Monday, March 27, 2017

A typical retirement day NOT

Retirement is so boring—at least that’s what I feared, though everyone said I’d be so busy I wouldn’t know what to do. Boy, were they right. Today was a whirlwind.

Doctor’s appointment mid-morning. I went on my walker which in itself is a big accomplishment. He praised my progress, relieved my worries about the hip buckling and a couple of other minor things and decreed I was doing so well he doesn’t need to see me for three months.

Home to fix lunch. Elizabeth, who lived in my garage apartment for a year, was coming. The world calls her Beth but I stubbornly call her Elizabeth because 20-some years ago, as a work-study student in my office, that’s how she introduced herself. She moved in several years ago for three weeks and it stretched into a year—we had a wonderful time. At one point she looked at me and asked, “What if I never again have this much fun in my life?” But she went off to be with the love of her life in Pennsylvania—yuck, snow and cold—and is perfectly happy but we look forward to visits on her trips to see her family and teach some yoga classes.

Today we had salad plates—I remember the things she likes—tuna salad, ham salad, cucumber slices, avocado slices, cherry tomatoes and tiny dill pickles plus Frango mints for dessert. So good! And such a good visit. I’m delighted to hear that her life is going so well. Jordan took her through the house which, in her day, had been my house, and they had a good visit.

By the time I did dishes, my nap was calling. Slept soundly with weird dreams. Then at 5:00 a TCU colleague came by—she’s dean of the library, and I had sent one of my books there. It’s still in transit but when we talked about it she said she’d come by, and she was full of praise for my new living quarters—inside and out. It was good to hear news of the library and the ever-changing academic scene, plus TCU Press which falls under her umbrella. We had wine and snacks on the patio—lovely tonight, though it’s supposed to rain tomorrow.

Rain is okay. I have lots of work on my desk to keep me busy. And it’s been another good day.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Sunday, ah Sunday

Sundays are church days. That was firmly engrained in me as a child, and I harbor a bit of guilt when I don’t go. In the last six months or more, I’ve missed a lot of church because it was too painful to walk, drive, all that was necessary. Now I go when my family goes; when they don’t, I stay home, enjoy a lazy day, and ask the Lord to understand.

You wouldn’t think with the slow-paced life I lead I’d need a lazy day, but Sundays are still different for me. This morning, I got up just before eight and got to my desk to find out what was going on in the world. I had a sleeping ten-year-old on the couch, and a sleeping dog on the floor near him. The minute I tried to get a picture, Sophie leapt up and began barking furiously at some threat only she detected. She did that several times, but nothing disturbs Jacob when he’s sleeping. He woke up about 9:30, claiming he’d been awake an hour. Yeah, sure.

I spent the day at my desk, doing odds and ends—emails I should have written earlier, first edits on the last pages of my novella. Tomorrow I’ll write the new scenes I think it needs, and I’ve got to come up with a title. The novella will go in an anthology, and the editor is asking for titles. I’m baffled. It has to do with fear, but the right title hasn’t come to me. Fear, revenge ..  . some combination of those? I need help!

I also read a bit on a book I had started and was increasingly disinterested in. Today I decided for several reasons to abandon it. I’m tired of heroines who beat themselves up all the time with guilt for sins done or brave deeds undone. I really don’t need that kind of angst. So I started reading the mystery I wwwrote 44,000 words on some time ago and now want to finish. Believe me, Susan Hogan has no such guilt.

I almost regretted my stay-at-my-desk day when Jordan posted Facebook pictures from Joe T.’s with people whose company I really enjoy. When she earlier said they were going to brunch, I had just eaten a big breakfast—but by the time they got to brunch, I was eating the leftovers from last night’s salad for lunch. They operate on a different time schedule than I do.

Case in point: they shared Sunday night supper with me of sliders and corn. We ate at 7:30, whereas my stomach wants dinner at six. But Christian grills my hamburgers just the way I like them—crisp on the outside and pink on the inside. I absolutely won’t quarrel with his time schedule.

