Happy Oatmeal Month!

Goodness! Where did the month go‽ (Same place every month goes, only with this one rather than accomplishing anything, I sort of read the days away. This wouldn’t bother me so much if it were elevating reading, but no, it’s “snack” level reading. Fun while I’m reading it, but will not stick with me.  The weather has been cold, so far the “harsh winter” the Old Farmers Almanac warned about has mostly been in the middle of the country, not around here. Many days we haven’t even fired up the woodstove!
It is also Hot Tea, Soup, and Slow Cooking Month, and Hobby and Creativity Month, (and Get Organized and Be Productive Month to which I stick out my tongue!). Frankly, other than making sure that there’s a meal on the table every night, the only thing I actually accomplish every day is posting the holidays. Although I still find the topic fascinating, it takes more time than I think it used to take, and I don’t like that.   I continue to toy with the idea of writing a book about them. Holidays is a huge category. It used to be ‘holy days’ but now seems to be any time off, or set aside to recognize something. Awareness Days are now the biggest category, and anyone seems to be able to make a holiday (probably because of the internet), for example I found Stay in Bed Reading Day, and Bring your Flask to Work Day while looking up the images for January 31st. Anyone can make a suggestion, whether a business group or a TV show, or someone on the internet. Think how “Talk Like a Pirate Day” took off, and inspired others like it.  I wouldn’t mind spending an hour thinking about holidays, but when it takes more, I think I should rethink my commitment to doing those posts. On the other hand, I spend far more time doing recreational reading, so I’m not sure I shouldn’t curtail that first.
That does remind me of one thing I accomplished: in one of the books I read recently, The Hexorcist, the supernatural girl lives in New Orleans, and the local color is thus even more unknown to me than the ones set in Michigan or New York City. Being me, not only did I call up Google Maps to figure out where the action was happening, I also started obsessing about the pastries they kept talking about. All my life I’ve heard about beignets, so off I went to the internet, got a recipe and tried them. OMG they are REALLY good. I had to make another batch the next day just to make sure that how easy and successful the first run was was not a fluke.
I am pretty sure it wasn’t a fluke, so now I have to figure out how often I can make them. Most ’special’ foods are for special occasions, like birthday cakes, specific cookies I only make for Christmas, pies at Thanksgiving, or the once a year batch of jelly donuts for Mardi Gras. Beignets are too good only to make when I happen to read about New Orleans, but too rich to make too often. I suppose I make pancakes and waffles casually simply because they are a nice breakfast or supper dish, whereas many people think they are hard and only have them for special occasions. A lot of that probably has to do with the tools you have. I have several waffle irons, and don’t feel that making pancakes or waffles takes a particularly large amount of time or effort. (We are FINALLY nearly done with the third open bottle of maple syrup we found in the back of the refrigerator. Since that discovery we may have been having more pancakes or waffles than usual.)
We are having a lot more comfort food these days: Mac and cheese, meatloaf, sausage and mash (mashed potatoes), spaghetti…. The other day when we got home from Birka I was ’too tired to cook’, so I made oven fries and steak, which takes nearly no effort. Wash the potatoes and chop them into large pieces, toss them in oil and seasoned salt and bake. We were pretty battered by the time we got back that third day, and to be honest, I did up a whole bag (not sure if it was full), but I figure we may have eaten three to five pounds of potatoes between us.
While we enjoy it, Birka is brutal physically. I think it’s harder than Pennsic. The merchants are all in a big box made of concrete, steel and glass. Precious little ventilation (luckily, we are near the door- although the breezes through there can be freezing, and carry smoke from the nicotine addicts who are banished to the parking garage. I started to take a “watch us fill up” series of pictures, but forgot after the first two. The first one will show what it was like when we arrived at 2 on Friday, the “brute squad” was still setting up the tables in the Expo Center. I have been there for events where they lay down carpet and hang drapes between each vendor’s space. On the other hand, that was $400 (years ago) for a single table 10×10 space. At Birka, the tables are $20 each. So we deal with the echoing, and people each speaking up to be heard over everyone else. For me, it’s painfully loud, and then there are the concrete floors which get to both feet and backs. And with a thousand people in one room, there’s almost always post-Birka colds that have been shared. Clearly it’s an amazing event or we wouldn’t put up with that.
