I’m starting the letter late, so I expect I’ll finish it tomorrow during the post-prandial period. (yep, that’s what’s happening!) I lost more time than I’d expected running down to feed Steve’s cats. I’d forgotten that while it’s generally a 75-90 minute drive, this was the start of the Thanksgiving travel season. Steve is spending it with his sister in one of the Carolinas (I can’t keep them straight, not knowing anyone from there), and left yesterday. So we fed them today and will go back Friday. He’ll be home Saturday, so they’re probably good. There was still plenty of food in their bowls, but the water was low, so I guess the timing is about right. The GPS took me back to the highway by a back route that probably saved time with the traffic, but I had no idea where I was.
I hear it’s going to be in the twenties tonight- maybe snow. Meanwhile, the Rosebush, nicknamed Buddy, has managed to make a dozen beautiful, fragrant blooms. We’ve been putting it on the porch (where the thermometer is convenient to read through the window, but often points out that in that “sun scoop” area, when it’s really 70º out, that area is nearly 100º, so it’s been 70º there when it’s actually been in the 40ºs. So that’s probably helped. Also we bring it in at night. Once it started blooming you could really smell it. Lovely bush, I hope we can get it through the winter. We’re planning on pruning it back and keeping it in the cellar over winter.
Willow has spent a lot of time working at Avi’s this week. I think it’s the Black Friday thing expanded to the whole week. Avi has to work many hours so needs Willow’s help a lot. Willow finally put some rules up on the refrigerator: #1, No lying, #2 Clean up your own messes, #3 no TV or computer until you’ve done your homework, #4 if I have to touch your poo, no TV, #5 I really did mean no lying. (If Kailin has an accident, he will often deny it, complicating the mess, so it requires help. You can’t blame a kid for having a physical problem, but he shouldn’t make it yours.) Anyway, she’s been babysitting, and while fantasizing about spending her earnings on a new sewing machine or passport, she’s been buying wool socks and sending them to Standing Rock. After they turned the hoses on the water protectors she’s now looking for sweaters. I am just aghast that this is allowed to happen. Sigh.
I have my car back. We picked it up on Friday. We had to go to the bank and get cash because we can’t find where we put the checks last time we got some, ordered more and they didn’t arrive until Monday. Meanwhile, why the Insurance company called and said they’d OK’d the claim, we were still waiting for the check. Apparently it came in an innocuous envelope. I went back through all the mail and finally found it, and put it in. Whew. I was not looking forward to having them cancel it and take another 5-6 days to get another one out. They allowed enough that Winkles was able to get the window, light and frame done, and I even had a bit left to get it undercoated (as we attempt to run the car until it falls apart like the magnificent one horse shay.
I also got a scare. I found a letter from the back saying that the Massachusetts Department of Revenue was taking $3500 out of my bank account. I called them- why? They didn’t know. I called Mass Dep Rev. Apparently that’s $100 a month for each month I haven’t submitted a form telling them that I haven’t collected taxes in the last three years. Not having done shows in Massachusetts, I hadn’t thought about it. The nice man said all I had to do was submit the forms on line and the charges would go away. Yay. Sadly, even with him helping, we got locked out for submitting the “wrong” ID too often. Except that it wasn’t wrong, it was exactly the numbers he had on his side. He said he’d mail me the number. (That was Friday, nothing has come and I called again. Another not-quite-so-nice man helped me and this time I discovered that if I typed the number in on the number keypad part of my keyboard it wouldn’t take it- but when I tried the numbers over the letters on the querty part of the keypad, it worked. Go fig. There is no logic. But at least I got in and was able to submit three dozen $0 returns, so as soon as their computer recognizes it, I’ve ducked another result of a stupid mistake. Tuesday I got another letter from the bank saying that because they can’t draw against the kids Social Security disability payments, they couldn’t take out any of that money, only the about $300 I put in. That’s nice to know. Given that I haven’t made money, I’m glad they can’t take more (as it would come out of the money I owe the hospital people gave me for that.)
