I was a fairly chilly week- quite suitable for April. At least at this corner of the year, while the temperature may be in the 50ºs, (as in November) we have lots of light (as much as in August) and that’s really nice. The trees are putting out leaves. I’m not quite sure whether what I’m looking at on the maple out back is tiny clusters of leaves unfurling, or blossoms, but it’s very pretty.
The girls and I are trying to walk a little farther every day, although (since we had a very sedentary winter and it’s uphill) we still haven’t made it a half mile each way yet. But, I suppose 2/3s of a mile (both ways together) is a start. We’re surely not going to start downhill and have to walk uphill on the way back when we basically turn around when we get pooped.
The garden is FULL of hyacinths from the many years of planting the potted ones spreading. Forsythia is beginning, although it’s “two weeks ahead” in Milford of where we are here on Pinnacle Mountain. South Lyndeboro’ is about one week ahead. The bleeding hearts are beginning to poke up, and we expect to see them leap up like knotweed, if past years are any indication. I have to say that now that the hyacinths are “naturalizing” they look so much better than a single one anywhere, even if they aren’t all “perfect”. I’m also impressed at how well they last as cut flowers- that I did not expect. We pick a few- thinning where they’re crowded, and put them in a vase- the scent is heavenly, although we had to take it out of the kitchen because it was overpowering the food smells. I also picked some of the daffodils that had gotten so tall they started to fall over under their own weight. But it’s lasted over a week, less well than the ones still growing, but still quite a while.
We’ve been talking about looking for getting a few laying hens if we can make a protective caged yard for them. Hens are a great way to turn kitchen scraps into eggs, and not too labor or cost intensive.
I expect the first thing you will want to know is: how Willow is doing. Pretty well I think. The pain started to go down the next day, and has continued receding. As she noted while in the middle of it, it’s really hard to figure out whether a new pain is just a new version of an old pain, or just another of the many and varied CFS symptoms, or whether it’s something you should be telling the doctor about. The problem with CFS is that it has so many symptoms, and they vary so much, that just about any of them would be what an internet search would tell you “go see your doctor” for, but the answer is always “oh, well, that’s something that happens with CFS” or “let’s do some tests to make sure it isn’t something else” (and then it isn’t. “that’ll be $500, please) At this point we don’t know if this ovarian cyst is something she’s had before and went away on its own, or if it’s just one of those many things that happy to our “lady parts”. She did have the recommended follow-up with a gynecologist, who turned out to be a man, but accepted her trepidation with good grace, and repeated the “it’ll probably go away on its own, let us know if it doesn’t” suggestion on
If she hadn’t gone in Wednesday, she probably wouldn’t have Thursday since it was resolving by itself, and we wouldn’t know. We are now collecting cyst stories from other people. I am actually very pleased that she did decide to check on something that was worrying her. I’m glad to see her worry about herself as she worries about us. One of these times it could be something serious disguised as another CFS symptom.
I have to admit I don’t think we’ve done anything interesting this week. The big project I’ve been trying to get done is the painting for Jane’s book cover. Sadly, that keeps getting put off while I do things like cleaning the refrigerator, or running errands, or other stupid day-to-day stuff that is SO not worth mentioning!
We’re trying to get ready to head down to Colonial Williamsburg. I signed up for it last year and time was running out. It’s one of those “time-share” come-ons. Ælfwine and I used to take advantage of them. We did buy into one, hoping to take the kids on vacations to exotic places, but when he changed employers, he kept losing that third week of vacation we’d planned to use on it. Finally we gave it up, which should make refusing this pitch easy. Basically they’re covering just about everything but the travel costs. We’ll be heading out Friday morning and spending the night with Joanne and Scott most of the way down, then get Saturday, Sunday, and Monday at the resort. [the picture is of Joanne and another actor portraying George and Martha Washington last week, at, I think, a shoe store. Who knows? She’s doing a lot of acting these days.] Anyway, we have to do the getting everything done that needs to be done before the end of the month, like the ad for the Pennsic Booklet (I’ve FINALLY remembered to put in a ballot for the Merchant Appreciation Award!) and getting the insurance waiver, and such.
