Thursday, July 29, 2010

Root canal--and good friends

Today was the root canal that I so dreaded. It wasn't as bad as I thought, because I was determined to relax, lie still and cooperate--the better to get it over with. In retrospect, it seems a lot worse. Jean had used the word tedioius and the dentist said it today, which made me giggle--but it did seem to go on forever. Betty took me to the dentist's office and walked me almost to the door, by which time I was fine on my own. Dr. Ku is gentle, kind and compassionate--and, I'm convinced, a good, conscientious doctor. The procedure took almost two and a half hours, and when I walked out to the office, I was unsteady on my feet--he obviously worried about me and held on to my arm. Jean was there, waiting for me, so I settled up, got an appointment for next week to have a crown put in, and we left. But I was really shaky, and Jean said as I held on to her across the parking lot that she could feel me shake. We stopped to get our flowers of the month--I let her go in--and then to pick up a prescription that wasn't ready. Bless her--she took me home and delivered the prescription later in the afternoon, leaving it in the mailbox because I was trying to nap. Couldn't sleep--my mouth hurt, my head hurt, etc. Finally I took aspirin (which Dr. Ku told me not to do, but it was all I had). Betty called about then, and the next thing she appeared at my door with a bottle of Tylenol. The aspirin worked, and I began to feel much better, so by the time my class arrived I was in pretty good shape, though I had asked Elizabeth to lead the class tonight. Tylenol and more antibiotics and I'm a walking chemistry project, though feeling tired but pretty good. Mostly I'm feeling blessed by good friends--Betty and Jean who both took such good care of me today, Elizabeth who took care of me tonight.
Tomorrow is another day and, I hope, a brighter one. I sure have a lot to do. But as Jean so helpfully pointed out to me, a hundred years ago people died from abscessed tooths (teeth?). So that's another thing to be grateful for. This has just been the week I want to put behind me.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Birds and other good stuff

I love watching the birds at the feeder just outside the window over my kitchen sink--I cannot imagine having a kitchen sink without a window over it and think that would keep me from buying a house. But the little birds, sparrows and the like, come five and six at a time and boy, do they squabble and chase each other away. But today I've had a beautiful male cardinal (I saw him yesterday too) and a male blue jay. They're bigger, and the little birds make room for them. Every once in a while a dove tries landing on the feeder, but they're really too big. Besides, they're mostly ground feeders and can eat what gets scattered on the ground. I think with this bird feeder--mesh, with a small lip and hung far enough from the tree--I have thwarted the squirrels. However, they have devoured the fig crop. I had lots and lots of small green figs and now I barely have a few. My mom used to encase her tree in netting, but my tree is too big for that. I don't remember that my folks had this problem in North Carolina--maybe they didn't have all the squirrels we have. But they had a huge row of fig trees, so tall that we put Colin on top of the van to pick them.
This was my last day of treating myself as fragile, and I really do feel a lot better. Cooked ground sirloin and spinach for dinner--only ate a little of each (it still hurts to open my mouth) so I'll have lunch and dinner for tomorrow. Got more work done--finished the chili chapter, combined all the chapters into one file, and took notes on Gail Borden. Who knew that condensed milk began in Texas, product of the mind of an eccentric inventor who spent most of his life in debt and ended up a rich philanthropist. I find the story fascinating. Had done a children's manuscript on it that has never been published, but I had all the info on hand.Tonight I'm going to give myself the luxury of reading.
I am apprehensive about tomorrow, of course. My brother called and said if I weren't, I wouldn't be normal. But I remember the morning the dentist did two crowns in one sitting because, as he said, if they're in the same quarter of the mouth, they do them all at once. It was an ordeal, and I was in the chair over three hours. That was the day I fell walking out of the dentist's office, which my doctor tells me  was not such a big deal--it's not unusual to be off balance when you've been in the dentist chair that long. I figure tomorrow won't be as bad as that.
After the dental appointment and a nap, I have to take control of my world again. But I've kind of enjoyed these two days! In a funny way--wouldn't want to live this way all the time.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chronicle of a toothache

I woke early this morning with my jaw hurting, but I managed to doze on and off until 9:30. Once I got up and moving, the jaw--and I--felt better. I kept checking the mirror, trying to see if the swelling had gone down, because the dentist was concerned about it. Tonight I can say it may not have gone down, but it hasn't gotten worse.
The trouble with feeling rotten is you look around  your house and see things that really must be done but don't have the oomph to do them--I made myself do a laundry, freeze the chicken I'm not going to serve to company tomorrow (after I made such a fuss at the butcher counter about "Has this chicken ever been frozen?), and several other small chores. Tonight I put out fresh bird seed, cleaned the back yard, took the garbage carts down to the curb, and watered the porch plants.
Eating is no fun because it hurts to open my mouth (that should make the root canal really pleasant!). Breakfast: a bit of cottage cheese; lunch: cream of chicken soup--okay, it had wheat flour in it but who cares about gluten at this point? dinner: a deviled egg (pretty good), a small bit of hummus, and a banana. Maybe I'll lose weight.
People are quick to tell me their stories--from horror to "piece of cake." My neighbor/yard guy came by for the few figs I'd picked and said he'd rather have open heart surgery again--but he was talking about the pain before the root canal not the procedure, and I, knock on wood, seem to be lucky in that respect. Jean Walbridge described the procedure as "tedious" and said to take my iPod (she should know I don't have one) but I'll take the Kindle for those periods when everyone disappears. Chloe Webb said she had a lot more luck with root canals than losing weight, even though hers was complicated and her dentist finally gave up and sent her to an endodontist--now there's a cheery thought.
Late last night and early this morning I cancelled the world for today and tomorrow--had lunch and dinner plans both days and just said, "Sorry, I can't do that." Met with complete understanding. Sometimes, faced with a day at home, I long to go do something, but today it came with a sense of peace. I spent a lot of time on emails this morning--being on three listserves for Sisters in Crime is time-consuming, and I wonder how some of those ladies write, but I compulsively read each post or at least glance at it. Janet Evanovich's request for a $50 million advance from St. Martin's for four books and subsequent jumping ship to Random has been a big topic. But this aftrnoon I got some good (I hope--have to reread) writing done on the section on Wolf Brand Chili in my nonfiction book. Then a nap, though I slept neither as soundly nor as long as I expected.
Thursday is a big puzzle to me. My appointment has been moved to 9:30, which I view as a good thing. Because when I know I'm facing something like this, I get nervous, Betty has agreed to take me and Jean will pick me up. I plan to come home, have a long nap, and then my writing class meets at my house. Elizabeth agreed to lead it, though she also offered to cancel it. I said that wasn't necessary. Then I realized I'd agreed to provide refreshments--I have hummus and crackers, and some bourbon hot dogs in the freezer. I thought the kids would want them this weekend but they don't, so I'd just as soon get rid of them. And if I don't feel up to having a houseful of women, I'll simply retreat to my bedroom and close the door. I think it will be fine.
Then comes Friday--when I have to begin to catch up with my lost week, do some shopping, get ready for Jacob that night and to go to Frisco first thing in the morning. Sometimes I think life doesn't leave you long recovery breaks, but I'm guess I'm having mine today and tomorrow.
In spite of the slight nagging in my jaw and the apprehension about Thursday, life is good. I guess I'm making lemonade.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not a happy camper

Went to the dentist this morning and as I suspected there's a root canal in my immediate future. On antibiotics today, procedure Thursday morning. At this point, I'm not dreading it--I'll be glad when Thursday gets here. It's hard to eat, my mouth hurts (not unbearable but it's there), and I feel crummy--hope antibiotics will fix the latter in a day or so. I had a busy week planned with lunch and dinner plans every night, a class Thursday night (hmmm--Beth might have to teach that one). I think I'll just cancel the week, hope I'm okay by Friday when I keep Jacob for the night. Then all the Alters will spend the weekend at Jamie's in Frisco. The dentist promised me I should be okay by then.
I may be signing off for the week.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