Saturday morning Robert delivered two cords of firewood. It doesn’t look like a cord to me, but last time we got it split, and we haven’t stacked it neatly yet. Some of the pieces are HUGE! Sadly, standard fire wood lengths are 14 inches, and our firebox is 12 inches. There’s some variation, and it looks like there are a lot closer to 16 inches than slightly short. (We can fit 14s in on a diagonal.) I am worried about the long ones. Also, we have to seriously consider renting a splitter for a day. John seems to be having a problem with the hardwood.
I am frustrated at not having two contacts (when did I lose one?). The eye doctor suggests not getting another until the Bell’s clears up. Frustrating.
The other day I made a chicken pie with a suet crust, and took pictures as I did to share on facebook so people could see the cool way that suet makes a flakey pastry. I think it has to do with the cell walls still being in the fat, which they don’t if you render the suet into tallow. I LOVE suet crusts.
John went with me down to Malden to feed Steve’s cats. Every time I turned on the radio, someone else was talking about ways to deal with relatives and stress (and political differences) at Thanksgiving. One thing they kept suggesting was to repeat back to people what they said so that they know that you were listening. This has always been a disastrous technique for me, as it proves that I didn’t understand what they were trying to say, which is, predictably, upsetting to the person who thought they’d expressed themselves clearly. I heard many suggestions for banning political discussions, from the person who talks politics exchanges plates with the dog, they eat outside, they have to do the dishes. Willow found a less punitive one: give all the kids kazoos and let them play them whenever politics is heard. She actually knows where to buy a bag of kazoos and is going to try it for our Solstice gathering. (she put up the event announcement on facebook). She also shared a communication problems worksheet from her shrink. We don’t have a lot of the problems that other families do, but have problems with the ones we can’t seem to fix, like my not being able to understand what I’m hearing. Sigh.
We do like each other a lot, and that helps. On the other hand we’re stressed, and you can’t pretend away mental illness any more than you can pretend away physical illness. As Kat points out, people seem to want the mentally ill to either be gibbering and out of control in a hospital, or to be able to seem totally normal and able to deal with everything everyone else does through drugs or therapy or whatever. They don’t seem to want to let them use things like coping mechanisms (therapy animals, self soothing techniques, leaving a situation, avoiding certain activities) if it in any way inconveniences them. OK, we’ve managed to accept some physical aids like glasses, hearing aids, and wheelchairs- although certainly some people seem to feel that, for example, the cost of handicap access is too much for the rest of us to have to “put up with”. They may have ambivalence about sexuality, and would like anything that reminds them of it kept where they don’t have to deal with it. Similarly, schools seem to think that if teenage boys think of sex when they see teenage girls, the girls should do something about it. (Excuse me, there is NOTHING that is going to get teenage boys to stop thinking about sex!) People seem to want the world to rearrange itself to make them more comfortable. We don’t want to see homeless people around our town, so let’s rip up their tents so they’ll “go away” (where? how? do they think?!) We may have the right to pursue happiness, but we don’t have the right to never feel uncomfortable. If something bothers you, try to figure out why. But still, illnesses need dealing with, and sometimes recovery. I am recovering from my weakness, which is great (and I tell you, being able to flush has not gotten old yet!), but every day Willow has to deal with her CFS, Kat has to deal with her PTSD, John with his Autism, and we’re all depressed to some extent, which makes us all a bit more tired, a bit more sad, a bit slower thinking. That’s what depression does. We just cope as best we can.
I’ve found it’s hard to assert that I’m not depressed when I’m sitting at the computer with tears running down my face; and in theory I don’t know why, but the only reason I can think of is that I’ve watched the world get crazier year after year, and now Trump is President-elect. If 25% of voters aren’t bigots (and I don’t think they are), they are OK with the President being one, and that’s a symptom of something deeply wrong. I’m sad that either there are a lot more people out there than I realized who still feel that it’s OK to hate someone because of the color of their skin, or their religion, or their sexuality, or that they are so scared of (something? I don’t know what) that they felt that it was important to vote for a bigoted misogynist to deal with it. I am scared of letting the minority of bigots get away with taking tiny steps until they have enough power to do awful things to my friends and relatives who are GBLT, minority religions, people of color, etc. As opposed to most people, I know it can happen because it HAS happened, and recently. I just don’t know how to stop it.
