Monday, October 30, 2017

Samhain 2017

Just think. Last year this time we were in the final weeks of an election we all thought was a lock.

What a difference 51 weeks make.

But that's not why I'm writing today. I'm writing because it's Samhain, aka All Hallows Eve!

Agnostic though I am, I have had so many things happen in my life that just don't seem to be coincidental. They were more like messages from another dimension, like someone trying to reach out to me and using a code only that person and I share. Have you had that experience?

Case in point: Just before my family farm in Appalachia sold, Olivia and I were out for a walk on the property. We went down into the hollow where a farm house used to stand. It burned down in 1938, so there's nothing left of it now.

Just as I said to Olivia, "I wonder where the midden pile was for this house?" she stooped over and picked up a fully intact 8-sided jar with not a nick on it anywhere. It was just lying there, somewhat obscured by grass and weeds for 74 years.

Now I use it as a beloved vase.

Yes, yes, coincidence that this jar was just lying there on the ground, muddy and forgotten, until I just happened to think how nice it would be to find the trash heap that these old houses invariably had, so I might, oh, you know, find a pretty glass jar or two. And this jar wasn't on a heap. It was right directly where the house would have been.

If the Veil thins, if our ancestors peer through it to see us, then this practice of veil-hopping goes all the way back deep into the mists of time. What mother wouldn't want to peek through the Veil to see her daughter? Where would that circle be broken?

I never met my great-grandmother, but why wouldn't she come with my grandmother to see me? Why wouldn't she hand me a glass jar?

I don't have answers, but I do have suggestions for Samhain ancestral visitations.

1. Don't pretend like everything is going great if it's not. Be honest with the Kindred.

2. Be respectful, even if some of your ancestors (like mine) were hounds from Hell.

3. Be the kind of person you are. Don't put on affectations, because they will see right through it. They were you before you came along -- so whoever you are, that's who you bring to the fire.

4. If you ask them for a sign that they care, tie a natural object to it, or a song, or some mundane but not terribly common thing (a monarch butterfly, a white feather, a tune or fictitious character they liked). This is where the coincidences start to arise. Like, who expects to see a monarch butterfly flying through the stadium in downtown Baltimore during an Orioles game? It happened to my husband in September.

5. Remember that you are part of an unbroken line. Your ancestors were alive the last time the Yellowstone Caldera erupted. They walked across continents that had no names. They survived to bear children, and their children survived as well. Your ancestors were sturdy.

They are coming to call. Build them a fire, because some day hopefully someone will build one for you.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: Anansi

Well, look who it is, back again and dapper as ever! It's my good friend the bored god Anansi!

If I didn't know better, I would think it's a piece of my sea glass he has there on his head.

Anne: Great God Anansi, welcome to my home and hearth, again! I'll prop the door open so some flies come in.

Anansi: Thanks, Anne. It's what I love about you.

Anne: While we're waiting for a fat one, do you have any new stories?

Anansi: I always have stories! But you must remember the important lessons you learned in your fiction-writing classes back at ol' Johns Hopkins: There are no new stories. Only old ones told over and over again in slightly different ways.

Anne: Old ones are fine with me. I've read Pride and Prejudice five times!

by Anansi

Jackal was firmly in charge on the savanna, but he was still vain and arrogant. He had a burning need to be the center of attention, so he convinced African Grey the Parrot to follow him around and tell all the animals what he was doing.

African Grey was a terrific observer and quite articulate. It didn't matter what Jackal happened to be doing, African Grey saw it and reported it faithfully to the other animals.

"SQUAWK! Jackal just stepped on an anteater's snout and didn't say he was sorry!"

"SQUAWK! Jackal took a whole haunch of wildebeest and gave it to his daughter. That much meat would feed ten jackals to where they couldn't walk!

"SQUAWK! There's Jackal, sleeping in again when there's work to be done!"

"SQUAWK! When the meerkats asked him for food, Jackal pelted them with cotton balls and said such silly-looking animals didn't deserve to eat!"

All the animals on the savanna listened to African Grey every day. They grew disgruntled with all they heard about Jackal's behavior.

