Archive for December 2009

Dog/Elephant Christmas Activity! On Ice!

December 25, 2009

Skating At Sunset!

Thanks so much for all your support (and views)!

All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson.

Christmas Eve Traditions- No More Oyster Stew

December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve.  My mother’s tradition (which was her own family’s tradition and so just had to be followed year after year) was Oyster Stew, a milky soup which was topped with blots of butter, bottomed with weird heavy blobs of whole oysters.  We all, except for my Dad, hated it.  The only part my brother and I found edible were the oyster crackers, those little round pale ones, which floated about like puffly, hole-less, life preservers, and,  if eaten fairly quickly, soaked up a little, but not too much, of the soup.   (It was important to use up the soup so that we were not seen to be wasting food.)   My cousin, who was not as well-trained and, in general, was a more dive-in kind of guy, crumbled whole handfuls of crackers into his soup; a little mound of crumbs rose like a pale volcano above the milky sea.

In my own family, that is, the family of my own children, I did not feel compelled to follow the Oyster Stew tradition.  (Parents of my generation probably made a bigger point of reaching a food consensus with children.)  Instead , we have Latkes, our homage to New York City and to my kids’ elementary school which (almost comically) trained them in a gamut of Winter traditions, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanza to Solstace.

I make the Latkes after we go to a Christmas Eve church service, which sports a Christmas pageant, in which small children wear burlap if they are shepherds, velvet hats if they are kings, sheep ears if they are sheep, flower crowns if they are angels, and sing sibilant carols in a beautiful federalist church of white walls, dark wood, and deeply gilded angel statues.

We always go to this service, because we have always gone to this service.  It is beautiful, and early enough to fit in before the Latkes.  But, most importantly, this is the service we have always gone to.  It started when my children were children, a time when they especially liked seeing other children perform.  (Even infants have an eye for the pint-sized.)

Though we don’t go to that church so regularly, we have gone long enough to recognize others there; the woman with the frizzy hair who seems to arrange things,  the guy with the muscles in drag and sleeveless sequins, the woman minister with the divine voice, who, singing all the liturgy, embues it with a beautiful minor-keyed profundity, the devoted-looking gay couple who used to hold an infant and now carry a small girl in a red hat and coat, the very nice looking family with the pretty mother with hennaed hair, glasses,  and bangs, who has a little dark-eyed boy who sometimes studies “Where’s Waldo?”, a little girl with wispier bangs who has at least once fallen completely off the pew, and a little dark-eyed baby, now toddler, who really doesn’t seem to care for church, and who is passed from the mother to the dark-eyed father, and finally carried from the service when he begins to fuss too much.

Latkes are much much better than oyster stew.  Although there are no crackers to chase, there are no grey blobby bits to avoid.  Besides, it’s what we always have; it’s what we eat Christmas Eve.


(I am linking this post to Victoria C. Slotto’s liv2write2day blog about Christmas experiences and imperfect the hush of the moon

Getting Ready….

December 24, 2009


Have a lovely Christmas Eve!

(All rights reserved.  Karin Gustafson)

Christmas Eve’s Eve

December 23, 2009

When I was a child growing up in suburban Maryland, it was somewhat unusual to have a working mother, or, as she might be called today, a mother who “worked outside the home.”

Just about all the mothers I knew stayed at home, though they also worked pretty hard—this was partly because the ones I knew best had more than six children a piece.  Still, there was something different about a mother who actually had a job.

On the good side, we seemed to have slightly more disposable income than many families on my block.  We took trips; we shopped at real department stores (and rarely at the “five and ten”); my brother and I had an assortment of private lessons (from tap dancing to piano).

On the less good side, our lives, without the attention of what was basically a full-time servant, were sometimes a bit chaotic; let’s say, rushed.

This chaos was most pronounced at holidays, because my mom usually did not get off from work until almost the last minute.   Christmas Eve Day was intense, the modern world’s post-Thanksgiving frenzy squeezed into about sixteen hours.  On Christmas Eve Day, a tree was bought (among those few remaining available), put up, decorated.  Traditional foods were purchased and prepared; presents were acquired.

The day was a bit like one long Iron Chef competition, except it involved stores rather than a kitchen.  Wrapping took place well after darkness fell.

Christmas morning was a joy to my mom partly because it meant the end of Christmas Eve.

I’m a working mother too.  And whether women become more like their mothers when they age, or the aging of children makes the planning for Christmas somewhat less of a priority than the payment of second semester college tuition, I find myself in a mom-like situation this Christmas Eve’s eve.

I have tried to stave off the panic and guilt by warning my family repeatedly that I’m really not doing a lot for Christmas this year, that I am just too busy, too pressured  (not mentioning the weird assortment of vampire novels I’ve managed to read.)   I’ve told myself too that my kids are old enough I should just take it a bit easy, let myself off the hook.

But I expect that by tomorrow, all those warnings, and even resolutions,  will go by the wayside.   Like a Christmas Eve’s Eve, burdened with the knowledge of good and evil–that is, of what good mothers are supposed to do for Christmas as opposed to bad mothers who don’t do all those wonderful things–I will frantically shop, buy, prepare.   I will get us to church, cook, wrap;  and when Christmas morning dawns, I will be very happy.

Another Unhealthy Emission From Palin

December 23, 2009

In the midst of reading Palin’s Facebook posts about climate change I ran into her newest post/poison about Government death panels:  “Midnight Votes, Backroom Deals, and a Death Panel”.  Her images conjure up Harry Reid, dressed the dusty black of a Christmas-hating Ebenezer Scrooge, in a back alley doctor’s office advocating death for all except patients seeking late-term abortions.

