All posts by reneeinnd

Casting Call

Well, we have had non-stop national drama for the past four years,  and I am so looking forward to a respite.  I was imagining the other day what political figures I would cast in plays by Shakespeare, imagining who on the national scene would make a good Lear, Lady Macbeth, or Beatrice. The possibilities are endless and amusing, so go to it, Baboons!

 What roles would you cast current national or international political figures in plays, movies, musicals, or operas? Don’t limit yourself to Shakespeare.  What are your favorite  political dramas or comedies?

Happy Birthday, Abe

Today is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born on this date in 1809. (So was Charles Darwin. What a year!) We only started to celebrate  Presidents’ Day in 1971, when Washington ‘s and Lincoln’s birthdays were lumped together on the third Monday of February  after Congress passed a law in 1968 to encourage more three day weekends. To capitalize on  Presidents’ Day on Monday, I am taking today off and am thus giving myself a four day weekend.

I have determined that the only way I am going to make it through the next three and a half years of work is to take more time off.  I have a sad history of reluctance to taking vacation or sick leave. Right now I have accrued 750 hours of sick leave and 200 hours of vacation time. It shouldn’t be a problem to take the odd day off now and then.  I don’t quite understand my reluctance to stay home. Lutheran guilt?  I identify too closely with The Little Engine That Could?  Who knows? I only know that I am a more cheerful and productive person after a day off.

I love three day weekends, although it seems like work tends to pile up when Monday is a holiday.  Tuesday through Friday seem exhausting on those weeks. Husband wants Juneteenth declared a  holiday.  That would be great, I think.

What new Monday holidays would you like to see declared?  What are your memories of Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthdays when you were in elementary school?

Workplace Safety

My agency moved to a new building this summer.  We have adjusted to the new space,  and have worked on getting basic things like heating and cooling adjusted. One new feature of our  building is the electronic security.

All the waiting rooms in the new building are separated from the offices by doors that can only be opened electronically by staff who have special fobs that allow entry into  the labyrinth of offices beyond them.  Sometimes the electronic doors work.  Sometimes they don’t. They refuse to open for about 30 minutes each day.   The doors that won’t open vary.  It is intermittent.  It happens daily. No one can figure it out. When it happens, we have to take circuitous routes through other doors so we can get to our offices.

One consistent problem is static. Because of all the locked doors and their metal openers, we employees get repetitive shocks every time we walk down the carpeted halls and touch the metal door mechanisms  to open them.   The shocks are painful. I suppose the low humidity in the building accounts for this, but it sure is annoying.  I have to ground my body by touching the wooden door, and the then touching the metal opener. Sometimes I am in a hurry and I forget. Then I get a shock.  It is tiresome.

Tell about some “interesting ” work environments you have had.

Cold Snap, Hot Jokes

The wind chill advisory is scheduled to expire today at 11:00 am. It is still only going to be in the single digits the rest of the week, though, so no big warming trend.

I thought this would be a good day for jokes about the cold. I will start:

Two friends meet on the street    “It sure was cold this morning.” “How cold was it?”  I’m not sure, but I saw a lawyer with his hands in his own  pockets!”

You get the idea. Tell some cold weather jokes.


Hoarding Grapenuts

I am ashamed to admit it. This weekend I bought a box of Grapenuts when I didn’t need it.  I was hoarding.  It is all the fault of a recent news story that the Post company was having a hard time keeping up with demand for Grapenuts.  People are apparently snarfing them down at an increased rate due to staying home so much.  There is only one manufacturing plant for the cereal. It seems to require specialized manufacturing equipment on which the the Post company has a patent.  There have apparently been Grape nut shortages across the country,  and people are upset.

I don’t eat much cold cereal, but Grapenuts with milk and some golden raisins or currants are a big comfort food for me.  I shudder at the lurid colors of the cereals I ate as a child at the urging of commercials on Saturday  morning.

What were your favorite cereals as a child?  What would you hoard if you thought there might be a shortage?

Hunkering Down

It is supposed to get bitterly cold here this weekend. Husband and I bought all the groceries we imagined needing for Saturday and Sunday on Friday night,  and plan to hunker down, going out only on Sunday morning when we have to sing in the church choir.  If there were more of us we would stay home, but a six voice choir can’t function with two missing members.

We have all been isolated for the last ten months, but there is something strangely satisfying being at home because of the weather. Snow days are wonderful,  in my memory.  It is when my mother made waffles from scratch.

What are some of your favorite snow  day or bad weather day memories? How do you like to “Hunker down”?


Weird Food

Husband’s parents both grew up in eastern Ohio on the the border with Pennsylvania and West Virginia.  He grew up eating far different foods than I did.

Husband loves mush, especially cornmeal mush and grits. His mother served it to him for breakfast. He doesn’t object if Cream of Wheat, Cream of Rice, or  Maltomeal are on the menu, either.  I can sometimes eat polenta, but the others are a real challenge. I think it is a texture issue on my part.

