Tuesday, January 12, 2021

A day of good things


Getting my first vaccination shot

Sometimes good things seem to happen all at once, That’s what happened to me yesterday. A welcome change of pace from what days have been like lately.

First my doctor called, himself, in person, to ask if I wanted the first vaccine shot today. I said of course, and we made an appointment for 11:30 this morning.

Then Priscilla Leder who does a book review radio program out of San Marcos, sent me the questions she planned to ask in today’s interview about the book, The Second Battle of the Alamo.

And then I got an email from my editor at TwoDot Books with the edited version of my forthcoming (September) book, The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas.

All this meant that today was a full day. Jordan drove me to the doctor’s office this morning, where an efficient procedure waited for us. We sat in the waiting room for just a few minutes and then went into a room where someone asked lots of questions about my health and, “Which arm?” We decided right because I sleep on the left. My one question was which vaccine, though it made no difference to me. I got Moderna. The shot is quick and painless—just a tiny prick—and then we had to wait in another waiting room for fifteen minutes to be sure I had no reaction. That was it. We were there at most half an hour.

Came home, took one of my frequent naps, and did the radio interview in my pjs. Priscilla does a thorough reading of the book and had prepared three single-spaced pages of questions. I in turn scribbled lots of notes on those three pages—principally minor characters names that I didn’t want to forget. A big worry for me was how much of the detail I would remember about the book—after all, it’s now been two years since I wrote the text and a year since the book was published. I’m happy that it all came back as we talked about it.

One big point, for me, was to acknowledge the late Debra Winegarten, who had the contract on the book and who asked me to write it once she was diagnosed with overwhelming terminal malignancy. I was pleased to be able to describe her as perhaps the most energetic writer I’ve ever met. Her partner wrote me late today to say how much she’d enjoyed the interview, and that made me feel good.

I haven’t yet even looked at the edits for the Waggoner book. That will probably be a weeks-long project, but I am eager to dig into it. One thing that bothered me as we went through the holidays was that I had no solid project to work on. So now I do.

This morning I was full of energy and minus the nausea I’d been feeling in recent weeks. I told the doctor I’d write tomorrow with a good report. That all went south, however, this evening when the nausea returned, and my energy drifted away. Since about six tonight I’ve had two short naps and will probably go to bed soon for the night. In the morning, I’ll send the doctor a long email. This is a terrible malady for someone like me who loves cooking, writes a food blog, and has compiled two cookbooks.

One interesting note: yesterday the yard crew came with their usual noisy equipment. Sophie was safely in the cottage, and I was napping—no surprise there. What worried me was that she never barked, not once. She usually goes ballistic, beyond control, unfazed by my reassurance that it’s all right and deaf to my pleas for quiet. I called Jordan and said I was afraid she was sick. Jordan suggested she knew I didn’t feel well and was watching out for me. Then it dawned on me—she has been sleeping by my bed instead of in her beloved crate. Dogs know. I’m wondering if with her acute sense of smell she sense illness in me that we, as people, can’t smell (thank goodness). I am so grateful for her company.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I just know it.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Our snow day was a bust


This is NOT what inner-city Fort Worth looked like,
at least at my house

After a lot of hype from weather forecasters, I woke up this morning expecting a white-covered world. At 6:30, when Sophie decided she had to go out, we had nothing, only dry sidewalks. For some unknown reason, in that cold, she decided to stay out for an hour and a half. I did what I never do when she’s outside—went back to bed. But I kept popping up to try and at least see her. No luck, until she came in and woke me. Then she wanted to go right back out. I declined that suggestion and spoke rather harshly to her.

Fast forward to nine o’clock, when I finally got up—to a still-dry world. Snow finally began about 9:30—fat, lovely flakes that melted as soon as they hit the ground. I began to see pictures online of lovely, snowy scenes—from Glen Rose and Sweetwater and even south Fort Worth. My brother called from about an hour southwest to report six inches. We remained gray and wet—and pretty soon, even those large flakes stopped. Now, as I write, it is damp and dismal. Oh well, the snow was supposed to melt tomorrow anyway.

Twice today when Sophie was out, I caught her grazing like a cow. I’ve always heard that when a dog eats grass, it’s a sign their stomach is bothering them. Oh, good! Something else to worry about. She didn’t eat her dinner last night, but I watched her eat every bite tonight. So I’ll watch over the next day or two before I call the vet.

