Waking in my Bed on a Winter Morning

Proving again that I am NOT Robert Frost..

Waking in my Bed on a Winter Morning

What time it is I do not know
The light seeps through my eyelids though
And no one cares I’m lying here
Resisting hard the urge to go


My feet must face the floor-boards cold

Oh lord it sucks, this getting old

In youth how could I ever see

That I would thus be so controlled?


My bladder is the boss of me.
It tells me it is time to pee!

Procrastination risks I weep

So great this possibility.


My bed is lovely, warm and deep

but I must rise before I seep.

Like Frost, I’ve promises to keep

And stuff to do before I sleep


January 22, 2019


Tasks we avoid

I was doing that thing you do when the world is cold and projects are safely in the future (when it warms up), so Clean the Attic, and Clear the Cellar both reached the list.

They are actually slightly different in the category of Tasks to Avoid. The cellar is still full of stuff that was left behind when we bought the house- and the bank promised to have the old crap removed. So my resistance is “I shouldn’t HAVE to clean this up, it’s someone else’ mess.” (I actually have cleaned it some in the past, and my back gets up when I hit the old fridge, and left behind stuff- besides I’d have to pay someone to cart it away.) The attic is pretty much all mine. It’s bags of clothing that even goodwill wouldn’t take because it’s so out of style that we forgot to bring down when the next child grew into them; it’s toys set aside for grandchildren I’ll never have; it’s old Halloween costumes, and decorations we don’t bother bringing down anymore, and books we have no space for on the shelves, and I’ll never read again.

This is the problem with cleaning, it’s admitting that the futures we had planned for are not going to come true, and that’s hard. Sometimes like “grandchildren I won’t have” it’s a big regret. Cleaning the closet is having to admit “I’ll never fit in that skirt again”, or that the dress I really love has not been worn because it’s too stained to be worn in public. I have an entire wardrobe of “can only be worn at home” clothing because my views of what’s too worn-out to keep and societies differ. (Is it because I have an historical view from the days when every garment represented processing flax or wool, spinning, weaving, and sewing, or that I’m the “adult child of people who lived through the depression”, and figure that people only need one special outfit, and one or two for work?) Cleaning the `fridge is more of an acknowledgement that I wasted food- didn’t use that leftover up before it went bad. That’s a hard one for me to face.

I expect that now, especially during the shutdown, there are people avoiding looking at bills because it’s depressing when you realize that you simply don’t have the money to pay them. When there’s nothing you can do about a problem, it’s easy to want to avoid it. I left a handprint on the mirror over my dresser for many years. I’d put my baby sister up on the dresser and she left the handprint there. Allow me to say that it was probably sheer pre-teen laziness that accounted for the first year or so of not cleaning the mirror, but after a while, I didn’t want to lose that little mark of innocence. I probably left it there for six or seven years, until I’d smeared it wiping around it. I’m not good at letting go of the past.

From not taking down the Christmas Tree because you don’t want to face the end of the holidays, to not giving away the clothes of a spouse who has died, there are things that look like cleaning chores that are really letting go of the past.

I don’t think knowing that makes it any easier.

A Rectangle of Black Glass

I love my kindle e-reader. When Dan showed me his, it made me uncomfortable. It sounds good, but I’ve had computer crashes and lost everything, changed computers and the information stored on old floppies is useless because it can’t be read. Then I got Lyme, and the ability to read The Stand or other heavy books became a huge blessing.

Still, as I take it down to plug it in each morning, I am reminded. Without the ability to plug it in, it is nothing more than a rectangle of black glass. Without power, I cannot read the hundreds of books “in there”. Without the internet and the whole infrastructure that connects to it, the books are as impossible for me to read as if they were in the Boston Public Library. Less so because in theory I could walk to Boston, and there’s a hope that the books would be there when I got there.

So I continue to love my physical books. Yes, they need light, but even in the winter, that comes naturally every day. Yes they could burn, but then, so could I. The chances are that many of them will still be exciting the imagination of other readers and passing on knowledge long after I am dead.

My older kindle still works, although I stepped on it and there are cracks along the screen. But I expect that at some point the electronics will fail and it will be little more than a paper weight. A mirror reflects infinite images, whatever is in front of it. Even broken, each piece continues to do what mirrors do, only in small. Broken electronics are sad; can they even be salvaged for parts?

