I wrote yesterday about how I’d compiled a list of history-related reading generously shared from some Facebook friends. Well, that original Facebook post prompted Jim’s uncle, who is an actual history professor,y’all, to suggest a few of his favorites. I thought I’d put his list in its own category:
Out of this Furnace (Thomas Bell)
The Paranoid Style in American Politics (Richard Hofstadter)
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War (Tony Horowitz)
The Strange Career of William Ellis, The Texas Slave Who Became a Mexican Millionaire (Karl Jacoby)
Natural Allies: Women’s Associations in American History (Anne Firor Scott)
Who Stole the American Dream? (Hedrick Smith)
Nixon Agonistes: The Crisis of the Self Made Man (Garry Wills)
The Radicalism of the American Revolution (Gordon Wood)
We are all going to come out of this pandemic smarter, my friends. Thank you, Uncle Jack!
I have a college friend who is an author. If you have kids of a certain age you have almost certainly heard of her work; Disney turned one of her characters into an animated series and it thrills me to see merch and Halloween costumes based on my own friend’s creation!
Anyway, I follow this good lady on Facebook. There, she mentioned that she had retweeted (on her Twitter page, of course) some political revelry about Saturday’s announcement that the US elections have been called in favor of President-elect Biden. One of her Twitter followers unfollowed her over the retweet and told her to stick to her day job.
Okay, now, people need to stop it.
I live in a very “red” part of Virginia, and was it my imagination that at our little Kroger yesterday, people were extra inconsiderate? We always have our share of loud and proud mask-refusers, but hey, you fella who rammed someone else’s cart so you could get closer to the oranges, was that necessary?
Anger serves a purpose. If it spurs you to make change, it serves a really valuable purpose. But temper? Snideness? Calling people names and telling them what to do with their own platforms? Come on, y’all, wouldn’t it make sense to take that energy and work to make things better in your little corner of the world?
My friend Anne Marie had the best response to her un-follower: “I told her my day job was being human and writing was just a part of me, and I wished her well.”
THAT’s a professional! Doing her day job! And now, hopefully I can pry myself away from the news long enough to be a little more productive at my own day job this week.
Yesterday I started my November compilation of things for which I am grateful, in lieu of sticking with an old practice of dribbling the list out day by day on Facebook.
Last year, I switched things up by eschewing Facebook and sending handwritten notes to the people for whom I am grateful. But (a) that was kind of a lot of work, albeit quite rewarding, and (b) I don’t want to do that two years in a row because what if you forget someone? I don’t need that kind of stress.
ESPECIALLY ON ELECTION NIGHT!
So, with no further ado, here are ten more things I am grateful for:
People who work to help the rest of us vote. I’m related to one of those! They get up early and hang out all day, making sure that we the ability to have our voices heard.
November 11 reminds me to be grateful for the veterans who keep us safe, sacrificing so that our communities can be secure.
Military families, too. Military spouses are incredible human beings.
We live in a place where I can see cows on a regular basis, along with wild turkeys, lots of deer, rolling hills, and all kinds of amazing scenery.
Everyone who reads this lil blog (and basically anything I write) makes my heart sing.
I am grateful when someone spells my name right. There’s an “e” at the end, y’all. And when someone asks to check the spelling? Wow, you’re the real heroes.
Hobbies. Needlework is my go-to right now, but I’ve done the scrapbooks, the card making, the quilting, the knitting. Craftiness is goodness.
Zoom. Yeah, I said it. It lets me see some beloved faces and I appreciate them now more than ever.
On this chilly evening, I appreciate that our heater is working a-okay and I can enjoy the blustery weather outside by peeping at it from a cozy house.
All the people and organizations that are out there trying to make the world a better place for folks who can use a hand.
I’ll finish up the last 10 items on list tomorrow. Have you voted yet? I am sending fervent wishes for a good voting experience for everyone, and that all of us get to have our voices heard. Happy Election Day, US!
It’s November, a month in which I have often run through a list of things in my life for which I’m grateful, posting one each day up there on Facebook.
