2/12/2014: Lincoln’s Birthday

Dear friends,                                        February 12, 2014

14-LunarNewYearSince I love stamps and don’t send these by mail anymore, I figure I can at least include an image each week of the stamp I’m using for the few I still print and mail.14-CutPaperHearts
Today is sunny, in the 20ºs, with another winter storm warning for tomorrow. And the weekend.  John is topping up the wood closet. I would probably not be aware of this, but Willow sent me a message, asking if we’re OK. Apparently Florida likes to put national weather reports up. Whether this is for their many visitors and their travel plans, or so that the locals can feel schadenfreude about the places they moved away from. Willow is basking in the 80ºs down in Florida.
We dropped her at the airport first thing on Monday. She carefully planned her trip to Florida for between my birthday and John’s, and bless her has been sending pictures (probably from her smart phone). Today she’s at Hogwarts (the Wizarding World of Harry Potter) and Suessland.  SeusslandingYesterday they went to the Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum (she sent a picture of the Figi mermaid, and the worlds tiniest violin). Tyra’s father got them a deal, so she’ll be able to go to Disneyworld too. I worry a bit about her exhausting herself, but at the same time, won’t having such a great time be energizing?
Willow cares an awful lot   For anyone who thinks that the internet doesn’t promote real friendship, Willow met Tyra on line, they’ve corresponded for years, and then Tyra invited her to visit. The original plan was that she’d stay in Tyra’s house, but they found a deal at an affordable hotel, and are staying in it together. This should be a relief for her parents, because much giggling will probably ensue.
Friday, Willow and Kat went down to help Raye pack and move. Common wisdom is that “Friends help you move, but good friends help you move bodies”, but I think that someone who actually shows up and helps carry boxes and furniture is a True Friend. Apparently Raye’s new place has a gorgeous ocean view- still in Mass though. It would have been nice if she’d gotten significantly closer.

As we hadn’t yet gotten to indulge in the Chinese New Year (Year of the Horse), as we like to do, once a year, they brought home Chinese food for supper. We even lit our chinese lanterns. I don’t think many people realize that it’s a huge season with traditional celebrations (this night you visit the husband’s parents, this night the wife’s, this night you stay home, etc.) that runs from the new moon to the full moon, and has separate days for animals, tools, etc. I love the  holidays I here about. This week was the Shinto “Broken Needles” holiday. It’s a day to show gratitude to the tools you use every year. Needles are one type of tool that when it breaks is possible to save them for a year. In Japan they bring their saved needles to a shrine and stick them in a bed of soft tofu, to symbolize their gratitude for their help and sacrifice. It would be a bit harder to save broken hammers or cooking pots. (Or chairs- today one of our kitchen chairs died. I will put it to rest by turning it into firewood.)

I’ll admit that I spent most of Friday looking at fb where I was inundated with birthday wishes. OK, it was about 10% of my fb friends, but that seems a reasonable portion. Many people don’t get on that often. I admit that as an information junkie, I find it way to easy to just look at “one more post” and keep scrolling. I am pleased that there haven’t been many deaths among my friends recently- although there seems to be a great deal of winter doldrums.
DSC00986   I had a birthday defined by who I am now (at 62). I made my favorites: curried lamb (with basmati rice), and Duchess Cake, and the girls indulged me by playing Lord of the Rings Risk with me. We discovered that while Risk is fun, LOTR Risk really requires the players to be LOTR fans, at very least to know where the freaking regions (with dwarvish and elvish names) are. I did get the girls when I paraphrased Boromir: “One doesn’t simple walk into Kamchaka.”) I also discovered that while the winter strawberries didn’t seem worth using, the raspberries, however nice they tasted, weren’t as good in the Duchess cake. Could be because the pineapple already supplies the tartness, and needs the strawberry sweetness to balance it. Live and learn. It was still pretty good! My birthday present was a “new” used sewing machine. I haven’t seen mine in a couple of years, and it’s been driving me nuts. The chances are that it’s been “put away” somewhere safe and will turn up, but meanwhile I have projects piling up that I want to get to- new skirts and vests and slips. SCA garb isn’t a problem, because I can pretend that I’m doing all the sewing by hand to be more accurate, but I am looking forward to sewing again. Low key is definitely what I like these days.
OK, I would have liked to have had some people over if only to have an excuse to make a super-sized pineapple upside-down-cake in my huge frying pan, but it would have been totally inappropriate to make essentially three cakes in one for four of us. Still, it will be done. Someday, when I can get guests over. It will happen. There will be pictures.

