The Keeping of Hope and Faith in Strange Times

 

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

 

 

Just when it looks like rock bottom’s been hit, the current administration digs a hole and goes even lower. I’m not going to post the picture of Melania-Antoinette in her jacket with the graphic on the back proclaiming “I don’t really care” as she left her photo op  at one of the children’s concentration camps in Texas. Please Google it. I will not post her picture or say anything further  in this space to curtail the spread of evil.

I will tell you that yesterday’s act of casual cruelty shook me to my core. With a heavy heart and aching head, I shut off the computer.

Unfortunately, we live in times where we can’t go into lassis-faire mode about the news. The challenge is to stay as well informed as possible without events numbing us into apathy. How, then, do we pay attention without losing our minds?

  • Find a reliable news source, but limit checking it. I go to the CBC website a couple of times a day unless something such as a perp walk  or indictment breaks. I also like BBC and DW for their calmness and refusal to normalize the BS coming out of DC.
  • Read history books and articles. I find impermanence comforting, and I find the stories of how everyday people survived craziness inspiring. On my to-read list is The Fourth Turning (sorry, don’t have author info at hand). The authors stipulate that modern history runs in cycles of approximately eighty years of ascension and decline, but with each cycle, we end up closer to a just and equal society. The US Civil War (the declared one, not the one going on right now through bad behavior and social media) and World War II were about eighty years apart. We are about eighty years on from the beginning of World War II starting in Europe. The decline is happening, but there are signs that the ascension is on the way (look at how many young ones are getting involved, registering to vote, speaking out).
  • Keep an eyewitness journal. What’s changed in the last eighteen months? How has it impacted your personal world? Think about Ken Burns’ films and how the letters and diaries featured gave names and faces to the people alive at those times, and making it more real than a list of dates and events ever could.
  • Kindness. Look for kindness. Journal on that as well. I’ve quoted her before and will do so again: Mr. Rogers’ mom reminded him to look for the helpers in troubled times. Be kind any way you can.
  • Anti-toxins for the spirit include nature (if you can play in the woods or a garden, great; if not, YouTube has a plethora of videos); art that you create or appreciate; uplifting music; and handing out with friends.
  • Let your voice be heard. The rep for my district or whoever runs his social media put a person I know in Twitter jail earlier this week for tweets about detained children. Very well, then. I started tweeting my senators and letting them know about the lack of response from the erstwhile representative. I tweeted to the Democratic candidate,  I also tweeted to other possibly interested parties like the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Criminal Justice Court. You know, the one in The Hague? Yes, that one.
  • If you have a spiritual practice, do it with the intention to stay sane and grounded during these turbulent days. If you don’t, just set an intention to do so.

We will get through this. I don’t know how, but somehow, we will.

 

 

 

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The Royal Wedding Entry That You Knew I Was Going to Write

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy. Not Harry and Meghan, but you get the idea.

Yes, I was up at 5:30 AM with my tea. (I’m usually up by 6 give or take, so no big deal.) And tissues. I get a little weepy at weddings. (Sometimes a lot weepy, like at my brother’s. Slamming back three apricot sours to numb the agony of a recent breakup while suiting up for bridesmaid duty didn’t help. But that’s a story for another time.)  I dabbed my eyes quietly (neither Hubby or Oakley were up) as I watched the magic, the romance unfold.

After a week of the ongoing constitutional crisis here in the US highlighted with threats to the social safety net and ending with two school shootings on the same day, we needed Bishop Michael Curry to remind everyone of the healing power of love to change the world for the better through his words and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

We needed the quiet dignity of a mother who moved mountains by fiercely loving her daughter into a woman of strength, intelligence, elegance, and grace. Meghan’s second major at Northwestern University was international studies. Remember that.

We needed the living timeline of the British royals to see how far the world has come, yet has along way to go.

We needed to see a warrior duchess* and her brave, bold, handsome prince join hearts and hands to advance humanitarian efforts around the world. Their selection of “Stand By Me” took on an added layer of meaning in that light.

Of course there were critics castigating them for spending that much on a wedding in the face of today’s plagues on society. The wedding and receptions were paid for by the Windsors. Meghan paid for her own dress. The balance of the cost was for security, and that came in at around $43 million. That’s rather staggering in total, but if you divide it by  the population of the UK (66,529,896), it comes out to less than a dollar a person. Considering that the Queen and company are a huge attraction, the tourists will get it paid for shortly.

Two days later, I’m back in the groove of tweeting on social issues, doing what I can to promote Lauren Underwood for my next congress rep (I gave up on Randy Hultgren. His apathy towards constituents and rude staffers is legion. I’d rather put my energies on Ms. Underwood). I turn over Bishop Curry’s words in my mind, hoping that love coupled with a healthy dose of action will somehow pull us out of this mess.

I wish Meghan and Harry all the best and then some, but if I had one piece of advice to give them as they go about their lives, I would remind them that they are two fantastic humans, not pizza, not tacos. Not everyone is going to like or approve of their causes. Not everyone is going to support their efforts.

May they stand by one another on this journey, and may all that is good go with them.

*Meghan will be known as HRH the Duchess of Sussex, not Princess, due to not being a royal or noble by birth and her US citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dragon Tastes Like Chicken

 

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

 

The good news: Hubby aced his midterms. His hard work paid off in aces and spades.

The bad: After the last month (as you may recall, we have two relatives in ongoing life-altering situations that have to play out on their terms), we needed to climb up into our happy place. Bristol Ren Faire closed for the season Labor Day weekend. We missed out on Stronghold Olde English Faire. We also missed Quad Cities Ren Faire. Of course they both fell the weekend just before midterms week.

The constant playing of appropriate music and burning rose and sandalwood incense by the package provided some respite, but we needed something more. So we went to Medieval Times .

And did we have a blast. OK, except for the part where we blew past the entrance and drove a few miles north when we exited the tollway. (If you’re in the Chicago area, the castle’s address is on Roselle Road in Schaumburg, and that’s the exit you’ll take off of I-90. It’s actually on Central. You’ll have to turn east into the office park just north of the tollway.  The combination of fog and the high berm between the tollway and the property made the building fade out. Very Halloween-esque.)

Digression over. On to the show.

We lined up, had our tickets checked, and collected our color coded seating assignments. On the way in, we met one of the stars of the show, Liberty the falcon, as she calmly perched on her trainer’s gloved hand. Once in the lobby and past stands with mementos and adult beverages, murals and maps illustrating Spain’s reach at that time gave guests a very brief history lesson, just enough to entice into maybe reading up on it a little more.

Finally, one of the lords of the realm called to the crowd to start the seating section by section. Easily done, since paintings of the knights’ coats of arms decorated the areas just above the doors. The sections encircle the arena where the jousting and combat take place. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the house.

Once seated, the servers (either a serf or a wench) began bringing food and drink. Water or pop? Water, please. Dragons’ blood soup? Yes. It resembled tomato basil, but I won’t tell if you won’t.

And then it grew dark. The spotlight came up by the arena’s entrance where mist floated up from the floor as the show’s narrator spoke to the relationship between humans and horses throughout time, the mist parted. There stood an Andalusian, bold and big, gleaming silver.

If we’d had to leave then, I would have been fine with it.

Obviously, we didn’t.

As the story unfolded (a joust arranged by the king for our entertainment interrupted by a representative of a foreign power attempting to trade a horse for the princess of the realm), the servers made their way as unobtrusively as possible with the pans of roasted young dragon (tasted and looked a lot like chicken), dragon eggs (resembled spiced potatoes), and corn (that looked and tasted like, well, corn). Add in the coffee and the lemon poundcake and we were both very satisfied.

Most importantly, for the first time since the last Ren Faire, we had fun. I came away inspired to learn more about horses, and more about Spain–as with many Ren fans, I’ve been slanted towards the British/Celtic side, but there’s so much more out there to read.

Between that and the “Tudors” DVDs, we should be occupied until the first weekend after July 4 when the call “Open wide the gates!” rings through the air at Bristol again.

 

A Song for Canada…I Think

(Many thanks to Sandra and Helen  for the inspiration)

 

Today is July 4. We are keeping it quiet, low key, and close to home to avoid the ones let out of the homes for the rude and the lacking in common sense today. Hubby’s doing yard work. Oakley’s dozing in front of the fan. I’m planning on grilling chicken for dinner.

This last weekend  July 1 brought the birthdays of my sister, a dear friend, and Canada’s 150th. Two awesome humans and an awesome country all on the same day lead to much reveling. I went to the friend’s party. My sister went for a lovely lunch with her husband. Cities large and towns small celebrated Canada’s 150th without untoward incidents. Everyone looked as if they were having a great time in the pictures on the CBC website.

In honor of the sesquicentennial (type that without autocorrect flipping you off), Ontario’s government released a video with the provincial song updated for 2017 to reflect the growth and change  of the population since the centennial in 1967. Pretty awesome.

The 1967 version of the song was pretty awesome, too. Until recently when a couple of my comrades in social media who live in Ontario posted it a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t know that it was a song. I thought that the “On-tar-i-ar-i-ar-ohhHHHH” part was a jingle for a tourism commercial released in my home state of Michigan.

And a beautiful ad it was: the image of a honey colored setting sun transforming a lake into a pond of gold with a soprano singing the province’s name as the image faded out.

As with many things of beauty, it became dangerous when it fell into the wrong hands. Or vocal chords in this case.

Such as the ones of lower elementary and preschool children. Mine, and Laurie’s and her little sister Becky’s, and Janie’s. We lived within a few doors of each other. On a slow summer morning, we circled ourselves on a lush lawn; I can’t recall whose. It was one of those childhood things that just happened. I don’t remember how. It just did.  At first everyone took a turn singing “On-tar-i-ar-i-ohhhh,” and then that went up the scale to the point where we plugged our own ears.

“ON-tar-i-AR-i-AR-i-O-OHHH!” Giggles. Up a few more notches.

And finally, “ON-TAR-I-AR-I-AR-EEEEEE-O-OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

Becky was the youngest. I think her ability to hit that note at age four that made the neighbors think a murder was in progress. Dogs in a two-block radius started going berserk barking back at us. Had car alarms been the norm, we might have set off a few of them as well.

On cue, all our moms flew onto their respective front porches and as one shouted “FRANCESLEIGHLAURAJEANREBECCALEEJANEMARIE! Will you PLEASE stop screeching?”

We all mumbled a short apology, then as Janie’s mom closed their front door, we looked at one another.

Very quietly, but at the high end of her range,  Becky sang “on-tar-i-ar-i-ar-i-o-ohhhh….”

 

 

Not Today, Reaper. Not Today.

Oakley had his distemper shot and yearly once-over yesterday. He’d lost a bit of weight, not a bad thing with his left hip. That’s the one that may have dysplasia, a condition that increases the odds of him getting arthritis as he gets older. Dr. P and I chose to hold off on X-rays as long as possible because he’d need to be sedated, something neither of us are thrilled about. He forgave the vet and the vet tech for the needle pokes, and received a sizable chunk of freeze-dried liver for his reward. The week began to redeem itself as we walked outside into the grey morning.

Monday started off with a round of my own gastrointestinal unpleasantries. Not Oakley’s, but my own. He just sat and cuddled against my leg while I called and cancelled a scheduled breakfast with a couple of friends I don’t get to see enough. There were several calls with a grumpy Hubby as he negotiates the bureaucracy of retirement while the renovations on his mom’s house drag on.

Meanwhile on the world stage, actors and singers left the planet in numbers I cannot remember ever happening before in less than a week. David Bowie (deep respect to him–his music and style didn’t resonate with me, except for “Let’s Dance,” but my God/dess, did he have guts and talent) , then Alan Rickman (Marianne’s true love in “Sense and Sensibility”), then Dan Haggerty of “Grizzly Adams” fame. There were several others, but they were the most notable.

The personal left curves came later in the week. One of the women I’d known in Brittany rescue circles and hung out with at picnics died unexpectedly. Evidently she’d sustained a heart attack in her sleep. Her last post on Facebook gave no hint of anything amiss. I’m sure that she had quite the welcoming committee on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge. She will be missed by many, two- and four-legged alike.

The second one came in the form of an entry on a blog that I love and follow. The author, like me, has had issues with her weight throughout her life. She also love history, and created an eating plan for herself based on rationing during WWII in the UK. (please check out The 1940’s Experiment for more details.)  She wrote this week about ending up in the hospital while on vacation with some issues where weight may have played a factor, and then she wrote about getting herself back on track. She’s on the mend now and rededicating herself to her efforts.

Ever read or hear something and felt that God/dess, the cosmos, the Universe had just dealt you a kick in the pants? Her blog entry was mine. Right now, I think I’m OK–some crackles in my knees, a stiff back in the morning. But what about a year or so down the road? Am I playing dice with myself?

I’m probably, based on my grandparents’ ages, going to live to 96. I used to believe that I would live to be 100, but between Orion’s allergies that prevented us from sleeping during corn season (100-1=99), getting Oakley properly trained and socialized (99-2=97), and his tummy (97-1=96), 96 is a reasonable guess. And I want to do it in good health.

I begin again. Every morning has involved Pilates (not pie and lattes, unfortunately) and/or yoga. After just a few days, my back has stopped cursing me when I roll out of bed. I made a run to Woodman’s and stocked up on more exotic fruits and veggies to amuse my ADHD-addled impulsivity-controlled palate.

I keep in mind, too, the words of a local acquaintance who lost a tremendous amount of weight with daily yoga and a strict diet. She would ask herself when she was having cravings if she was living or dying with each choice.

It’s that simple. Perhaps not easy, but it’s that simple. I’m choosing to live today.

 

 

 

The Evolution of the Waffle

Try these on for size: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/04/21/waffle-sandwiches_n_5174255.html?&ncid=tweetlnkushpmg00000038.

I’m more of a pancake person, but waffles have their place as well, preferably in the center of the plate with real butter and real maple syrup, perhaps with a side of fruit. Maybe, for the sake of decadence, with a scoop of ice cream. I vastly prefer to make pancakes at home. It’s easier to find decent frozen wheat- and gluten-free waffles. 

Some of these sound pretty good. Anything with Nutella gets my attention as does almond butter. But as with many other things, and my unresolved childhood hangups about wanting some space between the protein, veggies, and carbs (Asian recipes excepted) in addition to not being a huge meat eater, I would politely decline. 

In fact, I would be wondering if the inventor was stoned, pregnant, or PMS-ing when he or she thought these up. 

I don’t know if this was what the inventors had in mind at all. The story goes that an exhausted knight staggered home from battle and sat on a bench near the fireplace. He didn’t see the plate of freshly made oatcakes and plunked his chain-mailed behind on top of them. They were still ok to eat, just had the pattern pressed into them. They realized that the oat cakes could hold more butter and jam thanks to the ridges in the pattern. So born was the gaufrette, named after the chain mail pattern.

The concept and name evolved into the waffle as we know it today as the thick fluffy Belgian, the thinner everyday one, and the crunchy decadence of the cone for ice cream.   

I’ve not made them from scratch, but as long as I have a toaster and access to the wheat-free ones, I remain in good shape.

 

Early Spring Food

I’m thinking about historical foods today. Not the kitschy vintage ones with Jell-O. Not the elaborate feasts of nobility and aristocracy. I’m thinking about what pioneers and peasants would have eaten at this time of year when the bottoms of the barrels of salt pork were getting scraped and the last of the potatoes had started sprouting alongside the remaining withered apples. Perhaps some legumes and staples such as cornmeal and flour were available. Perhaps not. 

Dandelions might have appeared on the table. Yes, they are bitter. I like a few leaves in my salads. I’ve never tried them cooked, but I’ve heard they’re good that way. 

If one lived near water, perhaps a fish could be had. Or maybe a smoked one from the previous fall would be available. 

Did they keep cows? Goats? Maybe a little hard cheese was on hand. 

This is the time of year when all of a cook’s creativity needed to be in play to make sure that everyone made it through to later days of spring when a somewhat wider variety of food would be available. Survival came first, and if you could make something appealing on top that, you had done your job well, indeed.