Jackal went to Anansi to ask for advice. (Never a good idea, and further proof that Jackal isn't too bright.) Anansi told Jackal that most of the animals didn't know African Grey very well, so it would be easy to convince them that she was a liar. At the time, Anansi was living in a plush corner of Jackal's luxurious den, but after giving the advice, the spider packed his bag and went for a long stroll.

"SQUAWK! Jackal's fleas say eating his blood is making them stupid!"

"That's not true!" barked Jackal. "This is fake! My fleas love me, and so do my ear mites! My ear mites tell me I have the best ears ever!"

The animals didn't know who to believe. The parrot seemed reliable, but can you really trust a parrot?

"SQUAWK! The watering hole is closed so Jackal can admire his reflection in the pool!"

"That's not true!" Jackal cried, leaping away from the watering hole so that some thirsty elephants could get a drink. "See? Anyone can have a drink at this watering hole! Don't believe that petty, silly, ugly grey bird!"

After weeks and weeks of this, the animals began to mistrust African Grey. Even the smartest ones, like the vultures, noted that African Grey never said anything positive about Jackal. Surely something must be good about Jackal, right? Otherwise, how did he get to be ruler of the savanna?  And squarely in Jackal's corner were the other jackals, who, although they never particularly contradicted African Grey, never backed up her stories, either.

Over time the animals stopped believing African Grey or even listening to her. Only the meerkats continued to heed her broadcasts, because they were pissed off at Jackal and were willing to believe anything about him. Unperturbed, African Grey continued to shadow Jackal and squawk his every move out into the savanna sunshine.

"SQUAWK! Jackal left candles burning in his den, and now it's on fire!"

"WHAT?" Jackal exclaimed.

"SQUAWK! Jackal left candles burning in his den, and now it's on fire!"

Jackal ran to his den and saw billows of smoke rolling out of it.

"Help! Help!" he cried. "African Grey, tell all the animals that my house is burning down!"

Well, African Grey did as she was told, but none of the animals -- even the stately and intellectual vultures -- believed her. They just went about their business, ignoring both African Grey and Jackal.

In desperation, Jackal ran to the only animals that he knew still believed the parrot -- the meerkats.

"Hey, guys, you've gotta help me!" he said. "My den is on fire!"

"Oh yes, we'll help you!" the meerkats exclaimed. Then they pelted him with cotton balls and blew him some Bronx cheers and patted their furry little tooshies while his opulent den went up in flames.

Jackal went to look for Anansi in order to get more advice, but Anansi, having noted Jackal's complete recklessness with candles, had set up shop along the watering hole. It was a lot of fun watching the elephants frolicking in the water, squirting each other with their trunks, since they had nothing else to do.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Gray and Gritty Navel Gaze

It happens to everyone. You look at the weather forecast, you look at a weekend from the perspective of a balmy Friday evening, and you plan a project.

You know the kind of project I'm talking about. I'm talking about one of those simple and easy projects that will take a mere four hours and have lasting benefits to the old domicile. In this case, I thought the weather was perfect to spread a little waterproof deck paint on the front porch floor. Our handyman recommended a brand of porch paint that would help to preserve those pesky floorboards that always have to be replaced because the weather falls on them.

So, after a late breakfast on Saturday morning, Mr. J and I headed to Home Depot to purchase said paint and some rollers.

Don't know about you, but I hate Home Depot. I hate all stores that have more than six aisles. I hate all stores that you wish you had a bicycle to navigate. In a smaller subset, I hate stores with bright colors everywhere. Target? Oh my bored gods. All that red! Home Depot is the same way. Who woke up one morning and said, "Let's make a hardware store and swathe it in ORANGE?"

Next time I'll stick to Sherwin Williams.

So we went to the Orange Hellhouse and found the kind of paint that was recommended. We had it mixed to a nice charcoal gray and chose medium gritty for better traction. We figured one gallon would certainly cover a front porch. Little did we know.

Have you ever used deck paint? I opened the can, and I couldn't decide whether I was looking at paint or a charcoal-colored chocolate mousse. The stuff wasn't just thick. It was mud pie thick. It was marsh muck thick. It was so thick that my trusty edging brush (with which I have painted three large interior areas) said, "This is where I go to die." And die it did. Alas, poor brush! How well I knew you!

