It pleases me to say, I’ve started writing our wellness newsletter at work. I’ve committed to writing one article per month this year to revive a long forgotten project as well as to fulfill my 2017 goal of doing something outside the norm. I won’t plan to mix that effort with this blog for the most part because the agenda will vary. This article though, including the season, makes it the perfect time to plagiarize my own work and give you a glimpse at why this this silly chicken might want to pass over that big road. 

I don’t have little people at my house these days, but I do love chocolate, day-old marshmallow peeps (just stale enough to become interesting please), and hard-boiled eggs. I rarely remember to make hard-boiled eggs until the first full moon after March 21 of any given year. This is not because I’m lazy, but it is because I get busy with other things and then I just tend to forget about boiling eggs.

When I was a kid we decorated eggs, but then we agreed to eat every one of those eggs which we had decorated. That was an easy task for the first few days, eating the less pretty (decorating mistakes) first to keep our bounties looking beautiful despite the obviously injured van Gogh bunnies which still attempted to stand guard. By Wednesday it became more of a finish-your-plate type of chore… especially if the eggs were not cooked in an easy-to-peel manner. My little brother, apparently fretting high cholesterol, was famous for his post-holiday tradition of hiding yellow yolk balls all about our home (which is a not-so-pleasant surprise, barely comparable to an Easter egg hunt). My sister would try to claim she was the one who had decorated one of my very best eggs if she found it before I did on our Easter morning household egg hunt. My dad would eat my peanut butter candy egg while I wasn’t looking. My mom would sneak all the red jelly beans out from under the plastic grass in each of our baskets. Still, it is fun to remember the family tradition.

I’ve seen beautiful egg decorations using silk-dye, Kool-Aid, tissue paper, lace, cheesecloth, and string wrap methods. I am also old enough to know the joys as well as the perils of the “Decorregger”… oh and “Egg Arounds” were purely for cheaters. Once again though, I’ll skip past this part rather quickly and just get to the glorious eating of hard-boiled eggs.The most obvious solution for consuming a surplus of hard-boiled eggs (that is if you don’t have toxic bling-bling-pretty eggs, which were probably not meant to be eaten) would typically mean the sound of a crackling shell, rolling over the table and under your palm, and perhaps the grabbing of a salt shaker. For the professionally plated effect, there is the slicing or chopping of cooked eggs for use as a salad or sandwich ingredient. Also, from mild to diablo, deviled eggs never do yield any left-overs from our picnic gatherings, just sayin’.

There is another egg conversation for which I will need to rely a bit on my heritage. The definition of a pickled food would be one that is cured in vinegar or brine to preserve it for future consumption. It is a fascinating world of colors and flavors where the only rules are the limits of your own imagination. To ease into this topic, let’s start with the pickled-beet egg. The version of pickled egg I grew up with yielded bright purple outer eggs with still-yellow centers, as well as beets and onions which had each taken something wonderful from the fusion of flavors. I think 72 hours was the magic timing to properly color the white without coloring the yolk, but we always started eating the eggs in less than 24 hours and we never kept them around long enough to get to the full saturation of purple or then to the awful rubbery stage (I’ve only heard of these symptoms). If anyone would like to challenge me now on the proof point of 72 hours, I’ll be happy to play along and keep testing eggs till one of us gets it right.

The British have a simpler version of the pickled egg, which consists of eggs, vinegar, salt and sugar. I’m sure they are quite good, but where I come from, just the mention of any notably mild variety would have spawned a loud, proud, “bring-it-on”, pickled egg competition. By the time I was a young adult, we knew of mustard eggs, smoked pickled eggs, garlic eggs, Cajun eggs, and hot and spicy eggs. I thought my ideas of what to do with a hard-boiled egg might be the entirety of this month’s wellness article; I was going to simply expose you to the concept of my old favorite pickled eggs and send you on your way to try your hand at up-cycling some eggs this year. I was even prepared to throw in a few ideas of fresh herbs, pickling spice, turmeric, sriracha, chipotle, and habanero. But since I wanted to refresh my memory on that old mustard egg recipe, I just so happened onto a magnificent discovery. I want to share with you the tantalizing topic of TEA EGGS!

The basic concept of tea eggs is to boil the eggs until hardened, crack the shells (do not remove the shells), wait about ten minutes, then simmer the eggs again in some spiced liquid before transferring the liquid and the eggs to some glass or ceramic container to finish steeping in the fridge. The result should be a hard-boiled egg, marbled from some colored liquid seeping through the cracks in the shell, with a taste balanced between the egg flavor and the spices used. A classic tea egg is seasoned using black tea leaves and five-spice (cinnamon, star anise, fennel seed, clove, Szechuan pepper corn). You can opt to peel the eggs before steeping to save some time, but then you would lose that lovely marbled effect. On the Chinese mainland, these eggs are made with black tea leaves and soy sauce. In Indonesia, they use shallot skins, teak leaves or guava leaves. In Taiwan, they use raspberries, blueberries or salt.

There is even a Filipino street food known as Kwek Kwek, which is a tempura battered egg, oh wait, …that’s not actually a pickled egg, never mind. If I discuss Kwek Kwek, then I guess I would be remiss not to cover Balut, Century eggs, Scotch eggs, deep-fried-deviled-eggs, bacon-wrapped-beer-battered eggs, Egg Molee, Kai Loog Keuy, and of course the quandary of putting caramel inside a chocolate egg (which coincidently looks more like a tea egg than a pickled egg). I doubt anyone reading this wants an epic egg novel, so I’ll just stop here. I’ll put an extra dozen eggs on my shopping list and hit the publish button.

Time Off

It’s been awhile since I’ve written, sorry! Excusing excuses, isn’t it time to wake up? I never have enough time, yet in many ways I’m killing time, patiently waiting for all the good stuff I know I have to look forward to.

I do revisit the history of Daylight Savings Time occasionally, but I have yet to embrace the value. One week later, I am just one cranky sleep-deprived person on this big blue marble, notably with several good coffee options. There are plenty of others who play the time warp by various means of tricks and adjustments. The only modern day entities I know of, who have figured out a neat way to take advantage of DST, are the bars who don’t miss it when 2:00 becomes 3:00 (with a 2:00 closing time), but then cheat a little when they choose to say 2:00 just became 1:00, so there is one more hour of business! As for me, those days of knowing which bar is still open around 2:00 in the morning are long since nonexistent. I’ve lost over fifty hours of sleep in my lifetime, so I can no longer afford to waste my lagging time on the promotion of a skewed last call.

I know of at least one retired person who ramps up and down from time changes, electing to start early with a fifteen minute time change then adjusting to that shift before moving their house clocks another fifteen minutes on a different day. I know of a white collar man who actually looks forward to it and uses an oblivious time-change excuse to be late for work twice a year, stating he thought it was the other way around. That man, by the way, is a scientist responsible for calculating leap seconds, but I’d imagine his staff just allows him his humorous antics. Isn’t that adorable? That is about as adorable to me as setting every surrounding non-atomic clock differently, seven or so minutes off, so that one needs to exercise serious sleep-deprived math before they can hit snooze again with a clean conscience.

