10-15-2001 Happy Birthday Aelfwine

Happy Birthday to Aelfwine!                      October 15, 2001

(You  will probably be getting this on St. Audry’s Day-  the

17th, when they had they had a famous fair at St. Ives where they

sold  cheap trinkets, from which we get our word  “tawdry”.  It’s

also  the  Asatru  festival of  Hengist,  celebrating,  for  some

reason, the Saxon invasion of England. Talk about any excuse  for

a party.)

It  must be “Indian Summer”, this week the  temperature  has

been  in  the sixties or higher- even during the  rain  the  last

couple of days, and not going below fifty at night. We’ve had  to

open the house again- at least some windows. We’ve had the  front

door  open  a lot to enjoy the gorgeous weather.  This  HAS  been

complicated a bit by “Ladybug Day” which happened this week. Just

as  the  swallows return to Capestrano, at  some  esoteric  inner

urging,  there  is  always  a day in the  fall  when  the  entire

southern wall of the house is swarming with ladybugs (looking for

a  snug  crack to crawl into and there spend  the  winter).  This

wouldn’t  be so annoying if they didn’t come inside as well,  and

if you touch one (pick it up to take it outside), they smell bad,

and  the  stink  gets  on  your  hands.  For  reasons  I  haven’t

discovered,  but has happened every year since we first  imported

the  ladybugs, they seem to love to congregate on the light  pull

for the upstairs bathroom- which one can notice when turning  the

light OFF, but when you go into the darkened room, you often  end

up with a hand full of crushed bugs. Another weird side effect of

this invasion is that the Sesame Street song “Ladybug Picnic” has

been brought up into our front brains a LOT this week.

The color is gorgeous- I have no idea if it’s “peak” or not,

there are still a lot of green trees, but there are also a lot of

bright  red ones. (One is right behind the barn, so I can  admire

it  while  I milk.) Another thing I’ve been admiring is  our  new

bunnies,  as  the latest batch has reached that  ultimately  cute

stage where they are still tiny (smaller than beanie babies), yet

hopping  out  of the nesting box and beginning to  explore  their

cage. We still have a few lonely purple cone flowers, and one of

Willow’s rose bushes has a bud.

We  had a bit of pointless misery during the week.  When  we

picked Kat up from dance practice, she’d been cut from the  dance

squad- kept on as an alternate, but to rub salt in the wound, the

director AT THAT VERY MEETING when she’d bumped Kat and one other

girl, recruited one of the girls who was sitting and watching the

practice  to  the team. There is nothing you can say  to  make  a

situation  like that not hurt. Apparently Kat’s very good at  the

moves,  but watches the other girls too much rather than  looking

at the audience, and doesn’t stay on count as well as she should.

At  the next practice Kat says she overheard the coach  say  that

Kat  was the best dancer, if she’d only stop watching  the  other

girls  so much. That allowed me to tell her that maybe she’d  get

moved  up  to  the performing group if she  could  work  on  that

problem. Hope is good.

At  the  same  time, I was wondering if that  was  just  an

excuse and she really got bumped because I’d objected to the cost

of  the  uniforms.  Last  year they  got  matching  outfits  from

Walmart,  and  they  cost about $50- and they wore  them  to  the

competition  last  fall, then in the spring they had to  get  NEW

outfits (probably because some of the girls had lost theirs)  for

the  spring performance. This year Mel (the director)  wanted  to

get “good” outfits from Danskin- at about $100 a pop. I object to

spending that kind of money for something they are only going  to

wear once. Mel has said that since neither of us is working,  Kat

could  get a scholarship for hers, and I had to wonder  if  maybe

this  didn’t have something to do with her getting downgraded  to

alternate. After all, how many hot-dogs can they have sold at the

apple festival?

Anyway,  after much misery and tears, Mel called last  night

and said that Kat’s back on the team. One of the other girls hurt

her knee. Kat’s feeling a bit exultant, and a bit guilty, because

it’s  the girl who was always giving her a hard time. I told  her

not  to worry about it, you can’t help how you feel- only not  to

gloat  in  public.  I’m a bit tweaked though,  because  they  are

having  an extra practice today, and I’d wanted to have an  early

dinner  for  Aelfwine’s birthday. (Mostly because we are  ALL  so

beastly  tired.  The sun doesn’t come up until after  7,  and  no

matter how early we get to bed, we keep sleeping in until  almost

6:30, which is hard when Kat’s bus comes at 7:05.)

