The Kefir Chronicles

Let me start by disclaiming any deep knowledge about Kefir. I had heard of it. It’s one of those fermented foods that are supposed to be good for you. But that’s about it. Now I’m learning, and I’ll share my experiences with you.

Started out with an infected tooth for which I got antibiotics. Bless antibiotics. Did you know that Hatshepsut the great female Pharaoh died of an abscessed tooth? Just another bit of historical trivia I learned about a dozen years ago. Also as an historian, I take infections pretty seriously. I know that herbs can help, and use them when they work, but occasionally, they don’t, and, boy, is it great to have antibiotics as a back-up. Not unexpectedly, after a run of Clindamycin, I got a yeast infection, and another round of another antibiotic. Again, unexpectedly, I felt wiped out. We know this happens. And it sure wiped out my gut biome.

Trust me, I was taking pro-biotics. I had the alarm set on my e-reader, every 3 hours it went off and prompted “Take Antibiotic” and “Take Probiotic”. I ate yogurt: Greek yogurt, french yogurt, skyr, Kombucha, ate Saurkraut (which, luckily, I love). Still, I ended up calling the doctor. The insert says one of the symptoms to refer to the physician is ‘persistent diarrhea’. They didn’t define persistent. After about a week I called and asked; they told me “two or three days”. Well,now I know (and you do too). It was awful, but if it’s going to happen, better when we’re all staying at home, not getting far from the “Necessary”. My reading also informed me that the gut biome is also wiped out when you have the total, clean as a whistle, cleansing for a colonoscopy, which I did at the beginning of the month as well.

I will point out that no-one in the entire process mentioned that potential effect, and the need to use probiotics to get your gut working properly again. The one-two punch of emptying the digestive system and following that up with antibiotics left me unable to process food. The less you know about the results the better, other than I looked stuff up, and did everything I was supposed to. The best I got was the usual “eat yogurt” between antibiotic advice. A month after the colonoscopy I saw Dr. Q, and complained bitterly about lack of useful warning or advice. He recommended Kefir, which they use in the Ukraine, where he’d adopted his daughter. I hadn’t tried that because all the grocery store Kefir was full of sugar, and, in case you didn’t know, sugar encourages the sort of gut bacteria you don’t want.

Fine, straight from the office, I headed to the health food store. Got 2 bottles of goats-milk kefir, and next time I went to Market Basket found one non-sugared variety. All these bottles are opaque. I don’t think it’s because they need to keep the light out. I think it’s so you can’t see it until after you’ve shaken it. They all say “shake well”. I also got some starter to start growing my own. At a pint a day, the home grown kefir was ready by the time I finished the 3 store-bought quarts. It started slowly.

The instructions said “it’s happy place is 70-80º”. For goodness sakes! That’s Willow’s happy place! You don’t find that in our house in the dark half of the year! I sent for a ‘fermentation mat’. What I found was one for Kombucha (same problem there), and that seems to do the trick. Actually, it took off so well that I have now started leaving it out of the warmer. The couple of tablespoons of “grains” sort of took over the quart jar. Given the texture I’ve switched to a half gallon jar because it has a wider mouth. But if I leave it in the fermentation collar, the whole batch separates into grains (sort of looks like cottage cheese) and whey. Overnight.

