Looking Sluggish

We’ve had some very cold weather lately. In fact it has been so cold that I broke out the velour thermal blanket for the bed and my flannel pajamas. Then it got warm and by warm I mean in the mid 60s. It was only for a couple of days. One of those days was last Sunday. We gathered at Sparky’s parents house for our regular Sunday night ice cream social. As we were leaving we discovered a beautiful creature on the sidewalk just one step from the porch.
It was about 9:00 PM and the temperature had dropped. So our visitor was a little sluggish. He was just trying to make it into the grass and probably a nice warm place under some mulch or leaf litter…

   

To give a little perspective to the size of this guy, he was about as long as my hand and thicker around than my thumb… Such a pretty pattern!

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Looking Back at Middle School

Episode 3 of the Merit V. Bidwell saga. Sparky suggested the title “The Trials and Tribulations of Merit V. Bidwell” but I have rejected that one. I’m open to other suggestions.

I don’t much like to remember middle school. The high point was in 8th grade English class when I submitted a poem to the scholastic poetry competition and it was accepted for publication. It felt pretty good to have something recognized. Of course I hadn’t let my parents read it, nor the English teacher. I had submitted it on my own by forging a couple signatures and asking the library aide to give me a hand. I was riding pretty high until my parents read it in the copy of the journal that was sent to the house. It was a very angst-ridden adolescent poem about death and dying and exploring the possibility that there was no God. It makes me chuckle now but the fire storm that it precipitated was horrific. I think I spent every Thursday for a year in one or another psychologist’s office. By that time I’d decided that the only way to escape my life was to embrace the crazy. I cultivated an “up is down and down is up” approach. If my parents made any statement of opinion or fact I immediately took the opposite stance. It didn’t matter the topic, venue, or company, I was going to be contrary. At one point I was evaluated for Oppositional Defiance Disorder. Sadly I wasn’t able to convince the psychologist. Instead I had so many “time-outs” that I developed a rich fantasy life. That of course alienated me further from my peers. I just didn’t want to care but that is easier said than done. I did care and it ate at me. The end result of 8th grade should have been a moment of rejoicing instead I was in the hospital having my ulcer cauterized with a laser. Yeah, I was hoping that high school would be better.

Looking at a Birthday Gift

Today would be my father’s 85th birthday. For the last 9 years my father’s ashes have resided in the faux wood cardboard box that the mortuary placed them in. On several occasions I have considered purchasing or making an appropriate urn as an upgrade to his current residence. After several urns were made for special rabbits from work, I decided it was time to make one for my father. My original idea was an urn with ginkgo leaves. I envisioned the leaves gently falling in a random (and sparse) pattern at the top becoming a dense jumble at the base. When it came down to it the ginkgo didn’t speak to me. It wasn’t a symbol that reminded me of my father. Instead I left the jar plain. I topped the lid with a single acorn. It is understated. It is a symbol of possibility and the intention to greatness. It reminds me that my father was strong. He was not a showy person. He wore white socks and white shirts and a white hat. Not that he was milquetoast. He was quiet in his convictions, stern and stoic. Like acorns dropping from trees and “bonking” unsuspecting pedestrians, he had a sense of humor. The acorns fall producing sustenance but most of all the anticipation of another generation of mighty oaks. My father’s legacy lives on in me and my sisters and in our sons and daughters. I’m hopeful that there will be more trees and more acorns.

    

Looking to Hang On

The last leaf pick-up was announced. They will begin to convert the trucks from leaf removal to snow removal the week of Thanksgiving. The last pick-up for our neighborhood is next Tuesday. I’m pretty sure we will be bagging leaves to be hauled to the landfill. My drive to work takes me along a scenic route lined with trees. These trees have just started to get a tinge of color to the leaves. They are all firmly attached and show no real signs of letting go of the branches. At work the trees are starting to show more color but they are interspersed with trees that remain a verdant green. Again there are no signs that the landscape crews will be doing any raking or leaf blowing in the near future. Although I worry that the late falling leaves will coincide with a heavy snow fall and result in killing the lawn, I can’t help but admire the tenacity of the leaves. I suppose we are all like the leaves. We live and eventually die. I also think that many people are like those leaves that refuse to let go. We remain green and continue to flutter like flags in the wind. Whether you consider it stubbornness and defiance (holding a negative connotation) or a zest and zeal for life (in a more positive light) we as a species are motivated to hang on – to life!

Looking to Fly Under the Radar

Here is episode 2 in my new story. I’m not sure what title I’m going to go with. For now I’m calling it the Merit V. Bidwell saga. Enjoy!

