Looking at Sunny Days

The temperature climbs higher
Humidity makes it dire
From the pan into the fire
The sun is an oil-less fryer

Take a quick dip into the pool
Trying to get just a little cool
I’m so pale I look like a ghoul
Water’s warm – played for a fool

Once inside my skin turns red
Move ice bag from shoulder to head
Blisters and peeling is what I dread
Hurts so much I wish I were dead

I’ve had enough of the blazing sun
I shout to summer that I’m done
Vow the daylight I will shun
Inside AC is way more fun!

Just some little monorhyme stanzas to while away my time. It has been HOT HOT HOT! I’m one of the ghostly white skinned red-heads who burns with only a mere 15 minutes of exposure to sunlight. Sparky jokes that I must be part vampire. The sun is not my friend. I have a drawer full of sunscreen. I really like the Neutrogena SPF 100 for faces but it only comes in a little 4 oz tube and costs an arm and a leg. So I’ve got a variety of other brands for the remaining arm and leg reserving the special stuff for what it was designed for – my face. The Banana Boat brand in the sport formulation (supposedly sweat proof) at SPF 80 is pretty good but leaves you very greasy and slippery. I have a Coppertone SPF 85 that is a “dry” formula that goes on as a lotion and then isn’t shiny. The draw back is that it is really hard to get it spread evenly. There is a generic brand we bought out of desperation on a geocaching trip a couple years ago from a Dollar Tree. It is SPF 90 and works great – except for the horrible smell. Sparky put it on my back and shoulders and then couldn’t get the smell off his hands even with soap and water! When they say it is water proof they mean it! So I’m trying to avoid a sunburn as I’ve had too many and have the scars on my shoulders to prove it. The sad thing is that even with the sunscreen I’m only good for about an hour of direct sun before I start to “pink” and that moves very quickly into the boiled lobster red range…

Looking for Monica Yost

Way back in the dark ages, when I was preparing to get married, my grandmother threw a bridal shower for me. It was a fancy affair held in the community center of her apartment complex. She invited my aunts and cousins, mother and sisters, coworkers, Sparky’s mother and sisters along with a few of her friends, my friends, my mother’s friends, and of course Sparky’s mother’s friends. It was a well attended event. (At that point in time, my oldest cousin had married and emigrated to Israel, the next oldest had eloped and was living in New Mexico. I became the first granddaughter to afford her the opportunity to “do it up right”.)

The whole point however is that one of the things that all attendees were asked to do was bring a recipe to be placed in a recipe box. Many did. I reorganized my recipes this last year and weeded out some of the weird and undesirable ones. Including my MIL’s Three Bean Salad recipe that no one wants. I am still uncertain if that was a passive-aggressive move but currently I hold a favored position in Sparky’s family. Nevertheless, one recipe made the cut – Summer Squash Casserole from the kitchen of Monica Yost.

I have no idea who she is/was. I’m thinking she was a friend of my MIL, possibly a coworker. I tried to find her on the internet. All of the names that came up are much too young to be this Monica. I queried my MIL but she is having a few memory issues and couldn’t recall anyone with that name. Sparky seems to think the name is familiar. I’d really like to thank her – 38 years after the fact.

We’ve had a bumper crop of summer squash. Sparky has been struggling to keep up. He had been preparing the squash by slicing it into 1/4th inch wheels, quartering them and then cooking them in a little oil in a skillet then pouring a can of stewed tomatoes in and mixing it up. As an alternative he’s been adding a jar of spaghetti sauce. But that gets old fast. So here is the recipe with photos!

Summer Squash Casserole

2 summer squash (~ 2 – 4 pounds)
1 medium onion chopped
1 can cream of chicken
1 cup sour cream
1 cup shredded carrot
pepper to taste
1 8 oz package of stuffing mix (preseasoned)
1/2 c. melted butter

Wash and cut the squash into 1/4″ wheels and quarter the larger slices. Place the squash and onion into a skillet and saute in olive oil until tender and translucent.

In a large bowl combine soup, sour cream, pepper and carrot. Add cooked squash and onion and stir gently to mix. In a separate bowl mix the stuffing with the melted butter. Stir well to coat the the bread chunks. In a 9 x 9 inch glass baking dish place half the stuffing and spread to cover the bottom of the pan.

Spoon the squash mix into the baking pan and sprinkle the other half of the stuffing mix on the top.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 – 40 minutes until hot and bubbling.
   
Serves 6 – 9 depending on the size of the servings.

