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I miss snow. Really I do. I suppose it’s my Nordic genetics that makes long for the stuff. I know many people who find snow depressing. In contrast, nothing makes me happy so much as watching a snowfall. I suppose it gives me a sense of security; I don’t have to go out or anywhere. I can stay indoors and go into an introverted dwam the type only a blanket of snow can provide. 

More perverse is the pleasure of shoveling the stuff. There was a satisfaction to be out in the quiet night of a snow fall with the scrape scrape scrape of a metal shovel clearing the driveway and sidewalks. Even more was the return indoors to warmth and a hot cup of cocoa. As a boy I used to sit in the bay window, wrapped burrito-style in a heavy blanket and watch the snow encompass the neighborhood.  Like Gabriel Conroy in “The Dead” my soul slowly swooned as I heard the snow falling faintly through the universe, faintly falling upon all the living and the dead.  

Needless to say this no longer happens in my life, at least not where I live anyway.  Christmas has never been quite right since. When we first moved to AZ we used to go to NM at Christmas time just to see some snow to let us know it was Christmas time. Christmas doesn’t seem proper without some snow to it. 

Retirees generally move to warmer less wintry climes but  I want to return to snow country. I want to have proper winters and Christmases before I die or global warming makes snow a mere memory.  If I am fortunate I will find a modest home with a bay window to it and – oh the joy! – a proper fireplace.

Yes, that needs to happen, and soon.

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insanity  The Wonder Receptionist informed me I have no openings available for appointments until early February; please stop telling patients to ‘come back in a few weeks’ as there is no place to put them. This means I can’t ‘squeeze people in’ and the new ones scheduled later this month won’t have their first follow up appointment for months later. I can hear the orchestra of scorched cats tuning up as patients will be calling frantic they can’t get in to see me this is an emergency dammit. I emailed The Boss-man with the modest proposal the clinic call the new evaluations who are scheduled in January and cancel them all. They will be understandably very upset but I need to attend to the patient I already have. My goodness it’s exhausting being wanted. 

Today among the fresh set of Christmas catalogs and junk mail was a package from Post Canada. I got another package of sweeties from the Great White North.   Thank you !!!   It made my day!   They are Canadian delicacies some of which I have never seen.  Hot puppies!

Also in the post today was a package of graph paper sent by Brother #4. He recently asked me to design a map for his upcoming Dungeons and Dragons game.  I’ve not done this sort of thing since the 80s. Don’t worry he says, he will provide the basic design and all I have to do is draw the details and give names to some of the places and points of interest. I am going to have a lot of fun inserting easter eggs and obscure references into this map, most will probably fly over the head of his players. Imagine Brother #4 telling his (straight) D&D buddies they are now approaching The Stonewall Inn. There will be the small town of Tweeksberry which is infested with rats. The burg is located near the Rolling Grass Hills and just down the path from The Cave of Caerbannaog.*

Insanity  So far there isn’t a shred of Christmas decorations up at the House of Spo. I sense Someone hasn’t any interest in doing so, so if I am to have any hohoho I better do so myself. We are the only house on the block that isn’t decorated up like a whorehouse in Kansas.** This weekend I want to wrap the cacti up with some modest lights just enough to ward off the wrath of the neighbors who would think us godless otherwise.

This weekend is the feast day of Someone’s nativity. He doesn’t have any plans but work work work all day. He’s no fun, he falls right over.  All the same I got him a fabulous birthday prize, one which I hope he likes. I like it anyway. Spos are notorious for giving prizes they like themselves, just in case the recipient doesn’t so the prize is not wasted.  Very practical, no?  I shan’t tell you what it is, lest he reads this or The Board of Directors Here at Spo-Reflections shoots off their mouths the stirges.  I may have to banish them to Brother #4’s D&D game.  I’ll put them in The Island House Inn and see if anyone catches on.

 

*Go look it up. 

**I heard my great Uncle Milo say this once while driving by a house bedecked from top to bottom like a carnival cruise ship.  “It looks like a whorehouse in Kansas” he said, which made my great Aunt Lois quite upset.

