Thursday, March 17, 2016

What you C is what you get, the middle.

This the middle of my favorite things that begin with the letter C. I've all ready written about number one & two of my five favorite things that begin with the letter C in the previous post. Now here is number three of my five favorite things that begin with the letter C:

3. Cats

I love pussy! There, I've said it! I like to play with them, stroke them, & luv to hear them purr as I caress & pet them. I love cats, & they love me! They look gorgeous & are very soft, warm, & silky.
They're also pretty smart & make great companions. Not to mention they are masters at exterminating vermin!

Not only are cats valued for their hunting skills, in my family, especially on my mother's side, cats hold a sacred place of honor. We respect them & revere them for their gift to the family. It's a long tale, maybe I'll write it out someday, or maybe not. Some stories, especially family myths & legends are best told around a fire in the dark mysteries & magic of the night. Long story short:

In the history of family lore, an ancestor saved a cat & took very good care of it for many years til the cat died of old age. The cat repaid the ancestor's kindness by becoming a herald to the family. When someone in the family was about pass on, a cat would cry out, a phantom cat no one would find. And in a dream that night, the cat would reveal who would pass on soon, giving the family members time to make peace & say goodbye before the end comes. And it is a precious gift that we have cherished for generations, one that those of us who believe have witnessed time & time again, always grateful for the rare opportunity to make peace, settle matters, & bid farewell to loved ones before they passed on.

I will always be grateful for having cats in my life. Growing up on the farm, we had two to ten cats at any given time. Our cats were great mousers, & their pest control skills were highly valued. Mice, birds, cockroaches, grasshoppers, centipedes, & other pests were killed with ease by our cats. I've even seen them take out some reptiles & arachnids!

Even dogs wouldn't mess with our cats,  because our cats fought as one pack. And when some strange dogs would pick a fight with our dogs, our cats would actually stand with our dogs & join with our dogs to attack the enemies. My two brothers & I thought that was normal, til our neighborhood friends said no, it was just our cats that did that, so that made them even more special. I suspect they stuck with the dogs because the cats themselves were raised & socialized with the dogs, so in their minds, they were one pack. They ate together, they slept together, & even played together. It seemed natural that they would spend time with each other.

Our cats were fierce but very gentle & affectionate, & they loved falling asleep on our laps or letting us play with them or stroke their soft fur. A few actually enjoyed playing fetch! Most times, they'd be passed out on the porch bench, sleeping in the warm sun or underneath the cool shade. It was pretty normal to have them sleeping in the same room with someone taking a nap or watching tv, reading a book, or doing some other task. That they were always present seemed right & made the place feel like home.

As impressive as their fighting & killing skills were, our cats never attacked the chickens & ducks & their chicks on the farm. In fact, they never attacked any of the livestock or other farm animals, just the vermin & other critters that meant them harm. Still, their hunting prowess was so excellent that we had people begging for the kittens. But we never gave them away, because our parents truly believed that the cats were a part of the family, & you don't give family away. Our cats started out as strays that we found & raised. And once adopted into the family, they became a part of the family, & we would never ever part with them.

My mother actually stopped an attempted robbery, when a stranger from the next village tried to steal our cats, but the cats fought back, raised a ruckus that alerted the dogs who came barking & biting, sending out the alarm to my mother that something was amiss.

My mother goes to the barn to find the stranger screaming, trying to fight off the clawing cats coming at him from the rafters, & the barking dogs which actually managed to bite his legs as he scrambled up the post, leaving him bleeding from the broken skin & his jeans in tatters from the dog bites.

A call to the police led to the stranger's arrest after my Mom managed to calm the animals down & let the police haul the would be kidnapper away. Come to find out, the failed thief had heard about our cats hunting skills & was going to steal them to sell to other farmers in other villages who were desperate for good cats to eliminate vermin on the property.

In the end, my parents decided not to press any charges, & let the thief go free, partly out of mercy, partly because they felt justice had been served. They figured he'd all ready suffered enough, & the entire village & neighboring ones would have learned an important lesson. Don't try to steal our pets, because you will fail & get seriously hurt!

The first cat we had that I remember was a black tiger striped cat. My parents found her mewling in a garbage can, where some terrible person had dumped her at the marketplace. My parents brought the kitten home, cleaned her up, & nursed her back to health. When they asked my two brothers & me what to name it, we came up with "Kitty". Not terribly imaginative, but hey, we were 3, 4, & 5 year olds, so give us a break!

We did a lot better a few days later when our dad comes home with an orange tiger striped kitten he had found mewling in the dump behind his work. He couldn't find any other kittens & there was no mother cat around. He suspected this kitten was dumped, too, so he brought it home. My brothers & I named him "Tiger", because he looked like a little tiger.

Surprisingly, our female dog took a shine to
the kittens, & often stuck close to them, sharing sleep space & food. It's probably why our cats are so close to our dogs & why they developed such strong bonds with them.