The review from Sparky was that it was very tasty (that is high praise at our house) and that I should make it again before the harvest is over. We have one more in the refrigerator and it appears that there are at least 3 more to harvest in the next couple of days…

Looking at Becoming a Diamond

Your words
Pierce my heart
As you speak
All I hear are sirens
That slow high pitched
Wail that fades in and out
The sound of disaster
The sound of despair
The sound of heart break
The sound of howling dogs
The sound of my voice
Full throated ululation
Joining your keening
For what was
For what is
For what will be

There are times when I feel like the finger of God is pushing down and trapping me beneath the weight of all things. I know in my mind that diamonds are produced when carbon, a common and ugly substance, is put under extreme pressure. The pressure so great that it rearranges the inherent structure of the substance. I do not want to be a diamond. None of us want to be reshaped by events outside our control. Yet it happens all the time. I have had such sad news. News I am not at liberty to divulge. Only that it strikes such sorrow and helplessness into my heart and mind that I am bereft of action. I am at a loss at this blow. I want to shake my fist at God and demand that this unfair treatment stop. I want to scream and blame and have a little tantrum. Terrible things happen but they are generally spaced such that you can recover physically and emotionally and even spiritually. But not lately. There has been an avalanche of catastrophe heaped upon someone close to me. At present all I’m capable of doing is joining my voice to the sound of the sirens.

Looking at Musical Sounds

I wanted to have a wind chime. The gentle sound on the breeze during the summer is soothing and signals “home”. Since the ceramics studio is closed, and the prospect of getting in for a class is now been narrowed to “next to impossible”, I decided that a homemade one was just not feasible. I’m not eliminating the possibility however when I do try another one the design will be a little different.

About 25 years ago Sparky’s sister gifted me with a metal wind chime. It is small with the four chimes ranging from 3 – 6 inches long. It makes a high pitched tinkling sound. It still resides on the porch but doesn’t make much noise. I’ve always liked the large resonant chimes but the cost has always been out of my budget. And by that I mean that they’ve been hundreds of dollars. When shopping for some solar lights for a project I ventured into a store that I just don’t frequent. The last time I was there I got a geocache in the parking lot and never went into the store! Anyway, they were having a major sale on all things for the garden including their wind chimes. I ignored them as I was on a mission. Reaching for a solar light I happened to bump one. It made a melodious and altogether beautiful sound. I noticed that there were several large ones. The sign said 40 – 60% off all wind chimes. Steeling myself for disappointment, I looked at the price tag. I nearly fainted! The largest one there was marked $25.99 (regular priced). I hazarded to look at one that not only had chimes but also a spinning feature of birds. It was so lovely and my heart really wanted to snatch it up but we are in austerity mode since the house is going to be painted. I didn’t buy it.

After I returned home, I mentioned to Sparky that there was a wind chime that I liked that was also on sale. Of course they also had solar lights…. After dinner we zipped over to this store and looked at the lights. They were not going to work for what we intended. BUT Sparky looked and listened to the chimes. He was impressed with the sound. He was even more impressed with the price and decided to purchase them. The original price was $16.99 and after taxes it came to a paltry $10.67 which was such a steal! I got them home and hung them up right away. They’ve been serenading us since. And even the neighbors commented on how nice they sound and how pretty they look!

Looking at Flower Power

Flower Power was a symbol of passive resistance. It was a form of non-violent protest. Rooted in the opposition movement to the Vietnam War the term was coined as a means to transform war protests into peaceful affirmative spectacles. Young people embraced the movement by wearing clothes in bright colors and prints with embroidered flowers. They decorated themselves with flowers – wore garlands of woven flowers in their hair. But the most memorable tactic was the distribution flowers during protests by giving them to the police, soldiers, politicians and the public, becoming known as flower children. The iconic image of a young man inserting a flower into the barrel of a National Guardsman’s gun pretty much sums up the movement. It defined a moment in time. Ultimately it was a failure as the result was multiple deaths and injuries of unarmed and peaceful demonstrators on many college campuses in the US at the hands of National Guardsmen, policemen, and even active military personnel.

The shoot first mentality has persisted and grown stronger within the military. And where do many police forces recruit their new officers? From the military. Not a coincidence. In 1970, 4 students were killed and 9 injured when National Guards fired their guns into a group of students on the campus of Kent State. Ten days later 2 students were killed and 12 wounded in similar circumstances at Jackson State University. It took 4 years before the trial of the Guardsmen was concluded with the charges being dismissed. The judge stated in his ruling “It is vital that state and National Guard officials not regard this decision as authorizing or approving the use of force against demonstrators, whatever the occasion of the issue involved. Such use of force is, and was, deplorable.” Further then President Nixon established the President’s Commission on Campus Unrest, known as the Scranton Commission. The Commission concluded that the shootings were “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”

Rose a deep red recalls love’s sacrifice
A velvet reminder of love lost
Pluck the petal the soul entice
To recall death’s heavy cost
All flowers taunt the grave
Daisies ever white
Mock what they gave
Resist night
Too late
Hate

This Reverse Etheree is just a little remembrance that the more things change the more they stay the same. And no, I am not giving up hope for change nor am I going to stop trying to change myself and the world around me.