Being who I am, I extend analogies to try to imagine what switching from printed books to ebooks may tell us about our culture. We have access to millions of books, yet I find myself re-reading old favorites, … and passing up on one’s I’d like to read because even in electronic format, I can’t afford to buy them. I don’t in any way begrudge the cost. Someone spent years researching and writing the book, and should get their expenses and effort covered. I just don’t have that much available, as with any other commodity. The rich can have them, the poor cannot, although we sometimes get together and share some things. Similarly, I don’t read every book in the library, although there are few books I don’t finish once I start them (and few series I start and don’t want to read more). We may have only som much capacity to take in all the wonders of the world.
I like the IDEA of having a thousand books in a rectangle of black glass. But I also want my several thousand books sitting on shelves (and in piles, and in boxes, and piles of boxes) where I know I can get them.


I’m going to suggest that anyone who enjoys my historical meanderings might like the blog posts at the CTCW website this month. Since we are in-between cons and haven’t got speakers, workshops, vendors etc. to talk about, and December is a maelstrom of traditional holidays, I’ve got about one post scheduled for every day of the month, mostly talking about holiday traditions. For example, this is the one for December 5th, St. Nicholas Day:

November 6 is the feast of Saint Nicholas, a Christian saint associated with sailors, children, and giving, tradition suggests that he brings gifts to good children on the eve of his feast day. As he is supposed to be good, he is often accompanied by another magical being who punishes, while he rewards. In recent years the tradition of Krampus has been gaining popularity. He is one of Santa’s helpers from central Europe, where Krampus- a hairy monster(s) with horns, wearing belts of chains and bells, armed with switches and whips, and bags in which to carry away naughty boys and girls, often accompany the saint in parades and other pageants. Nicholas has various helpers in that role around the world, in the Netherlands, he is said to come from Spain, so his helper was a moor, known as Svart Piet (Black Peter), who was depicted in blackface because moors were hard to come by in Holland, but that tradition has fallen into disrepute as world travel is more common. Once on shore, he rides a white horse. In Switzerland and Luxembourg, his helper(s), Schmutzli , wears a monks habit. In Poland he is accompanied by both an angel and Knecht Ruprecht. In France, the saint rides a donkey, and is accompanied by Père Fouettard, the butcher who killed 3 boys and chopped them up, and Nicholas brought them back to life. Belsnickel (from belzen, German for to wallop or to drub) was more of a combination of both the carrot and the stick- he is one of the older versions of the nocturnal visitor, going back to the Middle Ages. He was portrayed as thin, wearing black, often fur, and carrying a switch (but with treats in his pocket). Most of these characters were disguised with masks or face paint- probably as they were family or neighbors dressed up to fool the kids (and delight the adults). My favorite version of this was when the visiting St. Nicholas (having been prompted by parents) was able to tell each child of some misdemeanor that they thought no one knew about. (“He knows if you’ve been bad or good!”)

I first heard of Krampus about ten years ago in the Krampus Christmas. I was instantly enchanted and prowled the internet and youtube enjoying  videos about Krampus runs, and how craftsmen carve the wooden masks, fit in animal horns, and make the hairy costumes. Apparently so have others because Krampus figures have gained in popularity since then, including a Krampus movie, Krampus tree ornaments, and Krampus nights in America. There are many versions of processions during this time of year where drinks or treats are given the wanderers in exchange for their blessings (or entertainment). The most sedate version of this is singing carols or Wassailing, which combines both entertainment and blessing, and could often bring needed supplemental food or income to the poor. A weird variant is the Mari Lwyd where the singers brought a hobby horse made with a horses skull on top of a pole with a sack covering the man carrying it; this is more likely to take place during the Christmas season rather than Advent (pre-Christmas). As with many “traditional customs”, often we cannot find reference to them before the 17th century. The folks in the 1800s had a delight in studying and resurrecting (inventing) folk customs; and many cards both Christmas and Valentines, depicted Krampus and the horrors coming to naughty children!

The Yule season starts on December 6th as this is the day of the earliest sunset (4:11 in Boston, MA). After this date the sunsets start getting later. But, isn’t the Solstice the shortest day? Yes. January 6th, the 12th day of Christmas, is the day of the latest sunrise (7:13 in Boston- if you go to Trondheim, Norway, the solstice day runs from 10:01 dawn to 2:31 sunset, yowch!). So from December 6-January 6 the days are short, but sunrise and sunset vary. This is probably the reason that this period is considered the prime time for the Wild Hunt and other spirits to visit earth.

There are some who suggest that the Santa legends are associated with the Hunt, and thus that Odin (who leads it in some traditions) was a precursor to Santa. More likely are other early versions of the hunt that were lead by Diana, Holle, and Berchta (depending on region). The Good Ladies led their troop (of dead or souls of sleeping shaman) from house to house, eating and drinking offerings that were left for them, blessing well run households, and creating havoc in poorly run or inhospitable houses. These days tales suggest that Perchta will come during the 12 nights of Christmas and leave a coin for good children, and cut out the internal organs of bad ones and replace them with straw. She is often depicted with a mask and costume with one benevolent face, and one of an scary demonic woman showing both her pre-Christian fertility goddess aspect and her Christian make-over into a demon. When she leads the Wild Hunt it is said to be a troop of the souls of un-baptised children.

Blessings (and the occasional treat) was what one expected from these visitors. Gift giving is a recent development, from the time of the Roman Empire it was more associated with New Year’s celebrations, later transferred to St. Basil’s Day (January 1st). St. Nicholas brought treats like cookies and fruit (and the threat of punishment). I’ll mention more supernatural visitors when the Yul Lads start arriving.


NEUSTIFT IM STUBAITAL, AUSTRIA – NOVEMBER 30: Participants who arrived by bus gather before dressing as the Krampus creature prior to Krampus night on November 30, 2013 in Neustift im Stubaital, Austria. Sixteen Krampus groups including over 200 Krampuses participated in the first annual Neustift event. Krampus, in Tyrol also called Tuifl, is a demon-like creature represented by a fearsome, hand-carved wooden mask with animal horns, a suit made from sheep or goat skin and large cow bells attached to the waist that the wearer rings by running or shaking his hips up and down. Krampus has been a part of Central European, alpine folklore going back at least a millennium, and since the 17th-century Krampus traditionally accompanies St. Nicholas and angels on the evening of December 5 to visit households to reward children that have been good while reprimanding those who have not. However, in the last few decades Tyrol in particular has seen the founding of numerous village Krampus associations with up to 100 members each and who parade without St. Nicholas at Krampus events throughout November and early December. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 453330551

Book Review with some thoughts of my own

I’ve just finished House of Darkness House of Light by Andrea Perron. It’s a memoir written by one of the daughters who lived for 10 years in a farmhouse in Rhode Island that was haunted. It was the basis of the horror movie The Conjuring, and frankly that plot seems to have been only loosely based on what happened. Given the vast majority of the “incidents” described, most are fairly normal for an old house: doors opening and closing themselves, objects appearing and disappearing, moving around, things levitating, clocks stopping, phone ringing when unplugged, pets not wanting to go in, or seeming to react to something unseen by their owners, smells and cold that come and go, hearing footsteps, sensing and seeing presences…. One assumes these are of people who lived there before and left “something” behind: whether a personality or an energetic imprint. These events are  very common in my reading and experience.
Some people seem to think those things are scary. I suppose they think so because they are indications that ghosts or spirits exist, when they have been told they can’t. “There is no evidence” proving it. If people having interacted with spirits for as long as we have written history doesn’t count as evidence, I think the scoffers are not being honest with themselves. Yes, some hauntings have been faked, but that doesn’t mean that all have. I think “follow the money” is a pretty good rule of thumb for checking for fraud. Who’s profiting by it? The Perrons didn’t.

I’ll admit it’s frustrating to have your stuff go missing, and inconvenient to have your bed move into the middle of the room every night while you’re asleep. (One of our ghosts used to make the rocking chair start rocking and dump stuff on the floor. My sister simply started putting stuff on the bed. “Rock that!”) That seems to be pretty much how most people deal with ghosts when they live with them. Most ghosts are pretty harmless.

The book is long and rambling, I kept thinking it could use an editor; but it is a memoir. It may need to take a long time because that’s how the situation evolved, and them with it. Three decades later, the family recalled their experiences in order to put the facts clearly for others (who might profit from what they learned). One of the nice things about this recounting  is that they point out that they got both good and bad from their experiences. For one, they are certain of an afterlife, and that God answered their prayers. That’s a wonderful thing to not wonder about. They also learned lessons, such as quarreling, blaming and other negative energy seemed to feed the spirits, give them more energy to move furniture, etc. Having learned this, they became forgiving, and developed problem resolution skills far beyond most people.

They also had good relationships with many of the spirits in the farmhouse. Since it was over two centuries old, many people had died there over time (although there were an unusual number of suicides I think). Most of the spirits were friendly, there was a child, often heard crying for its mother, who played with the girls toys, a protective masculine spirit in the doorway, a father and son, with their dog, on the stairs, and a woman who smelled like fruit and flowers who tucked them in at night. These were protective. One floated one of the girls safely down the stairs when she’d fallen, didn’t touch anything all the way down and around the corner. Another (or the same) held the end of a board up during a storm when one of the kids had to mend a fence. Having had household spirits help with our chores, I believe it.

The trouble came from on spirit (at least) who was hostile and dangerous. If she started as a ghost, she may have evolved into something different. The female figure who showed herself with a broken neck was identified as Bathsheba, and often attacked Carolyn, the girls’ mother. She even said she was mistress there before and intended to be again. “Was mistress once afore ye came and mistress here will be again. Will drive ye out with fiery broom, Will drive ye made with death and gloom!” She seemed to want the children, but she hated Carolyn.

Once Carolyn had something like a needle stabbed into her leg, a hanger jumped off the pole and beat her on the shoulder (in front of witnesses), she also had pains and weakness that doctors could not explain. She saw fireballs on her dresser, and a vision of what seems to have been all the ghosts in the house gathered around her with torches chanting that threat above. (If they’d lived in the house in different periods, how did she get them to come together like that?) In a house made of old wood, Carolyn lived in fairly constant fear of it catching fire. And not just in the house, a cigarette flew through a closed window in the car and burned one of the girls pants, there were chimney fires, and oil burner problems. That could just be an old house. But the fear is real. The nasty odor associated with her seems to have followed friends in their cars several times. (How far away could she reach?)

Other examples of real danger where when the girls were mysteriously trapped- behind the chimney, two girls were at risk of suffocation, one in an old box that wouldn’t open although it wasn’t fastened, and the other in a trunk she doesn’t remember getting into, and was nearly impossible to open in the first place. Roger, the father, had his back clawed up in his sleep (and stroked seductively in the cellar). Since there were several times when various people had energy sucked out of them, this approaches vampiric activity.

Often when there was a scary incident and they screamed and banged things for attention, no one else in the house could hear it. They called it “being in the bubble”. This makes me wonder if perhaps one of the ghosts had been suffocated and was trying to reproduce their own death. Did one die while feeling abandoned, and so set up a situation where a Perron would call for help and feel abandoned. Kids often test limits, just how much can they push the limit of what’s allowed before someone stops them. Perhaps the ghosts were trying to prove that everyone gets abandoned to a terrifying death- even if they had to artificially set it up.   Another thing I observed was that in the telling, most of the major attacks seemed to come just after a party, date or other really good day. Did good feelings annoy the spirit(s), or did a good day just build it enough energy to enable the attack? The Perrons were aware that after interactions they felt depleted, and often  slept more. They also noticed that the electric meter drew unnatural amounts of power just before a major manifestation. Clearly the spirits were sucking down energy- both Chi and electricity.

The book accumulates these examples, laying brink on brick to a wall of evidence. No, it doesn’t build to a great jump-scare at the end. (I don’t think it does, I’m just starting the second book, and new incidents keep coming. I am especially fond of one of the girls having seen a broom sweeping the kitchen by itself.)

So far, Ed and Lorraine Warren are not a big part of the story. But. of course the Warrens thought there was a demon; they were demonologists. Chances are they interpreted any etheric energy Lorraine felt as demonic (along with ouija boards and tarot cards). But then, how often do you have to deal with something like that before you become hyper cautious? Having come to help the family, the Warrens shared what they knew- which was probably more than the Perrons did at the time. In some areas. On the other hand, they “borrowed” and didn’t return the huge pile of history of the house that Carolyn had collected, and I find that rude. Yes, I think it’s clear that Bathsheba was an angry ghost.They also had to deal with little girls who knew how to keep secrets, and Roger, who refused to believe what was right in front of him. Because of his control issues, he may have been more willing than others to accept “authority” if it was coming to help him.

I wonder if there wasn’t something already on the site where the farmhouse was built (a portal to somewhere, a confluence of ley lines?) that made people more likely to commit suicide or fight with each other? I would certainly not argue with the Perrons (who went through  it) when they say that when they were in danger and they called on God, that Gods power drove the bad spirits off. I’m not sure that makes the spirits demonic or simply “lawful” (following some rules we don’t understand fully). And how does one define demon? I don’t accept the standard Christian/Satanic myth. I do think something dangerous was going on.

In style, the family, or maybe just Andrea, seems to have a habit of blending two phrases together like “thinking outside the boxing match” or “listen up in smoke“, which I found annoying, in the manner of Biff messing up expressions in Back to the Future. (Or perhaps I’ve been sensitized by having auto-correct functions constantly changing what I write to something completely different.) Sometimes she showed a great turn of phrase like “unraveled like chenille throws”. I loved the range and quality of the quotes she used to start and end each chapter. Having considered it, I have to admit that tighter writing wouldn’t cover the subject matter in the same depth, and showed the development of the lessons they took from their experiences.

I find it disorienting that while the book is generally chronological- it starts with why they needed to move, and the effort it took, and only just touched on the Warrens, (so far- I think they’re in the second book), to a certain extent each chapter deals with one cluster of experiences, or place, or friend. To that extent, it’s more stream-of-consciousness. Perhaps this was how it was created as the family pooled their memories. All in all, I found it a better description of living with ghosts than most of the (many) other books on the subject I’ve read. So often such books concentrate on the phenomena, not what it meant to the people to whom it happened.

If there was one thing I would wish had been different with this book, I really would have liked is the floor-plan of the farm. They know where the doors were, but while they talk about the three stairways to the cellar, (how many to the second floor?) and various bedrooms, parlor, warm room, chimney corner, summer kitchen, pantry, laundry, borning room, woodshed, etc. I want to know where they are in relationship to each other. Which stairway has the L turn? How many rooms were there in the cellar, sounds like a half dozen, it must have been huge!

I am actually looking forward to finishing the next two books, despite the length.


This weekend we got into a discussion about forgiveness and how good it is for the person doing the forgiving, and how hard it is. One thing we agreed on (I think) is that our language doesn’t help much in this process, what does forgiveness mean to most of us anyway? It seems to mean “you did something awful, but it’s OK, I’m not going to hold it against you.”

Looking up the  definition, it says: forgive: verb: stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake synonyms: pardon, excuse, exonerate, absolve, acquit, amnesty, exculpate

I can well see the healing of stopping feeling angry and resentful. However the difficulty is how do you “stop feeling something”, when the feeling is based on your judgement that what they did was wrong? Asking someone to forgive someone else can easily be seen as calling their judgement into question. Forgiveness doesn’t mean that what they did wasn’t wrong, and it doesn’t mean that your assessment of what they did was incorrect. Forgiveness can seem hard if it seems to be asking you to suspend your judgement about what is right and wrong. Hurting people is wrong; lying/ stealing/ cheating is wrong. It’s a challenge to forgive, if forgiveness is taken to mean “It’s OK”, when what they did is clearly not OK.

But as this definition specifies, forgiveness doesn’t mean changing the judgement of what’s right or wrong, it means changing how you feel about it. How YOU feel, not how they feel. They may apologize (even better, try to make amends), and that’s the easiest scenario for forgiveness. If you can convince yourself that it was an accident, or a reasonable mistake, you probably won’t be angry any more. If they are not sorry (or may even blame you), it’s hard not to feel that you’ve been either hurt on purpose, or that your feelings/well-being don’t matter to them. It’s hard not to be upset about that.

Another variation on this is forgiving yourself- also hard. You have to convince yourself that you did your best under the circumstances, or that while you did something you now regret, and will now be less likely to do anything like it again, it’s in the past and you have to move on from there. If you can never forgive yourself for things you did wrong, it’s going to be hard for you to forgive anyone else.

But forgiveness isn’t saying “it wasn’t wrong”, it’s saying “I’m not going to let that keep upsetting me.” One way to look at it is to say “What was wrong was them, not me. I do not need to take responsibility for what they did.” (In many situations, you should take responsibility for any part that was under your control, but if you do and they don’t, you don’t have to take responsibility for their part as well as your own.) For example, if someone cheats you, you can decide that you don’t want to be cheated again, and figure out what level of caution and suspicion  you are comfortable with when approaching similar situations in the future. You have no obligation to get them to realize that what they did hurt you (emotionally, financially, physically). It would probably be so hard that it would be a waste of your time and effort. If it’s in business, you may choose to put them into a category of “I’m not going to do business with people who do <whatever>” and you may take legal action to recover lost money.

But think about emotional hurts the same way. Often the recovery costs are just not worth the lost money, and the effort required to change the other person’s view is not worth the effort you’d have to invest. The reason they hurt you may have been due to their personality, which won’t change, or their up-bringing, which would be hard to change. If it’s a valuable relationship like a marriage, or a parent/child relationship, it’s worth more effort to salvage, but the less close you are, the less effort it’s worth to preserve. For an occasional aquaintence, saying “I forgive them that insult” is like saying “I’m not going to worry about that $10 (although I’m not going to loan them another)”.

Perhaps the saying “Not my circus, not my monkeys” would be useful. While it’s sad that people hurt each other, whether on purpose, or by accident, it’s not your problem, it’s theirs. You can forgive them and go on your way, lesson learned. You now know more about them, about yourself, and about the world. You’ve learned a valuable lesson, but there’s no reason to keep carrying that angry energy inside you. Look at and resolve your feelings for your part of the interaction, and when that’s settled, leave them to deal with their part. “I forgive you”, doesn’t mean it was OK, it means “I’m not going to try and change that anymore.”, and that you aren’t trying to hold up the weight of whatever wrong happened by yourself. Trust that the universe will restore balance for their part sometime, and get on with your life. (Remembering to forgive your past self for mistakes and bad decisions, and not make your present and future self suffer over them.)

I called and called, but you didn’t come!

Is there anything scarier?

Whether you were calling, or you were the person who failed to respond when someone needed help, being alone when you need help is one of the most universal fears.

That’s why we have baby minders, and elder minders; why I insisted that my husband take a walkie talkie with him (yeah, old tech) when he was working out of my hearing range after the time he was working on the foundation and a jack slipped leaving the house pressing on his chest. He couldn’t call loudly because he couldn’t get a breath and after a couple of hours managed to get the jack back under the floor joist and lift it off himself. Meanwhile I’d been happily bustling around the kitchen, cooking, cleaning, kid-minding, oblivious to the fact that my husband might have been dying only a hundred feet away. Even before that, when the kids were small and I was alone in the house watching them, I took to using the bathroom with the door open just in case of unexpected emergencies. We worry about each other. We want to be there.

It may be why we have cell phones, and keep them on all the time. I’m sure I’ve read stories where not being there and how that failure haunts a person for the rest of his or her life. It’s scary enough to know that you are on your own, although some people can live with that. The nearly mythological Mountain Man of America who was willing to accept that he could die if he had an accident sometimes makes us feel that we should all be so self-sufficient. But humans, generally, are tribal animals- we want others around us. The Daniel Boones who didn’t want to be able to see the smoke from his neighbor’s chimney are rare. We may not LIKE our neighbors, but at least they are there. If we knock on their door bleeding, they’ll take us in and call 911. If we call 911 and no one shows up withing minutes we feel that something has gone wrong with the system. (How many minutes probably depends on whether you live out in the boonies, as I do, or in the city, but that’s part of how we decide where to live.)

We may not reach out to others often, but it’s reassuring to know that they are there. This is the finding of many studies about “latch-key children”. When there’s a stay-at-home parent, the kid may return from school and go straight to his room, even resisting attempts at conversation. But when both parents are working, they feel abandoned. They want that unseen presence nearby, assuring that if they suddenly deign to grace Mom with a request for help with scheduling, or problems at school, that she’s there and will drop everything to prove that their welfare is the most important thing in her life. And mostly we do that, although sometimes stopping in the middle of one task means starting over and a great loss of time, because that emotional assurance of being “most important” is what builds self value in their child.

I have seen many rants on the internet about this generation being “delicate snowflakes” that can’t deal with the fact that they aren’t the center of the world. Perhaps it’s because the recent recession means that no one was there at home when they needed help and were ready to ask for it, and they internalized how cut off they are from the rest of humanity. Most parents must leave their kids alone in order to pay for their food, shelter, and other physical needs. Very few bosses put their employee’s welfare before profits. Very few political representatives put their constituent’s welfare before that of their campaign fund. But humanity didn’t survive because people ignored their family and neighbors when they needed help. In most levels of civilization people made sure they had the safety of numbers. We lived in large family groups, in villages, in neighborhoods; we depended on those around us, and being dependable for others was a prime virtue. Civilization is the result of people doing better because we share our resources (that includes time and emotional support as well as what we produce). We thrive not on independence, but interdependence. Even the mountain man found his inner peace from his interaction with nature, rather than with other humans. We must not disparage those who call for help, but provide it. This creates the safety net we call civilization.

Who will come when you call?

Making the kids eat their vegetables

I’m going to share a strange opinion for a parent. Don’t force your kid to eat vegetables.
I’m not saying don’t serve them vegetables, but don’t force them to finish something they find repellent.
Suppose you are one of the 40% to whom cilantro tastes like soap, and people who like cilantro were laughing at you. How would you feel?
I can remember my mother sitting for HOURS to get us to finish our vegetables. Turns out that most of them were overcooked (or just stuff like creamed corn, stewed tomatoes and other stuff I wouldn’t eat even now). But she didn’t know how to steam them. Her thought was put on hollandaise or another sauce to cover up the flavor. But overcooked brassicas taste sulpherous- and even now sometimes fresh peas or broccoli don’t taste good- usually at the end of the season.
Trust the taste buds. I remember once we had a party with swordfish and all the kids complained about it, but our parents forced us all to finish it, but later when the adults started eating theirs, it turned out that the fish had gone bad; they just assumed that we were being been fussy. (The worst phrase in my childhood was “no-thank-you helping. We were not allowed to refuse anything an adult wanted us to eat.)
I realized when MY taste changed when I was pregnant, and suddenly couldn’t eat things I knew I loved, that it has to do with personal chemistry. I suspect that kids may be like pregnant women and teens, and women during menopause- their chemistry makes the food taste different to them than to others. It can, and does, change suddenly and completely. The best way to create a non-fussy eater is to respect their bodily autonomy.
If they don’t like a food, teach them how to quietly remove it from their mouths. Adults aren’t forced to eat what they don’t like, but we’ve learned to be quiet and polite about just leaving it on our plates. If you teach your kids that they don’t have to eat something that disgusts them, they will be much more adventurous eaters, and will be more willing to try new foods, and even the same foods again later.
Again- it’s respecting bodily autonomy. You just have to offer them equally nutritious options, not sweets instead. I dealt with it by having salad and at least two vegetables, one a super vegetable, at every meal, and they only had to eat one.
BTW, in the same vein- have you ever had a burn on your hand and put it into hot water and discovered that water that would normal be fine for you was painful? Think about that when the kids say the water is too hot- their skin is new, like the new skin on your healing burn. No one can tell someone else what they are feeling.

Is being healthy privileged?

Both money and health are criteria on which so much hinges. I’m not sure that either is a “privilege” unless you think of privileges as being distributed by God or nature or something like that. I tend to think of privileges as being distributed by people who have control of the excess. Health, like Life and Liberty, are rights, but are not distributed evenly. Wealth is a construct of society, so I see it as a privilege, and that when one group hoards it, they are doing wrong. I don’t think anyone can give health to anyone else, although policies can keep people from health. (I’m thinking Flint, climate change and other forms of pollution stemming from counting profit as more important than hurting the health of the people in the community.) Regan deregulated a lot while insisting on only eating organic grass fed beef. That’s freaking abuse of privilege! OK, I guess I’ve talked myself into accepting that to a certain extent health can be “granted” or “with-held”, but again, like life and liberty, I think it’s a right, not a privilege. It’s just criminal to take it away from people. I’m going to need to keep thinking about this one and see where it goes.

