Monday, July 25, 2016

Piece by piece--and civility, Democrats, and what have you

 That’s how slow progress on the cottage seems, but today was a red letter day. We went from this
to this.
The new couch will be easier to work with because of its solid color. Big advantage: it’s a hide-a-bed. Every time I’ve had one I’ve sworn never again, but this will be handy for the occasional out of town guest or for grandkids who might want to sleep in the cottage—dare I hope?

At any rate, that’s one more piece of the puzzle, and it makes me all the more anxious to get in the new space. I understand this week they’re making my cabinets for kitchen and bathroom—another step forward. I can see the sitting area in my mind and am wondering how close it will eventually come to the picture in my mind.

Other than that, it’s been a political day. I’ve had the Democratic convention on off and on, and until tonight it distressed me. The Democrats were in as much chaos as the Republicans had been and were, to my dismay, as rude. Even Nancy Pelosi was booed. What do you do when the party you’ve given your life to boos you?

I know in part this anger is directed toward Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who is now out of the picture, but I haven’t kept up with the details of why everyone’s angry with her. I gather it has something to do with dirty tricks to keep Bernie from being the Democratic nominee—which only proves both parties can do dirty tricks. Another sad commentary on our society.

It’s all part of a pattern that’s been discussed a lot—not so much the dumbing down of America (though that’s a real concern too) but the loss of civility. It’s easy for someone like me, a senior citizen, to look at the younger generations and wrong my hands, thinking of all that’s gone wrong. I’m not generally prone to that kind of thinking, but I am appalled at the loss of manners and civility. At first I thought it was simply the Republicans because Trump encourages such antics, but when it appears in the Democratic Party too, I’m afraid it’s a general loss of civility. Who among us was raised to boo at a speaker? What happened to courteous attention. When Bernie followers even boo at him, we’ve reached a low point. How can I teach my grandchildren manners when they have these examples in front of them? (Actually my grandchildren are much more polite than the people at the conventions.) Maybe it’s a crowd mentality?

I wish we could figure out a way to reward good manners and punish rudeness, but you can’t legislate these things. Thankfully tonight the convention seems more unified—hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

I read a lot by people who post on Facebook that they will never discuss politics because you can’t ever change anybody’s mind. That may be true, but I read a moving post by a woman who said she feels she has a moral obligation to speak out against the threat that Donald Trump poses to this country and our way of life. So watch for me to speak out—but in civil terms.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Life in the slow lane

I now live with three dogs—the two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels belonging to Jordan and Christian have come to stay, apparently for the duration. They quickly learned that happy hour means treat time, so even before we settle down with a glass of wine, they begin barking and demanding. Sophie knows what to do with a rawhide treat—go off in a corner and chew until it’s gone. Cricket and June Bug haven’t quite figured that out. They gnaw a bit, and then the lick a lot. Finally, one will tire of that game and walk away; quick as a flash, the other one is on the abandoned treat. So then we have a sort of pas de deux where they simply trade. Finally, when they tire enough, Jordan takes the treats away and saves them for another day. They are after all a bit expensive.

Tonight Sophie got hold of one of their abandoned treats—Jordan tried to get it from her but the wretch growled. When I grabbed her and took it out of her mouth—with some tugging,, I admit—she never offered a sound, so I praised her lavishly. She’s really done a good job of letting these two interlopers into her house, and I try to make sure she maintains a sort of privileged status. But Cricket and June Bug are sure cute and silly.

When Jordan calls them to go out or eat supper, they all three follow her anxiously. She looks like the Pied Piper of dogs. In another month or so, Sophie and I will be in our own quarters, and things will be much easier.

Tonight Jordan, Christian and I had Sunday supper—Doris’ casserole, a favorite of all the family except Megan who detests it, and a good green salad. Sunday supper used to be a tradition in the family, and there were times when the kids were in high school and college that I cooked for 15 or 20. Sometimes I make an effort to invite people to share with us but it’s hard since I can’t cook. I do however have a great file of recipes that will feed Coxie’s Army.

Once I tried a cornbread/hamburger mixture, and my brother looked at me and asked, “Sis, is the budget the problem?” In my own defense I also sometimes did leg of lamb.