Shake well, but it’s still got the little lumps. It IS little lumps. In whey. It takes me back to when we made goats’ milk cheese. When I poured out the commercial stuff it was white and smooth, not lumpy. I figured they just strained out their grains to keep using them. That makes sense economically. What am I doing wrong? Or am I?
Off to the internet. I discover you can use kefir as sour dough bread starter. Having gotten ahead of myself (despite drinking a pint every day, and BTW, I’m feeling better than I have in months if not years), I put a quart in a jar with a couple of scoops of flour, and set that on the counter to see what it would do. Then I took some back out and made a soft dough and put that in the warming oven to rise. Having experimented (unsuccessfully) this Spring with sour-dough I put a piece of tape on the Ball jar to remind me where it started. By afternoon I could see that it was growing. The next morning it had grown from 3 cups to 5 and a half cups! Meanwhile the loaf of bread I’d started with the same batch was sullenly sitting in the warming oven looking dormant. All I’d put in it was organic whole wheat flour and a bit of salt. I wonder if the salt slowed it down. Or the flour- I’d just refilled my canister from the 50 gallon bag I keep in the unheated back hall. That flour was probably at 40º. Until the damned loaf grows enough to bake, I am not sure what it’s going to taste like, and I’m not generally a fan of sour-dough bread. I like my normal yeast raised bread and buns, so I’m not eager to have a sour dough mother that rises so much that I need to make a loaf every day. Perhaps it’s not growing because it feels that I don’t like it. Some people LOVE sour dough, but I’m not one of them.

As I wait for the sour dough to rise, I have to deal with the general maintenance. When I come down in the morning, I have to scoop a bunch of grains off the top of the Kefir, and put them into a new jar with new milk. Then I rinse my sprouts, and check them. (I’ve switched them over to the Kombucha fermenting collar). The kombucha is just starting, so I don’t need to do anything with that yet. If I’m going to make bread, I start proofing the yeast. When I put the new grains in milk, I put the kefir I took them out of into the `fridge, and take out the chilled kefir from the day before to drink.

Thinking about the commercial kefir, today I put the kefir through the blender, and yes, it came out creamy and smooth, so that’s probably what the commercial folks do. The flavor of the fresh stuff is better, but I don’t care for drinking lumps. I am thinking of maybe simply pouring off the whey (bet I could use it in baking), and using the curds like soft cheese. While they call the lumps ‘grains’, they are totally simply little bits of thickened milk formed around whatever the bacteria is. They suggested using a plastic strainer to get the grains out, but it just filled and let the whey through. I tried all three sizes of strainers that I use on the sprouting jars, and they quickly clog too. Now I just spoon off the solids on the top as next day’s starter, and call it good.

As you can tell, this is a SHARING blog, not an instructional one. I am still learning. But I think there’s value in hearing how other people are screwing up. I hope it keeps someone from feeling that everyone else but her is able to do this easily. I’m sure it would be a lot easier if you lived with it from childhood and saw how your mother (or father) did it, (went through the times that I’m sure something odd happened), and at very lease had someone other than the internet to turn to when you got confused.

At what age do you introduce Tarot to kids?

Three isn’t too early. “Reading” the pictures on Tarot cards is a bit easier than stringing together the sound symbols in writing to make words (to hear when you read out-loud or in your head). As when introducing your child to reading, or TV, simply include them while you do it. Ask them how they would interpret the cards. Teach them the simplest spreads. You may want to design small spreads suitable to the sort of questions they would be likely to ask. Rather than past>present>future, you might suggest:
Why is this happening? <What’s happening> What’s probably going to happen next?
As they get older you could add a “Is there anything I can do to change this?” place.

Which deck? If you have more than one deck around, one you rarely use, give them that one (it’s already trained). If they like your favorite deck, get them one of their own (each of us has our own copy of the Robin Wood deck) when they’ve show that they can use it. You may want to laminate them if they use them in the kitchen or while eating (or chew on them).

Watching them use the cards may teach you something you didn’t know about Tarot. My kids (as young adults), started playing the toss the cards in a hat game, and discovered, because they knew the meanings, that they were getting a good reading from it. (I think it was don’t count the ones that go in, the others are more or less pertinent depending on how far from the hat they fall.) They may come up with a divination or magickal system to use them you’d never think of.
You know your kids best- I would guess that they should each have personal decks or there would be dissent. If they don’t shuffle yet, I think smaller decks might be easier for them to hold, but reassure them that some adults can’t shuffle, and it works perfectly well to stir them on the table and gather them up again. Sometimes better.


