Looking to Celebrate

Son#2 celebrated his birthday this month. As is our family tradition, I baked him a pie according to his specifications. Usually he requests a rhubarb pie in combination with another fruit – sometimes pineapple, other times peach or apple. This time he requested cherry – not any cherry pie but a tart cherry pie. I had prepared ahead of time thinking he’d want rhubarb. I bought rhubarb when it was available and cut and froze a pre-measured amount just for a pie. Anyway, he wanted cherry and that’s just what he got!

Here is the pie just before entering the oven. I thought it looked nice. I was worried that it would be so juicy that it would bubble over and obliterate the design.

Here is the pie cooling from the oven. It came out beautiful! I got so very lucky that the picture on top wasn’t destroyed. Son#2 still hasn’t indicated that it tasted good but I’m pretty sure it was delicious – I added extra cinnamon and used fresh ground nutmeg.


Watching the New Cashier

I’ve been told I’m a very patient person. I have also been taught that patience is a virtue. This last weekend I went shopping. I was patient when the lines were long at Goodwill. I was in no rush when I had to wait to get down the aisle past a grid lock of shopping carts at the grocery. I leisurely strolled while in Kohl’s and was unperturbed that I couldn’t find a cart. I wanted to be home by dinnertime. No problem. I stepped up to the register and placed my purchases (scrupulously selected and tallied to be able to utilize my $10 off a $50 purchase) in front of the cashier.

She looked so very young with her braces and ponytail. Her name tag said “Cassandra”. She admitted that this was only her 3rd day on the job. She was polite and quick. When she told me that I couldn’t use my coupon AND the 20% off, I corrected her gently and let her know how it worked. The coupon must be taken before the percent off discount. She tried it and it worked. Her reaction was one of anguish. She confessed that the customer before me had the same deal but she did it backwards and they couldn’t use the coupon! I entered my charge card but it announced that I must go to the customer service and call the national customer service hotline. I think I wrinkled my brow. Cassandra asked the older cashier next to her for assistance. After some touch screen manipulations, the older woman asked me to put my number in again, since I must have hit a wrong key. At first it looked good but suddenly it gave me the same error message. Then I was asked if I wanted to pay using a different card. So I used my Master card. But that caused my $10 coupon to be invalidated. So poor Cassandra had to void out the whole order.

You see, even though I added up the cost on the tags to make sure I was at or above $50, the tags were not accurate and the prices were actually much lower than anticipated! I had to go to customer services, call the hot line, have a temporary card issued, and find another $16 worth of clothing. So I complied with good humor. The clothes I had tried on and rejected had disappeared from the dressing room so I had to search all over for them. I finally found them and retrieved a nice printed t-shirt. It was marked $4.80 but the real price was $3.60. I found another t-shirt marked $8.40 but it was only $1.60!! I picked out a couple tank tops listed at $4.80 that were really $3.60… It took me a long time to get the tops and the temporary credit card.

With my additional purchases in hand I waited for Cassandra. She was getting a refresher course in how to count her drawer. I stood by and waited. Cassandra re-rang all the previous purchases and then the new ones. She struggled with the coupons, and the new total. But I waited smiling. As we finished the transaction she apologized for all the trouble. I just laughed and said it wasn’t her fault. She thanked me for being so patient. I just smiled and chuckled and let her know that it was much better to have learned how to do all the crazy stuff with a customer that wasn’t in a rush or in a bad temper. I think I made her day. I know she made mine! I ended up saving $272.80 on 12 clothing items. I paid $37.66. Yeah, sticking it to the man! hehehe!

Looking Relieved

This week my mother had surgery. Although she is older, she is also in pretty good health for being 85 years old. Still it was concerning. When I first heard that she needed to have a heart surgery I was rather worried (on the order of hand wringing and teeth gritting). Being so far away is difficult when these things come up. After several doctor visits and consultations with the surgeons (and all the tests), it was decided that she was eligible for a less invasive procedure, the problem was most likely just the aortic valve (instead of all three valves), and the surgery should be quick with a lightening fast recovery.

The surgery was supposed to start at 10:30 AM but due to some delays she didn’t go back to the operating room until 3:00 PM. Of course I didn’t know that since I was in a meeting for 5 hours in the basement of a new campus building. I think if there were a tornado or apocalypse I’d want to be in that basement. It was impenetrable! So as I had breaks in my meeting I’d send text messages inquiring on her status. Sadly they didn’t go through – until the end of the day as I emerged from the lower level – then all the texts came flooding to my phone and all mine went winging through the ether.

The angst of the long wait and the longer prep time dissipated when she came out of surgery. She came through with flying colors. When in recovery she was very talkative and was very lucid. The surgeon said she can likely go home in 2 days. He also stated that she didn’t have a stroke or need a pacemaker! So that is really great news. The doctors believe she will be back to her normal activity in a week or less. This is very good news. Even better news is that the new aortic valve is functioning perfectly and all her other heart valves are working normally. I’m feeling relieved.


I’m watching. It is a fascinating occupation. Not that I sit in judgement but I observe and absorb the activities. Some would say I’m detached, distant, removed. I am the sponge filled with the water of events – take them in and wring them out. If not for the letting go I would overflow, saturate and sink to the depths. The things I see and feel and know leave traces. I am never completely unaffected. And so I continue to take in and let go. Those who ask will be answered. Those who look askance do not count. I see them and let go. Breathe in and breathe out. Live. Live well. Live. Live well. The rhythm in me continues, a tidal pattern, a moon cycle, a rising and setting of the sun, movement of planets, a dance. I see you on the periphery watching. Do not be afraid. Join me in the dance. Listen to the music of the universe and stand next to me and we will watch together. Live. Live well. Live. Live well.

