Friday, November 30, 2012

House of of dogs.

It was my turn to have this kids this Thanksgiving, so we went down to my mother's home in south Georgia. My mother collects dogs, and there is never a time when they aren't watching.
As soon as we walked in the door Thursday, my sister said, "We saved these for you." Because that's the kind of family I have. The kind where we can't make the traditional oyster stuffing without eating some of the oysters raw, and they knew I'd want some. No matter how disgusting they might appear.
Seriously, dogs everywhere. This one is always, always hopeful that someone might be interested in a game of fetch. Somehow, I didn't get a picture of the three-legged dog who easily keeps up with the others.
The weather was gorgeous, and many of the male members spent several hours making a stop action film involving leaves.
Did I mention that there are always dogs around? This ancient, quivering chihuahua seems to be happiest nestled into a chair with you.
The only purchases we made on Black Friday were for that evening's meal, a low country boil. And I did mention the dogs, right? My youngest brother considers it sport to incite them to howling. They fall for it every time:

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Musical interlude.

These two little clips are of really poor quality, but I grabbed them with my phone while I was driving. They are short recordings of my boys in the back seat, the older one on the ukulele, amusing themselves by singing Irish ballads. Thought you'd like to know what it sounds like in my car when we travel as a family:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


I have found myself a little distracted from blogging lately. The first problem was that my mother's house, where I spent Thanksgiving, is an internet-free zone. Not because she doesn't have internet, but because she doesn't know the password to her wireless and is too passive to call the cable company and ask what it is. So no access for those of us visiting.
Then there is the problem of my failing laptop. When I boot it up, the screen blinks on and off. Eventually it settles into staying on, but each time the flickering gets longer.
Finally, I came home to a million things to do. The end of the year is a crazy time in my business. There's something about the holidays that just ratchets up the demand. Plus all the end of year accounting, and preparing for the arbitrary changes insurance companies make every calendar year. So I'll be busy but around, even if a little less frequently for a while.

Friday, November 23, 2012

"Only got twenty dollars in my pocket."

In honor of Black Friday, a day on which I do NOT go shopping, my new favorite video. My younger son showed it to me and I love the rapper's subversive, anti-consumerism message.
"I wear your granddad's clothes, I look incredible, 
I'm in this big ass coat from that thrift shop down the road." (Macklemore)

Monday, November 19, 2012

The brief life of a pumpkin.

As I was leaving the dam after a walk, I saw this little pumpkin lying abandoned in the grass. I pulled over, put it on the passenger seat and brought it home to live on my dining room table. But eventually, in the way of all gourds, it began to decompose. My younger son asked if he could use it for target practice and suggested I try it as well.

After briefing me on safety, my son demonstrated and then handed me the gun. (This is not the Airsoft AK-47, but a BB rifle he'd purchased earlier). To my surprise, I hit the pumpkin on my first shot.
My son explained how the gun worked, showed me the CO2 canisters and let me try with both round BBs and lead pellets. He cautioned me not to touch my mouth if I did come in contact with the lead and told me to engage the safety before I walked over to the pumpkin. As much as anything, I was pleased to see how very careful he is.
My shots! We'd turn the pumpkin a little each time and check between each round. I was, I will admit, absurdly proud of myself for hitting it.
We moved in a little closer to try the BB pistol (a replica of a Smith and Wesson, he told me). I was able to hit the pumpkin with that gun, too. After checking my shots and celebrating my victory, my son said, "No dancing with the gun, Mom." Like that's going to stop me.
Finally, it was time to put the pumpkin out of its misery and toss it to the woods to provide some food for the animals there. Another one bites the dust.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

I never can give in to winter gracefully.

It's going. A week ago, I worked with gorgeous fall color reflected on my computer screen from the window behind me.
Now, the leaves are mostly down in a more quietly-hued carpet.
From inside my house, I watch the inmates sent by the city vacuum up leaves I've raked to the street.
And I see the world around me slowly giving way to the browns and ambers of late autumn.
There are still signs of life, rebellious little weeds who refuse to go down without a fight.
But the sunflowers know, and so do I.

Friday, November 16, 2012

You prepare for the zombie apocalypse your way, I'll prepare mine.

