This time between Halloween and Thanksgiving is often a breathing space for me. I’m lucky enough not to have to host the Thanksgiving event. Even my expected contributions towards the food are pretty simple.
This year, with a blanket of snow on the ground that appears to be here to stay, I’m even more inclined to take some “time off”. All I want to do is curl up and hibernate.
Maybe it’s the longer, darker days. Even night owls are “brighter” during the full moon. Last weekend the moon was new, which means those nights are darker and seem longer. Maybe it’s the cold. Even with the furnace on, crawling out of a warm cozy bed in the morning isn’t appealing.
There is a food piece attached to this as well, although I’ve not quite figured out what it is. I know it is typical to eat a little more as the days get colder. I know it is typical to eat to stay awake, rather than wandering off to bed as soon as it gets dark. I know that I think I want “heavier” foods these days.
I’m just 4 months post bariatric surgery. Heavy foods don’t really sit well and even if they do we’re talking one bite. I really wanted a hamburger the other day. I ran out the door so breakfast was haphazard and lunch was late. My mind had me stopping at a restaurant (like Fuddruckers) and getting a 1/3lb burger with cheese and bacon on an artisan bun with a side of fries and a salad.
I did stop at the store on the way home to get some hamburger I didn’t have to thaw. Picked up some cheese as well. I made a 2oz burger with cheese and ½ a piece of bacon and some barbecue sauce rather than ketchup. I made a little (¼ cup) salad with lettuce and tomato (one small slice diced) and some balsamic dressing. It was really too much. And it was also really plenty to satisfy that craving.
Orion got a serious burger and fries for dinner. I still wasn’t hungry. In fact he got dinners from that pound of hamburger for several days. My second 2oz burger is still in the refrigerator.
Thanksgiving marks the end of autumn for me and the beginning of the winter holiday season. I’ll let Orion listen to Christmas carols in the car. (He’d be happy having them playing year round.) I’ll come out of hibernation and start baking and planning for the holidays.
In the meantime, maybe I’ll just relax and enjoy a little bit of quiet time.
It has been two weeks of paying big bills – all at once – with money I may or may not actually have. That’s always fun, isn’t it? The car insurance was due, there was a registration for a conference, I have my car in at the shop today for winterization and its 60,000 mile check-up and of course the contract for plowing. It doesn’t rain but it pours, except at this time of year when it snows.
I’m not sure if I got the contract in early enough to get this “snow event” covered. (I kept holding back on sending it because of that iffy money thing.) They certainly hadn’t come before I left the house this morning. Thing is that Orion needs to leave before me. Have you ever pushed a wheelchair through the snow? They’re not exactly designed for that kind of travel. Maybe if we had sled dogs!
The plows haven’t come through yet, so at least there wasn’t a huge mound at the end of the driveway. Getting an electric ramp to lower – flat – over one of those mounds is next to impossible. My plowing needs are complicated. It’s been years (10+) since I’ve even considered picking up a shovel. Those bus drivers (bless them) have occasionally gone above and beyond and made a path. Mostly I’ve been dependent on husbands (not an option anymore) or the plowing contract.
But today I bundled up and gave it a go! Got Orion ready. Shoveled a path for him down the driveway. Got dressed and drove, on glare ice, to the dealership and am taking care of business. It feels really good to be ABLE to do all of that in one morning, and still have a brain. I’ve been writing this post in my head since last night. While I wait I’ve finally got time to write it down. That kind of busy is still new to me. I really am enjoying it. There are definitely things more important than money.
Be safe this winter driving season!
Mid-term elections. What’s the point? There are a lot of them actually. It’s easy to get caught up in the Presidential races. There’s a lot of money, a lot of time, and a lot of hype that goes into those campaigns. It’s a high-profile race for a high-profile job.
Thing is, the mid-term elections are for jobs a lot closer to home. The legislators aren’t representing the whole country, but your state. The state office holders are representing your district (which at least includes your neighborhood). City office holders determine things like snowplow schedules and lawn maintenance rules.
There are other even closer to home issues that come up on midterm ballots. Sometimes there are local ordinances and issues – vote yes/vote no to a proposition that changes how things run in your city. Or vote yes/vote no to a school tax referendum.
On the heels of Samhein, Halloween, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Dia de los Muertos I am reminded that many of our ancestors fought hard for the right to vote. Women couldn’t vote in this country until 1920. That’s 145 years that we couldn’t vote and less than 100 that we could. Blacks, or at least black men, were theoretically given the right to vote nationally in 1870. In both cases there was strong enough opposition that people actively worked to keep blacks and women from the polls.
