The Mountain View

I have shifted back into my crappy sleep pattern. It started at the end of last week. I’m blaming it on all sorts of things like being cold, the time change I’m not adjusting to, not getting enough exercise and just my brain working overtime. There is also the creepy YouTube channel The Husband had on that gave me a night full of nightmares. I think it was just enough to tip my brain over the edge. Anyway, one morning when I woke up at 5:00 (it’s still dark at that hour and Myles is sleeping so I tried to lay quietly so as to not wake him and The Husband) and I had an interesting thought.

I have a couple of curious memories from when I was a small child. I’m talking 4 or 5 years old. One is waking fairly early in the morning and going into my parents bedroom. My mother would get up and go down to the kitchen to make coffee and breakfast. Always coffee first. My father would have me get a little wooden jar that sat on his dresser and held coins. We would then set the jar near the pillows and gently bounce the coins off the bed trying to get them into the jar. I suspect it was a way to distract me while my mother made breakfast but also at the same time my father would tell me about the coins. There were pennies with Native Americans on them and Mercury dimes and a few really big shiny silver dollars. I still have these coins and that wooden jar. The other memory happened every year in December. My father would be sitting at his desk, the one that now sits in my living room, and he’d take out a couple of savings account passbooks and the money I got from his mother for my birthday and Christmas. He’d then ask me which money should we put in which passbook and he’d show me how much interest the account had earned in the previous year.

All of my childhood my father handled the bills and the money. He took care of the mortgage, the insurance and the taxes. All the business that goes along with life. One day after a friend’s husband had passed away unexpectedly my mother said in passing to another friend in my presence that she wouldn’t even know where to start if something happened to my father. Without really even thinking I said that you’d start with the tax returns. It would be the road map.

When I was in junior high my father bought the house next door to the one we lived in. It was a kind of crazy unplanned thing. The elderly woman who lived there was moving into a retirement home and asked my father to sit in on the meeting she was having with the realtor. Before the realtor arrived my father made an offer for the house and whatever contents she was leaving behind and she accepted. My parents rented the house to a string of tenants, some really great ones and others not so much. Between each tenant came the cleaning and upkeep. I was in junior high when this happened and expected to help out. I learned how to do lots of house prep stuff.

When my father retired and my parents started to spend parts of the winter in Florida I became the point person for the tenants. By then there were more rentals which brought along more issues and more work. I was initiated into my father’s rental hobby as my mother called it. Over the years he scaled back his hobby and when his health began to turn he gave me more and more responsibility. He had me take over the finances. I’d write the checks, pay the bills, handle the deposits while he oversaw it all. It went from 50% each to 75% me to 99% me over time. When he passed away my mother didn’t have that I don’t know what to do feeling. It had all been done. When my mother passed away a short 6 months later and I had the 100% responsibility of everything I wasn’t overwhelmed by the enormity of what I had to deal with. I was able to deal with the business side of things as if it was on autopilot and concentrate on the emotional side of loss.

I like to think of this all in terms of climbing a mountain. When we start out at the bottom all we can see is an overwhelming climb. As we move up the mountain we pick up skills along the way. By the time we are approaching the summit we can look around at the view and we can see how far we have come. It can be applied to most anything that can be learned. My example is a very long term situation. A lived experience that is still one I live. There are lots of short term examples like learning math or cooking a new recipe. It isn’t until we’ve achieved it can we look back and see how far we’ve come.

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Making Note

An open gate

The Husband and I spent a few hours one morning before Thanksgiving walking along a trail at a local (though not the usual) conservation area. This location is large and pieces of it sits in multiple towns. It spans a highway even and contains multiple bodies of water. For the first time we visited a section in our own town that we’ve driven by more times than I can count (and that I’ve driven by all my life). This area is more narrow sitting between a very large pond and a small twisty 4 lane road.

