1-23-2019 Cold Cold Cold Day

    Actually it’s a bit warmer than it has been lately. When last I wrote it was 20ºs during the day, and today the thermometer by the door reads 40º (although I think it benefits from the house leaking). I care more about the indoor temperatures. John has taken over running up and down from the cellar to make sure that the area around the water pump stays above 40º. We have changed from our old kerosene heater to a propane one he can adjust depending upon how cold it gets. Mostly it’s off during the day. Bundled in my comfy featherbeds and furs, I have still not felt the need to shut my bedroom window. On the other hand I do have insulated curtains which I use in preference to climbing over the window seat to wrestle with the sashes. And I will admit to using a heating pad by my feet that I turn on just before I get into bed. I usually turn it off during the night, once my body heat has warmed the bed. The thermometer in my room hasn’t gone below 40º, although the one in the interior hall has dipped to 32º at the worst. I’d feel really stupid if the waterbed froze.

The other morning I woke up and this started in my head:

Waking in my Bed on a Winter Morning (with apologies to Frost)

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.

I grabbed my clothes and changed in the bathroom, then went downstairs and finished it on the computer. I’m not able to fix the spacing, The close spaced lines were what I had, and as I worked on the poem, I couldn’t get normal spacing on any of the other lines. I wish I could figure that out. Originally I had the second verse with “rhymes with here” rhymes, but switched them to get “see” to rhyme with “boss of me”, then had to change them all. I have great admiration for poets!
Anyway, we continue with the “hunkered in” mode. I have not done much worth mentioning, whether cause or effect of having had no urge to do anything I’m not sure. We have continued with the comfort food, and I have not dropped any weight (big surprise). We have used the wood stove in the dining room, but it’s not a room we use as much as the kitchen, and any leaking heat goes up the stairs, so we don’t do it every day.
Willow remains tired. Resting doesn’t seem to help, she now only goes to Avi’s to work with the kids twice a week, but Avi still feels she needs the help. I only wish she could feel better, and worry occasionally that I’m not feeding her right- the only aspect of her life in which I have any significant contribution. Still, other than being high carb recently, we eat very little processed food, so that should be good.
 Kat has finished the Apron she was making me for Solstice. I haven’t worn it yet because I want to save it for baking, and use my grubbier ones for dishwashing and cleaning. I found the Tam-o-shanter and mitts I mentioned finishing in the last letter. I still need to weave the starter threads into them. I sure hope they look better on than they do on the chair seat!
Saturday (the 12th) the girls went down to visit Joanie and Raye. Sunday they went to the Pre-Birka Curia. That was stressful for Kat because although running Gold Key is a major part of Birka, they never got around to asking her for her report, and Rags was making jokes that bothered her. Steve came up, took me over to the Library because my car wouldn’t start; later in the week Kat and I went out and it did start, so it was probably the cold. (We also hit the library, but then Agway because the cats have somehow gotten fleas in the middle of winter. Feh!
We’ve got the ornaments off the tree and up in the attic, and have chopped it up and put it in boxes. It makes GREAT fire starter, as you would imagine. At this point we are finding the various small decorations around the house and collecting them on the dining room table. When I think I have them all, I’ll put them in a bin and send them upstairs, but I keep finding ones we missed, so not yet. This past week we got one more Christmas letter from Jan and Tracy (and a lovely gift, thank you!). Tracy has semi retired and they’ve moved to Florida- right on the ocean. I’d be worried about living in a town built on a sand bar, but I guess I’d also be disoriented living out in the midwest where it’s flat, as the Taylors did when they were kids. They are also traveling, which sounds marvelous. I just hope the people who bought their house in Concord appreciate it, it was amazing! Mostly because of the work they put in on it, from landscaping to decorative painting. Sounds like she’s now back to music, and Charlotte and a grandchild are living with them, which is, IMO, the best way to live. This nuclear family thing that our generation took for granted seems so unnatural to me, as an historian.
