December 24, 2014
I have been hoping for a nice sunny day since we got the tree decorated so I could take a non-flash picture of it, but it has remained stubbornly cloudy since Solstice. Kat went outside to post a card that night and remarked on how dark it was, and I pointed out that it was not only Solstice, but also a new moon. I think a lot of people don’t know that moon rise is pretty predictable- it rises at about sunset at the full and sunrise when it’s new- hence dramatic photos of harvest moons and sliver moons against the last bit of sunset. On the other hand, in this case it was probably mostly clouds, because there were no stars either. We set the tree up in the living-room on the east wall, so I can see it from the kitchen.
I think most of the reason we decorated it so late in the season was because the lights have gone missing. We KNOW they are around here somewhere, but searches have failed to locate them. Finally, Willow went out and bought another couple strings. We thought about getting some of the new LED ones, something different, so it wouldn’t be redundant, but those were almost $60, and these were $5.99 each. We have begun the shift- switching the front room from livingroom/parlor to dining room/sewing room (it has a built in china cabinet which makes me think it may have originally been used as a dining room), and the slightly larger room off the kitchen as the computer/ living room (we’ve been using it as a dining room). We will probably never be needing to seat 12 people down to eat any more. When we first moved here, it wasn’t unusual to have our family (6) plus the (3) Raskinds and (2) Jaruks, and maybe others, so we were always looking for a table such as you saw in the Waltons. Now, it’s usually the four of us with one or two guests, so a “normal” sized table will do. We already have Willow’s, John’s, and my desktops in there. I figure if we put the chairs and TV in there with the computer/TV accessories like wii and guitar hero, that goes better with the computers.
Since people only “dine” occasionally (mostly we eat in the kitchen), the most frequent use of the big table is for cutting. So move the sewing machines in there, and we’re using the barrister’s bookcase to hold the fabric for current projects (very convenient- until we thought of that, we’ve always simply had stacks of bins), and that works beautifully. The only problem is sufficient lighting, since there’s no overhead central light, I’m thinking wall lights over the sewing machines. We didn’t finish the move before the solstice feast, so we’ll have to finish it after the holidays, then I can move on to trying to reclaim the library.
We only just got the old entertainment center off to the recycling center on Thursday. I was sort of sorry to see it go because it was an old one and still had slots for records (and I still have some). But it was HUGE and we really don’t have room for it. We did get the hutch/ sideboard into what WILL be the dining room,
In theory, my plan for 2015 is to do cleaning and art, and at this point it seems good to me. I love teaching, but am not so excited about the traveling required to do it, so cutting back on that is really appealing. On the other hand, tonight is Christmas Eve, and we always shared that with my Richards relatives (the 25th at home, and Boxing Day with the Taylors). Without Dad as a unifying point, we’re not doing it any more and this makes me feel somewhat at loose ends.
The Solstice open-house worked as well as expected, a few people coming in each day. This allowed us to actually talk to them. When we did it as a “Feast”, and there’d be 20-30 people there at once, it was easier to do party games, and contests, but not to speak to everyone. It does make card games a bit easier. We played Apples to Apples, Gloom, (or was it Cthulu Gloom?) and something else. Many cookies were eaten. (I do enjoy an appreciative audience.)
Jeanne, Kiya, Zeke, and Gideon came over on Friday because they were having a marvelous birthday party for Jeanne on Saturday. We played Snake Oil, and that was so much fun we loaned it to them to play at the birthday party- because trying to find one in the morning seemed silly. We had a lovely pork roast, with grains of paradise, garlic and paprika, and I got to share my super-easy recipe for baked onions (*just below), and mashed potatoes. Gideon got a “pull-o-gator” like a dragon he’d seen at crown, so that was a hit. He also was fascinated (so was Zeke) by the Christmas pyramids. I wouldn’t put it past Zeke to make one.
