Monday, December 26, 2016

A Transcendent Christmas Experience

I hope that everyone has been enjoying a peaceful holiday season. All of my celebratory gatherings took place before the actual holiday, so I spent the weekend enjoying quiet time - mostly cooking, and eating, and watching silly Christmas movies into oblivion.

I wonder... exactly how many times can a person watch White Christmas before they'd have to admit that they had a problem? 😉

I can't help myself. I just melt when Bing sings the "Blessings" song to Rosemary.
And you know, somewhere between the mashed potatoes, the Brussels sprouts and Danny Kaye's antics, I had a realization. This is the first Christmas in 7 years that I haven't been either grieving a recent loss (family, friend or feline) or anticipating one in the very near future.

Just writing those words down is like heaving an enormous sigh of relief. I dunno... it almost feels like years of tension melting away or something.

Of course, it's not like everything is nice and rosy. I mean American democracy is hovering on the brink, the climate situation in the Arctic is getting really alarming, and honestly, the renewed talk of nuclear tensions has me reliving fears that I haven't felt since childhood, when I was quite convinced that nuclear Armageddon would arrive long before I ever got the chance to grow up.

But somehow, I seem to have turned a corner, and I'm feeling much more at peace with it all.

In a funny way it started at the solstice dinner with my parents.

We had a quiet celebration this year - and at one point the conversation got quite introspective. We're all very concerned about the political situation, but my dad has made a decision to disengage from the news and stop filling his psyche with a daily dose of doom when there's nothing he can do about it.

Instead, he's immersed himself in a book about the Permian extinction - that's Dad's version of light reading. Anyhow, he's found great comfort in the fact that even though the majority of species died out, some survived, including a few "proto-mammals" which eventually evolved into humans. Apparently they survived by living largely underground... hunkered down as it were, and that seems to be Dad's plan for surviving the next four years.

That got my stepmom to talking about her childhood in Nazi Germany. She was quite young during the war, but the memories of both her own experiences and her family stories seem very fresh. She basically said that even when your country gets taken over by a fascist, and horrors are unfolding all around you, life still goes on.

Even when they had to run to the basement several times a day because of the bombings, and when you had to be extremely careful because expressing the "wrong" political opinion could end up being a death sentence... they still had to get up every morning, wash the dishes, do the laundry, put dinner on the table and basically go on with life.

She talked about how a lot of people found solace through gardening. I think it was partly a survival thing since food shortages were common, but she said there was also something very life-affirming about it. Even when the world is falling apart around you, spring still comes, seeds still sprout, and life continues.

Maybe it was the wine, but somewhere between the proto-mammals and the gardens of Nazi Germany, I had an amazing experience. I was suddenly overcome by the sense that all of these problems are temporary, and that we (meaning we as spiritual beings, not necessarily human beings) have existed long before all of this, and that we will continue to exist long after it's all been forgotten.

Honestly, I'm not really sure how to explain it, it was almost an out of body sort of a feeling - like I was floating through the cosmos or something.

It was incredibly comforting - like a sudden insight that even if the worst happens, I mean even if human beings were to completely destroy themselves and/or the planet, everything will be still be OK.

I know this sounds corny, especially coming from a person who isn't a Christian, but maybe that's what Christmas celebrations (or solstice celebrations in general) are really all about. It's not necessarily a celebration of today, but a promise of light and life to come.

Anyhow, that's my little transcendent Christmas experience... and boy, did I need it! I have to say that I'm feeling much better than I have in a very long time.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and may the returning of the light fill each and every one of you with love, peace, and joy for the year to come.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Cold Turkey

Well folks, it's been an interesting past week or so.

First of all, it's been crazy weather. Thursday was gorgeous with temperatures in the mid-60s (around 18C). So CatMan and I went for a nice long bike ride.

Usually, in these parts, warm days in the winter are caused by a down-slope wind off of the mountains, which generally means a big storm is a brewin'. Here's a photo from that ride showing the cool "mountain wave clouds" that typically form under such circumstances.

I did my best to soak up the warmth and enjoy every minute on the bike because I knew that this was coming...

And don't let that blue sky and sunshine fool you, it's only about 7 degrees (-14C) out there!

Anyhow, at least I got some exercise shoveling, because since we got more like 8 inches, rather than the 1-2 that were predicted, I'm thinkin' it might be a while before I'm back on the bike again.

But... when I do, I hope to be prepared. I finally bit the bullet and bought something called Bar Mitts. They're basically these neoprene sleeves that go over your handlebars creating a "pocket" for your hands where you can work the breaks and shifters without having to expose your hands to the cold temps.

CatMan has been teasing me incessantly about my "Bar Mitts Fa" and I have to admit that they do sorta look ridiculous, but it's made a world of difference for my freezing fingers. The best part is that you can toss one of those little hand warmers into each one and the whole thing warms up nicely. You still have to wear gloves under them because air comes in from the top, but they do keep your hands out of the wind and infinitely warmer than they would be otherwise.

