Monday, November 24, 2014

National tragedy

Everyone has their say on the Ferguson decision tonight, so I hesitate to add much except to say that I see the whole sad affair as a national tragedy for America. The tentacles of this will reach so far in so many directions. When you are distant from the facts, didn't see what went down, and aren't privy to the Grand Jury deliberations, it's foolish to voice opinions. But I still have some.
Yes, I think Darren Wilson probably feared for his life--but he was the one with a gun and with police training and, supposedly, discipline. He blew it. On the other hand, Michael Brown tempted fate--unarmed, he shouldn't have threatened the officer (do we know that he did? Stories conflict).  But the story goes far beyond those two men--one trained and armed, one young, maybe impetuous, and unarmed.
I've heard many black mothers say how they worry every time their sons leave the house. They are targets--for gangs, for police, for all kinds of violence. I worry enough when my innocent Anglo and well protected grandchildren leave the house. Can you imagine that kind of fear? Living in a society that forces that fear on you? Clearly, as President Obama said, we in America have a lot of work to do. He of all people knows that racism is not dead.
I'm sure to the African-American community of Ferguson--and perhaps around the country--this decision supports what they already believe: black lives don't matter. Our society tells them that every day--in wages in social situations, living conditions, etc. And it's not just African-Americans; it's the poor of America. While the rich get richer, the poor get poorer. Bernie Sanders says revolution is coming, and I saw a post on Facebook that predicted that a storm is coming. I pray that Ferguson is not the spark that ignites it, but I also remember riots after the assassination of Martin Luther King, jr., and the beating of Rodney King. I fear for America.
To counter that thought, the black population needs to work to improve their situation themselves, shed the deliberately "in your face" resentment, do worthwhile work, get off welfare--each of us can make our life better if we try, and the color of our skin doesn't limit that. We have countless examples.
Darren Wilson, new bride and all, is a doomed man. He will live with this episode--probably nowhere near St. Louis--the rest of his life. It will follow him, tarnish his reputation, limit his future options.
There is no justice, and once again I pray for America, land that I love. Can you tell I'm still trying to figure out how to interpret this?

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The geese are getting fat...

I know, I know--it's not even Thanksgiving yet, and here I am with my house all decorated for Christmas and most of my Christmas presents wrapped. It is, as I may have explained before, that most of my family will be here the weekend of December 6th. I have this feeling of rushing to get everything relevant done by then, and afterward lying back in leisure. Probably a false dream.
The wreath above was done by a neighbor--sorry, no, she doesn't sell them, and I won't give out her name. She offered to show me how to do it, if I bought the materials. I pled, not untruthfully, that I had no idea what materials to buy and I am all thumbs with craft projects. She said she'd do it, if I paid for materials. She and I both think this wreath is the prettiest one she's done. And I know she was underpaid for her time in shopping and constructing. But I love having it on my front door. She has my undying gratitude.
Previously, for over forty years, I had a red plastic bow, which every year I washed and then tried to fluff and straighten out. Over that I hung a green wreath. I am overjoyed now with the beauty of this wreath--keep glancing at the door to make sure it's still there.
Inside my house is decorated too--mantel, buffet, dining room table. When the kids arrive, it will be very Christmas-like, and I will feel very festive. I already do.
I went to church this morning because I love the Thanksgiving hymns. I got mixed up in what we were singing when, and the one I love--"Come ye thankful children, come" turned out to be a bell choir arrangement which left me all ready to sing it when I realized the congregation was bursting into "For the beauty of the earth." I'm not big on bell choir arrangements--can't follow the tune. And I had a hard time hearing parts of the service, but I was still glad I went. I do indeed have a heart full of gratitude for the beauty of the earth and for God's blessings on me.
Not a very festive dinner today--but hero sandwiches out of pita bread layers and lots of fillings--salami, ham, cheese spread (I used sharp cheese with port wine), mayo, lettuce, tomato, onion, salad dressing, cream cheese. Really good, though a bit awkward to eat. I made these years ago when I was feeding the multitudes on Sunday nights, and now I wonder how many of the things I made. Four servings (six pitas) took a while, though I don't remember that the pitas before were as large or as fragile. The recipe actually says, "Buy deli potato salad," so I bought Aunt Pearl's from
Central Market. Wonder who Aunt Pearl was? I like her potato salad.
Jordan comes home tomorrow--in fact, she's probably on her way to the Milan airport as we speak. She'll have a long day--six-hour layover at JFK-and won't be home until late Monday night, no doubt exhausted. Tuesday I know first on her agenda will be to get Jacob from his grandparents. I'll be lucky if I get a glimpse of her even Tuesday but I'll be glad to have her back home.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Lazy, rainy days

