I’m so Glad the year past is over.


This has been a year filled with upheaval.

This is the year I took a really good look around me at wider society and realized that, though I was considered a flaming liberal in my younger years, I am now – without having changed many fundamental views at all – considered a conservative, a racist, a white nationalist, homophobe, transphobic, Islamophobe, alt right, …. whatever else people on the other end of the spectrum think is a pejorative.

So let’s look at a few of these.  First:  racist.  Since thanks to my mother I have some NA in me (not enough for a quantum, but the point is it’s there), and my mother was married to a NA, I’m pretty sure we can ditch this right now.  But let’s go further – my family also has some Jewish ancestry thanks to a torrid love story that ended with a Catholic marriage, only to be followed some years later by a Catholic excommunication and a splitting of the family into Protestant and Catholic camps.  I have never put down any race for anything.  I do recognize there are widely differing cultural elements in different peoples, some of which I admire and some of which I find abhorrent – including in my own cultural group, Midwest white lower middle class.  I’m pretty sure that makes me observant, not racist.

Conservative.  Funny how time works.  This may be the only thing where my views have evolved, largely because I went into the work force and actually had to provide for myself and my children.  I used to be very much like the California style liberals – medical care is a human right, food is a human right, water is a human right, sewer service is a human right, housing is a human right.  Well, not so much.  Because taxes are a thing.  And because there are FAR too many moochers out there.

Now I feel differently in a few ways:

1.    First, clean water. Well, having water that isn’t going to kill you is a good thing to have.  And that has been largely taken care of across our country via sanitation systems which include water treatment plants.  The thing is, our taxes only pay a portion of that.  You as a consumer still need to have some skin in the game and pay a service fee.  The idea behind that being that a portion of the service fees don’t go to pay for anything now, but go into a fund for future needs for the community.  Yes, I realize that has not happened in many cases.  But we’re not talking about how it is (in places like Flint for example) we’re talking about how it should be (and mostly works, in places like Missoula for example).  If you don’t pay your fees, your water will be shut off, eventually.  This is not difficult to understand, one would think.  But though assistance plans are available, and though people are informed on ways to conserve water, they continue to waste prodigious amounts of water and to default and, instead of taking responsibility for their non payment, they scream about water being a human right when what they *actually* mean is that CLEAN water, treated by the cities they live in, should be available to them for free regardless of the actual cost of providing said water.  And regardless of the agreements they signed when they hooked up to the city water service.

2.    Sewer.  This operates on much the same principle as clean water does.  The ability to wash your dishes, your body, your clothing, your floors, and use a toilet to flush your waste, and have all that effluent simply run down a drain for someone else to handle is an AMAZING thing.  We happen to have a septic system, but we have lived in cities as well.  This is an expensive service to provide, mainly because the risks to the population if not done correctly are huge, and the liability involved is also huge.  I don’t know if you are aware, but workers are at huge risk of getting Hepatitis C – for instance – from raw sewage.  It’s a nasty, dirty job, and the pay needs to be very good to compensate those who are willing to get the education and training to keep the rest of us safe.  It’s not in fact a human right.  It’s a privilege of living in modern society.  Yes, I’m aware that there have been night soil workers in the past.  But it was still very primitive and people often got sick due to the primitive nature of the system and the fact that raw sewage was often dumped directly into the river system from which people got their water.

The U.N. says the right to clean water and sewage is a human right.   They do not however provide any funding to assure said rights, and their declarations have no force of law.  So, until they pony up the money to all those people in Detroit and elsewhere to pay their bills and keep them in clean water and sewage, I will continue to ignore the U.N.  It’s quite easy to pontificate on a subject about which you have no financial responsibility.

For both of these essential services I was blissfully ignorant of the science and technology involved. When I was small I never considered it, and when I was of the age to begin considering it, we had a well and a septic system so it remained a relative non issue.  It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned how it all works.  That’s when I realized how very expensive it is to provide water and sewer service, and how important the payments are in providing – and continuing to provide – these services.

3.  Medical care.  This one is a hot button for many people, me included.  I think we as a society have a responsibility to provide basic medical services to CHILDREN.  If we take care of our children, they will grow up to be as healthy as they can be, and are more likely to become productive citizens if they are as healthy as they can be.  Getting regular visits to catch things like a lazy eye, or hip dysplasia, early, will prevent complications and permanent disability later.

For adults….not so much.  People who do not have to pay anything for their medical care are much more likely to over use the system by increasing ER visits than those who either have commercial insurance or are on Medicare, or no insurance at all.  Some patients cite the copays they must pay at their primary care office as a reason for going to the ER, because they don’t have one if they go there.  Here is the original study abstract if you’d like to read it, the one that confirms what every EMS and ER worker already knew.

This is a huge issue.  If people have no financial skin in the game they have no financial incentive – or any other incentive, really, to follow medical provider advice or instructions, no matter how carefully the provider tries to involve them in their care plan.  They will consistently take the easiest, and the cheapest, way out.  Which in America involves the ER, because they don’t have to pay.

