1/06/2010 Old Christmas Day

This is the day according to the old Calendar when Yule festivities are to end. All the debris of Yule should be cleared today, and there’s a tradition that the house hobs get to pinch the lazy girls for every needle or berry left behind. I’m in deep trouble I guess. I don’t even intend to take the tree down until the weekend. Last year I think we left it up past Birka hoping that Megan and Claus would come by to see it. This year I don’t think we’ll wait.
Remember last week I wondered if Janus used to rule before the Romans changed when they were going to start the new year? Strenia may have been the New year goddess before Janus. Strenia was a Sabine Goddess of the New Year, who gave her name to laurel boughs cut from a wood sacred to her. Eventually her name was applied to the holiday when the Romans decorated with palm, bay and laurel branches, hung with sweets, dates, figs and gilded fruit. In Sicily groups go around singing La Strenna, wishing everyone Happy New Year and asking for treats. If refused, they curse the offender with a threatening verse. It also survives in France, where New Years gifts are called Etrennes.

Romans honored Janus, the two-faced god of the year, with the feast called Agonium. He was supposedly an old king of Latium whose worship was introduced by Romulus. Janus opens the gates of heaven at dawn and closes them at dusk. Like Elegba in the Voodun tradition, he was invoked before any other deity. He is the god of all doors, gates and entrances. Sometimes pictured as a porter or doorkeeper with a staff in one hand and a key in the other, other depictions show him with an XXX (300) in one hand and LXV (65) in the other. Janus was offered grains of farro (a primitive kind of wheat) mixed with salt and iannual, a focaccia made with cheese, flour, eggs and oil, for his help in providing good harvests. The ancient Romans ate enormous focaccia, (think pizza- no tomato sauce) great disks of bread as round as the sun, on this day in his honor.

