What a difference a week makes- last week I was excited about our first crocus. This week the garden is full of hyacinth. I was told at some point that once a bulb was forced, it wasn’t going to be useable in the garden. I suppose they mean that it won’t come up and look the way that the bulbs “are supposed to” look. Ours don’t either- they look like they look- because they are in clumps, some have fewer blossoms on the stalk, and that’s OK. The smell is amazing!
I think I actually prefer the less perfect ones- at least when they aren’t all alone in a vase the way the forced ones are (and they smell amazing too, so I’m cool with that). But I also prefer the lacey look to forsithia when it’s exploding like fireworks, rather than the mass of yellow in the close cropped hedges where more blooms crowd onto less stalk. It does look “normal”- for Winchester (which is where I first encountered them), and other built up areas. But I think the long strands with scattered blossoms look beautiful, and wouldn’t want to force mine to make blossoms closer together. On the other hand, it feels like they are awfully early this year. I tend to assoicate forsythia blooming with May Day (and violets). It just seems a bit too early this year. Will we have lilac mid-May and not for Memorial Day? Will the roses bloom in May? I try not to see this as a sign of climate change, but simply as a sign of New England weather weirdness. Goodness knows there’s enough of that! We’ve had daffodills for Saint Patricks day before. I think they are just trying to catch up!
The weather has been really warm- in the 90s many days, and not going much under 60 at night (although today it seems like a new, cooler system is coming in).
This week I tried an internet experiment where you mark a square on the floor, and in theory your cats will be drawn to sit it in. Our cat ignored it (as they did with cucumbers, which are supposed to make cats jump). On the other hand, we discovered that marking an area with tape on the floor makes it difficult for the humans who feel a need to walk around it. Perhaps we have encountered these markings in too many shows which tell us where we’re allowed to put up our tables. At any rate, it made it difficult for us, so we pulled it up.
Or we may be just highly stressed. I know we are all exhausted. I get tired more quickly, and it takes longer to recover. I suppose the good news is that I feel sufficiently better that I feel I should be able to do what I consider a normal schedule. I don’t, but I feel that I should. I wish we didn’t feel guilty when we don’t meet our own inflated expectations. When I was a mother of young children I learned that kids can cry for pain or hunger or attention or fear or just being tired. We are having a lot of crying from just being too tired to deal with the world lately. It’s sad.
Thursday the girls went to over to the local Blood Drive, and once again Kat’s hematocrit was too low. Since then I’ve been serving lots of beef, in an attempt to feed her blood up. (Willow doesn’t mind either.) I did sadly, as I was transfering a roast to the platter, have the pan fall and so the kitchen floor got some oiling, and we had a lot less gravy than I’d hoped to have. It’s nice to have a wooden floor that can absorb the grease (at least some of it). A plastic floor surface will latch oto the grease, but not absorb it as such, and gains no benefit. Let’s face it, this wood was probably cut and milled in 1850 (maybe 1851), and could use some “moisturizing”. I like living in an “organic” house.
We are also switching to “organic flour”, which means flour where when the wheat was raised, they didn’t put pesticides and herbicides on it. Our bodies are so powerful at detecting minute amounts of odd ingredients that we seem to suffer from even trace amounts of stuff we can’t imagine would hurt us. And we have to deal with to learn that just having overt symptoms doesn’t mean we aren’t healthy. There is a reason diabetics watch their blood sugar- because their system is already damaged. They can’t handle the stresses that a healthy body could, and we DON’T KNOW how close we are to system collapse in many cases. The big problem in our culture on cleaning up the toxins, is that no one seems to want to worry about them until they reach crisis levels, because, focused as we are, oén the bottom line, the question is “ask not how much you can do for your country, but how much money you can make.” Maximizing profits means not “wasting” money on making sure the system is sustainable, and making sure that you don’t have to clean up your own mess, passing on as much cost as possible to the consumer, and anyone else. This is like waiting for the roof to leak before doing any maintenence. But as with that analogy, it’s seen as better to simply rip the whole thing down and start new than save the old structure through making sure it stays strong. As long as we can’t “Prove” that there’s some problem that doesn’t exist whenever farmers DON’T put Round-up™️ on their crops to make it easier to harvest them, we can’t get Monsanto to admit that they shouldn’t tell farmers it’s perfectly safe to do it. For some years we’ve tried to find a population that hasn’t got DDT in their systems to use as comparison to the rest of us, and they can’t. It’s spread too completely. We can prove that it affects the endocrine system in nearly infinitely tiny amounts, but not enough to make a legal case about it. At any rate, I’m convinced that with the number of problems we have, every stress we can reduce may prevent pushing us over into crisis.
