Monday, September 18, 2017

A working day

Not much remarkable about today It’s hot and dry in North Texas, as though we’re making up for the remarkably cool and wet August we had. It’s not quite middle-of-the-summer, drown-yourself-under-the-sprinkler hot, but it’s enough—mid to high 90s during the day, upper seventies at night. Tonight, we sat on the patio briefly, and it was pleasant. No bugs bit me, at least I think that’s the case.

Working day. Realized last night that I had let an important character in the work-in-progress be murdered, and then had not given him a proper funeral, which would be sort of a test for the main suspect. So back I went to insert the funeral, but without a plan. I told myself that old lesson of writers: just get some words on paper. You can edit later. Already I have ideas to go back and inset tomorrow. For me, it’s always a good feeling to have something concrete in mind when I sit down to the keyboard.

So between my ideas for moving the novel ahead and a radio interview—plus a doctor’s appointment—my day tomorrow is planned. I’m hoping this interview will break the jinx. It’s with Red River Radio, which to me means North Texas and Arkansas, but the interviewer is in California. I’m prepared this time—I know it’s 5:00 p.m. CDT. Good thing I checked, or I’d have called at 3:00 p.m., probably gotten no answer, and given up. This hostess asked for a list of ten questions in advance—should make it easier (I hope).

Tonight was also a cooking night. I made stir-fry but had misgivings about it. My stir-fry has vegetables that Christian doesn’t like—squash and mushrooms leap to my mind. But I cut up lots of roast chicken with him in mind. As it turned out, something came up and I ate a solitary dinner, which was fine. I left it as a vegetarian stir-fry just for me and loved it. It goes in my cookbook, which grows oh so slowly. And at this point, the cookbook is unbalanced—lots in light suppers but very little in entrees and only one recipe in desserts. I confess: I am not a dessert person. If it’s chocolate, my interest goes up; in rare instances, a fruit pie, cobbler or crisp calls to me.

Are you feeling what I am? That we go about our daily lives with whatever characterizes us, from joy to boredom (always your choice), but that we are playing out our petty lives against a larger and very uncertain backdrop. North Korea remains a threat, and daily there are suggestions that Mueller’s investigation into Russia’s interference in our election was severe, suggestions that will supposedly lead to a choice for Trumpf between impeachment and resignation. Meanwhile, he remains himself, tweeting about his golf ball knocking Hilary down—a tweet that put his unofficial disapproval rating on the internet at a high.

And the mood of the country remains belligerent. I read today of a young man sentenced to 30 years for killing an Arabian immigrant who raped his seven-year-old sister. The writer thought this a terrible miscarriage of justice, but what makes it that? The rapist was Arabian? We can’t operate with discriminatory laws like that. The victim was seven? Oh that would be so easy to justify, and the punishment should be severe. But it wasn’t the young man’s place to take vengeance into his own hands. One prays that prison life will be merciful to him and that he will get early parole, but we cannot simply praise him and send him on his way. He has to take responsibility for his action. Neither discrimination nor immigration should be part of the case.

Meanwhile, it’s raining and snowing in the northwest, and the fires may finally be dampened. José missed Florida and remains over water, but Maria is gathering strength and heading for poor battered Florida. Pray for our country, and then go out and do one good thing, just one, for someone else.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Good news and a lazy day

My conscience bothers me on a Sunday when I’m too lazy to go to church, but today I told myself that I was still tired, recovering from the hospital stay. I’ve got to stop giving myself that message. Resolve: to get out more, to exercise more.

Because, tonight, good news. Our neighbors, who are both doctors, came over to catch up with my health. It was extremely kind of them, but we wanted them to know so that if I have an episode and want immediate help, I can call them. The good news part is that my heart rhythm is regular—no a fib. I pray that it stays that way. A little learning is a dangerous thing, and of course I have a theory about what caused the a fib and why it’s gone, but I won’t go into that. I honestly do feel better—but still tired.

Wrote my thousand words today and piddled the rest of the day. We had a picnic tonight—that’s sort of what we call it when we eat in the cottage instead of at the dining table inside. But the dining table apparently is still full of now-clean dishes from last night’s dinner party, and homework has been added to the mix. Christian fixed barbecue chicken in the crockpot and, lacking any other buns, served it in hot dog buns.