The way to use deck paint is:

1. Dip the brush in.
2. Move it two inches across the wood surface.
3. Repeat.

The stuff didn't want to spread itself around. It didn't behave like paint. It behaved like cold butter on a slice of bread.

I sucked it up and kept trying. After about three hours I had the whole porch edged, including under the railings. The steps were edged. The problem areas were daubed. And I was almost out of a gallon of paint.

Mr. J, who had very helpfully told me what to do before going off to nap, had to go back to the Hellhouse to get more paint. Then I tried to roll the deck. Each trip to the rolling pan yielded a whopping two square feet of rolled paint. No one told this paint it was paint. I still think it was a stinky gray cake batter pretending to be paint.

Four hours into this four-hour project, I was halfway finished. I had one-coated the porch ... and the directions on the paint can explicitly said two coats.

Guess how I was planning to spend my Sunday? I'll tell you: reading the New York Times and puttering in the garden. Instead, Sunday became a repeat of Saturday, including another trip to the Orange Hellhouse for a third gallon of paint.

I ruined two rollers and my edging brush that, as I have already pointed out, was in my trembling hand the night Donald Trump won the presidential election, being at that time put to use on a hall closet door. Oh, I didn't mention that?  This brush and I had a relationship. I believe in nurturing paint brushes. If you looked at my paint brushes at the end of a long and grueling interior job, you wouldn't know that they weren't brand new.

Two hours in the gray gritty mousse, and it was adios, edging brush. Another hour of spreading cold butter on bread, and the porch floor looked streaky but protected. The paint dried like concrete. Two rollers bit the dust. (This was equally painful to me. It is possible to have a long term love affair with a paint roller if it is treated with tender loving care.)

By this time, it was 3:30 on Sunday afternoon. Instead of puttering in the garden, I raked and clipped at an aerobic pace. Then there was the laundry that had been sitting in the dryer since Friday evening. Mr. J was sent off to another massive Rhode Island-size store, this one being Wegmans in all its mustard-painted splendor. He brought home some ready-made food ... and that was my weekend.

Back to work Monday morning, with a manicure of gray grit as a memorial to a totally lost weekend. Five more days until I get to try again.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Do You Know These Gods?

Out here in the Great Blue Northeast, an online resume company named is very popular. Job seekers can give your email to ZipRecuiter, and if you give a fuck really care about the seeker, you can leave a nice reference. Just this week I warmly endorsed a longtime colleague who is transitioning her career.

This can have its downside, though.

The first request I got yesterday was from EndodaWorld (see below). Apparently he saw an opportunity, pegged me as a sap, and put his bona fides online in search of praise and worship (and a hot shower).

Then this ashen deity must have recommended me as a hopeless sentimentalist to all his forgotten buddies. Today I was deluged with requests from ZipRecuiter. And the whole thing made me question the wisdom of my forebears regarding religious matters, let me tell you.

Do you know any of the following deities, and, if so, can you give me some deep background before I serve as a reference?

1. BigDiq

2. Shoutnstomp

3. Death Dodger

4. Tardigrade

5. Beelzebabble

6. Mister Softee

(Okay, just kidding about the last one. That's the ice cream truck.)

But for all I know, none of these deities is worthy even of driving an ice cream truck. Never heard of any of them! Why are they cheeky enough to reach out to me for a reference?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Interview with a Bored God: EndodaWorld

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored!" Oh by all the fruit flies on the watermelon, there's a wild bored god here tonight! He's dressed in animal skins, and he looks pretty dusty. Thank goodness he's content to sit on the floor! I showed him how to use my can opener (I'm old school, I've got a hand-held), and he's opening all the cans in my pantry. Which is, yes, annoying, but he looks kind of hungry.

This deity doesn't speak anything like any language living or dead. Luckily I have Dr. Google. Dr. Google knows everything. It appears that this god is EndodaWorld, sacred to the extremely, extremely, extremely, extremely ancient peoples of the Fertile Crescent. Hard as it is to believe, Dr. Google can actually translate this diced-tomato-fixated deity for us.

Anne: Please, EndodaWorld, have another can of tomatoes! (aside) Glad he likes 'em, I'm too tired to bake a pie.

