Thursday, August 24, 2017

I See the Moon

I see the moon, the moon sees me,
down through the leaves of an old oak tree.
Please let the light that shines on me,
shine on the one I love.

One of my favorite bedtime songs growing up, and one I sang to my daughters when they were little. After we moved to California, however, I had to change the words to "down through the leaves of a tall palm tree," as there were very few oak trees in California, at least where we lived, which was less than half a mile from the ocean, and right across the street from an inlet of water with plenty of palm trees on our street, and our property. The song returns to me on occasion, and did tonight.

As I drove home from One Chapel College graduation in Austin, I saw the incredible amber sliver of a moon in the western sky. Closer to the hill country where I live, the lack of bright lights of the city made it appear that I was moving closer to the moon, and I was watching for a place to pull over on a hill top and take a photo.

I reached the perfect spot, the pinnacle of the first valley past Bee Cave, and I slid over to the side of the road and put on my flashers. Although I had been watching the moon as I drove along, I did notice that occasional smatterings of clouds would pass over the crescent. I put the car into park, and looked and I looked, no moon. Could it be that it was blocked somehow by a tree I couldn't see in the dark? I inched forward, hoping that it was just the light of a passing car that made the thin slice invisible. "No ..." I thought. I love the moon, and to take pictures of it, day and night.

I slunk down in my seat, disappointed, but still hopeful. Waiting, waiting ... no moon. I put the car back into Drive and slowly descended the hill, with my eyes on the sky but barely watching the road, and certainly not up to par on the speed limit. The entire way home, and even as I turned right onto Pace Bend Road, I watched my rear view a few times to make sure I didn't miss it, but the clouds had covered it up.

I see the moon, I don't see the moon.
But somebody does.
Someone can see the beauty of tiny piece of the lovely orbiting sphere that is the moon, it's awesome amber image that sees the person admiring it, through a tree, or not. :-)
It gave me peace to think that someone, somewhere else, far away from Hurricane Harvey, could see the moon.

Sit Down and Write

Was it early onset Alzheimer's or ADD that was preventing the writer from sitting down to write once or twice a day? The lovely words, the brilliant images, the fluid descriptions came to her before she slept at night, as she slowly woke up in the morning, and in snipets throughout the day, as she viewed an interesting outfit a coffee drinker was wearing, as she walked the dog or watched an incredible sun set in the sky with billowing clouds and far reaching rays of sunlight?

The distractions were many, from the phone calls, texts, blog posts, email and Facebook notifications from her many siblings, coworkers and friends. Dirty laundry was always present, and the messy family required picking up after and a kitchen to clean. Regarding the somewhat healthy food they consumed, she made the list, did the shopping, the grocery unloading and cooking, and of course the table setting, serving and clean up afterwards. The dog and cats needed attention, from feeding, litter box cleaning and dog walking, to picking up food from the feed store, vet visits and vacuuming and dusting pet hair. Reading, eating, playing solitaire and drinking alcohol were all distractions.

It seemed all she could do was create lists to check off.

She needed to create a plan for her story. While she had characters and a few ideas about storylines, it wasn't coming together. She was distressed. Not just from the lack of writing, but because of the distractions, and the lack of focus.

She had two story ideas. One, the first, was to be a collection of short stories about a psychologist in a little suburb town that heard the most outrageous accounts from her clients, but had to keep them to herself because of the nature of her business. A woman that toured homes for sale to raid the medicine cabinets of prescription drugs, the guy who killed his wife, chopped her up and stored her body in pieces in the backyard, a dysfunctional married couple that knew two murderers firsthand, a woman stuck in the 80's refusing to go online and other quirks including clothing and hair, a bad pastor, a hoarder and one more ... maybe a teenage cutter that didn't want to talk? A pot smoking teenager that was caught by his mom but had a much bigger secret?

The second story is one that was laid on her heart after reading the fictional story of Dinah, Leah and Jacob's daughter in the Old Testament, named The Red Tent. This particular story would be written around Keren Heppuch, the youngest daughter of Job, and a present day character (PDC).