Husbands would forbid their wives to vote, and pastors preached against women exercising that right. Taxes, tests, and intimidation prevented most blacks from exercising their right to vote until the voting rights act of 1965. We still see active legislation (like for voter ID’s), and intimidation to try and prevent “undesirable populations” from exercising their right to vote.
When we vote we stand on the backs of those who went before us. As disenchanting as the system may be it still works better when there is more participation. My daughter says she’s often not happy enough with either candidate to vote for them. I explained to her about how people get to be on the ballot.
If there is a certain percentage voting for your party in the previous election, that party is automatically included on the ballot for next one. I have voted for a 3rd party candidate just because I believe we should have more than two choices. If I can’t vote for someone I like, I can at least vote for inclusion.
Minnesota has historically high voter turn out. We are often highest in the country or at least in the top 5. We tend to average about 67% turn out. This year may be higher as they’ve expanded the rules for absentee ballots. You no longer have to actually be absent. Anyone could go down to their city hall and request a ballot, or request one on-line. The city halls are set up as polling places, or you could take it home and mail it in (or drop it off another day).
Orion and I took full advantage of that this year and voted early. It was much easier for us than finding our polling place (which moves depending on the year.) It also meant we didn’t have to stand in line. Additionally the accommodations for Orion’s disabilities are much more readily addressed at home than in a busy polling place.
So please, honor your ancestors and vote.
Apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way. After the election this gravesite was visited by a number of women and decorated with their “I Voted’ stickers.
In the Twin Cities we are blessed with a wide variety of performance art options. Some of my favorite events are community based, like the May Day Parade. At this end of the seasonal cycle Barebones Productions puts on its Halloween Extravaganza. This is an evening event, outdoors in a park late in the fall in Minnesota. For the 21st annual production Barebones presented Metamorphosoup.
This year the weather has been perfect for this kind of event. Last night when I attended the temps were in the cool, but comfortable 50′s. Much better than some years, but still nice to be bundled up. This year’s presentation seemed shorter than some. There is often a theme or story associated with the production. This year seemed more pageant than play.
The audience entered through the mouth of the great whale and found their seats on hay bales under the trees. Actors/street performers dressed in Halloween visions of carnival characters directed people to seating and kept us engaged. There are 5 performances with a total attendance around 8,000 people (maybe more this year due to the fine weather). We watched the new moon setting over the trees as we waited for full dark, for the audience to settle, for the main show to begin.
Complete with puppets, aerialists, fire spinners, dancers, singers and musicians we watched the cycle of birth and death and rebirth play out before us. This was the story of the cosmic soup, the great cauldron of creation. This was a pageant of evolution and destruction, of limited resources and greed, and the bounty of stone soup. There were moments of profound loss and grief and moments of awe and joy. There was an acknowledgement of ancestors lost and of remembrance.
That description hardly does justice to the wonder that is the Barebones. There were dinosaur puppets, bones perhaps not to scale, but certainly representative of the size and scope of actual dinosaurs. The great wave of water brought the scene to the ocean filled with floating luminescent creatures lighting up the darkness. Fire spinners dances in glorious numbers, circles and forms. Each time they appeared the fires beneath the great cauldron seemed to glow brighter and the cauldron grew bigger and bigger. In the end there were the ancestors, and the stars.
Even after the presentation there is still production happening. This is not just a play, but an event, a community ritual. There is a beautiful Hungry Ghost Altar set up around the tree for people to spend time honoring their ancestors, beloved dead and unknown dead alike. There is paper to leave notes and messages, candles available to light, offerings made with the great tree as witness to all that happens at its feet.
The Jack Brass Band(the Brass Messengers on other nights) played music into the night. The brass band echoing on the wind is reminiscent of a New Orleans style funeral procession, somber on the way in but joyous and celebratory on the way out. Sisters Camelot had hot food available for those who stayed and needed a warm-up. There was also some merchanting, another source of funding for this amazing production.
This is one of my favorite ways to celebrate the season. The bounty of the harvest, the acknowledgement of loss and change and transformation, and the honoring of the ancestors all tied up into a community event. Happy Halloween!
I don’t know why the numbers make such a difference. Ever since my bariatric surgery the question I get asked most often is “How much have you lost?” Since the answer to that question depends a lot on where I start counting from even the numbers are ambiguous. Do I start with my “top weight”? Do I start with the weight on my bariatric surgeon’s chart from my first visit? Do I start with the weight I had on the day of surgery?
