What If There Were a Few Fairy Godfathers?

When I say fairy godmother, I immediately conjure up the image of Glinda, the good witch from the “Wizard of Oz.” I don’t know why. Maybe it is because she is the only good witch I have ever seen besides the cartoon character friend of Casper, Wendy. Glinda looks mystical and like she should have lots of powers with that sparkling crown and big magical wand. Which she apparently does have, but depending on your point of view she may not be so altruistic in her use of her magical powers(Check out this blog post for a very different POV on Glinda.)

The other day, I was working on a mixed media project, which in the end turned out to be a card. The day I created this mixed media base, it was a sort of freestyle event. I was not aiming for anything but instead, I was layering and working my way through scraps and ephemera to see what would happen. I ended up with a Fairy Godman. I really liked how he turned out. He was fun and whimsical.

This project got me thinking why is it we make wishes to godmothers, but not fairy godfathers? I know that there are Godfathers, but I don’t think they are of the fairy wish-granting type. Why were the fairies who granted wishes female generally and not men?

If you think about it men have generally been equated with power in our society. Up until these last few generations, men were the primary economic providers for many families and the ones most likely to have the money to grant wishes. Even today, men wield the most power, look at who runs and controls most businesses and politics. If someone was going to make things happen odds are it is a man.

Wishes are not things you just go out and buy, work to achieve, or otherwise make it happen. If wishes are defined as things that are a bit of a stretch, possibly seeming impossible, then the use of fairies seems a likely person to turn to for help with your wishes. Is this image of a fairy godmother because women have been portrayed and largely served the nurturing role in society? Are women the people who made us believe in the possibilities and encourage us in moments when we need it most? Have women had to historically work around barriers to make things happen? Having seen women in all these roles did that cause us to imagine a fairy godmother could help us with things that seem impossible?

It is a lot of strange reflections all based on what came out of an afternoon with some scraps of paper.

Mental Illness – my thoughts

After what happened in Uvalde, I was listening to a Senate committee hearing about possible changes in gun management in this country. I was angered by many things I heard but one I repeatedly heard was we need more mental health care. If they had had mental health care this would not have happened. What I heard in my mind over and over is that people who have mental health issues are one step away from being a criminal. The senators I heard speak have clearly shown the world they know nothing about mental health.

First and foremost I am not a mental health professional. I am a person who survived things that I would not wish on my worst enemy. I have sought and received mental health help. I had a very successful career and am blessed with a marriage of 42 years. Most of the time I have the skills I need to function well in the world. Occasionally, I am thrown seriously off. When this happens, I suddenly find that my skills for managing my anxiety aren’t working. Once in a while, I need what RangerSir calls a tuneup. It is then I go back and seek some professional help to help me get the boxes in my mind back in order so anxiety does not take over. I suspect that most of the people I have known and worked with had no idea of my struggles. I never shared this because of the stigma of mental illness. At no time did I become a criminal.

Mental health issues have a wide spectrum of causes, from situational, to chemical or how a person’s biology is wired. Every time we have a mass shooting I hear the statement we need more mental health access. Like mental illness and it alone if treated would have prevented the killings. This is a very narrow and singular view of the world. Nothing is that simple.

We need to develop a more robust system to treat mental health conditions regardless of a mass killing. We need access to treatment when we cannot afford to pay or our insurance leaves so much copay behind that we need to choose between housing, food, or health care. We need more trained mental health providers. We need affordable pharmaceutical options. This is an everyday struggle for millions. We need to talk about this daily until it is fixed not just each time there is a mass killing.

