Monday, August 03, 2015

A good day


At the risk of whining, not all my days have been good lately, what with hobbling around on a swollen foot, losing all the self-confidence I’d built up about walking, and a bit of depression. Today was a good day—not outstanding, but just good. The kind of day I like.

Woke feeling optimistic—good dreams, easy to transition to the real world. Spent the morning working on the recipe section or “Murder at Peacock Mansion.” Working with recipes is always a joy to me. For recipes from the Blue Plate Café I have to keep in mind what kind of food folks expect in a small-town East Texas café, ease of preparation—things cooked by single order really aren’t practical, and the cost of ingredients. So today I chose a lasagna-like but much simpler casserole, shepherd’s pie, vegetable soup, a hearty cheeseburger soup, a recipe for the café’s signature sticky buns (my mom’s recipe), and an enchilada casserole. Still have a dessert to add, but I’m happy with it.

Lunch with my good friend Fred who was my major professor all those years ago when I got my Ph.D. and has remained a friend for forty years. I really value long-standing friendships, and his is special. We ate at Carshon’s, and I indulged in a half a Reuben--so good. Then home to fiddle at the computer and take a long nap.

Jordan came by after Jacob had a play date with the little boys in the house directly behind mine. She has declared that this is a week without clocks, so she arrived at six, and stayed for a happy hour. We made all sorts of plans, including a Saturday night “see Jacob off to camp” dinner, possible trips to Austin, and the like. We laughed, we gossiped, we planned. I am so fortunate to have her close by—she is both a good friend and a treasured daughter. And during our happy hour my other daughter called, so we had a three-way communication—sort of.

Dinner—at 7:30—was a bit of leftover tuna, the bit of leftover salmon stuffing for my pasties (gosh it was good), hummus and a heart of palm stalk. My idea of a meal, and it balanced the not-g--d-for-you Reuben from lunch. Now I’m sleepy, lazy, and content. Don’t know that I’ll do much more than read tonight—oh, I guess I have to wash the dishes.

Some days are that way—nothing unusual but just satisfying. This was one, and I’m grateful.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

In my kitchen


 
Although I love to cook, I’m not a creative cook. I can’t throw some of this and some of that together and make it work. My kids used to say, after kitchen disasters, “You didn’t follow the recipe, did you, Mom?” But tonight I created something good.

I’d eaten the last of the tuna pasties in the freezer and decided I wanted more, but I have only one can of my good tuna and three of salmon. So I looked at recipes for salmon pasties (pastéis) and created my own. Here’s roughly what I threw together for a filling.
1 7 oz. can salmon (Pisces Cannery in Oregon)
1 chopped hard-boiled egg
½ c. grated cheddar or to taste
1 small stalk celery, diced
2 scallions diced
Salt and pepper (light)
Equal parts of sour cream and mayonnaise—enough to bind.
I took refrigerator biscuits, flattened and stretched them, used one as a bottom and the second as a top. Filled with a heaping Tbsp salmon filling. Sealed the edges and baked at 400 until brown. So good but a little rich.
Served with my favorite quick and easy zucchini, a la Julia Childs. Grate amount of zucchini you want, sauté quickly in butter with a dash of olive oil. Salt and pepper. You’re good to go.
Lovely Sunday supper—and now I have four pasties in the freezer. And a refrigerator full of food that I should have eaten tonight.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Moths, Food, and Aging


I had a row with my neighbor last night—yes, the good-looking one. He and Jordan were in the kitchen, where she was cleaning out the fridge, something I’d asked her to do. She opened the pantry and three moths flew out. Jay immediately got the trash and began pitching half the staples I kept in there—opened packages of pasta, rice, cereal, bread crumbs, and I don’t know what all. I told him to stop, and he explained—claimed?—either that they’re laying their eggs there or that those products had the moths poop on them. When I said I’d stored things that way as a housekeeper for fifty years, he said, “I do it at my own house.” Non sequitur. I stalked off to my computer (my place of refuge.) As he left, Jay said, “I’m going to Central Market tomorrow to replenish your pantry. Want to go?” The politest I could manage was, “I’ll call you.”