But aside from the weather, there's been another little challenge in my life lately.

I think my tendency to take things to heart a tad bit too much has gotten to me since the election. Seriously, I can't escape the feeling that doom is upon us and life as we know it is about to cease.

Anyhow, on election night I got a terrible headache, and while it waxed and waned a bit, I just couldn't shake the thing.

Normally, a bit of caffeine and some ibuprofen will take care of it in a few days, but it seems I got myself into a cycle of rebound headaches and my misery factor was getting quite high. To top it off, I was suffering from horrible heartburn pretty much every day which made it almost impossible to sleep at night, and the cycle was sorta spinning out of control.

Anyhow, a bit of web research indicated that both ibuprofen and caffeine are bad for heartburn, and while both can ease a headache in the short term, they also leave one vulnerable to the dreaded rebound headache. So about a week ago I decided to go cold turkey on both.
Let me tell you, the first few days were complete misery. I seriously worried that my head might explode or something.

But it's been steadily getting better, and while neither the headaches nor the heartburn are completely gone, I am feeling much better. Hopefully I can keep this up without succumbing to the siren song of morning coffee. I do miss it, but I'm thinking that au naturale is probably better in the long run.

Anyhow, that's the news from chez kitty. Anybody out there ever gone cold turkey on caffeine? I'd love to hear how you did it. Hope you're all stayin' warm out there!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Meanwhile at the Ends of the Earth...

I know we've all been captivated by elections, and pipelines, and holidays, and whatnot - but just in case you've missed it, there are some very, um.... interesting things happening at our earth's poles right now.

Basically, both the Arctic and the Antarctic hit new record lows for sea ice extent in November. This is pretty much unheard of and it has scientists a tad bit panicked concerned.

Here's the picture in the Arctic:

And while that graph might look disheartening... it's not quite as alarming as this one:

Yes... it's true that it's just one month, and even if the trend were to continue throughout the season it's possible that it's just an anomaly.

What's the old saying? Oh I know: One month of historically low sea ice doth not a global emergency OMG we've hit the tipping point and now the feedback loops are all kicking in and WE'RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! disaster make. But it is quite interesting.

Anyhow, there are lots of articles on the topic, but this one in the Washington Post is a good summary of the situation in case you're curious.

Somehow I am oddly comforted by the idea that we might be on the cusp of something really bad environmentally speaking. It's not that I want anyone to suffer, but somehow the prospect of a species-threatening environmental catastrophe sorta puts things like my mother's estate or paying for health insurance into perspective.

I dunno... It just seems like everywhere I turn I see powerful people trying to grab more power, and conflicts over resources and control.

But honestly, I just can't escape the sensation that we're all fighting over... errr, I mean rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.

Anyhow, I have no what to do with this information, but I thought you should know. At the moment this is the best advice I can come up with:

You've been warned!!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

An Update, and a Santa Story

Hello there world!

OK... this post will be much less whiny than the last few have been... I promise!

So first of all, an update. My geeking has been coming along nicely.

Long story short, I've been re-writing websites and setting up new servers. The learning curve is steep, but I think I'm turning the corner. All of my sites are now mobile-compatible, the one that was crashing all the time has finally stopped misbehaving, and once I get things transferred to the new server I'll be able to cut nearly $100/month off of my expenses. Plus, having a better understanding of what's going on "under the hood" can only be good, right? So, a big woo hoo on that front!

I've also stepped up my game in terms of making new content for my sites - which is actually the part that I really enjoy. My latest accomplishment is falling snow gifs... Waddya think?

That brings me to my little Santa story. For some reason, I woke up this morning thinking about this, and thought it might give you all a little chuckle. So here's a little holiday humor for you.

One year, I decided to leave out some cookies and milk for Santa.

When I got up on Christmas morning, I was delighted to see that a few of the cookies were gone, and half of the milk had been drunk. BUT, on closer inspection, I was horrified to see that the rim of the glass had lipstick on it!!! WHAT?!?!

Needless to say, this was a very disturbing development. And there were only a few possible explanations.

Option one: My mother had stolen the cookies and milk left for Santa.

She, of course denied this, and really, it didn't make logical sense. I mean, there were plenty more cookies, and gallons of milk in the kitchen, if she'd wanted some, she could have just gotten them there.

Soooo... option two: There really was no Santa and my mother had been impersonating him by eating the cookies and drinking the milk.

But, I was not quite ready to believe that, sooo....

That left only one more plausible explanation: Santa was a cross dresser!
Don't ask me why, but that's where my seven year old little brain went, and for a few hours I was thoroughly convinced that my transvestite Santa was real. But as the day wore on, I just couldn't quite come to terms with the lipstick and the beard, and finally had to accept the sad reality that there was, in fact, no Santa Clause.

True story.

Anyhow, that's the news from the funny farm.

I'm sure everyone can remember that first moment when they realized that there really was no Santa Clause... I'd love to hear yours!