Smaller hands make find smaller decks more comfortable. Let them try and let you know. Consider starting them on a partial deck, by which I mean only trumps, or only pip cards. (If you’ve never tried readings with partial decks, try it.)
You may want to consider a Lenormand rather than Tarot deck. Lenormand tend to be smaller cards, and there are only 36 in the deck, this sounds easier for kids to handle. At two or three you will probably be telling them all the folktales that inform the symbolism in the Lenormand cards. They should learn about Birds and Foxes, Dogs and Bears, Snakes and Ships, Towers and Crossroads, Books and Rings. If not from you, and if now now, when and from whom?
For mini tarot, you could go with the Colman Smith (Rider/ Waite) mini deck or I like the Everyday Witch deck by Deborah Blake.

Remember, as they grow your kids may be rabidly interested at some points, totally disinterested for years, then come back to it with fervor again later. Don’t interpret these fluctuations as having wasted the resources, they’ll probably also be cycling through interest in cooking, bats, history, sports, dolphins, dinosaurs, herbs, sewing, ad infinitum. If they lose interest, you could tuck the cards on a shelf for them to come back to later (to protect them from being turned into scrap-booking projects- but that could be OK too.)

While teaching them how to use the cards, do explain that divination is about information gathering, not making decisions for you. That’s hard even for adults sometimes. You may also want to teach them dowsing, or other types of divination or symbol sets.

Power pyramid

Yesterday my niece told my sister that she can’t come to visit anymore (with my sister’s new grandbaby) because they are afraid to come up where there are so many Trump signs. (Do I need to mention he’s black? I am so angry that that makes a difference!)  I have to assume that the recent violence showing how the administration and “law enforcement” patterns are also making people of color more afraid for their lives.

I had been living in a (liberal white) fantasy world where we were making progress and bigotry was a thing of the past. But the White Supremacists felt threatened and organized to fight back. They WANT Jim Crow back, they WANT to have women and blacks and gays and all people who aren’t their ‘sort’ to accept the role of support staff of the white Christian culture.

We assumed that the fact that we are stronger when we are all doing well and accept diversity was obvious, but change is hard, and they are pushing back. Sadly, they chose to do it with guns and politics and police, and we have to organize better to retain and regain the progress we had won. Fear is the tactic of the terrorist. This is what they are using on everyone else.

Yes, because they are defensive (and assholes) they may come after us as well, the Jews and pagans, the gays and asexuals, any minority, as well as those who aren’t minorities: women, people of color, people who make less money than they do, …anyone who they think will reduce their power if they don’t control them, and have to share power with them. They just don’t want to have to think or to compromise. The good news is that they are a tiny, if powerful, minority. Their strength is mostly in their current accrued power- financial and the ability to convince others, by manipulating the media, religion, and playing on people’s fears, that they will be better off if they support them. We won’t.

It’s important that those of us who are white recognize the reality of the terror tactics being used on other people who we don’t see as that different. But their lives ARE different. They live in a world where their lives can be destroyed in an instant for no other reason than that a number of whites fear losing their place at the top of the power pyramid. We need to stake down the pyramid and create a more inclusive system. We’ll lose some of the privileges we didn’t realize we had, but we will gain so much more!

What are you?

When people ask me if I’m a witch I habitually respond: “Tell me what you think a witch is, and I’ll tell you if I’m that.” It’s not just a simple “all witches don’t worship Satan” or “all witches aren’t Wiccan”, there are so many definitions of witch that to agree to the label could mean almost anything. *
For the record, I do use magick and natural human psychic abilities to heal, tweak the weather, find things; I do herbalism, divination,  I am an animist, I have cats, and have a couple pointed hats and wear long striped stockings, so I’m pretty comfortable with calling myself a witch. I’m just not comfortable with letting other people define what that means. I’m not a Wiccan, or a Satanist,

If someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I tell them that I get along pretty well with Jesus, but have a problem with what some churches and people have done to his teachings. If people act the way Jesus advised, I usually get along pretty well with them too.

Basically, labels are slippery things. When we are kids and learning to speak we learn from the people around us what words mean. As we get older, we continue to learn from others what things mean. Every so often we discover that we’ve been using a word wrong. (My sister thought that “nimrod” meant ‘cute little thing’ because Bugs Bunny called Elmer Fudd a ‘cute little nimrod’ in cartoons. I remember when I was about 6 telling an older kid (who’d probably just learned the word) that “I wasn’t a virgin, I’d never had a baby!” The only place I’d ever heard the word was referring to Mary, Jesus’ mother.  We learn language from context, but that’s not a perfect system.
One of the problems with labels is how slippery they are. Someone can hang a label on you, and assume that they know what you are because they trust labels and what people who taught them about whatever it is means. But misinformation can be as easily attached to a word as anything else. Modern boys use the word “gay” as an insult without any idea of WHY it’s an insult, so of course, when they learn what it means, they assume it must be bad.

Also, as with most prejudice, people will extrapolate about an entire group based on a very small sample of those within the group. Someone who meets a few Wiccans may figure that ALL Wiccans or witches are like the ones they met, whether the ones they met are mostly interested in ritual, or in getting together to hang out, or to learn magick. They may decide that they are weirdos, or posers, or just plain folks, or psychic, or highly spiritual…. all depending on who they met. One thing most long time witches have heard a lot is: “you’re not like the witches where I’m from!”. Yes, there’s a huge variety among the people who call themselves witches, and even greater variety among those called witches. And the same thing can be said of Christians.
What’s my point? Labels, especially ones for large groups, are almost useless for understanding people. (We never want to hear a question preceded by “You’re a girl…” as if that means you can explain the behavior of half the population of the world.) We can’t escape labels, but at least we can use them very carefully.

* One of the frustrating aspects of looking for evidence for surviving pagan practice in the European Middle Ages is that the Protestants habitually called the Catholics pagan, and the Catholics referred to the Protestants as pagan.

Poor Shaming

This rant started with my family griping to each other about fat shaming, the most flagrant example of that being the photos often posted of “Walmart people”: unflattering people, usually fat, often handicapped, wearing clothes the poster thinks are inappropriate- whether they are cosplay, too tight, weird, or simply clothes you might buy at Walmart. The bottom line is that while Walmart and dollar stores are where those without much money go to be able to afford the stuff they need, apparently it’s also where people go who want to feel superior by making fun of people.  (I’m NOT going to share one of those vile pictures!)
Earlier in the day I was thinking about how doctors and dentists always talk about how everyone should have health and dental care, and yet they don’t seem to be able to figure out a way to provide it that allows everyone to be able to afford it. One thing that really bugs me about it, is that they don’t seem to realize that people can’t afford their services. They keep suggesting ‘get insurance’ or ‘pay over time’, unaware that many people have a level of income where simple ‘regular visits’ would be two percent of their annual income (4% for twice a year), it can be 20% for a doctor visit, and at low incomes, the reason they don’t have insurance is because there’s nothing left when food, shelter and utilities are paid for. People who assume that “everyone” has around the income that they and their friends do are not evil, but they are willfully ignorant. Did you know that “welfare” won’t pay for any dental care except extractions, yet given equal candidates for any job, an employer will pick the one without missing teeth. In what way does extracting rather than filling a tooth help get poor people back to work?

In the past nobles looked down on peasants, feeling superior and certainly they were better nourished, better sheltered, better educated. There is nothing quite as exhausting as constant pain, and yet since complaining would do no good, the peasants didn’t complain, so the nobles thought “they don’t feel pain as we do.” These days we have a myth that ‘anyone with effort can become anything they try to be’. Study after study shows that this is not so, but it is more comfortable for the people who have advantages to pretend that they don’t, that somehow they deserve what they have. IF, as in the Middle Ages, the idea that being privileged carried with it the concept of noblesse oblige, (known in the modern world as “With great power comes great responsibility”) that it obligated you to help those without so many advantages, that would be better. Instead we seem to grab that myth of personal choice and blame the victims. We mock people for being poor, for being fat, for being handicapped.
In my mind there is no excuse for victim blaming. I try to figure out why someone would choose to mock someone for their looks, and fail to come up with anything. I try to pity them as morally handicapped. But I can not comprehend how choosing to be cruel would make them feel better.

I’m going to end with a memory about the failed “teaching” of Barney the Dinosaur. When I was a kid they taught us mocking “teaching songs” like Would you like to Swing on a Star. It seemed OK to teach kids to mock those with traits you didn’t care as a way to ‘encourage’ them to shape up. On the other hand, in one episode of Barney, Baby Bop (who represented a younger child) ate everyone’s cookies and got a stomach ache (as unlikely as that would be- kids don’t tend to suffer from over treating themselves), and rather than explaining to the other kids that she was suffering natural consequences, and that their being cross with her for taking their stuff was also a natural consequence, the kids were encouraged to try to make her feel better. I’ve always felt that teaching the other kids that even when they were victims, they weren’t allowed to get even would have been a better lesson. It’s natural to be angry when someone takes what’s yours. It’s normal to be upset when you are hurt. But we have to give up on taking our hurt out on people who are only easy targets because they can’t fight back. We see that echoed in everything from child abuse to police brutality to hate crimes, if you attack those generally despised, it’s usually safe. Thus it may be that mocking is a way of MAKING the target safer to attack (adding cowardice to cruelty in the attacker).
I have no words of wisdom with which to conclude, so this is pretty depressing.

Why we can’t “Agree to Disagree” on some things

Recently I was talking with someone who said “we’ll have to agree to disagree”. This bothered me. One can do that with preferences- is strawberry or chocolate ice-cream better? Do you prefer chicken or beef? But you can’t agree that matters like whether being an omnivore (meat-eating) is wrong, because that’s a judgement call. You can say “my preference is this”, but you can’t say “God’s preference” is that” with any authority. You can even say “God told me…” or “someone I trust said that God said…” (which comes to hearsay in my mind). Frankly, given what we now know about human perception and memory, we can’t even trust what we’ve experienced ourselves.

This makes it seem like agreeing to disagree could be a simple courtesy, allowing that the other person might be right. But to me it feels more like “Nothing you can say will change my mind”, which indicates a deep level of disrespect for any of the information that the other wants to share, in the hope that that information will make a difference. If you think it won’t make a difference, you are indicating that you don’t care that the other person is making his or her decision based on bad information and are willing to allow them to continue to act in error. I don’t think that friends, or even acquaintances let each other do wrong by mistake.  We want better for them.

I can understand someone saying “I don’t have the emotional energy to examine this right now”, or “since I can’t afford whatever would be the better option, I am not going to dwell on an added layer of not being able to choose that option bothers me”. It’s sort of like saying that there’s only one piece of cake and taking it and shaming the other person who wanted it for not being faster. (Or telling the states to get their own medical supplies, then out bidding them so they can’t get any.) I hate it when someone sets up or exploits an unfair situation then gloats about winning.

But I also understand that many of the people who are making these choices that are hard to understand are basing them on unconscious assumptions. There are many forms of bigotry, based on race, misogyny, religion, or even more slippery concepts, but they come down to things that we learned before we had conscious thoughts that we could remember and reject in the face of new information; they are what all our other ways of looking at the world are based. As with anything you build, pulling out one of those foundational beliefs, causes the whole structure comes tumbling down.
This makes disagreeing on those foundational beliefs especially threatening. I don’t think it’s surprising when we feel the structure quivering to rush to shore up the foundation.

IF, for example, what you were taught about religion or race or gender as a child is incorrect, you have to reconsider all the inter-related concepts about our place in the universe, whether being male, or white, or Christian, or human… all those things are based on those early teachings.  Humans come up with theories to explain things we don’t understand, these are based on our own experiences and since no one has all the information, all the theories are wrong.

If we respect the other people, we need to offer them not indignant anger as we demolish their belief systems, but as much support as we can give to hold up their other beliefs while they retrofit their foundation. Otherwise we are bulldozing where they live without recognizing the chaos into which we’ve thrown their lives. When you are trying to help someone see a new perspective, you have to help them a lot.

The Big Lie, and why it works

We must not underestimate the ability of humans to lie to themselves to protect their world view.
Look at the simple, obvious case of the concept of race as a definer of humanity not pigmentation. Centuries ago, the Pope declared that Africans were descendants of Cain (if I remember that myth correctly) and therefore weren’t real people*, so it was OK to keep them as slaves. This transformed the long standing practice of slavery from “those were the unlucky people who lost the war, or who were captured” to “those aren’t people” (even though they clearly are). That this is clearly self deception is shown in all the examples of people who know that the ones THEY know are different, but the others aren’t. They loved the mammy who raised them, but were willing to set that awareness aside when it came to an overall perception.
Once someone is taught a way of thinking (or even doing things), to change it becomes incredibly painful. Doctors will cling to old practices long after they have been proven ineffective or dangerous- because they can’t admit to themselves that they are hurting their patients. Parents will convince themselves that their children are not being hurt by the school system, or abusers, because that would require them to feel responsible for allowing it. The lie can often be so much easier it’s almost impossible to resist. It’s self protection.

* this does beg the question: If that is true, why did they insist on Christianizing their slaves? Did they preach to their farm animals?

Presidents Day Quotes

Not our town, but similar feel

On President’s Day I started thinking about our presidents. I can remember my reaction to the ones who were in office when I was alive. I actually saw Eisenhower drive through Farmington when I was quite young. (Basically, they slowed the cars down as the drove through town on Route 4. I’m not sure how my mother and other people knew in advance to take the kids down to wave and see him.) That was the only one I’ve seen in person.

I can remember my parents stories about the presidents they’d lived with. Apparently my Grandfather was anti-New Deal, no one was allowed to mention Roosevelt’s name, he was always “That man in the White House.” But go back further and all I have is what we learned in history classes, which we now know to be seriously weighted propaganda, intended to inspire confidence in the country, and instill lessons like honesty in the small children to whom they were taught. (The Washington and the cherry tree story appeared in the 19th c., or Lincoln walking 7 miles to return 2 cents, although that one may be true.) All in all, they are as authentic as Lincolns proverbial axe. “The head’s been replaced twice and the handle five times, but it’s still the very axe Lincoln used!”

Luckily, there are people who are fascinated with almost every period of history, who research and write about them. Of course, those have spin as well. However I tend to think there’s a reason that reporters tend to be “Liberals”. If you go looking for the truth and discover that some of the rich are taking advantage of most of the poor, you end up being cross with the people who are being greedy. Stories may have a spin for other reasons- certainly the people in the South who glorify their Confederate ancestors have a need to see their beloved dead as heroes and justify their actions. But I think it’s possible to accept and sympathize with your ancestors positions without defending them if they were based on false premises.

I found quotes for all the presidents, although we do need to remember that, as my mother used to say “Pen and ink reject nothing” to which I add, the internet accepts even more. Even at that, many of these quotes may have come from their speech writers.

I posted these on fb, and got some some responses. Some mentioned I was unfair to Trump, but frankly, most of what I was finding in Trump quotes was the horrible, racist, misogynistic, ignorant, misleading, and divisive things he says every day until we have become too stunned to respond any more. (There are probably parts of the internet where his quotes are more positive, I can’t find them.) I picked the loyalty one because of his recent post-impeachment behavior. I will admit that the selection of all the quotes reflects my bias and what we are going through now in 2020.

