Monday, March 29, 2010

Back to more normal fare

and off the politics, at least for now.

Yesterday I made a big pot of minestrone and another of chili in preparation for our brief return to cool, wet weather this week -- although the forecast indicated that the rain would begin yesterday afternoon and become heavy this morning.

Guess what. As of 9:30 a.m. local time, we have had barely a drop. Lots of wind going on now but no rain yet.

We'd planned to RoundUp the driveway and street frontage, but hated to see the expensive stuff literally washed away, so postponed it yet another week. Turns out we probably would have been fine -- but you go on forecasts. So we busied ourselves inside instead, with laundry, more paper pitching in the office, and finally putting together my new jewelry workbench.

But back to minestrone.

A few weeks ago the USA magazine that is in Sunday newspapers had a recipe for minestrone, and it sounded good and easy so I tried it. And it is both. Nearly any veggie will work; it is practically no fat (a little olive oil), and chock full of healthy stuff. Yesterday I used some frozen veggies including some of my frozen zucchini, the remainder of a head of cabbage, and the usual onion-celery-garlic trio. I used some chicken bouillion too since I didn't have two full quarts of vegetable broth. Served with a sprinkle of parmesan, it is a satisfying meal. And I love that it is so healthy.

Everyone makes chili differently. R uses canned spaghetti sauce in hers, so I tried it this week with a can of garlic/herb sauce, also adding a large can of diced tomatoes. It's thick and tomato-y, not very authentic, of course, but with plenty of garlic and onion and chili powder, plus kidney beans (from dried) and ground beef. Like the soup, it will get even better as the flavors blend. But with some fat-free saltines, carrots and celery sticks, it made a nice Sunday evening meal.

The trees are sporting vividly green leaves, daffodils are blooming, and spring has definitely come -- but I am not yet ready to let go completely of winter and really look forward to the cool and rainy weather that is supposed to be coming. We head into April this week, and we've already seen temperatures of 80+. I'm just not looking forward to those blazing blast-furnace days of 110 degrees that our summers always include. If we can ease into it over the next two months with cool temps at night, a bit of rain here and there, and nothing too far over 80, I'd love it.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

More threats

Just in this afternoon: throwing bricks, cutting propane lines, more threats. Because representatives voted YES for the healthcare bill.

And then there are Sarah Palin's crosshairs.

Just the sort of person that I want to see elected to public office. NOT.

If you can't say anything nice...

Thumper had it right, and I bet your mother told you this too:

Thumper: He doesn't walk very good, does he?
Mrs. Rabbit: Thumper!
Thumper: Yes, mama?
Mrs. Rabbit: What did your father tell you this morning?
Thumper: [clears throat] If you can't say something nice... don't say nothing at all.
(from Bambi)


What's with all the name-calling?

The healthcare reform act and this last weekend's debate has brought out nastiness and irrelevant name-calling that is reminiscent of a bunch of third-graders.

The ill-named Tea Party really got going in DC, hurling epithets at various Congressmen. And it's gotten worse, with vandalism, threatening faxes, and even death threats against the children of lawmakers who voted for passage.

Unbelievable. Scary. Disgusting. Discouraging.

But there is more.

While I do not support Rep. Stupak's anti-abortion stance, he did come around this weekend when President Obama agreed to issue an Executive Order reiterating the Hyde Amendment. But when Stupak -- a Congressman who has consistently been anti-abortion and worked hard for his cause -- was speaking in support of the bill, one of his colleagues, a Rethuglican from Texas, shouted "Baby killer!"

Even though he backpedaled quickly about his intentions, it is still name-calling in the U.S. House of Representatives chamber. He is a representative of the people who live in his District. He ought to know better -- and I bet his mama didn't teach him to disrespect others like that.

Name-calling speaks more loudly about the person doing the insulting than it does about the target. It is indicative of frustrated anger, resentment, and an inability to actually address a controversial issue with substantiated facts.

And it is wildly inappropriate for such labels to be slung so recklessly during a session of the U.S. Congress. Especially by those in the political arena --

When protestors resort to threats of violence and hurtful labels that have nothing to do with the issue under consideration, they deserve to be arrested and themselves investigated.

Healthcare reform is now the law of the land, and we all -- ALL -- will ultimately benefit. If you don't know anything about it, start reading. (Medicare and Social Security had their detractors too, remember.) But ferpetesake, if you want to say something, stop with the nasty namecalling and let your words reflect some thought and intelligence. Or "don't say nothing at all...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What are we doing to our country?

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church have waved their horrible picket signs at military funerals as well as other funerals for some time, trying, they say, to send the message that God is angry with the United States because of increasing acceptance of homosexuality.

Their Web page is filled with vile language and hatred: not the God in whom I was raised to believe.

