Looking for Calm

There is a tendency to dwell in the eye of the storm. I seek that oasis while chaos swirls. I’m not alone in that desire to escape. Right now I feel that life is tilting and sliding me away from comfort. The way I deal with upheaval must reveal some sort character strength or flaw that will bring down judgement on my head. Being mindful of the consequences of my actions, I have evaluated my response to unpleasantness.

1. I have an overly developed flight response. I prefer to avoid confrontation if at all possible.
2. I try to use my words. I believe in détente and compromise to avoid conflict.
3. Physical confrontation is not in my repertoire. I outgrew that by the time I reached middle school. That said I will defend myself. And I will fight “dirty”.
4. My belief in the goodness of mankind is not often shaken in my day to day interactions. That said, I cringe and my soul writhes when I view the turmoil in this world.

Thus I am conflicted. I don’t like seeing the hurt or knowing the details of the torment but I am compelled by conscience to be informed. My instinct is to turn away. A little Tanka to close out this post:

I question my God
When justice isn’t enough
For the scarred and scared
Will the wounded ever heal
Can love mend the divided

Looking for Socks

I am guilty of holding onto stray socks. I never want to toss that lone sock just in case the other one miraculously turns up, or in a more likely scenario, one of a different pair is gone creating a need for a new mate. This last Christmas I asked for socks. I got one pair from my friend saintvi and 2 pair from my fashionista friend. Although they are wonderful and soft and a delight, they aren’t the usual everyday kind of socks. Maybe I’ve trained the men in the family too well. I can only imagine them contemplating the Christmas list.
#1: Mmm, it says socks. Why are there socks on the list?
#2: Really? Socks? Let me see that!
#1: I think it is a trap. Do you remember when Dad got her a bathrobe?
#2: Yeah. That was a disaster.
#1: I think I’ll get one of the other things. Socks aren’t very expensive and I’ll leave those for Dad to get.
#2: Me too. Dad is braver than I am!
Sparky: Socks. Nope. Not touching that one with a 10 foot pole. I’d rather get her another bathrobe. At least the bathrobe costs more than some ugly black crew socks…

So I’ve not had any new socks since 2018 when I bought some to give myself, from Santa of course. I’m down to 3 pair that aren’t threadbare. I had been saving and making new pairs from the single sock drawer for so long that I don’t have anymore lone socks in the drawer. Well, no more black women’s socks are languishing as solo footwear. I do have a couple men’s crew and tube socks of a variety of brands and styles but that doesn’t do me any good. On the bright side, I just might take the time to go buy some socks (besides I have a 30% off coupon for Kohl’s)!

Skin as pale as ice
My feet get cold when snow falls
Thick socks cannot warm
Fire fails to thaw my feet
My toes are waiting for Spring

This is a Tanka, a Japanese form consisting of 5 lines with a syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7. As with most Japanese poetry rhyming does not occur.

Looking Mythical

There are quite a few people who do not believe that true love exists. They are very vocal in saying that a faithful man is a mythological creature akin to a dragon, griffin, mermaid or a phoenix. Perhaps they have lost the capacity to dream into existence those things that the heart aches for. Yet they pursue the equally unobtainable in the form of a recording contract, making it in professional sports, Olympic dreams, finding the cure for cancer, winning a Nobel Prize, or learning 5 languages. True these dreams can become reality but there is more involved than talent, more effort than a casual afternoon once a month, and more luck than we want to acknowledge. I’m willing to believe that there is such a thing as true love, a true heart, a true man.

All my friends mock me
You believe in fairy tales
Smiling I agree
I have seen him in my dreams
Love awaits a single kiss

Prince Charming exists
The man more real than a myth
They chase unicorns
While they grasp for fame and wealth
I bait my trap for true love

This fulfills the NPM21 prompt #13 – Write a poem about a mythical creature. In addition the form I used was a pair of Tanka. The Tanka is a 5 line Japanese poem with a syllable count as follows: 5/7/5/7/7. As in most Japanese poems there is no rhyme.

