The Luxury of Enough

The water heater’s pilot light igniter crapped out yesterday. As I type, the replacement part is on the way. By this evening, Hubby will have installed it and we will have plenty of hot water for showers and dishes.

As I scrubbed myself with a washcloth and cool water at the bathroom sink this morning, all I could think about was how fortunate I was to have running water and how pleasant it felt to be clean as the apricot scent of the soap floated around me. All I have to do is turn on a tap and there it is.

I thought about how running water would be a luxury for a big chunk of the world’s population who have to haul water several miles a couple of times a day just to be able to cook, clean, and drink.

And as I pulled on my shirt and pants, I pondered a big question: when did being comfortable stop being enough? When did running water, utilities, a roof, and appropriate clothes cease to be plenty?

There doesn’t seem to be a clear answer on that. Every generation had a little more, did a little better materially than the one before. Case in point: back in the 1930s, a woman usually had a good dress for church or special occasions and an everyday dress for the rest of the week when her life was focused on home and child care duties.The odds were pretty good that she’d made it herself since ready to wear clothes were pretty pricy. If she had one of the acceptable jobs for women back then such as teaching or nursing she might have another dress or a uniform, but little else.

Another case in point: portion sizes in older cookbooks frequently serve six decently. Nowadays, they would serve four. Another case in point: I bought a bag of organic sugar the other day. Not that long ago, a teaspoon counted as a serving contributing 15 calories to the day’s intake. The bag listed two teaspoons as a serving at 30 calories.

Between portion creep and not being as physically active it’s no wonder people run on the chunky side these days.

Be that as it may, after World War II the costs involved in production and transportation of material goods dropped and filled the market with less expensive offerings. Consumers made up for the austerity of the war years with a collective shopping spree.

According to my best recollection, consumerism leveled off in the ’60s and ’70s somewhat when the counterculture took hold. And then came the 1980s with faulty trickle-down theory economics, tax laws, and policies favoring millionaires and its obsession with affluence over comfort. Remember “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous?” And the oft-quoted line from “Wall Street:” “Greed is good.”

Uh, no, it is not.

It’s put the planet in peril and caused economic hardship for families who would have been in great shape financially back in the ’70s. It laid the groundwork to send jobs to China to produce even more cheap goods that end up in landfills.

What, then, can we do? I feel like I’m preaching to the choir, but anyway…

1. Educate yourself. Currently I’m reading Bill McKibbon’s Deep Economy. It questions the perils of “growth” and “more” versus the desire for “better” provided by bolstering the local economy. Also check out Frances Moore Lappe’s EcoMind for thoughts on strengthening communities and coming together for the greater good. For more thoughts on consumerism, cruise over to Youtube and check out Chelsea at The Financial Diet. She’s barely thirty but she is one of the wisest people out there when it comes to financial education. Chelsea also draws on life experiences working at organizations frequented by the mega-wealthy to illustrate her points as well as showing that you can have a nicely appointed living space without mortgaging your soul to do so.

2. Practice lagom. Say what? Lagom roughly translates from Swedish as “just right.” Not too much, not too little. Just the right amount of whatever it is you are purchasing. Or not. Do you really need another white sweater when you already have five and several still have tags? Think about it…

3. Teach the young ones–and maybe the not so young ones–how to consume wisely. Not just durable goods, but media. Get them to question the goods and services being pushed in ads. Encourage them to ask themselves if they want to make a purchase because they really need it, or to fulfill some hip and trendy notion?

4. Think about your viewing choices. Especially when it comes to shows that normalize poor taste and dodgy financial choices. Like the one about the sisters whose last name starts with a K. And the train wreck known as “Sex and the City” where the main character is always in credit card trouble. Not even John Corbett and a Brittany could salvage that for me.

Apologies for getting off track. However, why do you want to encourage the production of that sort of dreck? Don’t. Get a good streaming service. You’ll be happier in the long run and so will the planet.