While the girls were at the blood drive, I took John to see the Transformers movie, which was the one to which he was especially looking forward when we asked him to pick a movie for his birthday. His birthday balloon is no longer quite spherical, but it’s still up, so I guess we can say we are inside the period of celebration (although I know it’s pushing it).
Over the weekend, we went out to Michaels, I wasn’t finding a canvas for the new painting, and Willow had a 70% off whole purchase coupon. Sadly, when we got to the counter, it turned out that that sale only went until noon. I feel this is a little sleezey of them, nearly bait and switch, but luckily, the canvases themselves were on a 60% off sale, so it was still a good buy, just not as good. I think that since they’ve figured out to have the computers do this computation of various percentages on different items, they are perhaps using it too much. Or not. I still have to wonder how much the canvases are worth if they can normally price them that much higher and still be able to reduce the price that much.
After we got back the girls went over to Avi’s so she could shop for Easter treats for her kids without having them along, and I was about to sit down to fb and rest, when Robert (our mechanic) called. He also sells firewood, and months ago he’d offered to sell us his off-cuts, since they will fit in our stove better. That involved taking the seats out of the van and putting a tarp in and going over to get them, so we hadn’t gotten to it yet. At this point he was trying to get his yard cleared for next year, so he wanted us to come that afternoon. So we did, although we didn’t like it. I’ll admit that $50 for a third of a cord of wood is good, and it’s good hardwood, but my hands are not as strong as they “should” be. I tend to think of the symbolic aspect of illnesses. (For example, is it any surprise that in a world where we constantly strive for growth that our big problem is cancer, which is nothing more than uncontrolled growth?) I have been having to have John open jars for me, and I keep dropping things because my hands won’t hold onto them. “I’m losing my grip.” to put it symbolically. I am trying to learn from this.
The poor Caravan was not thrilled to be loaded with wood, indeed we stopped loading short of what would fit when Robert judged that the springs were holding their maximum, and we drove home the back way so I could keep the speed down to 30 or less. We then immediately unloaded it to give the “old girl” a rest. One of Willow’s tail lights broke, and now she’s thinking that given the cumulative problems with her car, rather than replacing the gas tank, she should just get a new truck. So she’s truck shopping and planning on going for a car loan to finance it. We are going to have to. I hate to think about it, but we are (whatever else we might tell ourselves) in the genteel poverty catigory. No amount of education or pretention is going to change that we, like the vast majority of Americans, are living while putting off one bill to pay another. I think the mark of being in the middle class is when you can start saving for emergencies instead of simply have them flatten you. It would be so great to not have the stress of wondering where the next blow is going to come from, to be able to save, to put away money for the kids college or retirement. We talk about health care being a right. It’s not a right. It’s not an entitlement. Throughout history poor people did without health care and had permanent disabilities, did without food and starved and died. It’s simply a good investment in the country to keep people working at maximum efficiency- not sick or starving or freezing to death. It’s in the same category as wouldn’t you rather live in a country where literacy is universal, or nearly so, and wouldn’t you rather live in a country where people are healthy? This is just common sense.
So AFTER we got back, then I got to check my fb. There was a post I’d shared about a doctor getting arrested for performing FGMs (trigger warning: female genital mutilation). Remembering, as younger people don’t, that before Roe vs. Wade, there were still abortions, but illegal ones were more likely to result in infection and other problems. It’s never a question of making it illegal making it go away (although the UN favors illegalization), only making it less safe and available. I suppose one could argue that making wife beating illegal doesn’t make it go away, but reduces it by making it unacceptable socially, and I can accept that arguement. But I wonder if the doctor weren’t simply figuring that it was better to keep it safe and maybe he could talk them into a lesser level of surgery. Certainly current anti-abortionists believe that forcing doctors to inform women about alternatives to abortion will reduce the number of abortions. Also, aside from safety, there’s the comfort question- when I was having children, doctors did circumcisions without anesthetic. I sure hope they use it these days, and would hope that they’d use it for one of these procedures, and frankly, unless you are Jewish, or a have a specific medical reason, I don’t approve of male circumcisions, much less the far more extreme versions involved here. As you might expect, there were lots of responses. I was a bit disappointed that most didn’t seem to read well enough to see that I was against FGM- I was only calling for more thought being put into our government’s response to it. If these women want it (which we will acknowledge may fall into the “pass on abuse” model), just making it illegal isn’t going to stop them. They’re going to do it as they do in Africa with broken glass, in unsanitary conditions, and the more extreme forms (removing the clitoris). It’s a pretty horrible thing, and I think we can, perhaps, convince them that this is part of their culture that they can adapt when they move here, although they can wear their head scarves as a sign of their faith and culture. But we can’t simply punish them if we catch them doing it, or punish those who are trying to help them. I would like to see the depth and breadth of the problem looked at better, not just have a knee-jerk “Ick! We don’t do that here!” response. We do a lot of stupid dangerous stuff here, and if we want to stop doing it, we need to look at it honestly.
