Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Phobias and an epiphany

Scooby has phobias--last night he was frightened by the deflating birthday balloon that had detached itself from the playroom ceiling and was floating eerily around the house at waist level. But his real phobia is storms. He must have misjudged this morning, because when a neighbor triggered the light outside my bedroom about six, he was raring and ready to go. Not half an hour later, it was thundering and still ominously dark. Usually he senses these things a couple of hours in advance. This afternoon after our nap--the dog, cat, and I all nap together every afternoon--he refused to go out, though as far as I can tell it's sunny and fine.

But I can sympathize because I have phobias too, lots of them. When the kids were home the last two weekends, my fear of open spaces came back gangbusters. I think just because of general excitement. No one could have convinced me to walk across a parking lot alone--you might as well have asked me to walk across the Dead Sea. I had a mini-panic attack at the thought. If one of the kids held out a hand, I barely touched it but it was enough to get me going, and I crossed whatever lot it was. But if open spaces sometimes scare me, closed in ones always do. And today I had an MRI on my shoulder, which meant going into that tube head first. But I impressed the heck out of myself by walking across open spaces alone with confidence to get into the office and doing very well during the procedure. Okay, I was clutching the panic button, but I didn't use it. Kept my eyes closed, prayed for strength, and practiced some meditation--not as bad as I expected it to be. For one things, it's so noisy, I got intrigued trying to count the different "takes" and listening to the different sounds--at least one was like the beat of heavy metal music. But I did it. The technician was proud of me, and so was I! So tonight I'm feeling strong and confident--which is a wonderful feeling.

And I've had an epiphany or, as my mentor Fred more calmly called it, a significant insight. I finished the Julia Spencer-Fleming novel--finally!--and went back to my own novel, determined to add to it the depth and insight that I found in hers. It didn't work. "Depth" and "insight" are not quantities you can paste into a manuscript with a sentence here and there. I began at the beginning and read again, for the umpteenth time--and found what I'd found before. The story flows--and there's no place to stick in this line or that of deep emotions. I decided my manusript is what it is. I'm not Julia Spencer-Fleming or Deborah Crombie. I'm writing in my voice, from who I am. My stories will appeal--should they ever reach the light of day--to a different audience, but they are me. So now I'm back to it.

My web page is almost ready to post, and I am most excited about it. Watch this space for a url.

Oops. Scooby was right. I got him outside, with a bit but not too much of difficulty, and fed him, gave him fresh water, and cleaned his yard. Ever since I fell on him, he cringes and slinks away when I pick up the pooper scooper to clean the yard. But now there are storms just barely to the west of us. I'll have to go let the poor dear in again.

Monday, July 28, 2008

What a day!

This morning just plain did not start out well. I could barely walk on my right foot, the one the doctor says is probably a slight sprain. Probably I was on it too much this weekend and have what the podiatrist called my Monday "footover" as opposed to a hangover. Then, out of the blue, standing at the sink, I had a rather persistent nosebleed--I've no idea where it came from unless I unconsciously sniffed wrong or something. Finally got that stopped, amidst my hurrying around to get to an early dentist appointment.

The dentist relieved my mind, telling me that yes, there is major work to be done in all four quadrants of my mouth but it's not the desperate case that the earlier dentists made it sound. And peridontal disease? I have a few pockets of minor problems, which they will treat. So while I'm not looking forward to all this work--or the out-of-pocket expense, I'm relieved that I don't have to have every filling in my head replaced.

Then it was on to the office where I tried to concentrate on great books and actually made some good headway--only the mail brought more manuscripts, more work to be considered. Lunch with my mentor cheered me a great deal, and then I slipped home to get ready for dinner guests and have a much-needed nap. I think I'm still a bit exhausted from my two big weekends. Megan and Brandon stayed all day yesterday, though we were pretty much lazy, and we all went out for Mexican food last night before they took off for Austin.

I've been laughing about the differences in housekeeping approaches. When Meg comes home she can always find two or three things that she pronounces "nasty" or "gross." For starters, she's opposed to the whole idea of a house cat, but this time it was the cup I used in the bathroom to brush my teeth--okay, I don't wash it as often as I should and it gets mineral deposits on it--and the rubber gasket lining the door to my washer. I am of course glad to try to meet her standards, but let's be real--this is the child who was rivalled only by her oldest brother for the messiest room in the house as a teenager. And she still doesn't pick up. The dining table may hold some electronics Brandon is working with; the breakfast table has purses, mail, whatever they carried when they came in; dishes may be in the sink, and laundry may be on the couch waiting to be folded. So I've decided Megan cleans and I pick up. We'd make an ideal team but I think we might kill each other before we got to that point. Good thing we love each other a lot.

My friends Kathie and Fran--both from university press publishing--came for supper. When I got up and scurried around this morning, I wondered why I'd planned that for the Monday night after a big weekend--I was so tired. But it was such a pleasant evening and they cheered me a lot. Supper was easy--a platter of chicken strips, grape tomatoes, avocado, sugar snap peas, and grilled nectarine slices (that was delicious). Dessert was Blue Bell ice cream cups and I set the jar of chocolate sauce on the table--really elegant. But we had a good time, laughed a lot, caught up on everyone's families, and talked politics. A lovely, relaxing evening.

Back to that novel! I'm going to be sad when I finish it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Distraction, Procrastination, and Writing Habits

A big distraction! This is how I'm spending the weekend. Megan and Brandon came from Austin for her 20th high school reunion--who can believe?--and I babysat Sawyer, 4, and Ford, not quite 2. Jacob is the one in the middle. I owe Jordan a fancy lunch, dinner, whatever, because she came over and helped get everyone fed, diapered and pajamed, and all tonight. I know--I used to do it all myself with four, not two, and others would come into my house amazed at the pandemonium amidst which I was, so they tell me, fairly quiet as I explained that 5:30 was the "fussing hour." Hungry, tired babies. But that was almost 40 years ago, and I'm a tad older, a tad less resilient. Still, I did the cooking, Jordan marshalled the kids, and we had an almost sane dinner hour--one biting incident, much jumping on beds which is a no-no in my house. But then we settled down to read and all was well.
The boys are fun, but they are exhausting--and the Austin boys are not as used to being here as Jacob, so Ford cried long and hard before he went to sleep tonight. But I'm loving it, because I haven't known these boys as well as the others, and this has been a great weekend for "bonding." Now they not only know "Gaga" but they know my house, the toys I keep (including the train set I thought was going back to Austin), the animals--"yes, you may give the dog a bone, no, don't touch the cat!" I hope they'll come more often now.
One of the Sisters in Crime listservs has been full of discussions of distractions, and how you prevent them from keeping you from your writing. With all those comments about writing habits, naturally I examined my own. I have, as readers of this blog know, not been writing for over a week--a "big" birthday weekend, recovery from that--cleaning up the details at home, writing thank-yous, generally getting my feet back under me--kept me from writing as did anticipation of this weekend when I would again be distacted. And I've written about the Julia Spencer-Fleming novels that have me so engrossed that I'm neglecting my own writing--like I can't live in two extra worlds at once. But I think there's even something else going on. I think I tend to put my writing on the back burner when I'm not sure where it's going. Yes, I have some notes, but I'm uncertain about what happens between here and there, when it is time to introduce yet another element, am I making the people real enough. The latter is a question the Spencer-Fleming novels make me ask, because her characters are so real to me. I know the cure for this--and it's hard work. Start on page one, read the whole thing over again, make notes, and move on. Even if you move on in the wrong direction, at least its movement. Maybe I'll think about that Monday.
Meantime, I have the last of a novel to finish reading, I think maybe both Sawyer and Ford have gone to sleep--Ford screamed for probably half an hour. I rubbed his back, gave him more milk, told him Mama would be home soon, but he was pretty much inconsolable.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A technological genius--well, sort of

Like many people of my generation, I'm not super smart about computers, remote control programming of televisions, and the like, though I think I do better than some. Still, I've had a spate of disasters--don't they say bad things happen in threes? The other day my TV in my home office, where I religiously watch the news, told me the smart card was not inserted correctly. What smart card? Nobody had touched anything since I turned it off the night before and it was fine. A lengthy phone call to the tech people (I have DISH) determined that the receiver had gone blooey and they would send me a new one, for only $14.95 shipping (isn't it their fault?). It arrived yesterday, and I took one look last night at the directions and threw up my hands--okay, it was late and I'd had a glass of wine. But I'd wait for Brandon, my son-in-law with a graduate degree in computer software, to arrive for dinner tonight. First big glitch: Brandon had a mandatory work meeting at four and they didn't get out of Austin until five or worse. So today I decided to be bold, and I actually disconnected the old receiver and got the new one hooked up. Only two problems: I have one cord left over that I don't know what to do with, and there's no picture. But still, I'm pretty proud of what I did do.
Then last night my wireless mouse stopped working. Not a big deal--I've changed the batteries a hundred times. Only this time, it didn't start working with new batteries. Talked to Brandon, who told me what to do--it didn't work, and I told him I'd wait till he got up here. Well, the poor thing does not want to be hit with all my problems when he walks in the door. I tried his solution again, and then I rebooted--it worked! So that's back in business.
Third one: this afternoon I was fixing lunch and decided to change channel on the kitchen TV. It told me to choose a favorite. Well, my favorite is 5.1 which is the Channel 5 High definition channel, but you can only choose 5, not 5.1 on the remote.5 comes in fuzzy. And every time I try to change it, the TV makes the new one the "fav." I honestly don't want a "fav"--I want all the channels. I've fiddled with it but can't do that one.
So I figure it's win, lose and draw for me and technology.
I had planned a great dinner for the family that won't get here untiil 9 tonight--hot German potato salad (my very favorite), Kosher hot dogs, and three bean salad (already made). I went ahead and made a smaller potato salad for me and had a wonderful dinner. Who knows what I'll feed those boys tomorrow night when Megan and Brandon go to her 20th high school reunion. Jordan and Jacob are coming over to play with the boys and have dinner. Another nice weekend of grandchildren.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Straightening up my life

It's nine o'clock and I've frittered away another day--well, not at the office where I got a lot done, but at home, where I haven't done much. It seems odds and ends took up my day. But I decided this was the final clean-up day from the weekend. So if I saw something that needed to be picked up, moved, put away I did it, rather than putting it off for another time. I emptied the dishwasher--clean dishes for almost 24 hours and I hadn't yet emptied it! I took the clean linens out to the apartment--no I didn't put them on the bed, just got them out there. Put away the gifts that I was at a loss to store and stashed the wrappings for another time. The only thing I didn't find a home for are the two dishes shown here. The one with handprints was made by nine-year-old Maddie--she even used tape to get that green line just perfect. The smaller one was made by five-year-old Edie--that's a bumblebee in the middle. She used to be called Edie-bear and now she's called Beast, but either way it's often shorted to "B." So she thought a bumblebee would be perfect. Both dishes are inscribed on the back, and I'm as proud and happy about them as I can be. But I have to find the perfect, safe, chip-free place to put them--and I haven't found that yet. Otherwise, the house is in pretty good shape. And its blooming with flowers. Jordan arrived Monday with an arrangement of red roses and greens that she said Jacob just insisted on. That same day I got two arrangements from the New York Alters--when I thanked them I said I guessed the florist had goofed but Amy said she had. Didn't think the first order went through. So on my desk is a beautiful and striking arrangement of orange lilies and pink roses. I'd take a picture but I just developed technical difficulties--the wireless mouse and keyboard won't work. The TV in my office won't work either. Thank goodness Brandon, our electronic genius, is coming tomorrow.
For now, I quit.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Post-party recovery

The other day we ate Sunday breakfast at Ol' South Pancake House, a local institution that Jamie particularly loves. I was reminded of Jordan's wedding day when we ate there. The waitress found out that Jordan would be married that evening and arrived with a single pancake topped with whipped cream and strawberries and a lone candle. As she presented it, she sang, "The party's over . . . ." That's how I feel. The party's over, but the glow lingers on. And for me, my birthday continued through yesterday--the actual day--when the office gang took me to Cafe Aspen, the same favorite place Jordan and I ate Monday. And last night, Jeannie, Betty and I celebrated at Lanny's Alta Cocina, an upscale (to put it mildly) Mexican restaurant--haute cuisine from the amuse bouche to the chocolate whatever that came as the birthday dessert. Betty and I shared rack of lamb, and it was absolutelly delicious.
But I am getting back to work. At the office I've been busy catching up on details and dealing with a load of acquisitions--rejecting some, considering some at length, and asking, so far, for two complete manuscripts and a formal proposal.
At home I've gotten things done too, but it gnaws at me that I'm not back to the mystery. The Guppies listserv (Going to be Published) has been full of peole offering their writing schedules and how to avoid distractions. It makes me realize my schedule is very haphazard most of the time, unless I'm burning with an idea. I wonder if I'm committed enough to the project to really make it happen. On the other hand, if I have a chance to play with grandchildren or have dinner with friends, I hate to pass up the opportunity. Part of my philosophy these days is "Carpe diem!" In that mood, I fixed dinner for Jordan and Jacob tonight--Jacob was in a sweet affectionate mood (grab it while you can!) but he'd had a rough day. Another kid bit him, hard enough to break the skin. He didn't want to talk about it and wouldn't let his mom look at it (I imagine she will at bath time tonight).
Julia Spencer-Fleming is part of my problem, part of the reason I'm not writing (I hope she has one of those services that alerts her every time her name or books are mentioned anywhere on the web). I read the first two of her Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mysteries about a month ago and really got wrapped up in them. Then a friend brought me not one but three more, and I've almost been unable to tear myself away for constructive work. Tonight I must polish a column and get it off and respond to a request for a partial manuscript from a publisher--I should be more excited, but all I can think is I want to read tonight. Spencer-Fleming has constructed a wonderful fictional world, and she tells compelling stories. Wish I could write like that.
Excuse me. I'm getting to work.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Family, Friends, and Birthdays

How to say it? Last night was my birthday, and it was a wonderful, wonderful evening. My kids had planned, worked, and schemed to put together a perfect party. Eighty of my nearest and dearest gathered at La Puertita (a former church building with arched ceiling, a nave, and rich atmosphere that is part of the Joe T. Garcia's restaurant complex). Some were people I see frequently; a few, people I haven't seen in a long time. We mingled and visited, the children played--I told people all the children in the room were my grandchildren, until I realized my niece and nephew each had a baby there and my neighbor's children were also there. What struck me most was the party atmosphere--everyone was laughing and having a good time. We went through a buffet line for good Mexican food, and then Colin and Jamie briefly thanked everyone for coming and said, "Thank you for loving our mother as much as we do." Be still, my heart. There were no speeches, northing formal. They had set out a picture album, a guest book, and a computer slide show that rotated throughout the evening. Okay, there were a couple of pictures of me with frizzy hair and a wine jug or some other unattractive attribute but mostly I looked at them and thought what a rich and wonderful life I've led--and while I was never a show-stopper, I didn't look too bad in my prime, though a couple of kind people said I look better than ever now. The group picture above is all of us at our happiest and silliest (darn! I didn't realize how tiny and dark it would come out, and I don't know how to change the size once I've posted it); the other is me with my very protective big brother.
If I was proud of my children, I was grateful for the many many friends who cared enough to come out on a Sunday night, in the heat, to celebrate with me. One couple postponed a vacation trip a day or two to be there, and many others alluded to the times we've had together over the years. It was wonderful to be surrounded by the people that I most value. Of course, I missed the out-of-towners who couldn't come and those who had previous travel plans that kept them away. But I am most blessed with good friends. Yeah, it's been a rich seventy years and looking to get better.
Today I took the day off to reclaim my house and my senses, if I have any left after the high excitement of the weekend. I've had several phone calls about what wonderful children I have and beautiful grandchildren--I couldn't agree more. I've done loads and loads of sheets and towels, and picked up this odd thing and that and returned them to where they should be. Jordan took the day off too, and we had a birthday lunch at our favorite bistro. And then I took a two-hour nap, one of those where I could have kept drifting off if I hadn't been horrified when I looked at the clock.
Tomorrow is my "real" birthday, and I'm going back to work. I was tempted to take the day off, but there's too much waiting to be done. But I will have a b'day lunch with my office group and a b'day dinner with Jeannie and Betty at which we celebrate all three of our June/July birthdays.
And tomorrow I'll also get back to the real world routine, working, exercising, writing--and this blog will get back to being somewhat about writing. I've turned it this weekend into a very personal blog, and I thank you for bearing with me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Camp Juju

The kids have labeled my remodeled guest apartment Camp Juju, and it's a hit. Last night an overtired Morgan fell down, was instantly pitiful. When asked if she wanted to go home, she said through her tears, "No, I want to go to Camp Juju."
The fun goes on. As you can above, cookie decorating is serious business--Jordan had sprinkles from wall to wall in her kitchen. Running under the hose and sitting in the back yard are serious too. And the picture of me? That's the oldest and youngest of our crew.
We're still having scheduling conflicts this morning. The crew at Jordan's house ate at nine, plan to ride the zoo train at 11. At ten the contingent at my house is waiting for the youngest, a morning napper, to wake up so we can go to breakfast. It is, as Jamie once said, like being in two different cities, and it's the reason I redid the apartment so it will sleep eight. But the babies are still too young. In a couple of years, the schedules should smooth out--but I bet there'll be another baby!
Tonight is the party, and I'm not sure what the kids have afoot. I do know it involves old family pictures, probably showing me at my worst, and this morning when I said I was going to have a bit of cottage cheese (one of my staples) Jamie whirled around and asked, "Did you say cottage cheese?" Then he rushed away as though on an important errand. I admit to much excitement but a little nervousness about the whole affair.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Lazy days on the front porch

Last night everyone was here--eventually. Mel, Maddie, and Edie got stuck in traffice and didn't get here until nine o'clock, long after supper. But the rest of us sat on the front porch, eating watermelon and listening to Neil Diamond played way too loudly. Rednecks.
I am continually impressed by how much all the adults in the family love and look out for their nieces and nephews, with the same degree of affection and attention they show their own children. And the little ones respond by feeling perfectly comfortable and happy, no matter who is holding them, teasing them, chasing them. The party, led by Jacob, migrated from the front porch to the red concrete lions that he likes to ride. It looked like a small army of toddlers, all about the same size, though they actually range in age from four to one. And if the children are having fun being together, so are the dogs. Jamie and Mel brought Mozby, their cocolate lab, and Scooby could not wait to get to Mozby this morning, jumped over a footstool to go stand by the playroom door where Mozby waited on the other side.
Of course today it's a complicated question of scheduling--when one is napping the others are playing, then when two of the others are used to napping, the morning napper will be up and about and ready for the day. It looks like we won't make it to the pool until late afternoon, which suits me. Then we'll all eat barbecue at Jordan and Christian's.
I am thoroughly enjoying them and doing better than ever at not sweating the small stuff. Last night I put dinner on the table, told everyone it was there, and decided if it got cold before they ate, it was their own fault. And a few dishes in the sink? I'll get to them when I can. No need to do them right now. Write? Read? What's that. Haven't done it in two days. Barely remembered to water the plants and dogs.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Company Weekend

All my kids will be home this weekend. They'll celebrate my 70th with a party Sunday night at a local Mexican favorite--Joe T.'s. They've rented a separate small building the restaurant owns and have invited lots of my nearest and dearest. I'm excited about it, so excited that I've decided I'm wound tight and that accounts for my recent lack of balance, a fear I'm now letting go of. And tonight, the first of the family arrived--Colin and Lisa, Morgan and Kegan. Morgan is just old enough to remember that she's been here, likes it, knows me, etc. For Kegan, I'm unexplored territory, though we snuggled on my bed while he had his bottle and he gave me lots of smiles and a kiss when he went to bed. Both kids thought my playroom was a delight--toys that while many times recycled were new to them. I hadn't expected the kids so early, so I rushed and defrosted bison ribeyes (medium report--gristly but flavorful, not as juicy as a beef steak). And I meant to make two King Ranch casseroles tonight, then decided I'd just cube the chicken, and got none of it down. My new resolve is not to worry about things like that. Lisa will help me, and we'll get it done tomorrow. I'm certainly not going to start cutting up three chickens at ten o'clock at night!
I was thinking about frugality today. With the state of the economy, rising gas prices and grocery bills (would you believe I spent $170 today?), everyone is feeling frugal--except me. For the first time in my life, I'm indulging in the little things--the slightly better wine, the bigger package of something, the shoes I really want even if I don't need them. And if it's for my grandkids? Well, why not two packages of ice cream cups instead of one? I bought makings for smoothies and makings for a trail mix type of snack, and I bought some new little toys for the playroom--self-inking washable stamps, crazy colors, and so on. It's a wonderful feeling to think that if I want something I can buy it--within limits of course but without the frugality that has governed my whole life. Oh, sure, I've wasted a lot of money along the way--bad purchases, bad investments, but don't we all? And no use crying over that. I think my motto today, in view of my non-frugality and my kid-filled weekend, is "Carpe diem!"
Tomorrow, pictures of the babies.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Telephones, Moving your Cheese, and Feeling Frail

Colin called tonight. He and his famly are in San Antonio, enjoying Sea World--Morgan said she'd seen Shamu and he'd splashed her--and the zoo, the river, and so forth. But he wanted me to call their hotel room. Morgan, almost three, has never seen anything other than a cell phone, and she didn't know what the phone on the beside table was. So I called, and she was excited. They'll be here tomorrow night, and I'm excited about that.

I won something today! At the monthly TCU Pinkbag Luncheon, which is always about books, I won a copy of Who Moved My Cheese? It's so brief that I read it quickly tonight. Basically, it's about change and adapting to change and letting go of old ways and fears--when I went to the podium to get it I said it was appropriate because I was facing a landmark b'day that meant change. But when I read it tonight, it spoke more to me about my fears and my balance, both of which have been too prominent in my consciousness lately.

I decided today that it's easy to feel that you're frail, and because of my sore foot, I let myself feel frail. As a result, I truly lost my balance a couple of times today, and once called out in panic to Melinda who was behind me. She said, "I've got you" and put a reassuring hand on my elbow. But I can't expect Melinda to always be there, and I have to abandon my old ways of thinking and look for the new cheese, without ranting about whoever moved it and it isn't fair. I also have to realize I have a sore foot, but I'm not frail by any means!

The days are going to get busy. Colin and family arrive tomorrow night--first guests in my new garage apartment. Then everyone else arrives Friday night, and I'll have dinner for everyone, so I'm making a double batch of King Ranch chicken tomorrow--supposed to feed 25. Knowing my gang it won't go that far. Saturday we'll be at Jordan's for dinner, after some mandatory shopping for a birthday outfit for me (Megan's mandatory, not mine) and Sunday night is my b'day party at Joe T.'s. There'll be quite a crowd, all people I love a lot, and I'm excited about it, though a bit self-conscious. Everyone will leave Monday, but Jordan and I have both taken the day off--we'll "do" a fancy lunch and sort of let the day roll over us. Tuesday, my true b'day, I suspect it will be back to work, but my co-workers are taking me to lunch. So I'm happily anticipating the next few days and vowing not to let myself get stressed, tired, any of those bad things. I'm going to enjoy my grandchildren.

I may not post often the next few days, but I should have pictures whenever I do.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Not a Lot . . .

or, as my brother says when he asks what's new, "I don't know it." I think I've spent the last couple of days having a pity party because of my foot/ankle/whatever it is, though it's much better tonight. It twinges, but I am mostly walking without a limp. I also spent the last two intensive mornings trying to reconcile accounting for each book published during our last fiscal year. I hate it, though I did find today when I went back, the work I had done yesterday put me solidly on the way to making most accounts work out perfectly. This was a year of transition--from my hand-written list of expenses for each book to a database, but I hadn't made clear to either Melinda or Susan what information I needed. To my great frustration today, they handed me lists and printed out databases, and I tried to explain the need for a paper trail that indicated what had been submitted for payment. I'm afraid I lost patience and so did they, but I think we're all on the same page now. I once told a former boss that God did not mean me to read greenbar sheets, and he said, "Oh, yes, she did." I don't believe it. Susan watched me yesterday and said, "You're creative. You shouldn't be doing that kind of stuff." Amen!
Nice visit last night with Dana, Colin's high-school girlfriend. When she walked in and we got past, "You look just the same," and "you look better," I confessed that I had ruined the asparagus--put it on to steam and forgot it. She looked at the sodden mess on the cutting board and said, "You sure did, girl!" And we were off to an evening of exploring where each of us is now while reminiscing about the past--some 20+ years ago. It was fun to hear her take on the family back then. She said when I finished dinner dishes and walked down the long hall to my bedroom, everyone knew that I was done, checking out, kitchen was closed. But she talked about the conversations at my dinner table--I guess I didn't realize they had some depth and complexity to them. We talked about ideas back then--and Lord, did all of us talk!
I'm still deep in Sara Paretky's Bleeding Kansas, and I may take back what I said about stereotypes--as I've read on, I've realized that she uses them deliberately, ironically, to make a point--yes, she exaggerates and hits us over the head but it's because she's writing about topics she cares deeply about: the folly of the war in Iraq and its consequences to American families, the dangers of extreme right-wing Christianity and its righteousness. Her work in this novel reminds me of Robert Flynn's work--he's a TCU Press author and one of my favorites. My hat's off to her, but I wish I could finish the book so I'd quit sneaking to read it and get back to my own novel. Tonight I plan to work on both. I'm close to finishing the Paretsky novel, and I have a lot of ideas bouncing in my head about my novel--and fortunately also captured on paper.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Oh-Oh! Another Day at Home

I've stayed in again all day. Yes, it's beastly hot outside, but that's not the reason. Every bit of me feels much, much better than yesterday, which must have just been an off day--every bit of me, that is, except my right foot, which hurts like *&%$#. It dawned on me this morning, after I put a chicken in to roast and settled at my desk to read the newspaper, that it really hurt, and I wasn't going to a luncheon today, even though it was in honor of Betty. I called Betty, who was sad that neither Jeannie nor I could make it; I called the hostess who suggested someone would pick me up, but I knew I should just stay off it; I called my brother who prescribed aspirin every four hours and hot soaks; I called Jeannie, who is so down in her back she couldn't go to the luncheon, and she suggested we'd make a great team. Then I settled in for a long day at home--sometimes I don't handle them gracefully, but I actually enjoyed this one.
I wrote more on my novel, and it seemed to flow--maybe I wrote five pages. But I got hoooked on Bleeding Kansas, a contemporary anti-war novel that draws on "Bleeding Kansas'" Civil War history. Written by Sara Parestsky, it's set outside Lawrence, where history-minded folk still know all about Quantrill's Raiders. Paretsky is known for V. I. Warshawski novels, about a female private eye in Chicago, and she wrote one recent nonfiction book, Writing in an Age of Silence, that I liked a lot because it dwells on writing, the state of publishing in today's world, and strongly echoes my own liberal views. In fact, I e-mailed her after reading that book and received a lovely, gracious reply. I'm not liking this one as well--she's better at mysteries--but I agree with the sentiments she's trying to get across, and I find myself drawn to the book, picking it up again and again (okay, picking up the Kindle) when I should be writing my own book. I'm such a Paretsky fan that I hate to criticize but I do find some of the characters stereotypical and too broadly drawn, especially the redneck family who are high on born-again Christianity and patriotism.
I've tried to stay off my feet today, but it's amazing on a quiet day at home how much walking you do--laundry in the dryer had to be folded, clean dishes unloaded from the dishwasher, plants inside and out watered, the bed made, animals fed, and on and on. Tonight I've done it all, I think, and I'm about to go soak my feet and then go next door to Sue's house for supper--she starts a new job tomorrow, a big jump in her career, and wants a cheering team of one tonight.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Day at Home

This is Jacob with his pal, Clifford. Clifford's a stuffed cheetah, but Jacob thinks it's a "puppy" and spent much of the morning riding Clifford and falling off with great glee. Jacob spent the night last night, and we had fun though he was given to fits of occasional screaming for no reason. A long hug and a few loving words, and he was back to himself. But this morning, he woke up screaming again (luckily not till 7:30). We think it's two-year molars.
It was a great day to stay home. I was sleepy and draggy for no reason--slept as long as usual, my right foot really hurts (tendonitis I guess), and this morning my stomach was off. Besides that, it's at least 101 outside, and there's something psychological about it--but when they predict temperatures over 100, it gets hotter. It's very hot and very still tonight. After Jacob's parents collected him, I ran to Central Market and haven't been outside since except to feed the dog and water plants. A two-hour nap greatly helped my sleepiness, but I still feel very lazy. When I went out to feed Scooby and clean up his yard, he cringed when I picked up the scoopers. I guess he remembers my spectacular fall of a few days ago.
In Central Market, I ran into Fred Erisman who told me he'd read the first four chapter of the new mystery and liked it. He thought the characters were developing, the dialog was good, and, when asked, said he thought it wold be better than the first book in what I hope will be a series. I've noticed that some writers I read get better after their first books--maybe you sort of get into the characters. Anyway, when Fred said that, I told him I was going right home to work.
And I did. I reread the last chapter I've written and wrote about five pages on Chapter Six--wow, a long way to go! But the new material pleased me. The traditional wisdom is characters take over and tell an author where the story's going. That sure happened today--I had no idea Kelly was going to stubbornly pick a fight with Mike, but she did. I'll work more on it tonight.
Just cut back my basil--Jay next door told me to do that, but it was so lush and lovely I hated to. But I made fresh pesto that is delicious. Now I'm going to pan fry a trout fillet for supper--an experiment for me.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A pratfall followed by good things

Quote of the day: Author Jonathan Coe, when asked by reporter from The Guardian if there was a secret to writing, answered "Yes." (Stolen from "Shelf Awareness," an internet newsletter for booksellers.)

My spell of bad incidents apparently isn't over. Last night when I went out to feed the dog and clean up his yard, I fell, as the Brits would say, ass over teakettle. I'm not sure what caught my foot, but this was definitely not anything to do with my poor sense of balance. I tripped, pooper scooper in one hand, and went down, fortunately missing concrete steps and some pipes but landing on top of Scooby (at least two people have asked about the dog before asking about my well-being!). I was stunned, as was Scooby, who started to panic, but I talked to him, asked him for a minute to gather myself and see if I could get up--and he, blessed dog, lay very still. Then I got up, without holding on to anything BECAUSE I wasn't thinking about it. (Usually I need to hold on to something to get up from the floor, etc.) No serious damage, though the purple bruise on my shoulder looks horrendous. It doesn't hurt. I have a scrape on one finger, and my middle right finger today is swollen and sore. I'm definitely going to live. Jordan was furious because I didn't have my cell phone--it would have flown out of my hands anyway, if I did have it!

Today my horoscope said that I could come across old friends but would find them dull and boring and should remember that they can be trusted. I was lunching with Jean and Jeannie, so I sent them warning emails. Jeannie can dancing down her driveway, looking like a 60-something sprite, got in the car, and asked if that was lively enough. Teased me all during a great lunch at the ArtCafe in the Community Arts Center, where I was able to arrange for two exhibitions of photographs for forthcoming books. Then I went to dinner with Betty, who was under the same responsibility of being lively--she carried it to extremes by getting lost in southwest Fort Worth. I mean, how many years have both of us lived here?

I started this yesterday and now I forget why I didn't post it, except that I must have expected to have more to say. Not a lot, unfortunately. As I write, Jacob is asleep in the guest room. We think he's getting two year molars, because he has unexplained fever and occasional bouts of misery--he had several of those tonight, but if I hugged him and loved on him, he got quickly over them.
I bought two mysteries in a series I'd heard mentioned several times on one of the Sisters in Crime lists. Lesson learned: never buy more than one book by an author you haven't read. This is the second--and I hope final--time I've learned that lesson. The idea behind the series is great--note I'm not mentioning series, author or titles--but the writing is wooden, full of cliches and awkward comparisons. Where writing should dance off the page, this lies there in a sodden mess. I kept trying but finally tonight, while keeping Jacob and Shreck company, gave up. Will he ever tire of Schreck? I doubt it.
Meantime, my mystery is going well. I've felt good about the rewrites I've done but haven't moved forward. I hope to do that this weekend. The only thing on my schedule tomorrow, after Jacob's parents come for him, is a grocery trip, so I hope to get a lot of work done. And some cooking--I found a good snack mix I'm going to make for when the grandchildren are here next week--Shredded Wheat, popcorn, nuts and pretzels, seaoned and baked. I'm also going to make fresh pesto because I need to cut my basil back and a roast chicken for a guest Monday night. Should be fun.
I'm really getting excited about my birthday party and a long weekend with all my kids and grandkids. Colin and his famly arrive Thursday night, everyone else will trail in on Friday, so we'll all be here for supper Friday--two big casseroles!. Megan insists I have to have a new outfit, so Saturday is a shopping day, with dinner at Jordan's, and Sunday is my b'day dinner. Jordan and I are both taking Monday off, because most of the kids will be leaving Monday morning. I am so excited, that it's worth turning seventy.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The Grace & Gumption Project and other matters

My string of stupid mistakes continues. This morning I took my car in--yeah! repair of the top-lowering mechanism was covered by warranty. I separated my other keys from the car key (I have a simple pop-apart thing that does that) and went about my day. Betty picked me up for lunch at the Modern Art Museum, where I indulged in a charcuterie platter--I don't often allow myself to eat pate because it's so bad for you, but it sure was good. Then she dropped me off, I got the car and came home. Once in the garage I couldn't find the house keys. I tore my purse apart, called Jordan to say I was coming to get her key to my house (which she couldn't find) and backed out of the garage, thinking I'd tear my purse apart one more time. Found them caught in an obscure pocket. I think that's three things, so the spell should have run its course. Two thoughts on this: if I'd driven out to Jordan's house, 20 minutes away, I would really be mad, though I have no one to blame but myself, and I seem to have a fixation lately about losing my keys, which I've been known to do a lot, except that they always turn up.

Last fall TCU Press published Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women. I've mentioned it before on the blog but to refresh: 14 area authors each contributed a chapter to the first women's history of Fort Worth and, in the process, became a bonded, close-knit group. The book was a huge success, flew off the shelves in Fort Worth, and the project grew wings. Forthcoming is a cookbook, with what recipes we can find from women in the book (they were all deceased--a requirement for inclusion, for practical reasons). People began to write and call telling us about women who should have been in the book, and we toyed with a second volume. One day in a light-bulb moment it struck me that a blog would be ideal for continuing the project. So, as of today, the Grace & Gumption blog is live. Check it out at And if you have stories about Fort Worth women, send them to We'd love to have digital pictures too.
I mentioned that Fred Erisman's advice to me in writing is always to slow down. He also said Sunday that Patt, his wife, doesn't like books that are all dialog. She wants description, enough that she feels she is in the story--that is of course my ultimate criterion for absorbing fiction. I told her not to read Spenser novels, but I also took that caution to heart. I knew all along that I was getting lost in dialog, so last night I went back over the first three chapters, filling out description and also Kelly's thoughts. Amazing how in one line I finally captured just the feel I want. She's describing Claire, who has just come to her house, impeccably dressed, to announce she shot her husband in the derriere (not the way she says it). Kelly notices in the midst of this trauma that her outfit is perfect, down to color coordinated sandals, and reflects that she herself is wearing light cotton workout pants and a T-shirt and is barefoot. To me, that captures the essence of Kelly. I felt good about it and other revisions and was really quite pleased with myself. I also rescued from oblivion a column I thought was awful and got a good start on another, so I was full of work and proud of it.
And then I took a little time for myself, almost finishing a Diane Mott Davidson catering mystery, Sticks & Scones. I like Davidson, though the way she puts off cooking for large events until the last minute causes me heartburn, and her recipes are far too complicated for me. But the stories are good, the people engaging, and Davidson knows her fictional town of Aspen Meadows, outside Denver. In fact, I think her novels these days are much better than the first one or two in the series. But it struck me that a lot of implausible things happen to Goldy, the central figure. This time she's come across the theft of a multi-million dollar stamp collection, finds a body in the river, is attacked by a fencing master and then someone pours boiling water on her from a "murder hole" in a castle ceiling. This all made me think--I'm trying to keep Kelly's adventures within the realm of possibility--things that really do happen in urban areas, like hidden family secrets that can lead to murder, domestic disputes that can push someone over the edge, even serial killers. I'm toying in my mind with the distinction and not sure about it yet.
Excuse me, but I got up to the last chapter at the car dealership this morning, and I really have to finish it.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

A Blogger Kind of a Day

You know those spells when you do dumb things and everything goes wrong? I think I'm in one. Yesterday I got in my car to go to the dentist and, dreading the appointment, thought I'd cheer myself by putting the top down and enjoying the cool morning air. Only the top didn't go all the way down--or it did, but the car's security system didn't know that. And it wouldn't go back up. So every time I started up after a stoplight or some other stop, the silly thing beeped loud and long at me. I tried pulling over, cutting the engine, and starting again--that worked once before--but nothing. Fortunately, when I got to the dentist's office, it decided to cooperate. I got the top up and left it. So tomorrow, I'm off to the VW dealer.
Then today in the grocery store I asked the check-out girl to make me some new keys, then promptly stood at her cash register and panicked because I didn't know where my keys were. Could I have possibly left them in the ignition? I turned to tell her I had to go to my car--and of course, there were my keys. We both had a laugh, but it was a bit rueful on my part.
But today was a blogger's day. One of our authors worries that his book is not getting enough publicity--there aren't the review outlets that he was used to ten, even five years ago, nor do the biggies like the New York Times or Publishers Weekly notice midlist books from small academic presses (they used to but this is a brave new world). So I wrote and suggested he consider a blog, even a blog tour--whereby an author offers himself to many other bloggers as a guest either for a posting or an interview. It's a big thing with mystery writers, and I thought it should work for a literary author if he put his mind to it. But he wrote with many objections, one of which was that he thought blogs were just personal confessionals gone public and nobody read them but the person who wrote them. He did say it apologetically, because he knows I have a blog. I didn't convince him, and he asked to be excused, which is ok.
But then I got an email from my oldest son's high-school girlfriend--now that's been 20 years or more. She'd stumbled across my blog, said she was interested to learn where all the kids were and what they were doing and about the grandchildren, but she was really interested in what I had to say about writing as process and as an integral part of my life. After a 15-year marketing career, she's trying some creative writing though I don't know what kind. She went on to recall dinner discussions at my table which were, she said, so interesting she often didn't want to leave the table.
Well, talk about make my day. This was a girl I was always fond of, and for her to share such memories and to think I might inspire her somehow was heartwarming to say the least.
I couldn't resist. After I replied to her, I wrote and told the blogger skeptic about it, and he agreed it was a "gratifying" response. Yeah, it was.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Blogging, a pet peeve, and a revelation

I learned a lot about "blogging tours" today--that's when someone with a new book appears as a guest blogger on lots of blogs, at the invitation of the blog host, of course. It's a wonderfully inexpensive substitute for the traditional author tour and probably reaches a lot more potential buyers and readers than all those frustrating stops in bookstores where audiences of one or two wait. I thought I should begin to lay the groundwork now for whenever I have a book--cookbook or mystery--to blog about. So I'm going to invite others to blog about either their books or their cooking. I don't think inviting talk about grandchildren would add to the quality of the reading experience, although I appreciate the indulgence of readers of this blog in putting up with that from me. Which reminds me, I got adorable pictures today of Ford and Sawyer cooking to add to the collection for my cookbook.

But back to blogging, coincidentally Susan came to me today and said she didn't like having to post on things on the A&M blog--she wanted our own blog back. And I agreed with her, so as of tonight The Bookish Frog is up and running--but I won't give the url because we haven't posted anything there yet. But we can have our authors as guest bloggers. I got this whole guest blogging thing going in my mind like a new discovery.

Back to this blog, if any of you want to post a blog, please let me know. I figure it would be great to have one guest a week.

When I taught college freshman composition, I nearly crawled under my desk one day when a student asked me to diagram a sentence. Sure, I learned it once, but I remember nothing about it. I have a pet peeve, though, and I think diagramming might cure it. It's pronoun misuse, as in "She gave it to her and I"--you wouldn't say she gave it to I, would you? And yet I see this even on writers' blogs. And today I got an email with another one: Sheila and myself talked about it. . . . Myself talked about it? That kind of usage--or mis-usage--makes me wince. I may start a collection.

A revelation about my mystery, with which I'm still dissatisfied: last night when Fred and Patt here here, he mentioned that Patt really doesn't like novels with too much dialogue. She wants the richness of description, so she chimed in saying she wanted to feel like she was in the scene. "I want to see the hills if its in Scotland, and I want to see the room, how the people look." I think that's what's missing from my mystery, and I'm not sure I can correct it--but I guess I have to go back and try. If I'm determined to sell a mystery, I can't be lazy or intimidated about it. So that's my next chore.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

A Rare Moment in a dissatisfied Day

Jacob did it this morning, he really did. He said sort of a child's version of "I love you, Juju." He'd spent the night, and his mom and a friend had come to get him. The friend was holding him when he reached out for a hug for me--his hugs and "love" involve tilting his head against yours. It's the ultimate sign of affection from him. And then he raised his little face for a kiss. As I turned away, Jordan shouted, "He said it! Did you hear him? He said, 'I love you, Juju.'" Well, darn, I didn't actually hear him but it was enough for me that his mom thought he'd said it. She said later that they got a half block from my house and he began to cry for Juju. Be still, my heart!
We had a good time overnight. He was pretty fixed on "Schreck," so even when Jay and Susan came to visit with him, he motioned for Jay to "'M'on" (Come on) and watch it with him. Jay explained clearly he did NOT come over here to watch a movie, and pretty soon Jacob reappeared in the living room, clutching Froggie and Puppy with a pacifier in his mouth (time to throw it out but he won't hear of it!). When I put him to bed, I could hear him rattling around in his bed and talking to himself for an hour, but he never cried, and when I looked just before I went to bed, he was sound asleep.
Jacob's burst of love was the highlight of an otherwise edgy day. I'm not sure what I wanted to happen, but whatever it was, it didn't. I thought I finished the fifth chapter of my novel, went to my office to print it out and check a back file, brought it home to proofread and it was all wrong. And I didn't want to settle down to fix it. I think the dentist appt. tomorrow is hanging over my head--first clue I had a really frustrating but long dream last night about trying to find the dentist's office. I'm going to a new dentist, recommended by my just-retired longtime dentist, because so far I've consulted two others and they've prescribed things so radical that I can't believe my whole mouth, which doesn't feel or look any different to me, went south in less than a year. I know I need some things done, but replacing every filling in my head? All at once?
Tonight I had my Fourth of July picnic--Hebrew National hot dogs, baked beans (northern style, known down here as sweet beans and they were--I put molasses in them), cole slaw, deviled eggs, and ice cream. My longtime mentor and his wife were my guests--Fred saw me through my graduate studies and has remained a friend and source of advice lo these almost 40 years. He's an avid mystery reader and has read my first mystery, made some suggestions ("slow down"--that's the story of my life) and he went home tonight with the first four chapters of the next one. We had a great time, laughing and sharing family stories, occasionally talking about the changing university and more often about TCU Press and its projects.
"Slow down" makes me think of yoga, which is supposed to make me slow down. Yesterday, during a lesson, I realized that Elizabeth's ten breaths for a pose take a lot longer than mine. Today I tried to slow down, hold a pose longer, not rush through the routine. Yesterday she praised me but to my mind I could do no right--my feet kept cramping, my balance wasn't good, I didn't do nearly as well as when I practice. Today I did much better and tried some of the new poses she taught me yesterday--hard to hold all of them in my head. And hard, as she said, to remember all the things you have to think about--stomach tucked in, hips over heels, back straight, and so on--while you hold a pose. Yoga is hard work.
I know I'm not going to work on Chapter 5 tonight, so I guess I'll just have to read more of that Diane Mott Davidson mystery.

Friday, July 04, 2008

4th of July and Jesse Helms

I thought it was sort of fitting that Jesse Helms died on the Fourth. I am diametrically opposed to almost everything he believed--racial policies, gay/lesbian policies, military policies, maybe not fiscal. But I respect his devotion to his country and his determination to do what he thought was right. May he rest in peace as the flag flies tonight.
Often holidays are tough for me--not Christmas and Thanksgiving, which are clearly family holidays, but the Fourth or Memorial Day or Labor Day. They loom as long empty weekends, because the kids are busy with their friends, everyone else seems busy, and I'm sort of adrift. But today was a happy day--my neighbors, Jay and Susan, took me with their family to the local country club to watch fireworks. I've avoided them because the thud made me uncomfortable, and I thought we'd watch inside tonight, but there was an enormous crowd and no place to sit. They'd brought chairs for the elderly (Susan's parents and me) and we watched from a covered balcony where there was a nice breeze, no mosquitoes, and the noise didn't seem to bother me. I really enjoyed it. Got a brief glimpse of Jordan, Jacob and Christian--and a sweet kiss and hug from Jacob.
It's sometimes a bit hard for me to work up my sense of patriotism with the straits that our country is in now--you name it, from disastsrous weather to global warming, to war in parts of the world that aren't ours, to high gas prices and the resulting economic distress, it's pretty dismal. But tonight I sat on that balcony and watched the enormous--it really was!--crowd below, many with red and blue lights flashing in lapel pins, and I thought this is what America is about. The loudspeaker screeched an awful rendition of the anthem, at full volume of course, but it still hit me as we all stood. And during the fireworks, they played patriotic music instead of the soft rock they'd been playing at too high a volume. I loved hearing "America the Beautiful" and other songs. It was a neat evening.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Fictional Worlds

I've been thinking about fictional worlds, because I live in them a lot. When I'm writing a novel, I tend to live in the world of that novel, which is good. I carry it, the characters, the story line, with me all the time. But when I'm reading a novel that truly absorbs me, I live in the world of that novel. Sometimes the two worlds collide, which is what has happened now. I really should be living with my characters and their dilemmas but I'm off in the world of Mercy by Jodi Picoult. I put off reading it for a while, then opened it one night for a quick look before I passed it, mostly unread, to a friend--and zap! I was hooked. For one thing there's a strong Scottish element to it. The setting is a fictional town, Wheelock, Massachusetts, settled by a branch of the MacDonald Clan after the defeat of the clans at Culloden in the Highlands (1746). The current sheriff, Cam MacDonald, is also the clan chief, both titles having been handed down from his father, grandfather, etc. (I'm not sure this is verifiable, because I'm pretty sure somewhere, not necessarily in Scotland, there is a clan chief call the MacDonald of MacDonald--I'm a MacBain and there is a MacBain of MacBain in Arizona who is the chief of the clan).
Jamie MacDonald suffocates his wife, because she begs, pleads, insists--she is dying a slow, painful death from cancer--and she warns him not to quit, even if she fights, which she does. He does this in Wheelock, although he doesn't live there--but he's a MacDonald. Then he gives himself up to the sheriff/clan chief who is his cousin--the clan chief always protects clansmen, but will he in this case?
The novel is really all above love--Jamie has shown the ultimate degree of love, and Cam is sort of at the opposite pole. Married for five or six years but generally dissatisfied with his life, he meets a woman who inspires instant passion, the kind of "I can't keep my hands off" passion that I hope most folks have known at least once in their lives. He is tortured by guilt but too obsessed to turn away--although he does love his wife, Allie. And he doesn't want to have a thing to do with Jamie, but Allie takes up the relative's cause. A complicated story.
Don't ask me how it ends--I'm still in that world. But I recommend the book.
I'm looking forward to a long, lazy weekend--for one thing, I can finish that book and maybe get back to my novel. I've been drawn in by newspaper articles, etc., touting Fourth of July food, and whereas I promised dinner guests Sunday a light summer supper, I'm thinking they'll get hot dogs (Hebrew National), baked beans, and either cucumber salad or slaw, probably the latter. Oh, and of course, deviled eggs.
Happy Fourth everyone!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


For the last month or two, Lewis Bundock, the contractor who keeps small things around my house in shape between bigger jobs, has supervised remodeling of my garage apartment--hardwood floors, a paint job, upgraded plumbing, removal of an add-on closet extension that really crowded the bathroom, and installation of mini blinds. Okay, I know mini-blinds are passe but I'm not putting plantation shutters out there for all the use that room gets. I ordered furniture--a futon and a double-over-double bunk bed, which I didnt even know they made. But now it's all together, except that I need a rug in the middle of the floor, matching linens on the bunk beds, and the futon mattress cover that I ordered--it's a blue pattern. I'm trying for a yellow and blue theme out there. The kids will try it out when they're here for my birthday the weekend of July 17th. It doesn't have a kitchen, more like a dormitory that can now sleep eight. No kids under six in the upper bunk--firm house rule.

Betty and I went on a grand adventure today. There's a court with maybe eight houses around it a little east of here, on the edge of the neighborhood I'm writing about in my novel. I wanted to explore it, but I wanted company to do it. So off we went. To my surprise, most of the houses were in pretty good shape--what gives one the derelict idea and what I'd seen before is a crumbling concrete wall around the court. Inside, though, there's only an unpaved, divided road, and landscaping that has dried up and given up. So in spite of the okay houses, the place has a seedy air, even more so from the perimeter where garages seem falling down and weeds prevail. A curious place at best, but it will be in my second mystery. No, no publisher, no agent, no one has bitten on the first novel, but I well know that perseverance is the key to success. I'm persevering.

After our adventure we ate lunch at the Art Gallery Cafe which Betty had only been to once and I hadn't been to often--a wonderful toato basil soup and we split half a sandwich--melted cheddar and provolone with tomato and bacon. I could have done with the soup and forgotten the sandwich, because I felt so guilty for eating bread which is not currently on my diet.

I'm not following a prescribed diet, but I'm cutting back on helpings, carbs, and luxuries like chocolate sundaes at night. I'm trying for no snacks after 7 p.m. but that's hard--I get really hungry about ten. For the past three days I've done 30 minutes of yoga and 4 miles on my stationary bike every day. And suddenly this week I feel better about my body. I'm not sure I've lost weight but I just feel better--also in my head. I think I attribute it mostly to the yoga although I know I have to do the bike for the cardio. Still, I'm a bit smug this week.