(I included the names and dates even though you can find them elsewhere for easy context. The size of each picture reflects the size of the type- for ease of reading, not the importance I give each man or statement.)

45 Donald Trump         2017…    2017-    b. 194644  Barack Obama        2009-2017          b. 1961

43.   George W. Bush        2001-2009           b.1946   (I was told told he didn’t say this)

42   Bill Clinton  1993-2001     b. 1946  (three presidents born in the same year!)41.    George H. W.  Bush     1989-1993    1924–2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I had to include the broccoli quote because I like it. What a way to inspire kids to want to be president?)

 

40     Ronald Regan  1981-1989     1911-2004

39.  Jimmy Carter    1977-1981      b. 1924

38    Gerald Ford 1974-1977     1913-2006

37    Richard Milhouse Nixon  1969-1994    1913-1994

 

 

 

 

 

36   Lyndon Baines Johnson   1963-1969    1908-1973

35    John Fitzgerald Kennedy 1961-1963         1917-1963

34   Dwight D Eisenhower   1953-1961   1890-1969

33    Harry S. Truman      1945-1953         1884-1872

32.   Franklin Delano Roosevelt

31 Herbert Hoover     1929-1933      1874-1964

I hardly think we can blame the depression on Hoover, since it was worldwide and started just as he got in. It was mainly that it was to big for him to fix.

30    Calvin Coolidge.   1923-1929       1872-1933

29    Warren G. Harding   1921-1923      1865–1923

28    Woodrow Wilson    1913-1921     1856–1924

27. William Howard Taft       1909-1913      1857–1930 As I started to read more of his quotes, I decided I need to learn more about Taft. He sounds like my kind of guy. Not to mention as Teddy’s chosen successor, he had to have something going for him. (I did find one source suggesting that he was the one who said ‘speak softly but carry a big stick’, but I think that may have been him continuing Roosevelt’s policies.)

26   Theodore Roosevelt  1901-1909        1858–1919I have to admit that Teddy Roosevelt has always been one of my favorite presidents. Possibly it’s because he was from an era of great change, which has led to many movies with him in them as a minor part, so we get to feel that we know him when we really don’t.

It’s easy to like someone who is gets to beat up the bad guys, he can be an action hero and still be seen as a nice guy.

 

 

25 William McKinley      1897-1901     1843–1901

23      Benjamin Harrison      1889-1893               1833–1901

22/24   Grover Cleveland       1885-1889    1893-1897   1837–1908Had him back again after Harrison, I guess his first term didn’t look as bad as they thought.

21    Chester A. Arthur         1881-1885     1829–1886

20   James A. Garfield     March-September 1881       1831–1881He was assassinated, so much for radicals.

19  Rutherford B. Hayes      1977- 1881          1822–1893

18    Ulysses S. Grant     1869-1877     1822–1885

17     Andrew Johnson      1865-1869         1808–1875

Never underestimate the power of that mendacious press!

16      Abraham Lincoln   1861-1865     1809–1865A hero for our times- showing what a severely depressed person can accomplish.

15    James Buchanan    1857-1861        1791–1868

14    Franklin Pierce            1953-1857       1804–1869  Can we blame the Civil War on Fillmore and Pierce? Can we look at Pierce and say that voting for a military hero is not a good way to pick a political leader?  I think the issues were more complex than anyone could have handled, but the country selected someone who would do nothing because they were afraid of what change would bring.

13      Millard Fillmore      1850-1853           1800–1874

12    Zachary Taylor       1849-1850     1784–1850

 

 

 

 

 

 

11   James K. Polk.    1845-1849 1795–1849

I cannot help thinking of our current golfing presidents. Admittedly, Trump is combining leisure with profit.

 

 

 

10    John Tyler   1841-1845      1790–1862

How must it have felt to Americas to have gotten to double digits in their presidents?