As a boy I didn’t often eat lunch at school, but when I did I recall it was nearly always a brown bagged tuna fish sandwich. My mother, the gourmet, made these with the holy Midwest trinity of tuna fish, mayonnaise, and white bread. I suspect the recipe was mostly convenience: just open a can and a jar and slap it on bread and Bob’s your uncle. My grade school colleagues ate similar sandwiches, although their mothers were more racy than mine. Theirs included celery bits, pickle relish, or paprika – something I had never seen before.  I remember one poor girl was ostracized as a radical when her tuna fish sandwich was revealed to have chopped apple in it when all our lunches had the  delicious red apple separate from the sandwich.

I am not complaining; I liked tuna fish. I still do. I don’t eat it much anymore as when I do I feel guilt I am killing off the dolphins and contributing to the demise of the sea. Then there is all the mercury I am inhaling with each bite.  Nowadays when I make a tuna fish sandwich I prefer them open-faced and broiled with lots of bubbly cheese on top.

Mother would not recognize my tuna fish sandwiches if she were to have one. I learned tuna is quite obliging for all sorts of add-ons. Nowadays I use lettuce, tomato, chopped onion – even hot sauce. More often than not I use some binder other than nasty old mayo. Someone can’t eat it and mayo is as bland as bland can be.  I recently learned a tip to grind up a tin of sardines in oil and mix it with the tuna. This provides a tasty oily binder and some umami and perhaps diminishes the amount of tuna/mercury/guilt in the sandwich.

I can’t remember the last time white bread entered the Spo-house. Do they still make Wonder Bread I wonder?  I use bagels as they keep longer via the freezer. In a pinch I use hamburger buns especially if they look to be in need of using up.

I sometimes think to return to my Midwest roots and make me a sandwich using the original recipe. Perhaps it will make me feel back in grade school. Too bad I won’t have other kiddies with me with whom to swap half the sandwich for something else as was my wont. Mother never knew.

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Last night I put out my Christmas list for the family Secret Santa. For fifty-five years at the top of my list is a pony.  I still haven’t gotten it. However I’ve learned what I list second is a pretty safe bet, so I need to be careful as I am likely to get it.*  My list is quite an amalgam of items ranging from expensive DVDs (no harm asking) to underwear. Honestly I would be just as happy to get a T-shirt with “Hello from the magic tavern” on it as “The Ring Cycle”.

Truth be told I don’t really care what I get for Christmas anymore. I’m at an age what I really want is food and good cheer.  I am planning a nice Christmas Eve dinner, complete with a birthday cake for Baby Jesus. I found a recipe for gingerbread cake circa 1750; this sounds good and all I really need for Christmas.**

I’ve got news for you and it’s either very good or very bad news depending on your perspective. What makes for longevity and good health (and a happy holiday) is NOT fame or self-actualization or financial security or a chiseled physique (although these don’t hurt). What does the trick is …… a social network.  Jean-Paul Satre got it wrong. Other people are not hell, but heaven.  We are better off being among people.  This isn’t profound or foudroyant but it is the best thing for happiness.  Ms. Carey sings it well:

I don’t want a lot for Christmas
There’s just one thing I need
And I don’t care about the presents
Underneath the Christmas tree

I don’t need to hang my stocking
There upon the fireplace
Santa Claus won’t make me happy
With a toy on Christmas Day

I just want you for my own
More than you could ever know
Make my wish come true
All I want for Christmas
Is you baby

I wish with all my heart Spo-fans have friends and family especially at this time of year. They don’t have to be quantity but quality.  Just one other will suffice.  If you don’t I am heartily saddened to know this: I wish I could have you over on Christmas day.

We all need to work on this in 2019. Forget the social media apps and go out and encounter others.  This is not easy but it is not impossible – and it is vital. It is worth all the top hats and ponies there ever ever was.

*What would really float my goat is a genuine top hat, the sort you see in “A Christmas Carol”.   I swear I was a Dickens character in a previous life.

**That and a good snort.

It rained last night much to our surprise. I don’t remember when it last did so. It was a gentle type rather than the sudden downpours we usually get around these parts. The sonorous sounds of this unexpected heaven-sent precipitation was quite soothing and it made for a good bed time lullaby. As I lay dying, I held Harper’s paw in mine. We both had good dreams: waterfalls and gummi bears for me and ‘the hunt’ for the hound. This morning there was wet pavement and the air was filled with moisture. I saw rosy-fingered dawn as I sit in my office.  The sunshine dried everything up and it will be as it was.