But this year, wow, things are so weird, aren’t they? I’m not of a mind to give Facebook a lot of content these days – I even took a break from that site and still resent its psychologically-tuned addictive delights (but darn it, it’s an unparalleled place to find out about weddings, funerals, and births).
So I’m going to get it all out of the way and share a list of things I’m grateful for right here:
That we have the privilege of electing our leaders. Even when things seem to be a little screwy in our country, as they do as I write this on November 2, 2020, I believe in our system and I believe in America. Can we strive to be better? Yep. But I believe that we are worth it.
People who remember my birthday.
My sweet husband, who doesn’t make fun of me for making a big deal out of my own birthday like I’m 5.
Our couple of kids, who are now both in their 20s but still full of surprises. Mostly good ones.
Family members who make me smile and have my back. They know who they are. I love them hugely.
A group of really incredible people whom I’m lucky to call friends, people from all the way back in elementary school on up to the folks I’ve met in the last couple of years. I learn from and am inspired by each of them.
Our two very affectionate and amusing cats.
A job that lets me talk to and learn about interesting people.
Okay, that’s enough of that for now.
As I started writing the above it occurred to me that it’s asking a lot to ask people to comb through a list of 30 things. But it is a great thing in these unsettled days to catalogue the good things you’ve got going on, and I hope you can think of a few, yourself.
I first drafted this post talking about how lucky we were in our remote part of the country. Until very recently, our reported cases of Covid-19 had been very moderate. Even with the rate of people wearing masks standing at about 50-50, with the wide-open spaces in Franklin County we felt like we might miss the worst of it.
Then Memorial Day came and evidently everyone went to Myrtle Beach, including that virus. Myrtle Beach is a spot on the South Carolina shore, just about five hours south of our area. There’s a boardwalk, and golf courses, and an amusement park, and evidently lots of pent-up need for people to get out to the sand, because they opened up their businesses in June and the virus exploded.
People in Roanoke love Myrtle Beach! And they brought that virus back with them. The worst souvenir ever.
So now our local cases are creeping up. Mask wearing is a little better, but I’m cautious and more mindful of staying home. But for awhile there…
Jim and I went out to eat at our favorite restaurant, instead of doing take-out.
I made a trip to Rocky Mount for a mammogram, which is no fun but you gotta do it. Hats off to the clinic for being extremely impressive at monitoring patients’ health and getting us in and out quickly.
I started going into Roanoke on Saturday mornings to peruse the tremendous Kolsch selection at Barrel Chest, where they remember you and what you like, with always something new and good to recommend.
I would also include a stop at Roasters Next Door so I could support a local coffee shop that happens to have delicious lavender-pancake flavored lattes.
But now it looks like all of those good things might be on hold and it’s 100% worth it if we can avoid this mess spreading any more than it is.
When you are quarantined because of a worldwide pandemic, you really appreciate your resources.
For my birthday back in November, my sister got for me a whole new experience: a custom paint-by-number set. She sent a photo to a company that sent back a detailed canvas, twenty-five little tubs of paint, and some brushes.
We had some quiet time before family FaceTime calls on Easter Sunday so it was the perfect opportunity to get to work!
I was really surprised that it was so INVOLVED. It took me quite a few evenings of work to get all those little shapes filled in. Also, I found that painting those little shapes with a tiny brush is extremely relaxing.
And I was very pleased with the finished result!
I’m really appreciative of Sarah’s gift, which not only gave me some serious fun but also resulted in a piece of art that is truly one of a kind!
It is a tough tug-of-war between wanting to stay secluded and wanting to support local businesses. Jim and I have been helping the local economic cause, at least a little, by stopping for take-out from our favorite spot up the street, Napoli Cowboy.
And then some businesses have made it even easier to support them while staying a safe six feet away.
Mama Crockett’s cider donuts were famous well before we moved here. You can’t just get them anywhere. They have a store in downtown Lynchburg, about an hour from us, and they also sell the donuts ALL OVER THE PLACE from a couple of cool minty campers.
Sadly, they never seemed to sell them anywhere near me. Until today.
Mama Crockett’s Facebook page lists where their truck is going to be, and I was overjoyed to see that it was coming to Rocky Mount today — just 25 minutes up the road!
You can order and pay online, set up a time for your pick-up, and then you just show up and they zoom your donuts down the 6-foot chute to your hungry hands. Then the hardest thing is not eating them in the car on the way home.
One of the benefits to living down here right now is that we are pretty naturally spread out. Spread out enough to feel okay about getting a solid breakfast.
HISTORY BREAK: You probably know that Big Lick is Roanoke’s original name, dating back to when the area was first settled by Europeans and named after the salt marshes in the area. When the railroads came in in the 1880s, the town changed its name to Roanoke, which some sources say is derived from the Algonquian word for “money.”
At any rate, these days you can enjoy the Big Lick Brewing Company and Big Lick Entertainment, which puts on the Comic-Con.
And it was really fun! We had never been to one; Jim used to try to get our son to go to Awesome Con (the Comic-Con in DC), but our boy never signed on. So now that the kids are out of the house, we two empty nesters went to check it out.
I didn’t know what to expect. People in costumes, certainly. And the costumes were really marvelous, detailed, and lovingly put together. They are also a barometer of what’s big in the world of fantasy these days (lots and lots of Star Wars, and I only saw one Hermione).
There was all kinds of merchandise.
And there were some guests, too. We saw Jason David Frank up on the stage — he’d been a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger, and at one point I heard a audience member telling him how inspirational he had been to him as he was growing up.
The whole event centered around a culture that I know very little about. It was inclusive, welcoming, and really celebratory. And full of kindness: I saw a woman approach a sinister-looking Star Wars guy to ask if he would take his picture with her kids, and the response through that mask was a sincere, enthusiastic, “Sure!” That was the vibe all through the event, and I’m glad to see it’s coming back in August.
Who knows, maybe you’ll see an extra Gandalf and Galadriel walking around?
Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.
After the holidays, the environs around Smith Mountain Lake thin out considerably. We have a large population of folks who mostly enjoy the water during the warmer months, and many of them seem to slip off to even warmer climates after the ornaments and lights get put away for another year.
But I want to tell you about the birds that don’t fly away.
I don’t know if I’ve written here about how the colors of the countryside also get quieter this time of year, a muted, mellow palette of pale blue, gray, taupe, sage green, and wheat. Many mornings, as the sun comes up, a gentle pink joins the party.
Often, if you get up at just the right time, all of these colors form a backdrop for some graceful winter visitors. The first rays of sun bounce off the wings of swirling white birds that fish in the lake in the cooler months.
Some mornings, we only see one or two outside our window. Other times, a veritable flock appears.
In an effort to learn more about the birds (for instance, what they are), I queried the SML Residents Facebook page and got three possible answers: gannets, kittiwakes, and migratory ringed bill gulls visiting from Lake Erie. (I also learned that the term “sea gull” is a bit of a misnomer, because they can show up around any body of water, but “parking lot gull” sounds a lot less poetic.) I’m leaning towards the ring bill gulls.
But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter too much because no matter what they are, I just love to see them each morning. And it’s nice to celebrate the quiet while we have it, of course, because it looks like Punxatawney Phil missed his shadow this morning and SML will be able to welcome its snow birds’ return six weeks early.
We sampled breads, herbs, coffee, and cheeses, all made fresh and locally, served up by friendly vendors. There was plenty of wine, beer, and even moonshine (two different distillers!) but we had a long afternoon planned and didn’t want to slow ourselves down.
Plus, because the emphasis of the conference was organic and biological farming, most of the crowd there were actually farmers or people associated with the food community. You would think that, living down here, one would have more opportunity to hang out with farmers but on the other hand, those folks have pretty long hours.
We went home with some delicious Persian kolompeh cookies and some chutney from Kelly’s Persian Foods, located in Charleston West Virginia, some chimichurri spice and pimiento cheese from Piemonte Kitchen & Garden, whose Facebook page has some cool photos of the event, and a jar of lavender jelly and great-smelling soap from Green Roof Soaps, right up the road in Bedford (and on Etsy!). The diversity of offerings was incredible and the crowd was large enough to feel festive without being too crowded. In fact, I felt a little like I was in on a secret.
But now you know, too.
This is an event that I want to make sure is on my calendar for next year!