Time for a subject change! Monday we went out to Mark’s to help him continue to dig out Bruce’s old office so he can use it. The girls were also going down to Costco to pick up their prescriptions, so I asked them, if they could, after they were done there, to come give us a hand. Given the shape I’m in lately, all the heavy lifting and carrying falls on John which makes me feel a bit guilty. They did come over, and helped wrestle a long table and several racks and desks downstairs (until both cars were full). The room still isn’t quite done, but after all, Bruce had years to get all that stuff in there! Anyway, on the way home we stopped at staples to exchange the CO2 canister for the soda stream, and I saw a cool set of pens for $10, and got it. It’s got a neat stand, which I liked. But when I picked a design in the coloring book that had teeny tiny spaces (because these were gel pens, meant for writing), I discovered something else. All but six of the three dozen pens (those were neon), are either sparkly or metallic! Neat! I have to admit that I love sparkly stuff.
Maybe I don’t have to- I could pretend that I don’t but it would be silly. When I was in Junior high, I wanted to be better than the jerks who put me down as a small town kid. I wanted to prefer classical to popular music, and indeed, I already enjoyed some classical music, having been exposed to it. But my great love has always been musicals, and I’ve come to accept that. And even as a child, I loved the sparkly stuff- and still do. I have to admit that seeing the ink glitter as I put it on the paper makes me unreasonably happy. My mother knew I liked sparkly. That’s why she got me the black jacket with colored rhinestones to wear at her funeral. She also got me sunglasses with rhinestones all around the edges (I am afraid that’s one step too far, which for me is saying something!). But at least I am now at the age where if I wear the sparkly stuff, people will just figure I’m a weird old lady, and I can live with that.
Steve came up to visit on Sunday. I fed him some egg salad (did you know that the week after Easter is National Egg Salad week?) and Ham for dinner. He also enjoys watching me cook so I indulged both of us and made some hot cross buns and a cake. I have been intending to make hot cross buns for nearly a month, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Sadly, the yeast didn’t respond well this time around. I think it was edging on the border of “too cold”. They did eventually rise, and came out around quarter past nine, as Steve was going home. They were absolutely delicious. I used the organic, bread flour from Bobs (we’d stopped at Job Lots to get some, and got both pastry flour and high gluten flour, and 2 other kinds, since we couldn’t find Organic flour in Market Basket), as well as organic sugar, milk, & eggs. So they are fairly guilt free. I have no idea if the currents were organic, but I did pre-soak them.
I also made a Black Forest Cake. I’ve been thinking about it since March 28th, which was Black Forest Cake Day. Whipped cream, fruit and chocolate cake? Nothing wrong with that. It did seem a bit fancy schamancy, but what the heck? Then at Job Lots I spotted a can of Sour Cherries and had the final ingredient, so why the heck not? We liked it pretty well, but want to try it with raspberry jam instead of sour cherries. I expect that would be better in our family view. On the other hand, I think maybe the point of the cherries is to protect the whipped cream from being squeezed out between the layers. What I hadn’t realized is that the cake is also soaked with kirshe syrup. Kirshe (which we don’t have any of) is apparently a Cherry Whiskey or liqueur, which is mixed with a sugar syrup, because god knows the cake isn’t sweet enough on its own! (sarcasm font required). I haven’t got the hang of not having cakes rise more in the middle, so I cut off the rounded tops and used one of them for a third layer. Since it was curved, I’ll admit that the decorative cherries did have a tendency to slide off the top and down the sides. But it did taste good. It’s worth having again.
I found a recipe on line that suggested that if you didn’t have kirshe you could substitute cooking down a cup of strong coffee with the cherry juice to make the syrup. I was a bit dubious, but it worked. I suppose it doesn’t hurt that both Steve and I are fond of tiramisu. (Ah the things our parents didn’t have the chance to love!)
Kat and I were talking about the line that “Well behaved women rarely make history” (I’d remembered it as “accompish anything important” and was rather cross about the way importance is measured, but at the same time since “History is made by stupid people”, I shouldn’t be surprised. I think doing good on a local level is important.) That’s where the sig quote came from this week.
