Looking at the Page

My husband Sparky has been a reading fiend. He has been posting his reads with a goal of reading one book a week. Well, at this rate he will have read 52 books by the end of August. The one thing that he hates more than almost anything else is if I attempt to read a book he is reading before he finishes it. So my reading is far behind his. This is mostly because I have been doing other things but partly because he will read 2 to 3 books at a time! I’ve never been able to do that. He’s currently all about Flannery O’Connor. He’s read Wise Blood, A Good Man is Hard to Find, The Violent Bear it Away, Everything that Rises Must Converge and the Complete Stories. I have to say that I’ve read the first one as part of an American Literature class. I was not impressed. He keeps urging me to try another one. This is the same thing I was faced with as a child and young adult living at home. “Tastes change. Try just one bite of this pickle, one sip of this orange juice, just one nibble of this spinach…”

I have periodically attempted to try some foods that as a child I was diametrically opposed to eating. I now adore mushrooms (if fresh instead of the canned ones that were my mother’s staple). I will eat spinach (fresh cooked not ever canned). I’m okay with squash. I’ll eat egg whites and actually enjoy them. However I have never liked (despite numerous attempts) and will never eat certain items: mayonnaise, mustard, asparagus (no matter how you cook it), raw veggies including kale, lettuce (all varieties), cucumbers, celery, raw onion, raw tomato, raw carrot (I’ll eat them cooked but just keep the raw ones far far away).

So despite having tried I still can’t enjoy some authors. They are just not palatable to me. Maybe it is some slightly bitter after taste or a strong flavor that slaps you in the face. Ernest Hemmingway, John Steinbeck, Flannery O’Connor, James Joyce, and there are others. But these seem to be the ones that like kale, pickles and asparagus others seem to enjoy but leave a bad taste in my mouth.

Take a bite and see
Clean your plate or no dessert
Thank-you, no thank-you

Looking Bionic

I am from the era of the Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman. My father watched those shows religiously and I watched along with him. As much as I would have loved to be bionic the method of becoming was destressingly brutal. No one wants to crash an aircraft or have a failed parachute jump. I do however have a bionic nose. I can smell things from a great distance. I can distinguish aromas and determine location and origins of smells. It is my super power. No one wants to believe me. Sparky doesn’t want to believe. Sparky now believes.

It was a normal weekend way back in 1997. I was in the basement folding laundry. Suddenly my nose detected an unpleasant smell. I immediately recognized this as the smell of natural gas. I bolted upstairs and got Sparky’s attention alerting him to the presence of gas. His reaction was to mosey to the basement, sniff around and proclaim, “I don’t smell anything. You are imagining it.” I went back down but I had acclimated and could nolonger detect the gas. This smell persisted and I contacted Sparky’s parents. His mother came over and confirmed that I was really smelling gas. She called the gas company and they found a pinhole leak. It was corrected. “I told you so.”

This was not the first time I had employed the bionic nose. I had had 2 children in diapers at the same time. I could tell which one was poopy from the next room. I could tell which kid had eaten my chocolate stash from across the room with my eyes closed. I knew. We got a dog. I knew when he had an intestinal upset, when he needed his rearend cleaned off, when he had rolled in something nasty or chewed on something rotten – I could smell him at 40 paces. But Sparky had difficulty believing me until I made him check. I was always right. “I told you so.”

So last week I came downstairs in the morning having just rolled out of bed. I walked down and before even getting to the kitchen I smelled it. “What is that awful smell?” I queried Sparky. He shook his head and asked what I was smelling now – since he didn’t detect anything in the air. I said it smelled like sulfur. “Oh, yeah. I made some hard boiled eggs and 2 cracked.” Opening the refrigerator I was smacked in the face with the smell of over cooked eggs. Hmm.

Then it happened. I walked downstairs again first thing in the morning (it was a Thursday) and we were heading to get some groceries. “What smells like wet dog?” I sniffed around and stated that it seemed to be coming from the basement. Sparky pooh-poohed me. He couldn’t smell it. I insisted he go to the basement to see if there was a leak. I’m not sure what he did but he didn’t investigate very thoroughly. We went shopping. We washed the groceries and disinfected packages. I had a stack of items to be put in storage (mostly to replenish stock we had used up during the first 10 weeks of the shutdown). He goes down the stairs and starts squawking. Seems the sump pump failed and there was a good inch of standing water in the basement. The area where we store seasonal items, mostly Christmas stuff, is the dog run. For 15 years that was Rangers “safe” spot. Even though we vacuumed and wiped it down after he was gone, we still find dog hair in corners… So the wet dog smell was real, the wood was wet and a bunch of hidden dog hair was floating around. The laundry room rug was destroyed. I never said, “I told you so.” Because I didn’t have to. He said it. He said, “Go ahead and say it, say ‘I told you so’.”

