Put it on the List

“Put it on the List” is what we say to each other when we run out of anything, or, preferably, haven’t yet, and don’t want to run out of something. There are times in my life when we can simply put things on the list, and then get them when we go out, so that the inventory of ingredients or supplies around the house are what we expect to be there. One doesn’t want to reach for the rice, or milk or celery and discover that we’re out. When I was growing up it was trained into us that you never used the last pickle or last onion in case it was needed as an ingredient for dinner.

But there are times when putting something on the list is a reminder that it’s something we need to get, not as soon as we go out to the right store, but when we can. Getting the porch lights fixed, and the faucet replaced are “on the list”. Even the phrase “things we need” calls into question the nature of need. We need food, water, air, shelter. In some ways it doesn’t matter whether your shelter is straw, wood, or brick, until the wolf comes knocking at the door. At that point some of the other qualities of the material become something you “need” more. Modern versions have the first two pigs running to their brother’s house. Older versions honestly admit that they have entered the food chain in a way none of us wants.

There’s a common mean that suggests we should excise the word “should” from our thinking. “Should” implies that one option is preferable. Yet it also includes the implication that there’s a choice. If you want not to be eaten, you should choose brick as a building material. I think we can take it as a given that we prefer not to be eaten, but that bricks are available, or that we can afford them is not a given. You “should” diet, then you’ll lose weight and be healthier is a common assumption that ignores the science of metabolism and the millions of people for whom that advice doesn’t work. We “should” go to bed early so we will wake rested in the morning is odious advice to those with insomnia. Rather than “should” I think “if-then” suggestions at least include the possibility that the “IF” being suggested may or may not be possible.
I know that I have had a privileged life. I try to appreciate the lessons I learn about how life is for others when we slide into the less privileged levels of income, health, or other attributes. In this lifetime, I am sure to remain white. I suppose it’s an assumption that that will always be a marker of privilege. If that change happens, I hope I can learn from the example of those who have had to deal with getting the sticky end of the popsicle stick with grace and patience, and follow it.

We say we need something when we want it to make our life the way we would prefer. The unspoken part of that is we need “in order to…” Put it on the list so that we will have it when the occasion to use it comes up. If we keep staple supplies around the house, we won’t have to invest the time to go get it, which when you have chosen to live in a rural area could add an hour to a ten minute task, or five dollars in gas to pick up a two dollar ingredient. Those replacement light bulbs mean we don’t have to wait in the dark until the next errands day. It’s convenience. But there are people who have to choose between a medicine that could reduce the risk of death or disability, or paying rent. That’s closer to a need, but it’s still “if you don’t do this, the situation will be different.” Technically, we don’t need air. We only NEED to keep breathing in order to live. We don’t have to live. Indeed, as little as we consider it, every one of us will stop breathing at some point. I guess my point is that we often don’t finish the full “if-then” when we casually say we need something. People in my income bracket would say that the rich don’t need their expensive clothes, but that ignores the human reality that they do require, emotionally, the approval of those with whom they interact. If they deviate from expectations their lives, emotional, financial, social, and other aspects would suffer. Would they be able to reorganize their lives to live without those clothes, that house, that job, those friends? Possibly, but would they be emotionally scarred by it? Almost certainly. (In no way do I mean to suggest that this justifies a system that allows some people to suffer from lack of adequate medical care simply to prevent others to not have to adapt their expectations, only that social pressures affect the rich as well as the poor.) I would like to think I will remember to be aware of how options are often subject to outside influences, and be kinder to others and myself.

Federal Holidays

My friends know I’m a big fan of holidays. I saw a post suggesting that President’s Day should be eliminated, and instead Election Day be made a Federal Holiday so everyone could vote easily. That got me thinking about our Federal Holidays.

There’s no federal holiday in March, April or August, but 2 in November and January. Why not even those out.

Election Day should totally be a Federal Holiday, and I think we should also get the local election days off, so people would attend and vote at town meeting and school district meetings (in March around here) and maybe Primaries in September (move Labor Day).