Nothing was as it seemed. That’s what I kept telling myself. Every day I struggled to make it through classes where nothing came easily. However I was learning; learning to keep my head down to avoid confrontation and that all effort was eventually rewarded. They were valuable life lessons. I also learned stealth, deception, strategic thinking, and evasive maneuvers. Then I moved from the elementary school to junior high. Each day was a battle and I tried to avoid being a casualty. Anyone that was remotely trustworthy metamorphosed to an enemy seemingly overnight. Everyone had a personal vendetta against me. I couldn’t figure it out. At one point in 7th grade I told my parents that I wanted to move in with my Aunt Eve. I figured she lived far enough away that I could have a fresh start in a completely different school. She was also very hip and dressed in the latest fashion so I could probably borrow some of her clothes and be just as cool. My parents were not willing to even entertain the possibility. I think I spent the better part of 7th grade bouncing from in school suspension to doctor’s visits. I managed to make it to 8th grade with a gastric ulcer; stress induced seborrheic dermatitis, cystic acne, and a Pepto-Bismol habit. Fun times, let me tell you. As for things not being what they seemed, I wore oversized U.S. Army issue fatigues and a homemade poncho. At home I pulled my hair back into a neat ponytail but at school it hung over my face so that I looked like Cousin It. I don’t think anyone knew what color my eyes were or that I had acne. I suppose that was part of the reason I did it.

Looking Chilled

All the signs were pointing to winter arriving – grey skies, dropping temperatures, a chill wind and even the random, transient snow flake. The landscape department had their people out purging water from the in-ground sprinkler system. I wouldn’t have noticed except it was creating a fine freezing mist that I couldn’t avoid on my walk into work. These same workers were lopping off the iris leaves and cutting the day lilies. It really bothered me to see them cut the lilies since they were still blooming. I realize that they are behind schedule and probably delayed it as long as possible. Really, they usually have the plants trimmed back before the second week of October. I just didn’t want to believe. Most of the trees still have leaves. Most of the leaves on the trees are still GREEN! Some flowers are blooming. We still have a couple tomatoes on the vines. The robins are hanging around. However it is official, winter has arrived. Fall is done and over. I moved the summer pajamas out and the winter fleece ones into the drawer. But that is not what sealed the fate of autumn. Because our bedroom is on the corner of the house and takes the brunt of the wind causing it to be the coldest room, Sparky turned on the space heater and broke out the humidifier. I’m still not ready for winter despite the Cuddle Duds® sheets and the thermal blanket on the bed

Winterized garden
Iris leaves given crew cuts
Roses in igloos

Looking to Score

Last weekend I was on my own as Sparky and son#2 went to the Notre Dame football game with our good friends Charley and Julie. I figured this was the perfect time to go shopping. Armed with my $10 off any $10 purchase at J.C. Penny, I headed to the mall. I knew it was going to be a good expedition when I got a prime parking spot across from the store entrance. As I strolled into the store I was struck by all the red signs – 60% off apparel, accessories and selected shoes. Everything I looked at was deeply discounted. I decided to check out the discount racks. To my delight they were marked with special yellow signs that shrieked 60% off already discounted prices! I began my search. I had an arm load of items to try on. I tried them on. I selected the items that I thought would come to a total of $10. I stood in line (they were pretty busy) and when the clerk began to ring them up the prices were ridiculously lower than I anticipated. I stopped her and said I needed to add some more items to my selection. I regrouped and after another 30 minutes of sifting and trying on various clothes I had my purchases. I bought tank tops in white, grey, peach, red, turquoise, and lime and a white t-shirt. If I had paid full price I would have had to shell out $86.00. After the clearance discount, sale discount, and my credit discount my total for 7 tops was (drum roll please) $1.80. Yes that is correct. I paid a total of one dollar and 80 cents. That came out to $0.24 each. I pumped my fist in the air and shouted “I am victorious!” Sure it got a few looks from the people behind me in line but the sales clerk shared my glee and gave me a high five!

Just thought I’d add my proof positive since I didn’t want anyone to doubt my shopping skills!

Looking to Tell a Story

Back in my Xanga days I wrote some stories. They were sort of like the newspaper serials from days gone by. I had some characters that people really liked. All in all there have been intermittent requests to bring back some of the characters or to continue their stories. But I’m reluctant to do that. Instead I’m thinking I’d like to start a new story, with new characters. I’ll post a story episode every Wednesday starting with today. I hope you enjoy this new tale.