Also Kat’s friends from Dr. Who Fandom, Douglas and Mackenzie, came in their cosplays! (Sadly, I forgot to take pictures of our visitors, but found this one of the two of them on fb. Luckily Kat got a few, but sadly, the best pictures are movies, and so not good for letters.) But there’s something way cool about “The Doctor” coming to my party!
I’d made a cheese tray (because one needs to balance some protein against all those cookies) and feel that there should always be an “odd” cheese on the tray. I spotted one with blueberries in -figured that was about as odd as one could get. When I was putting it out, I asked Willow if she thought I should label it as I’d never heard of Wensleydale before and figured it wouldn’t be recognized. But Doug immediately spotted it: “Wensleydale! My favorite!” Huh, who knew? (not me, but now I do. It actually looks very nice when they don’t put fruit in it- the store also had some with apricots and, I think, cranberries!)
We had a lot of fun looking at the Guest Book. I started doing the Solstice feast in `72, I think, and the book in `73, so Kaiya was able to find notes and pictures her father had put in in 1984 (I’m wondering if she’s as old as he was then?)
* Stormgard baked onions
Peel and cut fairly large yellow onions, # of eaters/2 (unless you have onion fans, in which case 1 @ isn’t too many). Place them in a roasting pan with a pat of butter on each, then sprinkle some chicken bullion granules on top of that. Bake them with the roast-(so at about 350º) it probably will take less time than the roast, so you can do this after you’ve put the roast in, then start peeling, and take them out a bit before you take the roast out. About 5 minutes before you take them out, sprinkle either grated or shredded cheese over the top so it melts into the cracks. Feel free to experiment with types of cheese, I’ve done parmesan, cheddar, swiss, and mystery lumps in foil in the back of the cheese drawer. You could also try using beef granules if you’re serving it with beef. As usual, my recipes are not precise.
Saturday Willow’s friends Joanie, Raye and Cody came up. Lee dropped them off and went off to see her brother. They spend most of the day playing Apples to Apples. I was worried about dinner because I didn’t get the (21 pound) turkey in until past noon, and thought it might not be done until after 8. But I cooked the stuffing separately, and it was ready in time! Mark, who loves turkey, was going to come over, but had to cancel last minute. Avi made it for the evening, and when Lee got back she stayed and played cards for about an hour.
Brian and Kathy came Saturday and he brought his lyre, which we never got around to hearing, and his HUGE box of Cards Against Humanity which we did until they had to leave just before midnight. Shirley came again, and stayed over until real Solstice (Sunday) before heading off to family in Pennsylvania. Sadly, while we brought in an inflatable mattress and filled it, it seems to have deflated immediately- I should have stuck to sheepskins or something less technological. Abby also came Saturday- and this is why we do it as an open house, because this weekend is always really full in people’s schedules. It’s always flattering when people are willing both to invest their time at this time of year as well as driving all the way to our place.
Our theme this year was Krampus, and Jonie and Raye came in horns- and Joanie had a fuzzy vest too, and Raye brought deviled eggs with Krampus faces!
Once again Willow had little gifts- “brown paper packages tied up with string” for everyone, small fun presents like those evil ball & cup toys, and Everyone loves them. Ruadh and Heidi came up Sunday and mentioned that last year he’d gotten colorful hair extensions- but she’d used them! We had sausages on Sunday, except for Mark who was able to come and help with the turkey leftovers.
“Evil” (short for Evil Author, her internet moniker, I don’t remember her normal name), wasn’t able to make it on the weekend (she works at a game store and couldn’t get away), but came on Monday. Once again we ate a lot and played games. I don’t remember what, except we pulled out the “Goddesses Blessing Cake”- kind of a free-standing chocolate trifle. We are also hopeful because we’ve been looking for a new kitten and her cat has accidentally kindled and may be having kittens any day now, so we put dibs in, and are very hopeful that there may be a new kitten (or two) in our future.