It is a comfort to know I am still thrilled by little things like last night’s rainfall. Yesterday I found a ‘new’ Christmas carol  – new for me anyway as it was written sometimes in the 17th century. Its delight is as remarkable as if I had discovered I had won the lottery.  Tonight after work I have no plans at all – I can do what I want including nothing at all.  This too evokes a quiet satisfaction that might as well been the radiance of a brilliant sunset.

I see these as the consequence of gratitude. Finding Joy in the mundane and the simple makes the mundane seem marvelous. A bowl of hot soup is as good as a banquet.  After work  I could go to the pub, the gym, or just go home to be with the dog. All three have their charms.  These are the same Friday choices really, happening month after month without variation. Some would see this boring as all get out.  Urs Truly will be quite content. How many of us can say likewise?

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I want to share something recommended to people with depression; may you find it thoughtful and perhaps useful.

The awful axiom of depression is it clouds ones entire being and outlook in dark and dismal despair. Nothing has hope; all who could be helpful are believed to be useless and actually uncaring. In times of improvement people can see in hindsight the lie of their depressive delusions. Alas, when back the depths of depression it is all forgotten. 

People with depression sometimes are asked to compose a certain list. This roster consists of the names and telephone numbers of people who are meaningful and helpful to you. These are the folks you can turn to at times of despair, for they genuinely care and see you worthy. They pass the test of those you can call at any time when feeling down or even suicidal. I tell patients not only to include names and numbers but ‘why’ they are important. 

Perhaps you know someone from church who thought you funny. Maybe theres was a teacher from college who thought well of your prose. Is there an aunt who always saw you as clever? It is important to list the ‘whys’ because in moments of depression you don’t remember this stuff or if you do you doubt their truthfulness.

 “I, who have written this in a time of wellness, remind you these people and the reasons listed are genuine. They really said to call when you feel bad. Do so.” 

It is important to get the permission of these lifelines, so they (and you) know if you enter despair you can count on them even at 2AM. 
I do not have clinical depression but there have times I feel bad enough I yearn to reach out just to someone to assure me I am not as bad as I feel and someone loves me. Yes, I plan on doing this very soon. I hope I can find a few willing to be on my blessed list. I may not ever use it but I see myself in dark moments pulling it out to read to comfort me and stiffen my spine.

Circle

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Usually when I visit Palm Springs Fearsome Beard (the dear!) comes to town to bless me with his presence. He was not physically here this time but his influence is strong.  Here’s an entry inspired by that wonderful and  whiskered sage. 

While staying at Palm Springs I meet a lot of wayfarers many who are retired or planning to do such. At happy hour they talk about their lives and plans. I wonder if these brief interactions will change me somehow- or at least make me think of change. Listening to these fellows I get thoughtful about my future. I always leave the city with pensive thoughts about what awaits me as I return to the mundane matters of my life. 

It is quite easy to tend the trees and not the forest. Every day is full up with repetitive predictable activities enough to fill the day and get to the end having ‘done the list’. Then you sleep and repeat. Decades later you wonder where the time went and weren’t I supposed to do something?  

Synchronicity delivered onto me a shake up. Fearsome Beard (the dear!) recently posted the following:  

I start today like I start every day and that is with a choice:

Should I play the same record over and over or should I change my world? Growth comes through change.

Today is the beginning of the rest of my life. All I have to do to change the world is to start by changing my mind.

Well said! 

One of the comforts of life is you can get over its disappointments. We can break from the past that haunts and the present with its ‘rules’.  Regardless, there is choice. 

We often become what we practice.  I can see how chanting this mantra every morning can help keep conscious the marvelous notion things can be different.  Or so I hope. 

Fearsome B’s practice is about shifting psychological paradigms but I plan to apply it to the concrete things as well. I want to work on my future goals. Can I ever retire, and when and where? What do I want out of life? I have a bucket list; I have a roster of home (and self) improvements as long as your arm. I want these things fulfilled. I don’t want to get through another ten years having gone to work and home and not much else. 

This week is Thanksgiving; I won’t be having one. Someone works that day and I have nowhere to go. I will be at home to myself. I will use the quiet weekend to reflect on all I am thankful for. Then – there’s work to be done! I plan to do some self reflection on what records do I play over and over and which ones do I want/need to change – to to what. I will make some lists of things to do. 