My old neighborhood package store is still the one where I buy my wine.  I like the atmosphere and they are a helpful lot. They had Beaujolais Nouveau available starting yesterday, so I picked some up, with plans to keep some and take a few bottles when I visit my family for Thanksgiving. I asked which they recommended and they suggested this one - Domaine Pral. I looked it up when I got home: "The Domaine Pral is a 50 acre, family owned estate, that has been organic for several generations. It is located in the heart of the “Pierres Dorees” country, 10 miles from Villefranche, which is the capital of the Beaujolais. The Domaine Pral vineyard is planted on granite soils with a South East exposure. Utilizing only sustainable farming techniques, the current winemaker is Pascal Chatelus."
My younger son told me that all his friends think I'm an alcoholic. Because of the small wine rack in my kitchen which holds a dozen bottles. And...
the bigger wine rack in the basement which holds 48 bottles. The former owners left it when they moved out and the cool temperature is perfect for storing wine. Around here, there is a pervasive belief that you are either an abstainer or a drunk. It's a Southern Baptist thing. I actually had someone explain to me that when Jesus turned water into wine during the wedding at Cana, it was unfermented wine. Unfermented. Wine. Just let that sink in for a moment. Pretty sure the guests would have considered producing grape juice for a party to be a sorry excuse for a miracle. And...
okay, probably this, too. I don't keep more than a dozen bottles of beer in my kitchen refrigerator but there is a smaller fridge in the basement, where I also store sodas and beer.
But it's not just wine and beer - I also keep the pantry and the fridge and the freezer full of food. And when I have company, I consistently cook way too much.  I don't know why, but I have always been a stockpiler of food. I don't like to run out of things. Which is a little ironic since I'm actually not a big eater or drinker. But it's there if I need it. Bring on the zombies, I'll be okay for a while.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What, you don't have an AK-47 on your woodstove?

This Quaker parent never thought she'd have a son who was so intrigued by knives and guns. It's the woodsman in him. He does a little blacksmithing in a forge he built himself, and has made some of his own knives. He also has several machetes, a kukri he bought from a company in Tibet, and a old bayonet. He is at his happiest working at the anvil, using the angle grinder to edge a sword, or chopping his way through the woods. Recently, he presented a well-considered argument for purchasing an Airsoft pellet rifle, assuring me that he would be shooting only at targets and never at animals. I don't worry about that, actually. When I  discovered last week that a mouse had found its way inside, I set a trap and heard it go off that evening. The conversation:
Me: "Uh oh, I think I just caught the mouse.  But I can't check because it might not be dead yet."
Son: "Mom, you have to check because it might not be dead yet."
Me: "I know, but I just can't." He got up and pulled out the trap, and studied the mouse for a moment.
Son: "Aw, sad face."  And then asked if he could put the little body in the woods rather than the trash.

In the meantime, I am caused to marvel at how you might teach your children your values, but ultimately they must walk their own path. He's a sensitive kid and opposed to violence, and even generally sticks to a vegetarian diet even when away from home. But he likes building the skills he thinks he would need to be self-sufficient. He likes being competent with knives and guns. In this way, he and my friend are two peas in a pod. He is interested in my son's knives and even bought him the angle grinder. When he was over not long ago, I asked if he wanted to see my son's Airsoft rifle.  He picked it up and said, "It's an AK-47!  Jesus!" And then proceeded to explain the features of the gun to me and why it was an extremely realistic copy, and even shot some pellets into the ottoman. How did this pacifist end up with two weapon-enthusiasts in her life?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Weekend notes.

I was glad when the weekend arrived, even though I had no real plans. For one thing, I'd had my fill of people moaning to me in session about how the country is now going to hell, and only true Christians were going to be okay in the end. Have I mentioned how right wing this area is? Even the local county paper made no pretense at being unbiased - they couldn't even bring themselves to mention the President's win before Romney. I was struck by the wording of it "Romney wins" and then "Obama takes" - as if he stole it. I sat quietly and listened, and then gladly shut the office door behind me on Friday.
On Saturday, in spite of a family situation he had to attend to, my friend suggested getting lunch and going for a short ride in the mountains. While we were getting ready to leave, there was a thump that sounded like someone in the house. We found out later that a light (4.3) earthquake in a neighboring state had been felt in our area at that time. It was a gorgeous day to be out on the road - high of 70, sunny and clear. Once again, I swallowed my fear and focused on the beauty around me.
After he dropped me at home, I decided it would be a good day to wash my car. I enjoyed scrubbing the car down and 8 quarters later, my car was clean and shiny.
Today, I went into town for a walk along the greenway and then to run errands. I had to check out the new Trader Joe's. It's a manageable size and has reasonable prices. I found my younger son's favorite Reed's ginger beer for a lot less than anywhere else I've seen and got their chocolate Advent calendars for only 99 cents each. And the folks there are remarkably friendly. If they don't enjoy their work, they are doing a good job of faking it. So nothing spectacular, but still a lovely fall weekend.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

