Saturday, December 31, 2011

In Remembrance of New Years Past

It's New Year's Eve again and it's hard not to look back at the year. To evaluate it, hate it or bask in its glory. I also find myself reliving family traditions in my head.  By far my favorite is the New Year's Eve bash.  Every year we invited friends and family out to our farm. They brought along food, beverages, their dried up Christmas tree and fireworks.  My stepfather would push fallen trees and scrap wood into a pile twice as tall as most full-grown men. With a bonfire lit and bellies full of food and drink, we nailed two 2X4s to the bottom of each Christmas tree to make stands and then decorated them with bottle rockets and strings of fireworks. When all the trees are decorated, we shoveled coals from the bonfire onto the base of the tree and whooomph! Nothing more exciting and [possibly] dangerous than the combination of alcohol and pyrotechnics. We sometimes spent hundreds of dollars on the extra fireworks for after the trees had gone up in flames. 
Best of all, we had plenty of room for people to camp out if they couldn't drive home. The perfect New Year's set up. 

But my favorite part of all was when our dear friend, Jeff Sefeldt, recited The Cremation of Sam McGee from memory. It amazes me to this day that he memorized it in the first place but to recite it after an afternoon and night of drinking Keystone Light is truly a feat of olympic proportions. 

Robert Service (1874-1958)
                  The Cremation of Sam McGee
    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.
    Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the cotton blooms and blows.
    Why he left his home in the South to roam 'round the Pole, God only knows.
    He was always cold, but the land of gold seemed to hold him like a spell;
    Though he'd often say in his homely way that "he'd sooner live in hell."
    On a Christmas Day we were mushing our way over the Dawson trail.
    Talk of your cold! through the parka's fold it stabbed like a driven nail.
    If our eyes we'd close, then the lashes froze till sometimes we couldn't see;
    It wasn't much fun, but the only one to whimper was Sam McGee.
    And that very night, as we lay packed tight in our robes beneath the snow,
    And the dogs were fed, and the stars o'erhead were dancing heel and toe,
    He turned to me, and "Cap," says he, "I'll cash in this trip, I guess;
    And if I do, I'm asking that you won't refuse my last request."
    Well, he seemed so low that I couldn't say no; then he says with a sort of moan:
    "It's the cursèd cold, and it's got right hold, till I'm chilled clean through to the bone.
    Yet 'tain't being dead — it's my awful dread of the icy grave that pains;
    So I want you to swear that, foul or fair, you'll cremate my last remains."
    A pal's last need is a thing to heed, so I swore I would not fail;
    And we started on at the streak of dawn; but God! he looked ghastly pale.
    He crouched on the sleigh, and he raved all day of his home in Tennessee;
    And before nightfall a corpse was all that was left of Sam McGee.
    There wasn't a breath in that land of death, and I hurried, horror-driven,
    With a corpse half hid that I couldn't get rid, because of a promise given;
    It was lashed to the sleigh, and it seemed to say: "You may tax your brawn and brains,
    But you promised true, and it's up to you, to cremate those last remains."
    Now a promise made is a debt unpaid, and the trail has its own stern code.
    In the days to come, though my lips were dumb, in my heart how I cursed that load.
    In the long, long night, by the lone firelight, while the huskies, round in a ring,
    Howled out their woes to the homeless snows — Oh God! how I loathed the thing.
    And every day that quiet clay seemed to heavy and heavier grow;
    And on I went, though the dogs were spent and the grub was getting low;
    The trail was bad, and I felt half mad, but I swore I would not give in;
    And I'd often sing to the hateful thing, and it hearkened with a grin.
    Till I came to the marge of Lake Lebarge, and a derelict there lay;
    It was jammed in the ice, but I saw in a trice it was called the "Alice May."
    And I looked at it, and I thought a bit, and I looked at my frozen chum;
    Then "Here," said I, with a sudden cry, "is my cre-ma-tor-eum."
    Some planks I tore from the cabin floor, and I lit the boiler fire;
    Some coal I found that was lying around, and I heaped the fuel higher;
    The flames just soared, and the furnace roared — such a blaze you seldom see;
    And I burrowed a hole in the glowing coal, and I stuffed in Sam McGee.
    Then I made a hike, for I didn't like to hear him sizzle so;
    And the heavens scowled, and the huskies howled, and the wind began to blow.
    It was icy cold, but the hot sweat rolled down my cheeks, and I don't know why;
    And the greasy smoke in an inky cloak went streaking down the sky.
    I do not know how long in the snow I wrestled with grisly fear;
    But the stars came out and they danced about ere again I ventured near;
    I was sick with dread, but I bravely said: "I'll just take a peep inside.
    I guess he's cooked, and it's time I looked"; ... then the door I opened wide.
    And there sat Sam, looking cool and calm, in the heart of the furnace roar;
    And he wore a smile you could see a mile, and said: "Please close that door.
    It's fine in here, but I greatly fear, you'll let in the cold and storm —
    Since I left Plumtree, down in Tennessee, it's the first time I've been warm."
    There are strange things done in the midnight sun
        By the men who moil for gold;
    The Arctic trails have their secret tales
        That would make your blood run cold;
    The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
        But the queerest they ever did see
    Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
        I cremated Sam McGee.

