11/17/2010 Geography Awareness Week

The wind is wuthering around the house in the best tradition of gothic romances! We’ve already lost power once today, and may again. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow because we’re going out to pick up free firewood at the Cathedral of the Pines tomorrow. We are in the heart of November. The trees are beginning to be bare, although an occasional tree is only thinning on the top- like an old man, while maintaining gold leaves on the bottom of the tree. Then, the tree next to it may be completely bare. Who knows what makes one tree shed and another not?

I have gotten so far behind on the news that it seems pointless to try to catch you up, so I guess I’l just tell you what happened this week, and try to get back to writing regularly again.

This week I’ve been recovering from the convention, which, of course, is what I’ve been spending all my time on for the last month- and why I have fallen behind on my letters. The worst part is that because I haven’t been sending them out, I haven’t had them returned, and so didn’t find out until this weekend, that my friend Black Lotus, who I was sending letters at the Nursing Home, has died. I expect they’d have returned the letters- but I haven’t sent them out. I even have a couple sitting ready to stuff into envelopes, waiting on the table- and now I wonder if my other friends and family who are old or ill might not also have died and I didn’t know it. It’s a sobering thought, and makes me feel quite neglectful.
Black Lotus- also known as Len Rosenburg, was the partner of Alexei Kondatiev who died suddenly earlier this year. He had a massive, unexpected heart attack while walking home from visiting Black Lotus in the home. I expect Len was just tired of living- he had crippling arthritis, and was getting dialysis for something that wasn’t diabetes- which I found confusing. Anyway, I find it difficult to be unhappy that he’d died. Our friend Debbi saw him in a Samhain visit dancing on a beach as he used to dance before the arthritis got bad, and I am sure he’s also glad to be back with Alexei so they can chat easily again. I used to just love to listen to them speak, they were both so intelligent and well spoken and wise. All my grieving is for my own loss.

Yesterday John and I went over to Marks for our usual trip to help him clean- we emptied a shelf of old computer manuals. Once a computer manual is over 10 years old, you can be pretty sure it’s obsolete. But one doesn’t throw things away when they are on a shelf and out of the way. When I was doing laundry just now I noticed some boxes of tissue I’d bought while Aelfwine was alive. He was going to get us keys so we could come and feed Smokey while he’s at a seminar on building materials he’s off to- but key copiers can’t do the ones for the complex doors- so he has to get one from the complex director- and Smoky will be being boarded until he returns.

