See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Kill No Weevil

Last week, one of my cats did something weird.

That statement, in and of itself, is a little unusual, as this particular cat is always doing something weird—talks to lamp shades, tests the running water temperature from a faucet before agreeing to drink from it, and as she’s left-handed, she insists on ergonomic southpawed Fiskars, so for me to notice … well, I think you get my point.

This new particularly weird thing was her staring at a small crack in the wall. A puncture wound of sorts, straight through the plaster. And then the next day, she put both her paws on either side of that wound, standing meercat style, and began a new phase of the “what’s behind the wall” festival.

I sat there with her for a while one day. Heard nothing, smelled nothing, and I certainly didn’t get any of the creepy, hair-raising, goosebump inducing feelings she’s produced in me before when discovering that she’s likely communicating with someone who died in that general vicinity (I spent a fair amount of time this last year in an old cottage that once served as a hospital for a Civil War arsenal compound, and this cat—along with all the house cats—spent countless hours with wide-eyed expressions, howling at a stairwell.).  

This time was still just a mystery waiting to be solved.

But as of last night, my dog joined her in the wall staring competition. Now two furfaces were trying to convince me that I should take a sledgehammer to that plaster work just to see what has taken up residence there.

Again, I sat with them both as they studied the inner cladding of my laundry room, its blinding whitewash lacquer revealing nothing and instead simply generating the occasional cock of one of their heads. Alas, we must remember, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

I would have agreed without argument that both could hear something my ears were not privy to—the pattering of mouse feet, the fluttering of insect wings, the terrifying audio NASA has just released from a black hole at the center of the Perseus galaxy cluster—if it weren’t for the fact that one of them was stone deaf.

But maybe there is scent as well as sound, as the deaf hound can certainly still identify from three rooms away the fact that I ate a piece of bacon twelve hours ago.

I’ve called the pest company I have a quarterly contract with, and they gave me the choice of a visit from someone on their varmint team or a technician within their paranormal investigations department, but either way, they’ll be dressed in a hazmat suit and would be spraying some sort of exorcistical holy water. I’m still deciding.

At one point, during one of the bewhiskered gatherings, I joined in. I sat on the floor, stared at the plaster puncture, and focused. Things grew a little blurry and I began to feel like I was searching and waiting for a Magic Eye image to appear—some 3D illusion requiring patience and perhaps a lost instruction booklet to successfully view.

Image credit: Sally Flicker

Then I closed my eyes and simply focused on sound. The hound is barrel-chested; therefore, his breath is so audible, one can nearly hear all the pleural friction taking place in his ancient lungs. The cat has a habit of licking her lips and swallowing frequently, which to me indicates that whatever’s behind the barrier is either worthy of salivating over or she is fostering a nervous tick revealing how she’s trying not to freak out. It might also point toward dental disease, but that’s a next month’s problem.

While the three of us concentrated on something only two of us were truly aware of, a second cat slinked in. She looked about the room, quietly assessed the vibe, and then crawled into my lap, wedging one bony shoulder into the crook of my knee and keeping one eye open whilst the other took a break. The next few minutes of silence was equal parts unsettling and soothing.

The next afternoon I came upon the weird cat, again, simply paying homage to the drywall. I sat down, assumed the position, and waited for the wooden floor patter of the remaining eight softly padded paws to make their way to our small, shared space—which they shortly did.

And whether everyone was intrigued by the invisible entity, waiting with curious anticipation as to its reveal, or some were simply there to catch half a face full of shuteye, what was clear was that this chunk of fading linoleum was becoming a slightly sacred space.

And apparently, we were settling in for a spell.

And perhaps a spell is what we were under, as the next thirty minutes escaped unnoticed. Maybe this was the point—maybe that peaceful half hour was meant to be experienced in a state of heightened oblivion. Not asleep, not awake, just present, like the thing we could not see.

A ringing telephone brought us out of our stupor with the answering machine announcing, “Hey, this is Marvin from the Ratty Shack. I hear you’ve got a problem. Give me a call and we’ll get rid of it.”

I then stared down at the blinking, watery, and in some cases, cataract clouded eyes of my fur family and said, “I vote we wait on Marvin. Same time same place tomorrow?” We left in tacit agreement.

Life goes on. Pestful but peaceful.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Success Has Many Fathers … and Mothers, Teachers, and Mentors.

My daughter sent me a cartoon today, the day after she and many others participated in the successful and somewhat unfathomable feat of landing a rover on Mars.

