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Note – The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections was against me posting this entry. They are uninterested in self-improvement and they doubt anyone would be interested in mine.

“Come celebrate with me that every day something has tried to kill me and has failed” – L. Clifton.

One normally looks back today to reflect on the year and its events, but this one is better seen as a furtive glance in the review-mirror as one accelerates away. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody good. 2020 sucked lemons and halted all my attempts to work on my bucket list. However having more time at home (and money not spent on travel and eating out) I did better on my resolutions. While the world was a wreck, Urs Truly did well.

First of all, I’m still here. I have the quiet satisfaction to sing along with Sondheim on this one.*

I did very well with my daily routines:

Dog walks; flossing; Spanish lessons; journaling; reading; blood pressure reads.

My goal to read 20 books? I read 45! That’s more than that past 3-4 years combined.

I did ‘fairly well’ with daily stretching and not eating after supper.

Monthly soup-making: I made 14 soups; some of them I would make again.

Monthly ‘Great Courses’ lecture: 10 of 12. 

 

Let’s look at my shortcomings:

I will leave the first one blank lest my family is reading this.

“Make 4 shirts” – I made two. In my defense I made many masks, dozens of them, for my nearest and dearest.  It felt good to do so.

“Go to the gym 4-5x a week” – I’m letting myself off the hook on this one as the gym was closed and then when it reopened it was too hazardous to go.

“Weigh 76 kilos” – another bust. Actually I’m not too off but I fear while my scale weight is not too bad my body composition went bad. I am what they call a ‘fat thin person’.

I haven’t yet made my resolutions for 2021 but I think it will be about regaining lost tone and fitness. I need to figure out how to do so sans gym.

 

Happy New Year 2021 to one and all; I am glad you are here with me.

 

*This is a discreet reference to Mr. Sondheim’s “I’m still here” from ‘Follies’. Go on YouTube and hear it, why don’t you. The version sung by Elaine Stritch (the one in a red hat) is my favorite.

 

If you think I’ve paused blogging because I am composing a profound and erudite entry you will be disappointed. The reason is I’ve been up to my oxters in work.  The week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve is a hectic one. There are a lot of calls from frantic folks wanting something done prior to 1 January when their insurance changes.  It happens every year.

Yesterday was all ‘med checks’ consisting of fifteen minute appointments, which in theory go smoothly along the line of ‘I am still good, the meds are good, I just have to check-in for your sake, and see you in another three months”.  This did not happen.  Many patients were quite emotional from loss, loneliness,  and physical maladies for which there is no relief.  I also got a lot of patients telling me they had covid19 since they last checked in. It feels like I’ve heard more cases in the past fortnight than in the past four months. 

The ostinato to these cases is nearly all of the distraught had a sense of being trapped. They can not get out of that awful situation/marriage/relationship/financial/medical/legal situation.  I try to get them to examine what is truly a trap vs. what is only feels like so.  Alas, I have little success, not because people are stupid but due to human nature.  Your brain wants your life to be predictable; your emotions want life to be stable.  We are wired to want to feel safe; we avoid uncertainty and the unpredictable.  It is scary to let go of the familiar, even when you know it is killing you, to go to – what?

For better or worse freedom and uncertainty are linked.

Sometimes I imagine I am looking at a caged person miserable therein and so wanting out.  When I point out the proverbial cage isn’t locked, or the bars are breakable, this doe not evoke relief but panic. “Yes, but…” often follows. These are based on fears, often quite legitimate, of what happens next.

Yesterday ended as days sometimes do with me feeling I did little or nothing to help anybody.  My patients don’t need pills but resources that I cannot provide.   They also need courage – courage to act and to give up the need to know how things will turn out.

Last weekend I went to the bookstore to purchase a blank book for a journal for the upcoming year. The second part of this annual ritual is to reread the present year’s journal in order to remember and reflect what I did and thought this year. I do not have to tell you 2020 was unique. Unlike previous reads there were no reminiscences of trips for they were all canceled. There were a lot of ‘what is going to happen’ entries about covid and Mother’s failing health. All in all 2020 resembled a Greek tragedy in which the actors do not know what will happen but you do and there is no preventing it.

Reading Journal 2020 reminded me there were some events other than daily doings. In March I lost a tooth (#14 to be exact) and this year I read 44 books and made 14 soups. I managed to achieve nearly all my resolutions except ‘go to the gym regularly”. Oh well.

The pages were mostly full up with daily doings (hardly worth recording) and with worries of which none of them really panned out – again. Sometimes I think this is the real point of journaling. It is not for documenting what happened but to assure my future self NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED YOU GOT THROUGH IT. I am getting better at this viz. my angst entries are not as dark or as hysterical as in past years. True, the worries I wrote* were sometimes quite nasty but none were so devastating as I feared they would. Indeed most of them I did not remember until I reread them.