I’ve been going through the accumulated mail, and it’s SO depressing. Since just about everything in it is junk mail, I have a tendency to put off looking at it until a pile accumulates, and then I find the occasional notice from Social Security, or bills from the dentist, or other thing that actually matters. But it’s one piece in twenty, and the rest is junk, or paper that just needs filing like bank statements. In this pile I found five returned Valentines cards. You can’t say that the Post Office didn’t TRY to get them to the people. But apparently a lot of the addresses I had in my Christmas card file from before the computer crash have gotten out of date. The cards themselves were a dollar a box, but I thought people would enjoy getting SOMETHING that wasn’t junk, and that was worth a stamp and envelope. I guess a dozen or so got through. I do think there should be SOME way to get people to stop sending you this stuff. Give a charity a donation ONCE and you get requests for ever! Buy something once and the company sends you flyers every month! I’m still getting mail for Ælfwine and he’s been dead for 13 years! I can’t get them to stop no matter how often I tell them not to!
I saw a meme(?) on the internet that said “My mind has too many tabs open.” and I think that’s a good analogy. I’m also thinking about how it is when you’ve been sick, when you get up you should really take it easy so you can recover, but you discover all the stuff that piled up while you weren’t doing it, and do more rather than less. The more I look around, the more I see that needs doing. Dad used to say “the harder I work, the behinder I get”, and that’s what I feel like. Every job seems to require five other things to be done before you can get to it. (and if anyone says the word “prioritize” I am going to crawl through the internet, or maybe your dreams, and give you an etheric SLAP!) It ALL is “highest priority”. That’s why everything that’s “for me” doesn’t happen!
My mode of relaxing is to update the holidays I like to post on my livejournal page every day. I have managed to get those scheduled ahead, queued until the day we get back. THAT stopped working a few days ago and I spent several days going back and forth with the help desk getting it to work again. Kat helped too. Finally it’s working again. Today I had to update May 2nd, because a new holiday has been announced: National Start Seeing Monarchs Day for the first Saturday in May. It’s kind of sad to think that Monarchs may not be around in years to come. I didn’t realize how endangered they are. I’m afraid that as we worry about the bees, the monarchs, the tree frogs, the whatever, we are losing the ecosystem because we are focusing too tightly. We can’t focus on the single problems to the exclusion of dealing with the big issue: the need for a few companies to make profit does not trump keeping the ecosystem working! The amount of water used by people in California is small compared to what is used for frakking, but they keep giving huge amounts free to the oil companies who use it then dump it again, polluting the ground water, while the people have to conserve. If we charged them what the water is worth, they’d stop using it!
Friday I “ran away from home” and went over to Wilton to visit with Lyrion and Raven for a couple of hours. They are so wonderful. He was looking for a left handed screw for something with wheels- apparently some manufacturers make left-handed screws so that they don’t unscrew themselves while the wheel is turning, and yet they are apparently hard to find. Lyrion also had some pink marshmallows on her counter- a mostly full bag. She’d used them to make pink ears for cupcakes at Ostara. But not only were they pink, they were Pink Lemonade flavored! “Can I take four home to show the kids?” I asked, and she gave me the whole bag. It’s hard to think about toasting a lemonade flavored marshmallow. But after duly trying them, the kids were equally uneager to try roasting. So what to do with them? Then it hit me: Rice Krispie Treats! We’ve taken to making them with cardomon or other “grown up” flavor variations. A lemon rice square didn’t sound wrong, and then Kat suggested adding dried cranberries. We tried them, and they were delicious! I also made a strawberry rhubarb upside down cake. I found the first rhubarb of the year in the store and thought I’d make a pie, then didn’t feel up to it. Mostly this is because when Kat can’t stomach anything else, she can still manage to eat fries, so I’ve set up the electric fryer the kids gave me for Christmas over on the rolling board. So when I didn’t get to the pie, I remembered how good (quick and easy) the rhubarb upside down cake in Food that Really Shmeks is, and made that- but I added the strawberries I’d intended for the pie. Sadly, it was really too sweet. Both pineapple and rhubarb are sour, so I think the batter (and maybe the sugar you sit the fruit in) are there to counteract that, but with the strawberries (which counteract the sourness in a pie) the cake was just to sweet. Learn from my mistake. Maintain balance.
