1/1/2014 Happy New Year

DSC00877Neither the cats nor John seem to mind the cold and slush as we ladies do. We tell him to wear shoes when he goes out- but sometimes he doesn’t bother. For those of us who get cold at these temperatures, it’s scary. He, meanwhile, suffers from the “It’s making me cold to look at you, go put on more clothes!” problem other people who don’t mind the cold. Oh well.

Ah well, Here it is: 2014- although it’s going to take my fingers a while before they keep hitting 2013, I’ve had to go back and fix it every time I’ve tried to type it for the last few days! Muscle Memory like habit, is a good servant, but bad master.
John is out refilling the woodbox for the next snow. I am so grateful that he is still home doing that for us!
DSC00882Last night we had our usual “Feast of Small Foods”, I’ll admit it was a bit more fun when Avi came over to play with us. I love sharing food with people.
We set off a limited array of fireworks. Ælfwine would have loved that they are now easily available. I still have a problem because at our local store they have a “two for the price of one” pricing. This, I think, means that they could potentially sell the fireworks for less. That would explain why when we were in Germany for New Year’s Eve, everyone in the city seemed to get a few dollars worth of fireworks to shoot off their balconies or whatever, and there was non-stop fireworks from about 10 in the evening until about 2 am, 360º around. It was so impressive. We put ours in the street, and I do feel that New Years, with a good snow ground cover, is a far better situation for shooting fireworks than in July (although shooting them off the dock over the lake seems safe enough). We didn’t take pictures of the fireworks. Like food, they are an ephemeral art form, but this is what we got. Actually, the black box (happy fireworks) were free, because when we got to Atlas, the employees were all locked out, waiting for the manager’s sister to bring her in, because her car had died. Oops. So we came back later, and they gave us a freebie to thank us for our patience. The people who work there are great!

DSC00880Willows first decision was “nothing we have to nail to anything!” I like Katherine Wheels, but it is hard to get them nailed up right so they’ll spin, but not fall off the post or whatever you nail them too. But we found a paper lantern that had rockets on the outside so it made it spin, and we could hang that on the wrought iron stand we hang our sign on outside the tent in the summer. It was cool. Actually, we only set off one fountain, the lantern, the free one and the fish because the latest cold front came in, and it just wasn’t worth it to stay out even in-between the snow flurries.
In theory you should start the New Year the way you want the rest of the year to go, so eating together, doing whatever projects we are doing, and relaxing sounds pretty good. Willow had a small anxiety attack as she spent the money she’s made over the yule season selling blankets on a plane ticket to Florida to spend time with one of her friends there. I am so impressed at how she has friends all over the world.

