Thursday, August 27, 2015

Getting back in shape

I've realized, with regret, that I was really sedentary this summer. It was hot, I didn't have much reason to get out, and I sat at my desk a whole lot. At first going the block to get Jacob and back left me winded, and that trip to the lower levels of his school absolutely undid me. Today, carrying in groceries about finished me--but I have to add that I had a lot of heavy items, too many packed in each bag. I gratefully put the frozen things away and then took a time out at my desk before unpacking the rest. The words of a friend echoed in my mind, "Move it or lose it." So now I have to move it.
I used to do yoga almost every day but a combination of things has made me lazy about it, beginning with physical therapy. I figured I worked hard enough there that I didn't have to do much else. Faulty reasoning on my part. And then there was that episode with my swollen foot--my left ankle is still half again as big as my right, and I have dropfoot in that foot--barefoot, the whole foot comes down at once instead of heel and toe in a nice rhythm. With shoes I do a bit better but the front end of my foot tends to slap down. Instead of dropfoot, I call it slapfoot. Too much information, but it was a convenient excuse not to exercise. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to explore the problem.
And early in September Jordan has arranged for a good friend of hers to bring a yoga coach and check my routines and give me a new regime.
I've been happy eliminating exercise from my daily schedule because I always have work on my desk, and I often resent the time exercises takes. But I realize that's a foolish excuse at my age--move it or lose it, and I'm going to move it.
I've also gained weight this summer, though I'm fairly careful about what I eat, trying to avoid sandwiches so I don't eat the bread, never having more than a half, always eating small portions. But then something tempts me. Yesterday I had the best hamburger I've had in forever--a thick, juicy patty (hate thin dry ones) with pimiento cheese, a slice of green tomato, and grilled onions. Ate half for lunch and the other half for supper. The problem is I really enjoy cooking good food, eating in restaurants, and entertaining. I'm torn between the philosophy of staying thin (long ago out of my reach) and saying, "What the heck! At your age, enjoy the things you like to eat." Life is full of choices.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Rant, Rave, and Dismay

I am so dismayed by the ignorance of the attacks on Planned Parenthood and the gullibility of those who swallow the false information they are being fed that I feel I must speak out. Today was the final straw when I read that PP had sliced through a dead baby’s face to retrieve its brain. I am neither anatomist nor pathologist (I did work for one for a while) but I feel quite sure that’s not the path to the brain. It’s one more outrageous fabricated lie that Pro-Life people are falling for, like photo-shopped and staged videos.

Let me say up front that I am not in favor of abortion. I was unable to bear a child, but through God’s grace I have four wonderful children, all adopted. They are the foundation of my life, and raising them was pure joy (well, most of the time). I would have been heartbroken (but silent) if either of my two daughters or two daughters-in-law wanted an abortion. But I know there are circumstances where that is the wisest course—a defective embryo that would have a short, miserable life; a pregnancy that endangers the mother’s life; even a baby with no one to care for or love it once it enters this world. The big point is that’s an individual woman’s decision—it’s not one to be made by men who will never know the trauma of abortion, the heart ache. Pro-life advocates seem to think it’s a birth control method; I assure you that for mothers who make that decision it is much more of a life changer than that. I bless the women who gave birth to my children, and each year on each child’s birthday I saw a prayer for that birth mother who must remember and wonder and long for her child. I want to tell her how well he or she is doing. But those women were fortunate to have an alternative—a reputable maternity home, few of which exist today. Poor women in that day often resorted to back alley, coat-hanger abortions which often rendered them sterile and sometimes robbed them of their lives.

Back to Planned Parenthood, abortion is only 3% of their mission. Most of it is providing preventive health care to indigent women and contraceptive and other counseling. By so doing, they have prevented thousands upon thousands of abortions—that’s their main mission. If a woman comes to them determined to have an abortion, they make sure she has the safest procedure possible. And only if the woman voluntarily releases the fetus, do they donate fetal tissue, from which they make no profit. But you and I and our families and friends profit immensely from the research that results.

Those stories about live fetuses, selling body parts, all those exaggerated stories are propaganda and those who fall for it should be embarrassed. If you really want every fetus to be born, even defective ones, then step forward, say you’ll raise and care for and love and provide medical attention for each and every baby. Otherwise, please educate yourselves on the distinction between reality and scare techniques.

Rant over. May be resumed at a later date.

School daze continues

Yesterday Jacob and five other boys went to play at one boy’s house—first day of school, no homework, back together again. Needless to say, they had a blast—and one result was one of the cutest pictures I’ve seen in a long time. Oh to be nine and carefree again.