Most of the Thanksgiving stories I’ve been hearing are how to avoid political strife when the family gets together. I also noticed today is “Blackout Wednesday”, the day of a drinking and driving spike. Do we really need to drink to be able to share space with our families? I don’t want to be negative, but the people Trump is picking for his staff seem designed to simply push his nasty agenda: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, is a southern anti-immigration bigot; DeVos, who wants to pay parents for putting their kids in Christian schools (would they give vouchers for Pagan, or Islamic schools?); Pompeo, a Clinton harasser, for CIA head. I didn’t know the President PICKED the head of the CIA. I try to “console” myself by thinking not of Kristallnacht (1938, when the Nazi’s openly attacked the Jews), but the Röhm Putsch (1934, the Night of the Long Knives), the purge when Hitler consolidated his hold on power. I’m sure that each of these people feels that they are doing good things from their point of view. No one thinks that they are the bad guy. I keep reviewing the history of Germany in the 30s, looking for how to avoid going down the same path. I know that if we allow people enough power, they can scare good people into not protecting innocent neighbors in order to protect their families. That’s too big a power for anyone, and we can’t give it away, but we’ve already started the process. There I go, crying again.
Anger is more comfortable than fear, it’s warmer. I’m afraid our heating bill is going to be huge this year because we’ll have to keep the house warm.
I’ve been listening to a lot of “old” music (40s -70s). I’ve been thinking about how many songs I know. Off the top of my head I start with knowing about 10 songs each in over 50 musicals, but also there are many other songs that are harder to track. The old Sinatra, Torme, Cole, Bennet, and others I grew up with because my mother listened to them, and the songs that were on the radio when I was young. I know so many, but how would I know how many I know? I do know that if I know most of a song and then can’t remember one phrase, it drives me nuts until I go to the internet and look it up, and repeat it a few times until it’s back in my head. Some are lovely, like Softly as I leave you, but others are rather forgettable. Her Is got stuck in my head the other day (from Pajama Game). Some of the songs in some old musicals seem to have been added without any reason to exist. I especially didn’t care for the “my wife she don’t understand me, she ain’t like her is.” But still, it was a pretty dopey song (right up there with Hernando’s Hideaway, but at least that did have something to do with the plot). So at least I have been enjoying reminiscing and listening to old music.
Monday I went over to Lyrions- she’d marinated some chevon and wanted to share it, and we had some for dinner. Sadly we are not really excited about marinated meat. I’m pretty sure she tried that because older goats (and I have no idea how old this one was). I told John that marination was to make it more tender and taste better. John said “It didn’t work”. On the other hand she also gave us some lovely oyster mushrooms they’d gathered which I’m sure that they will be delicious. The next time I try some, I’ll try currying it and see how that works.
So I didn’t get to finishing the letter yesterday because John and I drove down to Steve’s to feed his cats. When I got back I started, and broke at quarter to eight for the New Normal. This show was about the Havamal Rune Query, and Jane called in with some good rune stories (like chatting with Ralph Blum). It was a good show, based on a workshop I’ve done several times, which always helps.
This week I finished watching the second season of Galavant. They did a wonderful job of making the bad guys human. I enjoyed it, but then I like musicals. I needed the lightheartedness. I especially liked the song Build a new Tomorrow, basically about a very limited democracy (votes for “the landed and the wealthy, and the pious and the healthy, and the straight ones and the pale ones, and we only mean the male ones”) which as they point out is “progressive for the middle ages”. Done with that I started Once Upon a Time, which I’ve always meant to watch, and not gotten to. I also started another show I thought was going to be an historical drama, but appears to be a serial documentary: Roman Empire: Reign of Blood, about Commodus, and how he became one of the more notorious emperors of Rome. I can’t help noting parallels between him and Trump. It seems to be a real handicap to grow up with a gold spoon in your mouth, getting your own way all the time. I also rewatched the National Treasure movies just to see the moment where Ben Gates tells the president that the President: “because you’re the President of the United States, sir. Whether by innate character or the oath you took to defend the Constitution or the weight of history that falls upon you, I believe you to be an honorable man, sir.” the President says: “Gates, people don’t believe that stuff anymore.” and Gates says “They want to believe it.” I SO want to believe that something magickal will force Trump to be better than his entire past says he can be. The weight of history that should be pretty heavy.