My tarot card for 2019 is The Fool. More synchronicity! Tying all this stuff together in classic Jungian fashion, then Fearsome is serving the role of The Fool in my life. I am honored so!  The Fool/FB represents a new beginning — and, consequently, an end to something in the old life. He portends important decisions ahead which may not be easy to make, and involve an element of risk.

May it be so. 

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I know of a campaign to curtail smoking in teenagers; it was a complete bust. The authors foolishly focused on ‘scary facts’ to dissuade these innocents from the evils of tobacco. Anyone who knows adolescents knows they feel immortal and smoking is used to rebel against thems in charge. In round #2 the campaign changed tactics focusing on how they were being duped and manipulated by Big Corporations run by The Man. This worked much better.

I bristle as being duped; I am constantly on guard for such. I am not a fool to think my psychological training makes me impervious to mental manipulation. Just remember: it is always the best swimmers who drowned. It is human nature to be duped so I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. Regardless it burns my beets to discover once again someone or something has me schnuckered.*

Despite my hyper-vigilance against malaperts and machinations it is all-to-easy to be had. People are mighty crafty these days at dragging people into their belief systems, This is usually to get you to watch ads in order for you to buy things or to make you pass along ‘facts’ to others.

Not since the arrival of The Wizard of Oz has there been such an invention as social media. This morning I heard on “The Daily” show Mr. Z over at FB is up to no good again at dealing with his bungles and there is no end to his crafty manipulations. Shocking. Nowadays I am limiting my exposure to FB and Twitter – even the news apps – as I can’t help feeling poisoned by the tainted air that breathes from their hearts.  The fear of ‘missing out” has no foundation in fact and the world won’t crash if I don’t check in every five minutes.

Sometimes it is the little plots that most piss me off. Thems who have cellphones can relate: mine continually chirps notifications to the point it sounds like morning birdsong.  Nasty little red dots appear in the corner of the apps that wave ‘Come look at me I’m very important !”.  Apparently they are designed to connect to my monkey brain parts that are always on the lookout for danger and bright shiny objects.

Mae West was asked her opinion of the complaints about her Sunday radio show; people were outraged at the contents. She replied “Well, they could have turned it off”. Sensible woman and sensible advice! So this morning I turned off the notifications. The phone is eerily silent. No doubt it’s plotting some outrage and I still stupidly am looking at it wondering if it is broken or something.  I suspect I will get used to it and wonder why on earth I didn’t think of this sooner.  Meanwhile the apps will no doubt form a cabal to figure out how to circumvent my wall of defense.  One is forever on guard.

 

*Being schuckered is a Midwest synonym for being duped or conned. Alas I can’t find the proper spelling of the word. Does anyone know?

I have a patient who grew up in poverty. Despite now having wealth he finds fresh vegetables unappetizing. He explains he grew up on canned beans and such. For him what comes out of a tin is what ‘tastes right”. I think of him whenever I make mac & cheese out of the blue box. It is hot, quick, and comforting – like my men.  It tastes like ‘real mac & cheese’ to me because that’s what I grew up with.  I have a more sophisticated palate now and I have made many types of ‘adult’ or ‘gourmet’ M&C.  These are marvelous but there it is.  At the end of the day when I am tired it is terribly tedious to prepare fancy forms when the cheap stuff takes no time and tastes great.

M&C from the blue box is easy to coif; I can use whatever it is at hand. Throwing into the acid-yellow gunge some slightly-off vegetables is an excellent means of assuaging guilt I am eating bad – and it seems thrifty to do given the slightly suspect produce would otherwise go in the rubbish.

“What’s for dinner?” is sometimes asked in the house. Whenever I draw a blank or feel a need to rush – or I’m just being plain laziness – the response is “Tuna Hemingway”.** This is a ‘recipe’ made by Urs Truly consisting of making blue-box M&C, throwing in a tin of tuna fish, and whatever is on the shelf at eye level. I don’t think I’ve ever made it the same way twice.