We are there as merchants, and also Kat is “staff”, since she runs Golden Key, the free loaner garb service. She does this for every Barony event, but usually she only has 4 bins of garb: Men, Women, Youth, and Child (with a box of hats, belts, etc., a clothing rack, and mirrors). For Birka we go over to storage and get another 15 or so bins of garb, and that all goes up on the coat racks the hotel provides. Kat divides them roughly by size and gender, gives advice so people can tell what pieces would make them most happy, and when they come back, she sets them aside for washing (and occasionally repairs). They are all garb people have decided they don’t want any more. When I ran Gold Key in Carolingia 45 years ago, we had the kids clothes Gillian had grown out of, and the large men’s clothes that Geoffrey donated every time he changed persona, and very little else. She has hundreds of garments. The ones that need to be laundered are clearly the ones people liked enough to borrow, so they provide the core of what goes out for small events. (There are two big bags and a “coffin sized” bin waiting to be washed as soon as she gets to it.) She’s been asked if she isn’t worried that people will not return the garb, but she replies that she’s never left an event with less clothes than she came with. People are constantly dropping off their surplus. After all, the SCA is in it’s sixth decade, and this provides a great way to pass along clothes that you don’t wear any more because you’ve improved so much, or they don’t fit. (It’s fun to see some of our old garb go by on strangers.)
It takes some intense setting up by hundreds of merchants and lots of staff to do this event, but it does happen. We’ve started eating at the restaurant at the hotel after getting mostly set up and before the doors open at 7:pm Friday. Sadly, the nice little pub they used to have is closed, now they have a bar with tables, where it’s so loud that I was often visibly flinching (twitching?) at the volume. We had sandwiches and fries (their menu changes do not meet with our approval either), but Willow and I had craft beer to take the edge off the aching back and feet.
Seven to ten we were off and selling, although I’m not sure that Gold Key was technically required to be open yet, people still came because they like to get first pick. The Heralds and some other services are in with Kat, but she’s always the last one who gets to call the hotel to have them lock up.
I was also getting a scroll in to the heralds so the Soothsayer’s Guild could be proclaimed to be active again. I’d meant to hand copy the Charter but decided to save time by simply printing it from the Guild website. Apparently the previous guild mistress hadn’t sent in the proper paperwork, so they decided we weren’t active. We were having meetings, and classes, and doing projects, but if they don’t hear about it, I guess it doesn’t count. Frankly, I remember getting to events and having a pile of award scrolls set in front of us, then whisked off after we’d signed them without our really getting a chance to admire them. We were at the mercy of the heralds and other organizing officers, and I can only imagine that 40 years later it’s even worse. We did check with the Queen and were good to go, so Saturday I showed up at court. I’ve always thought calling everyone in an Order up to welcome a new member was a waste of court time, so I planned to go alone then call the guild members to stand up where they were and say “I’m a soothsayer!” like the last scene in Spartacus where all the rebellious slaves say “I am Spartacus!”. Only it didn’t happen. Apparently the Kingdom Seneschal (main legal paper pusher) said that we have to meet the current standards for a guild, not just the ones from AS 10, so I didn’t hear that it was cancelled until after court. Oh well. I still did get to see the elevation (like knighting) of an acquaintance I knew in the EarthSpirit group, but who I didn’t know was in the SCA. He’s a fighter and artist, and since I don’t watch the fighting anymore and avoid competitions even more than I avoid courts, I didn’t know he was an SCAer. He and his twin brother are apparently Caius and Cassius, and rather than a scroll, he was presented with a mosaic- I’m estimating about 30×70 inches, mounted on something light enough to carry, but WOW.
Speaking of Wow, I didn’t get to the fashion show, but I saw some pictures of it afterwards. If I had saved the link, I’d share some here. I think the one that impressed me most was Odysseus- (the theme this year was mythology) Quintius wore a boars tusk Mycenean helmet, made by some not in the SCA, but it was incredible. Dierdre went as Penelope- carrying a portable (not a full period) loom to unpick every night while delaying her suitors, a different Odysseus with a matching outfit presented with her. There was also a ball (don’t ask me how they got those banners up!), and an art show I saw pictures of later, and many other things I missed because the event is huge and has tons of stuff going on. Frostalf (Tom Hart) came by with a 5 year old (I think she is) who he’s been teaching to fight who competed for the first time in the children’s lists, and he was ecstatic about how well she’d done the moves he taught her.
