January 2, 2019
This is the first year that the change of year has sort of freaked me out. And the funny thing is, it’s because 2019 is almost 2020, and I’ve heard people talking about 2020 so much. It’s supposed to be so far in the future, and now it’s less than a year away. I have to say that 2018 was really long for me. In many ways time doesn’t seem to mean much. When I wake up (probably due to the fact that I have a comfortable bed) I have to stop and figure out not just what day it is, but what season it is. Is it fall or spring, summer or winter? Are we gearing up for Pennsic or Christmas? I have to stop to think about it, look for clues. I don’t often get them from my dreams, which seem to ignore what’s going on in daily life. Yesterday I got the clue of hearing a plow scraping pavement. That’s sort of distinctive. On the other hand, when I woke up, most of the snow was gone.
I was sort of disappointed that we got no post-Christmas visitors (yet), in the Solstice Open House. I do think it’s nicer to see people two to four at a time, so we can get a chance to talk. On the other hand, Willow’s been sick AND she’s been helping Avi move, although mostly by watching the kids while Avi and other friends do the carrying and shlepping. When her cough started sounding like bronchitis, I pushed her to go see the doctor, in case it was something antibiotics could help. He did diagnose bronchitis, and infected sinuses, so she got antibiotics (cephloxin) and he also suggested musings, to break up the mucus. I went along as an auxiliary brain, and got an appointment for Monday to get the growth taken off my chin- it had been bleeding and being irritated for a week or so, and it will be nice to not have it rub every time I lean my face on my hands. He used cautery, so now I’m just waiting for the burned bit to heal- the smell was the worst part. Or maybe not. In a week or so I’ll get the bill for the co-pay. Is there ANYTHING else we buy that we have no idea what it’s going to cost when we agree to buy it? I don’t think so! WTF‽ Now that I’m over 65, they asked me if I’ve had a fall in the last year. Oh joy.
I am enthralled with getting old. On the one hand, I am healthier than most people my age that I know- I take vitamins, but no medications for chronic conditions, my blood pressure, etc. is great. (On the other hand, being morbidly obese does put me in several risk categories.) Unsurprisingly, I put on 6 pounds this past month, and will have to try to get rid of those. Not snacking on cookies should do it. I did ask about fecal transplants, but he doesn’t do it, and says the nearest doctor he knows who does is in Amherst, Massachusetts. If it worked it would be worth the trip, I can only imagine how much more energy I would have available if I weighed a hundred pounds less. Can you imagine putting down a hundred pound weight you’d been carrying around? In theory, I can put it down one forkful at a time, but I know that if I lower my caloric intake too much, I perversely start to gain weight. Phooie! But my teeth are going (I broke another tooth this week), my ears are going, my eyes are going, and I’m slower, weaker, less cold resistant, and have less energy. None of this is surprising and probably not complaint worthy, but it annoys me. My age-mates can commiserate. The choices are dealing with reduced capacity, or spending money on new contacts, hearing aid and dental work. At this point I have very few problems that couldn’t be solved with greater income, only I can’t figure out how to do that. I have many talents, but making money isn’t among them.
I am pleased that Willow is getting treated- and presumably getting better. At least she isn’t having the horrible reaction Kat had to the cephloxin last year. With the Chronic Fatigue (ME, or whatever they’re calling it this year) it’s hard to tell as she’s always tired, aching, and feeling badly. She gets more done in that condition than many people do in good health, and she’s always worried that she complains, but if she does, it’s not around me.
As it’s cold (gosh I hope we can find another wood stove! The lady we were contacting never got back to us and I forgot her name), Kat is staying in her room. This week she did her Year End Video. I suppose it’s about the same idea as my compilation of the pictures of the year, only she’s more comfortable with video than I am. I am glad she got some of me in there, but as usual am not entirely comfortable with seeing how much space I take up. I was amused by one of her accomplishments of the year- she has watched every Barbie movie ever made. I’m not sure I’ve seen even one all the way through. (Did you read this year’s Billy and Zoë, He Sees you when You’re Sleeping?) One of these years she’s got to try to publish the compilation. She also loaned me her light table to make the background easier as I do the Birka cover.
I spent rather more time than I’d have liked on posting holidays on Holidays that might get overlooked. New Years Eve had 21 holidays and New Years Day 33! The days before had dwindled down to about 5-7 holidays per day, one could wish that they’d be distributed more evenly. The fellow who started it up has taken to editing the posts I make and that also makes me less eager to do it, if he’s back in the game. I could use the free time. He also adds hashtags- I am not sure why people do that, probably because I don’t do the phone-as-a-handheld- computer thing. I have had it explained that it allows you to get a list of everything with the same hashtag, but when I think of how many thousands and thousands of people would be using the #metoo, I doubt the utility of it.
Sort of Cookied-out, we had our usual “feast of small foods” this year: a lovely tray of raw vegetables, buffalo wings, some pizza bites for John, a tiny wrapped brie for Willow, and bacon puffs. We looked for jalapeño poppers, but Market Basket didn’t have any. The manager did, however, give her a New Year’s ballon (as they were closing in less than a half hour). Frankly we were quite ready, eager even, to go to bed as soon as it struck twelve. We did, this year, try the gobble 12 grapes as quickly as you can good luck trick. We did NOT, however, have black-eyed peas, hopping John, or even a bean burrito. Instead we went with “Silver Dollar” Pancakes (Pletts) and bacon. As Willow says, she hasn’t noticed that the beans have performed well for us in the past. It would have to be a spectacularly bad year to convince us to go back to eating them. A ham is not hard to eat, but when there’s no guests, it’s a bit much for four people.
I re-read Saturnalia, one of the Marcus Didius Falco books this week, and will probably re-read Alexandria, for the two reasons that it’s then next in the series, and that I am working up a lecture on the Library of Alexandria for the MENSA Regional Gathering in February.
I’ve been reading the Oxford Book of Death, which is a compilation of quotes about death- ranging from definitions to ghosts to last words and epitaphs to suicide… I feel that it’s appropriate to talk about death. I tend to think that those who insist that there is nothing after death are probably afraid of it, and perhaps afraid of life. The discussion of suicide reminded me that while I believe that everyone should have a right to say that life is to painful to continue, the very symptoms of depression argue against that, as it makes that decision inappropriate. I would liken this to discussions of the death penalty. I see the death penalty as less severe than life in prison, but while our criminal justice system is so freaking flawed that bad verdicts are common, it’s inappropriate to use it as a penalty. Similarly, choosing suicide should be an option, but only once the medical system has been fixed, so that appropriate care is truly available to everyone. There comes a time, for example, in end-stage cancer, when the pain makes the benefits of being with friends not worth the pain.
I think that the thing that bothers us so much about suicide is that often the people who are left behind are surprised because the person hid their pain from their loved ones. No one wants to be the “downer”, the “whiner”, but when you get all sorts of advice that is pretty damned useless both from friends and the medical community, it clearly shuts down any useful communication, and this has got to add despair and hopelessness on top of an already painful condition. I remember when Bob was dying, I did reiki on him, and when my back got tired and I straightened up, he just took my hand and put it back on his leg, because it was pain relief he couldn’t get otherwise. If we won’t/can’t give our dying simple pain relief, what does that suggest about how we are not helping our people with emotional/mental problems? Hint: 6,500 veteran suicides a year suggests that we are not helping those who offered their lives for us. 45 thousand suicides a year in the USA shows that we need better diagnosis and treatment. As the Oxford Book pointed out, sometimes it’s aimed at the people left behind to make them sorry, sometimes it’s despite the pain the death causes. I have read that sometimes what people need is help that’s available, but they didn’t know how to access it. On the other hand, one of our friends is now watching his son die of cancer, and last month he was picked up and charged with drug possession because he was carrying some of his meds not in the containers issued, and they have no money to get legal help. If he goes to prison, he’ll die much sooner, and much more horribly, and his father cannot help- and yes, he’s been looking everywhere for pro-bono help, and has been turned down by every group he’s contacted. The legal system shouldn’t put up with this sort of BS, and the medical system should do better by people too. But one thing we can do is to work very hard to recognize that ALL illnesses, mental, physical, emotional, are illnesses, and people shouldn’t be ashamed of them, but be able to find whatever help is available. Do we make fun of people who need glasses? Wheelchairs? … well, yes, I guess we do. But we shouldn’t. We should allow that no one can judge how much pain another person is in, and allow others to express their pain without taking it as a bid for attention or an attack. We may feel badly for them- that’s practically the definition of loving someone, but if our reaction forces them to hide that they’re in pain, we are contributing to it. One of the problems I’ve seen is that some people commiserate by saying “yes, I have pain too”, and sometimes that’s seen as dismissing or competing with their problem. I have NO idea how one could deal with that. Suggesting treatment is out, as it can imply that they haven’t tried it, pretending it’s not happening invalidates their experience, trying to validate it can go wrong so many ways. It’s hard, but I think the only thing is to try to figure out what each person needs at that moment, and it’s human to try to come up with a “right response” that fits all situations.