Oh, you say, but people on Medicaid are sicker….?  And….let’s go back to the statement about having financial skin in the game.  In AZ for instance, there is a $4 copay for office visits.  Almost ZERO patients pay this, because they know they don’t have to.  They also don’t have to pay the copay for their medications.  If a provider writes a prescription for Tylenol, Medicaid (AHCCCS in AZ) pays for it.  But there’s a price attached for the rest of us, the taxpayers, a very heavy price.  Generic tylenol costs about $2.99 for a bottle.  If you pay cash.  If the taxpayers pay for it, the cost goes up to approximately $34.99 per bottle.

When I worked in the ER mothers would bring their children in for a cold, nothing more.  When Tylenol was recommended, they would insist on a prescription.  Why?  Because they don’t have to pay for it.  Many of these same patients have *very* expensive gold jewelry, the newest iPhone, designer purses, and perfect manicures.  Yes, some of these patients *are* sicker.  However in many cases it’s because they refuse to listen to advice to exercise, lose weight, and eat a healthier diet.  That involves effort, and most are not willing to invest effort if there is a free option such as a pill.  Even though a type II diabetic will likely end up in renal failure or losing extremities to amputation, most will continue to take metformin over making real changes to their health.  And all the new medications developed?  They are there because patients just won’t do what they need to do to take charge of their health.  It’s just too hard to change.  And there’s no financial incentive to do so, because they don’t bear the cost of their health care.  We do, the working taxpayers.  Even their transportation to and from medical appointments is free for them, courtesy of the taxpayer, here in AZ.

There is no cost involved in walking around the mall for a morning, if it’s too hot or cold outside, and there is no cost involved in walking around your neighborhood if it’s safe enough.  There is no cost, when you have food stamps, in choosing healthier foods and fewer foods that come out of a box.  And please don’t give me the BS line about they can’t afford it.  I was on food stamps when I first divorced my ex-husband.  I did not need to feed my children crap.  I fed them mostly from the produce aisle just as I always had.  Rice, beans – from the produce aisle.  Tofu – from the produce aisle.  Veggies and fruits – same.  My crockpot was, and is, my friend.  So is my pressure cooker.

I think the copays must be enforced.  I think everyone should have some financial skin in the game, whatever their income.  I think people need to be held accountable for their health decisions.  How?  I don’t know, other than financial accountability.

Homophobe.  Nope, never have been.  Don’t want to be homosexual, am not homosexual, not wired that way, but could care less if they want to get married.  Go ahead, be my guest.  The political ramifications of homosexuality in our modern society however….*F* that to be blunt.  If you’re gay and you want a wedding cake, then don’t sue the Christian baker who doesn’t want to make it for you.  Go to a baker who doesn’t give a shit.  Ferchrissakes,  buy a clue already.  All you’re doing is creating an even more hostile environment for yourselves where you’re going to be less safe and more likely to be the target of hostilities in the long run.  And you’re giving nut ball extremists Christians fuel for their Satanic agenda fantasies.  As to access to medical care, I really don’t care if you’re gay or straight, bi or a sexual.  If your sexual behavior makes you more at risk for certain things then that’s something we need to discuss, but other than that I honestly don’t care.  Your sex life is your business.

Transphobe.  Nope, see homophobe above.  I think they are seriously mentally ill, but I also recognize that population genetics plays out on a much larger scale than many realize.  I had a neighbor for 2 years who was transgender male to female.  In that time I went from being sympathetic to pretty well fed up.  No, you are not a special snowflake.  No, your needs and wants do not trump mine.  No, you are not entitled to special treatment.  No, you do not deserve to get angry when people mistake you for a cross dressing man because you won’t get the laser treatments for your face, and you refuse to work on the feminine voice and physical behaviors.  And most importantly, the world does not revolve around transgender issues, and not everything is related to transgender issues.

Islamophobe.  Nope.  Although I do have to say that the Golden Age of Islam was the product of Shia Islam, not Sunni.  Shia valued ancient knowledge, both spiritual and practical, and were the keepers of this knowledge and in fact kept it alive by employing the peoples from the areas they conquered in teaching *them* this knowledge.  They are the mystics of the religion of Islam.  All of the radical Muslims in the world arise from Sunni Islam.  Wahabists, ISIL, Daesh….all of them.  They are now, and have from the start, persecuted the Shia.  Their goal was, is, and shall always be, to wipe them from the face of the earth.  Along with the rest of us who just won’t bend over and convert.

White nationalist.  Nope.  Please refer back to racist, and to islamophobe, and conservative.  I care that two of my ancestral homelands on my mother’s side, Germany and France, have been turned into cesspools of terror and violence, and the countries are becoming unrecognizable as their unique identities they cultivated over thousands of years are being systematically destroyed.  I care that my grandparents’ homeland, Ireland, is suffering the same fate.  I care about preserving the cultures that I came from, about preserving the peoples that I came from, about making sure they continue to exist in the future, not becoming subsumed in the current hyper saturation of incoming (invading?) cultures that have no interest in assimilating whatsoever.  I care that Sweden, my sons’ ancestral homeland via their great grandparents, has been turned into something completely unrecognizable.  I don’t want to see the cultures and countries that produced my ancestors disappear completely, to become something unrecognizable as what they have been.

