Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Get Around, Get Around...

Last week I was riding my bike in 37*, on a rural Kansas highway.
Today, this morning, I found myself standing in the pouring, cold rain, in a single-file line in 41*, waiting to go into this courtroom:

Yes!  The Supreme Court of the United States.
Washington, D.C.
Equal justice under the law.
King Solomon the Wise judicial decisions.  (We hope.  Hmm...well, maybe not the splitting the baby in two stuff.)

We, that Spouse o' Mine and I, arrived to D.C. this week.  I always have a perpetual bag packed in my bedroom, and I always have a list of things I want to see and do for any potential city visit.  The Supreme Court was not on MY docket, but it appeared online somewhere, and somewhere it mentioned that there would be arguments heard today.  (I do love me an argument, on occasion.  No; let's call them debates.)  Anyway, here I am and I should take advantage of the opportunity, yes?

I hopped on the Metro early this morning, in the deluge.  Winter coat, good winter boots, an umbrella.  I was set!  Off to Union Station, then a short walk in the downpoor, along with other umbrella-toting folks who were probably going to sensible and interesting jobs on Capitol Hill.  

When I got to the Supreme Court building, there was already a single-file line.  (It was mentioned online, and the passel of police officers confirmed that it WOULD be a single-file line.)  A young lady came back to a group behind me and mentioned that she had been standing in line for two hours.  Yikes!!  (I arrived after 9:00 am, to hopefully be seated in the courtroom at 9:30.  I swear, I am the ultimate optimist.)  

The group of six that she spoke with were standing directly behind me.  They were all 21 years old, as I eavesdropped.  They were senate interns.  They, like, used "like", like, every other word in each sentence.  And when they weren't using "like", they were dropping the f-bomb for every adjective.  They name-dropped any senator, or representative that they could conjure up in their day-to-day dealings.  They discussed salaries.  They talked NON-STOP.       

There were four young people standing in front of my in the single-file line.  They were students from George Washington University, and they were there on class assignment.  I don't know if they were law, or pre-law students.  I do know that they were polite and quiet and did not enter into any objectionable conversations. 

After the single-file line had grown to around the corner block, the police walked through to explain what would transpire: some of us would be seated for the entire argument (~ 90 minutes), and the rest of us would be allowed in for 10-minute seats.

I was one of the 10- minute seats.  In hindsight, after hearing the court case and not understanding much of it, probably my ten minutes was good enough.  I would have liked 20 minutes, and not the entire 90 minutes, I think, but I'll take what I can get.  

After filing through (single file) two security details, I made it into the Supreme Court court room.  And yes: the doorway leading into the courtroom was draped in black wool "bunting".  Justice Scalia's chair was draped in black fabric, as well.  And in front of his area of the desk was also draped in black, just beside Chief Justice John Robert's chair.  (That must feel odd, for all the Justices.)

I got to listen to just a brief snippet of the goings-on in the court room, and I had a hard time following the subject.  I was surprised at a couple of moments of levity in the process, where the justices and others would chuckle at some of the questioning.  Justice Ginsberg must be as small as I am, for she looked perched at her desk as low as I do at any given restaurant table.  Justice Alito rocked in his chair the entire time I was watching.  Clarence Thomas has very white hair.  

And so it went.  Shortly, I got a tap on the shoulder and I heard, "You must stand up now..." and that was my cue that my ten minutes were up.

I am so happy I went to experience the Supreme Court in session.  At least now I can visualize those folks when I read about them.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekend Morning

Saturday morning appeared with pinks and what I call "swimming pool greens" in the sky.  I was up and at 'em just before sunrise.  By 7:00 am, I was ready to head out on a bike ride.  Trouble was that the temperature was low, just as the wind speed.  If one can make that comparison.

