Friday, August 31, 2007

What a Day!

Some days it doesn't pay to leave the house. This morning I woke up earlier than usual, so I sort of meandered through the morning. I was wandering through the morning paper when I glanced at the clock--it was ten minutes of eight and I'm usually at the office by eight! I hurried to dress and make the bed, but as I was backing out of the driveway I realized I didn't have my cell phone. Went back in, unplugged it from the charger, and tried again. Then I realized I needed gas, so I stopped at 7-11. The pump said it couldn't read my card, so I went around to another pump, got gas, and was in my car about to turn the key to leave when a woman in a big "old lady's car" (Megan's term for Cadillacs, Buicks, etc.) backed into me. It's not bad, but it's clearly a dent. She suggested I was too far out from the pump and that was the problem, but she went to write down her insurance info. While I waited I thought I better call the office and assure Melinda I really was coming in. Cell phone was dead. At the office I called Verizon, and they said to take it in, it was probably time for a new phone. Then I talked to Jamie who gave me a long lecture about not letting them give me a cheap phone--I'm not sure what his idea of cool is, but he clearly didn't trust me. So Melinda and I went to lunch at a place out near Verizon. Handed them the phone, said it was dead, and they said, "You need to turn it on." Reminded me of the time I called an electrician, and he changed the light bulb. Melinda did NOT laugh--she just kept saying, "At least you don't have to buy a new phone." Jamie said, "Score one for the blondes!"
When I got home today about 2:30 there was a sweet message from Edie, left about 8:30 when she was on her way to school. It just said, "I hope you have a lovely day." I thought about it and realized that after 8:30, I did have a pretty lovely day.
The Frisco Alters (Jamie, Mel and the girls) are going to Austin this weekend for a triathlon. Megan had invited me to come for the weekend, but I thought in light of my recent physical disaster I should stay home, even though I face one of what I use to call "divorcees damn long weekends." It will make me sad that some of my grandkids are together, and I'm not there--but I think this is best. I have no pressing projects but things to do, books to read, neighbors to vist. I think Jordan, Jacob and I will have lunch tomorrow, and I may go with them to Christian's parents for supper on Sunday. Meantime, I'm going to finish that women's rights manuscript.
I'm back to reading How the Scots Invented the Modern World, and I get excited reading about the history and even more excited thinking about going to those places. I have a vision of myself walking around, open-mouthed, gaping at everything.
I hope each of you have a lovely day ever day.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fall Breezes, Books, Temporary Set-backs

Fall is coming. Oh, I know there will be the hot days of Indian summer, but tonight I sat on the porch with a book and enjoyed a marvelous breeze with cool tones to it. This afternoon we had rain--fairly heavy even if it didn't last long. At first it stirred up a breeze and turned the air cool, but after the rain passed, it was awfully hot and steamy. But tonight that breeze was back. And it blew away the no-see-'ums, not as longlasting a bite as mosquitoes (nor with the threat of West Nile virus) but they are annoying. The cicadas have been louder than I've heard them before the last couple of nights. It seems every cicada in Texas is in the big old elm tree in front of my house. They swell in a great rousing chorus that makes you think maybe it's their version of the Hallelujah Chorus. Then with the pacing of good music, the sound drops to almost nothing and there is near silence. In a minute, there comes that chorus again. I know cicadas are supposed to presage hot days, but the temperature is predicted to be a relatively mild 91 tomorrow--after 100, 91 is a gift. I don't have as many birds these days--I let the bird feeder stay empty for a week (a mistake) and maybe it's taking them a while to rediscover it. There are a few, but not the flocks I had.
My neighbor was out pulling up her garbage carts, and I got her copy of Texas Monthly that I'd borrowed to read an in-depth article about the King Ranch and one not so deep about novelist Sandra Brown. I offered her Ayaan Hirsi Ali's Infidel and at first she said no, it would just depress her. I said if I found it inspiring, she was bound to. After all, I'm the one who still hasn't read The Kite Runner, because I don't want to be depressed--everyone else says it's a wonderful novel. So I got to pondering that--maybe I can read about such things in nonfiction because I know the outcome, I know that Ali is safely in Holland, a member ofParliament, and an outspoken activist. A novel, almost by definition, keeps you in the dark of the outcome, drawing you along. Sometimes I think my imagination is too active, so that I put myself too much into what I'm reading. Can't read Stephen King and things like that, and I even hesitate to read Mary Higgins Clark if I'm home alone--her stuff is scary.
So what was I reading tonight? Harlan Coben's new novel, The Woods. It's almost pure plot, no character development, a true beach read, but I confess I'm hooked on it and as soon as I finish this post I'm going back to it. The difference between good reading and things that capture me is a problem I think about a lot, but I don't have an answer--except that maybe I'm an escapist.
After my various unpleasant health problems, I'm feeling much better. But I think you have to work hard not to consider yourself frail or still weak or something. Maybe what I mean is not to baby yourself--and I'm still doing a bit of that. But I remember what my brother cautioned a day or two ago: Treat your body with respect.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A New/Old Diet and a Riveting Book