Sunday I went over to Lyrion’s salon, and we all made Brigit’s crosses. They had some instructions from the internet, and I’d actually planned to make some of my brigit’s cross cookies to bring, but ran out of time before it was time to go. When it came time to weave the grasses, I kept getting stuck on the way I make the crosses with dough, but when you make them with grass, and multiple passes, you really do need to have an odd number of spokes to keep the wheel building outward. I was insisting that they should be even and hope I didn’t screw anyone else up. When I got home, I looked it up, and found my mistake. Darn.
We dropped Willow off Monday morning, and I spent the rest of the day on the computer- and the phone. I’m still trying to get into the healthcare.com database. I talked to an insurance lady who tells me that if you make less than $16K you aren’t covered by the Affordable Care Act. I suppose at that level they expect you to be on welfare. Tuesday, Kat and I went up to Vermont. She’s been getting more stressed and depressed lately (actually, it seems that just about everyone is. It shouldn’t be the light, because that’s noticeably coming back, but maybe it’s the cold.) Anyway, this time we’re trying Oriental Medicine. You have to like any therapist, and my friend Kirk White seemed reasonable. He’s concocting something specifically for her herbally, but warns her that it will probably not taste good. Hey, if it works, it’s good.

I am manifesting the nearly universal midwinter slow-down by reading a lot. I am not entirely certain that it isn’t because I’ve fallen into re-reading the entire Little Colonel series on my kindle. As I read it I am discovering things I hadn’t realized before- the wonderful parties in those books may have fed my joy in holidays, the jeweled flag pin my mother had, and I got a copy of is like one mentioned in the Little Knights of Kentucky book. I’ve always known that the ‘stories within stories’: Edred, the Three Weavers, the Road of the Loving Heart, the story of the bleeding hearts, all had huge impact on me as I was growing up. I now start to see how they may well have also influenced my mother, who read them in the thirties, and perhaps by grandmother, who may have read them when they first came out. “Oh, that’s where that came from!” is such a revelation, and it makes me feel connected to Mother and Grandmother.
I’m also reading other books on the kindle, although I find it much harder to flip through to find a passage one knows is there, on the kindle. It wants you to go to a numerical location. one on Witches and Witchcraft, and a new one by Richard Bach Illusions II. I have the less expensive kindle that uses ads as a screen saver, and Jonathan Livingstone Seagull was a favorite book when I was a teen. One of my favorite points in it was that you didn’t need to believe you could fly, you had to learn how. This has always seemed the most reasonable description of psychic abilities I ever read. Of course, if you don’t believe anyone can fly, you’ll just not see any of the evidence. We see this a lot, and it’s so common that I often wonder what I’m not seeing that’s also real. Or as real as anything is. This new book is openly metaphysical. So much of it seems so obvious to me. Then again, my kids often point out that I don’t think like “normal” people.
I’m also reading The Green Boat (about ecology(, and Goddesses in Older Women on mythology, and re-reading Bettelheim’s Uses of Enchantment on fairy tales. And I have so many books I own standing by- there is so much good information and inspiration out there, and I want it all!
I watched a disc of the first season of Boy Meets World (I only ever saw the last few seasons) and one of Doogie Hauser. I know I lived through the 80s, and don’t think I thought the clothes back then (ok, maybe the shoulder pads) looked so odd, but they sure do now! I’ve also watched Kat’s selection: Black Books, (and when I’m feeling particularly in the mood for brain candy, I watch QI (quite interesting).  I watched a movie The Air I Breathe. Very powerful, wonderful performances, but rather dark. I’m sure I took it out because I read that the Brendan Frazer character was psychic, but it wasn’t as light as most movies with psychics tend to be. I suppose that because it’s considered “fantasy”, they have to aim it at kids and give it a happy ending. This was adult.
I watched Rebecca– a newer version with Diana Rigg as the creepy Mrs. Danvers, and also watched the original 1944 Laura. I was struck by how much smoking people were doing, as much as by the excellent drama. In a good movie you really can see the warning signs to let you know that the seeming “nice guy” is really a creeper.