I am not having a good day- I am trying to figure out how to get my website going again, because I thought I had it on auto-payment and it lapsed and I have to start from scratch, and my ego is such that any time I can’t do something easily, I get angry with myself, so I’m all stressed out. So I’m going to switch back and forth between that and writing the letter, because I know how to write the letter.
It’s probably more stressful because yesterday I also started doing something new to me- I went up to Manchester to talk to Career Councilors about getting back to college. The one at the community college (cheap and close) suggested I check with UNH Manchester, because it’s a four year and I probably already have enough credits for an associates degree, but I won’t know that until I get the transcripts. BU’s form gives the impression that they won’t send them to you, but apparently they will, but as soon as they do, they become “unofficial”- which I take to mean that since you could tamper with them, they don’t count at some esoteric level, but we still need them to figure out where to start. I must admit dreading finding out just how much I messed up by not finishing things before. I’m better at finishing things now (maybe not good, but better), mostly I think I got that from doing newsletters. If someone has actually given me money to send them something each month, I figure they should get it. Although obviously any Incomplete’s are a wash, I’m wondering if perhaps I am also (as I was about getting a copy of my transcripts) mistaken about the “lost” credits when I changed majors. “Lost” always seemed “gone” to me, same as an Incomplete. but where do they go? Maybe they’re still there, but useless for whatever new degree I was trying to get. I guess I’ll see when they get here.
The lovely lady at the Community College gave me the assignment to start making a resume- to figure out what skills I’ve accumulated. I’m having a really hard time with that- I have no idea what kind of skills I have. I guess I may have in common with much of the rest of the world that I tend to focus on the skills I want to develop and forget the ones I have (“everyone can do/knows that”) and worry more about the things “everyone” knows that I don’t (like how to read a web page). She said “you have computer skills”, but I don’t feel like I do. Maybe it’s because I hang with computer programmers, but it seems that I can’t figure out the most basic things- the whole concept of “dragging” something from one field to another seems odd to me- because it’s not part of the programs I’ve used so far, and yet people look at me like I’m simple when it never occurs to me that that’s the way to move something. “Hold your cursor over the word and a drop down menu will appear”. Right. I thought you had to click on things. And then there’s the whole Right-click, Left-click deal. I can’t think of a situation where I’ve ever differentiated. I guess I mostly left click.
Meanwhile, as Willow says, “I have lots of skills, but none of them are sale-able.” I’m sure some are, but them one gets into the whole question of how you describe them on a resume. I think I have talents and abilities that could be valuable, but I’d need to learn specific skills in a work environment. My difficulty with learning new things on the computer I see as a real handicap- although I’m sure it wouldn’t matter in some venues. I draw, paint, sketch, and can catch a likeness, I sing, I can play the piano and harp a little, but not enough to stay up with others singing and playing, so I don’t think that counts. I bake, I brew, I cook (I can cook a three course feast for 100 if you give me two helpers, without breaking a sweat, and for 30 without help, and bring it in for less money than almost anyone else), I’ve done newsletters, and can do paste up- although I think that’s obsolete and I’d need to learn how to do that on the computer. I bet it’s harder to add art to empty corners in a computer than when you can just draw on it. I speak French pretty well, I’m sure with practice I’d be OK. I’ve now got some Japanese, and am learning German and Norwegian. I know more about the early Anglo-Saxons than anyone outside academia, for what it’s worth- which is not much. I know tons about neo-paganism, and a lot about pre-Christian pagan religious and magickal practices. I know a lot about magick (sadly, not enough to make money). I know a lot about divination, and know lots of systems of divination, including runes, palmistry, tarot, and sortiage. I’m sure THAT would look great on a resume- even though I believe that palmistry would be incredibly valuable for someone working in personnel, or other jobs that require knowing what peoples natural talents are. I know a lot about energy healing- which I have used to good effect to make people healthier, and which I hope will soon be incorporated into modern medicine- but right now? Not useful for getting a job, although VERY useful when you need to heal faster.
You see the problem? If you (if anyone) can think of something I should put on a resume- especially with advice on how to phrase it, I can use all the help on this I can get. I can understand why an employer would prefer to see that someone did a certain job for a certain amount of time, and then can call the employer and ask (because there’s a huge difference between the way I approach substitute teaching and others I’ve observed do it. I’m not just an adult in the room, I try to teach- which is why I’ve been told by History, English, Art, and Home Ec teachers that I should do that.) I love teaching people new and useful things. On the other hand, I don’t think that’s what’s involved in being a public school teacher these days, so I think I can say no to that. I might possibly be an art teacher because I could use that for a paycheck and do my own art in the non-school time. I don’t figure there’s as much demand on your out of school time with that as there is with other teachers- but I could be wrong, I should ask Kitty. Come to think of it, I’ve seen her grading papers at home. And since some kids live for the art classes, others endure them (as is true of Gym and perhaps any other class). I am fairly sure I’d really hate dealing with the kids who didn’t care about art. I KNOW I wouldn’t do well with the paperwork, administration, parents…. I don’t think teaching public school is a good match for me.
I really do think that my future lies in the area of art, especially illustration, with some level of public speaking involved, but I’ve never heard of that as a job, and my future may require something with a paycheck to get to the ultimate career path. I’m sure my life would be much less stressed if I didn’t worry about money so much (I figure I have that in common with about 89% of America). I am sure I’m not well suited to most business, but I have to take my licks with everyone else. It’s just that most people do it in their late teens. I’ve been spoiled (and would have been very happy to have remained that way for the rest of my life- oh well). I’ve been working my way through a workbook called Discovering Your Perfect Career- but I have a feeling it is going to come out to be art. The question isn’t what I want, but how to get it.

What consumed most of my time this week was two exercises in trying to be in touch with people- the first was the list of people I know I mentioned last week, and the second was that I finally succumbed to facebook so that I could be in touch with El. Several people had already made me their friends on Facebook, so I “friended” them back, more people wrote, looking at their pages, I saw other people who I knew and clicked their names, and spent hours doing this. Of course, part of what took so much time is that I’m still not good with names (although most people seem to use their normal names on facebook, whereas on Live Journal they use strange appellations like “spiralingphoenix” or “touchytranny”. Of course, since I know a lot of my friends through the SCA or paganism, where “chosen” names are frequently used, I still have no idea who a lot of these people are- even when I look at the pictures I often don’t recognize them out of their garb! I have felt very foolish and as though I haven’t paid enough attention to my friends all week because of this.
I’ve also been trying to organize our schedule for the spring which is pretty depressing for me. I find it difficult to figure out whether a prospective event will “make” money after we’ve paid for gas, tolls, meals, hotel, table and entrance fees, and then there’s the cost of the goods to factor in too. And THAT’S why I need business courses- book keeping, and marketing, and all that stuff I hate doing. Grump.