Monday, of course, I was pretty fried after the con- the only thing I did of note was go over to Honours- her knee replacement surgery had been moved up to Tuesday at 6 am, so she had to scramble to get her place clean enough to leave. They can’t tell her whether she’ll be gone for 3 weeks or 6 or more. It depends on how the rehab goes. in theory, her social worker will make sure all her bills get paid and nothing goes wrong because she’s not there to take care of it- but I hardly trust them. Honour had a team cleaning to get things so she could leave them- she’d called me over to take all the food from her refrigerator and freezer, and hopes I’ll be able to come wipe out the refrigerator. They were moving all the furniture- on the last inspection, the person had marked her down because he couldn’t see a “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” string in the living room. (The ones in the bathroom and bedroom are visible.) He insisted that there must be furniture hiding it, and we pulled out every piece, and couldn’t see one anywhere- I’m convinced there isn’t one in the livingroom. We plugged in the empty freezer and put most of her food in that- we’ll eat the potatoes and onions, and some of the jars will go in the hall where it’s cold enough that they should last until she gets back.
The keeping room is sadly too messy to tuck it there, and now that the con is over, I want to clean it completely. No sign of mice lately- and the traps we put out haven’t been tripped, but I’m afraid that’s because the rats scared them away. As I was up way too late working on the program booklet, I could hear skittering in the place between the ceiling and upstairs floor. Apparently the cats can’t (or won’t) go there, so we’ve put out poison- and just have to hope that the cats won’t eat poisoned rats. At least now I should have time to clean up the keeping room.
After cleaning up, she came over to our house for a quick supper. We made her a gluten free chocolate cake with a white frosting between the layers (made with goat butter) and a chocolate ganache coating. You make that by melting chocolate chips (casein free) with a bit of cream- or in her case Mimicream, only all of that went into the cake (we’d forgotten to bring the almond milk) so the cake was incredibly dense, and we had to use coconut milk to thin the ganache.
It was a good thing she had a big last meal, because she did NOT go into surgery at 6 am- it was more like noon when they started and she was still in recovery at 7, and we kept waiting to hear how she’d done… She finally called around 8 to say that she was OK, but she was still pretty drugged. Today she is not drugged, but is very hungry. Although the dietician at the VA was supposed to have put her diet requirements into the computer two weeks ago, it’s not there, so they bring her normal food- sandwiches, and milk products, which she can’t eat. Last time I heard from her she’d had a pear (“like a rock”) and a glass of grape drink (with high fructose corn syrup). She even had to send back most of the medications they brought her because she has to have the ones without artificial colorings. It’s not just gluten and casein, it’s also tomatoes and peppers, and the range of things you can’t have because of gout, and a bunch of other things. She’s gotten used to it, but the VA is not equipped to deal with her- even though she went over all of it with them weeks ago. If I can I will bring down her color free meds, and her C-pap machine. The VA has one for her- but the face masks they have are mens sizes- and don’t fit her face, and they don’t have the ones that you put water in, so it dries her out. Thank goodness I don’t have to deal with Honour’s problems! She makes me feel so lucky!
She should recover quickly, we’ve got dozens of energy healers sending her energy- she impressed the heck out of everyone with the food she was able to put out in the Hospitality room. We had decided to avoid the usual chips and sweets snacks that con suites usually have, and put out real food, so people wouldn’t get cranky and hurt their immune systems. She used her “build your own soup- she had several varieties of cooked meat chopped into bits and several different vegetables, and two broths, and you could assemble all the ones you liked into the kind of soup you’d want. She even had ramen which certainly makes a filling meal. She also sent round her runners (Chris Steele on Saturday) to the vendors to take orders for what they’d like and sent food up to them so that they’d get something to eat even though stuck behind their tables. Overheard “They brought me gluten free English Muffins and hot chai!”
Real food- what a novelty.

(As it was after midnight, I gave up, saved, and have been working on it on and off since. Finished near midnight Sunday Nov 21)

I accidentally hit “send” instead of “save” when I realized it was past midnight (guess that would make it Thursday…) and decided to finish the letter in the morning. I expect that you have not been holding your breath for an explanation- people don’t. I was tired and careless- that’s simple. Now perhaps I’ll get you the second part.
I’d mentioned the wuthering wind, and Black Lotus having died, John and my helping Mark clean and share lunch, which has pretty much become a scheduled part of our week, and Honour heading off for her knee replacement surgery- which went well. I’ll flip to the end of the book (well, into the news I would cover if I get back to writing each Wednesday) to mention that on Friday they moved her up to the VA Medical Center in Manchester. They never did manage to figure out her dietary needs. Saw her sending back the milk, and brought her Lactaid (after three or four days), although it’s the casein not the lactose that causes her problems. At least Manchester is where she goes for her medications, and they have ones without the artificial colorings on the outside in stock. She was getting behind on her medications as well as simply eating. They never found her a face piece that fit (most things in the VA are in men’s sizes, naturally), nor a C-pap machine (it blows air into your lungs while you sleep) that one puts water in so that your lungs don’t dehydrate, so I’ll be off to take hers to her.

This morning when I woke up I started wondering about the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World”. I could think of five, but was totally stumped on the last two and had to look them up. Just to give you a chance to think about it on your own, I put that early in the letter. I’ll let you know which ones I forgot at the end.