5. And finally, be grateful. Keep a gratitude journal. Again, I know I may be preaching to the choir, but it helps to open your eyes to what you already have.

Maybe what you have isn’t quite what you want, but if you look around, you might find that you have what you need.

Mick, if you and the boys could do the outro….

The Days It’s All Too Much

Oakley went to the vet’s this morning for his biweekly laser treatment and Adequan (helps his body produce synovial fluid) shot. We like going there. He gets love and pats from the front desk ladies. One of the ladies escorts us to an exam room and makes sure that he has a blanket to lie on so his tummy doesn’t get cold. We wait, and one of the techs comes in to take him back to the treatment area.

And I get fifteen to twenty minutes of peace and quiet. The room I usually wait in has a view of a farm field and train tracks across the street. It’s pleasant to watch corn grow and trains chug their way to their destinations.

Then the tech brings him back; I settle the bill at the front desk as the ladies give him another round of pats and hugs, and we’re off.

And then we return to the outside world where it’s not so tranquil.

In the larger world, there was the shooting at the Highland Park, IL Fourth of July parade. I don’t know which horrified me more: the actual shooting or the decision by CBS to run the Macy’s self-congratulatory celebration of that holiday that night. If that didn’t raise the bar for tasteless and insensitive programming decisions, I don’t know what did.

And the ongoing issues with the right wing creating havoc in people’s personal lives via the courts.

And wondering if my daily phone calls and emails to my elected reps in reference to an assault rifle ban and getting certain SCOTUS justices impeached for perjury will do any good in the long run.

And the assassination of Japan’s former prime minister Shinzo Abe on Friday.

Oh, and the one that really put me into a tailspin this morning: an interview on You Tube from France 24 (their answer to CNN) with a Cambridge research associate who believes that the consequences of global warming will trigger off the downfall of society as we know it.

Tuck all that aside, deep breath, smile, and deal, if possible, with the smaller world events and challenges.

Such as supporting my sister. I text her almost first thing in the morning to see how she’s doing as she manages my brother in law’s multiple appointments with his oncologist and cardiologist as well as home visits from the physical therapist. He’s stable on both fronts, praise to the Mystery. Still, I find myself jumping when the phone rings at unexpected times.

And supporting my brother. I talk to him a few times a week. He’s having a hip replacement next month. He, too, is in a caregiving position as he manages my sister in law’s diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Their kids are local and good about helping out, but casseroles will be made and delivered when he has his surgery.

Hubby, meanwhile, is in the last pushes to get his mom’s house on the market before interest rates get any crazier. He’s had more than a few days where he’s been running around as if his hair’s on fire. We’ve also had a lot of conversations about going to Ren Faire this summer in light of COVID and the Highland Park incident. Extra patience has been called for.

In the middle of all of this, there’s the issue of coming to terms with Oakley’s aging process. He’s going to be 12 in August and can still bounce around at day care, but still it hangs over my head. Will his life span err on the Great Pyrenees side (12-13years) or on the hound side (14 years)? His arthritis is responding well to the shots and lasers, and his tummy is pretty stable right now. More subtle things are happening, though, like his more frequent and longer naps throughout the day, and in the last few months he’s displayed anxiety when I’ve tried to leave. Like to the point of blocking me at the door while making pathetic vocalizations when I’ve tried to go to yoga.

The yoga studio is well established. It’s not going anywhere, so I’ll be back when I can.

In the meantime, can anything be done about any of this? Even the effort to create contingency plans feeds into the anxiety. Meditation and yoga, my two standbys in the past, aren’t doing much. I can’t walk as much as I want to due to Oakley’s anxiety preventing me from leaving him alone and that his hips can’t take more than a 20-minute walk at a time. He doesn’t do well in heat, either.

So I carve out small pockets for myself such as train watching at the vet’s. Finding classic cartoons on YouTube helps as well. Reading back issues of “Renaissance” (now defunct, unfortunately) and “France” reminds me that there will be a world beyond this one.

In the meantime, I need to get busy doing my share of the groundwork for it.