A gluten-free day with a toothache and Jacob

Tonight, I am quite convinced that my toothache is not going to go away and is in fact an abscess--it hurts, the glands under my jawbone are swollen and tender on that side, and I feel crappy. Jacob wanted to go to the store, then he wanted to go to church--and I had to tell him Juju just didn't feel up to it. He was a good boy--played with his toys, watched TV, and came to me with various projects. He did NOT want a nap; I desperately wanted one. At one point last night he came into the office, which caused Scooby to bolt for his bed. Jacob announced he had heard a noise that scared him--this morning I figured out it was squirrels on the flat roof of the add-on that is a playroom and Jacob's bedroom. So he wanted to sleep in my bed. I shut down the computer and got everything ready for bed. We climbed in but it didn't last long and he decided he wanted to go back to his bed--this was maybe eleven, and he'd been so quiet I truly thought he was asleep. He may have been and Bigfoot on he roof wakened him. But then at midnight, he called for me--his pillows had fallen on the floor. I remembered when Jamie was two or three, still using a pacifier, and got me up one night because his "binkie" fell on the floor. The pediatrician, a good friend, said, "Judith, any kid that is old enough to say his binkie fell on the floor is old enough to get out of bed and get it." I felt the same way about Jacob last night, and I was very strict about going to sleep, which he did. When I put him down for a nap and gave him just a bit of a head start on me, he jabbered and jabbered, and I scolded and scolded--as I said, the string of my patience was short today. So I crawled in my bed, and pretty soon there he was crawling in with me. Have you ever slept with a washing machine in your bed? He squirmed, he turned, he tossed, he hugged me, then he kicked me, then he rubbed up against me--once again I was stern and told him he simply had to lie still, and he most definitely was not to sit up and look at Scooby--for some reason he gets Scooby quite excited and anxious. I kept telling myself I could sleep with a whirling dervish next to me, and I did sort of doze but then I noticed he was very still. I'd say we got a pretty good nap, though he woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Poor Jacob--he's so sweet and good, and I don't think he got the best of his Juju today.
While he was playing, I was reading the book Elizabeth gave me, Gluten-Free Girl. Except I kept popping up to check labels on food in my fridge and cupboard, even the bathroom. Apparently you have to have gluten-free Ibuprofen--I can't take that, so I take plain aspirin, which is okay. My toothpaste seems to be okay too. Mustard is a bit suspect because of caramel coloring but supposedly if it's made in this country it's gluten free. Soy sauce is out--though I found some gluten free online, and I'll order it just to have with sushi and sashimi. You apparently have to really read labels closely--and even then you can't always tell. Bless the people who label foods "gluten free."
One comment in the book struck me: author Shauna James Ahern goes to a meeting of the Inernational Association for Culinary Professionals and  meets some of the "more alive, interesting people in one place than I had ever seen before . .  . food people equals good people." I've always felt that way about book people. I think because both of us, food people and book people, are following our passion. And  here I am with both those subjects as a passion--I feel blessed, in spite of the slight ache in my jaw.
Ho, hum! I'm going to bed early because I intend to call the dentist office the minute they open at 7:30 and be ready to go if they say "Come right in." Am I an optimist? I hope what they'll do is put me on antibiotics (which should help the blahs I've felt all day) and schedule a root canal for next week, after the Alter clan get-together in Frisco this weekend.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Trivia-and Jacob

Does someone out there in junk email-land know more about my finances than I do? I am suddenly deluged with offers of quick cash, advance loans, all sorts of ways to get instant money. Just think of the trouble people get into if they reply to these emails. They show up in my junk mail and in the mail TCU quarantines. And its just happened all of the sudden, like someone sent out word "Here's a likelly patsy."
Another frustration: figs cost like gold in the grocery (when you can find them) yet they're popular in a lot of trendy recipes in  Bon Appetit and similar publications. I have a source of wealth in my backyard--a large tree with tons of little green figs. But every time one gets at all near ripe, some critter--bird or squirrel?--takes an unappetizing chunk out of it.
A new frustration: a really sore tooth. I'm hoping by Monday, when I can call the dentist, it will have healed itself. They do that, don't they . . . sometimes?
Jacob has been here since noon--I fixed lunch for his dad and him, and we had a good visit. Then Christian went off to work. Jacob has been sweet and happy. My former neighbor Sue and her parents came for a glass of wine about five--I always enjoy her parents. They are from Canda, which gives me a link, and they're my age and nice people. Jacob, sometimes shy, was bright, outgoing and funny, and we all enjoyed a good visit. Now I'm in the throes of trying to get Jacob to bed--his mom complains that he stays up too late at my house (it has an advantage--he sleeps later in the morning). But he can draw out the bedtime process longer than anyone I know. I'm about to go turn off the TV, but he will play with his toys long after that. I always hope he'll go to sleep before I'm ready to.
Jacob was leery of my dog and cat when he was little. He long ago decided the cat is his friend and loves him (I'm not so sure about that, but Wywy tolerates him) and tonight Jacob was more involved with the dog than he has been, kept saying, "He's a good dog." He is, and he has the sweetest disposition--he's just sometimes overhwhelming with his enthusiasm. But they had a happy meeting tonight, which says to me Jacob is growing up--and maybe Scooby, who will be eleven in August, is mellowing with age.
While I kept Jacob company, I actually got a lot of work done on my food book--notes taken. I am so intrigued by this, though I'll be glad to work through the section on Wolf Brand Chili.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hmmm--what's new?

Sometimes I start a blog post with no idea where it's going, and that's the case tonight. I think I'm still in recovery from my hectic birthday day. But my house is lovely and cool, and I can't believe I took a three-hour nap today but I did. Still, I'm sure I'll have no trouble sleeping tonight. I think yesterday wore me out.
Sometiimes lately I'm afraid this blog will turn into a chronicle of how I went gluten free. A friend called from El Paso tonight and asked how it was going--I said it was too soon to tell. I mean I don't expect to see results for months--but I'm sticking to it. Went to Central Market today and bought broccoli, asparagus, and spinach, chopped sirloin, a lamb chop (big treat), Dover sole, and salmon. Froze everything but the sole, which I had for dinner tonight, along with the mushrooms and zucchini I had on hand. Dover sole is probably my favorite fish, so delicate in taste. Usually I flour it to saute but tonight I just did it in butter and olive oil and squeezed a bit of lemon over it--delicious.
After my nap I found Elizabeth had left me a birthday present--a book titled Gluten Free Girl, which she says she bought before I decided to go gluten free just because she knows I enjoy good food writing. And she left a bonus--a box of gluten-free brownies. I'll eat one tomorrow, when Jacob eats his chocolate cake.
Work? No, I haven't done any, though I can report over the past week good progess on my food book. Did you know that Wolf Brand Chili is so named because the man who started it had a pet wolf--it used to be Lyman Davis' Wolf Brand Chili. Or that Dr Pepper (note there is no period after the Dr so as not to confuse it with medical advice) because the pharmacist who doubled as a soda jerk and who put together the formula was intrigued with the flavor of the fruit ices he made in the late 19th century but individually none tasted like the aroma he inhaled when making all of them. So he made a blend of fruit syrups. Another day we'll talk about Dublin, which is legendary in Texas for the oldest bottling plant and the only one who still puts DP into glass bottles.
Food writing is fun--to read and to write.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Turning 72 isn't at all bad!