Sunday morning we finally got around to trimming the lighted tree. I like blinking lights and glass ornaments, although now I’m wishing I’d snagged a couple of the plain round balls from my parents’ tree, just because they were theirs. Who knows how old the ones in Dad’s garage had actually been around‽ We made up more cookies from the prepared dough. I’ve got it mostly made up now- it’s not really bad to bake them one batch at a time as you need them. Also, the thermostat on the oven is really giving up the ghost. It started years ago and the repairman stuck computerized thing on it, and told me that it was fine, which it wasn’t, but since his computer couldn’t figure it out, tough luck on me. Now I think that while it can come up to heat, it won’t maintain heat, so I have to keep checking the thermometer that I hung on the oven rack, and restarting it. Feh!
What with the guests, I completely spaced Mothernight– the night before Solstice, dedicated to the Mothers. Usually that’s a celebration I do by myself, and it usually consists of making krumkakes, so I haven’t got any to hang on the kitchen tree this year. That’s where the candy-canes and other candies, nuts, assorted cookies, popcorn strings, and other edible decorations go. (it’s about a meter tall and sits on the counter; I think it was $5)
The actual “Longest Night of the Year” was Sunday, and the guests had gone home by the time it started. We lit the solstice candle at about 4:15. Then we all turned to our different projects. I addressed the last of the Krampus cards I’d found- not many this year, but they were cute. Willow had already gotten hers out, and was working on her commissions for her “advent calendar”- artists on the internet do requests- mostly for each other. Kat worked on her Billy and Zoe ghost story for the year. We figured we could stay up until we ran out of steam, and while Willow did go to bed around 5, Kat and I held on until Sunrise at about 7:15.
Another thing I did (around five to six) is edit my Tchipakkan’s year. Facebook is making collections of the pictures people have posted during the year and calling it So & So’s year. Since I (and probably a lot of other people) am more likely to take a lot of pictures of something happening to someone else, this misses the idea that if you’re behind the camera, it’s probably not happening to you. For example, I have several pictures of Kat getting her Furison at Birka last year, but none of her getting her AoA. Luckily other people took pictures of me being made Companion of the Laurel. But while they do generate them, you can edit them, and I did. The best part is that when people see yours, they are given the opportunity to check out and share their own, and I enjoy that!
Around six, when we realized we were probably going to make it, we decided to fill the last bit of time decorating the middle-sized tree ($10, and about five feet) on which we we have all the precious home-made ornaments we’ve made, but more importantly other people have brought to various solstices over the years. We still have the one Gillian brought to the 1973 solstice, and the mysterious purple and red “monster”. Wooden ornaments I carved in high school, and others made of everything from rope (Algernon) to mirrors (Arthur of Linden).
Frankly, both the little trees are holding up better than the big one which is shedding needles ferociously, despite having a water reservoir in its stand. Of course, we only spent $28 for that one, so clearly it was a bargain tree. Who knows when it was cut.
At any rate, we did what we like to do: Stay up for the longest night of the year to make sure that the sun will rise again. Today I read an article talking about how (at least in the northern hemisphere) midwinter celebrations are simply a human thing to do, a shout against the oncoming darkness, defiance and drawing together in the awareness that over the course of human history, there was a good change that some of the members of your family and tribe would die during the winter. They point out that while it’s fashionable to gripe about spending time with those we don’t see often, we might look upon it differently if we remembered (that which is still true) that there’s no guarantee that you’ll ever see them again. It’s not religion, it’s life, and humanity. I liked that.
What else? We gave up on Willow’s new computer and sent it back. Luckily Paul, the tech support gentleman managed to get her other one working from the other side of the world. Interestingly, after having spent about 8 hours on the phone with him off and on for a week, Willow got a scam call Friday from someone claiming to be from Microsoft tech support who wanted her to give them remote access, which she’d done with Paul. (It is really weird to see your cursor being moved around by someone else!) If there was a way for people to know who’d been using tech support, I bet that would ordinarily make them easier marks.
