Too much to wrap my head around…

Since last weekend I’ve been reeling over a story that hits a bit closer to home than anything like this ever has.

It starts back in the 80’s when my aunt Mary Jane (aka Wicked Bitch) finally married at 62.  Fred was the perfect match for a wicked bitch.  He had two daughters, one who fit perfectly with the wicked duo and one, Sarah, who was the kind of person you liked the minute she walked in.  Sweet and nice and you wondered how she got that way.  I didn’t live here then and only saw the daughters a few times.

Last weekend, we finally got a bunch of newspapers after some days when delivery was impossible.  As she looked through them my mother suddenly called out, “Fred’s daughter Sarah and her husband and two children are all dead.”  Four obits with, as usual, no information about cause of death.

I figured whatever story led to the death of four people in one family must have made the news so I Googled the names.  No speculation we’d made — house fire, car accident, plane crash, etc.–came close to the horror of the story.

The Wednesday before Valentine’s Day, Sarah’s 16-year-old son, Jason, got home before the rest of the family and shot each member of his family–his mother, his father and his little sister Gracie–in the head as they came in the door.  He then attended a Youth Group meeting at his church, behaving as though nothing had happened.

Somewhere along the way he put his father’s guns in his mother’s car and started driving.  State troopers in the Baltimore area tried to pull him over  on Valentine’s Day for a traffic stop and he led them on a long chase.  Eventually he crashed and couldn’t drive on.  When troopers approached the car he opened fire.  In the shootout he hit one of the troopers (in the vest) and they killed him.

The only thing anyone knows is that his parents had taken away his computer and cell phone privileges and he was furious.  Otherwise, a church going kid who was in ROTC and had never seemed troubled.  If he left any indication of what he was thinking no one is revealing it.

I hadn’t seen Sarah in years.  My aunt died long ago and Fred died a few months ago so we were unlikely to cross paths again.  I never met her husband or her children.  But I knew her.  She was part of my extended family.  Suddenly one of those stories that normally seems far removed landed much closer.  I always feel upset when I hear about something like this, but there’s been an extra layer of shock.

While I have faith that the Universe always has a reason, this is one of those times I question what the reason could be.  I wish All That Is would send us a manifesto that explains why such events are a Must Have for life on earth…

All I can think of is to send prayers and Reiki to all those concerned — the two surviving children, the troopers, the souls of the dead… If you have a minute, maybe you can pray for them.

And I say the lovingkindness chant to myself as a reminder that at the center of everything is love.

Share Your World Week 8

English: San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge at night

English: San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge at night (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Your favorite blog post that you have written? (add link)

My favorite was pretty recent (possibly that just means I remember it better???) on Activism: https://bluegrassnotes.wordpress.com/2015/01/20/j2p-monday-activism-and-nonviolence/

What do you feel is the most enjoyable way to spend $500? Why?

I’d love to take a few friends to French restaurant Le Deauville, here in Lexington.  The food there is wonderful so that’s a big incentive to go.  Love to share a great meal with friends who love great food.

Or buy a plane ticket to San Francisco– except in the end the trip would cost more like three times $500…  Some part of my heart never moved away from there…  I didn’t get to go last year, so I’m beyond ready to fill my spirit with the joy of being “home”.

If you could know the answer to any question, besides “What is the meaning of life?”, what would it be?

My big question is so perilously close to “what is the meaning of life?” that it may violate the “anything but” rule.  Why did God/All That Is/The Universe create humans and earth?

Where do you eat breakfast?

I have a nest on the floor of the family room with a little lap desk next to it.  It’s near the TV, my laptop stays on the desk.  I spend way to much time there, including eating most of the meals I have at home.  My hips, which are inclined to tilt and then hurt, do better on the nice flat surface of the floor…

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

My main gratitude for last week is that we made it through the winter storms and when the temperature dropped really quickly we didn’t wind up losing power for days.

I’m looking forward to continuing to breathe.  Inhale slowly, exhale slowly, breathe in serenity…

For Share Your World

Small Pleasures: getting out

Kentucky has been hit unusually hard in the last week with a series of winter storms and freezing weather.  When it first hit, I’d had a bunch of days of not feeling that great, leading to failure to get to the grocery store.