What a lovely birthday I had! Started the day with a podiatrist appointment--okay, not so lovely, but he's a nice guy and assures me I'll lose the toenail I stubbed but the new one will gradually push it out. But went from there to Jordan's office where I sat and visited withs ome of her colleagues briefly and then we went to lunch at Patrizio's, long a favorite of mine in Highland Park Village. I'm delighted now that it's opened in FW. I had a great salad. Jordan wanted the fried warm goat cheese and I was tempted, but it's breaded so I passed. She said, "Please, it's your birthday!" and the waiter said, "No, leave her alone." (Good guy--I gave him a generous tip!) We did share a chocolate mousse but about three bites did me in--so rich.
They were replacing my furnace/a/c unit today, a most expensive birthday present I gave myself out of necessity. I would have preferred something less expensive and more frivolous, but we do what we have to. I came home to a really warm if not hot house, turned on the a/c in the guest house, and did a bit of work, got in a short nap in the guest house (which never did really cool down in that time). Then off to a reception at TCU Press which honored Dr. Dan Williams as the incoming director and me as the outgoing, plus made a big deal of my birthday, with balloons and a cake. Once gain, gluten in mind, I resisted the cake while urging others to eat it. It was double chocolate fudge and looked wonderful, but I figure if I'm going to try this gluten-free experiment, I have to be pretty wholehearted about it.
Came home again to a hot house--I am so grateful to Jason and Donald from Rhinefort & Co.. They put in a long hard day--Donald didn't leave until almost 8:30. But I didn't stay long--Jeannie, Betty and I celebrated our joint birthdays with dinner at Piola, an Italian restaurant, where I had really good veal piccata and risotto.
We came back to my now-cooling house, opened gifts, visited and had a good time.
These are roses that friends brought me earlier in the week--you know how some roses just sort of droop their heads and that's it? These have opened magnificantly and are simply beautiful. I so enjoy having them on my desk. (I tried to figure how to move this picture up to the front of the blog but couldn't handle it.)
One of the nicest things about my lovely day was the fun of having a birthday when  you're on Facebook--I got all kinds of nice greetings from a wide variety of friends--kept me busy answering them until I finally gave up tonight and issued a blanket thank-you. I'm exhausted, but in a happy kind of tired way. And I still have a family birthday party to look foward to the last weekend of the month. Jamie and Mel and Lisa emailed, Megan and Brandon and their boys sang happy birthday over the phone, and it was just a wonderful day.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Gluten free

I don't want to crow prematurely but this, my first gluten-free day, was easy. Cottage cheese for breakfast (I may have to change that, since it's high sodium and dairy). Then a luncheon at TCU for our new book, Grace & Gumption: The Cookbook,--I worried about the food and since the first chapter, on pioneer times, gives directions for cooking squirrel, everyone in the office was joking that the entree would be chicken-fried squirrel. It wasn't. Tossed salad, chicken strips (with onion and bell pepper which I ignored), guacamole, and corn chips. I bypassed the peach pudding dessert. The luncheon had the best attendance of any of the "What's On Your Book Shelf?" luncheons sponsored monthly by Human Resources--82 people and 35 books sold.  And it was a lot of fun, with lots of laughter.
The book was, I think, my idea, because I love to cook and I love cookbooks, thought it would be interesting to see what the women of Grace & Gumption: Stories of Fort Worth Women, cooked. And besides, we'd had such good luck with that book that I thought a cookbook would sell well. There was some conceern that the original book had been trying to draw attention to women's roles beyond being housewives and here we were putting them right back in the kitchen. But we got past that and general editor Katie Sherrod dealt with it nicely in her preface. Let's face it, for all of the 20th Century, women were expected to do the cooking and feed their families--though some welcomed the advent of fast food, frozen dinners, and the like. The book is much more than a cookbook--it's social history and in that sense it extends beyond Fort Worth. There are some recipes I might cook--and some I never will, like the squirrel or the most bizarre hollandaise sauce mixture I've every heard of.
Tonight I had still more tuna and stir-fried mushrooms, green beans, and cherub tomatoes. I think I can get the hang of this gluten-free thing. Otherwise it was an unremarkable day--working on my chapter on Wolf Brand Chili and tonight writing a piece for my writing class on adoption. It's fun to write when the words just seem to flow--as opposed to cases when you have to squeeze each one out.
I've joined yet another Sisters in Crime sub-group, so my email is crammed every day. May have to do something about that. But I sure am busy from dawn to dark these days.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gluten Free diet

Today was one of those days when I did a couple of things that cause me anxiety, though I did them, I think, with fairly good grace and composure, which makes me proud of myself. Anticipation is the worst part of anxiety.But it was a good day--I went to the library, went by the office and found they were in the midst of a staff meeting so I listened quietly (well, okay, for the most part). Had lunch with Susan and Melinda, which was great fun because I've missed them. And then we went to get our new i.d. cards--that intimidated me because I'd never been in the new student center--it's called BLUU, though I can't remember what that acronym stands for. The building intimidated me, because I imagined soaring staircases out in space or escalators. I needn't have worried--it's really a beautiful building. We got our i.d. cards and were out of there within 15 minutes.
My friend Elizabeth (Beth to others) Knudson has started a new blog: about restrictive diets because of food allergies. Her husband, Weldon, was diagnosed with celiac disease about seven months ago, and they've gone gluten-free. Elizabeth had seizures, though I didn't know it for the 15 years since she was a work-study student in my office. She recently tried an experiment going off gluten-free and eating half a cupcake. She quickly had a strong aura, though she fought her way through it and did not have a seizure. Then she did a lot of online research about the link between neurological disorders and gluten and found it's strong. So it seemed reasonable to me that there might also be a link to anxiety. I emailed her and instantly got back websites to check out. So I'm thinking I'll try gluten-free for a bit and see how I feel--not hard for me, because I'm not a bread eater, etc., though gluten lurks in places you wouldn't think about. She also found a neurologist who said dairy products are poison for people with neurological disorders but I'm not ready to give up those. As Elizabeth always says, start with baby steps. I've been encouraging Colin to go gluten-free because of his Crohn's, and he has said recently that the foods he handles best are chicken, fish, and rice.
Gluten-free may not be a cure for a long life filled with anxiety, but I'm more than willing to give it a try. Tonight I had tuna, tomatoes and avocado with a nicoise dressing (checked the anchovy paste label and it only has anchovies, olive oil, and salt). Hope I can keep this up!
Dairy free? Ooooh, hard. There's my morning cottage cheese, and the sour cream dips I love, although I'm not a milk drinker and in general don't eat a lot of dairy. But as I said, baby steps.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The pace of a retirement day

Today was one of those days when I had nothing I had to do--and yet I felt a bit rushed (the problem of being a compulsive). I ignored that as much as I could. By the time I slept late, read the Sunday paper, dealt with emails (including the Sisters in Crime listserv that I monitor on Sundays), did my yoga and showered, it was nearly lunchtime. I did some good if difficult work on a section of my nonfiction book I'm working on--since I'm not using the embedded footnote program, it means a lot of work every time I discover something in my notes that I have to go back and insert, changes all the FN numbers, and then change all the notes. I managed to get about 900 words but still have a way to go. But I quit when it was time for a nap. Still I felt good about what I'd accomplished.
Tonight my friend Sue had a dinner to celebrate her mom's birthday, mine, and Susan's, so I went with Jay and Susan. Sue's parents are here from Canada, which added extra delight. I always enjoy them. Sue's dinner was delicious--roast lamb, green salad, and a tomato and herb salad, good crusty bread--plus shrimp which allergies prevent me from eating. Jay made cupcakes with Vermont maple syrup in them--delicious. I usually don't eat dessert but couldn't turn these down. Sue's dad, a law enforcement officer in Canada all his career, recounted his two years undercover on the crime detail--fascinating. All in all, it was a wonderful evening, though I have to say that all these good friends talk so loud and all at once that my hearing aids couldn't keep up. Sue's children--Alex, who will be going into 8th grade and Hunter who will go into 5th--are charming and delightful. Alex and Maddie, my oldest  grandchild, used to be friends, but the age gap between them has widened  Both, however are avid readers, and Alex showed me some books that Maddie might like. I asked her to emaill me the titles. They are both girls who go quickly form iPhones and electronic games to good old-fashioned books, something I love about their generation. It was, all in all, a lovely evening, and I am so fortunate to have such good friends.
Birthday? I don't feel a bit older. But I am sleepy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A quiet, peceful day--and an Oops!