So far tonight, none of the predicted thunderstorms, though I thought I heard a rumble to the south and the sky has occasionally had that eerie blue-green color. But then patches of blue would appear. Go figure.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

A gourmet meal for two

Me on the patio in my new shirt that says
We are All Wonder Woman
I believe it
A fun day, mostly cooking but also some work, and I finished the contest book I was raeding. An old friend (1970s) came for suppeer tonight and I fixed a semi-gourmet meal. Appetizers and dessert were strictly not homemade—a block of Irish cheese with crackers and some addictive sesame sticks that Jordan finds at Trader Joe’s. Dessert was Frango Mints, those signature chocolates of Marshall Field and Company that are sold by someone else now that Fields is no longer. They’re every bit as good as they ever were—order online  if you wnt them. Just search Frango Mints.

But the entrée was something I’ve wanted to cook for a while: a mushroom ragout. My mom used to sauté mushrooms in butter and put on toast, a very British way of serving them which no doubt pleased my Anglophile father. This was sort of an upscale version of Mom's dish with shallots, garlic, rosemary, thyme, white wine, and chicken broth. All that made a rich gravy. The recipe was for four, and I halved it; halfway through I abandoned the direction and began to wing it with amounts. Two things I would change: less flour and less pepper. I could taste just a bit of the flour and that wasn’t good—you shouldn’t be aware of it. The pepper is an oft-made mistake of mine. It certainly didn’t ruin the dish, and some palates might prefer it, but I was looking forward to a more mellow mushroom taste. At first I thought the recipe intimidating but having once done it, it doesn’t ssseem so bad. I’ll do it again.

I laid out everything for dinner about mid-day—plates, napkiins, flatware, dishes for appetizer, salad bowl and makings, seasonings, you name it and it was ready. That’s how I always cooked when I entertained a crowd and it was a joy to do that prep again. It’s half the fun of cooking.

I’ve decided that cooking and writing are in the same category for me—I’m beginning to get my sea legs back. It's all part of my unusually long recovery.  I’ll get a little more ambitious each time I try it.
So what's for supper tomorrow?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lots of work and some insight

One of the good days. A nice rain, without the predicted thunder, lightning, and tornadoes, this morning. Sunshine, a slight breeze, and 70s this afternoon—happy hour on the patio was delightful. Jordan, her good friend Amy, and a surprise but welcome guest—Rae, our favorite of my caregivers. And three dogs. Much laughter, a few tears, and a wonderful sense of caring.

It had been a good day up until then anyway. I often fritter away the morning with emails and Facebook, and I did today, but my conscience got me, and I also edited another chapter of my novella and read a chunk of the book I’m reading to report to a competition. Usually by two my face is falling in my computer because I’m so sleepy but today I was so engaged by what I was doing that I didn’t even feel sleepy when I went to nap at a little after three. Made me think that maybe I’m back in the working groove. Hope so.

When son Jamie was here yesterday, we talked briefly about being introverts. Jamie is my natural salesman, never met anyone who didn’t prompt him to hold out his hand and say cheerfully, “Hi! I’m Jamie Alter.” His brother once said, “I don’t want to have to talk like Jamie.” Although Jame owns his own company selling toys on behalf of manufacturers, he is still primarily a salesman-and he’s wonderful at it.

When something came up about how loudly he talks on the phone, he said, ‘That’s my extravert personality. But I always feel there’s an introvert deep inside me.”

He got me to thinking. I think of myself as an introvert, but I realize I feed on people. I’m not a recluse. I need people in my life. Particularly when I was running TCU Press, I was outgoing and was praised for my people skills, my self-confidence in social situations, etc. I managed large parties, greeted authors, went to conventions, talked to groups, all with ease (well, mostly so) but I always knew I was playing a role. My position as press director was like a shield I hid behind. Put me alone in a cocktail party with no relation to my job, and I became a wallflower.

I realized though, talking to Jamie, that I miss the days of being an extrovert, being the center of attention, getting all that praise. Oh, sure, I have people around me, and I’m grateful for their company, continued presence, loyalty.

But those glory days are gone, a part of my past, just as my glory days of being a gourmet cook and entertaining large groups are over and done with. It’s part, I guess of growing older. And part of downsizing.

Someone said today that it’s good to plan for inevitable changes in our lives, and that’s what I did in downsizing and moving to the cottage. But it has its drawbacks and things that I miss.