Today three of those boys came home with Jacob. I thought, “Well, I’ve raised four. I can handle this.” What I didn’t figure was my four were never all boys and all nine years old at the same time. The energy is astounding and a bit intimidating. They played in the front yard, voices at the top of their lungs, and then trooped through the house to the backyard. I asked Jacob to use the pooper scooper first but I have no guarantee that he did that. He and Hayes did take my garbage carts to the curb for me, which was great. Then I corralled them for snacks, which were noisily consumed.

I mentioned that what I had been told was they would do homework—they disappeared into the back room, where it was relatively quiet for a bit, and then they solemnly told me they’d done a spelling test. See my skeptical expression.  Then it was outside, inside, noisy, suspiciously quiet. Fortunately Jordan arrived about 4:10 to take charge.

After a bit two of the boys were picked up, and Jordan went home, so I was left for our usual Tuesday night supper at the Grill with Jacob and Hayes. We first went and picked up suppers for Subie and Phil—he had eyelid surgery today, felt medium, apparently looked worse, and wasn’t going out. Then we went back to the Grill met a couple of neighbors and had a good dinner. Cheese quesadilla for me. I’d been urging Jacob to try one and he refused; when he saw mine he said, “I’m getting that next time.” I shared with him.

Now we’re quietly at home, almost ready to settle down. In some ways, I’m glad to have the school year started, but I’m also glad Jacob has been told no play dates tomorrow. Straight home and to homework. Fourth grade may be a long year.


Monday, August 24, 2015

Back to school

Today was back to school for most schools across the country, a day for sharing those memorable back to school pictures. Like any proud grandparent, I’m pleased to show the gallery.

First up, Morgan and Kegan Alter of Tomball, Texas, with their beautiful mom, Lisa, who teaches in the Tomball ISD. I haven’t seen them in a while, and Kegan particularly has grown.

Then the Austin boys, Sawyer on the left, and Ford on the right. A real contrast in types. Sawyer is a dedicated guitar player—note the long hair—and Ford is all about sports. They look like twins, but Sawyer is a year and a half older than his brother.

Then the Frisco girls—Eden, going into seventh grade; missing is big sister Maddie, who will be a junior in high school and had some off-campus program this morning. Who can keep up with teenagers?

And finally Jacob, going into fourth grade and quite happy about it. He started off the school year by going to play with friends and declared it a good day. He too looks so much older, though I see him most every day.
Am I a proud grandma? With this crew, you betcha!

For me, it was a day back into routine. I had to be up early to go with Jacob and his parents to meet the teacher, since I am the pick-up person. His classroom is on the lower level and in the corner farthest possible from my house. I’m hoping to work up some rainy day pick-up plans so I don’t have to trek down those staircases. Today, a sunny day so humid it felt like the Caribbean, I met him outside only to learn he wanted to go home with friends. From now on, we’re making those arrangements a day ahead! He had minimal homework but I know that’s coming next. They tell me fourth grade is not as bad as third, and I surely hope that’s true.

On the bright side, I’m looking forward to this year getting me out of my lazy summer doldrums when I stayed inside so much.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Cookin’ up a storm

I’m in a cooking spell lately. For one thing, I keep finding recipes that I want to try. My “Entrees Not Tried” file includes several dishes in which eggs are poached in a tomato base, each a little different that the others. Today I chose one that had a mostly kale base with cherry tomatoes sprinkled over it.

Begins with three pieces of thick-cut bacon, diced and then crisped in a Tbsp. of butter. Add one medium onion sliced thin and sauté until soft. Add about a third cup of wine and washed, stemmed kale—I used one really large bunch. Salt and pepper the kale, cover the pan, and let it cook down. Then sprinkle with a generous pinch of nutmeg and a cup of cream (my conscience got me, and I used half and half—which meant it took longer to thicken). When thickened, remove from burner and scatter with cherry tomatoes halved.

I made it to that point in the morning and then refrigerated. Before serving I made pockets in the kale mixture and broke raw eggs into each pocket. Two eggs for men, one for me. (I was cooking for two good friends whose wives were out of town.) Sprinkled the whole thing with Parmesan. Baked for 25 minutes or until eggs were set. Actually, for me they were too set—I like my eggs runny. The guys liked them hard. Echoes a running battle in my family, as I’m the only one who likes easy-over, soft-scrambled, etc. Still this was a one-dish meal—protein (eggs and bacon), dairy (cream and cheese), vegetables—kale, onions, and tomatoes.

Served with crusty Parmesan bread and a fruit salad. Got raves and they ate the whole thing!

Another dish I made recently was pure self-indulgence—rich but so good. Calls for brushing melted butter on both side of Texas toast (I used a good deli rye). Top with crab salad—I used a can of flaked because it was so much cheaper (lump crab, while wonderful, is really expensive, even canned—and at the market you have to buy a lb. of frozen). I made the salad with not too much mayo, a touch of Dijon, and a bit of lemon juice—the Dijon really gave it a spark. Top with shredded Monterrey Jack cheese, stalks of asparagus and sliced Jack cheese. Run under the broiler. So good. And can be fixed for one, maybe two, in your toaster oven without heating up the whole kitchen.