We local women have a Facebook page to post when anyone is planning a bike ride.  There are upwards of 80-90 of us women cyclists (or purported cyclists, cyclist wannabes, and maybe some on the list that just enjoy living vicariously through the rest of us).  (EDIT:  I just checked our numbers, and we are 106 female cyclists!)  We keep this FB page for a couple of reasons: comradery, and safety.  Firstly, it's great fun to ride in groups, and secondly, with this "private" page, we women can give our meeting and cycling destinations with a bit more security than just announcing on one of the local "list-serves".  Although we often have men ride with us, some of our group rides are just us gals.

I jotted a quick note on FB, telling my route, speed, and ETA to a good meeting place down the road ten miles.  That Spouse o' Mine already had cycling plans with another Saturday group, but my route meant that he and I could ride the first ten miles together.  This is always a pleasure on our weekends.
Off we went!  It was cold: 37º for the first four miles.  I don't think either of us realized that we would feel the chill through our winter gear...but we sure did.  I wondered if my cheeks would frostbite, and he would periodically sit up straight and put his gloved hands under his arms.

This is winter desperation, folks.  No snow to be had, and so, cycling, it is.

We got to the ten-mile mark, where we parted ways and I waited five minutes for any women to join me for my return trip.  Seeing no takers come round the bend, I turned my bike to head back home.  That's when two men came round the bend, and I knew them!  They are super-speedy, super serious about cycling and racing, and triathlons and such. And, super nice.  We exchanged quick chit-chat, and after they ascertained that I did not need any help, they sped off down the road.  ZOOM!

About a half-mile later, I passed them.  They had stopped to take off winter layers.  We chatted for only a moment, and I was off!  Maybe two miles later, they passed me again, and we laughed in our Saturday morning enjoyment of all conditions perfect: Saturday morning, few cars, rising temps, no wind, and lots of friends and acquaintances cycling on the road that morning.

Such a good way to enjoy Saturday morning.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Bento. Turkey. And Ashes.

Bento, (弁当 bentō?), is a take-out or home-packed meal that is common in Japan.  And now,also common in the U.S.A. - particularly for kids' school lunches.  I know I would have been "one of those Moms" who made bento for my kids, back in the day.  Bento looks to be healthier and more interesting than the standard fare one might see in an elementary school cafeteria. 

Last year I purchased Bento-ish boxes at IKEA.  They look something like this, sans the food:

Like little old Tupperwares, with dividers.
 That's right: everything old is new again, yes? 

That Spouse o' Mine and I had been
 traveling (flying) a fair amount, and neither of us were happy with the dining offerings of any domestic flight we had experienced.  (International travel entails that the airline takes a wee bit better care and attention to the passengers' needs and comforts.  No cockpit crew wants to be between Iceland and Scotland {last and first two land masses from North America to Europe} or somewhere across the South Pacific with a diabetic emergency or worse.)  

So now I have gotten into the practice of packing bento for us when we travel.
 I usually put in something like dolmas (stuffed grape leaves), bitty tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, and some crackers or biscuits. These are more-or-less finger foods.  I HATE plastic forks and knives and spoons.  HATE.  So, finger food, it is.  

I will have to interject here:
 If I/we have checked baggage, know that I have packed a stainless spoon, fork, and knife (knives) into the luggage.  I HATE plastic.  I also pack myself a china teacup - something I have done since my flight attendant days some 30-odd years ago.  It makes that hotel room coffee taste just a wee bit better.  I can almost get through The Weather Chanel's forecast if I have my china cup warming my hands. 

 Google: Bento.  
Or, check out these two links for some bento ideas  :