Today was what I hoped--quiet and peaceeful. Since it was to be so hot, I made an early trip to the vet to get cat and dog food--costs more to feed them their special diets than it does me! Then to Central Market for a few things--when you get out of there for under $30, I figure you're really doing good. Then home to stay. It was a good day to stay inside--temperature of 102 and heat index of 105--I wish that darn heat index had never been invented. Makes you feel so much hotter just to heart it. I also think the heat makes you sort of lethargic. By the time I got home from my errands, did a little laundry, and emptied the garbage, I was tired.
But I went ahead and did my yoga. About halfway through my routine, I decided that the house wasn't cool and I wasn't hearing the a/c kick on. I'm an a/c neurotic since my unit is on its last legs and will be replaced Thursday--my birthday present to myself. In retrospect, I was only hot because I was doing a pretty good yoga routine. But I got up off the floor to check the thermostat (it was fine) and stubbed my toe so hard that I lost my breath, my balance, my good sense if I have any. Stood there recovering for a few minutes and then went to check the thermostate. When I came back there was blood on my yoga mat. In fixing that, I discovered I'd left a small trail of blood throughout the house. I have a funky toenail that I cannot do anything with and take to the podiatrist every so often--and of course that was the toe I stubbed. Tonight, I am limping around. It was one of the "Judy Alter wishes to recall this minute" moments. I foresee a visit to the podiatrist.
Got a lot of work done today, mostly reading a corporate history, which amounts to looking for the nuggets of human interest tucked away amidst lists of corporate officers, mergers, advertising campaigns and so on. The book was, however, full of fascinating pictures of artifacts. In between--at lunch and dinner--I gave myself permission to read a mystery. I did it again--ordered a book from amazon without asking for the sample first, in which case I wouldn't have ordered it. One of the things I've heard over and over about writing mysteries, especially cozies, is that you have to have characters that the readers like and identify with. Well, I flat out do not like the central figure--she's schemingly ambitious, even about a murder that happens on her territory. She may be growing on me a bit, and I'll finish the book, but it makes me wonder why this one was published and mine wasn't!
Someone on the Sisters in Crime listserv posted a website where you can insert a couple of paragraphs of your work-in-progress and it will tell you who you write like. Seems I write like Margaret Atwood, which is such a far stretch as to be laughable. But one of the members who writes police procedurals says he posted three times and each time got Raymong Chandler; then he posted his blog and got Stephen King. He's a happy camper tonight. Hmmmm--Margaret Atwood. I wanted to write like Sue Grafton or J. A. Jance or Susan Wittig Albert.
I heard on TV tonight that conservatives are criticizing the Obamas for going north instead of south for their vacation--I can't even begin to fathom the reasoning there. Surely not based on race. Tell me it isn't. But although right now Bar Harbor, Maine, is apparently as hot as the rest of the nation, going north in July for a weekend getaway seems like a no-brainer. I know liberals criticized everything George Bush did, and I admit to joining the chorus, but I swear if President Obama said the sky was blue Senator John Cornyn would object on procedural groundds. As my friend Fran would say, "Give me a break!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Peaceful weekend--at least I hope

It seems to me my life has been hectic this week--maybe not by other people's standards but by my new relaxed retirement standards, it's been sort of frantic. So today I began what looks like a peaceful weekend--Jordan, Christian, and Jacob are in Coppell for his high school reunion (20 years I guess) and I have nothing on my calendar until a dinner Sunday night that I'm looking forward to. So today I went to the library for a couple of research books, went to the grocery, and have spent the rest of the day at home--reading, taking notes, finishing up the laundry from Jacob's accident yesterday, etc. Ask me about Dr Pepper--I can tall you a lot becauses that's what I've been reading about.
Thursday night I was telling Elizabeth about the tuna salad I like from Albertson's, because it worried me that it had such a long shelf life. She suggested I  read the label, which I know I should be doing, but when I read this one of course I found tons of sodium. So no more store-bought tuna for me. I'll make my own. And then I read the label on the deli-sliced ham that I like to wrap around low-fat cream cheese--a lot of sodium there too. I'm afraid Elizabeth has made a label reader out of me, which is good. It comes at a time I'm trying to encourage Colin to re-think his diet because of the flare-up of his Crohn's this past week. So, I too need to do better. If I haven't mentioned it, Elizabeth has a new blog-- Her husband was  recently diagnosed with celiac disease so they're going gluten free. Now she's trying to go gluten free, dairy free, sodium free, and corn free. I don't think I can go as far as she has, but I'll take hints from her.  Corn products are apparently known to increase or aggravate the possibility of seizures. But then again, what is life without a good BLT on whole wheat bread?
I've had enoiugh studying for the day. I'm going to read, but I'm looking forward to a quiet lazy weekend. Since in the last few days I haven't even had time to exercise, I'll catch up on that too.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

What a Day!

What a day! is how I've wanted to begin every post this week. It has been a hectic week, mostly with house repairs.But today Jordan called in the morning to say Jacob was sick. I told her I had a longstanding date to go to Keller for lunch and couldn't keep him until I got back. Linda from Granbury picked me up and we went to Keller for lunch with Connie Jenkins--Linda has known Connie since she was a child, and Connie's late husband was my ex-husband's senior partner--over the years Russ and Connie were both so good to me, kind of watching over me and the kids. We had a pleasant lunch at an Italian restaurant--veal piccata, which means I limited myself to tuna tonight.
But Keller isn't as far as I thought, and I was home by 1:30. Jordan and Jacob arrived shortly thereafter, and he greeted me with, "I'm sick." So I settled him on his bed with a warm blanket and turned on the TV. Jordan asked him if he wanted to pee or wanted a diaper, and he said no. When he came to me and said he wanted me to turn the TV off, I didn't think to bring the diaper matter up again--big mistake. As soon as he as headed to sleep, I crawled into my bed for a nap. After about an hour, Jacob came and climbed into bed with me--and I realized he was soaking wet. When I wanted to take him to the potty, he said, "I have to show you something." Big wet spot on his bed. So the comforter went into the wash; then the mattress pad and sheets. I stripped my bed and remade with other sheets because I knew I would't want to change it late tonight. Jacob by then had 101 temp--yes, John, I used a thermometer--but he wouldn't take Ibupofren, said he'd take it at home and he wanted his mommy. Between taking care of Jacob, feeding the dog, watering  the plants, and eating a bite of supper, I wasn't even dressed when Elizabeth arrived for class.
My class tonight was a joy--only six of us instead of the usual eleven, but we had a really open evening of sharing--some very lighthearted, funny pieces, some in which people really revealed themselves, their pasts and their weaknesses. Eliabeth and I talked afterward and couldn't decide if the openness was a smaller group or because the women are getting used to each other and used to sharing. We decided if some women continue in a new class in the fall, having a mix of old and new would be good and would encourage sharing. After class discussion,  we visited over really good snacks and all agreed it was an exceptional evening. Interesting to me--some women are writing for others, particularly grandchildren, and their work is happy, sometimes sentimental, based on memories; others are writing to explore themselves, and their pieces are sometimes dark, often amazingly open. All of them spark discussions. It's a neat group.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The House Woes Continue