EndodaWorld: What are these delicious things?

Anne: Tomatoes.

EndodaWorld: Why didn't my people have these?

Anne: Hmmmm. Oh, I know the answer to that! Your people lived in the Old World. Tomatoes are a New World plant. Europeans didn't have them until Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

EndodaWorld: Who is Columbus?

Anne: Some dude. Oh! Ummm, Campbell's soup is better if you warm it up.

EndodaWorld: I don't see a fire.

Anne: I'll get right on that. So, EndodaWorld, tell me about yourself. What's that powder you're wearing? Looks like you fell into a vat of talc.

EndodaWorld: This? It's the stuff that fell out of the sky. For ten years.

[Anne takes a gentle dab with a Q-tip, gives the dust to Dr. Google.]

Dr. Google: Volcanic ash.

Anne: Wow! This fell from the sky for ten years?

EndodaWorld: Sometimes it came down dry, sometimes it came down wet. Either way, it killed a lot of people and a lot of gods.

Anne: How did you survive?

EndodaWorld: I didn't have to survive. I got hired after two years of famine by priests who blamed all the old deities and promised I would get this whole ash thing under control.

Anne: So that was after two years. What happened by Year Eight?

EndodaWorld: I got fired. It was a short tour.  My praise and worship team mostly died.

Anne: Guess you could say they bit the dust.

EndodaWorld: I beg your pardon?

Anne: Never mind. Totally tasteless joke. So let me understand. Some volcano erupted and spewed ash into the air for a decade, and it wasted a lot of people all over the place. I guess animals too.

EndodaWorld: Animals, plants, insects. It got very, very quiet. The people who wanted to survive had to migrate and fight for a spot in the areas that didn't get the dust.

Anne: Was your praise and worship team living in the shadow of this volcano?

EndodaWorld: What's a volcano?

Anne: Whoa! Ash falling from the sky for a decade, and you didn't even live near the volcano? Dr. Google, can you shed some light on this?

Dr. Google: This deity was briefly worshiped during the catastrophic eruption of the Yellowstone Caldera super volcano 645,000 years ago.

Anne: EndodaWorld, you are officially the oldest deity I've ever had the pleasure of meeting! Probably by a factor of ten.

EndodaWorld: Let's not talk about ten.

Anne: I read just the other day that the Yellowstone Caldera could fire up and erupt with just a few decades notice. It could happen any time. And you're here with an evocative name, warning me that such an eruption would be the end of the world.

EndodaWorld: Exactly.

Anne: Except it wasn't.

EndodaWorld: Who are you to argue? I was there!!!

Anne: But if it was the end of the world, there wouldn't be any people anywhere. Or animals, or plants, or insects. But we've got plenty of all of those things.

EndodaWorld: Well, Miss Priss, let me tell you: If you had been there in my time, you would have felt like it was the end of the world!

Anne: I daresay. And if that scary super volcano erupts in thirty years, it will certainly be the end of the world for me. But not for everyone. So long Anne, Mr. J, cats Beta and Gamma, beloved daughters, entire population of Philadelphia ... but not the human race. EndodaWorld, you've got to admit that some tribes of humankind survived the decade of ash rain.

EndodaWorld: Didn't do me any good. I've never gotten even a nibble on my resume, from then until now.

Anne: Speaking of nibble, could you please forego that last can of black beans? I need those for my soup.

EndodaWorld: But .....

Anne: Oh, never mind! Munch away!

I'm going to take a lesson from this hungry bored god. Apparently the shit hit the fan, and people stuck in the catastrophe blamed all of their gods and dumped them. The people drafted a new god, but that god couldn't fix the problem. In fact, it must have gotten a lot worse. Now, what does that remind me of?

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Thalia Paints Goddesses

Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," still and always dedicated to deities who have too much time on Their hands! What happens to a Goddess when Her praise and worship team falls apart? Can you imagine the stress? Eternal life is so unfair!

There's always an upside, though. A Goddess who has plenty of time on Her hands can sit for an awesome portrait. That's where Thalia Took comes in.

Thalia has been painting portraits of Goddesses since before I started blogging. Her work is phenomenal.

Where do I start? I think my personal favorite Thalia Took portrait is Sedna.