The weather has been chilly. We’ve had snow, but mostly we’ve had a lot of wind, so I can’t tell you how much snow there is because it keeps blowing around. The cats are, as usual, offended that going outside is more challenging, so they stay inside and cause trouble. The other evening, when I was on the computer, one of the kittens kept getting up on the dining room table, charging across, and pushing stuff off the other side- as far as I could tell, on purpose. I came down this morning and they’d knocked over several of my mortar and pestles- breaking the beautiful cobalt blue glass one (I’d already replaced once). I think it’s a combination of cabin fever and too many cats in the house. We keep tossing them out in the snowbank, and they certainly don’t seem to like it, but they keep getting up on the tables and counters. We really need to get rid of the extras!
They also have an annoying fondness for carnations. Apparently while we sleep at night they like to go bite one off and bat it around the room. If you were one to “hear” cats, you’d have caught this exchange:
Me: “Stay off the tables, and leave my flowers alone!”
Cats: “If you want us to stay off the tables, you shouldn’t put cat toys like flowers up on them!”
They are very annoying, and totally self righteous about it.

That seems like little to complain about. A lot of people on live journal and facebooks have been comparing how much snow they’ve gotten, but a town in NY, across Lake Champlain from Burlington (which is apparently getting record amounts of snow) is worse off, because they had a fire in their town barn and lost all their trucks and snow plows, so neighboring towns have had to help them out. Doesn’t that make you feel relatively lucky?

On Saturday, Honour and I went down to an event Shire 12th Night, which was a joint event of the Living History Association and the SCA. I’d thought the LHA had gone belly up after the accident that cost them the museum on Hogback, well, once again, I was wrong. Apparently they’ve been having this event for years and this is the first time I’ve noticed- the group who hosted it apparently has a Norman and Saxon household, and one of the bits of shtick was the Norman lord paying his Saxon vassals for the year. It was specified as a period specific (TRY to dress suitably to 1075) event, so Honour and I pulled together outfits fairly suitable (although many people might not be able to tell one Saxon gown from another). It was also the wedding of one of the Saxons- turns out that I knew many of them long ago. The night was full of “I knew you when…” and “you gave me my AoA”. Turns out the groom, when picking his SCA name, had originally chosen Nicholas Tailor- until he heard that it was Ælfwine’s name. One marvelous moment was at the end of the wedding, the musicians who provided live music for the dancing started playing something that sounded very medieval, but strangely familiar- it was a special arrangement of Love is All Around (from Love Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral). What a hoot!
We got a chance to chat with Elspeth and Steffan, and although we’d reserved late, and Honour can’t generally eat SCA feast any more so we’d brought food with us (it’s hard to find food that has no wheat or milk products in it), I got “on board” and it was a lovely feast. Another thing they had was a really fun morality play- Young Sir Lancelot resisting the Seven Deadly Sins. I couldn’t resist commenting to my table mates on the advice of the sins “Take whatever you want, don’t restrain your anger, eat and drink as much as you feel like, enjoy the ladies!” I noted “the Vices are Normans!” (I was unaware until later that one of them was Norman. Oops. One course included duck and chicken and game hens, and another a boars head. The presentation pieces were marvelous and served with ceremony to the high table (by some “wonderous” chance, the Bride and Groom seem to have each gotten the piece of cake with the bean and become the Lord and Lady of the Bean for the night), and the servers passed round trays of more usual chicken and sliced pork to hold us until the fancy stuff circulated. The tables were decked with fruit and nuts when we got there. One of the ladies at our table was allergic to nuts, but declared a “nut free zone” around herself, sadly, she had to leave suddenly and seek medicine mid feast- I think perhaps as we were all cracking nuts, the nut oils got on our hands, and passed from there to the edges of the serving dishes as we passed them along, and that’s what got to her. I am SO glad I have no allergies of that sort.
There was more wind than snow during the day, which was a blessing, but it was snowing on the way back. Sadly, the window washer didn’t squirt properly, and we couldn’t seem to figure out how to make them. We had checked to make sure that there was fluid in them on the way down. Whenever a car passed us, Honour would hit the wipers to get them clear. She kept to the recommended reduced speed limit, which was fine by me- especially after someone who didn’t spun out rather spectacularly right in front of us- luckily with no collision. It took us an extra hour to get home, but it was worth it.