I have spent a lot of time this week watching movies while cooking, washing dishes, knitting, etc. I can happily recommend The House with the Clock in it’s Walls. It doesn’t follow the book exactly, but keeps the wonderful feel. It’s great fun, even if you are past junior high (which is, I think, the age the book was aimed at). Having watched that, I watched the remake of Jumanji again. Jack Black is so good as a teenage girl trapped in the body of a fat middle-aged man. The Isle of Dogs, is a Japanese animation. It’s a bit heavy handed in the villain characterization, and it’s extremely stylized, but it’s good to see variety in art. Every animation shouldn’t look just like other popular ones. I was pleasantly surprised by Paddington. Not having gotten into those books with my kids, I gave the movie a pass. But the characters were so well done, (except maybe Nichole Kidman’s who was over the top). I especially liked the moment the father (Hugh Boneville) decides that saving a friend is worth risking going out on a slippery ledge, hit’s that “screw this!” Moment, then goes on when he sees how much his wife and kids admire him for doing it. While no doubt made as family fair, it was quite satisfying for the adults who’d take the kids to see it (since God forbid the kids could be left off at the theatre, much less be allowed to walk there on their own!). I am looking forward to the sequel that recently came out. The Toy came out in 1982, the year we first got a VCR (ET), and I am not sure we ever watched it. It’s sort of lame, and self consciously offensive, as a rich white guy hires a black guy to amuse his kid for a week. The comedy is slapstick (at one point, as the rich man is hosting a fundraiser for the KKK, the grand wizard falls into the chocolate fondue pot, coming up in “blackface”. To me the “moment” in the movie is when the rich guy demonstrates to his son that with money you can make people do anything, by making his assistant drop trow, then offers the black guy a job to shut him up. (Not unlike Potter and Bailey in Wonderful Life) As they pass out of the room Jack asks the assistant if the prospects of finding another job are that bad, and he says “Worse”, echoing Jack when he decides to take the demeaning job at the beginning of the movie.) It was a small reminder that the sort of money in politics BS was still going on back before the Citizens United case. Oddly, I can’t remember if I’ve seen The Usual Suspects before, as it was just not my sort of movie. Yes, the performances were wonderful, and the characters interesting, the plot intricate, but I am not moved by people who are motivated by greed and revenge, or proving that you are smarter than the other guys. White Noise was a bit disappointing. The entire premise, that the EVP readings the hero is getting are from people not yet dead, so he can go try to rescue them, is a twisting of the whole point of EVP recordings, trying to communicate with the dead through tech rather than human mediums. I liked that the human medium was concerned about the problems with simple EVPs, but it’s like so many horror films grabbing a concept “oh, this is occult, lets use this” and running with it somewhere that it would never go. Also, it was both depressing and not scary. I like a horror movie where the good guys beat the evil. I also got a disc with some really old Shirley Temple short movies from the thirties. I know they are supposed to have messed around with her birthday to make her seem more precocious, but I am assuming that the dates on these shorts is accurate (1932 for War Babies), and her birthday is supposed to have been born in `28, but she looks closer to 2 than 4 to this mother’s eyes. That seems like it’s adjusted the wrong way. The heavy handed slapstick they have the toddler actors doing makes my modern sensibilities cringe, with the pseudo sexuality, and the obvious racism so common in “humor” in early Hollywood. But heck, they did Buggsie Malone in `76, with pre-teens, and that didn’t bug me. (Maybe it would if I watched it now.)
Having shared holidays for a year, I think I won’t bother this year. I do hope you enjoyed them and found a few excuses to celebrate the neat things in our daily lives.
“They say one must keep your standards and your value of life alive. But how can I, when I only kept them for you? Everything was for you. I loved life just because you made it so perfect, and now there is no one left to make jokes with, or talk about Racine and Moliere and talk about plans and work and people.
“I dreamt of you again last night. And when I woke up it was as if you had died afresh. Every day I find it harder to bear. For what point is there in life now? … I look at our favorites, I try and read them, but without you they give me no pleasure. I only remember the evenings when you read them to me aloud and then I cry. I feel as if we had collected all our wheat into a barn to make bread and beer for the rest of our lives and now our barn has been burnt down and we stand on a cold winter morning looking at the chard ruins. For this little room was the gleanings of our life together. All our happiness was over this fire and with these books. With Voltaire blessing us with upraised hand on the wall… It is impossible to think that I shall never sit with you again and hear your laugh. That every day for the rest of my life you will be away.” Carrington, Diaries 12/17 February 1932 (from the Oxford Book of Death)