Those Sunday night dinners with cousins and friends remain a good memory for my children, and that makes me glad I spent all those Sundays cooking. They grew up with hospitality as a way of life.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Chaos to Calm

My daughters
This afternoon I found myself alone, with three sleeping dogs, in a house that was eerily quiet. I’ve been used to chaos the past week—two ten-year-old boys can make more noise than a herd of elephants. And their mothers, my daughters, aren’t always soft-spoken. Plus there have been people in and out all week—repairmen, plumbers and electricians working on the cottage who found it necessary to come into the main house, the wonderful lady who cleans for me every other week, and of course happy hour guests. I’ve loved every minute of the chaos.

But today Megan and Ford went back to Austin, Jacob went to visit his other grandparents, Jordan went to work on her house, and I was alone. I took a deep breath and enjoyed it. When the grandchildren were little they’d make a total mess of the house, toys strewn everywhere, and I’d mentally worry about reclaiming the house. But their parents were good and when they left, the house was back in order, if not spotless. I used to take one of those deep breaths and say to the dog, “It’s ours. We have our house back.” I was of course sorry to see them go, but a part of me was relieved. That happened again today—when everyone was gone, the major portions of my house were neat. Some rooms will never be neat again until the merge/move is accomplished. But I have my house back.

Seemed like yesterday, my birthday, was particularly hectic, though it was a lovely day. Still Jordan had a flat tire, Christian came to pick up the grandsons so the girls and I could have a lovely lunch at Neiman’s, and then we gathered for supper. It was low-key, as I requested, with only one dinner guest. We had hamburgers on paper plates in the living room. Funny, how some birthdays you want a huge, blow-out celebration and others you want low-key. For my 70th we invited almost a hundred people to Joe T.’s for supper, and as 80 approaches, I’m wondering what I’ll want. But for now, this year, low-key was  great.

People energize me, and one of the blessings during this housebound phase is that Jordan has made sure to invite people over, so that I’ve had lots of company. I am not solitary like writers are said to be, and I can’t write new material for more than two hours at a time, if that.  But I also enjoy aloneness. It gives me a chance to organize my thoughts—today I cleaned off my very messy desk and had, heaven help me, a new thought about one of the half-baked projects in my computer. I had a lovely nap and was primed for a simple supper alone when Jordan arrived and fixed me supper. After all the dinners we’ve had this week, focusing in part on filling up two young boys with wooden legs, I was ready for simple and light—cottage cheese and raspberries.

Tomorrow I’ll be home alone, with the dogs, for much of the day. I’m rather relishing the idea.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another birthday milestone--and some interesting thoughts

One year ago today, on my 77th birthday, I embarked on a project of using this blog to chronicle my year. After a year I planned to review the year, reassess, and perhaps publish the blogs. I wrote that I was striding confidently into my 78th year, in good health, with the blessings of family, home, career, wonderful dog. Little did I imagine how much would change in a year nor how I would be tested.

Notable in my mind is the fact that I can no longer claim to be in good health. I am officially disabled and taking advantage of Medicare’s home health services. Long story short: I fell in early May and ended up, through my own stubbornness, with an ankle that a trauma surgeon declared beyond surgical repair—a mixed blessing.

I have been non-weight-bearing on my right foot for five weeks, with no idea when things will change. I wear an orthopedic boot night and day. At first this threw me into a great depression, and I decided this would be the year that I aged. Pulled myself out, with the help of medication, because I knew I didn’t want to live that way.

To complicate matters, I have had troublesome stomach issues for about five weeks—far too long, and a physician’s assistant has ordered overdue tests. I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of this and correct it. I recognize that though my ankle/leg may get better, I may never walk gracefully and there may be canes, walkers, even wheelchairs in my future. That’s okay, better than a lot of alternatives.

My children have been really supportive. Jordan and her family will be moving into my house in late summer, but she has effectively moved her dogs and herself in already, my oldest son came and got me and took me to his house for a week to give Jordan a break, and this past week my oldest daughter has been here doing yeoman’s work, filling in for those chores I can’t do for myself as I scoot about the house riding on a walker. My younger son will spend a few days with me in August when Jordan goes out of town.