As I said in the token letter, I have spent most of the last month on the various preparations for the conference. One day I’d send off flyers to every Unitarian Universalist Church within 100 miles of Northampton, bookstores and occult shops, another couple of days I spent on sending out press releases. Did I mention that after sending out a couple hundred press releases I got only one response from anyone? I meant to follow them up with phone calls, but ran out of time.
I worked out the schedule, using 2×2 colored stickie-notes on a grid on the back of old posters; different colors represented different tracks. In this way I was supposed to avoid putting two classes that were on the same theme at the same time, and frustrate the people who’d want to go to both. I also had clickable choices on the website to try to figure out which would be more popular, and thus put them in the biggest rooms. I also tried to make sure that loud classes wouldn’t be next to ones that needed quiet. I’d given the speakers permission to decide how much time they needed- so that meant trying to remember which classes were more than one hour when I moved them around. I also tried to keep track of which classes our teachers wanted to see, and not schedule their classes against those, nor against their own- because we had a few generous souls doing several classes. And there were the panels- with 4-5 people on each one, generating more conflicts- and the book signings. And the people who said- I can’t be there before noon, or I may not get in Friday night. etc. I didn’t quite get it perfect. For example, the third hour had my RunValdr class against Advanced Runes- I should have figured out that people who liked runes would want to go to both of those. I forgot that Chris LaFond’s class was two hours- and had the second hour against the panel he was leading. We had to fix these things on the fly.
About a week before the con I had a very reassuring dream- in the dream I was autocratting an SCA event, and was a week out- then discovered that it was actually beginning, and people just showed up and ran the kitchen, set up the list field, and did everything necessary. I figured it was the con in symbolic form, and indicated that I was confident that things would go all right. And indeed, they went just about as I expected.
About that time we got our biggest “crisis”. The hotel let us know that they’d gotten the check for the balance of the rental, and by the way, one of the rooms we rented- the one where the venders were going was going to be renovated- so they were giving us the (bigger) ball room- all my careful plans for which vendor got which space were worthless. I was, and am, highly suspicious that they knew about the planned renovations more than a week before they were to start- definitely before they told us. Reinforcing this, I called Deirdre, who runs Feast of Lights at that hotel and has for years. (That’s why Jane thought of using the Clarion.) We asked her if the Clarion had warned her that the room that she’s rented will not be available. It would be worse for her, as she also rents the ballroom, and I have no idea what they’d use to placate her- or maybe, as with us, they’d just wait to tell her until her check had cleared- and then let it be her problem. No, they hadn’t told her on the 16th, when they’d told us the 5th. I wonder how many other people who’ve got contracts to rent the room they haven’t warned? My how cynical I’m getting.
I’d hoped to have had the schedule done by the end of September, but I kept adding speakers all through October- and desperately trying to advertise. A week before I KNEW I had to get the program done so I could get it to Staples. I’d decided that the best program I’d seen was at Arisia, and I decided to use that as a model. One problem was that they have brief descriptions of each class- going along the schedule, so you can decide which of the ones that’s available in this block you want to attend. Great idea, except that our descriptions were written for the website, and ran about 500 rather than 100 words. Since we were aiming at people who’ve been doing this for decades, I didn’t think I could shrink it down to 8 point type, and editing them was taking way too long. So we ended up with an 80 page program. Why eighty pages? because they were 4x 8.5″, not 5.5×8.5. I’ve observed that when it can easily slide into a pocket, people tend to carry the program around with them, not set it down somewhere. I did take it in to Staples first to show it to them, and they assured me that they could do it, no problem.
There was a certain amount of panic as I tried to work out the formatting. Once again Kat came to my rescue. She found a free downloadable program that takes your text and formats it into a booklet. It puts the front and back cover on one sheet, then the first and last pages on the other side, the second and next to last pages, etc. all the way through.
Steve came up on my last free weekend and he showed me the “table” function- which allows you to make a chart of the classes with the time and rooms along the axis. Brian came over and helped with more formatting- he showed me a bit where you highlight section headings and it automatically makes you a table of contents. Actually that only worked for a few hours, then it started doing weird things, but I was able to erase it and do it manually. Still, what with one thing or another, I didn’t finish the program until Thursday, and the only reasonable deadline was Monday. I’d planned to go down to the hotel (with programs in hand) on Thursday morning. Sigh.
The girls were wonderful. Kat made me a new grey wool skirt, so I’d look respectable. She also designed the cover for the program, and designed and printed out the badges, and signs for the doors. Some of the workshops included meditations or rituals that shouldn’t be interrupted- so the signs (on our theme Aurora Borealis backgrounds) said things like: “Ritual in progress, do not enter” or “stay silent, stay sacred, close the door behind you”. The pictures of the auroras were in color, and the signs were gorgeous. Willow laminated them for us, so we’ll be able to use them for years.
Willow bought the various things we needed at best prices- the badge holders on strings were more expensive than the clip ones (and we wanted 100 of each) so she sent for them. I sent for the badge ribbons. Those are printed ribbons that stick on your badge and identify you as a speaker, vendor, author, Volunteer, or in my case: co-chair. I also got ones for registration and security. And then I got some with silly messages like: “My ribbon is better than your ribbon”, or “Huh?” or “I can sign”. These I made available at 75 cents each or 3 for $2, and we sold almost $40 worth- nearly covering the cost of all the ribbons.
I also remembered (while working on the program) to offer ads. Jane gave the price at $5 a column inch and we sold $140 in ads. The printing was about $400, and we lucked out- staples was having a 50% rewards deal this week, so that took it down to $200 , and the ads took care of most of the rest. So we had really great programs- and could afford them. Sadly- so much of this was new to me that I was staying up until 2-4 in the morning, which I really can’t do, just trying to get it done. Finally I emailed it to Staples Thursday. I kept waiting for them to call to come get it, but finally had to call Jane and let her know I wasn’t going to be there for the extra night. Staying home did give me the time to produce the daily class list I’d seen on doors at Lunacon and other places. (Cons may all run together in my mind, but I just took things I remembered from anywhere, and applied them to ours.)
The plan had been that I’d go down Thursday, share Jane’s room (she too has trouble driving at night, as I do, so had to come during day-light), and the girls would come down in Willows car Friday morning. I was going to stay with her to do last minute planning, get a chance to relax with Father John, Seannara who was coming up by train, and also stay over to finish up final clean-up. I had also planned, since I’d be down there, to pick up Seannara at the train station at 3. Sadly, while I was waiting for the printing, that time passed- and poor Seannara had to get a $40 taxi ride to the hotel. I feel really badly about that. But when Friday dawned, the girls and I decided that taking two cars when leaving the same day was foolish, and rearranged the van to go together. (Once again, although John helped pack, he was left keeping the home front.)