Maybe one of us is having sympathy pains, because my stomach has been a bit upset too. I’ve temporarily cut out some of the things I love—wine and chocolate—and am trying to eat bland foods. Makes for a dull day with no energy for much except napping, certainly not for working.

It’s been five days since the Capitol invasion—some right-wing media and even Republicans are calling the event the Freedom of Speech Protests, of all innocuous things. Still, it’s about all that’s on the news besides Covid, though as Jordan pointed out little of it is news by today. We see the same pictures on TV, and one more Breaking News text that announces calls for Josh Hawley’s resignation may just send me over the edge. Still there are dribbles and bits of news, like the fact that newly elected Colorado Representative Lauren Boebert, she who swears to bring her Glock into Congress, was inside the Capital texting about Nancy Pelosi’s whereabouts. Talk about a needed resignation. And trump, watching the invasion with “apparent enthusiasm,” commented that he just wished the invaders weren’t so “low class.” Have they heard those words from the lips of the man for whom many of them have ruined their careers and lives?

There are much bigger questions about security preparedness or lack of it, and those answers may come out in the next days. I think for security purposes we will hear little about the inauguration or the predicted January 17th invasion as Washington prepares. If you want to keep up with the latest, accurate analysis, I heartily suggest you read the daily column by Heather Cox Richardson—you can google her or find her on Facebook. Well worth reading every darn day.

Maybe all this is why my stomach is upset. Think I’ll go eat my applesauce.

Friday, January 08, 2021

A dog day


Sophie slept so late this morning that I finally woke her up to make sure she was okay. She does that occasionally and, like this morning, most often on a day when I have to be up and about. This morning I was more rushed than usual because of a medical appointment. Sophie did not feel my haste. And once awake she didn’t immediately want to go outside—lay on the bedroom floor and watched me put away dinner dishes and start the day.

My favorite kind of morning is when she wakes me about seven so she can go outside. I can usually lure her back inside within five minutes using a small strip of American cheese—sometimes with a Benadryl wrapped in it if she’s coughing badly because of allergies. Then I can go back to bed and sleep for another hour.

Sometimes in those morning hours I sleep soundly, but other times I doze and do some of my most productive thinking. Yesterday, for instance, I barely dozed because my mind was still racing with thoughts of Wednesday’s attempted coup at the Capitol. I finally got up so I could turn on the TV and see what had happened overnight. Not much except the final confirmation of the electoral vote, but yesterday’s revelation was the extent of the vandalism in the Capitol Building. Files scattered, furniture smashed, even human waste in the hallways. What kind of people do that? I am completely befuddled and very angry.

Internet postings are getting repetitive, calling for instant impeachment—next week is too late. What people don’t stop to realize—or read carefully—is that the House was today preparing impeachment documents, consolidating several versions into one. And next week is not too late because there is an expedited procedure they can follow. I do believe there has to be some swift action, and I think the wheels of government are turning as fast as they can. Nancy Pelosi knows what she’s doing.

I also see people bemoaning that Pence won’t activate the 25th amendment. He has his reasons, and they may be political and futile, but two things I didn’t realize about his defiance of trump on Wednesday were that he was a specific target of the mob. If they could have, they would have used that noose on him. His life was in danger, and cheers to the much-maligned capitol police for keeping him safe. And, finally, he had his wife and daughter with him—they’d been spectators in the gallery. So not only was he worried about himself but about his family.

One more thought, and then I’ll get back to dogs. I’m hearing conspiracy theories from the left—people who are convinced the mob had inside help, the police let them in, the poor law enforcement planning indicates collusion for a coup or something equally sinister. All of that may well be true, but conspiracy theories belong to the alt-right. I like to think we on the left wait for proof—and that will be a while coming as authorities unravel what happened. Our world is too anxious for instant answers, instant action.

Cricket on the left

Even being a dog wasn’t that easy today. Around noon Jordan was in the cottage unpacking groceries, and Christian stuck his head in to say the front door was standing wide open and Cricket was out. She goes neither far nor fast, and I could picture her with a waddle as distinctive as Churchill’s as she explored the great outdoors. Jordan and Christian both ran out, and Jordan found she had made it all the way to the next door neighbor’s yard. Jordan picked her up, however, because she seemed reluctant to come home. Maybe she was enjoying her adventure.

