Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired

The last three months have been a slog.  There has been a weird viral, upper respiratory sick going around here, and I have caught it full force.

I was sick all the way through our Spring Break trip to the beach.  Even lost my voice for a few days there.

I was sick when we got home.

And I have been plodding forward, sick still, ever since.  This week, it finally settled into my lungs again -- and I'm down with a fairly nasty form of bronchitis this time.  Ugh.

Since my chemo a few years ago, my immune system has just not bounced back like it used to do.  Each day, I try to eat a lot of fruits and veggies in a rainbow of colors, try to stay active and pushing toward 10,000 steps most days (unless I'm down for the count, and even then I'm in the 5,000 step range on a light day).  Since track season began and the weather has gotten a little better, I'm out walking around the outside of the track while The Peanut has her practices, which has really upped my step count on practice days.

I've even lost 6 pounds in the last few weeks.

But still:  sick and tired.

I've tried taking it easier this week -- lots of rest, pushing fluids, sleeping in, going to bed early, lots of fruits and veg with vitamin C, not over-doing it, etc., but am still feeling lousy.  The truth is that I am sick and tired of feeling so darn sick and tired.

So I'm asking for some advice.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Back From The Beach

We took a desperately needed beach trip for Spring Break to Hilton Head, SC.  As always, leaving the island was a little painful, because our walks on the beach and daily bike rides were so nice and relaxing.

But real life beckons, as it always does, and we are back home to finish out the school year.

We came home to cold temperatures, wind, rain, and even a little snow.  Brrrrrrrr...

(Photo by Christy Hardin Smith, taken on our last gorgeous day at the beach.)

Friday, February 19, 2016

Today's Quest For Books

We're going on a quest for some new books today for my school library.  Every so often, Scholastic has a big warehouse sale and puts remaindered and undersold books on a serious discount.

Unfortunately, they never hold these sales anywhere that is within easy driving distance for me.  Until now.

So off we go, to see what we can find among the discount bins and boxes, to replenish the well-thumbed pages of some of the favorites in my little library.  It is amazing how many books you can go through a year when your reading constituency consists of small children who love to read, but also love to eat messy snacks and drink kook-aid while doing so.  (Even when their mean librarian tells them no food and drinks with their library books on a regular basis.)

I've been compiling a list in my head of what I might want to seek out, but will be fine-tuning it on paper on the two-hour drive to the warehouse this morning.

If you haven't been paying attention the last few years, you should.  Children's literature is fantastic at the moment.  Thanks may be due to the J. K. Rowling Harry Potter phenomenon, and all of the copycat fantasy sequels it has spawned, but is more likely just a product of increased reading on the whole by kids who are finding some really good things to read.

More quality writing is spawning more quality reading, perhaps.

As I tell my kids, the classics are classics for a lot of very good reasons, not the least of which is how wonderful they are to read...still. But there is something really exciting about finding a new book that is so good that it is destined to join the classics pantheon.  All the new books build on the classic shoulders, putting new twists on older plots and characters, and adding to the imaginations of the next generation of readers and writers, some of whom may be in my classes.  Just the thought of this makes me seriously happy.

A good book is such a joy, isn't it?  The fact that so many of them keep appearing from so many wonderful authors just makes my job more fun -- because I try to read the new books that come into the library to be able to describe them for the kids and match them up with the right readers.  Let me tell you, there is some wonderful stuff to devour in my "to read" pile right now, and I'm hoping to add to that today.

A big thank you to all the authors and editors out there:  you make my job really enjoyable, and my reading time a lot more fun.  So, thank you very much for the constant source of new inspiration.

Whatever the reason for the explosion of good writing, there is a lot of really good reading out there for my kids, and today I am going out to find some great new books.  The thought of a giant warehouse full of discounted yet still awesome books is making me a little giddy, I'm not going to lie.  

I am such a nerd.  But in a good way, right?

(Photo via Pimtheda.)

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Trapped in Groundhog Day

Had a snow squall yesterday that was so forceful, we could not even see the road for a while.  Woke up to snow falling down again this morning and sub-attic wind chill.


Beginning to feel way too much like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Happy Mardi Gras! Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice Recipe

Woke up to lots of snow and ice for our Mardi Gras, and all I wanted was some warm red beans and rice.  I've been craving some New Orleans lately -- it really is a fantastic place to go and relax and have fun and blow off whatever is troubling you.  But since my schedule won't really work for a long weekend at the moment, I thought I'd bring the New Orleans to us.

Thanksfully, I got to the store yesterday before the snowstorm hit us, and we have the provisions on hand.

Sure, I'm going against tradition by serving it on a Saturday instead of the traditional Monday, when home cooks in New Orleans used to use the bone from the Sunday dinner ham to flavor the beans as they cooked slowly on the back of the stove at a simmer all day on Monday.  Waste not, want not, right?  Especially when it is wash day and you needed a dish that could cook without you having to watch it constantly.

But serving something this yummy on a nontraditional day is not really a worry.  My dilemma?

My old recipe, which I love dearly, was snagged from the food section of the Times-Picayune, and is one that I've made a bazillion times in my crockpot.  But the amount of butter called for is no longer one I'm willing to use, so I've searched for something with good flavor that won't be so unhealthy for my system.

So I've taken cues from another recipe that I found in the Times-Picayune and from a Paul Prudhomme recipe from his wonderful cookbook "A Fork In The Road."

Here's the recipe I've used:

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.