Friday, January 13, 2017

Packing Away Christmas


A 2-day operation to dismantle, day 1: the baubles and lights tucked into boxes brought up from the basement, day 2: the tree itself.  I walked downstairs with several loads of steel branches on a bed sheet.  The sturdy, heavy, and heavy duty tree acquired last year from generous freecycler who was tired of assembling it.  I got a hard pinch putting the top on both years, better luck next year.  Still it's nicer than lugging out a previously fresh tree, shedding needles all the way, transporting to park a mile away to be turned into mulch.  Mysteriously, the volume of the branches, trunk, base, top expanded twofold, so the parts overflowed the coffinlike storage box.  Only an empty refrigerator box could contain my packing. Lacking that, I'll leave it to my clever husband to make it fit.

Tonight, dark out, leaving work, standing on a corner, an older lady called out to turning drivers, calling them pigs for zooming through during her time to walk. I got to the corner as well. The light turned to red, a cluster of people gathered, light turned green again, started to cross street in the inky night. In the middle of the street, either a guy who was behind me and dashed in front, or ahead of me and turned around, crouched down in front of me, and pointed a phone or camera that flashed strobelike into my eyes.  Creepy sneak attack.  I was so surprised and angry, if I had anything in my hands other than my big, fluffy mittens, I would have whacked the device out of his hands. Thought ok, I wasn't shot, I wasn't tasered, keep moving. I kept walking out of reflex, knowing the turning cars would be bearing down again. I was blinded, don't know which way the offender went. Bus homeward, then walking on a veneer of ice all the way home, my last nerve tingling.

Encounters like this make me crave living like a hermit, reading stacks of books, packing up ornaments, sorting laundry, washing baseboards, anything that does not require leaving my house.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sassy to Sensible in One Evening: Sweatpants Edition

I'll attempt to paint a picture with words.  This project took place on a dark night, so picture quality was poor.

I had a pair of purple low-rise sweat pants that I had never worn as they started about 6 inches below my belly button (bikini height). My preferred height is a more comfortable one at my natural waistline.

I took a burgundy, felted wool sweater, turned it inside out, cut it in a curve, underneath the sleeves, that matched the curve and width at the top line of the pants.  So I had a tube that was about 12 inches tall, I planned on folding it over like yoga pants. The wide part joined the hip, and the narrow ribbed part faced upwards.

I pulled the drawstring out, left the soft elastic in. I turned the pants inside out.  I used a couple pieces of cardboard to keep the front & back separated and pinned the inside out sweater--about 6 pins on each side was plenty.  (In retrospect, I shouldn't have turned it inside out so the seams would not show when folded over.  No biggie though, since most likely a sweater will be covering the tummy.)

I hand sewed the cut edge of the sweater to the bottom seam of the pants' existing waistband, removing one pin at a time as I inched forward and around. I thought of doing a second cycle around the top edge of the pants existing waistband, but the union seemed sturdy enough.  I tried them on and they felt so much better in comfort and modesty.

I took my scissors to the sweater again and cut the sleeves off above the seam, and voila! a pair of cozy armwarmers. Just a dickie-sized remnant left--perhaps future warmers with a soft cotton lining?

Friday, January 6, 2017

Stuff Kitty Didn't Want for Christmas

So Wisteria and I were walking to the first of two bus stops to go visit her orthodontist.  Crossing an alley I cast a sideways glance for oncoming cars.  My eyes alighted instead on a red gift bag on display. I slowed down to it pick up. It was labeled "Kitty." (No, it wasn't, it was another "K" name).

Unfortunately the slowing down made us miss the first bus, to Wisteria's chagrin.  All was forgiven when we peeked inside.  Examining the contents entertained us on our bus rides.  The brand new items included an automotive additive, electronic calendar that records and counts down to special occasions, the letter "K" to hang on a wall, Christmas pickle that yodels, car air freshener in strawberry and lemonade scents,  large plastic chips and dip dish, new nail files with college logo, reindeer ornament, wall hanging of dog saying, "The cat did it!"

Wisteria claimed the Christmas pickle and we will regift  rehome the other items to other households that may or may not pass them on.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Little and Mighty Survivor

The following is a school assignment written by my dear daughter, Wisteria, who came into our family like a very adorable hurricane through the miracle of international adoption. The overall wait was about 6 years only partially owing to our hatred of paperwork. When we started we were told it would be 6 to 7 months.  However if that happened we wouldn't have met this particular, very dear person. I always wanted to adopt since I read about world overpopulation in the 1970s.  She was considered a special needs child owing to her "advanced" age.  Most people want babies.  At the time we adopted, kids up to the age of 15 were eligible to be adopted.