Looking at Calligraphy

Chinese characters
Life story calligraphy
Tar to asphalt writ
Scrawled along small town main street
Sealing his fate and road cracks

 

A friend’s neighbor is an older Chinese man who immigrated to the US in the mid 1960s.  She had him and his wife over for an outside patio picnic. After dinner he was relating his story to the kids. He left China and managed to make his way to freedom. It was not an easy journey. There were times he thought he would be caught and returned to his home country. He was young and unskilled. He didn’t know any English. He didn’t have family or friends in the US. Nevertheless he was able to find a sponsor family through a church organization (the church where my friend attends). He ended up in Indiana. He recently retired from working for the street department and had a confession to make. He had worked for many years on a crew sealing the cracks in the streets. His coworkers never caught on, but he would write on the streets using Chinese characters, at first it was just good wishes. After he had been working for several years he started writing his life story. I suppose if you could read Chinese and drove slowly enough you might be able to decipher some of his tale – from oppression and fear and flight to his eventual life in the US where he found love, life and a full life.

Perhaps we can return to a better version of ourselves…

Looking Good, Feeling Better

At the start of the pandemic, before we realized that this was going to last longer than 3 weeks, everyone was starting home improvement projects and reveling in a little “free time” as we were locked down. After reality set in and we understood that this was going to last well into Spring and probably though Summer, there were lots of resources sent out into the world that were meant to be a help in coping with isolation, loneliness, depression, and the general grumpiness of having to reinvent how we worked and interacted with the world.

I was gifted such a thing by the University HR department in conjunction with the Wellness Center. It is a booklet titled “Feeling good: 100 ways to feel better every day”. I have to admit I tossed it in the desk and forgot about it. That is, I hadn’t looked at it until I was rummaging through the desk trying to unearth some important papers for tax purposes. With the prospect of doing the taxes and probably having to shell out a tidy sum to the IRS, I was not feeling very good. When my hands fell on this booklet I immediately thought, “Wow! This might be something to lift my spirits!” With hopeful anticipation I sat at the desk and started reading. The book is designed to introduce one practice each day to allow you to slowly build a routine that improves your ability to cope, reduces your stress, and makes you “feel good”. I got all the way to #54 before I started to laugh hysterically. I know this is long but I couldn’t help it!

