children. Each one received a gift that was “just what they wanted!” because their parents were in collusion with Santa. We sat with some of my coworkers and enjoyed their company. The photo booth was there again but unfortunately my hope that we’d get a Christmas card photo for next year was dashed. The pictures were out of focus so that idea fell through. Sort of glad since Sparky wanted to take one of us sticking our tongues out….

Tomorrow is the Research party. And the office of research knows how to party! Sparky and I will attend since he doesn’t have to work late. They will no doubt have excellent food and killer desserts. I’m hoping they have the ice cream again. They had the folks who pour cream on super cooled stone and mix fruit into it and then scrape it off in rolls and stack them in a cup – so tasty! I’m hoping they have the ham and prime rib stations again…

Saturday is a CHRP (Christ Renews His Parish) Birthday celebration for one of the CHRP ladies who is turning (gasp) 40. I bought her some sushi making items (bamboo mats, special dishes for the sauce and a platter and chopsticks). It starts at 2:00 PM and lasts until ?? – according to the invitation. It is a surprise party so she is being taken out to lunch and her husband is getting everything coordinated. He is so sneaky!

Then on Sunday is the Choir Christmas party. We are going to meet at one of the choir member’s homes after the choir finishes their caroling. This year they will be going to the hospital, 3 nursing homes, and a senior center. It is always a festive and fun time. I have decided to make roll-ups. Some will be spinach tortillas with ham and cream cheese and red and green peppers, others will be salmon cream cheese with onion and red and green peppers. I will of course make some without peppers since I’ve developed an allergy to the peppers.

Finally the last party will be our annual Christmas Potluck and Gift Exchange. The party planning committee has decided that we are going back to the old method where each person (who wants to participate) purchases and wraps a gift in the price range of $15- $20. We will then do the Dirty Santa exchange where you can either take someone’s unwrapped gift or pick from the table of wrapped presents. A gift can be stolen 3 times and then it is ineligible and the person who took it the 3rd time is the permanent owner. I purchased a set of 2 ceramic coated skillets. If I’m lucky I will be able to steal them for myself. Ha! I would like a new one! Of course we will also have the food. I might make my oh so delicious cheese spread or maybe mint chocolate chip cookies then again I just might make a crockpot dip (has cheese, artichokes, spinach and cream cheese). We’ll see.

I’ll be so happy when the temptation of all the holiday food, parties, and Christmas candy is gone. Until then I’m working on my steps!!


Looking Apprehensive

Twilight and imagination runs
Wild moon auditory ghosts haunt
My breath catches with the sound
Rattlesnake warning shake
Wind skitter leaves scrape
Sidewalk motions
Mid-stride pause

With daylight savings time, I leave work and it is already getting dark. That generally doesn’t bother me. But lately I’m a little apprehensive about walking to the parking lot alone. Campus security has sent 2 emails in the last week concerning assaults. Both instances occurred as the women were walking to or from the far parking lot. This lot is accessed by a long curving lane. There are 12 foot chain link fences on each side supposedly to keep the wildlife away from the pedestrians. (Yes, the parking lot path cuts through a wooded area.)

In the first assault, the woman passed a man walking in the opposite direction. She then realized that he had passed her and turned around and was following her. She was within view of her car and decided to run to the car to evade him. She wasn’t fast enough. The parking lot surveillance cameras captured a really decent image of the man, including a good view of his face. He has not been caught. Yet.

The second instance, the woman was walking from the parking lot when a man came running toward her. He acted like he was being chased (looking over his shoulder as if being followed). He passed by her closely and pushed her as he ran. She fell down. He stopped and apologized and held out his hand to help her up. When she took his hand, he twisted her arm and forced her to the ground and attempted to rape her. She was stronger than he anticipated. She fought him off. This took place within 3 feet of an emergency call station. This suspect is still at large as well…

It makes me nervous. Most of the campus assaults happen in the dorms and both parties are drinking. They are college students and generally know one another. But this is different. These men are predators. They are stalking women and are carefully choosing the time and place. On the bright side, campus security police are out in force. The bicycle patrols are everywhere. The cars are making more frequent sweeps across campus. An it appears that the campus safety escort has been revived. Generally they are young men from the ROTC program who will walk you to your car or to your night class. It used to be free and I’m hoping it still is. I may have to email to get a body guard if I have to stay late too many more times!