I’d done very little this week because I’ve been doing a lot of resting in an attempt not to get sick. I’m mostly well, but my chest is full of phlegm in the morning, and I have less energy than usual. I was incredibly inspired by the stories of the Mitten Project they’ve been doing at A Sacred Place, so I pulled out my old store of yarn and started knitting mittens. They’ve been making mittens to give to their local homeless shelter, and I, like the rest of the world, keep forgetting the homeless, unless you happen to actually know them.  So many people these days are one medical emergency, or other problem away from living out of their cars, or shelters or whatever. A pair of mittens may not seem like much, unless you haven’t got them or any way to get some.
This has given me an excuse to watch season 9 of NCIS, the last set we have (I tend not to buy them until I get get them used for less than $20). It had a cliff-hanger ending, leaving me frustrated, but not as frustrated as the people who watched over the air must have been as had to wait all summer to find out who’d survived! I was able to find a place to stream the next episode on my computer the next day, and that was reassuring. Good writing makes you care about the characters.
I also have watched a LOT of the Sci-show, (they covered some of the biggest science stories of 2013 including the Chelyabinsk meteor, the 1st 3D printed body parts, &  Typhoon Haiyan). Each is only six to ten minutes, so it’s SO easy to just watch one more!
I’ve also read the last two Rick Riordan books House of Hades and Mark of Athena (leaving me waiting until next year for the final book in this series). I found it hard to believe I hadn’t read the Mark of Athena when it first came out, but apparently I hadn’t. Sometimes I can read a book and not know if I’ve read it, or merely others like it before. It’s frustrating, but I suppose lets me enjoy the books over again. With movies, usually it’s only the really forgettable movies I can be sitting there wondering if I’ve watched them before.
I haven’t done much non-fiction reading recently. We’ve taken a bunch of the American Girl stories from the library. We love the American Girl Dolls, although they are, as they always have been, incredibly expensive dolls. They still are really good quality, and their clothes and accessories are amazing. It took us years to feel we could afford dolls for Willow and Kat, and we still get them occasional accessories from the catalogue because the quality is so good. Also Willow has been collecting the mini-doll versions. Apparently every so often they add a new doll- with her story and furniture. I was somewhat appalled to discover Julie- the American girl from 1974. I don’t feel like 1974 is an Historical Period! I suppose if you were born in this century it might. I felt rather odd when Kat liked Molly (from 1944). My Mother was in high school in the 40s! “That’s not History!” my subconscious screams.
Pleasant Company (their maker) now have dolls from eleven of the couple dozen decades since we started calling the people living on this continent Americans. These include: 1764 Kaya, a native American girl (neatly avoiding a lot of the questions about mistreatment of Native Americans by pre-dating much of it), Felicity from 1774 Williamsburg (the Felicity doll is retired, and no longer available, which is a pity because there were some really cool furniture and accessories), Caroline from 1812 (Most of the girls come from a year that ends in 4, but they break the pattern to include the war of 1812), Josefina an Hispanic girl from 1824, Marie-Grace and Cecile 1854 New Orleans are friends, one a free black, and one white, (they get to deal with the Yellowjack plague), Kirstin (also retired) 1854, Addy 1864 (yes, she was a black slave), (for some reason they can’t come up with a fascinating subculture in the last 40 years of the 19th century, I’m looking forward to perhaps some immigrants, they still haven’d had an Asian girl), Samantha 1904, Rebecca 1914 (both Samantha and Rebecca are from NYC, but Rebecca is Jewish), Kit 1934, Molly 1944, and Julie 1974. I am also dreading when they come out with an American Girl from 1954 or 1964. I really don’t want to see myself as from an historical period.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved being a kid in the 50s and a teen in the 60s, but I still have a hard time thinking of it as being history. So I’ve been relaxing and reading the American Girl stories. The only non-fiction thing I’ve been reading is The Mouse the Roared, a really sour diatribe about how evil Disney is. I’m pretty sure the author is making some good points, but by and large his arguments seem to be ‘Disney is so big and powerful, it has to be bad’. He goes on about how the stories are sexist because the girls find happiness with Prince Charming at the end, and because there are no strong parental figures. This begs the question that most of them are based on fairy tales which intrinsically have to set their protagonist up to deal with problems without support from their family, and how most people really do like finding someone to love. He seems to object to the lionesses in the Lion King continuing to provide food for the pride when the leadership changes, this he sees as subservient. He complains because Aladdin portrays arabs as negative stereotypes. Excuse me? There aren’t anyone else but arabs in that story, does he think that the bad guys should be handled positively‽ I’ve also been watching the first season of Disney’s Zorro, and it’s as good as I remember it. The good guys see the natives positively, there’s a really strong, positive role for the handicapped servant, and even the Sargent, while often the fall guy, is far more physically active than his girth would suggest, and when he doesn’t understand what’s going on, it’s usually because the evil villain is telling him to do something totally stupid. His “stupidity” seems to consist of his expecting logic and fairness from his superior. I’ll give you that Disney sometimes goes for the cheap joke- like bossy mother-in-law, or bumbling father jokes, quite in keeping with the culture out of which they grew, and appropriate to the audience of children at the stage where they are learning that adults are not infallible. The role of the wily person from the lower class who still manages to win despite all the advantages that the upper class heros have, has been a comedic stock since comedy was first developed in ancient Greece and Rome, and Disney has created many versions of it from the beginning to the present. I’m not sure the author really understands the medium about which he is complaining.
I like his suggestion “A democratic culture fulfills one of its most important functions when it views children as a social investment.” On the other hand, he deplores that when Disney gets into school, it works to enhance personal goals, not implant societal goals on the kids. “Education is never innocent because it always presupposes a particular view of citizenship, culture and society.” and he complains that as Disney has “bleached” this from its goals, it is somehow dangerous. “The most important form of education fosters self-reflection and public responsibility.” I do agree that there is a danger when citizenship is diminished to the point where “civic responsibilities are reduced to the act of consuming.” The book is full of useful information, but three quarters of the way through, I’m finding most of his complaints to be nothing more than suspicion that anyone with that much power must be abusing it. In the intentional community they created Celebration, he seems to find it sinister that there is no poverty, and most of the people there are white. At this point, most of the people in gated communities ARE white, and wouldn’t it be more sinister to plan an intentional community WITH a poor section? It’s probably good to stop occasionally and check to make sure that anything with a lot of power isn’t abusing it. That is certainly common enough!

The short version is that this has been a pretty quiet week for us. I’ve done some editing on the CTCW website, and we’re now doing a weekly blog post, plus an inspirational quote. I’ve been reminded that I have a couple of painting commissions to get to.

DSC00886 DSC00883Willow restocked her Etsy Store since the holidays, and has started getting more orders. She’s also come up with a way of using some of the fleece scraps she’s been throwing away because they are too small to use- she’s figured out how to make them into roses- as I showed last week on her stocking. Now she’s making them into ear warmers. Very cool looking.

Kat’s spent much of the week working on her Year End Video, in which Willow and she appear; and I even make an appearance (from my telling the Pennsic 4 story at Harpers). John doesn’t seem to have had the camera pointed at him this year. This is, I think, the 4th, and I’ve come to enjoy them.