This "bug" that got me resulted in a learning experience--my doctor's office advised the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast). I thought that was something wonderful and new, but Melanie told me it's "all over pediatric medicine" and Melinda said she raised her kids on it. It seems to be effective, but I am getting hungry and tired of those four foods. Now I'm on antibiotics, which can always lead to side effects--so I'm not a happy camper.
This enforced laziness, however, has had an upside. I spent the last two days reading Infidel, which I mentioned in a previous post. It's a gripping story, and I have great admiration of Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Born in Somalia into a strict Muslim family, she ran away from an arranged marriage, escaped to Holland, educated herself, and eventually became a member of the Dutch Parliament. She is so outspoke about the cruelty and inequities of the Muslim faith, especially against women, that she has received death threats and often had security guards. In spite of her many accomplishments, her telling of the story reveals her as sensitive, with all the insecurities, guilt, and conflicts of the rest of us. I was particularly interested in the way she worked through the conflict between her Muslim faith and the world she was learning about at the University of Leiden. I really recommend this book.
Yesterday I didn't feel like working and was delighted when Jordan said she and Jacob wanted to get out of the house and were headed my way. She and Christian have been in Mexico for a long weekend--I now know there's no justice in this world. She goes to Mexico, and I get Montezuma's Revenge. Anyway, they spent about an hour here, and Jacob was busy as ever. My exercise bike has a coiled wire of some kind in the back, and he's been told firmly several times that it's "not for Jacob." So he got between the wall and the bike, where we couldn't really see him. If I called his name, he favored me with his most winning smile. Jord said he had his hands poised over that wire, as if to say, "Look! I'm not touching it!"
Megan is talking about a girls getaway in Santa Fe when American Eagle starts direct flights. Won't take much to convince me!
Off to read a mystery.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