Some argue this savings-of-daylight concept was for saving on candles or for the benefit of our farmers, but I think it really just confuses the milk cows. The study of saving 10,000 barrels of oil by changing a little hand on the clock is still a bit of a 70’s mystery to me, but then reports can be made to look as the reporter wishes. I use reports at work all the time, with specific data points highlighted to tell whatever new story I need to tell. The reality is that DST puts some kids walking to school in the dark, it messes with time-sensitive medicine schedules, and it bugs the ever-living-crap out of OCD folks who try (for upwards of a month) to get the microwave clock to match the exact minute/second change on the stove clock. The irony might be that this same OCD person is probably the one who is, by all other standards, always fifteen minutes late for everything they do (likely because they are still standing in the kitchen with their finger on the stove clock button in feverish anticipation, but who am I to say). One year, my mom forgot to set our clock back and I showed up at my desolate elementary school an hour too early. I didn’t understand what was going on until our cafeteria lady Mrs. Thomas greeted me and unlocked a door, explaining about DST. I scored a free carton of milk that day, but it was of little consolation that my school day was extra long.

My car clock won’t be correct now either, that is until I remember to carry something small enough to fit into that little time change hole on the face of the car stereo. I’ll do some quick panic-math the first few days I drive to work after a time change, then I’ll get used to what my car time tells me and panic again later when my clock is actually right and I’m still stuck in construction. At one point in my career, I had weekly conference calls which I hosted between me (Mountain Time), a client in Arizona (who doesn’t recognize time change), and their counterparts in the United Kingdom (who honour time changes two weeks differently than we do). If you ever want to bend your concept of scheduling to break all the known rules, that kind of meeting request is enough to set your reminders into a complete tizzy. Thank goodness the Y2K thing is behind us now at least and the computer knows how to keep some form of standardized time.

“Someday I want to do… “I want to be…”, “When I get caught up, then…” …every year when Daylight Savings Time starts, I grumble that I’ve lost another hour of sleep. I don’t get that hour back really. You could argue about the glorious falling-back part, but I won’t hear you today. I’m too busy mourning this morning, that my internal clock is not syncing up yet. I will try to at least admire the warmth of the sun as I sip my coffee and contemplate the meaning of time. I suppose it is good that we don’t all have a sun dial to tell the time, or maybe that would simplify things, I just don’t know. I have to believe that procrastinators are subconsciously alarmed this time of year too, remembering all the shoulda’, woulda’, coulda’ lists that can cloud a brain… especially when there is a missing hour of sleep thrown into the mix. I sometimes wonder if DST can be worse than a milestone birthday for reminding us of all the things we should have accomplished by now. It reminds me I have not filed my taxes yet and time is ticking on that gift I’m crocheting.

I need to take a small gift from this whole time debacle, just to say I took advantage of it this year. I am a salaried employee, so any extra hours worked don’t mean a thing to my bottom line. I did however barter a rare deal recently. I helped another team at work with a frantic time-sensitive project last weekend which required staffing with after-hours login capability. Knowing my pay would not change, but that this was a huge benefit to the other team, I offered to help them and then convinced my manager that it was only fair to take comp time in exchange. We generally cringe at comp time, but my power-play worked out beautifully. I will have a day off next week which belongs only to me and my whims. I’m not using that day to do anything I need to get done; I’m using that day to forget about time and to reset my attitude. I will disappear for that day and keep good company with myself and my daydream thoughts, allowing the wind to carry my spirit away from the obligatory world in which I dwell. It will be my day of entertaining only my own muse as I imagine shooting a nagging clock from the bed in which I was just blissfully asleep. Call it a reboot, call it a mental health day, call it whatever you wish, just don’t call me late for dinner because I will have hung my “gone fishing” sign on the door.
I have no preachy instructions for my dear readers today, it would actually defeat the purpose of this blog post. Do whatever you must or do whatever makes you happy. I would hope that you can find a little sanctuary where nobody is demanding of your time, but that is up to you to decide. I’m running a little behind, late for my own happily-ever-after, so I need to sign off now and get back to reprogramming my brain for a magnificent future. I think I must have hit the snooze button of life a few times too many, so I need to wake up now and get on with things. Time is on my side, so I know I can win at this challenge if I can just give my future-self a good fighting chance. Oh dear, it’s past noon already, where did all the time just go?!?

Ten, Nine, Eight…

Here it is, the culmination of whatever we should plan to keep or shed for another year. Tomorrow has much promise if we can just commit on this very day to creating positive energy around us for the next 365.25 or 365.2425 days. Rituals and superstitions are prevalent today all around the world, and for very good reason. I might not prefer to actually throw furniture out a window, throw plates at the neighbors house, eat one grape for each ding on the midnight clock, or chase after a pig in the street for a touch of luck, but I too will reflect, “out with the old and in with the new”. Sauerkraut and pork (or cabbage and ham) will be on our menu, and everyone will make plenty of noise to either celebrate a fresh start or to frighten dark forces away, or perhaps both. If there is a King Cake this year, of course I will hope for the baby inside my slice. That was never my own tradition, but it belongs to some good friends who will be sharing their lively home and their fanciful feast. I don’t do resolutions since I don’t want the guilt of an unused gym membership. I prefer just to bid adieu to old disappointments and to continually reach for the stars. That attitude endures in my very soul a lot longer than the few weeks most would really try to stick to their resolutions. Just make good choices when you can, that goes a long way.

When I was young, we were quite often entertained by a game of five dice. It was very important to use a pencil while keeping score so that we could erase all the numbers and save the paper. Then came the introduction of a triple version of the same game, brilliant! If I rolled two-of-a-kind and three-of-a-kind all together more than once in a short period then I still had a spot for each full house score and I didn’t need to wastefully throw two dice back into the cup for a try at something different and better. I would always use the pink column first for my good scores as well as to use the white column for a few sad throw-away scores. My strategy was sound; near the end of completing the grid, a few zeros would be dutifully marked after my last few hopeful rolls for a “five same” perfection didn’t quite work out. A few zeros were always accepted as part of the game and that really is okay. The white column was tallied as-is, the blue column was doubled and the pink column was tripled. Then the eraser was rubbed up and down the columns with care as not to erase the grid, just the numbers, good or bad. Sometimes a fresh new eraser was the most valuable piece of forgiveness in our little box of game supplies. We always wanted to play again to see if we could improve our own score though, even after a really rough game. We were not quitters. I even learned to play alone for awhile and that was still an amazing amount of fun, to just keep rolling the dice and find out if the fates would be kind. Occasionally, a pristine tally sheet was ripped from the pad and we truly all got a fresh start. 