Countless people have reached out to congratulate me with phrases like—Proud Mom, Rockstar Applause, or #dreamcometruekudos. They are all lovely and wholly touching sentiments that are full of genuine warmth and well wishes. And I have received every single one of them with the same affection they have been delivered.

But I also understand now more than ever, and certainly see crystalized in the cartoon above, how each one of us is such a small part of the larger picture. Our accomplishments are a composition of all the people who have touched our lives in big ways and small.

And although there are no moments when her and her team have a red-carpet opportunity to say thank you to the countless individuals who helped land them where they are today, I have been lucky to hear myriad conversations where endless individuals unrelated to the team have been singled out with gratitude and admiration.

If we live with fortune on our side, we may traverse down a long path where we first begin in need of great assistance—and it is provided—then turn the bend where we become part of a team, helping to shoulder the load, and finally, march at the head of the herd, leading with confidence birthed from experience.

I think most of us would agree there are few people who claim they deserve solo credit and are entirely self-made, as we simply need to reflect for mere moments to discover that at some time, somewhere, someone opened a door for us—even if just a crack.

Perseverance, the Mars 2020 rover, and the red planet’s newest resident is an ideal example of how collective desires came together to create something extraordinary. It was first envisioned, then built by loving hands, meticulously developed for a far-reaching and incredibly ambitious purpose, and finally unleashed, propelled forward with trepidation, but ultimately with immeasurable fingerprints of hope attached to it. We wait with bated breath and watch from afar, occasionally offering support, but mostly crossing our fingers that Perseverance will do what she was always meant to.

It’s true, not every child is built by loving hands, or has the opportunities we know would be most profitable and rewarding for them, but the model is there. And reaching one’s potential is a much more arduous challenge, if not an impossible accomplishment, if one is faced with a solo journey.

As our planet swirls with the ebb and flow of prosperity and unrest, we are continuously reminded about the importance of the investment in our future. And our children are clearly our future. They need us to dream them into reality, to nurture them toward potential, and open the doors to their success.

Each one of us has something worthy of contributing to this planet’s collective children whether we are their earliest preschool mentors, the physics instructor who hinted you might not be capable of work in his classroom knowing it would be used as a motivating phrase to prove him wrong, or the person who gave them a summer job in a field they had no idea they’d soon develop an interest in. We are all teachers in some realm. Big and small, positive and negative, impactfully lasting or eventually forgettable.

And it is with these words that I am encouraged. Our roles in life may differ, as we may never be the individual who wins the contest, who is elected to the post, or who discovers the earthshattering cure, but we are part of the journey where others reach those heights. Every rung on the ladder makes the toilsome climb less cumbersome and more realizable.

Therefore, not only do I send a massive congratulations to all who made this spectacular and otherworldly feat a reality, but I cast a wide net of gratitude to all the people who helped to develop my child’s dreams and earthly purpose.

Thank you for your loving hands, as it is up to all of us to play our part, wherever we are on our individually calibrated path of life, to participate in the projects of building great things, or maybe more importantly, building great people.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Perseverance: It’s a Rover, It’s an Attitude, and It’s the Illusion Your Internet is not Possessed

I’d been waiting for years—literally years for this day. The momentous achievement of mankind’s drive plus Mother Nature’s good nature blending to successfully explode off this planet with the intent to mine another for life.

I know that sounds a little cryptic, so I’ll rephrase.

I would confidently say I can nail the moment my firstborn knew she wanted to be part of a team of people who propelled objects off the planet with the hope of landing them on any other orb.

It was somewhere in between her firm commitment to understand propulsion by studying toys as she repeatedly chucked them out of her crib and the choice of her first words: air pane.

Her eyes continually scanned the sky—spotting the tiniest of specks—following their trajectory until out of view.

The schooling from then till now far surpassed my levels of understanding somewhere around upper middle school—and I could spot the trend as early as fifth grade when she’d apparently announced to her math teacher that the curriculum was far too easy and please place her in an advanced class.

Her teacher, of course, called to inquire as to whether I had pushed my child to this task, and I replied saying, “Nope. My math goals for my kids are to make sure they can balance their checkbooks, not work on Wall Street.”

It was always shocking to walk into Chloe’s bedroom and see the walls plastered and the floor scattered with the computational hieroglyphics of what I believed belonged either on the cell walls of a madman, or the stone walls of a caveman.

Apparently, they were assignments.

They could have been blueprint ciphers for a big bank robbery she was involved in. I couldn’t tell.