They say laughter is a great stress reducer. So to assist you with relaxation, elevate your mood, reduce your stress, I give you some of the suggested “feel good activities”:
#1 – Eat breakfast. They suggest a high fiber smoothie (they are really in favor of fiber – lots of it).
#2 – Cut back on caffeine. I’m decaffeinated already so this didn’t really apply. However, living with a man who MUST have his coffee, I know that my stress level will increase as his coffee consumption decreases!
#4 through 9 – Exercise. Why? To quote the book “exercise will decrease your chances of death from heart disease, stroke, and reduce incidence of diabetes and colon cancer.” Isn’t that uplifting. Increase endorphins with vigorous exercise. Take a walk every day to get a change of scenery. Get an exercise buddy to give you accountability (I suppose that means one of those virtual slave drivers from Biggest Loser?). Do strength training to get stronger (increases stamina for those marathon Zoom meetings).
#10 – Smile. You should smile because it will make everyone around you feel better. When they feel better, you will too. I am acutely aware that this little book was written well before the pandemic. Smile at your partner, coworkers, strangers while wearing a mask?
#12 – Trust your instincts. Listen to your inner voice. (at this point I was chuckling because my inner voice was telling me that this booklet was a bunch of hooey.)
#13 – Rid yourself of one bad habit. The book suggests “talk yourself out of the habit” which sounds pretty sketchy. I mean the chocolate is a much more persuasive speaker than my inner voice which generally chimes agreement with whatever the chocolate suggests – cookies, fudge sundae, s’more?
#15 – Find a doctor you like. They don’t give any guidance. I was wondering at this point if they meant that you should have them fill out a dating profile or if it was based on looks or would it be better to find one with a healthy bank account??
#16 – Do something for others. I was highly amused at this one. I can just imagine the woman working from home attempting to provide meals for the kids, assist with tech issues for online school, deal with the family pet, mollify a cranky spouse (who has not had enough caffeine) and attend yet another Zoom meeting where they are assigned even more tasks! The author was obviously a man.
#17 – Go away. Although it sounds good the practicality is lacking. They did say that a getaway may involve relocating to a little used space to afford some distance from the daily routine. For most mothers, this is a bathroom that has a good solid door and a sturdy lock or perhaps they can sneak into a crawlspace or attic. The only problem is that children can smell chocolate at incredible distances and have hearing acutely tuned to the rustle of a candy wrapper and they will find you.
#18 – Spend time outdoors. I suppose that after you’ve done your walk, you might find that the picnic table on the patio is a nice spot. Unless you are in Indiana in the winter and early spring, where the snow has buried the picnic table, the wind is creating a wind chill of double digit negative numbers… (by this time I was snickering out loud)
#19 – Spend time with your pet. If you don’t have one, they suggest “borrowing” a pet from a friend or neighbor. I seriously doubt that will happen.
#20 – Take a daily vitamin. Because that breakfast smoothie isn’t nutritious enough. My problem is that the adult gummie vitamins are too tasty and I need to make sure I only eat 2!
#21 – Get the calcium you need. So use milk or yogurt in the breakfast smoothie because a little lactose plus all that fiber may cause gas and then people will avoid you… (you might even be able to sneak away and have that candy bar!)
#22 – Get enough sleep. So turn off the computer. Drink some warm milk (gotta get that calcium)…
#23 – Create a community. Turn on the computer and connect virtually with people you have things in common with. Of course that might be hard to do if they are throttling your internet and the kids are all using up the bandwidth anyway. So you’ll have to do this late at night (in a direct contradiction to #22) after you’ve had your warm milk…
#24 – Laugh. They suggested subscribing to a daily joke, watching animal videos, movie bloopers, etc.
#25 through 32 – Nutrition. Eat a balanced diet and don’t over eat! (as if COVID weight gain wasn’t hard to prevent). Avoid snacking between meals. Be a defensive eater by stopping when you are full and having a glass of water and carrot sticks before your meal to reduce your appetite (isn’t that a contradiction because that is the very definition of a snack). And finally lose weight. (easier said than done and the ridiculousness of the suggestions made me guffaw)
#33 – Take a nap. Like that is going to happen when you are supposed to be working and home schooling the kids.
#34 – Be good to your feet. Lose the high heels and wear shoes that fit properly. I personally have to say that with the pandemic I haven’t worn heels or panty hose. Heck, I haven’t even shaved my legs…
#35 – Get help if you have a hearing problem. This one baffled me. If people are losing their hearing it is most likely due to having the speakers on the computer turned to full volume to hear the meeting discussion over the TV and screaming match in the other room. I think the help we need would be for the weather to let up so everyone could be pitched outside without fear of frostbite!
#37 – Avoid work overload. Learn to say no. (hahahaha! I can hear it now – “Sorry Boss, I can’t take on that project. I only have so many hours in the day and they are already filled.” with the nap, walk, cooking, cleaning, laundry, kid’s school work, computer trouble shooting, and my regular work load.) I’m sure the Boss would be fine with that… NOT!
#38 to 44 – Stress. Learn to recognize it. Learn to eliminate it. Help the family manage it. Ask for help when you need it. Get support when you are feeling it. Make a schedule to manage stress. Step away when the pressure builds. Perhaps they should have just said to quit your job and become a surf bum?
#45 through 50 – Be health conscious. Pack healthy lunches. Avoid middle age spread by staying active. Drink water. Take stretch breaks when working at the computer. (this was a rewording of the previous health instructions and a tad redundant and a little offensive since the book mentioned menopausal women as needing to be extra vigilant or they’d turn into lumps of lard – my wording but their meaning).
#51 through 54 – Talk to your teen. Their “feel good” suggestions included having a little heart to heart with your teen concerning alcohol use, sexual activity, drug use, and the one that put me over the edge – wearing a seatbelt. The seatbelt suggestion to “feel good” was, and I quote, “Be a nag about wearing a seatbelt.” It is very obvious that the author has zero experience with teenagers. As I read these I could not imagine any scenario where there was not extreme eye rolling, sullen looks and what may have been a teen in a neutral mood being pulled into the realm of demonic possession. As far feeling good, this is absolutely the opposite not only for the child but also for the parent.