I have now learned another valuable lesson- ALWAYS look over a sample copy before ordering 200 copies of something printed. Yes, they were able to cut it to size, but one of the things I’d spent a day doing was putting symbols beside each entry indicating whether it was in the healing track, the divination track, the spirituality and religion track, or the energy/magick track, or the con theme: prosperity. I liked the idea- got it from Arisia program. I think it’s more required when the descriptions of the classes are shorter, which THEY WILL BE next year! (“So let it be written, so let it be done.”) Sadly, the symbols were lost in the filtering/translation between computer programs, and many of them appeared only as place holders. I deduced that the young man at Staples spent the rest of his shift until closing working on getting them back, because they are OK until about half way through, then the place holders turn up again- and all of them were there in the key chart. I wish I could thank him for his efforts. Still, it was disappointing to have it not look the way I’d worked so hard to make it- and clearly, it was because I didn’t get it in until late. Next year I’ll make my own deadline. Now I know why, and I’ve set it earlier (if I accept any new workshops after October 15th they’ll just have to be added to the corrections/additions boards).
Another late addition to our clever plans was a raffle. Most pagan events ask the vendors to donate items to a raffle and the money goes to some charity or other. We asked them to donate and every time someone worked for an hour, they got a raffle ticket. We were desperate for volunteers. I don’t know if it worked, but hope that among our volunteers we got enough that Honour was able to send food up to the dealers, so I hope the accept the benefit of where their donations were going. Some people wanted to buy raffle tickets, and we told them the way to get the items was to vollunteer- this could work- eventually. We also gave the speakers tickets for the hours they spent teaching, since we couldn’t pay them. Something is better than nothing. They didn’t seem upset. I suppose I’ve spoken for the joy of sharing for years, and rarely been paid, but one does want to let people know their efforts are appreciated.
I didn’t get as many people from the New Age end of the spectrum- that’s not surprising since most of my speakers were friends I’d met at pagan events. Mostly they weren’t talking about paganism, although we had some from the Cherry Hill Pagan Seminary who were addressing some such issues. I had Windsinger and Bob B covered Native American rituals and magick, and Father John talked about early Christianity- I was very sorry to have missed that one. Ukumbwa did several very well received workshops on the African Dagara system, and we had shaman’s out the wazoo, and witches and even heathens of course. Next year- more New Age and “normal” people who just happen to do dowsing or other energy work. I really want the pagans to realize that they don’t have a monopoly on magick.
I suppose if you didn’t go, there’s no reason for my going on and on about how cool the workshops were. I was VERY pleased with the caliber of speakers we had, and how good the workshops were. The people who attended seemed happy with our “content heavy” style, although I’ve had to admit since, that leaving only time to get out of one classroom and into the next, with maybe a toilet break, did leave no time for people to stop, relax- and shop. My assumption was that they’d look at the schedule, and pick a block or two when there was nothing they felt a pressing need to attend, and relax and shop then. I’ve always felt that cons where there’s 15 or even 30 minutes between the blocks were wasting my time.
The atrium worked beautifully for the panels. I’d remembered them as having 2 small tables with 4 chairs each, and a couch and comfy chair” in front of the fireplace. When we got there, there were four tables (and thus 16 chairs) to go with the couch, and since the con was small, when we put three panelists on the couch and the moderator in the next chair, everyone else could aim their chairs in that direction and it made a friendly living-room discussion feel that is exactly what I was going for. I felt that the panels were the “bones” of the conference (the workshops would be the “flesh”). This is where people with different perspectives got to voice them and exchange ideas. Our only friction (that I found out about) arose from one of the panels- the moderator didn’t show up, and one of the speakers was frustrated that another spoke for “more than her share” of the available time. As luck would have it, there were workshops she really wanted to attend against the other panels on which they both were scheduled, so I told her that she wouldn’t really be letting us down if she went to the ones she wanted to see. There were other panelists to fill in the gaps. (We may get more differences of opinion when we have New Agers as well as pagans on the panels.)
Sadly, having missed the Thursday and Friday morning with Jane, we didn’t get to do the planning we’d hoped to do. That meant that we didn’t get to do the “I really want to catch this class, so you take the com during that block, and I’ll take it during that class you want to get to.” The result was that I never felt free to go to any of the workshops- instead I bustled about checking things, moving tables here, posting schedule changes there,
and feeling very jealous when I spotted Jane actually sitting in on a class. I did stop bustling once and sit down for part of a panel discussion- sadly, I dozed off during it. Debby reassures me that I didn’t snore or drool, but that I was “out”. I’d worried about that. Not enough sleep during or before the con.
Willow and I, and I think Honour, had walkie talkies on, and there was one at the desk- never hung one on Jane… I also used my cell phone for keeping available. Poor Jane’s cell phone went missing Thursday- luckily Bacchus found it under the bed on Monday morning. The ring volume had gotten turned way down which is why they didn’t find it before. I have a very odd ring on my replacement phone that we never got around to changing. We didn’t use them much, but I was glad I had them.
When we unpacked Friday night, Kat discovered that she had packed all the pieces of one outfit except the dress! So noonish Saturday the girls went out to find something for her to wear Sunday. This meant that I was watching the table in the Ballroom during the hour that the morris dancers performed. Yay. These were not the kind with sticks or handkerchiefs or swords, this is a form just for women called Garland Dancers. Like the others, they create geometric forms with their “garlands”- arches they carry that would be wound with flowers in the spring (under the ribbons they are created these days with split hula-hoops). It was SO cool, I want to see if I could find 5 other women up in our area who would be willing to meet regularly and do it up here in NH. Laura did manage to get a fellow who’s on one of the morris teams to speak at the Sacred Dance panel. (We also had panelists covering the sacred parts of belly dancing and modern dance. But I missed that one.) Willow and Kat got back just as I was needed elsewhere- with a lovely new dress from the local Hot Topics store, and looked her usual fashionista self on Sunday.
Thank goodness for Jeanne and Martin- both of them are familiar with running SCA gates, and they took over the registration table for me. I just gave them the stuff and let them do their thing. It was complicated by having to find the badges for the pre-registered folk, and give speakers, vendors, authors and others who needed them their ribbons, and then there were signal dots to go on the badges- blue for “Don’t take my picture”, as well as red, yellow and green dots to indicate whether you don’t want to be hugged, are open to it if asked, or are a hugger. I’d seen this before, although I couldn’t remember where, and when I looked it up, apparently it’s a Mensa response to the “varying personal space” issues that are common in modern conferences. People liked it, but it was “one more thing” for them to have to explain when checking people in.
Jeanne also brought Chris with her. Technically he and Brian were our “security”, but they didn’t have much to do in that area, so Brian helped some at the gate (and author’s table), and Chris got seconded to Honour as a runner for Hospitality.
Honour, as I mentioned before, did a great job with Hospitality, although there was unhappiness because she didn’t get in until Saturday morning. She had disaster after disaster (that’s Honour all over). One of her glass pans broke, and she not only got cut, but had to toss out a bunch of food contaminated with the broken glass. She bought more- putting her over budget, but put out a donation bowl and got it covered. Then as she continued cooking (she’d been down sick during the week when she’d been planning on cooking), for some reason her building lost water. She went out and bought gallons of water to wash with- but that didn’t work. Always looking for a silver lining, we made a virtue of her lateness, and she brought down the things we’d forgotten- our microwave for her to use, Willow’s tools, and a bookshelf for the authors table (which we never did use, as for most of the con it was sitting outside the hotel, having been lost track of during unpacking.) Two other of our vendors didn’t make it- Alison ended up in the hospital with an abscessed knee, and Robin was being pressured to go in for heart surgery- which she can’t afford. Luckily they both seem to be OK now.