The Husband took the opportunity to bring along his metal detector just to see if there were any signals. While he did this I wandered around looking at the outside of the now state owned building that was once someone’s home. Along the way I found this wall and gate. I was so impressed by how beautiful the gate was. It’s so detailed. I loved that it’s been left open. I tried and could easily close it so it’s not stuck in this position.

The gate felt like it had so much to say. Someone took the time to design it. Someone else installed it just so. Someone, probably a number of someone’s, left it in place when over time the fashion of the times changed. But still it’s just a gate meant to block a path, but in this case, open to let everyone in.

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Conditioning, Manipulation & Coercion

How about a little conversation? As I said I’ve had some things rattling around in my head and they must get out. Maybe unblocking my brain will free the creative side.

As I’ve been sitting on my couch, I hear it’s coming back in to vogue, I often wonder about stuff. I’ve always been an observer. I tend to be invisible when in a crowd. It isn’t really a superpower since I do nothing to make it happen. I’m just not flashy and tend to be more quiet in a group setting. When I view what’s going on it makes me think and often I start with why.

Human beings have a need to be social. For the most part it’s in all of us to be part of a pack or part of a tribe. We want to fit in and be accepted. Sure there is a continuum of how social we are. Some like to sit on the edge. Others like to be right in the center. Maybe some only need to view the group from a distance to feel involved. Then there are the ones who seem to have their own spotlight so no one can miss them.

From the time we are small we are given clues to follow. Some of the clues are subtle and others are a brick to the head. I remember being in elementary school and being required to line up to walk to the cafeteria. We were lined up by height, smallest in the front. I was number 2 in line and the nun would walk along beside the line keeping us to the right and moving at the same pace. Just the other day I saw the local preschool walking a group of kids all wearing orange vests and holding on to a rope from the church to the playground across the street. It gave me flashbacks.

In 6th grade I had a really fantastic team of teachers. I don’t know if it was standard practice for upper elementary schools but we had teams of 3 teachers and we “changed” classes much like junior high and high school. Granted we did just have the entire class get up and walk the prescribed route as a group. One of these teachers I really admired. She was fun and very cool. She rode a motorcycle to school in the good weather and wore a leather jacket. It was the 70’s. All week long she’d tell us if we were good and got our work done on Friday afternoon she’d play music while we worked on the last of our work. All week long when anyone stepped out of line a peer was there to call them out and get them back on the straight and narrow.

I used to volunteer in H’s elementary school. I’d go in once a month or so and help in the classroom. I remember the first grade teacher, who I wasn’t much of a fan of though other parents loved her, having the children follow an intricate set of steps when doing their work. It involved plastic colored bread closures and little cups used to denote that you’d finished the particular assignment. Every time I was there one or more children were scolded for not placing their bread tab in the correct cup when they’d completed their assignment. Often I’d have heard one child tell another in a whisper to do their bread tab.

In each of these situations conditioning was being practiced. People were being trained to be part of the group and do “the right thing.” If they didn’t do as was expected they were called out by both the person in charge and often by the other children.

Requiring people to walk on the right side of the hallway is innocuous enough. It’s for safety as much as don’t run in the hallway is. But at what point does conditioning become manipulation? Is it manipulation when the peers are encouraged to call out those who don’t go along? How many steps is it from manipulation to coercion?

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The Best Part Of Thanksgiving Weekend

Pie for breakfast!

I hope those that celebrated had a lovely Thanksgiving. Ours was our usual traditional event. Wednesday involved pie baking and dinner prep. Thursday we gathered and ate nearly nonstop all day. Yesterday I avoided all shopping and relaxed. For all this I am truly thankful.

I’m gathering my fortitude for Christmas shopping and decorating. There is a lot rattling around in my head at this time of the year. I’ll let some of that spill out soon. And if you happen to see my knitting mojo would point it in this direction. I’ve looked everywhere and I just can’t find it.