Actually, my house woes are getting better The plumbing repairs are all wonderful, working well--my kitchen sink faucet feels so different that I am startled when I turn it on. Water pressure is much better. And today someone came to repair the problem that prompted the Maytag recall of my dishwasher. A/C unit might go in this week; if not, early next week but they'll check it Friday to be sure it has enough coolant for the weekend. I bought the battery for the alarm system, but forgot to ask friend Jim to tighten a water hose connectiont tonight when he was here for dinner. Oh, well. And to add complications, Oncor installed a new electric meter today--not once, but twice. The guy came back and when I said, "I thought you were through," he said, "I thought I was too. But I installed the wrong meter." So twice while I was working on my computer, the power flicked off for just a second--enough to stop clocks, etc. Since my main computer is a laptop with a well-charged battery, it didn't affect that. But I do feel things are straightening out.
I had to cancel lunch plans--and plans to get a new i.d. for TCU--today to wait for the dishwasher repairman, but as soon as he disappeared at 11:45, I jumped in the car, delivered a mansucript to the office and went to get the alarm battery. Then listened to an archival disk for a long time--about  Wolf Brand Chili. I would so much rather have hard copy in front of me.
Tonight I fixed an Italian spinach salad for Marsha, Charles' daughter, and Jean Walbridge and Jim Clark. They all three have so much interest in native peoples of the Southwest, and Jean and Jim seemed fascinated by Marcia's tales of her work as an anthropologist. I am always amazed and impressed that she does that without sight. It was a pleasant evening. Marsha, who is on a no-fat, no-salt diet seemed to love the spinach salad--I wasn't so sure I was crazy about it.
The neighborhood war over the concept of a historic overlay continues and is getting downright heated in some posts on the Berkelely Buzz. I appreciate the calmer heads who ask for less vitriol, but I couldn't resist responding to the neighbor who wrote that if we give up rights to our houses (a clear misunderstanding of historic overlay) it would be the first step down the slippery slope to a totalitarian government. A bit of a stretch I thought. My thought is that I don't want to see charming early twentieth-century houses torn down and replaced with McMansions that cover the lot as far as zoning will allow--and sometimes ask for variations. And I was a lot more worried about losing my civil rights during the last Bush administration with wire tapping, etc. My neighbor Jay accuses me of having stirred up the populace but I really didn't start it--a neighbor did who said she'd grown up in a lovely neighborhood in Houston and seen the same thing happen and now she barely recognizes the place. I just chimed in--quietly, I thought.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Day My House Fell Apart

This morning I had to get up and dressed early because the plumber was coming to install the new sink, fix a couple of leaky faucets, and rebuild two commodes--and he would turn the water off. So I disappeared to a breakfast meeting and some errands. Came home to find Lewis Bundock, the contractor who has kept my house together for many years, helping--or watching. His pesence was fortuitous to say the least. I discovered that my dishwasher has been recalled and should be disconnected from the electricity immediately by turning off the breaker, but as Lewis pointed out that might disconnect my entire kitchen. He unwired some part of the machine, and I'll call for a repair appointment tomorrow. Then my alarm system had gone bananas overnight--I called and learned that the battery (a 12-volt one up in the attic) was probably dead, but the technician talked so faintly I couldn't hear her. I told her there was someone there I wanted her to tell all that to. So Lewis took the phone, asked more intelligent questions than I ever would have, climbed up in the attic and brought down the old battery which was, he said, leaking acid. So we put it in a bag, I'll go get a new one tomorrow (taking the old one with me), and call Lewis when I have it. He'll come put it back in. Whenever I asked him what else could go wrong, he said, "Don't even ask!" But my new bathroom sink is lovely--smaller than the old one so it makes the bathroom a bit less crowded. The kitchen faucet doesn't leak, neither does the hot water in the shower, and the commode behaves properly. By noon Lewis and the plumber, Keith, were gone, and I had my house back, peace and quiet. Got a lot of good work done.
Then this afternoon, the owner of the a/c firm came by to measure for a new furnace unit, check the coolant on hand, etc. He said I'm fine and if they don't get a new unit in by Friday, they'll call and come check the coolant level so it will last through the weekend. It's apparently leaking at a good rate. He'll email me figures and choices on a new unit tomorrow. The new high energy ones save on heat but not electricity--and my electric bills in summer far outweigh my winter gas bills, so high energy may not be worth it, and since I don' have to replace the outdoor compressor, I may not spend enough to be eligible for a tax credit. All very complicated stuff. But for now my house is cool.
Colin got out of the hospital tonight, but he was so anxious to go home he didn't tell Lisa what the doctor said--just told her to get over there and pick him up and then he'd tell her. So we're relieved but anxious to know more.
Whoosh! What a day.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A worrisome day, a political rant, and a pleasant dinner

My oldest son, Colin, has Crohn's disease, and this morning Lisa, his lovely wife, took him to the ER because he was very sick last night. They scheduled a cat scan and admitted him, though it was six hours before he got a bed. He of course wanted to go right home, but they said no, he has a partial obstruction. Tonight I haven't heard the results of the scan--I imagine the radiologist won't read it until tomorrow--nor is there any word on the planned treatement. I'm worried, of course, as any mother would be. Offered to go to Houston if I couldl help Lisa with the children, but we're all in a wait mode. Colin has had mild flare-ups over the years and I'm sure he doesn't feel good a lot of the time but just doesn't tell us, but this is the first major problem he's had in eight years. Then, it took six months, changing doctors, and a lot of stuff before he had surgery. He had gotten down to 119 lbs. and looked like an Auschwitz survivor, but he's had a healthy weight since. I'm grateful that this time the doctors are on it right away, and his regular physician will see him. Still I'm waiting for word.
This morning a friend called to chat and in the conversation said she was ready to move to Arizona to support their anti-immigration law (I don't think she really is). When I admitted that the problem is really severe in Arizona but I wasn't sure this law was the right fix, she said, "Well, our government isn't doing anything and somebody has to start somewhere." Then on the Diane Rehm show I listened to Tea Party members who say the government should have no control over any aspect of our lives (I wonder if they realize what chaos would result if the government suddenly withdrew from everything--reminds me of the guy who said, "And keep your government hands off my Medicare." Duh?) Our neighborhood email newsletter has been abuzz (okay, pun, it's the Berkeley Buzz) with messages about the possibility of a historic overlay. Berkeley is one of those neighborhoods of charming older homes, many dating back to the  1920s, and yet we've had a few cases of people tearing down older homes and building McMansions that don't fit the neighborhood at all. On the Buzz, it's amazing how many people are adamant that the government can't tell them what to do with their homes (actually the overlay only affects the exterior and does not impinge on updating, etc.). But the conclusion I reached is the government is damned if it does and damned if it doesn't. People want the government so solve the BP spill, solve the immigration problem, create new jobs (magically, I presume), and solve all other problems--but don't let the government trample on my rights as an individual. I think people have to decide to have it one way or another. Okay, rant done.
I had a lovely evening tonight. Carol Roark and I celebrate July birthdays, and Kathie Lang Allen cooked dinner for us and included good friend and fellow publisher Fran Vick. Delicious chicken salad (a la Helen Corbitt), asparagus, tomato aspic, and, wonder of wonders, popovers! Plus a peach poundcake for dessert. We visited, traded gossip, and ate heartily. The gift exchange was lovely, and I am grateful to my friends for some lovely additions to my home.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