I acknowledge New Year’s and Thanksgiving as traditional social celebrations, celebrating having food, and getting through another year are standard in most cultures, but Christmas should be not be a Federal Holiday since it’s religious. Let everyone who celebrates it take it as a personal day, as other religious people have to take whatever days they celebrate.

I understand that Memorial Day is for all Veterans and Veterans is for Dead Veterans, although I’m not sure it needs to be on Armistice Day anymore (or since there was another World War).

I think MLK should be Civil Rights Day, (for ALL civil rights, although one for GBLT wouldn’t be amiss), and while Juneteeth is worthy of historical note, if we have Civil Rights day, we could have Woman’s Suffrage Day in June to mark when women started voting (or just Suffrage day to incorporate Juneteenth).

Columbus Day needs to be changed to Indigenous People’s Day, but maybe we could have a Immigrant’s Day for all immigrants, if there’s a free month.

Presidents Day and Independence Day are anniversaries of historical events. If we don’t need to single out our folk heroes, we don’t need President’s day anymore (we don’t have a Congress Day, or a Supreme Court Day, do we?).

Labor Day is for workers (probably because we didn’t want to celebrate May Day because it seemed to communist).

So we could have a federal holiday each month and honor the American Ideal and those who contribute to it, those who work for it, those who fought for it, those who lead, those who came with hope, or were brought against their will, or who were here first. Those who have had to fight for rights that we promised everyone all along.

Any change will be resisted, of course, but we could do it. Perhaps these holidays should be instituted for 100 years, and then revisited to see if there’s something more important worth commemorating. Having a holiday simply because we’re used to having that day off, when it’s nothing more than an excuse to have “X-day” sales, is not the reason we should have holidays. Elections: choosing our leaders, and the peaceful transfer of power is very much worth celebrating. Holidays are how a culture makes a public statement about what’s important.

Pagan Christmas

Why would a Pagan celebrate Christmas?

            There are lots of reasons, and I suppose everyone’s are different, but most fall into a few major categories.  My reasons have a lot to do with my being a student of mythology and holidays. I post daily to a page (Holidays that Might get Overlooked) about holidays, and have thought about and researched them a great deal. I used to say I never met a holiday I didn’t like, but I have backed off a little to avoid accusations of cultural appropriation. Also, I no longer have the energy.

            I don’t feel I need to be a direct recipient of the cultural or religious line of a holiday to celebrate it. I celebrate Guy Fawkes Day (with toffee, and fireworks), and an appreciation that we need to be active, not passive, participants in our government. One reason for a holiday is to remind ourselves of important things that can get lost in the immediate daily patterns. The feeling about active participation may derive more from the movie V for Vendetta than the original Guy Fawkes Day. This year I am planning on doing a more USA version on January 6th, to commemorate another failed plot to violently bring down our government, not the British one. I’m thinking of burning the QAnon Shaman in effigy as he’s the most photogenic image from the attack. I think toffee and fireworks will carry over, and perhaps a moment of silent appreciation for those who were hurt and traumatized in the attack. I celebrate Hanukkah with Jewish friends, and Independence Day. I honor Thor, Apollo, Ganesha, Anubis, Holle, and the Virgin Mary, when their holidays come around. Recognizing great spirits, and creating relationships with them, as well as reinforcing communit connections is what holidays are for.

But as to Christmas, it’s a beautiful myth. I like the image of the holy family, the stable, and the visiting wise men. There’s nothing exploitative in that. I also enjoy the modern myths which are equally a part of the holiday: Dicken’s  A Christmas Carol in it’s many re-tellings, and the possibility of turning one’s life around; It’s a Wonderful Life and the awareness that doing good for others is more important than achieving something that seems “great”. Aspects of the Santa myth are appealing, if not the disillusion when kids ‘learn Santa isn’t real’. (I don’t think it’s that they didn’t get what they wanted, but that the adults they trusted had been lying to them.)  I like the idea of gifts without the expectation of return, and showing kindness and giving to those who couldn’t possibly repay (ie. Charity), simply because making someone else happy, or less miserable makes us feel good.  As a pagan I also believe that the belief in Santa has created a real avatar. I know people personally who have met him, and so yes, I believe in Santa Claus. I also believe in him as a spirit that can descend on/into a human, as the loa ride their worshippers, or a HP calls down the Goddess into herself. So why not celebrate Santa?