It was cold today—what a friend described as “bone chilling,” but it was sunny. In the early afternoon, Sophie went outside and lay in a patch of gravel that is one of her favorite spots. It gets full sun, and once again she lay on her side, so still. This time though I didn’t worry—she was soaking up that warmth, and I thought how nice her life is. No worry for her about attempted coups and politics and renegade Congress members. When she came in and came up to me for some love, her coat was warm to the touch.

Snow predicted for Sunday! It’s been almost five years since we had an inch of snow, but the record may be broken Sunday. Not enough for a good snowman but just enough to make it miserable outside.

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Another day of infamy


This morning I remarked to a friend that we have had three days of infamy in my lifetime—December 7, September 11, and now January 6. She reminded me I had made an awful omission—November 22, the day of the Kennedy assassination. Still, it’s remarkable to me that my lifetime has seen such catastrophic events in our history. A slight qualifier: I was one year old when Pearl Harbor was hit and have no memory of the event. Still make me old!

If you’re on social media or the internet news at all, there is not much new to be said about yesterday’s attempted coup. But there are questions, a big one being why the Capitol police were not more prepared. Increasingly, talk on the net attributes that to the underlying racism in our society. Law enforcement simply did not expect violence from a bunch of white guys, though they were armed to the teeth and in riot gear for a BLM rally in recent months. My question though is why, since Capitol police basically handled the rioters with kid gloves until the day got away from them, why did they shoot one woman? Granted, she probably knew the risk, and she was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it still puzzles me that she was the only apparent victim. Three others are said to have died of medical emergencies.

Today I am in reluctant praise of Vice-president Mike Pence and Leader of the House Mitch McConnell. After sanctioning trump’s antics for four years with their silent complicity, each stood up yesterday and did what they had to do. They probably did more than anything else to defuse the situation. On the other hand, I think Cruz, Hawley and their co-conspirators should not be allowed to help govern our country. The thought of Steve Scalise moaning about violence turns my stomach.

 We’ll be chewing on yesterday’s events for a long time, and we may get some answers. But there are, to me, some good signs—for instance, the Democratic victory in Georgia over two trump supporters. And I bet some trump supporters saw the folly of what they’ve been supporting—too little too late but better than nothing.

Yesterday was sort of a bad day at Black Rock for me even without the national turmoil, though I admit I was glued to the TV all day. I woke in the morning feeling slightly sick to my stomach, a feeling that has bothered me in recent weeks. Never could pinpoint anything I ate and even wondered if it was due to the holidays, covid, and/or the turmoil in our country. Yesterday I contacted my doctor, and he said we would treat it as dyspepsia. The very word conjured up a vision of the gluttonous Samuel Johnson in the eighteenth century. But I got a prescription—something not available to Johnson—and expect to feel better from now on.

Then, yesterday, in the midst of the turmoil in Washington, my computer quit. Cold. A black, blank screen. If you know me at all, you know the computer is where I spend my days. I write, I read, I follow some social media, I send and get lots of emails. Without the computer I was at loose ends—seriously considered going back to bed. The plugs and connections for the computer are where my walker and I cannot get to them, so I had to wait for Jordan to finish an extraordinarily long business call. But when she came out to the cottage, she found the problem right away—the monitor had come unplugged. I was back in business.

We had take-out food from our favorite Japanese restaurant last night and then followed our twelfth-night ritual, which we’d almost forgotten in the hectic atmosphere of the day. Jacob was the one who reminded us when he asked at supper, “Isn’t tonight Twelfth night?” Since my childhood, it’s been a family custom for each person to burn a twig from the Christmas tree on Twelfth Night and make a wish for the coming year. Of course, you cannot tell anyone else your wish. So mine was—oh, never mind! Some years we share this custom with neighbors, but this year, because of quarantine, it was just the four of us. At the end of that awful day, I found this custom and a short prayer for Epiphany comforting. It was as a sign that all will be well in the world.

Still, I was grateful last night to crawl into bed and pull the covers over my head.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

A homecoming, a moment of panic, and a birthday celebration

I’ve been silent for a few days mostly because there has been nothing going on, and I do mean nothing. My family took a three-night vacation to a friend’s lake house and, though I was cordially invited, I elected to stay home, sleep in my own bed, work on my large remote monitor, and even cook a couple of meals I like and they don’t. But I l admit Sophie and I get a bit lonely when they’re all gone. We happily welcomed them home yesterday in the late afternoon.