Eventually, Kitty & Tiger grew into great mousers, & they had kittens of their own. Over the course of the years, we had a few more strays come into our home & become part of the family. We loved our cats. They were not only hardworking, keeping the place vermin free, but they made great companions & playmates, often seeking out our company & content to just share a space or sleep in peace. Occasionally, they left us offerings of dead mice & birds & insects that they had slaughtered. It was a gross, yet fascinating, reminder to us of their awesome skills & value to the farm & family.

Our cats lived long lives. Most were still alive when I left home. The only cat we had that passed away was Pirate, the one eyed black & white tuxedo cat. He was an old stray that used to live at the old church, & my parents used to feed him treats when we would go to church & see him about. We never knew if Pirate was born with one good eye or if he hurt/lost one due to injury/illness. But that one eye did not seem to bother him one bit. We thought it gave him character; we thought it made him look like a pirate, so we named him so, while everyone else at the church just called him 'That cat'. And other than my family & the neighborhood kids, everyone else ignored the cat or treated it as a nuisance.

When they tore down the old church to build a new, much bigger one, Pirate actually followed us home! When we got home, he followed us to the kitchen where we fed him, then he sauntered over to a living room windowsill, stretched, then laid down to sleep. And that would be his spot for the next decade or so. He'd venture out to the porch every now & then, disappear, & then we'd see him killing vermin for a while before coming back indoors for meals or to return to his post on the windowsill.

The other cats took to Pirate well enough. They played a few times, but mostly, they let the old cat sleep. And every now & then, Pirate would occasionally rub up against our legs as a signal that he wanted to be held, & we gladly complied. He was mostly a content cat, we couldn't help feeling relaxed & happy when he was around.

Once, during a church visitation to our farm, the wife of the visiting deacon, recognizing Pirate as the old church cat, tried to claim him, saying he belonged to the church & needed to be at the new church to kill the mice infesting the new church. My dad objected, saying Pirate was our cat now, a member of the family. Imagine our horror, when that old bittie ignored my Dad & tried to grab Pirate!

My parents stood up, but it turned out Pirate was having none of this nonsense at all! As soon as that old bittie reached for Pirate, he started growling & hissing, ears drawn back, teeth baring, eyes declaring intent to attack. And even more impressive our other cats came running in & started hissing at the old bittie, too! Even the dogs got in on the action, suddenly standing at the windows, barking in at the visitors.

Suffice it to say the visit was over quickly & the old bittie & her husband beat a hasty retreat, right after my parents got us to calm the animals & take them to the barn to clear a path for the rude visitors to escape. Needless to say, that was the last time anyone from church tried to claim Pirate. And there were a hell of a lot less church visitations after that, which was all good & well for us.

When the rude visitors left, my Mom commented, "Well, that'll show them what happens to people trying to mess with this family. The pets did not like that rude old bittie one bit!"

My Dad replied, "Of course they didn't like her. Animals can spot evil a mile away!" And they both chuckled at that.

But as it turns out, my Dad was right. A month later, the authorities were investigating irregularities in the church funds. Turns out, the old bittie had been embezzling serious money from the church, especially during the fundraising for & construction of the new church! Not only was she ordered to pay back the stolen funds, but she did time in prison for her theft, & when she was let out, she & her husband disappeared, having left town to live somewhere else.

I couldn't believe that she was bold enough to actually steal money from the church. But then again, the bitch did try to steal our cat! So yeah, totally evil.

Pirate was all ready an old cat when he came to live with us. He eventually passed away from old age, curled comfortably on my mother's lap one Saturday morning. I was in high school then. We had been noticing that over the past year, he had slowed down significantly. We had wooden steps made just so he could still climb up to sleep at his favorite windowsill. The vet had told us that Pirate was very old, & it was a miracle he was still alive at this point. The vet guessed that Pirate was close to twenty years old, possibly older!

He was all ready an older adult cat when he came to live with us, living the life of a free cat. But he spent over ten long wonderful years with us, & even sired two litters of kittens with another stray we picked up, Velvet. And we will always be grateful for time he spent with us & for the love & joy he brought into our lives. When he passed away that Saturday morning, my mother, my two closest brothers, & a niece & nephew were by his side.

After his breakfast that morning, he climbed into my mother's lap instead of on his favorite windowsill. We knew then that the end was near. So did our other cats & the dogs, who came in, & sat down. Within half an hour, Pirate passed away, & though I hadn't cried for a long time, I remember tears running down my eyes, as we mourned the loss of a loved one, & said goodbye to a wonderful, loving cat.

We buried Pirate in the unsown field a short distance behind the pasture & barn. It was where we buried Hope, the old horse, when he finally died of old age as well the previous year. After we buried Pirate, the other pets stayed on his grave & for many years after, they would visit his grave & hang out for a bit. And after Pirate passed on, Velvet took up residence on Pirate's windowsill, & kept watch over the front porch as Pirate had done for many years.

