Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ball? Ball? Ball?

So, passing through the kitchen, I turn on the electric tea kettle and walk away. It'll take a while to heat, and instead of standing there, I head over to the doorway to my husband's office, to talk to him.

Kili sees me, hops off my husband's lap, and comes around to the base of the chair. When she sees I'm watching her, she crouches down, does a full wiggle-butt followed by a leaping pounce onto my right foot. Before I can even react, she runs between my legs, and off. I turn, going "What in the world?"

...and find her sitting, facing the garage door, looking back over her shoulder at me.

"All right, cat, I got it." I walk over, and let her into the garage. As I shut the door, I hear the kettle click off, so I walk back into the kitchen...

and find Ashbutt sitting patiently at on the floor right in front of the tea kettle, with his latest string toy. He looks at me, looks at the toy. Looks at me, looks at the toy, bats the toy tentatively... and looks back at me.

"All right, cat, I got it. But I'm making my tea first." So I do, and then I play chase-the-string-toy for a minute or two. Then I let Kili back in, as she's satisfied everything in the garage is still in order, and head back to my computer. I sit down, sip my tea, and hear a thump.

In the doorway to my office, and there's a great mass of black fur, two bright eyes, and a red string toy...

Yeah, dogs don't have a monopoly on "Out? Out? Out?" or "Ball? Ball? Ball? Ball?" at all. Excuse me, I need to go play chase-the-string. Again. And again.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Hot Toddy Time

Peter and I are down sick, and the house is slowly devolving into that "We'll clean it later" state. Right now, I don't care. (In fact, caring about that will be a great sign that I'm getting better!)

In the meantime, in between making a dutch oven of chicken soup and sleeping, there are naps, hot tea, and hot toddies.

The non-alcoholic version:

Take a mug, add about a teaspoon of honey to the bottom. Add a squirt of lemon juice. Top up with boiling water. Stir. Breath the steam deeply, and it will feel and smell wonderful. When the drink is cool enough to sip, it'll taste good and go easy on the throat, too. Stay warm and hydrated!

The alcoholic version, and the "you're sick, so make this easy" setting:

Do as above, but leave enough room for a small dose of whiskey, bourbon, or rum (your preference.) Drink, and after blowing your nose in copious quantities after your sinuses unblock, go back to bed and sleep some more.

Either way, if you have really good honey, this is the drink that will really make the honey shine. Peter's gotten several bottles of sourwood honey from Killer Bees Honey, and it makes the best hot toddies! If you're already sick, use what you have on hand - but if you're stocking up against future sickness, I highly recommend the Sourwood Big Red.


Monday, January 1, 2018

New Year's Resolutions?

This is traditionally the day for taking stock of the year gone by, and deciding how to tackle the next one. For a lot of folks, starting the new calendar is a way to make a clean break and start afresh - but Peter's deep in the latest novel, typing away and trying to get it wrapped up so he can get it out to alpha readers. He's not exactly up for clean breaks and starting over right now, thank you.

Later today, we'll see if the predictions that our gym doesn't get a new year's crowd rush are true - but being a dedicated black iron gym, with lots of weightlifting racks and almost no aerobic equipment, it's not exactly aimed at the planet fitness crowd. When I went in twice last week (I admit, I skipped working out on Christmas), most of the usual crowd was there as well - it doesn't suffer the post-Christmas desertion I'm used to.

But we won't be starting afresh; Peter & I have workout logs and training plans. They've been working pretty darned well in the last 6 months, so we'll keep on keeping on.

Okay! I finally found a place to take stock - just organized the pantry, tossed a couple date-expired things, and made an inventory so I can plan meals to use up the oddball little things that have made their way home. (sundried tomato pesto? Goat cheese filled cherry peppers in olive oil? apple cider confit with calvados? Four boxes of bagged black tea... okay, that'll all be drunk. But clearly I looked in and said "Only one box left" a couple times too many!)

May you all have a wonderful, happy new year! Hope you get the things you want to accomplish done, and make plenty of happy new memories!

Saturday, December 30, 2017

How would we wake up

How would we wake up, if it weren't for cats?

Or, 4am rolls around. Normally my darling husband is up - but tonight he slept on, blissfully unaware of the universe and the felines in it.