I guess mostly I’ve been knitting on a new shawl for Willow.  We saw a nice yarn at Michaels and got it, then she came home and picked a few patterns. I picked one that I knew all the instructions to do, and  cautiously did a test piece. It worked so I started. Figuring it should be easy to wear I started with a neck to work outward, as a poncho style, but when I got to the point where I could start knitting the pattern I realized it was a bottom up, not top down pattern, and had to pull it all out and start over. It’s called Apple leaves, and as it’s been growing I am now thinking it would have worked better in a solid color. I am hoping it will look better when blocked. I’ve been spending several hours a day working on it, at least two movies worth of time, although several of the movies I have from the library were not well suited to something where I had to constantly check the pattern. It’s like: 1st row: k1*, s1, k1, psso, k3, (wrn to m1, s1, k1, psso) twice, m1, k1, m1,  (k2 tog, m1) twice, k3, k2 tog*, k1. RIGHT! 
In the picture you can see I started by copying it out so I wouldn’t have to follow the instructions from line to line, and I used a ruler to keep track, then I started using stickies to make the lines above and below, and that helps too. I’m afraid I kept joggling the ruler. The shawl will be 7 patterns wide and (I hope) three tall, which the sample piece I did should make it about 60 inches long (and a bit, depending on blocking) and about thirty inches tall. But who knows how it’s going to block. We may check to see if there is another of this yarn to make sure there’s plenty, and make some mitts to go with it.
Given that amount of sitting and knitting I watched, or rather listened-to a lot of movies (I’ll go into later).  I did sign up to vend at Feast of Lights, I’ll be rooming with Jane.  I am very much looking forward to that, and the MENSA Regional Gathering, and Birka. So many people on fb are talking about their projects they are trying to finish for Birka. My project is to get the trash out of the back hall and sort it (in the kitchen where it’s warm) and take it to the dump. I’m going to have to get to that tomorrow, because we are going to need both cars to go to Birka between our goods and the Gold Key. In this way having it run all weekend will be good. Less need for us to find someone else to carry part of the stuff home.
The weather reports suggested that there would be a week of cold, then warming and a lot of snow this past week. That narrowed down to the big blizzard over the weekend; they predicted 12-20” in our area, as opposed to the 3-4 we got. While others seem to have been hit, we didn’t, and even that John shoveled without any help. I feel guilty, but don’t really feel up to shoveling this year. I’m also pleased with John checking the cellar every few hours (and if it goes below 40º, he turns on the propane heater). The pipes haven’t frozen, so I’m happy. And grateful to John. (The oil company came by today, I remember other years when we had to shovel a path through the berm for them.) There was a Super Blood Wolf Moon with an eclipse, but with the snow I figured it would not be visible and didn’t look. Later Willow told me that the moon was streaming in her window, and now I feel dumb for not checking! Still, at this point they are predicting deep cold for this Saturday which is better for driving than snow (which the long-range had predicted, and messes up Birka), but I’m not looking forward to the drive.
It’s probably not surprising that I have been thinking about “stuff” during this hibernation. I wrote a blog post (aside from the poem) about avoiding cleaning out storage (from the refrigerator to the attic to a closet). I don’t throw things away easily, although I don’t consider myself a hoarder, either. I’m just in an economic group that can’t just throw away something if they haven’t used it recently, and if they want it again, buy a new one. I am from an age group where our parents lived through the Depression and War and became careful with resources because of it (and also grew up with the assumption that an appliance is going to last a generation, not only five years). As a living history person and as a “back-to-the-lander” I know how to leave a smaller footprint and get along without some things others take for granted. (Dishwashers and frosting in a tub). Many factors led to me being in a pretty good place, and not missing most of what I haven’t got. (What I miss is being able to afford regular health care!) But I am not living on less so that someone else can have more than they need, but that others can have what they need.
To a certain extent this led me to thinking about things that have changed in my lifetime, things the current generation take for granted but the other doesn’t: cell phones (with long distance much less internet access), DNA testing, microwave ovens (and food), fast food, diseases like AIDS and CFS, women in politics, greater acceptance of diversity, on-demand printing and viewing. Things we took for granted: kids being able to handle knives, and fire, and playing outside without supervision, free-range dogs, bees, and butterflies and other endangered species, smallpox and polio (might as well balance the medical changes). It’s sad that many of the things that haven’t changed is the things we hate and fear, mostly it’s how they are expressed that have changed.
