It is quite foggy this morning; I can’t see the marsh which resides at the base of the hill outside the back window. I hope this passes as we have a flight today. Father sits next to me, wrapped Burrito-style in a large maroon blanket, listening to tunes which he randomly generates on ‘Alexa’. Yesterday I introduced him to Mary Chapin Carpenter, whom he likes. He’s still learning the name; in the mistakes Alexa generates songs sung by Karen Carpenter rather. Not the same thing.

Last night one of father’s law firm partners visited, a fellow whom he hasn’t seen in years. It was amazing to hear them reminisce about colleagues and cases from decades ago as if this all happened last week. I was glad to know Father’s memory is that sharp.

Last night the niblings carved their pumpkins, insisting they do it themselves. What came out was a collection of abstract concepts rather than any traditional faces. Personally I prefer the Old Masters. Warrior-Queen finished her artwork by leaving the carving knife in the side of her pumpkin. It was quite expressive but I worry.

Chicken report: The hens of summer are still nine in number. They are now molting, looking a bit down-in-their-luck for the look. I never cease to marvel at their ferocious appetites. There is not a scrap of food wasted, for they eat everything, including egg shells, meat, chicken meat (oh!). You name it they devour it. When let loose on the lawn they eat whatever maybe moving. On the positive this is good recycling. On the negative, the concept of ‘organic fed’ or ‘vegetable fed” chicken/eggs is nonsense. Speaking of eggs I’ve had some every morning which I eat with relish. I also had toast made from bread from the local bakery. I’m not supposed to eat the latter, so no more carbs for me for the rest of the week.

Around three o’clock Brother #3 drives us to the airport. Alas, Babylon! We get into PHX too late to pick up the pooch. She will have to spend another night at the Petsmart Hotel. At our end we have had no lack of dog. The two dogs here are black-holes of endless-emotoinal needs for attention. His family is thinking of skiing this January, so I guess that’s when I am next back to Michigan to tend dogs, cats, chickens, and Father who I hope by then has the two Carpenters figured out. I can only take so much of the first line “We’ve only just begun”.

Greetings from Michigan! I am pleased as Punch to be in a proper autumn. I’ve had no time to write; I will tomorrow.  Here are some photos.

Patience above! Brother #3 has my trick-or-treat plastic pumpkin from my youth! It was a joy to see it. 

Brother #3 decorated his fireplace with Halloween knick-knacks and a portrait of our great-grandmother Eloise. She is a bit creepy in context. 

Here is Urs Truly dressed in the height of covid19 fashion, on the way to the cider mill. 

The cloudy day doesn’t give half-justice to the fall colors.

The quite-crowded cider mill has the obligatory pumpkin patch.

Here are Princess-Goddess, Warrior-Queen, and Posthumous Thomas picking pumpkins at the overpriced pumpkin patch. Brother #3 thought to get the kids pumpkins at Meijer Shifty Takers as they are cheaper. He’s no fun; he falls right over. I get to play the rich uncle and buy the niblings their pumpkins on-site.

The place quite crowded; there are lines for everything. 

Someone erected this orange bell pepper – or is it a habanero? 

The dear nieces!

Here is Urs Truly having his long-awaited cider.

Here is Urs Truly with Brother #2.

Someone suggests the cider would be better with some rum with it. 

This one was written on Wednesday night and posted early today prior to us going to the airport. For all I know it is the last thing I will ever write. Airplanes crash on occasion, but far less than we imagine. Human beings are very bad at assessing the probability of bad things. It is curious to see what makes us fearful; we tend to pick and choose or fears and put more fear onto improbable events while not being wary about what is hazardous. For example: statistics show we are far more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident on the way to the airport than from the plane crashing. I continually see patients who refuse a medication on the grounds there is a chance of a certain side effect, but smoke cigarettes. They also buy lottery tickets, whose odds are miniscule, hoping this will pay off. This drives me bats.

Then there are the phobias. Nothing is so queer as another person’s phobia. I go into hysterics seeing a large spider but a scorpion in the just-opened drawer only evokes annoyance and outrage. Let’s talk about bats. Many people are frightened of bats. There is approximately 1 to 2 bat attacks per year for the entire North America continent* in contrast to tens of thousands of yearly dog attacks. You get the point. I happen to think bats quite cute if not downright comical. The dear little fuzz puppets! They eat massive amounts of insects every night (thank you!) and they fertilize agave plants. Every time I have tequila I raise my glass in thanks to some faraway bat for my drink. I would love to set up a bat house in the backyard but Someone is one of those types bats give him the heebie-jeebies.**

It’s tequila time! Thank you long-nosed bat!