Eventually, she figured out the entrance code to a crackerjack college and thereafter received the passwords that landed her a position on that long ago dreamed of team.

Chloe now works for her personal godhead of all space agencies and has been preparing for the very same day I’ve been preparing for, only with a little bit more effort.

I’d say we’re nearly matched on enthusiasm though.

NASA’s new rover—an adorable little fella named Perseverance—could have easily been first prototyped by Pixar, as it has been anthropomorphized with heartfelt fervor and will no doubt have Disney releasing some new full-length animation about its hero’s journey shortly.

Perseverance was scheduled to leave our Earth around July 17, 2020, but due to some last minute touch-ups with makeup, and NASA’s motherly stuffing a few more bits in the little guy’s backpack before stepping his first foot onto the Atlas V bus, his launch date was delayed until July 30th.

The preparations leading up to this date went something like this:

Chloe: Would you like to come to the launch site next year in July as my guest?

Me: Hella yes.

Chloe: Mother, I am about to be issued your guest pass for launch date. It’s five months out yet. Do you still want to come?

Me: Hella yes.

Chloe: Mother, this Covid thing may be a concern. There’s been some talk about a possible spread. Are you still in?

Me: Umm … yeah, mostly.

Chloe: Mother? Have you made a will? I know it’s only May, but I can’t wait to see you.

Me: Wait. What?

Chloe: Launch is just two weeks away, and I’m guessing you’re not coming.

Me: Chloe, I desperately want to, but I’ve been told that in Florida, the moment you disembark the plane, you’re handed a flyer—not for timeshares anymore, but cemetery plots. I’m thinking I’m going to have to Zoomcall into NASA on this one, kiddo.

Chloe: I understand. I’ll make sure you’ve got the right links and time schedule.

Me: Yippy!

Let’s skip forward to the big day, links and lineup of launch window noted.

Twenty minutes before launch:

Chloe: Remember, the most important and crucial stages to watch are—of course—lift off, then less than a minute later the rocket has to make it through Max-Q—that’s critical, and then, about an hour after that, comes Atlas V’s rocket separation from the spacecraft. Got it?

Me: You betcha!

Laptop open, ready, live. Countdown in progress. T-minus 50 seconds … (I hold my breath and watch the clock.) 10… 9… 8… (insert squeals of excitement) 5 … 4 … 3 … (aaaand—stream on screen freezes)

Me: Wait! NOOOO!!! (tosses computer, scrambles for smartphone, howls while relinking link)

NASA: With the RD-180 main engine running, the Atlas V vehicle successfully rises vertically away from Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Me: Dammit! Dammmm– I stop mid-blubber, as I suddenly recall there’s no time for tears. It’s Max-Q time!

Me: (Link is relinked. Eyes are peeled on rocket. Fingers are crossed for all good luck gods to see.)

NASA: T + 43 …

Me: (stream on smartphone screen freezes) gasp … looks to sky … shouts obscenity

NASA: (hourglass stops spinning and smartphone reconnects) The Atlas V rocket passed through the region of maximum dynamic pressure during ascent through the lower atmosphere.

Me: YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!

I cry a little. Shower. Make coffee. Reboot both screens and sit through countless minutes of perky NASA spokespeople who remind me of what I’ve missed and, of course, highlight what’s to come.

I place laptop and phone a small distance away from me in case I’m the one with bad juju energy. But it doesn’t matter …

NASA Perky People: After accelerating the Mars 2020 spacecraft to a velocity of 24,785 mph, or about 11 kilometers per second, relative to Earth, the Centaur upper stage shut down its engine and is now re-orienting itself into the proper position for separation of the Mars 2020 payload.

Me: NASA, stop with the teaser trailer, and why don’t you admit what’s really gonna happen on my side of the screen.

NASA: It is now T + 57 minutes and the Centaur—

Me: (both screens freeze) Bingo.

I knew it. I knew it would happen. It was no surprise.

Chloe texted twenty minutes later with words that sounded like she was skipping across a playground with a Popsicle in each hand.

Chloe: Did you see it? Did you see iiiiit?!!

Me: Success! Congratulations, kiddo! How utterly thrilling, right?

Chloe: I’ve been waiting my whole life for this day. Wasn’t it amazing to see it live?

Me: Well …

Chloe: Oh, sorry, Mom. You know what I mean. I got to see it live, but seeing the livestream is only a couple seconds delayed. It’s still amazing, yes?

Me: It’s so amazing.

Chloe: And at least you’re safe at home. I’m sure it was the right choice.