Truth was I was crabby. I hadn’t slept well in several nights—my leg kept hurting. I had no appetite and no energy. But beyond that, I felt marginalized in my own home. Other people were making housekeeping decisions about my kitchen! I suddenly understood how my mom felt. She, having lived through the Depression, saved every tiny bit of leftovers, storing them in small jars in the back of the fridge where they soon began to grow mold. Drove my brother wild, and we periodically cleaned it all out. I can still hear Mom mimicking me, “Just pitch it!”

I think aging has been the Joe Bftsplk black cloud hanging over my head all week. The possibility of a blood clot scared me, and then in spite of medical reassurance that there was no clot, I began to suspect they’d just missed it. It wasn’t getting any better—in fact, the leg pain was worse. It’s amazing what you can convince yourself of at 3:30 a.m. when you can’t sleep. I truly began to think I’d never walk self-confidently again (okay, there was even one vision of me in a wheelchair), that perhaps the clot would break loose in my sleep (what sleep?) and I’d never wake up. In calm retrospect I’ll just say that a writer has to have a vivid imagination.

My leg was particularly painful last night, so that at 3:30 I was thinking not about wheelchairs but who I could call. I realized that it didn’t hurt except when I lay down, so I sat dangling my legs (against all medical advice to keep that foot elevated) and then I walked around. I also realized if I lay perfectly still, the cramping in my calf was less frequent and severe. The doctor had assured me the pain was because I was favoring the foot and walking funny. This afternoon I took a long deep nap—slept on in spite of Jacob crawling in and out of bed, coming to talk to me, etc. No cramping. Good sleep. This evening, a vegetable dinner tasted good, and I have my enthusiasm back.

Amazing how the mind can push us into aging if we let it. And Jay? We went grocery shopping this morning and mended our fences. He’s too good a friend and takes too good care of me to stay angry. My world is looking good tonight.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Time to put my feet up


I have enjoyed this enforced week at home, even if I haven’t elevated my foot as much as I should. I’m ready to move on and get back into the world. My foot, however, is not. The ankle is still puffy, and I still have fleeting but fairly serious pain at night—like what I imagine phantom pain is like if you’ve lost a limb. The doctor said to check back in two weeks if it isn’t better, and it’s only been four days since I saw him.

I’ve been busy at my desk and feel good about what I’ve done. After a strongly positive review from my beta reader (how he’d laugh at that term), I sent “Murder at Peacock Mansion” off to an editor. My chores for today were to write a blurb and a synopsis—I know, I know. The synopsis should come first. But I get involved in the story I’m telling, and it changes so far from any synopsis I did before writing that the idea is futile. I know people who keep chapter by chapter outlines as they go—probably a great idea, but once again it would stop the flow of my story-telling. I read today that we should be open to new ways of editing and revising and I agree—except that I don’t want to. I rely on a good editor to tell me if I’ve run amuck.

Before I labored over a blurb, I checked my file—and I’d already written a better than average blurb (at least in my opinion). Started the synopsis and it went poorly, sounding like “And then this happens, and then that.” My novel disappeared in the mechanical retelling. So I gave up and completed my final chore—asking two authors to write short endorsements of the work. To my delight, the first two I asked agreed. I’m feeling really good about the week’s accomplishments.

I’ve been thinking about the craft of writing a lot lately. I follow the Sisters in Crime listserv and that of Guppies (a subgroup) religiously, and there are lots of posts like the one just referred to about revision and editing. Some authors make elaborate outlines, do extensive character profiles, keep spreadsheets, etc. —in short, they have the book almost written before they type “Chapter One.” Certainly would have helped me with a synopsis if I'd done that. 

I’m a pantser. I get that first sentence, and I’m off. I do believe the old saw that your characters tell you what’s going to happen if you’ll only listen to them. So I write without a clear plan of what’s going to happen or where I’m going next. Of course, that’s why I ended up with a woman having two college-age children in one chapter, four children in another, and then one. She now has one diva daughter, about to go off to a women’s college.

I ask myself often if I truly value the spontaneity of my method or if that’s a cop-out. Maybe I’m too lazy to learn about spreadsheets and Scrivener and One Note and all those writing tools my colleagues talk about. Or maybe you really can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Random thoughts on the death of Cecil the lion


So much has been written about the slaughter of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s most famous lion, that I am hesitant to add to the mixture of fact and fiction. But the incident troubles me so much I rehashed it too many times in one of those three-o’clock and I can’t sleep times last night.