Readers’ Digest and Things Not Found at Home Depot

The incessant itching and pain drove me to the eye doctor’s. After ten days of thinking that it was an allergy or possibly foreign matter from Hubby’s frantic woodworking* and trying every home remedy that I could think of, I went.

I’d been treated at this clinic some years ago for a corneal ulcer. I’d let what should have been an uncomplicated eye infection go on entirely too long and, well, it was not pretty.

The doctor who treated me then, however, was. He looked like Henry Cavill.

Not wanting to ever go through that again, Henry look alike or no taking care of me, I called.

The receptionist was able to get me in the next morning. The doctor who treated me this time was kind, gentle, almost apologetic as she infused this dye and that one into my eye to help her see what the heck was going on. The pinkeye test came back negative. The next question: “Did you have chicken pox?”

Picture this: Lansing, Michigan, 1975. I’d spent an afternoon picking sour cherries from the bushes in our back yard. The next morning I had a headache, the first one I remember having. I could not move, and didn’t until my father started yelling at me to get up and get the laundry going.

After I made the long trip to the basement and wishing that my head would explode, I noticed red spots and a couple of blisters on my arms. As they multiplied, all I could think about was the stories that Readers’ Digest specialized in back in the ’60s and ’70s about people who developed cancer or became disabled or contracted some kind of rare disease but were examples of courage, grace, and dignity. When they died, loved ones paid tribute to them in glowing terms.

Dad, however, was firmly convinced that it was just allergies and that I needed to stop being lazy and why are you faking it and what is wrong with you and…

I knew in my heart that I had a tropical disease and needed to be strong as I faced the end for the sake of my siblings and grandparents and friends. I hoped that my sister would use her degree in English to write a tribute to me that would make people who didn’t know me grieve, and that my father would live out his life paralyzed by grief and riddled with guilt. And that he would scratch his cheeks and wail in anguish.

When I came down from my room the next morning looking like a walking pox and running a fever, he conceded that yeah, a run to the doctor’s was a good idea.

And the doctor gave me oral antibiotics and a cream to put on the lesions, both to make sure that I didn’t get a secondary infection. Told me to stay out of the sun.

That was all.

Dad didn’t exactly apologize, but he was a lot nicer the rest of the day.

Back to the present.

“Yes.”

Doc took a look in my eyes. “Well, you have shingles. And they went into your eye.”

The virus that causes chickenpox goes into your nervous system and takes a nap. The little b*******s wake up, frequently in response to stress (juggling the needs of an elderly dog; supporting Hubby as he tries to get his mom’s house on the market before interest rates get any crazier; supporting sibling caregiving for their respective spouses; everything that’s been in the news…yeah, I’ve been a little nuts under the surface here) and give you an itching, burning rash. Mine was localized, but I’ve had reports from friends that have had much more widespread affected areas.

Doc explained that while I was at the “butt end” of this as indicated by the lesions that had scabbed over, and that the symptoms had started about ten days before, she still felt that a course of an antiviral medication was in order because of the itching.

Very well. Yes, please.

And she observed, “You must be awfully strong to live with that kind of pain for ten days.”

I thought that it was a bug bite or a particle from Hubby’s woodworking for his mom’s house. I didn’t feel that bad, either. Despite it all, I hauled my butt over to my precinct and voted in the state primaries on Tuesday.

So the game plan right now is a course of antiviral medicine, check in a week.

And not to let anything go on for ten days again.

Preparedness

Gas prices by me are pushing $6 a gallon. They’re using $7 in other parts of the US.

Couple the rising cost of transportation and shipping with supply chain issues caused by the pandemic and the state of affairs in Ukraine and we are looking at the potential for some serious shortages this summer. We’ve already had problems with infant formula. There’s rumblings and ructions about shortages of wheat and other grains. When I made a fast run to Aldi yesterday, I noticed that the meat department selections looked a little thin.

Pains in the posterior, yes, but not as much of a pain as being in an area where you’re at risk for famine as the UN has predicted for this summer.