Velvet was another street cat my parents brought home from the market. While selling crops at the stand, my parents noticed this tiny black domestic shorthair cat ducking back & forth under the stalls. When it came close to our stall, my parents popped open a can of sardines, & coaxed the little black cat to come eat.

After a few tentative steps, the little black cat came over, took a cautionary bite, then sensing it was safe, started to eat. And for most of the day, it stayed with my parents, hanging out under their chairs, occasionally coming up to be petted, & eating another full can of sardines for lunch.

When my parents packed up for the end of the day, the black cat followed them, got in the truck, & arrived home, safely carried in my mother's arms. Naturally, we were excited at having another cat--our third at this point. But our parents got us to calm down & fetch some food & water for the cat.

She ate her bowl of food alongside our other two cats, Kitty & Tiger. And after they ate, they started to socialize. And before the evening was over, our newest member had made herself at home.

My eldest sister, the second oldest child & eldest daughter, the nicest & kindest to the three of us youngest, our favorite sibling (still to this very day), decided to name our newest cat, Velvet. Partly because the cat was gorgeous & felt smooth & rich like velvet. Also, I suspect our eldest sister wasn't too thrilled with our terrible naming choices. We wanted to name the all black cat, Blackie, in keeping with the trend where we just named our newest all white puppy, Whitey. Thank goodness our wise sister prevailed, because Velvet is a much better name & best describes our black cat.

Velvet retained her love of the outdoors, & out of all the cats, she loved exploring outside, & we'd often find her climbing trees or stalking prey through the woods & grass. But she always came home to meals, & every evening, she came back indoors & often slept in the corner of the living room, within sight of the front door & across from the dining room.

It was only after Pirate passed away did Velvet take to sleeping on his windowsill, & keeping that spot for many years after. Though she still enjoyed venturing outdoors, she was also spending a lot more time napping on the windowsill, & hunting around the porch as Pirate did so many years before. I'm pretty sure Velvet missed Pirate, because we all did.

Though Pirate was gone & we missed him a lot, we will always remember him & believe him to be in a better, happier place, with an even more awesome windowsill. And isn't that what we all want, a nice windowsill? Heaven is a place we can call home, full of love, happiness, friends & loved ones, with beautiful views & plenty of warm sunshine.

It's been many years since I've had a pet cat. The closest I've got are some strays who like to sit on my car or porch a few times a week. These strays have lived here long before I moved here, & hopefully they or others will still be here long after I've moved on. Everyone around here feeds them, & they go to different places at different times to feed & lounge, having worked out where the best places & times were to get a meal & just relax.
1939 Be Kind to Animals, American Civics Poster, the Cat They Left Behind

They are independent but mostly friendly. They like to come up & rub against my legs when I'm out on the porch, signaling they wanted to be held or petted, & I'd go ahead & do so. I've been tempted to adopt them, but with my chaotic & at times, long work schedule & out of town travels, it's not safe nor responsible nor smart to own a pet, especially when I'm not around to care for it properly. I can't even keep plants alive! There's no way I can take care of a pet, not right now at least.

I've been reduced to enjoying pets by caring for friends pets when my friends are out of town. It's a great arrangement for all of us--the pet gets well cared for, the owner can travel with peace of mind, & I get to enjoy the company of a pet for a short period, reveling in the temporary custody & care & companionship with a great pet.

I often surprise people with my pet sitting skills, especially when they mostly know me from being busy at work or busy out & about traveling or adventuring in the wild & remote places. They do not expect my patience nor my ability to be still & present & spend time in one place with a single pet. Often, they are shocked when their animals often warm up to me & let me get close. I semi joke that animals are great judges of character. I can't resist picking up a cat & petting it, especially when it snuggles up against me. And I smile everytime I see kittens sleeping or playing. Cats have a magic all their own, & they make the world a more mysterious & enchanting place.

Though I've met many wonderful cats over the years, my first pets will always have a special place in my heart & memories. They were not only useful & important on the farm, but they brought joy & love in our lives. They comforted us, made us laugh, & they shared in our lives the ups & downs, helping us through the toughest of times & sharing with us the good times & happiness.

Some people don't like cats, & that's okay. Not everyone is going to love every animal out there, & that's just the way it is. But I love cats, for their independence, their skills, their beauty, their wild & domestic nature, & for just being themselves. Cats are wonderful creatures, & when you love them & treat them right, they'll love you right back & bring you joy & friendship, & they'll make life so much better, giving you love & happiness.

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Tuesday, March 8, 2016

What you C is what you get, the beginning.

This is the C list, a list of my 5 favorite things that begin with the letter C. There are many wonderful things that begin with the letter C. And I'm going to talk about a few of them.

