Sunday, November 30, 2014

Even when it's unseasonably warm …

it's cold.

I came home from my trip to NC to find a broken heat pump. It's not 100 percent broken – the fan blows air – but after a very expensive weekend visit from a technician, we learned we need a new compressor. The original one has somehow become grounded, rendering it useless for warming the air coming into the house.

I know NOTHING about heat pumps, other than what I've learned from Google this weekend.

What I do know is that it will be several days before a new compressor can be installed, it's going to cost lots o'bucks, and it's cold. Even the slightly warmer-than-normal outdoor temperatures aren't warm.

So we're wearing wool socks and multiple layers and huddling in the TV room with the door closed and a space heater running full-blast.

Our next electric bill will be astronomical.

The Emergency Heat setting on the heat pump doesn't provide any heat, again because of the compressor. I think. Without that critical component, we're stuck with the unit sucking outside air in and pushing it, barely warmed, throughout the house.

I'll be using the oven today. Roasting a turkey, since my husband stayed home for the holiday and he likes turkey and I picked up a fresh one that needs to be roasted. I'll probably make crackers and pumpkin muffins, too. And I'll roast a mixture of beets, sweet potatoes and carrots, using this recipe (but not as many vegetables) for a side dish with our turkey.

I should probably bake a pie, too. Just to keep the oven going.

I might be tempting fate, though. It would be just our luck for the oven to break during the bake-a-thon.


For Denise and Gingerzingi, who have been commenting about the Ferguson issue, I haven't read the testimony yet. I have read some commentary about the case, and my conclusion is that the prosecutor should have recused himself (due to his close ties with law enforcement and being chairman of the board of a group that raised $400K for Wilson's defense), and a special prosecutor should have been appointed.

Something about the whole thing smells funny.


Finally, if you haven't started listening to the podcast Serial, you're missing something unique and fascinating. I got all caught up on my trip and can't wait for the next episode.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

As you gather together

Whether you'll be spending your Thanksgiving with friends, family or all alone (which is sometimes a delicious option), I hope your heart is filled with gratitude for your blessings, great or small.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

When I feel as I do this morning …

it's probably better to keep my thoughts to myself.

But THAT ain't happening! Heh.

I expected there would be no indictment against the Ferguson police officer who killed Michael Brown. I haven't looked at the evidence, and I didn't hear the witnesses. I can't say whether the grand jury decision is good or bad. It just is.

What I'm left with – and what I started with, once the facts began to come out – is why that officer had to kill that child. Why was deadly force necessary?

I'll grant you that the young man wasn't a fine, upstanding citizen. He wasn't helping the Little Sisters of the Poor. He'd just shoplifted cigars (and not even especially good ones) from a convenience store. He apparently tussled with the officer. He was a big guy, while the officer was of average build.

But who are we, when it's acceptable to kill someone for shoplifting?

Yes, that's simplifying it. But to me, that's the essence of it.

My opinion – and I'm entitled to it – is that the officer overreacted in the worst possible way. A dozen shots weren't necessary. Gunshot wounds are largely survivable if they don't penetrate the head or the heart. Disabling the criminal would have been sufficient.

That child didn't have to die.

I'm not a law enforcement professional. I've shot a gun, but only in target practice, not in a dangerous situation. The only thing I can do with this is accept that the officer felt his life was threatened and he reacted instinctively.

That's tough for me to do. We don't kill shoplifters.

But in this case, I guess we do.

Monday, November 24, 2014

You know what they say

I'm going to go out on a limb here, and write about something that might make that old saying – "be careful what you wish for" – happen in a bad way.

Because that's usually how "be careful what you wish for" happens.

Here's what I'd like. I'd like for food to be not so important, not so enticing, not so alluring.

And you know the only people who aren't interested in food are, um, sick.

I don't want to be sick.

I just don't want to think about food all the damned time.

