Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Another upbeat day

Another really good day. Due to an unforeseen accident, I was alone all day—which allowed me to prove I can do all kinds of things, including pulling up my pants without bending over, fixing lunch, get myself in and out of bed. This heady independence may go to my head.

A new caregiver arrived at 7 a.m., but at 9:15 she got a call that her mom had been in an accident. The poor thing was hysterical. I urged her to go, told her I’d be fine, but she said she had to call the office. I didn’t want that because I didn’t want to take a chance on who they might send at the last minute for a partial shift, so I repeated my assurances. Finally she said she’d go, but she had to calm down first. And she went into the bedroom, had hysterics, talked on the phone, and then said she was going. I pray for that family tonight.

I called Jordan at work, and she called to check a couple of times, but I was fine. The physical therapist came at eleven and stayed about 45 minutes. And therein lies another triumph: when I got myself into bed, she grinned and said, “Nice.” One exercise is always difficult—I have to lift the bad leg straight off the bed, maybe knee high, 20 times. I’ve been getting it a few inches up and Jordan’s been helping it the rest of the way. Today I had done about five leg lifts when I noticed Ellen’s hands were at her side. Without knowing it, I’d been lifting the leg myself.

Lunch, nap, and off to dinner with pal Betty. We went to Winslow’s and sat outside because the evening was so pleasant—scallops, risotto and spinach. So good.

I am disturbed—okay, that’s too mild a word—highly upset at the rate that the administration is taking away protections. So far, in addition to immigrant sweeps and immigration freezes, they have taken away the protection of clean water and the protection of wildlife, introduced a bill to end the all-important Environmental Protection Agency, and introduced a bill to cut nutritional funding for food for poor children in schools, whittle away at public school funding, and open the door for federal funding of charter schools—a move which my state, Texas, heartily supports.

When I said this at supper, Betty, who had initially expressed dismay, said she didn’t know all that. She, her husband, and some friends concluded the other night that all they could do is pray. And at that, I let her have it, both barrels (it’s okay—we’re still friends). But I lectured about the importance of making your voice heard, the negative example of Germany in the 1930s, the news that can be found, selectively on Facebook, the importance of writing your Congressman. She nodded, but I’m not at all sure she’ll do it. I’m afraid the country is too full of people like that—they are distressed, but they do nothing about it.

Come on, people, be activists. Make your voice heard. There are a thousand opportunities around you.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Good, the Bad, but no Ugly

The Good: I went to see my family doctor this morning. He said I was making better progress than he expected and than many patients with less complicated surgeries. He raved (well, as much as doctors rave) about how good I look. When I stood on the scale—yes, I stood without holding on—his nurse said, “I haven’t seen you do that in months and months.” All in all I enjoyed a great reception. And found in spite of my ravenous appetite I’ve lost another two lbs.—although we don’t know how accurate the first weighing was. I told Jordan I wanted to stop for doughnuts on the way home.

The Bad: When we came home, as is custom, Jordan went to let Sophie out so she wouldn’t try to escape as we maneuvered the wheelchair in. She came back saying, “Wait until you see your house. She’s trashed it.” Sophie has never been like those dogs you see on Facebook who strew garbage from one end of the house, tear up furniture, etc., so I couldn’t imagine.

She had tracked mud all over the house—wood floors, carpet, her sleeping chair. And I was expecting friends for lunch. Jordan did a hurry-up vacuum job and then used a damp towel to get up the worst of the mud. The carpet is beyond hope, and I put Renuzit on the grocery list. Anyone have any better suggestions?

Soph was a pain all along this morning. I left her out for an hour to get some fresh air before we shooed her inside. She spent the entire hour chasing squirrels and barking, that high excited yip of a smallish dog. It wasn’t her fault, mind you—the squirrels were taunting her. What’s a girl to do? I just didn’t realize how muddy it was—my view is all of grass.

More good: I wrote 800 words of fiction today—my first foray into a new project, a novella. It isn’t perfect, but it’s a start, and I can begin to feel the juices flowing. And, yes, Elaine, Keisha and Kelly are there. Fun. More tomorrow.

All in all, the day balances out on the good side, really good. How about your day?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Insights in church…and politics at high tea

Tulips, the gift of a friend, bring
spring into the cottage
Started the day by going to church. It’s been months—at least last May—but since I am feeling so well and pain-free, I was more than ready to go back. Have been getting out to eat with friends, and if I can do that, I can go to church. Today was special—a reception for Cyndy Twedell, who's been a minister at the church for 30 years. The brief ceremony was the kind that inevitably brings tears to my eyes, good tears. Cyndy epitomizes as a minister and as an individual Christian love and caring—reaching out to underserved communities, active in our shelter for the homeless, going on mission trips, leading the prayer shawl group, more than I recount but always extending God’s love to others.