Kili knows that her large human should be up, making his first cuppa, and able to be coaxed into sharing the milk when he pulls it out for his tea. At about 0415hrs, she evaluated her options. Prior experience has taught her that any aggressive motions may result in flying cat (and the humans still asleep), so she resorted to being overly friendly. Yes, overly friendly. Walking between her humans on the bed, she started to purr so loudly her little body was shaking, a rasping, full-throated purr.

When that failed to wake either humans enough for them to move, she started gently grooming a hand sticking out from under the covers. But even that failed to wake Peter (even if I came to half-awake at the sound). So she adapted and overcame.

Turning to the me, she started licking and nudging until I turned over in bed to get away from the grooming, and ended up flat on my back. Then, she gently and delicately climbed on top of me, settled down with two paws pressed into my diaphragm while she kneaded my bladder, and purred fit to vibrate said bladder like driving down a washboard road.

At which point I have to throw back the covers (and cat) and dash for the bathroom. She follows, purring and wrapping a tail around my ankles, confident I can now be led to the fridge and made to pour milk even if I will go back to bed instead of making tea and a lap to sit in... because if I go back to bed, the purring and grooming and bladder-kneading will redouble until I finally get back out and give her milk so I can be left in peace to get a few more hours of sleep in.

You know, for only weighing eight pounds and a brain the size of a walnut, the cat is pretty clever at figuring out a way to get what she wants. I may not appreciate the method chosen, but it was effective. Sigh.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Starting Strength, Six Months In

I am a proud, independent adult! ...Okay, actually, I am a "I think I maybe got this..." adult. Either way, I'm doing well enough that I'm trying my first month without a starting strength coach constantly at my side.

Not that Carmen doesn't occasionally call out form corrections to me anyway, and double-checks my plans on how much to lift when I ask, and happily helps spot me when I'm struggling to do my work sets. (Those are the heavy ones.)

But anyway, what do I think of this whole starting strength thing, after six months of it? Well, the fact that I'm still doing it is a really good clue. The pros: I'm much stronger, now. I hurt less, I sleep better, and I'm generally less stressed as I have this awesome opportunity to burn off all the adrenaline and cortisol three times a week. I also am recovering from injuries faster... and not getting injured as often! It's a real blessing to step off a curb with my foot in exactly the wrong position for the pothole I didn't notice, and to be able to catch myself without feeling like I've wrenched every muscle in the knees and ankles - I am more stable as well as stronger.

Funnily enough, it's also doing wonders for the seasonal affective disorder - the winter blues. I'd forgotten just how much I had to regularly work out when in Alaska, in the winter, in order to avoid my brain deciding that since there wasn't much light, all was doom and gloom and despair. Lifting weights is like a reset button: I can actually feel the endorphin and dopamine flood resetting my background emotional state to normal.

And, mirable dictu, I'm finally over the "I'm completely exhausted and everything hurts" post-workout feeling. I knew this was coming when my body got accustomed enough, as I knew there were plenty of guys who feel revved up and ready to take on the world after a workout. Well, I may still feel like only doing light work, but I no longer want a nap and an epsom salt bath and a blankie after working out. So, yay!

The cons: The scale is still stubbornly stuck at a number I'd be embarrassed to divulge. I'm the heaviest I've ever weighed. And I'm still size mumble-mumble in jeans. Carmen, my coach, warned me about the not losing jeans size - that the increased muscle in my thighs would offset the loss of fluffiness around the waist, especially as I did not start with tiny and delicate anything to begin with.

And yes, I know it's gaining muscle. I know that. Unfortunately, intellectually knowing that I shouldn't judge myself by a number doesn't measure up emotionally when I've been judging myself by that number since I was a preteen, you know?

For numbers that I don't mind sharing, because some of y'all are hard data geeks like me:

On July 12, I bench pressed 32 pounds - on Dec 26, I benched 87 pounds.
On July 14, I overhead pressed 15 pounds - on Dec 29, I pressed 60 pounds.
On July 17, I deadlifted 55 pounds - last week, I deadlifted 150 pounds.
As for squats, I started with leg presses and had to work my way up to squats, because I was neither strong enough nor stable enough to try 'em right off.
On Jul 21, I squatted 15 pounds - on Dec 29, I squatted 120 pounds.

