I dreamed that I was on the phone with a nurse, trying to complete the information necessary for Dad’s hospital stay.

I dreamed that my brother and I went to a group therapy session where Mom said that I was not actually born in January and that she had two other children that we did not know about.  We looked at each other while trying to decide if this was the truth or delusion.

I woke suddenly, my desperation and confusion as vivid as it was nearly a year ago, when it was real and daily for almost three weeks.

In the recovery community we are well aware of the emotional tides that an anniversary brings.  And while some brush it off as folklore, others of us invariably have a using dream around the time of our sobriety date.

When I was a young woman, a beau took me to his aunt’s beach house for a holiday.  The sea was rather rough on our first day out.

“If a big wave comes along,” he said, “just duck down and let it wash over you.  That way it won’t knock you down.”

That advice has been a metaphor for me throughout recovery, reminding me that humility and surrender are not evidence of weakness, but of courage.  They are also the biggest windows one can open to allow grace to enter one’s life.

So this morning I am letting the waves of grief wash over me.  I am giving myself time for my heart to slow down and my panic to subside, reminding myself that it’s over.  I got through it.  And I am OK.

I am remembering I have more than a dozen friends who’ve lost a parent, a sibling, a child, a grandparent, even an ex-spouse in the past three years.  From time to time they reach out to me, surprised by the intensity of their sadness.

This is for them.  I love you.  You will get through it.  And you are OK.




when Faith is a well-chewed pencil point breaking mid-page,

on the periphery, Hope quietly burps and squints through a frazzled curl.

The skyline returns to its place in the distance
while Love finds a spot not far from the marker,

merrily beaming and resolute as the greening wood.

~ for Rachel

Crunchy Oat Bars


I’m never hungry in the morning. I’d always rather have breakfast for supper. Give me coffee with milk and I’m good until noon. However, I tend to get foggy by mid-morning, so I try to have a light snack. Nothing tempts me like granola bars, especially in the winter when cold fresh fruit seems like a bad idea.

Satisfying, high in fiber, these are also high in calories, a whopping 300 per bar. The culprit here? The almonds. They’re higher in calories than either the coconut or the condensed milk. You can make a lower calorie bar by eliminating some of the extras and increasing the oats and still have a great snack.

You can substitute any dried fruit, nuts or seeds. This is what I happened to have in my pantry the day I made them. You just want to end up with a sticky ball of dough that isn’t too runny and that presses easily into the pan.


2 c oats
cooking spray
1 c chopped toasted almonds
1 c shredded coconut
1 c raisins
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1 can condensed milk

aluminum foil
waxed paper

Preheat oven to 300.
Line 9×12 cookie sheet with foil.
Spread oats evenly and toast for 10 minutes.

Pour oats into bowl to cool.
Set aside foil-lined pan to cool.

Increase oven temp to 350.
Put open can of condensed milk on rack to warm.

Spray cooled foil with cooking spray.

Combine toasted oats, almonds, coconut, raisins and cinnamon.
Slowly pour warmed milk over mixture and stir in completely.

Spread evenly onto greased foil.
Cut length of waxed paper and use to press mixture evenly into pan to edges.

Bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.

Remove from oven and lift bars from pan.
Flip upside down into pan and peel off foil.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes then use pizza cutter into bars.

Allow to cool completely before storing.

Makes 16 bars.

P.S.  They were crunchy coming out of the pan.  After overnight storage in Tupperware, they’re chewy.  I like them either way.


White Bean Chili


white bean chiliThis is another of those recipes that welcomes improv.

If you are lucky enough to live where you can pick up a hot rotisserie chicken at the grocery store, you can have the wings and leg quarters for dinner another time and make this soup with the breast.
Or dice and saute your own boneless breast.

If you have the time and the presence of mind, cook your own Great Northern beans.
But a can of white beans works fine — you can sub cannellini, navy or limas.

A mild yellow onion is my preference here, Vidalias are best but a white onion works.
And you can sub bell pepper (any color) or jalapenos for the chilies.

Add handful of chopped greens (turnip, spinach, kale) if you need green leafies in a meal.
Add a cup of cooked macaroni to tempt the kids.
Throw in some diced cooked carrots for color.  It’s all yum.

I keep ground cumin in my pantry, but if you’re out, no worries. Use chili powder or oregano or basil.  Or not.


1 c diced onion (1 cup)
2 T cooking oil
1 small can chopped green chilies (1/4 cup)
1 T minced garlic (2-3 cloves)

1 entire chicken breast, cooked and diced (2-3 cups)
1 quart cooked beans with broth (1 can beans with broth to make 4 cups)
1 t ground cumin
Salt to taste (1 tsp)

1. Saute first 4 ingredients in a hot kettle until onion is soft.
2. Add next four ingredients, stir and simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Serve with hot bread (try the Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread!)

Field Pea Soup


20150330_184435Too tired to grocery shop and not in the mood for fast food, this is what’s for supper tonight. It’s a lighter soup for a warmer evening.