That being said, how does one prepare as best one can for shortages? I grew up in Michigan. With the way the winters are there, a person learns very early to keep supplies on hand.

Stock up on essentials such as TP and nonperishables. Buy local when you can. Make good use of the freezer. Please remember to help others do the same via your local food pantry. Conserve gas by planning routes and efficient errand running, wise appliance use, and so on. You know. We’ve discussed that before to death, so let us move on to other considerations.

Last week I expanded on these a bit by figuring out what I could make at home in the event of a shortage or if I ran out of something on a day when a run to the store is not on the docket due to weather or gas prices, Prius or no. I experimented with making oat milk in case of dairy shortages thanks to inspiration from Carolyn over at https://the1940sexperiment.com. (She’s started a challenge of a month of living on UK WWII rations–swing by and check it out as well as her YouTube channel.) Can you make bread? There’s a ton of no-knead no-rise recipes out there. Just make sure that your yeast hasn’t expired like the pack I used last week had (croutons, anyone?). Could you plant a garden, even just a few herbs? Make jam? Make mayonnaise? Not that hard. Really.

We have a well, but keep bottled water on hand in case of a power failure. Neither Hubby or I are on any prescription meds, just supplements, easily found at the local health food store. I request refills on Oakley’s meds from the vet’s a week to ten days in advance to make sure we have them and that they have them in stock as well.

We’re in for some potholes and speed bumps this summer, but we should be able to work around them with by applying some ingenuity and creativity.

And a pan of Carolyn’s recipe for Duke Pudding wouldn’t hurt, either.

You Knew This Post Was Coming: Thoughts on the Platinum Jubilee

Tomorrow officially begins the Platinum Jubilee celebrating 70 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. I will likely have the TV on more than I want to admit, and I will likely just keep a browser window open to the BBC to watch events unfold over the next few days.

Alastair Bruce (the historical consultant for and sometimes footman on “Downton Abbey”) will provide analysis and commentary for ABC, but I will keep the sound off until he appears. I’ve enjoyed his programs about the social history of the Edwardian era, and I enjoy his thoughts on the Queen’s Jubilee, but having them chopped into tiny bite-sized pieces and stuffed between this piece of filler and that heartbreaking feature and the ubiquitous five to ten minute blocks of commercials annoys the life out of me. Therefore, I will bide my time between his reports in quiet.

Yes, we have tea. I’m drinking good old Tetley British blend these days. With milk if hot. Makes a great cold infused glass of iced tea, too.

Yes, we will have some kind of special treat to munch on as we watch the events from London. If you need some inspiration, head over to YouTube and look at The Royal Chef’s channel. Darren McGrady cooked for the Queen and for Princess Diana and her sons. In addition to giving clear, concise directions for and demonstrations of his recipes, many of which he made for the household, he shares stories about the Royals. Nothing vicious or gossipy, but ones like the time he was chased by a pack of Corgis and almost tripped over the Queen. And mistaking Prince Philip for the gardener. You get the idea. Just some lovely, gentle fun.

Which we–the big collective “we,” not the Royal We–need. Yes, I understand that not a few UK citizens are unhappy about taxpayers’ pounds going to foot the bill for the celebration. Yes, I understand that the monarchy is in need of some updating. However, after a half-year that so far has brought us a war and inflation topped off by a week that included a school shooting, we need a bit of an escape and a reason to celebrate.

And if a 96 year old lady who’s held her job for 70 years doesn’t give you cause to do so, well, I don’t know what to say.

The Couple in Seats E8 and E9

You would have really wondered about me if I hadn’t gone to the new “Downton Abbey” movie, wouldn’t you?

Anyway, Hubby and I went on Tuesday evening. We had the theatre almost to ourselves. One other couple sat way up in back, so we nearly had a private screening. We probably weren’t on our best behavior with laughing a little too loud and groaning audibly over some bits, but had the theatre been crowded, no one would have noticed.