Anyway, after #54 had me gasping for breath I decided that I had had enough #24 and made the decision to donate this gem to Goodwill. Perhaps some working from home parent will get a good laugh out of it!!

A little tanka to fulfill Calmkate’s Friday Fun challenge – streaks:

Laughing tears streak face
Mascara streaks cheek to chin
Streaker causes mirth
Seeing what little is left
To the imagination

Looking Hopeful

As I peer into the future, I’m wondering if this year will be better, worse, or a continuation of this last dumpster fire of a year. I’m not alone. I picture a colony of Meerkats all facing the sunrise staring with an intensity unrivaled. Each individual keenly focused in an attempt to catch the slightest indication of danger. Sadly this last year has made us into a nation of pessimists, even defeatists. I don’t do resolutions. I do goals. My goals from last year are mostly unrealized. None of the travel goals got traction. Some of the exercise goals were sidelined. Lots of the goals that would put me in contact with other humans were aborted. BUT this is now a new year and there is an air of possibility with the availability of a coronavirus vaccine. So I’m going to take a leap of faith and make some goals.

(yes another bulleted list only not with crosshairs)…

🐭 GeoWoodstock in Canada was cancelled. It was supposed to be the 20th anniversary of geocaching. I was very excited. We got passports. We made reservations. We were going to go and couple it with a cruise to Alaska. It came to naught. It is supposedly on for this year. I’m ready.

🐭 We anticipate that son#2 will be able playing viola with the Elkhart Symphony and we will be able to attend. I really want to hear them play Holst’s The Planets.

🐭 I’m going to redo my address book. As I was looking over the addresses to mail Christmas cards, I realized that many of the people were no longer with us, some have multiple addresses due to moving all over the place, and a couple have had name changes that are not reflected. This is a task that will be tedious.

🐭 I was going to complete a poetry book for my mother. I even came up with a catchy title. It was lost in the flash drive crash of 2020. I recovered the poems and was able to give it to her for Christmas. But I’m thinking I’d like to make it available to a wider audience. So my goal is to get it printed this year…

🐭 The driveway. We were going to replace it this last year. We painted the house instead. This was mostly because the schedule for cement work was booked. We are supposedly on the list for an estimate…

🐭 I am working on completing my 365 day challenge for Geocaching. As of today I need 23 days in January, 21 days in February, 10 days in March, and one day in April to complete the grid!! I can do this!!

🐭 I have some canvases that were unwanted. I’m thinking I will play with them and some paint and maybe do some collages or mixed media creations. Who knows? I might release my inner 2D artist…

🐭 To make one new recipe a month. And by new recipe I mean a main dish. Sure I could do desserts and that would be fun but Sparky isn’t too much into sweets. (He’d be happy if made soup or spaghetti every day.) I have a big venison steak in the freezer that needs to be eaten. If any of you have recipes for venison I’d be interested!

🐭 I’m planning to make a NPM challenge available again. Although 2020 was awful, my NPM challenge saw some participation with outstanding poetry produced. I’m always excited to write poetry. I hope some others will put up a couple of month long challenges as well (maybe in May or June) just to keep it going!

As a way to start the year off on the right foot, I give you my January 1 poem – a Jisei, a Japanese traditional death poem written as a tanka with 5 lines with a strict syllable count of 5/7/5/7/7. Is generally serious but can be humorous.