There are millions and millions of people in this country with little to no access to mental health care and support that somehow figure out how to manage their mental health situations and none of them would even consider shooting up a school or being harmful to others. There are people who live productive amazing lives every day and go home at night and pull out all their coping mechanisms to do it again tomorrow. No one knows of their struggles. There are people who live lives, most of us would never choose, living on the streets and under bridges. They do this because they often don’t have access to the short supply of mental health providers or the medications they need. Yet as destitute as their lives appear to us on the outside, they are managing their mental health somehow. Maybe it isn’t managed well, but it is managed on some level. There are an untold number of people functioning somewhere between these two extremes with mental health issues. We never know about it because there is such a terrible stigma associated with mental health. It is reinforced every time another mass shooting occurs and access is once again connected to a horrific crime.

It seems like those people with the power to help people get access to the services they need, always tie mental health to mass killings. Mass killers are given a mental illness diagnosis from an armchair by members of Congress. This connection continues to stigmatize mental health. It takes it from an illness to a criminal element. It is an insult to the millions of people who have mental health conditions.

Lack of mental health care access is criminal, but lack of mental health care does not make us criminals.

Same Stars, Different Sky

One of the hardest things about leaving Montana was knowing that it was likely I would never see another night sky like the one just outside my front door. Although I never could identify anything other than the big and little dipper I would spend hours watching the night sky. Just last night RangerSir came in and said “I just looked up and saw Orion in the sky.” He was so pleased and I think a little surprised.

Photo by Roberto Nickson from Pexels

The night sky where we lived in Montana was black, not dark blue or navy. Twilight lasted forever, but once it was dark, it was pitch dark. That black sky made the Milky Way stand out and was always easy to see. In a black sky, a person could understand why it was called the Milky Way with the long wide band of stars that created it. One of my favorite things to do was to get up in the middle of the night for every forecasted meteor storm or possible northern lights. I would set my alarm, so I could go outside at the peak hour and watch for meteors streaking across the sky. Even on nights when the forecasted storm was a bust, there were always a few meteors to be found in the night sky of Montana. Set against that black sky everything showed up. It was calming for my soul. It was one of those things that made a person realize how little you are in this universe.

We were aware of the impact of light pollution on star watching and we were sure once we left Montana we would not see many stars at all living near urban centers. What we have pleasantly discovered is there are still stars, but they are set against a blue night sky. The street lights and light coming from distant cities erases the faintest stars in the distance, but the biggest and the brightest still shine here.

When we walk Zip after the sun goes down we always take time to look at the moon and the stars. The stars in the sky remind us we are but a very small piece of the universe, but the very same universe as the rest of you. It is an amazing place and we are all here together. It may seem like it is all very different, but actually it on how we see it that makes it different. I hope the next time you are out at night you take a minute to stop and look up into the sky and see what show nature is giving you.

A Day of Gratitude and Thanks

Today I am taking a moment to publicly express my gratitude and thanks. So often I get caught up in life that I don’t appreciate what I am given.

I am thankful for my family. Though my family is not geographically fit, technology allows us to continue to stay close. I am probably closer to my brothers as an adult than we were as children, which is unusual for many. This summer I was able to renew connections to a few of my cousins. Cousins were a holiday connection growing up, but they have grown up to be some of the coolest human beings I know. I am thankful for my sister-in-law, because she is a dear part of my husband.

I am thankful for my friends who are like family. I am fortunate I have more friends than I can count on my hands and toes. This year I am missing the Thanksgiving dinner with my Montana family. I was given the honor of being included with that special family for the last 15 years. I am thankful for the friends I have made over the years who continue to work with me to keep our connections strong with calls, email, text, video chats, and snail mail. I am thankful for those few lifetime friends, who I have made, who no matter how long we go between connections when we do connect, it is like we just talked yesterday. They are sisters of my heart.

I am thankful for the home I have made with RangerSir. We are blessed with a roof over our heads, heat running water, and a full larder. Not only, do we not go to bed hungry, we are able to pick and choose what we will eat each day. There are many folks in this country who are not so fortunate. These are not just third-world problems. It is a problem for working families, the unemployed, people on fixed incomes, the homeless, and others I am not even aware of. I think that the homeless are sometimes the only ones thought of facing these challenges, but they are not. When I look at the percentage of kids in school systems qualifying for free meals it reminds me that many of the poor in this country hide behind closed doors that we don’t see. They appear on the outside just like us. So sometimes we fail to realize we are blessed when our neighbors appear to be in the same situation as us but are not.