The dentist’s apology and protests of innocence ring hollow. He has already been penalized for poaching a bear and, today, revelations hint he may also be a sexual predator (you never know about what you read on Facebook). But this I do know: a man who hunts for sport and trophy heads and his own pleasure, has no soul. I shudder to think of his house, every wall sporting a mounted trophy head. Hunting for food is one thing; hunting for sport totally another.

Please tell me it’s not true (but I suspect it is) that Cecil was lured out of the wildlife refuge by an animal carcass strapped to a vehicle.

Hunting for sport with bow and arrow is beyond cruel. This was not a clean kill, and the wounded lion lived forty hours after first being shot. The hunters had to search for him and finish him off with a rifle.

Selfishly, I hope to see no more pictures of Cecil on the net. He was a magnificent animal, and my heart breaks every time I see him.

It’s time to move beyond outrage to concrete action to stop poaching and curb legal hunting worldwide. I’m glad to see that steps are being taken in that direction. Want to help? Here’s an address: http://www.wildcru.org. It’s for the Wildlife Conservation Research Unit. There’s also a petition going around to put lions on the endangered species list (they may already be—not sure about that). We can do something concrete to help the world by speaking out. My mom used to say that some good comes of everything—making a difference for wildlife may be the good that comes out of this tragedy.

Karma is effective: I suspect the dentist’s life will never again be filled with hunts and trophies and, as one writer said, searches for his manhood. His practice is effectively ruined—who would take their teeth to him? I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife left him, if he has a wife. And he’s cowering in a corner somewhere. Not sure about this, but I read that if the use of a lure to get Cecil on public property is proven, the dentist can be extradited and prosecuted. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the case, and the White House has accepted a petition to look into it. One of the hunters who was with him has been charged in Zimbabwe with failure to prevent an unlawful kill.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Overcoming Inertia

 
Once I told a colleague that I usually got food for the cat while swishing mouthwash around in my mouth because who wants to just stand there for sixty seconds. She howled with laughter. “You of all people would not want to waste sixty seconds.” And that’s been the pattern of my life—maybe a little shy of OCD but not much. I’ve always kept busy.

Lately I’ve been troubled by a lack of energy, an unwillingness to do simple chores around the house, though I’m perfectly content to follow odd leads, read long e-mails, etc. at my computer. Is it the much-dreaded computer addiction? Is inertia a sign of aging? What happened to my ambition? It’s been worse, of course, since my swollen foot. I’ve written enough about that to last a lifetime, but I will say it’s better today—not perfect, but I’m wearing shoes and making a conscious effort to walk normally.

This morning I decided my project would be to dig in to the reader’s “points to ponder” in “Murder at Peacock Mansion”—they were all valid points that added depth to the manuscript, like a reference to Miss Havisham or the subtle difference between using “handgun” and “pistol.” Ten minutes later I’d taken care of all of them, so I decided I would read through the manuscript one more time before sending it to the editor.

About noon, while I ate lunch, I took a break and turned to the novel I’m currently reading. Didn’t take me long to decide my own manuscript was more interesting—is that ego or what?—and go back to editing. It’s amazing what you find even though you’ve read the darn thing countless times. Today I found a woman had two children on one page, one a bit later, and then four. Now she only has one—a spoiled diva of a young woman. I found on my own places where I could add a little depth of character, a little more sense of place—and I was having fun doing it.

Tonight I’m through—my mysteries are fairly short—and pleased with the result. One place I need to go back and tweet and then it goes to the editor. So maybe I’m past inertia. I also did two loads of laundry, tried on a new shirt I’d ordered and decided to keep it (it lay on the bedroom chair for several days), and managed to keep up with the kitchen—not hard when I’m home alone all day and a friend brings supper. But I’m going to keep working on this inertia thing—there are always little things to be done: the dishwasher should be run—it smells musty which may signal the end of my not using the hot-dry cycle; there’s a blue canvas bag on the dining room floor that belongs to a friend but needs to be safely stored for her; a few clean clothes to hang in my closet. Little stuff like that I once would never have overlooked and now I do. I have decided to tackle a bit of it each day.

