Thursday, December 29, 2011

Women Should be Taught More Self Defense, Earlier

A word of caution, this post contains an adult discussion of rape, of both men and women, and may contain triggers for those of you suffering from PTSD. This post will build upon an earlier post of mine, "Should Girls Wrestle"  which, a year later continues to get comments.

For those that haven't read that post, I'll recap: High Schools should not only allow girls to wrestle, they should encourage it.  A recent report from the CDC on the widespread instances of rape and abuse in this country grabbed headlines for a day, and then of course, vanished from the the collective conversation. The newscasters tsk-tsked the results and then quickly went on to other, less depressing news. Why no discussion about how to stop or mitigate these findings?  Oh, that's right, it's just women, they are weak, and men who get raped, well they are like women right, weak, so who cares.  As you might can guess, I care.

On average, 24 people per minute are victims of rape, physical violence, or stalking by an intimate partner in the United States, based on a survey conducted in 2010. Over the course of a year, that equals more than 12 million women and men. Those numbers only tell part of the story—more than 1 million women are raped in a year and over 6 million women and men are victims of stalking in a year. These findings emphasize that sexual violence, stalking, and intimate partner violence are important and widespread public health problems in the United States.
1 MILLION women, in the US alone, EVERY YEAR.  So, no, I don't want to hear about how uncomfortable it makes high school boys to have to fight with or wrestle with girls.  I don't want to hear about how they are taught not to hurt girls, so they are at a disadvantage with a female partner.  That's clearly Bullshit.  While I don't doubt that there are boys being taught that lesson, clearly, as men, they either forget it, or the numbers that never learn that social nicety are far too large.
Women are disproportionally affected by sexual violence, intimate partner violence and stalking.
• 1.3 million women were raped during the year preceding the survey.
• Nearly 1 in 5 women have been raped in their lifetime while 1 in 71 men have been raped in their lifetime.

The majority of this victimization starts early in life.
• Approximately 80% of female victims experienced their first rape before the age of 25 and almost half experienced the first rape before age 18 (30% between 11-17 years old and 12% at or before the age of 10).
• About 35% of women who were raped as minors were also raped as adults compared to 14% of women without an early rape history.
• 28% of male victims of rape were first raped when they were 10 years old or younger.
 HALF of women rape victims are younger than 18.  That means that there are as many as 500,000 girls a year that could be learning valuable self defense lessons in JR HIGH and HIGH SCHOOL that might help them in escaping a rape attempt before they head for college.

Pushing them out of wrestling clubs, or sparring groups is short sighted and harmful.  Jr High Schools and High Schools on that path should do an immediate about face, and not only allow them in but encourage it.  Even if it means forming female only leagues.  Even if it means making male wrestlers uncomfortable.  Help these girls find ways to fight back against being one of these statistics. Don't just shuffle them through Home Ec, Sex Ed and Gym and delude yourself into thinking you're sending them out into the world prepared.

Sadly, I have no daughters, and no connections with the local Jr High and High Schools. (Yet.) If any of my readers do, please feel free to use this post in it's entirety to start conversations with your school district about this issue.  The CDC report is linked at the top and again HERE if you want to print out some of the facts and figures. Please PLEASE teach your daughters about the realities that face them.  Ignoring it or hoping it won't happen to them are terrible ways to deal with this issue.  If you daughters are old enough, enroll them in a self defense class, not one of those hour long once a year sessions, but something on a weekly basis, learning hands on grappling, breaks, throws and disables. While you pray they won't need it, someday they may thank you.  Send your boys too of course, the need isn't as dire in a personal protection sense, but they'll get other very useful benefits from it.

New Resolutions

:-) I actually like New Year Resolutions. I do. So far I have a pretty good track record with them. I write them down, I make concrete plans and goals, and then in a year, reevaluate.

Resolutions for 2011
1) Finish the scarf, learn a second stitch, Purl maybe, and use that in a second project.
Done! I finished that first scarf, it's a lovely camo-like variegated green. I learned the purl stitch and I'm 3/4s of the way through a project that has a purl/knit ribbing.  I went with a headband/ear cover instead of a hat. But, I'm using that black wool that I bought, and I'm still resisting the allure of oh-so-pretty yarn. Mostly. I did buy 2 skeins at the quilt show in Des Moines, for my next project.

1b) Do some darning, with the wool socks I love so much.
This one I tried, but apparently store bought wool socks are not as darnable as the home-made versions. I researched how to darn, and got my great-grandma to send me a darning egg, but after the research I decided it wasn't worth my time to try and darn the store bought socks.  This goal will have to wait until I make homemade socks, and wear them enough to get holes.

2) Sew more clothing, focusing on work clothing for me and play wear for Rowen.
This one went well. I did get one new shirt done, and some play pants for Rowen.  He loved his pants, and just outgrew them a month ago, I need to make him some more.  I stopped sewing for me, due to pregnancy, it's not worth my time when I'm only guessing at what my measurements will be from week to week.  I may end up having to sew a cloak or something to stay warm this spring, but we'll see.

3) $2000 in savings by Samhain.
This one we came pretty close, and it's a good thing I was focused on this, because we'll need every penny of it to pay for the birth of Baby Boy.   We didn't quite hit the 2000 mark, there were some car repairs that had to come out of savings, and that's what it's there for, so I still count this one as a win.

4) Finish the Blue Quilt, (Quilt #2) by mid January. Do some actual quilting on this one!

Well, I did finish Blue Quilt, but it only got done a couple of weeks ago.  I missed the Jan deadline, and then I lost all focus on it and sewed other things for the summer.  I brought it back out this fall and finished it.  It's hanging in the living room window, looking very pretty, if I do say so myself.  I did some actual hand quilting, nothing fancy, and I think I may take it down someday and do some more, but I'll count this one a win.It's doing a great job of blocking drafts, and it looks soo cool. I brought those fabric panels home with me from India, and I'm happy to finally have them displayed nicely.

5) Start Quilt #3. At least Queen sized, 85x85" or bigger, so that it can replace the 15 year old quilt from my grandmother that needs to be honorably retired.
Total fail. I was too focused on Blue quilt, and this one hasn't even been started yet. It's top of my quilting goals for 2012.

6) Make progress with getting a Community Garden started in my new town.  The first step here is to organize a seed swap I think.
This one went well.  I did the seed swap, and kept talking to people about the goal.  Fate conspired to put me in the right place, and a church group that was looking to start a garden had my name dropped in their ear, and I was able to help them start a Community Garden.  It's small, only 8 plots, but all were full all summer, and we got some great produce out of it.

7) Regain my pre-baby muscles. I miss my leg muscles and ab muscles. I never had much arm muscles, but maybe I could work on those while I'm at it.
I don't know how well I did on muscle, I know I got my leg muscles back, but maybe not so much on the arm and ab muscles.  I did get down to my high school weight, and that made me ecstatic. I was pregnant 2 weeks after that, and it's all gone down hill from there. :-D  I kid, in all truthfulness, I'm feeling healthier this pregnancy, I think in no small part because of the work I did to lose the last of that baby weight.

8) Finish seed saving attempt for turnips. Try again with potatoes maybe. Try parsnips too possibly.
Total fail. The turnips I tried to overwinter, died. I didn't save seed from the potatoes, and I dug up (and ate! Mmmm) all the parsnips.   Maybe next year? Maybe not too, we'll see if I can find space for it, with another mouth to feed and neighbors to keep happy, there may be a line I can't cross, and biennial seed production may be that line. :-D

9) Continue food storage, work on improving grain storage.
This one was a semi-win. We have a steady rotation of flour in storage, and a lot of rice.  We didn't get a grinder, we got a large mortar and pestle instead.  More useful on a day-to-day basis, and it can moonlight as a grain grinder if we ever get to that point of TEOTWAWKI.  We did look at buckets to hold wheat berries in, but it just never materialized.

I'll give myself a score of 7/10 for 2011.

New Resolutions for 2012

1) Make a new quilt for the main bed. 85"x85" at least.  We're currently using a 15 year old quilt that my grandmother made me, and it needs to be honorably retired.  I want to machine quilt this one, as it will be the biggest quilt yet, and put to the hardest use.  I'm signed up for a class in town to learn machine quilting, next month.  I have a lot of the fabric I need, although I'll need to run some numbers to see if I have enough to make the large size that's needed.

2) Transition Rowen to his own bed AND get him going on a bedtime routine.   He's 2 and a half, and we've been content until now to largely let him set his own sleeping patterns. With co-sleeping and a stay at home parent, there wasn't a huge need for him to have a set bedtime or sleeping place.  Now that baby #2 is on the way, we need the big bed space for that one and we need Rowen to start sleeping more regularly in his own bed.  My preference here is to spend Jan/Feb working on the bedtime routine and ending co-sleeping. Then in March when he turns 3 I'd like to transition him to a "Big Boy Bed"  (i.e. the old twin mattress with little-boy-friendly bedding) and turn the toddler bed back into it's crib formation well in advance of the new  baby's arrival.  March and April we can continue the Big Boy Bed routine, and that way (hopefully) he won't associate the new baby with the loss of his co-sleeping/toddler bed/etc.

3) Stick to our budget for the year.  We have a tough year coming up financially.  We're on an HSA plan for health insurance, which means we pay all medical costs until we hit $4000.  Baby Boy is going to be $3000 worth of hospital expenses and that's assuming a natural vaginal birth with no complications.  I'm not resting on my laurels as far as that's concerned. Baby and I are super healthy, weight, blood pressure, nutrition and activity levels are all as good as or better than they were with Rowen's fetal period.  Plus, we're with a midwife, who is totally committed to natural births.  We're paying all that we can in advance, and sending money hand over fist directly from my paycheck to the Health Savings Account.  By my calculations we'll have $3000 paid to the midwife by April.  In April I'll modify my weekly contributions to the Savings account, to a much lower amount in preparation for my maternity leave. Anything that's not paid by then, will wait until after I go back to work in August.
All the money we have budgeted for medical payments means we're $50 short for January and February bills, even with the "fun" and "savings" columns zeroed out on the budget sheet.  March will have 5 paychecks instead of the usual 4, so that will help, then in April I'll put less towards the HSA and I'll have more take home pay.   That brief respite will have to buffer us for the May/June/July maternity leave. I'll get 60% pay for 6 of those weeks, but that's it.  Hopefully Dave can find a temp job to fill in the gaps that will leave in the budget.  None of us can get sick or injured until August. :-D
Plans to help with  Resolution 3:
3a) Eat out of the pantry, maybe a challenge to eat 1 week a month completely out of the stored foods? I store for emergencies, and medical bills count as that, even if it's a "planned" emergency.
3b) Limit monetary input for the garden while simultaneously expanding it, I have started planning the garden, and I think I'll only need a few packets of seeds, mostly carrots, cucumbers and parsnips, maybe some spinach. Potato and sweet potato slips as well. I don't have any money budgeted for it right now, so it will have to come out of the food budget or X-mas money.

4) Put my maternity time to good use.  Of course, birthing a baby and feeding a baby are the most important things I'll be doing, but with almost 3 months off, I bet I can do something else productive.  Start that book I've been meaning to write, or brush up on my Spanish.

5) Hunt something new in 2012. Not that there's anything wrong with pheasant, but I'd like to expand my horizons to deer or turkey. Or Wild Hogs!!!! Ok, this might not be the year for wild hogs, but a gal can dream right?

6) Finish the ribbed headband and work on some knitted booties for baby.  Booties will push me into the 3rd dimension with my knitting, so far I've only done flat rectangular pieces. (The headband is knitted as a strip then the short ends sewn together.) They are small which is good, and common enough for free patterns and youtube videos.

7) Make a rocket stove. Something that can be moved with us and won't infringe on our rental agreement.  Most of the wood I have on hand is dead fall from our trees, and while we burn some of it in our fire pit, I'd really like a rocket stove for more efficient use during emergencies. 

I'm really excited for 2012, yes we'll have challenges, but there's a new life on the way, and new seeds to plant.  A presidential election will spice things up in November and then of course the world will end on Dec 21st.  hahahaha
Awww little baby shoes

Hope your New Year is cheery and warm.  Share your resolutions  in the comments if you like.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

News From My Womb

This is a personal blog, I'll be back to politics, peak oil and TEOTWAWKI soon enough, but allow me a slight detour.
We found out last week that baby #2 will be a boy.  He's healthy and happy, which are blessings, I know. I can't stop mourning though.
Let me explain, I can pinpoint the exact moment I realized I wanted children.  I had always been lukewarm about the idea as a child and teenager. I knew I wanted a career, I knew I wanted travel, and love and all those things, but I wasn't sure about bearing children.  At most I thought perhaps I would adopt a couple when that time came. I had a dream when I was 21, that changed my mind completely.
Dreams, I know, very illogical.  Trust me, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my dreams, they are usually vivid, and I always remember them in the morning, but I know they are mostly brain dumps and subconscious thoughts.
This dream was different.  Very short and to the point, for me. I held my daughter in my arms. She was new, tiny, a nursling. She had dark hair.  She spoke to me, and said, "Mommy, I love you."  I explained that she couldn't be talking to me, she was too young to be talking.  She said, "Mommy, I know you needed to hear it."

That was it.

In my heart I always hoped I'd get to hold that little girl.
Maybe it's egotistical, but I think I'm a pretty unique woman.  I hoped I'd be able to pass that on in some way. Whether it's hunting or fighting or logic problems, I wanted another female to bond with and send into the ranks of Strong Women Battling the Hordes of Injustice. Lately that's mellowed to include cooking and sewing and dances and cute dresses with flowers in our hair.

Maybe this is better though. I've never gotten along well with most women. I don't seem to have much in common with a lot of them, and I have little patience for the bizarre things they find compelling.   Even with my own mother, it took awhile to find common ground.  We've found it, with sewing, and of course mutual love, but even so I know we don't look on things the same way. Maybe that daughter would never have been the woman I wanted. Maybe we would have been just as estranged as I find myself from most other females.  That would have been hard, so maybe this is kinder.

Maybe I can use that energy to take care of myself, and make pretty dresses for me.  Maybe I can mentor or foster or adopt. Maybe there are girls out there that will need that space in my heart.  I can't know, there's no way to know.

I do know 2 biological children is all I want.   We could try again and again, but there's no guarantees, and it would probably ruin us financially.  We'll do one of those more or less permanent birth control options as soon as he joins us.  We will be happy with our boys, and I will love them fiercely.  If I shed a few tears over their Y chromosome, they'll never need to know that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A-caucusing we will go

So, tis the season here in Iowa.  The season that seems to move up a little every year, just to keep us as "First in the Nation."  I'm talking of course about caucuses.

First off, I'm not sure I agree with the "First in the Nation" as a constant static thing. I've lived in a bunch of other states, and while I really do think Iowans are some of the most balanced, fair minded people I've met, I'm not sure it's beneficial for our nation to have the "First" be the same 2 states every year.

That said, our caucuses are pretty awesome.  I participated last go 'round and really enjoyed it. Here's the run down on how it works, for those interested in such things.

First thing to know is that the caucuses are divided up into R and D.  That was the first big downside as I saw it.  I'm a registered Independent. Always have been.  It is easy to change registration the night of the caucus though, you just show up to which ever side you wanted to caucus for, register that night for that side, then a few weeks later re-register as your preferred affiliation.   Those that have read this blog at all can probably guess which side I registered for in '08.  I went to the Democratic side.  I can't for the life of me remember who all was running for the GOP nomination, (Wikipedia to the rescue, McCain, Huckabee and Romney were the 3 big players)  I didn't care for any of them.  I did like a couple of the Democratic runners though, Dodd and Gravel for anyone who really cares. Of course, neither of those candidates made it very far.  But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

So, we get info on where our precinct will be meeting, show up, register if needed, and in my case, go sit in the gymnasium of the local Jr High and watch the other 200 or so file in. After the doors are shut, the fun begins.  Usually a district or precinct lead stands up and says a few words about the process and procedures.  Then there is time for speeches.  Anyone can stand to speak.  A few words or a prepared speech, doesn't matter. I think there were some people who said a few words for Obama, and some for Clinton. I wasn't convinced, but it was interesting.  After everyone spoke that wanted to, they taped up big signs all around the gym, one sign for each nominee, there were a lot too, they didn't leave out the little guys.  Round 1 started, and everyone was invited to stand under the sign of the candidate that they most supported.   I believe I was the only person under Gravel's sign, but I remember being proud to stand there and support him.   Everyone was counted, and totals were tallied.  A cut off point was decided, and everyone supporting a candidate with fewer than the required bodies was invited to go stand at their second choice.  The non-viable candidates had their signs taken down, and Round 2 started.  I shuffled down to join the Dodd supporters, swelling their numbers to a grand total of 4.  At the end of Round 2, Dodd was no longer on the viable list.  At this point we had Obama supporters and Clinton supporters talking with us almost one on one, asking what we liked about Dodd, and had we heard about this plan or that from their candidate?  I don't remember being rushed at this point.  There were people milling about, arguing, debating, and trying to wrangle every last body they could for the final Round 3.  The speaker announced that we needed to wrap it up, and that the final round would consist of Clinton/Obama/Edwards and that if we wanted to throw our support behind one of those candidates, now was the time to do that. I walked over the Obama sign. The final round was tallied, and our district went to Obama.  The caucus continued with Democratic party business, planks, platforms, delegate nomination, the whole shebang. I think I lasted through about 30 minutes of that before getting bored and leaving.

That's the gist of the process, rinse and repeat for all the districts in our 99 counties. One of the most democratic things I've ever seen here in our beloved Republic.

Fast forward, it's 2012.  With Obama running for reelection, there won't be a Democratic caucus.  There will be a GOP caucus though.  As the fair minded Independent that I try to be, I have the caucus on my calendar and I've really made an effort to get to know the the candidates.   I know you're interested in my take on them, so here they are, in no particular order.

Bachman - To be blunt here, she's an idiot.  She's anti-science, and poorly educated in anything other than fundamentalist christian dogma.  She doesn't support LGBT rights, her argument is just “OMG, people have sex in ways I don’t approve of. We must punish gay people.” Tamara Scott, co-chair of Bachmann’s Iowa campaign, was caught on tape saying if we don’t stop same-sex marriage it will lead down a slippery slope not only to polygamy but to women marrying inanimate objects, like the Eiffel Tower.  Idiots.

Paul - I'll admit, I've been attracted to Paul in the past.  He's consistent, which isn't a bad thing, and doesn't say as much stupid crap as some of the other nominees.  I like his stance on ending the drug war.  Sadly, that's about as far as I ever get with him.  None of his other positions appeal to me. He's constantly re-iterated his preference to do away with Roe-v-Wade, and he would love to have blastocysts declared as people, with equal rights to the woman who happens to be carrying said lump of cells. I think that's ludicrous and I have no intention of supporting anyone who furthers that notion. He has also sought to amend the Clean Air Act, repeal the Soil and Water Conservation Act of 1977, and to amend the Federal Water Pollution Control Act to “restrict the jurisdiction of the United States over the discharge of dredged or fill material to discharges into waters”. A direct quote from the HR7955 reads like a textbook on bigotry, “Prohibits the expenditure of Federal funds to any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style.”  (links to various HR bills he's put forward)  Needless to say, it's a bit too much to overlook, even if he could end the drug war.

The Newt.  Again, those who read this blog probably already know my views on this guy. He can't seem to respect marriage vows. He left the Speaker of the House position shortly after being charged with eighty-four ethics violations. (After extensive investigation and negotiation by the House Ethics Committee, Gingrich was sanctioned US$300,000.)  During 2010 and the hubbub about the mosque being built in downtown NYC, his jingoistic demagoguery made Sarah Palin seem calm and nuanced. Gingrich demanded government action to stop the building, saying "we should not tolerate" what the First Amendment requires us to tolerate.  Further more, he has NO concept of geological realities, and encourages the "Drill baby drill" crowd with terrible untruths. In the Nov 23rd debate he stated that the United States could discover and produce enough oil in 2012 to cause a worldwide oil price collapse, if we were, "Serious." *facepalm*
The U.S. would have to increase field production by more than double current production to become oil independent by increasing domestic production to 14.8 Mbopd. Even peak production in 1970 of 10,000 bopd would only meet 68% of current crude oil consumption. To bring about a collapse in world oil prices, as Mr. Gingrich suggests, would mean increasing U.S. production by substantially more than this.
Maximum daily production from Prudhoe Bay Field, the largest in the United States, was 2.0 million bopd in 1988 ( Mr. Gingrich suggests that we can find more than six additional Prudhoe Bay-sized fields in one year. Prudhoe Bay was discovered in 1968, did not begin production for 11 years, and did not reach peak production until 20 years after its discovery. But Mr. Gingrich thinks that there are many Prudhoe Bay fields waiting to be found that can be  explored, developed and brought to peak production in one year. source

So, no, not someone I'm going to go out on a cold Jan night in support of.

Cain, his 9-9-9 plan would have raised my taxes significantly. I was willing to overlook that in favor of simplifying the tax code. It seemed like he had a good head on his shoulders.  Makes no difference now, he's out of the race.

Romney - He wants to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act (obamacare), in spite of the fact that the Mass health care overhaul has been popular.  Not wildly popular, but polling shows a majority in favor of it. I'm fine with making changes to it, no legislation is perfect, but scrapping it and starting over? Good grief, we'll never get anything done at that rate.   And of course, like a broken record around here, he's not in favor of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples.

Perry - Again, an anti-science idiot. His mantra seems to be "Cut taxes and regulation."  Like cutting banking regulation led to a good end, yea, they do a great job of self policing.  I like clean air and clean water, I'm just not in favor of cutting regulations.  He likes to brag about all the jobs he has in Texas. You know what else he has? He has the most children who are sick and obese and poorly educated. He has schools suing him for lack of funding, so low they are claiming it's unconstitutional.  He insists that peace can only come through "strength" and would probably allow the Defense budget to remain bloated and obscenely large.  And of course, he's not in favor of women's reproductive rights or gay and lesbian rights.

Did I miss anyone? I think that's most of the crop.  Not a single one of them is worth my time on a cold Jan night. I will probably sit this caucus out.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

I'd forgotten what it feels like

Well, patient blog readers, I'm back.  Many apologies for the hiatus.  I had vague memories of being nauseous with Rowen's 1st trimester, but either hormones and time had erased some of the misery, or something about my 45-55 hour work week makes it worse.  Probably (as with most things) a combination of both.
I'll spare you the gory details, but to say I've been sick and exhausted for most of the past 2 months, would not be an understatement.
But! We are moving past that stage of pregnancy and roaring into the second trimester with a healthy appetite, high energy levels and aching joints. :-D
Dave and I settled on a midwife for care.  We interviewed a home-birthing midwife, but she was based in the next state over, battling anti-midwifery there and in Iowa, and was very very Christian.  I'm fine with my care providers having personal views I don't agree with.  But, after a discussion about all the things she can't legally do during a homebirth, (stitching my tears, anything with IV's, antibiotics or anti-hemorraging meds) it makes me very uncomfortable to hear talk of "praying for guidance and leaving things in god's hands."  I knew I wouldn't have the trust in her that I would need to have to birth at home.  The midwife Dave and I finally clicked with is based out of the hospital in the town I work in. (20 miles north of where we live)  She has been delivering babies for a long time, has an excellent relationship with the Obstetricians in the hospital and they in turn give her tons of freedom to birth babies how she wants. Which all translates into freedom for ME to birth how I need to, but with the safety net of a hospital ready if needed.  She has no requirements for positions during labor, is very much a non-intervention believer, and even Rowen liked her better.  Care is already night and day different from that horrible group Ob/Gyn practice that I ended up with when I was on Medicare with Rowen.  She talks to me, and listens to me, and doesn't give me lectures about the decisions I make regarding my body.
Baby and I are healthy and happy and growing at a nice pace.  I'm more excited than scared for the delivery, and really looking forward to the 2nd trimester.

In other news, Dave has been culling the spotty apples out of our storage box this week, and is currently making a big batch of tasty applesauce.  This is an important step with stored apples, as the old saying is true, one bad apple will spoil the lot.  Spotty apples make a great applesauce, or cider and will keep much longer in that form, simultaneously sparing the good apples that rotten fate.

I've harvested those little cabbage heads, and dried the last big bunch of chard. All the beds are cozy in their leafy covers, and we're as ready as we can be for the harsh winter ahead.

No time to mourn the end of this year's season, I got my Seed Savers catalog in the mail yesterday, and I'm researching sweet potato production and slip providers in Iowa.  My favorite local farmer is not going to be growing sweet potatoes next year, so if I don't grow them, I'll have to travel 30 minutes south to the big city to find local ones.

I'll be recapping my 2011 goals soon, and making new ones for 2012, should be fun.  Yule and X-mas celebrations are happening at our house this year, which is a first. It'll be a bit of a challenge, but as always, I think we're up for it. I've got Iowa caucuses coming up right after the holidays, so politics aren't far from my mind either.

Y'all stay warm, finish up that turkey, and settle in.