To me, this is the day to toss that old tattered scoresheet (from our many attempts at winning the high score and erasing a hole into our paper). I have taken note of what went well this year and what didn’t play out the way I might have hoped. It is time to sharpen the pencil to write on fresh paper and to get ready to “roll on” and tally up our new combinations of dice. I will make some noise as I shake the cup and watch as the five cubes fall askew, but clearly visible, on my 2017 table. I will select the best combinations available to me and use the pink and white columns with contemplation. Honestly, a steady blue column path isn’t such a bad strategy either, but I will still focus on the white and the pink all the same. I will doodle on top of my paper while you take your turn. We never figured out a good use for that little timer in the box, but I suppose it is at least a good tool to keep things moving along when someone feels let down by a bad roll and has somehow passed the point of making good choices or accepting what is about to be added to the grid. It feels good to start over now. The clock and the calendar have a way of reminding us of what we value and what we are now permitted to let pass.

For whatever happened then or for whatever happens next, I do know it is within your grasp to embrace your own new year with passion and purpose. No matter how you spend this day, take a cup o’ kindness yet, for auld lang syne.

Fade to End of Song

One hundred years ago today was a Wednesday and it was Kasia’s day of birth. 1916 also marked the beginning of the Professional Golfer’s Association of America, the National Parks Service, Weeghman Park (now known as Wrigley Field), Boeing Aircraft, Coca-Cola, Workmen’s Compensation, the first woman Representative elected to Congress, and it was then that Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire. I still think Kasia was the most important addition to our world a mere century ago.

The greatest lady I would ever know, and trust me when I say I have known some greats, my grandmother’s sister was my closest confidant for over four decades. I have been lighting her blessed votive for seven years now… on every major holiday, on her birthday, on her death day, and even a few days in between when I’ve just needed to commune with her spirit and somehow try to get my voice past the dark clouds overhead. It seems apropos that she died on Halloween and was well on her way for All Saints’ Day. I don’t want to ever spend her entire candle and wish her on; I am rather selfish in keeping her spirit at my side and savoring the flicker rather than to let her memory truly rest, but I know she doesn’t mind. She knows me well. Sometimes she sends me a much needed clue or even an angel, sometimes a rare and precious angel incarnate, though most everyday people would probably not notice anything out of the ordinary; the human angel doesn’t even always realize the role they have played, but there is always an auspicious trail of silent grace that leaves a bit of magic in the wake. She somehow puts another song in my heart when I need it most and I keep going. I don’t question the results, I just accept these gifts and answers from time to time and then say thank you in a variety of ways.

Engaged three times, Kas never actually married. She lost a few beaus to the war and once (on principle) she sent her nephew walking up the hill to return one of the engagement rings for her. She had an amazing ethos and perhaps she was the only one on the planet more empathetic, more philosophical, and more stubborn than me. We should all have someone that amazing in our circle. She truly loved me before we even met and she did everything she could to make sure I was okay. In a day when unexpected births were hidden or disposed of, this woman would certainly not turn her face away when I was accidently conceived by her niece. My birth was lauded despite any keeping of appearances and she would defy anyone to say a bad thing about my mother or me in that era. My own birth was perhaps the event Kasia cherished the most in her lifetime; at least that was abundantly true if you tally the score by the amount of protection and love she bestowed upon me and eventually also bestowed upon my children. No matter how it all happened or what she ever wanted for herself, I was quite literally the other half of her empty hug and no one could deny that we were a perfect symbiotic fit.

Today is filled with overwhelming melancholy and so many fond memories. I have loved with my whole heart and I have lost something so precious …or have I? I suppose I should burn the candle to the end now and complete the tribute so that she is no longer tied to our dimension by my vigil. I can only imagine that she would just tell me to do whatever makes me happy, and don’t worry about what anyone thinks, it’s just a candle. I am not a practicing Catholic and I’m probably breaking a few rules here, but for what it’s worth, I think I’ll hang on to that old flame a little longer, if for nothing else than to remind me how great it is to know how much I was loved by someone so magnificent. If you really can still hear me, I love you more than you could ever know… I will keep you in my heart and I will celebrate knowing you. You are a part of me now and I can only hope to sing your praises again someday, face to face and heart to heart.


The ringing of bells, what a glorious sound! It is the time of year when we might hear a bell ringer sitting in the cold to take donations near a storefront, sleigh bells on a horse-drawn carriage transporting sweethearts to dinner in the big city, or maybe even our own doorbell when loved ones arrive for a visit.

Have you ever heard the expression, “that rings a bell”? It is uttered when people are having a conversation and one triggers the recall of some person or event from days-gone-by, typically so the conversation can continue with more historical relevance. The bells ringing today are littered with alarm bells, meant to startle us awake or to notify us to take action. The predecessor of our Liberty Bell, the city bell existed in 1682 (well before our Independence) in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love; the city bell was used to inform the public of civic danger or proclamations. The common people would band together at the sound of that bell and figure out how to deal with the decision at hand.

Some three-hundred-and-thirty-four years later, there is such a distinct double-din clamouring loudly from opposing viewpoints woven throughout the citizenry of our nation. How do we deal now with such a morally abhorrent set of reactions to the outcome of our 2016 presidential election season? We can’t just ring a bell calling everyone to come together to fix this today without diversified risk, for it is amongst ourselves that we are unsettled. The us-against-them lines have been drawn, although it did not actually originate with only two sides. For today, the line in the sand appears to be drawn between the candidate of a forgone conclusion which went awry and the remainder of a silent majority. You were either with her or you are now against her and her supporters and there is no reconciliation. To be clear, my candidate did not survive the primaries, but that aside, I’m still in this mess just like the rest. By the sheer fact that I could not get behind the favored to win, I now wear an unwanted label, many colorful labels actually. To that point, I am somewhat vindicated; I have done my homework and I simply disagreed enough with the favorite that I could not cast my vote her way. I would rather say this than to have not voted at all, which as it turns out is clearly reflected in the decay of faith, displayed by a low voter turnout. The bitterness of that forgone conclusion has left such a void that the losing side is mourning their loss of control, which is understandable. I don’t vote straight party, nor do I plan to, and that is that.

What I don’t understand is how this became a repulsive blame game. Were I ever to be an undecided voter, calling me names via the mainstream media and insulting my intelligence is no way to secure my vote in 2020. I won’t ever be threatened into voting against my conscience and that in no way makes me an inner misogynist, quite the opposite. I’m more interested in the policies than I am in making someone the first of anything. The debates were a let-down, not focused so much on the real issues as they were inflammatory from both of the major parties, and I was left to do more independent research. The resulting behavior of many of my associates has left me dumbfounded that so many people apparently either did not really study or were voting on emotion. I do still keep many sincere friends in my circle, of a very diverse collection, who do not place labels or blame and just want to live and let live. Amongst these people, I can speak my mind and so can they, and I’m comforted to have a disparity topic come up in that known circle where none of us is crying to make a valid point or stomping away in denial. We can speak intelligently and agree or disagree without losing those friendships. The fractured party could now take a lesson and set some new priorities if they were to audit one of our informal meetings. Our current leader is not helping your cause while he drafts midnight rules to add regulatory burden; yes we see that too.

