Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rain and writing

As the national news has been saying and everyone around here already knows, we've gotten more rain than we could ever have hoped for--and maybe now, after years of wishing for rain, we're wishing it would stop--or at least slow down a bit. Melinda in my office worried about her sister who refused to evacuate when ordered to and finally was forced to evacuate, taking with her seven dogs! I worried about my brother when someone said Tolar had flooded, but I talked to him and all was well except that there was water running in places there usually wasn't on his ranch. Side streets in Fort Worth were flooded, and I remembered the time our office was evacauted--with firemen helping employees out (fortunately I was in Austin, but I understand it was a daunting sight to see a dumpster floating down the street).
Tonight it was pleasant, with a breeze, and I took a book to the porch. The sky was gray, with storm clouds, but nothing terribly ominous. Then I heard a funny swishing noise, looked up, and it was raining lightly. Within minutes it was pouring--but no lightning or thunder. It only lasted five or ten minutes, and then the sky began to turn blue--something only briefly seen all day.
I worked myself out of my doldrums, though I still don't have a clue what to do about my mystery. Emailed a new agent but have no answer after two days--maybe he's on vacation (a hopeful thought). Meantime, I'm revising--actually beefing up--inspired by a Susan Wittig Albert novel I'm reading. Actually when I reread I find mine isn't as "surface" as I thought it was. But still I can add depth in some places. And I still like it, which is a good sign to me. I'm also beginning to think about other topics--even a scholarly book on women's writing, which would bringme no money, but might be fun. And I did interview Rick Riordan, a San Antonio writer who has a successful mystery series but now suddenly has a blockbuster children's series--and I got a column out of that.
I'm about to audit an online English course from TCU, a senior-level course on U. S. Women's Writing which, I think, has a medical slant. I'm interested both in the content and how an online course is taught. Brandon pointed out to me that reading a book is really different when it's a text--and it that spirit I'll tackle Henry James and some other heavies, like Charlotte Perkins Gilman. I'm sort of excied about this.
It's late, and I want to read a bit before I go to sleep. More storms are predicted for tonight.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Moving Off Dead Center

Today I can feel myself moving off dead center, and it's a good feeling. I decided I had stalled and read distracting mysteries long enough, waiting for the agent to reply to my proposal, a reply now some four weeks past the promised time. It was, I told myself, more than time to get proactive. I wrote the friend who had recommended the agent, and after saying she (the agent) had been out of town at meetings, he said the most telling thing: if she isn't interested in a manuscript, she tends to ignore it rather than send a clean rejection. (Do NOT ask me what I think of that practice!) So I took that as my answer and sent out a query to another friend about finding another agent who might be interested in cozies. I'm sort of feeling my way in the dark here, because I've been writing for children for so long and haven't needed an agent. I'm tired of the one who says, "You write so beautifully. I wish could seel what you write," nor do I want to go back to the one who thought I should be writing bodice-busters.
But I also repeated a query made earlier to a magazine editor and lost, I suspected, in a multi-subject email. This time I got a go-ahead, and I've been emailing sources about that article. And I started a column about Rick Riordan, Texas mystery writer turned best-selling children's fantasy author. I wanted to know how he made that jump. So I've written the background, and now I've emailrf him about a telephone interview.
I also came up with another idea for a column--your favorite ten Texas books. I have mine, though I'm easily swayed, and I've asked two of the "grand old men" of Texas letters (they might not like that description) for their lists. I'll compare, fill in, and then ask for reader response. It's fun to be working again.
But then there's that Canadian mystery on my desk I really do want to finish.
On another note, yesterday my good friend Betty retired after forty-three years as organist/minister of music at our large church, known for its outstanding music program. The service was a special hymn sing--really wonderful. A reception followed, and it was fun to stand watch over the guest book and visit with all the people I know. I'd been sort of drifting away, undertain of my role at the church, and now I know I want to continue my level of involvement--I just don't want to be Fellowship Chair any more. Finally, a group of us were invited to the Star, the North Side cafe that Betty and Don own, for lunch to celebrate. Lots of fun. And nice to see how Betty was so honored--and how happy she is at the prospect of doing, as she told the whole congregation, "Nothing!"