If you believe all the Mrs. Kravitzes on the neighborhood app, our quiet district is overrun with burglars and strange men driving around in white vans. The streets are full of javelinas. coyotes, rattlesnakes, and liberals wanting to take away the guns. To avoid pending doom it is best to barricade ourselves in with six months supplies of toilet paper and ammunition. Oh the horror.

Marie Curie said “Nothing in life is to be feared but understood”. I wish I had a similar quote for putting risk-assessment in perspective. One could easily argue all of life is a risk. As soon as we rise in the morning we face hazards all day long, starting with slipping on the way to the loo and chocking on our morning coco-puffs. This weekend I face air travel, highway travel, a nearby beehive, and right-wing Michiganders running around unvaccinated and heavily armed. There are little brown bats in the woods around Brother #3’s place. They are the least of my worries.

*Turns out these are almost always the bat biting in self-defense as someone was trying to grab or hit them with a broom. The bats are right to do so.

**When I lived in Chicago I put up a bat house in my backyard. When the neighbors questioned it, I told them it was for woodpeckers.

What’s top of my mind: Going to Michigan. Tomorrow I fly again to The Land of Perpetual Snow and Ice to attend to Father and see the autumn color. When Brother #2 heard I was coming in he opted to visit too. Father will be pleased as Punch to have all his sons around him. Someone is coming on the trip with me this time. I am glad of this, for I dislike traveling alone. I sense he doesn’t want to go, to be among the Spos all talking at once. Oh the pain.

Where I’ve been: The Pharmacy. No weekend is complete without a trip to the pharmacy for something. A prescription seems always in need of filling. Uncle Albertsons has two pharmacists, both of them well over four feet. They are thoughtful personal types and I am grateful for the rapport. Last weekend Alison (the dear!) gave me a flu shot. That’s two down (Shingles and flu) and one to go (the Covid booster) That one is not due until November.

Where I’m going: A cider mill. Brother #3 plans to take us all out to a local cider mill. I am thrilled. Every October when we were children our parents loaded up the station-wagon for a trip to see the fall colors, purchase pumpkins at ‘Pumpkin Alley’, and go to the cider mill, for cider and doughnuts. I will indulge myself these now-taboo delicacies, on the rationale they are not foodstuffs but sacraments.

What I’m watching: The Paul Lynde Halloween Special. Oh the pain. It is 70s camp beyond the pale. It is good seeing Witchipoo, but I fast forwarded through the Florence Henderson and the KISS numbers. Oh the horror.

What I’m reading: ‘What to say to little girls instead of ‘you look so pretty’ ‘. Little boys (says the article) are seldom complimented on their looks or their clothing but on their achievements. Not so little girls. They are told they are pretty or look good in that dress. The gist behind the treatise is stop reinforcing girls it is their looks and appearance is what’s valued about them. It recommends commenting on other things like their interests, achievements, and intellectual prowess. I already do this. When I see Princess-Goddess and Warrior-Queen I ask about their activities and admire their talents.

What I’m listening to: An orchestra of scorched cats emanating from the volunteers at Someone’s jobs. Someone is dealing with the volunteers for various theaters and the local symphony that have laid down rules about covid19: thems who volunteer there have to be vaccinated and/or prove such. Every night I get a nightly earful about the vitriolic hysteria from the ones who take exception to this. Rather than quit, they push to find a way to volunteer – minus the mandates. I suspect they don’t want to give up getting free tickets. They think this business-based request is unconstitutional; they think it violates ‘my God-given right”. I don’t envy him his job.

What I’m eating: Apple Bundt cake. Spo-fans may recall last weekend I made an apple Bundt cake. When I made my first Bundt cake, I floured the pan so heavily the cake came out covered in flour and needing scraping. This time I barely floured the pan and the cake did not want to come out. When it finally did, it was mostly still in the pan. Oh the embarrassment. The cake itself tasted ‘heavy’ which may be how it is supposed to be; I have no reference. The flavor is good. I didn’t bring it to work, given its looks. I’m supposed to not eat this sort of stuff, so I had a nubbin and the rest maybe to frozen if this is possible.