Many pagans celebrate Christmas because they are part of families who do. Family is important. Celebrating together is important. When my husband died, we had two funerals, one for the Christians and one for the pagans, because he had many friends who loved him, and they all had a right to have a ritual that met their needs for mourning. Eating together, singing together, these things forge connections across community. Sharing customs extends this to a greater community. While it is wonderful to have others who understand and relate to our spiritual path, having connections with those related to us by blood, activities, neighborhood, and other bonds of affection is also wonderful, and we can share connecting rituals with them without damaging our personal relationships with the gods with whom we work.
                       Some rituals are intended to reinforce the bonds between the divinity and their worshiper. While many put out a bowl of porridge for their hob or Nisse, we don’t expect any of our guests to pay any attention to them, just as we wouldn’t expect them to give our kids a good night kiss. I have a personal Mother Night celebration on the night before Solstice that I have always told the kids is something they are welcome to join in- if at any point they enter a special relationship with the Mother(s). One of the great things about polytheism is that we don’t try to force everyone to share the same rituals. Warriors do their devotions to warrior gods, healers to healing spirits, families to their own ancestors, not everyone needs to work with the same Beings.

Christmas card pic ’58?

I see the purpose of holidays is to create and reinforce the bonds with community and with the gods. Some rituals do many things at once. Sharing a meal with traditional foods, whether it’s lutfisk, latkes, lasagna, or a roast goose cane work on so many levels. Foods eaten only under certain circumstances set it off as a special occasion: sacred. They can also invite in the ancestors, or simply be delicious, and make us feel that someone was willing to do something special to make us happy. Decorations can be symbolic, and we know how multi-level symbolism can be! At a very basic level, doing anything simply because “we did it when I was a kid” is going to hit us in our subconscious mind. The very smells will reach memories that have been long forgotten. Hopefully the associations are positive, because if the buried memory is traumatic, not nostalgic, it can have unwanted effects.
            Holiday celebrations are constantly evolving as well. Advent used to be a time of fasting, and the 12 Days of Christmas up until January 6th, the time for celebrating. Now the season seems to be Black Friday to December 25th. In recent years people have enthusiastically embraced Krampus and rejected Swart Piet (St. Nicholas’ Moorish helper). Articles annually remind us that Christmas trees, cards, many songs, and Santa himself all entered our group mind at some point, and may not be as ancient or as universal as we think they are.

Hellenic Ritual

I celebrate many holidays, Christmas among them. Not all Pagans are Wiccan (or Khemetic, or Hellenic, or Heathen,…), but I think most of us have looked at many world mythologies and found something that resonated within us, which is how we found our own spiritual practices. I think the vast majority of Pagans out there practice alone or with family, and while there are gatherings some can attend, the general ones are designed to be Universalist (although heavily Wiccan) so all Pagans can participate. We certainly don’t have the communities supporting the sacrifices, blots, or public rituals that the ancestors whose practices inspired ours had. To a certain extent, our diverse culture has dictated that religion be practiced privately, so that’s the part we are used to. Christmas family rituals, decorations, special foods, music, and recounting of myths are lovely and usually supportive. The Christian myth is beautiful, whether the religion has realized the potential or not, and I say (with Scrooge’s nephew Fred) “I say Christmas has done me good, and will do me good, and I say God Bless it!” If one day, or one season a year Christians can live up to the message of their chosen Avatar, that’s a beautiful thing, and I will happily join their celebrations.