The movie was enjoyable: bittersweet, but it would involve a huge spoiler if I told you about that part. A couple of Molesley moments (“DA” fans will understand); fantastic music; delightful costumes; mysteries and intrigue; sparkling dialogue; and the characters acting with civility and grace for the most part. Well, one vase was smashed, but forgivable in the context presented. Without going into a lot of detail, several story arcs reached their resolutions, so I would be surprised if there were a third movie. Pleasantly so, but still surprised.

The last time we saw a movie in the theater was, not surprisingly, when we went to see the first “Downton Abbey” movie the first weekend of autumn 2019. It seemed fitting to see the next and possibly last installment of the Crawley saga in a theatre as the world starts again in the wake of the pandemic. (You’d better believe that we wore masks, slim crowd or not.)

We just don’t go to movies that much. Most of our favorites are available via Netflix for international selections or are in our DVD collection. Neither of us have any interest in the comic book based ones that seem thin on plot and thick on special effects. We don’t like gore or gratuity. Finding a movie that we can agree on based on our personal tastes (his tastes are more mainstream than mine, including romantic comedies; mine run in the arthouse/thoughtful to think about vein) is tantamount to building a bridge across the Grand Canyon.

If you couple that with having to drive about 20 miles to get to a theatre that shows something that we could agree on, it’s no wonder that we don’t go to movies very often.

While DVDs and streaming make it easy to keep up with the ones we do like at home, going to the theatre does add a layer to the experience. Since you’re not at home, it feels like more of an escape from reality.

That escape was needed after the news of the last couple of weeks that focused on the worst that humanity can bring to the table. After our magical escape into the world where everyone was well-mannered, polite (for the most part with one glaring exception), and civilized, we walked out into the story about the latest school shooting in Texas.

I wanted to go back into the theatre and just stay there while I watched the movie on repeat.

I didn’t. I couldn’t bring Oakley in with me, so it was a no-go. Plus I had to email my elected reps.

Which I did with the extended version of the score from the TV show playing in the background. It’s up on YouTube–a two-hour loop enhanced by the sounds of nature that one would find near the castle.

As I tapped the keys, I thought of the stories from the Great Depression of the people who spent their last dime on a movie rather than on bread just to get away from it all for the length of a double feature. I don’t blame them.

And, especially after Hubby said that he really liked going to theatres, we might just have to invest some drive time and a little more digging to find our means of escape as well.

Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, Don’t Drive Days, and Selfishness

The current situation in Ukraine calls to mind my parents’ and grandparents’ stories of life during World War II. While no one served at the front (Dad was a medic at an Army base in Brazil that had been built when intelligence caught wind of Germany’s plans to invade and set up a base near Rio de Janerio and move north from there; then he was transferred to a rehab center for injured soldiers in Hartford, CT*), they did what they could at home to help the efforts.

My paternal grandma was an air raid warden in the small city of North Adams, MA. She made sure that all the houses on her block had their blackout shades drawn tight so no potential bombers could target the town by its lights. Why would the enemy target a bucolic slice of New England? Sprague Electronics, a Department of Defence contractor, was within walking distance of Gram’s house.

When she wasn’t checking for glow escaping cracks in window coverings, she walked to her day job of teaching third grade and complied with food rationing protocols.

Meanwhile in Lansing, MI, my maternal grandma complied with the food rationing protocols, too. She gardened, saved grease, collected cans and rubber for repurposing into armaments, and whipped up good solid meals for herself and Grandpa and their cats and dogs. By the time the war was under way, my mom had moved to Hartford, CT* to teach music to soldiers whose eyesight had been altered by injuries sustained in combat. Had she still been at her teaching position at Michigan School for the Blind, she, too would have enjoyed Grandma’s meals.