Did the people who fought in WWII have to mostly die before someone could pull the BS Trump is pulling? The government shut-down is over a month now and Trump is beginning to remind me less of Hitler and more of Louis XIV. He thinks he can do whatever he wants, and while that’s partially true, mostly what he has is the power to screw things up royally for the rest of us to have to clean up after them. I bumped into a parade song the  24 days of Trump’s mess. As I listened, I remembered the disasters, piling one on the other, and tried to figure out which month they were talking about. But I was thrown off because somehow I had not realized it had been 2 years! Part of me can’t believe he hasn’t been thrown out, or self destructed yet. I suppose having the round of congressional elections should have given me a hint! (If you are interested, it was the sequel to a song 12 months of Trump’s Mess by Don Caron.) I am appalled at the way the rich are perfectly willing to stick it to the poor. Don’t they get that they are not really a “renewable resource”? If they kill them off, there’ll be no one to do the work?  They think they are so clever because they can trick others or force others to do stuff for them, but they don’t really understand that they are just screwing everyone up, including themselves. This shutdown is breaking my heart.
Elsewhere in the news I spent several days pointing out that no-one could guess the motivation of the kid smiling in the viral images. It does seem that there was some bigotry going on. His mother embarrassed herself referring to the Black Islamists as Black Muslims, but she wasn’t there and had probably been blindsided by the whole situation and fed misinformation. Certainly the BI seem to have been inciting nastiness, but simply standing and smiling is a perfect non-violent way to protest. Too many people seemed ready to assume the worst simply because he was wearing the MAGA hat. His school group had driven several states to participate in a right-to-life protest, that seems admirable, if misinformed to me, as I don’t see abortion as horrible. (It’s hard to when you can remember reincarnating.) Personally, I’d feel worse if people who thought abortion was mass infanticide did nothing to oppose it. That would be like most of the rich people who claim to care about “humanitarian crisis” and yet cause them. I assume someone out there is tracking how many people have died or lost their homes because of the shut down. How many will have to die before the more rational members of Congress are willing to let Trump take his loss? I’ve already read too many quotes that show that a lot of them don’t have any clue what they are causing for most of the people who aren’t getting paid. I think my (least) favorite this week was someone saying (in another context, but it applies)  “It’s only $25, even a homeless person could spare that!” Not just unaware that someone with a home might not HAVE $25 not committed to staying alive, but that homeless people have extra money available to share. Who are these people‽ How could they have missed reality? We have to stop assuming the worst about each other just because we don’t agree on some things. We really are too eager to jump at someone to blame rather than work together to fix things.
I was thinking about the concept of Sin. By and large, I think the concept of confession is a good one, if you can let people express and feel that they have taking care of the things they are worried about they can let them go and move forward. But I’m not so sure about the concept of having a list of sins for you to tick off: have I done that one? Not done that one? I’m good. Seems to me it’s what you feel badly about that you need to work through. I think this may have come from some comparison of after-lives. In Egypt you were supposed to be able to claim you’d lived a good life and your heart was as light as a feather. If not, a large monster would eat you. Well, not too different from the Christian judgement, until they added the purgatory idea so you could work off the sins that accumulate naturally and few but saints would avoid. I am really annoyed at the way that so many religions seem to try to make people feel bad. That’s the opposite of what I think religion should do. Yes, it should help you treat each other better, and show you that that feels good. This fear and hatred is not something that should creep into religion. It should empower us and help us feel connected and good about ourselves and the world. Sadly, I think they generally start like that, then someone sees how excited the believers are, and realizes that this is a great way to manipulate people.  Even when they have the best intentions, that is not a good idea.
I was thinking about how babies and how straight forward they are.  From birth, even without language, they communicate. They let us know when they are hungry, tired or hurt. But as we get older we are taught to stop doing that. We don’t even listen to ourselves. We think “I need a nap”, but say “later, when I’m done with this…”  “I’m hungry” “I’ll get something to eat later…” We would be so much healthier if we listened to ourselves, and kept asking those who love us for what we need. A baby will let you know when she needs to be held, or when she needs to be stimulated. If we listened to our body, a lot of our friends and family would be happy to give us quiet or stimulation. But no, we teach kids: ignore your body, don’t sneeze, don’t scratch, don’t fart, don’t blow your nose, hold your water. Why? Mostly it’s for the parent’s convenience. Who wants to change the diaper again? I’m not saying that some restraint isn’t good, but not this total denial of letting ourselves be aware of what we need is foolish. I think the reason we train kids not to scratch or sneeze etc. is because there are too many of us ready to interpret a simple rash or bug bite as leprosy or sneeze as plague. Our instincts to cast out the unwell members of the herd are balanced by the parental protective urges that tell the kids to pretend that everything is always non-threatening.  Still, we shouldn’t take it so far that we don’t know what we need ourselves.