During the church service, I had one of those thoughts that surprise you and then seem so obvious: I read on Facebook and elsewhere wry comments that the sitting president has indeed made America great again, he has united the country but not in the way he intended. These remarks stem from the fact that undeniably many more people are politically active and involved than usual. But it dawned on me that this presidency and this Congress have also awakened the faith of many of us. Today in church I had a strong sense of my faith, its importance in my life and its role in guiding how I treat others. My goal is compassion and love for all—all peoples and animal life as well. I am appalled by stories of immigration sweeps that arrest anyone Latino, regardless of their immigration or law-abiding status. I am horrified by stories of people trying to enter or even return to this country who are turned away. For some reason, one story sticks in my craw: legislation to rescind the ban on hunting wolf pups, shooting bears in their dens, and using steel-jawed toe clip traps on bears. The traps cause unbelievable agony, and I cannot believe humans would resort to that when there are humane ways to re-locate bears if necessary. In short, I am appalled by the governmental lack of compassion and caring, by the selfish greed of voting immunity from prosecution for themselves while prosecuting others wildly.

Change to a light note: we had high tea tonight.
Jordan fixed it for a few friends some of whom contributed. I even made chicken salad at nine this morning, before church. She served a beautiful spread. This is my kind of food but I was afraid others would find it slim pickings for supper. I thought Christian for instance would be prowling for snacks by eight o’clock, but not so. We were all over-filled with good food.

A nice surprise, political at that: my neighbor, directly behind me, is president of our neighborhood association and has just announced for the school board. Jason Brown is the kind of guy who really cares about our neighborhood, our kids and schools, and our city. Jacob played with his son until after dark, so Jason walked him around the block to home. We invited him in, asked about his campaign—his campaign consultant told him to practice his spiel on friends and neighbors, so quite quickly, at our request, he was explaining his position on several issues. Fascinating. To my relief, he said Betsy DeVos will have little effect on us at this level.

If he’s on your ballot, please vote for Jason Brown for the Fort Worth ISD School Board.

Interesting day, and I’m tired. Sleep tight, y’all.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Food—or gluttony? And a political p.s.

I am starving all the time lately. Don’t know if my body is anxious to regain the 20 lbs. I lost on my hip journey or what, but I am hungry. Last night I cooked—something that has not been easy for me from the rolling wheelchair (which is not supposed to move while you’re seated, but I cheat a bit) and standard height counters.

Elizabeth, who used to live in the garage apartment, was coming to visit or so I thought. She loved salmon cakes, and I’ve been wanting them for a while, so I decided to do that—except no salmon. Okay, tuna cakes (don’t judge). I need to re-sharpen my cooking skills—the cakes fell apart in the skillet. Granted I did have the tools I need—like a thin metal spatula to turn them. In fact, I don’t have half my kitchen things I really need—butterfly wine opener, rolling pin (Jordan bought one today). I think when the kids cleaned the kitchen they threw out a lot, and their understanding of cooking equipment doesn’t mesh with mine. Mostly when I ask about this or that, I get a shrug.

Back to the tuna cakes—with lots of lemon, one was good. And I have two small ones left for lunch tomorrow. They make terrific sandwiches with mayo. To accompany them last night I cobbled a salad of shredded lettuce and cut canned asparagus--put dairy-free blue cheese dressing on it. Mary Dulle brought the dressing from California, and it’s the best I’ve tasted—saved that humdrum salad.

Today I had lunch with Subie and Carol at Swiss Pastry Shop and ordered a hamburger—they serve Waygu beef and will cook the burger medium rare/rare which is how I love it. Pickles, tomato, lettuce—wonderful but huge. Normally I’d have Black Forest Cake—swoon!—but I’m avoiding dairy again these days. To compensate I brought home a chocolate/raspberry pound cake. Ate the other half of the hamburger tonight for supper. I will serve the pound cake to Elizabeth when she comes in the morning—we had our wires crossed about when we’d visit while she’s in town.