A belated thought about last night’s dinner party: I entertained often in the house, with frequent dinner parties of six or eight (plus me, always adding the odd number). I am delighted that Jordan and Christian have taken up that custom, and invite me most of the time—It’s truly a pleasure to still sit at my usual place by the kitchen door (Jordan calls it my princess chair) and enjoy the conversation and good food. Christian is a good cook and also an adventuresome one. Last night we had bulgogi, a Korean dish he made of flank steak. Megan had given him the recipe, saying her boys loved it. It was the first time in a long while that I’ve had flank steak that wasn’t too chewy—and I attribute that to Christian’s carving it really thin. The marinade made it delicious, so thanks to Christian and, secondhand, to Megan.

After the picnic, Jacob brought his homework out. Christian was puzzled by some grammar questions, but I found a secret long ago to pronoun usage. Suppose the sentence given is “We and them wanted to go to dinner.” Instead of trying to remember the rule, break it into two sentences. You would say, “We wanted to go to dinner,” but not “Them wanted to go to dinner.” Clearly it should be “they.” I thought my explanation was wonderful, but I fear Jacob was a bit confused. Oh well, I’m sure it’s not the last time I’ll repeat that little lesson.

Busy week coming up. Doctor and dentist, a radio interview, and the biggie of the week—my launch/signing for Pigface and the Perfect Dog. I hope if you’re close by, you have it on your calendar. At the Wine Haus just down Park Place and across the tracks, closer to Eighth Avenue, 5:00-7:00 p.m. Come enjoy fun and fellowship. I’ll post a graphic on Facebook tomorrow.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

A day of writing, cooking, and conviviality

I haven’t felt like a writer lately. First it was Hurricane Harvey, which we all waited for with dread, holding our breath for friends and family in the Houston area. That distracted me longer than I like to admit, as I watched recovery efforts. And then it was, oh I don’t know, a variety of things, capped by my unexpected five days in the hospital. Then, of course, it took me a few days to get back to my normal routine. And I had to read the work-in-progress to get myself back up to speed on it.

But today was the day I set to get back to my daily goal of a thousand words a day—and I’m delighted to say I wrote two thousand words. And they weren’t all bad. Now I’m geared up to go again. Hope this productive spell lasts.

The doctor’s advice last week was to take it easy and admit I was tired. I took that to heart in my own fashion and began to sleep a lot—early to bed, late to rise, and a nap in the afternoon. That “admit you’re tired” message bothers me, because I’m never sure if I’m really tired or just being very suggestible. At any rate, along with writing, I eliminated my ongoing cooking experiments.

So today, I also got back to cooking. My effort was black bean soup. I cobbled a bit from this recipe and that and was pleased with the outcome. I contributed it to the dinner party Jordan and Christian had tonight, and it got a highly positive reaction. See the recipe below.

The dinner party was the climax of my fruitful day. Guests were two couples, one Hilary who Jordan went to school with and now studies core exercise with, and her lawyer-husband Brent; the other was SuperDave who is family to the Alters and has been since he and Jordan were in high school, and his girlfriend, Kelly. I like them all a lot and was delighted to spend an evening in their company.

Christian fixed bulgogi, a Korean dish of marinated flank steak slices—wonderful flavor from a marinade that had a lot of things in it including brown sugar and soy—what’s to go wrong? He served it on a bed of rice but with mashed potatoes and salad. My black bean soup was the amuse bouche. All in all, a terrific meal.

So here it is, the end of a most satisfying day, and I’m up past my bedtime. ‘Night all.

Super-easy black bean soup

Warning: I blended this in small batches in my countertop food processor, but the first time I did it, I put too much soup in at one time and it ran all over everywhere. Caution is advised.

3 Tbsp. olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 Tbsp. ground cumin

2-3 cloves garlic

1 Knorr beef bouillon cube, dissolved in 2 c. boiling water

or 2 c. beef broth in a box, low sodium

2 cups boiling water

1 32 oz. canned black beans

Rinse beans and let drain in colander.

Sauté onion in olive oil. When it is translucent, add cumin and cook until spice releases its flavor. Add diced garlic, and cook a minute more.

Separately, dissolve bouillon cube in boiling water, if using. Otherwise, just had beef broth. Some recipes call for chicken stock, rather than beef, but I like the heartiness of the beef.

Add half the beans, bring to simmer, and take off the heat and let cool.

When cool, blend in batches. Return to burner. Add remaining beans and simmer.