Thoughts on Contamination

I am an old, opinionated woman*, I’m wise, and I know a lot. I’ve learned through experience and study, and my saving characteristic is that I realize that there are a lot of other old, wise women out there who also know a lot, and we often disagree on major things.

Philosophies develop through life experiences. When you’re little, you wonder how things work and the adults give you explanations, which you generally accept, and as you learn more, you guild on the foundations those early explanations made. When you find something that doesn’t fit, you’ll go to great lengths to make it work with what’s already there, rather than go back and re-examine your foundational beliefs.

I have a bunch of beliefs and they reflects my experiences. I believe that many things fix themselves if you leave them alone, other things take work to fix. (I’m still working on the “some things can’t be fixed and need to be discarded”. I do tend to think that when you retire something, if there’s still some value in the components, they should be recycled.) The analogies for life I use tend to come from my experiences: housekeeping, cooking, gardening, and other things I’ve done a lot of. I’m unlikely to use (or sometimes, even understand) a sports analogy, however I think we all use analogies from the things we’ve experienced and understand to extend to the things we don’t understand that seem similar.

I don’t believe in sin, although I know it’s a foundational belief for many people. I believe in cause and effect, or consequences, what some would call Karma, although I tend to think of it as science. I’m not sure that if you put out cruelty, you get cruelty back, or whether you simply have created a filter through which you see the world and makes you interpret the world through that lens. I dislike the idea of a religion (or explanation of how the world works) that uses fear and guilt to motivate people. It seems a cruel thing to impose on little children as a foundational belief they will build on for the rest of their lives. In my experience, people are often motivated by the joy of doing nice things for each other. It makes you happy. What I’m left with is wondering whether there are people born with no motivations except pain avoidance and self gratification, or whether they were damaged in childhood somehow to react that way.

In my experience, people love each other. They love their families, they love their friends, they love strangers in a general way simply because they are alive and wonderful. Some people have been hurt and many of their reactions are aimed at avoiding being hurt again, but helping others makes people happy. It could be I’m seeing the world through that filter, but experience has reinforced this for me. Given that it results in my being happy most of the time, I figure that is a good way to live.

Falling back to the problem about things fixing themselves, and sometimes needing work to fix, I think we should be encouraging each other to both help each other, and to see each other through a lens of kindness. How is this about contagion? Sometimes we step in something sticky and have to wash our feet off. Other times we might touch our eyes or tongue and discover that the hot pepper or peppermint we were handling hours before is still there, and can still sting. If someone is carrying around a stain of old experiences, they may have forgotten (or even not noticed) when and where they picked it up, but it’s a bit more important to clean it off and avoid spreading the contaminant than to worry about where it came from. One thing experience has taught me is that a bit of poo, or paint, or whatever on your shoe can get tracked all over the place. Hot pepper can last on your hands a VERY long time, not hurting your fingers, but will cause agony to mucus membranes. Poison Ivy has taught me the valuable lesson that you can pick up the oil from more than just those “leaflet’s three”. You can lean on a tree in winter, or sit on a rock and not notice the little vines on them, but the “dead” stems will get the oil on your gloves or pants, and then suddenly you get a rash and won’t know where it came from. I think many mystery rashes are from cats walking through poison ivy, coming in and rubbing against our legs, or we pat them, and “Where did this rash come from?” Perhaps we don’t get it on our hands because we wash them enough, but meanwhile the hands spread it to our arms, our faces, etc. Just because it’s invisible doesn’t mean it doesn’t still work. I know a girl who sat on the chair where her sister who’d been in the woods, put her clothes to get into the wash just as soon as she’d showered. She was wearing her bathing suit, and the rash got places you don’t want blisters!
This has taught me that there’s no advantage to assigning guilt for having gotten exposed to whatever you don’t like. The world is full of cow patties, which by and large are a good thing, they are the result of eating grass, and provide nutrients for the soil. We simply don’t like the way they smell (and stick). So wash it off. Clean yourself. Use abrasion or solvent or whatever substance you know that will loosen it or neutralize it. There’s no sin, no fault, but getting it off makes your world more pleasant. That effort is worthwhile.

We are often exposed to things that make us feel “icky” or unclean. Wash them off by clearing your energy. We all have our preferred methods. You can smudge or ring bells, or when you watch news that is doing it’s best to grab your attention by your adrenaline glands, watch or read something that reminds you that there are lots of good people and things out there. Some people might review the statistics to remind themselves how rare acts of violence really are, even though they dominate the headlines. Others may simply look at pictures of kittens and puppies. Remind yourself firmly that while some other people might do mean things, you wouldn’t. You need to remember that. Focus your attention on the good things that make your life good. And sometimes, a bath or a shower will help. Picture all the ick going down the drain and dissipating. If you don’t clean yourself, you could unintentionally keep tracking it around and spreading it. Remember, often “dirt” is simply something out of place. Manure in a field is fertilizer, the lipstick on the glass was a cosmetic on lips, the icky limp macaroni in the drain, was delicious mac and cheese a half hour before, on your plate. What may be nasty here, may not be nasty where it belongs. But get it off you, and you’ll feel better.

*and if you think I am not going to milk that or all it’s worth, give that thought up. I have to put up with all the BS of aging, I get the perks too!

Milo of Croton

Milo and his Bull

There is a story about a wrestler who figured he could gain strength by carrying around a calf every day, starting with a new-born calf, and as it grew keep doing it until he was carrying a 4 year old bull. I feel sorry for the bull, although we can assume that since it was a daily occurrence starting from being newborn, it learned to trust him and cooperate. (Although as I got bigger, I got less comfortable with being picked up. The hand stays the same but is pressing upward against 250 pounds rather than 50, and the nerves register that.)

I often think of Milo as age catches up with me. I figure if someone really tried it, as the bull (probably eating 30+ pounds of food a day) would get harder and harder to carry, until one day he couldn’t pick it up. This is assuming that he didn’t hurt himself first. (Have you ever heard of an athlete who didn’t get hurt at some point?)

The problem with aging is that we keep our expectations, that we will be able to build up strength, speed, stamina, knowledge, with hard work and perseverance. But our bodies are physical. Like a car where rubber degrades, metal fatigue, etc., even if we don’t damage ourselves by asking more of it than we’d like, our bodies still change as they age. They don’t absorb nutrients from food the same way, the hormone balance changes, which effects every other system. Intellectually, I remember just grabbing something off the floor. Now I stop and think about keeping my balance, and moving slowly enough that nothing twinges.

Milo of Croton by Joseph-Benoît Suvée

Milo was apparently a champion wrestler for many years in 6th century Greek colony in Italy. As I looked for a picture of him carrying a bull, I found more artwork depicting his death. According to that story, he apparently found a tree stump that was being split with a wedge and in trying to pull the halves apart, the wedge fell out trapping his hand. Later his body was found having been eaten by wolves or a lion. OK, I’ve often pulled apart a mostly split piece of wood, so maybe he was the one doing the splitting, and I’m not sure why one would try to split a standing trunk. It’s been 2500 years, I’m sure the story has been garbled. But we can still learn from the story of Milo. No, not to carry around livestock (although I also saw photos of people with calves and mules. No bulls, because I don’t think that’s possible.) But the part where we learn to respect that we are getting older, and not to try to live in the past.

I have so many memories of people hurting themselves by trying to do things they ‘used to be able to do’, whether it’s staying up all night, or lifting a cast iron bathtub by themselves. In y case it would probably be trying to do the amount of work I used to do in the same amount of time. It’s not happening. I may be full of knowledge and talent, but I also have the wisdom to remember (most of the time) that I’m not 40 or even 50 anymore. I can’t do that. If will hurt myself if I try. But with wisdom, we can adapt and use our knowledge to do even greater things- in ways that won’t hurt ourselves.
I just have to keep reminding myself. WWMD? (What would Milo do? Don’t do that.)