It is important to note that one cannot unring a bell. We all hear and see what is happening. We won’t soon forget how it feels when we are not united as a country. For whatever it is worth, there is a lot to rebuild now. Our new president-elect is in the unenviable position of giving up his privacy and his comforts, leading us somehow to a fresh day, and he deserves every ounce of support he can get in some very dangerous times. If this means reaching across to the resources available to build a cabinet or to foster foreign relations, which somehow represents more views than we prescribed, I doubt he should be criticized for this. We will remain hopeful that he opens new doors and does what is right in the business of politics. This man has little left on his bucket list than to try to go down in history as a good leader. There is already some tempering of his campaign promises and I have to believe it is a result of gaining more insight to those other views and seeing the true cause-and-effect of the Oval Office. It is a tough job and he is not interested in making a bunch of instant enemies. If you feel there is an issue that needs to be addressed at the federal level, then shine some light on it, but don’t alienate your listeners to the detriment of your cause. What is happening right now in our everyday lives is toxic, shameful, counterproductive, and is not resonating in a good way.

If our youth dare try to learn anything about politics from the television or Internet, they must be scared to death, I would be. The infiltration of false reporting and forced agendas has rendered the mainstream media rather useless and the ease of social media has provided a new way to market extreme content. It is not right to indoctrinate our children into a learning path of ideological polarized views when they could rather be taught to think for themselves while presenting all the true cause-and-effect facts. Teaching a child that they get no distinction for studying or working hard leaves our bright shining stars to starve in a sea of tolerance and inclusion without encouragement to do more. I do not want to see any child left out, but I would absolutely want to see unbiased teachers able to teach responsibly with a full staff and proper facilities. Inclusion should certainly call for a means of getting children up to speed rather than to hold the class back. I feel that way about our society as well and I would be inclusive of an immigrant who is eager and willing to learn and to support our promise of freedom and safety with a path to success. If done well, we would not all need therapy after an election; we would better understand what is really going on and we would celebrate our wins and recalibrate our losses with a true respect for what works and what does not in the name of the greater good.

Even in the name of Christianity we are being shamed into thinking our faith or our churches could be so wrong; pardon my harshness here, but I cannot accept the preaching of Liberation Theology which, in a multitude of flavors, I view as quasi-Marxist. My greatest faith-based fear, born from my teenage days of soul-searching, was that we truly never wanted to be dragged into a holy war with the Middle East and we must still protect our true allies. I cannot help thinking a lot of people have been duped. We are being pulled away from our core values and being guilted into thinking that everyone else in the world has more rights than we do to live in a free and successful land. The difference might be that the silent majority have worked for a living and do not see any encouragement to shift towards socialism or redistribution. That does not make them hateful or righteous, that just makes them tired of social and political mandates. I see a faithful couple with three children, not gifted with any special skills but working hard and just trying to make it. This same couple was dictated to buy into the PPACA but could not afford it. The result was that there was not only no coverage for them when they needed it, but also a fine to pay, not labeled as a tax but rather a penalty, which was part of some deceptive packaging to get it passed. It disgusts me to hear the economic professor, chief architect of the PPACA, unable to even defend his own glib PhD thoughts when brought before a House Committee. If we decide to keep the PPACA, it should be barely recognizable as in keeping the few provisions that make sense.

I see our older veterans suffering in the street with no desire to conform or take the hand of someone who has twisted what they have fought for. Move along, we can’t allow you to camp out and scare the passers-by. Take your wheelchair and keep moving. We would rather take up a cause for other nations in despair, one which makes us feel good about our humanitarian selves. We have provided shelters, but will not provide space for your cart, so your things will be stolen if you choose to sleep in a warm bed. You can surround yourselves with our other outcasts of drug users and mental patients without counsellors. You are tough. We will save our treatment for those who can’t reasonably handle the results of a democratic election. If it pleases the people, stop struggling now for a moment and know that there are valid reasons to keep an electoral college and some requests to dismiss it. We have a voice and can change things if we can successfully argue the point; there is a risk of massive recounts which inhibits the results and disenfranchises a large swath of both rural and urban people in our republic. Bullying the delegates at this stage, to defy their pledge, is just cause for more civil unrest. Please let us reject the concept of becoming a banana republic, this is so poignant.

I also believe that those in public office should not be afforded the fifth amendment option in the capacity of doing their job without forfeiting their role as a public servant. These people in a position of public trust are employed by us; dereliction of duty simply must result in providing all the evidence and answering all the questions, else the post was abandoned and that official can no longer serve. I won’t cite conspiracy theories here, just a possible sound solution to a really smelly set of problems. Our Constitution lies under a stack of oversight inquiries and our blindfolded lady with the scales is the one who might really be the most oppressed right now. She wants us all to protect our rights and try to get along and play fair. She is all we’ve got to avoid dissention into tyranny folks, and she wants us to thrive within some measure of right and wrong.

I appreciate that there is a mass of division and fear-based confusion beyond my safe Saturday retreat. I appreciate that some may choose to stand in solidarity with a safety pin to call troubled souls in to calm themselves, there is a lot to be afraid of even after you weed out the fear mongers. I appreciate the freedom of speech and the right to protest. That being said, I do not condone race-baiting, violence, or rioting. For my own part, I would like to offer my own safe space to those who are fearful to speak out in a sincere patriotic manner. I have unearthed a different relic of a pin which belonged to my grandmother’s sister and I would like permission from the angry masses now to wear that flag without fear of violence. She never voted straight ballot either and as I sit here writing this, I know at least that she is with me and I’m with her. God bless America, keep us sane and safe, and do not limit our options in 2020 after we have had a chance to see if this new guy can take the heat and break the spell we have fallen under. I don’t expect everyone to agree. I do pray for our salvation with grace and humility. I hear a pragmatic bell with my name on it, calling me to speak up now and add my bell to this noise. Let freedom ring.

Grey Matter

It is not always black and white. What does that mean, really? Is that a printed newspaper, where we are to believe each of the stories and just call it a day? … a book of rules, containing letters of the law? …a checkered flag waving the start of a race?  …or is black and white sometimes just an extreme interpretation of something we have yet to fully embrace and then might choose to redefine? Maybe it really is just a rough darkened outline, portrayed on a rather blank looking canvas, one that would become a work of art if we were to keep adding more dimension. I understand a lot, but I still cannot say I could defend everything unfolding around me. There are many brush strokes on my canvas today, and it certainly is not all black and white. My yarn bag would also be rather boring if I didn’t change things up a little. I know certain colors tend to compliment, while others just don’t match up that nicely.