Sweet dreams, friends.

 

 

 

 

 

Overcoming inertia

 Once I told a colleague that I usually got food for the cat while swishing mouthwash around in my mouth because who wants to just stand there for sixty seconds. She howled with laughter. “You of all people would not want to waste sixty seconds.” And that’s been the pattern of my life—maybe a little shy of OCD but not much. I’ve always kept busy.
Lately I’ve been troubled by a lack of energy, an unwillingness to do simple chores around the house, though I’m perfectly content to follow odd leads, read long e-mails, etc. at my computer. Is it the much-dreaded computer addiction? Is inertia a sign of aging? What happened to my ambition? It’s been worse, of course, since my swollen foot. I’ve written enough about that to last a lifetime, but I will say it’s better today—not perfect, but I’m wearing shoes and making a conscious effort to walk normally.
This morning I decided my project would be to dig in to the reader’s “points to ponder” in “Murder at Peacock Mansion”—they were all valid points that added depth to the manuscript, like a reference to Miss Havisham or the subtle difference between using “handgun” and “pistol.” Ten minutes later I’d taken care of all of them, so I decided I would read through the manuscript one more time before sending it to the editor.
About noon, while I ate lunch, I took a break and turned to the novel I’m currently reading. Didn’t take me long to decide my own manuscript was more interesting—is that ego or what?—and go back to editing. It’s amazing what you find even though you’ve read the darn thing countless times. Today I found a woman had two children on one page, one a bit later, and then four. Now she only has one—a spoiled diva of a young woman. I found on my own places where I could add a little depth of character, a little more sense of place—and I was having fun doing it.
Tonight I’m through—my mysteries are fairly short—and pleased with the result. One place I need to go back and tweak and then it goes to the editor. So maybe I’m past inertia. I also did two loads of laundry, tried on a new shirt I’d ordered and decided to keep it (it lay on the bedroom chair for several days), and managed to keep up with the kitchen—not hard when I’m home alone all day and a friend brings supper. But I’m going to keep working on this inertia thing—there are always little things to be done: the dishwasher should be run—it smells musty which may signal the end of my not using the hot-dry cycle; there’s a blue canvas bag on the dining room floor that belongs to a friend but needs to be safely stored for her; a few clean clothes to hang in my closet. Little stuff like that I once would never have overlooked and now I do. I have decided to tackle a bit of it each day.
Sweet dreams, friends.

 

 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Happy Days are here again


This morning I had my first fit of temper since my foot swelled. I was tired of lurching around the house from furniture to furniture, making sure there was a cane handy, not being able to do anything or go anywhere. On the other hand, I was afraid of pushing my luck. So I had a pity party. After much trepidation, I took a French bath—worked better than I thought. Then an early lunch, a quick nap, and a good friend drove me to the doctor—something else I probably could have done but was afraid to.

Now I’m a new person. The doctor said it was probably venous insufficiency (which translates to old age in my mind)—a varicose vein probably burst. Apparently this would account for the pain that preceded the swelling and the swelling itself. It should, he said, resolve shortly. Best of all he advised removing the compression bandage because all it did was push the swelling into my toes. And he eliminated the ankle brace—“there’s nothing wrong with your ankle.” Such a relief. He did take lots of blood to rule out other things,

Left his office and salvaged a bit of my afternoon nap and then ran around the house like the energizer bunny, clearing off surfaces that were cluttered and bothering me, picking up this, that, and the other and putting them where they belonged, Even set out plates, napkins and flatware for friends who brought Tuesday night dinner to me.

Tonight, I admit I may have done too much—just a tad. But Jordan and Christian came in, and she was delighted to see me in shoes and walking well. It’s a whole new me, with a whole new attitude. I’m going to lay low for a couple of days before attempting much, but I’m a happy camper tonight.

Monday, July 27, 2015

The birthday fun continues

 
Sophie just had to get in the picture
with me, Carol on the left, and Kathie on the right
So far I haven’t had much time to feel sorry for myself with my foot elevated. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve had enough time to elevate it. But I continue to be spoiled by friends and family. Today Jean came for lunch, and we enjoyed leftover layered salad. Tonight Carol and I were supposed to go to Kathie’s in Arlington for a celebration of our shared birthdays. When I said I really didn’t think I could do that, Kathie packed up a delicious summer supper and brought it to my house. A main dish of layers of rice, black beans, cheese and vegetables, with salad dressing. So delicious. And a fruit tart for dessert. If nothing else my inactivity plus all these kind gestures of food are going to make me fat(ter).

I tried to keep my foot elevated as much as I could. Slept with a pillow under it. Got up about seven to let Sophie out and went back to bed for another hour. I figure this week all I really must do is blog and keep up with email. So about mid-morning I went to the sunroom, sat on the couch with my foot on a large stuffed white tiger, intending to read all the material they sent home with me from the ER. Instead I fell asleep. After lunch and a few more emails, I slept again—wakened only when Subie brought me leftovers from their refrigerator (they’re cleaning out for a remodeling). Then it was Jay, who watered my porch plants and put my new inspection sticker on the car; Jordan, who emptied the dishwasher, put a few new dishes in, and straightened the kitchen; then a friend of Jordan’s who was sweet enough to bring me a tiny Bundt cake. As usual, my house overflowed with happiness at happy hour. And for a while I lay on the couch with three pillows under my foot—Jay insisted it has to be higher than my heart. I couldn’t really take part in conversation from that position, so I finally settled for sitting with the foot on the coffee table again. And then my dinner guests were here. Jay left, outnumbered by women five to one. And Jordan and Chandry left soon after.

Carol, Kathie and I had our usual good time—old friends used to being together, knowing the ups and downs of each others’ lives. We chatted, caught up, Kathie and I told grandchildren stories, and we just had a good time.
Tomorrow I go to the doctor to hear what he says about my foot. It was much less swollen this morning but as I did what little I had to do on my feet, it began to swell more. I have iced it twice and hope for a miracle in the morning.

A quick Jacob story: Jordan was talking to him from the ER, reassuring him I was okay. She handed me the phone.
Jacob: Hi, Juju. Do you have it?
Me: It what?
Jacob: You know, the sickness. My dad told me all about it this morning.
All I can figure is that Christian told him about blood clots, so I assured him I didn’t have one and would be okay. But I loved “the sickness”—sounded like TB or plague or some awful medieval disease.

Sleep well, my friends, and keep your feet elevated.

 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sometimes life throw you a curve


July 26, 2015
My guardian angel
Sometimes life throws you a curve, and it did me this morning. I woke up with my left foot twice the size of my right. I’d been having trouble with the foot for five nights—weird, acute but brief pain during the night. Yesterday via phone my brother confirmed my diagnosis of neuropathy. This morning, when I reported the swelling, he said “There goes the neuropathy diagnosis. Go to ER to be sure you don’t have a clot.” I called Jordan, and she was here in record time. We spent the next three hours in the ER, where by x-ray and ultrasound they ruled out a clot—the good news. Best diagnosis: an arthritic flare-up with possible gout. I’m off my feet for at least three or four days, except for what little moving about I must do.

Not my best picture--no makeup
sloppy clothes hastily grabbed
and an attitude
Here’s a paean to Jordan. She has been my absolute guardian angel all day (not that she doesn’t take good care of me every day). In the ER, she handed me everything from banana to green tea to my phone and the newspaper. She asked the questions I forgot to ask, and she kept her uncle and big brother up to date. The other two siblings were traveling, and she decided not to worry them.

Once we got home she went to the drugstore for a prescription and a compression sock, fixed lunch—Christian and Jacob had joined the party by then—and she and Christian made the salad I was supposed to make for supper tonight.

Because here’s the kicker—we had fifteen people to celebrate my birthday and that of Susan Halbower, my neighbor and close friend. A salad buffet—everyone brought a salad, and Jordan made a wonderful antipasto. Good meal for a summer evening. Jordan cleaned the kitchen and started my new dishwasher on its maiden run. My house is in almost perfect shape, my plants watered (thank to Jacob), my dog fed and happy.

It was a lovely evening, and I sat on the couch, with my ugly foot on a cushion on the coffee table, the entire time while people brought me food and drink. I know in 24 hours I’ll be itching to be on the go, but tonight I felt like a queen and was quite content. And now am very tired.