Who needs a good slap: Christmas alarmists. Already rumors and social media are combining with US hysteria about so-called ‘shortages at Christmas’, meaning (it seems) some material goods will be unavailable or harder to come by or more expensive – things apparently vital to Christmas. Rather than seeing this problem as the result of a complex system whose faults are made obvious by the pandemic, there is the usual B.S-ititude toward simplistic blame-gaming. I have an idea: buy local gifts, especially from artists, and have a less material/more spiritual holiday.

I give thems anxious and paranoid about Christmas four slaps (on a 1-5 scale).

What I’m planning: A gathering of attorneys. One of Father’s law partners recently contacted m to find him. This has led to said lawyer coming to visit him/us this weekend. He is bringing along another fellow from Father’s firm. I hope the three of them have a lovely chat. What you call a collection of lawyers, other than a firm? Insert punchline in the comments. When I was about ten years old, I beat this lawyer in a game of chess in six moves. I only remember this as said attorney always reminds me of this whenever we speak.

What’s making me smile: Nothing again. Every week when I do this meme, this “W” is the one that always challenges me the most. It’s sad I have to think hard to remember anything since last week that is making me smile. I am very down from the fools of the world (especially thems in the USA). Seeing the relations this weekend will probably bring up old jokes and the nights may be cool enough for Brother #3 to light a fire. A good snort of scotch with brothers at the inglebrook should make me smile.

Note: this entry makes no sense and has no point. I started writing only to come to a complete dead end with it. It is a horse that won’t run. I thought to toss it but I am under pressure to put out. The Board of Directors Here at Spo-reflections is breathing down my neck to ‘keep up the momentum’ as it were. I posted it on the grounds a bad entry is better than no entry, at least from a contractual obligation point of view. Spo 😦

Tuesday is the nadir day of the week when it comes to inspiration for writing. The Muses et. al. are at their prime W-F while The Skanks like Saturday (no surprise), with The Furies and The Graces alternating every other week for Sunday Spo-bits and Monday Matters. This leaves The Norns to do Tuesdays, and they aren’t known for their jolly notions. Erda, the green-faced torso Earth Mother, occasionally rises up figuratively from the ground into my consciousness, not to give inspiration, but a warning, along the line to knock it off and quit with the shenanigans. When in doubt, don’t. Sensible woman, but not helpful for composition.

This is Erda. Please don’t feed her buns and things.

I am afraid I have to disappoint the Spo-fans: there is no performance of ‘The red shoes’ today. For thems rising to a ruckus resembling an orchestra of scorched cats, I say come stick pins tomorrow, I’ll be more responsive.

I haven’t made a shirt in a while. I’ve been focusing on making masks. Then there is a lack of fabric. A fabric has to be pretty awesome to become a Spo-shirt. I forgot where I found this whimsical one. I have only one Halloween Spo-shirt; it’s quite old and by now everyone has seen it several times. So I made me another.

Halloween II (as I call this one) came off without any major errors. It turned out well although I made it a tad too long. Some of my shirts have shrunk (or I have grown) that they are not long enough.

I took this photo before I had sewn on any buttons as I realized I had none – no black ones anyway. I had to go to Joanne’s in the middle of the day to get some. Last week when I walked in the front door I was greeted by Halloween items. Yesterday I walked in and saw- you guessed it – Christmas trimmings. Oh the pain. The only defense I will give them is craft stores usually put out seasonal things early to give folks time to buy and build. Halloween things come out in August, so I should not complain.

The temperature is still warm enough to wear short-sleeve shirt. This year All Hallow’s Eve is on a Sunday, which is not a work day. I will wear the shirt to work a few times between now and the thirty-first. The APA Secret Police will disapprove but I’m now too old or too wise to care tuppence what others think. If the new patients want to write a negative (fashion) review on line, so be it.

After Halloween 2020 I put away the masks I made, on the possibility I may need them in 2021. Alas, it is so. I got them out and translated them from ‘tie-ons’ to more trendy over-the-ears mode:

The iron ‘has had the course”, as Father Spo likes to say when something is falling apart. There seems to be a short in the plug. If it is just so, the light comes back on and I can iron until it dies again. It seems I am perpetually ironing things: shirts, trousers, dinner napkins, and sewing projects. We don’t bother any more putting the board away but have it up in the living room. Back when the TV was working, while we watched Dr. Who I would iron. Someone can actually sit while watching television but I need to be doing something and there is the laundry sitting there, high as Fafner’s hoard. Now the TV and the iron have had the course but the laundry keeps a-going.