Yes, this soup is almost entirely from cans. But it’s probably still healthier than drive-thru.

indexCanned field peas are hard to find lately. These are *not* blackeyed nor crowder peas, but probably an Austrian winter pea, also known as a dun pea. They are currently my favorite legume and when I see them on the shelf I get half a dozen cans.  I particularly like Allens or Texas Fair.

2 c. sliced smoked sausage
1 c. chopped onion
1 can field peas with snaps
1 can chilies
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can chicken broth
1 t Cajun spice mix
1 t cumin

Saute the sausage and onion together in a small amount of water until the onion is soft. Before lowering heat, add tomatoes and chilies and stir well for a couple of minutes to prevent sticking. Lower heat and add peas, broth and spices. Simmer for 30 minutes.

Do a taste check before adding additional salt or spice. Both the sausage and the peas will add salt and occasionally chilies will add a little fire.

Serves four.

Migrating MS Office


I have an auxiliary part-time job: managing Windows 7.  My Dell Inspiron’s warranty expired about the same time that it began having problems:  USB weirdness, spotty sound card issues, random loss of screen image.

So I bought a backup unit to work on when I finally had to send Big Blue to the shop.  It’s another Dell, not as powerful, not as wide = not as heavy.  So it’s ideal for traveling.

But getting it set up for work has been aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaughhhh.  I have reinstalled MS Office twice, downloaded multiple apps, spent 4+ hours on the phone with Microsoft Support (more a good faith gesture than anything else.  I really didn’t expect them to provide solutions.)

So The CatWirks has a new Category here on the blog just so I can remember what I did the next time this happens.


1.  Secure your computer.  Download these apps from and run them.  They are my most trusted source for freeware and general tweaking advice.

  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware
  • Spybot S&D
  • HijackThis

MajorGeeks has a whole section on how to set these up.  It’s at

It’s a lot of reading, but it’s quicker than dealing with Microsoft Support.

Do this at night when you’re doing the laundry or something.  You don’t want to try to do this during work hours.  It will send you over the edge.

2. Delete the registry key:  instructions for this is at

3.  Boot Word and create a new template from scratch.  On a blank document, set your default font, paragraph, etc.  Go to Word Options and set those preferences.  Name it Normal.dotm and remember to select “Word Macro-Enabled Template” in the Save As Type.  Leave it on your desktop.

4.  Navigate to the Templates folder — mine is in C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft Office.  If you can’t find yours, go back to Word Options\Trust Center\Trust Center Settings\Trusted Locations and you can find the pathway there.

  • Close Word.  Rename your Normal.dotm template (the one in the folder, not the one on your desktop) to something like Old.dotm.  Then drag the new Normal.dotm to your Templates folder.
  • Delete all the other templates in the folder.  They’re probably screwed up, too, and you can create new ones from Normal.dotm when you get that one working right.

Reboot Word and see if it works.  If it doesn’t, try something else.

P.S. If you bought a version that has “non-commercial use” tattooed into the title bar, here’s a hack for that:

I bought a copy of Office 2010 Home and Student edition and was appalled to find “for non-commercial use” appended to the title bar of each Office application in the suite.  You can use the steps below to remove the stupid admonition from your copy of Office.
  1. Open regedit
  2. search for the term “non-commercial”.  Edit them as you wish.
  3. Usually you would be all done here, except that the clever folk at Microsoft have the applications reset these registry entries on opening the application, undoing all your good work!
  4. Right click on it in the tree, select ‘permissions’, then ‘advanced’, then the username (not system, it is the user who is opening and operating the software) and then ‘edit’. I guessed with this bit and allowed all items to be set to ‘allow’ except ‘Set Value’ and ‘Delete’ which are set to ‘Deny’.
  5. Repeat for each user.
  6. Seems long-winded but it worked for me!


via jonathonball


I’ll be adding to this later and rearranging stuff, so stay tuned.  And good luck.



Sweet Potato Pecan Bread by the Harris Sisters


20150213_183339I probably knew what I was doing when I bought a 3# bag of sweet potatoes. I’m not sure I knew what I was doing when I baked them all at the same time.

I got tired of having them one at a time as a side with dinner. So tonight I mashed up all the rest of them and made this bread.

Oh, my goodness, it smells like a party in my kitchen. Of course I didn’t follow the recipe to the letter.  I added raisins to the batter and skimped on the sugar in the batter, and then doused it with a lemon glaze when it came out of the oven.

And it’s what’s for dinner tonight, with a glass of Earl Grey iced tea.  Life is good.

slamming doors


When my neighbor goes out, I hear him.  This building has heavy doors that have to be slammed shut.  So last night around 8 pm I felt the familiar vibrations in my room.

Good, I thought.  I hope he’s going someplace fun.  Earlier I had heard him singing downstairs.  His car has been in its spot a lot lately, and I was afraid maybe he was ill.  So I was glad to know he was getting out.

He wasn’t gone long.  Maybe dinner out and a movie in.

I heard him leave again around 10. Time for the bands to start.  I imagined him laughing and dancing in a club downtown.

But he returned in less than an hour.

And then left again.