A Lost Day, but with a dash of fun

A lost day. Yesterday I had what Jordan calls "stomach issues" all day but went on about my business. This morning I woke with a long list of errands but was dismayed to find the "issues" still there. By the time I read the paper, took care of the dog and cat, and got ready to leave, all I wanted to do was go back to bed. I slogged through the morning--library, hardware, grocery, optician, and Barnes & Noble. At that point I gave up, telling myself if I felt better in the late afternoon I'd do my Central Market run then. It didn't happen--I couldn't stay out of bed and have taken probably four naps today. My brother-the-doctor mentioned possibly an intestinal virus, and I realized that's how I feel--draggy and lethargic like you do with a virus.
I called Colin and Lisa and learned that two-year-old Morgan is sick, with a cold, high fever, and junky eyes. I told Lisa to tell her that Juju loves her, and Lisa said Morgan patted the chair next to her. Lisa asked if that was where she wanted Juju, and she nodded yes. Broke my heart!
I've done quite a bit of reading though today. Finished the mystery, Dead Days of Summer, one of Carolyn Hart's most riveting I thought--it had been keeping me from doing anything else. Then I read a chldren's book about Rigoberta Menchu who fought for human rights in Guatemala, had to leave for Mexico for safety, and continued to speak out. She won a Nobel Peace Prize at the age of thirty-three and is now back working and speaking in Guatemla. And then I started Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a native of Somalia who is now in exile in Europe but is an outspoken and prominent activist. I'm reading it for the women's rights book I'm doing, but it is a fascinating if grim picture of life for women in Africa's Muslim cultures and, briefly, in Saudi Arabia. Got almost a hundred pages into that, before I turned to The Texas You Expect, a history of Buffalo Gap Historic Village. I hope to write my next column tomorrow on the village, State House/McWhiney Foundation Press headquartered there, and some of their books. Then I'll go back to Infidel, but I'd really like to get all this behind me and go back to my Scotland book.
But to finish the day I picked up The Food Snob's Dictionary, An Essential Lexicon of Gastronomical Knowledge, by David Kamp and Marion Rosenfeld. I got an advance review copy, though I can't figure why, but I'll give it a brief "review" here. I recognized some of the terms and quite a few of the names, like Jacque Pepin, but did you know the truffle oil you get at the market is really overpriced vegetable oil augmented by synthetic compounds that smell like truffles? Or that Chilean sea bass is really Patagonian Toothfish, so fashionable that it was overfished and is now regulated--and sold on the black market?
Here's a test. Do you know
What a Newton Pippin is?
What an ortolan is?
What sous-vide means?
What a forager has to do with gourmet cooking?
What free range chicken really means and the USDA's attitude toward it?
Night, everyone. Time to go back to bed--again!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Buffalo Gap and other things

I may move to Buffao Gap, Texas. It's a small and, I use the term hesitatingly, quaint town outside Abilene. It has two main attracttions--the Perini Steak House, which I mentioned before and where, after all, I never got to eat, and the Buffalo Gap Historic Village. I spent a lot of time at the villae and found it fascinating. It's a recreated village which reflects the history of that part of Texas (the Big Country) from 1875 to 1925--barns and a blacksmith shop, a school and a railroad station, a lovely garden with fresh tomatoes among other things, chickens, and odd relics stuck here and there--a permanent wave machine, of all thngs, in the barn. Plus a wonderful "Texas history store" for browsing and spending too much money as I did (but it was such a neat T-shirt!). We had a day and a half of sales meetings there, and the meetings were lively and enthusiastic, with new ideas for selling books popping up. I came away feeling energized, looking forward to digging into all the suggestions and ideas.
Three friends and I stayed in "the parsonage," as guest house owned by the village. Reflective of its name, there are crosses on the walls, and one room is the "faith" room. A charming house--three bedrooms, living room, dining, and fully equipped new kitchen, well stocked. Tuesday night we had a wonderful dinner in Abilene--best steak I've had in forever--and then a small party at "our" house. Stayed up too late of course and probably drank one extra glass of wine, but it was all fun.
On the way home, I headed us the wrong way, and we went twenty miles south before I realized something was wrong, So we turned on little country roads and finally made our way back to the highway that leads to Fort Worth. Even that was fun and funny.
Tuesday night on the way home my friends Fran and Gayla got the giggles. Anything that was said just spurred them on more, and Gayla laughed so hard she couldn't answer the phone when her boss called to ask if we were lost. Somehow it didn't strike me as funny, and I could feel myself being the sourpuss in the group--but here we were wandering around Abilene, having lost the people who thought we were following them. Giggles I decided are like a lot of other things--funny if you're on the same train and not very amusing if you're not. I tried extra hard to be pleasant the rest of the night, and they did calm down. We're still friends.
Home now and plan to stay here for a while. I've got lots of work, including that manuscript due September 7, projects for the office, a mystery I want to finish reading, a column to write--yikes! I gotta go get to work!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A quick trip to Houston