Alt-right.  Still not quite sure what this is supposed to mean, even though I’ve read up on it.  If it means I think people should take responsibility for their actions, to work for their stuff, to be good citizens, to fight corruption by getting involved in a responsible way, to raise their children to be the same, then I guess I am.  Nazi?  Meh.  Hitler had some crazy ass ideas.  He also had some good common sense ideas.  Like anyone else.  The too bad part is that the crazy ass ideas were so awful we can never explore the good ones, simply because he thought of them.

And BTW.  Calling me any or all of these epithets will get you …. exactly nowhere.  Because the power of these has been expended in the last year.  I rather suspect I represent the backbone of America now, more or less.

The saddest part?  Without changing most of my political viewpoints, I have gone from being a liberal in my youth to being called all of these things in my middle age.  Because they political spectrum has shifted THAT FAR in 30 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Localizing your heathenry.


So, back to the promised topic of localized heathenry.

At the heathen meetup barbeque Mr. TF and I went to several weeks ago, we were invited to go camping for a heathen moot in the middle of the month, and they will be celebrating Winter Finding at this moot.  We had to decline because we are already committed to a Samhain campout at the end of the month.  We in turn invited them to come – and they declined because it’s not a heathen holiday.  Eh?

This is exactly the reason I think heathenry should be local to your region.  Because I live in Arizona and let’s face it – even at my altitude mid October is nowhere near winter!  As a long time gardener I know my local climate conditions.  The first frost comes usually the last weekend of October or the first weekend of November.  The last frost comes usually Mother’s Day weekend.  So for me, Winter Finding is the weekend of the first hard frost – tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers all die from that frost so as far as I’m concerned it’s the official end of the canning season as well as the official end of summer.  And that’s what Winter Finding is supposed to be all about.  The ending of summer, the beginning of the cold, the start of the Wild Hunt, retreat indoors to fires and stews and quiet contemplation.

Where I grew up, in N. Michigan, the first frost was usually the second week of September, and we usually had over a foot of snow on the ground by Halloween/Samhain.  So it would be ridiculous to celebrate Winter Finding mid October, there’s already snow on the ground.  It would be logical that they celebrate it at the time of the first frost, which for them happens to generally coincide with the fall equinox.  Which is on a very different schedule from my first frost!

And vice versa for Summer Finding.  We don’t have much of a spring here – our weather goes from a late snow in April (that doesn’t stick) to 90 degrees in about a two week time period.  I have never yet been able to grow spinach – it gets too hot and it bolts long before it’s big enough to eat because of this.  But it continues to frost on and off at night until the second weekend of May.  Realistically, our celebration of Beltaine on the last weekend of April/first weekend of May is too soon for our local climactic conditions but we’ve been celebrating with our friends/local tribe of Pagans but not heathens for the better part of 20 years so we will continue to do this.  It too is “not a heathen holiday” but it’s a part of the ancestral culture of my people (Irish).  Summer Finding for me is celebrated best by planting feverishly with dirt under my nails and imagining the harvest to come.  Which happens as it should after Mother’s Day weekend and my worries about frost are pretty much nil.  But if you look at the heathen calendar Summer finding is celebrated in March.  That might work somewhere else but it really doesn’t work here.  As far as I’m concerned if I can’t grow stuff it’s not summer yet.

Disablot and Yule are pretty much the same regardless – the 12 nights of Christmas are a direct reflection of the Christianization of the Mother Nights.  Same prohibitions even, like for instance no spinning during the the Yule month.

The Wheel of the Year makes more sense in a locality where there *are* four seasons.  In Scandinavia, as here in Arizona, where we basically have two seasons, it makes less sense. Our ancestors would have celebrated (or not) the holidays based on their local area climate and traditions.  We should too.

Hospitality violation


My neighbor, whom I’ve written about before Here.  Came over today to buy some eggs.  Three dozen eggs.  She paid cash for them.

Now, I’m never really happy to see her, she wore out her welcome a while ago by constantly begging for food when she was here.  That finally stopped when we started telling her “No, we need that for lunch at work.”  Well mostly stopped.

Let me give you some more history and background.

She was discharged from her own medical practitioner last year because of drug shopping.  She came to me to gripe about it, and I told her they have that right.  She is the one who agreed to the terms when she began going there, she has no one to blame but herself.  She then tried to say she has the right to get a second opinion and I agreed with her, but told her she is the one who signed the contract, she maybe should have read it a little more closely before deciding to get a second opinion AND filling a narcotic script from the other practitioner.

She has no job, no visible means of support, yet she gets tattoos regularly – she is covered from neck to feet.  She says people just give them to her, my husband says she is trading sex for them (which might actually be true).  She worked for many years as a stripper.

She has tried to tell me for a year that there is something wrong with her thyroid (there’s not, I saw the tests myself), that there’s something wrong with her sinuses (she saw a specialist who told her there’s nothing wrong), that there’s something wrong with her heart (there’s not, she had an angiogram but before that for months her excuse for lying in bed all day was chest pain), that she has anxiety and insomnia (but when asked how much she sleeps she says about 12-15 hours per day), that she can’t lose weight and feels tired all the time (yes you probably do, you sleep too much and you don’t exercise – and you’re nearly 50!).  There’s a word for this:  malingerer.