Friday, June 22, 2007

Frustrations of a midlist--or lower--author

Okay, I'm frustrated. Like the unemplyed who explain themselves by saying, "I'm between jobs," I am between projects. I don't know about the unemployed, but it makes me antsy, irritable, and a lot of other unpleasant things. My oldest son, Colin, said, "Read, Mom." Well, I am. I've bought and read so many mysteries that I'm sure Barnes & Noble stock has gone up. But I'm also frustrated for another reason. In late March, I sent that mystery I 'd worked so hard on to an agent recommended by friends who've been clients of hers for years and who, I found out, used to have the same agent I did until she died. The agency instructions were quite clear about what to include in a proposal, and I followed those to the letter, including what I thought was a pretty impressive cover letter. The instructions said, "Please allow ten weeks." Well, I did. But it's been well over that now. So last Sunday, I emailed the agent, not to demand a response, but to confirm that the material had been received. It struck me that it would be awful to finally inquire and have her say, "What proposal?" I got back an automatic reply that she was out of the office until the next day--Monday. So I knew the email went through to the right spot. But now, this is Friday, and I've still had no answer.
So what do I do? Email the friends who recommended her for advice? I probably will. Look for other agents? Yeah, but I hardly know where to begin. One other agent, someone with whom I have a passing acquaintance, has read the work, and he said, "I liked it but I didn't love it." He wants hard-boiled, and that's not me--we agreed on that. So how do I find an agent who wants cozy? (The agent I sent it to "is always looking for a good cozy.") I have had email correspondence with a highly successful author of Britsh mysteries who lives in Texas and who wished me well--but I hardly feel free to ask her agents name.
Now if I were Danielle Steele or J. A. Jance or any number of big-name authors, none of this would be a problem. I'd write whatever I wanted and know that someone would jump at it. And instead of waiting for an agent to reply, my agent would be calling, asking when the next work was available, etc. Do I write as well as some of those big names? No, a lot of them are much better than I am, their plots more skillful (Jamie, my younger son, says I'm poor at plotting, which is a gentle translation of what he said--and actually I was prett proud of the plotting int he mystery). But some others? Yeah, I'm as good as they are or better. It's partly a game of luck.
I could start another mystery, but that seems pointless if I haven't sold the first one. I could revise my cookbook, but I'm waiting for editorial direction on that. And I have an idea for an article and a children's book, but no one has bitten on that.
I know deep in my heart that this is a temporary dry spell and in a week, a month, whatever, I'll be moaning about all the work I have to do. But it's hard to live through these periods.
Excuse me, I have to go start that new Harlen Coben mystery I bought. Stay tuned for the trials and tributions--and maybe the triumphs--of a midlist author.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Nancy Drew and childhood memories

Buying The Hidden Staircase for Maddie, a product of the current Nancy Drew craze, made me think about my childhood. I talked tonight to a good friend a few years younger than me (isn't everyone?), and she remembers that she and three other girls in her Kansas City neighborhood spent an entire summer reading Nancy Drew (okay they also played Monopoly and Parcheesi) and they traded books, until they'd all read all the books up until then. I began to remember the summers--was I ten or eleven?--when I rode my bike from our house in Madison Park to the Blackstone branch of the Chicago Library every morning. I took out three or four books, went home and read them, and brought them back the next morning to exchange for more books. In retrospect, I am amazed my parents let me ride alone those eight or ten blocks on the South Side of Chicago--by the time you got to the library, you were close to 47th Street, where a questionable neighborhood began, and we were always afraid to go. But it was a different time. Mom also let me ride from 50th to the commercial district on 53rd to meet a friend and substitute for lunch--this was an occasional treat--those thick, real-ice-cream chocolate shakes at Cunag's where the straw stood straight up in the middle. Today, I don't let Maddie sit on the steps in front of my house unless someone is watching her--it's a through street, and you never know. But it's a shame. We've lost a wondereful part of childhood in the '50s and '60s--and our grandkids will never know it.
TCU Press about a year ago published Before Texas Changed: A Fort Worth Boyhood, in which David Murph, now a minister and director of church relations at TCU, recalls a childhood in the TCU area when he was free to roam downtown and virtually anywhere in the city--he just had to be home for supper. Of course, David had an inventive imagination and got into unimagineable scrapes, which are what make the book a delight, but he had that sense of freedom and yet safety.
Sometimes I think it's the publicity given to abductions these days. There were kidnappings when I was a child--I remember one horrible one in the Chicago area that scared the life out of me because a man had taken a ladder to the to the second-story bedroom of a young girl. My bedroom was on the second floor. But surely we have to publicize these things to make the public cautious--and in so doing, we've changed childhood. It's a circular maze, and there's no figuring it out, but I don't like it. On the other hand, I'm fierce about keeping my grandchildren safe. So there's the dilemma.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rainy holidays