This week I finished Daughters of Rome. It was pretty good, but I was annoyed when the author was playing up Vitellius’ excesses, she talked about his using the “vomitorium” for barfing after feasting too much. Anyone who knows enough to write a book about Rome should know that a vomitorium is the passages out of the amphitheater. What would one expect to find in a vomitorium? People (at the beginning and end of the day), otherwise programs, discarded snack leftovers, racing forms and receipts…. Having enjoyed The Crossroads Brotherhood, I started Tribune of Rome, the first book int Fabbri’s Vespasian series. I like Vespasian. I like that he was a practical man who survived and reformed Rome after the crazy emperors. I was probably pre-disposed to like him after Lindsey Davis but also, I like his face. He reminds me of Dad. It’s a good face. (Domitian had a weak chin.) I also finished up The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits, (short stories to give me an idea of who to read more), and The Lydian Baker. About halfway through the Baker got good, but I almost didn’t bother because the first half dragged so badly. The best part was the foul mouthed parrot Corvinus acquired that looked like his uncle Cotto (the consul. I was hoping they’d give it to him for a gift.) I have gotten thoroughly sick of Corvinus coming up with theories to try to organize the facts he’s collected so far. We know he does it, but I don’t need to hear it. It’s almost as bad as when the author withholds information until the reveal!
This week mostly I’ve been watching the first season of Mr. Selfridge. Boy, the BBC makes some really good television! I think the “worst” part of this show is that it is so tightly written that if I go into the pantry to get something from the refrigerator, I’m going to have missed an important plot point, and have to rewind. I also watched Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day. I admit I went into it with a chip on my shoulder because I loved the book so much and I’m not really fond of Carell or Garner. The family was also SO positive and upbeat I was really wanting to dislike them. But it was good. In the book Alexander is just having a rotten day of the kind ti which we can all relate. In the movie, apparently that’s “the story of his life”, and he wishes that his family could understand, and he gets his wish. The story follows them as everything goes wrong with their lives (the junior wakes up with a zit on prom day, and fails his drivers test), and they really have to work very hard to retain their up-beat attitudes. I liked that they do lose their tempers. (At one point the Dad has the baby and says “Fommy (Father-mommy) really wishes he could swear just now!” when things go badly.) I enjoyed it, I guess I have low-brow tastes. I also enjoyed Spy Kids 4. It was probably nothing special, but I liked that one of the kids had a hearing aid and they didn’t make a big deal out of it, and that the (now grown) original spy kids put in an appearance. Actually I liked all the spy kids movies, even while wincing at some of the jokes. On the other hand, I watched Bird Man, a big deal in the Oscars, and really didn’t care for it at all. It was confusing, and depressing, and I don’t need more of that in my life. The other day I was trying to remember the words to a Gilbert and Sullivan song, and having checked them kept playing the next clip on youtube so I listened to a whole lot of Iolanthe, Mikado, Pirates, and other of their operettas. I still remember the first time I saw one when I was about 13, it was amazing, then I went backstage with my mother, and all the beautiful fairies were middle aged women- my mother’s friends. I still love them. As an adult I’ve come to especially enjoy the way various productions update some of the political jokes, as in the linked clip above to When Britain really ruled the waves, where they toss in a verse that intones “and now the war on terror gives license to advance…. yes Britain faithfully obeys as Bush enjoys his glorious days!” and other bits. Everyone understands when they alter the line in “I’ve got a little list” (in the Mikado) to “the banjo [sic] serenader and others of his race”, (if they don’t just cut it, although “all people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face” is hard to let go), but I love it when they add other contemporary jokes into this clearly period- and yet absurd format. Anyway, I had fun, and I tell myself that singing along is good for alleviating depression.
