I fell in with a good crowd…

My parents tried their best to keep me and my siblings from the Bad Crowd, but no one warned me about the good crowd. I am now three weeks into a class on Minimalism, signed up for a 5K in April, and sorta-kinda tagging along with my Year of No Spending (YNS) buddies.

While the Bad Crowd keeps terrible hours and spends their waking moments drunkenly stealing from their lovers, the Good Crowd goes to bed promptly because Tomorrow is a Big Day.

The latter is also sore and every morning uses an insufferably minty toothpaste because YNS has a use-it-up policy. According to my peers, eventually I will see the fruits of these difficult days. I will be healthier, happier, and have gleaming floors.

The Bad Crowd hopes I like prison.

Caterpillar of the Apocalypse!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar with fallen cedar bits as a comparison. The little guy doesn’t look impressive in the photo (and its russet middle doesn’t show well). That’s a ruse….

Must be dead, I thought when I found it on the driveway. Even at noon, the 21F/-6C temperature was much too cold for caterpillars.

After lunch, I prepared to go back to work. The woolly-bully was closer to the car. If I squinted, its tiny feet seemed to be moving! Slllooowwwwly, though. It’s also curling a little in on itself, as woolly bears do when threatened.

When I came home at sunset, it was motionless as I took the photo. I had no doubt it was still alive. I didn’t want to accidentally squish it under the tires or scrape it up with a shovel of snow, so I tried to flip it onto an oak leaf. It “stuck” because its amazing grippy feet were clinging to the tiny grooves in the cement. Gently, I rolled it onto a leaf and put it in the flowerbed.  

Today it was gone.

A charming custom in Eastern and Midwestern USA is to look for woolly bears (“woolly-bullies” where I grew up) in the autumn. The length of its black bands was said to predict the length and severity of winter. If that were the case, what apocalypse is foretold by it hightailing in the dead of winter?!?

Panic in Detroit, or Every Breath You Take

I have always read the biggest newspapers in the area: The Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press. The following is a screenshot of today’s opinion.

The headline certainly reflects the piece.

At first glance, it seemed the headline writer had gone full sensationalist. Reading further – because how can one not? – I saw the headline matched the tone. I want to tell Mr. Stern, “Take a moment, relax, and just breathe.”

But that would be advocating homicide.

Seriously, the entire thing reads like poor satire. The columnist worries “because the person in front of me in the grocery line is wearing a mask below his nose — expelling a cloud of radioactive COVID dust that I cannot escape, short of dropping $50 on the conveyor belt and trying to outrun the security guard.”

I think my elderly parents have a much better attitude about Covid-19. They socially distance, limit interactions, wear a mask, wash their hands thoroughly, and pay attention to health habits: regular sleep, regular exercise, and vitamin supplements. If they avoid people with bad hygiene – including mask-wearing etiquette.

They want to live, yet they don’t succumb to feelings of despair and… well, whatever sentiment pervades that column!

‘Tis the Season

I finished shopping more than a week ago and the last gift arrived by mail. (Hooray for used book stores!)

My youngest sibling, our parents, and I exchange gifts. They’re usually practical or, as my mother says, “Consumable.” They give us the pleasure of taking turns opening wrapped packages in the company of the giver.

Baby Bro and I got in the habit of buying each other a childlike gift in addition to a regular one. Tree ornaments have been my go-to choice; e.g. Curious George ornaments in memory of his beloved childhood pal. He buys me the oddest things, from a frosted souvenir glass of the sort that were popular when we were tots to a children’s book of verse containing “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

It occurred to me many years ago – even before I settled into La Casa de Tontería that I really didn’t want anything for my birthday or Christmas. I mostly want people to be with me or, if that’s imposdible, to think of me.

The Covid-19 pandemic – which closed my school yet again – has intensified that sentiment. Presents aren’t as important as people.

Imagine my confusion when I received an unordered package. In it were two funnels and a silicone mold. Then my friend M’e the Fashionista texted “Happy Marmalade Day!” That fictitious holiday is her excuse to spontaneously buy something and send it to a friend. What she sent was an icecube tray that makes huge diamond-shaped iceballs. It’s ridiculous and unpractical, but it’s in the freezer now.

Thanksgiving

I’m thankful for truck drivers who drive at a steady pace on the interstate highways, so strings of cars can follow in their tracks through the sloppy snow. I am also thankful for road-graders. But most of all, I am thankful that I survived a white-knuckled drive through a snowstorm and arrived safely at my destination.

Morning in my childhood home.