Jokes about Noah's Ark are no longer funny. We've had so much rain in the last few days that roads are awash, puddles stand in the schoolyard across the street, and the dog path, beaten by Scooby in my back yard, is a trough of mud. The Frisco Alters spent the night last night and brought their chocolate lab, Mozby, so there were two dogs--which meant that neither was in the dog house, both ran back and forth in the mud, and they were the dirtiest things I've ever seen. Jamie took Mozby around to the front porch, bathed and dried him, and he was fine. After they left, I thought I'd just bring Scoob in, towel him off, and make up to him for hurt feelings because Mozby had been in and he hadn't. Not so easy--he was the muddiest thing I've ever seen, and there seemed no sense in bathing him since he had to go outside again. I left him inside a while, had a heck of a time getting him out, and then had to mop floors, wash dog rugs, etc.--which involved figuring out why the wet Swiffer didn't work. But I did it. Now I have to think about getting him in for the night. The rain is supposed to stop tomorrow and then maybe I'll think about bathing him.
Megan and family were supposed to come for the weekend too but didn't make it--and this morning I was glad, because I heard on TV that the highway between here and Austin was undere water in places.
We gathered for Jacob's first birthday party Saturday--about 40 people and 15 kids, lots of scrumptious food, and a good time. Jacob loved being the center of attention, dug into his cake with both hands, was pretty much uninterested in presents (of which he got many!). His parents reported this morning that he woke screaming about ten last night--after the fact I diagnosed tummy ache. Too much cake and not enough dinner, except the pieces of chicken Maddie fed him.
I slept soundly last night. When I had teenagers at home, I loved those nights when they were all in their beds--I slept well with an easy mind. I guess it carries on, because even having one and his family in the house, I slept with a great sense of security. The rain helped. When Maddie finally got up she reminded me that I'd promised to buy her a Nancy Drew book, so off we went to the bookstore. She chose The Hidden Staircase, which I remember. To my delight she's a reader, going through as much as a book as day, as I did at her age. Edie chose three Dora books, because if you bought two you got the third one free!
Our festive Fathers' Day dinner lacked a little because two branches of the family were missing, but we had a good time. I fixed a turkey roulade, filled with green chiles, cumin, garlic, and feta, along with green chili rice and the marinated vegetables that the girls love. Maddie made the rice casserole but was hesitant about eating it because she doesn't like chiles. I told her she had to eat it since she made it, and she said "Okay, but I'm not eating the green things."
As always, at the end of the weekend, I'm so grateful for family. Oh, heck, I'm gratefull too for the rain, but what will I do about that muddy dog? Meantime, I've got to get back to work.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Miscellany

Odds and ends of what's on my mind. This morning I called my ninety-five-year-old aunt in Toronto. She doesn't seem to know who I am and has hung up on me a couple of times, which always worries me. Her grandson assures me she's fine and goes out to dinner cheerfully. He suggests that I might be waking her up in the morning--I'd thought to call before she left her room to join in community activities in the nursing home. This morning she asked who it was, and I said "Judy." After I repeated that three times, she said, "I don't know who you are." Finally, as though it were magic, I said, "I'm in Texas," and she said, "Oh, Judy dear, it's so good to hear from you." She went from lethargic and mumbling to bright in two seconds, though her conversation wasn't much. Sometimes when I call she asks if I'm still practicing medicine (my father, her brother, was a doctor) and other times she asks how many children I have, which momentarily scares me--has something happened to one of them? It all makes me very sad. I have a cousin in a nursing home in Toronto who is bipolar and whose finances I try to manage, but I can't talk to her either--her voice is high and squeaky and her speech so scattered, I can't understand her. Those two and a distant cousin in Florida are the only blood relatives I have, except my brother, to whom I am blessedly more close than we were most of our lifetimes. I look at my children and grandchildren and wonder if they, too, will drift apart. Lord, I hope not!
Thinking of things drifting away, tonight I read a blog by a woman who'd gone to a high school reunion and had dinner with her first love. He told her of his three marriages, etc., and she thought of how disparate their lives had been. It made me think of my first love and wonder if he's still alive. A few years ago, I knew that he was, and I knew that he's married, lives in Florida, has been a successful physician. I'll never see him again and that's probably good--neither of us would live up to the memory.
But on to the present, which is always good. I went to Central Market today (our boutique grocery) and bought weird vegetables, like brocciflower and an orange-colored cauliflower (can't remember what they called it). I'm going to marinate vegetables because the Frisco Alters, the Austin family, and the Burtons are coming for Fathers Day brunch, and the Frisco girls love marinated vegetables. Tomorrow we'll celebrate Jacob's first birthday at the Burtons' house with forty people and fifteen children--talk about parties. Jordan told me she spent an astounding amount at the local Costco, so I called her today to tell her it was peanuts. I stood behind a woman in Central Market who spent $747! I told the clerk I'd never seen anyone spend that much in the grocery, and she said she hadn't either. I wished I looked closer at the basket, but what alerted me was a bottle of wine in a faux alligator-covered box. And I did see what looked like several designer cheeses. But $747? I can't imagine it. My bill was $28, and I got two turkey breasts for Sunday plus all those vegetables and an expensive half loaf of sourdough.
As always I'm looking forward to the kids' visit. The Frisco Alters will stay with me, and I have more fresh fruit in the house than anyone could eat. Plus fresh tomatoes that Melinda in my office brought me--Edie loves tomatoes! I even have Diet DP and 7-UP. Megan and her famiy will stay with Jordan but I'll see them Saturday afternoon at the party and they'll all be here Sunday for brunch. What nice anticipation.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Book signings

It happens to all authors, but at least it's better when it's a shared experience. Tonight I was one of seven contributors to the TCU Press collaborative novel, Noah's Ride, who showed up at a suburban library for a program. We did our dog-and-pony show for four people, one of whom was the library director, another the city manager, and a third the husband of one of the contributors. That left one interested party with no stake in the show! But the seven of us had a good time talking about the novel and the process of creating our chapters--it was sort of like a reunion. In fact, we went on too long--with these poor four people captive--and the director of the library finally stood up. I think it was because we were having fun, and we each kept thinking of comments we wanted to add. Weren't smart enough to give the poor four a chance to speak.
I just discovered on my calendar that tomorrow at noon I'm to present a program on "Beach Read Books from TCU Press" (an oxymoron to beginw ith) for the Pinkbag Series (book-oriented brown bag lunches for women employees at TCU)--only I've seen not one bit of publicity on it and don't even know where it is. If I don't know, how will anyone else find it? I emailed one of the major organizers tonight and said I really didn't want to repeat the "no audience" experience twice in two days.
Fortunately, my ego isn't on the line with either event.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Rain, grass, and wildflowers

Elmer Kelton's classic novel is The Time It Never Rained, about the drouth of the 1950s. Many years later, perhaps in the late 1990s, Elmer wrote an article entitled "The Time It Always Rained," in which he detailed the difficulties that can come to ranchers with too much rain, particularly in the sheep-raising part of Texas where he lives. But today I saw the good side of lots of rain. We've had a blessedly wet spring, and though I can't quote statistics, we've already had more rain this year than in the entire year in recent times. Jeannie and I went to Tolar to visit John and Cindy, my brother and his wife, and drove around his ranch on the mule (like a golf cart, only more powerful so that it can go over uneven terrain, mud, etc.) He's had that ranch ten years, and I've toured it many times in those years, but I've never seen it like this. The pastures with native grass--lots of bluestem, big and little, which the cattle really like--were better than knee high, and the wildflowers were beautiful--a field of yellow here and pink there, some scattered red and lots of tall purple flowers. The stock tanks were full, and everything was lush and green. It was breathtaking. Hot, yes, but not as bad as John had warned it would be. We moved his cows from one pasture to another, but there's no herding involved--if you honk the horn on the mule, the cows follow. I don't think I'd ever been in the pasture with the bull before, but he was definitely not interested in us--his attention was on the cows. After the tour we sat on the porch, drank wine, and sorted through my uncle's books that I'd recently been given and had brought for John's choosing. They were mostly Civil War books--I never knew that was one of my uncle's interests--and John kept one or two. I pulled out two encyclopedic illustrated books and a small Treasury of Mark Twain and brought the rest home to see if Brandon wants them--I've never known him to turn down a book. If not I'll give them to a library.
The books came to me in one of those wondereful acts of random kindness. I got an email from a woman named Franceen Shunck who said her husband's aunt had been married to my uncle. Her husband had some of my uncle's Civil War books, and she thought they belonged in my family, so she brought them to my office. We had a lovely visit, mostly about Aunt Gladys who in her nursing home years took to reading racy romance novels and underlining the salient parts. Franceen said they once took Gordon's sons, then teenagers, to see Aunt Gladys, and she handed them books saying, "Read the highlighted parts." But Franceen's visit and the books were a welcome tie to a past long gone.
All in all, it's been a lovely day, and at eight o'clock I'm so sleepy that I can hardly stay awake and upright.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A museum adventure and more on mysteries

Last night friends took me to a small, private museum in Weatherford. This couple--he a retired college English prof--had for years a private collection of artifacts, primarily from Mexico, some from Texas, others from Latin America. Six or seven years ago they opened The Museum of the Americas in an empty store near the Weatherford square. Last night was an opening reception for an astounding collection of Texas arrowheads. The owner told us they arrived, unidentified, in cardboard boxes. He had to sort, identify, mount, and do signage. And then build display cases to hold the collection. I cannot comprehend the time it took. But I can comprehend and much admire the passion he and his wife have for their collection and their museum. I love to meet people who have found their passion in life--and they certainly have. The museum has a small room devoted pretty much to Day of the Dead symbols, a miniature but large Mexican village in a case, and other artifacts--clothing, dishes, masks, jewelry, decorative objects--scattered mostly in four room. I wandered and oohed and aahed for an hour--and I'm not usually good at museums.
There's a small gift shop, and my mind was whirling with plans for our forthcoming Day of the Dead book. By the end of the evening, we had agreed to talk about plans for a reception with the author of the text present. I found lots of things in the gift shop that would be great stocking stuffers. All in all a most pleasant evening--and one out of my usual range of activities. Afterward my hosts and I had a light supper and talked endlessly about cooking and food writing--subjects dear to all of us.
We did also talk mysteries. I am reading a Martha Grimes mystery. I read one, enjoyed it, started another and couldn't get into it, and now am into this one, bored with it, but want to know the outcome. The trouble for me--and my friend Katie agreed--is that there's too much introspection on the part of the main character--along with him, we wallow in his mind--and his eccentric coterie of friendsd are too much to believe or, as Katie put it, too "cute." I'll finish it, because I want to know how it all links together and because I hate to leave a book unfinished. But I'm not frantic to find time to read it, as I often am with a good mystery. I keep going back to it so hurry and get through it.
A good friend loaned me several mysteries by Elizabeth George--I read one and liked it, couldn't get into another--and Martha Grimes. This longtime dear friend and I are polar opposites--she is, as she herself puts it, content to watch paint dry, whereas I always have to have something going on. So maybe that's why I don't like many British mysteries--reading them is akin to watching paint dry. On the other hand, Deborah Crombie's mysteries are British, but she's a Texan--does that explain why I avidly devour every one of her books? I'm going to keep pondering the subject of mysteries and readers' taste.
A day in the country tomorrow. Jeannie and I are driving down to visit my brother and sister-in-law and drink wine on the porch. We'll shop and lunch in Granbury first. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, June 08, 2007