I don’t mean this blog to be a downer Don’t get me wrong. I’m a happy camper, couldn’t be happier. Those are just some thoughts that came to mind with a slight twinge of regret. It really has, though, been a good day.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Windy Day

The month of March forgot it’s on its way out today and acted like the lion it’s supposed to come in as. Son Jamie was in town for the day, and we had breakfast at Ol’ South so I could indulge my love of corned beef hash and he could have his Dutch Baby. But the wind was so strong it nearly slammed the car door back on my legs as I tried to get out, and I had to cling to my walker to make it inside. Corned beef hash and Jamie’s company were worth it

Tonight, friends Subie and Phil came for a glass of wine. I had announced earlier in the day that happy hour would be served on the patio. Towards five I thought the wind had calmed, but when we got outside, not so. Huge trees bent and danced as the wind tossed them, and I worried about the buffeting taken by the bougainvillea on the deck which has just thrown out its first profusion of blooms.

We’re due for storms tonight, or in the early morning hours, and I hope this wind isn’t a precursor of severe weather. My lunch date for tomorrow has cancelled in light of the weather, though I don’t think it will be that bad.

Jamie worked all day, so except for breakfast and briefly during the day I didn’t really get to visit with him It was lovely to know he was here, sitting across the room from me, but the atmosphere tightens when he’s working. He’s so intense and frequently utters comments about how frustrated and behind he is. He did fix the controls to my bed—re-synced them, however you do that, and checked my computer, though he could find no reason for its erratic behavior. He intends to pick out a new one for me to buy, but given his travel schedule it looks like at least mid-April before he can do that. I am praying my computer doesn’t stonewall me as it did last weekend. It had one blurp this morning, but I could fix that.

When I said I worried about the pressure he puts on himself, Jamie said, “This is the bed I made for myself for now.” As an ex-beau told me, “Once a mother always a mother.” Yes, I still worry.

Jamie had talked about going out to lunch but clearly, he didn’t have time. We ordered from Jimmy John’s, which I’ve never done. Tuna fish was good, and Jamie said he likes the consistent quality of the food. But no sooner had I swallowed the last bite than Facebook had a piece entitled, “Why you should never eat Jimmy Johns again.” It seems that Jimmy drops huge bundles of money buying exotic animals so he can hunt them for their horns or whatever. He “bought” the last female black rhino in an African game park and killed her. My food stuck in my throat, and I won’t order from there again. Jamie said he boycotted the chain for a year but it was so convenient and the quality so good, he went back to it. I don’t know—quality doesn’t make up for senseless cruelty, extreme vanity, and whatever else motivates that big white hunter.

I forgot about lunch and made tuna salad for dinner. It’s okay. I could eat it three times a day endlessly. Also made a cucumber/avocado salad—really good.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

A mid-week, mid-day adventure

Who expects an adventure on a Wednesday, in the middle of the day? Not me, but I had one today. It began last week when a friend I’d not known well but had seen and visited with here and there over the years called and said she’d had a knee replacement in the fall, knew what being housebound was like, and she wanted to come take me to lunch. Thoughtful and kind, and I readily agreed, looking forward to a visit.

When she picked me up, she asked what kind of food I wanted. We settled on Mexican, and she asked if I was up for an adventure—lunch in a new place that was some distance away. Next thing I knew we were driving down a two-lane, curving country road surrounded by trees and brush—we were on Silver Creek Drive, on the far side of Lake Worth. I kept thinking surely a Mexican restaurant was not going to suddenly pop up on this stretch of road with few houses and nothing else. It didn’t.

By the time we reached our destination, we were in the suburb of Lakeside. LaChoza, in a small strip center, was surprisingly modern and well decorated We were early so service was prompt—I had spinach enchiladas and my host had a plate lunch. Good food, typical Tex-Mex but well done.

We visited, filling in gaps we never knew about each other—careers, husbands, children, all those details that flesh out the life of a person. She who had been one dimensional for me—a photographer at events and a friend at occasional chance happenings—took on several more dimension.

When she dropped me at home she said what fun it was and we’d do it again. But I’m not sure she’ll want to tackle my 1920s skinny driveway again!

An adventure of another sort that was less fun: I tried walking with a cane for the second time today. I thought it was a rank failure. I am awkward, uncertain, afraid, and in a hurry to get it over with. Ellen, the therapist, keeps telling me to slow down and that it will take time. I keep telling her that in recent years I was never confident walking, even with a cane, before my hip gave out. She will come for one more week, and then her assignment will run out.