My meals are pretty simple and largely the same: some kind of vegetable soup or stew with protein for dinner, bacon and eggs for breakfast, dinner leftovers for lunch. I try not to snack, but if I do it's a Larabar, either homemade or purchased. (The seasonal Gingerbread ones are delicious.)

See? Right there. I'm recommending food to you. Alluring food. Tastyyummymmmmmmmmmmgood food.

Cats have the reputation of being picky eaters. I know some people who go through brand after brand of feline concoctions, trying to find something poor little Tabby will eat. Dr. Google returns tens of thousands of websites offering advice on how to get your picky kitty to eat.

When, in fact, sleek and muscular Tabby is doing just fine.

I want to be sleek and muscular Tabby, turning my nose up at the occasional meal and picking at the rest.

Instead – and especially at breakfast – I DIG IN! I do love my bacon and eggs, which I frequently make as a cheese-free omelette filled with salsa and chopped avocados.

I'm never as excited about lunch or dinner as I am about breakfast. But I never miss a meal and I wake up planning dinner.

So there you go, Universe. I've put it out there.

  • I want food to NOT be on my radar. 
  • I want to be as excited about making crafty messes as I am about making breakfast.
  • I want to be a cat.

Friday, November 21, 2014

It's a date!

My husband and I are taking care of some business in town this morning and then heading to Christiansburg, VA, to browse, shop, eat out and spend some time with each other.

For a change.

He wasn't nearly as enthusiastic about the recent election as I was, and I was pretty busy, pretty much all the time. So when he suggested a couple days ago that we take Friday to spend together, I was all about it. We're both looking forward to picking up some holiday gifts and even shopping for ourselves.

What do we need? Not much, really. We're not really into acquiring more stuff. But we sure do need a day away from the house, where we tend to go our own ways and only really sit down together for dinner and, later, Jeopardy.

Last night instead of questions-and-answers, we watched college football (WVU lost, but not by much, and really should have won) with a short break for the President's speech on immigration.

To me, the plan seems fair and balanced, to borrow a phrase from one of the cable news networks which is decidedly not so. To that news network … it seemed like they had their remarks written before the speech was even given. I wasn't sure they even read it or listened to it.

What it comes down to is this: Until President Obama turns white, the Tea Party and Fox News aren't going to agree with anything he says. A popular meme on Facebook posits that if President Obama cured cancer, Fox News would accuse him of putting doctors out of work.

That about sums up the sad state of American politics today.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I just checked my workout log and I haven't walked in a week. Last time I was out was November 12. It's been a long, long time since I've been this lazy.

Except I've not really been lazy. It's been too cold – bitterly cold – to walk, and the idea of sitting in a cold, dark garage to use the rowing machine isn't all that appealing either.

I know, I know. Mind over matter, at least in the case of the rower.

I'm somewhat surprised to see the number on the scale inching downward, despite my lack of intentional activity. I've been sticking like glue to the paleo plan, and eating only when I'm hungry. And sometimes I'm really hungry, which my husband says is a sign of good health.

Also food tastes better when you're hungry.

The knitting continues, and I find myself cruising through Pinterest looking for sweater patterns. It's not like I don't have a ton of them already. And it's not like I couldn't swatch for gauge and start knitting a sweater without a pattern. I've done that before.

In fact, one of my favorite hand knit sweaters started out like that. I used a boucl√© yarn that was part wool but still machine-washable and -dryable. Eventually it pilled so badly that I had to toss it. I loved that sweater, though.

It was a top-down construction with a little funnel neckline. The sleeves ballooned out just before the cuff and it was tunic-length. I used Barbara Walker's excellent book Knitting from the Top as a jumping-off point.

I think I've just settled on my next project.

I'm pretty sure there's some suitable yarn in the stash.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thank goodness for football

I'm not much of a TV watcher. I like The Newsroom, Season 3 of which HBO began broadcasting last Sunday. (I haven't watched last night's episode yet, but as soon as I get done here – that's the plan.) I also like House of Cards, which drops on Netflix in February, I do believe.