Above is a Nonet, that is a reverse Etheree, consisting of 9 lines. The first line is 9 syllables and each successive line is diminished by one syllable. The poem does not require any meter or rhyme scheme. My imagination tends to run free when sparked with a touch of anxiety and a little fear…

Looking At Options

This is episode 6. Here we are 6 chapters in and I still don’t know what to call this story. Help me!

I had spent so much time out of the class room that most of the other students had me pegged as a moron. That didn’t mean I wasn’t doing the course work. I just wasn’t doing it in the classroom. My senior year I blossomed according to my mother. I wouldn’t call it that but I developed a stronger sense of self. I found people that encouraged me to be confident. I really stopped caring what anyone said about me. I started writing my name on papers instead of M. Bidwell. I will never like my name and I still harbor some animosity toward my parents but I accepted that until I was wealthy enough to legally change it I was going to have to live with it. That journey from self-loathing to acceptance required an indeterminate number of steps. I wanted to think that I’d arrived. I couldn’t fool myself, the journey had just begun. While my peers were trying to decide on a college, I was researching job opportunities in other countries. When they were looking at career paths, I was trying to learn Italian and German. As they were wooed by state and private universities, I was applying to the Peace Corp and AmeriCorps and even the US military branches. It’s funny how the volunteer military doesn’t like individuality. Just goes to show that beggars can be choosers. I suppose they might have warmed to me if I didn’t have red white and blue hair and was under the care of a psychologist at that point in time.

Looking Behind

In retrospect Thanksgiving was delightful. I always have a cleaning frenzy when I am anticipating guests and this holiday was no exception. I dusted, swept, vacuumed, scoured, mopped, straightened and sanitized every room and every surface. I wanted to try some new recipes for the day but my sons are traditionalists when it comes to holiday foods. I must have real, not-from-a-box mashed potatoes. It is imperative that I make gravy from the pan drippings. Son#1 insists on green bean casserole. Everyone demands a roasted turkey. I am remiss (and would get grumpy faces) if I didn’t put sweet potatoes on the table – preferably without any sweet goo or marshmallows. Son#2 is partial to crescent rolls but son#1 like King Hawaiian Rolls (like there aren’t enough carbohydrates on the table already). And don’t forget the pies. There. Must. Be. Pumpkin. And both sons love a good apple pie. So as not to disappoint, I prepared the traditional menu. We feasted. It was all good. After the dishes were put away, we put together a 1000 piece puzzle. We laughed. We enjoyed the company. After the boys left, I finished clearing off and cleaning up.

What this means is that for 2 days before Thanksgiving, I prepared food. I put together a green bean casserole, baked pies, thawed the bird, cleaned the bird, and got it oven ready. In the time between food prep, I was cleaning. I feel as if I was living the Martha life instead of being Mary. I worry that I will be judged by the shine of my faucets and the sheen on the floor. It wasn’t until the food was on the table that I felt I could relax. My mother in law mentioned that she was impressed by the fact that I had prepared a feast and there was no pile of dirty dishes heaped in the sink. What had happened is that the only pans that I had were rinsed and stashed in the dishwasher immediately! They consisted of the pot from the mashed potatoes, the roasting pan that was used to cook the bird and then to make the gravy, and the cookie sheet that held the roasted veggies. Because I hate to have clutter and a messy kitchen, I clean as I go. I suspect this is one of those things that can be seen as a strength or as a weakness depending on your point of view…