Since one of my goals is to make smaller, more manageable posts--less novellas & shorter, though still entertaining prose--I shall break this letter C post into two parts. I'm posting the first part today, & I'm sharing the rest later on in the week. I may also change a few of the things on the list, but for the most part, I'm happy with what I got. So here we go, the first part of the five wonderful things that begin with the letter C.

If you're a longtime Infomaniac reader, no doubt the first C word that comes to mind is C U Next Tuesday, courtesy of the late & great Piggy, fondly remembered by his many friends & those who got to meet him via the awesome blogging community. And what a wonderful community bloggers make!

We are many individuals whose interactions & support make us a diverse, rich, & lively virtual village, one that flourishes together & helps each other during times of crisis. Community is a wonderful word that begins with C, as do Cooperation, Camaraderie, & the occasional Competitions & Contests that make the blogging community fun. Whether it be tinfoil hats or green elf shorts, or simple caption games, the members of this brilliant blogging community share their creativity & wit & talents in the most surprising, enjoyable, & fantastic ways.

Cosmos is an amazing word that begins with the letter C. And what a spectacular wonder the cosmos is! I love learning about the world all around us. Stars, galaxies, nebulae, and so many other astonishing wonders. I have spent entire nights on beaches & wilderness just staring up at the starry skies, marveling at the wonders of the universe. It's pretty amazing & humbling to realize that we are all made of stars, & when we pass on, we become stars once more.

It is mindboggling to realize that some of the stars we're looking at no longer exist, & what we are seeing are their bright lights finally reaching earth after travelling vast distances in the darkness of space. And if you stare at night skies long enough, you are bound to see meteors & you'll make wishes on those shooting stars. I love looking at the cosmos. It is a joy & wonder & humbling experience, beautiful & mesmerizing each & every time. I love the cosmos. I also like it as a drink.

When I want a cocktail--another great word that begins with C--I keep it simple with my fave way to enjoy vodka, a screwdriver:

1 part vodka + 2 parts orange juice. Sip & enjoy, preferably on a lounge chair by the pool, on the beach, or in an imaginary tropical paradise escape. Do not chug & pace yourself; too much too soon & you'll pass out.

And if I really want to take my tropical paradise escape fantasy/party to the next level, it's Mai Tais & my other favorite vodka cocktail, the Cosmos (Cosmopolitan):

2 ounces vodka + 1 ounce Triple Sec or Cointreau + 1 ounce cranberry juice + 1 ounce lime juice. Add more cranberry juice or simple syrup if you want it sweeter. Garnish with orange peel. Same warning as screwdriver. Sip, enjoy, pace yourself.

Yes, I know those sluts/whores from Sex & the City used the Cosmos as their signature drink, but I don't give a damn. It's a damn good drink! I was enjoying Cosmos & Screwdrivers long before I ever saw an episode of Sex & the City.

Hell, I was enjoying cocktails long before I was legally allowed to partake in them. It comes from having wonderful friends who're kind of wild, & possibly bad, if not reckless, & liberating influence. And life has been so much more fun & awesome with those kind of fantastic people & exciting experiences.

You what else was full of fun people & great experiences? Visiting places like California; Chicago, Illinois; Charleston, South Carolina; seeing camels & pyramids in Cairo, Egypt; & cruising the Caribbean & enjoying Cozumel, Mexico. Those places were/are awesome!

I'd like to add to my travel wish/to do list: Canada, Chile, China, the Canary Islands, Costa Rica, & the other continents. Also, I'd like to see Caledonia--Scotland--& New Caledonia in the South Pacific, home of quite possibly the smartest bird/animal in the world, the New Caledonian crow, which creates & uses tools & solves problems & teaches knowledge to the other crows!

Truly, there are many marvelous things that begin with the letter C. And it's taken me a little while to sort them them out, as it usually does when making a list of one's favorite things that begin with that letter. But I finally narrowed it down to the top five, so here they are, two of the five most cherished things that begin with the letter C:

1. Comfort is a wonderful thing that begins with the letter C. Comfort means many things. It means feeling safe & feeling at home. It is sanctuary from the chaotic & rough world. It is a place & space to relax, recharge, & renew one's body, strength, spirit, & mind. Comfort calms the body & cherishes the soul.

Comfort also means the little things that make you feel good. And that means literally, my favorite comforter during the cool season, covering me with warmth & softness, helping me fall asleep on the coldest of nights.

Comfort also means food, food that fuels the body & nourishes the spirit. It also means food that just tastes good & makes you feel good, because they bring to mind good memories & good feelings. My comfort snacks are the big five with the letter C: Cookies, cupcakes, candy, chips, and ice cream. Yes, ice cream begins with I, but it does have delicious cream in its name, so I'm including it here.