I’m enough of a realist to know that without assistance and encouragement, I won’t practice with the cane—besides she says not to try it alone (she is a worrywart who is more terrified than I am of my falling—I guess she doesn’t want to undo all her work). Not sure what the next step is, but I know there is a next step. And I’ll take it, however reluctantly.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Is There A Gadget Guru in the House?

I’ve been plagued by electronic failures lately—computer, cell phone, bed controls, in-house camera. Clearly, I need a gadget guru. And here, I think, the difference comes in between sons and daughters—or at least mine.

I mentioned over the weekend that my computer developed a mind of its own and would not pay any attention to what I wanted it to do. I spent the morning hard booting, unplugging and plugging, all the fixes I’ve ever heard about. Nada. Colin came in about eleven, sat there for a few minutes, hit a few keys, and voila! (like the way I mix Spanish and French?). It worked, although I have not turned it off since, only put it in sleep mode.

The camera is one of two that my kids installed so they could check on me. It’s rather lie having Big Brother watching you—it reports to their cell phone, video and audio. They put one right by my desk and one in the bedroom. Fortunately I am past the age and place in life where bedroom privacy matters. The bedroom one quit working, and Jamie has taken it home to re-program.

I have a sleep numbers bed, which means I can use a remote to raise and lower both the head and the foot. The other night the remote quit in the middle of the night—with the foot in a raised position, (That has been a godsend—my “bad” foot was really swollen after surgery, and it’s still good to sleep with my feet higher than my heart.) Scrambling out of the bed with the foot elevated was not easy with my weak leg, but I figured I’d make it okay the rest of the night. After a few minutes the remote magically turned itself on, but today it gave me a low battery message. I changed the batteries, and it told me there was a connection failure

Jordan got on the floor, checked connections; I took the batteries out and put them in again, making sure they were all the way in and the right way. Nothing. The last time this happened, after she’d crawled around on the floor, Jamie fixed it by touching one button. He’s due here Thursday, so I’ll probably greet him remote in hand. At least, this time, the foot is flat and the head barely elevated.

The same night that remote quit, my cell phone got wonky. When I woke in the night, I checked to see who’d sent me mail—but it wouldn’t let me open the mail. Everything else worked fine. In the clear light of day, I rebooted the phone and felt proud of myself that it worked.

But that’s three—computer, bed control, and phone plus the camera which I put in a different category. Does that mean my jinx is over? I surely hope so, because clearly Jordan and I are not equipped to deal with such catastrophes. And when you’re as dependent as I am on electronics, such failures are truly catastrophic.

I spend all day every day at my computer. If it doesn’t work, I’m not sure what I’d do. I can only read for so long, and I’m not a TV watcher. Got to think this through.

Monday, March 20, 2017

First day of spring…and trivia

Things that struck me today: this is my parent’s 80th wedding anniversary. Sure wish they were here to celebrate

In a column of funny obituaries today, I found this: “Ding dong, the witch is dead, but the memory of our mother lives on.” Shh. Don’t tell my kids.

I am a devotee of Sam Sifton’s column in the New York Times, “What to Cook Today.” But he may have gone too far this morning in suggesting putting a pot of oatmeal on overnight in your rice cooker or whatever. Then in the morning stir in some syrup and a shot of Scotch whiskey What a way to start the day!

Wonderful lunch today—friend Carol convinced me she was craving fried chicken, so we went to Buttons, a restaurant that advertises food and music for the soul. It was indeed soul food—the best fried chicken I’ve ever had, along with mashed potatoes and gravy and seasoned green beans. Brought one piece of chicken and some green beans home for supper, just added a deviled egg.

Absolutely beautiful day in Fort Worth today-what spring should be like. We sat on the patio with wine and planned the garden. I want to plant onions and lettuce this week, if we’re not already too late, for spring salads. My mouth is watering as I remember my mom’s wilted lettuce.

It’s going to be a good spring. Hope everyone enjoys it!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A wonderful day—but where was my schedule?

Must be a sign of aging, but I find that even in retirement I live by a schedule—up by 7:30, lunch by noon, nap around two when my head starts falling into my keyboard, dinner around six, and to bed at ten. And I don’t adapt gracefully to changes. Lunch invitations for 12:30 leave me wondering what I can snack on, and I have a hard time on occasion adapting to the late dinner schedule of Jordan’s family.