We also rented an extra hotel room to hold the “overflow” workshops (I couldn’t turn down a good workshop if it was offered). That didn’t work out quite as well as we’d hoped. We got a “Bridal Suite”- one king sized bed instead of two queens and a little table for cozy private dining instead of going to the atrium like anyone else. They’d described it as being like two rooms- what they meant was that the table was in the bottleneck created by the bathroom. (Whoopie.) But it did have a love-seat as well as a chair, so there was seating for 5 plus the end of the bed- and many of our classes weren’t much bigger than that. I don’t know as I will try that again if it’s not in an hotel that will remove the bed.
Much of Sunday was spent negotiating when we had to be out by. The sales people had assured us that there was no problem with late check-out. The rest of the hotel staff didn’t seem to feel bound by that. The con was scheduled to run until 4, but our vendors (selling out of their rooms) were told that they had to check out by 3 or be charged another day. This covered the overflow classroom and hospitality as well. This meant that Honour emptied hospitality into the Atrium, including our microwave. I thought it had gotten into her or our car, but no. I realized as we were packing out that having only brought one car meant I had to go home with the girls- thus sticking Jane with all the final cleaning up. She didn’t realize it was my microwave and left it with the hotel housekeeping folks. I’ve been calling them daily since; the desk connects me to housekeeping; I get their answering machine and leave a message about the microwave, and they don’t get back to me. I figure one of them has already taken it home. We figured out that not only would it be four hours of driving to go get it, but it would also be 180 miles or 9 gallons ($26) in gas. Factoring that it, just replacing it is probably reasonable, but that’s not the point- the point is that they’re ducking my calls, and that makes me annoyed. The sales rep has also not returned my calls to confirm that they are actually eliminating- not renovating, the room we rented for dealers. If there’s one less room next year, it won’t do for us, and we have to find another hotel- one of my least favorite parts of running the conference.
All in all, things went just about as I’d expected. We worked hard, the con was great, people are excited by it. We aimed at 100 people and got 133 (including day trippers). Next year I think we can get 200. We kind of broke even (I’m still trying to work out the exact money records) if we don’t bother counting some of our incidental costs, which isn’t bad for a first year. I HAD hoped to be able to put away enough extra for the down payment for next year and some advertising budget. Oh well. Still, the people involved seem to have come to own the con as theirs. In the few days after the con, the chat group had over 400 posts about it talking about how great it was and what to do next year. I’m sure that between what I learned this year, and the help I’ll have from these folk it will be much easier next year. And in a few years I may be able to pass it along and perhaps just start going to and teaching the workshops.

