Short Takes: Boiling Points

Boiling Points

I understand turning points, points of no return, a case in point, a point of fact, scoring and making points, a point well taken, and something beside the point or bringing me to my final point, but I am not sure that I completely understand boiling points. I get that boiling points are anger related, but I can’t remember the last time I reached or even came close to my personal boiling point. I have been angry a lot of times in my six and a half decades, but the thing is, I usually start to cry before I reach the boiling point, and then I get angrier at myself than I was at whatever/whomever I was mad about/at in the first place. The crying pops the balloon.

Actually I don’t like being mad or crying for any reason. Neither do I enjoy watching other people reach their boiling points. I am not a fan of the short fuse. It seems like such a waste of energy – sort of like screaming during childbirth.

What would happen if I did reach my boiling point? Would I hit something, throw something, get all red in the face, bluster about all scary and obnoxious, sending children and small animals scattering in several different directions?  I would hope not. I am a little wimpy as far as this boiling point thing goes.

Then again …  maybe reaching the point of tears is a type of boiling point.


As Easy as Boiling Water

It’s as easy as boiling water. Or is it? Is boiling water really easy?

Get a pan, any size pan, cheap thin aluminum or triple-ply Kobe stainless steel. Fill the pan with water. Place the pan on the stove and turn on the burner. Fire and water do sometimes mix quite well – on a gas stove.

The tricky part is knowing how hot to make the water. What needs need to be met? Start cautiously. Use only as much heat as necessary.

Turn up the heat to get things simmering. Tiny bubbles barely break the surface, but there is something more going on. Things are getting hotter. Just hot enough for a delicate cream pudding.

Bring water to scalding, very hot, good for blanching tomatoes to start a spicy sauce.

Increase the intensity of the fire and large air bubbles rise uncontrollably to break the surface. Boiling hot water, perfect for spaghetti al dente or egg hard-boiled.

But, I want, I need an uncontrolled roiling upheaval that cannot be stirred down. I need a rolling boil, because I am beyond just boiling water. I’m cooking red, hot, bubbling lava-like strawberry jam.

As I watch my pot that is boiling, the captive tumultuous tropical sea billows mesmerizing steam upwards and outwards, surrounding me, bedewing my face, wilting my hair, drenching my blouse. I let the wetness encompass me until the water boils away and the pan, emptied, burns dry and white residue scorches to smoking black.

Caution: Do not let water boil away.


What Should I Feel – Angry or Sad – When the Best Are Taken?

Kayla Mueller said she found God “in the suffering eyes reflected in mine.” So, at 24, she went to Syria, to work with the Danish Refugee Council.  Less than a year later, 10 days before her 25th birthday, she was kidnapped.
Life’s work: Helping others
Kidnapped: August 4, 2013
Killed: Probably in February 2015
Age at death: 26
Sometime in the spring of 2014, Kayla managed to get a letter to her family. This is a little of what she wrote:
“I have learned that even in prison, one can be free. … I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it. … I wrote a song some months ago that says, ‘The part of me that pains the most also gets me out of bed, w/out your hope there would be nothing left…’ The thought of your pain is the source of my own, simultaneously the hope of our reunion is the source of my strength. … Do not fear for me…”
What should I feel – angry or sad – when the best are taken?


Kenji Goto, a journalist, wrote about refugees, poverty, epidemics like AIDS, and the destruction of childhood – all that wars create. He went to Syria, however, not as a journalist, but in the hope of rescuing a friend who had been kidnapped there.
Life’s work: Making peace
Kidnapped: October 2014
Killed: January 30, 2015
Age at death: 48
Nothing that Goto might have written while a captive has surfaced. After his death, however, friends retweeted something he had first posted in 2010:
“Close your eyes. Bear it. If we become angry and yell, we are doomed. This is like prayer. Hate is not what humans should do. Judgment lies with God. That is what I learned from my Arab brothers.”
What should I feel – angry or sad – when the best are taken?


James Wright Foley switched from teaching to journalism in 2009, and during the next three years, reported from Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. He was abducted in 2011 in Libya, held for 44 days and then released. In 2012, he was in Syria, interviewing a British journalist who had himself recently escaped from captivity. They were abducted, together, both for the second time.
Life’s work: Letting the world know
Kidnapped: November 22, 2012
Killed: Probably August 2014
Age at death: 40
Foley’s captors did not allow him to send letters, so a Danish journalist who had been held captive with him memorized a message from him to his family. This is a small part of it:
“I remember going to the Mall with Dad, a very long bike ride with Mom. … Dreams of family and friends take me away and happiness fills my heart. … I know you are thinking of me and praying for me. And I am so thankful. I feel you all especially when I pray. I pray for you to stay strong and to believe.”
What should I feel – angry or sad – when the best are taken?


Recovering From The Kids

It was wonderful having the family here visiting, and this morning I finally found the hair dryer, tucked under a bedside table in the back guest room.

I have no idea which harried parent shut which little kid out on the porch to watch TV right next to the wicker chair with all that tempting wound rattan. Or to be more precise, formerly wound rattan.

I’m still wondering who parked my car under the sparrow tribe in the buckthorn tree, with the resulting splats on the hood, and incidentally changed the radio pre-sets to an assortment of ear-splitting stations. Or who stowed the handicap parking permit in the passenger-side map pocket where I didn’t think to look for a week.

I couldn’t understand why the clothes dryer was so slow, had already called a repairman when I noticed that all the heat and fan settings had been changed.

And my best spatula has disappeared. Sure, I have other spatulas, but it’s almost impossible to cook without that particular one I’ve had for at least half a century. I’m not saying anyone stole it, but you’d think it would have turned up by now.

Probably the unkindest kindness of all – one morning after eating highly successful popovers, some misguided person energetically scrubbed my cast-iron pans within an inch of their lives. It’ll take months to get them properly seasoned again.

And don’t even get me started about the thermostats!


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