Now: on to TURKEY:
I have a turkey in the oven tonight, mid-February.  
I am going to Istanbul in April.  (More on that, in April.)  
The turkey in the oven is a HUGE bird.  I got it right after the Christmas holidays, for a pittance.  ($13.00???)  A mere pittance.  I am roasting it tonight, and tomorrow it shall become a meal for our community's Emergency Shelter (read: homeless).  I am going to add it to lots of fun organic vegetables ("organic" is not a requirement, but Sam's Club offered it, and I took the bait.), along with some biscuits to top the casserole, and I hope that my turkey & biscuits, plus the cranberries I have (thanks to a cranberry farm with whom I do business) will make a half-way dandy meal for some who may be in a slack tide of their lives.  So, the bird was ~ $13.00, the vegetables were ~ $12.00, the cranberries=free, a bag of oranges (for cranberries and for fresh fruit) ~ $7.00.  That's not much, in order to fed ~40+ people.  I know from experience that I will find "one more dish" or "one more thing" to add to the menu.  (I already know that this week's addition is going to be a largish cheese plate.  A local grocery had a clearance on some very nice cheese {read: not Superbowl queso}, and I bought up the lot.)   Ooh!  I also spied some cream puffs in the basement freezer.  What a lovely touch to a Valentine weekend which may/may not wish to be celebrated with giant red and pink hearts?

So you see?
 Sometimes it doesn't even take a village.  Each time I deliver a meal to the emergency shelter (usually once every-other-week), I say a prayer that the food might be a blessing for all in the shelter.  I don't know, though.  Some weeks I receive some feedback, and some, I don't.  I don't know if I have made enough, or if they groaned because they already had pulled pork and vegetables three times that week, or what.  But I do try.

And now, to the ashes:

It's Ash Wednesday!
 Some denominations hold Ash Wednesday services. Mine does. I did go.  I was fulfilled.  (I guess this is where I say, "Thanks be to God!")

I do not like Lent, and I have written about its dark season before Easter.
 I have also repeated this, my sister's phone call to me years ago:
"I know what I am giving up for Lent."
And that was our funny, freeing spring of fun.  
I miss my sister.

Lent we are in, and it's a season of introspection and thought.
 You know what?  That's a good thing. We should all think about serious things, void of the internet. Let's hush the Hollywood awards, hush the upcoming Olympics, and hush Presidential primaries, (but, yes, please pray for our country's future?).  

Let us focus on our own
 Christian needs and how we serve others.  Yes? 

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Spring Cleaning Before the Fact

It's not Spring but today I cleaned.

A lot.  I was in an angry twit.

Through this little home-based business I run, selling horticultural testing instruments to orchard growers (yawn), I have cause this time of year to make shipments to places in South America and the Southern hemisphere.  I have been doing this for more than fifteen years.  I sort of know how to run the show.  Occasionally, I run into a glitch or a new rule or federal regulation that creates a temporary pause in my day.

I sent a shipment out to Peru yesterday.  (Note: I had been working on this sale for TWO years: a big durn deal for a new customer in a NEW country.)  Today I got a phone call from our shipping people, stating that that they were missing some required paperwork.

"No, you're not."

"We require ----."

"No, you don't.  Someone is mistaken."

"We can't ship it unless we have ----."

And so the conversation went, all morning and all afternoon, between eight people from the shipping company and me.  They were wrong, I was right.  (So I contended.)  In that each person from the shipping company kept transferring me to another office, I was pretty much grounded at home all day long.  And boy, was I frustrated.  Because: They were wrong.   I was right.

Add to this fun and games, the fact that my new "fiber optic internet" went out mid-afternoon.  No home-based internet communication here in rural Kansas.  

I cleaned out the refrigerator while I waited for a phone call.  And I cleaned everything out from under the kitchen sink.  A couple more phone calls.  I cleaned the oven.  Another phone call...

I moved into the dining room, and cleared everything away from the east wall: dining chairs, hung paintings, etc.  I emptied the china cabinet, so that it could be moved for what will be a monumental repair:  the entire east wall of our ca. 1887 plaster & lathe wall needs addressed.

Towards the end of the "workday", I received a phone call worth some satisfaction towards my plight.  In fact, I WAS right, and they were wrong.

At least, that's what I was told at the end of my day.  The shipment is out of Kansas and heading to parts deep south, without the questionable paperwork.  Well...tomorrow may well tell a different tale.

What I have is a prematurely-Spring-cleaned kitchen.

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