Speaking of “creepers”, there has been a lot of posting recently about “rape culture”, and how people are beginning to be more open about it. It’s totally true that whenever we ignore the signs that someone who’s otherwise “a nice guy” does not respect the feelings of the women he pushes himself on, we are enabling it. We are enabling a culture that doesn’t prevent this behavior. What bothers me is that people keep focusing on how some of this behavior is indicative of their potential to rape. We are warned that if we don’t turn them in, they will rape someone, or keep sexually assaulting others. Why can we not say that even if they never go beyond being rude and creepy, they should be made to stop that behavior because that alone is not acceptable? Clearly, there are rewards for behaving like this or it would not be so ubiquitous. There are subcultures in which fathers, brothers, and friends (and even mothers, sisters and girlfriends) encourage men to press their attentions on women, to call out or whistle, to make inappropriate comments and touches. We are often told to ignore them. Certainly schools tell victims to ignore bullies. That’s “supposed” to make them stop. Who is feeding these people such bad information? It reminds me of the book The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense. In it the author helps people who are made to feel uncomfortable by disguised insults to recognize and deflect them. Maybe that would work in an office with adults, but it’s not going to work in a school, where they don’t bother pretending that they aren’t really insulting you, and if you think they are, there’s something wrong with you.  And that’s what these creepers are- they’re bullies. They are assaulting women (even when not committing “battery”), and they are fairly open about it. They consistently deny that they are doing anything wrong, and they probably think so. If you exclude them, or give them some sort of consequences for their action, they will blame you or the victim for being unreasonable. Unless and until the culture makes it VERY clear that this is not acceptable (and we can certainly expect the subcultures who support it to respond defensively), they will continue to see themselves as reasonable, and victims of those who complain.
I believe there has always has been a call for erotic art. Many people see pornography as nothing more than an art form that is not universally enjoyed, and the right of those who like it, just as vegetarians and omnivores both have a right to their own dietary choices. But pornography is degrading, not celebratory depictions of sex, and therefore, our culture restricts it’s circulation. My father always said that “your freedom to swing your arm stops short of my nose”, and free speech doesn’t include yelling “fire” in a crowd, or anything that can cause harm to others. When we let people make other people feel unhappy, whether by mashing, or bullying, we are essentially giving the perpetrators permission. We are saying that our culture accepts this behavior. I really enjoy learning about cultural differences. Personal space, vocal volume, and various facial expressions mean different things in Asia, Europe, the USA, or Africa. Whether you’re Urban or Rural makes a difference, whether you’re from a big family or a small one. But our culture, in promoting personal freedom used to tie this very closely with a personal sense of honour and responsibility, consider the archetypes of Cowboys or Knights. We are gravitating more toward a Pirate culture, “take all you can,” and assume that if anyone gets too greedy, the others will cut him down. This can be abused by anyone who’s both greedy and strong, but we don’t have to use those who abuse freedom as our role models.
Once again that pesky soap box has snuck under my feet, but I do want to remind people that “being reasonable” doesn’t mean giving in any time someone demands that you accept their position as valid. It means looking at both sides and being willing to say, “I see your position, but you are wrong.” To make someone uncomfortable by accident is a normal human behavior. I’d say that how defensive someone gets when you challenge their behavior is a fair symptom of how insecure they are about what they do. The hopeful thing is that usually when they get really strident, that means they are about to give up, so we should “stay calm, carry on”, and see their accusations and histrionics as a sign that we are winning.
I look at the intense efforts being made in many of the fights for equal rights and would encourage people to see that those who are really strident are scared. They are afraid of what change will mean (hence the common tactic of suggesting unlikely extensions of what’s being suggested), and rather than pushing harder, we might try soothing them. Not backing down, but helping them to see that their fears are overblown, and counterproductive. As we win, we can be kind, and not gloat or become the worst of what we disliked in them. A man who insists that he must dominate a woman is probably afraid of being dominated if he doesn’t. We can show him that the alternative to domination is cooperation. It won’t work for everyone, but it may help a lot of men, and clearly, we have a huge need to reform this part of our culture.

While watching movies and such, I’ve been knitting. I came up with a theory that the pain in my foot may come from walking funny when I wear stockings with holes in them, so I started darning all the stocking with holes I found. Kat brought me the hand warmers I’d made her with skull and crossbones. The yarn was really soft- and they’d developed gotten several holes. I was able to fix one, but the other one has to be remade.
I’d better finish up. I have the New Normal tonight, and have to get Jane’s cover done. I’ve had to start over. Our family has embraced the wisdom of the Agony and the Ecstasy: “If the wine is bad, throw it out.” (We love the scene when the bartender breaks open the cask of bad wine and lets it flow out into the street. A bunch of the poor sots do come to drink it as it goes, because it’s free, but the taverner knows that the quality isn’t good enough. This reminds us that yes, you will always find customers for the cheapest stuff- but that’s not why you’re doing it.) That’s the truth with art too. I was well into painting it, but it didn’t matter how good the details were when the composition wasn’t working. So I had to start over. This time I’ll be doing two paintings, for the back and front covers, but the one I was trying had to be scrapped. I cannot tell you how much my knitting improved when I learned to just pull out however much was done to get back to and eliminate a mistake I’d made even rows and rows before. I’m not sure, but I think that maybe my lesson for this life time is learning to throw stuff away. (that chills me to my Yankee soul)

Your devoted,

“Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?” Richard Bach
“Here’s the test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.” Richard Bach
Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?
Richard Bach

Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?
Richard Bach

Can miles truly separate you from friends… If you want to be with someone you love, aren’t you already there?
Richard Bach

“Nobody comes to earth to dodge problems, we come to take them on.” Richard Bach

14 Harry Potter stamps 2D9671997-harryletter-
PS. I am really very excited about the Harry Potter stamps. The Booklet has 20 different image from the movies. I got a packet for each of the kids, but would love to use them to mail stuff as well!

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