It doesn’t help that I can be very casual about numbers. I’m good with math, but I don’t really remember numbers well. Every time I’ve moved (and it’s not that many times) I get my checks changed immediately, so I can LOOK whenever someone asks my address. It takes me months! The best thing about cell phones is that I get to keep my phone number. I didn’t change plans until I could.
I can’t even remember how old I am. My kids remember. I could do the math, but if someone is asking I figure if they really want to know THEY can do the math. I was 23 for 3 years, it was a number I could remember. I’m bad with my kids ages too. I don’t believe Orion just turned 26, but I’m sure he’s right.
I didn’t go into the bariatric surgery with my eyes on the numbers. I cared about energy and mobility and health. All of those things are noticeably improved. I can stand longer, do more and am more comfortable. I no longer shuffle when I walk. I even put on a pair of heels. I can curl up in my favorite chair. I don’t need as many pillows in my bed. I don’t get winded coming up the stairs. These are the things that matter.
Still, there’s that number. 100. It makes a difference. It shouldn’t, but it really does. Hitting the 100 lb weight loss mark is a milestone, like it or not. It doesn’t matter what percentage of my weight I’ve lost, or how much I have left to go. It’s just that number.
I’ll hit it several times, depending on where I count from. But I suspect the impact of the milestone will only hit me this once. So, I’ll claim it. Let’s hear it for 100!
I often start the autumn decorating in August, with the first harvest. Then add and subtract all the way through Thanksgiving. This year though it’s taken me until now to start thinking about Halloween decorating. It’s the neighbors that got me started. All those walks around the block are becoming inspirational.
I was surprised at how few actual Halloween decorations I could find. I suspect several of the things I know I’ve got somewhere are too practical to be tucked away. I know I have a few serving platters and baskets. The gourds and corn may have all been tossed. Over the years they can get a little nasty in the damp basement.
What I did find was my Brujeria. I picked her up in Mazatlan when I was there with Orion for his High School graduation trip. She’s too delicate to ship well. (I’ve been glueing bits back on ever since.) But I loved her attitude. Halloween, Samhein, Dios de los Muertos all come together for me in this little witch.
I’ve always enjoyed the fall. The cooler weather appeals to me. In Minnesota fall is much more dependable a season than spring. Denial of winter is easy as long as the snow doesn’t get too thick on the ground. I’ve trick-or-treated in snow pants and boots, but most of the time those early snows don’t linger.
On the other side of the year it doesn’t seem like spring until something green is poking out from the ground. That doesn’t often happen when there’s still melting snow. In Minnesota spring can last a day or a week, but fall can go on for months September-October-November. Sometimes it feels like fall in August, but it’s still summer at least until Labor Day, regardless of the weather.
It’s a good time of the year for fires in the fireplace, or even a bonfire outdoors. It’s all about being dressed in layers. Sweaters, woolens, deep pockets and hats but mostly sweaters. It’s not unusual to see a sweater with shorts, or a wool coat and shoes – no socks. There are plenty of people here who will hang on to wearing sandals until the snow really flies.
At this time of year it’s easy to be aware of the presence of our ancestors. I think about the fishing and hunting this time of year as a way to gather enough to make it through the winter. I think about my own ancestors wishing for a little more warm to get in the crops and a little more cold to make refrigeration possible. When I pick up sticks in the yard I’m planning kindling for when the woodpile is buried under the snow.
The Brujeria thinks like this at all times, in all seasons. She lives in harmony with the world around her, even when she is at odds with the culture. She gathers her ingredients when the time is right and uses them at her own discretion as the need arises. She feels the changing of the seasons in her bones and readies herself and her clients for whatever she foresees.
This year I’m hoping she’ll help me with that!
Orion turns 26 years old this week. I can’t even wrap my head around that. He’s approaching this birthday with typical enthusiasm. He’s excited to have a theme to use in his interactions with people, especially when he knows they’ll all wish him well. He’s excited about going out to a new restaurant he learned about from the guy who delivered his new wheelchair last month. In fact Orion invited the guy and his wife to his birthday dinner and still holds hope they’ll be there.
For me every one of Orion’s birthday’s is a little bittersweet. I love seeing him so happy. I love watching him shift and grow as he explores new ways of being in the world. I love that he doesn’t care at all about presents, he just wants attention and hugs. His upbeat attitude is contagious. I don’t know what I’d do without him.
But I also understand the limits of his independence, which become more obvious, more pronounced as he ages. He doesn’t have aspirations for a career, or even a job. He’s happy to help out when he’s asked and able, but even his day program hasn’t found a part-time volunteer placement for him in the last 2 years. His future possibilities get smaller and smaller with each passing year.