Next on my agenda? Well, I have my eye on a mushroom stroganoff recipe I found. Jordan, ever conventional, said, “Well, if you add some beef.” I don’t think so. The mushrooms will be enough.

In late September friends from D.C. are coming for Sunday supper. Way back when I cooked for twenty or so on Sundays (was I really that young and energetic?) they were at the table every week. I think I’ll ask and see what dishes they remember particularly liking.

This morning as I tackled the laborious chore of dicing bacon and slicing onions, I was grateful for my back brace. Even so, had to sit after the bacon—hate that worse than the onion. Finished dish was worth it.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Pollyanna speaks again

Today was Meet the Frogs day at TCU, and Jordan, Christian and Jacob were first in line (no, I did not go with them). Christian went to talk to Gary Patterson, but Jacob visited with his special buddy, Ju’juan Story, a wide receiver. Last year, Christian found Ju’juan’s wallet in a parking lot and returned it, and the football player has been Jacob’s hero ever since. The kindness that these football players show to star-struck youngsters at this event makes my heart glad. It’s one of the feel-good stories that convinces me there are a lot of good people in this world, and maybe, just maybe, American is growing kinder.

Take the three Americans—not Marines as originally reported but childhood friends—who were heroes in the terrorist attack on a French train. Or the firefighters who are working so tirelessly, at risk of their lives, in the State of Washington. Or the young man who sensed something wrong about a couple arguing at a bus stop and stayed with them until he could call the police—turns out the man was trying to kidnap his ex-girlfriend and the young man may well have saved her life. When I fell recently in a restaurant parking lot, a crowd of people was almost immediately upon me, offering help, expressing concern. I see other instances—not all of which I can call to mind right now, of the goodness of our people. I firmly believe that most people, given the chance, will do the right thing.

I am subject, as most of you know, to sudden attacks of “I can’t take a step away” from whatever secure thing I am holding on to. It’s that first step, and after that I’m off and running. I have asked a wide variety of strangers to help me, and each and every one has been helpful and concerned. It has occurred to me that I could be asking the wrong person—a purse thief, mugger, who knows what—but so far my faith in people is confirmed.

But then I read pure ugly hatred and fervent misinformation on Facebook, and I’m appalled. Obama is the son of Satan; Planned Parenthood is selling body parts from live fetuses; Boehner and McConnell are ready to sacrifice the security of America over the issue of Planned Parenthood; and on it goes. Politicians are playing to the ignorance and fear of too many Americans—what happened to public servants who had the good of the nation at heart? It too often seems that politicians have their egos and pocketbooks at heart. Disheartening. Call me Pollyanna again, but I believe good will triumph, and we will elect in 2016 a moderate, reasonable, capable president. Of course, being me, I know he’ll be a Democrat, but hey! That’s just me.

We live in interesting times, and I so often think of my father, a yellow-dog Democrat up north where that term wasn’t even known. He’d have apoplexy over our current political situation. But those of us out of the political spotlight? Most of us are good people, good Americans.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Karma and the sense of contentment

This morning was so lovely—sunny, a slight breeze, and a temperature of mid-70s—that I put the top down on my car and went sailing along to Central Market to buy a few delicacies. And I do mean delicacies—do you realize three slices of thick-cut bacon cost $6? And two chocolate bars with toffee and sea water salt were $5 for both. Well, I deserve.

But as I drove along, I was thinking about how good life is. Here I was driving with the wind in my hair on a perfect morning. I have a perfect family, a good (no, not quite perfect) career, a perfect house for me, an almost perfect dog. What more could I want? And then that puritanical thought crept it: “Careful, Judith. Don’t get smug because that’s when karma smacks you.”

And it did. I got to the market to find my favorite parking spot gone, so I took the next handicapped spot. But between the post by the car and the carts, there’s a five-foot gap. And I had one of my frozen moments. Couldn’t make myself cross that distance. Finally a nice man came along and at my request, brought me a cart. He kindly asked if he could be of more help, and I assured him once I had the cart I was fine. I know that was yet another incident where anticipation got the best of me—probably not for the last time. I’m learning to be philosophical about it, but that frozen moment followed me home in the back of my mind.

There followed a day I enjoyed; got a neighborhood newsletter almost done, caught up on odds and ends. And then, about 7:30 Jordan, Christian and Jacob brought tacos from
Fuzzy’s. Dinnertime turned into hilarity. Jacob said to his father, “You were going to tell me where babies come from.” Christian replied he would be he wanted to do a little more research. Research? For pity’s sake, he fathered that child.

Jacob treated us to his version, First we had to convince him babies did not grow in the vagina but the uterus. That tickled him because he thought of the planet Uranus and then envisioned walking along the street asking a casual passerby, “How’s Uranus?” Bad joke, Jacob.