Despite the unique and delectable pleasure that arises from eating M&C* it always comes with a heaping serving of guilt. I should not be eating this stuff. M&C doesn’t have any fiber or vitamins and it certainly has a bad glycemic index. Half the ingredients on the blue box version look to be out of a chemistry laboratory.  Blech. M&C is like a lot of pleasures they are inimical for one’s health but oh! the ecstasy!  What’s not to love?  Carbs and cheese and I: the ultimate three-way that never loses its glamor.

Lest I leave Spo-fans thinking I am basically white-trash, here is one of my favorite recipes for the stuff. There is no fluorescent-orange color to this one. I make this version for parties and supper invite. Not once has it fallen flat.  After all who doesn’t adore M&C?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound (2 cups ) raw penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 3/4 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 generous cup (5 ounces) shredded good quality, extra-sharp cheddar cheese
  • 5 ounces cream cheese, crumbled
  • 2/3 cup (3 ounces) shredded Gruyere cheese
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon each hot red pepper flakes
  • Generous 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Generous 1/4 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 12 saltines, coarsely crumbled

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter a shallow 1 1/2 quart baking dish, and add cooked pasta.
  2. In a blender or food processor combine egg, milk, and garlic, and process 3 seconds. Add onion, cheeses, peppers, salt, and paprika, and blend 10 seconds. Turn into dish, folding into macaroni. Casserole could be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated up to 24 hours at this point.
  3. To bake, bring casserole close to room temperature. Melt butter in a small saucepan. Coat crackers with butter and spread over top of casserole. Bake about 20 to 25 minutes, or until thick yet creamy. If top is not golden, slip under broiler for a minute. Remove from oven, let stand about 5 minutes, and serve.

 

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*Joke: two women are talking in the ladies’ loo. One asks the other “What do you like better: sex or mac and cheese?”  The other responds: “Is it Kraft?”

**Sometimes it is ‘Tuna Hemingway’ because I want some dammit.

Travel Penguin (the dear!) recently posted about a teacher of his who listed fifteen things you could do to to facilitate kindness and dilute the acrimony that is America.  I thought I would give this a try as I am feeling rawther loathsome. 

1. Tell a joke – I’m afraid I don’t tell jokes well but here it goes: I went to see a podiatrist; he turned out to be a psychiatrist. He said there’s something terribly wrong with you !You nose is running and your feet are smelling!

Tell me in the comments if that brought you happiness.

2. Call a friend or a relative – I do this regularly whether they want me to or now; sometimes they call me. Brother #3 recently called to propose we both get an advent calendar consisting of baby bottles of bourbon.  That is indeed brings happiness. 

3. Give a compliment to a stranger. This morning I almost told the bagger at Albertsons he has the cutest butt I’ve seen in ages but only thanked him for his service. This one didn’t make me happy. 

4. Make up with anyone you’ve fallen out with (even if you feel it’s their fault) – This is continuously done by necessity; Someone appreciates it. 

5. Give someone a hug.  The bagger wasn’t happy.

6. Leave a happy note for someone to find.  E-flat is better than A-minor. 

7. Email an old teacher who has made a difference in your life. Now where on earth does one find such a thing I wonder?  I would think they wouldn’t know who I was and immediately suspect me as a stalker. 

8. Hand-write someone a letter, and mail it.  I am pleased as punch to report I did three this weekend. I thanked them for the Halloween treats. 

9. Smile at someone on the street, just because. The bagger – whose name was Robbie – seemed to appreciate this until I opened my mouth.

10. Talk to the shy person who’s sitting by themselves at a party. This one may be a bust. I am that person and I am never invited to parties.

11. Help a parent with their baby stroller.  No way Jose! Around here they call the cops just for looking at your stupid stroller with its changeling-brood. 

12. Help someone struggling with heavy bags.  I do this all the time at work; I give out tips for better sleep hygiene. 

13. Stop to talk to a homeless person. Often they cut to the chase and put out their hands and ask for my money or they tell me they ‘aren’t for sale’. This is confusing. 

14. Give up your seat to someone on the bus or train. I can’t remember when I last rode either but this is just common manners – not a source of happiness.  One doesn’t applaud the tenor for clearing his throat. 

15. Give someone a book you think they’d like. If Spo-fans want to enter their names in a comment saying “I’m in!” I will erect a book-lottery from which I will draw a name and send the fateful winner one of my favorite tomes. I don’t know if this makes you find happiness but it makes me smile.  

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