I feel I should be accomplishing more, but Willow explained to me that at this point I’ve got enough energy to do one thing a day, and I shouldn’t assume that I’ve got enough for two things a day in me. She has learned the discipline of CFS and I can learn from her.
Tonight I am managed to not have a topic for the New Normal, and thank goodness for Thor. Mostly we talked about paganism and how hard it is to get respect when you have low numbers, and your faith isn’t in the same pattern as the one that’s defining what it believes is necessary to a religion. Do you become more like the thing you left, because it wasn’t meeting your needs in order to get the respect that you want, when they don’t respect anyone who isn’t like them? It’s a conundrum.
And what have I watched this week?
The most important thing I watched was I finally finished Birth of a Nation. I’ve heard about it for years, how much impact it had (like , or Silent Spring). It took me a while because, first of all, it was three hours long. Also, I couldn’t do anything else at the same time, or I’d miss not only the speech placards, but the nuances of what was happening. Let’s face it, in the silent movie era, they conveyed most of the story by looks and actions. They could be subtle, and often were. It was very much told from the point of view of the upper class whites. At one point some ex yankees protect a fleeing southern family from the black militia who are trying to capture and kill them “united again in defense of their Aryan birthright.”. Another brilliant moment is when the women are sewing KKK outfits for the men and they claim that although it was death to have one, and they made 10,000 of them, not one woman betrayed the men for whom they made them. In another scene, one of these noble women throws herself off a cliff rather than marry a colored man. I have to say that it really looked to me like most of the colored (“mulatto”) characters looked to be played by white actors with very bad blackface. It actually even looked like some of the black characters who were played by blacks, were wearing “blackface” makeup. They also have a great scene in which the northern man heading up the Reconstruction is supporting the new law allowing blacks and whites to marry, until he hears that it is his daughter that he admires, and suddenly his position reverses, showing how hypocritical he is. There’s an action scene where a young white blacksmith goes into a black tavern looking for the man who chased the white girl over the cliff, and holds off about ten black guys all by himself, in a marvelous silent movie brawl (until he gets shot). This original Klan wears helmets with long spikes on top- rather than the pointed hoods of the modern KKK. The music was great- both folk songs like “My Old Kentucky Home”, as well as classical tunes like the Ride of the Valkyries. At some point John commented from the next room (when they were playing The Hall of the Mountain King- “When they get to the end of that music, something exciting is going to happen.” Yes, that’s how it works. I am glad to have seen it. I wonder what a similar movie would look like portraying the heroic struggle in the 21st century of Southern white familes fighting for their faith against the unfair laws forcing them to submit to unholy abominations like mixed marriages? Since there are still people out there who believe that gay and interracial marriages are horrible, it would find an audience, but would anyone else be willing to watch it? Yes, I think that if there’s a major popular film going around that supports your feelings, it is going to encourage you to act on them- even to lynching, which was portrayed as an appropriate response to the girl’s suicide. Whether it would have more or less impact than having the President express support for your ideas is a question for scholars.
Another thing I watched with distinctly good music was the first two discs of the show Grimm. Grimm is your basic cop show, only with supernatural beings, generally on the concept of weres. They look normal to most people, but the hero’s family can see the animal within, so he can tell who they are. Still, they do a fair job of making it clear that there are good ones and bad ones. In the pilot Nick meets a clockmaker who’s a “Big Bad Wolf” sort. Except that he’s into pilates and playing cello and making clocks; he’s my favorite character. Apparently his abilities come out (Slayer-like) when his previous relative dies, and as she’d neglected to tell him what to expect (although she left some books, weapons and charms) he has to go to the clockmaker to get explanations of what’s going on. Some of the music they used included Sweet Dreams are Made of These (the clue that helped them identify the kidnapper), and a flash mob of YMCA (to cover a murder in the chaos), in one they had Danse Macabre. Clearly their taste is as eclectic as mine. I have sent for the next discs.
Kat and I watched (some of) the first disk of the Dracula (2013) series. It was so totally not worth watching. Good, I haven’t got time to watch more. I caught another James Bond with Timothy Dalton, The Living Daylights. It was just what one would expect. I’m glad I introduced John to the series. There are a pile of discs from Bruces office of movies he recorded from TV. I’ll be sticking them in while cooking, with no expectation of bothering to finish anything that doesn’t catch my interest. Bruce had rather eclectic tastes as well, the first one I tried was Drive me Crazy (I think) with the girl who played Sabrina the Teenage Witch. It’s a light romantic comedy, like many of the movies I got from his library when Mark was chucking them. I figure there’s nothing wrong with “watch Once-ers”. And I hope I can spot and avoid the ones that are “I want my hour back” and stop watching, since they cost me nothing.