Jordan, Jacob, and I are just back from a flying trip to Houston. Went down Saturday morning early and came back Sunday morning early. The occasion was Morgan's second birthday, but it was a good chance for me to have time with three grandchildren, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Morgan was alternately pleased to be the center of attention and shy at her party--with maybe seven or eight kids and a lot of adults, her grandparents, aunts and an uncle, parents' friends, all of whom dote on her. She and Jacob played together a lot--sometimes. Other times she got very possessive about everything from her small DVD player to her father and shouted "Mine, mine, mine!" You can't blame her--heaven knows he can come on strong--into everything, doesn't understand boundaries, but eternally cheerful. Well, except in the car with his mom and grandmom on long drives.
I also got some good time with Kegan who, at four months, is an absolute delight, grinning at you with smiling eyes if you pick him up and talk to him, and lying there and taking it all in if you put him on his blanket. Life--and a lot of people--seemed to swirl around Kegan, and he was peaceful and placid, slept through some of the noisiest parts. We had to watch at the party though that no kid stepped on him, and it was a good chance to reinforce those lessons to Jacob about "gentle, gentle."
It was great to see Colin and Lisa and have a quiet supper with them, kids already fed. Then we sat and visited, but I gave out early, bone tired. Today we left right after breakfast--from the onset Jacob, who had played soooo hard Saturday and as a result not slept well, was not pleased to be in the car with us again. He took two brief naps and then alternately cried, laughed, and stared out the window. I decided to ignore him unless he erupted in shrieks, which I pretty much did. But at one point he took to shrieking with his hands over his ears in the classic "hear no evil" pose. I said I hoped he wasn't getting an ear ache, and then added, "Or maybe he's just tired of hearing us talk."By the time we hit Fort Worth all of us were tired, hungry, dirty and ready for home, lunch and a shower. Jacob probably had an added problem--a really wet diaper. But it was a good trip, and I'm glad we went. Fortunately, Jordan and I make a good traveling team--she drives, I navigate, and we are both able to laugh at foolishness. At one point we got testy--when we both thought we'd missed a turn--but then we laughed about it. She didn't even mind that when we left Fort Worth, I said, "What? Oh, yeah, 35." We got about five miles down IH 35 and I said, "this is wrong." She asked "Where are we going?" and I said "Austin if we stay on this road." So we backtracked and made our way to IH 45.
Lisa disproved my theory about taking better pictures. Okay, they were happy pictures, but not particularly flattering. Still it's nice to have pictures of me and Kegan, the youngest of my grandchildren. I'm attaching a picture of my youngest and oldest and one of me with Kegan.
Busy week looms. No time for manuscript or any such. I'll just get by--and get more serious at the end of the week.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Happy Pictures

If you asked me, I'd probably tell you I'm happier than I've ever been in my life. I have a wonderful close family with adorable grandchildren, and I see them all fairly frequently; I have work that I love; I have a comfortable home, and the dog and cat and I are settled in; and I have more discretionary income, at least for a while, than I've had. So life is good.
But I realized something today. My mom used to say that her father told her she took such a bad picture that the only place he'd hang it was in the barn. My line was that I inherited that tendency from Mom. I looked awful in pictures. Even my dear friend Bobbie, who thought I could do no wrong, said once she didn't understand why I looked so bad in pictures.
Today I had to go get a new TCU i.d. card. Lost mine, I don't know where--a $20 mistake! The administrative assistant asked if I wanted a new picture, and I said "Absolutely, let's try again. I look like a convict in the old one." Melinda was with me and made me laugh--it was a wonderful happy picture. (I'm taking Melinda next time I have to renew my driver's license!).
Then, back at the office, I looked at the dust jacket for Grace & Gumption, a book for which I was one of 14 contributors. And it's another happy picture.
I never really thought I was unhappy before, but now I'm wondering. Anyway I look different in pictures--and I thought it was interesting.