Serve warm with sour cream and chopped cilantro or chives for garnish.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Chicago memories and an anonymous friend (I think)

My children on the steps of my
childhood home
A year ago today, my four grown children and I were in Chicago, staying at the Drake Hotel (a childhood symbol of luxury for me), dining in new and interesting restaurants, and, best of all, touring the city I call home. I hadn’t been back in at least twenty years, maybe more, and it was a joy to show “my” neighborhood to my children.

I had always told them that I grew up in modest circumstances, so they were unprepared for my childhood home. I can still see the sign as we turned into Madison Park, the small enclave on Chicago’s South Side, We passed the Caverswall apartments, then the Early house, the Wieland house, a new house built on my father’s garden, and there it was—1340 Madison Park. Jamie said, “Mom!” Madison Park has been gentrified, and the house sparkled—a brownstone only of red brick instead of brown stone, the wood porch of my childhood gone, the small patch of land in front landscaped.

We toured, by car, the University of Chicago neighborhood, which again astounded the kids with its wonderful architecture, the Gothic buildings of the university, the lovely, tree-lined streets—I don’t know what they expected of Chicago, but this wasn’t it. We drove down 53rd, the business street I remembered, andsaw my church—good gosh, it looked small.

We ate at Rick Steves’ restaurant, two upscale places, one Italian and one steak, that were owned by the same people, a small bistro across from the hotel, Berghoff’s, and a cutting edge place with a weird menu. My historical Chicago novel, The Gilded Cage, was still relatively new, and a highlight for me was lunch at the Palmer House, a big part of the novel, and the historical tour afterward.

We gawked at the beauty of the city, explored the riverfront (including a picture they tricked me into in front of Trump Tower). They explored the beach opposite the hotel and marveled at the lake—I think Megan expected to see the other shore.

I came home from that trip with a basket full of memories that I will treasure forever. With two hospital stays and a long stretch of questionable health, I may have used up my travel credit card with these four, but I hope not. Toronto beckons, and maybe, a tiny bit, so does New York City.

Meanwhile I, a mystery writer, have a mystery one my hands. Anonymous, that ubiquitous guy, responded to my blog last night, suggesting I let go of my anger (I’m sure he meant political, but it wasn’t really an angry blog). In the back and forth that ensued, I learned that I had once, in his younger years, yelled at him (but he said he deserved it), and he was always just a bit of afraid of me (I’m just assuming a male writer). He liked my blogs about work and family, kids and grandkids, better than political ones. In the middle of the night, I had an aha! moment and decided it was Megan’s high school boyfriend, but she shot that down with, “He was never afraid of you.” So, I’m left with this puzzle, and it bugs me—someone I felt comfortable enough with to chastise (I’m sure I didn’t yell), and someone who knew the family well. Jordan says it could be any of their boyfriends, but I can rule out several right away. Anonymous remains a niggling puzzle to me.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

A day of trivia

There’s nothing like being completely relaxed and confident of your safety, as Sophie demonstrates in her favorite chair. I’m thinking of switching chairs around, so that the two matching club chair wear evenly from her attachment to them. This thought became more insistent today when I crawled into my unmade bed to nap. Did you ever sleep in a beach bed? One with sand that you could not brush entirely away? That’s what this felt like—gritty, only there’s no sand around. It was grainy old dirt from the back yard. My bed is another of Sophie’s favorite spots. She’ll teach me to make it earlier in the day, though my mom taught me to let a bed air out before you pulled the covers up.

I come from a family of nappers. We believe in good, solid afternoon sleep. My dad walked a mile home from his office for lunch every day, took a 20-minutes power nap, and walked back. My power nap today stretched into an hour-and-a-half of solid sleep. In my own defense, because such a long nap makes me feel lazy or guilty or something, I will say that I didn’t sleep well last night. But I dreamt heavily this afternoon. My family was caravanning in several cars—no idea where we were going, but we were in mountains. And I ended up in a small pickup, going at a high speed down a steep mountain road, with son-in-law Brandon driving. It was not hairpin curves but a road that clung to the side of a mountain and wound around it. B is and was in the dream a good driver, but the dream was so intense that I lay in bed for 30 minutes, trying to get rid of it. I think it may having automatically converted my heart back to a sinus rhythm!

I am a bust at radio interviews—there’s no way around it. After confessing the mix-up on my last interview and detailing the preparation I’d done for today’s, nothing happened. I called the designated number two minutes before the show was to start and got a recorded message that the show had not yet started; please call back within 15 minutes of show time—did that mean 15 minutes before? After? For the next 17 minutes, I called at least 17 times—and got the same message. Emailed the publicist who said to let it go; she’d find out what happened.