Jordan missed my moment of panic, although I recounted it to her later. One of the things about being a writer is that sometimes you need to talk to another writer because no one else will really understand what’s you’re saying. And so it was yesterday just before noon. About a year ago I submitted all the materials for my next book—still as far as I know titled The Most Land, the Best Cattle: the Waggoners of Texas and due out in September. In the meantime, the editor I had worked with took a position with another company, and a new editor took her place. So what’s the trauma? The new editor emailed that she couldn’t find any of the files and would I send everything again—text, pictures, permissions. It would have been one thing if I’d had one lovely file with all that, but I didn’t. Text was no problem, but it would have taken days to reassemble the pictures and permissions. As primarily an author of fiction, I have neither the technical expertise nor the computer programs to deal efficiently with high res images. I sent them to the previous editor piecemeal as I received them. For safekeeping! Hah!

After much gnashing of teeth, I hatched a plan. Fortunately, I remembered where the original editor had gone. Looked her up online, shot off an email, and got an instant reply. She had kept a “just in case” set of files. She sent them to the new editor, and last I heard all is well. Still holding my breath, but I should get edited copy to read next week. Who says the life of an author is dull?  

We ended the day with a happy hour celebration for neighbor Prudence’s birthday—our regular Tuesday night patio gathering with a special twist. Fortunately, the weather cooperated beautifully, and both Jordan and Mary brought charcuteries, Mary brought a wonderful cake, and the birthday girl brought champagne. Most festive.



Sunday, January 03, 2021

Creeping into 2021

The woods are lovely, deep and dark--Robert Frost

The world looks a whole lot brighter to me on January 3rd than it did January 1. I see sunshine and blue sky and bare branches—the leaves have all, finally, come down. Still I have the feeling of creeping into the new year instead of bounding joyously. Maybe it’s the internet meme advising going in “real slowly. Don’t. Touch. Anything.”

On New Year’s Day, the internet was full of the usual joyous wishes, this time made more poignant by a lot of gleeful farewells to 2020, the worst year in modern memory. But I am not at all sure we have put the problems of 2020 behind us—the pandemic is infecting and killing record numbers of our families, friends, and neighbors, and trump is protesting he will not leave the White House, even as he continues to try for a coup on January 6 when the electoral ballots are officially counted. And he is openly calling for violence in our nation’s capital on that day. I read one account that the Proud Boys or some of similar inclination would target the halls of Congress in an effort to attack congressmen who don’t back trump’s delusional campaign. It’s enough to scare anyone, and I, safely removed in Texas, am scared—for our country and our democracy, let alone our worldwide reputation.

An email from a small online writers’ group yesterday suggested that I sum up what I’ve learned from almost a year of quarantining. I had to think long and hard about that because I’m not sure I’ve learned anything except that old bromide, “Life isn’t necessarily fair.” The COVID-19 virus is whimsical in who it affects, who it kills. Many who have been infected followed every single caution from the CDC on prevention—and yet caught it. Others, seemingly indifferent or unbelieving, went about unmasked, gathered in large groups, and did not, so far as we know, contract the virus.

And the sense of fairness or collegiality has totally disappeared from politics. Joe Biden won a landslide, and yet he’s having the most difficult transition into power in the history of our country. At every turn, trump and his followers are working to thwart Biden’s solid plans for the future, for a return to government as most of us would like to see and know it.

My biggest fear is that president-elect Biden will not be able to work miracles, and the country will turn optimism into anger. He cannot work miracles—what’s been done to our country will require long, slow rebuilding. I think Biden is going into the new term with clear vision and solid plans, but he can only do so much. A lot will depend on the outcome of the runoff in Georgia on Tuesday. But either way I think “real slowly. Don’t. Touch. Anything,” is good advice.

What I personally have learned is that I’m okay with quarantine and isolation, as long as I have work to keep me busy and occupied and a few people in my pod. But right now, I am between projects and don’t seem to be able to focus on a new one. I find it frustrating, mostly because I think I came into this world with an ingrained work ethic, and I’m not comfortable not working. To top it off today my internet connection is down, and “unable to connect.”  This too shall pass if I can only muster a bit of patience.

As I reread what I’ve just written, it seems pessimistic to me, even reflecting a bit of depression. I hope that’s not true. I hope it is realistic. I also firmly believe there are things each of us can do to make the future better—find meaningful activity, continue to stay as safe as possible and follow health guidelines, write to your politicians or call them—tell them when you think they’re right and why you think they’re wrong (in Texas that opens a whole new can of worms!).

I’m not giving up on 2021. We are in a time of great change, and we have a lot to look forward to—the vaccine (if we every figure out who can get it and where) and a new administration. I expect good things—I just don’t expect instant miracles, and I don’t want anyone else to either. On Facebook someone commented, “We aren’t out of the woods yet,” and someone else replied, “We’re not even all the way into the words yet.”                        

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Lost friendships


Lost friendships happen, for many reasons, and they are always hard, but they seem more poignant to me during pandemic. Maybe what I’m trying to say is they leave unanswered questions. This holiday season I reached out to three longtime friends—people that have at one point been a big part of my life but that I don’t see or hear from often. I have not had a response from any one of them, which leaves me wondering: have I somehow offended? Is this a matter of political differences? Did they or a family member succumb to COVID-19? Or old age?

One is an author who befriended me when I was young and green. She is several years older than me, lives in another state, and was having trouble with her eyesight. I sent a Jacquie Lawson Christmas card but never got that email that tells me she opened it. Another is an author who lives nearby but with whom I’ve lost touch, and I’m sad about it—we used to be great traveling buddies, going to various conferences in Texas. For a while there we had a dog-and-pony show—she talked about being a fifth-generation Texan, and I countered with a newcomer’s point of view. I know she’s been ill, with severe balance problems, and has a caretaker at least part time. Maybe she’s given up reading email?

Finally, there’s a woman, long divorced as I am (our husbands were colleagues), with whom I used to enjoy dinners. Somewhere along the line it developed that we had political differences, and she would chide me for bringing up my liberal views. Jordan had been particularly fond of her and worked to make her welcome in our home. Is she ignoring my email because of our political differences? Did her grandchildren, who live in her building if not her apartment, bring COVID home to her?

The problem of losing friends over the trump regime is real, and I have given up on one longtime friend who told me she and her husband voted for trump because “we had no other choice.” I almost exploded over the lunch table. I was so upset that she said, “I’m upset that you’re so upset.” And that was in 2017 before we knew how bad it would get. Occasionally we email, and she told someone blithely that we didn’t get together because her husband and I disagreed over politics. No, it’s not politics. It’s morals, honesty, kindness, justice, humanity. Later, her husband told her to tell me that Biden will take us to socialism which is the first step on the road to communism. I think he needs to study his “isms,” including fascism.

But I grieve over lost friends. They are a part of who I am today. Friendships have shaped me, and I’m uncertain what to do next. A phone call might be awkward, whether their silence is due to age or illness or politics. A repeat email may be fruitless, but I will try that. I want to know that these people are okay. And I wish for a world where these was less divisiveness.

Maybe I’m being judgmental. I hear in myself a voice that says it’s okay for me to cut off trump-supporting friends but it’s not okay for them not to respond to me. And maybe ultimately that self-contradictory place is where I am. I may well have become as zealous against trump policies as his followers are for them. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I for one am nervous about January 6.

But meantime, I’m going to email those people again. I want to be the one to reach out—and I want to know that they are okay.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Armchair travel

I have finally been to San Francisco! Of course, I didn’t really go, but I discovered one of the great benefits of reading on the computer. It’s long been understood that reading can take you places that you’ve never been—but visiting them on the computer adds new depth to the vicarious travel experience. During pandemic, when so many of us are fearful of travel, this is truly a new opportunity.

I’m reading, as I said a few days ago, a mystery series set in Virginia’s wine country. But the current volume takes the heroine, Lucie Montgomery, to San Francisco. First off, let me admit that I am not the most adventuresome traveler. I remind myself of the little old lady who went on her first airplane ride. When asked how it was, she said, “It was all right, but I never did put my full weight down.” That’s me—I never put my full weight down when traveling, an uneasiness that baffles many of my more adventuresome friends. I simply point out that my horoscope sign is Cancer and one of the characteristics is that I am a homebody.

I also want to add that I have been to Los Angeles and southern California and have no great desire to go back, although taking the local train from LA to San Diego, right along the shore, was pretty interesting. But San Francisco intrigues me more than LA. For many years before his death, my children’s father lived in the mountains above Santa Rosa, and they visited him fairly often. Because Napa Valley and the California wine country was one of the few places on my bucket list, I used to joke I’d go with them. They could stash me in a motel and visit when convenient. Somehow, they never warmed to that idea.

The book I’m reading now, The Sauvignon Secret, takes the heroine from Loudoun and Fauquier counties in Virginia to San Francisco. Last night I found myself reading about places like Oakland and the Embarcadero and the Golden Gate Bridge. I started with the Embarcadero because I’d heard the term but had no concept of what it was. A quick computer search took me not only to the Embarcadero but allowed me to expand and shrink a map so that I could get a sense of where places where in relation to each other—Oakland, San Jose, Santa Rosa. Places that had just been vague names in my mind suddenly became real, and I saw why my children sometimes flew into San Jose, where Oakland lies in relation to San Francisco, the route of the famed 101. An instant geography lesson, and it all made sense to me. Not only that, but it increased my comprehension of and pleasure in reading the novel.

So now when I think about books I want to read, I’ll factor in places I want to visit. Napa is still on my bucket list, as is Alaska. But I hit the jackpot with a 2011 trip to the Scottish Highlands. Number one on my bucket list would be a return trip to Scotland. I chronicled that wonderful journey in blogs, beginning with May View from the Cottage: Scotland--a retrospective (judys-stew.blogspot.com). As I searched for that link, I got caught up in the nostalgia of revisiting that trip. Guess my next geographical exploration will be the Highlands.

Instead of fretting about travel restrictions and cautions right now, open a good book, boot up your computer, and travel wherever you want to go.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Winding down

The cottage is chilly tonight. Eggnog in a crystal Christmas glass and a good book seem the perfect way to end the post-Christmas weekend, that suspended time between holidays when we’re all still recovering from Christmas. For me, it’s been a lazy weekend, with lots of naps and binge-reading on a mystery series I just discovered—Ellen Crosby’s Wine Country Mysteries, set not in California but in Virginia. The thing I love about series is that you immerse yourself in the fictional world, feel at home among the people, and it’s sometimes most pleasant to stay in that world through several books rather than venturing into the unknown of other fiction. I have several books on my to-be-read list, but for now I’m savoring wine and DC politics, a bit of romance, and a lot of intrigue.

I got myself into an unusual reading experience with the project called MysteryLovesGeorgia, supporting senatorial candidates Ralph Warnock and Jon Ossoff. I contributed an autographed copy of Saving Irene, the promise to name a character in a forthcoming book after a contributor, and a critique of thirty pages. The first two were fairly easy to handle—the book went off in the mail, and I wrote promising to name a character in Irene in Danger after the donor. But, ah! That critique! Turns out the manuscript is steampunk. Here’s a dictionary definition of steampunk: a retrofuturistic subgenre of science fiction that incorporates technology and aesthetic designs inspired by 19th-century industrial steam-powered machinery. Perhaps you understand now why it’s a subgenre that I’ve never been able to wrap my head around. And I’m to give a critique?

I am on my second read-through of the thirty-page sample, making meticulous notes mostly of questions that I think the writer must consider. I have no idea about the conventions of steampunk, so all I can do is suggest things to be considered. And insert a lot of missing commas, suggest some rewording in places, and hope that I can give the writer her money’s worth. Fortunately, my price was low.

Tomorrow being Monday, I have every intention of getting up, getting on with the day (washing my hair), and getting to work. No more frequent naps and long reading indulgences. I intend to be all businesslike. We’ll see how that works out.

Jordan and I did a long—and difficult—session of meal planning tonight. Who’s hungry, after all the food of this past week? And yet we have a lot of smoked turkey to deal with, so we landed on tortilla soup and a casserole with cornbread. I used to make a good leftover turkey casserole with white wine and noodles, but I somehow can’t see it with smoked turkey. And come New Year’s Day, we’ll eat ham and black-eyed peas. I have been amused by memes on Facebook which show a “mess” of black-eyed peas, with the plea, “For the love of God, eat two helpings, even if you don’t like them.” They are not something I grew up with, and I came to them slowly by way of making Hoppin’ John—which my kids instantly christened Hoppin’ Uncle John after my brother. But now I’m really fond of the peas—a second helping won’t be a problem. And pray God it will bring us good luck.