I had lunch today with nine well-educated and very smart women. Khaled Hosseini had just been to Fort Worth, and I think I was the only one in the room who did not hear his presentation, let alone read his two well-regarded books, The Kite Runner and the new A Thousand Splendid Suns. They talked about his youth (okay, we're all well into middle age), his prose, his perceptions, and whether or not they liked the first book better than the second. I sat silent, for I've read neither and didn't go to the program. My kids have raved about The Kite Runner and urged me to read it, but I know it has really hard, sad parts in it, and I avoid that in reading--never, for instance, read abot the Holacaust. It's already too real. One of the women today agreed with that point (not made by me!) and said, "Yes, but there's so much redemption." I don't know that I'm ready for the hardship that precedes redemption. I do know that reading that book I would know the truth of it, whereas reading the mysteries I do I know they're fiction--I don't have to feel someone else's real pain. And yet I can get lost in the story. Today someone said that these "Evening with" author programs, sponsored by the newspaper, were inspiring because the large crowds that attend show that people are interested in reading something with depth. "After all," someone else chimed in, "you can't read mysteries all the time." I wanted to ask why not, but I was intimidated. (Actuall I enjoyed the lunch a lot--just that subject intimidated me.)
But that made me think about mysteries. Some are indeed all plot and maybe a little character--Robert Parker comes to mind, even though I'm a fan of his. His books are mostly dialogue--fast, captivating, but no development. The characters never seem to grow or change--he found himself a great formula and stuck to it, with tremendous success. But tonight I'm reading a Martha Grimes novel in which Richard Jury, her detective, is working on a case that traces back to WWII, and he feels the inevitable pull of puzzling out his own feelings about the war and the loss of both of his parents during it, his mother in the bombing of London--and the mystery he's investigating involves deaths during that bombing. British fiction, I've decided, is often much more introspective than most American mysteries--and that moves them closer to the category of "hard" reading, those books that sharpen our minds. Yes, I'd mount a defense of good mysteries any time.
Going to that luncheon today was a minor--maybe even major--triumph. It was a surprise for the 60th b'day of a woman I've known a long time, not well, but with good feelings. We've had mostly professional dealings, but occasionally we share personal things, and I know she remembers my kids from their childhood. When invited, I said, "I don't think I can drive there." (On the North Side, out of my usual range.) The hostess countered with, "She'd be so thrilled if you'd come." I went back and forth--I was going, I wasn't going, I was waiting for a sign from the heavens. Then I began to worry about walking from the parking lot, because it's up a slight slope. Then the hostess reiterated how thrilled the guest of honor would be, and I bit the bullet and went. All my worry, of course, was for naught. I sailed up to the North Side with nary a problem, parked in an easy place, and took my walking stick, which I didn't need at all. And the honoree did seem delighted to see me--she said, "When we drove up, I said 'That looks like Judy Alter's car.'" It was! I need to learn now to let go of old fears and know that I can do these things. After I got back to home territory, I went clothes shopping (something I occasionally but not often do alone) and drove across an intersection that has scared me for years, because I once had a panic attack there. It's the third time in two days that I've driven across that intersection. I almost feel like a celebration is in order!
I'd feel more like celebrating if I'd hear from the agent I sent my mystery to. The instructions for submitting said, "Please allow ten weeks." It was ten weeks Monday, which maybe makes it ten weeks today since it was received. Yeah, I'm impatient. And not quite ready to start on the sequel if I don't have encouragement about the first book.

Monday, June 04, 2007


This is just a collection of small notes to myself to share. When I was a kid, my mom made something called Junket. It was pudding, made with rennet (whatever that is), and it had a distinctive but very pleasant taste. You bought the mix, combined it with warm milk, and let it set up. I particularly loved raspberry. So when I found it at the Vermont Country Store online, I ordered the package of three boxes--with postage I paid an exorbitant $18 for something Mom could probably have bought for 39 cents. Saturday I tried to make a batch, because Jacob was coming for dinner, and I thought he might like it. The directions cautioned that if you got the milk too hot, it wouldn't set. So I stuck my finger (newly washed and clean) in and thought it was hot (bear in mind, I am not a candymaker and don't have a candy thermometer--couldn't quite see using the meat thermometer). But I tested it on my wrist, that age-old test for babies' milk, and it was--so I thought--the prescribed lukewarm. It never did get firm, and as a drink it wasn't very appetizing. So there's a $6 pkg. of pudding powder down the drain. Now I'm sort of scared to try again.
My neighbors have put a bird feeder out between our houses. It's a rather narrow space, and both our kitchens look out on it. I have loved watching the birds. The other morning a dove sat on the fence and stared back at me as I fixed my breakfast. The birds swoop and swirl, chirp and fight, and an occasional squirrel disturbs their presence--then I go and knock firmly on the dining room window (with only minimal success because squirrels around here are unbelievably bold!). But the neighbors have been out of town, and the feeder went empty; they came back last night, but the feeder is still empty. Dilemma: how do I ask if they'd mind if I bought some seed and shared the duty of keeping the feeder full? Next time I run into one of them I think I'll just ask.
For those loyal few who read this blog a lot--and I know your numbers are small but true--scroll back to May 13 or thereabouts and see a picture of me trying to corral all seven grandchildren. Actually this picture is pretty tame--they were behaving. In immedialy subsequent pictures, it all went downhill--Jacob turned himself in knots to get out of my hold, and Morgan began inching away until you saw less and less of her and finally she was out of the picture. Stilll, it's a picture that makes me most proud.
I was talking to Jordan tonight about planning Jacob's first birthday party. Actually she was talking and I was listening, when she said, "Gotta go. Jacob's standing on my dressing table eating vaseline!" I laughed till I cried. Hope she took a picture before she got him down.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Quotes and sayings to treasure

I spend a lot of time reading mysteries, and though I justify it to myself as training for the mystery-writing career I want to have, another part of me, that Puritanical work ethic part, thinks that it's frittering away time when I should be working. Sometimes, as now, it's a way of putting something between me and an assignment I'm not sure about. But every once in a while, tucked away in a mystery, I find a nugget of wisdom, a saying that's really so good I have to treasure it. I found this one in Aunt Dimity and the Deep Blue Sea, which I just finished on this lazy Saturday afternoon: "Fill each day with acts of grace, but keep a rock handy just in case." I also found in this very British novel a recipe for "Sticky Lemon Cake," which sounds to me a lot like Uncle Bob's mother's lemon cake. But I'll copy it and send it to Megan, who likes lemon desserts.
That got me to thinking about sayings I've found and treasure. One from a Deborah Crombie mystery is from the Episcopalian Book of Common Prayer: "Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love's sake. Amen." It's a marvelously soothing, comforting prayer, and I am particularly struck by the phrase "shield the joyous"--from what? the inevitable disappointment?
I once heard this in a program at my church and carefully wrote it down: "From silly devotions and sour-faced saints, dear Lord deliver us!"
On a much more secular note, there's a Dorothy Parker quote that my friend Jim Lee reeled off to me after someone accused me of behaving badly and without professional grace, when, I thought, they were the ones who had "done me wrong." Dorothy with her infinite insight, wrote, "If the things they say of you be false/Never trouble to deny/ But if the things they say of you be true/Weep and storm and swear they lie."
My mother was noted for her "clipping service." She'd clip all kinds of articles and send them to my brother and me--I suspect we read some, discarded most. But I find myself doing the same thing--clipping suggested activities for my oldest granddaughters, recipes for Megan (particularly lemon), an interview with an author whose book I know someone enjoyed, something about triathlons for Jamie. Sometimes I'm tempted to clip really good liberal political columns for Christian, but I try to restrain myself--and these days he doesn't have time to read them anyway. But here's a saying I'm saving for when Colin, my oldest, turns 40--which is slightly less than two years away. It's a French proverb that says, "Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age."
Today there was an editorial in the paper, by a lay contributor, on hearing loss, how people react to it, how it affects your life. I saw myself--denial, ability to hear but not understand what I was hearing, turning up the TV, etc. The average person waits seven years after initially noticing hearing loss to do anything about it--and I bet I about fit that. The article also stresses that hearing aids never make you hear as you once did, and I want to cut it out for my kids, so they'll understand why I take them out, why I get frustrated, why, even with my "ears" in, I can't always understand them. They probably wouldn't read it.
When I retire, I may open a non-profit clipping service.