Today I make an apple bundt cake from the recipe book Debbie (the dear!) sent me. I have never made an apple bundt cake. When I lived in Chicago every autumn I would go apple picking and try to make a pie but they were always flops. I hope the cake works. The recipe calls for ‘tart apples”. I will use Granny Smiths. I am bringing all my October goodies to the office, where they seem appreciated of my industry.

I believe there are three pharm rep lunches this upcoming week. One of them is very eager to get me to prescribe her company’s medication, so she will bring in a very good luncheon, no rubbish. Nearly all the pharm reps who visit me are female, and they are charming and good looking. I suspect the pharmaceutical barons pick the pretty ones on the probable grounds the male doctors are more likely to bedazzled. So much for their judgment.

If you are afraid of what other people think, if what you mostly care about is what other people think, I got bad news for you, you’re never going to do anything important, you’re never going to get over what is holding you back, and that’s a real shame.

– Ryan Holiday

For thems not familiar with term ‘warts and all’ is an idiom based on a report (maybe true) of an artist asked to paint the portrait of a prince. He was told to leave out the blemishes – the original photoshop. Rather, he painted it ‘warts and all’ for all to see the man’s true and complete features, not just the nice parts.

I don’t write much about my warts here on the blog. This is purposely done. I write those matters down in my paper journal. I avoid on-line disclosures for the usual reasons: to expose one’s vulnerable elements risks ridicule and hurt. Another reason is a professional one: patients may be reading this, as well as thems at work. The APA secret police could come poking about – and anyone else really. I am therefore careful what goes up here.

With that said I am fancying a new category of entries named “Warts and all”. In these I would discard the clowning and write things more serious. Why do this? There is the simple explanation: I want to. Another element is an exercise in courage. I am not a courageous fellow; I have spent a lifetime trying to nurture The Warrior in me. Writing about my warts (for all to see) would be useful this way.

Courage isn’t feeling fearless; courage is action despite fear. Courage isn’t like brown or blue eyes, something you are born with, and if you don’t have it you never will. I erroneously concluded since I was a different sort of boy, I wasn’t going to have the usual traits a real boy has and uses: Courage, Honor, Mastery, and Strength.* Much later I learned courage is a skill like any other: it is something learned, practiced and improved. It can be taught and developed, thank goodness.

Whenever I am lacking courage, I remember these principles:

Stop worrying about other’s opinions. To stand up and disagree with the group, or to point out a wrong, this risks other’s being angry and upset with you. Indeed, this reception is often a ‘good sign’ you have done the right thing. Truth does not mind being questioned, while Lie despises such.

Be OK with looking stupid. Speaking up or taking a risk has with it a chance of error. This too will probably result in others reacting negatively. You will be mocked. Indeed, it is another good sign of success when something is tried and the result is somebody laughs.

Another thing I find helpful is to envision my collection of ‘Strong ones”. These are the ghosts (there you go!) of people I have known in my life, courageous people, men and women, who took a stand and did what was right, despite the consequences. Sometimes they are accompanied by The Strong Ones from mythology or literature. They inspire me; they stiffen my spine in the light of adversity.

I am inundated daily with matters that test my courage. My emotional response is always a desire to turn away and crawl into a hole. I continually remind myself the obstacles are the way. “If not me, then who?” I think and I try to stand ground and do the right thing.

*More on those other topics later.

Every few years (maybe more frequent) I have an urge to write about ghosts. Hallowe’en is a good time to do so, as the holiday is based on the belief spirits are about this night. I think it was Robertson Davies who said about ghosts: “All evidence is against them, while all experience is for them”. I recently read a large minority of Americans believe in ghosts. I remember an interview with a literal ghostbuster who reported not once in his experience has he come across an actual ghost but every so-called hauntings were explained by mundane matters. I was both not surprised and disappointed. More on that later.

What makes us go to ghosts as an explanation for things in the dark? Our wiring has two built-in go-tos:

  1. We see patterns and make meaning out of the unknown.
  2. We want to avoid risk.

It’s easy to disregard paranormal interpretations in the daylight but everything changes when we head into that dark basement. Unfamiliar and possibly threatening places kick in our autonomic system to go into survival mode. Few people can go into the woods at night and not become vigilant towards ‘what may be there”. Predators are one thing but something uncanny really gives us the heebie-jeebies.