The suggestions and guidelines were laid out during WW I in order to make sure that the soldiers at the front had enough to sustain them through their battles. Meatless Mondays, one of the guidelines, has returned to favor in an effort to combat climate change. That’s cool. Wheatless Wednesdays may be making a comeback soon since Ukraine is one of the biggest wheat producers. Home gardening has taken off since the ’70s and birth of “Mother Earth News.” While I don’t see gas rationing coming back any time soon, having a day where you walk or take public transportation or just hang out at home would help conserve fuel in any event. We know that after the workplace shifted to people’s homes due to the pandemic and gas prices dropped along with pollutants floating about in the air. Not only is it good for the environment, but if it impacts oligarchs in cahoots with a certain wannabe dictator of a certain former imperialistic country, I’m in.

I shared this with Hubby over dinner one night. He grew up overseas with a different spin on US history than what I had been taught. Well and good, but not going to work now, he observed.

Why’s that?

Because people are selfish, he said.

He’s not wrong, but having it put that bluntly startled me. If the pandemic has revealed anything, it’s how devolved and disconnected we’re becoming as a society. People who won’t get vaccinated or wear a mask and harass those who do; the ones who drive huge SUVs and oversized pickup trucks just because they can and not because they need to (like my friend who drives a small one of the former because of her late husband’s mobility issues and my sister and brother in law who have problems getting in and out of their sedan these days) for reasons such as for work.

I’m sure that there were selfish people floating around during World War II as well. Not as blatant since social media wasn’t around to document their behavior, but with human nature being what it is, they must have been out there.

And no amount of arguing will change their minds. If someone is that bent on detrimental behavior, keep the focus on yours, but report theirs to authorities if necessary and lobby for legislation to bring down some legal as well as karmic consequences.

In the meantime, Gentle Readers, consider reviving Meatless Mondays, Wheatless Wednesdays, gardening, and a day a week when you don’t use gas.

And keep shining on as the excellent examples that you are.

*And Dad and Mom walked past each other in a hallway and one thing lead to another and now you know how my siblings and I came about.

The Decline and Rebirth of Civilization

I can’t remember the last time I watched the Oscars all the way through. Once the parade of fashion disasters on the red carpet is done, I tuck my judgmental streak back into storage and stream something.

The moment that I wish that I had seen live was Lady Gaga gently and tenderly supporting Liza Minelli as she had Tony Bennet last year at his final concert when they presented the Oscar for best picture. And Her Ladyship acknowledged that 2022 is the 50th anniversary of the release of “Cabaret,” one of Ms. Minelli’s best movies. Let’s celebrate that.

Let’s ignore the other incident of the night for now. It’s taken up too much bandwidth.

Somewhere along the line, violence, rudeness, and meanness became the order of the day. Granted that there were the Three Stooges, but their antics were not much worse than the cartoons of their time period.

Maybe it’s a function of my age, but the trend towards violence and cruelty as seemed to accelerate in the 1980s. November 26, 1989 was the precise moment when bad behavior was normalized was the night that “America’s Funniest Home Videos” premiered. The show, sort of a prototype for YouTube, started out with truly funny content involving pets, a baby lip synching the Frank Sinatra version of “New York, New York,” and kids being spontaneously adorable and funny.

Less than a month afterwards, “The Simpsons” premiered. The next morning one of the receptionists at the counseling center where I worked called me while I was on break. Could I talk to a reporter from a local paper who wanted comments about the show?

Not having seen it, I declined. One of the other counselors had watched it. They took the call. I don’t remember what their comments were, but my curiosity had been piqued. I knew that it was an animated show about a family but little beyond that.

I tried watching it the next week. I don’t think that I made it to the first commercial break before I switched to another show. The rudeness, stereotypes and general grossness irredeemably put me off the show for good.

Meanwhile, back in the “AFHV” department, the quality and level of humor in the videos deteriorated pretty rapidly. Setting kids up for trauma via parental pranks or videos of them getting potty trained; people getting physically hurt or humiliated; fat jokes….you get the picture.

It was also then that sitcoms turned away from anything resembling wit and sophistication and towards well-written verbal abuse.

Art and society mirror each other. The ruder and more insipid the TV shows grew, so turned real life.