I am in a safe, loving relationship. I know what the other looks like and I never ever forget it. Each moment with a spouse or partner who not only loves you, but respects you is priceless. No relationship lasts without lots of work. You both have to want and strive to support the other person in becoming all that they should be. You may not always see the same path to the end, but you both know and see the same endpoint. It is that single moral compass of life that will sustain your relationship.

I have my health. There have been some serious challenges in the road, but each time I have come out the other side. I am lucky because I feel I have adequate access to health care. I am thankful for the health I currently have and try to be a good steward of my body.

Today I will be joining my sister of the heart and her husband as she makes her first Thanksgiving dinner. I will be reflecting on all my blessings, some of which I touched on here. It is not all about food, football, or even the folks you gather with. It is a day of gratitude for your blessings. Some have many. Some have few. I hope you take a moment to reflect on yours as I will on mine. Wishing you peace, kindness, and a year with many blessings.

Why Aren’t We Searching for A Connection?

A card I recently made

I suspect the trolls will come out looking for me but oh well here goes. If we don’t speak up people assume that silence means we agree with them. Here goes…

I know this may appear to be Pollyanna or simple-minded but why in all this craziness are we constantly looking to be a life of us vs them? Don’t we have more in common than what separates us? Even if we have significant fundamental differences I still would argue we have more in common and most of that actually impacts on a daily, hourly and in minute by minute basis. I hate that we can look at our Christmas list and realize that there a few folks on the list that we are “dead” to because differences stirred up by people in distant lives on the internet, in cities far away, and people who don’t even exist. How did we get to the point that there is only one point of view?

RangerSir and I are ethically and morally exactly on the same page. Though there have been times the method to the end result was to each of us a very different path. We both wanted and believed in the same thing, but the policies to get there were divergently different. A couple of times so much so that we voted for different presidents. We did not agree on the method, but we could see another point of view. We could see how one another’s life story made them look at the means to the end through a different lense. It was all of this that has allowed our long marriage to endure, grow, and be so strong.

It is the same thing for some of our longest lasting friendships. We respect how they look at things. We value them enough to consider them friends and so why would we not listen and value their point of view when it is different than my own. I like to think I’ve grown, matured, and even changed when listening to another person.

I have written a previous post that brought out the trolls, and it wasn’t pleasant. It resulted in me taking it down for fear of becoming viral or altered and then viral. So in spite of the fear of how trolls can come out of the woodwork because of this post possibly aiming to treat me wickedly and prompt others to do so here it is my point of view. I think that this is worth saying. As a person, not as a group of people, but as a single person we have a lot in common and a lot to fight for together. I don’t expect everyone to agree. I expect you to have come decently to look and say I wonder what kind of life she has lived that would prompt her to look at the world through those glasses. Possibly reflect on your point of view. Then think about all the things that make us a like you never thought about before.

Thank you for giving me a few minutes of your time to read this post. I appreciate it and truly hope today is a good one for you.

Odd Things That Give You a Happy Moment

Last week I really hit a wall. I am sure in some way this transient lifestyle caught up with me. I did what I call “went to ground.” I just stopped. I just become even more of a introvert and only did things that make me smile. Most of them alone. No apologies for my choices of activities. No embarrassment about what I chose do. I lived each moment in the here and now.

So for those of you regular readers, don’t worry. I am sure it was some kind of mental health bump. A really good mental professional once said, as long as when you hit a bump you use the tools you have and you make good forward progress then you are good on your own. When your tools are not helping or you refuse to use your tools then you need to make sure you reach out for help. I did not stay in bed and do nothing. I wasn’t blue, sad or feeling depressed or hopeless. I just needed to slow down and do what it took to recharge and get my feet back under myself. I think it was just some reckoning of life in upheaval as we passed week 12 in the apartment.