My rant for the day: every day I think the man in the White House cannot do anything more outrageous, but he exceeds my expectations. Now he’s demanding a rush to a tax bill because it is urgent after the hurricanes. I’m sorry, but how were the rich damaged, other than a few wrecked Caribbean second homes? It’s the poor, those who live at the edge of poverty, who were pushed over that edge. The bill does nothing for them, not one blessed thing. The NBC coverage of the devastation on Tortula only emphasizes where America needs to put money—and it’s not in the pockets of the rich.

And I’m puzzled as I can be by the news of the deal Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi made with Trumpf about DACA recipients. Trumpf alternately denies it and confirms his support for DACA recipients. How do we know what’s true?

I’m now following the daily newsletter of high-school student Gabe Fleisher, and I’m in good company—a lot of well-known political journalists also read “Wake Up to Politics” every morning. I’m hoping young Gabe can do what others can’t and get us the straight of the story.

Not a rant but a sad obituary: I know many of my friends disagree with my stand that we are being hasty in dismantling Civil War statues, but I am saddened by today’s removal of the General Robert E. Lee statue in Dallas. Fellow mystery author Janis Patterson put the case best here:  Read it and weep, because I really believe we will come to regret this haste to change history, which cannot be changed. A GIF on Facebook also says it well: We will change nothing by taking down statues until we can change what’s in people’s hearts.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Reading out loud    

Do you have any idea how hard it is to read your own writing aloud? Some people do it with easy grace, but I am not one of them. I’m to do a radio interview tomorrow that includes at least ten minutes of me reading from Pigface and the Perfect Dog. I’ve chosen two passages—one the opening scene and the other a chase scene, sort of—and printed out the passages in large type. And I’ve practiced three times—each time, I stumble in a new and different place. I’ve decided I’ll just have to laugh off the stumbles. I’ve practiced breathing at appropriate intervals. I’m not sure what else to do in preparation except be nervous.

Years ago, I remember when a Texas college was going to pay me handsomely to read an entire, long short story (oxymoron) to an audience. Shyness and anxiety overcame me, but I practiced on a friend who had a theater background. Her important advice was to slow down, way down. When we read too fast, the pitch of our voices can become unpleasantly high. So that’s another thing I kept in mind in my practice sessions.

My track record with radio shows is not great. The last one, I forgot about the time difference between Texas and Florida and was late, very late, in calling in. They graciously put me on in the second half of the show, but there was so much static on the line I couldn’t understand the questions and managed bumbling answers at best. I checked the time of this show carefully, and the instruction sheet says 11 a.m. CDT, 9 a.m. PDT, which makes me think the show is in California. Wish me luck, please.

This was the first day of my new, take-it-easy policy, and I felt like I was malingering. I was not rushed in checking emails and Facebook this morning, fixing myself some breakfast, taking my time. I caught up on some banking information—really keeping track of tax information. I practiced reading, and I dealt with a few odds and ends that landed on my desk. And I napped this afternoon with no sense of urgency to wake up and get back to work.

I’ve decided for the time being to limit myself to one outing a day—so I cancelled my dermatology appointment and went to dinner with Betty. No problem guessing where my priorities are. We ate at a wine bistro and shared appetizers—deviled eggs and mac and cheese with truffles. Good and small portions, even if the mac and cheese was rich.

Now to spend the rest of the evening reading. This lazy life might become a habit.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Breakfast, Lunch, and Oops—the doctor’s office

When my friend Carol picked me up for breakfast this morning, she sagely announced that when I’m worried about my health, my blog is about me; when I’m feeling confident and good, I branch out. It was her way of complimenting me on recovering rapidly from my recent stint in the hospital. I’ve been blogging about people who annoy me, computer woes, the suspense of waiting for Irma to strike, and so on. I’m about to trash all Carol’s praise. Today was an ill health day.

I enjoyed breakfast with Carol—we went to the Book Ladies, a group of women who have been meeting for breakfast the first Tuesday of the month for at least twenty years and maybe thirty. I was one of the founders of the group, but I can’t tell you for sure when it started, only that it was mostly women from TCU. We decided to welcome anyone who’s life calling focused on books—librarians, teacher, authors, booksellers. It’s a compatible group, all progressives politically. Years ago, we unintentionally ran off the one conservative, a bookseller I really liked. I enjoyed breakfast this morning, even if I did indulge in hash browns with lots of ketchup.