Other people who came by included Morgan Kuberry with family and men at arms. The kids didn’t recognize me, but we see them so rarely, why would they? It occurs to me that it would be boring to list the people I talked to because, first, there were so many, and second, you may not know them, so it wouldn’t mean much to you. In honesty, I much prefer talking to friends when I can actually sit down and TALK about things, rather than say ‘hi’ on the fly, and there’s so much going on at Birka that’s pretty much all you can do.
I apparently didn’t pay enough attention because I was surprised again when I came back after court to discover that the Merchant’s Hall was closed. It closed at 6, which doesn’t even allow people to dash back in after court to grab that last thing they’d been thinking about. I understand that the merchants are allowed to start selling Friday evening 7-10, and that they get to sell again on Sunday form 9 to 3, although they can, and do, pack up and leave at any point during that time (probably depending on how long a ride they have to get home), and since garb isn’t required on Sunday, it doesn’t look or feel much like an event. But 9 to 6 on the main day seems too short to me. Yes, the merchants need to eat too, but we can take shifts or make other arrangements. Birka is a selling event. Part of what bothered me is that Gold Key was open until 10 for returns, but didn’t need to be. Only one person still had garb out, so between 6 and 9:30 Willow and I helped Kat pack up and she was pretty much all done by the time the last lady came back to claim her shoes (left as collateral, and mostly because she didn’t want to wear sneakers with garb). This meant we could bring back the basic all-year bins Saturday night, and made it a lot easier to fit everything into the car Sunday afternoon. We, of course, stayed open until 3 because if people are still shopping, we’re selling.
Raye and Joanie came by on Sunday, so Kat got to see them. (It seems while we were there at 9, the “Brute Squad” had been up partying and weren’t up yet. Also the storage place didn’t open until noon. In order to be there by 9, we had to leave at 7:30, and that was much earlier than we usually get up- we grabbed breakfast at Dunkin Donuts. We also got Pizza for supper on Sunday. Willow kept reminding me to stay on the foam pads we got to go behind the tables. I’m sure that helped. Saturday I added more jewels to my linen gown (clearly it wasn’t heavy enough yet), and I wore it on Sunday. Willow played with our hair. I haven’t seen the back of my head recently and am quite taken with the salt and pepper stripes I’ve developed.
Eleven to twelve we had a Soothsayer’s Guild Meeting (whether or not we are a Kingdom Guild), and our “inactive” guild had over 30 people show up. Who knows how many would have made it had we been scheduled on Saturday, the big day!)
At the Great Northeastern War last year, one of the ladies brought cups and tea and taught tea leaf reading for the first half of the event, and I think that’s brilliant and we will now always have the first half of a meeting for actually divination practice/instruction,  and only talk projects and plans during the second half. This time Jane was there and she demonstrated the Seed Casting technique she learned from her grandmother. When she’d finished that she went right into Runes and gave them 15 minutes of that as well, although I’d never seen her do a reading in less than 45 minutes before and was dubious about it. One of the ladies filmed the demonstration readings and shared them live (one of these years I’ll learn how to do stuff like that!) and shared them on the Soothsayers Guild fb page. Lots of people were eager to learn the techniques, so today I signed up to teach it at Mimer’s Well in March. I have to say that I prefer teaching and doing soothsaying to trying to be organized, which is NOT something I’m naturally good at. For example, we passed around a sign up sheet, and I have no idea where I put it! This is how guilds get declared inactive! Luckily, I know the magic formula- deputize! There are lots of people excited to jump in and do the computer-y organizational stuff. Thank goodness!