I finished the “tidying book”, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, and I keep thinking about “what can I get rid of?” The kids are kind of getting into it too- probably because they know I have problems throwing things out. Our culture is so wasteful, I seem to feel that I have to save things just because no one else does, whether I want them or not. I continue to appreciate her personal and energetic approach to tidying. Now that I’m done I know that she didn’t cover any of the public areas of the house, and I’d love to see what she has to say about that. Another “problem” I have is that almost everything “sparks joy” in me. I love so many things! I’m sure you have noticed how easily excited about things I am. I’m not sure that being in a tidy place is going to automatically make you put things away, but having a place where things go is the first step, and getting rid of enough so that there’s room for what’s left makes sense. Certainly getting rid of the things you don’t like as much makes more sense than keeping them. I fear I may keep too many things because I don’t know where they came from and I’m terrified that someone is going to show up and say “I left my X here, where is it?” and I’ll have thrown it out. When we moved from Farmington to Winchester back in 1963 I’m afraid my parents threw out a bunch of my stuff they considered trash and didn’t want to pay for moving, and I never got over it. Never throw away something that’s not yours! can leave a lot of unidentified stuff lying around. Especially given that I know that things occasionally pop in and out of reality without human volition I should just get over it and chuck the things we don’t recognize.
I have started a new on-line course: Greek and Roman Mythology from the University of Pennsylvania. This one is MUCH more strenuous than the Sensuality and Spirituality course. This week they only had the couple of hours of video lectures and a quiz (no writing assignment). They let you keep retaking the quiz until you’re ready to let it go. I only got a 75, and would like to go back and listen to the lectures again to try to better it (if I have time). This unite was about what a myth is and included both what the ancients thought myths were, and what modern scholars thought myths were, and a lot of the questions were “which scholar presented a euhemerist view of myths?” or “Which scholar applied the word “mythos” to what the fabulae? I am somewhat tempted at this level of work to actually lay out the $50 for the certificate, but at the same time doubt whether any institution gives a damn about these on-line courses. I’m doing it because I want to know, not because I ever expect to get a degree.
Tonight I was hoping to talk to Selina Rifkin about Complimentary and Alternative Medicine on my podcast, but the technology went temperamental and I couldn’t get on. IF we’ve got it sorted out, I’ll be taking another run at it tomorrow at 7, but we’ll see. It’s got so many problems that the producer has told us we aren’t to mention them on the air, or he’ll pull the show from the archives! That’s right, if there’s a problem, don’t acknowledge and apologize for it, pretend it’s not there!
Riots- Here’s my cut on it. We have an ongoing problem with the police culture of “us against them” resulting in a few bad apples letting themselves indulge in totally inappropriate violence against whoever their personal prejudices target- blacks, poor, gays, and because the job is so stressful, the whole group has been protecting them because they know that the pressure is part of the cause. So the victims of the violence protested (not unlike the beginning of various civil rights movements). Then, sadly, because the police have accumulated riot gear “just in case” (and I can’t see that that’s a wrong idea), they brought it out because of the numbers. But being treated like an opposing army, the many people who’ve been victims got angry.
Last night we were talking about it at dinner, and agreed that while the occasional death in police custody grabs the headlines, if it’s anything like most statistics, they don’t count the hundred injuries for every death, and the thousands of people who live in fear even when it hasn’t happened to them yet, because they can see that the system puts them at risk. This is the real issue in the “black lives matter” campaign. I mentally combine this with the study that came out this week showing that children who’ve been bullied show major stress- like PTSD. Parents of kids who’ve been bullied know this. People who were bullied as children know this. The whole black community knows this. People who live in poverty, in a world where they are freaking criminalizing homelessness (someone has lost their home, and so the police destroy their tents to make them “go away” so people don’t have to look at them being poor?!) and even feeding the homeless- we all know this. So the victims are not the occasional people who get killed, but the thousands and thousands who live in fear of the guys who can get away with abusing them. It’s not that they abuse them, but that they can get away with it that makes it so infuriating! So when the police get helmets, shields and batons and gas up their urban attack vehicles (I don’t know if they did that in Baltimore, but I assume so since they did in Keene against a bunch of rowdy drunken college students), the victims of Baltimore took it as a declaration of intent.