My political thought for the day: I posted elsewhere that my faith underlies all my life, especially these days my politics. I hold firmly to Jesus’ words, “And of these the greatest is love.” Accordingly, I am outraged by many things that strikes me as immoral, and this morning, in an idle moment, I listed some in no special order. Bear in mind though that these things have all started the less than a month that Trumpf has been in office:

Gag order on the EPA and its looming dissolution, plus confirmation today of man who sued the agency several times to lead it—putting a thief in charge of your valuables

Denial of climate change

Threats to our national park system

Denial of transgender rights

Travel ban on foreigners from certain countries

Wholesale deportations and sweeps, blockades, etc. in major cities

Failure to investigate Trmpf’s ties to Russia, Russian influence on our elections or Trumpf’s tax returns

Today Congress apparently voted to okay the shooting of hibernating bear families.

I must add that the Republican Congress bears responsibility for instigating some of these or for failure to stop them.

What a world!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Wowser! Look at my new web page, please

I am over the moon about the redesigned web page that Lisa Auslander made for me. It’s clear, concise, welcoming, and, well, cozy, like the mysteries I write. Lisa has enlivened the page with hand-drawn sketches. No long blocks of copy here. Lisa has captured what I want you to know in small, easily read blocks of type, and it is easy to move from page to page and different topics. I love the simplicity of it—too many authors’ pages overwhelm with elaborate designs.

Please do look, sign up for my “only-occasional” newsletter if you’re so inclined, and admire Lisa’s fine work.

Lisa drew a marvelous sketch of my new cottage, the place that makes my heart happy these days. There’s a sketch of Bertha HonorĂ© Palmer, from The Gilded Cage, and a Craftsman house to introduce the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries. Look particularly at the sketch for the Blue Willow plate (Blue Plate CafĂ© Mysteries).

If you don’t know the Blue Willow story, you should. It’s a love tragedy. The beautiful daughter of a mandarin fell in love with a humble servant, defying her father’s wishes—he wished her to marry a powerful duke, who arrived bearing jewels. The night before the wedding, the young lovers ran away, taking the jewels with them. They found safety on a secluded island and lived happily for many years. But the duke never forgot and finally found them. He sent soldiers who put the pair to death. The gods, pitying them, transformed them into a pair of doves. You can follow the story on the plate, from the lovers running across a garden bridge, chased by the whip-yielding father, to the pair of doves in the sky.

My mom served almost all our meals on Blue Willow china, and I use it today. My collection includes everything from some good English china to the dimestore version, and some passed down from my mom. That china accounts for the Blue Plate Mysteries, though the name is a play on words—it can also stand for the blue plate special of the day, a term some restaurants and cafes use for the daily special. Take your pick.

Monday, February 13, 2017

One of those days

Is there a spot on the moon today? Or does the calendar know it’s the 13th but think it’s Friday? Either way, my luck has changed. Woke up from an afternoon nap feeling sort of blue, and the evening at my desk has done nothing to improve that mood.

I set out to find the files of some novels I had starts on, rough notes, maybe 1000 words of a first draft. There should be two of them, but I cannot find them. It may be that my computer in its wisdom has decided they should be abandoned and has swallowed them. It’s probably the best fate for them, but before I start something new, I wanted to check.

Today I digitized two books, and one was rejected. I had to go back and correct the way my name was displayed. And I burned myself out this morning trying to collect tax information for my accountant. I don’t think I’ll ever finish, and it’s frustrating because it keeps me from creative work.

My publicist wrote with a note that a blog post was due today. But I’d never heard of this blog and hadn’t even begun to think about a topic on the book requested. I don’t do spur-of-the-moment well, so I will lie in bed tonight and think on it. It’s a romance blog—yes, there’s a bit of romance in Murder at Peacock Mansion, but it isn’t front and center by any means.

And then friends came for happy hour. The wife reminded me that we were having lunch with a third friend Friday—oops, my mentor is scheduled to bring lunch Friday. I’ve double-booked myself. You’d think I had a galloping social life but it’s simply not true.

I learned from the physical therapist today that I am classified as homebound—she was taken aback that I have several outings planned this week. I’ve been homebound or mostly so since early fall. Now that I have little or no pain, I’m anxious to get out. In fact, a friend is taking me to a breakfast group in the morning, and my mouth is set for biscuits and gravy. I lost twenty lbs. on this journey, and I can allow myself such indulgences.

With visions of biscuits and gravy, I’m going to pack it up and spend the rest of the evening reading. I’m still enjoying Jenn McKinley’s Hat Shop Mysteries. It does, however, seem like a very long evening ahead, and I don’t want to go to bed early because I’ll not sleep at 4 a.m.if I do that.