And I watch football. If it weren't for football, NO knitting would be getting done. As it is, darned little is getting done, but I'm on track to get the four toys for one set of grandchildren done.

These are the toys they asked for in August, I think? And they thought I'd be able to sit down and whip them out in an evening, while they slept. HAH!

The second of the four toys is done (except for sewing on button eyes). I used this pattern for Mr. Whale, but blue yarn at my grandson's request.

I'm nearly done knitting the pieces for this teddy bear, but in red and with the addition of a red bow tie. These kids have wonderful imaginations. I hope the finished projects live up to their expectations.

The first project, a turtle, is finished. I'm on the hunt for a pattern for a knitted kitty. But not a Hello Kitty, because I've already given the littlest granddaughter one of those. So a different kitty. Sigh.

At any rate, thank you, Newsroom, NCAA and NFL for giving me something entertaining to watch while I knit my fingers to the bone.

Also, you can't eat and knit at the same time. So there's that.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Oh, the weather outside's been frightful

I've hardly left my house the past few days. It's been bitterly cold, unusually cold for November in southern West Virginia. Friday was, in fact, a pajama day – I didn't even get dressed, the whole. damned. day.

We went out yesterday afternoon, to a funeral service, and then returned home to hunker down and watch football. Too cold – still – to walk.

I felt a little sorry for myself yesterday morning, as I saw that three of my Facebook friends were running the Richmond (VA) half-marathon. I remember doing that race. A long time ago. In another lifetime. But I'm happy for all of them. They all finished and one had a PR. So YAY for her!

I'm also feeling sorry for myself because of the weight I've gained this year. I was the thinnest I've been in years last year at Thanksgiving. The weight has been coming back on all. year. long. I haven't been 100 percent faithful to the paleo plan. Nor even 80 percent, clearly. The holidays are fast approaching and I wonder if I should begin anew TODAY or just wait until January, when I will surely have even more weight to lose.

So discouraged.

Of course I'm beginning today. I'm too uncomfortable to wait.

My previous daily walking minimum of five miles has, this year, been cut to four. I quit walking on Indian Creek Road after the same dog bit me twice, and have been doing a two-mile out-and-back route on my road. That last half-mile – the one that would get me to five total miles – is a steep uphill climb and I just haven't wanted to tackle it.

But the weather has warmed up considerably – it's 33 this morning; yesterday it was 19 at this time – and I'll be walking alone, so today's the day to start doing five-milers again.

You can't increase your food consumption AND decrease your exercise at the same time and not expect to gain weight. You just can't.

So. Here I go. Again. I promise I won't bore you with all the gory details. You've heard it all before. But I DO promise that when I get back to where I was a year ago, you'll be the first to know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

24 and so much more

So. Happy anniversary to me.
This perfectly captures how I feel today.

Today marks 24 years of continuous sobriety, 24 years of living life on life's terms, 24 years that I haven't (thanks to Alcoholics Anonymous) used alcohol or drugs to alter my reality or mask my feelings.

Those of you who know me up close and personal can attest to the fact that my feelings are, um, pretty much right up front. HAH! I know at least one person who'd love it if I would stuff them every once in a while. (No, he wouldn't. Not really.)

If you don't know my story, you can read the 16-year version of it here. What's happened in the eight years since?

I still live in the same house, I have the same dog, and I'm living with the same person. In fact I'd married that person just a few months before my 16th AA anniversary. I've now lived in the same house with the same person and had the same dog for a longer stretch than at any other time in my entire life. People, places, things and dogs used to fall by the wayside when life got sticky. My MO was to run away – from husbands, jobs, homes, family, friends.

But I was always right there with me, and it wasn't until I quit drinking that I could quit running.

Or start, actually.

Running – the sport – is something I've picked up and a-l-m-o-s-t put away in the past eight years. I've run three half-marathons, the Army 10-Miler, a four-mile race and a 5K. I'd like to run again, but at my age maybe walking is better. But maybe not. I haven't crossed a marathon off my bucket list, and I still want to run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, √° la Rocky.

I'm still taking an AA meeting to a nearby women's prison, and still marveling that having that meeting serve fewer women than it used to has made it more effective. The meeting is a highlight of my week, every week, and no matter how I feel driving to the prison, I always always ALWAYS feel better on the way home.

There was a little package in the mail Monday, an anniversary card and gift from a woman whose running blog I began reading in 2006 (I think). Our relationship began with running advice and inspiration, but guess what? She's been sober seven years now. (And has lived in the same place with the same dog all that time, and just celebrated her first wedding anniversary!) Her very thoughtful gift means so much to me, but her life and her friendship mean ever so much more.

What's new in the past eight years? I have five new grandchildren, who are now seven, six (triplets) and four. My daughter is about to graduate from law school. My son has been promoted to a new and important position at his place of employment. (My parenting skills, believe me, had nothing to do with my children's success. But my pride in them knows no bounds.)

I lost my dad – a strong Truman Democrat and the son of a strong Roosevelt Democrat – four years ago. That was a blow. I wanted to die right along with him. But I didn't die, and I didn't drink, and I'm carrying on his values and ideals because …

The other thing that's happened is that I've ventured out of my safe little world and become a loud, proud Democrat, working for candidates, being one, taking positions. I've become involved with the WV Federation of Democratic Women on the local and state levels. I think I'm making a difference, and I'm standing up for something besides me-me-me.

Because you see, alcoholics are selfish and self-centered to their core. Or at least this one is. If I'm not comfortable, you won't be either, I'll make sure of it. I'm shedding that behavior, one day at a time, but I have a long way to go.

Thanks for being here with me. You know who you are.

Monday, November 10, 2014

My Facebook meltdown

I threatened to quit using Facebook yesterday (on Facebook), and got more comments on a post than ever before. I think. But since I didn't post my threat in order to get comments, it really doesn't matter.

People are mean.

Not you, of course. And it's a free country. Sort of. I think the Koch Brothers have probably spent quite a bit of money buying it up, but the constitution still says you can say what you want.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Obviously I'm simplifying. The First Amendment has been and will continue to be debated. As it stands now, however, there's no law against bashing the President on Facebook. You can't threaten to kill him. That will get you a visit from the Feds. But you can lie about him and use racial slurs to describe him and pretend he's a Kenyan-Muslim-Socialist who wants to take your guns away, and there's nothing I can do about it.

Except back away from the Facebook.

Which I may or may not still do. But at least my knickers aren't in quite the twist they were yesterday, when I was feeling, um, very emotional.

The day began early, as it usually does. I clicked and followed a link to this video, a country anthem by Garth Brooks, first recorded four years ago (I think). (I would embed it here but it is restricted from embedding on some domains.) I don't listen to country music, as a rule. But yesterday I did. Go. Watch. I'll wait.

Remember when the Dixie Chicks criticized President Bush? And fans threw their albums away and talk-show hosts beat them up and they were pretty much ostracized from country music? Yeah, I guess those days are over.

I watched the We Shall Be Free video and wept. Sobbed. A delayed reaction, possibly, to the election results. But a sincere expression of the utter hopelessness I feel for the future of America.

The pendulum swings, thankfully, because later in the day I saw where Kacey Musgraves' Follow Your Arrow was named country music's Song of the Year. You can read about it and watch the video here.

I first heard the song watching the Grammys, back in January, I think. I downloaded it as soon as I could and I listen to it frequently. (Even though I just told you I don't listen much to country music.) It's sassy. And pretty darned different, for a country song.

And if Nashville is willing to recognize a song about weed and lesbians, maybe Garth Brooks' wish for a more tolerant world can come true.

Despite the fact that Tennessee just passed constitutional amendments effectively bannning all abortions in the state and forever prohibiting a state income tax. Oh, yes, they did.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Still shell-shocked. But rising.

Went to a little get-together last night, a post-mortem, if you will, with fellow Democrats from our women's group and our county executive committee. Quite a good crowd, not much gnashing of teeth, a good deal of enthusiasm and many questions about what comes next.

Most of West Virginia's politicians are Democrat-Lite. Our state party platform includes language that supports a woman's right to choose, but many-many-many of our Democratic legislators are pro-life. And now that our statehouse is Republican-controlled, you can bet the anti-abortion bills will be flowing like manna from HEAVEN.

(Whatever pro-life is. If you're pro-life, aren't you – or shouldn't you be – also anti-death penalty? Anti-war? Wouldn't you support early childhood education and food stamps and all the other social programs that help disadvantaged people LIVE? Unwanted children already born have LIFE. I'm pro-THEM.)

The opposition loves throwing the term pro-abortion around, which is ridiculous. NO ONE is pro-abortion. Those of us on the pro-choice side, however, believe a safe, legal, medical procedure should be available for those who have decided to end a pregnancy. The reason for such a decision is no one's business but the woman or family involved.

I feel that this and so many other good, solid, for-the-people principles will be gone with the wind coal in very short order.

I can't speak for every Democrat in West Virginia. I can only speak for me. I didn't come easily to this party. I wanted to remain an Independent, and I have voted for Republicans. Now that I'm here, though, I'm here to stay and I'll be damned if I'll let anyone hold me, West Virginia or America back without a fight.

I'm wearing an Obama button everywhere I go, with the exception of the prison. (Volunteers and staff are not permitted to display political icons on the grounds.) My Obama bumper stickers are going to remain on my car until Hillary announces. Our candidates lost because we lost control of the conversation, and I blame both the state and national party leaders for that. No national candidate who distanced him or herself from the President won. (At least I don't think so, I haven't drilled down through all 50 states to know for sure.)

At any rate, I'm a Democrat and I'm going to be a LOUD PROUD one. We have NOTHING to apologize for. We have supported the middle class, helped the disadvantaged, secured the future for the elderly, tried to do the best for the most.

I don't see Republicans caring one whit for anyone or anything except their own best interests.

Big, dark, outside money + racism + GOD/GUNS/GAYS + poor advice = this:

West Virginia's  majestic capitol building, Charleston, WV.
Altered, for the time being.

Thursday, November 6, 2014


As you might imagine, I have quite a few thoughts about Tuesday's election results.

I also have no Internet, since early Wednesday morning. The universe is conspiring against me. Or perhaps protecting me from saying things I should probably keep to myself.

I'm profoundly disappointed. Stunned. Still.

And by the time the Internet is up and running again I'll have moved my thinking forward (one hopes!) to a more productive place.

When the keyboard and screen are small - I'm using my phone and the blogger app - so is the number of words.

Have a good Thursday. I'm trying.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A look back

Six years ago today, the front page of the New York Times looked like this. An historic day, and not at all unexpected. Candidate Obama swept through the country with charm and confidence and charisma.

The next day, I'm guessing, sales of Confederate flags and bumper stickers and license plates rose dramatically. I live in southern West Virginia and, until the 2008 election, I'd never seen a Confederate flag flying in someone's yard. Or if I had, I'd never noticed.

Electing our first black President changed America's character, and not for the better.

I had hopes. It certainly seemed like racism was on the decline, especially when considered from the perspective of one who grew up in the '60s. So much had changed in 50 years. Surely we were so over bigotry.

But we weren't. And we aren't. And despite all the good President Obama has done, all the improvements in job numbers and deficit reduction and consumer confidence, every major candidate in every major race used him. Democrats distanced themselves from him and Republicans tied Democrats to him.

You might remember that I was asked to make a commercial for my Congressman last spring. It never ran. In it, I thanked my Congressman for fighting for affordable health insurance. But because the ACA was President Obama's signature legislation, that ad wasn't going to air on any TV stations here in West Virginia.

When West Virginia Democratic candidates turned their backs on the President, they did so because too many voters here hate him. Pretty strong language, but it's true. And it's sad. He's done his best to make all our lives better, but far too many can't get past his skin color.