Last weekend, Husband made Scrapple, a Pennsylvania favorite, and his ultimate treat, since it combines cornmeal mush with pork. He used Julia Child’s recipe ( Who would have imagined she had a Scrapple recipe??) It is sort of yellowish brown. You can see it in the header photo.  After it was baked and cooled,  he sprinkled slices of  it with cornmeal, fried them, and ate them with blueberry syrup. I just stay out of the kitchen when he gets it out. It is too weird for me.

What is the oddest food you have ever been served? What do you eat that others won’t eat? What food have you come to like that you never imagined you would?

New Operas

I am not typically a big fan of opera music, but I love the stories they tell. The other day I heard a selection from Nixon in China  by John Adams on MPR. I think it was The Chairman Dances.   I remember seeing a televised performance that opera, and I found the costuming, with all those drab Mao jackets very amusing.

Operas do a good job of immortalizing important moments in history,  and I suppose that Nixon’s breakthrough with China was monumental.  I wonder what the opera repertoire  will be like fifty years from now?

What recent events would you like to see made into operas?  What is your favorite opera?

Folie a Plusieurs

One benefit of working as a mental health professional  in the middle of nowhere is the opportunity to see people with all sorts  of different diagnoses that one wouldn’t necessarily see in urban areas due to the increased specialization there. When you are the only game in town (or a 100 mile radius) you get to see it all.  Very few of my urban colleagues have seen Huntington’s Chorea first hand, tested people with Lewy Body Dementia  or Korsakoff’s psychosis, and also treated  children with PANDAS (Look it up. It isn’t as nice as it sounds).

The recent uptick in conspiracy theories and QAnon reminded me of a case I was privy to decades ago involving a shared delusion.  Folie a Deux is a condition in which one person with a Delusional Disorder convinces someone else without a Delusional Disorder that their delusions are real. It usually occurs in couples or close relatives.   It is rare.  It barely made the last edition of the American Psychiatric Association  Diagnostic and Statistical  Manual.  The case I remember is that of  one person in a couple having  the delusion that a member of a famous  Country Western singing group loved them,  and transmitted secret messages to them over the television.  The delusional person convinced their partner this was true, and both had to be hospitalized.

I wonder if APA is reevaluating the rarity of shared delusions in our current political climate.  It may be more prevalent than we previously thought.  I love the French terms for these conditions.  Folie a Plusieurs is the term for “madness of several”,  which we certainly have observed recently.  The treatment usually involves separating the truly delusional from the ones they have convinced about their delusions.  Then they can see what is really happening.

What are your favorite non-English terms?  Make up some fun and helpful  conspiracy theories.  

Beans and Friendship

Husband and I like to grow shell-out beans in the garden.  These are beans that form in their pods and you can let dry and then shell and store,  unlike green beans that you eat whole when they are fresh.  We use them in soups and stews.   We have grown several varieties over the years, like Vermont Cranberry Beans and Good Mother Stallard.  We particularly like shelly beans, as they are sometimes called, because some of them are pole beans and they save space in the garden since they grow vertically.  One problem with the more popular varieties, though, is that their growing season is a little too long to reach maturity here before frost.

The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Indians were agricultural tribes who lived (and still live) on the Missouri River in North Dakota. They liked to grow shell beans, too. Many of their bean varieties were collected by horticulturists in the early 20th Century and can still be bought from certain seed companies.  Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden published in 1917 by anthropologist Gilbert Wilson, is his account of a famous Hidatsa gardener’s advice and stories about gardening in the Northern  Great Plains.  She grew huge gardens of corn, squash, beans, and sunflowers on the rich bottomlands near the river.   All that rich land was flooded with the building of the Garrison Dam and the development of Lake Sakakawea, and the members of the three tribes were moved to family allotments on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. That land isn’t very fertile at all.

We grow Hidatsa Shield Figure Beans, which are fat, creamy white pole beans, and Hidatsa Red Beans, which  are smaller, red bush beans that get to be 3 feet tall and need a fence to grow against or else they  sprawl all over.  Both have shorter growing seasons.  I have never seen either of the seeds for sale locally or on the Reservation.  We got them from Seed Savers Exchange.  Our native friends from the reservation don’t seem to be very familiar with them.

I mentioned to our Arikara friend Bruce what beans we were growing, and he said he got some authentic Ree Beans (another word for Arikara)  from a woman Elder some time ago.  You can see them in the header photo.  He tried to plan them on his allotment, but the soil just wasn’t good enough.  He wondered if we would be willing to try them in our garden. I said we would be very happy to. They are brown bush beans that  seem to be very similar to Arikara Yellow Beans that I see in seed catalogs. I told him that we will have a bean feast next fall with him and his wife, and our Hidatsa friend, Leo.  I may have to refer to Buffalo Bird Woman for some recipe ideas.

Got any good bean recipes?  What are you looking forward to doing with friends once we can gather? How are your garden plans coming along?