Me: *sob*

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

Black-Eyed Peas: Apparently Good Fortune Comes from Good Fiber

If ever I needed proof that I am only mid-way through the birthday year where I naively wished for a spate of fresh challenges, it has fallen into my lap like spilt New Year’s champagne.

Any thoughts that the clinking of bubble-filled liquid in crystal would somehow wipe the slate clean and bring me respite was about as viable as believing hugging a skunk would turn out favorably.

I’ve have witnessed those who’ve tried and made a wide berth of their error.

And if I believed my deceased female relatives—a band of cackling, clever ancestors to whom I sent this credulous ‘speak-to-the-dead’ request to—had left their watchful posts for one instant when the clock struck its first moment of 2020, I was sorely proven wrong.

They are nothing if not dogged, steadfast, and no doubt thoroughly enjoying themselves.

It has been half a year of watching me trip over my tongue, toes, and trifling talents and land ungainly in cow-pie patties so stench-ridden they even give pause to most dogs.

I have hosed off and gotten back in the proverbial saddle more times than a handful of stuntmen. And my message to them on this fresh first month of the year is thus:

Go choke on it.

As of now—simply two weeks into 2020—I have the new and unwanted experiences of

  • One dead deer
  • One damaged car (soon to be …)
  • One dead car
  • One dead residential water system
  • One restored residential water system minus one toilet
  • One dead computer
  • One restored computer (think snail with a limp type vitality)
  • One partial electrical failure
  • Two partial electrical failures
  • Three whole electrical failures
  • A request from the IRS to provide all receipts from when I was fourteen and started working part-time in a strawberry patch.
  • Lost productive work hours wishing for the traumatic fatality of the IRS

 

I’m sure with one refreshing glance upward you can pinpoint the theme present in abundance:

I’m in need of a drink.

And likely an exorcist.

I’m not entirely sure what kind of a kick these vengeful visitors are experiencing as they continue to shovel calamity upon calamity in my direction, but referring back to that whole “spot the motif” concept, my guess is they have some sort of monthly execution quota to fulfil, and I was an opportunistic target.

Or … it could be that thing I did in the grocery store on December 31st.

I walked through the produce section to pick up a few last-minute things for dinner. There, squeezed between three elderly turnips and a basketful of withering Brussels sprouts was a bag of black-eyed peas.

I picked them up and rolled my eyes—which must have made a loud sound—or it could have been that my eye-rolling was accompanied by some giant snort, because a tall sapling pretending to be a human scuffled over to see what was amiss.

Is there a problem, ma’am?

I glanced up at the young man’s employee name tag. Just bemused by the fact that a package of dried black-eyed peas is mixed in with the fresh produce, Leverette.

He studied the sad display. Well, because it’s New Year’s.

I scratched my head. But they’re dried.

He shrugged. Doesn’t make ‘em any less potent.

I must have rolled my eyes again because he continued. Surely you aren’t one of those scoffers, are you, ma’am? One of the reasons we place them here is for ease of access. A reminder of necessary tradition.

I picked up the sad sack of Brussels sprouts. I’m more into “necessary nutrition.”

Leverette’s eyes went wide, and he jabbed a pointy finger toward a faded insignia on my hoodie. NASA thinks they’re good enough. They’ve been test-growing them for years in fake space vehicles and Martian greenhouses.

I narrowed my eyes at him and then whipped out my phone. Standby, Leverette.

I texted my daughter.

Uh … sure, that sounds like a thing we’d do was her reply.

Dammit.

I threw my nose into the air and glanced back up to catch the supercilious expression Leverette now displayed. I’ll pass, I said, and gave him a wave. Then I mumbled something under my breath about going home to make a pot of four-leaf clover soup.

Apparently, the witches were watching.

And likely rubbing their hands together with glee.

Which I find extra annoying as it makes the scent of one of those old aunties materialize. And it is an aroma that was long ago burned into my brain as specifically identifiable to her. All musk, earth, and sandalwood steeped in the smoke of her long, thin Virginia slims.

Well, that’s what I guessed they were, but I was young, and for all I know she could have been smoking incense sticks.

But the scent is present, and I’m sure it’s her.

Or it could be the wires in the walls finally sparking and smoldering. Chances are that’s what’s next on the list.

As I sit in the dark and shine a flashlight on my taxes, I try to hearten my gloomy mood with the acceptance that it’s only another five months.

I then load up another spoonful of black-eyed peas and force myself to swallow it.

Because who couldn’t use a little extra fiber, right?

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.