Frankly, we are looking forward to being low key and relaxing. Tonight I’m doing a New Normal on Ghosts and Divination at Christmas at 8. (it being Christmas Eve, it’s all automated, no customer support, so if anything goes wrong, I’m stuck.) I find it highly likely that there will be no audience. One HOPES most people have something more important to do on Christmas Eve!
Kat is live streaming a Christmas episode of Doctor Who The Chimes of Midnight at 9, and I’ll probably watch that. Our stockings are hung and filled. This year we hung them on the chinning bar in the living room and have filled them as we found little things to put in them. This has worked pretty well and we’ll probably keep doing it.
I haven’t done much reading this week, although while working in the kitchen I’ve re-watched a lot of Christmas movies: Die Hard (1&2), Lethal Weapon, the Seeker, as well as about six versions of a Christmas Carol/Scrooge. (Maybe after the show tonight I’ll re-watch Rare Exports. I am amazed at how they could take a really good book like The Dark is Rising, and turn it into such a bad movie as the Seeker. For me, Coopers book was a tragedy about Hawkin, and Merriman who both had to deal with the risks of pushing someone beyond his strength, far more than Will Stanton’s story. The movie was lame. When I have had a chance I’ve been reading Hild, and I finished Being Mortal. This is an incredible book. It’s even beautifully made (at least the edition I read), with soft pages with the rough edges I love in old books.
It starts with an examination of aging and how to deal with it, and then goes on looking at end of life care (since something that may last several decades can’t really be considered “end”), and death. Dr. Gawande describes his discoveries with both feeling and clinical observation, illustrating his points with poignant examples from his own life as well as those of his patients, leading to useful suggestions on how to improve our own care. Apparently, a quiet revolution has been going on, as those dismayed by the current system innovate better ways to handle aging and dying. The most depressing part of the book is knowing that such innovations exist and have been proven to be economically as well as emotionally and medically better, but not only are they not spreading as I’d hope, but sometimes after proving themselves, spreading, and becoming large enough that the entrepreneurs lose control, they start to revert to the older, more familiar and less responsive models. I am personally thrilled that so many examples have shown that giving the old people more autonomy, privacy, and less intervention not only can be cost effective, but results in longer, more satisfying lives.
As I read I saved several quotes that I wanted to share:
“You become a doctor for what you imagine to be the satisfaction of the work and that turns out to be the satisfaction of competence. … Your competence gives you a secure sense of identity. For a clinician, therefore, nothing is more threatening to who you think you are than a patient with a problem you cannot solve.”
The idea that your sense of identity comes from your feeling of competence really resonates with me.
“If you cannot, without assistance, use the toilet, eat, dress, bather, groom, get out of bed, get out of a chair, and walk- the eight “Activities of Daily Living”- then you lack the capacity for basic physical independence. If you cannot shop for yourself, prepare your own food, maintain your housekeeping, do your laundry, manage your medications, make phone calls, travel on your own, and handle your finances- the eight “Independent Activities of Daily Living”- then you lack the capacity to live safely on your own.” pg 15
I’ve heard of these before, but it’s convenient to have them collected.
“In the course of a normal lifetime, the muscles of the jaw lose about 40% of their mass and the bones of the mandible lose about 20%, becoming porous and weak.” pg 19
There’s also another I didn’t copy where he mentions that the older eye doesn’t take in light as well. Darn!
“The job of any doctor, Bludau later told me, is to support quality of life, by which he meant two things: as much freedom from the ravages of disease as possible and the retention of enough function for active engagement with the world.” pg 31
I don’t think they teach most doctors that- only to “fix” “medical conditions”.
“In the United States, 25% of all Medicare spending is for the 5% of patients who are in their final year of life, and most of that money goes for care in their last couple of months that is of little apparent benefit. The US is often thought to be unusual in this regard, but it doesn’t appear to be. Data from elsewhere are more limited, but where they are available- for instance, from countries like the Netherlands and Switzerland- the results are similar.” pg 153
That, I think, is very important to think about. Far more important is how much of these services do support quality of life. You probably remember my pointing out that once you take out the days in the hospital (not home, much less doing what he wanted to do), all that medical intervention didn’t add anything to Ælfwine’s life. They gave him 3 months without intervention, and I think he spent about 87 days outside the hospital over the rest of his life. Mostly they added a year of being a guinea pig. He didn’t begrudge them that, and even said that if it helped other people it was worth it, but it didn’t really enhance his life much.
