This is a short one. Today I’m thankful for choices in food.
Today was another visit to the older gal I help with housekeeping. She is endlessly entertaining. As I left she asked if I needed to do anything else. I replied that I still had to bake. She is a marvelous baker and so inquired if it was anything special for Christmas. I told her that I need to bake my tofu. Her expression was immediate, and very funny. She looked like she’d swallowed a lemon slice. She loves stir fried vegetables, and acknowledges the convenience of tofu as a food, but she would rather eat almost anything else. I feel similarly about mushrooms. I truly enjoy spending time with her.
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This is a little more personal than I’ve gone thus far and a great deal nerdier. Don’t judge me. Today I’m thankful for J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth legendarium.
I’m a bigger Tolkien nerd than I generally care to admit in person. I don’t speak Elvish or wear costumes (some lines will never be crossed) but I did attend midnight openings with university friends, and I know why Fëanor’s sons are important. I think I was ten the first time I read The Hobbit. Gollum frightened me so thoroughly that I couldn’t reread those parts of the book for several years. I finished Lord of the Rings (the first time) somewhere around thirteen. I don’t know why specifically, but his works struck a chord and have been important to me for a long time.
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born in South Africa and fought in WWI, surviving the Battle of the Somme. He became a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University. He was great friends with a number of famous contemporary writers, including C.S. Lewis. He produced several well-regarded translations of Old English epics. The man was an enormous lover of languages, which is one of my favorite things about him.
Fangorn Forest is my favorite section of LOTR. I’ve also read many of the extended works. The Silmarillion is breathtaking. Tolkien’s concept of creation as a divine piece of music was deeply appealing to me. I think I’ve made my love of music transparent. As a student of geography I find the depth of fantastic history and culture he created awe-inspiring. He knew where his peoples originated, and how they developed. This is the story that stuck most with me from the Silmarillion.
Today I’m thankful for twinkle lights.
I don’t decorate for Christmas. I never have. I don’t have anywhere to store decorations and everything I put up, I have to take back down.
I changed my mind this year. I’m honestly not sure why. Whether because it’s been a shitty year for the world, or I’m done being contrary about this particular thing, or something else entirely I really don’t know. What I’ve done is minimal and very much in keeping with the rest of my fairly spartan home but it looks nice. I even bought a timer for the lights so they’ll turn off if I forget to unplug them in the morning.
When I was growing up we’d drive around to see how different neighborhoods decorated. There was generally an even split between white and multicolor lights. I’ve always preferred the colourful version, so that’s what I bought for myself. I hope you enjoy them even if you don’t decorate.
This is another one about my grandmother. Today I’m thankful for tofurkey.
We had a family do recently. I asked my grandmother if she’d be willing to make a few vegetarian things. I offered to bring a couple if was easier for her. (I have to eat carefully because of an autoimmune issue. I don’t do it to be difficult, and I really try to be flexible-eggs, dairy and honey.) My people are “meat and taters” folks from way back so I stand out a bit. She said she’d do just fine.
Wouldn’t you know it, but everything (except the giant ham) was vegan. My grandmother outdid herself and I was gobsmacked. There were six of us, including me, and she’d bought a ham that weighed about 5 kilos (roughly 11 pounds). It was bigger than my head. She kept teasing my grandfather that it wasn’t properly carved but he pointed out that he was satisfied getting it to the table in one piece. They found a tofu loaf for me. It was pretty tasty. I felt very loved.
Today I’m thankful for olives.
I don’t remember seeing this happen but my sister swears it’s true and I have no reason to doubt her. Neither of us is fond of olives. Our mother almost inhales them, she enjoys so much. While the two of us were growing up she’d always have a jar of them in the refrigerator. I always gave them a wide berth. My sister would lick the salt from them and replace the olives in the jar. She says she thought the salt was the only reason a well-balanced person would purchase olives. She told this to our mother about a year ago. Our mother responded that she’d always wondered why her olives were so bland.
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Today I’m thankful for Red Dwarf.