So what did I do?

I had two firm commitments and I attended both of those, my book club and my watercolor class. I enjoyed them both and the people in them. I am the youngest person in my book club, but this group takes me into places I would not normally travel. This month’s book was The Warmth of Other Suns. We did our meeting via Zoom. Everyone wanted to meet in person but we all wanted safe more. My watercolor class is taught by a local artist. She is so talented. We meet at the local cultural center. There are only four students and we all mask up for the hour and half class. This week we did a beach scene. I got my ocean wrong, but for a quick first painting of a seaside it was a fun exercise.

I’ve never done a watercolor landscape before.

I watched two movies in just a few days. For me this is like watching a 1,000 hour TV marathon nonstop. I can’t remember when I last watched TV for more an hour in a single setting. I liked the movies and sat still for both of them. Not my usual cup of tea, both were documentaries.

I also played Kitchen Crash. For those you not familiar with this TV show, it was a reality show, where some chef/food professional came to your house and made a meal out of what you had in your refrigerator and cupboards. My refrigerator and asking Google for a recipe using X ingredient meant I was cooking up a storm. Cooking is calming, creative and an expression of my love for others. I made a zucchini cake, rhubarb crumble, homemade tortillas that became pork street tacos, homemade pizza using tapas leftovers, mini cheese cakes, a kung po inspired vegetable crisper dump with chicken and tried brining and roasted fresh dug peanuts. This required some serious eating here daily, but fortunately I have become the master at cooking for two. So there were no leftovers.

Doing something in the kitchen is one of my creative moments.

I did not art during my down time. I had been doing mega doses of art since we moved in the apartment. I was arting overtime daily. I needed to step back and I did. I had reached the point where I was not enjoying my art. One should never get to that point. Today I am half a week behind in year long class, but I am ok with that and will catch up in the next few weeks. I gave myself permission to art for me until I get into the house and start setting up my studio space. I do what I do. No more racetrack art.

This was the most unexpected thing I did during my down time. I embraced wild and crazy socks. I get cold feet, even during the summer here in North Carolina. I have a nice collection of sport socks and dress socks My dress socks are gold toe black socks that are exactly the same. Now you know how boring I am in the sock department. Enter 10 pairs of Halloween socks. I was checking out at Marshalls, walking down that aisle of impulse items that you have to go down before you get to the cashier. There was a packed of low profile Halloween socks 10 pair for $6. They went into my cart. I thought that they would be a great cold toes addition. Those of you familiar with me know I have no use for the Halloween holiday. I don’t hate it only because it is not worth expelling that kind of energy that hating it would take. Suddenly every evening I have on a different pair of socks with some crazy design. What is even stranger is I am hoping for the next set to be either Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday, or autumn. Each evening when I settle down in a chair with a book, these wild Halloween design socks just make me smile and what better way is there to end the day than with a smile.

I have ten pairs of these wild socks that do nothing but make me smile….oh and yes keep my toes warm.

So my words to you is embrace what makes you happy. Small things. Big things. Let there be no such thing as a guilty pleasure, just let it be a pleasure. Look for what will bring a smile to your face. Acknowledge those wonderful things inside you and don’t wait for someone else to tell you that you are wonderful. Treat your body well. Let those around you love you, but also love yourself. You take care of yourself and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Embrace each moment. Live in the here and now.

Celebrating What You Can Control

I have been gone a couple of weeks perking on a couple things I can NOT control. Even went to far as to draft a post on this line of thought. I wanted to share it, but feared internet trolls would make an example of me because my opinion was contrary to theirs. Well today that stops. I am going to write about things I can control and things in my life that may be helpful, bring a smile to your face or give you some input or insight. So I am back on track and writing again.