Keren Heppuch she could visualize - licorice colored hair and eyes to match, a rebel raised in a wealthy household. But PDC would not come out of the closet. She remained silent. The KH story seemed to be the one calling her, and she told many about the idea, but she just couldn't come up with a compelling story line that would capture readers and editors alike. The only premise she could develop was that the PDC was raised in an opposite household, with little money and inattentive parents, yet she "met" Keren Heppuch while reading the story of Job, and had a curiosity about her. Maybe she goes on to research her? Maybe she becomes a bibliologist, or person that studies the bible and biblical artifacts, after receiving her degree and a pastoral certificate? The only problem is that Job is a very mysterious book of the bible. No date is associated with it, so it could have been written during the time of Moses (years), Issac, Jacob or Solomon.

After writing for an hour, longer than she expected, but it was after midnight and she had a quiet house, she felt inspired to begin the short story book, where she would have many beginnings, middles and ends, which felt more accomplishable. She would start tomorrow.



Friday, July 28, 2017

Today's Government and Military

What has America come to? I have always understood that the purpose of the United States Government is to keep peace in the states and protect the borders. The preamble of the US constitution states it as such:

"Establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our prosperity."

Where does "pay for the people who are too lazy to work" come into play? I don't see anything about "let anybody who wants to work for the government do so, regardless of his or her temperament or psychological capability" or "fund organizations that want to kill babies" anywhere in the documents. If you want to argue that any of those falls in the "insure domestic tranquility" or "promote the general welfare," I call bullshit.

The United States was founded on the principle that we wanted to move away from the British Monarchy that was all controlling and tax heavy, paid for by those who benefited from those who could not rise above their class system and served as their workhorses. The United States was founded on the belief that people could work for themselves, establish their own businesses and thrive on their own, without government intervention.

Of course, as we've progressed, the age of farming and local market places has evolved us to worldwide technology and communication, medical practices and products and services beyond the wildest dreams of our forefathers. With the creativity and innovation of hundreds of thousands of Americans, think Frigidaire refrigerators, Ford, Apple, Bic, Dawn, Tide, Chili's, Costco, and the list goes on ... we have established a free market system, known only in America, where individuality and ingenuity create the world power we have become.

My concern is to what is the current intention of the US government, and the responsibility of those who serve. Did politicians in the 1700's plan to make a career of it, serving their individual states for a lifetime, with privileges extended only to themselves (health care benefits) and expect to receive a pension for their entire lives? Of course not.

And the responsibility of the military is to DEFEND the borders of the United States, to be prepared to secure our borders and our shores, on US soil, and protect our allies around the world. Those soldiers need to be prepared, physically and psychologically, to do what is necessary to protect Americans. The people whose minds are compromised, because of societal pressures and mind altering drugs, are not necessarily wholly available to defend. That has been the rule of the US military for over 200 years. The military doesn't play by the politically correct rules.

I am not a news monger that listens to talk radio, watches endless television news, or soaks up the literal trash in newspapers and magazines. I just happen to be marginally informed through news snippets and others who talk politics and current events. Most Americans are the same way, but I don't like what I hear, and I am concerned for my children in the future.

Solution? I don't have one that can bring America to the God-fearing, non-politicized, less greedy marketplace that it has become. Home of the free and the brave has evolved into Home of the controllers and the wimps, in my mind. God Bless America!



Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Burning

Burning
Burning
Light and lightning
but where does the light end?

The burning brightness of a star does not seem much when seen from the earth,
but neither does the smolder at the end of a cigarette.

The glow emitted from a lamp post or front porch can reach across the street,
but isn't the spark from a tiny insect just as powerful?

Where does the light end?

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Moon Shadows

Bright air describes the effect of the light of the moon 
to the earth below on a partly cloudy night.
The roundish orb, as brilliant as the sun, but not as circular in shape,
peeks through the illuminated puffs of cotton dotting the sky.

A golden ring accentuates the flattened pieces of mattress batting
emanating from the reflection of the sun on the eclipsing bulb.
The effect on the ground is shadows cast by the dog and I, 
as we take in the evening air.