And came back.

And left again.

During the times I was trying to go back to sleep, I made up a story about this charming and lovely young man.  He simply went to the store for cookies.  Got home, decided he needed milk. Forgot his wallet and had to make another round trip.

I remember someone telling me about buying 8 balls all night long, one at a time, until the money ran out.  I don’t remember the figure, just that it was several months’ rent.

I don’t know if the money ran out for my neighbor.  The last time I heard the door slam it was followed by a loud thud, just the sound a large chair makes when it’s knocked over.  Or just the sound a healthy male body makes when it hits the floor.

I got up this morning and put in my half-day at work. I made lunch, loaded the dishwasher.  I sat by the open window to write.

The rain has begun.  It is the only sound on the street.  There has been no singing downstairs.

Mentally I review Chapter 5 of the Big Book.  I am glad my neighbor is single, that he has no children at home.

I ask God to help him, and me, and all the homes with slamming doors.

read the book


I’ve been to his home, Rowan Oak, in Oxford many times. But before last night I’d never read a William Faulkner novel.

I know, I know; I’m already ashamed.

Maybe it’s because I always tried to start out with “The Sound and the Fury.” By the second page I still hadn’t figured out what the heck was going on. So I always copped to rather more soothing reading.

But James Franco’s “As I Lay Dying” was on Netflix. As it was Christmas weekend and I had a scarf to knit, I figured, what the heck: another California actor trying to play a country boy. Let’s see how bad this is. “The Beverly Hillbillies” has persistently informed Hollywood’s iconic Southerner and we’re still trying to live it down.

As a director, Franco excelled. But it was Tim Blake Nelson who knocked my socks off. I have known people like Anse Bundren and am probably related to one or two. So my impressions of the film were visceral.

In the Delta, you go about your business in the rain. It’s not unusual to see someone on the street without a raincoat. But in Faulkner’s narrative, oldest son Cash works in a downpour, as both tribute and grief.

His sister, Dewey Dell, faces her dilemma with a naivete that speaks to a different time. Her situation, unfortunately, threatens today’s young woman under the yoke of regressive legislation.

An obsessive fatalism ruled the Bundren family. Burdened by such a mission, they tromped on the tender shoots of Providence. The message was not lost on me.

I located a PDF of the novel and downloaded it last night. I did not stop until I read the last page. Today my eyeballs feel blistered and my attention wanders from my work because I have downloaded “The Sound and the Fury.” Now that I have a feel for Faulkner’s cadence and convoluted narrative, I feel empowered to try it again. Also, I’m excited to see if I learn more new words. I had never experienced the term “pussel-gutted,” but I plan to use it in a comment soon.

Franco made “Sound/Fury” into a movie this year. I think this time I’ll read the book first.



It is a rainy, chilly Monday morning. I have to drive downtown to see my dentist. I’m killing time before I leave, playing 8 Ball Pool on Facebook.

My opponent is DarkFeelings, and his avatar looks slightly like a Smurf. I’m guessing DarkFeelings is a male, because this game is the realm of mostly young or youngish men, rock star or gangsta wannabes.

I wonder what they think about my avatar: a meme of Gromit with a caption that says, “Knitting: It makes everything better.”

Nevertheless, I sympathize with DarkFeelings. I have some Dark Feelings of my own.

See, I was left off a Cool Girls List.

In times past I have been a Cool Girl, times when I immersed myself in a culture (or subculture) which eventually consumed me.

Right now, I am not a Cool Girl. In fact, I’m practically invisible. Since my dad’s death four months ago, I have been rebuilding social stamina. I’m not there yet.

But being left off this latest list felt a lot like adolescence, when I was always too something. Too outspoken. Too nonconformist. Too alpha female (whatever that is).

The truth is, I like those things about myself. It’s when I’m ashamed of them that there’s a problem.

DarkFeelings scratches the cue ball and I run out the game, leaving him with five on the table. I offer to play again but the Smurfy avatar vanishes.

My next opponent has a name I cannot decipher, because it is in Russian. It could be Kevin but it could also be Katie. (There are a few women on here.) This player’s avatar is a photo of two young boys holding hands. It’s possible I’m playing one of the boys’ parents.

But on Facebook one just never knows.

Between shots I ponder the old, familiar feeling of shame, a straitjacket from my throat to my ribs. While Kevin/Katie lines up the next shot, I Google “cool girl.” One result takes me to an article, which I passive-aggressively publish to my Facebook page. It theorizes that coolness is borne of practice, a kind of covert conformity to a very subtle standard.

I do not try to guess the identity of the next 8 Ball player. Drawing conclusions from the wispiest knowledge set me up to step off Monday’s curb into a funk. Making assumptions about what I am and ought to be is just no way to get rid of Dark Feelings.

Instead I discuss it with my Higher Power. And I recall that Jesus Christ was a Cool Girl — until He wasn’t; that is, when He was too outspoken, too nonconformist, too alpha male (whatever that is).

I recall also that He was always hanging out with people who would never have made the Cool Girls List.

Then I pick up my knitting.