Willow  and I have wrapped all AElfwine’s  presents-  except

the table saw which is already set up in the shop, and we will be

having  Roast Beef, Yorkshire Pudding, and Black Magic Cake,  and

Dan’s  coming up (Brad’s working tonight). We’ve got him some  of

the  Harry Potter themed Lego because even when you are  48,  you

should  have  toys.  And  also the broom  and  shovel  he’d  been

wanting. I DO understand that tools to do what you want to do are

wonderful things, but it always feels to me like when I give  him

a tool, it’s an implicit request that he do work (for me), and of

course, sometimes it is. (remember the table saw)

He  has  spent  all his spare time in the  shop  this  week,

organizing it and doing small projects. It’s really getting  much

more  useful,  and he’s very excited about it. I figure  once  he

gets  about halfway through some major project, then he’ll get  a

job offer he likes.

Willow  is still recovering from her over energetic  summer.

Last week she said “I’m sleepy, and grumpy, at least I’m not  any

of the others!” This morning, caught in the middle of a  sneezing

attack,  she moaned: “Now I’m another dwarf!”  Actually, I  think

she’s  coming  down  with a cold. When she  got  Chronic  Fatigue

Syndrome, she stopped getting colds. She’s had three in the  last

eleven  years- each one when we did something to try and  enhance

her  immune  system. This past week she’s been taking  an  herbal

combination to help flush toxins from her system (in a  desperate

attempt  to  try to stop the basic Chronic  Fatigue  symptoms  of

pain,  fatigue, mental fog, hot flashes, etc. Now  she’s  getting

cold  symptoms.  Our  theory is that usually the  CFIDS  has  her

immune  system just shut off, and treating it turns it on  again,

at  which point, she starts getting symptoms, probably  from  her

allergies, which she has as much as her sibs do. She can’t win.

Oh,  remember Kat’s throne of Artemis project? When we  went

to  school the other night, I saw it in one of the display  cases

with  five other thrones (which leads me to believe that  it  was

one  of the six best in the class). You go girl! We were  at  the

school  because in her civics class she was assigned to go  to  a

couple  of  public meetings, and they were having one  for  “Best

Schools”,  a group where parents, students, and teachers come  up

with suggestions for improving the school. The theme of this  one

was  homework.  They  were scheduled for  covering  homework  and

scheduling (and Kat REALLY wanted to point out that there  wasn’t

enough time to get to one’s locker between classes), but the home

work  discussion took so long that scheduling was put  off  until

next  week.  So  Kat wants to go back for that one.  One  of  the

parents complained that, quite aside from the hours of  homework,

the  kids  had too many books to carry. Aelfwine notes  that  the

middle  school lockers are about a quarter the size of  the  high

school  lockers (probably on the theory that they don’t  have  as

many  books  (don’t have as many classes in the  same  number  of

hours? ) or that their out clothing is less bulky? Think  people!