Thursday, August 16, 2007


Scooby, my Australian shepherd who is seven and a half and thinks he's one or two, got to come in early tonight. It was thundering, and this dog, who is fearless about chasing squirrels, motorcycles, school buses, strollers, and whatever else, is terrified by thunder. He loses whatever common sense he has, paws at the door, whines, and paces. So I took pity on him tonight, though he's had to tough out a lot of the storms we had this summer and spring in his very safe, very dry dog house.
Scooby is a rescued dog. I got him from the Humane Society when he was three-and-a-half. He'd been a "backyard junk dog" in a place where they had way over the legal limit of animals in the city, and his owners had been forced to relinquish several dogs. I think Scooby always had to fight for food--to this day, he'll steal it whenever he can--and he was abused, because if you hold his collar, he freaks. They told me it was a wonder he hadn't been put down already, because of his age and size, but I was horrified. He's absolutely too beautiful to put down. He was wild as a March hare then, and if he seems a bit out of control now, I tell people they should have seen him when I first got him. I think Scoob knows he's got a good deal. And, no, I didn't name him--he came with that name.
Scooby liked having Martha and Dick here, because they stayed in the guest apartment and frequently wandered through his back yard between the apt. and the house. Dick took him for a walk one morning--something I don't do because he pulls me down--and when I asked how it was, he said, "It wasn't a walk. It was a pull."

Photo by R.G. Andersen

At my request, Dick took a picture of me and Scooby on the front porch. My cousin in Canada, who is in a nursing home and has little joy in her life, loves dogs. I sent her a doggie greeting card not long ago and got back a sweet but short thank you note that she had laboriously written. Melinda in my office looked at it and said, "Do you realize how much effort it took for her to write that?" I did. So tomorrow I'll send the picture of me and Scooby to Jennifer. I hope she enjoys it. Jennifer has no other blood relatives except our aunt, who is 95 and unable to take an interest in Jennifer's affairs. So I am trying to manage them long distance--an often frustrating experience. The bank won't recognize my power of attorney because Jennifer's signature on the consent form doesn't match her signature card on file. Of course it doesn't! She's had a stroke and is bipolar. Whenever I get frustrated, I remember the time my parents were leaving on a trip, when I was about seventeen. My dad looked at me and solemnly said, "Judy, if anything happens to us, you will take care of Jennifer, won't you?" At the time my only thought was "No! Nothing will happen to my parents." But now, with both of them long gone, I hear Dad's voice saying, "You will take care of Jennifer, won't you?" And I will.
I hope each of you have a lovely day every day.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007


Martha and Dick have been here since Sunday evening, and tonight, Wednesday, they're getting ready to leave in the morning. The visit has been every bit as much fun as I anticipated, but different than the things I planned. Like a good hostess, I thought of all sorts of options--a tour of this, a visit to that, the Mueck exhibit at the museum, etc. And, always, I thought of where I would take them to eat. Little of it came true. We did go to some of the eating places--the deli that they loved on a previous visit, my favortie bistro. One night we had take-out barbecue--ribs, sandwiches, potato salad and slaw--because Dick really wanted some Texas barbecue. But mostly we ate dinner at home--a potpourri the night they arrived, steak and potatoes one night, and, tonight, leftovers.
We spent a wonderful morning at John's ranch, taking a tour on the mechanical mule where Cindy and I got to sit in the back where it was really really hot. But Martha and Dick loved the ranch and the visit. Then we went into the historic town of Granbury, did a tiny bit of shopping, ate lunch with a friend of mine. That trip was a huge success. And maybe the thing they enjoyed most was a slow tour of Central Market, our wonderful upscale grocery with all its gourmet offerings.
Dick is Mr. fix-It, and he took my barbecue apart and redid it, scrubbed the front porch until it shone (while I napped!), fixed the screen door on the apartment, all those things that are ignored by single women living alone. I'm already starting a list for their next visit--and Martha plans to call ahead so the liquor store will stock lots of Asian beer, which they like because they lived in Singapore. So that means, to me, they'll come back now more frequently.
And mostly we sat on the front porch with a beer or a glass of wine--this in spite of the fact that it was ungodly hot. It's not easy for me to sit and visit at length--I have the urge to be up and doing. But a couple of times Dick was insistent that I just sit, and I did. We reminisced about Kirksville, Missouri, the VERY small town where we all first knew each other, and we talked about grandchildren, and people we remembered, and all those good things that make a mosaic of friendship. At one point I said, "You know, we have a lot of shared memories," and Martha replied, "Yeah, especially considering that we don't see each other very often." That's the stuff that makes friendships endure for 40+ years, as ours has. Jamie had a saying engraved on steins for his groomsmen, and I can't remember all of it, but gist was that "new friends are silver, but old friends are gold." So true!
Tomorrow it's back to work and the real world. Friday night I'll stay at Jordan's house to babysit Jacob, but our Saturday trip to Houston is in doubt. We'll see. I'll be sad if we don't go, but I'm so harried, with so much to do, that it might be a relief. Next week I'm off to meetings in Abilene for two days, with houseguests the night before. My life is neither dull nor slow.
I wish for each of you a lovely day every day.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Smugness probably goeth before . . .