Let’s see—I can’t think of anything else to whine about, so I’ll quit. A bit of belly-aching is good for the soul. Thanks for listening. Tomorrow will be a better day. Blessings and sleep tight.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

A confession

I’m contrite this morning, because I was really cranky last night. Just ask Jordan, who bears the brunt of it, simply because she’s here and handy. I know she wishes there were siblings close for her to consult with when I get this way, but Austin, Tomball, and Frisco are a ways distant.

I’m cranky because I’m frustrated by all the restrictions placed on me—physical and emotional. I can’t put full weight on my left foot, I can’t bend over, I can’t cross my legs, I can’t get my left leg at an angle less than 90 degrees. But I think it’s the emotional frustrations that bother me most. I can’t be left alone, although Jordan does leave me for short spells while she runs in the house—I have to promise to sit at my desk or stay in bed. Most of the time I have a caregiver. Now I ask you about the sense in this: today I had a lovely lady I liked a lot, but she’s 84 years old and half my size.

I lost my good disposition when Jordan announced I would have a caregiver on Sunday morning because Jacob is to be an acolyte, and she wants to go to church. I sort of look forward to weekends as a vacation from caregivers. Most of the ladies who have spent time with me are pleasant. I like them, genuinely. But in my small quarters, it’s annoying to have some always present, especially if they’re inclined to be talkative. I crave solitude.

For some reason, I decided in my fog of unhappiness to make my dog the focus of the issue. For almost three weeks, she lived in the main house with Jordan, Christian, Jacob, and their two dogs. She got treats, she slept on the bed, she had a generally good time. So when I came home to the cottage, she didn’t instantly transition back to thinking of this as home. And they all let her into the house any time she wanted to go.

Probably I was a little too firm in insisting they leave her outside, where she’ll default to me house. But daily, she has gotten more used to spending time with me. She sleeps on my bed intermittently during the night, and cuddles up to me as much as she can. I’m always having to warn her off my bad leg.

Jordan and Christian are cooperative in this effort—Jordan insists Sophie knows whose dog she is and where she lives, but Christian says he understands completely how I feel. Sophie isn’t talking about itA.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Food, youngsters, and—taxes

Since finding an online recipe for beans on buttered toast (was it Sam Sifton’s column in the New York Times?), I have been obsessed with the idea. Somewhere in my past, I’ve eaten that and loved it, but nobody in my family or circle of friends recognized it until Jeannie today said, “Oh, I ate that as a child.”

Yesterday on his day with me, Jamie spent a good deal of time cooking a pot of beans. He had soaked the beans the night before and brought an onion, garlic, and bread to fix them for our lunch. The bread was Wonderbread which his daughters like, whereas the recipe calls for a hearty peasant bread—Jamie’s bread did not standup to the beans, but otherwise the lunch was delicious. Beans being beans, I was afraid to have more than one helping but I loved it and am lobbying for it for supper tonight. Try finding the recipe on Google.

Today in Sifton’s column I found a recipe for miso-grilled scallops. It had a good explanation of umami, that fifth taste that always puzzles me a bit but was described there as “delicious.” Hmmm. Maybe I should do another cookbook just because I’m having such fun with recipes..

Plentiful goings and doing at the cottage—in addition to Jamie, the physical therapist came yesterday and put me through my paces, left me with instructions for exercises that I can do without difficulty—4 times a day but they only take about 5 minutes. She’ll come twice a week.

And of course, Jamie all day and a caregiver until three and Jordan’s friends Mike and Marty who brought a yummy supper of chicken and zucchini. Sophie loves it when there’s a full house at the cottage, and so do I.

Today, an outing—went to lunch at Carshon’s, the deli that is a favorite of mine, with Carol who is so good as to load up me and my wheelchair and take me to lunch. Good time, good visit—and I came away with a wonderful idea. Carol prepares their taxes for the accountant on a spread sheet. I’m no genius about spread sheets, always thought them generally a nuisance—I once had an employee who was spread-sheet-nuts and wanted to turn everything into one. Bur I can master a simple one. Tonight, I whizzed through several categories of items and felt truly accomplished. Sigh, still a long way to go. But thanks, Carol, for the idea.

Tonight was ‘50s night at Cotillion, and these ten-year-old boys rolled their T-shirt sleeves and slicked back their hair for the event. So adorable.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Ramblings about dogs, weather, onomatopoeia

Cuteness in my kitchen

My sleeping companion
Cuddled as close to my bad leg as she can get
Lazy day—up at six but fiddled around, especially on Facebook. Now it’s nine in the morning and I still haven’t written my morning blog. I’m still liking this new schedule of rising earlier and getting the blog out early in the day.