She says she can’t get a job (well probably not, your top lip is pierced twice and your bottom lip once, your head is partially shaved and neon red where the hair is actually growing, and your tatted from neck to toes).  This is rural Arizona.  That crap is seriously frowned on.

Today was the final straw.   Nearly every time she comes over here she tries to use me as a free second opinion.  Today she asked me about doxepin.  And tried to tell me she’s going to try to get on Adderall.  Which is legal meth.  I lost it.  I told her flat out that I’ve known her for a year and she does NOT have ADD.  Or ADHD.  She said that yes she does, she took a test and it said she probably does (one of these on line self tests mind you).  Now seriously.  Think about the previous two paragraphs, what I’ve said about her, and tell me if that looks like ADD/ADHD to you.  She’s spent the last year bitching about her heart, her metabolism, her fatigue, her sinuses and NOT ONCE about anything remotely compatible with ADD.  Other than the changing focus on different body parts when they are proven to be just fine, mind you.

I actually began yelling at her.  “Bull $h!T!!  Bull $h!T!!  No you do not! You F*ing do not!  I’ve known you for a year, you do NOT have ADD!  You took a F*ing self test, they’re very easily manipulated to get the results you want!  You just want F*ing legal meth!”  I basically threw her out of the house.  I actually told her right before I shut the door in her face that she just wants it to sell it.  Which is probably a huge hospitality violation.  But really.  Does coming over and bouncing a bogus diagnosis of ADD/ADHD off your practitioner neighbor when you’re purportedly there to buy eggs really count as visiting?

I seriously think she wants the meth so she can sell it – there are several people here in the community who were getting it from the previous physician (who has since gone on to more lucrative pastures) and were selling it as well as using it.  I know there’s a market.  And I know who was selling it.  And she can’t get a job, so the logical thing would be to fake an illness in order to get a controlled substance for sales purposes.

Man I get sick of the people who are bleeding the system dry.  I work 6 days per week, and I have insurance that I can’t use because the deductible is $6500.  My husband doesn’t even have insurance, we can’t afford it.  I’ve been to the doctor maybe once for an actual physical since we’ve been together (nearly 20 years) and twice for employment related physicals, and maybe 3 times for urgent care type issues.  He’s been to the doctor three times  for a physical (all employment related) and once to the emergency room for an allergic reaction.

Our neighbor goes to the doctor, courtesy of the taxpayer, at least once a month!  And gets very expensive medications prescribed, for which she pays nothing, courtesy of the taxpayer!  And then proceeds to refuse to take them.  And there’s no reason she can’t work other than the fact that she deliberately makes herself unemployable!  These are the people who are breaking the system, not the hard working poor people who really do need a little help.  And believe me, I live in a very low income community.  I know which of my neighbors work and which are milking the system.  For all the good it does.

I actually do not have words for the amount of anger I am feeling right now.  And a little shame that I let her get to me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not such a lost art


Spinning in Donegal, 1978

My grandparents on my father’s side come from Mayo and Cork.  I see the ruddy complexion in my boys (and me) is a ‘thing’ for those of us with Irish ancestry 🙂

When I first sat down at an antique wheel it was as though something ‘clicked’ in my hands.  My hands knew what to do before my brain caught up.  I suspect something like spinning, a skill with such a long history, is carried in genetic memory.

While I can’t speak for my ancestors, who may very well have hated the task, I can say that spinning gives me comfort, a time to meditate, a peaceful space in which to contemplate everything and nothing.

Apparently my cat’s been living a double life


We have a cat named Bari (pronounced Barry) which means ‘innocent.”  How we got him is a slightly complicated story.  We have a lot of strays in our neighborhood.  Some have been abandoned, and some are feral, but they are relatively friendly so we feed them.  We don’t generally adopt the strays, we just give them food and water, and love when they’re willing, and nature does what it will.  It’s made for sad moments, but also many happy ones too.  We have indoor cats, rescues, so we are generally careful about the mix we bring into the home.  Some cats will just never get along.  And we can’t adopt every homeless cat.  We just offer kindness and food for those who are willing.

So we had been feeding this feral cat, a tiny tiny black and white female we named “Miss Kitty” because she was so tiny, and so prim, and everything had to be ‘just so’ before she felt comfortable enough to let us pet her.  On Christmas Eve 2008 we found out she was a mama, because she brought her kitten with her to introduce him to us.   He was weaned already, but he was so tiny, and so young, and it was so cold outside that we kidnapped him.  There’s no other way to put it.  We stole him from her, because we knew he wouldn’t survive the winter if we didn’t.  In fact, Miss Kitty didn’t survive, we didn’t see her after the end of January and we assume she got eaten by a coyote or something.

https://thetinfoilhatsociety.com/2009/01/09/my-new-spinning-assistant/ if you scroll down you will see photos of him when he had grown quite a bit – mom’s love and milk might be good, but if there’s not enough babies just can’t grow.  We got him neutered when he was old enough, because the last thing we want are more kittens in the neighborhood.