"He said, 'Son, you go to school and learn your letters, don't be no dusty miner like me.'"

There's a darker side to the beautiful Cumberlands, along with the rest of the mountains in this part of the country. Coal companies. The coal companies had a nasty habit of paying in script which could only be redeemed at the store the company owned. Fires and cave-ins were common and people were often both broke and broken-down. Blue Heron was a mining community run by the Stearns Coal and Lumber Company, starting in 1937.
At the base of some of the escarpments is exposed coal. My son, who does some blacksmithing and was intrigued, broke off some pieces to bring home.
Although the coal companies have long since shut down here, there are still interesting reminders that it was an industrial area for a quarter of a century.
Sulphur? I know coal contains sulphur (which becomes poisonous sulphur dioxide when burned), and that was my son's guess.
But we had absolutely no idea what this orange goo was oozing from the coal. I've had several patients over the years whose fathers were coal miners, most of them dead now from black lung disease. All of these people grew up in poverty in the coal-rich portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Along the trail there were cave entrances gated off, apparently after some of the rock collapsed. I didn't need that warning - the place looked decidedly treacherous. In 1962, the company shut down Mine 18 and Blue Heron became a ghost town, with only foundations of old buildings remaining. There are re-created shells of the buildings now, with recorded voices of the miners and their families telling their stories.

"For I was born and raised at the mouth of the Hazard holler, 
coal cars roarin' and rumblin' past my door. 
Now they stand in a rusty row all empty 
And the L & N don't stop here anymore. 

 I never thought I'd learn to love the coal dust, 
I never thought I'd pray to hear the tipple roar. 
But Lord, I wish the grass would change to money 
And them greenbacks fill my pockets once more." (Jean Ritchie)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A plea to my moderate Republican blogfriends.

If you are unhappy with the Presidential election results, then consider doing this: Take back your party. I'm serious. The old Republican party that was focused on fiscal conservatism, fair taxes and sharing the burden. Not the new Republican party of tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations-as-persons. The old Republican party of limited government, not the new Republican party of interference in adults' private lives. You want values of the Founding Fathers? Those include things like separation of church and state. Demand it from your leaders. Don't let the Teabaggers set your agenda. Don't vote for candidates like Aiken who said that in a "legitimate" rape a woman's body shuts down and she won't get pregnant. When you let people like that get the nomination, the whole party looks insane. Don't vote for candidates like Romney, who said that it's not his job to worry about 47% of the country, people he dismissed as entitled, dependent self-perceived victims. When you let people like that get the nomination, the whole party looks callous. How did the Republican party become obsessed with fighting civil rights for gays and fighting reproductive freedom for women? When those are the primary goals, none of the other issues (economy, military, foreign policy, education and so on) even get a place on the table.

I follow the blogs of several moderate Republicans and I am talking to all of you. I believe you to be good-hearted people who are every bit as concerned about this country as I am.  I believe you to be people who are not racist or homophobic or anti-woman.  I think it's time for you to change the discourse. Turn off the voices at Fox who use innuendo, distortions, half-truths, and bald-faced lies to stir up hate. I know you are frustrated with the economy (which, incidentally, is thanks to one George W. Bush) and so am I. So it's time for you to vote for Republicans who will work with Democrats to rebuild this country rather than obstructionists who hamstring the President. That's the only way we're going to get anywhere.

Please, moderate Republicans, take back your party. Wrest it from the grip of the lunatic fringe. I'm begging you. And if you do that, in return I will promise not to be bitter if your party wins the next election. It's time for compromise and reconciliation on all our parts. It's time for the work of rising above our differences.