Some good things have happened: I published The Gilded Cage, a book that may be the pinnacle of my career. My chili book is a finalist in the cookbook category of the Will Rogers Medallion Award. Construction of a cottage for me—converting garage apartment—is nearing completion, and I hope to move in September.

Most of all I have had the loving support of a wide variety of people. Many have called me courageous, which is not a trait I’d assign to myself. I’d never, for instance, ride a roller coaster. Going down the ramp in a wheelchair is enough adventure for me. But there are different kinds of courage, and if people see my upbeat spirit as courage, good . It gives me a goal to meet.

My son-in-law said tonight I’ve been tested by my journey and come out of it a stronger person. I’d like to think that’s true.

Birthday grins from two adorable grandsons
I no longer make predictions about the coming year. Lord knows what it will bring, but I hope I’ll be ready to continue the journey in good spirits.

Publish my blogs of the past year? It looks like a lot of work. Maybe only if I can hire an assistant.

Thanks to each of you for love and support.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tacky Yard Art

I seem to have an affinity lately for tacky metal yard art. It began perhaps three years ago when a friend gave me a purple metal pig. We hung it over the deck and called it The Flying Pig. I never thought of a whole flock of animals, but a year ago on my birthday my oldest son and his wife gave me an adorable and colorful Chihuahua, suitably dressed.

A wise old owl followed, then a pink flamingo, and for Christmas a colorful peacock with his tail fanned out. When we finish the cottage they will all go out around the patio. I remember when my oldest daughter threatened something awful if I put a flamingo in the back yard—not to worry, the life-sized one is in the back, but there is a one-dimensional one in the front yard. Its pink needs revitalizing.

Recently I was in Tomball, from whence came all these treasures, and I needed birthday presents for two dear and close friends, one a lifelong cat lover. Since I’m immobile I sent my daughter-in-law, Lisa, out on the hunt. She scoured several sites but could not find a cat, and we finally settled on a bright yellow chicken. The second gift I needed was for a dog lover, soi got a Dachshund.

Today we had a birthday lunch, and I presented by offerings by setting them at each place at the table. Mind you, I was a little hesitant about this—these are not casual ladies but they seemed pleased with them. The dachshund is not inappropriately named Fritz and will go on a sun porch. Not so sure about the chicken—one of Betty’s daughters already thinks her backyard looks like a Turkish flea market—and this will do little to correct that impression.

I’m fascinated by these critters but I realize there is too much of a good thing. I’m swearing off.       

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Domestic Matters

 Today was a milestone. I got to tour my almost-completed cottage. It’s not quite as big as I thought, but perhaps will seem bigger with furniture. It’s going to be a cozy hideaway, and I could see places to put a lot of things I want to hang on to. What serves as a kitchen area is pretty small, but rest assured—I can fix tuna salad for you. Or tea. Or happy hour, which we can enjoy in the comfort of the sitting area in my parlor/office.

I can imagine myself working at my desk and staring out at the garden through the French doors. The doors let in a lot of light, plus the contractor put 16 recessed light bulbs in various places in the ceiling. The place is so bright that the old yellow on the walls jumps out at you. Today we picked a new paler shade of yellow but still with the warm peach overtones that I like. We also ordered carpet—splurged here a bit and chose a low pile (good for wheels of my walker, although I keep reminding everyone I don’t intend to be on a walker forever). The carpet is not the plain beige I thought I’d end up with but has sort of a beige and cream zigzag pattern. My daughters assure me it looks good in a large sample. Unfortunately, it’s not practical to load me in the car to go see the large sample, so I will trust their judgment.

The main room, where I’ll spend most of my time, is lovely, open and light-filled. I think with furniture it will look warm and welcoming. Heat and a/c goes in tomorrow, so bit by bit we’re getting there. I’m getting antsy to move in.

Meantime, this week I’m home with two daughters, two grandsons, and three dogs. None are a problem, though the daughters tend to roll their eyes and laugh at me. Megan can find stains on clothes that I think are perfectly fine.