Living in a Horror Movie

A friend recently wondered if we can ever get our country back to where we’d want it in our life-time.  I (and many friends) try to reduce the amount of news to which I expose myself, because it’s depressing and scary. (And I’m NOT diagnosed with any mental illness! How bad must it be for those who are?)
You can probably guess how I feel about tearing parents and children apart in order to motivate people who are actively trying to escape death in their own countries from trying to escape to a country that has traditionally been a land of peace, freedom and opportunity.
We have been the good guys. Now, like medieval nobility, we are so convinced of our virtue that we are failing to live up to the Chivalry that is supposed to describe us.
Trump pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council is SO typical. Almost no one noticed that Congress did, as they’ve been planning, dip into Social Security this week, the Supreme Court dealt a setback on trying to stop gerrymandering (as we all wonder how to stop current asshattery, people say “Vote”, but if they rig the voting, that won’t help). On the good news front, many states and all of Canada has legalized marijuana (so we can toke up and try to de-stress).
It’s hard not to get depressed since it’s becoming clear that there is a sizable portion of Americans who are more uncomfortable with what my friends would consider progress in human rights, people on my feed are wondering how we can make America back into what we thought it stood for. I do think there is hope. (Of course, I also thought that Sanders would beat Clinton and then Trump, so that’s a “for what it’s worth” sentiment.)
I see this as the last desperate pushback of the people who’ve been fighting civil rights, women’s rights, gender rights, religious rights, (basically Human Rights) for the last half century and are afraid that their world is at risk. They want a world where the man is “in charge” of his house, where if you’re a straight white Christian you don’t need to worry about anything other than the status quo. They are happy ignoring a status quo that dumps on those not in the privileged population. And if they aren’t seeing privileges (and they aren’t- at least they aren’t able to make ends meet by working hard), even though they are straight, white, hardworking, Christian males, they feel cheated! They figure that if we give equal rights to women, queers, Blacks, Jews, Muslims, Mexicans, and everyone else, doesn’t that mean that their already-difficult life is going to get worse? No wonder they’re scared! They believe that the only way to pay for helping the poor is taking it out of their pockets, and they don’t know enough to realize that isn’t how it works.
They figure if they could go back to the Ozzie and Harriet image of the 50s, they’ll be fine, and they want that first, before anyone else takes a piece of the American Pie.  Because they’ve seen that too many government programs run out when they ask for help (“We’ll put you on the waiting list…”). They believe that the money those programs have that isn’t enough to help them, must be either going to someone less deserving, or at very least, needs more money- which they think means more taxation.
But I have hope, because I know some psychology.  Any time someone is losing an argument, their last attempt to win is to threaten their opponent. We’ve been telling them to “just deal” with their discomfort around gays, and blacks and women who think they’re “as good as” them, and not helping them deal with those feelings. They feel bullied, and are thrilled to see us intellectual liberals have to suck it up when they act like asshats. We mustn’t lose sight of that. We have been making progress, and most people are a lot more comfortable with interracial and gay marriage, than they were, but it’s going to be decades before everyone who’s uncomfortable dies off.  I think the average liberal, educated person had become complacent, and thought we could just let things keep “going in the right direction” without actively working for it (the way we did in the 60s and 70s).
I believe that this resistance being shown by the terrified bigots who think that they have been given permission to bully women, people of color, (anyone different) is motivating a “silent majority” (to use the old phrase) of the liberal people who do believe in human rights, and, I hope,  getting them to put down their phones, and get off their arses to vote and protest and call, and put some effort into creating and supporting the world they want and expect. We have to be careful to not lash out at the frightened people because they are lashing out at us, but instead firmly not let them shout us down, until they gradually see that they are NOT worse off with universal health care, neighbors who are a different than they are, and multi-ethnic, multi-faith communities.
I totally believe that there are far more people who believe in kindness and human rights than in protecting the myth of white, male, Christian, straight supremacy, but they thought the fight had been won. This is the “jump scare” at the end of the horror movie.
And even when we get through this crisis, we have to remember that there can be a sequel.