Twenty-twenty dies
Watched it gasp a last short breath
Not a tear was shed
No life saving measures done
On its grave we dance for joy

Looking for a Nap

I had a headache for a couple days. I hadn’t had one for a long time because I take an NSAID daily thus preemptively preventing that malady. It was a nagging one that had set up camp just beyond my eyes, between my ears, and just behind my forehead. This was not a new sensation. It is my old nemesis – the sinus headache. My usual arsenal had failed me. So I was forced to pull out the big guns. I hate the way it makes me feel but it does really deliver the one-two punch. I’m talking about caffeine. A little ibuprofen with a cola chaser and my headache has retreated. Now I have another problem. I’ve been decaffeinated for nearly 11 years. Even a little sip of Dr. Pepper will make my hands shake and my heart race. So here I sit bouncing one leg and having heart palpitations but the headache is gone. The clock indicates that we have slid from yesterday into a new today. At this rate I may need to look for some nap time… if my mind will just get off the treadmill and chill.

Night sounds haunt my days
Waking dreams keep me awake
Sleep flees from my grasp
The moon mocks me shining bright
Tiptoe to sneak up on sleep

Looking to Pickup the Gauntlet

It is the first day of May and we are poised to loosen the lock down restrictions. At least that is the intention of our Governor. The city/county may decide otherwise. As for me, I’m in a wait and see mode. Since it is likely that I will continue social distancing, I decided that I would participate in Kim Hawke’s Merry May Poetry Play. She tossed down the gauntlet and I’m picking it up! Game on! I have several poems that I wrote for the April National Poetry Month that I planned to post in May and surprise! one of her prompts fits some of my poems. So here we go: MMPP prompt – Try a tanka. The tanka is a Japanese form consisting of 5 lines with a syllable count of 5-7-5-7-7.

I keep old letters
Try to conjure memories
And fail every time
My mind a waning moon shrinks
Until it blinks to darkness

Friendship fades away
My family becomes strangers
I forget my name
Wander in my mind’s mazes
Until I find heaven’s door

It is one of my biggest fears – to develop dementia. I’ve seen it happen to friends’ parents and even family members. Sparky’s mother is starting to have problems and is on a medication to assist with her memory. It scares me.

Looking at Bad Mothers

Disapproving gaze
Angry clouds and lashing wind
Whips me with cold rain
Leaves me in the freezing dark
Shuts out Spring as punishment

Mother Nature is not a very kind or gentle parent. She doesn’t have much if any sympathy. If she were a person, she’d be that mother that would lock her kids out of the house and not let them back in until it got dark. She would be that parent who when you had a skinned knee would jerk you to your feet and scream at you for being clumsy. This week she has been flat out abusive! We had temperatures in the single digits with wind chills in the negative double digits – and I’m not saying a balmy -10ºF. No, no, no. I’m talking about a brutal -25ºF where it hurts to take a deep breath. This week so far has been the kind of punishing weather when a brisk trot from the parking lot takes only 7 minutes but by the time you can see the door your hands are numb, your nose is so cold it hurts, and you can’t feel your toes.  Tuesday we had freezing rain that coated the world in a thick layer of ice. Sparky was sent home from his library job and the university cancelled the evening classes. It took me double the time to drive home but on the bright side I didn’t end up in a ditch or in any fender benders (like so many others along the way)! I’m wondering if it is possible to be emancipated from Mother Nature’s parental control. I can’t take much more of her punishments and abuse. Is there a CPS case worker following up on her antics? Has anyone else reported her as a bad mother?!

The above poem is a Tanka – a Japanese form that incorporates a haiku (5-7-5 syllable count per the English system) with a waka (2 lines of 7 syllables each) creating a stanza of 5-7-5-7-7. This is akin to the Renga, a collaborative Japanese poem where different people take turns writing 5-7-5 and 7-7 repeating until the desired length is achieved. Generally 3 people is the minimum number of collaborators and 20 is the maximum but it can be done as a solo project…