Me? This week, (after sleeping most of the day on Monday) I started thinking about upcoming events, and checking to see my upcoming schedule. This weekend I am going to try to get to Lyrion’s bardic night- it’s local. Next weekend (my birthday) I’m teaching three classes at the Earth Spirit Feast of Lights, the weekend after (Valentines) is the Mensa Regional Gathering, and I’m doing two classes there, and at Birka I got one of the soothsayers to share a ride down to Deleware where I’ll be teaching, and probably confirming other soothsayers to ranks so they can confirm others. To the extent that our old charter made it hard for people to get ranks in the guild, (it needs revision, and we are taking this opportunity to rewrite and make it easier). I think I’m teaching Runes down there, and the Seedcasting in VT on the first Saturday in March. There is a weekend off in between thank goodness.
The lovely folks at Fertile Ground invited me to speak there (May Day) again, and while looking on my website for class descriptions, I discovered I hadn’t updated the Where I’ll be When page since 2016 (about the time I got Lyme, or as I think of it, “the year I got old”. While I love the teaching and researching and even the writing, I’m afraid the organizing part is not something I like. I don’t expect I’m alone in that. Another thing I discovered while trying to figure out my schedule is that at least according to their websites, two of the Pagan Pride Days we usually go to are on the same day this year. I get that. Sometimes you just need to get the site on the day it’s available. (We are STILL looking for one for this year’s CTCW, and until we do, things are sort of in stasis- which sort of goes with our theme this year.)
I have to say that I feel both appreciated and also a bit of imposter syndrome. Really, there’s nothing that says we really like what you have to say more than offering to pay for you to get there. I am a bit nervous about over extending myself. Perhaps I read because I feel there is no real reason to get up, and I’ll have more energy when there are things someone needs me to do. Or I may really simply have less energy because I’m older, and I need to adapt to that new reality.
Last June I saw the doctor and scheduled an “annual checkup”, which I spaced since it was for just after Pennsic, and I was not thinking well. When I rescheduled it was for this past Wednesday, and I am a bit worried that now I’m “in the system” they will start pushing me to try tweaking things. I now have an appointment for a colonoscopy- which I need to call Medicaid and find out how much it’s going to cost, because I know they want me to have it, but if they don’t want it enough to pay for it, tough. I also need to go get a bunch of blood tests, and maybe a mammogram. I haven’t had one since I discovered they didn’t work if you couldn’t get the ’tissue’ less than an inch thick, which there’s no way to do with my boobs. The new 3-D tomography is supposed to be accurate and non-invasive. I’m cool with that. I also go my Tetanus shot re-upped, and Dr. Q Says that since I don’t go out more than once a week, I’m at low risk and don’t need a flu shot. I don’t see what’s so hard about recognizing that you can think immunizations are a good thing, but at the same time think that they aren’t always dispensed with enough care and consideration of risk vs. benefit. This seems fairly obvious to me, but my goodness, any time the subject comes up on line you are thrown into one camp or the other and if it wasn’t on line it would be ‘daggers drawn’. Personally, I suspect that much of that and the Pro-life/pro-choice rancor is part of the Russian cyber attack to make Americans fight with each other and keep them from working together.  I got to fill out a Medicaid form that asked lots of questions about falling risk (Dr. Q pointed out that they are covering everyone from folks like me who are just starting to people much older, and that he has at least 6 patients over a hundred!) It also asked screening questions about smoking, drinking etc., and one very telling question about whether I ever run out of money for food before the end of the month. The very fact that they have to ask that question says so much about how this country is going. “The poor will be with you always.” is as true now as it was two thousand years ago, but when there are people with so much money that they need to hide it because they can’t spend it (and won’t invest it in people), it is shameful that we cannot allocate enough money to make sure that no one goes to bed hungry. More than that- malnourished. It’s not good economy to let the population be sicker than it needs to be. Keep people healthy, and it will save money in the long run.