I refused to rub it in. I am instead insisting on a new rug, a back-up sump pump, and a promise that the next time I smell something he will believe me!

EDIT: Obviously I can’t read a calendar. This was supposed to have been posted on Monday the 13th but I goofed and scheduled it for Sunday. So I made the correction but not before a couple comments were generated! *slaps forehead* Anyway hope your weekend was scent free!

Looking to Find Time

Turn the wrist or check the wall
Can’t escape time’s beck and call
Hour, minute, month or date
We can’t slow or make it wait

Even if we toss the clocks
Close the windows, bolt the locks
Time flows forward through the gate
Not tumbling but arrow straight

Time obsessed we dread the day
Death advances no delay
If on time or running late
Can’t change time or alter fate

Seems most folks are a little time obsessed. I have live webinars that are to be done “RIGHT NOW”, FB messages that if I don’t respond immediately I get a text and a voicemail to inquire what I’m doing that could possibly be more pressing. And if the text is not answered pronto expresso there will be immediate and continual additional messages. I get it. People want and need interaction. The thing is I still have a life. Sparky has gone back to work. I’ve done one study and am just concluding another. I’m financially pulling my weight as there are others proposed and in the process of being scheduled. I’m still working on my poetry compilation. I have some jewelry that I’m trying not to ruin. I have house work and cooking and laundry. I’m trying to get some fresh air and exercise. Even though the economy is gearing up and businesses are opening, not everything has or even will go back to “normal”. The danger of getting the virus is not over. I’m still carrying on as normally as possible and taking time to be mindful of my own health. There is no way to out run, trick or fool time. It is infinite and limited as well. Rant over…

Looking for Quality Control

I love basil pesto. It is my go to for several pasta dishes, especially when I use shrimp or crab. Usually I purchase Classico Traditional Basil Pesto. The cost is in the middle range and the taste is good. That said, I bought some gourmet pesto on sale (you know I love a bargain). It had to be frozen because it didn’t contain any preservatives and had to be consumed within 2 weeks of purchase. After finally exhausting the frozen stash I moved on to my usual stuff. So while Sparky had a tomato based sauce (with green peppers and sausage), I opted for some Classico pesto. The first bite was good but by the time I had that second bite in my mouth I was starting to experience some distress. This was caused by having a hard woody object in my mouth. I managed to extract it – it was a piece of stem from some part of the plant material in the pesto sauce. It got to the point where I sat and picked out pieces of sticks and twigs from my portion. I gave up after awhile. After dinner I was so disappointed in the quality of the product I took a couple photos of the twigs and of the lot number/expiration date to append to my consumer complaint. Well, Classico doesn’t really want any complaints. I jumped through several flaming hoops only to have my email disappear from their portal. So I tried again with a similar result. Third time was the charm and the email sent. It appears that the quality assurance department is slacking. I guess I’m going to have to spend some extra money to get better pesto…

It is hard to tell but these bits are not that small. They measure about 5 to 10 mm long and were so hard that I couldn’t chew them up!!

Looking Serious

Yesterday was the anniversary of my father’s passing. After 13 years the sting has eased a bit. I wasn’t crying and I didn’t seclude myself in a dark room. I did however pause for a moment and reflect. I have often said that I’ve lived a charmed life. My father was strict and had a temper. He was however fair, protective, encouraging, and supportive. He did his best to make sure that his daughters never wanted for food, shelter or clothing. He taught us the value of money and the power of saving. He required truth and honesty. He demanded we go to church and school. He provided music, art, and dance lessons. He was not perfect but he was loving and loved. He taught me to laugh freely. I cannot fault him in any way. So this is my tribute to my father:

Does not end
The soul’s affection
Or sever love’s attachment

Independent of love fails
Leaves no legacy
A dry leaf

This is an Oddquain and Reverse Oddquain. The oddquain is a unrhymed poem of 5 lines of 17 syllables arranged as 1-3-5-7-1 syllables the reverse is exactly opposite. I’ve stated before that math gives me a twitch. However I enjoy counting. I learned addition playing Blackjack and cribbage with my parents. The story goes that my parents played cribbage on their honeymoon. I was warned not to tell my teachers that I learned to add playing cards as that might have been viewed as a little scandalous!