Sunrise in Venice
Fort Worth has been getting a slow, soft rainy drizzle most of the day. I did an outrageous thing for me and slept until eight. Two results: I was sluggish and sleepy all morning and was an hour behind myself. A trip to the grocery store with six heavy bags to lug in and unpack wore me out. Revived by a most pleasant lunch with Subie and Phil at The Tavern--lots of laughter, a bit of gossip, all the good stuff of friendship. Then home for a bit at the computer and a nice cozy nap.
I go through spells of not cooking for myself--I bought tuna salad from Central Market instead of making it myself, for heaven's sake!--so tonight I made tuna cakes, using a new recipe. To me it had everything but the kitchen sink--not the things I usually put in tuna or salmon cakes. Stuffing mix (okay, I did that reluctantly because I don't like prepared food and I certainly didn't want the check-out person to think I was going to use that for me turkey--ah, foolish pride), grated carrots, sweet pickle relish, mayo, water (I guess for the stuffing mix). A little voice in the back of my mind that I should have listened to kept saying, "But it doesn't have an egg!" I had cut the recipe in half, so one egg would have held it together. As a result of the missing egg, the croquettes or cakes or whatever you want to call them fell apart in the pan. Taste was okay but not great--with all that extra stuff it made more cakes than I usually get out of one can of tuna, but I bet they'll be fine in sandwiches with mayo.
The rain grew steadier and heavier, and I settled down tonight at the computer to cross-check images for the chili book--frustrating work. Had to make sure the captions, the list of illustrations, and the numbers on the photos all agreed. Plus there are those photos I haven't gotten yet. I think I made progress, but I'm never sure.
I'm still vicariously traveling through Italy with Jordan. Today she was in Verona--I didn't even know she was going there, but I think it may be the one city that seemed the most charming to me. I am amazed at all the cities with canals and water everywhere. She also sent a video of Lake Como today--I've heard to much about how gorgeous it is, and indeed it was. But at the risk of sounding plebian, it reminded me of Coeur d'Alene. Jordan has one more day--Milan tomorrow--and then she heads home. Christian, Jacob and I will be so glad to have her home again, but she has had a wonderful experience in what looks like another world and she's radiant in most of the pictures. I am absolutely delighted that she's had this experience.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Those golden old friends

Make new friends, but keep the old
Those are silver, these are gold.
I was fortunate enough tonight to have supper with a friend of forty-plus years--our oldest children are both forty-five, and we were friends when they are barely above toddlers, maybe before. In fact, I think I first met her before we had children. One of my favorite stories that Linda remembers is that my second child, as a very young girl, would rush to Linda's make-up table whenever we went to their house because apparently I was deficient in the area of make-up. Probably still am.
We've seem each other through death, divorce, children's weddings, as well as all the joys that pop up on life's journey. We've shared a lot, laughed a lot--and tried together to write memoirs. Both of us have great stories to tell, and Linda is a talented writer. I keep encouraging her to write down daily occurrences--in a class I taught she dealt gracefully with the death of her brother, her memories of her father, her childhood, and other closely held secrets. She was open and frank about her feelings on life, and I always found her writing a breath of fresh air.
When I was teaching the memoir class, Linda always came for supper beforehand, and I've learned to love to cook for her, learned her tastes. Well, there was the one disastrous night when I planned egg salad and smoked salmon sandwiches (do you know what a wonderful combination that is?) and she said she really didn't eat egg dishes. She remembers being forced to eat eggs at breakfast.
But I do remember, too, that she's not a big meat eater but she loves pasta and anchovies--so tonight we had a pasta dish with anchovies, oregano, garlic (heavy on the garlic) and egg yolks. Sort of an aveglemono. (Hmm, wonder if my daughter, traveling in Italy right now, has tried that?) In this dish the egg softened the anchovy and made a wonderful silky sauce. You couldn't really taste the anchovy--instead you got a great, earthy flavor. When we both went back for small second portions, the anchovy was more prominent. Salad and bread, and that's all it takes for a good meal.
Yes, we talked about life's weighty problems--she, like me, was most impressed with the President's talk last night and so sad that the butchering began immediately after. We talked about her mom, who has Alzheimer's and who has always been a favorite of mine, and her step-dad who has really suddenly become a good caregiver. Because she's a kind, caring person, she's making sure that the stepfather is included in her Thanksgiving plans. We laughed at Jacob who was here when she first came--in fact, she came early just so she could see him. When he was about three, he walked her across the street to the school and said, confidently, "This is where I'm going to school." He was right.
It's wonderful to have a friend who almost knows what you're going to say before you say it, and whose thoughts, concerns, joys and sorrows are shared. Thanks Linda, for a  pleasant evening and for a lot of good years of sharing over a long journey.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Nice end to a day of woes