John’s shaved again, but he’s let his hair grow out. Funny, I like the way he looks better with a beard, but I think the short hair looked better than the curls he’s sporting now. (I haven’t checked my weight since the holidays started, and since I have been eating cookies, although trying to keep it minimal, I expect I’ve gained some of the weight back. I’ll let you know next week.)

This being the year end, I’ve been looking at various Top Stories lists on the internet. I can see that the War in Syria, and Korean nuclear threat are news, as is the beginning of the Affordable Care Act. But why is no one mentioning the Ukraine?
The Pope switch-over is News; it’s the first time in 6 centuries a pope has retired, and besides that Francis is breaking a lot of new ground. New Royal baby in England is nice, but not news.
The Bombing of the Boston Marathon is news, but so is the way Russian anti-gay policy is impacting the Olympics. The Navy Yard shooting is a part of a bigger story, but I think the real story is all multiple shootings and how we deal with them, or more, what makes them happen.
The overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act is news. The Government shut-down and ridiculous number of times filibusters have been used is news, but it, as well as climate change are apparently not newsworthy. Sometimes I am reminded of frogs in gradually heating water. Because we aren’t being surprised, I worry that we are not paying attention to some pretty serious stuff. The leaks about the NSA is news. Microsoft buying Nokia may be newsworthy- any time so few groups hold so much power it’s news, even if it isn’t a surprise. The change in the medical position on Statins is news. The Whooping Cough epidemic in Texas is news. The FDA asking the food industry to phase out Trans-fats is great news.
I recognize that the Trevon Martin case has had huge repercussions, but it’s still one case. I suppose it informs us about our cultural perceptions. I don’t think sports players getting arrested, or celebrity chef’s getting sued, or even any popular murder trial is news. It really only matters to the people involved. No sports get to be “biggest stories”, not even the Superbowl. Actors dying (or getting publicity for misbehaving) is not news, but Nelson Mandela’s death was. New versions of the iphone, or other technology may turn out later to have world changing implications, but are not intrinsically news.
The typhoon in the Philippines is news, even if it doesn’t have a huge impact on middle class Americans. The tornados in OK killed dozens, this killed hundreds. Nearly 4 million people displaced should still be news.

Facebook has presented its users with it’s choice for the 20 biggest events of our years. Mine was hardly accurate, but then, fb isn’t how I’m recording my life. The biggest event would be Dad’s dying, last January, and then Jay dying in July. I feel more that 2012 was the year that he was dying- as an activity. I was uploading family pictures and getting up to see him occasionally. This year was aftermath. The house renovations with the money he left me were major. Probably our trips to Maine, to Pennsic, and to Darkover were big events, as was Changing Times-Changing Worlds. My teaching at the Dowsing conference, and Twilight Covening were significant. Sadly, my doing the weekly podcast was probably a big thing- kind of as close as I get to “work”. The 40th Solstice Feast is somewhat of a milestone. I don’t know what impact I may have had on other people’s lives, and I should think that would be the important thing. I suppose I’ve learned several new computer functions. I did drop about 25 pounds from my heaviest weight, and am convinced that reducing carbohydrates is the way to keep losing if I choose to do that.
I’m afraid I keep thinking of things I didn’t do- see the Taylors, see Dan, get to GNEW, rather than what I did. I hate to admit it, but my having a pain in my foot which has kept me from exercising is probably one of the more significant things for the year, especially the discovery that it doesn’t hurt when I think happy thoughts. That’s kind of annoying. Having the mini garden in the driveway was a good thing. If my sculptures were bigger, would I count them for more, or would I only think of them as important if I got a lot of money for them? It think how one decides whether something is significant is important.
This year I have been coming to terms with mortality in a solid way. As I remember that I too will someday die, as Dad did, I have to accept that at that point I will be a problem to be solved; first my body, and then all my junk- books, tools and supplies, will need to be dealt with. Then gradually, the people who remember me will also die off, until there is nothing left. The lessons I integrated from my parents may pass on to the next generation, whether they were my feeling that the way I was raised was the only logical way to deal with life, or whether, as in some areas, I treated my kids differently than I was treated. Which of the things I worked so hard to do will be the things they avoid because they didn’t like them? What if any of the “Stuff” I leave behind will be worth preserving? What of all the things I teach my family, friends, and students will be worth their remembering and using? I think that’s been what 2013 was about for me, and it’s certainly left me feeling a lot less worried about a lot of stuff. And that’s not bad.

I guess I am dealing with what the media has to deal with daily- how do you fill your time slot or pages when nothing of note happened? You talk about what you thought about during the week, because I, at least, never stop thinking. Maybe I’ll do something next week. We’d been planning on going to 12th night this weekend, but due to the road conditions and my energy level, I’m actually relieved that I didn’t get our reservations in in time. Maybe we’ll accomplish something during the week.

“New Year’s is a harmless annual institution, of no particular use to anybody save as a scapegoat for promiscuous drunks, and friendly calls and humbug resolutions.” Mark Twain

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account.” Oscar Wilde
“Fear less, hope more;

whine less, breathe more;

talk less, say more;

hate less, love more; and all good things are yours.”         Swedish proverb

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