Cool this morning in North Texas (53 according to my indoor/outdoor thermometer and only 64 inside—surely that’s wrong) but as I watch the ferocious blizzard in the New York area on TV I’m grateful for our clear skies and bright sunshine. But it won’t be warming up like it did the past few days. Pet peeve: Facebook friends, mostly writing acquaintances, who post dire messages about their weather but never tell us where they are. I want geographical locations, please.

Jacob is studying such things as onomatopoeia and alliteration. I found out last night I was way off the track in spelling onomatopoeia—so much for a graduate degree in English. Jordan and Jacob laughed and laughed at me. Still, I think it’s fairly advanced that he’s learning that in fifth grade. Will he still remember it in sixth? I just queried Jamie and he remembers the meaning but not the spelling.

I spent too much time yesterday on Facebook but there were so many comments about Betsy DeVos and Jeff Sessions that I couldn’t tear myself away. Elizabeth Warren’s attempt to read a letter from the late Coretta Scott King to the Senate and her slap-down by Mitch McConnell are big news—and like some other recent events they’ve galvanized opposition to our so-called president and his appointments. “And, she persisted” is going down in the history book of memes and the onerous (oh oh, Rule #19—don’t impugn a member of the Senate) Mitch McConnell has also written himself into history books but for all the wrong reasons. The so-called president seems to be appointing cabinet people who will dismantle programs. Perhaps his goal is to completely restructure the government--or destroy it.

Finally got a book (No Neighborhood for Old Women) posted to several digital venues last night. Today’s goal: post Desperate for Death, sixth in the Kelly O’Connell series.

 Got so sleepy about 9:30 a.m. I was nodding off into the keyboard, so I went back to bed. A couple of phone calls woke me but I did doze because I remember one dream fragment. Got up with the arrival of son Jamie. Now he is working at the coffee table from his laptop while a pot of beans simmers on the stove. Late but delicious lunch coming up.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

In praise of some politicians

I guess I liked rising early better than I thought because here I am again at my desk at 6:15, waiting for dark to turn to daylight. My body was tired of being in bed, achy. Yesterday I heard from several people who said they love this hour of the day, and I’m beginning to see why.

I am also energized this morning by yesterday’s news. Yes, it was bad news for liberals who value our country’s heritage and want to preserve it in the face of unrestrained madness. The confirmation of Betsy DeVos is a tragedy for our country and our educational system. Private charter schools, which she advocates, have been shown to be discriminatory and generally academic failures. My grandchildren are all (okay almost all) good student that come from academically achieving backgrounds so mine is not a personal worry—it’s for the country, for the thousands of children that we must help move to a high level of existence—better jobs, etc. If we’d done a better job in the past, we might not face the current administration. I don’t take Hilary’s “deplorables” lightly. I understand students at the university where I worked so many years now sport “Make America Great Again” caps and “I’m a deplorable” shirts.

I don’t remember the details but I do recall that early on when DeVos was mentioned, I was more appalled by her lack of knowledge of history and the way the world operates. She seemed not to be a deep thinker. That bothers me as much as her unformed ideas on education.

If I were Betsy DeVos, there would have been little rejoicing last night. She must realize it was a squeaky victory, and one that she owes to overly generous campaign contributions and party loyalty rather than to any accomplishment, knowledge or capability of her own. Go slow on that champagne, Betsy babe.

But look at the challenge to her. I’ve waited years for the progressives in this country to show the spark of life shown yesterday. Fifty—count them, 50—votes against DeVos, mostly Democrats but a few Republicans who listened to their consciences. Phones in DC rang off the wall as folks weighed in with opinions mostly against this appointment. And this protest won’t stop here—it is a rising tide. The man in the White House better learn to swim in rough water.

And then there’s the Senate Majority Leader’s remarkable slap-down of Senator Elizabeth Warren. During hearings on the appointment of Jeff Sessions, generally regarded as an extreme racist, Senator Warren quote a dated letter from Coretta King and was forbidden to speak again for breaking the rule against impugning someone’s character. Pardon me, but if you can’t criticize why are they wasting our time and money on these hearings? A sour-mouthed milquetoast like Mitch McConnell is no match for the fiery and comitted Senator Warren. The difference between the two is basic—she is committed to the good of ALL American people; he is committed to the wealth and success of Mitch McConnell and maybe the Republican Party. Watch out, Mitch—a lot of us are waiting to see you crash and burn.

My dander is up this morning, and I find it energizing.