My fave cookies are chocolate chip & plain old vanilla sandwich cookies. Perfect for dunking in milk, hot chocolate, coffee, or tea, & especially milkshakes! Also, cookies are great for crumbling in or using to make ice cream sandwiches. And I love the sweet scent of cookies baking in the oven!

My favorite cupcakes are usually the smaller versions of my favorite cakes: Carrot cake, pound cake, fruitcake, strawberry shortcake, & blueberry cake. The most work yet totally spectacular cupcakes would be the pineapple upside down cupcakes, because everything is pared down to scale, & sometimes, I've had to buy pineapple disks/skinned/whole, & cut my own pineapple rings using cookie/pastry cutter rings to get the right size to fit in the cupcake pan. Or just buy the can of rings, cut rings into four pieces, & use two pieces to encircle a cherry in the bottom of a greased, brown sugared & melted butter mix cupcake pan.

When it comes to candy, my fave has to have chocolate & nuts & crunch. Surprisingly, my favorite nowadays is the Almond Joy chocolate almond coconut candy bar. I used to hate this candy as a kid, because I didn't like coconut covered in chocolate. It was just too weird for me! I preferred coconut either in savory dishes, or if it was to be sweet, I'd rather it be caramelized or toasted or baked into pastry. But never covered in chocolate; that just seemed & tasted wrong to me. Now, I can't seem to get enough of the stuff. Somewhere in my adulthood, I began to like coconut, almonds, & chocolate bars enough to make them be counted among my favorite candy bars: Kit Kat, Twix, Milky Way, & Chico stick.

Chips, specifically potato chips, are my weakness. I can eat a whole bag/can in one sitting (& I've done it many times before!). My top flavors are BBQ, ranch, nachos, sour cream & onion, & cheese. I also love me some corn chips! You want to woo me or bribe me, forget sweets, buy me chips! I luv chips by themselves, dipped into great dips, as a crunchy topping in sandwiches & burgers & hot dogs; on top of casseroles & meatloaves. I also love them in salads! Chips are awesome, & I'm addicted to them.

Ice cream is a wonderful dessert! Like chips, I've had whole meals consisting of nothing but ice cream! And I love the frozen custard variety! My favorite flavor is vanilla. I also love Neapolitan (the vanilla, chocolate, strawberry combo), pistachio, & cookies & cream. I have an on again, off again love affair with rocky road; sometimes, I love it, but other times, it's too much marshmallows & not enough nuts for me. Sometimes, I like to top off my cup of hot chocolate, tea, or coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream--definitely richer than using cream or milk. Sometimes, I like my ice cream to melt halfway, so I can mix it into a delicious milkshake. I rarely use toppings on my ice cream. I might use the occasional chocolate syrup & some nuts. But I'm more likely to indulge in another guilty pleasure, & top my ice cream with crunchy corn chips or nacho chips. Yes, I've used corn chips & nacho chips as ice cream toppings, & they were great!

You know what else I consider comfort food? Cheese, crackers, cornbread, chili, chicken--especially fried chicken! My favorite way to enjoy cheese is to have a piece of it over a cracker with a slice of tomato & cucumber. My favorite way to enjoy crackers is to butter them then dip them into hot tea or coffee. My favorite food to pair with chili is cornbread, & where I come from & where I live, cornbread is sweet, like a muffin, perfect to balance a mild/medium hot bowl of delicious chili. And I love fried chicken, the ultimate comfort food that definitely reminds me of home & good times to be shared with friends & loved ones.

Comfort is an essential thing. It is one of the best things in life. It reminds us of the good times & keeps us renewed & feeling safe. It is a safe port during storms, a sanctuary in troubled times, and a reason to stop & enjoy life, & be reminded of the wonders in the world & to take time to appreciate life, loved ones, & friends.

2. Curiosity

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. I thirst for knowledge & new experiences. It makes life richer & more exciting. I've always been a curious kid, wondering why things were the way they where, driving my mother & older siblings crazy with questions about why come we gotta do things a certain way, and why some things (& some people) be the way they are. On good days, I'd get an explanation, or a plain 'I don't know' or 'That's just the way it is'. Other days, it was the more frustrating 'Hush now!' & 'Quit asking so many questions!', usually followed by threat of bodily harm from a pissed off older sibling, annoyed at my constant pestering.

I couldn't help it. I was born curious & I had a hankering for adventure & exploring, which was perfect because my two closest brothers--one a year older, the other a year younger--loved exploring & going on adventures with me. We weren't afraid to climb tall trees & venture into the wild woods & mountains that surrounded our farm. We scaled small hills & figured out how to clamber up a tree & make our way to the roof of the barn. We even took on dangerous missions, where we deliberately snuck into our older siblings rooms & rifled through their stuff.