I’ve loved this show for years. It used to come on late Friday nights and I’d watch it with my dad. The humor is sharp-edged but exceedingly funny. I think you’re probably meant to most identify with Lister, but I’ve got middling-to-large bits of Kryten and Rimmer in my make up. Know thyself and all that.
I couldn’t pick a favorite moment but this one is close. For context, Lister is missing Rimmer after he’s gone to save the universe. Kryten, aware that Lister is being selective in what he remembers, creates a virtual museum to remind the crew exactly how smeggy Rimmer was. There’s a song.
Today I’m thankful for Edith Stein.
I’ve mentioned that I’m not religious. I am culturally Anglican (the musical church, bar none) but that’s really all. Why then, did I choose a saint for this day? I could make a long list of reasons but I’ll stick with the two that speak to me. First, Edith Stein was a bad ass. Second, her writings make me examine my own life and try to make it a better one.
The short version is that Edith was born into a Polish Jewish family. She studied philosophy, became an atheist, converted to Roman Catholicism, was denied an academic job because of her Jewish heritage under Nazi laws, and finally became a cloistered Carmelite nun. She and her sister died at Auschwitz in 1942. She was only 50 when she was murdered but did more with her time than some people do with 80 years. I’m aware that the conversion narrative can be problematic – I’m more interested in her as a person. I am not making any religious statements.
She was a bad ass on a couple of levels. She studied, and was successful in, philosophy at a time when women were still fighting simply to be admitted as full university students. She specialized in phenomenology. She butted heads with Martin Heidegger, who later joined the Nazi party. She wasn’t a feminist, being more of a complementarian in the Catholic tradition, but she wrote extensively about the need of women for equality in education.
Her major works deal with human empathy. I don’t think anyone can deny that we could all be more empathetic. Her writing gives practical advice about being more patient and understanding in one’s own life. I have a short temper on the best of days. Remembering that everyone has a story, and trying to get outside of my head, help me rein it in. I have Edith Stein to thank for that perspective.
Here’s another source with some more information. I once got her confused with Gertrude Stein. That hasn’t happened again.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Today I’m thankful for warm socks.
I try to present my life as it is. I make of it what I will and move on. I do not look for pity. With that, I’m sensitive to cold due to an autoimmune condition. My joints get stiff and very painful. Warmth helps keep them mobile, allowing me to keep working. Winters where I live can get extremely cold because of the topography. There is very little to slow or redirect the wind.
One of the best presents I’ve ever gotten was a variety of knitted woolen socks from my grandmother. They were all colours and fit inside my boots. She purchased them from a fair trade group, ensuring that the artisans received compensation for their work. I think they were from somewhere in the Himalayas. They know how to handle the cold there!
The socks were also very slippery on my uncarpeted floors. I had more fun than I probably should have gliding up and down the hall.
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I did it again. I apologize. I’m still somewhat discombobulated after cramming so much travel into a short time.
My trip was a short retreat at a monastery. I am not remotely spiritual. However, I have yet to find any other places that offer such enveloping calm. I love my work. It can also be very stressful. Occasionally I need to fully withdraw from my usual life and seek the quiet. I’ve visited several different communities by using their retreat facilities.
This latest community has a moderately large vegetable garden. I helped gather what was ready for harvest and sowed other crops for later in the year. I tried to actually be helpful and not create more work for the overseer by my incompetence. I’m not certain I met that goal but they were kind enough to remain silent. I knew I’d needed to visit. It wasn’t until returning home that I realized just how much I had needed to go.
Be kind to yourself. You have one body and life. Use them to maximise the good you do.
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Today I’m thankful for safe travels.
I navigated the skies safely. My trip was fruitful. I didn’t intend for there to be a lapse in posts but I was completely exhausted. I caught an airplane cold. My flights were without incident, and I was actually able to upgrade to first class for the first time in my life. It was an exceptional experience. I will probably continue to be relegated to cattle class, but they can’t take my short taste of leg room.
Still not me, but a little closer.
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