The whitish area at the top of the shot is ice forming. The darker area is slush. You can see trails through the slush where ducks meandered eastward.

Hold the Congratulations

This is about politics, so feel free to skip.

Shortly after the election, friends from other countries began congratulating me on my new president. I had to explain that no, the media declaration doesn’t count. It’s official in December, after each state’s governor signs and sends its Certificate of Ascertainment to the US Archivist and the Electoral College electors meet.

December 14. That’s when.

Then some asked (scoffed, frankly), “You don’t feel there were problems with the election, do you?”

Of course, I don’t feel that. I live in Michigan. I know that.

In 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein demanded a recount in the Michigan. Ultimately, a court order halted the expensive recount, but not before turning up massive irregularities in Wayne County. Specifically, Detroit precincts tabulated more ballots than the number of actual voters. Why? Human error.

Human error was also responsible for Biden being reported as the winner in Antrim County in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. (Fun facts: It’s home of beautiful Torch Lake and Hayo-Went-Ha, the oldest American summer camp that sits on its original site.)

Then, of course, there’s the completely sloppy way the voter registration is handled, not to mention groups actively opposing any sort of voter identification at the polls. My Mexican relatives were stunned that their system is more fraud-proof than ours. I told them about receiving an unsolicited form for an absentee ballot during the initial Covid-19 shutdown. The Secretary of State’s office sent to the last known address of each registered voter. As someone who moved four times in three years and currently maintains two mailing addresses, I’d rather restrict absentee ballots to direct requests.

To anyone who has read this far and is curious about how our system differs from your own, here is a good overview: Who formally declares the winner of the US presidential election?

Little People

As I prepare for the new, improved sanitized new year at The Young Human Factory, the little ones are squeezing in all the fun they can manage before this extraordinarily long summer vacation ends.

I heard a child’s yell of outrage in the morning. A girl of four had come up my driveway, dumped her bike on the lawn, and was walking back to mom. Seems she JUST got the training wheels off and was having trouble steering.

I went out and chatted with her mom. I tried VERY hard not to laugh at the oh-so-serious little girl. She had a doll, and her daddy mounted a doll carrier to her bike so she can take Dolly for rides. Dolly will keep her company when her sibling enters full-day school.

The Middle School Mafia, once limited to bikes, electric scooters, and the occasional dirt bike, has acquired a golf cart. It isn’t clear who commandeered it from grandpa, but they were running the road with five kids on it. Next week, their little band is breaking up. Some of them will be attending school; others are taking the online option.*

For my part, I am prepping for the weirdness to follow an abbreviated school year and continued restrictions. And I remind myself: I have to keep an upbeat attitude!

***

*NOTE: Families have two weeks to decide if their child is enrolling in an online class or attending in-person classes. Frankly, I hope a good number do the former, since the rosters are ungainly: 29 to 35 students cannot social distance.

Hunter’s Salad

Someone asked me about go-to dishes and when I mentioned Hunter’s Salad, wanted to know more. It’s the local name, but I suppose it exists in similar forms elsewhere.  I originally bought it from local delis, then decided to try my hand at it.

Here it is, with no measurements because I eyeball everything:

It uses a wild rice (or riced veggies) base. Add green onion (aka scallion);  chopped walnuts or similar nut;  celery; and dried cranberries,  cherries, or blueberries (lots of choices in Michigan).

Top with a balsamic vinaigrette. I used Newman’s Own walnut cranberry until it was discontinued. Now I make my own with a dash of Montmorency tart cherry juice and walnut oil.

 

Putting the Middle-Man Back In

Please forgive the delay between posts. I was in a lovely place with spotty WiFi and, at the best times, WordPress had endless loading patterns.

This past week, I returned to brick-and-mortar stores. Having items delivered to my doorstep wasn’t saving money nor helping my community. Plus, it’s difficult to judge something like color and fit online (although fitting rooms are still closed).

It was a rather strange experience to have no Canadian visitors, to avoid other people like the literal plague, and to smile despite a mask (“invisible” smiles are high on my list of Things I Hate About Covid-19). The current coin shortage has forced me to use a credit card, putting a new wrinkle in budgeting. But there was the clearance rack (replacing workout clothes was $4.35 cheaper than anticipated) and the book I wanted was in a logical spot despite the rearranged, distancing-pattern shelves.

As for The Young Human Factory, we’re waiting to hear from the governor about what stage we’ll be in for the reopening. We are using a “middle man” regardless: lessons via live chats and online assignments). Ugh.