Farewell 2020

I have been thinking about 2020 and all the griping we’ve been doing about it. 2020 was a year of hard lessons. As Faucci said “I don’t know how to explain to you that you should care for other people.” We have refused to recognize the bigotry in our culture, we have refused to acknowledge and deal with the pollution that we know is creating climate change, we have refused to address income inequality, and corruption in government. These are insidious as cancers eating away at our physical, mental, emotional and cultural health.

2020 made it VERY clear what we need to do to succeed: to care about each other, take care of each other, recognize and deal with unpleasant truths, and stop being jerkweeds (to use the newly recognized word). To blame 2020 for our discomfort at what we’ve inflicted on ourselves is to continue the behavior that led to the pandemic, wildfires, budget crises, etc. If there was a theme for 2020 it was wake up and take some personal responsibility for what’s going on! White people MUST learn that Black Lives Matter means that we haven’t been treating them as if they matter as much as white lives. EVERYONE must recognize the reality of the Pandemic and how badly it’s been handled, (ditto climate change). I don’t need to rehearse every issue.

I will simply say that as I understand it, if you fail a class, you have to retake it. If you don’t learn the lessons you are presented with in one life, you come back into a similar situation until you learn to deal with those issues. I will remind people that many griped about 2019. If we don’t accept and learn the lessons that 2020 was trying to teach us, 2021 will have to be more ‘heavy handed’ in trying to pound those lessons through our thick heads.

I realize that to a certain extent many of us feel that we are in a class where the teacher says “If the guilty parties don’t come forward the whole class is going to have detention.” But let’s go back to that first lesson: We need to learn to take care of each other better. It’s hard when it’s the class bullies who are screwing it up for everyone else, but we still need to take care of them, so that they can learn to be better.

Kefir Chronicles continued

I have been careful to keep the bottles clean because I know wild yeasts and bacteria are the way to mess up the flavor and basis. So that’s fine.
Once I started the holiday baking, the ‘sweet spot’ of warmth has not necessarily been consistent between when I’m baking and the wood stove’s going, but I no longer have to keep it in the Kombucha heater. (Sadly, the Kombucha mother doesn’t seem to be reviving.)

On the sour dough front- It didn’t work for me, and cost me the flour and milk I’d put into it, but I shouldn’t be surprised. I am shite with all sourdough, and don’t love it. I think it resents me not caring for it. Eventually I threw out both the starter (which separated and the liquid part turned black), and the ‘loaf’ which never rose, but continued to be the nice spongy ‘soft as a babies bottom’ texture I’d started it as.

I have gotten used to drinking the lumps. I put the kefir through the blender a few times. It does make it smoother, but something about it makes it a bitch to wash off whatever the container is- and the blender has the top, the bottom, the sides, the spinning blades and gasket. What a pain! You can’t just rinse the glass you drink it from, you have to scrub. Use a wide mouthed cup where you can reach the bottom. I do blend it when the non-curd part gets stringing- like slime. Since it still tastes fine, I’m assuming that’s just a characteristic of kefir.

I’ve warned you about the cleaning, the slime, and the sourdough. I mentioned the heat and kombucha. I shall continue if I learn more.

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.

I 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 finishing 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” or “Take Probiotic” alternately. I ate yogurt: Greek yogurt, french yogurt, and skyr, drank Kombucha, and ate Saurkraut (which, luckily, I love). Still, I ended up calling the doctor. The insert in the antibiotics says one of the symptoms it can cause and you should refer to the physician is ‘persistent diarrhea’. They didn’t define persistent. After about a week I called and asked; they told me it meant “two or three days”. 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 (about a week into the antibiotics).

I will point out that no-one in the entire colonoscopy process mentioned that potential effect, and the need to use pro-biotics 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 sent for some starter to begin 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. What it did was to grow from 4 cups to 7 cups in a few hours! 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’d put a piece of tape on the Ball jar to remind me where it started. 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!