A lazy Sunday

I meant to take Jacob to church today. Honest, I really did. But he has this new habit of climbing into my bed about 7:30 and crawling over me, sometimes literally sitting on my  head, to get to talk to Scooby, who immediately gets awake and excited and wants to go out. So, reluctantly,  I am up and about the day. This morning we moved slowly--well, I did. Jacob was full of vim and vigor. I read the paper, fed us breakfast--he asked for chocolate bars but I explained that was not breakfast food--and then finished the clean up from last night, putting away dishes, emptying the dishwasher, and so on. When Jordan called at ten to confirm that we were going to church, I told her I didn't have the energy. So I had Jacob until almost noon. His new trick, that he apparently saw on TV, is to bow in front of you, hold out one hand, and say in a soft, non-Jacob voice, "Yes, your majesty." Cracked me up every time he did it, and then he'd get the giggles. We had a good morning.
Actually did some work this afternoon and then had a long nap. Jay and Susan came for a drink and to eat leftover Texas caviar--Jay confessed that when I called he didn't know what it was and googled it to find out. Tonight I've sent them the recipe. But I heard all about their trip to Chicago and am indebted to them for exploring "my" part of the city--Hyde Park and Kenwood. They loved the city and made me a bit nostalgic for it--of course, the company Jay works for is headquartered on Pulaski on the West Side, so he's familiar with it, but Susan had never been. They thought, as I still do, that the lake was wonderful, and the University of Chicago magnificent, the Art Institute awesome (they have a friend who's a curator and gave them a behind-the-scenes tour). It was lovely to sit and listen to their description.
Since then I've been lazy--ate chili con queso for supper and decided it's the salt that gets you--whew! Velveeta must have a high sodium content or mybe I'm getting more sensitive to these things lately. Anyway a busy week looms,, so I'm just going to read and go to bed.
I'm reading a mystery in which the victim is poisoned--seems I've read several of those lately and they are of particular interest since my work-in-progress revolves around poisoning--in fact a restaurant poisoning, as in Delicious and Suspicious, by Riley Adams, the one I'm now reading. Don't know what the poison was in this case, but I have laid the groundwork for what it is in my book--just don't know if it's lethal enough. Writing and reading mysteries is a lot of fun, though my work this week will be on the nonfiction book I'm doing.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Campaign Kickoff and Critters

This is the table for my Grassroots Campaign Kickoff party for gubernatorial candidate Bill White tonight. I was actually rather proud of the table arrangement, though it doesn't look as good in the picture as it did in reality. But I liked the idea of scattering bumper sticks as table decorations--Jordan arrived a bit late with a sign that said, "Please take the table decorations home," and people did. I gave out lots of stickers and bumper stickers, as well as yard signs, and I got a list of about twenty guests--of course one works for the White campaign and another, longtime friend Lon Burnam, is a Democratic state rep who told people he was here as a surrogate candidate. Nobody watched the video; nobody looked at the editorial from the Nacogdoches paper that I had up on my computer, in which the reporter, usually a conservative, declared that Bill White was the genuine article, not just a politician talking the talk. I've heard that a lot, and I'm impressed by the energy of the campaign. I keep telling people if they're on Facebook to friend Bill White--he posts daily, sometimes several times, and his local office tells me he writes the posts himself rather than letting a staff member do it. His main focus is on education, and I think he'd be a good governor. I hope he has the momentum to oust the current governor, and I'm willing to do what I can.
Of course I made too much food--chili/Velveeta queso, cheese queso (Jordan's recipe calls for Velveeta, cream cheese, and Rotel), a corn dip (more cream cheese--this was an artery-clogging menu), hummus and pita rounds, Megan's Texas caviar recipe (really good--I used Paul Newman's lime vinaigrette--very tasty), and the bourbon hot dogs which are almost a tradition at my parties. Now what to do with the leftovers? I think I can freeze the bourbon hot dogs, and I'll eat the hummus, but the dips---hmmmmm.
Jacob is spending the night again, full of good spirits after being a bit shy at the party. But for him, the highlight came when his mother was leaving to go to another party. She stepped out on the porch and screamed--a garter or garden snake was right there by the door. New neighbor Brian leapt to the rescue and threw the critter into the bushes, but then of course Jacob wanted to see it, so he and Brian spent long times leaning over the railing looking. Much later in the evening Jacob wanted to go back to see the snake, but it was gone.
Now I've had possums, raccoons, and a snake. I also have geckos all over the front porch and on the windows in the playroom in the back. When the outdoor light is on at night, their little bodies are almost translucent. Jordan just doesn't like creepy crawly things, and I remember once when she was living in this house years ago and found a gecko in the shower with her. She freaked, as she did tonight. Sometimes a gecko makes its way into the house, but the cat often goes after it with glee. Jacob and I had a long talk about some snakes, like this one, are our friends.
Most of my day was consumed with the party--and my evening was certainly consumed with cleaning up. But I did read a lot of Frank X Tolbert's 1953 book, A Bowl of Red, a history of chili, and found it most interesting. Chili really is a Texas dish--it did not, contrary to many beliefs, originate in Mexico. We can rightly claim it.
Now it's late, I'm tired, and I'm waiting for Jacob to go to sleep, so I too can sleep. Last night, he was asleep by 10:15, but that mean he was a cheerful earful by 7:15 this morning. I'm hoping he'll sleep later tomorrow.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Dogs, raccoons, and grandchildren--in that order?

When it rains, my dog shows his displeasure with me by dumping his food bowl off the step where I feed him. He did that last night, and when I went to let him in for the night, I saw a small gray animal--at first I wondered how my cat got out. But then an unmistakable face looked at me--a raccoon who skittered off into the night as I opened the door. I scolded Scooby saying someone would eat his food before morning. Tonight repeat of the same scene--it's been raining, and the food was dumped.
Spent much of today, in odd moments, making dips for tomorrow night. It amazes me how long it's taken me to learn some things. But lately I've scorched so many dips and things that this time I did everything in the double boiler--easy! I could let things simmer while I went about my business, then let them cool, rinse out the top of the double boiler and move on to the next dish. So my cooking for tomorrow night is all done. I didn't want  to have to cook all morning tomorrow and wear my back out so that I'd be a grouch in the evening.
Jacob arrived in a cheeerful mood tonight, and we had fun. Since last week, at brunch at a restaurant, he had literally snatched the bacon off my plate, I decided to make him a BLT. His mother assured me he would like the lettuce and tomato, but he didn't, ate the bread with mayonnaise and the bacon and a bunch of blueberries. He's gotten over telling me his mom says he can only have three blueberries--which she never said. Then a couple of hours later, he wanted pbj. Tonight I was determined he wouldn't stay up till midnight, as he had last week, so I was quite firm, which led him to tell me he was going to tell his mom that I am mean. Told me he didn't like to sleep here anyway. But when we cuddled, and I scratched his back, he said, "I want to stay here forever." The contradictions of a four-year-old continue to amaze me. But what fun!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A blah day rescued by cooking

Woke up with the blahs this morning and a slight headache, both of which I attribute to the extreme humidity--it wasn't hot today but everytime you went out it felt like a sauna. To add insult to injury, I tried to open a new bottle of aspirin and could not for the life of me get the child-proof cap off. So when I went to the grocery I bought aspirin that said "Easy Open." Even lunch with Betty at the Black-Eyed Pea didn't get me totally out of the blahs, though it helped--we had the vegetable plate, which is some of the best comfort food I can think of. But a bit of work in the early afternoon and then a nap made me feel better. When I woke up it was raining and actually felt better outside. Rode my bike and had a dinner of leftover tuna/potato salad from last night.
And then I began cooking for my Sat. night Bill White kickoff party. Made bourbon hot dogs,which are always a hit--so easy. Just mix 2/3 c. bourbon, 2 c. ketchup, and 1/2 c. brown sugar; heat to melt the sugar. Meanwhle cut two or three packages of hot dogs into cubes about 1 inch apiece--I used three packages of bun size dogs and this is one t ime I don't insist on Hebrew National. Last time I made this, I set it to simmer and walked away--when I came back it was scorched. Had to throw away about half the hot dog bites and it took forever to clean the pan. So tonight I did it in the double boiler and stayed right there, making Megan's recipe for Texas caviar. Of course I discovered several essential things I didn't get at the store today, so I have to go back to two grocery stores tomorrow morning! And tomorrow night I plan to do more cooking, but I will have Jacob--we'll see how that works out:-)
I'm reading Avery Ames first mystery, The Long Quiche Goodbye, and liking it a lot. I've followed her excitement about publication on the blog, Mystery Lovers Kitchen, and on posts on the lists for Sisters in Crime and Agent Quest, so I was looking forward to it almost as much as she was. It's a good mystery, solidly in the cozy tradition--my cup of tea or, more appropriately in this case--my glass of wine. I am mightily impressed, as I have been on the blog, with her knowledge of cheeses and wines and pairing them. So guess what I'm going to do the rest of  the evening? You're right.
You'll notice, I hope, that I'm adding symbols to my blog--first the Story Circle Network Star Blogger symbol, which is bigger than I expected, and then a Sisters in Crime logo I got today, which is smaller than  wished. Oh well, variety is good.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

