12/16/2009 Eat what you want day

It’s winter- while it won’t be “official” for a week (at the Solstice), the weather proclaims it to be winter effectively. I suppose this is the anniversary of last year’s ice storm so I shouldn’t be surprised. The pond at the bottom of Pinnacle Road is frozen, the occasional dusting leaves us with cat footprints as records that they go in and out far more than we do. When they are inside they have gotten very fond of digging out the votif candles staged for the feng shui altar and playing “kitty hockey” with them. (They do scoot around the floor like hockey pucks very well.) Outside we can watch the crows- I’m so pleased, there seem to be two again. For the longest time there were a couple, then a trio (I think their offspring), and this year there’s been only one, so I think we lost the older couple. Now I think the one that was left has a mate. It’s a good sign. “One for sorrow, two for mirth, Three for a wedding, four for a birth, Five give silver, six take gold, Seven for a secret not to be told.” Most often, we are going out to the mail box or a car, or to put something away in the Great Hall, so I’m not sure those short jaunts really count as going out anyway. It is nice to get the packages. I have done most of my shopping by internet this year, which, of course, could not be accomplished without the good offices of the US Postal Service, UPS and Fed-ex. (This is Willow telling what it is before I open them- it’s usually a book) "It's a book" The “news item” that dominated this week is that I got a scratched cornea. In the large scheme of things, not a big deal. I’m a bit dehydrated- probably because of the shift to winter heat (we had Jon go around and make sure all the storm windows were shut), and maybe because I’ve been drinking more tea- and some of them may be diuretic. Anyway, Thursday my left eye felt dry and I didn’t put my contact in, then Friday morning I woke up and Zow! the usual pain of a scratched cornea. I think it seemed exacerbated because of the brightness added to daylight by glare on the snow. I was confused about what had happened, because I’d never had one start gradually before, so I went to the doctor who put some drops in my eye (first to numb it- which was lovely, and then those yellow optical drops which, show any irregularities- he showed Willow) and that allowed him to see the “pencil head” sized scratch. He used the same UV lighted magnifying glass that that idiot Phil Campbell had used to diagnose lice (because the dandruff glowed under black light). Anything that glows under the light (donated by the prescription lice shampoo manufacturers) MUST be a louse. Hey, Phil, the whites of your eyes glow under UV! (Goodness, that still irks me 10 years later!) So he offered me a prescription for eye drops- I asked if they were anesthetic, because I would really like that, and he said yes, but when we got them, they were only antibiotic, so even the superior Dr. Quirbach doesn’t know what he’s prescribing, sigh. The difference, I think, is that he can be taught. I’ll tell him, then he’ll know. It’s a small injury, and the eye heals itself. I was actually rather cross when the pain wasn’t gone on Sunday- but it was OK on Monday- just light sensitive. Today, a week later, it is down to the dry scratchy feel with which it started out (obviously, I am not going to be putting my contact back in until it feels great again. One funny thing I discovered (in the car) is that even with the whole top of my head opaquely swathed, if I opened my mouth, the light came in. I opened and shut it, and it wasn’t enough to stab into my eye, but it was enough to “see”- as kind of a reddish glow. Thinking about it, I realized that you can shine a flashlight through your fingers, so I guess the palate allows light into your eye sockets which the eye can detect. Still, I thought it was pretty cool (and kept opening and shutting my mouth, which may have irritated the kids). Still, it stopped me from driving, from shoveling when it snowed (which it did, we got another 6 inches or so), from using the computer, (the screen was too bright, and it still a bit uncomfortable), from watching TV (although I could certainly listen to it- much better to “watch” things I’d seen before and my mind could fill in the images- and from reading. Now that was hard. I tried playing the piano- but I really wanted to read music (as badly as I do), and I listened to my recorded courses (currently enjoying one on the Vikings). Having one eye covered has done not good things to my depth perception, and I also seemed to be thinking more slowly, which was odd. Blind in one eye made me “stupid”. Slowed me down a lot. Oh well. The big project I was working on was doing holiday cards. I’d stopped doing them years ago as a waste of resources, but this year I felt out of touch with the people in my life and did them again. I thought I’d have gotten them done last week, but I wanted the holiday stamps, which delayed getting them out- then I got to the addressing. I’ve made a point of only putting addresses into my address book in pencil- people WILL keep moving. (I love it when people buy houses, that tends to lock them in one place for longer.) On the other hand, my main source of record keeping is now the computer, and I haven’t always put the one in the other, so both do needed updating, which made the fairly simple project into a large one. Once I was able to get back to using the computer and address book, I discovered that I have e-mail for far more people than I have physical addresses (or even phone numbers). I am the first to adore the advantages of e-mail. There’s the whole chance to edit before you hit send, which doesn’t just give me a chance to correct typos (I bet many people