So anyway, he peed all over everything for months and months.  I was ready to take him to the local cat rescue because it was so out of control.  In desperation, my husband started letting him out.  Well, that’s what he wanted because he quit.  So every since, he’s been an indoor outdoor cat (our only one), and when he’s ready to come back in he’s learned to knock on the window (really!) and meow until we let him in.  We call it ‘going on patrol’ and sometimes, in summer, he’s gone for a day and a half before he comes back.  We just assume it’s because it’s nice out and he’s got things to do; he comes when I whistle, usually, he’s never far.

Last week, though, he was gone for 3 days.  We were a little worried, but he always comes back, he’s a big strong cat and he can take care of himself.  Well, when he came back it looked like his belly had been shaved.  He wouldn’t let me pick him up to look and Mr. TF told me I was crazy.  The night before last though, he came to bed with us and I pointed it out again.  Sure enough, his belly had been shaved!

Apparently our cat has been leading a double life, because *someone* took him in to have him spayed….we are now wondering what his other name is and who the family is that has also adopted him 🙂

Still waiting.


Our camping trip was amazing.  We met some people, including someone (who shall remain nameless) that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined meeting at a little tiny camp out in Northern Arizona!  We also met several Arizona heathen families, some wonderful New Mexico heathens, along with a fellow mead maker/brewer, and lots of other people, all of whom were talented and giving of their time and skill.  It was, all in all, a lovely weekend.

We got an incredible amount of rain!  Mr. TF and I were married in Grand Caymen during Hurricane Michelle in 2001.  I don’t think I’ve experienced sustained rain with winds like what we had on Friday since we were in the hurricane!  People’s tents got filled with 2 feet of water!  A few tents collapsed!  We were luckier – we were camped out farther from the common ramada, but on not such a steep slope and thus avoided some of the problems others had (and that was purely by chance, I assure you).  We did get water in the tent, but it was because the wind was blowing the rain horizontally and it lifted the rain shield, allowing rain into the tent.  Not so bad, though.  Only one half was actually wet (with about an inch of standing water in places) but most of our stuff was still in the plastic totes and thus dry.  Most importantly, our bedding remained mostly dry (yay wool!) and we were cozy every night.

I took not a single picture.  In fact, our phones remained either in the truck’s glove box or charging with the solar charger on the hood.  We were pretty much technology free during our 3 days there.  I didn’t miss it much either.  I did notice I had missed a phone call from someone very important when I finally picked up my phone around 10pm on Friday night – luckily said person also sent an email and I spent an agonizing 15 minutes trying to sign into my email and waiting for his letter to load…but it was good news and well worth waiting for.  Mr. TF and I drank two drams of scotch each (LaPhroaig) to celebrate, and sat outside in the beautifully clear night, watching the meteor shower and the stars.  Other than sharing the good news with family and close friends the next day though, no phones for either of us.

I did NOT win the antler handled, hand forged skean dhu I had hoped to bid on….I was too busy running my mouth visiting and missed the auction for it entirely!  Ah well, not meant to be I guess.  There will be others.

All the crap that has gone on since January…if it all hadn’t gone down the way it did I never would have met any of these people, at a time and a place in my life when I really NEEDED to meet them.  I humbly apologize to the Universe.  Things do in fact happen for a reason.  And sometimes wyrd/karma takes really some really strange twists to get us where we are supposed to be and in contact with those we are supposed to know.

But now, home for nearly a week, I am like a caged panther.  I’m not particularly good at waiting.  But wait I must.  I guess the Powers are making sure I get some actual rest time in before I start my new job with its associated stress and all consuming lifestyle (if my fellow workers are any judge, that is).

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Maybe some time to knit while I pet the cat….

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Or knit while I chat with friends….

 

A'Knittin' while you work

A’Knittin’ while you work

Or knit while I get this amazing craphole of a dirty house back into shape 🙂  Are you sensing a pattern here?  Of course, I also have wool tweed on the loom I need to weave off to make a vest with, and POUNDS of alpaca and wool to spin up – including a commission for lace weight suri yarn.

I’m behind on holiday gifts too…

Yep, waiting is hard, but I think I might be able to fill my time.

 

Hidden Beauty in the Desert


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ETA All of these pictures will open in Flickr and embiggen if you click on them.

This is on public land near my house.  Once, you could literally drive down into the creek bottom and to the other side; the state put up steel fencing and a sort of gate system that one can only walk through and the site has recovered in the years since.  The water runs year round, an unusual thing in the desert – this is not as low as it gets, but it’s lower than it was when we were getting storms daily.

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The roots of one of the Arizona Walnut trees near the water line.  You can see the erosion from when the water gets high in the spring.  All of the trees have fruit this year; I plan to come back and do some harvesting for our own stores soon.

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Branches:  you lose some, you grow some more.  Lightning is a thing here in the desert, as I’ll show you.

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If you look closely at the top half of this limb you can see the black from the fire the lightning started.

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The remains of a honeycomb that fell out after being burned.  The entire creekbed had a low hum from the thousands of bees busily gathering pollen and nectar from the riot of flowers everywhere.  The sunchokes were taller than we are, and the peppery smell of the nitrogen fixing plants’ blooms permeated the air.  ETA One was vetch, a desert variety that seeds everywhere it can get a little moisture.