Looking at Independent Thought

I have been accused of being an independent thinker and also a sheep following the herd. And I have to admit both statements have been true at various points in my life and in a variety of situations. It is impossible to live according to someone else’s rules. The key for independence is to be able to look, listen, research, and come to a conclusion. Whether that end goes along with others or finds you swimming against the current is not the definition of independence. To be independent is to have the freedom to develop your own opinion using whatever tools and materials are at your disposal. It means being able to search for alternative sources, evaluate them for accuracy and validity and utilize them in making a judgement.

The tricky point currently, is the step of evaluating a source. It is becoming much more difficult to suss the reporting from the spin, propaganda from the unbiased truth, the political from the factual. It used to be just like Dragnet, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Now it is all about pushing an agenda that is aligned to one political point of view or another. The free press is getting harder to find.

Why this little rant? Well, tomorrow we celebrate the Fourth of July, the United States of America’s Independence Day and I’m not feeling very independent. I spent a little time on Facebook and it was hard to take. There was the usual flag waving and fireworks but underneath it was a current that was ugly. It was a “we are the land of the free and the home of the brave” BUT not for blacks, immigrants, foreigners, the poor, LGBTQ, and any that are different or have a different stance than those shouting with the loudest voice. And that made me so very sad and angry. There were a couple of people that I “hid” from my feed who had very unchristian things to say about a whole bunch of people I support. I support my gay relatives and friends, my friends and relatives who are not Christian (be they Jewish, Muslim, Hindi, Buddhist, Atheist, or Wiccan), my friends and relatives who are Democrats, Republican, Libertarian, and Independent and of course all my friends and relatives who are not caucasians of European descent. We have become so divided that it is not the United States. It is scary.

Looking Prophetic

I’ve been pouring over poetry that I’ve written – all the way back to 2008. That is a lot of poetry. Some of it is funny. Others are painfully bad. Surprisingly some of it is really good. And then there is the weirdly prophetic stuff. The reason behind the retrospective is that I’m putting together a compilation for my mother. It is very difficult to select the poems that I like that I know she’ll like. Back in 2011-16 I wrote a couple poems that are a scary description of COVID-19 isolation. During a bad spot at work (2014) I wrote some things that are eerily pertinent today. In 2016 I wrote some politically inspired posts that are more true today than they were when I penned them. Funny how that works. Anyway I thought that for snicks and giggles I’d repost a poem (2016) that describes the atmosphere of pointing fingers instead of acting on the scientific evidence to mitigate the impending pandemic…

Happiness has gone missing
And we fear the worst
Gather the usual suspects
Interrogate them first

Check hands for bloody stains
Angels and devils alike
Confirm all friends and lovers
We need evidence to strike

Authority has red stained hands
From beet root it is claimed
Yet we believe it is a lie
When he swears he’s being framed

He tacks a list of alibis
To change the way we think
Happiness was found alive
But teetering on the brink

Authority escaped the noose
And believes we’ll soon forget
But happiness still bears the scars
And we remain upset

Looking Beyond

I’ve always been a detail person. Perhaps it has been a condition of being near-sighted. My art teacher was amazed at the detail of a drawing I did in middle school. We were taken outside to sketch. While my classmates were fixated on the sky, look of the buildings and towering trees, I was drawing a dandelion that was right there between my feet. It has been thus most of my life. Working in research, being attentive to the small changes resulted in significant contributuions. It allowed me to be able to visualize and draw blood from extrememly small veins and make precise injections. And in a way it held me back from making leaps off cliffs or attempting to step on clouds. My role for many years was that of the cautioner, Jimminy Cricket. I was the worst case scenario person warning of pitfalls. For that reason I personally didn’t make many missteps. There have been times when I’ve been challenged to see the “Big Picture” as an excuse by higher ups to undertake dubious assignments. I’m happy to say that I was able to avoid compromising my values.

As an organized person, I’ve always been more comfortable with a plan. I’ve got a plan for this week, next week, next summer, and the 5-year plan. I’m finding however that I need to look beyond my plan. I have to consider how my plan meshes with the plans of others. Not everyone shares my point of view or my vision for the future. As a Christian I am asked to look beyond my needs and consider the needs of others. Living outside the self and living for something else is a pretty frightening concept. With age is supposed to come wisdom. But I’m finding age reduces my flexibility. I’m set in my ways and I’m becoming resistant to change. Instead of an opening outward I’ve seen myself curl inward. I look for the horizon but my focus is not much beyond the tip of my nose.