The weather is supposed to go downhill all week—a cold front tonight, rain all day Tuesday, and storms Wednesday and Thursday. Pray too that is not an omen for the New Year. New Year’s Day, so far, is to be clear, sunny but cold. I’ll take that any day.

And I’ll go to sleep tonight grateful that trump has signed the omnibus bills that were on his desk—or in his pocket. I’m not sure of his motivation, and I’m always leery of what con he has up his sleeve, but I am oh so grateful for those who were about to lose their unemployment insurance or have their evictions postponed. And shutting down the government? I’m not even sure what all that would entail. I know it’s happened, briefly, in recent memory, but I think everyone feared a prolonged period this time. So perhaps the entire country breathed a sigh of relief.

And now, on to 2021.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Day after Christmas


The best-laid plans of mice and man

Gang oft agley

                             --Robert Burns

That was me last night, with the best intentions of posting that I hoped everyone had as marvelous a Christmas as we did. Here at the Alter/Burton compound, Jordan worked tirelessly for days to make sure we had a great holiday—she baked, she decorated, she wrapped, she set a fine table. We truly owe her a shower of blessings for helping us keep the meaning of Christmas in this odd and strange year.

Our festivities truly began with Christmas Eve supper—a table set with red chargers, the gold-and-white china, and bright red wine goblets. We had my splurge—lobster pot pies. They were tinier than I expected but rich and good with chunks of claw meat, not the shredded you might have expected. After dinner, we took a break—I took a nap!—and we converged again at the cottage a little before eleven to be part of the candlelight service from University Christian Church.

"Attending" the candlelight service
in the cottage

Jordan lined the walk from the house to the cottage with luminaries, turned out the outdoor lights, and gave us our very own touch of Santa Fe. For several years, we used to walk Canyon Road in Santa Fe, admiring the luminaries, partaking of cider and chocolate offered by some residents, and singing heartily. I remember getting really cross with my almost-grown children once because they made a buffoonery of the carols which, to me, are so special. When I was a child, we sang traditional carols at every service during December. Not so much anymore, and I missed some—until UCC sent a 15-minute video with wonderful renditions of “The First Noel,” “O Little Town of Bethlehem,” and even the Wassail song.


Christmas morning began early—Jacob may be a sophisticated fourteen-year-old, but he’s still anxious for presents. We opened stockings and some gifts while a breakfast casserole cooked, took a break for breakfast (with eggnog with real nog in it) and then returned to the tree, all in front of a nice, comforting fire. For Jacob, it was a golf and clothing Christmas—as he said, he now has a more-than-adequate supply of golf balls. Santa was good to me bringing me many of the things I wanted—comfortable clothes and warm pajamas, footlets that stray on my feet. My brother, who announced I had enough ponchos, gave me a dental WaterPik because he swears by them. Jordan’s big surprise for Christian was a sushi maker (which hasn’t arrived) and all the “fixings”—sticky rice, soy wrappers, etc.

We had Christmas happy hour on the patio with Jean—a beautiful day. And then Christmas dinner brought another of Jordan’s lovely place settings—this time green chargers and the Christmas Spode china. She cooked much of the day, fixing twice baked potatoes, corn casserole, mac and cheese. We had a smoked turkey, and more of the eggnog—and I

found I was really tired. Don’t you feel that way after a big holiday? A post-Christmas letdown.

As I write this, I am acutely aware of the people in our country and the world who are not as blessed as we are—those whose jobless benefits run out today, those who cannot make both the grocery bill and the rent, those living in refugee camps and war-torn areas throughout the world. Now, as the poem by Howard Thurman says, begins the work of Christmas: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart.

I am also aware I’ve been on vacation for a bit. I’m used to “losing” most of November and December as far as any meaningful writing goes. Somehow the anticipation of Christmas and the work involved—the cooking, the wrapping, and so forth—messes with my work ethic. This year, since we were having a pared-down Christmas should have lessened the pre-holiday tension, but somehow it didn’t. It was different but still distracting. So now, for me, a couple of days to straighten the cottage, hang up the new clothes, and write the thank-you notes, and then it’s back to work.

Today, I’m counting my blessings—family, faith, the comfort of my home, the company of my dog, the blessing of meaningful work. I pray for all of us that the promise of a new administration and the hope of a vaccine bring a new year that will enable us to move beyond the trials of 2020.

God bless us, everyone!