don’t realize that I’m a bad speller anymore), I ALWAYS have those little red underlines reminding me to edit first, and that can not just help with spelling and grammar, but also with foot-in-mouth. More than that, I know I am not going to be waking the other person up, when there are so many different sleep schedules- people who get up before six (as Steve has to now) or go to bed after midnight. And what if someone is sick and finally just got to sleep and you wake them up? I have guilt. With an email, they can get to it as soon as they are ready to deal with incoming messages, and you aren’t inconveniencing them. But why is it that we feel a need to insulate ourselves from each other? My motivations are all about not bothering someone when they are on a different schedule than I am. What’s the deal with “caller ID”? As far as I can tell, it’s so you can pretend you aren’t home when you don’t want to talk to someone. Talk about judging a book by its cover! At it’s least odious, you are deciding whether you are going to answer the phone based on your assumptions of whether the person calling has anything to say that you want to hear. I find that horrible. No one ever knows what the other person is going to say, (OK, except for the rare cases of telepathy- but I think that’s rare enough we can discount them. I figure some people are just trying to duck tele-marketers, but at the same time, how much effort does it take to say “go away and take me off your list!” ? Are we so afraid of contact? Or are we afraid we are going to get drawn in to someone else’s life? Are we preserving our privacy, our isolation? I assume we are trying to preserve our time, which becomes a more and more limited resource as we spend our lives traveling to get to a place of employment, or all the other things that eat up our time. Still, the idea, which is mentioned far more than avoiding tele-marketers, is that caller ID is used to avoid talking to people who with whom you don’t want to speak. For the insecure among us, it adds a whole new layer of insecurity- are they really out, or do they just not want to talk to me? (Not my problem, but probably would be if I thought about it much.) Totally aside from that- it’s been very depressing learning how many of the people in my address list not only do I not get a chance to see anymore, but how many have died. (and the occasional one that I don’t know whether they’ve died or not). People I knew and really liked, and have no way of getting in touch with them any more. I can erase an old address that doesn’t work anymore, but emotionally, I hate to “erase” a person who I knew and liked. During cleaning, I found a box of left-over cards from years past. Very pretty. But depressing. (This year I’ve made an effort to use up the ones I got so that won’t happen again. I rather wish I’d saved one each year and labeled it- maybe along with the family picture or highlights of that year. Of course, I don’t do the annual letter because it seems somewhat redundant after all these weekly letters.) But finding the box highlights my lack of staying in touch with people. I suppose the very fact that I send out this letter indicates how important contact between people is to me. It’s probably a “quirk” if not a “character flaw”. If you don’t know gaming terminology, when designing a character, she get points for skills and talents, but you take off points for quirks and flaws, A big flaw would be like a phobia, or a handicapping condition-with a character you try to balance them out, so that no character is too powerful or wonderful. Everyone knows that while Superman is practically invulnerable, he can be hurt with kryptonite or magic. A quirk, I think, is one or two points, and a flaw is five or so. I actually find gaming a useful way to describe parts of our personalities. For example- the fact that my speech pattern is set faster than most other peoples is a flaw because it interferes in my ability to communicate effectively with most of the people in my family, and it results in many people thinking I don’t care about them because I don’t “give” them enough time to answer. As a gaming character, I think that would be a good 3 to 5 points in flaw, whereas I might only take one or two in my difficulty spelling (maybe four or five for my misphasia and aphasia). On the other hand, my abilities to sing or sense direction would cost me 5 to ten, my art probably 15 or 20, and another five or ten for my ability to catch a likeness. I actually think that psychologists could use gaming character building as a useful way to describe patients. But, some character traits don’t come down firmly on the credit or debit side. In some ways it’s good that I like to connect to people, in others it’s a liability. How many people do I know? How many people do I care about? The more people I meet, the more really good, wonderful people I find and wish I cold know better- but so often we live so far away from each other we only see each other once or twice a year. You can’t build a relationship on that (which is, of course, why I started writing this letter). There are dozens of people out there who, if they actually read this, (although I think many of you just skim it for whatever funny bits may be there this week) who know more about me, how I think, how I live, etceteras than most people know about each other. In truth, as much as I’d like it, there’s no way I could actually read letters of this length from every single person to whom I sent them- if everyone I send this to responded in kind. The report of my weekly activities would consist of “I read my correspondence- everyone out there has a more interesting life than I do.” But we all have our dull days and our crises. That’s just life. Anyway, doing the cards