Sunday, November 29, 2020

Thankful


We had a strange but Happy Thanksgiving week.  We visited a local farmer to purchase our turkey, which had lived happily on their farm until the day before.  I would not have bothered with a 20 pound turkey for just us, but Jack lobbied hard for us to have a whole turkey and all the fixings at our dinner-for-two.  I predict that will be a lot of turkey tetrazzini and turkey pot pie in our future, but he says he enjoys turkey enough to make it worth it for him.  Jack prepared the turkey and stuffing for us, and I confess to more than a moment of regret that he hadn't wanted me to cook, because I enjoy my cooking SO much more than his.   I needed to remind myself more than once that my cooking probably doesn't taste like traditional Thanksgiving to him any more than his does to me!    We skipped most of the sides we would normally have had, and didn't make any dessert at all,  to avoid the sheer volume of food, and I missed those a lot.  All in all, this was not a Thanksgiving menu to remember.

On Thanksgiving morning I made cranberry sauce, cranberry relish and yeast rolls to drop off at my kids' house for their Thanksgiving dinner.  Also included in my delivery was a box of cocoa bombs, a quart of locally made "wake up" coffee/mocha ice cream, and four advent calendars.  One of the calendars was filled with make-up for my granddaughter, one filled with cheese for my grandson, an advent doggie treat calendar for Allie, and an advent wine assortment for the adults.   I am clearly making up for not being with them by filling their house with reasons to think of me.   Silly, but it helps me feel a little more connected.    They sent home a couple of items they were having for Thanksgiving so that we could all feel like we had shared a meal.

The next day we bought an iPad and drove it up to my brother, a couple hours north of us.  With virus numbers getting worse, we wanted to have him ready and able to meet with us on Zoom or Google Meet so that we can continue to stay in  faux-touch until family gatherings are okay again.   His old computer won't handle virtual meetings so we decided to take action and I think he was pleased.    I took along a little tabletop tree that lights up; my brother has not had a christmas tree in a decade or more but confessed to me last year that he misses it, so, although he won't be surrounded by physical family this year, at least he will have a tree and know that he is in our thoughts.  

Meanwhile, here at home, the stockings are hung by the chimney with care . . .  and our holiday season is ready to begin.  

Jack, who would ignore christmas altogether if I would let him, didn't lift a finger to help with decorating the tree and he won't give any input on what holiday foods to make or gifts to buy.  My revenge is underway -- we take turns choosing a movie each evening, and all my movies from now until the end of the month will be holiday movies.  The ones we've watched so far have been awful, but I told him he has only himself to blame!

My birthday is this week,  and I am planning to make myself a cake today, something I have never done before.  Jack wanted to make or buy one for me but I decided that I want a cake that I will really enjoy and not waste calories on being polite, so the obvious solution is to make it myself!  Honestly, I wish I had thought of doing this years ago, especially because there were many years when my birthday passed by without notice, but perhaps I was too willing to remain silent and feel sorry for myself.  Jack is a big fan of birthdays and so the self-pity-plan hasn't been an option these last several years, and I've discovered that I like it!  I also bought myself a quilting advent calendar and one filled with candles-- another thing I've never done, although I have bought a lot of advent calendars for other people! -  so I am ready to celebrate for the next month, to make up a little for the isolation this year.    Our anniversary is on the 8th (2 years!) and Jack's birthday is on the 23rd -- both reasons to celebrate but so far I have no ideas for either.  Normally we would probably schedule a nice dinner out and maybe a weekend away, but neither of those are options this year.  I need to come up with a menu to prepare at home for the 8th and something fun for Jack's birthday, so it's time for me to get those creative juices flowing!

Friday, November 20, 2020

Mid-November

Our national election mess continues to disappoint.  I am amazed daily at how thin a facade of democratic principles our elected politicians had and how easily and publicly that facade has been damaged.

I have been keeping busy with little tasks, continuing our quiet life of isolation.  I bought a stamped embroidery sampler and a random assortment of carded embroidery floss from an etsy shop called Dropcloth.  If I finish the sampler, as I hope, it will be sewn into four little ornaments.  My hands are so frozen up by carpel tunnel and arthritis that even a few stitches are enough to start them burning.  It is frustrating; I used to do some pretty nice embroidery, if I do say so myself, and made several large pieces, but of course I gave them all away.  Now it is a challenge even to hold a needle still in numb fingers long enough to thread it, and my stitches, when I do try to make the effort, are uneven and disappointing because they are generally made with nerveless fingers.   But the Dropcloth samplers, which I first saw on Spiral, really spoke to me because there is something primitive and non-judgmental about them.  The artist says in her post,  "I used back stitch, couching, and french knots, but you can choose your own stitches to suit your own taste."  Somehow that simple permission, which I should have given myself long ago, was enough to convince me to put in the order.  I am stitching away now, using mostly running and back stitch and stopping about every six inches of thread, but it is giving me something new to do when I don't feel much like doing anything.  