I’ll admit that there is no excuse for even angry people to start stealing and breaking things, but I’m going to say that those are another “few bad apples” who need to be restrained. The media should stop concentrating on them, and look at the total situation. Many, many more of them are making a valid point peacefully. To concentrate on the criminals is to ignore the real problems that sparked the protests, and then riots. I read that there are people who are giving the Mayor grief over the use of the word Thug. Thug is a fairly new word, only about 200 years old in English, and has always meant violent criminals. I heard that there was a movement to “reclaim” the word Thug the way feminists and pagans reclaimed the word “witch”. Ridiculous. If you choose to misuse the word, or, like Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty “make it mean what you want it to mean”, that’s your problem. Sometimes words (like gay) change, and sometimes you just look like an idiot. Either way, the argument over words distracts from the reason for the conflict. Everyone is grabbing the item in the news and making it something about his or her own issue. (I suppose I am as well.) But if we let ourselves be distracted by the mistakes of the few, we’re not going to fix the underlying problems for the many, and that would be a sad thing.
We want someone else to do the dangerous jobs for us: police, soldiers, prison guards, but we refuse to look at what the job is doing to them. We refuse them the help they need to stay the good human beings we need in those positions. We should recognize that having that sort of responsibility is hard on the human psyche, and give them the support they need to deal with those pressures. We’ve gotten used to using the sons of the poor as “cannon fodder” in our wars. There are always more, and if it helps us win our political goals, it’s worth it. Not if we count the human cost. I’m not saying stop having soldiers or police, because I think we need them. I’m saying give them good mental health support. Let them be the guardians we want them to be, that they want to be. By employing them to do hard jobs for us, we should be recognizing that we owe them that support. Just as if you hire someone to do other work you don’t want to do- whether it’s cleaning your toilet, or growing your food, you should recognize that the work they are doing is of value to you, and you don’t have any God given right to not only make them do it without the recompense you’d want if you did it, but to despise them for it as well. The chances are that we despise them because we subconsciously figure that if they are willing to do it for so little, there must be something wrong with them.
THAT may be the problem with class systems. It’s OK to say that each of us is good at different things, and we can work together, but when we start thinking that it’s fine for some of us to have a lot more comforts simply because “that’s always been the way things are”, it’s time to think again. Some of the differences in intelligence and health and attitude may be directly attributable to the way we have treated those less well off.
In other news, I hope the Supreme Court does find for people getting married if they are willing to enter into the contract. Although the “defenders of Marriage” keep saying that historically it’s always meant “a man and a woman”, what historically it has meant is an economic contract between two families that’s been, in western Europe, blessed by the Christian Church (for the last 1500 years or so). But it was the signed contract that made it a marriage, and they are mostly talking about the common law situation that says “if you think and you act like you’re married for long enough, you are”, which actually argues more against their case than for it. They are trying to prevent people who want to create an economic as well as social unit from having rights that they enjoy, simply because gays make them nervous. Why? Because their acceptance undermines their monopoly on the “right” answers. Given how often “facts” change, I am surprised when anyone is certain of anything.
And I see Sanders is going to run for president. I am of two minds about this. I think he’s a heck of a politician, but I don’t want to see the other candidates twisting everything he says and running him down, and that’s what happens in a race. Also, given the current Republicans, I want to not split the democratic vote. All of them seem to be “religious right” and they scare me. What ever happened to the moderates?
Well, I’m off. Tomorrow, we pack and everything I can’t finish before bedtime is going to stay unfinished until we get back.å
Much love to you all!
“One good thing about being old: I’m too old to get “premature” anything!”
– Tamar the Gypsy