And then we had the administration prior to that of President Biden. Suddenly, anything went in terms of assaults, rudeness, confrontation over anything.

I would like to think that since last January when President Biden took office it’s become a little better, but this past Sunday night made me wonder. You do not make someone with an autoimmune disease the butt of a cheap joke. You do not run on stage and slap someone, even if it’s from a misguided sense of chivalry. Let them know that their behavior is unacceptable, yes, but use your words, use your nonviolent actions to convey the message. Why the Pinkett-Smiths just couldn’t have walked out or confronted Mr. Rock afterwards, or just stared at him in stoney silence is beyond me. Mr. Smith not only assaulted a colleague, but set a precedent for other entertainers getting attacked on stage.

This is not good.

Another arguable contribution to this mess of a society may sound simplistic, but it’s viable: a lack of emphasis on good manners. Have you read Lynne Truss’ Talk to the Hand? No? You should. Her theory is that in the ’60s, manners were tossed out the window because of their association with being “posh” or belonging to the upper socioeconomic classes. While some relaxation of structure was probably overdue, the need for using “please,” “thank you,” “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry” hasn’t lessened with time.

We don’t need to go full frontal Amy Vanderbilt with placements of cutlery and glasses at the table. But if we can remember those four phrases along with Lady Gaga’s elegant kindness and respect to Ms. Minelli, we might be able to start dialing things back a little.

The Small Things Add Up

It’s another cold and windy day here in the soybean field. Technically, it’s spring, but March didn’t get the message. The season of pleasures of the hearth continues at least through this weekend.

The gratitude for simple pleasures including hot tea, a warm house with a backdrop of classical music, and puppy snores has increased exponentially in light of what’s going on in Ukraine. My first hope is that the refugees will become reacquainted with them very soon and never have to endure a cruel and bloody uprooting again.

My second hope is that small actions taken by people worldwide both locally and globally will add up and increase pressure on whatever entities may be supporting the Russian president. I will not speak his name, but I will encourage you to do this: go to your favorite search engine and see who the parent company of the manufacturers of common household products are. If Nestle and Koch Brothers come up, time to look for alternatives. Those two corporations are refusing to leave Russia. We’ve had the talk about different brands of TP since finding out that the one we’ve used the better part of our marriage was made by a Koch subsidiary. We don’t buy anything Nestle, so we’re good there.

Other things you might do:

Conserve energy and resources. It doesn’t have to be anything huge or fancy like buying a hybrid (and I am pleased to report that milage with my Prius has been better than expected) or an electric. Just small things like combining errands, dialing the heat down a degree, limit oven use, share rides, and so on. If you were around for the gas shortages in the ’70s, you remember all of this.

One of the big factors in the current president of Russia being in power: oligarchs who made their fortunes through petroleum. Every degree you dial down, every trip you shorten has an impact. Might be as small as if they were getting their toenails cut, but it will add up eventually.

If you’ve heard your parents’ and grandparents’ stories about how they made it through the Depression and World War II, take heed. Can you mend clothes (do a search on fast fashion and how many resources that sucks up) and plant a garden, even if it’s just tomatoes? Can you think about ways to adjust your cooking habits such as eating vegetarian one day a week and going without wheat on another? Ukraine is one of the world’s big wheat producers. I don’t know if we’re going to be up against shortages because of the war, but it’s best to get some recipes on file using alternative grains.

Donate. World Central Kitchen https://wck.org and Doctors Without Borders https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org are on the ground in Ukraine and bordering countries to help refugees and residents who were unable to leave for one reason or another. Also check with Ukrainian Orthodox churches in your area to see if they’re taking donations of durable goods such as clothes, hygiene products, diapers, and so on to ship over there.

Contact your elected reps. Let them know your views on renewable energy; on getting rid of Reagan-era legislation promoting the completely unworkable trickle-down economics that keep the rich in power and created billionaires who are apathetic to others; on support for Ukraine. I’ve been emailing or calling mine nearly every day.