Dare I joke hindsight for once really is 2020?

I plan to keep journaling for I like having a place to put down my thoughts other than here online. In 2021 will write with more awareness my future self will be reading this a year’s hence and asking ‘really though”.

Here is a photo I took this morning when I went into work. It’s cold in my office at this time of year, so I brought along a sweater. I realized it is the same sweater I am wearing in the framed photograph.** This was taken sometime between 2001-2005. The sweater and I have endured fifteen years abdneither one of us have any moth holes.

This little bit of synchronicity at the end of the year makes for a good entry for tonight’s journal entry. It is apropos at the end of a year of doubt, sorrow, and worry.

 

 

* The main ones: tooth infection, covid; Mother’s decline, threats at work and the election.

**It is a photograph of a men’s group of which I was a member.

 

Santa Claus (the dear!) gave me a the latest in technology; a FM/AM radio (complete with antenna) that plays cassette tapes! The others will be mad-jealous they don’t got one. 

In the closet in The Dragon Room are several plastic boxes of homemade and purchased cassette tapes that have been sitting on the shelf for decades and I am going to hear them again. It is an odd emotion listing to mix-tapes* I haven’t heard since the 80s. 

The first to be heard (as it was in the front) has the hand-written title “78s”. Such sonorous tunes we used to hear once upon a time!  As I edit this entry someone (not Someone) is singing “Don’t fence me in”.  Possibly Bing Crosby.  

The second to be unearthed is one of the many holiday tapes Father made each Christmas morning. ‘1992’ starts with a carol sung – by all people! – John Denver. Every once in a while the tunes are interrupted by a radio announcer wishing us a Merry Christmas from the staff at WJR in Detroit. Do they still exist I wonder. 

I have lots tapes to hear and sort; it will be my 2021 house project. Unlike the tape players from my youth this box has an outlet into which to insert a cord or ‘transfer stick” to record the tapes (before they become tangled, as was their wont) and transfer the tunes into the iPhone, the great-great grandchild of the AM/FM radio. 

I hope I don’t overdose on all this nostalgia rehearing tapes I made and given to me by friends, some of them now deceased.  While this emotion makes all me feel like an old fuddy-duddy mostly I feel thrilled beyond description. 

 

*I suspect Spo-fans are of a certain age ‘mix-tape’ needs no explanation but for thems who may be young let me explain. A mix-tape is where you put a series of records on the stereo and record songs from this and that one onto a long ribbon of brown tape wound around two white knobs. This antediluvian activity was quite popular in its day. Don’t ask now what is a record or a stereo – that’s prehistory and there are no written records or survivors.  

Today is Boxing Day, which has always amused and puzzled me as no one really knows how it started or what to do really or even why it is named so. Boxing Day 2020 has the distinction of having the dinner I planned for Christmas Eve: planked salmon; Brussel sprouts with bacon in a maple/mustard sauce; rose potatoes; hummers for small chocolate cone.

For Christmas I asked for a tape cassette-to-computer device, which Someone believed he purchased, but it turned out to be a CD-to-computer device rather. He insists we go this morning to Best Buy to exchange it. Going to any store the day after Christmas sounds almost as bad as Black Friday shopping. I suppose while we are out and about I should stop by Barnes & Noble for the annual purchases of calendars and a blank journal.  This week calendars are cheap; they are practically giving them away. As for blank journals, the pickings get slimmer with every passing year. Apparently few folks write in longhand anymore. 

After the store-stops I plan on making molasses cookies. I’ve never made molasses cookies. Like the dinner the cookies were postponed to quieter times. I feel overdosed on sugar and the last thing I need is more, but dammit it’s Christmas and I’ve been planning these cookies for months. Cook Illustrated assures me their recipe* is the proper recipe and my soul will swoon with the results. Since I have no reference this may not be so obvious. 

*Cooks Illustrated spends an entire page explaining their trial and error attempts to get these sorts of cookie just right. The recipe has the most precise instructions to mixing sequences and times. One gets the notion if these are not precisely followed it will be a disaster and Mary Berry and all the angels will weep at your lackluster cookies. Oh the horror. 

Happy Christmas !

I woke this morning to pouring rain which is a sort of Christmas miracle. More miraculous was I was still here. I hadn’t received any new clothes, I didn’t put out porridge last night, and I haven’t been particularly nice, so I expected to be carried off in the night by a Christmas cabal consisting of The Yule Cat, The Tomtes, The Krampus, The 13 Yule lads, and an indignant Kris Kringle – but it didn’t happen. I suspect I was saved from the sparagmos by the electrical knife I received from two elves living in PA (thanks AM and Todd!) who are high up in hierarchy at Santa’s work shop. The talisman must have scared them away. 