For New Years Eve, the girls went over to the Harts. Avi and Trevor (and children) and Tommy and Shannon are living together in Milford now. They’d thought to just go for a few hours in the afternoon, but had so much fun that they stayed past midnight. Jon and I had a very quiet time. He has come down with a rare cold, and while he did insist on doing his chores, spent most of his time resting. When it snowed, he didn’t shovel. He took a nap during the evening so he’d be able to be awake when the new decade came in. He was on the computer, so kept an eye on the time, counted down the last few seconds, we wished each other a Happy New Year, and went back to what we were doing. I was watching a movie and knitting. (My lovely scarf is so loosely knit, it keeps snagging on things, so I pulled it out and re-knit it again.) Because we might be contagious, we didn’t dare invite anyone over.
It’s too bad, Steve had a “week from Hell”- apparently his 30 year old mattress had become infested with spiders that were biting him (better replace it than try to exterminate them) then his washer died. I’m sure he could have used some relaxing time with a family- but I’m sure he also doesn’t want to catch Star’s cold!
I made some black beans (Mother always insisted on Black Eyed Peas, but I have discovered that any bean will do- it varies from place to place, and I like the black ones best). Willow had one and declared than enough , I told Kat and Star to have “a magickally significant number” so Kat ate 42. I like black beans, and made up some rice, and cooked with onions enjoyed most of the rest myself- Jon killed what I left, to my surprise. He’s gotten very relaxed about trying things if he’s not familar with them.
I did, at one point, feel a tickle in my throat, so I’ve slept as much as I could. I always think that sleeping is one of the most effective therapies for colds. I spent the money my father gave me for Christmas on my next Language course. I reconnected with Cyndar’s son Josh on facebook. He’s in Korea and has gotten married there, and they are expecting a child in the spring. (Cyndar had posted a lot of pictures from the wedding when they went over in October.) I asked him if he spoke Korean, but he said that his wife spoke Korean, Japanese and English, and I passed on the information about the Pimsleur courses to him. This time I discovered that they are sold on a variety of websites, the official one the most expensive, and that even the least expensive isn’t as cheap as you can get them on Amazon- not much more than what my father had given me. I’m not as good with the Japanese as I’d like to be, but I am eager to start on the German. I expect that since Josh is living in Korea and his wife will probably be happy to help him practice, he’ll be able to pick it up much faster than me.