Well, maybe smugness doesn't always go before a fall. I hope not, because I'm feeling sort of smug today. The assignment to do a children's book on women's rights has really been sitting like a huge weight on my shoulders--I find the topic fascinating, but the deadline--September 7 for 3500 words--is unrealistic, especially given all that I have going on in the next two weeks--houseguests and trips. And as I've said I've had to do some delicate language juggling. But yesterday and today I wrote 3100 words. Granted, they're really rough words and need much editing and polishing, but I have a start on it. And I have dinner cooked for my houseguests who arrive tonight, except for boiling the corn. So I'm sort of on holiday. I've put the manuscript aside and will spend part of this afternoon going over some press business with a member of our advisory council--and maybe doing a little reading.
My neighbor Sue is always trying to improve my reading--I've said that before. I read mysteries, and she reads Joyce Carol Oates and the like and frequently recommends books to me. Well now I'm reading How the Scots Invented the Modern World, and I feel that qualifies as "significant reading." But I'm loving it. No, I haven't found a mention of MacBain yet, but I've sorted out theBattle of Stirling Bridge, Glencoe, and Culloden in my mind, been astonished at the way the Scottish Kirk set some precedents such as universal education, read about the union with England (never did understand the government relationship or why Ulster in Ireland is different, and now I have a vague idea). Nor did I know about the Scottish Enlightenment. Last night I read with fascination about the Highlands and their culture just before Bonnie Prince Charlie's uprising of the clans--that's the next chapter.
I'm learning a lot and making notes. Now I know the importance of the Firth of Forth (separates the lowlands from the highlands). Do I want to visit Edinburg? Spend time in a farm b&B (yes to that one!). Go to the Hebrides?
I've gotten so involved in things Scottish that I wrote a check today for membership in Clan MacBean. I think years ago I joined Clan Chattan (an amalgamation of smaller clans to protect themselves from the huge Macdonalds and Campbells--I learned that from our Scottish provost; of course the Campbells slaughtered the Macdonalds in a dastardly deed and you should never trust a Campbell, except that my aunt married one and I adored him).
Off for a quick and early nap, feeling at not quite 1 p.m. that I've accomplished a world of good. Yeah, smug, that's what I am.
I wish for each of you a lovely day every day.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Writing is work