Today, as I have been threatening my husband, I put up our christmas tree. I know it is awfully early, but it is that kind of year.   I have not decorated it yet (it is fake and prelit), or hung stockings; I will wait a bit for that, but now I have the fairy lights near the fireplace where I can enjoy both for the next few weeks.  



And although it is warm-ish today and not Christmas weather at all, I picked up some "cocoa bombs" from a local candy maker who works out of her home.  I haven't tried them yet, but the idea is to place one of these candies into a mug of hot milk (or almond milk, in my case) and the chocolate melts into a chocolaty drink while the melted sphere releases a handful of mini marshmallows.  I bought them for my grands, of course, but I will keep one or two to try myself and I am looking forward to it!   Even if the idea is cuter than the result turns out to be, this is exactly the kind of little thing that makes me feel pampered.

Speaking of being pampered, November is my birthday month and Jack has already surprised me with flowers.  It's funny, this is a month I have dreaded for most of my life, but he has put the fun back into it.  Living with him has turned me into something out of a high school musical, I find myself singing and dancing around the house with no care for how I look or sound.  I have never behaved that way before unless I was alone or with my young children, so perhaps I am regressing.   It is not, I think, that we are deliriously happy, it is more that we are deliriously comfortable.  Whatever the reason, I like it, and he likes it, too.   I suspect that other men in my life would have enjoyed this freer me, but those relationships somehow never sparked the trust that made it possible.   I hope young people find it sooner, seventy years is a long time to wait.

Our backyard continues to provide a limited entertainment that truly brings us joy.  We had a visit this week from a pileated woodpecker, a fairly rare sighting in our yard although we know there are many of them in mid Michigan, just not usually within the city limits.  We also had a hawk stop by and window-shop our bird feeders.  I did not see him strike, but he got a good look at our rodent and songbird buffet.  It will be there all winter because we keep our feeders full when the weather is cold.  We have not seen deer since hunting season began, but we are sure they are out there.  There is no hunting behind us but if I were a deer I wouldn't trust us, either.    I put some "deer candy" out to try to tempt and comfort the city deer, but it appears that they are either watching their weight or are more into health food.  It was not until after several  hard rains, presumably washing away some of the sweetness, that the squirrels were finally willing to taste the "candy", which consisted of corn and pellets and molasses.   We would like to avoid having any of our local deer starve to death this winter, so I will continue to experiment, as with picky children, to find out what they are willing to eat.  Next up is likely to be sugar beets, a local crop, and hay.  Hopefully we will find something that helps them winter over when the cold temperatures are finally here for good.

                                    

Tomorrow is the three-year anniversary of Jack's strokes.  This is the end of the heightened "danger period" the physicians warned us about.  He will always be a a higher than average risk for another stroke, but we are grateful to have gotten here without further incident.   We have much to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

A Mess

Although the Presidential election was two weeks ago, things have not gotten better yet.  Trump, of course, is still tweeting multiple times a day that he won the election, that the election was rigged, and that the democrats are trying to rob him.  His legal challenges to the election are being dismissed in state after state, but he is not deterred by that.  Today two large national militia groups announced that they will not recognize Joe Biden as president and will not follow any law or directive he passes.   They view themselves, said the founder of the largest militia, as founding fathers, and they are eager "to nullify and resist."  (Militia are illegal in every state, but they continue to grow without interference, another story for another time.)  Meanwhile, Covid-19 infections are doubling in our state every five days, deaths are rising, the hospitals are begging for help, and our governor has put some new restrictions into place.  Our Republican Legislature refused to meet with her to create a pandemic plan; instead, they are planning to try to impeach her for taking steps herself to stem the spread. They are also supporting Trump's claims that there was massive election fraud and vow to "get to the bottom of it."   It is a frightening time and hard to imagine healing this division any time soon.

But here at home things remain calm and bright, even as it appears from the news that the country, and even the state around us is falling apart.  My son's family had a Facetime visit with us this week, something we hope will become a regular habit (something Jack's large family does every week because he was smart enough to start it a dozen years ago), and it was so good to see and hear them.  My grandson told me about his experience as a beginning driver and cello lessons and my granddaughter talked about the art and theater she is doing.   Under the governor's latest order, all of the high schools and colleges in Michigan have gone back to remote learning for at least the next several weeks.  I am glad that my son's family will be able to stay home together for awhile now and keep themselves safer than when they were exposed to many other people during their work and school days.

Because of the pandemic, we will not be getting together tomorrow for my grandson's 16th birthday, although I plan to do a "drive by" to drop off his gifts.  We will not be getting together for Thanksgiving, although I plan to prepare a dish to share with them, just to feel that connection.  It is frustrating for everyone and even more frustrating to feel that our elected government is intent on making this time last longer than it ever needed to because of their rejection of science and common sense.  We already know that we will not be getting together for Christmas.  