The #1 Ladies Detective Agency on the other hand, was wonderful! My only regret is that that they only had one season! The characters were marvelous, the plots great. It was marvelous seeing people portrayed where their happening to be black was totally not part of the equation. It’s sort of hard for that to happen in modern American stories. It’s available from Netflicks. If your library doesn’t have it, try watching it from them. It’s really heartwarming. (She may be a detective, but she’s not a car chase and gun type, but rather a “I really need to know what’s going on” solver. I was very amused to learn that Beauty Pageants are a popular Botswanan entertainment, and the clips of wildlife were lovely. I wish they’d shown us one with ladies with traditional figures; certainly Precious was both big and beautiful, (and they really had to work at making Grace not gorgeous). That’s something I watched that I both enjoyed and am glad I watched it (as opposed to Birth of a Nation, which I’m glad I watched, and while I could appreciate the art, I can’t really say I enjoyed it.)
I also read this week. Perhaps more than I should. I have a comfy bed, and with that and a comfy book it’s hard to motivate myself to get up and wash dishes, clean, and paint. I finished two books this week, the kids book The Witch Family. The most striking thing about it for me was that even when I was done I wasn’t sure whether I had read it before or not. I suppose if I did it would have been nearly sixty years ago, and it was cute, not particularly powerful. It was very 50s. I read That Day the Rabbi Left Town practically in one sitting (or lying in my case). It was the last book in the series, and I’m a little sad about that. But other authors continue to write their series, and I can read those. I found that Linsey Davis had written a short story Vesuvius by Night, which I got on Kindle. Today I drove Kat to her appointment and brought the kindle along to read it, but fell asleep in the car, and didn’t finish it. I think next I’ll read the next Flavia Alba books- but how far have I gotten? I remember what happened, but not the name of the book it was in. I think I’m on three- or maybe four. Time to skim.
In non- fiction, I’m continuing The Autoimmune Epidemic, which is full of distressing tidbits the kids don’t want me to talk about (especially over dinner), and probably neither do you. I’m enjoying Traveling between the worlds: conversations with contemporary Shamans, which contain interviews with shamans from all over the world. I was particularly pleased with a perspective shared by Serge King, that in primitive cultures one of the hardest things for a shaman in training to do is to learn to imagine things that are not. Since the modern world has surrounded us with TV and movies and such, we don’t have a problem with that. Isn’t it nice to think that there is some advantage (other than hot running water- my favorite)!
I want to make a correction: When I was talking about the book American Nations last week, and wrote of the Yankee Utopian ideal as puritanical Christianity, (and the Republican Senate as wanting a “Christian” system where they would be allowed to treat the poor as slaves), a Christian friend pointed out that that behavior isn’t Christian. I agree. I should have put the world Christian in quotes (as just now) to show that it was as far from real Christian ideals as it was from the version of Rome the old south wanted to recreate. I am not sure that the goals of those who are brandishing their “Christian” label like a club, and want to legislate the rules based on their world view are very different from the DAESH; both base their views on an interpretation of religious virtue, and (I think) believe that the world would be a better place if they could just get everyone to go along with their system. They both have huge blindness to the harm that their system would (and does) create. Think about the Southerners convinced that their “darkies” were happy in their slavery. “Look at how they dance and sing!” That reminds me of the joke from Cold War Poland: A guide was showing a tourist the impressive government buildings and said “You must be very proud of thes monuments.” and the guide replied: “Yes, we must.”
I wonder how many other indications of support have that tinge of hysteria, and how many simply are the result of people who are so afraid that the familiar is more comfortable than something new. At least with a strict set of rules you don’t have to be constantly vigilent to try to guess which way to jump and what isn’t acceptable at any given moment. I think this contributes to national insecurity right now, because Trump’s behavior is so hard to predict. I think a lot of his supporters probably thought that the Republicans would bring in a world of order and predictability, not one where this narcissist would use the Mother of All Bombs to prop up his sagging approval rating. What a waste!
Enough for this week! If I fell asleep in the car, clearly I’m not sufficiently rested, and tomorrow I get to finally go to the eye doctors!
“Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History” (title of 2007 book by Laural Thatcher Ulrich, also attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, Marilyn Monroe, and Anne Boleyn. So I looked it up on the internet, and Jason DeVillians attribues it to the author of the book, and mentioned some (uppity?) women: “So she has written about Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton from the 19th century women’s movement; Harriet Tubman and other African-American women; Betty Friedan, Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King for their 20th century contributions.”