We live at the final block of a street that ends in a cul de sac and our end of the street tends not to get plowed.  Finally on Tuesday I’d run out of a lot of stuff and felt stir crazy.  We figured the main streets probably were cleared if we could just make it down the block-and-a-half to the usually-clear part.

We barely made it past our strip and the condition of the rest of the roads was horrible.  Good thing I started drivers ed in Michigan at age 16 in January –something like the third time my group went out to practice it was in a blizzard and the teacher just shrugged, “Better get used to it…”.  Not my favorite kind of driving but I sure know how.

In spite of the bad driving conditions, we were so happy to be out!  Enjoyed dinner at local restaurant, The Ketch and then headed to Trader Joe’s for my long list of depleted items.

It snowed again that night and our road still wasn’t plowed so we were stuck again.  Thursday was beautiful and sunny and they’d finally plowed one lane down our street.  Since I left northern climes 20 some years ago I’m not used to heavy winter weather and there’s something oppressive about feeling stuck.  So I did some shoveling on the pile the plow left and we made it out again, dining at another local fave, Josie’s, and stopping for a few things at another grocery store.

Then freezing weather and icy road conditions hit –I really loathe driving on ice–and we stayed in for a couple more days.  Today things looked pretty melty and I had a long list for a third grocery store, so we made our way out to re-try a Mexican place near the grocery we’d kind of forgotten about for a while –La Marquesa.

Something about each of those trips to do perfectly ordinary stuff we do all the time seemed particularly sweet since it was a bit of a challenge to get out.  Even though I often don’t get out for a day or two, there was something about feeling stuck that really weighed on me and each outing seemed like a great escape.

In a number of places someone expressed surprise that we’d ventured out (undercurrent:  how did old folks like you dare to drive in this?).  Something about having braved the elements made it all seem more of an adventure.  All three restaurants are places I love, but these meals seemed especially good and I enjoyed everything about it more than usual.

Also made me realize how spoiled I am.  There was plenty of food in the house, but I ran out of a number of things that are part of my regular eating habits and it made me antsy to be out of a growing list of staples.  First world problems for sure.  Still, I got so much more pleasure than usual from grocery shopping!  And such gratitude for having a well-stocked fridge and pantry again.

For Small Pleasures

Share Your World Week 7

Is the paper money in your possession right now organized sequentially according to denomination and with the bills right side up and facing the same way?

Folded in half in groups by denomination and without regard to which way they’re facing.

What is your favorite type of dog?  (can be anything from a specific breed, a stuffed animal or character in a movie)

Although I’ve had only cats for years, I love dogs too so I’d have trouble narrowing it down.  I’m gonna just name my favorite movie dog:  Asta in the Thin Man movies.

Cropped screenshot of Asta from the trailer fo...

Asta from the trailer for After the Thin Man (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If money was not an issue, would you go on a cruise?  If so where would you go?

I took one of the large boat cruises long ago and enjoyed it but don’t want to do one again with that many people on board.  I’ve had my eye on this Silver Seas cruise from Barcelona to Rome for a while, so with the money magically taken care of, that would be one I’d love to do.

I’ve also wanted to do some of the canal and river boat cruises in France for ages.  This one on the Rhone and Saone rivers in Provence, is high on my list.  Also this one on the Loire.  A lifetime ago as a summer student at the Sorbonne, one of my favorite weekend ventures was to the Loire Valley chateaux.

Chenonceau Castle, Indre-et-Loire, France. Fra...

Chenonceau Castle (France). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Would you dare to sleep in haunted house overnight?

As long as the reputed haunting didn’t involve the kind of angry ghosts who manage to hurt people, I’d LOVE it.  YES!

For Cee’s Share Your World

Share Your World – week six

I’ve been meaning to start doing Cee’s Share Your World for a while; finally managed to save the right post at the right time to have the current questions, etc.  It always seems fun so I’m glad I managed to get there finally.

What was the last time you went to a new place?

If we’re talking travels, long enough I don’t remember.  Locally, tried a new restaurant a couple of weeks ago.  Actually an established restaurant that I’d not experienced.  A lovely ride through the countryside to the Kentucky River palisades for a dinner by the river.  Even in winter, the beauty and peace left me feeling good.  The menu full of deep fried stuff, not so much…

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels, other?  And what type of genre would you prefer?

I think I’m more an essayist than a fiction writer.  As a child I wrote poetry but haven’t been interested for years.  When I turn to fiction, I tend toward novels — which I also prefer reading over short stories.

Out of your five senses (touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing) which is your favorite?

Boy, that’s a tough one.  Touch is probably the one I could most easily eliminate from the list — not so much that I don’t use it as that I don’t derive as much pleasure from it as often…  After that, I’d say they’re equal.  I’m something of a foodie, so taste means a lot.  Love to look at beautiful landscapes, paintings, and my loved ones’ faces, so very fond of that one.  I’ve always been a perfume gal and love to burn incense, work with aromatherapy, etc.  Very tuned into scents.  And I’m a music lover — started playing piano at six and have participated in and listened to music avidly all my life — great fondness for that one too.  If I have to pick a fave — can’t do it…

If 100 people your age were chosen at random, how many do you think you’d find leading a more satisfying life than yours?

In whose perception, mine or theirs?

Most Americans seem to me to be largely discontented.  By normal standards, my life of illness and soul searching apparently looks like a big flop.  I, on the other hand, after years of meditating, yoga, exploring, etc. feel content in spite of having a life that went off the track I planned.

I’ve found that many people whose lives appear “great” on the surface have many issues or darker feelings roiling under the surface.  That many people who always say everything is good are not all that happy. That many who appear successful by standards of wealth or power are deeply unhappy or discontent.

In my world of spiritual seekers, many don’t have the outward trappings of success that Americans tend to value, but are far more serene, content, and optimistic.  The mainstream thinks we’re crazy…

Whose perception, mine or theirs?

Bonus question:  What are you grateful for from last week, and what are you looking forward to in the week coming up?

Great news about progress of healing (see post on other blog) is what I’m most grateful for — though that’s this week, not last.  I try to stay in the moment and not waste my today thinking too much about tomorrow, but to the extent that I am looking forward anyway, continued progress on completing this healing process is the main thing.

For Cee’s Share Your World Challenge

Small Pleasures: all that skating

The only sport I follow is figure skating — thirty some years.  So the U.S. Figure Skating Championships count big for me. I recorded it all and meted out watching over the week.

This weekend, I forgot for most of it that the Super Bowl was happening and didn’t know who was playing. Nope, the highlight of my weekend was NBC’s airing of the exhibition performances from the Championships.  Kind of a big pleasure really…

And I was thrilled that my long-time favorite, Adam Rippon, performed magnificently in the long program.  And that the U.S. has developed such a deep field in Ice Dance –what a treat to watch.

Finished out the week with a new batch of my Chocolate Coma Avocado Mousse.  Nothing like relatively healthy yummy-ness!

For Weekly Small Pleasures.

Business websites without the info — why bother?

Rocky & Carlo's Restaurant, Chalmette, Louisia...

Rocky & Carlo’s Restaurant, Chalmette, Louisiana Menu board. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve been increasingly bugged for some time by the odd phenomenon of multiple local business web sites that fail to provide basic information like where they are, days and hours of operation and the phone number.

I don’t know about everybody else, but if I’m bothering to look up a business web site those are the main pieces of information I’m looking for.  And it’s astonishing how many local businesses fail to provide some or all of those things.

Among the restaurants offering location, phone and hours of operation many bury it somewhere.  I often have to follow every link on the site to hit a page with that info — usually on a seemingly unrelated page.  If you can’t be bothered to put your most crucial info on the front page of the site, why not at least give “Location and Hours” its own tab?

The big culprits I run into often are restaurants and they have a couple more regular failures.  If I’m not trying to find out what time they close, the phone number for reservations or to get the address to mapquest I’m probably trying to look at the menu.  Most of the local places put menus up.  But they put up the first menu they ever have and then six revised menus later, the original menu is still the one on line.