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Fall At The Vernal Pool

Today we spent some time walking in the local conservation area. The sun was shining and the temperature was in the mid 60’sF. We were there for about an hour and that was time well spent.

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Well I’m Not Surprised

One of the YouTube channels The Husband has been watching is called Self Sufficient Me. It’s a gardener from Australia. He’s in a different type of climate than we have but his ideas are fantastic. The Husband likes container gardening and this guy takes it to the next level.

One episode we watched was about how he grows pineapples. We’ve tried a couple of different very complex methods to get a pineapple plant from the top of a grocery store pineapple. The results were mixed. We had way more failure than success and had pretty much given up until we watched his video. So I picked a pineapple up at the store and The Husband got it planted right away. I don’t know if we’ll actually grow a pineapple but I’m interested in learning to grow kitchen scraps this winter and this is a great first attempt.

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Interacting With The Public

This could have been a really grumbly post except for one tiny encounter. See, I went errand running this morning. First I stopped at the bank to deposit a check. Totally uneventful which is how I prefer my bank visits. From there I girded my loins and went grocery shopping. List in hand (in phone actually) I grabbed a cart and began what I now find to be my most annoying chore. Once upon a time grocery shopping was among my favorites. I’d prep by looking at the ad, make a list, gather some coupons and throw everything into my bag and head to the store. Now I look at the ad, wonder what they’ll actually have when I get there, make a list with a few backup items just in case and head to the store.

This being the week before a big food holiday I expected the aisles to be full of displays and employees stocking the shelves. I did not expect that every aisle would have pallets full of boxes and customers who don’t understand how to drive. I follow the rules of the actual road when I navigate my way through the store. I stay to the right, let others pass when the obstruction is on my side of the aisle and I don’t park my cart in the middle of the aisle while I stand beside it looking at the soup holding up traffic in both directions.

My mother and I used to joke that every moment spent shopping in this particular grocery store is time you don’t have to do in purgatory. Yes, I know the church did away with purgatory.

So today I made my way slowly up and down nearly every aisle tossing way more stuff than we really need into the cart hoping I’ll be able to take a few weeks off during the pre Christmas craziness.

By the time I made it over to the meat I’d had enough of both the noise and the constant stop and go traffic. I tossed a couple of packages of ground beef into a bag and headed off to find some chicken. As I waited the woman looking at the chicken said “Excuse me” as she pushed her cart over and made room for me to look too. You’d have thought the gates of heaven had opened and light shined down on the chicken. No one utters those two words in that grocery store ever. I replied “It’s ok. I’m in no hurry.” She then went on to say she didn’t know how anyone could afford to eat at those prices. I agreed and didn’t mention the sticker shock when I’d looked at the steak I’d glanced at: $19.99/lb. They’ll have to get locked display cases if the price goes any higher.

The rest of my shopping was uneventful. I gathered produce, bread and maybe a couple of chocolate donuts before heading to the cash register.

It’s surprising how one normal pleasant interaction can improve an otherwise crappy experience.

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Pickle Follow Up

So yesterday I put the pickles in the refrigerator to stop the fermenting and I gave one to The Husband to try. Today I popped this one on to a plate and tried them for myself. Here’s what I think. They’re what I like in pickles, garlicky and crisp but the flavor isn’t quite right. They don’t seem salty enough, maybe. I should have added a tad more dill, maybe. I could have used pickling spice instead of just coriander, maybe. I’m really not sure. The method worked really well, the flavor not so much. They’re good enough to eat but not what I wanted. Next time I’m going to treat the whole thing as an experiment and do each jar with a different combination of spices and see what happens.

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A Beautiful Day

We went for a quick walk this morning. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. The ducks were out and about. It was lovely.

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Pickle SOS

Is this normal? Nothing looks like mold but it does look a little scummy. Also a couple of the jars went over even though the lids (plastic Ball lids) say leak proof. Is that normal? As a positive, when I open the lid the smell is so good it makes my mouth water, even first thing in the morning.

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