9   William Henry Harrison    1773–1841 (this is the 31 day president)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.   Martin Van Buren    1837-1841     1782–1862

Van Buren presided over the removal of the Cherokees.

 

 

 

 

His quotes show a certain wit, and ‘common sense’, but in the one to the right, a sad innocence.

 

 

 

 

 

7       Andrew Jackson    1829-1837   1767–1845I defend Jackson in that he was a product of his time, although I am not sure I am not swayed by the Hollywood myths about him more than history. What will the movies make of our current politicians?

6     John Quincy Adams      1825-1829       1767–1848

5    James Monroe     1817-1825     1758–1831

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4    James Madison   1809-1817      1751–1836He got to oversee the first war, the war of 1812.

3       Thomas Jefferson     1801-1809     1743–1826

2         John Adams   1797-1801      1735–1826

1      George Washington   1789-1797  1732–1799

By way of trivia, these are the men who served as the Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled: Samuel Huntington March-July 1781, Thomas McKean July to November 1781, John Hanson 1781, Elias Boudinot 1782, Thomas Mifflin 1783, Richard Henry Lee 1784, John Hancock 1785, Nathaniel Gorham 1786, Arthur St. Clair 1787, and Cyrus Griffin 1788.

I hope you enjoyed this stroll down memory lane, and are inspired to think about our ancestors who were still trying to make a living, raise their kids, deal with illnesses, and pick a president from among a bunch of ones they probably didn’t really like. Remember the men and women who died because they believed that strongly that the chance to select the ones who represent our interests to the world puts us all in a better position than those who simply have to put up with whoever is in charge until they die.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memorizing

When I was a kid, mother drilled us in learning things. Some was poetry or songs, some was those blasted multiplication tables (Thanks Mother!), a lot of it was “manners”, say “excuse me” when you burp, stand when an elder enters the room, Say “How do you do?” and respond “Fine, thank you, how are you?” when asked.

Frankly, that “fine-thank-you-how-are-you” being automatic is a huge stress reliever for a kid. Knowing what’s right to say rather than having to try and figure it out takes off a lot of pressure. (Come to think of it, knowing that 6×7 is 42 instantly without having to work it out some other way is also really convenient!) While I recognize that there are cultural variations and they need to be acknowledged and respected, simply having the standard greetings be automatic is the grease on the wheels of social interaction.

I’m not going to say that automatic responses can’t be problematic. Apparently when my grandmother was a kid, it was drilled into her that you don’t use pronouns to describe your elders (“betters”). A kid would get roundly reprimanded for saying “she” or “her” in reference to their parents or grandparents. Personally I never got it, but when you’ve been trained that something is “the way things are done” you accept it.

Another social convention that confused me was “it’s rude to point” at a person, although apparently not at an object or in a direction. That ambiguity always threw me off. I think some people still use that one, and ‘point’ with their chin, or the palm of their hand rather than with a finger. I get that one. Since even if you don’t believe in it, energy can be directed through your finger, and people probably worried about hexing. Similarly “don’t stare at someone” probably comes from concerns about the evil eye or “overlooking”. Staring at someone fixedly is a way of initiating telepathic contact, so that’s probably the origin.

Still, I wonder whether why we don’t memorize things any more. Is it because of our low levels of focus. Has our concentration and memory skill gone down due to unknown environmental factors- like sperm counts? Or is it that we simply don’t try to do it anymore? Perhaps we could remember poems and songs as well as passwords and phone numbers if we simply decided that that was worth the attempt. I know it’s often a great convenience for me, and anything that reduces stress these days is good. (I’m not saying that drilling your kids in the math facts isn’t stressful, but it’s SO worth it to have it in your head. Again, Thanks Mother!)

Updates

I updated my Where I’ll be when page.  Finally. after four years.
I have also posted a new letter, which contains some political musings, pretty depressing, but if you want this one old ladies thoughts about this appalling situation, feel free to go to the most recent page: Oatmeal month