Speaking as a shrink, when I hear of people experiencing ghosts I wonder if they have mental illness. I see patients all the time who believe they hear voices and see ghosts. In the context of active depression or schizophrenia or drugs, these reports sound like symptoms, not sightings. People with/without mental illness often attribute their encounters with ghosts to ‘being psychic’ or their loved-ones getting into contact with them. This is often sounds like bereavement and loneliness. These ghosts seem conjured up for folks yearning for the company. To quote from ‘The Secret Garden”:

“Does everyone who die become a ghost?
“They’re only ghosts if someone alive is holding onto them”

“This place is haunted!” often ends up having environmental hazards to them. Mr. Mentioned Ghostbuster often finds contaminants like mold or low frequency sounds that cause one to feel ill and perturbe

I think the main reasons why we see ghosts is we want to. Let’s admit it, believing in ghosts is jolly good fun. Ghost stories started from the get-go and they have never gone out of style. We pay money to visit haunted spots and go on ghost tours and see plays and movies with ghosts in them. We want to believe.

Despite all logic and reason I eagerly await October to get out the ghosts. Henrik (the dear!), despite his shortcoming as a proper phantom, is welcome to stay as long he wants. He and his ilk make life fun.


Spo-fans: Do you believe ghosts exist? Have you seen a ghost?

My savings throw against The Angst Monster failed mightily this week.* At work I have fears about an unpredictable possibly violent patient. There is some anxiety induced by the buyout by The Overlords. At home I have concerns about upcoming events, including a flight to Michigan. I won’t watch the news anymore, as it is all ‘too much’. Everything seems to evoke emotions of helplessness and hopelessness. All challenges my training and my philosophy and my coping skills.

One of the most ancient and popular story-lines is “Slaying the Monster”. This universal stencil is seen in countless stories, tales, and movies. Slaying the monster is an archetype about coming to terms with The Shadow and its personifications. Here are the basics:

There is a monster in the area. It is usually not recognized as such right away. Complacent folk are not aware of it at first; the evidence is denied, dismissed, or deemed done by something else. In time the monster makes itself known and folks finally connect the dots it really is so. Folks (or The Hero) go to battle with the monster and its ilk and allies. The monster looks defeated and there is a sense of closure – only for the monster to return even worse than before. The scales tip and the prognosis turns grim; the monster is certain to ‘win’. Then – when things looks the bleakest – The Hero(s) find a solution and the monster is finally slain. Life goes back to normal, or a ‘new normal’, based on the experience. The Hero and the people are changed in some ways, hopefully for the wiser.

In the 20th century “Slaying the monster” stories became less resolute. The angst of the 20th century translated them into more pessimistic tales: one can not kill the monster but only squelch it for awhile. The Monster keeps coming back. This is reflected in all those horror films franchises with their never-ending sequels (think Michael from ‘Halloween” or the Godzilla movies).** Heroes come and go yet the Monster stays. As the newsman on The Onion says: “this sh-t never ends”.

While we want to slay the monster, make sure it is dead, this sort of closure only occurs in fairy tales. Fairy tales are comforting they assure us Good triumphs and Justice prevails. Dr. Jung and The Stoics would disagree. Jungians never ask “is there a monster (Shadow)?’ but ask ‘where is Shadow now?” For The Stoics, the monsters aren’t the obstacle in the way, the monsters are the way. Life is a series of whack-a-mole Hydra-headed monsters. Being conscious of our monsters makes them paradoxically manageable. We will endure – somehow – all monster attacks; our saving throws suffice. This isn’t much comfort but it is the best there is. I hope it is enough for me, anyway.

*In ‘Dungeons and Dragons’, when your character is attacked by a monster, you the player get to roll a twenty-sided dice for something called a ‘saving throw”. This means you’ve managed to dodge the attack. Perhaps that fire-breathing dragon was too far to the left, or the nasty gnome’s sling shot deflected off the tip of your shield. If you fail the throw, you get the full hit of the incoming weapon. Big monsters like demons, dragons, and Texas legislators often have a high saving throw number between 18-20. Stirges, by the way, have a saving throw of 6, which is surprisingly low.

**A curious solution to the problem of the unstoppable Monster is to render it less odious. Godzilla started out as a deadly take-no-prisoners entity that was slowly translated over time to become a protector-guardian type, not only of Japan but of the planet. He’s on our side! Another example is Mr. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu who regularly shows up in humorous and cute toys and Christmas ornaments. If you can’t defeat the monster, declaw it or make it cute. These are not bad options.

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October 2021

Spo-Reflections 2006-2018