Jean picked me up for lunch on the TCU campus. We had to park a bit away from the entrance, so I had a long (for me) walk, up a medium incline. I had to sit and rest partway there, and again when we reached the room where the retirees luncheon was. Jean had to leave early, and we agreed we’d see who would take me home. But I got so winded, I decided I wanted to leave when Jean did—home was right on her way to her appointment. I missed a speaker I would have enjoyed, someone I know from the Texas literary scene. But I came home and collapsed in a fit of depression and dark thoughts.

Upshot was Jordan took me to our doctor’s office. He was reassuring. Those finger meters don’t work with a fib, so I should stop being worried about my low heart rate. Okay, yes, I was worried. And my body will take a while to adjust to the new normal of a fib, so I will be tired and that’s okay. I of course with my strong Puritan streak thought being tired a week out of the hospital was self-indulgent malingering. He gave me permission to be tired, and I came home and slept the rest of the afternoon.

Long story short, I am much reassured tonight. I think being a novelist has something to do with my anxiety—I give in to my imagination too easily. I used to know a man who said to me, “Go on, bring that bridge right on up here so you can jump it.” He had a point.

I shall now spend my days reading Silver Screen (is it even published today?) and eating bonbons. That used to be our phrase that epitomized the self-indulgent, lazy life.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Some people annoy me

I like to think I’m fairly accepting about people, but lately I’ve noticed some people want to complain about something all the time. I think they work hard to find new things to complain about. For instance, the people who want Hillary Clinton to quietly fold her tents and go away, and for gosh sake, don’t publish that book. Why shouldn’t she speak her mind? She’s been the victim of unbelievable negative scams, accusations, conspiracies—you name it. I’m not at all convinced she lost the last election fair and square—in fact, I think she probably didn’t. And I wish daily she were the first woman president of our country.

But she’s not. Still she has opinions to express, opinions that come from a wide and deep knowledge base. I truly believe some people think she should shush because she’s a woman, she’s been un-womanly all along, and why won’t she learn her lesson. God bless her for persevering. Others want her to fade into the wallpaper because she might hurt the chance for progressives to carry the 2018 election and the all-important 2020 one. I think what she has to say might help progressives, might expose some of the unfair tactics used against her. Preach it, Hillary!

And then there are people who criticize the journalists who brought us on-the-spot reports from the middle of Harvey and Irma. I think particularly of one image of a young man in blue fighting the powerful winds of Irma and being blown back. Some say that was grandstanding, entertainment for the masses. Really? Who finds a storm of that magnitude, with all its destruction, entertaining? I worried, instead, that the man should have a guy rope to keep him from being blown helplessly away. I admire journalists who take those chances--many of their colleagues lost their lives in dangerous situations, and they know it. But they do their job, bringing us news up front instead of from behind a desk.

What have you found to complain about today? On this day of national remembrance, we should all be grateful that our nation survived the 9/11 attacks, albeit not without loss of life that grieves us to this day. But as a nation, we were not crushed, as our enemies hoped. We will come back from these devastating storms too, dragging all those complainers with us.

My mom taught me we each have a choice between happiness and unhappiness. I would add a third choice in there—anger. Which have you chosen? I know which choice calls me.

Y’all have a blessed night. In North Texas, the temperature is in the 70s, though I hear the cicadas, which I always think mean hot weather. While much of the country suffers through storms, we are blessed with wonderful weather. It almost makes a person feel guilty—oops, no, that’s a word I’m erasing from my vocabulary.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

No patience for computer woes

I woke up this morning prepared to stare at the TV and the hurricane devastation. I was not prepared for the computer troubles that descended on me. Actually, they began yesterday when Microsoft suddenly declared my Office subscription had expire.s—you’d think they’d give you a little warning. That froze Word and Outlook, two programs without which I cannot operate. I thought I had solved it—used my credit card to renew, but every time I tried to open either program I got the same reactivate message.

This I bungled through, going to whatever web sites I was directed to, changing passwords so often that I am hopelessly confused. Finally, I “chatted” with a tech who informed me the payment had not gone through—no idea whose fault that was. I asked if she would guarantee me a refund if I paid again and it turned out I was double charged. She promised—how much authority do you think she has?

After about two hours, I seemed to have it straightened out, and I could access Word. Outlook no longer gave me the reactivate message, but it wouldn’t download messages which I knew from my iPhone were waiting. Why does Outlook still work on my phone but not my computer—another puzzlement. This time, I ended up, I’m not sure how, talking live to a woman with a heavy accent. By now I was out of patience and not as polite as I usually like to think I am. I asked for a native English speaker; she sounded offended and promised to talk slowly, which of course she forgot in the heat of conversation.