Meanwhile, much is good, at least in my little life.    Our home-life is peaceful, which I know from past experience should not be taken for granted.  And we have lots of little joys along the way, including the kindnesses of strangers.

One little joy this week was a delightful package from a child named Grace,  a young Irish artist.  Grace's mother, aside from being mother to five, is an amazing home maker and also an artist, and I have followed her blog, her Instagram and (used to follow her) Facebook accounts for eleven or twelve years.  I saw Grace's Instagram posts because I recognized the connection between the two of them.  Recently Grace awarded me the "prize" of a portrait.  Grace drew my husband of me from a photo that I had on line and I received it, beautifully packaged and with a sweet note, in the mail this week.  She included in the package a set of the 'stickers' she made, and they are also adorable.  Her professional screen name is gracegoldenrose, and she is the sweetest child, no more than 12 years old, I'm sure.  A child with many talents, in a very talented family.  I love being able to cheer her on.   Jack and I plan to have our portrait, which is about 4 by 6 inches in size, framed and we will hang it proudly on our wall.   Everything about this makes me happy.


Another wonderful surprise came at the hands of another person I don't really know.  Last year for my birthday, my son's family gave me a Shipt membership so that I could have my shopping done and delivered while I was recovering from my shoulder surgery.   Once the pandemic took hold, the service became even more valuable to us, because stores were limiting the number of shoppers and neither of us felt comfortable going out more than we had to.  Over time, a couple of the shoppers have proven themselves to be truly amazing at their jobs.  I added notes in my last few grocery orders asking whether the stores had a cheese advent calendar because I'd read that they were going to be available.   One shopper, Melinda, took it upon herself to check every store in the area for the calendar and today she found and delivered it.  Melinda has been a full time shopper for three years and she clearly loves her work.  Although I am not religious, I love advent calendars.   I have given my grands some kind of over-the-top advent calendar each year for the past several years, and I was really hoping to find the cheese one for my grandson so I am happy as a clam to finally have it!   My granddaughter's calendar this year is filled with make-up samples, and it was hard to think of something that my grandson would find amusing, but I think this will do it, even though the cheese itself is unlikely to be very good.  Melinda searched for and found another item on my fantasy wish list, too, 'cocoa bombs' that are dropped in hot milk to make a cup of hot chocolate.  She will be delivering those next week and they will be part of my Thanksgiving delivery to the kids.   Her kindness makes it possible for me to stay out of crowds and still provide fun surprises for my grands,  who are growing up way too fast, so she has been a bright spot for me during these long months of being apart from my family.

So I am ever aware that this is an amazing world with amazing people in it.  I am hoping, despite the state and national news, that we will somehow manage, despite the crazies and science deniers, to let life continue on a mostly even keel, no matter how unlikely it may sometimes seem.


Saturday, November 7, 2020

Things Are Looking Up

Finally, although not truly final, the new outlets have announced the results of the American election, and the results are good.  I am sad that they are not better, because they show a depth of division and a repudiation of so many things that were good in my fantasy America, but I am happy with the result itself.  And after all, we cannot fix what we do not admit, so hopefully, in the long run, this will have been an All Good time.  It is unfortunate that there will likely be a lot of drama before the January inauguration, and probably beyond, but most of that looks meritless at this point.  So yay.

Not much got done this week as I participated in the election by stress eating.  It's important to do one's part.  My sister's friend posted a funny thing about how she was stress eating so much that she might reach 270 (the needed electoral votes) before either candidate did.   My eating habits this week were much the same, and very little sewing got done.  I did use scraps to make a couple of patchwork Christmas stockings, which was fun.  I did not do a careful job because I was simply stress-sewing, but if I ever get actual holiday fabric I might make them again with more care and straighter seams.   For now, they'll do.  I am so clearly not a perfectionist, and while I sometimes regret it, I apparently don't care enough to change.

My embroidery machine is still in the shop -- when I called the other day, a month after taking it in, they told me they've been 'so busy' that they haven't even looked at it yet.  I guess it's a good thing that I've been too lazy to do much sewing, but annoying all the same.  With a machine that is worth more than my old car, I kind of resent them keeping it from me for this long, but there's not much I can do about that.  I am lucky to have a second machine, and I have a long list of things I hope to get working on now that I can stop checking election news!

So that's it for this week.  The cynic in me suspects that the rest of this year is going to feel like it lasts forever and is almost certain to see more attempts to damage our country, our people and our democracy.  But a new year will come, with new leadership.  Today I celebrate the corner we are about to turn.   I think a lot of us are going to have to re-learn how to relax again after this phase is over, but I am looking forward to the opportunity.