gave me an “emotional crisis” of a minor sort. I so wish that I had a chance to actually talk and interact with more of the wonderful people I know more. It’s depressing to be reminded how many wonderful people are out there that I love, and I don’t know how to let you know. Yes, I know that there are “e-cards”. I personally hate e-cards. I don’t open them because most of them are really stupid, and they feel impersonal. I’ll be honest and admit that I do sometimes start to open them, but then the computer warns me- “This may contain an application”, and I don’t know what that means, so I don’t open it. And often I can’t tell from the message who sent it- there are so many aliases out there. So maybe someone tried to reach out to me and failed. That stinks. Why the aliases? If you don’t want the information on the internet, don’t put it there. I am constantly being invited to be someone’s friend, but I have no idea who they are because they are doggiemom or magickfan or historychick or some such, and it’s not like I got a message from them saying, “by the way, if you get something from Plazabrat- that’s me, Eloise, you can open it.” I get reminders that someone’s birthday is coming up- which is cool, but then I can’t figure out who there are! You’d think with my SCA background I’d have learned to deal with multiple monikers, but I haven’t. Oh well. (I”d like to think it’s the scratched cornea making me cranky, but it’s not. I’m mostly better, and besides that, I’m just a cranky old lady. By the way, December 16th is also tentatively Cranky Computer Programmers Day. I’m not a programmer, but I thought I’d mention it for those who are- you are allowed to be cranky today.) You know me- while the chances are good that I got the scratched cornea because the air is dry or dust was around from sweeping the livingroom rug, I couldn’t help but notice that I’d written in my journal “I don’t want to look at the bank balance” on the day it got impossible for me to look. Sometimes these coincidences are just so suggestive.Aside from the ouchy eye, (Megan had pity on me and talked to me on the phone for hours that first day when I really couldn’t do anything else), we went down to Dan’s for a lovely dinner.

Dan’s cutting back on meat, but fed us a lovely roast beef and a “delightful salad”- it had nuts and strawberries in it. In the morning I made five batches of cookie dough, which went into the Keeping Room, and we’ve been baking off and on since then. Candy Cane Cookies, Wishing Stars, Peppernuts, Finnish Butter Cookies and Chocolate Butter cookies (I lean heavily- pun intended- to shortbreads). Kat made a new Christmas mix which we listened to on the way down, and after dinner we exchanged gifts- they gave me a simplified version of Catan and we played a round which I really enjoyed. I do love board games, all games in fact, although I’m not particularly competitive. Maybe that’s why I like role playing games, everyone has to be cooperative, to play their role and support the others roles in order for the game to work. When we got home I made the Lucia buns, and Willow checked (finally) to see when the Coyote Run concert was- sadly, we missed it, but happily, they are playing at the Wicked Renaissance Fair that Willow will be selling at in February. Now I wish I could go! It was easier to get excited about the holiday traditions when the kids were little- they got excited about the little hair bobbles and themed pencils and stuff to go in their St. Nicholas Day shoes. Of course we didn’t get into Lucia buns until more recently, but at this point neither Kat nor Willow is able to get up early to serve me buns and cocoa in bed (probably because of working on the computer to wee hours)- but we do like the buns. I was thinking how much easier it was to get excited about the holidays with kids. I think maybe we get into the whole Santa surrogacy thing because it’s a good way to duck responsibility for the gift giving. We really love the reaction when someone really loves a gift, but when they don’t, there’s that horrible reaction “how could you have thought I’d want that?” reaction, It’s not the gift we don’t want that’s the problem, it’s the way it forces to awareness that the other person doesn’t understand what really motivates us. Our wishes define us. No wonder people like giving to kids better, they’re easier to please. And we dislike the gift giving season because of the failures, because it highlights how we don’t really understand each other. (sigh….) Willow installed a new phone for us. The old one was a radio phone, which was nice, but the rechargeable battery stopped recharging, and would start beeping after only a couple of minutes into the call. Willow found a replacement that has three handsets, so not only does it work, Willow and I can each have one in our rooms without having to have the phone company come in to re-wire (which I’ve been meaning to get to). Actually, it turns out that it not only has an answering machine built in, it’s also got an intercom function, so we may pick up a couple more handsets for Kat’s room and the studio. She also cleared the chest by door, where we stage the stuff that’s going out to the hall, or the cars, or to someone else’s place. We changed it for a set of shelves so it would be easier for people to spot their stuff on the way out the door. On Sunday my eye felt better enough that we had Steve up for Latkes. Friday was the first night of Hannuka, and this time I made a small batch- only one potato per person (and one for the pot for sending home with Steve). We had to send him home early because it was freezing rain that night (and now that he works down in Rhode Island, he has to get up at five) Then I baked up a batch of Ruglach to send to Black Lotus (as