Picture this: technologically challenged, hearing challenged me trying oh so hard to understand a woman speaking rapid, heavily accented English (either Philippines or India, I’m not sure which). It was getting us nowhere very slowly, and what patience I had left was ebbing. We made a little progress, and she assured me everything was all right; I assured her it wasn’t because the program wasn’t downloading messages. Finally, I gave up. I tried to be polite about having taken too much of her time, but she said oh no, she could spend more time. I couldn’t, and I said a firm thank you and goodbye.

Then it dawned on me in my willy-nilly changing of passwords I had probably changed the TCU password ineffectively and I wasn’t sure what the old one was because I’d already corrected the file. So I went into the TCU Password site, made the change, and lo and behold! It worked. It was now 12:30—a whole morning gone.

I caught up with myself, roughed out a guest blog, picked out a passage to read on a radio interview and practiced it, wrote a review on Amazon of the book I just finished—Marry in Haste, by Susan Van Kirk (I really liked the way she wove history into a contemporary mystery). Napped—needed it by then. Fixed BLT sandwiches for me and Jacob. And there went the rest of the day

Jacob’s parents have been in Missouri for a wedding, but we were both glad to welcome them home tonight. I did enjoy however having that sweet boy sleep on my couch. I am often sad that he’s past that wonderfully cuddly young boy stage—too much a young man these days.

My goof: somehow in last night’s blog I called the storm José Jake—must have been thinking of Jacob, who hates to be called Jake.

Tomorrow is Monday, and I am ready for a clean slate, a fresh start to a new week.

Please keep Houston and the surrounding area in your prayers, as well as all of the southeastern states. For too many of those people the dramatic moments are over or nearly so, but I fear the worst is to come. TV people will pack up their cameras, the devastation will fade from the news, but untold thousands will be dealing with recovery for months, perhaps a lifetime. Pray God’s comfort for them.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Holding my breath

Like much of the country, I’m holding my breath and praying for the people of Florida and the southeastern part of our country. Who knows what direction Irma will finally take? The maps with a hundred lines leave one confused, but the Caribbean took a hit and probably the Keys too. I think of the woman who curates the Hemingway house on Key West and stayed behind with all those cats. Last word was it undoubtedly was damaged. I know tomorrow I’ll keep the TV on, sometimes muted, to keep up with reports.

Such scary times, for those of us with the wits to be scared—fire and flood, storms and inevitable pestilence. The wildfires in our northwest have been overlooked, overshadowed by the hurricanes. But they too deliver unbelievable destruction. People lose their homes. I read today that authorities are recommending people bring their pets in at night and leave buckets of water for wild animals fleeing the fires They will be scared, hungry and thirsty.

An earthquake in Mexico, accompanied almost simultaneously by hurricane Katia. So much tragedy, so much loss of life and property. And, always, I worry about the animals, both domesticated and wild. Scary is way too mild a word for the western hemisphere these days. If you don’t believe in climate change, please go immediately to buy property in Key West.

Back in Texas, life is almost normal, though we can’t forget that many, too many people have lost their homes or are still unable to go back to them. Floodwaters of that magnitude recede slowly, leaving overwhelming destruction, and it will be a long time before Houston and the surrounding towns dry out. A friend wrote that family was going through the detritus of her home, searching for memorabilia, before the bulldozers struck—somehow the bulldozers stuck in my mind. I hadn’t thought of that.

Pray for our country, our hemisphere. Pray for the world. I sometimes feel that we in America have sent off a negative chain reaction. In truth, we are in part the architects of our own doom. We have ignored flood plains and drainage studies in our wild push to build—more business complexes, more housing developments, more shopping malls--the earth will adjust. No, it won’t. The earth doesn’t need concrete covering such large portions of its surfaces. It needs to breath. And now we have a president who willy-nilly tears down the protections for our earth, allowing pollution of our rivers and streams, rolling back building codes designed to erect structures resistant to destruction, ignoring EPA warnings and disbanding that unit of government, showing no respect for the earth that nurtures us. We cannot build pipelines across sacred native lands, and we cannot defile wetlands by drilling for oil. We must learn to respect the earth. Pray that it is not too late. Harvey, Irma, Jake, Katia—all are a wake-up call, albeit it a late and disastrous one. Who is listening?