Looking Floral

The flowers are blooming – finally. The daffodils were a no-go this spring. Probably because of the late snow. The iris were stifled by Sparky’s garden hose. The walnut trees are winning (mostly) the battle in the backyard and have either completely prevented or severely impaired the lilacs, mock orange, and forsythia from blooming. But not all is lost. The day lilies are doing their best to take up the slack and the hostas are poised to put on a magnificent show.

The first photo is the day lilies preparing to open and the second photo is a mere 4 days later! We had some rain and I swear you could hear the tomatoes growing! This last photo is my mutant lilies. The first time this happened there was just one bloom. They come back every year with more and more of these layered and ruffled blossoms.  They are mixed in with the regular ones and tend to open about 5 -7 days after the normal ones. Aren’t they stunning?

This 1st photo is my Asian lilies that started out bright pink when I planted them but over the last 3 years have started turning yellow. It is a mystery. And the 2nd one is of my Mary Todd Lincoln lily – the photo doesn’t do it justice as the yellow is so bright that it seems to glow!

   

This last set is the hostas in the front pre-opening and then post opening. I have dark purple ones, lavender and then the white ones in the back yard!

Looking to Evolve

Let me root out those little flaws
Tear from character my bias
I fear

Am I a racist in my core?
Has this poison weed grown in me?
Grow fear

I pull it out and till the soil
Plant brotherhood and compassion
Sow fear

Tenacious root burrows deeply
Chokes new growth that I have planted
For fear

Primal fear of unknown peoples
Open both my mind and my heart
More fear

I own my ignorance and change
See the truth of privileged living
This fear

Learn the history not written
I see the lies perpetrated
Less fear

Stand up and let my voice be heard
Vote for justice, Black Lives Matter
No fear

This is a poetry form created by Deb Gundy called Synchronicity. It is composed of 8 stanzas of 3 lines each with a syllable count of 8/8/2 and it has no rhyme.

It has been over a month since the first protests and in my little town things have quieted. In nearby Chicago the threat of federal intervention has thrown more fuel on the fire. I am appalled by the heavy handed tactics of the present administration. I understand the anger and the the violence even if I do not condone the rioting. I have seen the progress that detente can achieve. There are some who would stress that detente only works when one is in a position of power. That is exactly what we have – one side has all the power and the other side is using the means necessary to be heard. It is known that to achieve a societal change there must be a pain point. This administration is escalating tensions to reach a point where one of two things will happen – 1. The US slides into a police state where white males will control the actions of minorities, women, and any who they deem a threat to the status quo. 2. We will have change that re-balances society. That reform will provide legislative, judicial, educational and economic protections for all Americans (with a clear and logical path to citizenship). No one should be complacent. It will take some time before everyone has had the opportunity to do a little self education. Some will read (I have), some will have conversations among family and friends (I have), others will listen to the news or other pundits (I did too). The real test is to come to a consensus on what steps need to be taken to right the imbalance of power. Will it start with economics policies? Changes in policing? Political representation? A change of heart or mind or resolve? Probably all of the above. But first it will necessitate a change in the leadership of this nation. There is power at the ballot box. Let’s exercise it!

I love to be in control. That is why I so very much dislike amusement rides and why I don’t drink or take drugs. I’m a planner and a list maker. Yet this problem of racism is beyond my scope to change on a national level. The only person I can change is me. I’m not sure how many little weeds of racism I may have growing in me. The process of weeding them out may take some time. It reminds me of a summer when my best friend Anita and I spent nearly every day for a week combing through the grass looking for 4 leaf clovers. That is what it is – a fine examination of motivations, emotions, decisions, and preferences. This could take awhile. But the thing is, I like completion almost as much as control. I am tenacious and patient and I’ve got a lot of time on my hands because of COVID….

Looking at Dogs

It is no secret that Sparky really wants a dog. He reminds me of a teen girl going through the “boy crazy” phase. Or maybe it is more like the young woman who has “baby fever”. Either way every time he sees a dog he wants to pet the dog. Then he sighs like a love sick moose and starts looking at dog videos on line. The neighbors on the corner by the playground got a Golden Retriever puppy (Winston). The thing is growing fast. This puppy will be a really big dog. So far their training had consisted of picking the dog up and carrying it when it wouldn’t do what they wanted. At last look this puppy was the size of Ranger dog at the end of his days (about 50 pounds). As we were making a lap around the block, the owners and their puppy were outside attempting to teach him to sit. Sparky wanted to go steal the dog and take it home. Not because they weren’t doing a good job or were mistreating the dog. No, he was just considering breaking the 7th Commandment and definitely breaking all to pieces the 10th Commandment! He just wants his own dog.