TCU Press has published Deep in the Art of Texas, edited by Michael Duty with an essay by Ron Tyler, and gorgeous reproductions of Texas art, primarily from between 1850 and 1950. Tonight I attended a reception at the Amon Carter--brief remarks by Duty and Tyler and a welcome from co-sponsor of the project, Mary Volcansek representing the Center of Texas Studies at TCU. In his comments, Duty said this is in no way a definitive volume but one that draws back the curtain just a bit to demonstrate that Texas has produced high-quality art. I remember years ago when I was doing research at the Carter for my dissertation. I mentioned that research to an English faculty member, and he joked, "You mean they have art there?" It wasn't funny. This book does much to document the art of Texas and is a project any academic press in Texas would be proud to add to its list. In fact, it made me wish for just a flash of a minute that I was still there--I wanted to be part of such an exciting production. And, the food and wine were excellent tonight. We came out of the Carter to a glorious evening, brisk but nice temperatures and a fresh breeze.
It almost compensated for a bad day. I somehow bruised the side of my foot--noticed last night that it was sore and it was worse this morning. Put on my good, sturdy walking shoes, and it's better tonight. The computer ate two of the images for the chili book--I cannot find them anywhere and will have to go back through that voluminous file to reconstruct the acquisitions process. And neither Jacob nor I were happy with each other, though tonight he went off with Phil Green for hamburgers at Tommy's while I was at the reception--and came back quite pleased with his evening. He adores Phil and his seeing-eye dog Santiago.
The things that went wrong today will work themselves out, and I know that. So I'll concentrate on the pleasant evening. Tomorrow I get a haircut first thing in the morning and that always makes for a bright day.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

My first writing experience

Please welcome my Wednesday guest, Richard Brawer. Richard writes mystery, suspense and historical fiction novels. When not writing, he spends his time exploring local history. He has two married daughters and lives in New Jersey with his wife.


 Before retiring I commuted an hour and twenty minutes to New York City by train. To fill the time I read a newspaper in the morning and books on the ride home.

 One day I read a horrendous news story about a father whose child was born with a brain impairment, and he refused to take him home from the hospital. The nurses were outraged, and their disgust was quoted in the story. Nothing was mentioned about the mother. That’s when my imagination took over and I asked myself, “What happened to the child? Where was the mother?”

 With mysteries being my favorite genre, I took those thoughts and began making notes. The notes turned into paragraphs and the paragraphs into chapters. Thus my first novel, The Nurse Wore Black, was born.

Now I had a book, but what do I do with it? Being a complete novice, I did the usual things most new writers do. I sent out query letters to agents and received a stack of rejections. Lamenting my woes to a friend, he told me about a local independent publisher in the town next to mine. Excited, I dropped in cold to their office. Two weeks later they said they wanted to publish my book. Wow!

When I saw the finished product, the “Wow” factor fell into the depression factor. The cover was not well done and leafing through the book I saw a number of typos. The publisher had never discussed the cover with me nor did they give me a proof of the formatted book. At the time I didn’t know enough to ask for them. As far as I knew, I thought the publisher would do the editing as well as create a proper cover. Needless to say, I did not send this book out for reviews nor did I push to sell it. It was an embarrassment.

The moral: Make sure you are pro-active in every phase of your book’s production from editing, to layout and design of the cover.

The Nurse Wore Black has been rewritten and re-titled, Secrets Can Be Deadly, and is now the first story in my trilogy, Murder at the Jersey Shore, featuring detective David Nance. The three-book volume is available on Amazon. See the link below.

Read more about Richard and his books at his website:

His latest book is Love’s Sweet Sorrow, a romantic suspense novel. Love and faith are tested when Jason and Ariel are caught in a battle to expose smugglers selling weapons to terrorists.

Blurb for Love’s Sweet Sorrow:

It is said opposites attract. There can’t be two people more opposite than Ariel and Jason. Ariel is a traditional Quaker with an absolute aversion to war. Jason is the lead council for America's largest weapons manufacturer.

Their budding romance is thrown into turmoil when Jason uncovers evidence linking his employer to international arms deals that could devastate America. His determination to stop the treason puts Ariel in the middle of dangerous territory.

As the chases to retrieve the evidence intensify Ariel is forced to kill to save Jason’s life. She withdraws into a battle raging inside her, unable to reconcile who she has been to who she has become. Delving deeply into hers and Jason’s long-held opposing convictions, she questions whether they are truly meant to be together.

