Puppy Pee, Fiona Hill And Growing Up Coal

As the public phase of the impeachment hearings in Washington, D.C., wrapped up this week, dark late November clouds hung over my neighborhood.

And on the stoop Friday morning, the winds picked up with vigor, encouraging the Bradford Pear trees in my front yard to finally begin shedding their leaves. They are always the last to get undressed in the fall. 

Waiting for them to catch up with the rest of the neighborhood trees is as frustrating as taking our new puppy outside for his final pee break before bedtime. Like the Bradford Pears, he's generally in no hurry.

The wait is interminable, but if we don't make sure he piddles before bedding down for the night, the odds that we'll wake up to a squishy spot in the carpet are pretty much a sure bet. 

Forget coffee. 

Nothing wakes you up faster than stepping barefoot into a wet spot as your new puppy furiously wags his tail because it's finally time to go outside and bark at the neighborhood squirrels.

In any case, I've taken to going on an inspection tour each morning. Call it the trade off one makes for the pleasure of welcoming dogs into the house. 

Aside from watching my step in the morning, the main thing that got my attention while I was home from the newsroom this week was Fiona Hill's testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. But not necessarily for what you might think. 

I mean, sure, I was interested in what she had to say related to the impeachment inquiry. If nothing else, I get paid to keep up with ongoing events. But I didn't expect to identify with her. 

In her opening statement, Hill talked about her background growing up poor in a northern English coal mining family and how that would have held her back if she had remained in her native country. "Years later," she said, "I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England. I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement. This background has never set me back in America."

Her story is a familiar one to those of us from the coal mining region of Appalachia. 

And although I didn't really grow up poor in my home state of West Virginia, and I don't think I have much of the accent that marks people from the mountains, I haven't always escaped the stereotype. And I did have to leave to find more lucrative work elsewhere. 

Well, maybe not entirely. I couldn't bring myself to move to Washington, D.C., when I took my current newsroom job. I commute from my home in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, having moved from the other side of the state to within striking distance of D.C., in 2004 for the chance to take my shot.

The point is, I DID have to move. And years ago, early in my career, being from West Virginia didn't seem to help when I interviewed for a job in New Hampshire. 

I was so discouraged that I stopped seeking advancement elsewhere for a very long time.

In the end, though, life worked out.

Now I'm at the point where I don't necessarily need to worry about how to move my career forward.

Plus, I need a bathroom break. If I don't bring this post to an end right here, there's going to be a squishy spot in the carpet. 


  1. It takes a confident, comfortable in your own skin person to admit you may some day be responsible for a squishy spot.


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