Clearly, I am not morphing into muclebound anything. It's a shame; I wish those scare stories about "If women lift weights they'll turn into Sarah Connor!" were right. However, they're not, and I'm one shirt size smaller, but still me.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Clean Water, Hot Water

It's never good to pull up to the house and see a line of water trickling out of the garage door! Turns out that regular flushing of the hot water heater and replacing the sacrificial anode since we moved in neither dislodged years of compacted sediment, nor saved us from the effect of the prior homeowner neither knowing nor caring about the concept of preventative maintenance. (There were 14 burned-out lightbulbs in the attic by one single light socket that he'd never bothered to bring down with him. 14. Enough said.)

Thanks to OldNFO, we already knew a good plumber, and he'd been out a few months earlier to give us an estimate on installing a drip tray, leak alarm, and whole-house water filter. We'd been saving up to do it once and do it right... and now here was our opportunity to do it all at once while also replacing the hot water heater. Yay?

As the hot water heater was disconnected, the plumber said "What is this extra line here? It's not house supply?"
"Oh!" I said, "That's probably the geothermal unit."
Peter and I looked at each other, and Peter pulled out his cell phone. "I'll give them a call!"

Turns out that when your geothermal is plumbed into your house water supply, it's a very wise idea to get the geothermal pump turned off when there's no water in one of the lines. The geothermal guys were very happy we called instead of waiting until the pump burned out.(So was our pocketbook.)

So now, I have some brand new PEX plumbing, and a whole-house water filter that's upstream of the hot water heater. (It's going to take a lot less flushing if the sediment doesn't reach it! And showers will smell and taste better even when the lake turns over!) Interestingly enough, the water coming out of the tap is now on par with bottled water - as in, I can't tell the difference. This is amazing!

I'm going to count my blessings instead of counting the pain in the pocketbook, and just be glad we upgraded more house infrastructure ahead of schedule. While drinking tea that lacks the Red River's, ah, terroir.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Seventy Six Years Ago...

It was a December morning in northern Ohio, much like many before and after. Chances are very high there was snow on the ground, but the clouds were high enough and wind light enough that airplanes could still fly. My bird was brand-new back then, only a few months since she came out of the factory, her wings still proudly sporting her brand new 65-hp engine held aloft on a 36-foot wingspan. She was put together by my grandmother's best friends in shifts after high school, and (here my grandmother sighs) "What men were left", as the United States of America was gearing up for the inevitable entry into the European conflict.

At 11:55 in the morning, my plane was flying - and the young men inside of the flying club were likely having a blast with a brand-new bird on a beautiful winter day... only hampered by the fact that a Taylorcraft's heater is just powerful enough to warm the pilot's right big toe!

There was no way to know that half a world away, right at that moment in the Command Center on Ford Island, Commander Logan C. Ramsey looked out a window to see a low-flying plane. His first thought was that it was a reckless pilot (For certainly young men and powerful planes are a temptation to mischief, so this wouldn't have been the first or fiftieth reckless pilot he'd seen.) Then he saw “something black fall out of that plane” and realized it was a bomb.

And the world, in a sudden, heart-wrenching instant, would never be the same.

Commander Ramsey ran to the radio room and ordered the telegraph operators to send out an uncoded message to every ship and base: AIR RAID ON PEARL HARBOR X THIS IS NOT DRILL

That message echoed across America, at the speed of light, hampered only by the reflexes of telegraph operators, and by early afternoon, even Alliance, Ohio knew. Because the war machine had lurched to life, and closed the airspace to all non-military flights.

Yes, they never teach us that 9/11 wasn't the first time the national airspace closed - but it was! If your plane wasn't involved in the war training effort, carrying passengers, or special exemption, it was grounded for the duration - that way we knew if any unfriendly airplanes appeared, they couldn't be our own.

There's an almost two-month gap in the logbook, after she was grounded on account of war. And then she took to the skies again, as a trainer, teaching young men to fly in her patient, friendly little cockpit before they moved on to fighters and bomber in theater. We'd been bled hard in The Great War, and now attacked on our own soil... and by God, we were going to make the world safe again. Pearl Harbor would never happen again!

I'm going to go spend some time with my old girl tonight, as she rests in a hangar in Texas. She's seen a lot of the world for a little bit of disposable fun that wasn't supposed to last more than twenty years.