This is my favorite type of night,
quiet and still below.
The clouds moving just swiftly enough above from left to right
forming changing patterns to draw my gaze upward.

Watching God's hand move the fluffy sky across the moon
gives me peace in knowing that I am not in control.
Heaven is up there, and everywhere. 
I can see the beauty, therefore heaven is real.



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Last Tour Day - Florence/Milan

The last day of our whirlwind European vacation was bittersweet. After a long travel day and late evening, we made the decision to sleep in a little. We ate an impressive breakfast of eggs, meat, bread and fruit on the patio with beautiful service and lovely weather. After our meal, we loaded our heavy packs on our backs and took the long trek back to the train station. We decided that we had made the correct decision to forgo the viewing of Michelangelo's statue of David, and we just didn't have the energy to go see him in the morning. 

When reviewing all that we had seen in the last week, we decided that this trip had been one of architecture and atmosphere instead of museums and art. We had seen plenty of art in churches, outdoors, in parks, and had seen God's hand in the beauty of the natural landscapes (and weather from the plane to Budapest) and with people watching as we sat on a square eating, in a crowded marketplace, or on a bus, train or plane. On our way to the train station, we perused the Florence market, where we purchased an owl bag (Rachel's sorority mascot), a scarf for me and Florence frame in which to place a vacation photo.

We purchased tickets on a fast, fuel-efficient train to Milan, arrived by 1:15 pm, checked in my backpack into "left luggage" to explore for the day, and took Rachel's to share the load. It was another sunny day, and we certainly had perfect weather the entire trip. While it was hot at times, we dressed appropriately, and had no rain except in the evening when we were already in for the night, and it was partly cloudy, and breezy. It was so much more comfortable sharing just the one big backpack and walking 6-10 miles a day, including 259-400 stair climbs  to the top of the city in Budapest and Florence. Next trip - we will make much more use of  "left luggage."

We decided to pursue a tour of the city of Milan since I had not seen it, and we walked to town by way of the Duomo and the mall to visit the Cathedral. Wow. Two more incredible structures greeted us - first the shopping mall and then the Milan Cathedral, which is the fifth largest church in the world. The style of architecture I would describe more as Gothic than of Florence 's Byzantine. While building of the cathedral began in 1386, it took hundreds of years to build. 

We were in awe of the construction, floors and stores of the Piazza Duomo on which the cathedral sat, the vastness of the square and the beautiful sculpture surrounding it. 

Again, we didn't go inside because Rach had already been on a tour, and she noted that it wasn't significant, especially after Florence and Budapest. We felt more at peace examining the huge marble sculptures in the square, people-watching, and window shopping. We grabbed a final gelato and enjoyed it at a small shady sculpture park where Italians chatted and rested during a work break or after shopping or running errands. As we started to take the hike back to the train station, we felt the urge to make a final handstand show in the huge mall area. We paused under the towering arches and upon the gorgeous floors to do a final handstand. We 
asked a couple of passing women to take a few shots, and the younger of the two took fabulous photos, although a couple of them were not so flattering for Rachel due to her, well, lack of modesty. :-)

The walk from the city to take the train to Milanesa was exhausting, with the heat of the day wearing upon us. Milanesa was nearer to the airport, and I had booked a relatively cheap hotel there. We arrived and waited almost an hour for free shuttle from the airport to the hotel, which was very nice. We asked about nearby restaurants, for as cheap as I like to travel, I didn't want to pay for a cab. 

We thought we would drop into the first one, which offered had a happy hour(s) that included a delicious buffet of pizza, salad, fresh fruit, meat and cheeses. Upon drinking a couple of fruity drinks, we decided that we didn't need to go to the other, more formal restaurant. I learned from Rachel that in Italy, it's not polite to fill your plate when serving from the buffet (like Americans like to do at pizza joints and Asian buffets in the US), rather, it's appropriate to go back several times.We sat outside and digested the past whirlwind week. We left before nightfall and made it back to the hotel in time to notify the front desk of our hotel of early departure (5 am!) on the free shuttle. 