That said, my schedule went all to pot today, and I loved it. Jamie came from Frisco bringing Mel and his two daughters, Maddie (about to go to college) and Eden—those beautiful girls are above I’m prejudiced but I think they’re lovely, and they are as sweet as they are lovely. Maddie completed training last year to be a Certified Nurses’ Assistant, and she was a big help to me and my walker today.

They got here just before 12:30 and it was 1:00 before we were settled on the porch at Bravo. We ordered drinks and appetizers; Mel was told they were out of Prosecco, and I just flat never got my glass of wine. Finally, after a word to the bartender, we both got our drinks but no food. At 1:50 Jamie gently mentioned our plight, and the manager for the day was on it. I think we had a very new waiter—but I worried about him losing a job, etc. Anyway after that things happened quickly, and we had appetizers and meal in rapid order, then lingered over dessert—tiramisu. Mel joked about spending all afternoon at lunch, and we almost did but I loved the company and the conversation. Great way to spend an afternoon.

After they left for Frisco, about 3:30, my day was off. Napped at 4:15, wasn’t hungry but finally had a sandwich at 7:00—may be ready to go back to bed early.

Burtons are home from skiing today, so my week of independence is over. I find I already have a Jordan list, but I really am working on independence. That aside, I’m glad to have them back—missed them.

Our front yard now sports a swarm of Lily B. signs The Spring Auction for Jacob’s school (right across the street—Lily B. Clayton) is coming up. As publicity, they developed all these bee signs (the bee is the school’s mascot) and a sign that says “You’ve been swarmed.” Glad to be part of it.

Lovely compliment on my Facebook page, one that thrills my heart. A friend who knows my devotion to my Scottish ancestry, wrote “Five thousand years of Scottish breeding shows.” Thanks, Ellen.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Gripes and Glories

The last couple of days have been filled with gripes and glories. My gripes first to get them out of the way:

Today got off to a horrible start. My computer developed a mind of its own and operated with willy-nilly regard to what I was asking or telling it to do. It would flip me out of programs, not accept type, insert rows of meaningless type on its own. I did everything I know to do, which isn’t a lot. But I hard-booted probably twenty times, disconnected from power, let it sit to “collect itself.” Nothing worked, and I grew increasingly frustrated.

Colin and family came through on their way home from ski slopes and he, God bless him, fixed it, though I don’t know what he did. I have asked so I can fix it another time, but I think I see a new computer in my future. Tonight, though, it’s working fine—knock on wood.

Sophie is the cause of my other gripe: yesterday she turned into a food thief. Friends brought me a sub for lunch, it was cut in half and so filling I decided to save the second half—but we all turned our backs for a minute, and Sophie had it on the floor.

Last night, friends brought a bountiful supper that included a round loaf of Irish soda bread. We ate a few slices, and I know they expected to take it home with them. But we turned our back again, and the next thing we knew Sophie was looking at us from the patio, with this half loaf of bread ridiculously clamped in her teeth. Color me embarrassed. Color her unrepentant, like “Why are you all making such a fuss?” We have to learn to do a better job of watching her with food on the coffee table, which is the only place I have to serve in the cottage.

The glories more than make up for the gripes. Joe and Mary Dulle brought Irish stew with stout last night. I know Mary labored over it for three days, in spite of her bad back, even roasted the bones for the gravy. And that gravy was rich and flavorful and wonderful, the meat tender as could be. A pleasant evening—great to visit with them and have that terrific meal to boot. For dessert, we had chocolate brownies with Irish whisky—I was so full last night I only tried one tonight

My other glory was the visit from Colin and family. They didn’t stay long—had one more stop to make in Fort Worth before heading to Tomball, and I know once headed home they were anxious to be there. But they were here long enough for him to fix my computer and Lisa to straighten my closet and, most important, for me to get to hug Moran and Kegan. I so long to see more of all my grandchildren. And bonus: the stopped to bring me a barbecue sandwich for lunch.

Tonight Jordan and family are due home but late. I fixed meatloaf (already prepared), fried potatoes and salad, and am once again over-served. Pleasant evening reading, with French doors open to the patio. Sophie comes and goes at will—but so do flies and those long-legged May bugs or whatever they are. Still, I’m enjoying it.