“Exciting thriller and love story extraordinaire!” Mortimer

“Excellent writing, impeccable plotting, and nicely developed characters. Shoshana Hathaway

“Your writing is very strong, and you have developed a gripping story.” The Writer’s Edge

“The characters and the plot were both extremely well-crafted.” S. Lynn

Read the full reviews at Richard’s website: or the Amazon page for this book.

Love’s Sweet Sorrow is available in a trade paperback and e-book wherever books are sold.

E-book: $2.99

Trade Paperback: $11.99

A couple of the more popular links:

B & N:

Also can be ordered from any bookstore by title or ISBN: 978-0-9890632-7-2

Love’s Sweet Sorrow is published by Vinspire Publishing.

Links to Murder at the Jersey Shore and his social networks:


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A relief, a worry, and a puzzle

A relief: I am mightily relieved that the Senate rejected the Keystone Pipeline. I've read a lot about it: the scientists warn against it--one went so far as to say it was a note of doom for the planet; others point to the spills the pipeline has already had in Canada and this country, including a huge one in North Dakota; the President is not the only one to point out that Canada was merely using the US as a path to ship crude (and dirty) oil to China and other parts--there will be no benefit to the US, except 50 permanent jobs (Bernie Sanders said today that is not job growth). I saw a map today--the Tar Sands oil is in the southwest of Canada. The pipeline would snake it's way over to the Midwest and through our "bread basket," across the Southwest to be shipped out. We will not get a drop of oil; our gas prices will not go down, might go up. Someone told me tonight that the same oil is now being shipped on railroad cars, which is more dangerous. I vote we ban that shipment--let Canada ship its own dirty oil without detouring through our country, either by pipeline or rail. I am grateful for senators who want to work to correct climate change and are not affected by greed.
A worry: the brewing trouble in Ferguson MO. Whichever way the grand jury decides there will still be trouble, I fear. I read a Facebook posting recently about how tired Americans are of giving tax breaks to corporations that pay no tax and make huge profits, of paying corrupt politicians, of the general breakdown in our political system, of racism, of the gap between the wealthy and the poor. It ended with the ominous message: a storm is coming. I'm afraid Ferguson, especially an acquittal, might be the spark that ignites that storm (okay, mixed metaphor). But I remember too well how riots spread across the country after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It could happen again, but I pray not. There's no ignoring that there is simmering tension in this country.
A puzzle: for some time it's been assumed that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee for president in 2016. Once again, I rely on Facebook--it's a great monitor of public sentiment--and I feel instead of gaining support, she's losing traction. More than one person has touted Elizabeth Warren as a presidential candidate. From my point of view, she'd be great but I'm not sure she has the following--yet. There's been talk of an Elizabeth Warren/Bernie Sanders ticket, which sounds idealistically wonderful to me. But I'm not sure they stand a chance. I dismissed a mention of a Clinton/Warren ticket--this country just isn't ready for two women.
With all these issues--the climate, race riots, jockeying for political position--I think it's one of those times we have to trust in whatever God we believe in. I can't believe rational thinking will win out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Report from Italy

Jordan is thoroughly enjoying her first sojourn in Europe--a "fam" (familiarity) trip to Italy. She landed in Rom sometime early early Sunday morning and has spend two days seeing the sights. This morning she reported that her workout for the day was to power walk the Spanish Steps. Made me a bit dizzy just looking at them.
She's been all the places tourists should go, though I can't name them--Christian can, because he's been there. But obviously she's having a grand time.
Not sure where she got the rose, but this was taken her first day there.
Meanwhile, back home, Jacob continually asks what time it is in Italy, and today when talk turned to Europe, he asked if his mom was going to Europe. We explained that she was already there, because Italy is in Europe. Great discussion followed--is Scotland in Europe? I say no, it's part of the UK; Christian says that's still Europe. Anyone?
This afternoon Jacob and I were preoccupied with geography closer to home. Can you name the state that borders Washington and Oregon on the east? How many states share a border with Mexico? What's the two-letter abbreviation or Alaska? Jacob suggested AA, but I told him that wouldn't work. We sped through spelling, math, reading, and social sciences because he and his dad have a project to work on tonight at home.
Had a pleasant catch-up dinner with a good friend I hadn't seen in a while. We ate at the Grill, where I'll eat again tomorrow night. I've got to stop eating loaded baked potatoes! So good, so not good for you.
I have done something bad to my left hip--I suspect it's the result of a fall in the driveway last Thursday, but my hip suddenly grabs me from time to time and my legs feel like leaden weights. I talked to my favorite doctor, my brother, and we agreed it's muscular and should get better in a day or two. He laughs because his wife and I both consider ourselves good diagnosticians. But I've lost my oomph for all the things I should do tonight, from wrapping to decorating. Going to stay at my desk and go to bed early.
Tomorrow is another day, and it will be better. Maybe even warmer.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The geese are getting fat--and it's not even Thanksgiving yet!