He  thinks that this may have a lot to do with all  the  articles

we’ve seen about how the Middle School kids carry backpacks  that

are  too  heavy and are hurting themselves. Well, maybe  if  they

were given sufficient locker space, and sufficient time to get to

the  lockers  between classes, and maybe lockers  big  enough  to

leave the back-packs in during the day, they wouldn’t be carrying

35 pounds of books around all day. Duh! Sadly, no opportunity  to

check that theory came up.  I WAS pleased to be able to say  that

I  really don’t think much of any homework that is  there  simply

for  the purpose of instilling “discipline” in the kids.  (I  was

especially  pleased  to hear the groundswell  of  other  parental

voices  supporting  that opinion.) I think I may  keep  going  to

those  meetings-  if  I get the impression  that  they  have  any


Aelfwine  and  I  also  went to the  first  meeting  of  the

Lyndeboro  Festival  Committee. Not much happened, as  it  wasn’t

well publicized and only six people showed (including us).  There

were  twice that many who signed up for it, I really  think  that

once  the Lyndeboro Newsletter comes out people will  know  about

more of these events. As a self-congratulatory sidebar to that, I

remembered  at  six that I’d said I’d bring refreshments  to  the

meeting  (at 7). So I whipped up a quick batch of brownies and  a

couple  trays  of madelines (which are fast, and  always  impress

people),  while  Aelfwine cut up some cheese tid-bits  and  apple

slices.  Luckily,  I’d  made a big pot of chili  which  had  been

simmering  in  the  crockpot all day, so I didn’t  have  to  make

dinner at the same time. Kat could have gone to that meeting, but

having watched (and smelled) the madelines come out, preferred to

stay home and make some with non-wheat flour. We also called  and

signed  up for the Fireman’s Auxiliary. They put out a  flier  at

Citizen’s  Hall, with a contact number. They are the ones who  do

the Tree Lighting with Santa, and the Easter Egg Hunt, and  since

last year are doing the Haunted House. I’d meant to join since we

moved  here, but always thought it was only for the  families  of

the  the volunteer firemen. (AElfwine tried to join back when  we

first  moved here, but they only take people who work in town  so

they can come whenever the alarm goes off.)

We  had  Dennis over for supper on , and Steve  came  up  on

Saturday  for his birthday. We gave him the Harpers CDs, and  had

Roast  Beef  (it’s  VERY  hard to improve on  a  good  roast  for

dinner). Allyn didn’t come this time. He’s back from visiting his

girlfriend  who  needed some support- her mother  has  just  been

diagnosed  with Breast Cancer. I keep reminding myself when  it’s

one  in three of us getting it, I shouldn’t be surprised.  But  I

always am. Kathy Nahass is back in scarfs again (meaning that the

chemo  has  made  her hair fall out again).  She  says  that  she

doesn’t mind that, but most of the time she’s so tired she has  a

hard  time  keeping from crying. I’ve been there off and  on,  it

must be absolutely awful knowing that it could be for the rest of

your  (abbreviated) life. She is one of the best teachers I  have

ever seen. Watching her helping a student work through a  problem

at the board while the other kids are out at lunch is one of  the

most inspiring things I’ve ever seen. Some people have just found

what  they should do in life, and she’s one of them. So  much  of

the first part of our life is spent looking for what we should be

doing, then learning how to do it, it seems so horrible to be cut

short when we are finally gotten to the point where we are  doing

it, and doing it well!

Tuesday  we went down to the North Shore Music  Theatre  and

saw Zorba. It was OK, but not as good as the production I saw  in

Boston  in  the late sixties. I’d had great hopes for  it,  since

they  usually  do  the  dance shows well, and  had  done  such  a

fantastic  job with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor  Dreamcoat

(and  Peter  Pan, last year). But Zorba  requires  an  incredible

energy,  especially  shown  through the music  and  dancing  that

conveys that no matter how horrible the EVENTS of your life  are,

that the simple joy of living overrides the misery of the moment.

Sadly,  this production failed in that. Pity. We are still  going

to  go to next years season: they are having Footloose,  and  the

Wizard of Oz which should be good, but we aren’t going to get the

more expensive seats- maybe for the 2003 season.

Star  stayed  home  and milked the goats and  fed  Fitz.  He

really doesn’t like the theatre. This week he actually remembered

to  give me the packet for school pictures, and so did Kat  (hers

are tomorrow) so this year we may actually have some. Let me know

if you want a copy. He’s still doing great in French- his  talent

for  memorization and mimicry which until now we only got to  see

in his quoting long passages from various movies has now found  a

useful outlet.

The UPS truck just came, and delivered the replacement power

supply!  If AElfwine can install it quickly enough, (and  there’s

nothing else wrong with that computer) I may be able to send this

letter  out on our computer. If not, I’ll have Willow  distribute

it again. Then I guess I should do some backing up, eh? Last week

we  got a replacement mouse for the I-Mac, so Aelfwine  has  been

able to handle his mail through that one.

Me,  I’ve  mostly  been  cleaning  and  sorting  the   attic

(especially  when  he  was  doing the same  in  the  shop).  I’ve

actually pulled out a bunch of cloth that I can identify as  some

that I’ll probably never get around to using, and I’m giving that

away. I’ve sent two bins of old clothes to the recycling  center.