I hope you all have a safe and fun filled night out there tonight. I'll be here at work--Saving lives and stamping out disease at the Wonderbilt. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Merry Yule and a Blessed Solstice

Last night marked the Winter Solstice. The longest night of the year has passed and the days will grow longer--The light returns. For us pagans, it is a time of reflection. Looking at ourselves, figuring out what we want for the year ahead. Take a few minutes for yourself this day to figure out where you want to be one year from now--health, work, creatively, emotionally--and what goals you need to set in order to see that to fruition.

I woke up early this morning and snapped this picture of the Yule Sunrise.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Time to have another look at this budget

No. I'm not getting political. I don't need anything else to piss me off. I mean my own household budget.

For the first time in my adult life, I am damn near broke. Paychecks are cutting it too close for comfort and the credit card is close to maxed out. One income for five people plus paying for my husband's college out of pocket (because we "make too much" for financial aid) has finally caught up with us. We aren't missing payments or anything like that. But it wouldn't take much to push us over the edge. Especially now that my husband's unemployment has run out.

Here are my solutions:
Go through our clothes, DVDs, CDs and toys for things to sell. This might not be the best time for a yard sale but there's always craigslist, right?
Stop buying every book that catches my eye. For the next year, I will only buy books that are part of a series I am already invested in. I will stop buying books in a series that has taken a turn for the worse in hopes that the author has somehow rescued the plot and characters from certain literary doom. Get a library card, too.
Stop eating out at work. No exceptions. If all we have is stale bread and peanut butter, then that's what's for dinner.
Start using coupons more frequently.
Ask myself "do we need this right now?" with every item that goes into the shopping cart. Now I only shop at two places: Costco and Kroger. Okay, three places. I go to Barnes & Noble maybe four times a year. If you people see me at any of those places, gazing longingly at something that isn't a necessity, call me out on it.
Freeze back food. We spend a ton on Dagan's gluten free food items. I will start cooking in the middle of the day and freeze back lunch stuff for him. I just have to drag out those gluten free cookbooks again.

So, dear folks...what are your best money saving tips?

Monday, December 5, 2011

TBR: To Be Read

Deniz, over at The Girdle of Melian, has posted pictures of her TBR (To Be Read) piles and it inspired me to do the same. Here are my piles. A few books in each picture I have read, but those are extra copies I bought with the intention of [one day] re-reading.
The Xerox box is full of books, too.

The Gabaldon books are extras for loaning to friends.

Disregard "linger", I read it this summer.

I've already read Lover Unleashed, too.

The bottom shelf has been read, plus it holds my blank journals.

A table in my bedroom.

The drawer in the table (above)

The white box is full, too...

Oops. I forgot about this drawer-full...