My name is Merit Valkyrie Bidwell and I hate it. My parents must have been smoking something when they came up with my name. My older sister is Elizabeth Ann, my older brother is David Joseph and I got the weird names. I’ve heard it said that our names mold us and define us in some unconscious way. If that’s the case, I was screwed from the get go. One of my earliest memories concerning my name was in Kindergarten. The teacher lined us up in alphabetical order by last name. I was second in line. You had to state your first name and then find a spot in line according to the alphabet. Most of the kids thought my name was Mary since that was their only point of reference. After we had all resorted by first name she made us state our middle name and find a new spot in line. I had never considered that my middle name was anything but a normal middle name. I stepped forward, stated my name and went to find the end of the line. Miss Raines hauled me up short for “making up a name” and asked me to state my real middle name. I was mortified. Standing in front of the entire class I was being called a liar. Of course, I burst into tears. Then the class as a whole laughed at me and called me a crybaby as well as a liar. The teacher asked me again to state my middle name and I repeated it. The next half hour was spent standing in the corner with my nose pressed to the wall. She never apologized and my classmates considered me a liar from that point on. In fact it wasn’t until my high school graduation that I was vindicated as the school board president intoned my name as I accepted my diploma. I just happened to catch a glimpse of Angie Adams’ face when she realized that she had taunted me for 12 years for telling the truth. It was a sweet moment.

Looking Beat

I’m a red head and that means I have a propensity to bleed. If I get a cut it gushes blood. A simple nick on a finger bleeds like a scalp wound. That also means I bruise easily since bruises are simply hemorrhages under the skin. The weekend before last Sparky and I visited saintvi to assist with a couple chores. Sparky removed the air conditioner units from the windows and then replaced the bathroom door knob. So when does the bleeding and bruising come in? I decided that since I couldn’t lift a window AC unit, I’d help out by peeling duct tape off the window trim. I pulled and then at the last second the tape broke. I slammed the knuckle of my thumb into the edge of the window. It first appeared to be a tiny scrape. Then it started dripping blood. I had to wipe my blood off the white window sill and then I had to get a band-aid. It bled for a couple hours. Sheesh!

My next mishap involved the bathroom door. Sparky replaced the bathroom door knobs (with my invaluable assistance) as saintvi supervised. To check out the finished door, she went into the bathroom and shut the door. Or at least tried to shut the door. The new knobs were just slightly different causing the door to not close easily. The door was slammed and I caught motion in my peripheral vision. Instinctively I raised my arm to shield my face. An antique wooden potato masher leapt off the wall and was hurtling toward my cranium. Fortunately it bounced off my arm (or so I thought), hit the wall and bounced hitting my knee. I was sure I was going to have a huge bruise on my knee. I was mistaken.

On Monday the bruise showed up as a small dark spot, deep beneath the skin. By Tuesday it was definitely darker. Before I left work it had found its way to the surface and was purple with a green tinge. When I woke up on Wednesday morning it had doubled in size and had turned a sickly brownish color. Here it is almost 10 days past and it still looks awful. The nice part is that it never hurt at all!

Looking at Big Changes

I wrote about the little changes that make you scratch your head. Then there are the big changes that snap your head back and cause you to gasp. I ran into a woman I hadn’t seen in maybe 10 years. She used to live in the neighborhood but had moved. We had been friendly acquaintances and our children were the same ages. I had stopped at Chick-fil-a to get my October Mystery Offer. It was busy and I was standing in a very long line. Suddenly I heard my name. I turned around and a stranger was smiling at me. I did NOT recognize this former neighbor. She looked to be 90 years old. Granted I’m a pretty good looking ‘almost 60 year old’ but I know she was slightly younger than me. She had had skin cancer on her face. The doctor had to remove most of her cheek and part of her nose and some of her ear. She looked like a burn victim. That on top of the osteoporosis made her shorter and bent over with a dowager’s hump. I was shocked. Even the dyed hair didn’t take any years off her appearance.

I know that external beauty doesn’t determine the value of a person. I try hard to look past physical appearances and see the heart and mind of the people I meet. But I have to admit this was really difficult to do in this case. I suppose it had more to do with the degree of change and that I hadn’t seen her recently. I am hesitant to go to any class reunions. Sparky’s HS has a monthly “reunion” for anyone having graduated before 1980. His sisters and brother have been urging him to attend. They rave about being able to catch up with classmates and others. But there is also a little bit of cattiness in gloating over the cheerleader with the face lift gone wrong…