One local place for some years had a special early menu. This particular menu stayed exactly the same the whole time they had it — a good deal for an appetizer, a smaller-than-usual entree and a dessert and you had set choices for each.  This special menu was NEVER mentioned on their web site.  The same restaurant also had weekly specials.  A small menu printed up each week and the same specials offered every day.

Never were the specials added to the web site.  And this is true of every local restaurant with which I’m familiar that offers specials:  NEVER listed let alone updated on the web site.  Maybe I’m unusual for this, but if they did keep the specials updated, I’d check and often choose one place over another because of something on special.

A number of my favorite places offer seasonal menus, so every three months the menu has some changes.  Do they ever update the web site to let you know what they are?  You got it — never.

If they don’t have a web site in order to let customers know any crucial information about their business and they can’t be bothered to update the site to keep customers informed of what’s new, what’s the point of having one?  What am I missing?

I know I’m usually one of Thoreau’s crowd, marching to some different drum.  But on this am I so far off the mainstream that I’m just missing something?  When you look up a business on line what information are you trying to get?  Do your local businesses provide you with what you want to know?

 

Weekly Small Pleasures: vision-ish things and a zabuton

1.  I sit most of the time in kind of a nest on the floor, leaning against a stadium seat type thing with a big pillow.  It’s a hip thing — mine, which tend to go off-kilter if not kept level, do better on the nice flat floor.  Plus it’s a comfy way to hold my laptop.

The big pillow I’ve used for years has been falling apart for a while now.   It had stuffing instead of a pillow form and the outer fabric started splitting.  Pillow guts have been spilling out incessantly and the fabric eventually was more disintegrating than just splitting.

I looked at pillows in a few places but couldn’t find anything that seemed to suit.  Finally tried out the zabuton that goes with my zafu and it worked so well I ordered a new, thicker one for my nest.  It arrived at the beginning of the week and I LOVE it!  Especially that the very sturdy fabric zips so I can take it off and wash.

2.  While I had a trying week with the unwinding, by the end of it the muscles behind my left eye opened enough that the vision in my left eye has finally started improving.  The right eye, which has improved pretty steadily, is a touch better as well.

Vision Board 2015

3.  Made a vision board; not my favorite, but it was fun and I like it.

Check out the latest post at the home of Weekly Small Pleasures here.

Tweaking Oatcakes

I posted a recipe for oatcakes a while ago.  I’ve been playing with the recipe again.  Thought I’d share my new version.

First, while I gather that the original oatcakes are more like a really thick hot cereal, I cook them till they actually have a more cakey texture.  If you prefer the original idea, shorten cooking time.  Now I’ve added dates.

Banana Date Oatcakes

1 egg

1-1/2 tsp flax seeds (I used ground)

3/8 c. unsweetened vanilla almond milk (you can substitute various forms of milk or use water)

1/2 c. rolled oats (you can replace with almond meal)

1 banana

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp ground ginger

1/8 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp dried orange peel

pinch nutmeg

1-2 dates*

Whir it all up in a blender or food processor.  Pour into bowl.

Microwave on high for six-and-a-half minutes (times will vary with power of microwave).  You’ll note that I’ve added time to get it less moist and more like a muffin consistency.

Even at six+ minutes this comes out pretty damp on the outside and very moist inside.  So now I take it out of the bowl and stick it in the toaster oven for about three minutes.  It gives it a sort of chewy texture on the outside and it’s still moist and light on the inside.

 

 

Not only do I like the added nutritional value of the dates, I love the taste the dates and orange peel add.

You’ll also note that I’ve cut the spices back a bit.  Interestingly, a friend who normally likes things more bland than I do complained that it was too bland even with the larger amount of spices.

I decided that I initially expected a strong flavor more like banana bread; once I started tasting this as its own thing, I came to appreciate the flavor without quite so much spice.  Obviously you need to doctor to your own taste.

*I get dates from two different places.  From one they’re pitted and pretty small.  From the other they’re not pitted and much larger.  I use two or three when I have the small ones and one or two when I have the large.