My September has been spent dancing with colorful boundaries, and creating beautiful afghans, much like this very pretty calico cat I have been caring for since Tuesday. It was a good week really. Yesterday morning I was awakened by the adorable face of a creature begging for my attention. By this morning, in less than twenty-four hours, that willful creature has solely redefined herself, as one not to be at all trusted. Yesterday morning was rather simple, I love you, I need you, and I want you to wake up and to love me back. I cannot fathom though, what snapped inside that furry little head. What could have changed so dramatically to turn our Saturday evening into such a scary movie scene? She jumped on the bed, purring, then got really comfy and needled at my lip with her claws, so much so that even when I hid my head under my arm, she still managed to reach around and find my lip with her paw. I tried everything, patting, holding her purring body close to me, and talking to her calmly. She was a stubborn animal, with spastic fits of energy, leaping from the bed, whipping her tail, and getting attention in the worst of ways. The dog tried to shepherd her from danger a few times, but that only went so far. You may be laughing, thinking this kitty just wanted to play, but it was a prolonged wild and untamed display, so much more than any rational pet lover could explain. She had found her demonic side, she unplugged the running fan, knocked over a cup on the kitchen counter, she was repeatedly chewing at another electrical plug which was still connected to the wall in my bedroom, she was jumping on my head, licking at my eyelids, then leaping onto the dresser, taunting my resting pose with the sounds of her picking jewelry from the ring dish and clanking metal on her teeth. If you have ever seen a primate grabbing at the bars of a cage in fury, then you might empathize with the irrational plight of this cat. Nothing mattered, nothing other than being at the center of attention in an otherwise quiet house, and I was not permitted to be helpful nor peaceful. We were under siege, the dog, the other (notably tame) cat, and me, the caregiving human. Every time things went quiet, she would begin to chew loudly on the wall plug, start rifling through my bag for a paper to destroy, or leap back onto the bed to find my lip with her claw. I grabbed some water I had beside the bed, put a small puddle in my palm, then tossed a small spray of water droplets at her face from my angry open hand. This startled her and stopped her insanity for a few minutes, but then it restarted, over and over again, until there was sunlight creeping around the window shades. There were no answers. The water bowl was not empty, the food bowl was bountiful, the bed was warm, and yet the cat was viscously untamed. I had no recourse.

I should draw an analogy (from the episodes of last night) to the recent headlines. I do not feel very safe or free in our world today. It is not okay with some folks that I am a peaceful, empathetic, productive human being. That cat was perhaps a totem, reminding me to guard my lip and to “Pay Attention”! There is much civil unrest now, with misunderstood souls, not to be pandered to, with a stark message, certainly not to be shadowed with hollow words by the leaders of a prevailing election. I cannot fix this. There are no answers, only strong opinions, a lack of common sense, and dramatic advances that challenge each of our normal boundaries. Where do we go from here? It is not black and white. It is not resolved by a review of the live footage. There are wrongs, and there are rights, and there are gross displays of someone crossing a line. There is no clear instruction for the rest of us trying to live our lives out here, to avoid the many pitfalls, and to continue our path to the things we want or need. Bang your drum, say your piece, make your waves, but please find a way to comprehend that I am not the enemy. This is not a bad relationship where I am in the wrong no matter what I say. You have my attention, and I am awake, so take this opportunity now to tell me what you need or to show me how things should be. I want somehow for everyone to feel better about the injustices, but to also respect the realities of our lives. I know that with each wave, there is still someone just coming up to speed, to carry on fresh with more confusion. And there are enforcers, who must walk the line, but will still carry a great responsibility each and every day to judge each new threat fairly. 

I will pay attention. I will do my part to make sure the water bowl is not dry when you are depending on me for your wellbeing. I will continue to guard what I hold dear, all the while trying to keep you from harming yourself or others, sweet little kitty. Try not to burn the house down while you are so passionately vying for attention. That plug you were gnawing contains a very powerful current, but I realize you do not understand all this. The only black and white I can really see for today is the boundaries which I don’t wish to cross, which is coincidently the same set of boundaries which I expect for you to honor. Isn’t that what we all want? A day where we can find a sunny patch of carpet and coexist? I won’t get the vacuum cleaner out of the closet just yet. It would be spiteful to disrupt your nap, even if I haven’t had enough sleep myself. I will remain the adult here, realizing I could vacuum later, thus fostering a peaceful environment where I might crochet while you sleep. My lip is fine by the way.

My “grey matter” gives me the ability to exercise my maturity and to see past the black and white, to consciously decide what I will do with my day. My only limitation is what color yarn I have in my bag. I will change the pattern as I see fit, and hopefully make someone a nice gift. The calico is still a beauty and she is so much prettier when she is not at war. She is not exactly black and white, but even if so, she would still be gorgeous. Her family returns tonight, and hopefully that was all she really wanted to somehow feel better about this stranger in her world.

Not So Fast Monday

Ah the good old days, when a dirt-faced guy who could turn a wrench didn’t even try to snow you into filling your “blinker fluid” without fixing the actual issue (you remember, that issue which led you to the mechanic in the first place?). Flush everything, examine the wiper blades, scratch your head Kyle, oh and don’t forget to charge me at least five hundred bucks, hoping I don’t come back too soon to bust your reputation as a certified mechanic. After multiple trips, possessing the knowledge that I am using the cleanest blinker fluid known to man (or woman), it is difficult now to find a new repair shop and start all over with the insulting diagnosis of how much tread is left on my brake pedal. Helpful hint, if I bring my car to you in July for a trouble light and I describe a set of symptoms that coincide with that trouble light, I’m probably not going to be all that jovial when it’s 95 degrees in the shade and half your estimate includes winterizing my car in ways that don’t affect my trouble light nor resolve my car symptoms. I’ll be really hot if I fall for some of your story and then I have to bring the car back a week later for the same mechanical issue. Where have those good old days gone? They aren’t totally gone, but those days are fewer and farther between. You can still ask around and on some lucky day you just might find a referral to that one elusive solid-gold mechanic, who has had some tough breaks in life, hiding just a few miles down the road without a business card. This is the guy who didn’t get hired at the shop, probably because Kyle knows someone, he interviews really well, or he just fits nicely into the uniform as well as the brand image the shop wants to advertise. Next time around, I may ask a repair shop for a list of recent applicants they overlooked in the hiring process, saving myself a lot of time and trouble. Mechanics are not all bad people, there are just some who do not know how to listen well and try to appreciate my perspective. I’m a bit of a tomboy and I’m not at all new to this game.

I did not need to download an app and go walking about with my smart phone to capture the rare wrench-iton character. I had to first get angry, then I had to ask around, then I had to use my judgement; I talked with him on the phone, and I knew just enough to tell me this guy was either a total con-artist or a brilliant, humble mechanic with no financial backing. He brought his scruffy buddy along, like a golf caddy (but for tools). They both were amazingly well-mannered despite their appearance, but in all fairness I didn’t want the clean uniform type else I would not have dialed his number. Within five hours, my new friend had torn my dash apart and fixed a nagging ignition switch issue which has been plaguing my Jeep for quite some time. Others might choose to fix simpler issues or replace an expensive unit, just to see if the thing would start twice in a row, rather than to entertain tearing the dash out and fixing it right.

I am quite reluctant to trust most any stranger in today’s market. I’m overwhelmingly glad that when I let my guard down this time, I was rewarded with some sincere pride of workmanship. He did a great job, explained everything, showed me the bad part, and never talked to me like I’m a stupid girl. He even tried to undercharge me, and probably still did once I bumped his $120 up to $200. I simply said, “…nobody tears a dash out for less than two hundred bucks; keep it and I will call you again and I want you to treat me as well as you did today.” When he opens a shop one day, he plans to look at everyone’s rate, cut that rate in half, and still make it rich. I will refer all my friends.

Flash forward to this morning… I had been logging system issues all weekend, and yep, I’m cranky again. This is not a new issue (the system issue nor my crankiness), but rather I have tried recently to pre-empt an outage and to have the problem proactively fixed by our team. I was not able to make anyone hear me, so here we go again. By the time I got to the office, more than the three system jobs (those which I logged over the weekend) had issues and the jobs going into the red had already doubled (when the weekday jobs tried to run on this fine Monday morning, naturally the problem was much more pronounced); it all became noisy enough that the team had to stop what they were doing and find out why. First one team tried to tell me things were now okay with the set of three new failures, and in response, I immediately made that “four” new failures instead of three. Finally, someone said, “the disk space was full, it is fixed now”. Ah the good old days, when a developer worth his salt would consider infrastructure dependencies and build some fail-safes into a new project, being mindful that someday we would fill up disk space if we did not add a little housekeeping task to the project work. What was the fix today? I have little doubt that it was a one-time removal of old data on the disk, an issue which will surely rear its ugly head again if indeed the root cause was not actually fixed. I keep learning how to hunt for and document these reoccurring issues, which are not easily viewed in my space, despite the fact that I could be dealing with the same issue and the same people, who will have forgotten by then, that this fix was just a band-aid. I’m still trying to act like an owner and give them a clue before things get out of hand. These are not bad people, just some that don’t know how to listen well and appreciate my perspective. I’m not new to this game and I have a sixth sense for predicting a new trouble ticket storm.

Flash back to any one of my rant-inspiring drive-thru moments, I’m sure you know the one, where you get home to find things you didn’t order in your bag. It is all the same thing really. Lack of pride, carelessness, and some simple appeasement meant to make me go away, but not actually to fulfill my purpose for the visit and to deliver what I asked for. Will I turn around and drive back to make this right? They are counting on the fact that I won’t, and they really don’t care even if I do. I’ll go back and get the right stuff, then I’ll be too worn out and frustrated to enjoy it… or I’ll eat the wrong stuff and get on with things. I feel this very same way about politicians, service providers, the motivational movers and shakers, all those who don’t themselves own the delivery of whatever they are preaching and selling to us. When it is all about the sale, and not at all about the outcome, something gets lost in between the pitch and the real day-to-day expectations which any reasonable person might have. I replaced three starters in my Jeep, only to have the same “no start” problem creep up all too soon, which intermittently became more repeatable, until my ignition switch was finally fished out and fixed.  So far, so good, more than one week later. My scruffy non-salesman guy knew how to efficiently deliver the solution I was so desperately seeking and he was able to feel good about his work and make an extra buck. He was on the same page as me and he knew how to listen and ask the right questions, BAM!

Back to this morning… we had a full dishwasher at work. I would never use dish soap in the dish washer, never have, never will. That happened here once before, where someone grabbed the wrong bottle. We are doing “green” things, so the bottles now look very much the same. After one oversudsed sitcom scene in the office (which is never as hilarious in person), everyone here knows to be extra careful and read the label twice to see if it says dishwasher gel. I drew the short straw today. This would have happened even if I had not come in to the office. But I did show up at the office this morning, so I got the dishwasher gel out from under the sink to help out. Oddly enough, the little trap door that holds the gel inside the dishwasher door was pushed closed, so I opened it only to find it was empty, and I shook my head (not understanding why someone would shut that compartment without adding dishwasher soap), I added the gel, then started the dishwasher. We had a massive cascade of suds coming out around the dishwasher door. So a few of us jumped in and started triage, all the while reconstructing what actually might have happened. The assistant had noted that all the chairs were on top of the tables when she came in (this never happens). Our office party was off-campus last Thursday, so by Friday we had comfort food brought in and festively made our way to five o’clock. Nobody was motivated to run the dirty full dishwasher by the end of Friday. The cleaning people might have tried to take care of this for us, but then stopped when the first round of suds exploded onto the floor. This would explain the chairs up on the tables if they did a big emergency mopping job. Maybe even one of our new people grabbed the wrong bottle at the end of the day, turning the dishwasher on, but then left before the fun really started, and the cleaning folks were caught in the fallout. All I know is that I used the gel. We took everything out of the dishwasher, and the only minor proof that two soaps were used was the strange pattern the bubbles were making on the counter, as if there was a spider web of incompatible soaps forming into little white strings of evidence. Imagine making a bunch of bubbles, then lightly sprinkling baby powder over them and watching the baby powder chew through the bubbles and regroup into stringy clumps that fall together in a line as the bubbles burst. I am convinced there was dish soap in the dishwasher before I even touched it, and that the wash cycle was stopped before the soap compartment door was scheduled to open in the previous run cycle, and that the soap compartment probably doesn’t seal well enough to contain drippy dish soap when the door is verticle. As we were investigating, we found the installer had not fastened the dishwasher to the counter straps either (when they reinstalled the dishwasher after the last flood had ruined our flooring), which is why our silverware drawer has a large chunk out of the side where the dishwasher does not shut right. We don’t have a screwdriver in the office apparently, so I went out to my Jeep and brought a few tools in to reattach the dishwasher to the mounting strap. It’s too bad my Dodge wasn’t there, I think I may have a bulk purchase of vinegar still in my trunk.

How did any of this happen? That question has expired and we will never ask again and we will never know. Whomever did this, or found things this way, never warned us and it is all over now, except of course for the next empty run with a gallon of vinegar tomorrow morning. Someone made a mistake and someone else is cleaning it up. There seems to be an epidemic of either carelessness or lack of accountability (or both). This happens in every corner of my world nowadays. The most absurd display was when I found a construction flagger in the middle of the road jumping around trying to force a merge of two busy lanes without the benefit of the normal warning signs. Doesn’t anyone plan ahead anymore? What were they thinking? For lack of a more vulgar term, I will name this modern day symptom “half-fast”. A typical day like this may consist of eating half-fast food, while waiting for someone to do a half-fast job on your car, so you can drive through half-fast construction to get to work and deal with half-fast problems, then rush an hour home with half-fast drivers trying to catch a half-fast update on the half-fast election. Whew, that feels much better! Seriously, read that again, out loud, and tell me it is not just a little fun to say all that.

I know we are not all half-doing things. I wholly appreciate those of you who still care enough to do things right. It doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes, but most of us can take pride that we make fewer mistakes than a bunch of bozos out there bouncing through life. A most beautiful gem can be “flawless”, but for now I might be happy enough with some minor flaws, but then a custom-cut with traditional quality. I don’t want my gem to be a factory-cut, with the sloppy cutting of corners. If you are a half-baked type, it is time to knock it off… the rest of us are getting tired of picking up your mess. I know if you just read all of this, then you did already read one part out loud, and you are not just half-fast skimming it 😉 Stay awesome out there, and try to do one little extra nicey for some unsuspecting someone. This does not have to be a minimally-required-just-get-by world. Let’s rock it!


I remember when I received a highly coveted package of Bic Banana Ink Crayons as a birthday gift. I knew those were not cheap and I knew my closest friends would be so very excited to try them. I had reached a pinnacle in the second grade, where one learns to write in cursive and can thus be respected by adults as an intelligent being. I was deemed mature, enough to know those were only for writing and coloring on paper, and I had earned my right to carry that set of ten beautifully colored permeable pens. I never did forgive Brenda, for borrowing my new markers in class, and promptly smooshing each one of the tips into its white plastic barrel, rendering them all useless on the first day of their debut. That moment in life taught me a big lesson which I would not soon forget. As much as I valued her friendship at the time, and as much as I knew it was not intentional, I was hugely disappointed by her immaturity. My innocence was shattered with the wisdom that only comes from owning a brand new set of broken markers which would never be replaced.

I rebounded from that childhood tragedy and gained much more writing knowledge, somehow making it into a literature class which only accepted the best of eighth grade scholars. Our teacher was dramatically harsh, only really catering to the top ten percent of our top ten percent. My home room teacher was however a remedial reading teacher. She was a kind lady, much nicer than my lit teacher, and she always encouraged us to use our early morning time to ask her questions if we needed help on any of our subjects while waiting for the first class bell to ring. I was really not sure she could even help me, but I did take a chance, asking a special education teacher for academic help, so that I would not have to face the embarrassment of asking dumb questions in front of the elite. She took the time that morning and helped me quickly grasp the analytical thinking needed to navigate my sternly taught afternoon class. By the end of the school year, I was still muddling through literature, and I would surely be saddled with a less-than-respectable-just-passing grade, which could remove my long-standing name from the honor roll. Maybe I could focus on being a math scholar instead of trying to be a literary scholar. After all, those skills seemed to be displayed in vastly different spectrums of the working world. I always looked forward to band and choir, but I had my doubts that I could make a good living from either of those activities. My geometry teacher was quite the character and I really thrived in his class. I often wondered how my geometry teacher and my literature teacher could be such good friends, regularly convening after hours for some adult time. Their personalities seemed so wildly different; my geometry teacher was a practical joker. If a student was called away to the principals office during first period, which happened if you forgot your excuse slip from the previous day, my geometry teacher would coach the remainder of the class to each stand up to the right of our desk and quickly sit back down every time he drew a triangle on the board. The student returning mid-class would be disoriented by the synchronized scuffling of chairs, not understanding why we all repeatedly stood and sat, while instructions were being authoritatively spoken and chalked at the front of the class. Our teacher was disciplined to never crack a smile during these escapades. Every day it was something different and we all wished the second class bell would not ring so quickly.

One afternoon my geometry teacher stopped me in the hall and ushered me into a quiet door recess, away from all the other students scurrying past lockers to grab fresh pencils for their next final. He was cryptic in telling me he had information for just me and that I could never tell anyone where I heard it. It were as though I was part of some spy mission; while I was a bit spooked by the eerie conveyance of the message, I was intrigued to be part of such a covert operation. I carried that secret message with me into my literature class, still wondering what the heck it meant. Near the end of our final literature exam, the teacher interrupted our classroom, which had been saturated with nearly an hour of heavy silence, by screeching five vowels and eight consonants onto the board. He gave us the only remaining minute (before the next bell) to write our answer to his puzzle at the bottom of our paper, worth one cumulative grade point for each letter if we answered correctly. He also grimly warned us in all his years of teaching that no one had ever scored the extra thirteen points. I shielded my paper from anyone’s prying eyes and wrote my secret spy message, “Hawaiian Alphabet”, while everyone else was hurriedly unscrambling letters to find some magical thirteen letter word or phrase, with mere seconds left to guess. I walked my exam paper to the basket on the teachers desk when the bell sounded. I was tortured during the last week of school, to confess how I was the only one to answer correctly, but I kept my vow of silence and I proudly kept my name on the honor roll.

We moved when I was in the ninth grade to a rival town. I spent my senior years in a very different world, where I had become the big sister babysitter to our single-father-family, all of us just trying to survive the years following a nasty divorce. While my best friends were finishing high school back home, I was stuck in the middle of the woods, cooking what little food we had, cleaning, and dreaming of escaping to college, knowing full well we could not afford such a luxury. I somberly went to graduation day, knowing I had earned a very small college grant and I would join a work-study program for the Summer to try to prepare for my great escape.

I had not seen her in years, but at the end of our commencement in the park, I was stopped along the walking path by my old home room teacher, who unbeknownst to me, had always lived in our rival town. She watched from a distance, apparently knowing why we had left my childhood school system, and she was fully prepared to see me attending that class of 1983 graduation. She had a wrapped present with my name on it and asked me to save it to open later when no one was around and then she disappeared through the crowd. While everyone else was rejoicing at my picnic celebration that sunny afternoon, I sat alone quietly, failing to hold back the tears, as I looked at my fine Parker pen in that gift box. Once again, and with much more wisdom, I had earned the greatest amount of respect from the adult world. I had already travelled a great distance, with many stories to tell, and I would know by that time to keep my good pen far away from girls like Brenda (wink).

I have the utmost respect for good teachers, the best of which can inspire our very souls to overcome our daily challenges and succeed at whatever it is that we wish to do. To this day, I love math, music, colorful yarn and gems, and of course, writing. Three extraordinary junior high teachers, of my many excellent teachers, continue to walk with me through this life; they were the tough, the funny, and the kind… all joining forces, helping me along to become the very person I am still growing into. If I ever do see Brenda again, I should thank her as well for my love of a fine writing instrument.

Caked On

“Chocolate”, just say the word and most of us will drift off for a brief moment into an imaginary happy place where our favorite version of this confection is eagerly waiting to comfort whatever is ailing us. I’ve heard some say that white chocolate doesn’t really contain chocolate, which technically speaking is true, but it is born from the processing of a cocoa bean. Let me reassure you, that unless the product is a complete fake (and those do exist), white chocolate is made using only the cocoa butter component which is part of the bean separated during the art of chocolate making. Chocolate is an addictive substance, craved by trick-or-treaters, hormonal women, folks deficient in magnesium, and in general can raise serotonin as well as blood sugar. No wonder it is such a powerful word!

Understanding that most of us have a common delightful bond in the comforts of chocolate, I am so sad to report that such a happy word has just dealt a new unfathomable low blow in my friendly circle. It seemed innocent enough when I heard a visitor announce, “I’m baking a cake, would everyone like vanilla or chocolate?”. The general response was that both choices were wonderful. Our host agreed, but then added that since we had a choice, he likes vanilla just a bit more. To me, that sounded like a decision would have been made by our gracious visiting baker, to produce a vanilla cake; the group would eagerly anticipate the treat as our Saturday evening continued. After all, the question was asked and there was a very positive response, including the one actual vote for vanilla.