As I said, lots of thinking about stuff this week.
What have I read? Well, aside from the books on the Library of Alexandria, I’ve been re-reading the Haunting Danielle series. It’s fun, romantic, and has good characters and plot twists. I know I read it last January (or was it the January before?) so maybe there’s just something cozy about this haunted B&B. Frankly I haven’t read much since most of my downtime has been spent knitting, which means a LOT of movies.
At the beginning of the month I read an article about movies with child stars and put in requests for a bunch of those. I seem to have asked for several others that I have no idea why I wanted them (maybe for cultural literacy?). If a film is a classic or very popular, I figure I want to know why. Willow suggests that if a film has critical acclaim, it’s probably boring and I’m beginning to think she may be right. The best thing I watched this week was The Incredibles 2, and it was every bit as good, maybe better than the first Incredibles (which apparently came out in 2004). I loved it, and heartily recommend it for almost anyone. I think the writing was more intelligent than one usually gets in a superhero story. Edna rocks.
Other than that, I enjoyed The Librarians season 2, and watched some Grimm season 1, because frankly, when I had to keep my eye on the pattern, I’d miss important visuals, so watching something I’d already seen made it easier. I was vaguely amused by Blockers (a sophomoric comedy about some parents trying to keep their daughters from losing their virginity on prom night.) Frankly, most of the crude jokes were painful for me. No recommendation. The pain was slightly less because the mom in the plot was played by one of the people who was in The Librarians, and watching her in a different role was fun. Not enough, but a little.
Interview with Vampire  was one of the “kid actor” movies, and I had seen it before, but not for 20 years. I’d read the book when it came out, and didn’t think either Cruise or Pitt were right for their roles. I had no idea who Antonio Banderas was at the time, so that was a surprise. I also didn’t recognize Kirstin Dunst, but they were right, it was a good performance. I think it’s harder for a young person to act old than an old person to act young.   I don’t think I’d ever seen Paper Moon (1973) when Tatum O’Neal was 10. I wasn’t thrilled with the story of a kid embracing the life of a con man, but it worked in context. The problem is that while I can appreciate two lonely people finding each other, for me to like a story at least one of the characters must be likable, and frankly, none of them were. Taxi driver (1976) was like that, but with the added creepiness of watching a mentally unstable veteran slip into violent madness. This was another “great performance by a child actor” movie, with Jodie Foster at 14 as a prostitute. The Professional was similar, in this case the little girl falls into the company of a hit man and wants to learn the business. Oddly, Jean Reno did bring a depth to his role that made him likable, Natalie Portman’s Matilda was a bit less so, although one cut her a little slack for trauma. Empire of the Sun was a early Christian Bale movie. I find it difficult to see it as an adventure. It was more of a “Life sucks, deal with it” movie.
There was one called Silence (2016) about the missionaries to Japan; but despite the story they were telling about the villagers eager for Christianity and it’s brutal repression as the Japanese attempted to prevent their culture from being damaged by the Europeans, I couldn’t get around my personal aversion to missionaries messing with other cultures. I related most strongly to Liam Neeson’s character who said that he’d come to understand that the core of all religions was one, and that Buddhism was better for the Japanese. I expect that for the predominately Christian audience, the young Jesuit having to compromise his faith was touching, but I found it as repellant as I would a film about the virtues of the Railroad men wiping out the Indigenous People of the plains with Smallpox. I felt sorry for the missionaries wife in Hawaii, and for the Hawaiians, but saw the Reverend Hale has both the afflicter of the natives and an abuser of his wife, even though he was portrayed as believing what he did was right. Similarly, even knowing that there are currently Christians in Japan, I find the whole story tainted because I am seeing it through the filter of my understanding of history.