Life apart from the con goes on of course. Honour got back to try to get back to cleaning her apartment for pre-extermination to discover that her knee surgery had been moved up to Tuesday morning at 6 am. She hired people to come help her bag things. Among other things, some inspector had told her that there was a “help call” cord in every room (that is, the bathroom, the bedroom and the living-room). He reprimanded her for “covering up” the one in the living room with book cases; and refused to believe her when she said that she hadn’t. She certainly would want to have it available if she fell after her knee surgery, and they pulled every piece of furniture out of the wall- and there is no cord in that room. She’s been washing every piece of clothing and cloth and packing it in plastic bags- most of it’s in her car, some bags are filling her shower stall. (She’d very much like to be able to wear and handle it without getting sick once the apartment has been hosed down with pesticides.) I went over and emptied her refrigerator into coolers and put them into our (now plugged in) extra freezer. Finally, around 7:30, she came over for a “last meal”/ birthday celebration. Pork roast, potatoes and gluten free chocolate cake. Then she headed down to her sisters, where she was leaving her car- to be dropped at the VA hospital in Roxbury for 6 am surgery.
The post script to that is that the surgery seems to have gone well (albeit past noon), and she got even hungrier because despite arranging things beforehand, the dietician never put the instructions on her diet into the computer, so she could eat almost none of the food they brought her, and few of the medications (she needs ones with no food coloring added). This was an on-going issue all week. Finally, on Friday, they moved her up to the Manchester VA. She gets all her pills ordered through there, so finally they are able to take care of her. She is still on a lot of pain medication, and in a lot of pain when the machine they strap on her leg to bend and unbend it for four hours at a time is working. She does hope that it will do the trick and she’ll have a working knee again when they’re done. Sadly, they won’t say when she’ll be able to come home- one to six weeks is the closest they’ll guess.