I think part of that is that we have gotten fussier than we  used

to be about what we consider reasonable to wear. At least Kat is.

A  lot  of what we’d saved was stuff that had  been  Diana’s  and

Elizabeth’s  when  they  were her size. Some of  it  I  think  is

beautiful,  and some, I think, leaves me wondering “What were  we

thinking?”.  Aelfwine has about 40 perfectly good T  shirts,  and

why throw away something that’s perfectly good. I’ve got about  a

dozen perfectly good sets of jeans (mostly thanks to Lisa)  which

I  only  wear when gardening – probably a decade’s  supply.  I’ve

even  sorted out some of our old Christmas stuff to get  rid  of.

Liz, from down the street, offered to help me clean recently, but

I told her that the key was being willing to give stuff up, and I

have  a real problem with that. Only if someone else  could  make

better  use of it. What we really need is more shelves so we  can

put away (and therefor find) what we’ve got more efficiently.

Aelfwine  did  get the (2000) taxes done, and sent  off.  We

still  owed  $33.  That’s not too bad. I think  his  leg  may  be

getting better- at least he hasn’t complained about it lately. My

feet I think may be getting worse again, now that the  treatments

have  stopped. I’m going to give it a week so I’m sure; but  over

the weekend I had one of those twinges that feels like someone is

driving  a  nail through my foot, and I hadn’t had one  of  those

recently. We WILL find the right treatment, eventually. Not being

able  to  stand  long enough to wash dishes or  fold  laundry  or

garden is NOT acceptable.

I’ve  been thinking about aging (maybe too much) lately.  As

we  watch Aelfwine constantly- what is chemo side  effects,  what

could  be signs of recurring cancer, what is normal living  (What

IS  normal for a 48 year old?), etc. I watch myself as  well-  my

distance  sight is shot- I had to get a prescription  change  for

that  for  the commutes to Boston, my teeth are  going,  my  foot

problems  are keeping me from doing what I feel I should be  able

to do. If I don’t take the glucosamine chondrointin  supplements,

I get stiff and achey in the shoulders. Worst of all, my  aphasia

and  misphasia  is more pronounced than ever. I’m old  enough  to

blame it on menopause, but I don’t want to blame it on  anything,

I WANT to be able to speak coherently without worrying that  I’ll

say something totally ridiculous and not notice it. I WANT to  be

able to carry fifty pound sacks of feed from the car to the barn,

and  be able to do anything from open jars to run the  rototiller

for  as long as it takes to get what I want to do done.  Aelfwine

WANTS  to  be  able to use the chainsaw for  a  couple  of  hours

without getting winded, and to be able to go back into the  woods

and run around and hit people with a sword and have them take the

blow.  These don’t seem like extraordinary ambitions. To be  able

to  keep  doing  what one has been doing  for  one’s  adult  life

doesn’t seem that ambitious.

But  those are EXACTLY the things that seem to go  when  one

ages- the ability to see, to hear, walk a reasonable distance, to

chew  food, to sneeze without wetting oneself, to dress  oneself,

to think and speak, to communicate. As has often been observed by

others  more  sage than myself- there is a  startling  similarity

between old age and infancy. With some major differences: infants

are  not  generally handicapped in their sensory  apparatus,  and

they,  as  far as we know, don’t bear an  expectation  that  they

should  be  able to do those things. Much of the  frustration  of

childhood is not being able to do for yourself, combined with  an

inability to be able to convince those who do for you to do  what

you  want when you want it. We just accept that in children,  and

they  accept  it too, with as much or as little  grace  as  their

personalities  give  them.  As far as I can  tell,  “growing  old

gracefully”   consists   of  accepting  and  adapting   to   your

infirmities  as they crowd in. Personally, I expect to  grow  old

“disgracefully”,  kicking and screaming and resenting every  loss

of independence along the way.

I’ve  noted for a long time that we, as a society,  tend  to

segregate  our  different  age groups. It used  to  be  that  the

different  characteristics  of  different  age  groups  was  with

etiquette-  manners.  Young  people were taught  to  treat  older

people  with respect until they reached a level of experience  so

that  they knew why older people should receive  some  deference.

Now, we’ve dispensed with manners (perhaps the old should keep  a

firmer hold of the purse strings) and not only do we not have the

accumulated   skills,  experience,  and  wisdom  of   the   older

population to draw upon, we have also lost the ability to observe

how  they deal with the problems of age. I’d love to be  able  to

see  how it’s done. Several ways, so I can try out some  of  them

and  see  which suits me better. I’d also like to  know  what  is

normal  and  reasonable- how do I know what to put up  with,  and

what  to  try  and fix? It seems to me that most  of  my  friends

bodies  are falling apart even faster than mine, so I sure  can’t

get much sympathy (although they may have some advice). Poot!

This  week we took another Sharps video out of the  library.

It  was apparently a mini-series about a British soldier  in  the

Napoleonic  Wars. I really enjoy it, except that so much  of  the

plot  is  advanced visually, I often have to  ask  Aelfwine  what

happened  while  I wasn’t looking. I also took out  the  Elephant

Man-  which I think was made in the eighties. Very  powerful  and

disturbing movie- although I haven’t yet figured out why exactly.

I  finished reading The Skies of Pern, the latest Anne  McCaffrey

novel- fifteenth in the series. I noticed on the jacket that  she

lives in Ireland. I know that lots of artists and writers live in

Ireland  for tax reasons, and it bugs me. Either the  tax  system

should  be overhauled so it is fair enough that people  who  make

their  living in the arts can survive on what they make, or  they

are  tax dodgers and should not be allowed to avoid paying  their

fair  share.  Now  what  is it? Is the  tax  structure  so  badly

designed  that it takes an unfair share from artists?  Sadly,  it

seems likely that that’s the case. Another reason to switch to  a

flat tax.

There were a few stories I noticed didn’t get the  attention

I  would  have  thought  they deserved this  week.  Did  you  see

anything about the outbreak of Mad Cow disease in Japan? (or only

multiple  discussions of Anthrax scares?) I would have  liked  to

have  seen better coverage of the raising of the Kirsk  (which  I

probably  mis-spelled), and I really wish they were covering  the

Drilling in ANWAR(the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge) better- I

don’t  doubt for a minute that Bush is going to use the  “War  on

Terrorism”  to  justify  setting  aside  environmental  arguments

against  that. But if we keep ignoring environmental problems  to

solve  immediate situations, we are going to continue to have  to

deal  with  the  problems of a  population  with  Cancer,  Fibro-

mialgia,  Attention  Deficit, and all the other  health  problems

that  are  increasingly  prevalent. What does  it  take  to  make

safeguarding  our  health  more important  than  pumping  up  the


In our household, of course, we take the historians eye view

of  most current events. Fitz points out that Bin Laden has  been

following the pattern of Sheikh Sidon Alamut (the Old Man in  the

Mountain,  founder  of the Assassins) so far -at  a  higher  tech

level of course. Apparently he started with destroying buildings,

to  create  chaos, then went after the heads of  state  (viziers)

While Aelfwine has been expecting some version of “poisoning  the

wells” (water supplies of large cities), Fitz says that the  next

“wave” (if the pattern continues) is attacks on the foreign heads

of state- probably Bush and Tony Blair. We’ll see. I expect  that

the people in charge are watching both of those options already.

In  a local note, there was a panel truck parked in  Milford

that since a few days after the attacks had a crude picture of  a

bearded guy in a turban with a missile aimed at his eye, and  the

message  that  Bin  Laden should look out,  because  America  was

coming for him. Tacky, but understandable (it left me hoping that

this guy was not liable to go bombing Pizza parlors just  because

the  owners looked middle eastern). Last week some  vandal  spray

painted the word: “Tolerance” across the side of the truck,  thus

displaying a very peculiar understanding of the word. This  week,

it’s  been  repainted with the sentiment that those who  want  to

preach  tolerance  should  go  do  it  “to  the  Koran   thumping

murderers”.  People  are  strange-  a  never  ending  display  of

infinite diversity.


“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary
safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” – Benjamin Franklin