Most times, we were able to get away without getting caught, & the few times our elder brothers caught us, the three of us were able to make it to safe territory--Mom, who protected us from threats of getting beat up from our angry older brothers. Mom did not like her bigger boys beating up her little ones, & that commandment was always honored & held true, so long as the three of us remained with Mom for the rest of the day & avoided the wrath of the mad older brothers.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of older sisters. Sure, they wouldn't dare hit us when we ran to & stuck close to Mom, but older sisters can be mean & hold grudges. While most times, our elder brothers anger would pass after a few hours or be gone the next day, our sisters held on to vengeance long into the next week, attacking us when we least expected it, when Mom wasn't nearby.

Once, the three of us pretended to be pirates, put on our sisters silk & satin scarves like headbands & belts & pretended to be pirates. What really pissed our older sisters off was that we took their jewelry box & buried it in the backyard like pirate treasure. You would think they would've been proud of our imagination & emerging map drawing skills. But no, they were really angry when they found us crawling in the dirt with their scraves & then discovering what we did with their jewelry box.

That day, we were fortunate enough that Mom heard us screaming when our older sisters grabbed us & threatened to beat us. She mediated a peaceful solution, where by we put the dirty scarves into the dirty laundry pile & dug up the buried jewelry box & tried to clean off as much dirt as we could, then returned it to the angry sisters.

You would think that would be the end of the matter, as did we. But you'd be wrong, & so were we. For the rest of the week, our older sisters kept hitting us at random--a punch on the arm here, a smack on the tush there, or a knock with their knuckles on our heads here & there, all accompanied by threats of more painful bodily harm if the three of us ever dared to venture into their rooms again & messed with their stuff. And for most of the week, we stuck close to Mom to avoid the guerrilla warfare our mean sisters were waging on us. It was an awful week, & it hurt a lot!

Finally, near the end of the week, we figured out how to put a stop to our sisters vengeance. We made a plan. The next time our sisters hit us, my year older brother went screaming for my Mom while my youngest brother started wailing & holding his arm limp while I screamed & covered my left eye, making sure to rub it really hard to make it look red & injured.

My mother came rushing in demanding to know what happened while my older sisters stood there in shock. My older brother explained that my sisters punched my baby brother's arm hard & they poked at my eye! Actually they smacked me in the face, like they've done all week, but I managed to fake that they poked my eye in the process.

My alarmed mother, reached for my head, whispered soothing words, & coaxed me to reveal my eye, which by now was red & looked smooshed from my rubbing hard on it. She let out a gasp, led me to the kitchen sink, then got a glass of clean water to gently rinse out my eye. Now that part hurt! But it was worth it! Then she put some eye drops into my eye & had me lay down to rest.

Then she comforted my baby brother who was still sobbing & gently looked over his arm. When she was satisfied that nothing was broken other than a little redness (from holding his own arm tight), my mother decided to mete out punishment to my older sisters for hurting her babies.

She was angry that my sisters had been hitting us all week, & she was really angry that the two of us young'uns seemed really hurt. So she asked my brother to fetch a switch, & he gleefully got a young, flexible branch, which was sure to sting! And each of my sisters got a scolding & a whack on each palm for beating us up.

My mother rarely used corporal punishment, but when she did, it was usually for a serious offense, like the time one of my older brothers tried to sneak out for a joyride with friends, taking the truck without asking, & getting caught when he tried to sneak back before dawn, only to miscalculate a turn in the dark and run over the garbage can, waking up Mom, getting him caught. So it was a spanking for him, too!

Suffice to say, our sisters ceased & desisted beating us up. Our plan had worked! The three of us were free to roam again once more without the threat of violence from the older sisters. We had learned our lesson. And within a month, we were back to exploring the wild places & sneaking once more into our older siblings rooms. Only this time we were smarter. We had learned not to get caught.

It was survival of the fittest. We weren't as big nor powerful as our older siblings, who liked to beat us up because they were horrible, moody teenagers or we were brats who provoked them. The three of us had to be faster & smarter if we were to survive the tyranny of elder siblings & the wrath of the older ones when we pestered them, as little siblings often do to older ones. Such is life in a big family. There will be conflict & there will be some serious growing pains. But what does not kill us makes us stronger. And my two brothers & I are so much stronger (& closer) for surviving & thriving in those experiences.

Eventually, our older siblings had other seemingly more important things to worry about & ignored us all together. Though, they still occasionally hit us every now & then when we pissed them off. But we had grown smarter & avoided the wrath of the elder siblings & had developed other interests of our own. And those pretend skills we had developed would soon blossom into full acting skills that would serve the three of us well once we were deemed old enough & forced to participate in church plays--a most trying & wasteful time in our lives that seriously cut into our exploring & adventure time!

As we grew older, we started exploring different things. My older brother was exploring his expanding role as a leader among his peers, while my baby brother started to explore mechanics & electronics; I was still climbing mountains & the wild places by myself, & eventually started journeys on my own.

It what I still love to do to this day, explore & discover new places & wild spaces, be they far from civilization or in totally foreign lands. Curiosity has led me to snow capped mountains & fields of snow; vast seas of sage & brush & sand and salt flats as far as the eye can see; rolling hills of green grass & massive forests & endless woodlands that cover the horizon; soft sands on the edge of an endless ocean, bordering a beautiful sky adorned with a heavenly jewels that sparkle, shine, & change with passing of time.

Sunrise over the beach & ocean
Curiosity has taken me to foreign lands where I've met different people & enjoyed exotic foods & culture. I've been in big cities where skyscrapers glitter in the sun like metallic mountains; & trains are long rivers coursing through the urban landscape, carrying & connecting people in the wide concrete & industrial places. I've seen tiny islands of paradise, with fragrant blossoms, magic, marvels, & beauty all their own.

Monument Valley, Arizona, US by Michele Falzone
I've seen hues of red rocks & sandstone cliffs & canyons, rugged & jagged, spectacular in the changing light. And I've been to places of darkness beyond the reach of industry, where the lack of electricity make for truly dark nights, when clear skies light up with celestial bodies, where stars & planets shine & shimmer so bright, and the wonders of the cosmos dance & glimmer throughout the magical, magnificent, ethereal night.

It's kind of ironic, how when I was younger & first learned of far off places & big cities, that I couldn't wait to run off & explore & experience those seemingly exciting far off lands & civilization. Nowadays, I crave the the remote & wild places that I left behind when I left home, & I find myself enjoying adventures in the exotic wilderness & remote spaces so similar to place that I once called home.

Growing up on the remote coast in the middle of nowhere, I was restless & longed for adventures in far off places. Now I'm just as comfortable in the wilderness & remote exotic spaces just as I'm comfortable to call big cities & civilization home. And in all my exploring & adventures, I've finally realized that home isn't a place, it's a feeling; it's where the heart is, where one finds love & happiness. It isn't a location, it's the people & memories & feelings of those spaces, it's the friends & loved ones & sense of happiness that make a place into a home.

I'm still a curious kid, & I'm an avid reader of many topics that interest me-- from art & architecture to science to people to imagination to culture to history to technology and so much more. I like being curious, because it has led me to interesting places & amazing experiences, & has led me to make new wonderful friends. I like learning & experiencing new things. And even the worst explorations yield important knowledge on how to do things better, how to make things right.

Curiosity is a wonderful thing. It drives us to explore & try out new things. It makes life more interesting & exciting. Curiosity makes us all better people & helps us live life to the fullest & enjoy life as best we can.

And that's it for now, two of my five favorite things that begin with the letter C. I'll post the last three later on in the week. C you then, & cherish every day you're alive, because it's a chance to do the things that make you happy & be with the people you love.

Related Links

A list
B all that you can B
What you C is what you get, the beginning
What you C is what you get, the middle
What you C is what you get, the end
D lighted
F is for Fun
G is Great
H is Heavenly
Brought to you by the letter S
U doing that thing U do
Zing Zing Zoom

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Reading list for March

Back in January, the magnificent MJ of Infomaniac challenged us, her readers, to read as many books as we could and talk about them in March.

Well, I was quite impressed at the amount of reading the others had done, and on such a wide range of topics. Some have even read more than ten books so far! I, on the other hand, managed to read one book in January, and have only managed to read about a quarter of the way through a second, very large book on art & architecture. I confess that I am spending a lot of time staring at the stunning pictures and ruminating over the history, interpretations, facts, and perspectives over the art and architecture presented in the book, and I find it all so enjoyable.

Unfortunately, that puts me behind, and I do feel a bit silly having read only one and a quarter books after two months for the book challenge. Luckily for me, I found and read two more books on leap day, and I am counting them for the book challenge, so it's three and a quarter books for me. And let me just say up front that the last two books were more poetry and art in nature,  but I found them to be wonderful reads and will share them here.

The first book that I read was a gift from a friend who knows of my interest in things of a creepy, horror nature, my run ins with the supernatural, and my fascination with local history, culture, and beliefs.

Do I believe in the supernatural? I believe that there are things that we cannot perceive because we don't have the tools nor senses to detect them. And just because we can't see nor feel something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. You can't see the wind, but you can feel it; you can't see the stars in the daytime, but they're out there beyond the glare of the sun; you can't see atoms but they are all around and within us, interacting to make us and the whole world around us.  Energy cannot be created or destroyed but it can only change into matter and back. And what are we but matter and energy, made up of the stuff of stars? And it's stars we return to in the cycle of the cosmos, in an order we've yet to fully understand.

Let me just clear one thing now. Just because I've had run ins with the supernatural does not mean that I actively seek it out. I have a noninterference policy with the supernatural. I don't bother them, and they don't bother me. Let sleeping dogs lie. They might bite if you wake them up! This advice holds especially true when dealing with hellhounds.

Okay, enough rambling and back to the book reviews. The first book that I finished for the challenge is called Chicago Haunts Ghostly Lore of the Windy City by Ursula Bielski.
As far as a collection of ghost stories, I can honestly say that I've read better and more scary stories elsewhere. But there are still a few interesting stories in this book. And I love the descriptions and noted locations of the reportedly haunted sights, neighborhoods, buildings, and cemeteries.

My favorite things about this book are that locations and history is given in regards to some of the reportedly haunted sightings, making for a roadmap of sorts of the haunted places in Chicago. I think it would've been better to actually include a map of the locations of Chicago hauntings to make for a very interactive experience when one does happen to visit Chicago and has time and an inkling to seek out the haunted sights. The few pictures included in the book add value and perspective to the stories. But I honestly believe that more fotos of the haunted spots would've done so much more to enrich the book.

Would I have picked this book out on my own? Probably not. But as a gift, it was a very nice thought and I did learn some fascinating things about Chicago and its history, culture, superstitions, and beliefs. And the most fascinating story for me is the one about Inez Clarke: A little girl who was supposedly killed by lightning or disease, buried with a life sized statue to mark her grave, and the statue reportedly disappears or moves around the cemetery. Real or not, whenever I'll go back to visit Chicago, I'll try to see the statue, because it looks beautiful and is such a wonderfully crafted piece of art.

I will not talk about the second book, because I'm still reading it, and it's a really big book! It's a book on art & architecture, and I find it quite enjoyable and a pleasure to read. When I've finished reading this book, I'll be sure to share my thoughts.

Moving on, we come to the third and fourth books that I actually finished reading on leap day, just in time for the book challenge March review. I actually came across these books when I was shopping for groceries, and I thought they would make great gifts for some friends who visited over the winter.

Just to be sure, I read both books and I'm pretty sure that my friends would enjoy them. These books have very colorful artwork and beautiful poetic prose. One is serene and calming, sweetly soothing like a lullaby. The other is bold and lively, fun and entertaining, sure to put a smile on one's face.

The third book that I read is Goodnight Little One by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Rebecca Elliot.
Some might say this is a children's book--okay, so most would say it is a children's book, but I liked it very much. Hey! Don't judge me! This is a legitimate book, a hardcover edition! And I'm pretty sure my friends kids would love reading it.

28 pages from the cover page art to the last page, and 33 lines of text, a wonderful blend of artwork and rhymes makes for a very enjoyable, sweet read, appropriate for bedtime reading, out loud to the little ones or by oneself. It can also be a pleasant read any time of day or night. How could it not be with poetry like:

Little monkey in the tree,
Swinging there so merrily.
Throwing coconuts at the skies,
Little monkey
     close your eyes.

Sweet, soft rhymes meant to lull one to comfort and sleep are well combined with beautiful artwork that makes one feel peaceful, happy, and content. I like this book a lot and recommend it for little readers or as one to read to little ones. The artwork is very pleasing, serene, and charming.

The fourth and final book that I read for the challenge is called Underpants thunderpants! ¡Mis calzotruenos! words by/texto de Peter Bently and pictures by/illustraciones de Deborah Melmon.

What makes this book fascinating is that the story is told in both English and Spanish. It starts with:

One day
When the weather is
sunny and fine,
Dog hangs his
out on the line

Era un dia soleado
y chucho salio al jardin.
Los calzoncillos
iba a tender,
tenia una coleccion sin fin!

But thunder and lightning
soon fill up the sky.
underpants thunderpants!
Look at them fly!

Pero pronto el cielo
de tremendas nubes se cubrio.
Rayos y truenos!
¡Mis calzotruenos!
¡La tormenta mis calzoncillos
se llevo!

The story is hilarious and the illustrations make the story fun and lively, providing very funny pictures of what's going on in the story.  I should warn you that this story does deal with underpants humor, and there is a scene that mentions potty humor, so those of a delicate nature might want to screen this book to decide whether or not it's for you (or the little one you would read this to). I think it's fine, and adds a bit of edge to an otherwise imaginative story of what happens to a dog's underpants when a thunderstorm blows them away.

The book does not say what happens to dog after his underpants are blown away--does he obtain more or does he decide that going commando--wearing no underpants--is the way for him. We can only speculate. But what I find fascinating are the many places and living things that are affected by contact with the flying underpants. A original and creative story with fun illustrations, Underpants thunderpants makes for an entertaining read that I would recommend to little readers who enjoy a good laugh and the silly things in life.

And there you have it. The reading list of the books I've completed for the challenge. I've a few lined up for the next review, and hopefully by then, I'll have completed the arts & architecture book and I'll have a review of it to share. Until then, if you can read, then please share with us what you've read and join the book challenge. More importantly, read for yourself, and if the opportunity arises, read to a little one and help them enjoy the wonderful gift of reading and sharing stories.

Related Links
Reading list for May