What I did not understand at the time, was that our visiting cake-baker was harboring an unhealthy amount of ill will and contempt due to the political climate. Would I have surmised that there was some passive aggressive agenda playing into the question of chocolate versus vanilla? In all fairness, we were forewarned that this individual was predisposed to passionately combat anything controversial. She arrived with a smile, then laid-in-wait (literally all evening) as we were all on our best behavior; how frustrating to a would-be verbal victor, facing an ambush of non-confrontational people who were somehow tipped off. We played games and kept the conversation light-hearted. It did not seem that we would have any tricky turns to keeping the peace… that is, unless this girl was seething beneath the surface, with an unfulfilled craving for some righteous side-choosing battle.

Our game of choice involved building cities. After one debilitating play, the vanilla-lover and I had to team up in order to overcome incredible odds, working together to each save three of our strategically placed meeples from certain doom. We did triumph over the treacherous move, and reigned as first and second place winners of that game. Looking back, I can imagine this loss was an extra emotional hardship for our unstable baker, knowing that we two players could lay down our shields and work together, as if the game suddenly shifted from a four-way individual challenge into a teamed couple versus the two other individuals. This decision was not supremely aimed at the genocide of other brightly colored meeples, but rather a choice of survival. It was a big win once the points were calculated. After all, we saved a presumably gone city, which could have meant harsh penalties for those meeples left stranded when the final scores were tallied.

I’m not sure exactly how it was misconstrued, but I was dumb enough to comment that we had overcome a greater challenge than saving Detriot. Oh Grams, what vile rhetoric, to have said something like this in front of our thin-skinned, cake-baking guest. I got an abrupt and sorely unanticipated reaction; I somehow unleashed the beast. If you know me, you might understand that I did not at all mean to cause this confrontation. Even so, it may not have really mattered. That wonderful smell in the kitchen was emanating from a chocolate cake baking in the oven. Probably just begging for someone to ask why it was not a vanilla cake as the democracy had voted.

In our best efforts to not offend anyone with the slightest hint of controversy, that poison was still carried into the house, like a dormant virus waiting to infect the host when the temperature was just right. We were not afforded the same courtesy, to retract all confrontational claws. I just said one of any number of magic words that would trigger the battle. This Sunday morning, there is an untouched, uncut cake in the kitchen. My heart is painfully heavy, knowing that I’m politically incorrect to say, “Merry Christmas” or “God Bless You”. I must find a way to travel along my daily path without saying much more than zombified words of blind agreement. I simply do not know how to act around the inconsolable war-of-words mongers who are multiplying in force during this election year, with an extra bonus of racially charged tension. Do I have passion and strong opinions on a wide variety of topics? Indeed I do. Do I need to spar at every turn to make all my feelings known? No I do not. I welcome any healthy debates that choose to manifest. In my best effort to remain my intelligent, less-than-offended good self, I consciously choose to debate only with sensible opponents. Those other narcissistic conversations only prove to be frustrating to all sides, causing someone to eventually reach for a piece of soothing chocolate I’m sure.

I guess there is new meaning this morning to, “have your cake and eat it too”, or is there? I’m not starving for some angry cake. Something about this cold winter morning, coupled with that unshared desolate chocolate cake, has brought on a strong desire for me to bake something different, full of motherly love and some old fashioned pride. I should trod into the kitchen shortly, to clean the sloppy mess that was left behind. Once I clean a dried-on spatula, put away the mixer, and wipe down some counter space, then we can carry on to replace the still air with something even more inviting and comforting than that vanilla cake which was not destined to be. I can only hope that our host will continue to open his heart and his home to a vast variety of guests as he has always done. This little old guest right here can help mitigate the somber tones of our morning, by showing up to play, and remaining steadfast in the goal of celebrating life in the warm sanctuary of such a lovely home.

Wish me well on my way.  While it may not be easy, I am determined to sing and play today, and hopefully to take a few happy souls along for the ride. 

Not New Stuff

img_2679From an old pair of jeans, which once saw me through much rigorous work and play, I can still see a small section of fabric that remains true to the original design. Strong, unfrayed, ready to protect, begging to play, and beautifully unscathed. This portion of denim inspires me to somehow save a nostalgic remnant. These jeans will never again rest on the grass at an outdoor concert, catch the drips from a banged knuckle, or keep cadence during a session of skating. Still, something beckons from along a seam to continue on and fulfill yet another all-American mission.

I’ve seen the days where it was impossible to afford a new pair of jeans. We repaired holes with hidden stitches or trendy patches, to frugally save the garments we cherished. I’ve also seen days where it seemed acceptable, if not expected, to keep up with the buying of new things with no reverence. Today, the pendulum has returned to the other side of a deep sway. We have been imprinted with a guilty conscience, aware of our carbon footprint, with overwhelming encouragement to think through the lifecycle of our goods. I seem less of a hoarder and more of a renaissance crafter; finding purpose in my scraps is once again en vogue.

I feel like a kindred spirit to that old pair of jeans sometimes. Ready to keep what I can justify, while shedding the damaged parts, to recycle what remains of my beautiful self into something still vibrant and meaningful. Everything urgently matters in today’s world. Every life, every human right, every action, and every reaction… these are our headlines, our marching posters, our product labels, and our mantras to create so many new rules. I have always had a sense of what is not trash. In contrast, I still have some sense of what truly is a bunch of garbage. I suppose it is up to us to continuously decide the difference. It is with pride and a sense of patriotism that I hope we also, as a whole, choose to save some of our heirlooms in the context of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happy things. We should never dare overlook what we have accomplished and learned over the past few hundred years.

It is with charity that we sometimes open our hearts and our space to someone less fortunate. It is with vigilance that we command respect to keep our hearts and our personal spaces uniquely familiar. Much like that pair of old jeans, there are pieces of our lives which we might like to keep as-is for another day and another purpose.  We could part with a zipper to hold something else together, but that precious little fabric, of something that was with us all along, can be comforting if not inspiring.

In other words, if I give you a ride in my car, I would understand if you move the seat back, but that does not mean you are allowed to change the setting of my passenger side mirror. If I pick up the slack at work because you are behind, it does not mean that you are free to use your extra time to create frivolous distractions nearby as I’m trying to get some work done. If I share any of my benefits, it would be a lesson to me when chaos and disorder threaten to take over and crumble what I have assembled. If you are a refugee, it is with respect that you understand I do not have to change my pattern of living when you bring all your crap and move in to take advantage of this gift. I’m keeping my faith, my schedule, my sanity, and of course my favorite jeans. If there is a need for you to be in my space, then be forewarned that I don’t wish to change any of it at your will.

Those old worn jeans on the shelf are mine and only mine. I don’t want yours, so you can put those somewhere else. I will keep some of my good parts, get rid of some worn fragments, add a few soft colorful strips, and continue this heavy gorgeous quilt as time permits. You may have the zipper if you need one, but don’t rummage through my stuff and leave those old jeans of mine in a heap on the floor while I’m away. Someday that patchwork blanket will keep me warm, with thoughts of where all my jeans have been and why I have cherished the freedom to wear them. I may even carry them to an outdoor concert, to cover the grass and protect my new jeans, as I enjoy another unfolding memory of a gloriously free day.