And next fall the Supreme Court is actually going to consider a case about their rights to picket military funerals.

Where is compassion? Empathy? Respect for a soldier serving our country?

Conservatives are rallying en masse against the healthcare reform bill, calling it full of socialism, communism, and insisting the President and supporters are 'ramming' it down the throats of the people. ( Never mind that BOTH houses of Congress have already passed a healthcare reform bill. They're now voting on the compromise.)

What do they think Medicare is? Social Security? Who do they think REALLY controls healthcare in the US? We sure don't control what kind of care we get, nor what we pay for that insurance -- that is, if we can get it at all.

In California, more than 8 million people are without insurance. Know what happens when they finally have to visit the emergency room because they are too sick not to? We insured pay in increased insurance premiums as well as through increased hospital and physician costs.

Congress doesn't care, folks. They get great insurance, guaranteed, no waiting period or pesky pre-existing condition requirements, and we're paying for most of it. See what they get? And they're also getting some great perks and job offers from the health insurance companies who are lobbying so heavily against healthcare reform.

Where is compassion? Where is empathy? How can this happen in our country -- people dying because they can't afford healthcare? Isn't that what happens in third-world countries? Surely not in the United States! (think again)

Education budget cuts across the country are causing thousands of teacher layoffs and program cuts. There are many schools who have few or no arts programs because they can't afford it and haven't been able to for years. Sports programs -- at least in sports other than football -- have been cut. Diversity in education is waning. In my town, our adult education program is being eliminated -- no more computer classes or GED classes.

So we have another group unemployed and searching for non-existent jobs.

But who suffers? Our kids. Our future. Their future.

And history is being rewritten anyway, at least in Texas, and because they are the country's largest purchaser of textbooks, their decisions will eventually affect the rest of our country's curriculum.

In 50 years, we may not even acknowledge that the Holocaust happened, if the conservatives have their way, not to mention evolution. If it even takes THAT long.

What is happening to our country?

It scares me. And my only consolation, honestly, is that I am 62, and likely will not live long enough to see the full effects of the hatred, twisted unethical actions, and poor, inadequate and misleading education. Unfortunately my daughters probably will.

I am also beginning to understand why I've always seen so many grey heads among the politically active. Mine may soon be one of them.

Monday, March 15, 2010


I've been in physical therapy three times a week since my cast came off, and a sturdy brace when I leave the house (or overuse the wrist at home). It's definitely getting better and stronger. So am I, mentally and emotionally.

It amazes me how big an impact this injury had on me in every way, not just physically. I suppose that is part of the aging process, but I think it also is becoming more aware of how every part of your body and mind affects every other part: injury to body or spirit is injury to both.

I'm grateful that the wrist is healing well and that I have as much mobility as I do even now, and that is with much more therapy to come. I'm grateful for competent medical facilities and doctors and therapists, and grateful that we can afford healthcare.

I continue to be outraged at the struggle to get a healthcare bill passed in the Congress, however, and at the callous disregard of so many Congressional representatives for the "little" people in our country -- those who do not have insurance and who cannot afford it or who cannot qualify for it under the dictatorship of our insurance companies.

In e-mail, I received a missive titled 'How to Fix Congress,' and while I have respect for the elected office, I am more disillusioned about the ethics and simple humanity of the people who occupy Congressional seats. While the suggestions in this idea will never happen, it certainly might improve life for hundreds of thousands of Americans if it did -- not, however, Congress.

Spring begins officially on Saturday, but our harbinger tree started popping its leaves last week, even amid the copious hail that whitened the ground and collected in the hollows last Monday, and that dropped our temperatures abruptly to the upper 40s. We had bits of sunshine but cooler temperatures. This week we will have days in the 70s, which will pop out all the leaves. It's not the end of rain and cool here, but it likely will slow down. I'm not ready for warm again quite yet -- I really relish the woodstove fires and the cool, rainy days. At least we've had a lot of rain this winter, unlike the last several, which I hope will help cut down on the wildfires this summer.

Friends and family are still struggling with health or business issues, and it is hard to hear and to see because there really is nothing more that any of them can do than what they are already doing. I know economic recovery is supposed to be happening, but it sure hasn't hit people I care about yet, or at least it doesn't appear to be enough to turn around faltering businesses. I guess it is just one day at a time for all of us. What more can you do?

Easter is approaching too, and while it has been a long time since I was part of a church, it is still a time for new beginnings and second chances -- new life, renewal, rebirth.
Spring cleaning is no accident -- washing windows, cleaning closets and -- yes -- offices to sort through the old and broken and unused, cleaning out the clutter.

Works with life too -- that clutter and sorting. I'm deep into Martha Beck again, this time Steering By Starlight, and her words are all about finding your own stargazer, the part of you that is your true self. It is a challenge to read, but food for the mind and the soul.