They get kudos, however, for feeding me well.
Sunday night, Megan fixed a wild rice/chicken salad with celery and roasted almonds; the next night we had tuna salad with avocado and cherry tomatoes—I added a bit of blue cheese.
Last night it was pork tenderloin with roasted new potatoes and green salad. Leftovers were delicious tonight.

My birthday---shh!
78—is coming up Friday, so we’ll begin celebrating tomorrow with lunch for two good friends, each of whom have June or July birthdays. They’ll bring the food, and I’ll pour the wine. And I know they’ll want a tour of the cottage. Nice way to celebrate.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I have become a statistic

As many of you know, I fell in late April/early May and although I didn’t realize it at the time, I broke both bones in my lower right leg, almost in the ankle. Walking on it for two weeks did not help healing, and an orthopedic surgeon pronounced it beyond repair. I am now wearing an orthopedic boot night and day, which is a real pain but if it keeps me out of surgery, I’m grateful to do it and wheel around on the walker (you’re not supposed to do that). Getting me out of the house in a transport chair is difficult for all involved, including me—but it can be done. I am officially handicapped and have the benefit of the Medicare Home Health program. I cannot put any weight on my right foot for the foreseeable future.

At first I thought this was the event that would turn me into an old woman, but I don’t feel that way anymore. Depression has been replaced by an optimistic kind of acceptance, and I remain in good spirit most of the time. Frustrated, though, by all the things I can’t do—reach up in a cabinet, fix my meals (unless someone has already prepared food), make my bed, etc. Washing my hair is an exercise in ingenuity—I balance on one foot, holding on to the sink with one hand and lathering with the other.

In spite of all, I fell again last week when visiting my son in Tomball. In my own defense it was dark and my eyes hadn’t adjusted. I thought I lined my walker up with the edge of the bed, but in truth I had them at an angle—and the bed simply wasn’t where I thought it should be. I ended on the floor, whacking the side of my head. Had a huge shiner the next day—looked like a painted eye patch. Then it began to heal—draining into my cheek and neck. I’d post a picture but I don’t want any of you to see me looking like that. Jordan and Jacob have taken to warning visitors before they see me.

All this means that I am a statistic:

1 of three seniors fall each year

1 of five sustain serious injury, usually fractured hip or head trauma

700,000 are hospitalized

250,000 break a hip, which is often the end to good health.

Deaths from falls have dramatically increased since 2004 and now stand at 58 per 100,000 people

Many seniors become so afraid of falling that they cut down on activities, thereby growing weaker and more prone to falling.

What factors can you work on to avoid falling?

Exercise to strengthen lower body

Take plenty of Vitamin D

Exercise to improve balance

Check meds—do they make you sleepy, dizzy, unsure of your footing?

Check your vision

If you suffer from foot pain or wear inappropriate shoes, you’re more likely to fall.

Home hazards include throw rugs, broken stairs, stairs without handrails.

Listen up my fellow senior citizens and be very careful but do live your life and enjoy it!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dining Out in Tomball

Tomball isn’t exactly a metropolis yet, though it may be headed that way. It’s a small, sleepy town that suddenly folks discovered, and it had a growth spurt. The main highway through town is lined with all the chains you’d expect. I saw the old part of town and it’s charming—I remember having ice cream at a sweet shop there. But not a lot beckons you to dine in a restaurant.

Last week, we generally ate at home. I’m of the pick-up, leftover variety for lunch, and Lisa cooked us such good suppers that we stayed home—chicken piccata, chicken parmesan, hamburgers on the grill, cheese enchiladas. But we did venture out twice for lunch.

The first time was to Goodson’s, a chicken-fried-steak place I’d heard was renowned. They do toot their own horn, calling it the best CFS in Texas. It was a funky place with a plastic cow in the lobby, lots of stuff on the wall, etc. The steak was good—batter terrific and generous, serving large (and we ordered small) but the meat was tough. Colin and I agreed that the CFS at the Star Café in Fort Worth is better. The Star, where Colin briefly waited tables, is owned by good friends but don’t think we’re prejudiced—our choice was a carefully considered decision. The sides at Goodson’s were great and leftovers made a good meal the next night.

The second place was the Classic Café in Hempstead. Colin kept saying it was my kind of place—and he was right. Talk about funk! In the front there’s an antique/junk store, and the lunchroom is behind it. You approach through a garden that is a jumble of blooming, vibrant native flowers—the kind of garden I always wish I had enough sun for but, alas, I don’t. The menu was equally pleasing—sandwiches, wraps, a few entrees, a couple of soups. Lisa had a caprese sandwich (I never heard of making that salad into a sandwich), Colin had a chicken pesto wrap on what looked to be a spinach enchilada, and I had an open-faced turkey, melted brie and cranberry relish. It was delicious, though I itch to try it with real turkey and not lunch meat. But it was the kind of restaurant where the waitress chats with you. You can take home a pan of lasagna, King Ranch Chicken, and a couple of other casseroles. Down home at its best.

            Tomball has other restaurants, one I’ve been to several times—Mexican food at Julio’s, which is funny because Colin once worked at Uncle Julio’s in Fort Worth. And the kids mentioned a hamburger joint I’d like and one other. I don’t need to go back to Goodson’s, though I’ll go to Classic Café again. And I’ll let the kids lead me to other explorations. Good times.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Hi, ho, hi, ho. Home again@

I’m back, with apologies for the hiatus. I’ve been in Tomball visiting Colin, my oldest son, and his wonderful family. Jacob went with me to play and hang out with his cousins Morgan, almost twelve, and Kegan, nine. They swam and fished, swam and fished, swam and fished. Jacob caught the most—five fish, including a catfish, first caught in the lake by anyone in our circle. The kids also made s’mores over an open fire, had a water balloon fight, ate snow cones, jumped on the trampoline, went to a movie, went to Top Golf, made their own pizzas and sundaes, and did a thousand other things I can’t think of right now. Aunt Lisa was Camp Tomball Director, and she kept them busy and happy. Last night I asked Jacob if he wanted to go home or stay there, and he said he wanted to stay there the rest of his life.
I should explain. Colin and Lisa live in the country, down a skinny gravel road, outside Tomball. They have a ‘50s moderne house on about three acres with wonderful landscaping that’s been in place long enough to mature, a  small lake (or large pond), and new this year, a wonderful swimming pool.
I also took Sophie, and all three grandkids were good about walking her, and she herself was good as gold—got along with their shepherd mix (even though they ate each other’s food). She slept all night—sometimes on the couch, which was verboten—didn’t mess in the house, was just generally well behaved. And she loved the company, pitched a fit the couple of times we went out and left her.
My days fell into a wonderful pattern. I set up an office at the end of the dining table where I could look to the left at the swimming pool and straight ahead at the lake. I worked at my computer until lunch, read a bit after lunch, napped, and before I knew it, it was dinner time. My favorite time of the day came after supper when we took wine down to the lake and sat enjoying the company, the place, our world in general.

Colin worked hard, building makeshift ramps, etc. to make the house safe for me. And both of them waited on me hand and foot until I am if possible more spoiled than Jordan has made me. Lisa would constantly say, “Drink water. If you don’t Jordan’s going to kill me.” Both Colin and Lisa were around most of the time. Colin even worked from home all but a day and a half, and Lisa, a teacher on summer break, had some appointments but was home or entertaining kids most of the time.
All in all, it was a wonderful week. But this morning, Megan, my oldest daughter, and her nine-year-old son Ford, drove from Austin to Tomball to get us and we came home to Fort Worth. Ford and Jacob will be in the TCU Baseball Camp all week, and Megan will stay with me. She has work to do so I may get a little done, but I’m not counting on it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Restoration ecology--and a slight hiatus

I hope you've been missing Judy's Stew the last few days. I am temporarily unable to post for a variety of reasons, none of them serious or cause for concern. I hope to be back next weekend and hope you'll once again check in to find out what's been going on in my world and my liberal mind.
I did read a blog tonight about restoration ecology, applying the idea of healing after a disastrous fire, to what we need to do for our society in the wake of recent violence. Read it here: Food for thought.
Y'all have a good week.