Summer is coming to an end and for the first year in memory I have not put a single thing by for the winter or to share with others. This is not me. I have been canning, freezing and drying food for as long as I can remember. In a normal life, in a normal year my freezer would be full of things I had froze for the long winter months. I would have ran the dehydrator for hours to save our special recipe fruit, leathers or jerky. I would have canned something to use as gifts for friends during the holiday season. Living in this apartment made any of this seem impossible. Enough of that woe is me. It might not be easy or “normal” but anything was possible.

Muscadine & Scuppernongs

Last week at my favorite roadside market got in their first batches of grapes. They stopped me in my tracks because they almost looked like a miniature plum. I asked the owner what you did with the grapes and was told most people make wine but that some people also made jelly with it. I was game for the jelly, not giving a lot of thought about how I might do that. I bought two quarts of grapes, one dark and one light. I tasted my first grape as I put them in the car to take home. The skin is tough, seriously tough. I think even more so than the Concord grape I grew up with. It was clearly one of those grapes you were supposed to squeeze the grape out of the skin into your mouth.

I got home and asked Google about my new grape purchase. I learned North Carolina has tons of grapes. They even have a state grape. It is a grape that has two names Muscadine when it is ripe to the reddish purple stage and Scuppernongs when it still yellow. Never heard of it? Neither had I. The mother vine here in North Carolina is estimated to be over 400 years old. It is an indigenous grape that grows quite well here and resistant to pests. There are several wineries across the state that use this type of grapes to make wines. I am going to have to make a roadtrip to do some up close and personal investigation into that. Of course, I was able to find a recipe for small batch Scuppernongs jelly on the internet and I was off and running.

I apologize for not taking pictures throughout the process. It wasn’t on my radar as I was making the jelly that I would blog about this. One of the things I learned online is that you slit the skin when cooking down the grapes so that they would not explode as you cooked the raw grapes to extract the juices. I also spent some serious time thinking about all the canning supplies I had in storage back in Montana that I did not want or need to duplicate. I did not mind buying jars but the tools I was going need would require some serious workaround hacks. I found some old fashion methods to help me and some inventive hacks to make my jelly.

I got some good old-fashion muslin to drain my cooked grapes in to separate the pulp for the the juice. I put two layers of muslin in my colander for spaghetti and rinsing fruits and veggies and poured my cooked grapes in it it over a bowl. I allowed it to sit overnight so that I was able to get two cups of juice the next day for my jam. Problem one solved.

I got jars and lids at my local discount store. I was perfectly okay with that. I always seem to be buying some jars each year to replace what I give away or the customize the size for what I am canning at the time.

7-4oz jars fit perfectly in the bottom of my crab pot.

My next problem was the hot water bath to properly sterilize my jars and then cook them for sealing once they were filled with jelly. I have perfectly size pots for just that along with a couple of funnels with marks for proper head room when filling them and jar lifting tongs for working with the hot jars. I did not want to duplicate what I already owned. I found the perfect hack, a crab cooking pot. I now live close to the coast and could use something like that. I had nothing for cooking crab back in Montana. No big call for cooking fresh crabs there. The insert to put in and pull crabs out of hot water was perfect for getting my new jars in and out of the hot water. I put the jars and lids in the bottom of the strainer pot and let them boil to sterilize them. I would later put the jars of jelly with seals back in that same sieved pot insert and use it to immerse the jars in the water bath for my final step. It was a hack but it worked.

For such small jars I could use plain old steak tongs to pull out my finished jelly jars.

I have now nested and completed a ritual that is part of the changing seasons for me. It makes the fact that after 11 weeks in the temporary quarters while our new house is puttering along with construction, but we are still without an end date not so overwhelming. I have a collection of little jars of bright fuchsia jelly that looks like jewels to share with others. I have a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I am ready for fall, whatever it looks like in North Carolina.

This doesn’t capture the jewel fuschia color of this jelly, but it is there.