Kat’s back is feeling somewhat better- we’ve started taking her to a chiropractor which seems to be helping. I’m hoping to get some help with my back as well, but the X-rays the other chiropractor sent have gotten lost in the mail. New ones would cost $500, and while I can afford the $30 visits, I can’t afford that! They are having the Post Office search for them.
Kat was able to sew me a grey wool skirt to wear at the conference. Sadly, most of my clothing is not really suitable to wear in public any more. The old “poor but proud” designation of clothing being clean and well mended doesn’t work with todays fabrics. The synthetics stain, so that even if they are clean, they show old stains and it’s not socially acceptable to wear them at that point. So up to the stores of cloth to make new skirts! We have found several $3 shirts and $6 sweaters to round out the new winter wardrobe, so I should be able to appear in public without having to keep my back to the wall to hide a stain or snag.
Sadly, her back is still not totally better, and she’s feeling worse because she also had to have a wisdom tooth extracted as well, and it’s not healing very fast. They didn’t put any stitches in, and every day she’ll get something in the gaping hole (usually from a lump in soup) and “it’s taking forever” to heal. She has gotten very sick of soup and smoothies, and pasta and mashed potatoes. She’s still got her “teenage” metabolism (says she “eats like a hummingbird- her own weight in food every day”), and is always hungry. Very frustrating. I think the worst was Thursday when our whole family went over to the Cathedral of the Pines to pick up the last of the downed trees, and as it was chilly, her teeth chattered- and that hurt.
I have successfully started and passed off the project of recreating the pagan garden at the Cathedral of the Pines, but like to help as much as I can. I think it was the 7th Lyrion and Raven went over to take down the last of the dead trees, and John and I went over to help (and take away free firewood). We were the only ones to show, and couldn’t stay because of my needing to work on the con, and also the trailer and van were full. There was still wood left, and this weekend there’s a bulldozer coming to deal with the stumps and otherwise grade the area, so the wood had to be out of there- and I wanted it. So we went over and got the rest. Since it’s dead hardwood trees, it’s dry and ready to use- as soon as John splits it. The amount of wood he hauled was amazing- especially when you compared him to Lyrion, who had a bad back, me with my bad knee, and Raven (deaf), who was using the chain-saw. I used ours too, as long as I could.