Looking at the Show

Tonight is the Student-Faculty Art Show. I have once again entered a piece. Originally I wanted to enter this one last year but fate intervened. It wasn’t completed until well after the beginning of this year, March to be precise. It was intended as a gift for my cousin but she has yet to retrieve it. So, on the advice of my artist friend (and fashion consultant) I have entered it into this year’s show. I titled it “Out of the Pond” which is fairly descriptive. I am having a really hard time coming up with titles – for ceramic pieces, poems, and stories.
This is the before glazing photo:

This is the after glazing picture:

Anyway I don’t have my hopes up to get an award this year. I have invited saintvi for the opening (followed by grabbing a bite to eat). She is trying to get better – and I’m hoping she has recovered sufficiently to make the drive. I’m hoping the weather stays decent and she doesn’t have to cancel due to icy roads – though I’d rather that be the reason instead of being ill. The show will continue until the Scholastic Art Show in February.

Looking to Win

Here is episode 5. And no, I haven’t figured out a title yet. Someone suggested “Drowning in Fire” and another was “My Past Lives”. They are intriguing but I’m just not sure…

The summer after my junior year I landed a job at a boutique in the downtown. It was expensive and generally catered to older women with discerning tastes and expendable incomes. None of my classmates ever came through the door. The other clerks were college students who were, according to my mother, eccentric. That was her way of stating that they were odd. Odd as in they dressed in a Bohemian shabby –chic style and sported unconventional hair colors. Most importantly to me, they didn’t give a shit about what anyone thought. They accepted me. They taught me about Kool-Aid hair coloring technique. I secretly got my navel pierced. I finally fit in. I opted for total immersion. I adopted their fashion and changed my hair color and style. My vocabulary was altered to include the phrases and adjectives they were fond of using. And I mimicked their attitude toward life in general and their critics specifically. Flipping people off didn’t come naturally at first. It took a lot of practice. I’d spent most of my time with my hands jammed in my pockets or clutching my stomach to quell the pain so it was a shock and a surprise when my classmates and chief tormenters discovered I had hands. A real shock when they discovered I had middle fingers and knew how to use them. Obviously trying to ignore them hadn’t worked for the past 11 years. The decision to confront them was premeditated. I’d had a long time to dream up scenarios where they would say something and I’d have a snappy comeback. My arsenal of retorts was extensive. I had a catalog of “if and then” responses. Truth be told, I was nearly paralyzed by fear once I entertained the idea to say what I’d only thought before. Then it happened. It was the first day of school and I was wearing a multicolored patchwork dress with a paisley silk scarf. I had just dyed my hair blue and green and I’d decided that I wanted to wear my green high top sneakers because they were comfortable. It was the cheerleader table that broke out in laughter and started singing that old Cher song about gypsies, tramps and thieves. A switch was flipped in my heart. I turned and purposely twirled my full skirt and flipped them a double bird while mouthing “F – you”. It was a beautiful thing because I smiled and continued walking. The whole thing took only a second and I barely paused. But the effect on the cafeteria was immediate. There was a momentary hush, a lull in conversation and I felt the internal shift. I knew right then and there I was going to win.

Looking Sick of Turkey

I know is is almost a sacrilege to give voice to the idea that one could get sick of turkey. I personally love turkey. Sparky counts turkey as his favorite meat. Still… The week before Thanksgiving I made turkey corn chowder (which made a huge pot that we ate on for a week). We were able to finish it off just in time to make room in the refrigerator for the Thanksgiving Day food preparations. We had turkey on Thanksgiving. I roasted a magnificent 17.65 pound young tom. I filled the body cavity with a bottle of Moscato wine. The gravy was heavenly and the meat tender, moist, and flavorful. We ate turkey leftovers at every meal on Friday the 24th. I had Turkey for lunch on Saturday. Then on Sunday we went to Sparky’s sister’s house for another Thanksgiving – with another turkey. I used 2 cups of diced turkey to make a turkey pot pie, which we will eat for 3 meals.