A pleasant day--bike repair, lunch and dinner with friends

This morning, both Jim and Lewis Bundock, the contactors who keep my house in repair, showed up to fix my out-of-control exercise recumbent bike. Took them about an hour--all the complicated directions Nautilus had sent checked out fine, but Jim finally called them and figured out how to reset it. I had started yoga for the day so finished it, but tomorrow I'll try the bike. Plumbers bid is in, and work should start next week on replacing the bathroom sink and rebuilding the commode in the main bathroom and in the guest house. And I should hear about the furnace next week--so far it seems to be holding its own. I figure things come in threes and I've had my three--bike, plumbing, and a/c. Of course I haven't paid for any of them yet!
Lunch today with a much younger colleague from the TCU library--thoroughly enjoyed it. We have a lot in common and a lot to laugh about. Tonight I fixed supper for Charles' daughter, Marsha, who is blind. When I went to pick her up, I didn't realize the friend she's staying without is also at least partially blind, so I waited in the car. No more--when I took her back, I walked her to the stair railing.
I've never spent much time around a blind person and not much even around Marsha, but I've learned to give her my left elbow, warn her about steps and obstacles, and generally get her in and out of the house safely. I suggested a meal out but she wanted to see my cat. She's also on a low-fat, no salt diet, so I fixed a salad of canned potatoes (oops, they probably had salt), that good canned tuna I order from Oregon (minimal salt), tomatoes, celery, scallions, and carrots, with a homemade vinaigrette. Delilcious if I do say so. I quickly learned to put Marsha's hand on her wine glass, her bowl of fruit, and the spoon for it. What I kept forgetting is that she can't see me when I talk, so as usual I talked with my hands and lots of gestures. Even worse, when she said something I'd nod and then realize that wasn't the appropriate response. But we had a good visit, and I enjoyed it. I hope to see her again, before she goes back to Alburquerque on the 18th. Being with someone who is not sighted is a good lesson in learning how people get along in the world and what you can do to help them. We talked about Charles, of course, but it was unsentimental happy talk--he would have liked it.
Busy days ahead, but that's good.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Air conditioning

Most of us know, unfortunately, that blessed sense of relief that comes when your house is once again cool after being without a/c. Mine went out, as I've said, Sunday afternoon, and it was today, Tuesday, in the late afternoon before it was fixed. I am wrung out from being hot for almost three days and two nights. The technician's prognosis for how long the "fix" would last is not good, and I'm watching it like a hawk. He also put a bucket under a place where it might drip and told me to watch that carefully. I'm having a houseful for happy hour Saturday, so I'm apprehensive about all this.
I decided to put my money where my mouth is, so I'm having a kickoff party for Bill White grassroots campaign for governor. Maybe I'm like my dad who always said he voted for the best man, but, what he didn't admit aloud, was the best man was always a Democrat. I was raised in an FDR-Democratic home, with even praise for the first Mayor Daley of Chicago. But in this case I really do beileve Bill White is the best man for the job--he did a good job in Houston. Granted,  he's attacking Perry on a lot of fronts (and Perry is remaining almost frighteningly silent) but I believe Perry's departure from the governor's role is long overdue. I sense a lot of energy in the White campaign--especially because he's all over Facebook, which is how President Obama started. When one friend said to me, "It's good of you to give the party, but it's like tilting at windmills," I said I didn't think so. I think White really has a good chance.
So tonight, as is my uusal compulsive habit, the serving dishes are all laid out, with little notes in them indicating what goes in which one. Today is Tuesday--the party isn't until Saturday. I know, I know. Jordan does this too, and Christian once looked at her and said, "You and your mother have a screw loose." Hey, it works for us.
Tomorrow night I am fixing supper for Charles' daughter, Marsha, which means I must go get her and take her back to the friends she's staying with because she can't drive because of blindness, Thursday night I'll cook, and Friday I'll have Jacob. Tonight was definitely the night to set the table. Hmmmm--how to keep Jacob from fiddling with all the campaign material I've spread all over the table as decoration?
But right now, I'm glorying in my cool home. Being hot, for one thing, makes you feel like you want to wash your hands every ten minutes.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Hot day

Whoa! No a/c in Texas in July is NOT fun. Last night I noticed the house was hot, but when I went to turn the thermostat down, there was no cool air coming from a vent. So I did what my a/c guru recommended--turned the fan to on and the unit to off. He said it was probaby freezing up. One of his repairmen came out, added freon, and said if it happened again we'd have to look into it further. The bill I got said a new unit may be needed--oh, joy! Well, it's happened again. I turned it on about 6 a.m. and it lasted until about 9, when I could hear it begin to labor--the sound I'd heard yesterday. Turned it off until 2:00, turned it on again, and it cooled things--not cold but an improvement. I had to turn it off again about 5:00. Now I'm waiting to turn it on until I go to sleep. In the evenings I have to close off my office to keep Scooby in with me--which makes it hotter. I did just open the vent windows in the kitchen. For security purposes most of my windows won't open--a hardship at a time like this. I've put in an emergency call but of course nobody will be in the a/c company office until tomorrow morning.
A dinner guest tonight--a woman who's a good friend and has had a hard time recently with the sudden loss of her husband. Fortunately, we could eat on the porch, with the fan on. The fan in combination with a natural breeze made it quite pleasant. We chatted animatedly all evening until just before dark, when she said it was time for her to go home. I understand that feeling completely.
I fixed another good dinner, if I do say so--egg salad sandwiches with capers and tarragon from my front porch, plus watercress and smoked salmon--wonderful combination. Sliced tomatoes and avocado with more tarragon and a dash of vinaigrette, and a bowl of sliced fruit.
Finished reading a mystery I really enjoyed today--one of those I hated to see end. It is Judy Hyzy's new series, and the first book is Grace Under Pressure. I was reading along on my Kindle without realizing I was getting close to the end until I came to that climactic scene where the heroine is in real peril for her life. Also did some work on my Texas foods book. So it was a good, if hot, day.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