I don’t want to get into politics, we have enough stresses in our lives, but as we are bombarded by it, we need to address it. I’m sure the people in Germany were not comfortable as they watched their neighbors get taken away. I’m sure many of them figured that they just weren’t informed enough to have an opinion, maybe those “smarter people” in the government knew better than they did that the Jews really were dangerous. So they turned their attention on getting food and dealing with the daily issues still pretty awful since the deep depression of the post WWI retribution. Or maybe if things were getting better for them they took that as evidence that the guys in charge knew what they were doing. I know that during the thirties we turned away lots of Jews who saw what was coming and tried to come to the USA. To be honest, most Christian US folk didn’t like Jews, (or Blacks, Asians, and they weren’t really comfortable with Italians, Irish and Catholics). So when we turned on the patriotic music and decided to go “Over There” again to kick more Hun butt, was it a case of “they can’t do that to our pledges, only we can do that to our pledges”, or did it just sound better to defend the victims than to press for political advantage? The last few days has been the anniversary of freeing Auschwitz. “Look at how good “America” is! How we save the world! “ But in movies, when we are getting patriotic, we talk about freedom, but we are waving flags and banging drums and pulling out weapons. We like excuses to beat other people up, and if we can pick up some loose change (or land, or tribute) while doing it, all the better. The individuals who join up and bleed or die may be responding to the call of “do what’s right to help others”, but that’s not what motivates the leaders. Right now we have camps full of people who did nothing but want to be Americans. The camps are making money for Trumps friends and every day there are more stories of children and young women missing from these camps, and all we do is say “oh, how awful!” But like the sheer noise in the restaurant at Birka, we are just being slammed by repeated blows that one at a time might rouse us to say “Hey, you can’t do that! That’s wrong!” But when they are coming not just daily, but hourly, you just want to hide and make the hurting stop. Just today we have the Senate coming out and saying that they don’t care about the facts, they will keep Trump in charge because he lets them do what they want, Britain left the European Union, Firemen and Policemen are fighting each other in the streets of Paris, Australia is burning again (and Siberia, and Africa and Brazil), wildlife and land defenders are being killed in South America, and this is just ONE DAY! What can we do? Only what we can, figure out personally without thinking about the overall situation where do we draw the line. What’s not acceptable. To me, it is not acceptable that once we have voted in someone who doesn’t care about the law that we have to leave him/them there until the next election. That’s what impeachment is supposed to be for. We just never expected such a large group to be in power at once who didn’t care about the law. We are in trouble. Even if they all poofed out of existence tomorrow, we’d still have to try to clean up the mess they’ve left, and there will be no poofing. I find myself thinking that if some others country or the UN decided to say “You can’t do that to those innocent people, and we are sending an armed force in to stop you” most of the country would suddenly decide that wrong or not, we were going to fight back to protect our country. How many of the Germans felt that way in the 40s?  It’s really disturbing to watch and see similarities between what’s going on now and what is in the past. It’s so much faster than I expected it to build.
Tomorrow I need to run up to the Lakes Region, Mark checked into the Nashua hospital and was transferred and so John and I took him his clothes and some books, but he didn’t think of his hearing aid, and so we need to go find that and take it to him. Mother always said being deaf was the most isolating disability, and feel guilty I didn’t whip it right up to him.
Liz told me about Erin’s baby shower. Her car wouldn’t start when she tried to go and she had to borrow one, and now she’s waiting for the birth of her first grandchild and wondering if the car will work or if there’ll be a huge snowstorm. She also told me a week or so ago that Trish, she told me in September had broken her foot, I think, had tripped on her crutches and broken her back, but is recovering enough that she’ll be retiring to work this month. I feel so out of touch!
Well, I did cover a lot about what I was reading in the last letter, and I haven’t managed to get this out before the end of the month (technically), so I think I’ll blow that off this time around. After all, the biggest effect my reading had this month was inspire me to make beignets, and that’s pretty cool. I read today that when you “read all night”, it reduces your retention. Perhaps that’s why sometimes when I’m reading a novel I can’t remember whether I’ve read it before. It feels familiar, but I don’t know what’s coming next.  Well, if you think of fiction as food for your mind, you don’t need to remember every meal you’ve ever eaten, you only want to enjoy it WHILE you’re eating it. Some good fiction stirs and inspires you, and there are always good quotes to remember. But maybe remembering the names of the characters and the plot points isn’t necessary. I know Mother never wanted to hear it.  Until next week:
Fond greetings~

Tchipakkan

“In a room full of puppies and kittens, people pay attention to the rattlesnake.” (if you find out who said this, let me know)