We also got the Marvel Cinimatic Universe movie Civil War which was pretty good. Not as good as the first Avengers movie, but what was? I put those, and the Thor movies on while cooking this week. Wow, the very idea that we’d be able to have a library of great movies in our houses to watch whenever we wanted? I only ever imagined dial up pay-per-view. As I read the book Life in Victorian America, and see how things from telegraph to cinema changed their world, I often reflect on how much the world has changed in my lifetime. Cell phones are sometimes the least of it. Technology does change our character.
I also read Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: the Sword of Summer. and started the second book in that series. This is the next series by Rick Riordan who wrote the Percy Jackson books. I totally love that this one is centered in and around Boston. If you follow the link, and listen to the video, you’ll notice that the voice has a traditional Hollywood “Boston accent”. I like recognizing the places they mention, Comm Ave. (and the Leif Eriksson statue), Newberry Street, the Longfellow Bridge, “P town”. I only spent my college years actually IN Boston, but I was in the suburbs from when I was 13 to when I was 26. When I’m done with the Hammer of Thor, I’m going to have to decide whether to get The Ship of the Dead which is only out on kindle so far. If I do, I’ll probably also get the first two in the series, and do I want it on Kindle, or do I want hard copies? Hard decisions. (reference back to the comment about technology) I finished reading The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett’s last book, which I’d been holding off on reading. I hate the idea of not having any more Pratchett to read. So I started re-reading Wee Free Men and the other Tiffany Aching books. He’s quite good enough to re-read.
Since I did put this off until after Thanksgiving dinner, I suppose I will share the Thanksgiving pictures Willow took in this letter. I got up and got the turkey in at 9, (it was about a 20 pound bird), and it came out at 1, a bit earlier than I’d planned. We’d aimed at a 2 o’clock dinner, (from habit- although we aren’t waiting for the local high school football game to finish, I just never thought about it). Just about everything was done except the potatoes- I’d forgotten that it takes longer to bring five pounds of potatoes to a boil than it does 2 pounds (our usual amount), and the yeast in the rolls was a little slow. I did forget to turn on the warming drawer, but because we were waiting for the potatoes, the rolls did finish baking by the time they were done.
Mark arrived at two as I was starting the gravy. Willow had finished cleaning the dining room (it was somewhat buried in the sewing projects and my cleaning-the-library stuff, and (blush) some Pennsic stuff that hadn’t been put away yet. Kat polished the silver and made the hors douvres. This year we only did the bacon puffs and stuffed celery. It’s weird to make a “feast” for only five people. I hadn’t intended to make two kinds of rolls, but I was testing 3 jars of yeast. One was totally dead and I threw the rest out, but two worked, so I made the cinnamon rolls, and rather than toss the other, I made a batch of Parker House rolls too. I think 4 rolls total were eaten.
Yesterday Willow made her cranberry sauce, and we also had the canned jelly (because tradition, and also we have the server tray and spoon for it). I made an apple pie, a pumpkin pie and a tiny cranberry/blueberry pie. We also have leftover German Sweet Chocolate cake I’d made for Dad’s birthday. It’s an ancestor honoring thing. For vegetables we had peas and squash and Green Lake green beans for Mark (the only vegetable he eats I think, if you don’t count potatoes. We had normal stuffing in the bird, and cornbread stuffing in a dish, Sweet Cider, Sparkling Cider and milk. Frankly, I do think that was a bit excessive, even though I tried to scale back. I am not good at cooking for only a few people.
We all sat around at digested for a while, Mark watched while I put the leftovers away, then went home. Around 6 we got together and had “tea”- I suppose technically it was desert. The girls have a show this weekend, and were talking about their display for it. Having tried to do dishes all day as I cooked, once I sat down, my back didn’t want to get up again, so the dishes aren’t yet done. I went in and listened to Alice’s Restaurant, then again when someone posted an illustrated version, exchanged Thanksgiving salutations on fb, and settled in to finish this letter (only becoming occasionally distracted).
We have now achieved most of November, so when I write next, Advent will have begun. I hope your holidays are as you would like them to be- pleasurable, not hectic and stressful. Only a month left of 2016, and that’s good to think about. Next year will be better I’m sure.
“Myths are simply stories about truths we’ve forgotten.” – Rick Riordan
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: