1-10-2018 Kiss a Shark Day

I am whatever the human equivalent of hibernating is! This week we have fired up both wood stoves some days, and it was very nice. (This is especially nice when you want to take a shower and not come out into a 12º (55º F) part of the house.) We’ve used the propane to keep the cellar above 4º (40º F), and that reduces stress, since we don’t expect to lose the water. The pantry we are happy to keep at about that- it’s like a walk-in refrigerator. We kept it above freezing by leaving the track lighting on.  The water in the sink is running more slowly, and I’m concerned about the flow from the spring head to the house, but there’s not a whole lot we can do about that!

How cold did it get? Our hi-lo thermometer has said that it’s been down to -17º (-10º F)- although I think it was probably colder since I’d be surprised if it didn’t leak around the door. Since the door is south facing and has the nice doorbell, it collects daytime heat and often says it’s gone up to 21º (70º F) (or 10º during the really cold bit). This explains why the cats like to sit there, but doesn’t give me a really good idea of what it was like out in the cold. I will report that during the worst of the cold, the cats simply refused to go out. They much preferred to lie on the couch in the living room near the wood stove. (Except for Zoloft who preferred the sheepskin on the floor next to it.) So as with snowfall, we can’t even tell you. The thermometer out back 5 feet from the house, and in the shade (honest temperature) has fallen down. As usual, the wind whipped the snow around so much we can’t really tell what we got, but our best guess is about a foot- maybe a bit more.
John did the lions share of the shoveling, although each of us did some. Mostly I wanted to make sure that there was a path there for the deliveries we were expecting “guaranteed” by Wednesday, although, of course, we didn’t expect that. I was surprised that they didn’t arrive until Monday. The wind and snow didn’t take the power, so we got to hear about all the other adventures the cold had caused friends when they posted them on facebook. There was some really impressive footage people took with their phones about disasters I’m so glad wasn’t us! We were a bit worried about Raye since she can see Revere beach from her apartment, but she was OK.  Steve worked from home when he was stuck there; his driveway clearing guy came by mid-storm and partly dug him out for $100, and said he’d be back to finish after the storm was over, but when he came back, he wanted another $100. Steve couldn’t get out to get more cash, and besides, that’s sort of blackmail, so Steve didn’t pay it, and was thus trapped in his house until he was finally able to find someone else to do it (by phone I guess) on Saturday. I’ll admit that shoveling a lot of snow, especially the berm where the street plows pass, is heavy work, but damn, that’s really rude! Mark told us how when they came to plow his apartment parking lot, he’d decided to go get dinner, but all the restaurants he checked in Nashua were closed! Modern living is nice, but weather sort of is “the boss of us”.
Willow had to get out to go to Avi’s after school (although Avi doesn’t have her come when the kids are home for snow- days). I think that’s really nice because I think having them home all day when she works from home must be when she’d need help most. But we dug Willow out, and then since the heavy cold was coming, Kat and I went to the Laundromat and washed 4 loads of clothing. That night we cycled them through the dryer that vents into the cellar, and that helped heat the area as well. Sadly- when it was time to take the clothes out, Kat cleverly put the car on to pre-heat it while we carried the wet laundry out, unaware that MY car has an automatic function that auto-locks the doors when the car’s running. This is not a problem if you’re IN the car. But we got out with baskets of wet clothes and couldn’t open the doors. Luckily Willow was willing to drive over from Walmart (taking the kids to spend their Christmas money) and unlock my door. She has my spare fob. Time for me to get another spare to keep in my own pocket. That was embarrassing! On the way home we stopped for “bread and milk and toilet paper”, and a few other things. I still am more likely to think in terms of candles than batteries, but in truth, we’d gone out to get the propane for the cellar heater more than anything else.
One of the best things about Willow going out is that she can bring home milk when we need it. I miss the goats, but I do not miss going out to milk when it’s way below freezing! Willow also goes to the Post-office and library, which makes it very easy on me.
I am now distributing the patches for the East Kingdom Soothsayer’s Guild, so that’s especially helpful.
We actually got the tree down the day after 12th night this year. Sadly we did break 3 ornaments when John moved too quickly and one of the boxes fell over. I’ve found them on line, but somehow even a $12 ornament seems too expensive when one isn’t in the pre-Christmas “oh wouldn’t that be perfect for the tree!” period. I shall have to see how our funds are with after the extra cost of the propane this month.
We’ve traded out the holly pattern plates and glasses for the snowflake pattern ones. We are now in that difficult period of finding all the Christmas stuff (the decorations, the tablecloths, the candles, the lights, etc. etc.) from everywhere around the house. There’s the mistletoe ball, there’s the jar full of hard candies, there are the garlands going down the stairs, and the lights in the bathroom. It’s fun to put everything up, and taking them down sometimes reminds one of the good times, but sometimes it’s a “doh! I forgot that one!” Situation that makes me feel dumb.
I totally forgot calendars this year- meaning that I missed the opportunity for the moon phase calendars I’ve been buying for over two decades, although I got the one for the front door. I need one for by the computer so I don’t have to call one up on the screen, but just turn my head, and I really want one to replace the one in the kitchen where I’ve been jotting down what we had for dinner each night (as I put the leftovers away). I have become so used to just checking it when I find a plastic dish of something and wonder how old it is! That’s so reassuring and convenient! I guess the various charities who kept sending them to me have finally given up on me!
I have spent sone tine , although not enough, this week working on art- I tried oil pastels for the character sketches- but clearly I can’t do a professional piece in a medium in which I an no where near proficient. I have been actually looking at tutorials and information pages on how to find a new venue for -y podcast. So far, no good- sadly ny brain keeps freezing up when I get to the technical parts. I’n trying tapping.
Jane called tonight 15 minutes before showtime to ask what the subject was going to be. I was so discouraged I was going to blow it off- but she’d just gotten sone new books on Icelandic Grinoires and so I called up the studio and we did the show on that. I will, of course, keep you apprised of how ny quest goes. I fear I a, just hoping for life to dump the plun in ny lap, as has happened so often in ny life. I have to face it- I’n spoiled. There is no concievable fairness in how good ny life has been! (I try to appreciate it.):
It’s comfort food time of year- Beef pot pie, many pastas (Mac and cheese), lots of potatoes (including stuffed potatoes I made last night) soups (the bean soup I made with the last of the ham was too salty, so I added a bunch of barley. Wood stoves are good for soup. The  pie crimper that should have been in my stocking finally arrived. It’s fun and easy, but frankly it makes the pies look commercially prepared, and I’m not thrilled about that. I got the mini cuisenart, and to my relief it does make a pie crust- one crust at a time, but in about 15 seconds, so that’s good. I’ve been sort of wanting one since reading the enchanted pie shop series- I used to make crusts in my cuisinart, but I think it was one of the things we lost in the fire and I didn’t replace.
I’ve finished the last of the series Breach of Crust, although she left room for possible sequels. I was pleased that when I got to reading it, despite the many parallels with the magic bakery series, the characters and story line are totally different. It also has recipes included, and I have been inspired to make pies- although I’n still not excited about crean pies.
The most interesting thing I’ve been reading this week is Dad’s old V mail letters. I will admit that occasionally I have problems with handwriting, but it’s rare that I don’t read it as easily as print. Most of my problems come from their being seventy four years old, and humidity or something has sometimes transferred ink to the page on which it was stacked, so I’m trying to mentally disentangle the script (luckily darker) from the backwards script overlaying it. There are other places where the ink has faded, leaving only a faint impression to try to read. I’ve been trying to follow it along as his progress through boot camp went, but looking ahead, there’s a month with no letters, so I expect I’ll just give up on that.
He talked about coming down from Maine with others in the late summer. Now (January 18th) he’s still there while most of the guys he joined up with have been shipped on. There seems to have been some sort of problem with his head- he has requested that X Rays be sent from Augusta down to the Air Corps, but they haven’t arrived. He repeated his requests. I wish I knew more about that. The stories he actually told us about his time in the Armed Forces were few. He told us (although didn’t put it in the letters) that he’d bought himself some time during induction by having the barber simply shave his head rather than giving him a military trim. (His logic was that no one but the other guys would see him for the next two months.) Because of this, and when it grew in it was blonde, his nickname was Baldy in the service. Another thing he told us was when they said “show us how many push-ups you can do”, he, having been a farm worker, told them “let me know when you want me to stop”. Somehow I doubt this endeared him to the testers. He told us they wanted him to become a physical training instructor- but his heart was set on being a pilot. The third story I remember was testing depth perception- they had two arrows on strings in a long box and you were supposed to make them line up, so he pulled the back on up and they were upset because he didn’t bother using both strings, but he did it again when they had him repeat the test. His depth perception was great. Still, he didn’t get to pilot school, and perhaps this mysterious head injury has something to do with that. I wish there was someone I could ask about it.
He was too far away to go home for Christmas, so he spent it in Washington DC, but then got back late because the trains broke down, which resulted in extra KP. He has said he brown-nosed the sergeant to get a good job (in the day room), and needs to brown-nose the “louie” about the delay.
He mentioned the first real snow down there: four inches, and how the Northerner’s loved it, and laughed at the southerners who all turned their collars up, which created a v shape that collected the snow that would then melt down the back of their necks.  He had to ask for money, because after the deductions he’d only gotten $16 for December; and had to get new gloves (he’d lost his), and other incidentals. He also mentions a “party” which he described as mostly being another push for them to have more of their pay taken out and put into war bonds, but wondered if they got enough out of the attendees to pay for the potato chips and beer. I used a calculator on line that tells me that $16 in 1944 money would be $222 in 2017, not much of a paycheck (which also means that the $10 they sent him was a $138 value- hard for a farming family). I was also sad, and a bit frustrated, that he mentions sending back the things his younger sisters sent him for Christmas- but didn’t say what they were, although he did mention a sweater that was too large. His mother was driving a school bus, and his father was taking advantage of the snow to bring in wood for income. They were hard workers! He was 19, so I’m thinking the girls would have been 12 and maybe 8. I bet they thought their big brother was the greatest! They seem to have kept moving them from barracks to barracks- this would have been strong motivation to keep down your personal “stuff” to a minimum.
I was shocked, even as an old lady myself, to hear him use the word shit in letters to his parents. Was he trying to show off that he was grown up, or did he actually use that language before he left home? He certainly denied ever using bad language as a youth when he was alive!
I also had another heavy dose of nostalgia this week. I wanted to put a button on my blue quilted skirt and ended up spending hours going through Mother’s button can. Ostensibly I was looking for identical buttons to string together so I wouldn’t inadvertently break up a set, but there was a heavy walk down memory lane. I found a button from one of Mother’s old robes, and one from a favorite robe of mine, and some buttons reminded me of outfits I hadn’t thought of in 50 years. There was a button I remember as a child- it has stars on it. One of Mother’s old books from when she was a kid talked about a school kid and there was a fad about making necklaces from their mother’s button boxes, and I think they traded and competed for having the coolest button collection necklaces. It reminds me of the plastic charm necklaces the kids wore in the 80s. I tried several times to get that fad going in the 50s, but I guess even I wasn’t charismatic enough. Of course the best were the ones with fake jewels in them! I also noticed among the plastic, metal, cloth, leather, and mother of pearl buttons, there were some that were clearly painted, and the paint was rubbing off- but what was the material? Our current best guess is wood, but I’m still not sure.
Back in those days- and even now, when a garment can’t be cleaned or repaired and moves on to its life as a rag- you cut off the buttons and put them in the button box. (Did you hear about the person who opened a flat blue can and was shocked to discover butter cookies not sewing supplies? I think I would have been too! They always are used for buttons and thread!) At this point, I’m wondering if there’s a point to keeping buttons from a garment that will never need a replacement button, and you may never need a button that looks like that. Certainly it’s hard to imagine wanting to put one of those buttons with rubbed off color on anything. But throwing them away just goes against my nature. I have heard that like Children of Alcoholics, there are characteristics of Children of people who Lived through the Depression. I think I must be one of them. Waste seems to me the worst sin (after deliberate cruelty). Waste is casual cruelty- you are removing the possibility of utility from people who might use something. Some people are quite casual in assessing that something is “too old” or “too shabby” to be re-used, but quite often they are making those decisions based on a personal lifestyle of affluence that doesn’t include how the rest of the world makes decisions. Admittedly we can’t save our food scraps to feed the livestock or to distribute to the poor, but we can TRY to avoid over-purchasing. Yet our culture seems designed to try to force us to over purchase, and then throw away what we don’t use. On the other hand, I can’t imagine recycling centers having a place to dump your old buttons and getting them to people who could re-use them.
Our whole house is probably full of things we won’t ever use, but I don’t want to just send them to landfills. There’s a huge business opportunity for people who could come to people’s houses and take away the unwanted stuff but rather than dumping it, getting it to places that want it, whether books, old clothes, toys, tools or whatever. Today I saw a video about a new service that will come and gas your car up from a tank truck while you work, so you don’t have to go to a station. Books are being printed on a as-needed basis which allows books that only a couple hundred people want- but desperately want- to be available. Modern technology allows us to make service jobs that let people have the lives they want happen. I think we can move to 6 or even 5 hour workdays, rather than working two jobs to make ends meet, if we’d just stop thinking that being trodden on is the natural punishment for being poor. I have the feeling that if people had enough sleep, enough nutrition, and enough opportunities for development, we could have good lives for everyone. (Or as good as possible, assuming disease still happened- but I think there’d be less of it, certainly of the stress, malnutrition, no preventative care, type of disease.)