Then we got to when the baby is big enough it moves up to the momma’s belly, and the belly button attaches—well, I’m not sure what. But he called it the belly-long. Christian said, “Umbilical cord,” and he said, “Umbilibelly-long.” It seems the child thinks all babies are born by C-section, and when I started to say something, he was quick with, “You don’t know. You never had any babies.” He’s right. As the adoptive mother of four, I never had a baby.

The hardest part was that he thought until he was born, he was dead inside his mom. We worked on that but I’m not sure how far we got.

One of the most interesting dinnertime discussions I’ve had in a long time.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

That breath of Fall

My family in Tomball sent me this lovely wreath for my front door as a belated birthday present (well, I know daughter-in-law Lisa was the picker and sender). I love the gorgeous colors and will follow my neighbor’s advice to coat it with hair spray to preserve it. It’s perfect for fall, and it was fitting that I hung it on this day when we had a lovely, if brief, touch of fall. High of 75, with not as much rain as we’d like, but some. It sort of depended on where you were standing—if you were in just the right spot, you got rain, at least a few drops.

Facebook is now flooded with nostalgic messages and pictures about Fall, People are longing for turning leaves, crisp mornings, October’s bright blue skies (remember that poem from grade school?) But wait! Are these the same people who couldn’t wait for summer—vacation and beaches and sunny, lazy days?

I too am guilty of wishing my life away. I, who admittedly worry about time’s winged chariot because I’ve had such a rich and full life and am still enjoying it so much that I look ahead with a bit of fear. I don’t want to be an invalid, I don’t want to lose my ability to write and work, and I don’t want to leave my children and grandchildren. I am not endowed with the surety of faith nor the tranquility of Jimmy Carter who today announced the metastasis of his cancer, which is apparently a melanoma. I wish him all kinds of good, I pray for him, and I admire his wonderful spirit. But I also envy his calm acceptance of whatever life brings him next. (I was somewhat comforted that he said Rosalynn was not quite as accepting as he is.)

I’m always in a hurry, wanting to get this done or that. And I’m always looking forward to some event—wishing it was Saturday so I could have dinner with my family or Labor Day so I could host a neighborhood potluck or some other event. Shoot! Soon I’ll be wishing for Christmas. And then I chide myself for not living in the moment, not stopping to smell the roses. I’m great at anticipation, not so good at savoring the present. But I’m working on it.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Poor Pitiful Pearl

That was me when I woke up yesterday morning—deep into a pity party. My local family was going out of town (hey, for a big four days!), more than half the people I rely on for companionship were everywhere from New Mexico to Spain, and I envisioned a long lonely week at my desk. I may love working at my computer, but I also thrive on people.

I know that old dictum: the only person who can make you happy is you. So I dug in: called my colleague Melinda to see if she could do lunch today; went to dinner at the Grill not sure who I’d have for company and had three lovely neighbors—Garrett and Bonnie Tucker and Sally Dalton. Today I had lunch with Melinda, which is always a happy occasion—we take little travel bottles of wine to our favorite tiny Italian restaurant where I always eat Braseola (beef version of prosciutto). Tonight I went with Mary V. and had a Caesar salad with scallops at Pacific Table.

My week is filling up—grocery and lunch plans tomorrow, plus that good supper I’ve been meaning to cook for myself for over a week; Friday, grocery and tentative lunch plans; Saturday the kids will be back and we’re talking about barbecue for supper; Sunday I’ll fix a welcome-home dish for Subie and Phil, something I’ve been wanting to try. Shh! Don’t tell.
Meantime I have work on my desk—got 2nd edits on the Peacock Mansion and am over halfway through reading a manuscript for TCU Press.

This morning all the subcontractors for the bathroom redo were here to gather info for their estimates, so this really is becoming a reality. I groan a bit about the construction process, the cleaning I’ll have to do, etc. But I’m really excited.

Moral of my story: life is good. But only if you yourself determine to make it so. Pollyanna is now signing off and going to read that manuscript.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

If I didn't speak out . . . .

Last night I posted a rather bold and forthright statement of my beliefs about politics and Christianity. I am grateful beyond measure for the many people who praised my words and supported my post. Perhaps one woman expressed it best when she said, “How did you read my mind?” Others pointed out that I tarred all Republicans with one brush, which was a mistake on my part. And some just flat disagreed, saying that I didn’t understand the Republican party. He’s right about that—I don’t.
But tonight, I want to leave you with something written by Martin Niemöller, a Protestant pastor who was a strong critic of Hitler. Ultimately, Niemöller spent seven years in a concentration camp. Here’s what he wrote

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

That, my friends, is why I speak out loud and clear about my political beliefs. Thanks to all of those who love me in spite of it—or because of it.