Willow had a mail order for one of her butterfly shawls, which was great. Since Tom and Shannon are back from their honeymoon, she hasn’t been babysitting Avi and Trevor’s kids this week. (The Hart brothers and their wives somehow manage the old-fashioned norm of sharing a home with their wives.) She always does better in the summer light- once again the low winter light has gotten to the point where I miss daylight, so it’s got to be hard for her. I always want to hibernate during November, December and January. I think that’s why we need midwinter holidays, to give us an excuse to get up and out. Gosh! I hate “daylight-savings time”! It just rubs your nose in how little daytime there is! Willow’s also done some art for the art-show at Darkover, and who knows what else- I’m afraid I have been so focused on the con, I’ve hardly noticed what’s going on around me.
I DID notice we have rats. I think they kicked the mice out- but the scrambling around in the ceiling over the computer at night is too loud for mice. We gave up on the traps and the cats and have put out poison, and I am waiting impatiently for the day that I don’t hear their little toenails scraping the boards over my head.

We shot off a few fireworks on Guy Fawkes Day- I am more sanguine about them in the summer when everything’s green, or at New Years when there’s snow cover. But I like celebrating our heritage. This is not to say that I didn’t make a Pan de Meurto this year (sweet bread with orange and anise flavoring for All Souls Day). Kat made Soul Cakes- only she improved the recipe with cranberries. I’m sure our ancestors each used what they had on hand to make the best buns they could.

I was excited when Cathy Kane did manage to get her palmistry book done and available to put on the author’s table for the con. Now she’s working on NaNoWriMo. This is a movement- (month long celebration?) happening- National Novel Writing Month- http://www.nanowrimo.org/ where in November writers attempt to complete a full length novel. Much of what makes a successful author is just putting butt to chair and getting the words on paper (or picsel), and even if pushing it for this month means the writing isn’t as polished, it teaches discipline and gives practice. Kat and Willow are working on novels of their own too, although I’m not sure how much the con and Darkover (coming up) are cutting into their writing. Who else? Linda/Megan had her hand surgery at the beginning of the month, and isn’t healing as well as it should because it got infected, but she’s got a young artist from England staying with her, and is doing presentations at schools and such. Perhaps one day our two busy schedules will mesh enough to see each other.
Maybe for our Yule open house, which will be the weekend of December 18th this year- of course since the Solstice is on the 21st, we probably will be happy if anyone drops by on Monday or Tuesday night as well. Personally, I love the open house, because one gets a better chance to talk to people when they come a few at a time.

On a more frivolous note- I tunes has finally gotten Beatles music available on it, and I’ve downloaded some of my favorites. I always wondered why they didn’t have the Beatles. When I went up to Lugh’s wedding I listened to most of the audio course on the history of Classical Greece, so since then I’ve been re-reading Mary Renault’s books- the Praise Singer, the Last of the Wine and the Mask of Apollo. It’s easier to follow them when one knows the background of the culture. I also have read a book Honour loaned me Grave Secret. It’s by Charlaine Harris who wrote the True Blood series; this series is about a girl who got struck by lightning and since then has been able to detect corpses and read their last moments of life. As with Sookie Stackhouse, this is presented as more of a liability than an asset, but she deals with it. I don’t care for it as much as the other series, but I was so in the mood for brain candy rather than anything serious, it was good to just veg out with it.

Ready for the 7 Wonders? I remembered the Pyramids, (who wouldn’t?), the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse (Pharos) at Alexandria, the Colossus of Rhodes, and Temple of Diana at Epheseus (helped that I’ve seen the ruins). I kept thinking the Great Wall of China, but of course, they didn’t know about it. How’d you do? The two I never remember are the Statue of Zeus at Olympia (which must have been something!) and the Mausoleum of Helicarnassus.

As a final reminder that the world goes on uncaring about my little conference, I have written to my senator about Senate Bill 501. It was supposed to be voted on last week but has been moved to Nov 29. It’s supposed to be a food safety bill, but mostly it gives more power to the FDA, and much of it is designed for their benefit (ease of administration) rather than for the benefit of the consumer. All they want is the ability to be able to control the situation. The FDA has said that the American people have no “fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health” and “do not have the right to obtain any food they wish”. (Context! what was the context for that horrifying statement?! Here are some references: http://www.ftcldf.org/litigation-FDA-status.htm ) At this point I think they’ve given up on trying to figure out what’s actually best for people, and just want to make us all eat the same thing. Bad laws are worse than no laws, and I don’t care whether they promote this as being for protection, they are taking away our right to choose our own diet and make choices about our own health, and I hope you write your Senators to tell them to vote it down. If you don’t write, call- I’m not sure how much attention they pay to email. (And of course, don’t take my word for it, look it up and make up your own mind.)

Tchipakkan

Knowledge must come through action; you can have no test which is not fanciful, save by trial. -Sophocles

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