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A lovely flash of color among the greens

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Mr. TF for comparison of some of the trees’ size.  I love our desert home.  Unlike the Midwest, our greens are mainly subtle, and oases like this are hidden unless you know they are there.  It’s a truly magical place filled with life of all sorts.

Community, Personal Responsibility, The World Isn’t Fair, Gods.


Atheist alert: this has a lot to do with spirituality and yes, religion. Deal. In my mind science and ‘woo’ co-exist in a dynamic relationship that causes occasional cognitive dissonance, but forces me to continually re-evaluate my worldview. In my view this is healthy and necessary.

Pagan alert: Not Politically Correct Commentary on our community. Deal. If it angers you, perhaps you need to take a good hard look in the mirror.

I’ve been through the wringer for the past six months. In that time I have been places that boggle the imagination. I’ve been a specimen under a microscope. I’ve been betrayed on a fundamental level by those closest to me, and by some of the very systems our society is predicated on as well. And. The truck was stolen, trashed, totaled, rebuilt. I lost a job. I spent money I didn’t have (thanks FIL for the help, more grateful than you’ll ever know) and am in debt to the tune of thousands of dollars with nothing to show for it. I have a degree for a career I can’t work in. And I’m becoming more and more convinced I don’t want to work in it anyway, the way things are moving (see going places one doesn’t want to go, or my previous post). I have discovered, the hard way, that standing up for right doesn’t always mean you will be protected, or that things will work out. Sometimes you will be punished in the worst ways imaginable, and evil WILL prevail in spite of an individual’s or a community’s best efforts.

I’ve maintained a minimal level of spiritual practice through this, even if it has been nothing more than a simple acknowledgement of Deity and thanks for getting through another day. It has been nothing approaching the level of an actual devotional practice though, and I’ve felt that lack ever more keenly as I approached the end of my degree program. Once I finished, and had nothing else to occupy my mind but the drama and tragedies of life, it became a yawning chasm that contributed to my ennui and depression.  I literally couldn’t summon the energy to pray, let alone believe it would work.  I felt as though I just wasn’t worth it, that the Gods had better things to do than deal with me.

I believe in synchronicity. I believe in the fractal nature of the universe – As Above, So Below. I do believe that there are other entities, other dimensions, other realities than our own see/taste/touch/hear/smell reality, and that sometimes we reach out to those other entities/realities – and other times they reach out to us. I believe that things often happen for a reason, and that reason sometimes isn’t readily apparent for a very long time, if ever.  This faith was seriously shaken as a result of the happenings since January.

My children are fundamentalist Christians. Two, at least, were Pagan/anarchists earlier in teenaged life. I believe that they became Christians not because of the actual religion, but because of the structure and community it offers. This is something that very little of modern NeoPaganism offers, and I have seen that over and over and over again in the nearly 20 years I’ve been a Pagan.

In nearly 20 years as a Pagan, I’ve met more people who are trying to get on disability than I ever thought possible. I’ve met people ON disability who constantly cried about how poor they were, and who were no more disabled than I am, who ran side businesses based on cash to augment their disability payments and who actually had nicer things than Mr. TF and I do. I’ve met people who can’t keep a job, who can’t keep a relationship, who can’t keep an apartment, who can’t keep a car, who are using/abusing illegal drugs – and I’m not talking about marijuana here people – or who are abusing prescription drugs. When I worked in the ER I saw more than one person – significantly more than one – I knew from the local Pagan community come into the ER for problems directly related to prescription or illegal drug abuse or as “seekers.” It made for uncomfortable questions from fellow staff members, at the very least.

Many people who are drawn to the Pagan path often tend, in my experience, to be less than reliable on a personal level and tend to make very bad choices. These bad choices are ones for which they tend to not take responsibility. They misuse magick, in my opinion, as a tool to overcome lack of personal responsibility for bad choices rather than as a tool for self-development. Or they use it as a substitute for an actual spiritual relationship with Deity. Magick does NOT substitute for spirituality. And one does NOT need to do magick to enter into a relationship with Deity. Magick is a tool, it can sometimes be a vehicle, but it’s not the object (unless you are a Ceremonial Magician which is another conversation entirely). It’s as though they are drawn to Paganism because they perceive it as the one religion/practice for which they have to take no responsibility, and they can espouse beliefs that NO ONE can tell them are wrong. Cuz personal gnosis, you know.

Because of my experience (and that of my husband as well, I am writing this as an individual but we have shared this conversation many times between ourselves) we have mostly withdrawn from participation in and organization of Pagan events, particularly events like Pagan Pride, public Pagan holidays, Pagan meetups….you get the idea. The embarrassment of being associated with the crazies just simply began to outweigh the benefits of the participation.

And yes, I know there are those in the Christian community as well. However, they tend to be reined in by those who are around them, and either drawn into the fold or shunned. They are self-selecting in their long term participation.