This week I watched the Serpent and the Rainbow. Star had sent for it, because it seemed like the kind of fantasy/horror we enjoy, but while he admired it, I think he likes the old Dungeons and Dragons TV show (Willow got for Yule) better. Since it was here the rest of us watched it. I remember when it came out (about the time Kat was born) there was a big media circus about it- not unlike the recent one about the DaVinci Code. Because the book, and then the movie, got the subject into the public eye, lots of people were surprised and astounded, outraged, alarmed, and all sorts of other large reactions, while those of us who’ve studied this kind of thing all along were more surprised by the reaction of the public than the content. Yes, it was a pretty darned good portrayal of voodoo as I understand it (it’s not an area I’ve gotten into deeply), but what’s the big deal? Similarly, with the DaVinci Code- yes, medieval artists were big into symbolism, and there are lots of theories about the historical background of people who work with this kind of information. No shocker there.
I actually liked the DaVinci Code book- it was a page-turning mystery. I don’t remember seeing anything in it that was a big secret though, except for things like “secret societies” which were almost certainly made up for the book. Not that there haven’t been and still are secret societies. One of the things that Steffan and I talked about was how there are lots of empty masonic and grange halls around, and why doesn’t the SCA, or pagan groups for that matter, buy them to use for our events? I know why the SCA doesn’t- local groups don’t have enough money for real estate, and probably couldn’t raise that much without SCA corporate grabbing it. Pagans probably should, if they could just agree on anything. The problem with being in a religion where no one gets to tell anyone else what’s right or wrong, is that ultimately, it’s hard enough to agree on one shot events, much less on how to raise and spend any large amount of money.
Another movie I watched was The Year of Living Dangerously, which I don’t remember putting on the queue, but am pleased that I watched. It was an excellent movie- I was incredibly impressed by — ‘s performance. Had I not recognized her from many other movies, I’m sure I would never have known that she was an actress playing a male role, very well done. But all that pales beside the important story of the movie, and the theme, which since the theoretically central character played by Mel Gibson was a journalist, explored the very important question of why do journalists choose the stories they do, when far more compelling is the question what is making the many individuals make the choices they do? We focus so often on the big players, but each person in the crowd had decided that something in his life was so horrible, or so important that he was going to be there, or the ones who weren’t couldn’t choose to be there. Was it grinding poverty that made people turn to the communists or to the Muslims? What is it about the Islamic faith that can inspire so many people to accept it’s dictates to the point it does? These stories, these little stories are so numerous and so compelling that they demand our attention no matter how flashy the big stories about men of power are. I especially liked the line from Tolstoy that Billy kept returning to “What then must we do?” with the answer that we are to treat kindly those whom God has put in our path. The symbolism of the puppets that was initiated in the lead credits was wonderfully done as well. I think this was an incredible movie- it’s just harder to watch the really powerful ones than the musicals and comedies and adventures. If they give you more, they also require more of you.
In a similar way the movie The Christmas Cottage is much “meatier” than the usual Christmas movie. It may just be because I see myself as an artist, but the lesson that the young Thomas Kinkade had to learn- that he had both to learn his craft, AND to find his own vision, speaks to me. Peter O’Toole’s portrayal of the old artist Glen Wessler fighting back as physical and mental frailty stole his very life from him was incredible. As I think back on it, I have to ask myself if this is one of those movies that I would want to watch every year, and I’m beginning to think it may be. Sadly, when I discovered that Kinkade is a real artist and I looked at his work, I was less than impressed. It looks like stuff you’d see on greeting cards and book covers. Yes, they are lovely images, but I am left both wondering if I can achieve that, and if I did, would it sell. How many artists are there who are that good and who can’t make a living at it? One thing’s for sure- I’ll have to learn to paint faster to achieve the output Kinkade has done.
Kerensa sent me a couple of really cool bundt pans, one shaped like a ring of trees, one shaped like a fairy tale cottage. And they came with their own cake serving, carrying trays with locking covers. The only drawback is, of course, that we should probably not eat as much cake as it will be fun to make!
Someone was griping on some list that Willow’s on about a version of a song, Hurt, Johnny Cash had done a cover to, and we went to youtube and watched the music video Cash did of it (and then the original) and I think that Cash’s was better- he seemed to give more depth and feeling to the song. Made it sound like a man dealing with the hurts of life, while the original just seemed whiney. I expect we can all have our opinions.
I’m full of opinions, but I suppose I should finish this up and let you get back to whatever you are doing. Stay warm, be kind to each other.

6 Fruitcake Toss Day, Apple Tree Day, Cuddle Up Day, Koreion
7 Tempura Day, Organize your Home Day, Programmer’s Day
8 English Toffee Day, Bubblebath Day, Midwife’s Day, Justitia
9 Apricot Day, Static Electricity Day, Stepfather’s Day, Agonalia
10 Bittersweet Chocolate Day, Cut Energy Costs Day, Securitas
11 Hot Toddy Day, Old Hogmannay, Intntl. Thank-you Day, Carmentalia
12 Marzipan Day, Pharmacist Day, Ullr Festival, Compitalia
13 Peach Melba Day, International Sceptics Day, Rubber Ducky Day, Feralia

Thank God every day when you get up that you have something to do that day which must be done whether you like it or not. Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle will never know. — Basil Carpenter: