Thursday, January 28, 2016

Finding My Inner Peter Pan

This video is joyful, exuberant and playful, and so full of enthusiasm for life that it makes me want to burst at the seams just watching it.  Yes, it is two actors in a mini-film of their own making.  Yes, there may be a bit of self-marketing involved in their levels of joy and wonderment.  Yes, I am a sucker for a sappy, gloriously amusing romp in the wilds of Africa, a continent that I have yet to visit anywhere other than in the pages of travel books or watching "Out of Africa."

But there is something genuinely sweet and sincere about a lot of this.  It makes me smile.

It also makes me wonder where my inner Peter Pan has gone.  Because it has been a while since this sort of wonder and joy has taken over for me.  

I have gotten glimpses of this several times the last few years:  climbing to the top of the gypsum dunes in White Sands National Monument or getting up before dawn just to see the sunrise about the Grand Canyon's majestic rim, and then walking along the rim of the Grand Canyon with The Peanut, no other human being around us for a half an hour or more.  (Best cross-country driving trip ever, and still paying off in happy dividends just remembering it.)

But to utterly and completely let loose?  Somehow, I have lost the ability to do that.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Surviving Snow-ma-geddon

As I sit here with my warm cuppa coffee in hand, snug in our cozy sunroom with it's beautiful view of our newly-filled bird feeders, the merest wisp of flurries has begun to fall outside.  The world outside seems to be holding its breath, and the the sharp smell of snow is rapidly increasing on the strengthening wind.

The birds are stuffing themselves against the cold, and even our pampered little westie has hunkered down on a blanket in front of a heater vent.

At this point, we have had so many snow warnings that there would be no excuse for a lack of toilet paper, milk and bread (the constant contents in the checkout line buggies the last few days - do people do this where you live, too?), but you can't completely prepare for the possibility of power outages in this sort of frigid weather.

As a sort of barrier for my own sanity, I've upped the heater temperature just a little in our house and have dragged a few extra blankets out of storage just in case.  All of our phones are currently fully charged, and we have back-up chargers for our cell phones in the car.  Speaking of cars, mine is fully gassed, just in case.

The pantry is full of goodies, and the makings of yummy meals for the days ahead, and I'm about to put a crockpot full of mulled cider on to spice itself up and fill the house with the smell of comfort.

In the days leading up to this storm, I hit the store to get some extra milk -- we go through a lot of it at our house, and my coffee just isn't the same without a hefty splash -- and other assorted goodies, but, truth be told, we stay fairly well-stocked at our house out of habit.  My Granny was a Great Depression survivor, and drilled the importance of a well-stocked pantry into my head from a very early age.  This includes staples that you can eat without having to heat them up:  bread, peanut butter, applesauce, fruit, cut up veggies and dip, etc.

But in my pre-storm shopping, I also snagged some little crafty bits and pieces for The Peanut.  Even though we have hit the pre-teen phase with a vengeance, she still loves to color and so do I.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stephen Colbert Rocks My World...Again

The bit with the lighter is classic, but keep going all the way to the end.

It is so worth it.

Laughing so hard that I almost fell out of my chair, and not just because of the crab claw dance...mwahahahahahahahahahaha.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Think Critically, Act With Wisdom

In this time of superficial politics and bluster, it is worth remembering that substance and decency are both virtues worth cultivating.

Question the things that you are told.  Especially the things that are bandied about in the public square, for the purpose of political speech these days tends to be inflammatory incitement, regardless of the lack of depth of any factual underpinnings.

Think critically.  Ask questions.  Demand proof.

Because if a fellow citizen wants to be a leader, they should earn it not just through their words, but also by their deeds and their true values.  Seek truth, and not just empty rhetoric.

Spend your time building up something of value, not merely tearing things down for the fun of seeing them topple.  Find a purpose, and work toward it with everything you have.

Make the world a better place, or at least start with your tiny little corner of it.

Leave some sunshine in your wake everywhere you go.  Find a way to do something good for someone in need.

Stand up against things that are wrong, that in your heart you know are unjust and unfair.  Do the right thing.  Always.

I once read that integrity is not defined by doing what is right when someone else is watching; it is doing the right thing even when no one else can see you that shows who you truly are.

Choose to be your best in everything you do, and make that include being decent, honorable and kind.  Live your life by the Golden Rule...truly do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

When you are doing all of these things, then you will have truly lived well.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Alan Rickman, RIP

Alan Rickman's voice could make a reading of the phone book sound like Shakespeare. But poetry from his lips, was sheer heaven. This scene in the classic Sense And Sensibility gets me every single time.

He is reading from a segment of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene, and that section has so much more poignancy today after Rickman's passing, especially the last two stanzas:

The Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser
Book V Canto II stanza 39

Of things unseene how canst thou deeme aright,
Then answered the righteous Artegall ,
Sith thou misdeem'st so much of things in sight?
What though the sea with waves continuall
Doe eate the earth, it is no more at all:
Ne is the earth the lesse, or loseth ought,
For whatsoever from one place doth fall,
Is with the tide unto an other brought:
For there is nothing lost, that may be found, if sought.

It is so irrational to feel this morose over the loss of a man I have never met, but I have loved Alan Rickman since the moment I first saw him on screen, in Die Hard, playing a German villain so well that I could not believe he wasn't German.  His accent was flawless, and his sociopathic portrayal was seamlessly done.

I was spellbound every time he was onscreen after that.  He was, quite simply, mesmerizing.

Even in films that were the absolute worst, I would continue watching just to get to the next glimpse of Alan Rickman on the screen.  His Sheriff of Nottingham in the excruciatingly bad Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves was so well done, that I am forced to watch that movie every time it pops up on television just to see his scenes.  He is magnificent in the film, even when his lines are inexorably awful.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Light Dusting

Am thankful that I filled all of our bird feeders over the weekend.  This morning, we woke up to a light dusting of snow, after cold temperatures overnight, and the birds are already on the feeders in the half-light of morning, stuffing their beaks against the cold.

Winter has arrived, at least for the next few hours anyway, although the weather folks are saying there is potential for off and on snow all day.  I'll believe it when I see it, although there are bands of clouds scudding across the cold sky, high and fluffy with a dark underbelly full of potential frozen menace.

Maybe there is something to the "possible lake effect snow, bands may be heavy at times" forecast after all.

The Peanut has three -- 3! -- basketball games this week.  We'll be worn out by the end of it.  It seems like this school year is just whipping by, like a train careening forward with no breaks.  We just finished a long winter break, but I'm not certain how rested we are at the end of it.

Is anyone else feeling the same way or is it just me?

Whatever the feeling, it is back to work for me tomorrow.  Today will include finishing some of the things that didn't get done over the weekend and prepping some healthy food for the rest of the week -- with our busy schedule, I don't want that to be an excuse for falling off the healthy food wagon so early in the new year.

Enjoy your day, folks.  Hope yours is a little warmer than ours.  The fluffed out birdies are hoping for some more warmth here, too.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Still A Question Of Doing What's Right, 10 Years Later

On January 6, 2006, this post was originally published, back in the days when I was writing about politics and poverty issues fairly regularly.  It was hours after the disaster at the Sago Mine, and the whole state of West Virginia was reeling along with the towns surrounding the mine, grieving for their losses as if they were our own, and hanging on every word on the news that hinted at any possibility of hope for survival.  But it was not to be for most of the men trapped so far below the surface of the earth, and it was a devastating loss for a lot of folks that we know and love in our own community and the surrounding area.

This post was an outpouring of my own grief at the time, and my frustration with our political system, our so-called leaders, and how our nation's broken lines of communication and party politics dividing lines prevent us from having real conversations about issues that desperately need deep and meaningful discussion and solutions.

The fact that much of this post still rings so true to me today, 10 years after it was originally written, is heartbreaking all over again.  We deserve better, and we should expect more -- much more -- from people who are asking for our votes.  It is time we all stood up together and said so.


There is a scene in October Sky where Homer enters the mines to work for his first evening shift. He glances upward as the elevator goes down into the mine shaft for a last glimpse of sky, and sees Sputnik flash by before the doors of the mine clank shut and he is enveloped in darkness.

That scene always makes me cry, partly because it is the moment that Homer feels his dream of science and space being extinguished. But partly because people in my family have always worked the mines, and all sorts of other industrial jobs, aspiring to so much more, but never quite making it out of the economic circumstances to which they were born, and continuing to work at jobs to take care of their families but which never really fed their souls. It was back-breaking, exhausting work for most of the folks in my family, but their work ethic was always inspiring, along with the lesson that I learned to aspire to more before it was too late.

Which was why, from the time I was a very small child, my parents emphasized education as the way out for me. I was lucky. My parents both worked hard to give me every opportunity to stretch my wings, but most kids here in West Virginia simply aren't that lucky. And that is true for a whole lot of Appalachia, and other economically depressed areas around the country, rural and inner-city alike.

The recent mining tragedy in Upshur County here has brought home those family lessons for me all over again. My heart aches for everyone involved in this. I'm told by folks who were there the night the miners were found that family members, in that rush after the inaccurate information on them being found alive spread through the church, rushed out to get blankets and coats to wrap their loved ones in when they came out of the mines, waiting on the church steps for the first sight of their men.

That this was not to be is so painful, so unbelievably painful, that describing what happened after that is more than I can bear this morning. And, to be honest, we know folks on all sides of this (I feel ethically obligated to say that up front), so this isn't a post about specifics on this particular incident. But the closeness of where this tragedy has hit home for everyone around here compels me to say some things that I have been thinking about for quite a while now.

We have lost our way in this country in terms of values. I don't mean in the wingy sort of way in which values are usually discussed, where you say a bunch of superficial nonsense about gays getting married and the country going to hell as a result, either. That's just another one of those fear tactics stirred up by political types who want to play divide and conquer to win elections by working the ends against the middle.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Finally A Wee Bit Frozen

Woke up to a frozen world outside this morning.  Winter finally decided to show up in terms of frigid temperatures, at least, and I was not prepared for it somehow this morning.  My hands were frozen while walking the dog this morning.

Time to break out the winter gear.  The fact that it took all the way to January to be forced to do so this year is just an added weird weather bonus, I suppose.

My bird feeders have been stripped bare at this point in the morning.  The birds weren't prepared for the quickly descending cold snap either, and they have cleaned out the birdseed remnants in the already fairly barren feeders.  We hadn't gotten around to refilling anything since we got home from our Christmas beach trip, but that's going to have to change this morning if the grumpy chickadee outside has his chirpy way.

It is good to be inside our snug and cozy house.  There may be a warm blanket, a nice fire in the fireplace and a Downton Abbey marathon in my future today, in advance of tomorrow's season 6 premiere.

But first, there will be a pick-up excursion to snag The Peanut from an early morning basketball practice, and a potential trip to the store for some healthy food to re-stock the fridge for the week.  Am in the planning stages for a very healthy menu plan for this first week of the New Year, and enjoying thinking healthy thoughts this morning.  (Have you discovered Kalyn's Kitchen, yet?  Some seriously delicious looking recipes there -- can't wait to try some of her ideas for no-cook, healthy lunches.  Yummy!)

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The New Year's Re-Boot

As cliche as it may sound, we are in the midst of a New Year's re-boot at our house, and a much needed one at that.  The last few years have been fairly stressful, to say the least:  with one health crisis after another for the last five years, and a slew of cancer surgeries and treatments, life has been hectic and crazy and way, way outside the normal routine.

You can only try to hang on to where you are when you are in survival mode, which doesn't really lend itself to moving much of anything forward.

Honestly, over the last few years of cancer craziness, just being able to mark time by treading water felt like a victory, because it was all too easy to keep falling backward and further down.  Now we seem to be past the actively terrifying health crisis phase (at least, for the moment, because I always seem to be silently waiting for the next bad news shoe to drop...when does that end, I wonder?), although even typing that as I'm thinking it seems to be inviting some new, more crazy plague from the taunting universe.

Assuming that my hubris hasn't roused some sleeping giant, what do we do to advance things going forward?

The first step will be reclaiming my health.  Eating more fruits and veggies is a good start, although I sit here typing this while eating a mixed berry and kiwi fruit salad and some Greek yogurt, so it isn't as though I'm not already attempting to eat a rainbow every day whenever possible.  But I can always do better, right?  So can my family, who are way too fruit and veggie averse, so onward and upward with a more antioxidant and fiber rich diet.

Next, regular exercise on a daily basis.  My plan is to start small, with some walking on the elliptical, and work my way forward from there.  Chemo and radiation really did a number on my muscle tone, and all the downtime forced on me by multiple surgeries and their recovery time has not helped at all.  Beginning with walking and then working my way forward with some light weights, increasing them as I move forward, will help bring my body back into balance.

Am thinking of also adding in a bit of yoga, because heaven knows that stress reduction would be a huge bonus, along with increased focus.  But that will be down the line a little bit, so that I'm not just piling on at the start.

My mantra this year will be healthy choices, one choice at a time, every single day for the rest of my life.  It needs to be a lifestyle and not a diet, because the hysterectomy last year really knocked my entire system for a huge walloping tailspin.  My metabolism is non-existent at this point, and I have no ideas whose hips and thighs showed up on my body, but they can take them back any time.  Seriously, it is like having an entirely different human being wrapped around me from the outside, and I do not like where this is headed if I don't do something to correct the trend.

Better choices, better health, and a lot more activity in the new year.

This doesn't begin to touch on the emotional end of all of this.  But that is going to take some work this year as well.  We've been steadily working our way through the mess in the house, clearing clutter and freeing things up in a way that is mentally freeing as well.  It is amazing how things can pile up while you are just trying to hunker down and survive the day to day.

By reclaiming the house, I'm also somehow reclaiming my own internal order.  Weird how that works, but that's just the truth of it.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Happy to Be Home

We took an unexpected vacation to the beach for the Christmas holidays, and had a wonderful time.

The weather was perfect.  We had a room with an ocean view and a balcony that overlooked the surf. Best of all, we had a relaxing, quiet Christmas with just the three of us and no looming cancer surgeries or treatments on the horizon -- for the first time in five long years.

It was just what we needed, and we are so grateful for a wonderful, relaxing week together.

But it is so great to be home.

Let the unpacking begin...

(Photo via Emery Way.)

Monday, December 14, 2015

Who's On First?

The Pirates have been moving a lot of personnel around, making deals left and right and clearing the salary decks for some fresh players who have yet to be announced.   With Neil Walker on his way to the Mets, Pedro Alvarez out the door, and Charlie Morton saying adios as well, on top of last year's retirements of A. J. Burnett and Aramis Ramirez, and no clear contract extension as yet for Francisco Cervelli, I'm starting to get antsy for next year's baseball season.  (Crazy, I know, but I am apparently a baseball fretter.  Who knew?)

Makes me wonder who they are clearing all of that salary to acquire?

Reading the baseball tea leaves isn't easy, but it sure is suspenseful this time of year.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!  May your moments of gratitude and joy always exceed your moments of sorrow.  I am grateful for so many wonderful friends and family, and that this year preparing the meal is fun because there was no cancer surgery.

Here's to many more of these cancer-free years to come!

This morning's joy is sneaking some of my Granny's cranberry salad while I'm waiting for the cinnamon rolls and bread to finish baking.  The house smells delicious, and the turkey hasn't even started in the oven yet.  Love the smells of Thanksgiving!

Enjoy a little Swedish Chef to lighten your load...