As a side effect of withdrawing from public gatherings, my own spiritual practice has suffered – it’s not just the business of life/school/work/stressors, it’s been that I no longer go to events where I can get my spiritual batteries somewhat recharged because I’m participating in a community of believers. The very thing my children currently have. The thing I envy, even though I do not think a patriarchal herding religion from a desert region from 2000 years ago has any relevance for them – or for me, for that matter. I do ‘get’ why they turned away from a religious practice that *did* and *does* have relevance for them (and me). Because community. It’s important.

I have suspected for quite some time that the Pagans who were serious about their practice, at least in our area, were very secretive, or at the least insular, mainly because of the above. They are responsible adults and take their religion and spirituality very seriously, and they don’t want to associate with people who don’t. So, while believing firmly they’re out there, it also makes it very hard to find or connect with them. Friends of course excepted, but because of school/work commitments it’s made it hard for us to connect with them as well. When we’re all on different schedules and none of them coincide for all of us….you get the idea.

So why am I going on and on about this? Because I am going to a Pagan event for the first time in nearly a decade next month. I’m terrified. And excited. I don’t know if Mr. TF will come or not. He’s much more laid back about his spirituality, and doesn’t feel the need to actually connect the way I do – at least to hear him tell it.  And the way I found out about this event is nothing less than synchronicity.  It’s a Rube Goldberg nest of interconnected coincidences that defy logical explanation.

It’s not just any event though. It’s a Heathen event. I’ve shied away from heathenry for my entire time as a Pagan due to bad press about skin heads and racists who identify as heathen. I didn’t, and don’t, want to be associated with those who think the color of one’s skin denotes one’s worthiness to worship the Old Gods. When I first became a Pagan (or more realistically, realized that my spiritual beliefs were Pagan and I just didn’t know it) I was strongly advised against my interest in Norse spirituality by a Pagan friend who had recently spent 10 years in prison. His experiences there didn’t encourage me to try to follow up.

But recently I’ve been forced to rethink my blanket painting of this community thanks to blogs and websites devoted to heathens, as well as books I’ve had (and read previously) in my library. A recent re-reading of them revealed nothing that actually allows for this view, regardless of the views of a certain vocal percentage of heathens. And as far as I’ve read (which isn’t a lot, but also not nothing), there’s nothing in the lore that allows for this view either. As I stated earlier, I believe in synchronicity. And I believe the Gods call who They call. Regardless of skin color.

What I do know, is that the values Heathens espouse:

Nine Noble Virtues

are the same values I live my life by, and I want to associate with people who share my spiritual outlook as well as my ethics.  ETA:  because it doesn’t embiggen:  Courage, Truth, Honor, Fidelity, Discipline, Hospitality, Self Reliance, Industriousness, Perserverance.

Illustration courtesy of   My Journey into Midgardr

I am hopeful that I can find a group of people with which to share community and spirituality. Gods know I’m ready after the half year I’ve had.

Population medicine


Obamacare treats not for the patient in particular, but for the patient on average, globally, or in the abstract

This isn’t a problem specific to the ACA; it’s endemic in national health systems all over the world, all of which are more or less in the thrall of pharmaceutical companies who control and produce most of the research that determines population medicine.

The problem with the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring research however is twofold:  1, they control who gets into the study and define the outliers; and 2, most of these studies are not appropriate for population generalizations because they are small in size or short in length.  Oh, and I guess this makes it threefold:  any results that are not favorable to their drug will never see the light of day.

Now controlling who gets into the study is related to the outliers in that, if in the pretrial part of the study, people who have adverse reactions right away will be eliminated from the study.  So people who might give a truer picture of the drug’s ill effects will have been eliminated right off the bat.  And outliers are defined as people who have reactions that are supposedly really rare and do not give a true picture of the overall study results.  For instance, take Celebrex.  It’s a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug, in the same class as aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.  Pfizer, the manufacturer, said its drug was better than those others because it didn’t hurt the stomach.  Well, as it turns out, that was not the case at all.  The reason they were able to claim that is because, if you read the link above, you will find that they only released the first six months of a year’s worth of data.  Most of the stomach problems developed in the second half of the study; because of this they were able to deceive regulators, medical providers, and the public at large into believing this drug was safer.  They altered the study’s parameters to hide crucial data related to side effects, and they explained “poor results as the result of ‘statistical glitches.'”  ***statistical glitches is researcher speak for outlier***

Perhaps the worst offender in this is Merck.  Their drug, Vioxx was taken off the market because of the substantially increased risk of a heart attack while taking it.  This was defined as an outlier in their results – which means they knew there was an increased risk before this drug ever went on the market.  Yet they chose to define a statistically increased risk as an outlier, dump all the data related to the people who had had a heart attack during the course of the study, and publish results that were very positive toward their drug.  Of course, they also paid for a study to be published that was favorable to their product without disclosing their financial relationship and were subsequently sued.  Multiple times, in multiple countries.

Regarding study length:  In the case of Celebrex, they released results related to only six months of what ended up being a six year long study.  How can one make a decision about a medication’s safety or efficacy when the study hasn’t even been completed?  Where are the critical thinking skills for those who are in charge of approving a drug?  Where are the critical thinking skills for those prescribing the drug?  The public doesn’t have the general ability to decide if a study is good or not, they rely on the government to determine a drug’s safety and effectiveness, and they rely on their providers to prescribe drugs that have benefits that outweigh the risks.  They are being seriously failed on both accounts.