But look at this one of Artemis!

Stirring, no? Let's jump pantheons again!

and again!

Freyja is here for you, Yellowdog Granny!

Thalia has an absolutely amazing web site, where you can see all the bored Goddesses you ever heard of, and many more that get absolutely no press at all anymore. In these particularly trying times for American women, it's nice to be reminded that there are Goddesses just lining up to help us all out of this mess.

Thalia has a patronage link called Patreon. I had never heard of it, but you can basically pledge her a little sum of money that helps her buy nectar and henna and incense and other things that Goddesses crave. If you sign on to Thalia's Patreon account, you can pretty much pat yourself on the back that you're championing the cause of bored deities. (She does male deities too, at least some of the decent ones.)

So, in honor of getting 202 followers myself, I'm asking you to biff on over to see Thalia and all the fabulous work she's doing! Let me know what you think.

Monday, October 09, 2017

The Bully Forgets. The Victim Doesn't.

They say insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. I believe it. How else can I explain the fact that I have attended quite a few high school reunions?

A few weeks ago I went to yet another class reunion for my old alma mater, The South Will Rise Again High School. You know the one. Our mascot was a Rebel soldier, and the school song was Dixie. I do not even exaggerate. (I heard that just recently the school changed its mascot and song. High time.)

Anyway, I've gone to my share of these reunion things, and they are always the same. Most of the people even look the same, which is pretty amazing given the number attached to the reunion.

When I was in middle school, I was bullied quite a bit. In those days, boys taunted smart girls for being too smart, and girls taunted girls over perceived flirtations with boys. I got tons of the former and a little bit of the latter.

In 1970, I had one conversation with a kid in my sixth grade class, and his girlfriend did not stand for it. She organized her posse, and they knocked the crap out of me when no one was looking. It would have happened again, except that the next time they got me in their sights, my dog was with me. He put an end to that bullshit just by suggesting he was going to bite them.

Free advice: You never go wrong adopting a mid-sized mutt.

Whenever I go to my high school reunions, the girl who bullied me is always there. She dropped out of high school, but using a marriage to one of our grads and a lot of revisionist history, she now presents herself as a bona fide diploma-holder from SWRAHS.

And she always comes running up to me and wraps me in a bear hug and asks me how I'm doing.

This baffled me in 1997 and again in 2007. Now it is 2017, and I have learned a lot about bullying from being a high school teacher.

Turns out bullies often forget all about their behavior, if they even perceive it as bullying at all. Did you know that? It surprised me to learn that.

One other thing I learned as a high school teacher that I already knew: Victims do not forget being bullied. They remember names, places, and events in stark detail.

And so, every time this former bully female comes running up and bear-hugs me, I stiffen and exchange the minimum pleasantries, while coyly suggesting that I don't recall her graduating with us. She always says she didn't have the money for senior pictures, so she isn't in the yearbook.

This conversation has been repeated three times: 1997, 2007, and 2017.

Will I be insane enough in 2027 to go back to another of these ridiculous beer-fests in an obscure Moose Lodge on the edge of the Potomac River? Gods! Make me sane! I'm never going to forget that bully, and she will never remember why.

Monday, October 02, 2017

People Are Dying: Trump Is To Blame

Today one of my students told me that her grandfather is in harm's way in Puerto Rico. With no lights and nay to contact authorities, citizens are facing crime along with a scarcity of every basic necessity. "Three people were killed right near his house," she told me. I have no doubt. This would happen anywhere if people couldn't get clean water and food.

According to the man in the White House (he calls it a "dump"), Puerto Rico should just suck it up. According to him, they're just waiting around for someone else to do the dirty work.

Like this.

And now we have a mass shooting that dwarfs the casualties in most Vietnam War battles. It's beginning to look like Americans are safer in Afghanistan than they are in Las Vegas.

But of course, we have every right to our precious guns. Our festering sore of a president ran on a promise of assuring everyone their Second Amendment rights.

As I've said before, this used to be a humor blog. Oh sure, I've always had my say politically on this page ... but betwixt and between, I interviewed bored deities, wrote about my daughters' antics, and pined for my Appalachian homeland.

Seems like another world, that.

Not my president.