This morning Someone and I made little breakfast casseroles baked in Christmas ramekins, which we (I) consumed with ‘Constant Comment’ the official tea at Christmas.  Afterwards we had a Facetime family get-together with the Spos back in Michigan. They got snow last night making all merry and white. 

Afterwards we exchanged prizes. I gave Someone some Bombas socks (he likes socks) saving him from Icelandic man-eating pussy-cats. I didn’t get those cha-cha heels (again) but several nice prizes, my favorite being a wooden cutting board on which to practice my cooking. I also got a tape-cassette player to translate tapes into the computer. How strange it will be to hear things not heard since the 80s. 

We are lying down now as we are rawther exhausted. 

After our Christmas nap I will steam the purchased plum pudding and make me some hard sauce, the recipe sent curtesy of a beloved Spo-fan (thanks BadnoteB!) 

Happy Christmas to all! 

December 24th

Kertasníkir – Candle Eater

The last of The 13 Yule Lads is Candle Beggar who arrives on Christmas Eve. He’s another one who swipes things to eat. This one has cravings for – of of all things! – candles. When I first read this my immediate thought was the poor fellow has pica., but then I learned Icelandic candles were once upon a time made from tallow; in a pinch they could be eaten. One wonders what treats he leaves in the shoes: I’m guessing something greasy.

So that concludes the saga of The Yule Lads; it’s been a lot of fun. Every morning I pulled out the proper ornament for that day and hung it/him up. The tree went up late, so I started hanging them from the kitchen light until they could be transferred. However they looked good enough where they were so I decided to keep them there. It a good example of something planned that didn’t turn out but what actually happened turned out marvelous: 

 

Harper stands guard lest they come down from chandelier and run amok in the kitchen. 

Today is Christmas Eve. I wanted to write the following:

This season I heard from a lot of patients who stated their Christmas would not be a merry one as they can not fly/travel or do their usual get-togethers. Family members had hurt feelings to be told ‘please don’t come over’.  I reflected back it sucks yet they are doing the right thing. I told them one of my favorite sayings:

‘If you can’t have tradition, have an adventure’

On Christmas Eve I’ve always been with family, first at church then at home -obviously not this year. With that said I am going to have an adventure this evening: I am going to a bar. I have never done this before. Six months ago if someone had told me I would be doing this as my Christmas Eve I would have burst into tears at the awful prophecy. Some friends we met this year (also with nowhere to go) invited us to meet them at our favorite watering hole (outdoors and apart, wearing Santa hats and matching masks hohoho) and have a few cocktails and carols. My first impulse was to say no; for months I have planned a Christmas Eve dinner. Then I thought of my own advice. I was trying to create something similar to past Christmas Eves and it would only come up short in comparison. So, after work we are off to the pub where our favorite bartender, Kat, my future-ex-wife, will lead us in carols and serve us Poinsettias.* As for the Christmas Eve dinner, I will make it on Saturday and serve it for Boxing Day when I have all day to prepare and all night to consume it.**

Years from now I suspect I will remember this adventuresome impromptu Christmas Eve better than the blur of yearly usual traditional nights.  It isn’t what I envisioned or wanted  perhaps but it will be something new and adventuresome – like the Yule Lad ornaments hanging from the light.  Auntie Mame would be pleased.

May your Christmas time be a memorable one. 


And don’t eat no candles. 

 

*Cranberry juice, triple sec, topped with sparking wine. 

** Planked sockeye salmon (no rubbish), rose potatoes, Brussel sprouts seared in bacon with maple syrup, and (for small chocolate cone) hummers  – chocolate mint to be precise. 

 

December 23rd

Ketkrókur – Meat Hook

Second to last is Meat Hook; he arrives on December 23rd. Meat Hook is crackers for meat. He climbs up onto the roof and lowers a long hook through the chimney to snag a smoked leg of lamb hanging from the rafters. Sometimes he reaches through the doors or windows to hook something from the table or out of a pot. Again I suspect his original appetite was for miscreant children to serve as meat in Mother Gryla’s stew. 

Since we are on the topic of meat …..

We are having a ham for Christmas dinner so we need to be on our toes lest our dinner is hauled away by a crook with a hook. We would be forced to have the last can of Who Hash. 

