Thursday, December 20, 2012


We were warned for days.  Gary (my favorite weatherman) showed us all the fancy Doppler thingies, the streaks and lines and curves.  The charts and maps.  He showed us where it was coming from, how long it would stay, what would happen.  He said it might be 6" - 8" of snow.

Then he showed us the same stuff (or so it looked to me) and said we might get 8" - 12" of snow.  There were updates through the day which I caught on the teevee or FaceBook or MSN page.  The final analysis?  Looked like we might get around 18" of snow.   All the newscasters met this news with expressions of amazement, awe, astonishment.

Uhm....people, it's December.  And it's Wisconsin.  Look at a map of the United States - they call this part the "Upper Midwest", and we're really close to Canada.  We get winter here.  In the winter we get snow. 

But there is a distinct advantage to all this advance warning.  Our Noble Governor declared it a Snow Emergency or Frozen Disaster or Snowmageddon or whatever.  Schools were closed (it was only two days and then comes Christmas holiday anyhow so I doubt if any Highly Significant Lessons were going to be presented).  The Government closed.  (!)  The University actually cancelled finals, although I think what they really did is make kids take them on their own computers from whatever is "home" this semester.

The main message was this:  Don't.  Go.  Out.  Don't drive.  Stay home.

Two reasons for this, both sound:  1.  That way no one is in the way of the plows, who are out chugging along scraping and clearing fit to be tied (bless their hearts).  2.  This is the first major snow, and on the occasion of the first major snow every driver in Wisconsin becomes a natural-born-and-raised HAWAIIAN who has never seen the white stuff falling from the sky and has no concept of "icy streets".  Furthermore, none of us has ever driven a horseless carriage before.  Dangerous combination.  Luckily after a couple of days the first plowing has cleared the major thoroughfares and the Brain Cheese has been reactivated and everyone becomes Wisconsin drivers again.

 Now, I don't know about other parts of the country, but we in Wisconsin know exactly how to prepare for this kind of Snow Emergency (and the advance warning was helpful).  We make sure to lay in enough food.  (Two-day snow emergency?  Get enough beer and brats and cheese and stuff for at least a month.  Watching it snow is a powerful appetitezer.)  Sort out the yarn and prepare 32 knitting projects;  put each in a bag with the appropriate needles and directions.  (Snow emergencies might wind up lasting longer than forecast.) 

Pile up the books.  You want at least three or four that you haven't read - and perhaps a dozen that you have, but might as well read again.  After all, the Gummint has said we're not to go out.  Sure, they're saying it's going to last two days but it wouldn't be the first time what they say and what actually happens don't match up.

Blankets!!  Pile several near the couch and some extras on the bed.  The Power is notorious for disappearing.  Line up several kinds of tea and put a full kettle on the stove and a full teapot in the microwave.  (The latter may not work if the power goes out.  Long live the gas stove.)

Make sure all electronics capable of such things are battery-charged within an inch of their lives.  In my case that means my laptop, my netbook and my cell phone.  Our cell phones are a half-step down from the Jitterbug, but they do function as phones.

The most ideal, of course, is for the power lines to stay intact (they have, hereabouts).  So today I've read, knitted some while watching the teevee, napped with the cat, drunk five cups of tea, looked up some stuff on Google, fooled around on Face Book and played a few minutes  moments -- oh hell, hours of Jewel Quest.  The newsman tells me we do, in fact, have a solid 19" of fresh snow, and I'm here to tell you, it looks beautiful, falling softly as seen over the rim of a steaming mug of Earl Grey.

Sure sign of the season:  the Husband's mountain bike is safely tucked into the basement - and the skis and poles are at the ready near the back door.  That sound you're hearing?  The skis are absolutely thrumming with anticipation.

I love winter.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Never Again, Please

DISCLAIMER:  Random thoughts pertaining to latest national abomination.  Normal programming resumes soon.

I am listening to a program on the radio.   It's on NPR.  It's a memorial service.  There are apparently clergy representing every denomination in Newtown, Connecticut.  Each is giving his or her message and prayers.  I  have not heard a child chanting from the Qu'ran before. 

I'm not one of those to read every article, watch every program, look at every citation on line about this, our latest global tragedy the wanton slaughter of innocents (and  that includes the adults).   Has anyone else noticed that none of the adults lost were "old enough to die" either?

It is my opinion that the internet has created of our world a true global village.  It has removed from between us all, time and distance.  I can chat as easily with an acquaintance in Australia as I can with my friend just blocks away.  In my mind, that makes the woman stirring rice in her pot in India my neighbor just as I am the neighbor of the woman boiling maize in front of her hut in Africa.

Therefore, when children die in the Middle East or Asia or Patagonia, Iceland or Russia or Canada, I feel a deep sadness for my sisters, their mothers.   Nature's balance designates that a child is born, grows, has children of his own, advances in age and dies.  When that balance is overthrown and the child dies before the parent, it has a unique sadness.  I find it poignant - perhaps a tiny bit comforting - that the children left this earth accompanied by loving teachers.

I am not here to expound;  just to say that my heart, like the hearts of so many, finds this latest incident incomprehensible, beyond the scope of my understanding.   I need no proof of the existence of Evil. 

My prayers are not found in any book, are not repeated by any group of people, could not be identified by any traditional title.  But I implore with an earnest heart, that some small comfort come to everyone touched by sadness, whether the deep grief of the bereft or the passing woe of anyone who gasps upon hearing of the tragedy. 

It is enough.  No more.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Music, That Which Binds Souls....

HAPPY CHANUKAH!  This picture is from a few years - and five nights - ago.  The menorah was a gift from my daughter-in-law.  It's very traditional, and I like that.  (Ignore the Catholic altar behind it and the figure of the Goddess Bast and the Sacred Mother of Cahokia;  I'm an equal-opportunity worshipper here.)

I've always celebrated Chanukah, even while my home has been MY home and not my parents'.  My children and I celebrated only Chanukah, no Christmas in our home until the Splendid Husband had been with us for some time.  He said, one year, that he might like a Christmas tree.  I said I would ask my Jewish children what they thought.  Think about this;  ask anyone (ANYone!) if they'd like a fresh, fragrant fir tree in the living room all glittering with colored lights and perhaps sparkly ornaments.  Of COURSE they'd like a tree!  So ours became a blended holiday family, and with perfectly satisfactory results.  (You might have read this before;  I'm old enough that I may be repeating stories.  It's a privilege of Advanced Age;  smile and nod as though it was all new to you.  Thank you.)

So.  Music.  Specifically holiday music.  Now, even as a little child I learned Christmas carols in school, and I always sang them with great enthusiasm, they're beautiful!    Might I add that I also sang them somewhere between tunelessly and off-key.  My father was said to have a fine voice.  My mother got odd looks singing hymns and I inherited her voice.  Never slowed either of us down.

Christmas carols are melodic, romantic and beautiful.  I'm not particularly wild about the modern Christmas songs.  I apologize, Bing.  I can appreciate the appeal of "White Christmas", I just don't appreciate the song as much as, say, "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella".  The Oldies station I listen to occasionally plays "All Christmas Music All the Time" from Thanksgiving on.  Bring me back my Chad and Jeremy for petessakes.

I've discovered that there are NO stations which play "All Chanukah Music All the Time" from Rosh Hashanah on.  But it's the 21st century, and I have a computer.  (Insert big grin here.)  Which means, of course, that I have  Pandora .  Now. they have a wide variety of stations which play a wide variety of Christmas music - AND one that plays Chanukah music!

The problem is, there aren't a great many Chanukah songs.  But they've managed to find enough of an assortment to play for hours.  Truth to tell, it's more a case of different artists playing or singing the same melodies, but that's fine with me.  And here's something of Huge Magnitude:  in three days of listening to my Chanukah station, I've only heard it once.  Sorry to do this to you, my friends.  I believe the term is "ear worm".  "Dreidl, dreidl, dreidl, I made it out of clay, and when it's dry and ready, then dreidl I will play."   (A few rounds of "B-I-N-G-O and Bingo was his name-o" should wipe it out.)

But here's what happened.  There have been a few melodies placed in between that are in fact old Russian klezmer songs.  "Klezmer", for those unfamiliar, is Jewish music, Yiddish music, firmly attached to the shtetls of Europe.  There's been a revival;  a klezmer band often has clarinet, accordian, fiddles,saxophones -  all sort of peasant-y loud instruments.    I've liked klezmer music for always, and we have a particularly fine klezmer band right here in town:  Yid Vicious !

Well, as I said above, it's the 21st century and I have a computer.  That means I also have access to You Tube (c'mon, I don't have to put the link for THAT.)  So I started by going there and putting in "klezmer".  What a wealth!!  Hours and hours of wonderful klezmer music - and then I found it.  On the list to the right, a mention of klezmer as "Chasidic Wedding Music".  So I looked THAT up.

And suddenly I was listening to waltzes, to hymns, to dance music that were heard in the lands of my ancestors - Lithuania, Latvia, Roumania - at various times various parts of Russian.  It awakens in me the Jewish part, the part that has blood connections to the pogroms, to the Holocaust, to Israel -- emotional connections, not necessarily political ones.   As an ethnic Jew, I'm not surprised that the music fills me as it does.

The Chasids - Chasidim - are mystics and ecstatics.  I don't know much about them, although I probably know more than non-Jews.  There is a fair-sized Chasidic community here, and they look so austere with their almost Amish-appearing clothing.  But it's they who brought dancing and wine and merriment, and it's nowhere better illustrated than the music.

When the music of the holidays stirs you, brings to mind making rosettes in the kitchen with your Norwegian grandma or when the carols remind you of making the meringue mushrooms for the buche de noel, flex those roots, revel in the winter celebration of your ancestry - and check it out on You Tube!

If you've an interest, a curiosity, to taste something new - check on You Tube for   200 Years Old Chassidic Melodies from Russia .   It's a little taste, a nosh. 

And a Merry Christmas to you!

(PS:  Just stayed up until 6:00 AM watching "Fiddler on the Roof" - I always cry at the end.  My great-grandfather, whom I never met, was called Bear Dov.  He came from an Anatevka somewhere.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Day AFTER 12-12-12!

Over a year, can you believe it?  (That's wondering if any "you" are left....)  I'm considering this a New Start.  I actually did begin composing yesterday, (12-12-12) thinking that one should do SOMETHING unusual on such a rare day. 

Getting married was out - next May we're celebrating our 26th or 31st anniversary, depending on if you count the Normal Human wedding day or the hippie "we're hangin' together for life" day.  Having a baby is out.  Way out.  I'm probably only a few years away from great-grandchildren.

I asked if I might take lunch to my Lovely Daughter (to begin eating at 12:12 pm, of course) but she had other plans.  So I did what every little old Jewish bubbe does in the face of remarkable occurrences:  I took a nap.

Now - you may wonder what the magic mushroom has to do with any of this.  NOTHING!  But I found it during our sojourn in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan in October, and this seemed an ideal place for  it.  So I think what's called for here is a brief catchup.  I'm not going to promise to write every day, keep up perfectly, &c.  because when I make bold statements like that it's the Kiss of Doom.

So - in a word, as they say:  for two winters I suffered terrible bouts of SAD.  Clever name for malady in which you're....say it with me...SAD!  (Seasonal Affective Disorder.)  I don't know for sure if that's what it was;  suffice it to say that the first bout led me to spending four months watching Animal Planet.  I could train any canine ever bred and I think everyone in Houston has starving horses in their back yard and cockfights next door.  (I have a crush on the Houston Shelter staff, all of them.)

This winter I seem to be doing much better - but of course it's early.  (That is not a crew of lumberjacks pounding on your roof - it's me, knocking on wood, plastic-that-looks-like-wood, pseudo panelling and phony doors.) 

I succeeded in writing a 50,000 word novel in November 2011 AND November 2012.  So far no calls from Hollywood about movie rights, but I'm an optimist.  NOT holding my breath, but an optimist.

We discovered Steam Punk (google if unfamiliar) and have been having a great deal of fun.  Our only connection is the TeslaCon steampunk convention, which I've attended from the start.  This year was the third, and I'm glad to say Superhub accompanied me last year and this year and enjoyed himself greatly.  This year I joined the Suffrage Movement.  All fun - but one has a cold chill after this year's politics that the chance exists for us to need to wear our sashes again in earnest.

Still working at the Museum, which is just enough to keep our hand in but no so much that it interferes with my Program of Indolence.  I figure Procrastination and Indolence are bound to become Olympic sports before long and I intend to lead the American team.

I've been writing a little more, knitting a little less and trying to sort things out.  Perhaps, as I tremble on the lip of my 71st year of life, it's time to decide what I want to be when I grow up.

I bet I can put it off some.

Kitties are fine!  Evangeline has become a lap kitty - at least when I'm trying to work on the netbook, sitting on the couch.  Lillianeis still a paschkudnik.  The Husband is superior in all ways, and missed his calling as the Warden of a Crazy People's Place because he puts up with me.  Without complaint.

Last bit of news - we handed off the beloved '93 Toyota station wagon (with roughly 270,000 miles on it) and got a new Prius V.  That's "V" like in "vestal", NOT the Roman numeral five.  (I watch the ads.)   It's like a tardis - much bigger inside than it looks outside, and has proven sufficient for hauling all reenacting gear wherever we're going.  I like it because when you take the foot off the gas pedal it tells you you're getting "99.9 miles per gallon" and that just sounds so danged fuel efficient.

OK, no promises, but I am going to see if I can pump a little life back into this poor blog.

NOTE:  I mentioned the cats (fine);  I mentioned the sticks (not much knitting, but a couple things on the needles).  As far as the "books" go - I can recommend "If Walls Could Talk" by Lucy Worsley (fascinating history of the rooms in our homes);  I am otherwise reading a variety of things on American Spiritualism, Ella Wheeler Wilcox's poetry, various writing books and a smattering of other oddments.

BOY am I rusty and I have to remember how to put in pictures.