There’s also my part in all of it. I’m not sure that it’s still the best option for either of us to be “tied at the hip”. As his primary caregiver I’m very much aware of how little I’m able to do to move him forward. That’s been particularly obvious these last few months when our mobility has been additionally limited by my recovery from the surgery. Caregivers are hard to come by. Orion needs stimulation and he’s become too comfortable with the status quo to be motivated to move forward.
When Orion was born we were told that he’d probably be a vegetable and would be dead before he was 5 years old. I didn’t think that the evidence supported that conclusion then, and clearly rejecting that comment was a good decision. I have an enormous amount to be grateful for. Orion has been such a blessing in my life. He’s an inspiration, a delight, and a wonder.
Orion, may you continue to take joy in the world around you. May you continue to work at developing social interactions and the skills to build relationships. May you find ways to do the things you enjoy that are also productive and sustaining. May you always be open to new experiences, new people, and new possibilities for your future.
With the Fall equinox upon us I’ve started to notice the signs of autumn creeping up. The leaves are just beginning to turn. The trees that have been severely stressed by our odd weather are further along, but the majority are just hinting at colors.
That stress is definitely in the air. One day the highs are barely above 60F the next they’re well into the 70′s. Mornings are cool, almost cold when they are damp. There’s been hard frost further north and it would not be unseasonable to see some here in the city. It’s difficult to dress for such unpredictable, changeable weather.
The sun shines, equal with the darkness. It still carries warmth with its light, but that warmth seems more focused. It gets hot in the car, if it’s in the direct sun, but the warmth doesn’t creep past the edges of the shadows of the tree line.
I’ve had a fire or two in the fireplace, trying not to turn on the heat. It’s difficult to crawl out of bed when the temperature in the house is below 65. When I do turn on the furnace (because it’s impossible to get out of a warm tub when the air is that cold) I try to remember to turn it off again. Sometimes I get to wondering why I’m so hot before it occurs to me I’ve forgotten.
At least with the heat on the air is filtered. The cool and damp is ideal for mold – one of my worst allergies. It will get worse before it gets better as leaves fall into mulch. Soon I’ll be begging for the hard freeze, but I wouldn’t begrudge a few more weeks of summer weather after.
Happy Autumnal Equinox!
Previous Equinox blogs:
We went to a family wedding this weekend. I’m at that age where I really appreciate “weddings and funerals” as an opportunity to get together with the extended family, the relatives I don’t see very often. Even at these events people tend to cluster with their “immediate” families. Still, it’s nice to see how everyone is doing, aging, and whose kids (the names I can’t keep track of) are now grown.
This wedding was particularly special. On my Mom’s side of the family I’m the oldest of the girl cousins, and Becci is the youngest. Additionally our families have been close. We used to camp together growing up. My Mom and my Aunt would plot to sneak the leftover marshmallows into the other one’s camp kitchen to take home. S’more’s are essential camp food with kids, but neither family had any real use for marshmallows in their day-to-day lives.
My Mom is the oldest girl in her family and my Uncle the youngest. Their age difference is about the same as mine to my Uncle. That’s about the same difference as between me and my cousin. That’s about the same difference as between my cousin and my daughter. Becci is getting married in her 30′s. She’s breaking the chain. But waiting for “Mr. Right” seems to have held her in good stead.
The wedding was particularly well attended. Both the bride and groom come with large extended families. Both of them also have a presence in their small town communities. People have watched them grow up, build careers, and wished them well throughout their lives. It was a nearly impossible task to keep the guest list numbers down.
Those of us who’ve had weddings know there are a certain number of invitations that get sent out with the expectation that those people will never come. They are invitations that are necessary to send, as announcements or because of an obligation of manners. People spread out in our society and traveling 3 hours, 6 hours, 9 hours, 12 hours, days “just for a wedding” gets expensive. However, for Becci and Caleb people were willing to do just that. There were so many responses they had to change the wedding venue. Instead of getting married in the church where her Uncle preaches, Becci got married in the Auditorium of the High School where her brother teaches music. They filled the seats!
It was a beautiful event. They did a lovely job decorating the space. The service was personal and joyful. The caterers served good food to nearly 500 people and everyone ate in less than 1 ½ hours. (We tended to have meals in town at the restaurant that catered the event.) The DJ’s did a good job with the music and Orion got to dance with the bride. I even danced a little!
Being in Wisconsin, we even had time between the wedding and the reception to sneak over to the bar. There is nothing like fresh fried cheese curds for an afternoon snack! Wisconsin beer, however, is off my menu post the bariatric surgery.
As Orion so eloquently told everyone the next morning, “I have nothing but love in my heart for the newlyweds!”