The time of social isolation additionally narrowed my vision. I didn’t have much interaction with the larger community. There was an invisible barrier between my world and the rest of the world. Yes, it was a privilege to be able to afford to shelter in place for weeks on end, to have the means and monies to meet financial obligations, and to feel safe in my own home. I acknowledge that I am fortunate and more fortunate than most of the world. The harping and moaning about minor inconveniences makes most of us look like spoiled brats to those whose very existence hangs by a thread. How will we be remembered in the history books? What is the legacy we leave behind? How will we be judged by future generations? These are the questions that loom when you look beyond the self, beyond the individual, beyond vanity. These are questions I can’t answer. In light of the inequality in America I am now aware that change must occur and that change needs my active participation. I can do something. I can educate myself about race, white privilege, and social justice. Perhaps if we all looked beyond our own self interests we could change EVERYTHING!

Looking at Stupidity

What will we do in a crowd
When the noise becomes loud
A mask for safety allowed
Wrapped in a comforting shroud
As through the throng we ploughed
Coronavirus remains uncowed

Save us Lord from stupidity

Afraid of disease we remain
The only course for the sane
From close quarters abstain
Though wearing a mask is a pain
Its the cost of health to maintain
And disease prevention attain
Don’t whine and complain
Stay safe use your brain

Save us Lord from stupidity

Government and businesses close
Wear masks to cover mouth and nose
To flatten the curve they propose
Still some the order oppose
The old and frail they expose
Flippant they thumb their nose

Save us Lord from stupidity

The above is a poetry form called The Bop. It consists of 3 stanzas with a single line refrain after each stanza. All stanzas are written as monorhymes. The first stanza is 6 lines long and presents a problem. The second stanza is 8 lines long and expands on the problem. The third stanza is 6 lines long and documents the solution or failed attempt to resolve the problem.

My state is now “open” for business. Our cases had been declined but now a spike in new cases is occurring. I attribute this to the small but fierce group that refuse to keep their distance and will not “out of principle” wear a mask. These are the same group that refuse to wear seatbelts, adamantly refuse to wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, and when I was working as a compliance officer had 101 excuses not to wear safety equipment. They were always the first to assure me that nothing would happen to them. Ususally just before I had to record an OSHA reportable incident… Of course this stupidity in the time of COVID-19 doesn’t just put them at risk. I’m not sure how long we will remain distanced but I suspect that I may not feel like mingling at a dine in restaurant for awhile longer. The church has been holding services since June 6th but restricting the number of persons permitted in the church at any one time. That prohibition will continue through August, as will the live streaming of the Mass. Our Pastor has been adamant that you MUST wear a mask. He maintains that the Bishop has mandated wearing masks and we WILL BE OBEDIENT! I was pretty sure there would be 100% compliance. However there were several people who gained entrance wearing masks and then promptly took them off. I was hoping the ushers would gently remind them that the masks were not optional as in “this is not Wal-Mart!” In the face of that occurance I’m going to attend via live streaming. I’ve even sewn some additional masks so that we can be sure to always have a clean mask handy…

Looking Robotic

I went for a little drive to complete an errand of no big importance. That is to say, it was not a pressing matter and I could have handled it on any day in the next 3 weeks. The point is I didn’t want to wait. I wanted to get out and go somewhere, anywhere. You would think that after seeing only Sparky for so long I’d welcome time without him but while he was at work the house seemed so empty. Thus I merrily jumped into the car and headed to my destination. Except I was too wrapped up in other thoughts and missed my turn. No problem. I live in a relatively small city and I’ve lived here for 40-ish years. What I didn’t count on was road construction.

I had missed my turn due to being on “auto-pilot” and taking a very familiar route that I drove daily to work. My destination was NOT the university but a place located before that institution would come into view. I ended up driving for about 20 minutes taking multiple turns and additional detours to end up right where I started. That is, right where I went wrong! Having become disgusted with myself and the summer construction season, I turned for home.

I was caught up in my own little dark cloud of perturbation when it dawned on me that I’d just passed my original destination! I was able to redeem my trip by pulling into the next business (albeit a bit abruptly) and simply parking and walking across the lot. It occurred to me that this trip where I was like a programmed robot is how many people go through life. Once I was back on the road I decided to really pay attention to the people and places I was passing. I saw lots of people walking, mostly alone, in a seeming trance. They didn’t respond to a smile and a wave. People in cars saw only my car and not me in my car smiling and waving. It was a little disheartening. You would think that we’d all be hungry for any positive social interaction. Which leads to this post. My question is, have you been robotic in your life? Are you still on autopilot? Have you been able to break out of the routine and experience the miraculous and the joyous?