Part of what’s disturbing is how manipulative Palin is;  it’s sometimes does not seem possible that she believes her own rants –how does she miss the self-contradiction?   She argues, for example,  that the government health care bill reduces access to health care and promotes  rationing (hence the jump to the idea of the “death panel”) while at the same time she declares that the bill (because it offers so much, unfettered, access to health care) will be ruinously expensive.    (In Palin’s world, private insurers never deny access to health care, and those who can’t pay for health care seem somehow to magically not need it.)

Palin admits in this post that her use of the term “death panel” was “a metaphor”.  This, to me at least, implies an understanding that such decision-making bodies are not a true facet of the proposals.  And yet, she continues to bandy the word about, knowing how it has been, and will be, parroted by followers eager to find totalitarianism in anything connected to Obama.

“This is about politics, not health care,” she says, and then, so nobly apolitical, ends her post with the promise/threat that “2010 is coming.”

More Palin On Climate Change–Emit, baby, emit

December 22, 2009

Yesterday, I wrote about Palin’s tweets on climate change.   (Twitter–such an intelligent way to discuss complex scientific and political issues.)

Palin’s complete-sentence comments on climate change, posted on Facebook (another high level political forum) and in an op-ed piece in the Washington Post, are a little less fragmented than her tweets.  But they illustrate a similar disjointed logic that is geared towards “catchy” reductiveness, self-promotion, and a refusal to face true choices (a “have your cake and eat it too” mentality.)

Catchiness comes in “word bites:”   for example, she accuses California Governer Schwarzenegger of harboring a vain “greener than thou” attitude.  (This put-down does not make a huge amount of sense since she also accuses him of being too green.)   She  accuses Gore and other environmentalists of promoting “Doomsday scenarios.”  (This last is also strange coming from someone who, seemingly, believes in the Book of Revelation.)

Any science that finds a connection between man’s activities and climate change is “agenda-driven,” even “fraudulent”.  (Another odd comment given the known efforts of the Bush administration to politically manipulate scientific data.)  Nonetheless, Palin promotes the idea that there has been a huge conspiracy of scientists for the last twenty years falsifying scientific records related to climate change:  “Vice President Gore,” she writes, “the Climategate scandal exists. You might even say that it’s sort of like gravity: you simply can’t deny it.”

The purpose of this vast scientific conspiracy is never specifically stated by Palin; the scientists seem somehow motivated by a vaguely elistist wish simply to make the American people suffer.

Palin, eager to seem pleasing and maverick at once, typically attempts to pay lip service to both sides of the debate.  She proclaims herself a believer in climate change, and to have initiated “common-sense” efforts in Alaska to deal with its effects.  (Presumably, these efforts did not involve any limitations on snowmobiling, drilling, or safeguarding of polar bear habitats.)   Her bottom line, however, is that she refuses to believe, no matter what,  in any connection between man’s activities and climate change, while she is completely certain that there will be an irremediable economic cost in reducing emissions.  Ergo, emit, baby, emit.

A “real world”, as she calls it, analysis.

Palin andClimat Chng: Happn’g 4 Ions

December 21, 2009

As my family, with some embarrassment, will attest, I am not someone who feels a knee-jerk hatred of Sarah Palin.  I don’t agree with her on virtually any issue, but I think she is smarter, or at least, shrewder, than many people from my neck of the non-woods (New York City) admit.  I also have a soft spot for Palin simply based on the memory of her youngest daughter (Piper?), seen at the Republican convention, earnestly pressing down Palin’s baby’s wayward bangs with a saliva-moistened palm.  (It’s hard not to like Piper.)

But Palin’s blindness to reason and fact really get to me; Palin is especially upsetting because she’s so glib, so willing to cast aside the complications of truth to get to the beguilingly simplistic.  She’s a bit like a cheerleader: as long as something is catchy, short, and supports her team, she will (smilingly) say it, whether or not it makes sense, or is even consistent with her other positions.

The most recent example of Palin’s reductiveness can be seen in her remarks on climate change.  Palin’s comments were made in the form of “tweets,”  a good method of communication for Palin since fractured thinking is not only allowed, it’s practically mandatory:

“Copenhgen=arrogance of man2think we can change nature’s ways.MUST b good stewards of God’s earth,but arrogant&naive2say man overpwers nature.   (Palin Tweet, 11:44 PM Dec 18th from TwitterBerry ).

Earth saw clmate chnge4 ions;will cont 2 c chnges.R duty2responsbly devlop resorces4humankind/not pollute&destroy;but cant alter naturl chng.” (11:57 PM Dec 18th from TwitterBerry)

There’s no room for the complications of science and fact here; no space for actual data.

There’s not even room for eons of change, but only “ions,” those teeny little charged particles that (according to some bogus scientists) make up various atoms and molecules.

I understand that Palin’s position is based, in part, on her Christian faith; but her faith seems terribly reductive here.   Although Palin pays lip service to a broader view of the environmental equation ( “humankind/not pollute and destroy”), this statement seems just a spoonful of sugar (to help the development go down).   It’s worth noting that one of Palin’s earlier tweets that day congratulates the Alaskan legislature on fighting the Endangered Species Act, a fight in which Alaska is working to delist the polar bear and to avoid a listing of the ribbon seal, two species that have been harmed by a severe decline in habitat due to climate change.

Apparently Palin believes that the polar bear and seal can live 4 ions, even without a habitat.