Me: “I’m tired of turkey”
Sparky: “I’m never tired of turkey but I don’t want to eat it again today.”
Me: “Do you want to go out to eat?”
Sparky: “Sure!”
Me: “Where do you want to go?”
Sparky: “I’ll leave it up to you.”
Me: “What about sushi?”
Sparky: “Wellll, I guess that would be fine. Do you want to eat at Hibachi Grill or East of Tokyo?”
Me: “East of Tokyo!!!”

In rebellion against eating any more turkey, we went out to eat. Now, before I wax poetic about sushi, you should know that Sparky is lukewarm about sushi. He overdosed on sushi when we were travelling once and has never embraced it as warmly since. But he really likes East of Tokyo.

We started our meal with shumai and harumaki. We followed the appetizers with an order of a bagel roll (smoked salmon and cream cheese), a volcano roll (deep fried sweet potato, spicy crab stick inside, with spicy mayo, eel sauce and panko on top), Golden Dream Roll (shrimp tempura and avocado inside, topped with sliced mango and mango sauce), Spicy Salmon Roll (fresh chopped salmon and roe with spicy sauce), and a Crunchy California Roll (a tempura fried roll made with crab stick, avocado and cucumber). It was very good. Although I’m the “spice wimp” I loved the volcano roll and the spicy salmon roll. Sparky said they were too spicy for his tastes! When the second order came, It was so beautiful I had to take a photo!

At the top left is a selection of sashimi including salmon, tuna, yellowtail, swordfish, and mackerel. The bottom left has two nigri of flying fish roe. The entire right side contains two Playboy Rolls (crab and sweet potato inside with salmon and mango on top with a mango puree sauce over it all). This was so delicious that I was seriously considering ordering another one – but I was really full. Hands down this is the best sushi in town! Although the Golden Dragon Roll is good if you like avocado, the Playboy Roll is absolutely my favorite. After this little interlude, I will be making some more turkey leftovers. As soon as the pot pie is gone I will attempt turkey enchiladas…

Looking Thankful

This last month has seen a rash of Facebook posts on a “7 days of Thanksgiving/Being Grateful” theme. They were interspersed with the “7 Days of Black & White Photographs”. And a few enterprising individuals combined them for a unique look into their lives. I am not a photographer. Sure I can snap a photo with my cell phone but I lack a vision and that “eye” that separates the casual shutterbug from the serious photographer/ photographic artist. That said I will post a couple photos here that I think are interesting. I’m also going to let you in on a few things I’m extremely thankful for.

1. I am thankful for my husband. He is steadfast. He demonstrates those qualities that define true love: he is patient, kind, forgiving, and generous. He isn’t boastful or arrogant, he isn’t resentful or irritable. He is never rude. He is honest. (I think I got very lucky in love – might explain my inability to win at Euchre)

2. I am thankful for my children. I have 2 sons. Both are intelligent and talented. They have never been in trouble with the law. They are both employed. They are independent and making their way in life. They have made me proud (and neither has shown a lapse in judgement and gotten a tattoo or piercings).

3. I am thankful for full-time employment at a good wage with a pension and good health insurance. For all the stresses that my job deposits in my lap, I’m still enjoying the challenges and experiences that each day brings.

4. I’m thankful for family. This includes my mother and sisters, the in laws and outlaws, nieces and nephews, and the assortment of great nieces and great nephews. Family should not be disregarded. They are integral to who you are and where you fit into the world. I am fortunate to have married into a wonderful family – warm and accepting, and fun to be around. We gather every Sunday evening to visit, eat ice cream, and put together jigsaw puzzles. It isn’t about the ice cream or the puzzles – it is about connecting with each other and showing them we care about what is happening in their lives.