Unfavorable results are related to both of the above drugs.  Data that showed there was substantial risk for certain groups of people in both cases was simply hidden.  In many cases, studies are never published at all – their data is simply buried and never sees the light of day.

So why is any of this relevant?  Well, guidelines are created based on the cumulative results of published studies.  And guidelines are what are forced on providers in order to make sure they are adhering to the standard of care.  Standards of care are based on population medicine, not on individual people.  They don’t allow for individual preferences, variability in response to a drug, differences in financial circumstances or lifestyles, religious prohibitions, or any other individual determinants of a person’s ability (or desire) to adhere to a given regimen.

If we can’t rely on the results of studies, we can’t rely on guidelines that are created from them.  And this is a big problem when reimbursement, and even licensing is predicated on adhering to guidelines.  In a local to me case, an Arizona cardiologist is under investigation because he advocates non-guideline based recommendations for his patients.  This is a huge problem.  If a physician can’t read research and make decisions for his practice, but is expected to blindly follow guidelines or face having his license revoked, how can one trust one’s medical provider that they are doing the right thing for you, the patient?

In an even more insidious fashion, the powers that be (government in collusion with the pharmaceutical and insurance companies) are requiring (here in the States anyway) that a provider have an NPI.  That’s a national provider number.  And it has to be printed on all prescriptions or the pharmacist will not be required to fill them.  So what?  Well, if you don’t follow the guidelines, and you don’t accept the insurances the government wants you to — because you prefer to offer your patients advice that you feel is healthier and safer for them as an individual — you can have your provider number yanked even if your license is not revoked.  Either way you can’t fully care for patients and are out of business.  I wish I had links for you for this one, but I don’t.  I don’t even remember where I read this, but trust me when I say this is indeed going on.

Population medicine.  Peak medicine.  Grasping for financial straws.  And you, and I, the little people suffer.

Makkin Belt


IMAG1052

In the Shetland Islands, knitting is known as ‘makkin.’  Hence the name for my belt.  You see, most production knitting used ergonomic methods that allowed women (and men, and children) to knit quite quickly, with even tension, and allow knitting while walking or caring for family tasks.  In the Shetlands, this involved a knitting, or makkin belt.  It’s worn with the large part on the side, and a double pointed knitting needle (pin, as they’re known in the UK) is inserted into the belt at an angle that allows the needle to remain stationary and enables the hands to maintain a more ergonomic position for a longer period of time.  It also keeps the wrists more or less out of the motion of knitting, which greatly reduces the risk of over use injury.

I purchased the leather, the awl set, the leather needle, and rivets at my local leather shop.  Unfortunately, for whatever reason, I could only get one of the rivets to stay and “grab” the belt so it’s sewn at the other end.  It was a lesson for next time.  The belt was already made, purchased at the thrift store for something like 50 cents.  It’s stuffed with a surprisingly large amount of tulle, as horsehair – the traditional stuffing, while available – was extremely expensive.  I know, it’s not especially pretty, but I’m hoping it will be functional.  ETA:  I used graph paper to sketch out the basic shape and traced it onto the leather.  It’s approximately 8″ long, and 3″ wide.  I used the 1/8″ diameter awl bit to make the holes for the lacing.  I ‘eyeballed’ the holes both for the lacing and for the needles; I didn’t have a tiny awl for small diameter needles so I used a T pin and made those holes; the larger ones are made with a hand punch awl of an unknown diameter.  They are randomly placed on the surface.

I have noticed lately that knitting causes me to have pain at the base of my thumb near where it joins the wrist whenever I knit for more than an hour or two – even if I am a good doobee and get up and stretch every hour.  I currently have a very large collection of circular needles that I’ve accumulated, because I find they are easier to carry around and use wherever I go. The alteration in my style when I use them, however, causes the pain due to my wrists turning more to flick off the stitches.

I have decided that if I am ever going to be a production knitter I need to become MUCH faster than I am.  I’m no slouch right now, but I really want speed without sacrificing quality.  When I knit with single point needles, I have always naturally braced one against the crease of my thigh or into a pillow next to me, which allows me to knit faster and more ergonomically.  I have no idea where I first learned this, but my paternal grandparents were from Ireland so I may have seen Irish style knitting at a very young age and simply copied my grandmother without realizing it (she passed away a long time ago, I have no real memory of her other than her asking me if I understood – in Gaelic).  Using a knitting belt is a natural extension of my instinct, that will allow me to knit in other places than my couch – and to take it with me anywhere I go.  I did try lever knitting, where the needle is held under the arm, and that hurt my wrists very badly very quickly.

This is a video of Isolda Teague using a knitting belt.  It is probably the most clear in the placement of the belt and the use of the needles that I have seen.

I haven’t tried it out yet, but I am anxious to do so on some sort of project that can be appropriately hidden (like socks) until I get the hang of it.

I suspect that in times to come, when hand made becomes a necessity once again, this will be a good skill to know and to pass along.  And I have enough leather left over to make another belt as well.