“In 2008, the national Coping with Cancer project published a study showing that terminally ill cancer patients who were put on a mechanical ventilator, given electrical defibrillation or chest compression, or admitted, near death, to intensive care had a substantially worse quality of life in their last week than those who received no such interventions. And, six months after their death, their caregivers were three times as likely to suffer from major depression.”
… “The end comes with no chance for you to have said good-bye or “It’s okay” or “I’m sorry” or “I love you.” People with serious illness have priorities besides simply prolonging their lives. Surveys find that their top concerns include avoiding suffering, strengthening relationships with family and friends, being mentally aware, not being a burden on others, and achieving a sense that their life is complete. Our system of technological medical care has utterly failed to meet these needs, and the cost of this failure is measured in far more than dollars. The question therefore is not how we can afford this system’s expense. It is how we can build a health care system that will actually help people achieve what’s most important to them at the end of their lives.” pg 155
I am not surprised that people who feel that they may have contributed to the suffering their parents had feel depressed afterwards. I will, however, note that three months later, the bills are still coming, and they’re just beginning to grieve. They also have the hindsight of knowing that it wasn’t going to create any useful extra time for the patient. During the crisis (and even when it’s long-term, it feels like a crisis while you’re in it) there’s always the hope that they’ll get better and this will give you more quality time together. After three months, you can replay those conversations with the doctors in your mind and realize that they weren’t offering you anything but hope for hope’s sake. When faced with medical statistics, we don’t play the numbers, we are more like people buying lottery tickets and hoping for the million dollar prize. It never occurred to us that if 11% of people beat MML, Ælfwine wouldn’t be in that 11%.
“According to Block, about two-thirds of patients are willing to undergo therapies they don’t want if that’s what their loved ones want.” pg 186
I know it’s why my mother took the Essiac (the first few months), she figured why not humor me as long as it wasn’t going to take long. Later she came to believe in it, but at first, she was humoring me.
from an advanced directive form:
” 1. Do you want to be resuscitated if your heart stops?
2. Do you want aggressive treatments such as intubation and mechanical ventilation?
3. Do you want antibiotics?
4. Do you want tube or iv feeding if you can’t eat on your own?” pg 179
These are questions I think we all need to think about- and make sure our designated medical proxy knows. The trick is, that the answers change from situation to situation. There’s no simple answer, it’s always “if… then”.
“We’ve begun rejecting the institutionalized version of aging and death, but we’ve not yet established our new norm. We’re caught in a transitional phase. However miserable the old system has been, we are all experts at it.”
Inertia is a powerful force. I think that’s why holidays are hard. You may have gotten used to your dead family member not being there day to day, but I’m having a bitch of a time trying to deal with not gathering with the family for our traditional Christmas Eve celebration. I bitched about it for years, but I’m really feeling at loose ends.
“… I stepped back and asked the questions I’d asked my father: What were her biggest fears and concerns? What goals were mores important to her? What trade-offs was she willing to make, and what ones was she not?”
I think it’s good that someone with experience in end-of-life support could share these important questions with us.
Have a wonderful Christmas! (or whatever else you celebrate)!
“I could go on and on about the suffering we’ve endured and the adaptations we’ve made, but to me, our species’ crowning jewel is that on the shortest day of the year, when the sun spends most of its time swallowed, when everything is frozen, when nothing can grow, when the air is so cold our voices stop right in front of our faces … we put a string of lights on a universe that is currently doing nothing to earn it. We not only salvage an otherwise desolate time of year, we make it the best time of year.”- Dan Harmon quoted in The True Meaning of Christmas that Everyone Forgets