5. I’m thankful for my close friends – both of them. They are the people who remind me when I’m having a bad day that there are things to laugh about. They are my co-conspirators and confidants. I can count on them and they can count on me – it is a wonderful thing to have that kind of connection. They are the sisters I chose for myself!

6. I’m thankful for my faith. It has been a foundation in my life ensuring that no matter the troubles, I am beloved of God. There are many who do not have the sense of a spiritual safety net. They do not have hope or expectation of reward for living up to a moral code. I am not going to lie and say I’ve never questioned or doubted. I will say that even in moments of disbelief, I was still open to the possibility. That small still voice penetrated the fog and guided me to safety.

7. I am thankful for my talents. I can do marvelous things in the context of my job. I assist research and teach the next generation of investigators to work with compassion, care and expertise. My mother thinks I am a brilliant writer and poet. She is usually right about things so I’m going to accept her judgement on that score. I dabble in ceramic sculpture and seem to be fairly good at it having sold several pieces and won a few awards. It is true that talent is only realized if used. I’m trying my best to use them.

Looking for a Disguise

Here is episode 4 – I’m still entertaining title suggestions. I’ve decided against “The Halls of Valhalla”.

I can still hear them. “Hey de-Merit!” and “Yo Biddy!” The nicknames followed me to high school. Demerit and Biddy were tolerable. It was when the in crowd started with the “I bet your middle name is Va-jay-jay” and the more cerebral group’s insult of “I guess it isn’t over until she sings” complete with finger pointing that got to me. I was never a physically violent person but I can totally understand why some kids went postal in high school. As for me, I internalized my anger. My freshman year I was able to eat again and put on about 40 pounds. That only made the taunts worse. By my junior year I was verging on anorexia. Funny thing was that the teasing didn’t stop it just changed from fat shaming to thin shaming. My mother in collusion with the psychologist managed to get me to give up the poncho and the baggy clothes, which had changed from camo to Goth black. My first day wearing skinny jeans and a trendy top resulted in silence until the harpies figured out who I was. Then it redoubled. I felt naked without my disguise. The first thing I did when I got home was dig through the laundry in an attempt to find my old clothes. They weren’t there. I eventually checked the garbage but all I could find was the poncho. The only reason it was still there was that it got stuck to the bottom in some nasty residual goo. I opted to leave it.

Looking at Nature’s Banquet

My friend Julie called me and left a cryptic message. She was very excited and was bursting with news about “those white things” that I like. I had no idea what she was talking about. I called her back and still wasn’t sure what had her so excited. Eventually I figured it out. So I made a trip to her backyard. Last year she had found a puffball and her husband plucked it from the ground and put it in a bag in the garage and then called me 2 days later. No good. The puffball mushroom is considered a delicacy but must be eaten fresh (within 24 hours of harvest). They also have to be pure white and not discolored. They start to get yellowish or brownish when they are mature and that make them bitter and not good to eat. I ran over to her house.

As we rounded the corner of the house you could see them practically glowing as they were nestled in the ground cover.

Upon closer inspection the smaller of the two had already been nibbled on by the local wildlife – probably the squirrels. When I say smaller I’m talking cantaloupe sized. The larger one was the size of a honeydew melon. It too had several chunks missing where the critters that wander our neighborhood had stopped for an early Thanksgiving banquet. I’m not sure if deer eat them but I wouldn’t put it past them. The larger one was bound up in the vines of the ground cover making it nearly impossible to extract without ripping away her plants.

Although it was tempting to grab the smaller one, I decided to leave them both so that the squirrels, chipmunks, deer, raccoons, opossums, woodchucks, birds and assorted other beasts would have something to eat once winter really arrives. I made my friend’s husband promise not to remove them and to instead let them add to the banquet that is present in their backyard. (They have oak trees that produce a ridiculous amount of acorns, pine trees, and current bushes that line the perimeter.)

As I feast this Thanksgiving, I’m happy to know that the wildlife will be feasting as well!