However I’m not caving on this point. We do not need a dog at this time. I do not want a dog right now. Sparky has gone from wanting a Border Collie to thinking he would welcome a Beagle. He’d even take a Poodle, or a Schnoodle, maybe even a Shihua… I caught him looking at those adoption pages. Sure the photo was cute but the scrip with it made me question his sanity. “Adorable older dog – Has the energy of a puppy at 9 years old. Has been in 4 foster homes in the last 2 years. Does not tolerate other dogs, cats, or small children. Would do well with a home that has a set routine and predictable schedule – preferably retired individual(s) who can devote attention to this high-energy cuddle bug.” The photo showed the dog (a long haired mop in a nest of blankets on the sofa). Every fiber in my body screamed NO. When reading further it noted that the dog was trained to go on Puppy Pads and did not tolerate crating. The behavioral profile said that the dog was “cautious with strangers and required patience”. All that was a huge red flag.

Yes I looked. I am an animal lover. I wouldn’t mind having a dog in a few more years – after we do some traveling. And if we get a dog, I will require Sparky to do the majority of training. It will happen but I’m picky. I’ve worked at a no-kill shelter. The ads attempt to sugar coat the truth without telling complete lies and I know how to read between the lines. So for now I’m saying no… Unless the perfect dog appears. So I’ll let him continue his search. And I’ll keep saying no until I say yes.

Looking at Familiar Foods

Son#2 was locked in his house awaiting results from his COVID-19 test. He had been exposed at work by a coworker. So while he was stuck at home he sent a message to us: “Can you go pick-up food if I call it in? I need nutrients.” I had just put dinner in the oven and suggested we could drop off a plate. It just so happened the be a favorite meal that I hadn’t made in a long time. His response was “YES! Tasty food!”

   

This is my Cranberry Turkey Loaf
1/2 can whole cranberry sauce
1/4 c. brown sugar
2 lbs ground turkey
2 eggs
2 T. catsup
3/4 c. cracker crumbs (I use Wheat Thins Tomato Basil flavor)
2 T. dehydrated diced onion
2 t. Italian seasonings
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. onion powder
3 T. dried parsley
1/4 t. dried basil

Place the brown sugar in the bottom of a glass loaf pan. Place the cranberry sauce over the sugar in an even layer. Mix the remaining ingredients and carefully spoon into the loaf pan trying not to push the cranberry sauce into an uneven layer. Place the loaf pan on a cookie sheet to catch any boil over. Bake 50 minutes at 350 degrees F. When done, allow the loaf to stand until the liquid stops boiling. Then invert onto a platter to serve.

Comfort in the familiar smells
A cloying sweetness blooms and swells
From the kitchen bananas over ripe
A boiling kettle of cut up tripe
Each culture has its foods
And every childhood includes
Mother’s recipes that signal home
We carry with us where ere we roam
For some its pasta or stir-fry with curry
Others remember PB&J made in a hurry
That comfort food that makes us calm
Or when sick is a healing balm
No matter age or state in life
We recall home with fork and knife

Looking Broken

We have been having some pretty rough weather the last couple of weeks. We had a storm or three blow through that brought lashing winds and heavy rain. I have to admit that ever since a tornado caused a tree to fall on the house when I was maybe 4, I’ve been uneasy during thunderstorms and when tornado conditions were present. In fact I have a great deal of difficulty sleeping when the rain is pounding on the windows. Flashes of lightening bring me out of a deep sleep in an instant. And the thunder, well, it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble… Sparky on the other hand sleeps through nearly anything. I have had some recent nights that have left me anything but rested. When I get up after a bad storm I have a series of questions that I ask Sparky:
1. Is the basement dry?
2. Do we have any big branches or trees down?
3. Did any electronics get fried?

I usually don’t go searching myself. Sparky went out back to check on the wretched walnut trees. I headed to the front porch to make sure the next door neighbor’s humongous Tulip tree was still in one piece. For reference they used to have 3 trees but as they age they get brittle and tend to not bend in the wind thus break and fall on things – 2 were broken. One fell across their driveway missing everything. The other fell between our houses and missed everything. I’m seriously afraid that “third times the charm” and the remaining tree is going to crush one or both of our houses. As I stepped onto the porch I saw disaster.

This is what is left of my ceramic wind chime. This is the second one to bite the dust. One of the projects I did in my first ceramics class was to make a slab wind chime. I had pressed ivy leaves into the slab and cut out individual pieces with the leaf imprint and a crown to have them hang from. It lasted nearly 15 years until a violent storm with shear force winds destroyed it. This second one had only been up about 4 years. I had said I wouldn’t make another but after awhile I decided to go for it. A lovely cloud with a sun peeking out held the rectangular pieces with wild flowers pressed into them. It wasn’t as pretty as the ivy but I had “tuned” the pieces to make a more musical chime (less clank and more jingle). Now that it has taken a place in the trash I’m wondering if I should even bother with making another. Yes? No? What say you?