I've had my nose to the grindstone this week--or, more literally, to the computer and google. I'm writing that children's book (4th grade) on global women's rights. There's an enormous amount of really good material, from respectable sources, on the web, but it's problematic for that age group. So many of the issues surrounding women's rights, or the lack thereof, are sexually laden. How do you talk to four-year-olds about genital mutilation? Rape? I find myself sitting and wondering what Maddie knows, if anything, of the word--and the concept--of rape. But I'm sure not going to call and ask her. I emailed her mom to inquire about the website about Chinese girls in orphanages, and she reminded me that it's It will break your heart, but it's worth checking out. Half the Sky is a foundation that tries to see that there is a loving, caring adult in the life of each child in an orphanage in China--they have programs for various age children, and a village for children with special needs. Of the tens of thouands of children in Chinese orphanages, 95% are girls--infant girls are found abandoned in doorways, on park benches, in market squares. Always a small wrapped bundle. It's mostly because of China's one-baby rule, which is sporadically enforced--but where it is liable to be enforced, families prefer a male child. If you check out the website, you can also contribute. Mel also pointed me to a book, The Lost Daughters of China, which I intend to read, but not until I finish this assignment.
The manuscript is due September 7, which isn't all that far away, and I have company for three days next week, then an overnight trip to Houston, and two days at sales meetings in Buffalo Gap. Should be fun to stay in a b&b in Buffalo Gap, a kind of funky town with a hstoric re-creation, just outside Abilene. It has a much talked-of steakhouse, Perini's, and I understand they're going to open for lunch just for our group. I've used the recipe for Perini's steak rub for years, and so am glad for the chance to eat there. It's been on my "want to" list for years.
I did take time to go to dinner with Betty last night--to Chef Pointe, a restaurant that started in an old gas station and drew raves for its gourmet Italian dishes. We went to Chef Pointe II, a stone-and-wood-interior restaurant obviously previously occupied by someone else, and had stuffed mushrooms and chicken scallopini--good but oh so rich. I had a bit of the noodles and sauce for dinner again tonight.
And I'm looking forward to the visit from longtime friends Martha and Dick Andersen of Omaha. We all knew each other forty-some years ago in Missouri and have kept in touch, visited occasionally over the year. They are, to me, an example of how much eaiser email makes it to keep old friendships alive--when we could only talk by phone, it was very occasionally; but now we're in email contact once every month or so. I'm busy planning where to take them, what to do, where to eat. The highlight will be a trip to John's ranch, though he called today to warn that it's going to be really really hot and we should come in the morning. We'll see how it works out. Not only will I enjoy their company--and some lazy porch sitting and talking--but I get to miss work and just drop by occasionally.
So until they arrive Sunday night, my nose is in google, though I'll take a chunk of Sunday to fix what I call dinner al fresco--a basket with small servings of salmon, grilled chicken, tiny lamb chops, and various veggies such as cobbettes of corn, cherry tomatoes, etc., and maybe deviled eggs. It's a fun meal to serve. Tomorrow, I'll go to two groceries--mostly our wonderful Central Market--to collect what I need.
I wish for each of you a lovely day every day.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes . . .

The whole Alter clan was together for the weekend. Like other families, we have our moments of friction, but on the whole, it's amazing how well the adults all get along and how fond they are of each other and of all the babies. And believe me, there were a lot of babies. It was the things they said that most caught my imagination:
Eden to Juju: Do you have make up on?
Juju: Yes. Do I look all right.
Eden (with a shrug): You look like your usual self.
And Sawyer on being told he needed sunscreen: I'm going in the garage. There's no sun in there.
Sawyer developed an absolute fascination with Jordan and Christian's automatic garage door and kept wanting to put it up and down for what he believed would be the amazment of every adult he showed this trick to. Denied this privilege, he took to throwing himself at the door with a loud bang every time he hit it. Finally I asked his father if he didn't have an automatic door, and he said, Yes. Sawyer broke it.
Morgan (2 yrs.) on hearing her mother ask Juju if she was going to sit and visit a minute before bedtime: Come on, Juju. Come visit. This was accompanied by pointing to the place on the couch where I should sit.
And Eden, as I told her goobye and that I loved her: I hope you have a lovely day every day. What a delightful way to leave someone!
However much fun, it was a tiring weekend. Saturday we spent the day at Jordan's, but I was grateful to be able to slip back home for an afternoon nap, and then to leave a little earlier than the others, put the top down on my car, and drive through heavily wooded neighborhoods, taking the back way home and enjoying the breeze. I fixed barbecue, beans, and marinated vegetables to take for supper Saturday--Maddie ate the veggies at dinner, before bed, midmorning Sunday, and before she went home that afternoon. Then Sunday, we picked up two more kids--Hunter and Alex from next door came to play and eat breakfast, which was eggs, bacon, and potato casserole served about 11 o'clock. I laughed at Hunter--he kept walking back and forth through the kitchen, and I asked him why he was doing that. "I'm really hungry," he explained. I told him it would be an hour or so, and he moved on.
The kids do a terrific job of putting the house back in order before they leave but there was a pile of dishes to be washed, three loads of laundry, the backyard to clean up (Scooby had his two "cousins"--a chocolate lab and a large black "island dog"--and he was as worn out Sunday night as I was), the bird feeder to be filled, plants to be watered. I took a really good nap late in the afternoon. About six, Sue came for a glass of wine, and we were joined by Jay, so we sat, drank wine, laughed, talked, and ate my newest homemade cheese spread in which you really can taste the roquefort. About eight I broke up the party by saying I had to eat. I was getting light-headed from the wine, since it had been so long since I'd eaten breakfast. So I came in and ate it all again--beans, marinated vegetables, and potato casserole. So good!
And today it was back to routine, where a million small and a couple of large problems landed on my desk. Then at home it seemed I had a hundred small things to do--the last of the laundry, rehook the TV and unhook the DVD player, etc. The nice bonus of the afternoon was an offer to write a children's book--but with a really short deadline. Manuscript due September 7. Wow! I said yes of course. My theory is that when opportunity knocks you don't say no. There goes however, the exploration of my Macbain ancestry file that I had planned and the reading on Scotland I've been enjoying. Tonight I've got to review changes in a manuscript for the office. Oh me.
I wish for each of you a lovely day every day.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