Practice self care. Always a good idea, and especially now that we have a comic book villain who wants to take over the world. Remember to exercise, enjoy favorite treats in moderation, and find distractions from the news. (I will never judge you for your YouTube rabbit holes after finding Nate the Hoof Guy . Soothing voice, the problem with the hoof in question is resolved on average in about 10 minutes or less, and the cows look very happy afterwards.)

Remember that “crisis” and “change” use the same character in Chinese. My wish is that we use this time to make a switch to renewable energy and to do a lot of reflection on what we need rather than staying stuck in the ’80s mindset of overconsumption.

No one knows how or when this war will end. It will, eventually. And my greatest hope is that we emerge a better, stronger society based on renewables and equality because of it.

The Trajectory of Hope

Sorry that it’s been so long, Gentle Readers. Between technical difficulties (running an antiquated version of my web browser that this platform had outgrown as well as finally getting a new internet service provider) and life being what it’s been…well, you get the picture.

In the wider world, well, there’s the war in Ukraine. The mixed blessing of the internet has brought us news via France 24 and DW, news services from France and Germany that stream and broadcast in English via their websites and YouTube. I’ve limited myself to two five minute check ins a day to put the brakes on despair for Ukrainians and anxiety over Eastern Europe.

Of course I’ve called and emailed in support of whatever can be done for President Zelenskyy and his people. I’ve lighted candles, prayed, visualized angels protecting the land. Donated to https://www.doctorswithoutborders.org and to World Central Kitchen https://wck.org. Tried to contact a local Ukrainian Orthodox Church to see if they were taking donations, but I’m guessing that they were too swamped to respond.

I can do nothing else.

Well, maybe there are a few things. Won’t impact this war, but thinking about ways to cut petroleum use further and supporting efforts to tax the 1% might help.

I can choose to take 15 minutes a day to contact elected officials, to repost articles of interest. That I can do. That might make an impact.

But there are things that are totally beyond my control. We’ve been hit with another one of those in the smaller world.

It started back in October. My brother in law–sister’s husband–was hospitalized with what initially presented as heart related symptoms, then had some alarming blood counts, then had more problems with weakness, then more blood tests and a bone marrow sample, then two days before Christmas Eve came the email that started with a reference to the oncologist.

Multiple myeloma. Not curable, but manageable even though the treatment has required extra tweaking because of the heart issues (this is the brother in law who had quadruple bypass surgery about three years ago). He’ll be around for a while.

Still, the news torpedoed the holiday season.

Pick up and move on once the shock wears off. Find something that can be done, something to focus on rather than allowing myself to get drawn into a downward spiral.

Over the winter I started seriously crocheting. It’s a form of meditation that helps to clear my mind of the constant swirl of thoughts as well as giving me a sense of control over a little something in light of the news of the day, both in the small personal and wider impersonal worlds. So far, I made a cell phone case for Hubby, a little protection from keys and coins in his pockets; a scarf that’s half a row from completion thanks to running out of yarn there; and another scarf in progress.

And I do yoga, of course. I’m getting to the time in life where movement is not an option if I want some kind of mobility as I grow older. It’s good to do even a short practice on days like today.

We have a below zero wind chill that argues with the bright blue sky over which season it really is. We hunker, even though the three of us are done with winter and are ready to move on to spring. Supposed to be nicer tomorrow and back up around 60 next weekend.

In the mean time, we plan. We hope with crossed fingers to get up to Ren Faire this year, of course. First on the agenda, though, is expanding the garden. Hubby will be building a couple of more raised beds when the weather breaks. I’m watching a lot of gardening videos on YouTube and reading seed catalogs for inspiration. I’m visualizing my hands in the dirt and herbs growing along side the first tomatoes. Could this be the year I try potatoes? And the year that Hubby learns to like zucchini? It might be.

It will also be the year that I plant sunflowers, Ukraine’s national flower. With each seed there will be a prayer, an intention, for freedom and peace.

And as they reach towards the sky, my hopes will grow with them.