I believe life is possible to win even when you don't think everything is great and happy. Let me tell you it was not personally great for me back when I was living in ####. I didn't have a mom. She sadly passed away when I was 5 years old. On the other hand, my dad was too busy getting drunk, barely realizing he was hurting himself and hurting me. By the time I was 7 years old, I started running away from home. Walking down the street, I remember smelling all the foods I knew I couldn't have.

But I didn't give up thanks to all the abandoned dogs I found on the way. They made me feel like I had someone. That they understood what I was going through, especially the bulldog I found. It was a girl, she was black and white and followed me everywhere. I tried my best to feed her. I brought her home. My dad took her and from that day I never saw her again. That wasn't the hardest part. Especially hearing your dad or who you thought was your real dad saying, “You're not my real child. I found you in the garbage.”

Still at this point, I'm 14 years old and still wonder who is my dad or mom? Did I ever see them? Or did my dad just say that not knowing what he was saying from all the alcohol? I didn't give up. At that point I was just grateful I had a dad, even though he wasn't there for most of my life. I don't blame him. I always blamed myself. I remember asking myself, “What is wrong with me? Was I really that bad that I ended up in the garbage like a used or unwanted thing?”

By the time I was seven and a half years old, I couldn't deal with my life anymore, so I went to the police and asked them to take me somewhere else that was more happy. They told me there was a place that had many other kids just like me and it would be really fun. There wouldn't be anymore worries and you could go to school and I didn't know what that was because I had never been to school. So at that point, I was so determined to go. I told my dad and he told me, “If you go, I'll kill myself.” I still remember his exact words from that day. But by the time I heard that, it was too late. They took me away. I remember it was a very long drive to get there. When I arrived, I saw everyone was so happy and dancing and talking to each other. But all I did was cry and cry nonstop until they started hitting me. But I still cried as they hit me, because hitting was not new to me. My dad did the same. A few days later, I was settled down at this so-called perfect place called the orphanage. The orphanage, where parents would leave their children that they couldn't raise or have too many of, but that wasn't my situation. I chose to be there, thinking it would be better for me and my dad. Mostly my dad, he never seemed happy or noticed when I ran away or it seemed like it at the time.

My dad came to visit me, he brought some goods, but I didn't care about that. I was so happy to see him and not dead. I begged for him to take me back and we both cried. He said he wanted to but he couldn't because I made my choice. I couldn't change my mind. That was it. Other people could adopt me. He promised to come back and visit me or he'll try, but that never happened. I never heard from him since that day, so I began to run away form the orphanage, which was way harder than running away from home. There are cameras and people everywhere, but somehow I found a way to get out. Not the safest way, I had to climb up walls that were very tall and jump off to get on the other side of the orphanage. Once I got out, I kept running and running as far and fast as I could, to get far from it as possible. I didn't go back on my own at night, the police found me and brought me back. I got hit again and again to teach me a lesson. I didn't care. I kept doing this over and over again while I was at the orphanage and every time the police found me and set me back to the orphanage. Every time I got hit again and again. After a while I gave up. I knew they would just keep finding me, so I had to learn to deal with the orphanage.

So I dealt and when I was eight years old, a family with a disabled kid—I don't remember his name--adopted me thinking I could help their kid and watch him. But he always caused trouble but didn't get into trouble. I got in trouble for him. And it wasn't like the punishment was like no screen time for a week or a time out, you're grounded. Instead they took their boy to a neighbor, so they had time alone with me in the house. The boy's dad would whip me and kick me so hard, something I had never experienced until that day. I kept crying so hard and kept saying, “I didn't do it! I'm so sorry!” But he didn't care. I ended up with black bruises all over my body, except for my face. They told me to cover it, so I did. No one saw it. This happened a few times and they finally got tired of hitting me so they sent me back to the orphanage, saying I was misbehaving and that I didn't listen to anything. When they left, I said my side of the story. I showed my bruised body and the orphanage people were so shocked because of how bad it was. So they took care of my body and the people who hit me really bad. At that moment I never wanted to be adopted ever again/ I didn't want to go through all that pain again.

When I was nine, I heard someone wanted to adopt me from America. At the time, I didn't know where that was and what it was, but I didn't have a say in whether I wanted to be adopted or not. Later on that week, I got a box of the family who wanted me, which is currently my mom, dad, and my older brother. They sent me a picture album of the whole family and the different rooms in the house, including my bedroom, that I sleep in now. I am truly grateful, but at the same time, when this first happened, I was pissed and really scared. They spoke a different language that I couldn't understand. But for the first time, I had the chance to eat anything I wanted, which let me tell you was great. I was so happy, I went a little crazy. It was on the plane, even though I didn't know what it was or what was happening, I cried so much, everyone around was looking at my parents, like, “Can you tell her to shut up?” They looked sorry for my parents. My parents knew I wasn't happy to be leaving ##### and I was scared. When we arrived in America, I was so amazed because there was a lot of snow and this was the year 2011, one of the biggest snow storms. I just kept wanting to play in it because it never snowed in my part of #####, except for 2011 when I left. It seemed like a fairy tale that I had never seen or experienced.