A $40 mistake and other tribuations

Last week the ceiling fan on the porch broke--actually I went to turn it off and the cord came away in my hand. I called Coty, the electrician, and he sent Travis to fix it. Travis tried several solutions valiantly but none worked. I finally decided I was spending more money trying to fix an old fan, with peeling paint, than it would cost to buy a new one. I bought a new one, and Travis put it in Monday. He assured me Coty would send a bill.
Tuesday, the a/c went out late at night, so Wed. I called Andy Rhinefort, the a/c man, and he sent someone to fix it. A simple matter--a fuse. The repairman gave me a bill, and I assured him I would pay it on my computer right away. I did, only I paid the a/c bill amount to Coty the electrician. So this morning I had to call Coty and tell him what I had done. He laughed and laughed but finally assured me he was laughing with me not at me.
Then this afternoon I noticed, as I was unloading groceries, that my front passenger side tire was really really low. I try to be a self-sufficient female, but I have no idea what to do about a low tire--how to put air in, how to measure it, etc. So I called Jeannie who said putting air in was foolish, we'd go to her favorite hole-in-the-wall tire place. So we did, and as we drove in two mechanics watched us--and laughed and laughed. It seems that when I had the car inspected not long ago, I threw away the inspection sticker and put the back part on the windshield. So after they fixed the tire, they re-inspected the car, which cost me another forty dollars. Plus there were two nails in the tire. I said I felt really dumb, but the owner shrugged and said to me, "It happens." They were really nice people and have secured my future business--though I hope I don't have any soon.
To top things off, I got a notice of default in the mail today for the ticket my old Toyota got long after Jordan and Christian had traded it in. Christian and I scrambled and sent in notarized paperwork to testify that I no longer own the car. Who knows what happened to the paperwork? The city of Dallas thinks I defaulted, and of course there's no phone number where you can get a live person. Those that know me are still laughing at the idea of me getting a ticket on Harry Hines Bouelvard in Dallas--I have perhaps never driven a car in Dallas in my life! Another nuisance to worry about.
I'm assuming I've now gotten all my repair disasters and goofs out of the way and can go happily about my business. All the children and grandchildren are coming this weekend, so I'll be cooking. Today I cleaned the garage apartment--well, sort of but better than nothing--and put clean sheets on the bed. Somehow I've lost a bed pillow out there and am wondering if it got folded into the hideabed.
Meantime I'm trying to keep up with my desk. Tonight I finally finished the reading for the online class--a disturbing novel, The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. I've reread the lecture on it but need to explore the outside readings. And I'm reading, bit by bit, the book How the Scots Invented the Modern World--preparation for the spring trip, but it's a dense book, and I keep worrying about how much of it I'm retaining. I wish I had my mid-twenties graduate school brain back. Still I'm fascinated by what I'm learning--how the Calvinist religion established our ideas of public education and the rule of the will of the people, how the Scottish Enlightenment shapes so much of our contemporary thinking. It's true--the Scots invented the modern world.
Lots of exciting things coming up--the kids this weekend, the next weekend the arrival for four days of longtime friends from Omaha, and then Jordan and I will take a weekend trip to Houston for Morgan's second b'day.
Life is good.