We packed up the things we wanted to bring home, and left almost empty toiletry bottles, and threw away excess food and trash. As I settled in for the short night of sleep, I was again filled with anticipation of an early departure and a looong trip home. 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Texas Chilly in August

Okay, I just spelled "Chili" incorrectly to make the reader question the reasoning of chilly weather in Texas, or the continental United States, in August. Last week, we had a high of 79 degrees in Spicewood, which is indeed rare, but not necessarily chilly.

Usually, I save cooking chili for the fall months, with September being the earliest, but at the insistence of my daughter Kristin, I made some today. It may be the best ever, using many "secrets" and special spices to make it the best. Some of those secrets are lots of cumin, saffron, fresh tomatoes, chocolate and crushed pineapple, but because we are trying to adhere to a Whole 30 diet, there's no use of sugar in any way, no cured bacon (an awesome addition to chili), no preservatives, and no cheese.

A good friend, Petra, gave my family some ground venison earlier in the year, and I had that to add. Plus, when I traveled to Budapest, Hungary with my daughter, Rachel, this summer, I purchased a nice-sized portion of saffron and paprika (sweet) to include. The last addition, which I added when I felt that it needed some fresh veggies, were some fresh and tasty Campari tomatoes that I purchased on sale at HEB this week. For an excellent chili with plenty of love poured in, no measuring, many adjustments and time to cook on the stove, here's the recipe:

Chilly August Chili
1 smallish sweet onion - chopped  
2 garlic cloves
1 pound ground venison
1 pound lean ground beef
Olive oil

Saute onion in about 1 Tb of olive oil until almost translucent, then add chopped or pressed garlic, stir until the garlic turns slightly tan in color. Slide out onto a large plate and add another Tb of olive oil and the venison to the skillet. Cook and chop into small chunks with a flat edged spoon. After the meat is cooked, drain off the juices for less venison taste (the liquid can be replaced), and slide on the plate with the onions. If the beef is very lean, add another Tb of oil and then add it. Repeat cooking steps. Pour the meat and onions into a chili pot. At this time, you can add all the spices listed below and mix into the meat to make sure that the meat is flavored first, especially the venison. Your style will determine your process. Next,

1 28 oz. can of petite chopped tomatoes
1 14 oz. can of chopped tomatoes and green chilis
1 lb. container of fresh tomatoes (Campari preferred)

Pour in all of the can of green chili tomatoes, and about half of the can of plain tomatoes directly into the meat and onions in the chili pot.  Use a Cuisinart Smart Stick to blend half of the can, in the can, into more of a sauce than chunks, and to add some thickness to the chili, since corn (masa harina = corn flour) and grains (wheat flour) are not allowed on Whole 30. To prepare the fresh tomatoes for the chili, it's best to peel first. Today, I forgot to prepare the boiling water on the stove to dunk them into for 60-90 seconds, wait for their skin to wrinkle, then pull out with a fork, peel, cut into quarters, remove the seeds, and use the blender stick to make more saucy.  I rushed the process by using the microwave to bring the water to a boil in a large glass measuring cup, threw in the tomatoes a couple at a time, pulled them out and peeled and chopped them. I did make an error when I reached in to pull out a tomato, forgetting that it had been boiling a few minutes before. Ouch. Blend the tomatoes as noted above and add to pot. Once the tomatoes have been added, it's time to include spices, if that's your process.

8-16 oz. organic chicken broth
1-2 Tbs saffron
1-2 Tbs paprika
1 1/2 Tbs. cocoa powder
1-2 Tbs garlic powder (if you don't have fresh garlic)
1-2 Tbs chili powder
1-2 Tbs cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
1-2 Tbs cracked pepper
1 Tbs. kosher salt

Mix in all of the above ingredients and heat to medium high temperature until it becomes nice and bubbly, then reduce to low, low and slow cook for 1-3 hours, stirring every 15 minutes or so. The longer it cooks on low, the more tender the meat will be. Taste on occasion to determine if it needs salt, pepper, chili powder or anything else you feel it is missing. I love Texas Chilly in August!


This recipe can also be prepared by browning your meat and onions, and throwing it all in a crock pot on low in the morning, to come home to terrific chili in the evening.