the home he’s in is Methodist, they don’t have much either for his Hindu or his Hebrew holiday celebrations). I’d wanted to get them done Friday, but if priority works the way it’s supposed to, it’ll get there before the end of the week. After that I turned my attention to getting the cards out. Willow made me some special return address stickers which was cool. But then we ran out of toner in the printer. Johnathan drove me out to get that replaced. (The girls and I agree that it is the most frustrating when the printer refuses to print in black because it’s low on yellow toner.) But who’d have thought a decade ago that so many of us would have scanning and printing capacity much less the movie editing that Kat does in our private houses? I can be annoyed because the technology doesn’t do what I want the way I want it to work, but really, it’s very cool. Obviously, I didn’t read this week, but I listened to and have begun watching dvds again. I really enjoyed watching the first episodes of Fantasy Island, and similarly, Kat’s been doing her nostalgia bit (watching sitcoms to cheer herself up) she rented 2 1/2 Men and How I met your mother. I suppose looked at as percentage of our lives that have passed since we were watching them over the air, it’s probably about the same. I also listened to 17 Again, which was a fairly standard teen comedy. A movie called Drag Me to Hell was a recent American horror movie about a gypsy curse. The specials were fairly impressive, but it reminded me of the plot of Thinner, which I’d read long ago, but not watched, and so I rented it, and was pleased that it followed the book fairly well. It was really a much better movie than the 2009 one. Steven King really makes you care about the characters more. Another thing I liked about it was that the gypsy king who put the curse on the protagonist was also shown to be suffering- eaten up by cancer- which although not stated, was an implication of how such vengence comes back on the one who indulges in it. Oh, and I finally got to see a copy of Christmas Unwrapped, which is a History Channel documentary about Christmas. Apparently Netflix has very few copies of it, because I had it on my queue all last December until I gave up on it, and it’s been on since the beginning of this month “Very Long Wait”, they say. It wasn’t worth it. I don’t know if I’d have bothered had I known it was History Channel. It was just the most basic stuff, and not particularly well done. Oh well, now I’ve seen it, I can get on with watching “every other Christmas movie” Netflix has to offer. Of course, we also are watching the ones we own. Many versions of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life, which is actually being shown at the Town Hall Theater for their Classic Matinee this Saturday- of course, we’ll be doing the Solstice Feast at that point, but it’s neat that it’s available on the big screen. I think my current favorite may be the Hogfather. But I like so many of them. As with any movie, a crisis brings and quiet conflicts to a head, and the holidays do provide an annual crisis to do that. We saw one called This Christmas, which was your basic family relationships film- in this case the family was black, but the problems were standard- the conflict between the good daughter who sticks around to help her parents and the one who gets her degree snapping at each other over the relative merits of their choices, the baby of the family trying to break out of that role, everyone doing everything they can to reduce the others getting upset, and, inevitably the solution being honesty. Yes, there was infidelity, and one guy having bookies coming after him, and stress from a racially mixed marriage, but I’m not sure that that wouldn’t have worked black to white rather than the other way around. It was standard, but it was nice. There’s certainly no reason the same type story doesn’t work across all racial, historical, cultural, and gender variations. People are people. That’s about as long as I want to stare at this screen. If I can find some pictures I’ll put them on the flickr. I hope to at least have one of me with my eye patch. Apparently I remind the girls of some anime Character who has the same white stripes at the temples and an eye patch, (He apparently uses guns and his catch phrase is “time to Reload!”. I still can make them laugh by saying that.) The wood guy just unloaded a cord of wood in the driveway (a present from my sister) and we are trying to get it into the woodshed. Someone’s supposed to come pick up the Spirit (which is finally old enough that we don’t have to pay to get another copy of the title to get it hauled off), and we were hoping it would be gone before the wood got here, but didn’t luck out on that one. Still, we are hoping to need space in the driveway for the party this weekend. Ekke called last night to say they were coming, and I’ve been smiling ever since. I can’t imagine any way to show you like someone more than to be willing to drive so far to come see them. Much Love, Tchipakkan “The only really blind person at Christmas-time is the one who has not Christmas in his heart.” Hellen Keller “I have always thought of Christmas as a good time, a kind, forgiving, generous, pleasant time, a time when men and women seem to open their hearts freely, and so I say, God Bless Christmas!” Dickens (Fred in A Christmas Carol) “This is Hogswatch, it’s a time to be jolly, with mistletoe and holly, and other things ending in -olly. It’s a time when people are supposed to feel good about things, and eat until they explode. A time when they want to see all their relatives. I mean it’s a time when humans are really human.” Terry Prachett (Susan in the Hogfather)
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