In the 2012 primary, 10 West Virginia counties chose a convicted, incarcerated felon over the incumbent President as their candidate for the top job. In the fall election, West Virginia had the lowest voter turnout in the entire country.

That's not something to brag about.

Today's Election Day. In the mid-term contest four years ago, the Koch Brothers-backed Tea Party made quite a splash. This is our year to shut them out.

Vote for Democrats. Please and thank you.

Monday, November 3, 2014

My left foot

Some time ago, a long time ago, I had edema in my left foot. Chronic. Annoying. Unexplained.

I'm talking a really long time ago, probably back in the Shrinking Knitter days.

Yesterday it came back.

Ugh. It hurt to walk. I ended up taking a Lasix before bed. That's how bad it was – I was willing to get up to pee two or three times in order to get some relief.

All is normal this morning, but I'm left wondering what happened to cause it to return.

And, since I won't be visiting the doctor about it, I guess I'm just left to wonder.

Moving on.

Earlier this year the four littlest grandchildren asked for knitted toys. They thought I could whip them out in no time. First, they have no concept of time and second, they have no concept of how long it takes to knit a toy.

At any rate, the first one's done. I'm naming it Mitch – until it's delivered, of course. At that point it's out of my hands and the intended grandson can name it whatever he wants.
But it does like rather Mitch-like, yes? (You politicos will get it.) I need to sew a couple buttons on for eyes, and it's ready to wrap and mail. The pattern (named Sheldon) is here, in case you'd like to try your hand at it. It was a bit fiddly, as most toy patterns are, but clearly written and an experienced knitter would have no trouble with it at all.

I still need to knit a blue whale, a red teddy bear and a pink kitty. And the granddaughter I visited over Halloween hasn't let me forget her request for a red hooded cape. Sewn, thankfully. It would take until next Christmas to knit a cape.

As I've been going through old emails, I find myself tossing the political ones without even reading them, and saving the ones related to knitting, cooking (paleo) and books. I think I'm getting ready to settle in for a long winter's nap.

How about you? We all know Christmas is still weeks away, despite the commercials and decorations already popping up. What are your autumn plans? Details!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Wow, it's early

I neglected to set the clocks back last night before I went to bed, so when I saw the digital display reading 5:34, I didn't think too much of it. I'd gone to bed around 9 last night, so I'd had plenty of sleep. I got up, checked my phone and saw that – THANK YOU END OF DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME – it was actually 4:34.

I couldn't go back to sleep, though. Didn't even try. I swear it takes me longer to get used to the autumn time change than it does the one in the spring.

About to enter the East River Mountain tunnel, at the border
of Virginia and West Virginia on I-77.
Right now, at 6:30-ish, the morning light is just beginning to overtake the darkness. There was a slight chance of snow last night, which didn't happen here. I saw snow all through Virginia on my way home from North Carolina yesterday though.

The annual Halloween trip to visit my son and his family went well. The first full day I was there I got to spend with my younger granddaughter while both her parents were at work. The weather was PERFECT – moderate temperatures, lovely Carolina-blue skies, very light breezes – so we packed a picnic lunch and walked to a not-so-nearby park along a paved trail.

Total distance was 4.35 miles – a pretty long trek for a seven-year-old. It was good to break it up at the halfway point with lunch and a bit of time on the playground swings. We alternated jogging and walking on the return trip and make it home before her mother got home from work.

We spent part of the afternoon at Trader Joe's – a great treat for me – where I stocked up on almond meal, coconut oil spray and dark chocolate, and had great fun with the cashier. Trader Joe's hires the most fun people! Or maybe Southwest Airlines does. It's a toss-up.

The good thing about the sudden cold snap is NO MORE BUGS. I'm thinking the fruit-fly population has been wiped out for the season. Now to figure out how to prevent the return next year. I expect the only way to get rid of them entirely is to not eat.

That's a strategy I'm unwilling to adopt.