I kept hearing about the tell-all book about the Trump White House, Fire and Fury, I got a copy on kindle so that when people are talking about it, I can know what they are talking about. The first thing I’ve read is that it wasn’t properly proofread.This is not something I’d notice, what I worry about are any facts he night have gotten wrong, as I’d have no way of knowing, would I? Still, it’s fascinating, although certainly we’ve heard much of it all year as it was happening. I don’t regret buying or reading it.
Another thing I read this week was Cathy’s latest book- I got to read a draft, I think it’s called Beta reading, and give her suggestions about what I found confusing. In as much as it’s a sequel, and I hadn’t read the first book, I was in a good position to give her notes on what anyone co-ing to it from that position -ight wonder. I think it’s a fun adventure and expect it will be even better when all her readers have gotten back to her and she does her final draft.
I finished The Shadows, first book in a young readers series. The girl ,oves to a weird old house where she can go into the pictures. It was owned by a magician who painted people into the pictures on the walls, trapping the- there. IT was fun, I’=n going to ask for the next one.
Just in ti,e for the blizzard I got several Christmas movies): Christmas Wish, Christmas Detour,  and. Both versions of Miracle on 34th St. The Christmas wish was a Christian film in which a teen wishes her parents “didn’t believe in God” because the town moved the “Winter Ball” to Christmas Eve, so she had to go to church instead. (She was sort of a self centered brat.) But the short version is that her parents turned into jerks. According to this mythos it’s only “belief in God” that keeps you from being a greedy a**hole. So of course, she wished their belief back, and got less self centered as well. I find this irritating. I don’t like the concept that only fear of a great father figure in the sky makes you behave and care for those who need your help. If they were that kind of people, they should have stayed that kind of people- religion or not.  The detour one was a typical ro-ance about a girl engaged to a guy who didn’t make her laugh falling for one who did as she fought weather caused travel delays. Ho-hun!  I loved re-watching the Miracle Non 34th street- both versions, although I prefer the original. I loved Naureen O’hara’s connentary on the DVD. They used the actual Nacy’s parade for those scenes! And I didn’t know that she was actually Irish and wanted to get back to Ireland.
More nostalgia in watching Woman of the Year with Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy. It was a typical (but very well done) romantic comedy about two successful people trying to integrate two demanding careers into being a couple. Of course, it being the 40;s, the wonan was supposed to give in more. The worse scene was the straight and predictable physical comedy scene when the person who’d never cooked atte,ted to do so. Clearly they were going to have to get another cook, but it was her willingness to try to fill the roll that was supposed to make it all good. I was impressed that they didn’t try to demean the sportswriter and make his job seen less important than the political creatures. Sadly not enough has changed- that script could be transplanted to the nodern world with very few changes!
I’d like to think that Glory Road (which was apparently based on a true story) couldn’t have been now. It’s the story of how a coach in 1965 put 7 black players in his basketball team and they won the championship- even though they had to deal with sone nasty bigotry. It breaks ny heart to think how little progress we have nade in that area since then. It made no sense then, and makes none now.
I watched Bright, which is supposed to be a show about racial bigotry- only with magic. The difference of course is that orcs, elves, and hunans ARE different races, not just different colors, but it’s a symbol, and I enjoyed the special effects and magic in the modern world concept- although not the gritty dark portrayal of the city.
I’n not sure why I asked for Creepshow but it’s always a fun watch. Nor can I renember why I decide I needed to re-watch the several Planet of the Apes novies- I enjoyed the remake- although I didn’t get the sa-e joy of discovery when the old ape delivered the line from the original- and I recognized Charlton Heston’s voice! The original has arrived and I’n looking forward to watching it again.
If this letter is incomplete or has strange typos, it’s because I just spilled ny glass of juice on the keyboard, and  {especially the  one between l and n-} and nothing with the connand key, if I hit either of those, it window shades the page I’- on and I an getting really annoyed with having to pull it up again. Still, if I rene,der misspell sontines it will autocorrect back to what I wanted. It is very weird- so I nay just have to send this off as is, and if you don’t hear fro- -e it’s because I an waiting for a replacement keyboard.


Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial.  -Sophocles