I see all those cautions about not putting up Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving, and this year I can only laugh apologetically. I have felt so rushed, ever since I found out that most but not all of my family will be here the weekend of Dec. 6. We may do Alter Alternative Christmas--at the least I'll send their presents home with them. So I've been in a frenzy of baking, wrapping and decorating--far earlier than I normally would have, though I'm pretty compulsive about getting things done ahead of time.
One morning last week I wrapped a lot of presents, and Friday night I baked a Bundt cake to freeze. Saturday I went to the grocery, came home and made two pans of Toll House bars--it wore me out. The batter is stiff and hard to work with and though I softened the butter, blending four sticks of butter into three cups of sugar (brown and white) with a hand mixer is a challenge at best--I had dough bits all over the kitchen. I told Jordan next time she orders those she'll have to do the mixing. After I got them made and baked--with one pan not done in the middle, no matter that I left it almost twice as long and the edges were getting crisp--I was exhausted.
I spent the rest of yesterday being lazy. Cool, grey day, comfortably warm house, good book to read--Maya Corrigan's By Cook or By Crook, which I thoroughly enjoyed--and a long nap. It ended up a self-indulgent day and did wonders for my soul.
But of course I woke at four in the morning with thoughts of all I had to do. So today I almost finished decorating the house, separated out things that didn't need to be done by Dec. 6 (principally gifts wrapped) and made cookie dough, though I just didn't have the oomph to roll out the cookies--the dough is in the fridge for tomorrow. I realized I needed to pay attention to the writing end of my life. So I sorted through chili pictures and worked on the neighborhood newsletter. Once again ready for a nap, though Sophie decided to bark frantically at the rats in the attic during my nap--not restful.
Jordan is in Italy on a business trip (poor girl) so Christian and Jacob came for supper. I made hamburger Stroganoff, which wasn't as good as it sounded, and a good salad plus broccoli for Jacob because he loves it and won't eat salad. Christian worked on the greens and lights for over the door, and we sat and visited by the fire. Pleasant evening.
I've about given up on the novel I'm working on until I get this Christmas thing--and all those fat geese--in hand. But tonight I will go back and correct one scene. Where was my brain when I had a man, two days post-op from being shot in the belly, demand chicken fried steak? Rethink that one!
Have a good week everyone.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

My whine for the day

I have a good friend who is visually challenged--okay, he's almost virtually blind. He has a service dog, a white cane, and a lovely wife who looks out for him every minute. We all look out for him, telling him when there's a table or chair in his path, guiding him to a chair, pointing out where his food is, handing him his drink. Oh, every once in a while there's a blind joke--like the time someone asked him if a certain person had curly hair and he dead-panned, "I have no idea."
I am hearing impaired, and I get lots of jokes and teasing. "You got your ears in?" "Can you hear me?" Some people speak so clearly and distinctly on the phone, they're a joy to talk to; others talk too rapidly or softly, and I find myself asking them to slow down, speak up, always apologizing that I'm "a tad hard of hearing." Tad hardly describes it. Music in church never sounds the same--my friend who cannot see also wears hearing aids, though he doesn't seem to have as much trouble as I do, but he agrees music never again will sound the same. If I'm in a room with ten friends all talking at once or in a noisy restaurant, forget it! I may get snatches of the conversation but not enough to tune in. Sometimes, people make an effort to speak clearly and distinctly...and I still don't get it. Part of hearing loss is a sort of loss of comprehension (I've read this so it's not just my senile brain)--you hear the words but they don't make sense. And then when they do suddenly make sense, you're embarrassed. I have come up with some really odd interpretations--like the other daughter said she wanted something, and I said, "You want caviar?"
Don't get me wrong. I'd a lot rather lose my hearing than my sight, and I admire my friend up one side and down the other for the way he lives his life--traveling, partying, enjoying himself. Until a couple of years ago, he worked; he still reads and works on the computer, though I not sure with what kind of enhancements.
But sometimes I wish loss of hearing wasn't treated as the joke of old age. It's a real problem for me, folks. No, I don't think it changes my life much--but it embarrasses and frustrates me.
Okay, whine over. As you were.