Mother always had a Honey-Baked ham at Christmas time. It was easy to do and everyone liked it.  I am not a big meat eater, or a man for the sweets but I adore Honey-baked ham. Alas, Babylon! They can be expensive and it is hard to buy one small enough for two. Not that leftovers ever go bad!  This year in my craze for cooking I thought of making my own from a recipe in Cook’s Illustrated but Someone feels we can do just as well with a modest store-bought ‘loaf’ ham. I dubbed him “Ham-Master”, the on in charge of Christmas dinner. He came home from Uncle Albertsons with a ham wrapped in plastic, in  the shape and size or an ostrich egg – enough for two and then some.  I’ve never cooked a ham and I don’t know what he is going to do with it. He mentioned making a glaze but he hasn’t said what sort. There was mention of horseradish which is good as I like horseradish. 

With my ham I like a good mustard, no rubbishy types.  My parents liked ‘Mucky duck” mustard, which was on the sweet side. To taste it evokes childhood memories of Christmas hams. I despise “yellow classic’ mustard yet I adore Coleman’s (when I can get it).  Dijon-style mustard is my go-to ‘house mustard’. My favorite mustard is ‘Chinese hot” which I used liberally to make my eyes water. 

I suspect there will be enough leftover ham to make all sorts of dishes. Diced ham is especially good with scrambled eggs.

When the holidays are over we will return to more virtuous cuisine viz. our near-vegetarian regimen. However, for the holidays, we are acolytes of Mr. Meat Hook..

 

December 22nd

Gáttaþefur – Doorway Sniffer

Door Sniffer comes to town on December 22nd. You can discriminate him from his brothers by his huge nose. The smell of Christmas cookies and traditional Icelandic ‘leaf bread’ is what attracts him to your doorway and while you’re not looking, he’ll attempt to steal some. I suspect his original intent was to sniff out miscreant children in order to grab them and bring them into the mountains for stewing.

 

 

I had to look up ‘leaf bread’. It is a simple ‘naan’ like substance made about this time of year with what flour was available.  I sense it was one of those ‘what can we do with what’s at hand’ recipes. I hope thems in Iceland nowadays have more lucrative eats, like super-nachos. 

I regularly watch a YouTube series by Ivan Gunnarson. He is introducing me to all things Icelandic so some day I can see this dreamy and enchanted place. Preferably during warmer times when the likes of The Yule Lads are away in the mountains and the only trolls to watch out for are the ones fleecing the tourists. 

 

 

 

Rant time: this is the third time I have tried to write an essay to tack onto the Yule Lad Daily Report.  Every time I go to save it something goes awry and all is lost. I blame WordPress and its verdammte new format.  It is a good example of verschlimmbesserung since I am ranting auf Deutsch at the moment. Oh the pain.  By now I am quite cross, so I will leave this alone and promise to write something more substantial tomorrow. 

 

 

 

December 21st

Gluggagægir – Window Peeper

December 21st is when Window Peeper visits. While not as greedy as some of his brothers, Window Peeper still provides a fright. He peeps through the windows in search of something to steal. I cannot determine if he is better or worse. Slobbering the utensils is gross but petty theft really stings. I wonder if after he leaves treats in the shoes he swipes some of the knickknacks on the way out. I’ve never seen a troll with glasses; perhaps centuries of squinting through windows have marred his vision. If so, serves him right. 

Today is the winter solstice.* I like writing something special and spiritual on this blessed day in the (Nordic) calendar.  I don’t have to tell you 2020 was stinko. I don’t what was worse: the politics or covid19. I suppose the latter is ‘worse’ that people lost their income and many died, but I cannot help the former has a lot to do with the latter. I won’t spend another sentence berating the one in charge who went from being a jerk to a psychopath to evil incarnate.  

at its heart the Winter Solstice is about having hope and taking action in the darkest time of Life. There is hope the nightmares of the year will dissipate with the return of the sun and what 2021 portends. 

I just paused to read my 2019 winter solstice entry; it had such hopes of the new year. The Stoics made a distinction between ‘stupid hope’ and the type of hope that is resiliency. I am not feeling jolly good about 2021. Bad things will no doubt happen and they may be things as shocking/surprising as the ones in 2020. All the same, with resiliency we will persevere as we did this year and every year.

Make do with what you for the time at hand.  The annual winter solstice reminds me to be hopeful and carry on and this too shall pass.  

Tonight I will light some candles and I will sit in the silence and reflect on the passing year and my hopes for the new one. I hold hope for all Spo-fans far and near. The Window Peepers of the world can not steal that away. 

 

 

*It is more appropriate nowadays to call this The December solstice as half the world is having the opposite phenomena of light.  Generations of Northern European genetics have engraved ‘Winter solstice’ into my lexicon.  

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