In case you didn’t notice the tag on this post, this is a prose poem. I was first introduced to this form by a former xangan who challenged many to improve and expand their writing talents. I was terrified and thought that this form would be nearly impossible. I’ve grown to enjoy and appreciate the prose poem. I hope you enjoy this one.

Looking Lost

Dew drop tears drip from leaves
Misty anguish rises and recedes
Absorbed in fern and greenest dell
A broken heart the torment quell
Chase all fear with cat-tail spire
Pine cones soothe mind’s quagmire
Listen to the healing sounds
Frog trills with cricket chirp abounds
Shake off troubles in the wood
Bury the bad and keep the good

I have a really poor sense of direction. I used to joke that my directions consisted of “this way” and “that way”. I still have trouble with directions, especially left and right. For me I have “left” and the “other left” which can make following directions difficult. Sadly there is no GPS for life. We get lost all the time. Eventually we will find ourselves.

Searching for Serenity

There is a peace that falls over the heart and soul when you open yourself to nature. Not that there is some magical property in being out in the woods, but still, being out in the woods affords an opportunity to get away from the distractions. I am fairly focused yet it does feel good to leave the clamor of life behind and listen to the crickets chirping and the cicadas humming. Being in the middle of the woods makes it easier to search for serenity. The quiet is louder and the sounds muffled. Looking around you see the color and texture of life. Nature can bring what is important into focus. I visited the top of Wisconsin and the edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and this is what I found:




Looking Trapped

It is starting to get cold at night and the critters are thinking about finding a cozy spot to spend the winter. For us that means that every chipmunk within the Northern Hemisphere is trying to book a room at our house. The little devils are bold. They saunter right into the garage and start digging around in the shelving, the storage lockers, the trash bins and even the foundation! Lining the edge of the garage are cement blocks with about 2-3 inches exposed creating little chipmunk reduced rent housing units. We have had to evict hordes of them! We don’t even have to put the trap outside anymore. We just set it and position it in the garage. Next thing you know we’ve caught another one!! The last time Sparky set it, he didn’t even use any bait. I think they assume that it is just another “bigger, fancier” condo and they just walk right in to secure “squatter’s rights”. The chipmunk below is one of the squatters that is being forcibly relocated. The photo was taken just prior to his transport to a secret location far far away from our house.
Can you tell he was a tad chagrined that he had been duped by the false impression of a winter hideaway?

Looking Back

Today for many, is just another Monday. For me it etched in my memory. I know exactly where I was, who was standing next to me, and what I felt as I watched the World Trade Center towers collapse. The students on campus this year were in pre-school through 1st grade on September 11, 2001. I can imagine they remember it the same way I remember the assassination of President John F. Kennedy – My mother crying, a somber atmosphere, and nothing on TV but news and more news. And so it goes. My mother was 10 years old when Pearl Harbor was bombed. She was old enough to understand and remember “a date which will live in infamy” along with the declaration of war. But those younger children knew only that things had changed somehow. The cycle of tragedy and loss continues as does the tandem cycle of rebirth and renewal. World War II saw devastation of many European cities, the obliteration of the Japanese city of Hiroshima and the destruction of Nagasaki. Those cities have been rebuilt. People have returned. Ground Zero in New York City has a memorial and a new skyscraper. Life has returned and the city thrives. As my mother’s generation passes away, the horrors of WWII fade from the collective memories. Soon there won’t be any from my generation that will remember JFK’s tragic end in Dallas. The terror and destruction of the twin towers is becoming just another chapter in the history books passed out to the latest crop of High School students required to take U.S. History. I look back and wonder if we have learned anything about ourselves, our civilization, our world. I look ahead and wonder what communal disaster will inform the lives of the coming generations.

Keep your eyes forward
Sodom and Gomorrah burn
Don’t look back children

Looking for Inspiration

My ceramics class begins next week. I’m always looking for some new inspiration and orbs still fascinate me. When I was at Fernwood Botanical Gardens and Nature Preserve I noticed a tree with interesting “fruit” on the branches. It caught my fancy so I took photos so that I can render it in clay.

As you can see from the photos it is from a Dogwood tree. Not just any run of the mill Dogwood but the Kousa Dogwood, aka Japanese Dogwood. The nice thing is that the tree has beautiful white blooms that become the green and then dark pink fruit. It is a very colorful tree. But perhaps the most wonderful part is that this variety is very adaptable – it thrives in any type soil with any amount of sun or shade, and with benign neglect!

Being adaptable is what has allowed humans to survive. We have faced problems from drought, climate change, food scarcity, plague and war. As a species we kept moving forward. Finding solutions, work-arounds, or alternatives so that what had been road blocks became building blocks. We are pretty awesome as a species. I’m happy to say I belong to the human race….

Looking for Tranquility

When the wild winds gust
Pushing peace into a corner
Autumn leaf against a fence
Trapped without tranquility
When waves wash over sea walls
Kelp uprooted tossed to sand
Soaked to the skin shivering
Serenity is shattered
When chaos comes calling
Startled and insecure
Sending birds into flight
Disturbed and disconnected
Reach through the mirror
And hold onto hope

Ah work. I need to make a motivational speech tomorrow. I have to ask my team of one to step up and take charge. In normal circumstances that would be easy. But there are no normal circumstances to be found anywhere anymore. I have to ask for cooperation when the culture has been “every man for himself” for a very long time. I’m dealing with people who have zero self confidence, a learned helplessness, and probably a touch of post traumatic stress disorder. Every word must be selected to avoid triggering an emotional avalanche. Tone and inflection must be moderated to avoid misinterpretation. It is an emotional land mine field that I must navigate. I am searching for tranquility and I think the only place where it resides is in my memories and experiences. I just have to find a key to gain access to those serene moments!