What I Meant to Post Yesterday

Jacob spent the night last night, and I had a cheerful earful until almost midnight, when finally, amid dire threats, he went to sleep. He had a bunch of new action figures, and we spent a lot of time getting them to stand upright. When I'd get one he couldn't, he'd say, "Good job, Juju!" That child, who had been whiney and complaining the night before, was absolute sunshine, told me he was going to be a good boy and he was--well, there was that issue of going to bed.
When I got the call that Charles had died, I was in my office juggling Jacob and Scooby--Jacob always wants to see the dog, but then Scooby gets excited, tries to lick him and Jacob gets scared. Commotion ensued, and that's when the phone rang. Took a while to sort it all out.
This morning he slept late and woke up cheerful, playing with his figures again and never asking for the TV--yeah!His mom came about 10:30, and we went to brunch. I ate the kind of breakfast I love but rarely allow mysself--an egg, toast, bacon (Jacob actually snatched a piece off my plate!), hash browns with ketchup. Way too much! They were all going to a barbecue tonight and then walking to the country club for fireworks. I was invited but opted out for a quiet night at home.
I spent some time this afternoon trying to write an obituary--the one helpful thing I thought I could do, and the offer was welcomed. But it's harder than you think. You can't ask a dying man where he went to high school, etc., but I wished I had. I'm hoping the family will be able to help. The osteopathic college might have some records but of course they're closed till Tuesday. The difficulty made such an impression on me that I added some more to my own obituary, which I'd started some time ago. If you asked my children who my parents were, I'm afraid they'd say, "Grandmother and Grandfather." But in writing a draft of Charles' obituary I tried to capture his approach to health care, with its emphasis on wellness and prevention, his devotion to cycling and marathoning, his love of the ranch and his determination to provide a sanctuary for wildlife, and finally his energy, wit and joy in life.
Some bad moments from yesterday have paled in comparison, but once again I left my debit card--this time at Central Market--and once again I was fortunate to get it back, though I had to make a trip back to the store. It was worth it. Cancelling a debit card, waiting for a new one, and then changing your information on sites like amazon.
A snafu that is almost funny: my recumbent exercise bicycle has decided to reset itself without my help. It set a goal for me to ride 99 minutes and 84 miles. Then it would shoot the level of difficulty up to the highest--13--while I ride at one and two for 24 minutes doing close to five miles. I could subtract and figure the time, but the mileage kept decreasing instead of, as usual, increasing. That wasn't a problem--I could still do the math. But when the resistance shot up for no reason, I gave up. My brother thinks it probably needs a new mother board, and I have emailed Schwinn. Yes, I did unplug it--didn't work.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

I've lost a friend

I got the news tonight that my friend Charles died about 6:45 in the nursing home floor of Trinity Terrace. He was 92. I hardly know where to begin to say how important Charles was to me. In the late '60s, he came to teach radiology at the osteopathic college where my then-husband was faculty. We became friends, and he and his wife invited us to their ranch for a weekend--they had then one guest cabin, though they later built more. We all went, and I remember stopping at Zaby's in Kaufman, a barbecue place that had pictures and sayings about Christ all over the walls, including that picture that looks like a blur of black and white until  you learn the secret and then you can never again look at it without seeing Christ's face in the snow. The barbecue wasn't particularly good, but the kids loved the fried pies. Afterward, they led us down country roads until Charles remarked to his wife, Reva, that we must think they were taking us to the ends of the earth. After that, we spent many happy weekends and a couple of longer vacations at the ranch--the boys fished, even though there were alligators in the waters of the lake. Once I saw an alligator about to get a baby duck, and I screamed for Charles to do something: "It's the law of nature, Judy," he said.
Another time he had a steer named Houdini (because he was so adept at escaping) in a pen between the main house and our cabin. The kids petted and loved on Houdini every time we went by. Sometime later, we were all eating dinner on the porch overlooking the lake, and Charles asked the kids  how they liked the meat. They chorused that it was great, and Charles said, "You're eating Houdini." Nobody ate much after that.
After Joel left us, Charles and Reva remained my firm friends, and as soon as the kids could drive, we went back there often for weekends. Reva was a country girl from Missouri, and she brought with her great cooking skills. We had marvelous times together in the kitchen, and I think some of the happiest moments of my life were spent on that porch at the dinner table. Sometimes we took family friends, who always enjoyed the experience. Reva and Charles welcomed a wide variety of people to their guest ranch, becoming friends with almost every guest. They hosted campouts for bikers' groups, outings for the osteopathic college, and all kinds of groups that fit Charles' interests. Alzheimer's took Reva from us, first as a person and then finally a few years ago. I miss her today, but I was delighted when Charles got her prune bread recipe (always a secret) for my cookbook.
Charles moved back to Fort Worth, and I saw him frequently. We ate at a restaurant that served mussels because he loved them. They came in a variety of sauces, named by colors, and when he was asked which one he wanted, he muttered, "They didn't come in colors when I was a kid."
Charles was one of the brightest intellectuals I've known in my life, a student up until the last few months, reading voraciously but never fiction, always enlarging his knowledge. A marathoner (he used to always win his age group) and a veteran biker, he went annually to a bike camp in West Texas until a couple of years go. Until a year ago, or maybe less, he was still riding his bike and running in the neghborhood. He had the wisdom to do what few elderly do--one day he told me he hung up his car keys. He'd had a near accident and he said it wasn't his skill that averted a disaster.
In recent months I visited him in the nursing home--hard for me, because he was in the same place only rooms away from where my mom died. But his sense of humor and his clear thinking remained intact until maybe the last month. When I visited last Sunday, two other friends were there and we talked. I had the sense that Charles was happy to let us talk around him and participate occasionally. When I said he looked content, he repied, "I am. I don't hurt, and I don't want for anything." I think that's how he died, and that brings me a sense of peace.
I think I was always a little bit in love with Charles Ogilvie.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Who Let the Dogs Out?

Jacob is still fascinated by this video, and the first thing when he came in this evening was that he wanted to look at "Who Let the Dogs Out?" This is a picture of him singing along with it, belting out "Who, Who, Who?" The Burtons came for the Japanese chickenburgers they missed earlier in the week, and it was a pleasant evening, even though Jacob got kind of whiney.
Other than that it was an ordinary but pleasant day--I had lunch with my friend Fred, who said he's just read Jonathan Alter's (no relation) The Promise, an assessment of Obama's campaign and first year in office. Fred says although Alter is clearly biased toward Obama, he is also clear about the mistakes he's made and the problems he's run into--mostly Congress, both sides of the aisle. The subtext, especially throughout the last half of the book, is that Obama is clearly smarter than most members of Congress and they resent that. It got us off on a discussion of the general resentment of intellectuals in this country--while not counting myself as an intellectual, I clearly see that as a problem in our society. Then again, think of Socrrates--civilizations have always resented the intellectuals among them. Fred better watch out, because he is one. We ate at Nonna Tata, a country Italian place where I had my favorite dish: brasola.
I did a bit on my mystery tonight--slightly under 400 words but enough to keep me in touch with it--and decided what would be my next exploration in the Texas foods book, so I'm moving ahead. I looked forward to a long, fairly lazy weekend, so maybe I'll get some work done. As always, I'm distracted by reading--this time its Julie Hyzy's Grace Under Pressure.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Writing group

These are the women of my writing group, who met on my porch tonight for, oh maybe the fifth time. They are a wonderful group of women, who openly share the joys and sorrows of their lives, the things they worry about, the things that make them happy. They
also share a bit of wine and snacks--tonight it was wonderful phyllo cups filled with brie, red currant jam, and sliced almonds, in honor of two birthdays. Plus a cake with raspberry sauce. We find that instead of spending most of our time critiquing each other's contributions--pieces of memoir--we spend a lot of time talking about issues. Tonight I asked them to each share something good that had happened to them since we met two weeks ago--and that discussion went on for a long time. Beth is surprised that we spend so much time on issues and less on critiquing, but I figure anything that gets the ladies to open up and examine their lives is good. We laugh a lot, and we sympathize when needed. Now I have a folder full of new pieces to read before next time. Tonight I thought we would be rained inside, but the predicted rain did not come as it did last night, and we were comfortable on the porch all evening. In the middle of our meeting, an ambulance and fire truck roared up to a house three doors down from mine and eventually carted away one of my neighbors that I do not know--but he was sitting up on the gurney, so I figured (hoped) it wasn't serious. But it riveted all our attention for a while.
This class is one of the most rewarding things I've done in a long time--I am so amazed at the way the women have become a close knit group. I began to worry yesterday about what to do when the group is over in early September; tonight someone asked if I would continue it and said she was in. I'll have to ponder that, because I have a waiting list of women who would like to be in the next group. We have lost one member because she came from Granbury and it was too far to drive at night, and another, just because. This isn't unusual in a group such as this, and I don't feel bad about it. Beth (Elizabeth to me) is an enormous help, and I am grateful for her presence.