There were several what I’d call Weird films that the premise seems promising, but the film doesn’t quite live up to it. Endless (2017) seemed to be. It was so understated, everything was portrayed as so calm and normal, and the weird stuff snuck in so briefly that I kept missing it. While it was supposed to be an investigation of a commune that might be a suicide cult, I didn’t see anything strikingly weird until about 75 minutes (of 111) in. The brothers just kept having calm conversations with various people, until one brother gets creeped out and tried to get his brother to leave. While at the end, it did turn out to be dangerous, it was vague and cryptic. I have to wonder if it would be better in a theatre watching. I may have missed important (very fast) details. Annihilation (2018) was a pretty good SF, all the leads were women, but other than that it was fairly standard. Something has landed on earth and the phenomenon is spreading; can they stop it before it changes life on earth beyond recognition? Natalie Portman was the lead, which was cool as I didn’t recognize her. I think it is a good actress who just does her role so well that you don’t notice who’s in them.  Everyday was a very cool movie that lived up to it’s premise, about a person who wakes up in a different body every day, who falls in love with someone who loves them back. It’s a wonderful affirmation of the idea that it’s the person inside the body, not the body, male or female, race or whatever, that loves and is loved. It’s sad, because it’s too hard to maintain a relationship like that, but it one of the best of the week. Definitely the best in the Weird genre. Ex machina (2014) was another with an interesting premise (better explored with Data in STNG in my opinion), as an exploration of when does artificial intelligence become real, and what do we owe this created creature? I have liked all the roles in which I’ve seen Domhnall Gleeson (especially About Time) and he was as sympathetic in this. I don’t think we were expected to like the creator, but I’d have preferred that the creation would have been more appealing. This is one I’m not unhappy to have seen, but wouldn’t recommend strongly.
Mother! (2017) was beyond weird, and into confusing and bizarre. I probably picked it as I’m fond of Ed Harris, and although it’s probably going to stick with me, I can’t really say that I liked it. It was very stylized- mythic. The characters are Mother, the writer, the fan, the elder and younger sons…. I kept trying to find recognizable myths in what was going on, because it was clearly being a myth. At the same time it reminded me of “vague-booking”. Yet, it somehow escaped being pretentious, at least to me, because it was so honest in the way the story unfolded. It made me worry that somehow I was like the artist whose fans were disrupting the peaceful life the kids long for.
I will pan Thoroughbreds (2017) It was one of which I can honestly say I’d like to have my hour and a half back. It was not worth watching. It is the story of two mentally ill teens planning the murder of a reprehensible jerk, but there is no one the least sympathetic in the movie, although one can be sorry for victims when they are being hurt. I am not sure why they make movies like this (or how it got on my list- maybe because it said it was “wickedly funny”, and like American Psycho and I didn’t notice the American. Psycho was a good movie.) This wasn’t. I probably wouldn’t have finished it except that I didn’t want to bother getting up while I was knitting, and eventually it was over. This takes me to You were never really Here. The ad said “Taxi Driver for a new century”. Had I seen Taxi Driver at that point I wouldn’t have bothered. After I’d watched 15 minutes, I stopped and checked the plot on Wikipedia, saw that it was just as dark and depressing as it looked, so I put it back in it’s case and didn’t bother with it. The premise was not unlike The Professional, since the protagonist was a traumatized hit man who rescues trafficked girls, and the plot seems to be about his saving one. It also has in common that the bad guys are the government agents (covering up the trafficking). This I do not need to watch all the way through.
Finally, I tripped over a PBS special called The Science of Healing  which collects information about various sorts of healing from healing sounds, scents, meditation, as gathered by a doctor of Rheumatology who discovered that they worked for her on a trip to Greece. Nothing really new to me, but it’s nice that it’s out there.
So that’s it for this… two weeks. I hope you didn’t worry when I didn’t get to it last week, and I wish I had more interesting stuff to share.
From The Incredibles 2
Edna Mode :”Done properly, parenting is a heroic act… done properly.”
also, the classic response:

Lucius Best: When was the last time you slept?  Bob Parr: Who keeps track of that?