One of the hardest part for me living in America was when I first came and still was learning English and dealing with people who are racist and people who made fun of my English or people not respectful of where I came from. Over the course of fourteen years of living, I learned you can't beat life, but you can always try to make the best of it. This summer, I'm hoping to clear up my bad history in ##### and make it more happy with my new, truly lovely family.


Monday, January 2, 2017

Paving the Road With Good Intentions

Nope, not hoping to end up here! Too toasty even on a cold January night.


My intentions for the New Year are few: 
practice kindness
 (always possible to paraphrase the Dalai Lama), 
bed by 11 pm, exercise most days, reading books I love.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Better Black Bean Soup

A tall jar of black beans had been languishing in the back of my cupboard, for oh, a couple of years at least.  I expected them to cook up dry because of their age and planned several soaks over 24-hours, changing every 8 hours or so.  I cooked them for a very long time with onions and garlic and sea salt. When it was time to go to bed, nigh midnight, I turned off the fire and set out on cold porch to chill. The following day, I test bit into a dry bean sure enough.  Into the Vitamix blender, in batches, whirred, if not smooth, then grainy and soupy.  One batch into the freezer for later. One batch into the fridge to be forgotten for Christmas week stress  joy. Out again tonight. Missing that oomph.  One 16-ounce jar of mild tomato and cilantro salsa, mixed with ladle, heated, and poured over a couple slices of cheddar cheese, turned a bowl into pure delight.

When in doubt, season away, help a dull dish become stellar with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, addition of tomato anything, kwas, pickle juice (especially in beet soup).

Took a long walk in rounds, felt like enough after an hour.  Along the way found drapery pulls and a couple of dvds/movies: Captain Phillips and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants or Jeans. Also saw some actual silver jeans, but sadly not easily accessible.

Wishing you a Happy New Year in 2017.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Washing Things the Hard Way, Goodbye to 2016

I visited my mother on laundry day, joined her in the basement to hang up pieces from the previous wash.  She had about five 5-gallon buckets filled with sudsy water she captured when the washer emptied.  She lifted the lid to stop the water so that we could switch to a new bucket.

When the rinse cycle completed, new laundry filling the tub,  I used 2-gallon buckets to pour the saved, sudsy water back in the washer. The last inch of water at the bottom of each bucket she poured through a sieve to catch the loosened threads.

Then again, capturing the suds, allowing the rise water to fill, lid up so there would be more time to soak. She had another bucket filled with starch to soak tea towels and soak.  She had saved the cooking water from her homemade macaroni for this purpose. She read my face, saying I looked dissatisfied by the process.  I suppose I foolishly and hopefully thought she let the washer complete an entire cycle by itself.  I told her I was worried about the strenuous nature of her lugging 40 pounds of water multiple times.  I have offered to wash for her or collect dirty laundry to wash at my home and then redeliver. She declined each time I offered.  I can see that it was because it wouldn't be done her way.

She has a sturdy top loading washer from the mid-1980s.  Also a never used dryer, unless you count it a a surface for folding. My brothers, then, had disposed of her old, perfectly working wringer model, as a way of saving labor. As long as I lived at her house, she and I washed successive cycles from whites, to light colors, darks, to work clothes and socks in the same soapy water.  Rinsing and wringing by hand in two sides of a cement sink.  Then hanging up to dry outside in fair weather, the basement in foul. When the weather was changed back and forth, the laundry went in an out multiple times as well. That made me a little bit annoyed.

At my home, I wash in a low water HE front loading washer.  I have to completely prewash certain food- or blood-stained things because the stains would only redistribute themselves onto everything else. I hang things up to dry outside.  Clotheslines travel up 3 flights of an open air back porch, diagonally along the railings, straight along the outer fences.  A small, metal folding rack is permanently positioned outside our back door.  Sock, napkins, undies, tea towels dry there.  Two, possible 3 loads will fit along all the lines.  For sanity's sake I try to do one load a day. Two is ok. We rarely use the dryer.  Once on a cold, snowy night I did, only to gnash my teeth at how much white, fluffy fiber was removed from our towels onto the lint trap. So I'll go along, doing things my way.