 

Science is a Work of Art … and a Headache Full of Math

I have a love-hate relationship with physics.

I love the way it sounds as a word. It’s a pleasurable one to say—like cupcakery, flibbertigibbet, or I’ve just won the lottery.

Okay, that last one is not so much a fun word to say as it would be a fun phrase to shout.

But “physics” is lovely to pronounce.

I also love that it works the way people expect it to—airplanes alight, bowling balls roll, people don’t fall off when on the upside-down part of Earth’s rotation—stuff like that.

I appreciate—nay, love—that so many people on this planet understand the science that studies the nature and properties of matter and energy.

But what I hate … is that I’m not one of them.

It’s not that I haven’t tried, because I have. I really have. As in sat down, read books, attended lectures, asked questions, did experiments. All that jazz. Definitely not half-hearted attempts to crack the codes of complex concepts.

It was effortful work.

But it just didn’t stick.

It never does, and I feel entirely deflated with the results.

Currently, I’m working on an art installation project with someone whose background is both fine arts and engineering. We have a massive canvas which we’ve agreed to apportion and parcel between us, settling upon no theme other than some sort of Venn diagram of shared experiences.

My first outlined section involves a three-headed snake, slithering downward through the seven levels of celestial existence, depicting the metaphysical realms of deities and including the classical planets and fixed stars.

It’s pretty.

His is a physical representation of irrational numbers. It is lines both curved and precisely angled.

It is math.

I said, Can you see how mine shows the concept of the divine wrestling with—

I get it. He broke in, nodding. I’ve studied religious antiquity through art. It’s pretty straightforward. Now can you see how mine is the answer?

I squinted at the canvas. The answer to what?

To everything.

Everything? I echoed.

Yes. To the universe, to space, time, you, me, the existence and meaning of everything your mind can conjure.

My mind was not conjuring. My mind had stumbled to a cracking fat halt.

I don’t get it, I said, feeling a hot creeping blush move across my face. Where’s the formula part?

I received a look of incredulity. He pointed to the canvas. It’s right there. Where the lines and arcs intersect and join. It’s all present. It’s simple. It’s elegant. It’s beautiful.

He moved across the canvass, sweeping his hand from one point to another. Five or six minutes passed where words like “thermodynamics,” “quantum mechanics,” and “electromagnetism” were meshed with phrases like “the laws of motion” and “Bose-Einstein state of matter,” and “Are you truly not getting this?”

It made me worry. Again.

As I am currently on my way to see my daughter in her place of work. It’s a place that makes spaceships.

And everyone there comprehends all the words and phrases of physics to a point so deeply understood they can be trusted with millions of tax dollars that gets sent up to planets we all hope might one day hold a few Starbucks.

Her colleagues are the kind of people who could easily look at my art partner’s portion of our canvas and say, Yeah, man. That’s so beautiful.

They are the kinds of people who have pi tattoos, and blow-up dolls of Newton sitting a desks at work, and regularly visit therapists for anger management issues related to Flat-Earthers.

Chloe is, understandably, a little bit nervous, as in the past, when touring the facilities that educated her to qualify for her current place of employment, I apparently asked questions that left the occasional professor befuddled and giving her a second sideways assessment as to whether she may have been adopted.

Those questions usually involved time travel and multiverses—which at those moments were, in my defense, valid and being discussed by true blue scientists and not stripped from episodes of Star Trek.

And it’s not like I was asking whether all the orbiters and rovers we’ve been sending up were going to be interfering with my monthly horoscope.

Besides, I much prefer divination by means of flour. There is nothing more accurate than aleuromancy, as Chinese fortune cookies have yet to let me down.

So as I sit in my assigned seat on a fancy flying machine that surely neither Newton nor Galileo could have imagined, I am left staring out the window and wondering what I could possibly add to the art installation that could stand up to “the answer to everything,” whether I would find anything comprehendible when shortly visiting Chloe’s spacefaring factory, and whether my luggage would arrive at my final destination.

Pulling out my daily ration of much relied upon soothsaying, I cracked open my rice cookie and read today’s fortune:

A closed mouth gathers no feet.

Surely, this could be voted as a potential fourth law of motion.

I will consider it.

~Shelley

For the time being, the blog is closed to comments, but if you enjoyed it, maybe pass it on to someone else. Email it, Facebook it, or print it out and make new wallpaper for the bathroom. If it moves you, show it some love and share. Cheers!

Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery and what we all gossiped about down in the pub. Or check out last month’s post and catch up.